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Monday, June 25, 2007

Clean Air Watch Warns of Windfall Profits to Global Warmers

(Washington, D.C., June 25, 2007) -- Should big polluters own the sky?

That’s one of the key questions as we consider how to limit and reduce global warming pollution. A U.S. Senate committee is set to examine this and related issues on June 28.

Many of the biggest coal-burning power companies claim they own the sky – and should be paid billions of dollars to reduce their emissions.

A new Clean Air Watch white paper concludes that the 10 most polluting electric power companies collectively could pocket $9 billion annually under the wrong kind of cap-and-trade program.

One company alone – Ohio-based American Electric Power – could rake in more than a billion and a half dollars every year. AEP has been among the polluters that have argued in favor of handing out global warming emission credits free to companies based on past pollution levels.

“The very companies that have polluted the upper atmosphere now want to be rewarded,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

“It would be unconscionable to reward their destructive behavior by simply giving them free credits – and windfall profits,” O’Donnell said. “The polluters should have to pay to clean up the mess they’ve made for us, and for future generations.”
The white paper argues that rather than subsidizing big polluters by handing out free emission credits or “allowances” based on past pollution levels – as Congress did with the 1990 acid rain program – the government should embrace the “polluter pays” principle used in other federal environmental laws including Superfund.
Specifically, it recommends that the federal government auction off allowances. Polluting companies would have to bid against each other for a portion of the atmosphere they intend to use — within overall limits that reduce carbon dioxide levels. Auction proceeds could be used for socially beneficial programs, which could include help for low-income residents, worker transition assistance or protecting wildlife.
In a foreword to the white paper, Larry J. Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said “it’s time these companies started getting the bill.”

Schweiger added that “a cap-and-trade program that does not require companies to pay for carbon permits, and instead gives them away for free in perpetuity, would be fundamentally unjust. No-cost licenses to pollute would deprive the public of the resources and revenues with which to aid the economic transition to a low-pollution world, and with which to address the impacts of global warming.”

The white paper echoes a call made last week on public radio’s Marketplace by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:

“I mean, it's our atmosphere, right?” Reich said.

“Think of a national park or a national forest. No company is simply allowed to take what they want from it, free of charge. Why should the atmosphere be any different?” he added. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/06/20/AM200706202.html

The white paper is online at Clean Air Watch’s web site, www.cleanairwatch.org

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reactions to EPA's smog plan from Clean Air Watch, Northeastern clean-air agencies

Clean Air Watch: Why Does EPA Dither Over Smog?


(Washington, D.C., June 21, 2007) -- The following is a statement by Frank O’Donnell, president of the non-profit Clean Air Watch on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new standards for ozone, or smog:

EPA’s smog proposal sends a mixed message:

The good news is that EPA agrees that current smog standards are too weak to protect people’s health. Its proposal would be a step in the right direction, though weaker than the standards recommended by EPA’s science advisers.

But EPA is also inviting comments on keeping the existing standards.

That’s an outrageous idea, driven by politics instead of science.

Why is EPA dithering? Evidence points to the secret hand of the White House.

We know that industry has aggressively lobbied the White House to force EPA to consider keeping the current standards. And we also know that in a separate, related rule, the White House forced EPA to pretend that smog doesn’t kill.

The science is crystal-clear that we need better standards to protect kids with asthma and millions of other breathers. Every credible scientist says so.

But EPA seems to be hedging its bets. It has suggested a range of possibilities. Most disturbingly, it has left open the door to keeping the current standards, which are outdated and don’t reflect recent science.

This suggests that recent polluter visits to the White House helped shape this decision. It raises huge concerns about what EPA will do with its final decision. Why leave the door open to doing something you know is wrong -- unless that came from political pressure?

It’s time for the White House to stop promoting the interests of its polluter friends, and permit EPA to do its job – to protect people’s health.

*** [and from the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2007 Contact: Arthur Marin 617-259-2017
Paul Miller 617-259-2016
NESCAUM 617-259-2000

EPA’S PROPOSED AIR QUALITY STANDARD FOR OZONE IS NOT SUFFICIENT
TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH

June 21, 2007 (Boston, MA) – The Northeast states expressed concern with today’s proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise the national ambient air quality standard for ozone air pollution.

EPA is under a court-order to review and revise as necessary the national ozone air pollution standard.

The current ozone standard is 0.08 parts per million (ppm) averaged over eight hours. EPA staff previously recommended that the EPA Administrator consider revising the standard to a level within a range from somewhat below 0.080 down to 0.060 ppm. A panel of outside scientific experts advising EPA unanimously recommended that the new standard be lowered to within a range between 0.070 and 0.060 ppm, which NESCAUM supports. Today, the Administrator proposed that the ozone standard be set somewhere within a range from 0.070 to 0.075 ppm. In addition, the Administrator chose to solicit comments on not changing the current ozone standard; an unsupportable option at odds with the large body of existing health evidence.

“The science clearly shows that the current standard does not adequately protect public health from the harm caused by ozone,” stated Arthur Marin, NESCAUM’s Executive Director. “EPA recognized this shortcoming, but unfortunately, it didn’t go far enough with its proposed change. Because the new standards will be in place for many years to come, there could be long-term adverse public health consequences associated with this decision. Even more disturbing, EPA left the door open to no change at all.”

Ground-level ozone is a respiratory irritant, and can reduce lung function and cause asthma attacks. It may inflame and damage -- maybe permanently -- cells that line the lungs, and aggravate chronic lung and cardiac diseases. Some of the symptoms may include: coughing; shortness of breath; increased susceptibility to respiratory infection; nose and throat irritation; chest pain; and other respiratory ailments.

While ozone pollution is a potent threat to those with respiratory disease, it can also affect healthy children, joggers, and others who spend time outdoors on warm, sunny, but smoggy summer days.

A number of recent studies from several separate research groups analyzing the available health research in the U.S. and Europe independently and consistently found a strong linkage between increases in ground-level ozone and risk of premature death. Recent studies also indicate that ozone may contribute to cardiac morbidity. These health consequences have not been accounted for previously, thus the costs of
not reducing ozone pollution are far higher than once believed.

“Ozone pollution can affect healthy individuals as well as those with respiratory problems, and the science shows it can increase the risk of premature death,” said David Shaw Director of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Air Bureau and current Chair of the NESCAUM Board of Directors. “Areas of New York State and other parts of the Northeast have among the highest childhood asthma rates in the country. Given the abundant scientific evidence available upon which to base this decision, we had hoped EPA would focus on a more protective standard.”

“EPA has been under pressure to consider costs in support of a less protective health standard, but, as the Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court have plainly stated, EPA must set health standards based on science, not costs,” stated Mr. Marin. “Costs come into play later when deciding how to meet the health standards established through the science.”

NESCAUM is the regional association of air pollution control agencies representing Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
# # #

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Smog Watch 2007: smog's up in May!

(Washington, DC. June 6, 2007) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that smog problems around the nation generally have been worse so far this year than last year at this time.

At least 29 states plus the District of Columbia have experienced serious smog problems already this year – an increase from a year ago at this time, when 22 states plus D.C. had monitored dirty air levels.

In May alone, unhealthful smog levels were monitored more than 35 percent more often than in May 2006, based on an unofficial survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers. Last year’s levels may have been lower because rains put a damper on potential problems in the Northeast and much of the Midwest.

“We’ve made great progress over the years in combating smog, but this evidence is a painful reminder that we still need to do more before we can breathe easy,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

“We need to tackle such big sources of pollution as existing diesel engines, trains and diesel boats, among other things,” O’Donnell noted.

He also noted that EPA’s independent science advisers and EPA’s own scientists have determined that the current smog standards are not strong enough to protect kids with asthma and others. EPA is under a court order to propose a decision on new smog standards by June 20.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that we need tougher smog standards,” O’Donnell said. “We hope the EPA won’t let polluter-generated political pressure smog up its judgment.”

The survey of public web sites found monitored readings of dirty air in states from California to Vermont and Maine. In May alone, air pollution monitors recorded unhealthful levels of smog an estimated 330 times, compared to about 240 the previous May.

More on the survey is available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2007/06/smog-watch-2007-trouble-continues.html