Air

Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.

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Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.

DOE DATA SHOW NSR HAS LITTLE IMPACT ON PLANT EFFICIENCY, ACTIVISTS SAY

Environmentalists are claiming an Energy Department (DOE) chart showing that coal-fired power plants' energy efficiency has changed little since the mid-1960s undermines EPA and industry arguments that revising the new source review (NSR) air permit program will increase facilities' efficiency. "Old power plants don't change that much in terms of energy efficiency. That's what this document shows," one environmentalist says. "Any efficiency gains are pretty short term." The chart environmentalists are citing was prepared by DOE for EPA officials working...

WATCHDOG GROUPS RAMP UP FIGHT AGAINST INFORMATION QUALITY LAW

Environmentalists and other citizen groups are ramping up their efforts to fight the controversial data quality law, with one group calling for its repeal and another planning to push key legislators to seek a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the law's impact on EPA and other agencies' resources. The Center for Progressive Regulation (CPR) says in a recent letter to EPA and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) that a pending industry challenge of state ozone pollution control...

University Findings On Air Pollution And Drought May Prompt EPA Research

New university research that links drifting air pollutants to drought throughout the West could bolster calls within EPA's research office to study the growing body of scientific evidence linking this pollution to broader disruptions in weather patterns, agency sources say. Government officials say that if research suggesting weather patterns are at risk from transported air emissions is borne out, it could prompt EPA to propose more stringent pollution control measures than are called for in its proposal to curb long-range...

Utility Commissioners Urge EPA To Revise Air Rule To Encourage Renewables

State utility regulators are urging EPA to revise its proposal for controlling air pollution that drifts over state boundaries, calling on the agency to support more emission credits to new power plants that use renewable and efficient sources of energy, such as wind and cogeneration facilities. The argument is detailed in comments submitted by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) to EPA that support the agency's general approach to promoting efficient new sources of electricity generation in the...

Technology To Meet EPA NOx Rule May Pose Challenges For Utilities

A new emissions reduction technology known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) that utilities are effectively required to use in complying with nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards for the Eastern half of the country could create unintended air pollution. The problem surfaced last month when a major power company was forced to shut down some SCR units at an Indiana facility and could lead to greater emissions monitoring. One industry source says utilities are "on [their] way to installing hundreds of these...

SEC DOWNPLAYS CALL FOR PACT WITH EPA TO IMPROVE DISCLOSURE SCRUTINY

The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) appears to be resisting calls from congressional investigators to formalize a data-sharing agreement with EPA to improve its oversight of corporate environmental disclosure, according to EPA and SEC officials. A top EPA enforcement official says SEC scrutiny of corporate environmental disclosures is not a top priority for commission officials. SEC officials also told Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators that they see no need to improve the current data-sharing regime. "SEC officials said that they...

EPA, CARB REACH RECIPROCAL DEAL ON EMISSIONS VERIFICATION TESTING

EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that allows each agency to recognize the other's verification of emissions reductions from diesel retrofits and could significantly expand cleanup of existing diesel engines across the country, sources from EPA and CARB say. An EPA source says the June 1 agreement is significant because it gives "much-needed flexibility" to the retrofit industry. At the same time, the MOU provides states assurances that if they follow...

MEXICAN TRUCK CASE INCREASES STATES' MOBILE SOURCE CONTROL DUTIES

The Supreme Court's recent decision allowing Mexican trucks on U.S. roads could significantly increase motor vehicle emissions that states are required to limit, by making potentially sweeping changes to Clean Air Act transportation requirements that previously held both federal and state agencies responsible for the emissions, according to legal experts, states and environmentalists. The case has major implications for what are known as "conformity" requirements under the statute, which direct states to ensure that transportation emissions do not conflict with...

APPEALS COURT'S FOIA RULING MAY BOOST ACTIVISTS' ENERGY TASK FORCE SUIT

A recent ruling by a federal appeals court limiting the White House's executive privilege to withhold documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) may help environmentalists and the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch force Vice President Cheney to release records about his controversial energy task force. But any victory could be short-lived if the Supreme Court next month finds in favor of the vice president in a related case that will determine whether the administration can cite executive privilege...

EPA REVIVES MULTI-MEDIA MERCURY PLAN BUT CONFLICT MAY STALL RELEASE

EPA staff are considering ways to revive development of the agency's long-stalled multi-media strategy for addressing mercury pollution, with officials debating whether to advance the agency's earlier approach or make significant changes to the plan, EPA and other sources say. But sources outside EPA are not sure the agency will release the national strategy this year because some officials fear it could renew criticism of the Bush administration's controversial plan for controlling mercury emissions from power plants in an election...

FEINGOLD SEEKS PRESIDENT'S INTERVENTION IN EPA MERCURY RULE PROCESS

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is leading a group of 24 Democratic colleagues and one independent in asking President Bush to rein in his own staff who allegedly softened language in EPA's contentious mercury proposal. The letter is the second time in recent months that senators have weighed in on the mercury issue. In April, Feingold led an effort by 45 senators from both parties who wrote to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt asking him to withdraw the proposal. In response, EPA...

INDUSTRY RENEWS COMPLAINTS OVER EPA'S USE OF SECRET AIR QUALITY MODEL

Industry groups are restarting efforts to stop EPA from using a model that predicts how rule changes impact industrial fuel mix, again raising concerns that the model's underlying code is secret, or proprietary, so its results cannot be verified. The Industrial Energy Consumers Association (IECA) will likely complain about the model as the group awaits EPA's promised energy impact analysis of the Bush administration's proposed clean air interstate rule (CAIR), which it fears will encourage fuel switching, according to an...

STATES PURSUE REGIONAL EMISSIONS TRADING BEYOND PENDING EPA RULES

State organizations in the Northeast and the West are considering separate regional cap-and-trade initiatives for power plant emissions, which could supplement a proposed federal rule that covers only part of the country and which some states argue is not stringent enough. In both cases, the state groups are trying to bring pollution down to a level that allows them to meet existing federal standards. The potential regional plans indicate that many states see a need for additional controls even as...

EPA, INDUSTRY PROPOSE PLAN TO MEASURE IN-USE DIESEL EMISSIONS

EPA is taking comment on a long-awaited proposal to require engine manufacturers to conduct in-use emissions testing of heavy-duty diesel trucks. The plan stems from a 1998 consent decree between EPA and engine makers after the agency accused them of installing "defeat devices" that allowed trucks to pass emissions tests in the laboratory but circumvent the limits on the road. The June 3 proposal establishes a portable test to ensure that the trucks do not release emissions higher than EPA's...

ENGINE MAKERS TO CHALLENGE WAIVER FOR SOUTH COAST FLEET RULES

The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) is gearing up to contest plans by California's South Coast Air Quality Management District to seek a waiver from the Clean Air Act for its program regulating diesel fleets. The battle comes as the two entities are also disputing how to interpret the scope of a Supreme Court ruling that found the air district lacked authority to implement its diesel fleet rule, which requires public and privately owned fleets to replace their diesel vehicles with...

BOEHLERT VOWS TO PUSH CLEAN-DIESEL SCHOOL BUS BILL DESPITE SETBACKS

House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) is pushing to increase funding to help clean up diesel-fueled school buses after a failed attempt last week to pull the proposal from comprehensive energy legislation and move it as a stand-alone bill. A Boehlert aide says House leaders rejected all requests to break apart the stalled energy bill in advance of a June 15 House re-vote on the measure. This vote was originally scheduled for last week but was postponed because of...

UTAH UTILITY SEEKS PERMIT USING DISPUTED MODEL CRITICS SAY HURTS PARKS

A Utah power company is using a disputed air quality modeling technique first developed in North Dakota to justify its request to expand a facility without adding pollution controls. Utah is now the second state to employ the modeling approach that has stirred national controversy and prompted EPA modelers in nearly all the regions to caution that the method could potentially underestimate pollution near wilderness areas. Officials in EPA Region VIII -- which includes both Utah and North Dakota --...

EPA PLAN TO ALLOW CROP BURNING IN IDAHO MAY THWART GROUPS' AIR SUIT

EPA's proposed approval of changes to Idaho's air quality strategy allowing farmers to burn grass fields after a harvest could make it more difficult for environmentalists to challenge the air quality impacts of these open burns, even though these groups argue the fires have major public health impacts. But environmental and public health groups are still pursuing other legal arguments to restrict crop burning in the state. Earlier this month, EPA published a Federal Register notice announcing its intent to...

BUSH ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS CUTS TO NOAA CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAMS

The Bush administration is defending significant funding cuts to climate change research programs sought in fiscal year 2005 by the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), saying that its efforts to address uncertainty surrounding the risks of climate change are more robust than any previous administration. But the proposed funding cuts, which must be approved by congressional appropriators, are drawing scathing criticisms from environmentalists and researchers who charge that the administration is simply ignoring climate change because it does not...

EIA FINDS NEWEST MCCAIN-LIEBERMAN BILL LOWERS COSTS, ADDS FLEXIBILITY

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), a branch of the Department of Energy, last week released a first-time analysis of a scaled-back version of the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill the senators prepared ahead of the failed vote on the measure last year. The report, prepared at the request of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), found the changes to the bill reduce near-term costs and add flexibility. Landrieu sought the revised analysis in May in response to speculation that the bill would soon...

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