Friday, March 30, 2007

Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule

Mar 29 U.S. EPA finalized the 485-page rule outlining requirements for state plans to clean the air in 39 areas of the country where fine particle (PM2.5) pollution levels do not meet national air quality standards. EPA said these state plans will lead to improved air quality for millions of Americans. Under the Clean Air Act, states must develop plans by April 2008 for meeting the 1997 air quality PM2.5 standards. The Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule includes detailed guidance that interprets the Clean Air Act's requirements for the State Implementation Plans (SIP).

EPA indicated that the Bush Administration's clean air strategy includes the introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and clean diesel trucks and buses, the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule to reduce pollution from nonroad diesel engines and the Clean Air Interstate Rule to reduce pollution from power plants in the eastern United States.

According to the prepublication copy of the final rule, this final action provides rules and guidance on the Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements for State and Tribal plans to implement the 1997 fine particle (PM2.5) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). Fine particles and precursor pollutants are emitted by a wide range of sources, including power plants, cars, trucks, industrial sources, and other burning or combustion-related activities. Health effects that have been associated with exposure to PM2.5 include premature death, aggravation of heart and lung disease, and asthma attacks. Those particularly sensitive to PM2.5 exposure include older adults, people with heart and lung disease, and children.

Air quality designations became effective on April 5, 2005 for 39 areas (with a total population of 90 million) that were not attaining the 1997 PM2.5 standards. By April 5, 2008, each State having a nonattainment area must submit to EPA an attainment demonstration and adopted regulations ensuring that the area will attain the standards as expeditiously as practicable, but no later than 2015. This rule and preamble describe the requirements that States and Tribes must meet in their implementation plans for attainment of the 1997 fine particle NAAQS. (EPA notes that this rule does not include final PM2.5 requirements for the new source review (NSR) program; the final NSR rule will be issued at a later date.) The rules will become effective 60 days following official publication in the Federal Register.

Access a very brief announcement from EPA (
click here). Access a prepublication copy of the rule (click here). Access a fact sheet on the final rule (click here). [*Air]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

House Hearing On Distorting The Science Of Climate Change

Mar 28: Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled, Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy. Subcommittee members questioned industry efforts and attempts within science agencies to control which Federal scientists get access to the media and how media campaigns are mounted to confuse the public. Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) led the hearing which "used climate change science as a case study to relate how the deception works." According to a release, from the public’s perspective, climate change news stories often become little more than two “experts” staking out opposite positions. The fact that one “expert” may be articulating a consensus scientific position that represents the work of thousands of active researchers, and the other “expert” is paid to be a professional skeptic is not obvious to the average citizen.

Chairman Miller said, "Industry often promotes made-for-television 'experts' who are supported by financial contributors that can be traced back primarily to the oil and gas industry. Few of these experts do any original research, many are not even trained in the fields in which they claim expertise, most are readily available for the press and specialize in attacking as 'junk science' careful, legitimate research that has been published in learned journals and tested by rigorous peer review.”

Those testifying at the hearing included: Sheldon Rampton, co-author of a series of books including “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” and “Trust Us, We’re Experts!” and co-founder of SourceWatch; Dr. James McCarthy of Harvard and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); Terek Massarrani, staff attorney for the Government Accountability Project (GAP); and Jeff Kueter, the President of the Marshall Institute was the Minority witness. The Subcommittee release indicated that the Marshall Institute "is a leading center for providing experts who cast doubt on climate change science."

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, dismissed the special interest allegations that the Administration is interfering with the integrity of Federal climate scientists. Sensenbrenner submitted for the record a lengthy statement saying, in part, “The title of today’s hearing has an odious ring -- “Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science.” These accusations, leveled against ExxonMobil and against the Administration, have a grave tone. If it were not for the ubiquitous press headlines declaring the world’s imminent demise from global warming, the title of today’s hearing could lead us to falsely conclude that the climate change debate is being stifled. I am now the Ranking Member on a Committee devoted almost entirely to climate change, and a recent poll by Time Magazine found that 88% of Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer. All of this makes me wonder why we are here and what relationship this hearing has with reality.

“The alleged distortion of science is purportedly happening in two different ways. First, major industries, particularly ExxonMobil, are allegedly deceiving the masses by intentionally funding and trumpeting false science. Second, the Administration is allegedly curbing Federal scientists from presenting scientific findings that are at odds with its policies. Before we start screaming “McCarthyism,” we should examine how little merit these accusations actually have..." The statement continue to rebut the various interest group testimony.

Access a release from the Subcommittee (
click here). Access the hearing website with links to witness testimony (click here). Access the rebuttal statement from Representative Sensenbrenner (click here). Access a release on the GAP report (click here). Access the complete 138-page report (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

European Commission Adopts Market-Based Policy Paper

Mar 28: Following what is being called the successful Spring European Council meeting that set very ambitious goals in the area of energy and climate change, the European Commission (Commission) adopted a Green Paper on the use of market-based instruments for environment and energy related policy purposes. Since market-based instruments have proven to be cost-effective means of achieving policy goals, the paper aims to stimulate a broad public debate on how taxes, tradable emissions rights and other market-based instruments can be used more widely and effectively for environmental and energy policy purposes at Community and national level.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, "Market-based instruments such as emissions trading, environmental taxes and targeted subsidies harness the power of market forces to protect the environment. This more flexible and cost-effective approach has proved its value but it is still underutilized. In launching this Green Paper our goal is to promote the use of market-based instruments whenever they are appropriate to the circumstances so that Europe's environment is protected most effectively."

The Green Paper covers a wide range of areas where market-based instruments (mainly taxes, emissions trading rights) can be further promoted, in particular in energy use, transport's impact on the environment and in other specific areas of environmental policy such as sustainable management of water, waste management, protection of biodiversity and reduction of air pollution. In particular it focuses on possible ways forward to make the Energy Taxation Directive more directly supportive of the Community's energy and environmental objectives. The Green Paper also suggests the creation of a new forum that could encourage and facilitate exchanges of experience and best practice between Member States on the use of market-based instruments and co-ordination of national approaches as well as national experiences with Environmental Tax Reforms.

The Green Paper concludes that there should be an increased use of market-based instruments to achieve environmental and other policy objectives, both at Community and national levels. The Commission is inviting reactions to the Green Paper from other EU institutions, Member States, all stakeholders and the public. It will decide on appropriate follow-up in the light of the responses received.

Access a release including background and link to the Green Paper and related information (
click here). [*All]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Groups Sharply Divided On FWS Decision On Grizzly Bears

Mar 22: Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett announced that after nearly disappearing three decades ago, grizzly bears are thriving in the Yellowstone ecosystem and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Scarlett said, "The grizzly's remarkable comeback is the result of years of intensive cooperative recovery efforts between federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and individuals. There is simply no way to overstate what an amazing accomplishment this is. The grizzly is a large predator that requires a great deal of space, and conserving such animals is a challenge in today's world. I believe all Americans should be proud that, as a nation, we had the will and the ability to protect and restore this symbol of the wild."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it is removing the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from its status as "threatened" on the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species. Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states have not yet recovered and will continue to be protected as threatened species under the Act. Grizzly numbers in the Yellowstone ecosystem have increased from an estimated population of 136 to 312 when they were listed as threatened in 1975, to more than 500 bears today.

Larry Schweiger, president and CEO, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said, “Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery is the best kind of proof that the Endangered Species Act is effective in protecting wildlife for our children’s future. The nation’s safety net for imperiled wildlife works, and the American people want it to stay that way.” Steve Torbit, director of the NWF's Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center in Boulder, CO said, “A key Endangered Species Act objective is to achieve self-sustaining populations in the wild. That objective has been achieved in Yellowstone, where the recovery goals for number of grizzlies, their distribution and mortality have been met or exceeded. The 1993 Yellowstone grizzly bear plan defined three specific recovery benchmarks that have all been achieved, qualifying bears for release from the Endangered Species Act’s emergency room protections."

Sierra Club expressed concern over the U.S. FWS's announcement to remove federal protections for the Yellowstone grizzly bear, currently listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director said, "Thirty years ago America made a commitment to Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, a tremendous public investment that has paid off. While we salute and celebrate this progress, we cannot afford to gamble with the bears’ future. Removing federal protections for the grizzly at this point would jeopardize the bears’ progress just as we are just starting to realize a return on our investment."

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release saying the government plan was “deeply flawed,” and indicating it will pursue every avenue possible, including a lawsuit and Congressional action, to protect the bears from being hunted and their habitat from being exploited for large-scale real estate and energy development. Louisa Willcox, director of NRDC’s Wild Bears Project said, “The government is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. When you consider that they were nearly extinct 30 years ago, Yellowstone’s grizzlies have made a remarkable recovery. But they’ve survived only because of the Endangered Species Act, and they’re not out of the woods yet. The bears face grave threats that will be even more daunting if they’re stripped of protected status.” NRDC indicated in their release that the public overwhelmingly opposes revoking the bears’ protected status. The tally of formal comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that by a margin of more than 200 to 1 Americans told the government they oppose its plan to strip the bears of Endangered Species Act protections.

Access a release from FWS with links to extensive information on the announcement (
click here). Access a lengthy release from NWF with links to more information (click here). Access a release from the Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). [*Wildlife]

Monday, March 26, 2007

Corn To Ethanol Equals Rising Food Prices

Mar 21: The latest EcoEconomy Update from Lester Brown and the Earth Policy Institute warns that the massive diversion of U.S. grain to fuel cars is raising world food prices. The Update indicates that The escalating share of the U.S. grain harvest going to ethanol distilleries is driving up food prices worldwide. Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are trading at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising too. In addition, soybean futures have risen by half. A Bloomberg analysis notes that the soaring use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol “is creating unintended consequences throughout the global food chain.”

The countries initially hit by rising food prices are those where corn is the staple food. In Mexico, one of more than 20 countries with a corn-based diet, the price of tortillas is up by 60 percent. Angry Mexicans in crowds of up to 75,000 have taken to the streets in protest, forcing the government to institute price controls on tortillas. Food prices are also rising in China, India, and the United States, countries that contain 40 percent of the world’s people. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the wholesale price of chicken in 2007 will be 10 percent higher on average than in 2006, the price of a dozen eggs will be up a whopping 21 percent, and milk will be 14 percent higher. And this is only the beginning.

The food and energy economies, historically separate, are now merging. In this new economy, if the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will move it into the energy economy. As the price of oil climbs so will the price of food. Some 16 percent of the 2006 U.S. grain harvest was used to produce ethanol. With 80 or so ethanol distilleries now under construction, enough to more than double existing ethanol production capacity, nearly a third of the 2008 grain harvest will be going to ethanol. Since the United States is the leading exporter of grain, shipping more than Canada, Australia, and Argentina combined, what happens to the U.S. grain crop affects the entire world.

The Update indicates that against this backdrop, Washington is consumed with “ethanol euphoria.” President Bush in his State of the Union address set a production goal for 2017 of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels, including grain-based and cellulosic ethanol, and liquefied coal. Given the current difficulties in producing cellulosic ethanol at a competitive cost and given the mounting public opposition to liquefied coal, which is far more carbon-intensive than gasoline, most of the fuel to meet this goal might well have to come from grain. This could take most of the U.S. grain harvest, leaving little grain to meet U.S. needs, much less those of the hundred or so countries that import grain.

Brown says there are alternatives to this grim scenario. A rise in auto fuel efficiency standards of 20 percent, phased in over the next decade would save as much oil as converting the entire U.S. grain harvest into ethanol. One option that is gaining momentum is a shift to plug-in hybrids. Adding a second storage battery to a gas-electric hybrid car along with a plug-in capacity so that the batteries can be recharged at night allows most short-distance driving. He notes that encouragingly, three auto manufacturers—Toyota, Nissan, and GM -- have announced plans to bring plug-in hybrid cars to market.

He concludes, "Ethanol euphoria is not an acceptable substitute for a carefully thought through policy. For Washington, it is time to decide whether to continue with the current policy of subsidizing more and more grain-based fuel distilleries or to encourage a shift to more fuel-efficient cars and a new automotive fuel economy centered on plug-in hybrid cars and wind energy."

In January Brown reported that the distillery demand for grain to fuel cars is "vastly underestimated" and the world may be facing the highest grain prices in history [
See WIMS 1/17/07].

Access the complete EcoEconomy Update (
click here). [*Energy]

Friday, March 23, 2007

TRI Data For 2005 Shows 3% Increase In Releases

Mar 22: According to a release, U.S. EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data is available this year earlier than ever before for local communities and national analysis. Facility-specific data was released last September and the full national data for reporting year 2005 (January 1 to December 31, 2005, the latest available) was released today (March 22, 2007). EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information Molly O'Neill said, "EPA is getting quality data out to the public faster through electronic reporting which is good for the environment, good for states and good for our partners in industry. Some 95 percent of the 23,000 facilities used electronic reporting.

EPA said this year's data shows that "progress is being made in reducing releases of several chemicals of special concern." For example, between 2004 and 2005 dioxin releases decreased by 23 percent and mercury releases fell by nine percent. In addition, several individual industries have made significant progress in reducing releases. Petroleum refining releases dropped 10 percent transportation equipment registered a six percent decrease and chemical manufacturing cut releases by four percent.

Review of the last five years of data shows chemical releases reported to TRI have decreased by 22 percent nationally. The 2005 data shows a three percent, 117 million pounds, overall increase from 2004 in total disposal and other releases. EPA said annual changes are not unusual and cited a number of possible reasons for the increase including: production increases, fluctuations in the content of raw materials used in particular industries or changes in releases at large facilities that impacts the national data.

An EPA analysis indicates another interesting view of the data. A few large facilities can be a determining factor in the National trend. Based on an analysis of facilities reporting in both 2001 and 2005, we found that the total disposal or other releases for the group of “smaller” facilities (those reporting less than 100,000 pounds) increased by 57% from 2001 to 2005 while the total for the group of “larger” facilities (those reporting 100,000 pounds or more) decreased by 9% and for six facilities with the very largest change (more than 80 million pounds) total disposal or other releases decreased by 80%.

TRI tracks 650 chemicals and chemical categories and industrial sectors specified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 and its amendments. The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) of 1990 also mandates that TRI reports must include data on toxic chemicals treated on-site, recycled, and burned for energy recovery. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste management activities related to these chemicals.

Access an EPA release (click here). Access an overview of the 2005 TRI data and relevant TRI information including analysis, summaries, tables, charts, maps, etc. (click here). Access the TRI Explorer, an on-line tool that generates reports based on facilities, chemicals, geographic areas, or industry type (SIC code) at the county, state, and national level including information for on- and off-site disposal or other releases, transfers off-site, and other waste management data (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Additional EPA Interpretations Of "South Coast" Decision

Mar 19: As reported on March 20 [See WIMS 3/20/07], U.S. EPA proposing to move forward with final actions on requests to redesignate 18 areas in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia as meeting the national outdoor air quality standard for ground-level ozone. In doing so, the Agency made various interpretation regarding the December decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that rescinded EPA's rule that classified ozone nonattainment areas for the 8-hour standard [See WIMS 1/2/07, South Coast Air Quality v. U.S. EPA].

In its proposed approval and interpretation, the Agency said, "EPA proposes to find that the Court’s ruling does not alter any requirements relevant to these proposed redesignations that would prevent EPA from finalizing these redesignations. The EPA believes that the Court’s decision, as it currently stands or as it may be modified based upon any petition for rehearing that may be filed, imposes no impediment to moving forward with redesignation of these areas to attainment, because in either circumstance, redesignation is appropriate under the relevant redesignation provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and EPA’s longstanding policies regarding redesignation requests."

In addition on March 19, EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum issued a memo providing further guidance on the impacts of the South Coast Air Quality v. U.S. EPA decision. In the guidance memo, EPA said, "The court's mandate has not been issued and we have until March 22, 2007 to decide whether to seek rehearing on any aspect of the decision. Since the decision was announced, we have received many questions from the Regions, Federal, State, local agencies, and Tribes on its impact. The inquiries can be grouped into four primary questions and the purpose of this memo is to provide you responses to those questions as best we can at this time."

The very significant questions which EPA responds to in the Memo include: (1) Have State Implementation Plan (SIP) obligations changed as a result of the decision?; (2) Should States submit nonattainment SIPs by June of this year?; (3) Can ozone nonattainment areas with clean air be redesignated to attainment during the pendency of the court decision?; and (4) What transportation conformity, general conformity, and NSR requirements must be met at this time in 8-hour ozone areas?

Access EPA's Guidance Memo (click here). [*Air]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore Makes The Rounds Testifying To Congress

Mar 21: Former Vice President, Al Gore made the rounds on Capitol Hill testifying before Congressional committees including a joint meeting of subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Science and Technology Committee in the morning; and before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the afternoon. The House subcommittees' hearing also included testimony from Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Business School.

Gore who had just 3-pages of written testimony said that climate change was a "planetary emergency -- a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth." He said, "Global warming is real and human activity is the main cause." He said climate change offers both a danger and an opportunity. "There is no longer any serious debate over the basic points that make up the consensus on global warming." He cited a new study from the University of Alaska which says that "Methane is leaking from the Siberian permafrost at five time the predicted levels. Methane is 23 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide and there are billions of tons underneath the permafrost."

He said the "best way --- and the only way -- to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership. He called the situation a "moral moment" -- "It is about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge." He indicated that the solutions "seem quite difficult" but in practice "will turn out to be much easier than they appear to us now." He concluded saying, "WE must choose a future for which our children and grandchildren will thank us."

Lomborg summarized his own 23-page testimony into four main points: Global warming is real and man-made. This point has been made in many places, but perhaps most strongly and convincingly by the IPCC (2007a); Statements about the strong, ominous and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated, as I will show below; We need a stronger focus on smart solutions rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts; We need – as this hearing asks for – to put global warming in perspective. Climate change is not the only issue on the global agenda, and actually one of the issues where we can do the least good first.

He said, "Al Gore and the many people he has inspired have good will and great intentions. However, he has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios. This is unlikely to form the basis for a sound policy judgment. The problem is compounded in that if we follow Al Gore’s recommendations, we will likely end up choosing very bad policies to solve the many problems, we agree need attention."

Lomborg asks the question, "...whether we would do better by addressing the real and pressing needs of current generations that we can solve so easily and cheaply, before we try to tackle the long-term problem of climate change where we can do so little for so much. He cites the figures saying that the Kyoto Protocol would likely cost at least $180 billion a year and do little good. UNICEF, on the other hand, estimates that just $70-80 billion a year could give all Third World inhabitants access to the basics like health, education, water and sanitation.

Access the House hearing website for links to the complete testimony and opening statements (
click here). Access the Senate hearing website were testimony should be posted later today (click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

EPA Interprets "South Coast" In Redesignations In MI, OH, WV

Mar 20: U.S. EPA announced it is proposing to move forward with final actions on requests to redesignate 18 areas in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia as meeting the national outdoor air quality standard for ground-level ozone. EPA said ozone air quality in these areas has improved enough to meet the standard, and the states have requested redesignation. In April 2004, EPA designated these areas as nonattainment because their air quality did not meet national outdoor air quality standards for ground-level ozone. The designations became effective in June 2004.

EPA had proposed to redesignate these areas, but final action on the redesignations has been held up pending Agency review of a December decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That decision rescinded EPA's rule that classified ozone nonattainment areas for the 8-hour standard [See
WIMS 1/2/07, South Coast Air Quality v. U.S. EPA]. EPA said the supplemental proposed rule sets forth its views on the potential effect of the Court’s ruling on a number of proposed redesignation actions.

Specifically, EPA indicates in the proposed rule, "EPA proposes to find that the Court’s ruling does not alter any requirements relevant to these proposed redesignations that would prevent EPA from finalizing these redesignations. The EPA believes that the Court’s decision, as it currently stands or as it may be modified based upon any petition for rehearing that may be filed, imposes no impediment to moving forward with redesignation of these areas to attainment, because in either circumstance, redesignation is appropriate under the relevant redesignation provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and EPA’s longstanding policies regarding redesignation requests."

In Michigan, the areas are Flint, Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Lansing-East Lansing, Muskegon, Benzie County, Huron County, Mason County and Cass County. The Ohio areas are Lima, Canton-Massillon, and three areas that cross Ohio-West Virginia state boundaries. The last three areas are Marietta, Ohio, and Parkersburg, WV; Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, WV; and an area in Ohio across the Ohio River from Wheeling, WV.

In its supplemental proposed rule, EPA is seeking comment on its belief that final action on the redesignation proposals is appropriate under the Clean Air Act and long-standing policies on state redesignation requests. The Agency believes the court's ruling does not alter these requirements or prevent redesignation. EPA's supplemental proposal will be published soon in the Federal Register. EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 15 days from the date of publication.

Access a release (click here). Access the supplemental proposal (click here). Access a fact sheet (click here). [*Air]

Monday, March 19, 2007

CWA Can't Be Used To Destroy A Lake

Mar 16: The U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit has issued an order saying that the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) cannot be used to destroy an Alaskan lake [See WIMS 12/06/06] (Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Coeur Alaska, Case No. 06-35679). Earthjustice who represented the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, and the Sierra Club, said the ruling that may set precedent about how the Act is interpreted nationwide.

Earthjustice indicated that although the full ruling is not yet released, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was wrong in letting a gold mine company dump toxic mine tailings into a lake near Juneau. In the first of a two-part ruling on Kensington Mine dumping operations, the Appeals Court said, "In issuing its permit to Coeur Alaska for the use of Lower Slate Lake as a disposal site, the Corps violated the Clean Water Act," Today's ruling disallowed a diversion ditch which the court said was environmentally destructive and which violated a previous injunction against the mine. But, the court said it would rule against the entire dumping procedure in its final opinion.

Tom Waldo, attorney for Earthjustice, the non-profit law firm that filed the appeal on behalf of the citizen and conservation groups said, "The ruling should prevent mines across the United States from likewise dumping into lakes, streams and rivers. The Kensington permit was a test case by the Bush Administration to resurrect destructive mining practices from the pick-and-shovel days. We've learned from the mistakes of the past. The Clean Water Act prohibited these practices, and today's court ruling confirms that."

Waldo expressed hope that the court ruling would deter such operations elsewhere in Alaska -- notably the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home of the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Pebble Mine, like Kensington, is designed to dump vast quantities of toxic mine tailings into lakes. A broad coalition of business, environmental, fishing and native groups is opposing the mine because of its damaging potential.

Access a release from Earthjustice (
click here). Access the first part of the ruling (click here). [*Water]

Friday, March 16, 2007

EPA Science Advisors Have "Grave Concerns" Re: EPA Budget

Mar 13: U.S. EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) has submitted to Administrator Stephen Johnson, a detailed review of the Agency's FY 2008 budget and longer range. Up front, SAB notes that the mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment which requires "a deep understanding of environmental science and technology." However, SAB says, between 2004 and the proposed 2008 budget, the overall support for Research and Development at EPA has declined by 25% in inflation adjusted terms. The summarized comments expressed in a letter to Johnson are revealing of the depth of their concerns. The letter reads, in part:

"For many years the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) has performed detailed annual reviews of the Agency's Research and Development (R&D) budget request. This year, ORD requested that the Board provide advice on the strategic directions (over the next five years) of its major research programs. For its part, the Board asked ORD to address its current and planned research program in four key cross-program environmental challenge areas. These included: (1) the impacts of climate change; (2) sensitive populations (both human and ecological); (3) the environmental consequences of urban sprawl; and (4) large-scale natural and man-made environmental disasters.

"The SAB findings and recommendations are detailed in this report. Overall, the SAB believes that EPA scientists are doing an outstanding job of sustaining a high quality program of research in the face of severe budget constraints that appear to have caused EPA’s research planning to become more reactive and less strategic. With few important exceptions (e.g. nanotechnology, sustainability research), the resulting research funding decisions appear to be incremental rather than strategic, causing research programs to focus more on yesterday’s issues and less on new and emerging environmental problems.

"Further, while the Agency was able to identify its longer term strategic directions for many specific program areas, and also identified a variety of lines of research relevant to the four cross-program issues identified by the Board, cross-program strategic planning is still very limited. EPA urgently needs to develop a higher-level research planning effort that can consider and adjust the balance and focus among major program areas and increase coordination and collaboration across program areas.

With respect to the FY 2008 President’s budget, the SAB has grave concerns about the decreased trend in the funding of ecosystems research, decreased funding of STAR extramural and fellowship programs, and the elimination of the economics and decision sciences research program within ORD. The SAB is concerned that continuing intentions to decrease EPA’s support of research will erode staff morale and ultimately, if it has not already done so, harm EPA’s ability to maintain national leadership in environmental science and engineering."

Access the complete 30+ page SAB review (
click here). [*All]

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Auto Companies Views On Climate Change & Energy Security

Mar 14: The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Rick Boucher (D-VA), held a hearing on Climate Change and Energy Security: Perspectives from the Automobile Industry.

In an opening statement Chairman Boucher indicated, "Our goal is to produce this year legislation that has economy -wide application. Each sector of the economy will make a greenhouse gas control contribution. Applying this broad measure to the transportation sector poses special challenges. Unlike some other industries, auto manufacturers are subject to a pre-existing regulatory program, CAFÉ, which is designed to promote fuel economy, but which also has a limiting effect on greenhouse gas emissions, notably the emission of carbon dioxide. Much thought must be devoted to an effective means of integrating the existing CAFÉ regulatory program into the new regulatory structure which will specifically target greenhouse gases."

Boucher also provided insight into the likely scheduling of climate change legislation, saying, "I also want to say a word this afternoon about our schedule for drafting a greenhouse gas control program. Earlier this year, the Speaker assured me that we would have the time the committee needs to produce a carefully constructed bill. That early assurance was reconfirmed this week by the Speaker's office's statement that climate change legislation will not be part of the July floor agenda. It is my intention to continue our hearing process through the early spring and then begin the bill drafting process with the goal of having the comprehensive climate change bill on the House floor late this year. House passage this year would provide ample time for a conference."

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Ron Gettelfinger, President, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; Rick Wagoner, Chairman and Chief Executive OfficerGeneral Motors Corporation; Jim Press, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor North America; Alan R. Mulally, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company; and Thomas W. LaSorda, Chief Executive Officer and President, Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler.

As an example of testimony, Rick Wagoner GM testified that the subjects of climate change and energy security are "critical issues that are at the forefront of GM’s business planning." Wagoner said, "Since 2001, a series of geopolitical, natural, and economic realities have combined to drive home the fact that we face an increasingly uncertain energy future on a global basis. For the global auto industry, this means that we must as a business necessity develop alternative sources of propulsion, based on diverse sources of energy, in order to meet the world’s growing demand for our products... We are fully prepared to discuss all of these issues, including carbon constraints on the U.S. economy. However, before we discuss any alternatives, we believe we must first begin with a frank evaluation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program (CAFE)... CAFE has been particularly damaging to the domestic, full line manufacturers...

"...we urge Congress to resist the temptation to set some arbitrary level of future CAFE performance and instead let National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set the appropriate targets... recent legislative proposals to increase CAFE requirements by 4% per year or more would be extraordinarily expensive and technically challenging to implement—all with little to show for actually reducing oil consumption or emissions.... The best opportunity for addressing all of these issues [reducing gasoline consumption, oil imports and CO2 emissions] over the next decade is through increased use of bio-fuels. And, the bio-fuel with the greatest potential to displace petroleum-based fuels in the U.S. is ethanol."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and an archive webcast (
click here). Access various media reports on the hearing (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MIT Report Says Carbon Capture & Sequestration Is Critical

Mar 14: Leading academics from an interdisciplinary MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) panel issued a report that examines how the world can continue to use coal, an abundant and inexpensive fuel, in a way that mitigates, instead of worsens, the global warming crisis. The study, The Future of Coal--Options for a Carbon Constrained World, advocates that the United States assume global leadership on this issue through adoption of significant policy actions. Led by co-chairs John Deutch, Institute Professor, Department of Chemistry, and Ernest J. Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, the report states that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is the critical enabling technology to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly while also allowing coal to meet the world's pressing energy needs.

According to Deutch, "As the world's leading energy user and greenhouse gas emitter, the U.S. must take the lead in showing the world CCS can work. Demonstration of technical, economic and institutional features of CCS at commercial scale coal combustion and conversion plants will give policymakers and the public confidence that a practical carbon mitigation control option exists, will reduce cost of CCS should carbon emission controls be adopted and will maintain the low-cost coal option in an environmentally acceptable manner."

In addition to the major recommendations of the necessity to perfect CCS, the report says, "Key changes must be made to the current Department of Energy research development and demonstration program to successfully promote CCS technologies. The program must provide for demonstration of CCS at scale; a wider range of technologies should be explored; and modeling and simulation of the comparative performance of integrated technology systems should be greatly enhanced."

David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a member of the study’s advisory committee said, “The MIT report concludes that we have the know-how to capture and safely store heat-trapping emissions from power plants now on the drawing board, but it points out that much more needs to be done if this technology is to be used to prevent carbon pollution from coal on a massive scale. While energy efficiency and renewables continue to be the most effective means of cutting global warming pollution, carbon emissions’ capture and storage is essential as long as we continue using large amounts of coal.”

NRDC said in a release that the report is "silent on the most urgent coal investment issue facing the industry and the environment: What global warming emissions standards should apply to proposed new coal power plants? The facts set forth in the report justify a recommendation to require all proposed new coal plants capture carbon pollution for underground disposal, but the report sidesteps this question."

Access a release from MIT and link to the complete 192-page report, summary and related information (
click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sierra Club v. U.S. EPA Appeals Court CAA Ruling

Mar 13: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 03-1202. The Appeals Court said, "In this case, the Sierra Club challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution standards for brick and ceramics kilns. Because most of the standards violate the Clean Air Act as interpreted by this Court in Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition v. EPA, 255 F.3d 855 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (percuriam), and National Lime Ass’n v. EPA, 233 F.3d 625 (D.C. Cir. 2000), and because the remaining standards violate the Act’s requirements for 'work practice standards,' we vacate the standards in their entirety and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

In its decision the Appeals Court further noted, "For the foregoing reasons, we vacate the emission standards for both brick and ceramics kilns and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. If the Environmental Protection Agency disagrees with the Clean Air Act’s requirements for setting emissions standards, it should take its concerns to Congress. If EPA disagrees with this court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act, it should seek rehearing en banc or file a petition for a writ of certiorari. In the meantime, it must obey the Clean Air Act as written by Congress and interpreted by this court." Additionally, Senior Circuit Judge Williams indicated he concurred "entirely with the court’s opinion," and included a note to the opinion regarding what he called a "paradox in the relationship between two key provisions of § 112 of the Clean Air Act."

According to a release from Earthjustice who represented Sierra Club, "This latest decision reflects a broader problem at EPA, an agency that under the Bush administration has persistently ignored the law, the courts, and public health by adopting standards that do not adequately limit toxic air pollution." Earthjustice attorney James Pew said, "This decision is not just about brick kilns. It is about an agency that thinks it is above the law, and chooses to ignore Congress, the courts, and the citizens who have called upon EPA to protect against this pollution. Hopefully, this decision will remind EPA that it exists to protect public health and the environment by implementing our environmental laws, not subverting them."

At issue were the highly protective requirements in the Clean Air Act's toxic provisions, which require EPA to set standards for entire industries that reflect the emission levels achieved by the cleanest plants that are currently in operation. Marti Sinclair, Sierra Club's air chair said, "We applaud the court's decision, and it's a good thing we have courts to review what this rogue agency is doing. Instead of fulfilling its mission to protect public health and the environment, EPA is doing its best to deny Americans the protection that Congress provided."

According to the Earthjustice release, brick kilns and ceramics kilns emit more that 6,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the air each year, including hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid, and particulate matter containing toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium and lead, which can lead to cancer, respiratory damage and neurological and organ damage. They said, for many kilns, "EPA refused to require any limit on toxic emissions at all. For others EPA set standards that -- in direct violation of the Clean Air Act -- did not even purport to reflect the emission levels achieved by the cleanest plants in the industry."

Access the complete 20-page opinion (
click here). Access a release from Earthjustice with links to additional information (click here). [*Air]

Monday, March 12, 2007

It's Sunshine Week For Public Access To Information

Mar 12: Sunshine Week (March 11-17, 2007) is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know. Sunshine Week is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami. Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger. According to an announcement, "Sunshine Week is a non-partisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between."

In conjunction with Sunshine Week, a nationwide information audit, conducted as a prelude to event, found slightly more than four in 10 of the official gatekeepers willing – if wary – to provide copies of emergency response plans, which federal law makes public. Other local officials, however, reacted to requests with confusion, outright denials and sometimes by calling police to check out the auditors. Many weren’t sure who had the authority to release the reports, or even where the documents were located.

More than a third of public officials audited refused to provide access to their local Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan – which is mandated by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 as a public document. Another 20 percent provided only partial reports. Those denials stood in stark contrast to the experience of other auditors, many of whom were offered copies of the report in either paper or disc form; 48, or 12 percent, of the 404 communities put the reports online.

The audits were conducted in early January, when reporters, civic group members, students and other volunteers visited their Local Emergency Planning Committee, which prepares the reports outlining emergency response in the event of a chemical or hazardous material accident. The 1986 law not only says the plans are public, it also requires the local officials to advertise their availability once a year.

In all, 162 news organizations participated as requestors, along with three student newspapers and eight League of Women Voters chapters. This report is built on a database of their experiences and offers a snapshot of the difficulties citizens may face when they request public information that may be considered sensitive. The audit is a project of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Environmental Journalists for Sunshine Week.

In a related matter, a beta version of has been launched. According to the website, sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation, it "brings together official government information with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind what's happening in Congress." The website indicates, "For most people, finding out what's really happening in Congress is a daunting and time-consuming task. The legislative process is frequently arcane and closed-off from the public, resulting in frustration with Congress and apathy about politics. Small groups of political insiders and lobbyists know what's really going on in Congress, but this important information rarely makes its way into the light. The official website of the library of Congress, Thomas, publishes the full text of bills, but we can do much more to inform ourselves and make our government accessible. Now, with OpenCongress, everyone can be an insider." OpenCongress is a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource with a mission to help make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement.

Access the Sunshine Week website for extensive information (
click here). Access a release on the Audit of Response Plans (click here). Access the report of the Audit: Comprehensive Emergency Response Plans (click here). Access the website (click here). [Note: WIMS has posted a link to the website on the homepage under Congress (click here).] [*All, *Toxics]

Friday, March 09, 2007

San Francisco Baykeeper v. Cargill Salt Division

Mar 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case Nos. 04-17554, 05-15051. Other amici curiae involved in the case include: Pacific Legal Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, National Association of Home Builders and the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division.

San Francisco Baykeeper and Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge (collectively Baykeeper) filed a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) against Cargill Salt Division and Cargill, Incorporated (Cargill). Baykeeper alleged that Cargill discharged pollutants into “waters of the United States” without a permit. The body of water into which Cargill allegedly discharged waste is a non-navigable, intrastate pond (the Pond), not determined to be a “wetland,” that collects polluted runoff within Cargill’s waste containment facility located near the southeastern edge of San Francisco Bay.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Baykeeper after determining that the Pond qualifies as a “water of the United States” because it is adjacent to a protected water of the United States (Mowry Slough). Cargill then brought the appeal. The Appeals Court said, "Because we conclude that mere adjacency provides a basis for CWA coverage only when the relevant waterbody is a 'wetland,' and no other reason for CWA coverage of Cargill’s Pond is supported by evidence or is properly before us, we reverse the district court’s summary judgment."

In further discussing the case relation to the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (SWANCC), 531 U.S. 159 (2001), and Rapanos v. United States, 126 S. Ct. 2208 (2006); the Appeals Court said, "We conclude, therefore, that nothing in Bayview, SWANCC or Rapanos requires or supports the view that Cargill’s Pond is a water of the United States because it is adjacent to Mowry Slough. Baykeeper contends, however, that the Pond is more than merely adjacent; it has a nexus to Mowry Slough. It is not sufficient, however, for Baykeeper simply to make its individual case; it must establish that it was unreasonable for the EPA to confine to wetlands the CWA’s reach to non-navigable waterbodies adjacent to protected waters. Even on its own terms, however, Baykeeper’s argument fails. The evidence in support of Baykeeper’s nexus falls far short of the nexus that Justice Kennedy required in Rapanos even for wetlands that the Corps sought to hold subject to the CWA..."

The Appeals Court noted further, "In short, the 'Adjacent Waters Theory upon which the District Court based its Jurisdictional Ruling' does not rely on evidence of tributary status or effect on interstate commerce. Accordingly, we conclude that these alternative theories are independent of the 'Adjacent Waters Theory' and are waived."

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), an amicus party in the case, issued a release that "cheered the decision." NAHB President Brian Catalde said, “These regulatory burdens translate into expenses that increase the price of homes. We need to stop this bureaucratic expansion on behalf of our home buyers... We should all want the same thing: protection for the nation’s water supply. But the rules about how to achieve that need to be clear, for the sake of all of us. Let’s keep our environmental regulations strong, but make them sensible. Make them consistent. Our nation’s home builders – and our nation’s home buyers – deserve no less.”

Access the complete opinion (click here). Access the NAHB release (click here). Access WIMS eNewsUSA Blog for various articles related to Rapanos (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort Special Report on Rapanos for links and extensive information (click here). [*Water]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Madison Declaration On Mercury Pollution

Mar 8: AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, published "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution," in its latest issue. Much of the current issue is devoted to mercury pollution. The Declaration summarizes the scientific and technical conclusions presented by four expert panels in their critical synthesis manuscripts and in plenary sessions at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, convened in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, on August 6–11, 2006. The 1150 registered participants in the conference constituted a diverse, multinational body of scientific and technical expertise on environmental mercury pollution. The Declaration conveys the panels' principal findings and their consensus conclusions on key policy-relevant questions concerning atmospheric sources of mercury, methylmercury exposure and its effects on humans and wildlife, socioeconomic consequences of mercury pollution, and recovery of mercury-contaminated fisheries.

One of the key findings is that, "The health risks posed by mercury-contaminated fish are sufficient to warrant issuing a worldwide general warning to the public -- especially children and women of childbearing age -- to be careful about how much and which fish they eat.

Five other major findings in the declaration were: (1) On average, three times more mercury is falling from the sky today than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago as a result of the increasing use of mercury and industrial emissions. (2) The uncontrolled use of mercury in small-scale gold mining is contaminating thousands of sites around the world, posing long-term health risks to an estimated 50 million inhabitants of mining regions. These activities alone contribute more than 10 percent of the mercury in Earth’s atmosphere attributable to human activities today. (3) Little is known about the behavior of mercury in marine ecosystems and methylmercury in marine fish, the ingestion of which is the primary way most people at all levels of society worldwide are exposed to this highly toxic form of mercury. (4) Methylmercury exposure at present levels constitutes a public health problem in many parts of the world. (5) Methylmercury levels in fish-eating birds and mammals in some parts of the world are reaching toxic levels, which may lead to population declines in these species and possibly in fish populations as well.

Access the abstract and link to the full text article which requires a subscription to the journal (
click here). Access the contents of the latest AMBIO (click here). Access a release on the Declaration summarizing further findings (click here). Access the Preface and the Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution (click here). Access the Declaration with nontechnical summary of principal findings (click here). Access complete information about the Madison conference including: unedited, full-length videotapes of all four panel presentations (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Administration Submits Yucca Mountain Development Legislation

Mar 6: Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman announced that the Administration is sending a legislative proposal to the U.S. Congress to "enhance the nation’s ability to manage and dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and Defense high-level radioactive waste at the highly controversial Yucca Mountain site. Currently 55,000 metric tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel and Defense high-level waste is being stored at more than 100 above-ground sites in 39 states, and that number grows by about 2,000 metric tons annually.

Secretary Bodman said, “This legislative proposal reflects the Administration’s strong commitment to advancing the development of the Yucca Mountain repository, while seeking to provide stability, clarity and predictability in moving the project forward. Nuclear power is a clean, reliable domestic source of energy that currently represents approximately 20 percent of the nation’s energy supply. The Yucca Mountain repository is critical to the nation’s current and future energy and national security needs, and I look forward to working with the Congress on developing a bill that can be passed by Congress and signed by the President.”

The proposed legislation would facilitate the licensing and construction of the geologic repository and according to DOE, "lead to the safe, permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste deep within the mountain." Among the various provisions, the proposed legislation would withdraw, permanently from public use, the land at and surrounding the Yucca Mountain repository site in Nevada, and would facilitate Congress’s ability to provide adequate funding for the Yucca Mountain Project. Permanent withdrawal is needed to meet a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing requirement for the Yucca Mountain repository. Funding reform is necessary to correct a technical budgetary problem that has acted as a disincentive to adequate funding.

The proposed legislation would also eliminate the current statutory 70,000 metric ton cap on disposal capacity at Yucca Mountain, in order to "allow maximum use of the mountain’s true technical capacity." This provision would help provide the "safe isolation of the nation’s entire commercial spent nuclear fuel inventory from existing reactors, including life extensions." Also included are provisions for a more streamlined NRC licensing process, and for initiation of infrastructure activities, including safety and other upgrades and rail line construction, to enable earlier start-up of operations. Other provisions are designed to consolidate duplicative environmental reviews.

In the letter to Congressional leaders, Secretary Bodman says, "This legislative proposal is the same as that submitted by the Administration to Congress last year, with the exception of technical amendments to one section discussed in the enclosed bill summary. We are aware that some Members of Congress have expressed concerns about elements of this proposal and that some have proposed other approaches to addressing radioactive waste disposal issues. The Administration offers this legislative proposal again to continue the conversation and looks forward to working with Congress to develop a bill that can be passed by Congress and signed by the President."

Access a DOE release and link to a letter to Congressional leaders, the bill language, a bill summary, a legislative provisions summary, and sectional summary (click here). [*Haz/Nuclear]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

EWG Says Common Industrial Chemical Linked To Birth Defects

Mar 5: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report saying that an industrial chemical used to line cans of foods is linked to birth defects and was found in more than half of the samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula from supermarket shelves. EWG said a comprehensive independent laboratory analysis conducted for EWG found bisphenol A (BPA), in 55 of 97 cans of food purchased from major supermarket chains in California, Connecticut and Georgia. The lab tested 27 national name brands and three store brands. Further, the tests found that pregnant women and infants who eat even a single serving of some canned foods are exposed to unsafe doses of BPA. Of the foods tested -- which included many of the canned foods eaten most often by women of childbearing age -- BPA levels were highest in canned pasta and soup. Canned infant formula also had high levels. Just one to three servings of food with these BPA levels could expose a pregnant woman or infant to harmful doses of the chemical.

EWG said the potential for BPA to cause birth defects and reproductive harm is being evaluated today (March 5) by a Federal advisory panel at the Center for Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), a division of the National Institutes of Health [See WIMS 2/26/07]. On February 28, EWG raised major concerns about the integrity of CERHR science and conflicts of interest on the part of a Center contractor, Sciences International (SI) [See WIMS 2/28/07]. SI plays a major management role in CERHR operations while at the same time doing business with a client base that includes manufacturers of chemicals under review by the Center, including BPA.

BPA is an ingredient in plastics and the epoxy resins that line food cans. It also has many other common uses in CDs, DVDs, electrical and electronic equipment, automobiles, and sports safety equipment. EWG said that low doses of BPA lead to a range of health problems, including birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in laboratory animals. EWG said that despite the growing evidence of risk to human health, there are no limits on the amount of BPA allowed in canned food. Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at EWG said, "BPA reads like a case study of how badly our chemical safety system is broken. We've known it's toxic for 75 years, it's polluting the bodies of almost all Americans, but we allow it in our food at levels that leave no margin of safety for pregnant women and young children."

An independent panel of 15 scientists convened by CERHR, is reviewing recent scientific data and reaching conclusions regarding whether or not exposure to the commonly used chemical is hazardous to human development or reproduction. The expert panel is meeting March 5-7 to review and revise the draft expert panel report on BPA, and write its summary, conclusions and critical data needs. The 2.5 day scientific meeting is open to members of the public and the media.

Access a release, extensive background information including the conflict charges and the report from EWG (
click here). Access a CERHR release on the review meeting (click here). Access details about the meeting, including panelists and agenda (click here). Access the CERHR BPA Draft 372-page report (click here). [*Toxics]

Monday, March 05, 2007

National Parks Conservation Association v. TVA

Mar 2: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, Case No. 05-6329. Three environmental organizations brought the suit under the Clean Air Act’s citizen-suit provisions, alleging that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) shirked its duty to obtain appropriate pollution limitations at a power plant it operates in Clinton, Tennessee. The district court granted summary judgment to TVA, concluding that the statute of limitations had run on the plaintiffs’ claim for statutory penalties and that the concurrentremedy rule barred their claim for injunctive relief.

The Appeals Court, in a 2-1 decision, concluded that the district court’s ruling on the statute of limitations was in error, and reversed the grant of summary judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The majority said, "...we conclude that the plaintiffs’ claims for civil penalties are timely insofar as they relate to violations that occurred within five years of the date they filed their initial complaint." The Appeals Court ruling hinged on a determination that an alleged violation manifests itself each day the plan operates, therefore, while violations predating February 13, 1996 are time-barred, the remaining violations are not.

Judge Batchelder, issued a dissenting opinion saying, "I respectfully dissent because I do not agree that this case involves a “series of discrete violations.” I believe this case involves, at most, a single violation that occurred in 1988, and therefore, its statute of limitations expired five years later. I would affirm the district court."

Sierra Club, one of the parties in the suit called the decision a "major victory" and said, "The court recognized that each day that this plant operates without modern pollution control standards, the health of the community and the air is put at risk. This ruling enables citizens across the country to hold dirty coal plants accountable and to obtain civil penalties for past damages. Polluting power plants should take notice. Today’s ruling strengthens a growing sentiment that coal-fired power plants will no longer be able to circumvent pollution laws. The days of special treatment for coal plants are over."

Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). [*Air]

Friday, March 02, 2007

EPA Proposed Locomotive & Marine Diesel Engine Rule

Mar 2: U.S. EPA is proposing a new rule which it says will ensure that Americans continue to breathe cleaner air by significantly reducing air pollution from locomotive and marine diesel engines. The Clean Air Locomotive and Marine Diesel Rule would set stringent emission standards and require the use of advanced technology to reduce emissions. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, “By tackling the greatest remaining source of diesel emissions, we’re keeping our nation’s clean air progress moving full steam ahead. Over the last century, diesels have been America’s economic workhorse, and through this rule, an economic workhorse is also becoming an environmental workhorse.”

Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp joined Administrator Johnson at the announcement which took place at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, Berth 23, Elizabeth Marine Terminal. The emission standards would apply to the nation’s fleet of diesel locomotive engines, tugs, barges, ferries and recreational marine engines. Diesel exhaust contains toxic chemicals that together with diesel particulate matter pose a cancer risk greater than that of any other air pollutant. The proposed standards, when adopted and fully phased in, would reduce particulate pollution and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen from each engine by 90 percent. Krupp said, “EPA is clearly on the right track in proposing to address the dangerous diesel exhaust from trains and ships. We look forward to working with EPA and the states to carry this important work across the finish line by securing final clean air standards for high-polluting trains and ships.”

When fully implemented, the landmark initiative would cut particulate matter emissions from the engines by 90 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by 80 percent. This would result in annual health benefits of $12 billion in 2030 and reduce premature deaths, hospitalizations and respiratory illnesses across the United States. These benefits would continue to grow as older locomotive and marine engines are replaced. Overall benefits are estimated to outweigh costs by more than 20 to 1. The rule would tighten emission standards for existing locomotives when they are remanufactured. Additionally, the rule sets stringent emission standards for new locomotive and marine diesel engines and sets long-term regulations that require the use of advanced technology to reduce emissions.

The locomotive remanufacturing proposal would take effect as soon as certified systems are available, as early as 2008, but no later than 2010. Standards for new locomotive and marine diesel engines would phase-in starting in 2009. Long-term standards would phase-in beginning in 2014 for marine diesel engines and 2015 for locomotives. The rule also explores a remanufacturing program for existing large marine diesel engines similar to the existing program for locomotives. Other provisions seek to reduce unnecessary locomotive idling.

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access links to a fact sheet, the prepublication copy of the proposed rule, regulatory impact analysis and related details (click here). Access EPA's Diesel Boats and Ships website (click here). Access EPA's Locomotives website (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here) [*Air]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

UCS Engineers Unveil "Green" Minivan Design

Mar 1: Automotive engineers at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) unveiled a minivan design which they say shows that automakers can build affordable vehicles with existing technology that would meet or exceed global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks adopted by California and 10 other states. They said, "Automakers are currently fighting these standards in court." The minivan, dubbed the UCS Vanguard, features off-the-shelf engine, transmission and fueling systems and other technologies that would save consumers money, maintain vehicle safety and performance, and cut global warming pollution by more than 40 percent. All of the technologies in the Vanguard are in vehicles on the road today, but automakers have yet to combine them all in one single package.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski said, "Today's announcement confirms that we already have the technology and the tools to combat climate change and that now it is simply a question of the political will. Oregon adopted the California tailpipe standard in 2005. Oregon is committed to transitioning to a new generation of cleaner vehicles, and this project demonstrates a clear path forward. It is my hope this will encourage the rest of the nation to join Oregon and the other states already pledged to reduce auto emissions." According to a UCS release installing the Vanguard package of existing technologies fleetwide could significantly reduce global warming pollution for all car and truck size classes. Operational savings would make up for relatively small increases in purchase price. For example, the Vanguard minivan package would add about $300 to the price but result in over $1,300 in lifetime consumer savings, with a payback time of less than two years.

Spencer Quong, a senior UCS vehicles engineer and former automaker consultant who designed the Vanguard said, "Meeting state laws for fighting global warming should be no sweat for the automakers. They already have the solution to pollution right under the hoods of their own cars and trucks." The Vanguard minivan design has eight key components -- including improvements in the engine, transmission, air conditioner, fuel system, aerodynamics and tires -- that can be found piecemeal in more than 100 vehicle models on the road today. The Vanguard is not a hybrid. It uses conventional technology to achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution.

UCS emphasized in their release, "In the absence of federal policies to curb global warming emissions from vehicles, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon and Washington have adopted the California clean car standard. Several other states, including Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas, are considering or about to adopt the standard. Combined, these states represent nearly half the U.S population. In response, auto industry trade groups have filed lawsuits in California, Rhode Island and Vermont to block implementation."

Access a lengthy release from UCS (
click here). Access the UCS Clean Vehicles website for extensive information on the Vanguard including conference presentation, brochure, animation, technical report; and related issues (click here). [*Air, *Climate, *Energy]