Archives for posts with tag: Environmental Protection Agency

From Earth Justice:

Each year, nearly one billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed into fields and orchards around the country. As the families who live nearby can tell you, those pesticides don’t always stay in the fields and orchards.

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From Environmental Health News:

Paul Anastas, one of the fathers of green chemistry, is leaving his high-ranking post at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency next month and returning to Yale University. During an interview with Jane Kay of Environmental Health News, Anastas, who will remain at his post for another month or so, said there has been a “growing realization across EPA” that green chemistry “can meet environmental and economic goals simultaneously.” During his two years as science advisor and assistant administrator at EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Anastas played a key role in many controversial issues, including use of dispersants during the Gulf oil spill and the agency’s long-awaited analysis of dioxin.  –Marla Cone, Editor in Chief

Q
: Why are you leaving the EPA to return to Yale University?

A: I was just describing to some folks in Washington that people always say they’re leaving their positions to spend more time with their family. Sometimes it’s actually true. In the confirmation hearings, I was asked why I’d leave a perfect life. I said I considered it to be an extension of my love for my family, for my children. That fact in so many ways was necessary for me to leave them for this time. We’ve made some important changes at the EPA. It’s time for me to go home.

I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. The 1-year-old was born during the Gulf oil spill. Some of the most painful time is spending time in the Gulf of Mexico away from your wife when you have a newborn-to-be. We had a large town hall meeting in the Gulf of Mexico. Someone asked how do we know that you people in Washington care about us in the Gulf. I said I have a 6-week baby and I’ve been down here for the last five weeks. You can be sure I care what’s happening. I’ve been gone half of my oldest daughter’s life, and all of my youngest daughter’s life.
Q: How have you instituted the principles of green chemistry at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

A: The most important thing is that there’s been this realization: the only reason to deeply understand a problem is to inform and empower its solutions. The EPA has a long history of understanding how toxic certain chemicals are. There’s this realization now that we can actually design chemicals and design manufacturing so they are less toxic and less polluting.

I can point to the work that’s going on in the labs in Cincinnati developing new manufacturing processes, new synthetic methodologies and new nano materials making sure that you get the new performance without the concerns and the hazards. I can point to our work at Research Triangle Park in computational toxicology, which is informing molecular design to reduce hazards. We’re doing it in our internal research, in our research grant programs to universities and in continuing the green chemistry awards that recognize accomplishments. This is part of solution orientation, how you use innovation to generate solution rather than only quantifying the problem. There is a growing realization across EPA that this approach can meet environmental and economic goals simultaneously.

Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment at the EPA?

A: My role in advancing the “Green Book” produced by the National Academies of Science. It is one of the best reports that I’ve ever seen from the NAS, and is something that I’m glad to be a part of. The “Green Book,” or “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” is a tremendously informative and powerful document that has received contributions from representatives of industry, academia, public health and non-governmental organizations. Its recommendations are currently being reviewed and deliberated by the agency this spring as part of the ongoing listening sessions to get people’s perspectives about sustainability. The whole point is that we have 25 years of knowledge. This “Green Book” outlines the scientific, technical and analytical way to put sustainability into practice. While it is directed at the EPA, it is far more broadly applicable for people who want to put sustainability into practice.

Q
: What still needs to be done at the EPA?

A: We need to strengthen scientific and legal foundations, expand the conversation on environmentalism to communities who have not traditionally been included and introduce innovation into consideration of all of the work that we do.

Q: What are your thoughts on the White House’s decision to withdraw a tougher ozone standard?

A: The president takes into account many factors in making decisions. The timing of any actions needs to be considered as well. The science of the ozone assessment is very solid and is never in question. The standards on ozone are ones that the agency will revisit in the future in accordance with the law.

More.

From the Washington Post:

The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment nationwide in 2010 increased 16 percent over the year before, reversing a downward trend in overall toxic releases since 2006, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The spike was driven largely by metal mining, but other sectors — including the chemical industry — also contributed to the rise in emissions, according to the new analysis from the annual federal Toxics Release Inventory.

Air releases of dioxin, which is linked to cancer as well as neurological and reproductive problems, rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the report. Other releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent.

Dioxins are formed as a byproduct of some processes with intense heat, such as smelting and recycling metals. The 2010 increase stemmed largely from the hazardous-waste-management and mining industries, according to the EPA.

In a statement Thursday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson did not address the specific sources of emissions but said that the public reporting “has played a significant role in protecting people’s health and the environment by providing communities with valuable information on toxic chemical releases.”

According to EPA officials, a handful of metal mining operations helped drive the overall increase in toxic emissions.

“In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined — which EPA understands is one of the reasons for the increase in total reported releases — may lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally,” the statement read.

Some environmentalists said the new data show why the EPA should swiftly move to release a long-anticipated environmental assessment of dioxin, the first installment of which the agency plans to issue this month. EPA officials say they will issue a report addressing dioxin’s non-cancerous effects first and then later release a cancer-related report.

Some industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, have urged the EPA to hold off issuing the report in what the trade association’s president and chief executive, Cal Dooley, has called “a piecemeal fashion.” Chemical manufacturers accounted for nearly 64 percent of total disposal of dioxins in 2010, though they reported a 7 percent decrease from 2009 to 2010.

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From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration finished crafting tough new rules Friday curbing mercury and other poisons emitted by coal-fired utilities, according to several people briefed on the decision, culminating more than two decades of work to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants.

As part of last-minute negotiations between the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations give some flexibility to power plant operators who argued they could not meet the three-year deadline for compliance outlined by the EPA. Several individuals familiar with the details declined to be identified because the agency will not announce the rules until next week.

The new rules will cost utilities $10.6 billion by 2016 for the installation of control equipment known as scrubbers, according to EPA estimates. But the EPA said those costs would be far offset by health benefits. The agency estimates that as of 2016, lowering emissions would save $59 billion to $140 billion in annual health costs, preventing 17,000 premature deaths a year along with illnesses and lost workdays.

* * *

Several experts said the new controls on mercury, acid gas and other pollutants represent one of the most significant public health and environmental measures in years. The rules will prevent 91 percent of the mercury in coal from entering the air and much of the soot as well: According to EPA estimates, they will prevent 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 asthma attacks annually by 2016.

“I think this will prove to be the signature environmental accomplishment of the Obama administration,” said Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “It will soon mean the end of the smoke-spewing coal power plant as we know it today. At the same time, the administration is trying to add a bit of flexibility to extinguish the bogus claim that these standards could mean lights out.”

* * *

Congress exempted toxic pollution from power plants — which can include arsenic, chromium, lead, formaldehyde and dioxins, among other substances — when it amended the Clean Air Act in 1990. In 2000, under the Clinton administraion, the EPA determined that it should be regulated, but a lengthy legal and lobbying battle ensued.

The EPA finalized the rules Friday to meet the terms of a court-ordered settlement with several advocacy groups that had sued the agency over its 10-year delay in issuing the regulations.

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Image from Flickr.

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Former EPA administrator Carol Browner explains why clean air and water are good for America’s economy.

From Los Angeles Times:

One of the most widespread groundwater contaminants in the nation is more dangerous to humans than earlier thought, a federal agency has determined, in a decision that could raise the cost of cleanups nationwide, including large areas of the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The final risk assessment for trichloroethylene by the Environmental Protection Agency found that the widely used industrial solvent causes kidney and liver cancer, lymphoma and other health problems. That lays the groundwork to reevaluate the federal drinking-water standard for the contaminant: 5 parts per billion in water, and 1 microgram per cubic meter in air, officials said.

Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of research and development, said toxicity values for TCE reported in the risk assessment released this week may be used to establish new cleanup strategies at 761 Superfund sites, as well as in aquifers supplying drinking water to millions of residents in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.

The risk assessment had been subject to more than a decade of delays. A 2001 draft assessment that suggested a strong link between TCE and cancer was opposed by the Defense Department, the Energy Department and NASA.

The Pentagon had demanded greater proof that industrial substances cause cancer before raising cleanup costs at more than 1,000 polluted sites.

“This risk assessment is a big deal because it will strengthen protections for people who live and work above TCE plumes — and there are a lot of them — and could force serious rethinking about the extent of cleanup efforts,” said Lenny Siegal, executive director of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, which posted a letter Monday signed by activists across the country, demanding that the final risk assessment be released. It was released Wednesday.

Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the decision “launches new arguments about what the safety standards should be. In the meantime, people impacted by this pollution can now link their disease to it in litigation with more confidence because the science is no longer in dispute. TCE causes cancer.”

TCE has been discovered in nearly every state but in none more widely than California. Military bases including Camp Pendleton and Edwards Air Force Base have Superfund sites with TCE contamination.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area overlies a checkerboard of underground plumes of TCE, and has high ambient levels of the chemical in the air. More than 30 square miles of the San Gabriel Valley lie in one of four Superfund sites that contain TCE. The San Fernando Valley overlies a large plume grouped into three separate Superfund sites. The former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Orange County sits over a plume several miles long.

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Photo by Jeremy Brooks.

From The Associated Press:

The Republican-controlled House passed the first of two bills Thursday to delay rules to cut toxic air pollution and mercury from cement plants, solid waste incinerators and industrial boilers.

House Republicans repeatedly have targeted Environmental Protection Agency regulations that they view as job killers. The latest bills probably will stall in the Democratic-run Senate, even if some Democrats vote for them, and the White House has threatened to veto both measures.

The first bill, which the House passed by a 262-161 vote, would force the EPA to rewrite regulations designed to reduce pollution at about 150 cement plants nationwide. The measure also would extend by years the time that companies have to comply with the new regulations.

Of the plants covered by the rule, 103 are in Republican districts, according to an Associated Press analysis of EPA data. All but one of the chief sponsors of the bill has cement plants in his or her district.

Two of the sponsors, GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, are in a three-way tie for the most cement plants in a district with six apiece.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in statement that the bill’s passage was a common-sense action to delay “EPA regulations that stand in the way of investment and growth.” He said the legislation would make it easier for cement companies, already struggling because of reduced demand, “to succeed and create jobs again.”

The House plans to vote Tuesday on legislation to force the EPA to revise regulations aimed at curbing hazardous pollution, including mercury, from industrial boilers. That legislation is also expected to pass.

President Barack Obama challenged the Republicans’ attacks on EPA as a job killer.

“They’ve said, ‘We’ll roll back regulations that make sure we’ve got clean air and clean water, eliminate the EPA’,” Obama said at a news conference. “Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy … that is weakening, with all these forces coming into play?”

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From Los Angeles Times:

To understand the latest brouhaha about safe levels of ozone, it helps to understand the difference between science and policy.

First the back story. In 2008, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen Johnson, reduced the allowable level of ozone in the air from 84 parts per billion to 75 ppb. Johnson said the change would lead to cleaner air and improve public health.

However, the EPA’s independent advisory panel had recommended that the limit be set even lower, in the range of 60 ppb to 70 ppb. Critics, including scientists, environmental advocates and medical associations, such as the American Thoracic Society, accused Johnson and the George W. Bush administration of prioritizing the economic concerns of polluters over the interests of the general public.

Depending on your point of view, you may see things Johnson’s way or you may side with his critics. But the process worked exactly as it was supposed to, with scientists analyzing the data and policymakers exercising their authority to take other factors into consideration, says Dr. Roger McClellan, a toxicologist and former chairman of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. “They were an advisory panel, not a standard-setting panel,” he says.

Fast-forward to the Obama administration. Lisa Jackson is now the EPA administrator, and she wanted to revisit the ozone standard. She asked the current members of the advisory panel to take another look at the data, and they agreed with the previous panel’s conclusion that lowering the standard to between 60 ppb and 70 ppb range would have beneficial effects on public health. In a 2010 regulatory impact analysis report, the agency estimated that setting the limit at 70 ppb would prevent about 2,200 heart attacks, 23,000 asthma attacks and between 1,500 and 4,300 premature deaths each year; a limit of 60 ppb would avert 5,300 heart attacks, 58,000 asthma attacks and 4,000 to 12,000 premature deaths.

So this month, when President Obama put the kibosh on any reconsideration of the ozone standard, all those who railed before railed again.

The Clean Air Act mandates that the standards for certain pollutants, including ozone, be revisited every five years. So even as the advisory panel was digging into the old reports to answer Jackson’s queries, its members have also started reviewing more recent evidence for 2013, says the current committee chairman, Dr. Jonathan Samet, professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Here’s a closer look at the scientific case against ozone.

What is ozone?

Ozone is the main component of smog and is created when certain volatile chemicals emitted from cars and factories react with sunlight. The ozone level in Southern California frequently is higher than the EPA standard, with the South Coast Air Basin out of compliance on 109 days last year, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

How is ozone harmful to health?

Ozone is a gas that you inhale with the surrounding air. It can cause irritation and inflammation of the airways as well as coughing and shortness of breath. These effects depend on the concentration of ozone in the air you’re breathing, how rapidly and deeply you’re breathing and your own sensitivity to the pollutant.

Researchers have documented wide variability in people’s symptoms when they are exposed to controlled levels of ozone. These experiments usually have young, healthy nonsmokers breathing high concentrations of ozone — greater than 80 ppb and sometimes as high as 120 ppb — for six to eight hours. Subjects spend up to half of that time exercising, forcing them to inhale more of the pollutant.

The EPA panel said it was a “scientific certainty” that under these conditions, ozone decreases lung function (as measured by the amount of air a person breathes out when exhaling as hard as possible). The decline, of at least 10%, may sound small, but it is considered “clinically relevant,” according to the American Thoracic Society. Even when ozone levels were only 60 ppb, one study found that two out of 30 healthy subjects had at least a 10% decrease in lung function and six others showed symptoms of respiratory distress. That report was published in 2006 in the journal Inhalation Toxicology.

Who is most at risk?

The problem worsens for certain groups of people, notably children, seniors and those with asthma or other respiratory health issues.

* * *

What are the public health consequences of having too much ozone?

Researchers in real-world settings have correlated ozone-level spikes to increased mortality and greater numbers of emergency room visits for respiratory problems.

For example, Delfino and his colleagues studied more than 23,000 emergency room admissions at 25 Montreal hospitals in the summer of 1993. They found that on days after the ozone level was at or above the average of 36 ppb, the number of older patients with respiratory symptoms who came to the ER jumped by 21%. However, ER visits for patients younger than 64 with respiratory symptoms or for patients with other kinds of health problems did not vary with ozone level. The results were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“Hundreds of similar studies have been done throughout the world,” Delfino says.

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From Associated Press:

In a dramatic reversal, President Barack Obama on Friday scrubbed a clean-air regulation that aimed to reduce health-threatening smog, yielding to bitterly protesting businesses and congressional Republicans who complained the rule would kill jobs in America’s ailing economy.

Withdrawal of the proposed regulation marked the latest in a string of retreats by the president in the face of GOP opposition, and it drew quick criticism from liberals. Environmentalists, a key Obama constituency, accused him of caving to corporate polluters, and the American Lung Association threatened to restart the legal action it had begun against rules proposed by President George W. Bush.

The White House has been under heavy pressure from GOP lawmakers and major industries, which have slammed the stricter standard as an unnecessary jobs killer. The Environmental Protection Agency, whose scientific advisers favored the tighter limits, had predicted the proposed change would cost up to $90 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive environmental regulations ever imposed in the U.S.

However, the Clean Air Act bars the EPA from considering the costs of complying when setting public health standards.

Obama said his decision was made in part to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty at a time of rampant questions about the strength of the U.S. economy.

Underscoring the economic concerns: a new report Friday that showed the economy essentially adding no jobs in August and the unemployment rate stubbornly stuck at 9.1 percent.

The regulation would have reduced concentrations of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, a powerful lung irritant that can cause asthma and other lung ailments. Smog is created when emissions from cars, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight and heat.

Republican lawmakers, already emboldened by Obama’s concessions on extending Bush-era tax cuts and his agreement to more than $1 trillion in spending reductions as the price for raising the nation’s debt ceiling, had pledged to try to block the stricter smog standards as well as other EPA regulations when they returned to Washington after Labor Day.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had muted praise for the White House Friday, saying that withdrawal of the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

“But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats’ agenda of tax hikes, more government ‘stimulus’ spending and increased regulations, which are all making it harder to create more American jobs,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the move was “an enormous victory for America’s job creators, the right decision by the president and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses.”

White House officials said the president’s decision was not the product of industry pressure, and they said the administration would continue to fight other efforts by Republicans to dismantle the EPA’s authority.

But that was little consolation for many of the president’s supporters. The group MoveOn.org issued a scathing statement, saying Obama’s decision was one it would have expected from his Republican predecessor.

“Many MoveOn members are wondering today how they can ever work for President Obama’s re-election, or make the case for him to their neighbors, when he does something like this, after extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and giving in to tea party demands on the debt deal,” said Justin Ruben, the group’s executive director.

The American Lung Association, which had sued the EPA over Bush’s smog standards, said it would resume its legal fight now that Obama was essentially endorsing the weaker limit. The group had suspended its lawsuit after the Obama administration pledged to change it.

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From Green (New York Times Blog):

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP sought and obtained permission to use dispersants, detergent-like compounds, to break up the 200 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude, into tiny droplets that would mix throughout the water column, trying to lessen the immediate impact of the oil slick on fragile coastal ecosystems.

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A review has now been published by Earthjustice, in collaboration with Toxipedia, an online toxicology Wiki, of all the scientific literature concerning the potential health impacts of these 57 chemicals. The report finds that “Of the 57 ingredients: 5 chemicals are associated with cancer; 33 are associated with skin irritation from rashes to burns; 33 are linked to eye irritation; 11 are or are suspected of being potential respiratory toxins or irritants; 10 are suspected kidney toxins; 8 are suspected or known to be toxic to aquatic organisms; and 5 are suspected to have a moderate acute toxicity to fish.”

While words like “associated with” or “linked to” may sound weak and unconvincing, the syntax highlights just how little is actually known about these chemicals. For 13 of the dispersant ingredients, no relevant data could be found.

“BP had a particular set of dispersants on hand and no one at the time seemed to know if they were safe, whether they were safer than other dispersants products that could be used or even whether they were safer for people and the environment than oil alone,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer with Earthjustice. “BP chose Corexit because it was the dispersant on hand, not because it was the safest. However, regulation of dispersants is so inadequate that BP didn’t have enough information to figure out how it compared with other dispersants or oil alone.”

Nick Thorp, a project manager at Toxipedia, said:

There is just not a lot known about these chemicals and their linkages to potential health impacts. More research is really necessary to determine what exposure levels are, and aren’t safe. Ideally these questions would have been answered before the dispersants were approved for use. We’re now backtracking trying to answer these questions, after the public and the environment have already been exposed.

Earthjustice is calling for “more research, greater disclosure of the information that is known, comprehensive toxicity testing, establishment of safety criteria for dispersants, and careful selection of the least toxic dispersants for application in oil spill response.”

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Download Complete Report: The Chaos Of Clean-Up

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Upstream contributor, Peggy Shepard is participating in the “Promoting Healthy Communities” Conference.  Here is the agenda.

PROMOTING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: Developing and Exploring Linkages Between Public Health Indicators, Exposure and Hazard Data

Grand Hyatt Washington
1000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Monday, September 26 – Tuesday, September 27, 2011
DRAFT AGENDA

Print Version (PDF) (4 pp, 36 K)

See conference schedule under the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

From Melbourne Florida Today:

Nearly 1,600 children age 5 and younger live close enough to an airport in Brevard County to be at risk from leaded gasoline used by small piston planes and helicopters.

With the release of a new study from Duke University and other research identifying 1 kilometer, about 0.6 miles, as a significant threshold for health risks from lead, FLORIDA TODAY examined local data to gauge the potential lead threat to Space Coast residents. The threat is especially dangerous for young children, who suffer most from exposure to lead.

The newspaper analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Census and Brevard County housing numbers found:

  • About 13,480 homes and 25 schools, including eight elementary schools and seven day care centers are within the at-risk zone of an airport, heliport or private airstrip. Given Brevard’s average of 2.4 residents per household, an estimated 32,350 people live within that threshold distance.
  • Brevard’s 20 aviation facilities emitted 1.3 tons of lead in 2008, the most recent data available. Forty percent, or 1,043 pounds, came from Melbourne International, ranking it 52nd highest for lead emissions among the nation’s 20,000 aviation facilities.
  • 3,500 homes, or about 8,400 people, are within that threshold of Melbourne International Airport.”I’m concerned about it,” said Andrea Cattaneo, a mother of two whose home on Bridle Path in Hacienda Estates is less than a half-mile from Melbourne International. “You get that black dust. I’m constantly washing off my back porch.”

To protect her sons, Nicholas, 6, and Jack, 9, she makes sure to change out her air-conditioning filter regularly to capture any air pollutants from planes. But she still worries how lead and other air pollution might affect her family, especially as the airport expands.

“It’s really in those early years that lead can make an impact on children’s intelligence levels,” said Rebecca Anthopolos, a statistical analyst at Duke who co-authored the study on lead exposure from leaded aviation gasoline published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The researchers found lead-blood levels increase significantly in children who live near an airport.

No level of lead exposure is accepted as safe, according to the EPA, and the agency has found serious health effects at much lower levels in blood than previously thought. The agency is considering a phase-out of lead from general aviation gasoline, called avgas, but has set no timeline.

In May, Friends of the Earth, a California-based environmental group, notified the EPA it plans to sue the agency to force a timeline.

But industry officials say there is no viable substitute for lead as an octane booster. Forcing more expensive alternative fuels too soon could batter a $150 billion industry already in a tailspin from the recession, they say, as well as create safety concerns.

“Engines could literally disintegrate on you,” said Glenn Vera, director of Florida Institute of Technology aviation, which has 54 planes at Melbourne International Airport.

Conservation groups counter that industry and the EPA have delayed for decades and must commit to deadlines for a phaseout. They list Melbourne International among 32 airports nationwide — 13 of them in Florida — that are the worst lead offenders because of high general aviation traffic and proximity to homes, schools and low-income areas.

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Image by Boltron.

From Reuters:

Republicans, backed by wealthy conservative lobbyists, are determined to stop the EPA and what they see as an activist agenda that is costing jobs and hurting corporate profits.

“Right now for House Republicans one of their important rally cries is that EPA regulations are excessive and even abusive,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

After President Barack Obama’s push for a climate bill in Congress collapsed last year, the EPA was left as the last bastion of hope for his environmental policy.

This led the agency, ironically founded under the Republican administration of Richard Nixon in 1970, to pursue its environmental agenda vigorously. The EPA was considered a toothless tiger under the administration of George W. Bush.

Almost on par with government spending, Republicans galvanized around the issue, using every opportunity, such as congressional hearings, relentlessly to criticize EPA chief Lisa Jackson and stymie her agency’s efforts.

While Republicans face stiff opposition in any legislation to shackle the EPA from the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House, they do have a number of options, especially in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

And the party has proven adept at outflanking the often disunited Democrats on big issues.

House Republicans could move to cut EPA funding through the appropriations process or through deficit-cutting talks in November as required by the debt-ceiling agreement.

Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was picked by Republicans to be part of the 12-member congressional committee that will decide on cuts needed as part of the debt-ceiling agreement.

He could push hard for savings from the EPA’s budget as he has led the battle against its rules.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid recently said he sees no threat to the EPA from Upton’s presence on the super-committee.

“I would assume they will make a serious effort to cut back and apply pressure to cut back EPA regulatory activity as part of this budgetary process,” Stavins said.

“I don’t know if they’ll succeed. That will depend on what the Democratic response to that is.”

Representative Ed Whitfield, another leading Republican on energy policy issues, said that outside the debt talks his party will hammer away in hearings and through legislation on its themes that the EPA has been killing jobs and growth.

Whitfield said Democrats, especially those from energy-intensive states such as West Virginia and Ohio, should know it will be a major issue on the campaign trail.

“We want to keep passing things on the House side that would reverse things EPA is doing simply because we’d like to see those 23 Democratic senators up for reelection next year vote on some of this,” Whitfield said.

EPA ACTIONS INFLAME REPUBLICANS

Of the most contentious proposals, the EPA wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s major utilities. But the process has been delayed, in part, some suspect, by Republican pressure.

These rules could hit the bottom lines of such companies as American Electric Power and Duke Energy. Similar regulations are also planned for oil refineries.

In addition, the EPA has been struggling to complete a much-delayed rule on ozone pollution while also pushing new fuel-efficiency standards and measures to cut emissions from oil and gas drilling.

In protest, states and industry groups have slapped the EPA with multiple lawsuits, which could delay implementation of its rules and slow investment in energy-dependent industries.

CHOKING THE FUNDING

Republicans have tried a number of legislative moves to hamper the EPA. In April, the House passed a bill designed as a blanket ban on the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and sent it to the Senate, which voted 50-50 on it, falling short of the super-majority needed.

The House Interior-EPA spending bill introduced last month to cut funding to EPA programs is also pending.

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From Living On Earth (Bruce Gellerman):

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GELLERMAN: . . .Mossville, Louisiana is one of the most polluted places in the nation. More than a dozen industrial plants spew millions of pounds of toxic chemicals a year into the environment. When the federal government failed to act, residents of Mossville sued the U.S. for not protecting their environmental human rights. Last year, the community – mostly African American – caught a break when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made the historic decision to hear their case. Now, Mossville residents may have caught another legal break, as Living on Earth and Planet Harmony’s Ike Sriskandarajah reports.

SRISKANDARAJAH: Six years ago Christine Bennett made her first trip to her nation’s capital to file a human rights complaint against her government.

BENNETT: Being here in Washington DC, going to make a petition is one thing. But it’s whether or not we’re going to be heard is the most important thing. Will somebody do something about it or are we just wasting our time?

SRISKANDARAJAH: Bennett and her neighbors have been waiting a long time. The story of their rights not being protected goes back generations. Emancipated slaves settled the bayous of Mossville, Louisiana. They had land, but no voting rights to protect it. After World War 2, plastics companies found little resistance to building factories in these disenfranchised black neighborhoods. Fourteen of those petrochemical plants ring the town today.

BENNETT: I’m living where my grandparents lived and I am one of the fourth generations. But now the place that was once so beautiful and so clean is now a dump.

SRISKANDARAJAH: Each year the air is loaded with four million pounds of carcinogens, earning this place the nickname “Cancer Alley.” Government researchers have measured three times the national average of dioxin in the bodies of Mossville residents. They argue that there are no environmental justice laws on our books to protect America’s most vulnerable communities. So that’s the case they took to the Inter-American Commission, a last line of defense for human rights in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. Government fought this arguing that the U.S. has plenty of environmental laws that protect its citizens. But last year, in an interview with Living on Earth, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, seemed to agree with the people of Mossville.

JACKSON: I think the Mossville case is a really interesting one because what the petitioners argue as I understand it is in order to get heard is that they basically had to make the case that the laws of this country do not provide them an opportunity for redress. And it is true that at this point there are no environmental justice laws; there’s nothing on the books that gives us the ability to do it.

SRISKANDARAJAH: It was what the community of Mossville had been waiting to hear: A high-ranking Government official agreeing with the main argument in their case. Administrator Jackson is the first African American EPA head and she’s from Louisiana. Since she took the job, she has made environmental justice a priority of her agency. But even apparent support from Administrator Jackson didn’t put the human rights petition in the clear.

HARDEN: I think no one in Mossville operates under the assumption that everything will be great without struggle because that hasn’t been their experience.

SRISKANDARAJAH: That’s Monique Harden. She’s the lawyer for the people of Mossville and has been making the case that they have to go outside of the U.S. to resolve their human rights abuses. The State Department argues back that the citizens can still appeal within the American legal system. To Harden, Administrator Jackson’s comment seemed to bolster the Mossville case.

BENNETT: Her statement was just very positive and very affirming and so when we read a few months later the brief that was filed by the U.S. government countering that, we felt that, well, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing here because we’ve got the person in charge of environmental protection of the United States agreeing with the Mossville human rights petition and we’ve got others within the U.S. government saying, it isn’t so.

SRISKANDARAJAH: Harden included Jackson’s statement in briefs she filed to the Commission last March, but the government hasn’t responded. The EPA and the State Department both declined to talk to Living on Earth as well. So we asked someone who advises on environmental human rights cases what this means. Barbara Johnston is a Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, California. She says the government’s silence speaks volumes.

JOHNSTON: I think there’s a minor war occurring (laughs) with all sorts of skirmishes over where our priorities are, whether we are actually going to actually demonstrate that we are indeed a nation that has great and huge concern of environmental justice, especially in cases of demonstrated environmental racism versus our economic liability. Because if the U.S. comes out with a petition that acknowledges its liability in this particular case, there is a very, very, very, very long list of injured parties out there.

SRISKANDARAJAH: Which would make environmental justice a very, very, very expensive proposition. But environmental human rights lawyer Monique Harden says it may be expensive but that would be the cost of living in a society that values all citizens and neighborhoods equally.

HARDEN: What so often happens, in communities that are struggling for environmental justice, is that they’re in dialogue mode but there’s no remedy. And a favorable decision by the Commission would create a different paradigm for what governmental regulation of the environment should look like.

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From The Charleston Gazette:

Despite strong pressure from the coal industry and its political allies, the Obama administration on Thursday finalized new guidance aimed at reducing the environmental and public health impacts of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that “no or very few valley fills” would be approved under new guidance that EPA regional offices will now impose on state regulators for permits under the federal Clean Water Act.

EPA officials said the guidelines — being challenged in court and under fire from Congress — are needed because of a growing body of science that details devastating water quality impacts downstream of large-scale surface mines.

“The science holds up the actions they are taking 100 percent,” said Margaret Palmer, a University of Maryland biologist who has been studying mountaintop removal’s effects on streams and aquatic life. “It is blatant that the biodiversity is just decimated when you have these valley fills above streams.”

The new EPA guidance calls for tougher permit reviews, including more detailed studies of whether mining impacts can be avoided or reduced, new testing of potential toxic impacts of mining discharges, and tough limits on the increases in electrical conductivity, a crucial measure of water quality.

EPA said in a statement that the guidance would not block all mining permits, and cited three examples over the last two years when agency officials worked out acceptable deals with coal operators to approve new mining projects.

“Under this guidance, EPA will continue to work with other federal agencies, state, local communities, and companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s waters and people’s health,” said Nancy Stoner, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water. “We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and this guidance allows EPA to work with companies to meet that goal, based on the best science.”

In the 61-page guidance memo, EPA said that since 1992, more than 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled by Appalachian coal mining operations. EPA cited an ongoing rate of about 120 miles of streams per year being impacted.

“Further, while precise estimates are limited, the estimated scale of deforestation from existing Appalachian surface mining operations is greater in size than the state of Delaware, or 5,700 square kilometers, predicted to be affected by 2012,” the EPA guidance memo said. “The full cumulative effects of surface coal mining operations at this scope and scale are still largely unknown.”

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