Tuesday, December 20, 2005
President Bush Gives Early Christmas Present to Smokestack Industries
(Washington, DC, December 20, 2005) -- The following is a statement by Frank O’Donnell, President of Clean Air Watch, in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards for fine-particle pollution:
“The Bush administration is giving an early Christmas present to smokestack industries – while sticking a sooty lump of coal in the stockings of breathers.
“Fine-particle pollution is the most lethal of widespread air contaminants, responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.
“The electric power industry has lobbied against standards that would require them to clean up more than they currently plan to do.
“Deplorably, the Bush administration has decided to side with the electric power industry rather than follow the advice of its own scientific advisors and other health experts. All of them have urged the agency to update our national air standards to further reduce annual public exposure to this deadly contaminant.
“The Bush administration, unfortunately, has chosen political science over real science.
“What perhaps is most alarming is that the administration is not telling the American public the truth about when the outdoor air is safe to breathe. This decision could further erode public confidence in our federal government.”
Thursday, November 10, 2005
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800
For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527)
Clean Air Watch:
Smog Problems Nearly Double in 2005
(Washington, DC, November 10, 2005) --Smog problems around the nation have nearly doubled in 2005 compared to 2004, according to the non-profit Clean Air Watch.
Clean Air Watch reported today that unofficial records show the federal health standard for ozone, or smog, has been breached 3,423 times in 40 states and the District of Columbia this year, through October. That compares to about 1,930 times in 35 states and D.C. in 2004.
The non-profit watchdog group noted that the air has been unhealthful for smog in at least one state on 159 different days this year.
“This is a breath-taking reminder that smog remains a giant and widespread public health problem,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
“We cannot cut new breaks for big polluters if we expect to meet our public health standards.”
The analysis was released as a U.S. Senate committee held a hearing on federal efforts to meet clean air standards for smog and fine-particle pollution.
O’Donnell warned that pollution cleanup could be impeded by controversial energy legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives and by a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to stop enforcing the Clean Air Act against most coal-burning electric power plants.
The energy bill was rammed through the House by Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Tom DeLay (R-TX) to help big oil companies and gas station owners. It could delay smog standards and threaten plans to clean up diesel fuel and big diesel engines. The Senate Energy Committee has said it may consider a counterpart measure.
Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed new loopholes to permit coal-burning power plants to avoid using pollution controls. And the oil industry and other special-interests are clamoring to postpone deadlines for meeting smog standards.
“The craven quest to cut breaks for polluters will mean one thing – more people will breathe dirty air for a longer time,” O’Donnell warned. “And that will mean more disease, more suffering, and more people dying before their time.”
O’Donnell added that “we need to accelerate the cleanup of existing diesel engines, power plants and other big sources of pollution.”
O’Donnell noted some positive news in the numbers: the long-term trend does appear to show improvement. He noted, for example, that smog problems were less frequent in 2005 than in 2003 (almost 4,500 monitored problems) or in 2000 (more than 4,600 monitored problems).
“The long-term trend seems positive because existing pollution-control programs appear to be working,” he noted. He cited in particular programs – adopted in the 1990s but only phased in during the past two years – including those to reduce summer-time smog-forming emissions from electric power plants, lower-polluting cars, and cleaner gasoline.
O’Donnell noted that 2004 was an unusually cool and rainy year in much of the nation. Much of the normal pollution was simply washed out of the skies. 2005 was more representative.
The 2005 information comes from a review by Clean Air Watch volunteers of information from state-run air pollution monitors. The 2004 information is based on official government statistics.
The full list of states and other factoids are available at the Clean Air Watch blog at http://www.blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/. The unofficial monitor-by-monitor readings are available from Clean Air Watch and could be useful material in local news stories.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
BIGGEST CLEAN AIR ACT WEAKENING IN HISTORY
(Washington, DC. September 29, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that energy legislation approved early this morning by a House of Representatives committee “would be the biggest weakening of the Clean Air Act in history.”
Just after midnight, following a largely partisan debate, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation allegedly designed to increase the capacity of oil refineries in the wake of recent hurricanes.
But Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted the legislation includes many provisions that have no connection at all to gas prices. The bill, slated to come before the full House of Representatives next week, would “blow gaping loopholes in the Clean Air Act,” O’Donnell noted.
Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) noted he took the unusual step of holding a marathon bill-writing session without a prior hearing because he was prodded by the House Republican leadership to bypass normal procedures. The leadership – roiled yesterday by the indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) – reportedly has been concerned about public anger over high gasoline prices.
“Unfortunately, this appears to be a cynical attempt to exploit the recent hurricanes for political gain – and the gain of well-connected special-interest polluters,” O’Donnell said. “This would be the biggest weakening of the Clean Air Act in history. It will merely exacerbate human suffering.”
O’Donnell pointed, for example, to a provision that would “eviscerate” a key enforcement tool in the law known as new source review. This tool, which has been used many times to reduce pollution from refineries, coal-fired electric power plants and other smokestack industries, has long been unpopular with big polluters. The dirty-air provision, sponsored by Barton, would permit thousands of smokestack industries – not just refineries – to increase real-world emissions.
Barton noted yesterday that he included the provision at the specific request of the Bush administration – a startling revelation since the administration’s Justice Department has advocated the use of this pollution cleanup tool in pending enforcement cases against big power companies. (In response to industry lobbying, the Bush administration separately has tried to weaken this tool through regulations, but its efforts have been stymied by a federal court.)
“Gutting this part of the law would undermine the Justice Department enforcement cases and open the door to increased pollution,” O’Donnell noted. “There is an appearance here of a political payback to special interests including the oil and electric power industries.”
The controversial legislation also includes a Barton-sought provision that would encourage the EPA to postpone smog cleanup requirements in many communities afflicted by pollution from upwind areas. A Barton staffer admitted during the deliberations that this provision – like the new source review provision -- had no direct relation to energy industry needs following the recent hurricanes.
In addition, the legislation would take away state and local authority regarding refinery permits and would impede efforts to require cleaner fuels.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800Washington, DC 20005(202) 558-3527
For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527 or
CLEAN AIR WATCH: HEALTH STANDARD FOR SMOG BREACHED NEARLY 1,000 TIMES IN JULY IN 36 STATES
(Washington, DC. August 2, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that the national health standard for smog was breached nearly 1,000 times in 36 states during July 2005.
The unofficial survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers found that people were breathing dirty air not just in traditionally smoggy states such as California, Texas, North Carolina and New Jersey, but even in usually “clean” states including Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa and Florida.
“This is a reality check that we haven’t solved the smog problem yet,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
“We will need every tool available in the law to make sure that the public can breathe truly clean air.” O’Donnell noted those tools include permitting states to take action against big polluters in upwind states, allowing states to adopt tougher California motor vehicle emission standards, and permitting the Environmental Protection Agency to set better pollution controls on high-polluting small engines.
O’Donnell noted business lobbies and their allies in government are opposing all of these cleanup strategies: At the prompting of the electric power industry, EPA yesterday rejected North Carolina’s petition to reduce smog-forming pollution from other states. The auto industry is lobbying aggressively to block states from adopting tougher motor vehicle standards. And, at the request of small engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is trying to throw up roadblocks to new pollution controls on dirty small engines.
The Clean Air Watch survey of air pollution monitors found the smog standard was breached 979 times in July –- about a 67% increase over the previous year. O’Donnell noted that hot weather played a factor in the 2005 statistics – just as cooler, rainy weather dampened smog problems in 2004.
“We can hardly rely on rain and cooler weather to bail us out of our smog problems,” O’Donnell noted, “especially since the climate is heating up because of human activities.”
The full list of states is available at the Clean Air Watch blog at http://www.blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/. The unofficial monitor-by-monitor readings are available from Clean Air Watch.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Monday, July 11, 2005
MID-SUMMER SMOG REPORT: 38 STATES WITH PROBLEMS;
JUNE VIOLATIONS TRIPLE THOSE OF A YEAR AGO
(Washington, DC. July 11, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that at least 38 states have experienced serious smog problems already this summer.
In June alone, there were nearly triple the monitored violations of the national health standard for smog compared to a year ago, based on an unofficial survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers.
“This is a gasping reminder that smog remains a widespread and persistent public health problem,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “We cannot afford to cut new breaks for polluters if we are going to meet our public health standards.”
O’Donnell cautioned that a threat looming in Congress could undermine progress towards achieving health goals. House and Senate negotiators may meet as soon as this week to hash out final energy legislation. The House version includes a provision, championed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), which could postpone achievement of smog standards in many parts of the nation.
O’Donnell said the smog statistics underscore that EPA’s recent “clean air interstate rule” – although a step in the right direction – will not be good enough to meet public health standards everywhere.
“State authorities will need to keep the right to take action against pollution blowing in from other states,” O’Donnell said.
The survey of public web sites found monitored readings of dirty air in states from California to Maine. In June alone, there were 941 violations of the smog standard, compared to 329 in June 2004.
Dirty air haunted such popular vacation spots such as Cape Cod, Acadia National Park, the Adirondacks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Zion National Park.
O’Donnell said the severity of the issue was underscored by recent studies which showed that smog can kill. Three independent research reviews - commissioned by EPA and published in the July issue of Epidemiology – all linked daily levels of smog to an increased risk of death.
Details of the survey and a scholarly commentary on the new health studies are available at the Clean Air Watch Blog for Clean Air at http://www.blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/. The unofficial monitor-by-monitor readings are available from Clean Air Watch.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Earlier this week, Bond quietly inserted a dirty-air amendment into spending legislation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Bond’s amendment, first revealed by Greenwire, would prevent EPA from issuing standards until a new study examines alleged safety issues related to cleaner engines.
Bond directs that the study be conducted by a Swedish organization with connections to a D.C. lobbying firm that formerly represented the tobacco industry.
“Lawn mowers and other small engines are a major source of smog in our communities during summer months,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “In fact, they may be a much larger source of pollution than is generally assumed.”
O’Donnell added that Bond’s plan “would subject tens of millions of Americans to the harmful effects of smog by preventing the EPA from doing its job. His amendment is a direct attack on people’s health.” O’Donnell noted that state and local air pollution authorities were mobilizing in an effort to block Bond’s bad-air amendment.
O’Donnell charged that Bond was “acting on behalf of a single special-interest polluter” – the Briggs & Stratton Corporation, which has factories in Missouri. Federal lobbyist registration records show that Briggs & Stratton has retained high-powered D.C. lobbyists to obtain a “Clean Air amendment relating to the emissions of small engines.”
Two years ago, at Briggs & Stratton’s request, Bond crafted an amendment that took away the rights of states to adopt tougher upcoming California standards for small engines. Bond insisted then that EPA set tougher new national standards.
“Now, Senator Bond is seeking to undermine those EPA standards,” charged O’Donnell. “And his plan would also block California from protecting its citizens from the health effects caused by dirty small engines.”
Bond’s amendment, which will be subject to review by the full House Appropriations Committee tomorrow (June 9), directs that EPA commission a study proposed by an obscure organization called the “International Consortium for Fire Safety, Health and the Environment.” (The D.C. contact for that organization is a lobbying firm, Sparber and Associates, which formerly represented the tobacco industry.) The “Consortium” proposed that the $650,000 study be led by the SP Swedish National Testing and Research Institute, owned by the Swedish government.
“It’s ironic that Senator Bond, who complains about potential impacts on American jobs, wants our tax money to be spent in Sweden,” O’Donnell said.
More information is available from Clean Air Watch at 202-558-3527 and the Clean Air Watch blog at http://www.blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/
Thursday, April 14, 2005
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800Washington, DC 20005(202) 558-3527
For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527 or
CLEAN AIR WATCH WARNS:
HOUSE ENERGY BILL WOULD MEAN MORE DIRTY AIR
(Washington, DC. April 14, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that energy legislation approved last night by a House committee would mean continuing air pollution problems for tens of millions of Americans in communities ranging from Dallas-Fort Worth to greater Connecticut.
The controversial legislation includes a provision that would encourage the U.S. EPA to extend the deadline in many communities for meeting national health-based standards for ozone, or smog. The provision was endorsed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), an outspoken advocate of the delay.
“If this provision became law, it would be the biggest weakening of the Clean Air Act in decades,” warned Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “Many millions of Americans would suffer from dirty air as a result.”
O’Donnell noted the bad-air provision would turn EPA’s recent “clean air interstate rule” on its head: That rule was aimed at making it easier for states to meet clean air standards in a timely way, though EPA acknowledged it would be inadequate to do the job. EPA emphasized in the rule that state governments would still be responsible for cleaning up the rest of the dirty air.
The new House provision would enable states to use the EPA interstate rule as an excuse: They could say that where the reductions were inadequate – and this is projected to include states from Illinois to the East Coast -- breathers in downwind states would be forced to breathe dirty air longer.
“In effect it would become a Catch-22 plan for dirty air,” O’Donnell said. “No state would have to meet the standards until states upwind of it did.”
Some states are already beginning to use this excuse to argue for extended deadlines. The head of Ohio’s state EPA, for example, asserted last Sunday that, despite the EPA interstate rule, his state could not meet smog standards on time because of pollution being blown in from other states. (Simultaneously, Ohio is seeking to eliminate some local smog controls.) Allowing more pollution in Ohio, of course, would also harm breathers in such downwind states as Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut.
The legislation is expected to go to the House floor next week.
Friday, April 01, 2005
By Scott StreaterStar-Telegram Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton wants to include a provision in upcoming energy legislation allowing Dallas-Fort Worth and other smoggy regions of the country to miss deadlines mandating compliance with federal ozone standards.
Dallas-Fort Worth faces a 2010 deadline to comply with ozone regulations or face severe sanctions, including the potential loss of hundreds of millions in federal highway transportation dollars.
The proposal being pushed by Barton, R-Ennis, would allow the federal Environmental Protection Agency to extend deadlines in areas that can prove they're affected by pollution that blows in from other cities and states.
Dallas-Fort Worth officials have long claimed that pollution from Louisiana, and even from Houston 250 miles to the southeast, is at least partly to blame for the region's poor air quality.
Barton's Energy and Commerce Committee is expected this month to begin debating the controversial energy bill, which has been stalled in Congress the past two years. The deadline extension proposal is included in a "discussion draft" that Barton's committee will use to craft a formal bill for the full House to consider.
The deadline extension option would provide breathing room for regional leaders struggling to lower Metroplex ozone -- among the worst in the nation.
But local health officials and environmental leaders argue that the proposal will delay efforts to clean the air, exposing Dallas-Fort Worth residents to dirty air for a longer period of time.
At high enough concentrations, ozone can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate the conditions of those suffering from emphysema, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.
"I think that it's just another move to delay compliance," said Tessie Holloway, regional executive director of the American Lung Association of Texas. "The important thing for us as health-care advocates is that asthma rates continue rising, the number of emergency room visits annually continues getting larger, and this [proposal] doesn't help."
This marks the fourth time Barton has proposed legislative action to allow extending the ozone-compliance deadlines, according to his office.
Larry Neal, Barton's spokesman, defended the proposal. In a written statement, he said Barton believes that it has bipartisan support and that the issue has not "prevented the bill from becoming law."
If approved, the proposal would re-establish an EPA policy adopted in 1998 allowing ozone-compliance deadlines to be extended in regions and cities that are unable to comply because of pollution that's generated "upwind" of the area.
Three federal court rulings have overturned the EPA policy of granting deadline extensions in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The reason: it violates the Clean Air Act.
Those rulings killed a similar EPA decision to extend an old ozone compliance deadline in Dallas-Fort Worth.
If Congress allows them to, however, EPA officials in the regional office in Dallas have said they'll extend deadlines in North Texas if needed.
That possibility upsets Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington.
He accuses Barton and the EPA of supporting the creation of a "giant loophole" that essentially renders federal health-based ozone standards meaningless.
Friday, March 18, 2005
(Washington, DC. March 18, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today hailed a legal settlement that will require Ohio Edison to make a significant pollution cleanup within the next seven years.
The company agreed to spend about $1.1 billion to clean up coal-burning power plants in Ohio by 2012.
“This cleanup settlement is graphic evidence that the Clean Air Act is working – as long as it is aggressively enforced,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “It will mean cleaner air and better health for millions of breathers in Ohio and states downwind.
“It also underscores why the federal government should be devoting more resources to enforcing the law against big polluters, rather than trying to re-write the law to cut breaks for the polluters.” The Bush administration has not sought sufficient resources to press similar cases, O’Donnell said.
“This is the type of cleanup that would be impossible under the so-called `clear skies,’ plan, which would repeal new source review,” O’Donnell added.
He noted that the cleanup would take place much more quickly under the settlement than under the proposed re-write of the law, which would phase in some emission reductions over a two-decade period while eliminating key safeguards in the law.
Federal officials said today that Ohio Edison and its parent company, First Energy, would reduce more than 212,000 tons of pollution per year during the next seven years.
In 2003 the company was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act’s new source review provisions following suits by the federal government and the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. O’Donnell said today’s settlement likely would not have happened without the persistent efforts of the state attorneys general.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The Environmental Protection Agency released the first regulations that limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants Tuesday. Two energy experts debate the implications of the new "cap and trade" initiative which allows companies to trade pollution allowances.
SPENCER MICHELS: With the new EPA rule announced today, the United States became the first country to regulate mercury emissions from power plants. The nation's 450 coal-fired power plants are the main culprits. They emit some 48 tons of mercury into the atmosphere each year. The new regulations aim to cut those emissions to 38 tons in five years, and to 15 tons by 2018. Environmental Protection Agency officials announced the new rules at a Washington press conference this afternoon.
JEFFREY HOLMSTEAD, Environmental Protection Agency: Mercury is emitted from power plants in different forms. About half of that mercury is oxidized mercury which actually can deposit locally and regionally and cause those types of concerns. And these rules are specifically designed to reduce that type of mercury the most.
SPENCER MICHELS: Under the new rule, the EPA will permit heavy polluters to choose whether to reduce their own emissions, or to buy credits from companies who don't pollute in order to meet the targets, a practice known as "cap and trade." In addition, states can also opt out and set their own, stricter emission levels.
JEFFREY HOLMSTEAD: A cap-and-trade approach enables the power sector to achieve these reductions more cost effectively, helping to ensure a steady flow of affordable electricity for American consumers and businesses. The mandatory declining emissions caps in the rules, coupled with very significant penalties for noncompliance, will ensure that mercury reduction requirements are achieved and sustained.
SPENCER MICHELS: Mercury naturally occurs in the environment, but many people are exposed to high concentrations of the metal by eating fish after mercury has settled into the air and water. Especially high levels accumulate in tuna and swordfish. The dangerous toxin can cause neurological damage in the developing brains of fetuses and young children.
The EPA's actions on the mercury rule have spurred intense criticism. Environmentalists and public health advocates say the new regulations don't go far enough and fast enough to reduce mercury emissions. In addition, the agency's own inspector general issued this statement last month. "We concluded that the EPA's rule development process for this case was inconsistent with expected and past EPA practices, including a failure to fully assess the rule's impact on children's health..."
This is the second action the EPA has taken in recent weeks to curb pollutants. Last week, the agency issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule, also known as CAIR, which is aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 Eastern and Midwestern states.
The EPA said the new CAIR rules and Mercury regulations comprised a multi-pollutant strategy to reduce emissions. The regulations were issued after the Bush administration failed to pass similar air pollution legislation in Congress known as the Clear Skies Act. That bill has stalled in a senate committee. The new mercury regulations are scheduled to go into effect in 60 days. But environmental groups have already vowed to challenge the new rule in court.
MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this new rule and the controversy over it, I'm joined by Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. Most of its members are coal- fired electric utilities and Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. Welcome, gentlemen. So, Mr. Segal, it's your members who are going to be hit hardest by this rule. Are you ready? What do you think of it and are you ready to do what you have to, to make it work?
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, the rule is going to be a tough chore. I mean, any way you look at it, it is the first time ever mercury has been regulated from power plants. It - the rule calls for very deep cuts, 70 percent cuts in emissions by the final implementation of the second phase of the rule. That's significant any way you cut it. But we think the rule is good news and it's good news because a cap and trade program, which is what the rule calls for, is a more certain way, a better way, a more cost effective way and avoids the case by case litigation-heavy analysis which really is a threat to the energy diversity of this country, the energy security of this country and the continued use of coal. Coal is 55 percent of U.S. electric generating capacity; it's important to keep it viable. It's a domestic resource. It's important to keep it viable in our economy.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. And, Mr. O'Donnell, most environmentalists don't like this but to someone sitting at home listening to this, they'd say 70 percent cut. That's pretty big. Make your case for why this isn't enough.
FRANK O'DONNELL: Sure, Margaret, thanks again. One of the reasons is that this rule allows too much mercury in the air for too long. Mercury is a very toxic substance; it is a real threat to pregnant women and to the unborn as some people would call them fetuses, certainly. And the real story here is that a child born today would be in college, assuming the mercury didn't mess up their brain and make it hard for them to learn, before this rule finally takes effect.
The story here is that it will be a 70 percent reduction. But the EPA's own analyses show that won't happen until around the year 2026. What we really have here is a delay that goes way into the future, allows far too much mercury into the system, something that will poison the brains of babies. It's unconscionable.
We can clean up mercury in the next three or four years-we can clean up probably 80 to 90 percent of the mercury in that time if we simply enforce the current law and tell the power companies to clean up. The Bush administration doesn't want to enforce the law, tried to rewrite the law as your piece noted. They failed to do that; now they're trying to ignore the law. And it's not just environmental groups and health groups that are upset. State agencies, state environment protection officials are absolutely livid about this. They think this undermines their attempt to protect the public and they're very upset.
"Cap and trade" reduction programs
MARGARET WARNER: Why not do this more rapidly, Mr. Segal? Thirteen years is a long time.
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, first of all, one thing you need to know about a cap and trade program is when you set up that type of trading program, there is a substantial incentive to make early reductions in mercury emissions well before the full implementation of the cap.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, let me stop you right there. Let's just explain - a cap and trade program is basically a company that owns many power plants could say, okay, we're going to clean up these five and maybe not clean up these other five which would be more expensive but then the clean ones, they can kind of trade that, I don't know what the term of art is, in return for having the dirty ones, is that right?
SCOTT SEGAL: It's almost right. Let me just give it a little bit of a different cast. If you had ten power plants under a cap and trade program, you would clean up all ten of those power plants. But for some, let's say five of them, you couldn't quite meet the goal, and for the other five you exceed the goal. To the extent that you exceed the goal, you can trade the amount of pollution that you exceed the goal and you can trade it to a plant that does not quite meet the goal.
Why not have faster reductions?
MARGARET WARNER: So answer Mr. O'Donnell's question. Why couldn't you do this a lot more rapidly even under cap and trade?
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, two reasons. The first is cap and trade does cause rapid change because as soon as you set up the cap and trade program, you can start to make those trades and it creates a substantial financial incentive to have early reductions in mercury. But the second point, the reason you don't want to mandate it right from the get go or in three years as Frank has suggested, the technology is simply not there.
We hear arguments time after time again that folks that make pollution control equipment will tell you oh, we could help you get down to 90 percent reduction. But when we ask those manufacturers, will you guarantee that you can actually get a 90 percent reduction? They say no, we won't put on it paper. We won't guarantee it. And the reason is the technology that Frank refers to has not been demonstrated across all configurations of power plants and for all coal types. And so you might be mortgaging 55 percent of U.S. electric generating capacity. It's not responsible.
FRANK O'DONNELL: Well, I think we ought to avoid some of the scare tactics and try to not scare people. We are going to continue to burn coal. The question is: Are we going to clean it up so it doesn't poison the brains of babies? And I've got to say, you know, this administration has made a great point about talking about moral issues and talking about the unborn and things like that. Here is a case where they are turning their back on moral issues. They're turning their back on babies. And I think I know why. Babies don't make big campaign contributions; big energy companies do.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's go back to the effectiveness instead of the politics, if we could. Are you troubled by the fact that there is not an equal standard set on all power plants? In other words, under cap and trade, that you can have some plants that the company decides they can't quite make the standard and others don't.
FRANK O'DONNELL: Absolutely because the result of this is that in some areas, residents are going to still have polluted waters. They're still going to have toxic fish. Look, we have got literally 45 states in this country have put out advisories saying there is so much mercury in the fish, we don't want you all to eat much of it because it will poison you and it may threaten your babies. We ought to be able to clean up all those 45 states, not just let some of them clean up and let others of them still have a problem.
SCOTT SEGAL: But everyone agrees that mercury is a neurotoxin and ought to be reduced. The only question here is: what is the best way to reduce mercury emissions? The best way is a cap and trade program because we talk about certain areas that might have greater exposure to mercury. The fact is that when we implemented a cap and trade program back in 1990 to address acid rain we saw the facilities that emitted the most of the emission we were targeting had the greatest incentive to reduce the fastest. So these programs like today's mercury rule brings relief to the areas that need it the most the fastest. That is the ample historical record of cap and trade. So if you are very concerned about the neurotoxicological effects of mercury, the best thing to do is to support a cap and trade program like this regulation.
Impact on public health
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about something, Mr. O'Donnell, that the EPA fellow mentioned in his press conference. He said, you know, most people are still getting their mercury in their bodies. You don't really get it from the air. You get it from mostly fish.
FRANK O'DONNELL: Correct.
MARGARET WARNER: Most of the fish sold in this country, not caught but sold, comes from overseas and there are no controls at all. Even if there this were to go to 80 percent, is this going to really have a measurable effect on people's health?
FRANK O'DONNELL: Sure. Mount Sinai Hospital did a study just last week that came out and said that the power plants in this country are causing more than a billion dollars in health damage in this country. So if we take aggressive action against our own power companies, not only will we be setting a standard that the rest of the world ought to be able to emulate but we will be protecting our own people. Just because that some of the pollution comes in from overseas doesn't mean we shouldn't clean up what we can clean up. We can't cap volcanoes but just because people in Bangladesh don't get paid much, we shouldn't abolish the minimum wage in this country. What we need to do is take care of our people, take care of the women, pregnant women and children. And we can make aggressive strides to really help it and clean up some of these--
MARGARET WARNER: But Americans will still be warned not to eat things tuna and swordfish if they're at risk, for a long time.
FRANK O'DONNELL: But if this plan holds and I think it will be overturned in court because it is flatly illegal, if this plan holds, those warnings will continue many more years than they should.
SCOTT SEGAL: What Frank is not telling the listener is that only a tiny percentage of the mercury load comes from the power plants in the United States. The vast majority of it comes from sources like -- sources in China and Korea where we have that type of manufacturing facility.
MARGARET WARNER: Last quick question. There was some suggestion today that electricity rates will rise as a result of this. Will they and by how much?
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, there is no doubt that the less flexible the mercury rule is....
MARGARET WARNER: Now, but let's deal with this mercury rule. We only have a second.
SCOTT SEGAL: I understand. The less flexible we implement the rule, the tougher that Frank's group tries to make the rules through court actions, the more difficult it will become to keep diverse fields in the marketplace and the tougher it will be for those living on fixed incomes like the elderly and those living at or near the poverty level.
MARGARET WARNER: But my question is: If this rule went into effect and he had no success in court, can you say now whether electricity rates will rise and, if so, by how much?
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, we do believe that there will be substantial economic impact associated with the rule. $50 billion in compliance cost. How much that translates directly to electricity rates, it's very hard to say.
FRANK O'DONNELL: This rule won't require any mercury specific cleanup until at least 2018 so there can't possibly be an impact on electricity rates.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Gentlemen, we have to leave it there but we'll know by 2018. Thank you both.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Clean Air Watch Reaction to Vote on ‘Clear Skies’
(Washington, DC. March 9, 2005) – Here is a statement by Frank O’Donnell, president of the non-profit Clean Air Watch, reacting to today’s 9-9 vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the so-called “clear skies” plan:
“Today’s vote was a clear victory for breathers against a plan promoted by some of the nation’s biggest polluters. It was also a victory for the right of states to protect their citizens from dirty air.
“As Dan Rather might put it, it’s time to break out the shovels and throw some dirt on this ill-conceived plan with the pleasant-sounding name. It appears to be the last gasp for the polluter-friendly plan.
“Needless to say, today’s vote was also a rebuke to the White House, which had tried to jam the plan through the committee without providing adequate analysis of alternative proposals.
“Now that `clear skies’ is apparently heading to the ash heap of history, some senators are discussing the idea of alternative strategies that could better protect public health and the environment. We will continue to monitor that process with interest.”
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
(Washington, DC. January 26, 2005) – The Bush administrations air pollution plan for the electric power industry is “at serious odds” with a new states’-rights declaration by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Governor George Pataki, the non-profit Clean Air Watch noted today.
The two governors sent a joint letter today to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as the panel held a hearing on the Bush plan, a polluter-friendly proposal euphemistically called the “clear skies initiative.”
In their letter, the two governors reminded Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT) that “one of the cornerstones” of the Clean Air Act is “that states do the majority of the work to carry out its mandates,” and that the law “allows individual states to have stronger pollution controls than those set for the whole country – a right California and New York have exercised under the Act.”
The governors added that that their states and others “will need all the tools available under the Act to craft effective strategies to meet” new federal health standards for smog and fine particle soot.
As Congress considers new legislation on the subject, the governors pleaded that “states maintain the ability to have stronger pollution controls than those set for the nation as a whole.”
Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted that “The governors comments are at serious odds with the President’s pollution plan,” which would take away some existing states’ rights and some of the key tools needed to meet health standards. “It’s no coincidence they sent their plan to Senators Inhofe and Jeffords as they began to consider the President’s polluter-friendly plan,” O’Donnell added.
O’Donnell noted, for example, that the President’s pollution plan would take away the right of states to take action against pollution blowing in from other states. “This attack on states’ rights would make it virtually impossible for downwind states to protect their citizens,” O’Donnell said.
The President’s plan, which has been endorsed by some of the nation’s biggest polluters, would eliminate new source review, a tool used by states to protect local communities from harm caused by pollution.
The polluter-protection plan would also interfere with state cleanup efforts by creating new pollution havens called “transition zones” – a provision that state and local regulators today said could “impede timely implementation of state and local regulatory initiatives.”
The state and local regulators concluded that the President’s plan “strips away many of our most essential Clean Air Act tools and authorities,” and said they could not endorse it, O’Donnell noted.
“The state and local air pollution regulators obviously stand squarely with Governors Schwarzenegger and Pataki,” O’Donnell said. “For clean air – and against the President’s attempt to undermine state authorities.”
The full letter is available from Clean Air Watch by calling (202) 558-3527.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
1090 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
January 19, 2005
Mr. Brian Z. France
Chairman and CEO
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32115
Dear Mr. France:
I am writing on behalf of Clean Air Watch, a national non-profit organization, to urge your organization to take a step to improve public health by eliminating the use of leaded gasoline in NASCAR races.
By permitting the continued use of lead, your organization may be putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
You are probably aware of the many health problems linked to lead exposure: According to the EPA, lead causes damage to the kidneys, liver, brain and nerves, and other organs. Even low levels of lead damage the brain and nerves in fetuses and young children, resulting in learning deficits and lowered IQ. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that lead exposure could contribute to mental lapses among older segments of the population. High lead exposure has been linked to reproductive problems including decreased sperm count and spontaneous abortions. Other problems associated with lead exposure include seizures, mental retardation, behavioral disorders, memory problems, high blood pressure and increased heart disease.
Removing lead from the gasoline used by highway vehicles is one of the great public health success stories in recent times. Because of the ban on lead in highway gasoline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of lead in the air have dropped by 94 percent since 1980 – and that this has led to a huge drop in lead levels in peoples’ blood.
Because of the clear public health threat, lead is being eliminated from gasoline throughout most of the world. It has already been banned in such places as Beijing, El Salvador and Thailand, and is even being phased out in such lesser-developed nations as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
However, as you probably know, Congress did not give EPA authority to ban leaded gasoline in racing cars. Even so, the continuing potential health risk has prompted EPA since at least the year 2000 to urge NASCAR to “voluntarily” eliminate this toxin. Indeed, the EPA reported in 2000 that a “priority activity” was to “coordinate with NASCAR and NASCAR sponsors to encourage a voluntary unleaded phase-in partnership/program to eliminate the use of leaded gasoline in the auto racing industry.” EPA said it was motivated because the continuing use of leaded gas at NASCAR races “potentially puts certain subpopulations at risk,” including race spectators and “residents (particularly children) near sources such as race tracks.”
I sincerely hope you will act promptly to “get the lead out,” so that NASCAR spectators may enjoy the racing experience without facing any unnecessary health risks. If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can’t NASCAR?
Clean Air Watch
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
January 04, 2005
Congress returns to D.C. this week for a brief organizing session, but a lot of the real action is happening out west – at the posh Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix. The Western Business Roundtable (a polluters’ who’s-who, including the Edison Electric Institute, big coal mining companies, etc.) is hosting the “Business Summit of the West,” a meeting that “gives business leaders a unique opportunity to talk with top experts” about such topics as the “latest threats/opportunities” in proposed air regulation. (You can read about this yourself click here)
In other words, it’s a great opportunity for polluter lobbyists to buy access to top federal and state officials amid golf and booze. (This meeting is, of course, in keeping with the Roundtable’s key mission, which includes:
- Work to influence the development of public policies at the state, regional and federal levels.
- Help our members gain access to public policymakers at the highest levels of government.)
The fun starts tomorrow with a welcoming reception (sponsored by Arch Coal Company) and charity golf tournament at the “wild west” Las Sendas golf course. But the real action may be January 6, when officials – including White House Counsel of Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton, EPA Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Shanahan, counsel to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), are expected to discuss clean air and energy policy. Lunch is sponsored by BIPAC, a political action committee which “identifies and supports pro-business candidates who have demonstrated the skill and leadership necessary to fuel a pro-business Congress.”
There’s still time to make this exciting gathering – if you hurry! It only costs $500 to attend – and that includes admission to the “Wild West Saloon Night.”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
At the same time, the Edison Electric Institute is holding its winter board of directors meeting at the nearby Scottsdale Princess hotel. CEOs of the big power companies are expected to attend. Among the items on EEI’s agenda (yes, they’ve got their own golf tournament): power company CEOs will plot on ways to get Congress to adopt the Bush administration’s “clear skies” plan, which would weaken the current Clean Air Act.
And these guys know who to plot with! -- Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are expected to participate in part of this discussion via live video conference.
As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help.
--Frank O’Donnell, Clean Air Watch, 202-558-3527