Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Excellent piece on fossil industry-funded mouth piece

by our friend, Kert Davies of Greenpeace:

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/news-and-blogs/campaign-blog/dr-willie-soon-a-career-fueled-by-koch-big-oi/blog/35482

This fellow Soon recently has become one of big propadandists opposing EPA's attempt to reduce mercury and other toxics from coal-burning power plants.

White House report to Congress: EPA air standards worth more than any other federal rules

As big polluters continue to bash the EPA, as some Republican presidential candidates call for the agency's elimination, and as President Obama's White House appears to in regulatory retreat as a way of trying to placate the critics,this new report appears to be pretty timely.

It is a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. The OMB bean counters looked back at thousands of rules issued during the past decade.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/inforeg/2011_cb/2011_cba_report.pdf

And guess what they found: EPA air pollution control requirements bring the biggest benefits!

It should be clear that the rules with the highest benefits and the highest costs, by far, come from the Environmental Protection Agency and in particular its Office of Air. More specifically, EPA rules account for 62 to 84 percent of the monetized benefits and 46 to 53 percent of the monetized costs.18 The rules that aim to improve air quality account for 95 to 97 percent of the benefits of EPA rules.

It is important to emphasize that the large estimated benefits of EPA rules are mostly attributable to the reduction in public exposure to a single air pollutant: fine particulate matter. Of its 20 air rules, the rule with the highest estimated benefits is the Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule, with benefits ranging from $19 billion to $167 billion per year. While the benefits of this rule far exceed the costs, the cost estimate for the Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule is also the highest at $7.3 billion per year.


Perhaps others in the White House should read this report and take note.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Harvard researchers: smog can be lethal for diabetics and people with lung and heart problems

While the EPA ponders whether to set scientifically appropriate new national health standards for ozone, a new study by Harvard researchers has a clear and compelling conclusion: “long-term ozone exposure is associated with increased risk of death.”

In other words, this dirty air is literally lethal.

The study, by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, has just been published in the online version of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Here is an abstract: http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/201102-0227OCv1

And here is the bottom line:

“Conclusions: This is the first study that follows persons with specific chronic conditions, and shows that long-term ozone exposure is associated with increased risk of death in these groups.”

There many millions of people in these groups, which include “persons hospitalized with chronic conditions that might predispose to ozone effects: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, congestive heart failure (CHF), and myocardial infarction (MI).”

The full article requires a subscription or purchased access, though I would imagine the good folks at Harvard would be willing to cough up a freebie for the media.

The publication comes as EPA is under political pressure (a lot of it inspired by the dreaded oil industry, and some of it reportedly coming from an address on Pennsylvania Avenue) to keep in place the scientifically inadequate standards set in 2008 by the Bush administration. The argument is that EPA can make any needed changes to the standard later.

As this new study graphically demonstrates, the national smog standards need to be made stronger now. Many more people will die if EPA is forced to make a politically-driven and scientifically deficient decision.

Catholic bishops applaud EPA's move to reduce mercury/toxic emissions from power plants

[from the Catholic News Agency:]

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2011 / 01:11 am (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops have given their support to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed standards to limit toxic pollution from power plants.

“Such standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn and other young children, from harmful exposure to toxic air pollution emitted from power plants,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a June 20 statement.

The EPA proposed the standards in March 2011, saying they would keep 91 percent of the mercury found in coal from being released into the air and prevent nearly 17,000 premature deaths each year.

Since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the EPA has been actively reducing mercury admissions from many of the highest-emitting sources. Until recently, however, this reduction effort did not include power plants.

Mercury can have many serious effects on the natural environment and on human beings. It is especially harmful to a child's developing brain, affecting memory, attention and motor skills. Toxic power plant emissions can also lead to heart attacks, bronchitis and asthma.

Bishop Blaire said the U.S. bishops supported the new standards because of the need to “care for God's creation” and protect the dignity of every human person, “especially the poor and vulnerable, from conception until natural death.”

Installation and operation of equipment needed to implement the proposed standards will create more jobs for American workers, according to the EPA. But the new standards will come at a cost to companies and consumers.

Bishop Blaire said that the short-term costs of implementation are outweighed by the significant health benefits involved.

He added that poor and vulnerable people should not bear “a disproportionate share” of the implementation costs, or the effects of toxic air pollution.

91 House members pressure EPA to kill updated smog standard

With the clock ticking -- and much of the nation still breathing unhealthful levels of smog -- 91 members of the House of Representatives are now leaning on the EPA to kill a planned update of national clean air standards for ozone, or smog.

EPA has several times delayed a decision on final standards (technically, a reconsideration of the bad decision made in 2008 by the Bush administration to ignore the agency''s science advisers) but has promised finally to make a call by late July. There have been reports that some within the White House would like EPA to reiterate the weak Bush standards while promising to continue reviewing more recent scientific studies.

This House letter essentially argues for the same sort of delay.

http://sullivan.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Sullivan.Ross_EPA_NAAQS_letter.final_6.22.11.pdf

The letter was originated and first signed by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and includes signatures from 83 other Republicans. It also includes signatures from seven "dirty-dog" Democrats: Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), and Mike Ross (D-Ark.).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

White House begins review of EPA proposed air standards for oil and gas

from the OMB Web Site:

AGENCY: EPA-AR RIN: 2060-AP76
TITLE: Oil and Natural Gas Sector--New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
STAGE: Proposed Rule ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: Yes
** RECEIVED DATE: 06/20/2011 LEGAL DEADLINE: Judicial

**
The issue, as explained by BNA's Daily Environment Report:

As part of a court settlement, EPA must review and propose any necessary revisions to the new source performance standards for crude oil and natural gas production facilities as well as the national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants for oil and natural gas production and natural gas transmission and storage facilities (WildEarth Guardians v. Jackson, D.D.C., No. 09-00089, consent decree approved 2/4/10).

EPA has until Nov. 30 to either issue a final rule revising the various emissions standards or make a final determination that no revisions are necessary.

Additionally, EPA will begin evaluating any residual risk posed by emissions of hazardous air pollutants from petroleum refineries after the required controls have been installed. It asked all 152 petroleum refineries for detailed emissions data, which will be collected this year (75 Fed. Reg. 60,107).

The Bush administration determined in January 2009 that the facilities did not pose any additional health risks and no new controls were required. However, that finding was never published in the Federal Register. The Obama administration later withdrew those findings and said it would perform a second review (74 Fed. Reg. 55,670).

More than 100 House Democrats urge EPA to press ahead with mercury/toxic cleanup plan for power plants

This letter is an important political counterweight to the efforts by American Electric Power, Southern Company and other miscreants who seek to continue poisoning the air with impunity.

http://capps.house.gov/Capps%20Letter%20to%20EPA%20-%20Air%20Toxics%20Rule.pdf

Monday, June 20, 2011

New York Times editorial slams AEP: "deceptive and cynical"

and well said!

A.E.P. Protests Too Much


American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest utilities, warned last week that new air quality rules could force it to “prematurely” shut down about two dozen big coal-fired units and fire hundreds of workers. This is a deceptive and particularly cynical claim. The utility is making a business decision that has little to do with the rules.

Here is what A.E.P. is not saying: These units are, on average, 55 years old. Some are running at only 5 percent of capacity. Many had long been slated for retirement, in part to comply with a 2007 settlement with the George W. Bush administration in which the company agreed to settle violations of the Clean Air Act by spending $4.7 billion to retire or retrofit aging units.

Blaming the rules is a transparent scare tactic designed to weaken the administration’s resolve while playing to industry supporters on Capitol Hill. Fortunately, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which proposed the rules, refuses to be bullied.

Ms. Jackson called the A.E.P. charges “misleading at best” and made clear she would not retreat from her statutory duty to protect public health. She said she would stick to her timetable and make the rules final this year. We hope that the White House is equally determined.

Two rules are at issue. One, proposed last year, would require utilities to sharply reduce emissions of already-regulated soot and smog-forming pollutants like sulfur dioxide. The other, for the first time, would mandate reductions in toxic pollutants like mercury. Coal-fired plants, which generate the vast bulk of A.E.P.’s power, are by far the biggest producers of all these pollutants. Companies will have to begin complying with the soot and smog rules next year and the air toxics rule by 2015.

A.E.P. says this timeline is “unrealistic” and asks for a delay of up to five years; otherwise, it says, it will have to shut down one-fourth of its coal-fired capacity and lay off up to 600 workers. Yet in a June 1 meeting with investors, Michael Morris, the utility’s chairman, who last week warned about the impact of the proposed regulations on “our customers and local economies,” told investors that the closings were “the appropriate way to go” for customers and shareholders.

As for the utility’s claims of undue haste, they don’t stand up to even minimal review. Both rules have been in the works since the Clinton administration, and companies that have made their plants more efficient or invested in cleaner-burning fuels or up-to-date pollution control technologies are by now well prepared to deal with them.

A.E.P., by contrast, has always seemed much more interested in fighting the Clean Air Act than in finding sensible ways to meet its requirements. It fought the statue after it passed in 1970 and resisted efforts to strengthen the law under President George H. W. Bush. Even now it is shopping a bill around Capitol Hill that would block or delay the proposed new standards.

The bill does not so far have a sponsor, though it will likely have plenty of sympathizers among Republicans and some Rust Belt Democrats. It does not reflect the interests or wishes of the vast majority of Americans, for whom cleaner air is rightly a higher priority than any company’s bottom line.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt Headlines Those Trying at White House to Influence Final EPA Power Plant Rule

As you may be aware, the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing final EPA rules aimed at reducing dangeous pollution from coal-fired power plants that blows from one state to another. (This is the rather badly named "Transport" rule, which is intended to replace the legally flawed Bush EPA "Clean Air Interstate Rule.)

This is very crucial rule -- one that will reduce harmful pollution and improve public health.

And now that it's coming down to the wire, there's been a flurry of meetings at the White House in the past few weeks as various interest groups make final attempts to influence the decision.

OMB has just posted notice of some of these meetings online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira_2060_meetings/

Headlining those supplicants is former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, among those who attended a May 25th meeting. He appears to have been representing one of his clients, General Electric. (Gephardt also lobbies for Peabody Energy.)

Other meetings have included representatives from the Utility Air Regulatory Group and specifically Duke Energy (we guess they are fighting for some breaks), Luminant Energy, which seems to want a break for Texas, Texas Electric Cooperative, and various environmental groups.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wake up the White House! Lung Assn. Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for EPA and Stronger Smog Standards

Challenging industry assertions, voters reject economic arguments and support public health

Washington, D.C. (June 16, 2011)—

Americans across the country are overwhelmingly supportive of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agency’s efforts to update standards for life-threatening air pollutants such as smog, according to new data released today from a nationwide, bipartisan survey conducted by the American Lung Association.

Central to the current debate in Congress, 75 percent of voters support the EPA setting stricter limits on smog, and a significant majority of voters reject the notion that stronger standards will impede economic recovery, with most believing that updated standards are likely to will create more jobs as a result of innovation and investment in new technologies.

Despite months of continued attacks on clean air protections from Members of Congress, in today’s results, 72 percent of voters do not want Congress to stop the EPA from setting stricter limits on smog. This is an increase from a similar Lung Association survey conducted in February 2011, in which 68 percent of voters opposed Congressional action that would impede EPA from updating clean air standards.

“Big corporate polluters and some in Congress are working to weaken the Clean Air Act and are appealing to the public by depicting a dire scenario should dirty energy companies be forced to clean up their act,” said Peter Iwanowicz, assistant vice president with the American Lung Association. “They claim that setting more protective standards for smog will harm the economy. As they do so, they ignore the overwhelming science that strong, achievable standards are a public health imperative that will benefit everyone and prevent thousands of premature deaths each year. It’s time the polluters and their Congressional allies listen to voters who overwhelmingly want the EPA to protect the air we breathe.”

Key poll findings include:
An overwhelming 75 percent of voters support EPA setting stricter limits on smog;
65 percent say that stricter standards on air pollution will not damage our economic recovery, with 54 percent believing that updates are likely to create more jobs, not less;
66 percent of voters think the EPA should set pollution standards, not Members of Congress;
Support for updating smog standards is widespread. Targeted polling among voters in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Virginia found support for the EPA setting stricter limits on air pollution ranging between 64-72 percent.

Despite the fact that certain big polluters continue to make an economic argument that stronger standards will lead to plant closures or other extreme measures, 65 percent of voters clearly reject the premise that stricter smog standards will hurt the economy or cost jobs.

“The poll shows a large, bipartisan majority of American voters support EPA efforts to place stricter limits on smog-causing pollution," said Hans Kaiser, Vice President of Campaign and Public Affairs, Moore Information. “Additionally, a majority of voters in every region believes that stricter smog standards would be more likely to create jobs by spurring innovation than they would be to hurt jobs because of increased costs."

“The survey clearly indicates that voters strongly trust the EPA to deal with clean air standards more than Congress – even after opponents have subjected it to strong attacks over the past several months,” said Michael Bocian, Principal at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “A bipartisan 66 percent majority believes that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards. This is despite opposing language arguing that our elected representatives in Congress would do a better job than ‘unelected bureaucrats at the EPA’.”
The full survey, along with slides and a memo from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Moore Information found here.

Methodology: The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Moore Information. Their firms conducted a national survey of 2,400 likely 2012 voters reached by both landline and cell phone, including oversamples of 400 likely voters each in the following four regions: Florida, Ohio/Michigan, Minnesota/Wisconsin, North Carolina/Virginia June 4-12, 2011. The margin of error for the full national sample is 3.7%. For half samples it is 4.9%. For each oversample region it is approximately 4.6% depending on sample size

AEP chief Mike Morris speaketh with forked tongue

There's a fascinating piece in yesterday's National Journal Daily regarding the double-talk coming from Michael Morris, chairman and CEO of American Electric Power. You will recall that AEP recently tried to intimidate the White House by proclaiming that EPA air standards would prompt plant closures and layoffs. But National Journal notes that Morris had quite a different message for investors earlier this month.

This publication is available by subscription only (it's an excellent publication) so we won't run the full text, but here's a quick excerpt:

Power Company Contradicts Itself on EPA Rules

By Amy Harder
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

American Electric Power, one of the nation’s biggest coal utilities, downplayed the impact of EPA regulations to its investors while forecasting a doom-and-gloom outcome for Washington policymakers.

AEP has come under scrutiny after announcing on June 9 that it would have to close five of its coal-fired power plants and post a net loss of 600 jobs because of Clean Air Act regulations...

“Because of the unrealistic compliance timelines in the EPA proposals, we will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power-plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit, and replace coal-fueled power plants,” AEP chairman and CEO Mike Morris said in a statement last week...

A week earlier, Morris had sought to allay investors’ concerns about the plant closures and their effect on AEP’s bottom line at a June 1 investors conference.

“On balance, we think that is the appropriate way to go,” Morris said of the closures. “Not only to treat our customers, but also to treat our shareholders, near and long term, with that small amount of the fleet going off-line.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dirty Democrats, led by Dingell, press coal power industry's agenda to sabotage mercury/toxic cleanup plan

an excerpt from Greenwire:

A group of 27 House Democrats, led by former House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), is asking U.S. EPA to give utilities and the public an extra two months to comment on a proposal that would order coal-fired power plants to spend billions of dollars per year to control their toxic emissions.

Dingell, a 29-term congressman who was himself one of the architects of the Clean Air Act, said the plan to cut emissions of chemicals such as mercury, acid gases and heavy metals is "unparalleled in its size and scope" among the toxic pollution rules that have been crafted under the law. It would have "wide-reaching impacts on the way our country generates and consumes electricity," he wrote in a letter that was dated Friday and made public this morning.

Along with his colleagues, Dingell is asking EPA to extend the comment period for the rule -- which was unveiled in mid-March and formally published in the Federal Register in early May -- from July 3 to Sept. 1.

That would give EPA a tight window to release a final rule by Nov. 16, as the agency agreed in a settlement with states and environmental groups last year, but the letter says the final rule should be delayed if that is necessary to give the public more time to comment.

UN Report: limit soot and smog emissions to deal with global warming

This is a very important new report.

Scientific evidence and new analyses demonstrate that control of black carbon particles and tropospheric ozone through rapid implementation of proven emission reduction measures would have immediate and multiple benefits for human well-being.

Black carbon exists as particles in the atmosphere and is a major component of soot; it has significant human health and climate impacts. At ground level, ozone is an air pollutant harmful to human health and ecosystems, and throughout the troposphere, or lower atmosphere, is also
a significant greenhouse gas. Ozone is not directly emitted, but is produced from emissions of precursors of which methane and carbon monoxide are of particular interest here.

more at http://www.unep.org/dewa/Portals/67/pdf/BlackCarbon_SDM.pdf

Excellent Asheville editorial notes congressional Rs have lost their way

Hunters, anglers line up to oppose efforts to harm clean air, water

Remember when to be conservative meant, among other things, wanting to conserve our nation's natural resources? Apparently, today's version of congressional Republicans don't.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been under steady attack since Republicans gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. A particular target is EPA efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act. Four times in May the Senate blocked House efforts to stop EPA from regulating greenhouse gases...

The Clean Air Act dates from 1970. Like the Endangered Species Act (1973) and the Clean Water Act (greatly expanded in 1972), it was enacted while Republican Richard Nixon was president. Nixon himself was indifferent to environmental issues, but he appointed people who cared deeply, such as Rogers C.B. Morton and Nathaniel P. Reed.

In those days, Republicans championed protection of natural resources. The task has become more important today now that we understand more deeply the effects of climate change. Sadly, the GOP has abandoned the fight and instead seeks to impede it...

Even if anti-EPA laws are not enacted, the very effort seeks to intimidate the regulators, said Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch. He said the EPA already has been pressured into backpedaling on rules to halve dangerous emissions from fossil-fuel burning boilers.

The fight has been joined. Those who want to preserve environmental protections must not back down. Those who want to destroy them will not, even though their efforts make a mockery of their self-proclaimed conservatism.

more at:


http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110613/OPINION01/306130007/Hunters-anglers-line-up-oppose-efforts-harm-clean-air-water?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFrontpage%7Cp

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Clean Air Watch SmogWatch Survey: through May 31, 2011

For our release on this, including the relevance of EPA's ongoing effort to review national smog standards, see http://cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/2011/06/smog-watch-2011-fewer-states-with-dirty.html

**

States with "Code Orange" or "Code Red" smog problems in 2011 (smog levels worse than the weak standards set by the Bush administration in 2008) through May 31:
(22 plus DC)

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Kansas
Louisiana
Maryland
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Wyoming

Total smog days: 445

**

Compared to 2010 through May 31:


STATES WITH "CODE ORANGE" OR "CODE RED" PROBLEMS

2010 (38)

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
South Carolina
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin

Total smog days 579

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Report: coal power plants can clean up toxic fumes -- and we'll still keep the lights on!

There's been a lot of industry propaganda and scare tactics (the latest at a "debate" held today by the Environmental Law Institute) on the basic theme that we'll have blackouts if EPA proceeds with a plan to clean up the mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-burning power plants (or shut the plants down).

But that is pretty obviously just boiler plate rhetoric aimed at scaring the Obama administration.

Now a new report refutes those arguments. The report, at
http://bit.ly/mFgm5O ,
concludes that industry can clean up -- and we'll still keep the lights on. Of special interest are recent corporate statements to investors and shareholders to the effect they are ready to meet the EPA requirements.

Code Orange dirty air forecast today for Rep. Fred Upton's district

Here is the latest bad news from the US EPA's official "airnow" forecast:
http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&cityid=90

It's predicted to be a "Code Orange" dirty-air day for Rep. Fred Upton's district.

Why does he still persist in seeking to block efforts to clean up the air?

Opponents of EPA ready new attack

from our friends at Solveclimate news:

http://solveclimatenews.com/news/20110607/oklahoma-john-sullivan-train-clean-air-act-epa-greenhouse-gases

Jun 7, 2011
WASHINGTON—Those perceiving the Clean Air Act as a lumbering locomotive intent on flattening U.S. jobs, economic competitiveness and energy reliability hope the "TRAIN Act" makes more than a whistle-stop tour through Capitol Hill.

Conservationists, however, have an opposite take.

For them, the wheels can't come off soon enough from House legislation that is saddled with a cumbersome name — Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 — to create a cutesy but memorable acronym that lends itself to ridicule.

Listen to Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell.

"It ought to be called the 'Train Wreck Act' because it's such a thoroughly bad idea," the president of the Washington-based advocacy organization told SolveClimate News in an interview. "This just shows you that the spirit of George Orwell is alive and well in Washington."

But Oklahoma Rep. John Sullivan evidently thinks the name reflects the serious legislating the House must undertake now that the GOP wields power once again.

The Republican says he is sponsoring such a measure because Congress desperately needs "an honest accounting of how much the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory train wreck is costing our economy and American consumers."

Where the TRAIN Act Stands

Sullivan is second in command on the GOP-directed Energy and Power Subcommittee. The TRAIN Act is now under consideration by the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee after advancing out of the subpanel May 24.

The legislation's 28 co-sponsors include Democrats Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Gene Green of Texas.

In a nutshell, the 10-page bill (H.R. 1705) creates an interagency federal committee tasked with conducting cost-benefit analyses of 10 specific EPA regulations aimed at curbing pollutants such as heat-trapping gases, fine particulates, ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These studies are supposed to reveal the effects of clean air rules on consumers, small businesses, state and local governments, labor markets and agriculture.
"Unfortunately, this administration's lack of regard for the economic consequences of its environmental and energy agenda is hindering our ability to get the economy back on track," Sullivan said back when he officially introduced his bill May 4.

"Many of EPA’s regulations under consideration will cost our country billions, impacting everything from energy reliability, jobs, manufacturing and the global economic competitiveness of the United States."

Waxman's Effort to Sideline Bill

Even as the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, California Rep. Henry Waxman knows he has to perform fancy legislative footwork to stymie legislation he dislikes while serving on a GOP-majority panel.
That line of tactical thinking evidently prompted him to urge committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to delay consideration of the bill until the Congressional Budget Office scores the bill.

In a May 31 letter, Waxman and Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, the top Democrat on the Energy and Power Subcommittee, detailed how Republicans violated strict financial policies the GOP laid out in January by not allotting a specific sum of money for the interagency committee to execute its analyses.
The two Democrats pointed out that the TRAIN Act initially included an authorization for appropriations of $2 million for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, which they thought was low considering the amount of research the federal panel was being asked to accomplish.


"During the Subcommittee markup, an amendment offered by Rep. Sullivan to strike this authorization was adopted," Waxman and Rush wrote. "Rep. Sullivan stated that once the specific authorization amount was removed, the agencies would simply use 'existing resources under the current operating budgets' to implement the legislation."

But instead of forcing the executive branch to use existing resources, they continued, it actually would require the Congressional Budget Office to provide an estimated authorization, at the very least.

"We do not believe the subterfuge used to report the TRAIN Act by the Subcommittee is appropriate," Waxman and Rush concluded, adding that Republicans should postpone action until the Congressional Budget Office provides an accurate cost assessment and bill supporters can clarify how the committee "will process legislation that will cost millions of taxpayer dollars to implement but has no specific authorization and no provisions to pay for the costs."

Upton is a Sullivan Ally

When House Republicans charged back onto Capitol Hill after trouncing the Democrats during the November midterm election, they made no secret of their aversion to environmental regulations. No doubt, the TRAIN Act is one in a long line of anti-EPA measures.

EPA's insistence on pushing for what Sullivan labeled an expensive, one-size-fits-all federal mandate on haze is part of what prompted the Oklahoman to introduce his bill. He maintains that a regional plan for limiting smog in his home state would be cheaper and less burdensome on electricity generators and utility customers.

Upton, speaking in support of Sullivan's bill, said the intent is neither to shut down EPA nor nullify regulations.

"We are simply asking for a more holistic study of the economic impacts of EPA regulations," Upton said in remarks at the May 24 hearing about the measure he is co-sponsoring. "Without thoughtful consideration and deliberate application, certain regulations have the ability to shut down businesses, destroy jobs and increase the price and availability of energy."

'Lobbyist Mischief' Requires Eternal Vigilance

In a different era in the nation's capital, O'Donnell said, legislation such as the TRAIN Act would probably be ignored because it's so extreme.
"But we have to take it seriously because if we don't stand up and say this is a threat, it might slip through," he emphasized. "It's lobbyist mischief. Their intention is to throw a scare into the White House and slow the pace of regulation through intimidation. It's an attempt to tie up EPA standards in a straitjacket."

He noted that industry and other opponents have already bullied the White House and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson into backpedaling on a rule designed to halve emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants from an estimated 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and solid waste incinerators.
Just last month, the agency announced that it was delaying indefinitely recently completed restrictions on fossil fuel-burning boilers that power and heat factories, schools, hospitals and universities.

EPA is required to limit toxic emissions from boilers under the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, and it was under court order to issue the most recent rules.
While proponents of the TRAIN Act point out how EPA's efforts to rein in pollutants will saddle homeowners with higher utility bills, organizations such as the American Lung Association find comfort in a report from the federal government.

Jackson's agency recently estimated that cutting pollution via the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion between 1990 and 2020 and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually.

TRAIN Act Repetitive

In a May letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership, American Lung Association president and chief executive officer David Connor emphasized that the TRAIN Act is a redundant measure that delays long-overdue protections.

One, he said, the Clean Air Act already requires that all interested parties have ample time to provide comments about any proposed rule. And two, the White House Office of Management and Budget executes in-depth reviews of all significant rulemakings after EPA conducts its own internal examinations.

TRAIN Act opponents refer to a new paper by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in the nation's capital.

In "Tallying up the Impact of New EPA Rules," author Isaac Shapiro presents evidence that nine major rules made final by the Obama administration's EPA would amount to less than 0.1 percent of the economy when fully in effect by 2014.

However, O'Donnell and others doubt such arithmetic will halt House Republicans from blaming a teetering but complex economy on environmental regulations.

"It's an attempt to throw sands into EPA's regulatory gears," O'Donnell said about the TRAIN Act. "With any luck, even if it passes through Energy and Commerce and the full House, it will die in the Senate."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The (auto) empire strikes back! With help from NHTSA

an excerpt from Politico Pro (subscription required for the whole piece)


Automakers, Obama on collision course

Two years after a federal bailout saved Detroit from a complete collapse, U.S. automakers are trying to put the brakes on President Barack Obama’s hopes of raising fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks to as high as 62 miles per gallon by 2025.

Auto industry officials are pressing everyone from White House chief of staff Bill Daley to House Speaker John Boehner and California Gov. Jerry Brown in a late lobbying blitz to make sure they don't get the short end of the stick....

Industry officials say they are also concerned California will abandon the negotiations and assert its long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to pursue stronger limits than the federal government. Brown, elected in November, has a history of fighting with Detroit from his first stint as governor more than 30 years ago in Sacramento. On top of that, another 13 states — representing about half the country's car-buying public — have shown they are willing to join California in petitioning the EPA for a waiver that allows them to go beyond the federal limits....

For years, NHTSA held exclusive authority to address fuel economy by updating the need for CAFE limits every five years. But it lost some of its footing with the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which allowed EPA to regulate for greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
Obama in 2009 was able to get EPA and NHTSA to combine their forces working on one fuel economy package. But that goodwill has apparently waned, with NHTSA now trying to overrule both the EPA and California on which cost estimate studies should be accepted, as well as how many votes each party gets as they submit a final recommendation to the White House.

"NHTSA is being a very nasty player," one source close to the talks said. "They're up to their old tricks, scamming for the auto industry. It's not a pleasant process in which everyone is playing nicely."

Officials at the EPA and NHTSA did not address specific questions about the internal debate. Both issued statements suggesting they're working together on regulations that will save consumers money, reduce foreign oil dependence and curb greenhouse gas emissions.