On Monday, Feb. 6, 16 states and numerous power companies that oppose new pollution-reduction rules must file their petitions with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In response to their initial suit, the court granted a motion to temporarily “stay,” or halt, the implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or smog pollution rule, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated last summer. These “good neighbor” pollution-reduction standards will require power plants to slash their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution. These substances are the key ingredients in acid rain and smog, and they can travel hundreds of miles and contaminate other states.
Once implemented the rule will annually save thousands of lives and prevent thousands of illnesses. Not surprisingly, the 16 states that sued EPA to block these rules include 7 of the 10 highest-polluting states in the country. And their governors and attorneys general, who decide whether to file a lawsuit to stop these safeguards, received a combined $5 million in campaign contributions from big utilities and coal companies that benefit from higher-pollution levels.
This column reviews the rule and its benefits as well as the efforts of utilities and coal companies to block it so they can avoid or postpone investments in cleanup technology. EPA analysis demonstrates that the law’s benefits to public health and the environment are much greater than its costs. These governors and attorneys general should support EPA’s efforts to protect the residents of their states and people downwind from premature death, asthma attacks, and other respiratory ailments instead of bending to the will of dirty-money donors.
These safeguards protect neighboring states
The EPA’s new rules will address a major public-health threat, annually curbing millions of pounds of air pollution from power plants that travel downwind and across the country. An interactive EPA map shows that pollution doesn’t stop at state borders, which is why the agency is acting to reduce air pollution that drifts across state lines.
EPA’s map helps viewers connect the dots. When the cursor is placed over Michigan, for example, one can see that emissions from six different states travel into the state, causing air-pollution readings above the national threshold level for public-health standards. The map also shows that pollution from Michigan travels all the way to Virginia, diminishing the latter’s air quality.
The EPA estimates these rules with produce significant air-quality benefits. By 2014 the rules will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from 2005 levels. Nitrogen oxide emissions will drop by 54 percent.
This improvement in air quality will result in $120 billion to $280 billion in annual benefits, including preventing up to 34,000 premature deaths and avoiding 858,000 other health problems annually that are linked to this pollution, as outlined in the table below.
When final safeguards were first announced in July 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson commented on how the law helps Americans:
No community should have to bear the burden of another community's polluters, or be powerless to prevent air pollution that leads to asthma, heart attacks and other harmful illnesses. These Clean Air Act safeguards will help protect the health of millions of Americans and save lives by preventing smog and soot pollution from traveling hundreds of miles and contaminating the air they breathe.
Many utilities have already begun to invest in pollution-control technologies, such as scrubbers, to comply with the Clean Air Interstate Rules (CAIR) from 2005. It was struck down by federal court in 2008, so EPA revamped the measures that became the cross-state rules. These CAIR investments were an estimated $1.6 billion per year.
Compliance with the cross-state rules will cost $800 million annually beginning in 2014. Meanwhile, they will generate $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health benefits. According to EPA data the benefits from the improved rule are estimated to outweigh the costs by a ratio of at least 50-to-1, and as much as 115-to-1.
The aforementioned economic benefits are also a very conservative estimate because they do not include qualified estimates of other benefits from pollution reductions. For instance, lower pollution levels will increase agriculture crop and commercial forest yields, improve visibility in state and national parks, and increase protection from acid rain for sensitive ecosystems including Adirondack lakes, Appalachian streams, and coastal waters.
Stay means delay of health protection
The stay of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will last until at least April 13 when the states’ cases against the rule will be heard, but it could continue much longer. This setback unfortunately hinders vital reductions in air pollution from power plants, prolonging poor air quality for 240 million Americans in 27 eastern states.
A long list of plaintiffs sought this timeout on health protection, including 16 states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Another 12 states affected by the rule are not trying to stop it. It’s no coincidence that the suing states are responsible for more than 90 percent of the nation’s total sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide air pollution from power plants, which the law aims to reduce.
Big-polluting states are harping on costs associated with pollution-control technology rather than acknowledging the much greater economic benefits from public health that their own residents will enjoy as a result of the EPA rule. Smog and ozone pollution in the suing states—and the 12 other states that will be regulated by the EPA rule—are polluting communities hundreds of miles away as well as directly fouling their own backyards.
Not all 28 affected states oppose this rule, however. Three of the polluting states—Illinois, New York, and North Carolina—joined EPA in support of these safeguards. These three states emit more than a billion pounds of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere each year, compared to the 8 billion pounds shot into the skies by the recalcitrant states.
These three states, along with the additional nine states uninvolved in the litigation, are not undermining these new health safeguards. Instead, they plan to take responsibility for the pollution imposed on their residents and neighboring states.
Roughly half of the people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthful levels of ozone-smog pollution. Based on American Lung Association rankings, 11 of the metropolitan areas with the highest particle pollution, and 12 of the metropolitan areas with the highest ozone-pollution levels reside in suing states.
Texas—the number one state for ozone pollution—had one of the worst air-quality years in its history for 2011, as high levels of pollution combined with record summer heat. Many of the state’s major metropolitan areas—including Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and even the small city of Waco—exceeded federal limits on ozone pollution last year, inflicting hazards to respiratory health on those who live there.
The Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area is ranked 14th for high levels of ozone pollution and the area houses 7.5 million people. These people, along with 50 percent of the country, live in areas where the air can be dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, and even to kill.
Dirty-money donors demand delays
Many of the utilities and coal companies responsible for this deadly air pollution oppose the cross-state rules because they make more money with uncontrolled pollution than by investing funds in cleanup equipment and practices.
These companies therefore donate campaign contributions to the governors and attorneys general in these states who can decide whether to file a lawsuit to stop these safeguards. A review of donations records by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that the governors and attorneys general in these 16 plaintiff states received almost $5 million in campaign contributions from these companies during campaigns for their current office. (see table) See attached spreadsheet for CAPAF analysis of state breakdown by government officials.
As the chart shows, high campaign contributions occur in litigating states with high pollution. The top three ozone-polluting states—Indiana, Ohio, and Texas—also had governors and attorneys general with three of the four highest campaign contributions from utilities and coal companies, racking up a little over $3 million. There’s little doubt that the leaders in these states support dismantling EPA regulations as money pours in from polluters each election season.
But instead of echoing their dirty donors in opposition to these vital health safeguards, these governors and attorneys general should support EPA’s efforts to protect the residents of their states and others from premature death, asthma attacks, and other respiratory ailments.
Pollution safeguards enjoy wide support
Voters from both political parties and in all regions of the country are singing a different tune than these states. They support the EPA’s regulatory authority to determine air-pollution standards, a poll from October 2011 reveals.
Ceres and the University of Massachusetts conducted a bipartisan poll to gauge voters’ feelings nationwide about EPA’s cross-state air-pollution and mercury-toxics rules. Two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) oppose delayed implementation of the air-pollution rules and trust EPA, not politicians, to get the job done. This includes support from 62 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of independents surveyed.
States need to stand up to dirty utilities and protect public health
Every month of delay in the implementation of the cross-state good neighbor air-pollution rules will allow 2,000 more unnecessary deaths. The judicial stay and lawsuit also prolongs uncertainty about the final rules (login required), which makes it harder and more expensive for power plants to comply with them. The sooner states’ legal challenges to these rules are settled, the sooner power plants can invest in pollution control and clean up the air.
States should emerge as leaders in this fight, choosing public health through improved air quality instead of succumbing to the influence from big utility and coal campaign cash. Americans certainly agree.
For more information, click here.
Environmental and public health groups announced their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court Jan. 18 to force the release of long awaited public health safeguards against toxic coal ash. The EPA has delayed the first-ever federal protections for coal ash for nearly two years despite more evidence of leaking ponds, poisoned groundwater supplies and threats to public health.
Earthjustice, on behalf of Appalachian Voices (N.C.), Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Md.), Environmental Integrity Project, French Broad Riverkeeper (N.C.), Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (Ky.), Moapa band of Paiutes (Nev.), Montana Environmental Information Center (Mont.), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network (Ill.), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (Tenn.), sent the EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The law requires the EPA to ensure that safeguards are regularly updated to address threats posed by wastes. However, the EPA has never undertaken any action to ensure safeguards address the known threats posed by coal ash, a toxic mix of arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury, selenium, cadmium and other dangerous pollutants that result from burning coal at coal-fired power plants.
A copy of the Notice of Intent to Sue letter sent to the EPA is available here.
Following a spill of more than a billion gallons of coal ash at a disposal pond in Harriman, Tenn., in December 2008, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced in 2009 plans to set federal coal ash regulations by year’s end. In May 2010, the EPA proposed a hybrid regulation to classify coal ash either as hazardous or non-hazardous waste. After eight public hearings across the country and more than 450,000 public comments, the agency decided to delay finalizing the rule amid intense pressure from the coal and power industries.
The following video shows the devastating results of the Harriman, Tennessee coal ash spill:
Despite numerous studies showing the inadequacy of current federal coal ash safeguards to protect public health and the environment as well as documented evidence by the EPA and environmental groups showing coal ash poisoned aquifers and surface waters at 150 sites in 36 states, the EPA continues to fail to adopt federal safeguards. The Jan. 18 lawsuit would force the EPA to set deadlines for review and revision of relevant solid and hazardous waste regulations to address coal ash, as well as the much needed and overdue changes to the test that determines whether a waste is hazardous under RCRA.
“Politics and pressure from corporate lobbyists are delaying much needed health protections from coal ash,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. “The law states that the EPA should protect citizens who are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in their drinking water from coal ash. As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace.”
“It’s well past time for the EPA to do something about this hazardous waste,” said Anne Hedges, program director of the Montana Environmental Information Center. “Our biggest coal ash ponds in Montana are leaking and have been leaking for decades.”
“For far too long the Tennessee Valley Authority has been allowed to ignore the dangers of coal ash, resulting in the 2008 Kingston disaster, one of the worst environmental catastrophes of our time,” said Josh Galperin, policy analyst and research attorney for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Despite the lessons of Kingston and an explicit congressional mandate, coal ash continues to be unregulated by the EPA. We are taking action today to drive EPA to follow-through on its legal duty to protect Americans from this toxic waste.”
“Data on groundwater at coal ash disposal sites is now available, and the results in Illinois and many other states are grim,” said Traci Barkley, water resources scientist with Prairie Rivers Network. “State regulators found high levels of coal ash pollutants in groundwater at all 22 sites in our state. Seeing that our state’s rules have not protected our residents and our clean water, we need to know that the EPA will get the job done.”
“Right now our organization is involved in several lawsuits against old, leaking coal ash landfills in Maryland,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, staff attorney with Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Dangerous coal ash is leaching into waterways that hurt the Chesapeake Bay and could be threatening the health of Maryland citizens. The EPA has a responsibility to issue a uniform, strong rule to address coal ash so groups like ours don’t have to fight to clean them up, facility by facility, at the state level.”
“With a state legislature bent on weakening the ability to protect public health, North Carolinians are calling on the EPA to demonstrate political leadership by providing strong and consistent federal guidelines for coal ash disposal and storage,” said Sandra Diaz, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
“With many coal ash dumps located in populated areas, the public depends on the EPA to do everything possible to protect our health and keep our communities safe,” said Mary Love, member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “We need strong standards so we can not only clean up communities that have already been poisoned but make sure these toxic chemicals never again leak into our homes and communities.”
“The EPA promised to set standards for coal ash disposal sites more than a decade ago,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director at Environmental Integrity Project. “Are we going to have to wait for another disaster before EPA finally keeps that promise?”
“The toxic threat that coal ash poses to human health is severe,” said Dr. Maureen McCue, MD, PhD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Coal ash contains contaminants that can cause cancer and can damage the intestines, liver, kidney, lungs, heart, peripheral nervous system and brain. It’s unthinkable that the EPA allows this toxic stew to get into drinking water. It doesn’t get much dirtier than this.”
“Our children are losing more than their health because of the power plants; they’re losing their culture, too,” said William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes in southeastern Nevada. “We used to hunt ducks and geese on our land—but no longer. The birds land in the coal wastewater ponds. We used to harvest medicinal plants, but not anymore. The plants have been contaminated over the years by the plant’s coal ash dust, soot and other pollutants.”
“Two of the nation's 49 high hazard coal ash dams sit on the banks of the French Broad River. These ponds pose a looming threat to the health and safety of the surrounding community, as well as the French Broad River,” said Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper. “The dams also hold back toxic coal ash that pollutes the groundwater and surface water every day. It is time for the EPA to act to protect the French Broad River and the hundreds of similarly impacted rivers and communities around the country.”
“The EPA must act and they must act soon,” said Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “Millions of tons of toxic waste from coal plants—coal ash containing arsenic, lead, mercury and other dangerous pollution—are dumped across the country each year, often without basic safety protections. Even though the EPA has identified more than four dozen highly dangerous coal ash sites around the country they have still failed to safeguard the health and well being of those living near the dumping grounds. We urge the EPA to take definitive action to protect American families and communities.”
For more information, click here.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
On Jan. 10, President Obama applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) work to protect the environment and human health. As Republicans ramp up attacks on federal oversight of the natural environment in order to gain influence in the Republican primaries, President Obama's speech praises the EPA's work while attacking the notion that vital environmental regulations stand in the way of a robust economy.
Read the complete transcript of President Obama's speech below:
Thank you! Thank you, EPA! (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. It is wonderful to see you. It is great to see you. Thank you, thank you.
Now, everybody can have a seat. I know Lisa is making you guys all stand up. (Laughter.) But you can all relax.
It is wonderful to be here with all of you. Thank you so much for all the great work you do. I want to first acknowledge your outstanding Administrator, Lisa Jackson. (Applause.) She has done an extraordinary job leading this agency. But here’s what I want all of you to know: Not only is she good on policy, not only is she tough and able to present the EPA’s mission so effectively to the public, but she also has your back. (Applause.) She is an advocate on behalf of all the people who work so hard here at the EPA. And so you should know that your boss loves you, even if she doesn’t always show it, I don’t know. (Laughter.)
The main reason I’m here is simple: I just want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, because the EPA touches on the lives of every single American every single day. You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe. You protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving towards energy independence.
And it is a vital mission. Over the past three years, because of your hard work, we’ve made historic progress on all these fronts. Just a few weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of so many of you, Lisa and I was able to announce new common-sense standards to better protect the air we breathe from mercury and other harmful air pollution. And that was a big deal. (Applause.) And part of the reason it was a big deal was because, for over 20 years, special interest groups had successfully delayed implementing these standards when it came to our nation’s power plants. And what we said was: “Enough.” It’s time to get this done.
And because we acted, we’re going to prevent thousands of premature deaths, thousands of heart attacks and cases of childhood asthma.
There are families that are going to be directly impacted in a positive way because of the work that you do. Because you kept fighting—and some of you have been fighting this fight for a long time, long before I was here and long before Lisa was here. And so your tenacity and stick-to-itness is making a difference.
Because of you, across the board, we’re cutting down on acid rain and air pollution. We’re making our drinking water cleaner and safer. We’re creating healthier communities. But that’s not all. Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy. I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way. I think that is a false debate. (Applause.)
Think about it—We established new fuel economy standards, a historic accomplishment that is going to slash oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels, dramatically reduces pollution that contributes to climate change, and saves consumers thousands of dollars at the pump, which they can then go spend on something else.
As part of the Recovery Act, you cleaned up contaminated sites across the country, which helped to rid neighborhoods of environmental blight while putting Americans back to work.
We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America. That’s part of our mission.
When we put in place new common-sense rules to reduce air pollution, we create new jobs building and installing all sorts of pollution-control technology. When we put in place new emissions standards for our vehicles, we make sure that the cars of tomorrow are going to be built right here in the United States of America, that we’re going to win that race.
When we clean up our nation’s waterways, we generate more tourists for our local communities. So what’s good for the environment can also be good for our economy.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be some tensions. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be legitimate debates that take place. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important for every single one of us to think about how can we make sure that we are achieving our goals in the smartest way possible, in the most efficient ways possible, in the least bureaucratic ways possible, in the clearest ways possible. That’s also part of our mission.
There’s not a federal agency that can’t get better and be smarter in accomplishing our mission, and we have an obligation every single day to think about how can we do our business a little bit better. How can we make sure the taxpayers are getting every dime’s worth that they’re paying in order to achieve these important common goals that we have?
But I believe we can do it, and you’ve shown me that we can do it over these last three years. So I could not be prouder of the work that you all do every single day as federal employees. I know the hours can be long. I know that sometimes spending time getting these policies right means less time at home than you’d like, and you’re missing birthday parties, or you’re missing a soccer game, and the spouse is not happy with you. I know a little bit about that sometimes. (Laughter.) I know these jobs are demanding.
But I also know what compelled you to enter public service in the first place—and that’s the idea that you could make a difference; that you could leave behind a planet that is a little cleaner, a little safer than the one we inherited.
And I have to tell you that part of why I get excited when I see some of the work that you’re doing is because our next generation is so much more attuned to these issues than I was when I was growing up. I can tell you when I sit down and I talk to my kids, probably the area where they have the most sophisticated understanding of policy is when it comes to the environment. They understand that the decisions we make now are going to have an impact on their lives for many years to come. And their instincts are right. So your mission is vital.
And just think of what this agency has been able to do over the last four decades. There’s so many things we now take for granted. When I hear folks grumbling about environmental policy, you almost want to do a Back to the Future—(laughter)—kind of reminder of folks of what happens when we didn’t have a strong EPA. The year before President Nixon created the EPA, the Cuyahoga River was so dirty from industrial pollution and oil slicks that it literally caught on fire. In my hometown, the Chicago River—you probably could not find anything alive in there—(laughter)—four decades ago. Now it’s thriving—to the benefit of the city. Today, because of your work, 92 percent of Americans have access to clean water that meets our national health standards.
Before the EPA was created, our cars were spewing harmful lead pollution into the air, with all sorts of impacts, especially on children. Today, because of your work, air pollution is down by more than half, and lead pollution is down more than 90 percent from a generation ago.
So all of you, and all of those who served before you, have made a difference. Our environment is safer because of you. Our country is stronger because of you. Our future is brighter because of you. And I want you to know that you’ve got a President who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world. (Applause.)
So, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
For more information, click here.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final rules Dec. 21 to regulate emissions of mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants from coal and oil-fired power plants—regulations the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) called “more than reasonable, even if too long in coming.”
The Mercury and Air Toxics regulations will limit hazardous pollutants that contaminate the air and water and cause severe health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, and even premature death.
“Congress ordered the EPA to regulate toxic air pollution more than 20 years ago when it passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990,” said Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist at UCS. “The EPA has been regulating most industries, up until now, except for the biggest polluters—coal and oil-fired power plants.
“The public health benefits far outweigh the costs,” said Cleetus. “And contrary to the doomsday predictions of industry and their allies in Congress, the lights will stay on.”
The emissions limits are already being met by the best performing power plants. Utilities will have a sufficient time to comply by installing existing, cost-effective pollution controls. The rules—as with other EPA rules—allow for case-by-case extensions where necessary to ensure that reliability is maintained.
“In some instances, power companies will make the economic choice to retire the oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient power plants, most of which were built before the Beatles announced their breakup in 1970,” said Cleetus.
There is enough excess capacity in the system, mainly from natural gas plants that are currently being run at less than full capacity, to meet immediate U.S. energy needs and keep the lights on. New natural gas plants, greater deployment of demand-side management and energy efficiency, and the continued rapid growth of renewable energy technologies can also affordably replace coal plants over time and contribute to a cleaner, reliable energy system.
UCS supports a timely independent system-by-system analysis to identify and address any reliability impacts that may occur.
“We already have the systems, tools and institutions in place to deal with any isolated reliability problems that might arise,” said Ellen Vancko, a former North American Electric Reliability Corporation official and reliability expert at UCS. “EPA rules have never caused the lights to go out and these rules will be no exception.”
According to studies by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Congressional Research Service, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, along with leading industry experts, such as MJ Bradley & Associates and the Analysis Group, and the country’s largest regional transmission organization, PJM Interconnection, the rules do not threaten overall system reliability, and existing planning and coordination procedures can handle any localized concerns.
Forward-thinking companies already have taken steps to clean up their power plants and prepare for these rules. According to the MJ Bradley report, “Companies representing half of the nation’s coal-fired generating capacity—11 out of the top 15 largest coal fleet owners in the U.S.—have indicated that they are well positioned to comply with EPA’s clean air rules because of early investments in their generating fleets.”
“It’s time for companies that have delayed cleaning up their coal plants to stop hiding behind a reliability smoke screen,” said Vancko. “The industry knows how to do this. EPA has repeatedly stated that it will work with industry stakeholders and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure grid stability.”
The commission has already initiated a process to elicit views from power companies, regional reliability organizations, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, state regulators, and others to identify any areas of specific concern and develop a plan to address them. If such challenges emerge, the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the flexibility to bring sources into compliance while maintaining electric reliability.
“The bottom line is that the sky-is-falling narrative is just not credible,” said Cleetus. “We don’t have to choose between public health and a reliable electric system.”
For more information, click here.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Retired National Football League (NFL) legend Jerome Bettis met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Dec. 15, before meeting with members of Congress on behalf of the Clean Air Council (CAC) to advocate for the EPA’s clean air rules. Bettis, an asthmatic, was joined by Katie Feeney, policy analyst at CAC, to discuss the health benefits of clean air in advance of the release of EPA’s Utility MACT, or Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, expected to be issued in the next few days. The rule, which would require the first nationwide reductions of hazardous emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases from coal-fired power plants, would save up to 17,000 lives and prevent 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma a year, according to the EPA.
Mr. Bettis, nicknamed “The Bus,” urged that no delay or legislation be passed to prevent the lifesaving rule from going into effect. He will be meeting with:
- EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
- Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA)
- Congressman John Dingell (D-MI)
- Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA)
“I am excited to join the Clean Air Council, whose mission is to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air, in meeting with elected officials to talk about an issue that I am so personally connected to,” said Jerome Bettis. “I’ve been involved with asthma education for a number of years. When I learned how vital the clean air rules are to people’s health, and realized how polluted air exacerbates my asthma, I knew I had to speak out. The Toxics Rule will save thousands of lives, including the lives of children, across the country. I can’t imagine a more worthy cause.”
According to the EPA, the rule will also avoid 12,000 hospital visits, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 220,000 cases of respiratory symptoms and 850,000 days when people miss work annually. In Bettis’ native Michigan, 1,056 pollution-related deaths, 487 hospital admissions and 1,097 heart attacks will be avoided through the implementation of EPA’s clean air rules. In his adopted home state of Pennsylvania, the numbers are even more staggering, with 2,510 pollution-related deaths, 1,016 hospital admissions and 2,298 heart attacks being avoided.
Bettis was diagnosed with asthma at 15, and has struggled with it ever since, including suffering from a traumatic life-threatening attack during a nationally televised game in 1997. He was an active advocate for asthma awareness during his playing career and continues to speak out about the issue. In particular, he has focused on helping children who have asthma learn to cope with it.
Dirty air leads to severe medical issues, including hundreds of premature deaths annually caused by heart, respiratory and lung problems. For those with asthma and other respiratory problems—who already experience breathing difficulty—high ozone days can lead to further respiratory distress, and even hospitalization. On ozone action days the air can irritate the respiratory systems, causing symptoms such as coughing, throat irritation, and chest tightness. Lung function is reduced, air intake can feel strained, and breathing, especially outside, can become shallow, rapid and uncomfortable.
Despite the significant progress that has been made in reducing air emissions in the last 20 years, the American Lung Association says more than 175 million people—or nearly six out of 10 Americans—live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
“We’re thrilled and honored that Jerome Bettis has agreed to join with the Clean Air Council to advocate for the timely implementation of the Utility MACT,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq. of the Clean Air Council. “As an outspoken advocate for asthma awareness, he recognizes that this issue is important beyond the beltway—it is a living room issue that will benefit everyone, especially asthmatics.”
“My goal is for the members of Congress we meet with to understand just how important these rules are to people’s health, and that they need to be implemented as soon as possible,” concluded Bettis.
Bettis was joined by Feeney and Dr. Sue Tierney, managing principal at the Analysis Group and former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, at a press conference.
For more information, click here.
Clean Air Council is a member-supported, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws.
The Jerome Bettis “Bus Stops Here” Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization whose mission, is to improve the overall quality of life for troubled and underprivileged children by offering the opportunities to help them succeed in life. The Foundation believes that the first step towards self-sufficiency must consist of a strong moral foundation. On this foundation, self-esteem, responsibility, education and ultimately, employability are built. The Foundation’s contribution to youth consists primarily of providing a climate where they feel wanted and accepted by peers and adults and where they are assisted in acquiring and applying the skills related to meeting their goals. Through the hard work of the Foundation, we are presenting possibilities and creating opportunities. We are trying to change old perceptions to create a “right here, right now attitude”.
In the spring, the Obama administration released a national Clean Water Framework to demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams for clean water and public health. To solidify this commitment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers released draft guidance to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. This draft guidance restores protections to the small streams and wetlands that form our mighty rivers that have been put into question by two Supreme Court decisions by providing a consistent approach to determine what waters are protected from pollution and destruction under the Clean Water Act.
Here’s What You Can Do Right Now
Today, as protections for our rivers, lakes and streams are under attack in Congress, it is more important than ever to let the Obama administration know that you support clean water protections to keep your local waters safe enough to get your drinking water from and clean enough to fish and swim in. Tell @WhiteHouse to stand strong for clean water and to move forward to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act.
Here are the people who need to hear from you:
- White House Administration or @WhiteHouse
- Environmental Protection Division or @EPAgov
- Lisa Jackson EPA Administrator or @LisaPJackson
- US Army Corps of Engineers or @USACE_HQ
Go to their Facebook page to post a message on their wall. Customize your message to them. Tell them why it’s important to you that they protect your clean water. Note—your comments may not be publicly displayed on their Facebook page, depending upon the privacy settings they put on it.
Here are some sample posts you can use:
- Restoring protections for our rivers, lakes and streams by clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act is critical to the health of our nation’s rivers and the protection of our safe, clean drinking water supplies.
- Since the Clean Water Act went into effect nearly 40 years ago, the number of waters that are safe for swimming and fishing has doubled. Thanks for your commitment to restoring clean water protections.
- Protections for our rivers, lakes and streams are under attack in Congress. Stand strong for clean water.
- Clean water is the foundation of healthy communities and a healthy environment. Stand strong on clean water protections.
- Protect drinking water sources for 117 million Americans and stand strong on efforts to restore protections for small streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
- Our waters should be safe enough for swimming and fishing and safe enough to get our drinking water supplies from. Stand strong on clean water and move forward with efforts to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act.
Click the links to tweet the White House and the EPA. Customize your message to them and tell them why it’s important to you that they protect your clean water.
- Clean water is a vital natural resource we need support #ProtectCleanWater http://nyti.ms/sNmzyW
- 117 million Americans whose drinking water is at risk are counting on @WhiteHouse & @EPAgov fight to #ProtectCleanWater
- Clean water is a vital natural resource we need @WhiteHouse @EPAgov to #ProtectCleanWater http://nyti.ms/rCotHy
- Clean water is the foundation of healthy communities & a healthy environment. @WhiteHouse & @EPAgov #ProtectCleanWater
- #CleanWaterAct is under assault from the biggest polluters around. @WhiteHouse, we’re with you to #ProtectCleanWater
- Big #Coal would rather not #ProtectCleanWater. Show the @WhiteHouse you care about clean drinking water for ALL. Pls RT!
- For nearly 40 years, @EPAgov has worked to restore and #ProtectCleanWater. Let’s keep it that way!
- Those who enjoy the Nation’s waters for recreation, fishing or hunting understand the value to #ProtectCleanWater
Help spread the word by sharing on Twitter and Facebook to protect your right to clean water today.
For more information, click here.