Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Look out, "King Coal" -- EPA staff urges tough new standards for sulfur dioxide

Look out, “King Coal.” You may be winning hundreds of billions of climate bucks in Congress (money, by the way, that could and should go to residential consumers.)

But EPA;s career staffers are recommending that the agency set a tough new air quality standard to limit sulfur dioxide – one of the primary components of coal burning.

Please note the final EPA staff assessment of this issue, quietly published online this week:

I particularly want to commend your attention to pages 396-397, in which the EPA staffers argue that the scientific evidence “most strongly” supports a standard that would limit one-hour average concentrations to no more than 50-75 parts per billion. (This is within the range previously endorsed by EPA’s outside science advisers.) The EPA staff said higher levels could be justified if some of the scientific evidence is ignored. There is no one-hour standard today. See table regarding current annual and 24-hour standards .

If the EPA sets a standard at the lower end of the recommended range, it calculates that 54 counties (mainly in the Southeast and Midwest), home to 43.5 million people, would be out of compliance. See chart on page 388. These, of course, are areas where coal-burning power plants dominate.

The message here is clear: EPA standards could prompt the need to clean up many of the still-filthy coal-burning power plants.

These recommendations come as members of Congress appear to be falling all over each other to give hundreds of billions of dollars away to coal-related concerns and boast about their fealty to allegedly “clean coal,” while coal is at the center of a new lobbying scandal.

Sulfur dioxide, of course, is especially dangerous for children, senior citizens, and those with asthma and heart problems: ,

EPA is under a court agreement to propose new standards by Nov. 11 of this year and to set final standards by June 2, 2010.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Clean Air Watch: EPA Deserves Passing Grade for Air Plan

(Washington, DC. August 3, 2009) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today said the U.S. EPA is on track to get a passing grade for its proposal to deal with dangerous nitrogen dioxide air pollution.

But Clean Air Watch added that the agency was “a long way from an A+” and it urged the EPA to “get that grade up” in order “to protect kids with asthma” and other breathers.

The comments came in testimony at an EPA hearing on an agency proposal to update national clean air standards for nitrogen dioxide. This widespread pollutant originates in traffic exhaust and the emissions from coal burning power plants and other smokestack industries. The current standard was set in 1971.

“This issue is a test for how the Obama administration’s EPA will deal with national clean air standards,” noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

“The Bush administration failed miserably. All too often it ignored the science – and the agency’s own science advisers,” O’Donnell said.

“By contrast, we think the new EPA is on track for a passing grade with its proposal for nitrogen dioxide. But it’s a long way from an A+ when it comes to protecting kids with asthma. We think it’s probably more like a B or C right now,” depending on a range of options the agency has advanced.

“We’d like you to get that grade up. We think kids with asthma deserve no less than A+ public health protection,” said O’Donnell. Clean Air Watch supports the recommendations of the American Lung Association, which has urged tougher short-term and long-term nitrogen dioxide standards in addition to a better system of monitoring.

O’Donnell also noted that “dirty air” is “the forgotten topic when it comes to health care reform.

“It will cost a lot less to keep people out of the emergency rooms. And one way to do this is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution,” O’Donnell said.

Clean Air Watch’s testimony is available at