Thursday, July 03, 2008

Smog Watch '08: the Dirty Details through June

37 States with Smog Problems through June

(Washington, DC. July 3, 2008) – As many Americans hit the road for the 4th of July, the non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that no fewer than 37 states plus the District of Columbia have already experienced unhealthful levels of smog so far this year.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of air quality in the United States under new ozone standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year.

The survey of public web sites found monitored readings of dirty air in states from coast to coast – from Washington and California to Vermont, Maine and Florida.

“Even though we’ve made progress over the years in reducing smog, this survey is compelling evidence that we still have a widespread and major smog problem,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. He noted that unhealthful levels of air quality are being recorded even under standards that EPA’s independent science advisers unanimously judged to be inadequate to protect public health.

“So, if anything, this survey understates the true extent of the smog problem,” O’Donnell noted. “These findings show we must continue to reduce emissions that cause smog – including coal-burning electric power plants and existing diesel engines,” O’Donnell noted.

He warned that electric power companies led by Duke Energy have sued to derail a federal plan to reduce emissions from coal-burning electric power plants.

“It could be a disaster for air quality if Duke wins,” O’Donnell said.

He also called on the Bush administration to move forward with proposed standards to clean up lawn mowers and other dirty small engines, and to make sure those standards are strictly enforced to prevent dirty imported engines from China.

Ozone, commonly described as smog, can trigger asthma attacks, send people to hospital emergency rooms and shorten lives. The survey found that 24 states plus the District of Columbia also had air quality worse than the “old” EPA smog standard. The biggest problems generally were recorded in California, where car and factory emissions have been compounded by fires.

The list of states and more on the survey is available at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

EPA Smog Plan Compromises Public Health to Save Industry Money

EPA Chief Suggests Radical Change to Weaken Clean Air Act

(Washington, DC. March 12, 2008) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today assailed a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to ignore the agency’s science advisers in setting a new national health standard for smog.

“Once again, the Bush administration has chosen to disregard the advice of the EPA’s own independent science advisers,” who had unanimously recommended a tougher standard than that selected by the agency, said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. O’Donnell noted that the administration also rejected the advisers’ advice in 2006 regarding national standards for particle soot.

The EPA is supposed to set these standards based solely on science.

“Unfortunately, real science appears to have been tainted by political science,” O’Donnell added.

“The Bush Administration is compromising public health to save industry money,” he said.” EPA documents show that public health benefits would be far greater under tougher standards recommended by the science advisers.

At the same time, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson articulated what he called “principles” that would seek changes in the Clean Air Act to permit costs when setting national clean air standards – something the Supreme Court has ruled is illegal under the current law.

“This would be a radical attack on the Clean Air Act,” O’Donnell said. “It is taking a page directly from the playbook of polluters and their most ardent supporters in Congress, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) of Texas, who previously introduced legislation seeking such a change.

O’Donnell predicted this idea would be “dead on arrival” in Congress, though he added that “Johnson “quite obviously was considering costs in this smog decision. He interpreted the law the way he wishes it were.”

Smog, technically known as ozone, is the nation’s most widespread air pollutant. It can cause lung damage, trigger asthma attacks – even shorten someone’s life.

The national health standards were last revised in 1997. Since then, numerous studies have shown that the current standards need to be made tougher.

EPA’s science advisers had unanimously recommended that the current standard, 0.08 parts per million, be lowered to a level between 60 and 70 parts per billion. The agency’s Children’s Health Advisory Committee recommended a standard of 60.

But EPA announced today that the health-based standard would be made somewhat tougher, but only down to 75 parts per billion – a level that will require relatively few areas of the country to take additional smog cleanup steps beyond those already planned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big oil visits White House in apparent bid to kneecap tougher smog standards

Well, friends, the clock is ticking. (No, we’re not talking about the Florida primaries, or “Super Tuesday” for that matter.)

It’s only about six weeks until the US EPA announces whether it plans to set tougher national health standards for ozone, or smog. That means it’s time for the White House to focus on the issue, which pits scientists (and kids with asthma) against the biggest and nastiest polluters.

The health evidence is overwhelming that tougher smog standards are needed to protect kids with asthma and many millions of other Americans. That is the unanimous conclusion of EPA’s independent scientific advisers.

And so – as it so often happens – representatives of big polluters have started going to the White House in an apparent big to kneecap any effort to make existing standards better.

The White House Office of Management and Budget records that several oil industry consultants came to pay a visit January 25. (See below.)

Anne Smith of CRA International is recorded to have represented the American Petroleum Institute, which has gone on record against tougher smog standards.

Teresa Gorman of LPI Consulting (once a White House environmental adviser in the first Bush administration) is listed as representing “Bingham McCuthen.” That is probably a typo.

Gorman also happens to be a registered lobbyist for Bingham McCutchen – and represents ExxonMobil on “clean air regulatory issues,” according to lobbying disclosure reports! Gorman has also visited the White House on other occasions representing ExxonMobil. You do have to wonder if there was some effort here at deception, since ExxonMobil is never mentioned. Perhaps just a clerical error.

I predict this will be the first of many White House visits as big polluters try to smogify the issue.

Note, by the way, the link below to a separate White House meeting that included corn and tobacco growers. The topic is not disclosed, though it seems pretty intriguing.

Link to oil industry meeting at White House:

Meeting Record Regarding: Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards
Date: 1/25/2008
Client (if applicable) -->
Art Fraas

Heidi King

Margo Schwab

Teresa Gorman
Bingham McCuthen
Anne Smith
CRA International
Lydia Wegman

Harvey Richmond

Link to meeting with corn and tobacco growers.

Time to pull the plug on Florida's "Dirty Dozen" sources of global warming pollution

(Washington, DC. January 28, 2008) – It’s time to pull the plug on Florida’s “Dirty Dozen” electric power industry sources of global warming pollution, according to a new report by the non-profit Clean Air Watch.

In order to meet the laudable greenhouse gas reduction goals set forth by Florida Governor Charlie Crist, these “Dirty Dozen” electric power plant units will probably need to be retired or repowered, Clean Air Watch noted.

The power they produce “could and should be reduced by aggressively improving energy efficiency and stepping up use of renewable energy,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Air Watch.

The “Dirty Dozen” power plant units on average are 47 years old – older than the 35-year-old national average of coal-fired power plants.

O’Donnell noted that Florida is a critical battleground in the fight against global warming because it ranks third in the nation in terms of power plant carbon dioxide emissions.

“States like Florida are leading the way against global warming because the federal government’s response has been so slow and indecisive,” O’Donnell said. “The Sunshine State could influence the shape of federal legislation.”

O’Donnell noted that Governor Crist issued a series of executive orders last year aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. These would require adoption of standards to reduce power plant emissions in the state to 2000 levels by 2017 and to 1990 levels by 2025.

Because of continuing growth in the state Florida will need to reduce power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent to meet the 2017 goal. To do that – while still meeting the state’s growing energy needs – Florida will need to retire or repower the biggest polluters while promoting energy efficiency and conservation.

In its report, Clean Air Watch compiled an inventory of the most polluting electric generating units in Florida over the age of 35 (based on their CO2 emission rates) and calculated the approximate CO2 savings that would result from replacing these units with clean renewable energy projects.

“We found that retiring the 12 highest polluting units in the state would achieve almost half of Florida’s phase one emissions reduction goal,” said O’Donnell.
“Meeting the rest of the goal may require shutting down additional high-polluting plants as well as more use of renewable energy and better energy efficiency.”


Florida’s Dirty Dozen: The Highest Emitting Generating Units in Florida Over the Age
of 35 (Ranked according to their CO2 emission rates).

Plant Name Owner Fuel Type Age

Scholz 2 Gulf Power coal 55
Scholz 1 Gulf Power coal 55
Suwannee 2 Progress Energy oil 54
Big Bend ST1 Tampa Electric coal 38
Crist 4 Gulf Power coal 49
Suwannee 1 Progress Energy oil 55
Lansing Smith 2 Gulf Power coal 41
Bartow ST2 Progress Energy oil 47
Crist 6 Gulf Power coal 38
Lansing Smith 1 Gulf Power coal 43
Crist 5 Gulf Power coal 47
Crystal River Progress Energy coal 42