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.

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