Archive for the ‘EPA’ Category
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
February 17, 2011
From the Editors
Biomass, as everyone knows, is the clean, green alternative to nuclear power because it represents “young carbon” that was only recently taken out of the atmosphere. Therefore it came as a bit of a shock last week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levied two of the largest air-pollution fines in California history on a pair of biomass plants in the San Joaquin Valley.
â€¨â€¨“Global Ampersand of Boston was fined more than $800,000 for excess ozone-related emissions and other violations from biomass plants in Madera and Merced counties,” reports the Fresno Bee. Although the EPA did not disclose any figures, officials said that fines of nearly $1 million are rare in California. â€¨
Bought and refurbished with the latest technology in 2008, the Chowchilla Biomass Plant in Madera County and the Merced Power Plant near El Nido generate electricity by burning wood wastes collected from farms and cities. The EPA said both plants had emitted excess amounts of carbon monoxide and ozone-forming nitrous oxides over the last three years. The Valley has one of the worst ozone problems in the country. "Today’s enforcement actions are a victory for human health," Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator, told the Bee.â€¨
For the last five years the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group has been working with Areva to try to build a nuclear reactor to clean the air and provide electricity in the San Joaquin Valley. The effort has been blocked by California’s state ban on nuclear construction, although Fresno Congressman Devin Nunes is trying to overturn this at the federal level.â€¨
â€¨Meanwhile, according to the Bee, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, a state agency, will use its portion of the $800,000 fine to “fund programs helping residents buy electric lawnmowers or cleaner-burning wood stoves.” The home stoves will presumably burn cleaner than the highly engineered central biomass plants. The electricity to run the lawnmowers will come from . . . . oh well, don’t ask.
Read more about it at the Fresno Bee
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
February 2, 2011
From the Editors
Prospective President candidate Newt Gingrich wants to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency altogether and some people think he may have a point. More and more, the federal agency appears to be on the verge of regulatory proliferation.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal this week, the EPA has now decided to apply federal oil spill regulations adopted in the 1970s to dairy farms. The agency has discovered that milk contains “a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.” So does every human being on earth, but we’ll skip over that for now.
Based on this insight, the EPA will now require farmers to draw up emergency preparedness plans to deal with pending milk-spill catastrophes. “Among dozens of requirements, farmers must train first responders in cleanup protocol and build "containment facilities" such as dikes or berms to mitigate offshore dairy slicks,” reports the Journal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has a $3 million program in place “to help farmers and ranchers comply with on-farm oil spill regulations.” As the Journal comments, “You cannot make this stuff up.”
Remarkably, the EPA was originally hoping to extend its jurisdiction to design specifications for "milk containers and associated piping and appurtenances.” Unfortunately, it discovered, the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have already claimed jurisdiction.
The velocity of regulations flowing from the EPA are showing obvious symptoms of “regulation mania,” a condition that inevitably strikes people who spend many months and years sitting in bureaucratic offices in Washington. The prescribed treatment should involve long periods of rest and relaxation in a quiet, non-stressful environment outside-the-Washington-Beltway – say on a dairy farm.
Read more about it (subscription needed) at the Wall Street Journal
Friday, January 21st, 2011
January 21, 2011
Environmental activists showed they are not ready to back down in the face of a Republican House of Representatives by winning a decision in District of Columbia Federal Court to accelerate EPA regulation of air pollution against the EPA’s own wishes.
The EPA, which is already trying to tighten air regulations much faster than previous administrations, had asked for a 15-month delay in imposing a standard of “maximum achievable control technology” on industrial boilers around the country with regard to soot, mercury and other pollutants. The EPA had asked for more time to buttress its findings in preparation for court challenges. A coalition of environmental groups opposed the delay, however, by bringing suit in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The D.C. Court of Appeals has always been a favorite of environmental groups since it sits in Washington and is far removed from the influences of Industrial America.
The decision will put the EPA at a fork in the road with the new Republican House majority, particularly Fred Upton of Michigan, the new chairman of the energy and commerce committee. Upton has already singled out the so-called “MACT” standard as a “job-killing” measure.
Even the EPA said it regretted the judge’s decision. “The agency believes these changes still deserve further public review and comment and expects to solicit further comment through a reconsideration of the rules,” the agency said in a statement. Meanwhile, industry groups reacted with dismay. “[A]ll of industry, universities and district energy providers will have to spend tens of millions of dollars perhaps unnecessarily to prepare to meet the new standards,” said Bob Bessette, president of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners.
But for now environmental groups are in the driver’s seat. They are pushing the EPA towards an extremely high standard of regulation even faster than the EPA wants. It looks like the next battleground will be Capitol Hill.
Read more about it at The Hill
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
January 18, 2011
From the Editors
The President of the United States took his case to the public this morning with an editorial in The Wall Street Journal promising a “21st century regulatory system” that will couple health and safety concerns with economic growth.â€¨
â€¨“[T]hroughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance,” wrote the President. “We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.â€¨
â€¨“From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.”
â€¨While citing instances where regulation is needed, the President said “we are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.â€¨"
â€¨“For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.”â€¨
â€¨The editorial was part of on-going, post-election charm-offensive by the President to reach out to the business community and mend some fences in the wake of the health care battle and the EPA’s accelerating crackdown on all forms of pollution, including carbon emissions. Yet even the President’s one claim to regulatory improvement was met with skepticism. “The immediate claim of the article is disingenuous,” wrote Journal reader Ethan Farber in one of the 166 comments already posted early this morning. “Saccharine is classified as hazardous waste because it’s derived from coal slag. When we’re talking about this particular chemical being hazardous waste, we’re not talking about a few ounces of it getting spilled on a table, we’re talking about thousands of tons of it being spilled out in a vile pastiche of other coal-mining byproducts.”
â€¨â€¨Also left open was the question of whether the regulatory streamlining would lead to an improved business climate or simply more aggressive regulations. “One important example of this overall approach is the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks,” wrote the President. “When I took office, the country faced years of litigation and confusion because of conflicting rules set by Congress, federal regulators and states. The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard.” It sounds like the auto companies got outvoted.
For nuclear, of course, the big question will be: Can licensing procedures at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission be streamlined so that it doesn’t take the better part of a decade to approve the construction of reactors that are already nearing completion in other parts of the world?” Stay tuned.
Read more about it at the Wall Street Journal
Friday, January 14th, 2011
January 14, 2011
With the Texas-EPA standoff escalating to national portions, Fred Upton, the new chairman of the House Energy Committee indicated he might step in with Congressional action against the EPA enforcement campaign.
President Obama’s policies have been "job killing," Upton told WorldNetDaily, and said his committee will "take the lead" in the new Congress and "foster a new era of job growth, fight rampant regulations, fortify our energy security, cut spending and reduce the size of government." â€¨
Upton said he is planning a series of hearings this winter and spring that will examine the analysis and data on which the Obama EPA is relying to write its new carbon emission regulations. Rules that do not seem to be reasonable, he said, will be repealed by use of the Congressional Review Act, which enables Congress to revoke regulations within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register by a simple majority vote.
â€¨â€¨The battle heating up this as the District of Columbia Court of Appeals turned down Texas’s petition to put a stay on the EPA’s decision to take over permitting January 2. Texas is mounting a full-scale challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions but isn’t getting much sympathy in the courts. With 167 projects shovel-ready, including extensive oil facilities, a great deal is at stake.
â€¨â€¨But environmentalists are prepared to stand their ground. “Ten states in the East and Mid-Atlantic region have already committed to a cap-and-trade system within the power sector, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," Jessica Green, an assistant professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, told WND â€¨. "California also unilaterally established a statewide emissions cap (A.B. 32). This push by the Republicans is a procedural play to continue to block action on climate change, action which a number of states are already taking." But then Texas has become the workhorse of the nation and is gaining population while California and New York are in the doldrums.
The issue won’t be resolved for several months.
Read more about it at the Dallas News and World Net Daily
Thursday, January 6th, 2011
January 6, 2011
If the War Between the Red and Blue States has really begun, the early skirmishes are going to be fought out in court proceedings.
Texas fired its first counter-volley last week by challenged the EPA’s Christmas holiday decision to take over carbon permitting in Texas on procedural grounds. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a petition in D.C. District Court on December 30 charging that the EPA had short-circuited the process by failing to open up the process to notice and comment.
This New York Times “Greenwire” story concedes that Texas may have a point but assures readers that the Environmental Protection Agency will probably win the war. “Lawyers familiar with the case, most of whom are involved in the litigation over EPA’s rules in some form, mostly agree that if EPA sticks to its guns it will ultimately win out,” says Times reporter Lawrence Hurley.
What the Times report doesn’t seem to recognize, however, is that action may be forthcoming in Congress as well. The Hill reports this morning that Fred Upton, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is talking with West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall about possible strategies for stopping the EPA’s carbon initiative. On the Senate side, West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller, one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress, is already planning to introduce legislation to stop the EPA in its tracks.
With the mood rapidly swinging toward energy production in Washington and with gas prices rising beyond the $3 mark, President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson may soon find themselves without much support in continuing the carbon initiative. At that point, all the legal niceties in the world may not be of much help.
Friday, December 31st, 2010
December 31, 2010
In a long, front page analysis, The New York Times sees both the Obama Administration and the new Republican House of Representatives facing a double-edged sword with the coming showdown over the Environmental Protection Agency‘s plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as of January 2.
"While only the first phase of regulation takes effect on Sunday, the administration is on notice that if it moves too far and too fast in trying to curtail the ubiquitous gases that are heating the planet it risks a Congressional backlash that could set back the effort for years," reports staffer John Broder.
"But the newly muscular Republicans in Congress could also stumble by moving too aggressively to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency, provoking a popular outcry that they are endangering public health in the service of their well-heeled patrons in industry.“`These are hand grenades, and the pins have been pulled,’” William K. Reilly, former EPA administrator for the first President George Bush The Times.
Somehow, though, The Times misses the point that the face-off is about to occur immediately over the EPA’s move last week to take over air permitting in Texas. The story mentions Texas’ refusal to begin enforcing carbon restrictions in January but does not mention the EPA’s unilateral action. Texas is arguing that in the past states have been given three years to draw up implementation plans after new regulatory goals were issued. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson ruled last August that the situation with carbon emissions was too dire to allow usual three-year time frame. Texas is challenging this decision in court.
The EPA’s emergency time schedule does have its supporters. Of the 60 comments left on the Times website, nearly all were in support of the EPA action – indicating that Reilly may be right about the hand grenades.
Read more at The New York Times