Thursday, October 18, 2012

On election eve, EPA science advisers will meet to discuss need for tougher smog standards

In case you missed it amid all the recent rhetorical smog in the various election campaigns, I thought you might find it of interest that the lengthy process for reviewing national smog standards continues to grind along slowly. You will recall that a little over a year ago, the White House nixed EPA’s effort to update the obviously too weak national smog standards set by President Bush’s EPA, and told the agency, in effect, to go back to the drawing board. 

 The next step in this process will come on election eve, as EPA’s independent science advisers will meet by phone to discuss several draft letters to the agency on the topics of the agency’s preliminary policy assessment, science assessment and risk/exposure assessment.

 Reading between the lines, you will see that the scientists appear poised to argue that the agency needs to do quite a bit more paperwork before these documents – ultimately the underpinnings of any new standard – are ready for prime time.  It does make us wonder if there will be even further delays in a final decision, now slated for 2014.
I do think it is worth noting, however, that the independent scientists appear ready to endorse the idea that recent science would justify even tougher standards than those nixed by the Obama White House. [EPA later revealed it was planning a standard of 70 parts per billion, down from the current 75.]

 Consider this line, on page 2 of the draft letter regarding EPA’s policy assessment:

The [Policy Assessment] provides a strong rationale for consideration of ozone standards (8 hour averages) of 60 ppb and 70 ppb. The PA also provides adequate justification for considering concentrations below 60 ppb, in the 50 to 60 ppb range.  [emphasis added]

You should expect that big oil and power company lobbyists will definitely try watering down this language as well as pushing for further delays.

From our perspective, the bottom line is that the accumulating science demonstrates that the Bush/Obama ozone standard is far too weak to protect the health of children and others. And that we most definitely need new smog-fighting tools such as cleaner, low-sulfur gas, to reduce the public health threat posed by this widespread and dangerous pollutant.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Ky power co scraps cleanup plan; a good case study about the need for cleaner, low-sulfur gas

As you may know, this week the Kentucky Public Service Commission okayed a deal that would permit a small electric rate increase associated with an environmental compliance plan for the Big Rivers Electric Corp.

One interesting angle is that the power company scrapped key parts of its cleanup plan in light of the recent court decision against EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  In other words, this power coop will continue to spew more smog and soot-forming emissions than it had planned before the court decision.  (Which, by the way, we still hope EPA will appeal.)

There is still a huge smog problem in that part of the country; to cite one small example, an air pollution monitor in Paducah had recorded 13 unhealthful days of smog this summer through the end of August.  As we have noted,  the problem is persistent and widespread.

This situation underscores the dire need for new smog-fighting tools, especially cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline. 

You may have seen the interesting exclusive yesterday in EnergyWire, which reported that Big Oil muckety mucks met with White House adviser Valerie Jarrett around the time EPA was expected to propose low-sulfur gas standards. (If not, you might want to read it:  )  EPA got real quiet on this topic after that meeting.

The clean gas proposal is languishing.  But we still believe it is crucial.  And the Kentucky situation only underscores how important it is.