Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EPA to Congress: low-sulfur gas would cost only a penny a gallon

Here is a letter to Congress from the US EPA clarifying the the scope and cost of gasoline changes related to the so-called Tier 3 clean-car program under consideration.

This ought to put to rest the oil industry charges that EPA is planning to do more than just reduce sulfur in gasoline levels, and that the changes would cost as much as a quarter a gallon. This letter backs up what we have been saying since last October: EPA can make real smog reductions just by reducing the sulfur content of gas, and the cost is so small that no one would notice. Note, by the way, that the projected cost of a penny a gallon wouldn’t happen until 2017.



UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460


FEB 27 2012

OFFICE OF
AIR AND RADIATION

Honorable Ed Whitfield U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Whitfield:

Thank for your letter of December 19, 2011, co-signed by 67 of your colleagues, sharing concerns a bout the potential impacts and the rulemaking processes of two upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules: the ''Tier 3" light-duty vehicle emissions and gasoline standards, and the refinery sector rulemaking.

The EPA is developing the Tier 3 standards to respond to the critical need to improve air quality, and to enable a harmonized national vehicle emissions control program. This rule would reduce motor vehicle emissions and help state and local areas attain and maintain the existing health-based air quality standards in a cost-effective and timely way. Lower sulfur gasoline is necessary to operate the pollution control equipment to achieve new Tier 3 vehicle standards, and will facilitate the development of lower cost technologies to improve fuel economy. Improvements in fuel economy reduce gasoline consumption and save consumers money.

The Tier 3 standards would create a comprehensive regulatory approach that provides certainty for both the auto and oil industries. Under a single harmonized national vehicle program, the Tier 3 standards would provide for coordinated implementation with the California vehicle program and the EPA and Department of Transportation's recently proposed light-duty vehicle standards to reduce carbon pollution and improve fuel economy for- model years 2017 through 2025. The proposed standards are
projected to save approximately 4 billion barrels of oil and 2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution over the lifetime of the vehicles. Vehicles meeting these standards are projected to provide average net savings to consumers of $3,000 to $4,000 per vehicle. Further, the coordinated timing of the Tier 3 a nd refinery sector rules provides the oil industry regulatory certainty and opportunities for cost-efficiency.

We understand that even minimal increases in the cost of gasoline are of importance to the American public. That i s why EPA conducted extensive refinery modeling to understand the cost impacts of a variety of fuel requirements. As a result, the only fuel requirement we are considering for Tier 3 is one that would lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline. As with lead, sulfur in fuel impairs the functioning of emission control equipment. By focusing only on sulfur requirements in Tier 3, we estimate the costs to be approximately one penny per gallon in 2017, an estimate that is supported by a recent stud y by Mathpro.







lnternel Address (URL) • http //www epa gov
Recycled/Recyclable • Pnnted w•th Vegetable Oil Based Inks on 100% Postconsumer. Process Chlorine Free Recycled Paper

Your letter expressed concern about the regulation's potential effects on the refining industry and gasoline supply. Let me assure you that as many as 17 refineries are already able to meet the 10 ppm sulfur standards we are considering, and some are currently producing and exporting to European countries gasoline that meets this standard (which is already required in places like Japan, South Korea, and a number of other countries). The regulatory flexibility we intend to build into the Tier 3 standards, similar to the flexibility we provide in our current fuel programs, will ensure that the Tier 3 standards under consideration would not cause refinery closures or negatively impact gasoline supply.

Your letter points to the need for thorough scientific, cost, and benefits analyses before proceeding. Let me assure you and your colleagues that we agree that these major rules require robust and transparent analyses of air quality, technological feasibility, and costs, as well as potential benefits. As we continue to develop these proposed rules, neither of which has yet been published for comment, we are conducting and documenting a wide range of analyses in all of these areas.

Regarding the refinery sector rule, we agree that thorough analysis of available data is crucial in the generation of common sense emission control standards. We have worked diligently to evaluate and analyze data received through the Information Collection Request. We have taken and will continue to take into consideration the perspective and input of stakeholders as we strive to develop a reasonable rulemaking that will achieve meaningful and cost-effective pollution reductions in the refining industry.

Again, thank you for your letter. If you have further questions, please contact me, or your staff may call Diann Frantz in EPA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at 202-564-3668.

Sincerely,

Gina McCarthy
EPA Assistant Administrator

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Newt again repeats oil lie about EPA and gas prices; time for the White House to set the record straight!

This has gotten ridiculous. Newt Gingrich (granted, his views now seem less relevant than they did a few weeks back as he sinks in the polls) has again repeated the oil industry’s big lie about EPA and gas prices. See the link and excerpt below.

As you will recall, the oil industry commissioned a study which hypothesized that the EPA would make various changes to gasoline, including so-called vapor pressure. And the industry charged the various changes would add up to a quarter a gallon in costs.

But EPA is NOT planning such an extensive change to gasoline. It has explored reducing the sulfur content of gas – a modest change that would cost less than a penny a gallon, starting around 2017. That change would make every car on the road cleaner because lower sulfur levels would make catalytic converters more effective in eliminating smog-forming pollution.

But politics being what it is, the truth doesn’t seem to matter.

It is time for the White House to set the record straight here. The President is making a big speech on energy in Florida tomorrow. He should use this as an opportunity to clarify that he fully backs the EPA plan to clean up gasoline because that would be the single most effective strategy possible to reduce smog levels across America. And it would have ZERO immediate impact on gasoline prices, and only a negligible less-than-a-penny impact five years from now.

White House silence on this merely permits the demagogues to continue ranting.

http://www.newt.org/news/video-message-newt-gingrich-american-energy/


…To show you how far this is going: Even though we have today the highest price average cost of gasoline in history. That’s right, President Obama has taken us from $1.89 to the most expensive gasoline on average we have ever had. They are still not satisfied. The Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama has a proposal for a brand new regulation that would, on average, raise the cost of gasoline another $0.25.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Praise for a new climate change initiative, but...

We want to take a moment this morning to praise the new initiative being announced today at the State Department to reduce emissions of pollutants that hasten climate change.

As we have been reporting for some time, limiting black carbon soot emissions (for example, from diesel engines) and some other “climate forcers” such as methane can limit the damages from climate change while policy makers argue over longer term solutions involving carbon dioxide. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/06/un-report-limit-soot-and-smog-emissions.html http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2008/10/bulletin-international-group-oks-new.html

So let’s give two cheers to this new initiative.

But we need to point out one irony. It is being announced literally the same week the Obama administration rolled out its proposed budget, which includes a plan to CUT spending to clean up existing dirty diesel engines in the United States. Note p 16 at http://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/annualplan/FY_2013_CJ.pdf

Has the dirty diesel problem in the US been solved? Not by a long shot, according to the EPA, which reports that

Because diesel engines can operate for 20 to 30 years, millions of older, dirtier diesel engines are still in use. http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/basicinfo.htm

As the old saying goes, what one hand gives, the other takes away.

However, the new announcement is a good pr moment. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Soot pollution linked to cognitive impairment in older women

from the Archives of Internal Medicine

http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/172/3/219

Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Cognitive Decline in Older Women
Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD; Robin C. Puett, MPH, PhD; Joel Schwartz, PhD; Jeff D. Yanosky, MS, ScD; Francine Laden, MS, ScD; Francine Grodstein, ScD


Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(3):219-227. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.683

Background Chronic exposure to particulate air pollution may accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, although data on this association are limited. Our objective was to examine long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution, both coarse ([PM 2.5-10 µm in diameter [PM2.5-10]) and fine (PM <2.5 µm in diameter [PM2.5]), in relation to cognitive decline.

Methods The study population comprised the Nurses' Health Study Cognitive Cohort, which included 19 409 US women aged 70 to 81 years. We used geographic information system–based spatiotemporal smoothing models to estimate recent (1 month) and long-term (7-14 years) exposures to PM2.5-10, and PM2.5 preceding baseline cognitive testing (1995-2001) of participants residing in the contiguous United States. We used generalized estimating equation regression to estimate differences in the rate of cognitive decline across levels of PM2.5-10 and PM2.5 exposures. The main outcome measure was cognition, via validated telephone assessments, administered 3 times at approximately 2-year intervals, includ-ing tests of general cognition, verbal memory, category fluency, working memory, and attention.

Results Higher levels of long-term exposure to both PM2.5-10 and PM2.5 were associated with significantly faster cognitive decline. Two-year decline on a global score was 0.020 (95% CI, –0.032 to –0.008) standard units worse per 10 μg/m3 increment in PM2.5-10 exposure and 0.018 (95% CI, –0.035 to –0.002) units worse per 10 μg/m3 increment in PM2.5 exposure. These differences in cognitive trajectory were similar to those between women in our cohort who were approximately 2 years apart in age, indicating that the effect of a 10-μg/m3 increment in long-term PM exposure is cognitively equivalent to aging by approximately 2 years.

Conclusion Long-term exposure to PM2.5-10 and PM2.5 at levels typically experienced by many individuals in the United States is associated with significantly worse cognitive decline in older women.

Medical researchers: even moderate air pollution levels can raise stroke risk

Even Moderate Air Pollution Can Raise Stroke Risks
Risk rises within hours of exposure
Date: 2/13/2012
BIDMC Contact: Jerry Berger
Phone: 617-667-7308
Email: jberger@bidmc.harvard.edu


BOSTON – Air pollution, even at levels generally considered safe by federal regulations, increases the risk of stroke by 34 percent, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers have found.

Writing in the Feb. 14, 2012 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers who studied more than 1,700 stroke patients in the Boston area over a 10-year period found exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, generally from vehicle traffic, was associated with a significantly higher risk of ischemic strokes on days when the EPA’s air quality index for particulate matter was yellow instead of green.

Researchers focused on particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionths of a meter, referred to as PM2.5. These particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, trucks and automobiles and the burning of wood. They can travel deeply into the lungs and have been associated in other studies with increased numbers of hospital visits for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks.

“The link between increased stroke risk and these particulates can be observed within hours of exposure and are most strongly associated with pollution from local or transported traffic emissions,” says Murray A. Mittleman, MD, DrPH, the study’s senior author, a physician in the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Any proposed changes in regulated pollution levels must consider the impact of lower levels on public health.”

“Considering that almost everyone is exposed to air pollution and is at risk for stroke, that’s actually a pretty large effect,” adds Gregory Wellenius, ScD, the study’s lead author and an Assistant Professor of Community Health at Brown University.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 1,700 patients who went to the hospital for treatment of confirmed strokes between 1999 and 2008. They matched the onset of stroke symptoms in each patient to hourly measurements of particulate air pollution taken at the nearby Harvard School of Public Health’s environmental monitoring station.

The team was able to estimate the hour the stroke symptoms first occurred, rather than relying on the more coarse measure of when patients were admitted to the hospital. They also included only strokes confirmed by attending neurologists, rather than relying on more vague insurance billing codes.

Meanwhile, Harvard’s hourly measurements of pollution within 13 miles of 90 percent of the stroke patients’ homes allowed for close matching in time of exposure and stroke onset.

“We think that this study is novel in that it has high-quality data on both air pollution exposure and stroke diagnosis,” Wellenius says.

The team was able to calculate that the peak risk to patients from pollution exposure occurs 12-14 hours before a stroke. That information may be useful to researchers who want to trace how PM2.5 might be working in the body to increase the likelihood of stroke.

They also found that black carbon and nitrogen dioxide, two pollutants associated with vehicle traffic, were closely linked with stroke risk, suggesting that pollution from cars and trucks may be particularly important.

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke every year, resulting in more than 135,000 deaths and 829,000 hospital admissions.

The finding that days of moderate air quality substantially elevate stroke risk compared to days of good air quality suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency may need to strengthen the language it uses to describe the health consequences of moderate air quality, researchers say.

“In partnership with NIEHS, EPA funded this research advancing our understanding of air pollution and health effects,” said Dan Costa, ScD, DABT, Interim National Program Director for Air Climate & Energy Research in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development Research.

“In 2009, EPA published an Integrated Science Assessment concluding a causal relationship exists between PM2.5 and cardiovascular impacts, including strokes. Dr. Wellenius and colleagues’ study is the first to show that the onset of stroke can occur with less than a day's exposure to fine PM. Highly relevant research such as this informs the PM2.5 standards and protects human health.”

Researchers estimate reducing PM2.5 pollution by about 20 percent could have prevented 6,100 of the 184,000 stroke hospitalizations in the northeastern United States in 2007.

While researchers acknowledge results need to be replicated in other cities, they note that Boston is considered to have relatively clean air.

“The levels of PM2.5 in Boston are lower than those seen in many in other parts of the country, yet we still find that within these moderate levels the risk of stroke is higher on days with more particles in the air,” Mittleman says.

In addition to Wellenius and Mittleman, co-authors include Mary R. Burger, MD, and Gottfried Schlaug, MD, MPH of BIDMC, Brent A. Coull. PhD, Joel Schwartz, PhD, Helen Suh, ScD, Petros Koutrakis, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and Diane R. Gold, MD, of Brigham an d Women’s Hospital.

The study was supported by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency. One or more of the authors are currently receiving or have received funding from the Health Effects Institute of Boston; the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, CA; the EPA and the National Institutes of Health.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. The medical center is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.

New York Times editorial calls on White House to permit EPA to move forward with low-sulfur gasoline standards

Thank you, New York Times for flagging this issue. Cleaner, low-sulfur gas will not only help California, but will reduce smog levels everywhere in America!



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/californias-clean-car-rules.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

EDITORIAL
California Rules

California, long a leader on clean air and other environmental issues, is doing good things again. The state’s powerful Air Resources Board has issued new rules that, when finally approved, will lead to many fewer smog-causing pollutants, fewer greenhouse gases and, in time, encourage the auto industry to build millions more emissions-free cars and trucks, including a new generation of all-electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles...

The Environmental Protection Agency is almost certain to grant the waiver California needs to put the rules into effect. It should also begin pushing the oil refiners to lower the sulfur content in gasoline, greatly improving California’s chances of achieving smog reductions. The oil companies hate this idea because it will add to their refining costs. It is hard to feel sympathy for them at a time of record profits. Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, has proposed sulfur reductions for gasoline, but the White House has yet to give her the green light. It should.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A big thanks to states, led by NY, which are suing EPA to update national air standards for fine particle soot!

We are most grateful to these attorneys general noted below.

The science is overwhelming that EPA should set tougher new standards to limit the amount of deadly fine particle soot in the air. All the studies have been completed and reviewed. But the Obama administration is dragging its feet. The appearance is that people are breathing deadly air because of the timidity induced by election-year politics.


________________________________________
From: NYAG PressOffice [mailto:NYAG.PressOffice@ag.ny.gov]
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2012 2:35 PM
To: NYAG PressOffice
Subject: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN FILES AIR POLLUTION LAWSUIT TO PROTECT PUBLIC FROM BREATHING SOOT

News from Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2012

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-473-5525
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov
Twitter:@AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN FILES AIR POLLUTION LAWSUIT TO PROTECT PUBLIC FROM BREATHING SOOT

Attorney General Leads A Coalition Of 11 States Responding To EPA's Failure To Comply With Federal Clean Air Act, Adopt Air Quality Standards That Protect Public Health

Under Current Lax Standards, Roughly 2,000 Die Annually In NYC-Area From Heart and Lung Disease Related To Soot

Schneiderman: Clean Air Is A Public Right

NEW YORK – Leading a coalition of 11 states, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed a lawsuit to compel the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promptly revise national air quality standards for air pollution involving soot. The coalition took legal action after the EPA failed to meet an October 2011 deadline for revising the existing lax standards, as required by the federal Clean Air Act.

Attorney General Schneiderman's lawsuit, filed today in federal district court in Manhattan, asks the Court to order the EPA to adopt new air pollution standards promptly and by a date certain.

"Clean air is a public right, and standards that protect it are a necessity," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Every day, air pollution, from soot, risks the health of more than one-third of Americans, including our most vulnerable – children, the elderly and the sick. These risks are simply unacceptable. The EPA must take prompt action to reduce pollution now, and safeguard the health of the public and the air we breathe."

Soot, also known as fine particulate matter pollution or “PM 2.5,” is produced by diesel trucks and buses, power plants and other sources, and is prevalent in New York City and other urban areas. Tiny particles of soot evade the body’s defense mechanisms and collect deep within peoples’ lungs, where they are absorbed into the blood stream. Breathing it increases the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits, especially for people with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Moreover,
• EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans -- one-third of the nation’s population -- have special susceptibility to be harmed from soot, including children, senior citizens, and people with lung disease such as asthma; and

• According to the American Lung Association, one in 17 Americans live in areas with unhealthy year-round levels of soot;

• The American Lung Association ranks New York City among the top 25 U.S. cities with the highest levels of pollution; and

• Under the current standards, the EPA estimates that approximately 2,000 people die prematurely every year in the New York City urban area from heart and lung disease related to soot.

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA every five years to review and, if warranted by advances in public health science, revise the national air quality standards for common air pollutants, including soot. EPA last revised the standards in 2006. However, New York and 15 other states challenged those standards as lax, and having been adopted against the advice of EPA’s own air pollution experts and the agency’s independent scientific advisors.

In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the coalition of states, and ruled that the EPA had not justified its decision to adopt those lax standards. The Court returned the standards back to the agency for reconsideration in light of the Court’s concerns that the standards failed to adequately protect public health.

In response to the court’s remand, the EPA stated that it would revise the soot standards as part of its next five-year review under the statute. However, that statutory deadline -- October 17, 2011 -- passed without the EPA finalizing, or even proposing, revised soot standards. Because the federal agency failed to act on this important public health matter as required by law, on November 16, 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman and the states joining him in today's lawsuit sent a 60-day notice to the EPA, stating their intention to sue over the agency's failure to timely revise the soot air pollution standards. The EPA has not taken action in response to the coalition's notice, leading Schneiderman and his coalition to take today's legal action. New York and other coalition states also have a petition pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that court to order the EPA promptly to revise the soot standards.

The states joining Attorney General Schneiderman in today's action are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The lawsuit is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jane Cameron and Michael Myers, under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

EPA makes "minor technical adjustments" to embattled cross-state pollution rules

The US EPA has rather quietly made a few adjustments to its embattled cross-state air pollution rules for power plant emissions that drift across state lines. The new rules were signed last night and can be found online: http://www.epa.gov/crossstaterule/actions.html

EPA describes these as “minor technical adjustments” based on new information since the rules were released last July. According to the EPA

The adjustments provide flexibility by increasing budgets in 17 states and easing limits on market-based compliance options. While individual state adjustments vary, overall, the total budget increase from both rules remain small—around two percent—when compared to the millions of tons of pollution reductions secured by CSAPR.
As you know, the rules have been stayed by a federal court while lawsuits grind through the system. EPA says it is prepared to move forward with these changes if it prevails in court.

We know courts are unpredictable.

But we do believe EPA is trying to make decisions based on the best possible information. And the cross-state rule is crucial to bring down levels of soot and smog pollution that cause thousands of premature deaths a year.

Truth squads Politifact and Factcheck.org both agree with us: Newt was wrong about long-awaited EPA clean car, clean fuel plan and gas prices

Please note at


http://bit.ly/xjlL6q

http://bit.ly/wZhT4d

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

EPA to Congress: yes, people are dying at particle soot levels BELOW the current standard (so why is the Obama administation dragging its feet in setting a new standard?)

An item of possible interest as we explore the “unfinished business” of the Obama administration as it pertains to air pollution control. As you may recall, some of the very glib opponents of coal power plant and other industrial cleanup have complained about some of the EPA-projected benefits of pollution control, especially the “deaths avoided” from reducing fine particle soot levels below the national air quality standards set in 1997 and re-affirmed by the Bush administration in 2006. (Some of you may recall that back then, the EPA science advisers urged a tougher national standard. State, health and environmental groups subsequently sued, and the Bush standard was found arbitrary and capricious.)

The polluter interests prompted this letter to EPA from several prominent members of Congress, led by Rep. Fred “Geez, how conservative do I have to be to appease the right wing?” Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

http://energycommerce.house.gov/news/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=9164

The EPA has now responded with the following letter, which makes it crystal clear that the current national fine particle soot standard is far too weak. Indeed, EPA reports that people are dying from breathing particle soot levels that are “significantly below” the arbitrary Bush standard. EPA argues, accurately, that there will be significant health benefits from cleaning up coal power plants, cement plants, etc.

However, this response does raise a pretty big question: why is the Obama administration dragging its feet in updating the obviously outmoded national standard? As you may recall, EPA recently went to court to try to fend off state, health and environmental group efforts to get EPA off the dime. The Obama administration recently told the court that a decision would be put off until 2013 – after the elections. This is a real elephant in the room – or, should I say, donkey?

So is EPA’s decision on new national fine particle soot standards another casualty of election year politics? It’s starting to look that way.

**


UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460

FEB - 3 2012_

OFFICE OF
AIR AND RADIATION


The Honorable Fred Upton
Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce U.S. House ofRepresentatives Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for your letter of December 14, 2011, to Administrator Lisa Jackson, co-signed by three of your colleagues, requesting additional information regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's estimates of the public health benefits expected to result from regulatory actions. The Administrator has asked me to respond on her behalf.

Your letter raises several questions about our benefits estimates for reducing fine particle pollution. We believe the health improvements achieved by reducing fine particle exposures represent real benefits to real people, and it is appropriate to provide information to decisionmakers and the public about these expected benefits of cleaner air. These estimates are incorporated in Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs), which help inform decisionmakers and the public about the potential benefits and costs of our proposed and final rules. The benefits estimates and RIAs are developed and reviewed as part of the normal rulemaking process, including interagency review and public notice and comment. We prepare these estimates for all economically significant rules. Although we strive to make these analyses as complete as possible, there are often many benefits that cannot be quantified, including a number of significant benefits from reducing mercury and other air taxies.

EPA's approach for estimating benefits from reducing fine particle pollution is science-driven. Studies demonstrate an association between premature mortality and fine particle pollution at the lowest levels measured in the relevant studies, levels that are significantly below the NAAQS for fine particles. These studies have not observed a level at which premature mortality effects do not occur. The best scientific evidence, confirmed by independent, Congressionally-mandated expert panels, is that there is no threshold level of fine particle pollution below which health risk reductions are not achieved by reduced exposure. Thus, based on specific advice from scientific peer-review, we project benefits from reducing fine particle pollution below the level of the NAAQS and below the lowest levels measured in the studies.

Using a no-threshold approach to developing our primary benefits estimates for our rules, which was also the approach we took from 1997 to 2006, is warranted by the extensive scientific review reflected in the Integrated Science Assessment on Particulate Matter (PM ISA), the first draft of which was prepared by EPA scientists and technical staff and released in December 2008. All drafts of the PM ISA reflect this conclusion that there is no scientific evidence supporting assumption of a threshold for PM effects.

1

risks. The no-threshold approach, and associated projections of benefits, were also specifically reviewed and approved by the Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis, another panel of outside experts established by Congress to review EPA studies of the benefits and costs of the Clean Air Act.

Based on the first draft PM ISA released in December 2008, EPA technical staff incorporated the no­ threshold approach in benefits calculations, which were subject to intra- and inter-agency review and public notice and comment. We have followed a no-threshold approach to our primary benefits estimate since then.

Detailed responses to a number of specific questions raised in your letter are addressed in the attachment. We have also provided the key documents cited in this letter on the enclosed disc. Again, the Administrator and I thank you for your letter. If you have further questions, please contact me or your staff may call Josh Lewis in the EPA's Office ofCongressional and Intergovernmental Relations at (202) 564-2095.

Sincerely,




Gina McCarthy
Assistant Administrator

Monday, February 06, 2012

Newt Gingrich repeats Big Oil's big lie about EPA and gas prices

In case you missed yesterday’s Meet the Press, I am sorry to report that presidential contender Newt Gingrich repeated big oil’s big lie about EPA and gas prices.

As part of a spiel attacking the Obama administration, Gingrich asserted that Obama “has an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would raise the price of gasoline by 25 cents a gallon.” [See at about 9:37 into the interview at this link: http://www.2012presidentialelectionnews.com/2012/02/video-newt-gingrich-on-meet-the-press-2412/ ]

This is repeating some nonsense, already repeated by some congressional oil industry supporters led by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) that were instigated by the oil industry and based on a bogus premise: that EPA is seeking to change the so-called Reid Vapor Pressure of gasoline. (That is not, by the way, a reference to Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) blood pressure.)

At the President’s directive, EPA has been working on a plan to require cleaner new passenger vehicles and cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline – a move that could cost LESS THAN A PENNY a gallon. See at http://www.4cleanair.org/documents/NACAATier3VehandFuelReport-EMBARGOED-Oct2011.pdfs

Our friend, Rich Kassel of NRDC, explained the oil industry’s bogus assertion in this excellent blog post http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rkassel/epa_oil_industry_assumptions_a.html

Reducing the sulfur content of gasoline would make every catalytic converter on the road today more effective. Every car in America would emit fewer smog-producing emissions. In fact, reducing sulfur is the single quickest and most effective step that EPA could take to reduce smog levels from coast to coast.

But here’s the question: are attacks like Gingrich’s – however factually off base -- causing the White House to get cold feet on this issue?

EPA’s proposal is long overdue.