Friday, October 28, 2011

Callous head of AEP calls TVA ash tragedy a "tv event" !!!

During an investor’s call Oct. 26, Mike Morris, head of American Electric Power, talked about how he was encouraged by actions in Congress, and claimed the “coal ash issue” was “occasioned by a TV event at the TVA.” As if the toxic Kingston ash spill was some media stunt!!! See below:


http://seekingalpha.com/article/302417-american-electric-power-s-ceo-discusses-q3-2011-results-earnings-call-transcript

... We continue to meet and have dialogue with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, all of the RTOs that are affected at least by our fleet and the impact that those rules may have on our fleet, as well as on the FERC. We begin to -- some time ago, we began to have conversations with members of Congress, and we're quite pleased to see what the House Republicans have done. Also encouraged by yesterday or earlier this week's announcements by a bipartisan group of senators, both Democratic and Republicans sides of the aisle, addressing the coal ash issue, which is really a piece of legislation that was occasioned by a TV event at the TVA. That isn't the basis for continued regulatory change and we tried to point that out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

EPA flies white flag again -- this time over big-particle pollution...

....cleverly packaged by opponents as benign-sounding “farm dust.”

EPA noted in letter to Congress that it plans to propose no change in the existing standards for big-particle pollution, or “PM 10”
http://www.epa.gov/pm/pdfs/20111014Stabenow.pdf


Compare to what EPA’s science advisers had said, in arguing that existing standards are too weak. EPA summarized the scientists’ advice in a recent policy assessment document:

http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pm/data/20110419pmpafinal.pdf

p 3-23
3.2.2 CASAC Conclusions and Recommendations
Following their review of the first and second draft PAs, CASAC provided advice and recommendations regarding the current and potential alternative standards for thoracic coarse particles (Samet, 2010c; Samet, 2010d). With regard to the current PM10 standard, CASAC concluded that “the current data, while limited, is sufficient to call into question the level of
protection afforded the American people by the current standard” (Samet, 2010d, p. 7). In drawing this conclusion, CASAC noted the positive associations in multi-city and single-city studies, including in locations with PM10 concentrations below those allowed by the current
standard. In addition, CASAC gave “significant weight to studies that have generally reported that PM10-2.5 effect estimates remain positive when evaluated in co-pollutant models” and concluded that “controlled human exposure PM10-2.5 studies showing decreases in heart rate
variability and increases in markers of pulmonary inflammation are deemed adequate to support the plausibility of the associations reported in epidemiologic studies” (Samet, 2010d, p. 7). Given all of the above conclusions CASAC recommended that “the primary standard for PM10
should be revised” in order to increase public health protection
(Samet, 2010d, p. ii and p. 7).
**
The full letter by the scientists is at http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/264cb1227d55e02c85257402007446a4/CCF9F4C0500C500F8525779D0073C593/$File/EPA-CASAC-10-015-unsigned.pdf

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fine-particle soot found to cause lung cancer in non-smokers

This is a study that has just appeared in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Case Medicine

Abstract at http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/201106-1011OCv1


Here are a few quick excerpts from the full study (which requires a paid subscription):

DISCUSSION

This large prospective study showed clear positive associations between mean long-term ambient fine particulate matter air pollution concentrations and lung cancer mortality in lifelong never smokers. Each 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 concentrations was associated with a 15-27% increase in the relative risk of lung cancer death after detailed adjustment for a number of potential confounders including passive smoking, occupational exposures, and radon. The
association was similar in men and women and across categories of attained age and educational attainment but was stronger in those with a normal BMI or a history of asthma or any CLD at enrollment. Findings were robust to the adjustment of a variety of socio-demographic ecological covariates at different time points in the model.

Strengths of this study include the examination of lung cancer mortality in a large cohort of 188,699 lifelong never smokers to eliminate potential residual confounding by cigarette smoking status; an extended 26-year follow-up time period (1982-2008) with a total of 1,100 observed lung cancer deaths; detailed prospectively collected individual-level lung cancer risk factor data;
and the availability of ecological measures of residential radon concentrations and sociodemographic characteristics to examine potential confounding by radon and community-level factors.

Although previous studies examining associations between PM2.5 and lung cancer adjusting for cigarette smoking history have generally reported positive findings, there remains concern regarding potential residual confounding by cigarette smoking status; previous studies of non-smokers were also limited by the small numbers of lung cancer cases...

Ambient fine particulate matter comprises a diverse group of air pollutants that may be deposited and retained in the deep branches of the respiratory system, the chemical composition of which varies widely and may include a variety of adsorbed organic compounds, transition metals, ions, and minerals capable of inducing toxic biological effects Long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution may lead to increased lung cancer risk through inflammatory injury,
reactive oxygen species production, and oxidative damage to DNA. Genotoxic and
mutagenic effects have also been demonstrated in laboratory studies.

Oops, never mind: EPA standards won't affect power companies as much as predicted earlier

Estimate of US coal plant retirements from rules changes cut by consultancy


(An excerpt from the Platts news service:)


Up to 40 GW of additional coal plant retirements over the next two decades will result from regulations proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, consultancy ICF International said Monday in its third quarter Energy Outlook.

The report is a far cry from the consultancy's first quarter report, which estimated that 68 GW of coal-fired plant retirements would occur over the same period due to the series of expected regulations...

"I think everybody's projections are evolving as the regulations change and as we learn about what will be contained in the forthcoming regulations," said Managing Director John Blaney, who helped oversee publication of the report...

Another, newer realization by the authors is that the coal plant retirements won't affect coal consumption by utilities as much as previously thought.

"It's a couple of things," Blaney said. "First, most of the retirements are among smaller and older [plants] that are already running at lower capacity factors, so they'll have proportionally less of an impact on demand than expected. And some of the existing plants will ramp up to meet extra demand."

(Here is more on the report: http://www.icfi.com/news/2011/third-quarter-2011-integrated-energy-outlook )

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Clean Air Watch Smog Watch Survey: smog problems up in September

[for some additional context, check http://cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/2011/10/clean-air-watch-smog-survey-smog.html ]

“Code Orange” or “Code Red“ Smog Days were up by nearly a third in September 2011 compared to the previous year.

Total “Code Orange” or “Code Red” (monitored readings above 75 parts per billion ozone) Smog Days in September 2011

1,038

Compared to 785 in September 2010

A 32% increase


Total Smog Days through September 30, 2011

5,313

Compared to 3,908 in 2010 through September

36 percent increase

22 States with “Code Orange” or “Code Red” problems in September 2011

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Michigan
Missouri
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
West Virginia
Wisconsin

Compared to September 2010 (24 plus DC)

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
DC
Georgia
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Virginia

Total number of states with “Code Orange” or “Code Red” Smog Days in 2011, through September: 39 plus DC

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

Monday, October 03, 2011

Clean Air Watch presents its first Dirty Dog of the Month award


By popular demand, Clean Air Watch is debuting a new monthly feature – a dubious achievement award in the universe of air pollution. Think of it a bit like the “darts and laurels” section of the Columbia Journalism Review.

As a watchdog organization, we think it appropriate to carry on the metaphor by designating the recipient as the Clean Air Watch Dirty Dog of the Month.

And there are so many possible “award” winners this month:

• For starters, how about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who instigated the so-called TRAIN Act, the “worst air pollution bill ever to reach the House floor.”
http://bit.ly/oxmw4q

Or perhaps some of those who sponsored amendments that made a foul –air bill even more odiferous? For instance:

• Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the former coal-train lobbyist whose amendment would block EPA cleanup of deadly power plant emissions?
• Or Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), who amendment would completely re-write the Clean Air Act by forcing the EPA to set national clean air standards based partly on “what is best for industry’s bottom line, rather than what is best for public health. With this change, Americans would never know whether the air they are breathing is truly healthy.” http://bit.ly/ofMF6Y
• Or perhaps Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), who – carrying the legislative gas can for the oil industry – amended the legislation to preempt important upcoming EPA standards to reduce the smog-producing emissions from gasoline and new passenger vehicles. http://bit.ly/o0Ut1X

Nornally, any or all of these miscreants would deserve the dart.

But this has been an unprecedented occasion.

In this case, the White House broke a campaign promise, sabotaged the hard-working professionals at EPA, encouraged the opponents of clean air, left many millions of Americans stuck breathing dirty air longer – and then tried to cover up the misdeeds with misleading information and half-based political “spin.” All out of political cowardice and the obvious assumption that environmentalists have no options when going to the polls in 2012. More on this theme at http://bit.ly/q0HmwD

And so the Clean Air Watch Dirty Dog of the Month Award goes to President Barack Obama, with dishonorable mention to White House Chief of Staff William Daley, and OMB regulatory czar Cass Sunstein.

For a little history and context, consider the campaign pledge the Obama-Biden team made in 2008:

“Unlike President Bush, they will listen to his scientific advisers on air quality standards. And they will reverse the Bush administration’s attempts to chip away at our nation’s clean air standards.”
http://bit.ly/n2MWDv

Unfortunately, the President conveniently forgot this pledge when it came time for EPA to reconsider the critical national air quality standards for ozone, or smog, after industry groups trouped to the White House with politically tinged maps of the U.S. http://1.usa.gov/nJLxYY

As has been well reported, the President ordered the EPA to stop its responsible and legally correct attempt to right the Bush administration’s wrong.

To make matters worse, the White House then issued misleading information about when the EPA would have another crack at righting the Bush wrong. The President asserted that EPA continuing review of the issue “will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013.” http://bit.ly/rojXpn

But that isn’t true. As EPA noted in a recent memo to its regional workers, the agency intends at this point only to “propose” a decision on the ozone question in the fall of 2013. A final decision would not happen until July 2014 at the earliest. http://bit.ly/nREHTa These deadlines, of course, could slip also. After the travesty we’ve just witnessed, do we really expect the EPA would be permitted to make such a decision only months before the mid-term elections?

As for Daley, he deserves special opprobrium. He became the duct-work carrying the business lobby’s dirty-air stink into the Oval Office. Daley treated the whole issue as if it were some sort of Chicago back-room deal. It could become an interesting parlor game to guess which Business Roundtable corporation he will join after leaving “public service.”

And – et tu, Sunstein? Well, we know he was once on the staff of the Harvard Lampoon, but this is no joke. He was Daley’s knife-wielding partner behind closed doors and then became the front man trying to cover up the mess. Perhaps his most outrageous comment, as reported September 14 by Politico Pro: “There was no political overriding of the science; in fact, this was a judgment on the merits, it was not a political judgment.”

Oh, please! This may be the most blatant lie I’ve seen since Seinfeld’s Mr. Peterman called out George Costanza. (“George, you're obviously lying, anyone can see that!” http://bit.ly/oPw6C4)

Yes, we know and appreciate that the White House team now says the President would veto the dirty-air TRAIN Act. On the other hand, the shameful White House behavior in the smog case emboldened the TRAIN leaders to attack the Clean Air Act. So don’t claim too much credit for rattling the saber at legislation that may never even come up in the Senate. We will be much more positive if EPA is permitted to move ahead with plans to reduce mercury and toxic emissions from power plants.

Finally, we don’t want this to be an entirely negative review. So we will offer the laurel to those who did stand up for clean air. (We will refrain from calling them Clean Air Rescue Dogs, though you can if you insist.)

During the TRAIN debate in the House of Representatives, some traditional clean-air champs such as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) remained faithful friends and deserve more praise than they will perhaps ever receive.

But we would like this month to single out for praise four Republican members of the House who broke ranks with their leadership – a tough task in this mob-scene environment – and voted against the dirty-air TRAIN bill.

They are:

Rep. Charles Bass, New Hampshire
Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois
Rep. Robert Dold, Illinois
Rep. Nan Hayworth, New York


Your constituents – and the nation – should salute you for having the guts to do the right thing.