Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Arsenic-laced apple juice! Another reason EPA must clean up toxins (including arsenic!) from coal-burning power plants

Here’s another reason why EPA must move ahead to clean up the toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants – including mercury and arsenic.

Consumer Reports has found arsenic in bottled apple juice. http://gma.yahoo.com/arsenic-juice-study-prompts-action-084002586.html

It’s unclear exactly where that arsenic is coming from, but we do know coal-burning power plants spew out this carcinogen. EPA’s toxic pollution standards would sharply cut arsenic levels.
http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/pdfs/presentation.pdf

The White House ought to keep this in mind when the dirty power companies – especially American Electric Power and Southern Company – plead for a special deal so they can keep spewing arsenic and other toxins.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mercury/toxic standards for power plants...AN OBAMA LOOPHOLE?...the plot sickens

As you know the lobbying is becoming more intense by the moment as we draw closer to a final decision on EPA’s upcoming mercury/toxic pollution standards for power plants.

A fascinating story (below) in today’s National Journal notes that some coal-heavy power companies and the Edison Electric Institute are now putting it to President Obama directly: they want him to delay cleanup of deadly power plants by invoking a “national security” provision of the Clean Air Act. This is one of the more appalling excuses for delay that we have ever heard. I mean really!

EEI reportedly is also lobbying for a blanket (and possibly illegal) four-year cleanup deadline. (It could be a poison pill provision. These lawyers are very crafty! That sounds to us like a way to create another opportunity to sue after the rules are issued.)

We all know from prior reports that most power companies are poised to meet these standards. It looks as if EEI is being dominated by the lower common denominator – dirty companies such as American Electric Power and Southern Company, which are spending big time lobbying for additional delays so they can keep spewing mercury and other toxins.

The question at hand: will the Obama Administration mar what could become one of its signature clean-air accomplishments by adding an Obama Loophole?

**


ENERGY
Coal Utilities Propose Clean-Air Exemption
By Amy Harder
.
Coal-fired utilities seeking more time to comply with the Obama administration’s clean-air rules are invoking a rare statutory tool that grants companies more time if the country’s national security is at risk.
Edison Electric Institute, the trade group representing 70 percent of the U.S. power industry, is urging President Obama to issue an executive order under the Clean Air Act that exempts a company from any Environmental Protection Agency rule for two years “if the President determines that the technology to implement such standard is not available and that it is in the national security interests of the United States to do so,” as the law states. This provision also states that the exemption “may be extended for 1 or more additional periods.”

Industry sources said that the provision has never been used.

On Dec. 16, the EPA is expected to finalize a controversial rule that aims to slash 90 percent of mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. All utilities would be required to comply by 2015. Because coal is the dirtiest fuel used to generate electricity, coal-intensive utilities like American Electric Power and Southern Company would be hit the hardest.

EEI’s reasoning for invoking the national-security clause goes like this: The compliance time frame —primarily for the mercury standard—could force some power plants to shut down, triggering brownouts and blackouts. There could be shortages in areas with military bases, making it a national-security issue.

“It is widely understood, most recently in discussions about the importance of cybersecurity in our electricity infrastructure and the importance of national security and defense facilities having secure, reliable electric service, that the provision of reliable, cost-effective electricity is critical for national security,” EEI stated in comments submitted to EPA.
An industry source said such a request “would be so rare” because the proof threshold is so high. Still, at least one company is already eyeing this exemption.

“There is a coal-fired plant that is scheduled to be shut down that is currently providing electrical power to a series of military installations on our Atlantic shoreline,” said former Sen. John Warner, R-Va. (Warner is a consultant on both national-security and energy issues at Hogan Lovells.) The company, which Warner declined to identify, is hoping “the president will issue his executive order simultaneous with the EPA rule” on Dec. 16.

Separately, EEI is asking EPA to give all companies four years instead of three to comply. That means some companies could get up to at least six years to become compliant.

Lobbyists for clean-burning utilities say it’s just another delay tactic by coal companies. Some national-security experts question the connection coal utilities are trying to make.

“It baffles me that they would assume national-security planners would be caught blindsided by an EPA rule that makes coal-fired power plants go offline,” said Will Rogers, an energy and national-security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

This article appeared in the Tuesday, November 29, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily.

Monday, November 28, 2011

CERES: only a few power companies seek to delay important mercury/toxic cleanup standards

I came across an excellent blog post a bit ago, by the nonprofit Ceres. Please note below. It notes, accurately, that only a few politically active power companies such as American Electric Power and Southern Company seek to delay EPA’s important mercury/toxic pollution standards. Given all the nonsense being tossed out (by folks in the employ of these companies, I might add), I think this article adds important perspective. Most companies either meet the standards already, or are telling investors it won’t be a problem.

Why should people across the nation keep breathing harmful and even deadly air just so a couple of laggards can get a deal? We will keep very close watch on this issue in the coming days. Meanwhile, this is a good read:

http://www.ceres.org/press/blog-posts

Delay Tactics: A Few Big Utility Companies Seek to Delay Important Clean Air Protections

The EPA is scheduled to release its Mercury and Air Toxics (a.k.a., Utility MACT) Rule on December 16. The rule will establish, for the first time, limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Although power plant operators would not be required to comply with the Utility MACT rule until 2015 or 2016, members of Congress and some within the electric industry have been suggesting that EPA push back the compliance schedule even further. AEP, for example, has suggested that it may need until 2020 to comply.

by Dan Bakal, Director of Electric Power Program, Ceres — Ceres Posted on Nov 28, 2011

The EPA is scheduled to release its Mercury and Air Toxics (a.k.a., Utility MACT) Rule on December 16. The rule will establish, for the first time, limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Although power plant operators would not be required to comply with the Utility MACT rule until 2015 or 2016, members of Congress and some within the electric industry have been suggesting that EPA push back the compliance schedule even further. AEP, for example, has suggested that it may need until 2020 to comply.

I have been reviewing industry earnings call for several years, and in my most recent review of 3rd Quarter earnings calls, I looked closely at how companies are positioned to comply. I was surprised (and pleased) to find that, despite the heated rhetoric, most companies have been assuring financial analysts that they are well on their way in terms of cleaning up their coal fleets.

For example, take Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, which generates more than 60 percent of its electricity from coal. He recently described his “fleet modernization” program during the company’s third quarter earnings call. The company has a number of new power plants coming on-line and is on track to have “nearly 100%” of its coal generation capacity equipped with advanced pollution control systems.

A new report out today details positive statements made by 30 power companies indicating that early investments in their power plants have put them in a good position to comply with EPA’s new air pollution rules. The report notes that these companies represent 50% of the nation’s coal-fired power plants, and eleven of the 15 largest coal-based electric power companies utility companies. Across the fleet, about 50% of coal plants are very well controlled with scrubbers and other pollution control systems.

So, let’s do the math:
• 70% of the nation’s electric generating facilities are not affected by EPA’s Utility MACT Rule because they rely on natural gas, nuclear, or other non-emitting energy sources.
• 15% of the nation’s electric generating facilities are coal plants that are already complying or well on their way to comply with the Utility MACT Rule.
• This means that 85% of the nation’s electric generating fleet is unaffected by the rule or ready to comply.

This leaves me asking, just why is it that some in Congress are considering delaying important health protections for millions of Americans to accommodate a small fraction of the electric generating fleet and a minority of companies?

Among the most vocal companies calling for extended delays of the Rule are AEP, Southern Company, and MidAmerican. I see no sense in delaying important health protections for a few companies that have failed to make investments in cleaning up their fleets. AEP, for example, has only installed scrubbers on about half of its coal fleet.

Furthermore, why delay important health protections when utility companies have record amounts of cash on their balance sheets that could be used to modernize their generating fleets, creating millions of good paying, skilled construction jobs?

A recent Ceres analysis shows that the top 20 electric generators in the U.S. have record cash reserves exceeding $35 billion. This capital is sitting on the sidelines precisely because many companies have been anticipating this new rule, and are ready to invest, as the country struggles with high unemployment.

Recent polling sponsored by Ceres shows that the American public is not interested in further delays. The nationwide poll shows that by a wide margin, voters of both political parties and in all regions of the U.S. support the EPA’s new rules to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Two-thirds of the respondents – 67 percent – oppose Congress delaying implementation of the air pollution rules, according to the national survey of 1,400 voters.

So, with most companies standing ready to deploy private capital that creates jobs, and a public that strongly supports the Toxics Rule, it makes more sense to move forward than to postpone or delay.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Report: cleaner gasoline means less smog in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast; more NOx reduction in the region than under EPA cross-state rule

There is an interesting report out this morning by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management: http://bit.ly/uhrdOZ

It shows that cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline would bring immediate improvements in smog levels throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. A tidbit that I found very interesting (see fact sheet, below): that reducing the sulfur content of gas would actually cut more smog-forming nitrogen oxides in the region than would EPA’s Cross-State pollution rule. (Though both are definitely needed.)

There are some interesting state-by-state statistics here for folks outside DC.

This is the second report in past few weeks on the topic. (You may recall the excellent report issued Oct. 31 by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies: http://www.4cleanair.org/documents/NACAATier3VehandFuelReport-EMBARGOED-Oct2011.pdf ). That report noted the cleaner air could be had for less than a penny a gallon of gas. What a bargain!

(The oil companies, naturally, have argued the cleanup would cost more. But they are mixing apples and oranges, because their cost assessments are padded with the supposed expense of additional changes to gasoline – vapor pressure – that EPA is not contemplating.)

We hope the EPA will read these reports and get moving! After all, President Obama promised action on this issue more than a year ago.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.




FACT SHEET

Assessment of Clean Gasoline in the Northeast
and Mid-Atlantic States

A new report available at:
http://www.nescaum.org/documents/nescaum-tier-3-low-s-gasoline-20111121.pdf/

by
Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM)
November 21, 2011

• Many areas of the Ozone Transport Region[1] (OTR) will not achieve or maintain the health-based national air quality standard for ozone (0.075 ppm, 8-hr average) after full implementation of current pollution control programs.
• The USEPA is expected to propose a “Tier 3” motor vehicle rule setting more stringent emission limits for cars and light-duty trucks in early 2012 and finalize the proposal in late 2012.
• The USEPA rule would include tailpipe standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM), which the USEPA intends to harmonize with California vehicle standards.
• The proposed rule is expected to include a requirement to lower gasoline sulfur content to an average of 10 parts per million (ppm) from its current average of 30 ppm.
• Lowering the sulfur content of gasoline allows pollution control equipment (3-way catalysts) on cars and trucks to operate more effectively by reducing sulfur “poisoning” of the catalysts.
• Emission reductions from introducing 10 ppm low sulfur gasoline would occur immediately from the existing motor vehicle fleet, without the need for fleet turnover, due to improved catalyst performance on existing vehicles.
• On a regional scale, NOx emissions have the largest impact on ground-level ozone (smog) formation during high pollution episodes.
• On-road gasoline vehicles are the largest source of NOx emissions in the OTR.
• Over 51,000 tons of NOx from gasoline vehicles could be reduced annually in the OTR in 2017 with the introduction 10 ppm low sulfur gasoline.
• Exposure to smog can:
- Reduce lung function, and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases
- Cause permanent lung damage from repeated exposures
- Increase risk of premature death
• The amount of NOx reductions achievable in the OTR from 10 ppm low sulfur gasoline is about three times greater than what will be achieved in the OTR from power plant pollution controls under the USEPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Both measures will be needed to help meet the 0.075 ppm ozone health standard.
• NOx also is a major contributor to other health and environmental problems in the OTR, such as fine particulate matter, acid rain, poor visibility, and nitrogen over-enrichment in coastal bays and estuaries (e.g., Chesapeake Bay).
• The public health benefits of reducing smog and sulfate particles from introducing 10 ppm sulfur gasoline in the OTR are estimated to be in the range of $230 million to $1.2 billion dollars annually. In contrast, the cost of lowering sulfur in gasoline is estimated to be in the range of $143 - $400 million annually. The estimated benefits are conservative, and do not include benefits from reducing other harmful impacts of NOx, such as acid rain and nitrogen over-enrichment in coastal bays and estuaries.
• The cost-effectiveness of low sulfur gasoline in reducing NOx emissions is estimated to be in the range of $2,500 - $7,000 per ton of NOx removed. This compares very favorably to other pollution control strategies already implemented or under consideration in the OTR, some of which have cost estimates exceeding $10,000 per ton of NOx removed.
• Failure to obtain cost effective NOx reductions from gasoline motor vehicles, the largest source of NOx emissions in the OTR, could require additional controls on other local sources at higher cost.
• Because 10 ppm low sulfur gasoline would be a national program, it will also have benefits in areas outside the OTR, along with reducing pollution transported into the OTR from motor vehicles operating in the Midwest and Southeast.

[ 1 ] The Ozone Transport Region was created by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and covers the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region encompassing CT, DE, DC, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, and the northern VA counties in the DC metropolitan area.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Public Power companies: it'll take us longer to add a scrubber than it did to build the Hoover Dam (oh really??)

We are becoming accustomed to some pretty darned outrageous claims by industry groups and their advocates as we draw closer to the mid-December plan by the US EPA to (finally!) set mercury/toxic pollution standards for coal fired power plants.

And here’s one that really takes the cake. Public power companies (remember when we used to think of them as good guys?) are now telling the White House that it would take them 77 months to install needed pollution controls. See the letter below.

Are you kidding me? By comparison, private companies built the legendary Hoover Dam in less than five years! http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/History/storymain.html

You want a little more mundane comparison: Constellation Energy added all needed pollution controls (thanks to Maryland state requirements) to its Brandon Shores coal power plant In a mere 26 months. So this argument, based on a “survey” of member companies (I bet not by Gallup) is baloney.

Slicing a bit more of the baloney: the letter notes that someone during a recent White House meeting (and I would bet that person was not from EPA) asked how many public power plants are in areas that currently “attain” national clean air standards for smog and soot.

First all, that isn’t even relevant, because these mercury/toxic standards are aimed at reducing mercury and related toxics, not smog!

Secondly, as we all know (read yesterday’s piece in the NY Times if you haven’t) the White House wouldn’t let EPA set national smog standards at an appropriate level because of political considerations. National clean air standards for fine particle soot aren’t set at the right level either. (The Bush administration’s too-weak plan was thrown out by a federal court as being arbitrary and capricious; the Obama administration has been too chicken to advance a new standard even though a new report notes it could prevent 35,000 premature deaths a year http://earthjustice.org/soot )

So arguing whether these dirty facilities are in “attainment” areas or not is just a typical DC lobbyist game. It’s a delaying tactic. No wonder these jokers claim it would take them longer to add a scrubber than it took to build the Hoover Dam!

**

November 16, 2011

Mr. Dominic Mancini

Branch Chief of Natural Resources and Environment
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Mr. Mancini:

I write to thank you on behalf of the American Public Power Association (APPA) for the November 3, 2011 meeting regarding the proposed U. S. EPA NESHAP for mercury and its anticipated significant impact for the nation’s public power utilities. APPA’s 2,000 state and community-owned utilities own approximately 200 coal-fired units with an aggregate generating capacity of 31 GW. APPA writes this letter to both thank you and the attendees of the meeting as well as to notice the Office of Management
and Budget (OMB) docket of our meeting (docketed at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_11032011).

While estimates of the number of retrofits to meet EGU MACT regulatory requirements, closures of existing coal plants, and replacement of most of those coal plants with new natural gas plants vary, the sheer scale of the efforts will be enormous. Given this scale, the issue of providing sufficient compliance time in order to maintain an adequate and reliable supply of electricity is APPA’s top priority.

A survey of our members illustrates that 99% of public power’s coal-fired plants need 77 months to comply. A survey of our members shows this is necessary to conduct system planning, convene public meetings, obtain financing, construct, install and calibrate for use all the required control technologies (baghouses, Activated Carbon Injection, Dry Sorbent Injection, scrubbers, and in some cases, to install a second baghouse).

APPA is very concerned with the time gap that will exist for publicly elected officials and utility managers between the 48th month currently allowed and the actual date of completion without a mechanism to prevent the utility from operating their coal fired power plant in criminal noncompliance or under the risk of citizen suits. APPA’s primary purpose in meeting with your staff was to augment the detailed comments submitted to the U. S. EPA (docket) on August 3, 2011 and to explain these unique
and significant factors that the U. S. EPA and the OMB should consider when finalizing the mercury NESHAP.

While regulatory accommodations to provide additional time are rare given the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) statutory language, the U. S. EPA did provide additional compliance time for the Marine Tank Vessel Loading regulation because of labor feasibility. The statute also provides for Presidential Exemptions (extensions) through Executive Order. In addition, APPA recommended in our comments an administrative mechanism for providing additional compliance time using the Title V permitting program
that we believe is within U. S. EPA’s authority under the CAA. This mechanism would provide the necessary time for improving air quality while also preventing our member communities from in criminal non-compliance with the CAA and shielding them from citizen suits. APPA believes that our Title V permit mechanism is a preferred approach but we are certainly open to the use of Presidential Exemption(s) or other mechanisms that achieve the same goals. We believe strongly that whatever mechanism is adopted should be included the final EGU MACT rule.

APPA’s original comments also addressed a wide range of issues that stretched well into technical concerns regarding particulate matter, monitoring, and recommendation for mercury only (no acid gas)
controls. In addition, we addressed our timing and technical concerns under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act (SBREFA), Executive Order 12866, and all relevant aspects of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

We also noted that existing Executive Orders (e.g. EO 12866 OIRA) provide "Regulatory Principles" that include requiring that U. S. EPA consider how regulatory requirements might significantly or uniquely
affect small communities and governmental entities. In Sections 1(5) and 1(9) the EO outlines requirements to design regulations in the most cost-effective manner to achieve the objective and to minimize those regulatory costs and burdens that uniquely and significantly affect such governmental
entities. "In addition, as appropriate, agencies shall seek to harmonize Federal regulatory actions with related State, local and tribal regulatory and other governmental functions". The EO states in Section J(ll)
that "Each agency shall tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, (including individuals, businesses of differing sizes) and other entities, including small communities and governmental entities),
consistent with obtaining the regulatory objectives, taking into account, among other things, and to the extent practicable, the costs of cumulative regulations".

Another key recommendation in our comments was to urge inclusion in the final rule of a subcategory to address the area source control options to regulate mercury at smaller power plants < 100 MW.

At the November 3rd meeting, APPA was asked how many of the overall coal-fired power plants in our membership are in attainment areas. Following our meeting, APPA reviewed the CSAPR and Ozone/PM/SO2 county maps and we cross-referenced the U. S. EPA maps and county lists with the EIA
database for our member utilities’ coal-fired power plants. We have determined that 62 of our 65 coal-fired power plants covered by (EGU MACT) or 95% are in attainment areas under current NAAQS standards. Forty-five of the 65 power plants are affected by the CSAPR rule. (We did not include
co-ownership of units with investor or cooperatively owned utilities in this breakdown due to insufficient data).

Additionally, APPA’s members have 23 units at 20 utilities that are <25 MW representing approximately 121 MW and will be regulated under the separate ICI Boiler MACT rule. APPA believes that based upon the preponderance of the public power coal-fired units in attainment areas, that OMB and U. S. EPA’s inclusion of the subcategory and a mechanism for timely compliance through the utility’s Title V permit without risks of criminal noncompliance or citizen suits provide no opportunity to expand the number of nonattainment areas or expose the public to hazardous air pollutants.

There is one other issue that we did not raise at the meeting that we would like to mention here. We urge the U. S. EPA and OMB to reject a proposal recommended by regional transmission organizations for establishment of a so-called “reliability safety valve”. This proposal discriminates between regions of the country and would allow certain generating units not planning to retrofit to receive waivers for compliance from mercury NESHAP. The market conditions prompting this proposal are better addressed
by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through changes to the design and operation of those markets.

APPA believes that these recommendations comport with the guiding principles set forth in Executive Orders 12866 and 13563, and do not compromise the integrity of the CAA’s reduction of health risks
from human health exposure from mercury resulting from coal combustion. Our suggestions offer practical opportunities for the U. S. EPA and OMB to reduce the most significant and burdensome impacts to the utility sector. We appreciate your consideration of our recommendations. We would be
happy to provide any additional information.

Sincerely yours,


Mark Crisson

President & CEO



MC/TP/JN



cc:

Ms. Lisa Jackson, Administrator, U. S. EPA

Ms. Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, U. S. EPA

Ms. Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Mr. Bob Wayland, U. S. EPA

Mr. Tom Gillis, U. S. EPA

Ms. Karen Thundiyil, U. S. EPA

Ms. Cortney Higgins, OMB

Mr. Drew McConville, Council on Environmental Quality

Ms. Manisha Patel, Council on Environmental Quality

Mr. Michael Drummond, Council on Environmental Quality

Mr. Stiven Foster, Council on Environmental Quality

Mr. Glen Sheriff, Council on Environmental Quality

Mr. Rob Johansson, Council of Economic Advisors

Mr. Bruce Rodan, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Mr. Ali Zaidi, White House Domestic Policy Council

Mr. Mike Clark, OMB

Mr. Kevin Neyland, OMB

A fabulous New York Times editorial on clean air and politics

Politics and Clean Air

President Obama’s decision in September to scuttle stricter national standards for smog may well go down as the worst environmental decision of his administration — unless, of course, even more damaging retreats lie ahead. The decision was a setback for public health, a victory for industry, which had lobbied strongly against the standards, and a public embarrassment for the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who had proposed them.

The White House insisted that the decision had been made on the merits and that the standards would throw people out of work by burdening industry with costly new rules at a time of economic uncertainty. It also insisted that industry pressure and politics did not play a role. Finally, it argued, the rules could be revisited and strengthened in two years (after the election), when new science would be available.

This page was not impressed by those arguments then and is no less skeptical of them now in light of John M. Broder’s exhaustive account in The Times on Thursday of the steps that led up to the decision. The article paints a picture of an aggressive campaign by industry lobbyists and heavyweight trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute that began soon after it became clear that Ms. Jackson was determined to tighten the rules governing allowable ozone levels across the country.

The standards governing ozone — the main component of harmful smog — are supposed to be set every five years. But because the standards proposed by the Bush administration in 2008 were seen as inadequate by the scientific community and had been challenged in court, Ms. Jackson decided to set her own standards, tough but achievable. Their health benefits would approximate their costs, and they would not begin to bite for several years, giving industry time to prepare.

Until the very last moment, she believed that Mr. Obama would go along. But as The Times’s article made clear, she had very few friends in the White House and many opponents — not least William Daley, the president’s chief of staff, who had been incessantly lobbied by business and by state governors fearful that the rules would cost jobs.

In one telling moment during internal negotiations, E.P.A. experts laid out the numbers on the lives that would be saved and the illnesses avoided by the proposed rules. At which point, Mr. Daley asked: “What are the health impacts of unemployment?” — a question the article describes as “straight out of the industry playbook.”

Defending its record, the White House cites tougher fuel economy standards and promises to move ahead with new rules governing mercury and other toxic emissions. It is also required under law to begin addressing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. But the very same forces that killed the ozone rule are now mobilizing to delay or weaken these other rules. This time, Mr. Obama should let science and public health, not his electoral prospects, be his guide.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Former EPA policy chief slams White House for timidity

[an excerpt from Greenwire] Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011 U.S. EPA's former policy chief is accusing the Obama administration of failing to mount a forceful defense of environmental regulations in the face of fierce partisan attacks. Lisa Heinzerling left EPA after a two-year stint last December, just after the 2010 midterm elections put Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives. Now back in her teaching job at Georgetown Law Center, Heinzerling -- who played a key role in crafting the administration's greenhouse gas regulations -- has leapt back into the fray with a paper written for the American Constitution Society, a left-leaning legal group. The paper is to be officially released Monday. Heinzerling expressed concern in particular at the language in President Obama's January 2011 executive order that required agencies to examine regulations and conclude whether any could be "more effective or less burdensome." The administration, she writes, has "focused almost entirely on the costs, and not the benefits of regulations," a sentiment shared by many environmentalists... The administration has failed to mount a vigorous defense of the health, safety and other benefits of regulation, she says...Heinzerling says the White House "appeared to make public health and welfare protections subservient to alleviation of regulatory costs." The White House should be doing more, she says, to teach the public about why regulations are needed and what the outcome would be if they were rolled back, including the cost in lives. "Cancers of all kinds, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and more are prevented by environmental rules," Heinzerling writes. The administration "could be saying more" about the "whole range of consequences that can flow" from a lack of regulation, she adds.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

AARP, take note: House Republicans revive "senior death discount" in effort to sidetrack EPA coal power plant cleanup

Well, we are coming down to the wire as coal power lobbyists and their congressional proxies are throwing virtually everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to delay EPA’s upcoming mercury and toxic pollution standards for electric power plants. The standards are due in mid-December and are currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The latest salvo came in a letter yesterday from Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD and a favorite of the coal mining lobby) and Paul Broun (R-GA – or in this case should that be R-Ga Power, a generous campaign contributor?). http://science.house.gov/letter/letter-sunstein The letter echoes some of the talking points spread around town by very clever coal power lobbyists, including those representing Georgia Power and its parent Southern Company (for instance, that EPA has inflated the health benefits of power plant cleanup and is “double counting” them). But the most bizarre portion of this letter revives the so-called “senior death discount” – a practice that would assign a lower value to the life of a senior citizen than someone younger. The prior Bush administration considered such an idea but then abandoned it after a public outcry and advertisements such as the one above. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0508-09.htm Harris and Broun revive this discredited idea. Perhaps this is an attempt to pander to OMB regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein, who has spoken favorably of the concept. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/26/nation/na-sunstein26i Is AARP taking note? Beneath its highly legalistic veneer, this letter embodies a callous immorality by condemning EPA for trying to prevent the death and disease caused by coal power plant emissions. It is a pretty obvious effort to throw sand into the regulatory gears.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another labor vs enviro fight? Unions seek delay in EPA power plant toxic cleanup

With some still reeling by the decision over the Keystone XL pipeline, another labor vs. enviro battle may be shaping up. The White House OMB web site notes that union lobbyists visited OMB last week to discuss EPA’s upcoming mercury and toxic pollution cleanup standards for coal-fired power plants. EPA has said it intends to issue the standards by mid December. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_11082011 The union reps brought along a copy of comments they filed earlier with EPA, urging delays in the cleanup timetable. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/oira_2060/2060_11082011-1.pdf There is evidence, by the way, that EPA has taken some heed of this. EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy recently said states should consider extending the three-year compliance window by a year. However, we do not expect EPA to follow another union request to delay the whole rule by six months to a year. (EPA did recently delay it by a month. As our friends with American Lung Association have noted, every month of delay equates to as many as 1,400 premature deaths, by EPA’s calculation.) Will he White House feel that it must now throw a bone to the unions, still smarting over the Keystone decision? We will be watching closely.

Beware of buying a lemon! Car dealers visit White House, with dreams of killing EPA, California authority over vehicle greenhouse gases

Of course, what they auto dealers DIDN'T say is that they want to kill off EPA and California authority over greenhouse gases precisely because those agencies have been effective and have moved the bar. The dealers obviously long for the old days when they could more easily influence the U.S. Department of Transportation.


http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_11092011

Meeting Record
Meeting Record Regarding: CAFÉ/GHG Emissions
Date: 11 / 09 / 2011
Name Affiliation Client (if applicable)
Chandana Achanta OMB
David Regan National Auto Dealers Assoc.
David Wagmer NADA Used Car Guide
Rob Johansson CEA
Gary Guzy CEQ
Lori Stewart EPA
John MacNeil OMB/NRD
Drew McConville CEQ
Douglas Greenhaus National Auto Dealers Association
Andy Koblenz National Auto Dealers Association
Rich Theroux OMB
Odette Mucha OMB
Dom Mancini OMB/OIRA
Bill Charmley EPA
Michael Harrington NADA
Kevin Neyland OMB/OIRA


http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/oira_2060/2060_11092011-1.pdf

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rand Paul dirty-air plan gets clobbered in the Senate 41-56

Sen.Rand Paul's dirty-air resolution to nullify EPA's "good neighbor" pollution rule was clobbered today in the Senate, 41-56, as six Republican senators (Alexander-TN,Ayotte-NH,Brown-MA,Collins-ME, Kirk-IL and Snowe-ME) broke ranks to oppose his resolution. Here is the vote count: http://1.usa.gov/s9j4zX

Perhaps the high point of the debate was the floor speech by Senator Lamar Alexander, who denounced the plan, which he said would just mean more "dirty air" from Kentucky blowing into his state. Alexander said he "wants to see the Great Smoky Mountains, not the Great Smoggy Mountains."

Paul had little to say as a rejoinder except the mindless mantra about "job-killing" EPA coined by the polluter-funded Americans for Prosperity.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

In his haste to help polluters, Sen. Joe Manchin of W VA gets the wrong Nelson

Check the first press release below with a revised version. This is legislation aimed at helping tax-dodging corporate polluters delay cleanup --at the expense of tens of thousands of premature deaths.

From: Press (Manchin) [mailto:Press@manchin.senate.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 10:40 AM
Subject: MANCHIN AND COATS INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN "FAIR COMPLIANCE ACT" TO PROTECT AMERICAN JOBS, PREVENT SPIKES IN ENERGY COSTS FOR CONSUMERS
For Immediate Release:
November 9, 2011
Contact: Emily Bittner
(202) 224-3954

MANCHIN AND COATS INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN “FAIR COMPLIANCE ACT” TO PROTECT AMERICAN JOBS, PREVENT SPIKES IN ENERGY COSTS FOR CONSUMERS

Commonsense bill would give utilities reasonable timelines with
benchmarks to comply with two EPA rules


Washington, D.C. – Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan “Fair Compliance Act” today to create reasonable timelines and benchmarks for utilities to comply with two major Environmental Protection Agency rules to protect jobs and keep utility rates stable. The legislation would extend the compliance deadline for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) by three years and the deadline for the Utility MACT rule by two years – so that both would fall on Jan. 1, 2017.

Additional cosponsors include Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“I’ve always said government should be your partner, not your adversary – and that’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, it’s a commonsense idea,” Senator Manchin said. “With millions of jobs on the line in this country – and especially in my state of West Virginia – it just makes sense to work to make sure we don’t lose any more jobs in putting these rules in place. I’m proud to bring together Republicans and Democrats on this commonsense solution to a real problem.”

“The current EPA rules and unreasonable deadlines will be devastating for Hoosiers and every ratepayer in America,” Coats said. “After visiting with Indiana utilities and power plants, it is clear that the current EPA timeline will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. While I support a complete overturn of these rules, this bill is a bipartisan commonsense solution that gives states and utilities the time needed to plan and prepare.”

The National Economic Research Associates (NERA) estimates net employment losses of 1.44 million across the country as a result of the current EPA rules and deadlines. By 2016, NERA estimates that American ratepayers will see an average increase of 11.5 percent. In some regions of the United States, increases of up to 23.5 percent may occur.

Background:

The Utility MACT rule requires a decrease in mercury emissions at power plants. The CSAPR requires utilities to reduce power plant emissions that may cause air-quality complications in neighboring states.

The Manchin-Coats bill would provide utilities with an extension of time and synchronize the implementation schedule for complying with the rules. The bill would extend the date of compliance for Utility MACT by two years and for CSAPR by three years changing the deadline for both rules to January 1, 2017. Under the current EPA rules, the compliance date for Utility MACT is January 1, 2015. The deadline for Phase I of the CSAPR is January 1, 2012 and Phase II is January 1, 2014. The Manchin-Coats bill would postpone Phase I until January 1, 2015 and Phase II of CSAPR until January 1, 2017. The compliance date is the date by which a utility either must have installed emissions controls or retired the pant.

The bill also would require utilities to submit implementation plans to ensure compliance occurs. To safeguard the reliability of the electric grid and avoid brownouts, utilities would need to submit their implementation plans to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Please see the attached fact sheet for additional information.
**
________________________________________
From: DiJulio, Tara (Coats) [mailto:Tara_DiJulio@coats.senate.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 11:19 AM
To: DiJulio, Tara (Coats)
Subject: REVISED RELEASE: Manchin and Coats Introduce Bipartisan "Fair Compliance Act" to Protect American Jobs, Prevent Spikes in Energy Costs for Consumers
Please refer to this version of the release. Note: The bill is cosponsored by Senators Bob Corker and Ben Nelson.

For immediate release
November 9, 2011

Contact:
Emily Bittner (Manchin) 202-224-3954
Tara DiJulio (Coats) 202-224-5623


Manchin and Coats Introduce Bipartisan “Fair Compliance Act” to Protect American Jobs, Prevent Spikes in Energy Costs for Consumers

Commonsense bill would give utilities reasonable timelines with benchmarks to comply with two EPA rules


Washington, D.C. – Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan “Fair Compliance Act” today to create reasonable timelines and benchmarks for utilities to comply with two major Environmental Protection Agency to protect jobs and keep utility rates stable. The legislation would extend the compliance deadline for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) by three years and the deadline for the Utility MACT rule by two years – so that both would fall on January 1, 2017.

Additional cosponsors include Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

“I’ve always said government should be your partner, not your adversary – and that’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, it’s a commonsense idea,” Senator Manchin said. “With millions of jobs on the line in this country – and especially in my state of West Virginia – it just makes sense to work to make sure we don’t lose any more jobs in putting these rules in place. I’m proud to bring together Republicans and Democrats on this commonsense solution to a real problem.”

“The current EPA rules and unreasonable deadlines will be devastating for Hoosiers and every ratepayer in America,” Coats said. “After visiting with Indiana utilities and power plants, it is clear that the current EPA timeline will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. While I support a complete overturn of these rules, this bill is a bipartisan commonsense solution that gives states and utilities the time needed to plan and prepare.”

The National Economic Research Associates (NERA) estimates net employment losses of 1.44 million across the country as a result of the current EPA rules and deadlines. By 2016, NERA estimates that American ratepayers will see an average increase of 11.5 percent. In some regions of the United States, increases of up to 23.5 percent may occur.

Background:

The Utility MACT rule requires a decrease in mercury emissions at power plants. The CSAPR requires utilities to reduce power plant emissions that may cause air-quality complications in neighboring states.

The Manchin-Coats bill would provide utilities with an extension of time and synchronize the implementation schedule for complying with the rules. The bill would extend the date of compliance for Utility MACT by two years and for CSAPR by three years changing the deadline for both rules to January 1, 2017. Under the current EPA rules, the compliance date for Utility MACT is January 1, 2015. The deadline for Phase I of the CSAPR is January 1, 2012 and Phase II is January 1, 2014. The Manchin-Coats bill would postpone Phase I until January 1, 2015 and Phase II of CSAPR until January 1, 2017. The compliance date is the date by which a utility either must have installed emissions controls or retired the pant.

The bill also would require utilities to submit implementation plans to ensure compliance occurs. To safeguard the reliability of the electric grid and avoid brownouts, utilities would need to submit their implementation plans to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Click here for a copy of the legislation.
Click here for a fact sheet with additional information.

As expected, power lobbyists troop to White House over EPA mercury/toxic standards

Please note three recent meetings, listed below. Some of the real heavy hitters attended the Halloween meeting.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_11072011b

Meeting Record
Meeting Record Regarding: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units
Date: 11 / 07 / 2011
Name Affiliation Client (if applicable)
Bob Wayland (via phone) EPA/OAR
Karen Thundiyil (via phone) EPA/OP
Glenn Sheriff (via phone) CEQ
Steven Foster (via phone) CEQ
Bruce Rodan (via phone) OSTP
Cortney Higgins OMB/OIRA
Dom Mancini OMB/OIRA
Manisha Patel CEQ
Darian Ghorbi OMB/OIRA
Janet Anderson VanNess Feldman
Stephen Fotis VanNess Feldman
Jay Hudson Santee Cooper
Brian Moeck Platte River Power Authority
Ali Zaidi DPC
Rob Johansson CEA
Nat Keohane NEC/DPC
Christine Kymn OMB/OIRA
John MacNeil OMB/NRD
Michael Drummond CEQ


http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_11032011

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/2060_meeting_10312011

Meeting Record
Meeting Record Regarding: NESHAP from Coal—and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units—Appropriate and Necessary Finding
Date: 10 / 31 / 2011
Name Affiliation Client (if applicable)
Dominic Mancini OMB/OIRA
Drew McConville CEQ
Manisha Patel CEQ
Christine Kymn OMB/OIRA
Steven Foster CEQ
Darian Ghorbi OMB/OIRA
Rob Johansson CEA
Ali Zaidi DPC
Ann Loomis Dominion
Tom Farrell Dominion/EEI
Tom Kuhn Edison Electrical Institute
Kirk Johnson National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Glenn Sheriff CEQ
Cortney Higgins OMB/OIRA
Bob Wayland (via phone) EPA/OAR
Kevin Calligan (via phone) EPA/OAR
Karen Thundiyil (via phone) EPA/OAR
Vanessa Wang CEQ
Kevin Neyland OMB/OIRA
Cass Sunstein OMB/OIRA
Brian Wolff EEI
Heather Zichal DPC

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

White House begins review of power plant mercury/toxic standards as well as ghg proposal

Brace yourself for a spate of meetings as lobbyists line up to put a final word in.


AGENCY: EPA-AR RIN: 2060-AP52

TITLE: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units
STAGE: Final Rule ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: Yes
** RECEIVED DATE: 11/07/2011
LEGAL DEADLINE: Judicial

AGENCY: EPA-AR RIN: 2060-AQ91

TITLE: Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Generating Units
STAGE: Proposed Rule ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: No
** RECEIVED DATE: 11/07/2011
LEGAL DEADLINE: Judicial

Friday, November 04, 2011

Dirty power companies AEP, Duke among big corporations that paid no taxes

As Congress continues to wrestle with polluter-driven plans to block cleanup of dirty coal-fired power plants, a new report finds that some of the biggest and most politically influential polluters -- American Electric Power and Duke Energy -- paid no U.S. income taxes between 2008 and 2010. (These corporate tax dodgers paid a heck of a lot on lobbying and campaign contributions to influence congressional opinion!)

Here is a link to the report: http://ctj.org/ctjreports/2011/11/corporate_taxpayers_corporate_tax_dodgers_2008-2010.php

Below is an excerpt of a good Reuters piece on this.

Will the Senate pay attention next week as AEP tries to whip up support for Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) resolution to block EPA's "good neighbor" power plant cleanup?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/03/us-usa-tax-corporate-idUSTRE7A261C20111103?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=71

Thirty companies paid no U.S. income tax 2008-2010: report

Thu, Nov 3 2011
By Kevin Drawbaugh

(Reuters) - Thirty large and profitable U.S. corporations paid no income taxes in 2008 through 2010, said a study on Thursday that arrives as Congress faces rising demands for tax reform but seems unable or unwilling to act.

Pepco Holdings Inc, a Washington, D.C.-area power company, had the lowest effective tax rate, at negative 57.6 percent, among the 280 Fortune 500 companies studied.

The statutory U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world; but over the 2008-2010 period, very few of the companies studied paid it, said the report.

The average effective tax rate for the companies over the period was 18.5 percent, said Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, both think tanks.

Their report also listed General Electric Co, Paccar Inc, PG&E Corp, Computer Sciences Corp, Boeing Co and NiSource Inc as among the 30 that paid no taxes...

Corporations will say rightly that the loopholes that let them slash their taxes were perfectly legal, the report said.

"But that does not mean that low-tax corporations bear no responsibility ... The laws were not enacted in a vacuum; they were adopted in response to relentless corporate lobbying, threats and campaign support," the report said...

PRESSING FOR MORE

As Congress and the Obama administration struggle with a sluggish economy and high deficits, corporations are pressing Capitol Hill for more tax breaks and a lower corporate rate.

Taxes are on the agenda of the congressional "super committee" tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in additional budget savings by November 23, but it is so far deadlocked across a familiar divide -- Republicans refusing any tax increases, Democrats defending social programs...

MANY TAX BREAKS

What are some of the tax breaks that corporations enjoy? One big one is accelerated depreciation that lets them write off equipment faster than it actually wears out. Deductions on executive stock options help. So do tax breaks for research and development and for making products in the United States instead of overseas. Offshore tax shelters play a role, too.
Power group Duke Energy Corp was one of the 30 companies listed as paying no income taxes in 2008-2010.

Chief Executive James Rogers told Reuters that Duke cut its taxes thanks to accelerated depreciation, which he said helped the company build new plants and hire construction workers.

Rogers is a frequent spokesman for a coalition of large multinationals seeking a tax break that would let them bring foreign profits into the United States at a reduced tax rate.

Others among the 30 companies included power producer American Electric Power Co Inc (AEP), chemicals company DuPont and toymaker Mattel Inc.
Like Duke, AEP said it benefited from accelerated depreciation.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Senate rejects bid to delay toxic pollution standards by 47-53 vote

Here is how the Senate vote went. A "yea" was for a Republican plan for "jobs" and infrastructure legislation that included a roll back of clean air controls.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=1&vote=00196

Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs ---47
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Brown (R-MA)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kirk (R-IL)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Lugar (R-IN)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

NAYs ---53
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Coons (D-DE)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Snowe (R-ME)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Sneak attack! US Senate to vote this pm on bill to roll back toxic pollution controls

I realize many folks in DC are focused on Solyndra and charades over the “farm dust” issue (the Washington Post skewered EPA opponents quite effectively yesterday), but here is an important issue flying under the radar. I want to make sure you are aware of it.

This afternoon at about 3 pm, the US Senate is scheduled to vote on nefarious legislation that would roll back EPA toxic pollution controls for industrial boilers and cement plants as well as require congressional approval for any major rules in the future. (The so-called REINS Act, for you insiders.) See the Senate schedule at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CCAL-112scal-2011-11-03/html/CCAL-112scal-2011-11-03-pt0.htm

The legislation is S 1786 introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). It is a Republican alternative to the latest Democratic jobs bill, which is aimed at funding highway and infrastructure projects. (S 1769).

The Hatch bill is a variation on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) war on clean air, including some of the dirty-air provisions previously approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It is a dirty-air wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It appears to be part of a Republican strategy to put some potentially vulnerable Democratic senators on the spot. It may also be a way to pave the way for subsequent efforts to attach dirty-air provisions to “must-pass” spending or budget legislation.

We do not anticipate this radical attack on clean air to pass. But we and others will be watching the votes, for example, of embattled Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown: will he vote in lockstep for more toxic pollution from boilers and cement plants – or to protect Massachusetts kids?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Clean Air Watch Dirty Dog of the Month goes to AEP CEO and Chairman Michael Morris


As usual, we have a wealth of candidates for our Clean Air Watch Dirty Dog of the Month award for dubious achievements in the world of air pollution.

Top contenders – and worth dishonorable mention -- include Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who led an unsuccessful court effort to delay EPA’s upcoming mercury/toxic air pollution standards for electric power plants. (Could there be a link to campaign contributions from American Electric Power and DTE, whose powerful DC lobbyists have been orchestrating the campaign to block the cleanup?)

Another strong contender: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is convening a hearing of his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this afternoon to muscle EPA to delay the toxic standards. http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1488%3A10-27-2011-qlights-out-ii-another-look-at-epas-utility-mact-ruleq&catid=12&Itemid=20

But then we considered: Why give an award to puppets -- when a puppeteer is available?

And so the Clean Air Watch Dirty Dog of the Month award for November 2011 goes to American Electric Power Chairman and CEO Michael Morris.

Under Morris’ leadership, AEP, for decades one of America’s most notorious polluters, has spurred efforts in Congress and elsewhere to delay EPA’s toxic power cleanup effort.

What drives a guy like Morris to promote an agenda that would literally shorten thousands of peoples’ lives? (And, as our friends at the American Lung Association point out, every month of delay translates into 1,400 premature deaths from dirty air http://www.lungusa.org/press-room/press-releases/epa-mercury-air-toxics.html )

Why the corporate bottom line, of course.

Morris reminded us of this just last week in an earnings call with investors. http://seekingalpha.com/article/302417-american-electric-power-s-ceo-discusses-q3-2011-results-earnings-call-transcripts


And what good news he had – corporate earnings were UP – and AEP is so flush with cash that—while crying poor in DC -- it even raised its dividend!

But let’s take a look at a few other things Morris said.

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.
Whoa, Mike. A “tv event!!”

This wasn’t Geraldo, but a 2008 environmental disaster as millions of cubic feet of toxic ash gushed from a ruptured dike in Tennessee . And three long years later, the cleanup continues. http://www.tva.gov/kingston/index.htm.

Yes, some “tv event.”

During last week’s call, Morris failed to mention that AEP has no fewer than 44 ash ponds (see page 26 at
http://www.aepsustainability.com/docs/2011_AEP_CAReport.pdf )
, including 11 that the EPA rates as having “high hazard potential.” http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccrs-fs/

A few other things Morris said:

We're comfortable that some of the decisions that the EPA has made to date have moved into appropriate direction, and we will continue to have that dialogue. Because ours is one that takes away the risk of reliability impact and the unnecessary expense that may be associated with some of these rules. I think that particulate matter subset of the HAPs MACT Rule is a perfect example. For a company like ours, where we today capture 99.7% of all PMs, we're going to be required to go to 99.9%.

We are not sure what the “unnecessary” expense would be, though we don’t think Morris was referring to health care expenses for people breathing his company’s toxic fumes. As for his “99.7%” claim, We rather doubt that applies to his company’s control rates for toxic mercury, or for sulfur dioxide, which can morph into deadly fine particle soot downwind.

One other Morrisism from the question and answer portion of the call, as he argued for delaying cleanup of his company’s smokestacks:

There's just a better approach to take to this, and you get to the same environmental conclusion. The healthcare effects, we've got medical folks who say they're not real. They've got medical folks who say, they're absolutely real. Whether or not that ends or wins the argument, it's almost immaterial. What we're trying to do here is be rational.

He’s got “medical folks” who say there are no “real” healthcare effects from dirty air? Wonder what they get paid? Someone should investigate.

One could argue it’s good news that Morris is stepping down from the company as President and CEO later this month, but we have some doubt the corporate culture will change. After all, this is the company that ran racist, Arab-bashing cartoons in the 1970s while trying to avoid cleanup of its smokestacks. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/04/aep-ad-from-1970s-touting-coal-burning.html

We do want to cite a Clean Air Hero of the Month: John Walke, senior attorney and director of the clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. This guy does so much to further the cause of clean air that it makes us dizzy, but we’ll cite just a few quick examples (and apologies for what we omit):

Writing a successful legal brief opposing efforts by Morris and his puppets to delay the power plant cleanup.

Testifying to Congress about the dangers of legislation that would rob EPA of the ability to limit big-particle pollution (yes, including our old friend, fly ash): http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/Hearings/Energy/102511/Walke.pdf
Writing an important blog post summarizing the problems associated with that legislation: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jwalke/this_week_i_testified_before.html

He could be named a hero every month.