Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Guest Post: Four for the Future: Clean Sources of Renewable Electricity

[Clean Air Watch periodically accepts guest posts of general interest.  Today's guest post is from Sarah Smith.  Editor's note: as the link below notes. biomass is a topic of genuine controversy.]

The world’s appetite for electricity grows bigger every day, and the global oil supply and reservoirs that provide hydroelectric power are beginning to show the strain. And while decreasing energy resources would be reason enough to look into types of renewable energy, there’s also the fact that many of the ways we currently generate electricity are harmful to our planet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Buyer Beware: Car “Safety” Bill Contains Trojan Horse Provisions that Could Ruin California, Federal Clean-Car Programs

Dear Friends, 

We are not going to claim the draft legislation we are about to discuss came from the pens of Volkswagen lobbyists… but, as in the case of that cheater company, there is some real deception here.  And it also involves emission controls.

Tomorrow, a House panel http://1.usa.gov/1OG2gYp will hold a hearing on a draft bill ostensibly designed to promote better car safety.  Well and good — or so it would seem on the surface.

But buried deep within the legislation are Trojan Horse provisions that could not only kill California’s effective and trend-setting clean-car program, but could also erode the U.S. EPA’s authority over greenhouse gas emissions, to the likely favor of car companies. 

As explained in a description of the proposed legislation http://1.usa.gov/1LlIXjm it would promote various safety measures in high-tech motor vehicles.

One inducement to safer vehicles is buried deep within the draft legislation: see Title V, Sections 201-203  http://1.usa.gov/1XhmCsn

Under these provisions, car makers would receive “credits” towards meeting their greenhouse gas reduction obligations if they install certain safety features.  

And here is where this stealth attack gets interesting: Section 502 of the legislation would also amend the Clean Air Act to require that “a State” which receives a waiver to set its own greenhouse gas standards under the law must revise its rules within 30 days — or lose its waiver entirely.  (If you think states can revise major rules within 30 days, you must be living on another planet!)

This is a secret reference to California, since California is the only state permitted under law to set its own motor vehicle standards.  A dozen other states have adopted California’s standards http://www.calcleancars.org/learnMore-state.html and this dynamic has not only led to zero-emission vehicles and other emission improvements, but driven tougher national motor vehicle standards as well.  

Not surprisingly, for decades, car companies have tried to eliminate California’s ability to set tougher standards. For some background, note http://www.4cleanair.org/FinalBrochure-April05.pdf  

This latest gambit looks like one more sneaky attempt to do that. It could put the brakes on laudable efforts to put more zero-emission vehicles on the road and transform our passenger vehicle fleet to one that has far less impact on the planet. 

The legislation would also undermine the U.S. EPA’s authority by giving the U.S. Department of Transportation the final say in dispersing greenhouse gas “credits” in the future.  As those of us who have followed this issue for years well know, the car companies believe they have more influence shaping things at DOT. 

Implicit in this legislation is the notion that there has to be a tradeoff between auto safety and environmental standards.  We believe that is a false choice.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Northeast States to EPA: Give Us Better Big-Rig Pollution Standards to Help Us Make Progress with Ozone

As you are all too well aware, despite EPA’s shockingly weak new ozone standard, the big polluter lobbies continue to rail. (As one corporate guy put it to me, “protocol dictates we bitch.”) And now there’s even talk of going to Congress to try for the umpteenth time to relax the Clean Air Act itself.  Well, the lobbyists do have to create work for themselves, I suppose. And don’t forget the various members of Congress who want those campaign contributions to keep on coming...

What I want to flag for you this morning is a positive opportunity to make further reductions in ozone: stronger emission standards for smog-forming nitrogen oxides from new big-rig trucks.  This is an excellent counter to the polluter arguments that nothing more can be done to reduce air pollution. 

The smog-riddled state of California has already identified better truck standards as a clean-up strategy and has begun pressing the US EPA to set better standards: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/tech/techreport/diesel_tech_report.pdf

That call to action has now been amplified by Northeastern states in new comments to EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for big trucks.   See at  http://www.nescaum.org/documents/nescaum-heavy-duty-prop-rule-phase-2-comments-20151001-final.pdf

As the Northeastern states put it:

EPA should address the potential for further NOx reductions at the earliest possible date.
Heavy-duty trucks represent the second largest source of NOx emissions in the NESCAUM region, and our states remain very concerned about the need to further control NOx emissions from this sector. We thank the agencies for acknowledging the challenge that states continue to face in this regard, and we urge EPA to begin a rulemaking without delay to ensure that the next generation of trucks is not only more fuel efficient but also much less of a contributor to states’ air quality and public health problems. 

So you might want to keep your eyes on this issue moving forward.  The ball would seem to be in EPA’s court.  

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Clean Air Watch Reaction to EPA Smog Decision

From our standpoint, disappointing is probably too mild a term.  The big polluters won this time, for the most part. 

EPA has taken a baby step, when what was really needed is a giant stride to protect people’s health from dirty air.  It is really a missed opportunity. 

EPA’s own analysis underscores that thousands of people will die prematurely because of this weak, polluter-friendly approach. Many others will be left vulnerable to asthma attacks, hospital emergency room visits and days missed from school and work.  Not the best outcome, to put it mildly.  

Indeed, EPA’s own science advisers warned that an ozone standard of 70 would be too weak  http://www.cleanairwatch.org/2015/09/is-smog-standard-of-70-really-good.html .

No matter how the EPA tries to spin it, this is truly a blemish on the President’s environmental legacy.  

Despite this defeat, clean air defenders will now wearily trudge to Capitol Hill, with a deep sense of irony, to defend against any attempts by polluters to weaken the Clean Air Act.  Because the law itself is fine. What’s wrong here is its timid enforcement by people entrusted to carry it out faithfully.