Unnoticed by Boston Globe reporters, the second shoe has dropped on unhealthy power-plant emissions. The new Cross-state Air Pollution Rule is now joined by a new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule.
[ EPA descriptions, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/crossstaterule/ and http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/actions.html ]
It remains to be seen how new federal standards will mesh with Massachusetts state standards, set in 2001 as the outcome of a 4-year MassPIRG campaign.
[ Dina Cappiello, Associated Press, EPA rules threaten older power plants, Boston Globe, December 19, 2011, at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/12/19/ap_impact_epa_rules_threaten_older_power_plants/ ]
[ Dina Cappiello, Associated Press, EPA tells plants to clean up mercury, Boston Globe, December 21, 2011, at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2011/12/21/epa_tells_nations_dirty_power_plants_to_clean_up/ ]
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Second shoe drops on power-plants
Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/22/2011 11:14 AM EST
Unnoticed by Boston Globe reporters, the second shoe has dropped on unhealthy power-plant emissions. The new Cross-state Air Pollution Rule is now joined by a new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule.
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/24/2011 12:22 AM ESTHow about dropping 2 sentences describing for non tech folk what you are talking about? I have been in the air quality monitoring buisness, and you really could cut and paste a little detail here to get someone interested.
As far as I am concerned the words Mass PIRG just mean a bunch of failed english major idiots, wasting tax free money and getting little to show for it, while being dumb as door posts.
They would even fall for the di hydrogen oxide pollution gag half the time. It is toxic you know and kills people every day.
New federal regs echo 10-year-old Massachusetts regs
posted at 12/24/2011 9:02 AM EST
The U.S. EPA has had powers to reduce air pollution emitted from older power-plants since the federal Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990, but it failed to do anything useful until this December--21 years later.
A few years after the 1990 law, locally organized campaigns began in several areas. Campaigns for state regulations first focused on the well known and most dangerous pollutants: nitrogen oxides that are precursors to ground-level ozone and smog, sulfur oxides that produce acid rain, and airborne mercury, a neurotoxin when converted to methlylmercury, now polluting many streams and almost every lake and pond in the Northeast.
In 2001, as the outcome of a 4-year MassPIRG campaign that provided statewide coordination for several other groups, Massachusetts became the first state to require older power-plants to retrofit emission controls. Several other states soon joined. They include Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
[ James E. McCarthy, Congressional Research Service, Mercury emissions from electric power-plants: States are setting stricter limits, February, 2007, available from the Washington state Department of Ecology, at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/wac173406/CRS_report.pdf ]
Soon after taking office in 2001, the Walker Bush administration began trying to gut state regulations for power-plant pollution by superseding them with deliberately ineffective federal regulations.
Scams by the Walker Bush administration--setting up phony, ineffective or harmful regulations--were halted by state lawsuits, in a dramatic series of major court rulings. The former Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) was vacated July 11, 2008, by a decision in North Carolina v. Environmental Protection Agency (3rd Circuit, 05-1244). The former Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) and Delisting Rule, were vacated February 8, 2008, by a decision in New Jersey, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency (3rd Circuit, 05-1097).
Several entire rule-making actions of the Walker Bush administration's EPA were canned outright, and EPA was ordered to come up with new regulations. That is what the Obama administration has done in December, 2011.
This December 15, CAIR was replaced by a new regulation, the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule. This December 21, CAMR was replaced by a new rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. The effects of the new federal regulations are similar to the state standards in Massachusetts and New Jersey. [ EPA descriptions, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/crossstaterule/ and http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/actions.html ]
Most reporters at major news media, lacking much technical competence, have found it difficult to describe these developments, and they are reporting them only in vague, general terms. Some of the best descriptions in news media so far come from Dina Cappiello, formerly at the Houston Chronicle and now an AP reporter on environmental issues, from John Broder at the NY Times and from Neela Banerjee at the LA Times.
[ John M. Broder, EPA issues limits on mercury emissions, New York Times, December 21, 2011, at http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/e-p-a-announces-mercury-limits/ ]
[ Neela Banerjee, Obama faces battle on new clean-air rules, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2011, at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-epa-mercury-20111222,0,4420916.story ]
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/25/2011 12:43 AM ESTI worked on the monitoring of the EPA Mandated reductions of so2 and NOx in the late 80'sand early nineties. They were doing plenty then and continued to do more. So your statement that they did nothing is wrong. The issue was not an EPA issue as you well should know EPA was not the agency allowed to audit the status of plant upgrades of capacity on older plants. Many permits were cut before implementation of the act in the nineties that allowed changes to be made skirting the new standards. They weren't asleep they were not invited to the party. Methylmercury is a old dog dead and buried. You can be exposed to worse poisons at more serious levels by walking into walmart. Reducing mercury is good and EPA has made serious improvements in mercury exposure. But it is an issue of diminishing returns. The more political pressure on a marginal issue the less you have for more prevalent poisons. Methylmercury has been around a long time, humans can be exposed without measurable harm at levels higher than common today, for long periods of time(decades). Lets clean up more important stuff first. Stop wasting effort on the dead dogs. Methylmercury has been in the environment in the northeast at higher levels than now since the 1940's. We just moved the exposure bar without solid evidence. Remember there are over 15,000 commonly used organic chemicals that we are exposed to every day THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN TESTED FOR DAMAGE TO HUMAN HEALTH. MM we know a lot about, lets move on to the stuff we have no idea about.
Air-pollution laws and struggles
posted at 12/25/2011 9:36 AM EST
In the 1990s, U.S. EPA did not, as the previous post contends, "implement" the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-549). Moreover, PL 101-549 provided that new clean-air regulations could override existing emission permits. Several state clean-air standards that followed it, between 1990 and now, did the same--essential in the struggles over cleaning up older power-plants.
Some of the reader's outlooks are not unusual for laboratory workers, who may have murky knowledge about legal backgrounds of government standards. Less common, however, is an implied view that understandings of pollution hazards would be frozen in time. Research has gradually deepened knowledge of potential hazards, refuting some while confirming others. For example, perchlorethylene, the common dry-cleaning fluid, is currently regarded as a skin irritant but probably not a human carcinogen. Fine particulates, on the other hand, suspected as major health hazards since the nineteenth century, have been confirmed as causes of heart and lung disorders. It was not easy to distinguish their effects from those of other hazards, often present at the same time.
That reader's assessment of methylmercury is bogus. U.S. EPA, typically very cautious in its assessments, currently warns: "Chronic exposure to methylmercury in humans...affects the [central nervous system] with symptoms such as paresthesia (a sensation of pricking on the skin), blurred vision, malaise, speech difficulties and constriction of the visual field. Methyl mercury exposure, via the oral route, has led to significant developmental effects. Infants born to women who ingested high levels of methyl mercury exhibited mental retardation, ataxia, constriction of the visual field, blindness and cerebral palsy." [ at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/mercury.html ]
The NIH Office of Research Facilities currently warns: "Organic compounds of mercury such as methylmercury are considered the most toxic forms of the element. Exposures to very small amounts of these compounds can result in devastating neurological damage and death. For fetuses, infants and children, the primary health effects of mercury are on neurological development. Even low levels of mercury exposure such as result from mother's consumption methylmercury in dietary sources can adversely affect the brain and nervous system. Impacts on memory, attention, language and other skills have been found in children exposed to moderate levels in the womb." [ at http://orf.od.nih.gov/Environmental+Protection/Mercury+Free/MercuryHealthHazards.htm ]
Although it did not implement PL 101-549, during the 1990s the Clinton administration did institute more vigorous monitoring and enforcement under the "Prevention of Significant Deterioration" (PSD) and "New Source Review" (NSR) requirements, which had been introduced to federal laws by the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-95) but largely ignored by the Carter, Reagan and Herbert Bush administrations.
PL 95-95 required power-plant improvements, beyond routine maintenance, to include upgrades to meet enhanced emission standards. Some power-plant operators tried to evade PSD and NSR, making improvements in increments, each described as only routine maintenance. The Clinton administration's EPA began enforcement actions, sending notices and then filing legal complaints in several such cases. They were vigorously opposed by power-plant operators, delaying enforcement for years.
Although the Walker Bush administration tried, for the most part, to undermine air-pollution standards, it continued some enforcement actions that had started during the Clinton administration, only to be blocked by adverse rulings from southern federal court jurisdictions. Those misfortunes ended with a unanimous Supreme Court decision April 2, 2007, reversing a lower court ruling in Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy (05-848, reversing and remanding 3rd Circuit, 411 F. 3d 539). [ available from Cornell University Law School, at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-848.ZS.html ]
Large power-plant operators quickly took notice. In a Clinton-era case, United States v. American Electric Power (AEP), a settlement was announced October 8, 2007, one day before a scheduled district court hearing related to the trial held in July, 2005. Choosing to settle the case rather than risk a verdict that might have cost it more, AEP of Columbus, OH, the largest U.S. operator of coal-fired power-plants, agreed to spend an estimated $4.6 billion on plant upgrades to cut emissions.
The complaint in 1999 by the Clinton administration's EPA said AEP had violated emission standards at 30 of its 46 coal-fired units. After that complaint was filed, AEP publicly stated, "This lawsuit is just another political effort...totally without merit." In the final result, merits of the complaint proved substantial.
Under terms of the settlement, AEP is to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions by 69 percent (to 72,000 tons per year) by 2016 and to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 79 percent (to 174,000 tons per year) by 2018. A statement from the U.S. Department of Justice estimated annual benefits at $32 billion per year, to be saved in health-related costs associated with respiratory and cardiopulmonary illnesses. [ Fact sheet, October 9, 2007, at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2007/October/07_enrd_798.html ]
The AEP consent decree set total annual emission limits for 46 AEP generating units located in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia. It also set individual unit operating limits for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, both 0.10 pounds per million BTU heat input. By comparison, EPA operating limits for new generating plants, at the time of the settlement, were 0.11 pounds nitrogen oxides and 0.15 pounds sulfur dioxide per million BTU heat input.
Going forward under the recent, much delayed implementation of PL 101-549 by the Obama administration's EPA, what will be of great interest is how the new Cross-state Air Pollution Rule and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule mesh with settlements of Clinton-era PSD and NSR cases and with state air-pollution standards that were issued during the 21-year delay between enactment of PL 101-549 and its recent implementation.
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/25/2011 10:06 PM ESTIt is funny how some people who have no experience in the feild miss the trees in the forest while thinking they look at the big picture. The largest reduction in so2 and nox and methlymercury did not come from the power industry at all and did come from the EPA, with help from a changing economy. Steel mills and coke plants in the midwest shutdown in the 80-90s in part because EPA rules on steel and coke plants combined with a poor economy made these operations close shop. It was the largest contribution to the reduction in acid rain measured in the decade long acid rain mapping project run by the EPA. Yes I was one of those stations and aquired and analysed the data. The restrictions appdev claims were not implemented actually were the basis of designs and refits to many stations. So I wonder where his Fact that it was not implemented comes from? The real world or the regulatory imagination.
Hey I was just boots on the ground doing the work and watching and reading the changes being put in place. The research papers I participated in and the reams of requirements and technical specifications mean nothing to a purely rehtorical politician. My background in monitoring, engineering, and environmental science is nothing to this brilliant bulb of political double speak.
Massachusetts air-pollution rules worked
posted at 12/28/2011 7:32 AM EST
Massachusetts did not wait for federal implementation of the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990, delayed 21 years until this December. A campaign against the so-called "filthy five" large power-plants, producing much of the state's air pollution, was coordinated by MassPIRG during 1997-2001. It produced the country's first statewide regulations requiring older power-plants to clean up their air emissions or close. [ Kevin Dennehy, Activists urge air cleanup, Cape Cod Times, April 4, 1999, at http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990404/NEWS01/304048666&cid=sitesearch ]
Ten years on, Massachusetts has cleaner air and lower medical costs from air-pollution. While other states will eventually enjoy such benefits, many did not enact state regulations and still have years of waiting ahead. Facing options to upgrade or close, here is what happened to the former "filthy five" power-plants:
Mystic-----------2,100 MW--oil, gas
-----repowered, 1,600 MW combined-cycle natural gas, 2003
Brayton Point----1,600 MW--coal, oil
-----installed pollution controls, 2003 and ongoing
-----refired, single-cycle natural gas, 1997, rarely runs
Salem Harbor-------800 MW--coal, oil
-----announced closure by June, 2014
Montaup Somerset---150 MW--coal
-----closed in January, 2010
The 150 MW Mt. Tom coal-fired power-plant in Holyoke was belatedly added to the MassPIRG campaign in 1999, making six culprits in all. It is failing and likely to close. This fall, layoffs were announced for half the operating staff. [ Jim Kinney, Layoffs planned at Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke, Springfield Republican (MA), October 12, 2011, at http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/10/mt_tom_power_plant_in_holyoke.html ]
With those changes, over three-quarters of the sulfur dioxide and mercury plus over half the nitrogen oxides that were once emitted by Massachusetts power-plants have been or will soon be eliminated. The state is losing 2,700 MW of obsolete electricity generation, by nameplate capacity.
Since 1997, however, eleven new combined-cycle natural gas power-plants have been opened or approved in the state, with 5,470 MW capacity, and two more with 780 MW are pending. The state has been replacing all the lost generation capacity with low-pollution power-plants and is gaining about 3,500 MW more in capacity than it had in 1990.
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/29/2011 10:35 PM ESTWith the cost of power going up easily refitted plants will likely stay. But mercury will not be the issue. The down stream plume of mt tom has a minimal impact in massachusetts.
That is your problem appdev, you ask or look for the wrong questions.
Mass PIRG is useless as a research touchpoint because everything they say is a lie. They do everything to get money just like pols. They cheat recklessly on their data, and hugely overstate the issues. They are just grubbing for money like the pols. They are not even close to science in their interpretation of data. Sorry but from a scientist, their stuff stinks as bad as the pols. Its all a money game to both.
Try the science publications for your research. Not the papers or internet equivalent. They do not have hard data. Just sob stories that attract the local readers, Nothing at all about science, or real measurement of performance, and impact.
Trends in state air pollution
posted at 12/31/2011 6:32 AM EST
While Massachusetts led in policing air-pollution from older power-plants after 2000, it benefited along with its region and the rest of the country from a series of other pollution controls over the past 20 years. The Acid Rain Program of U.S. EPA reduced sulfur oxide emissions from power-plants in 1995 and 2000-- until 2011 its only major, sustained regulation under the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990. Some coal-fired power-plants installed scrubbers, but most power-plants switched to low-sulfur fuels. [ Acid rain program results, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2003, at http://www.epa.gov/capandtrade/documents/ctresults.pdf ]
Many state governments lowered limits on sulfur in heating fuels. Heavy, high-sulfur residual oil, sometimes called "bunker fuel," was common before the 1990s but is now banned as heating fuel in much of the Northeast. EPA has recently moved to ban its use in ocean-going ships within 200 nautical miles. [ John Batey, ed., Low-sulfur heating oil in the Northeast states, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, 2005, at http://www.nescaum.org/documents/report060101heatingoil.pdf ]
Federally required average fuel economy for automobiles stayed at 27.5 mpg from 1990 through 2010, but the increase from 20.0 mpg in 1980 was felt as older, less efficient and more polluting vehicles were retired. Average fuel economy required for light trucks did continue to increase, from 20.0 mpg in 1990 to 23.5 mpg in 2010. U.S. EPA reduced limits on emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from automobiles in 1994 and from trucks and buses in 1990 and 1998. [ DieselNet, Heavy-duty truck and bus engines, Proventia, 2011, at http://www.dieselnet.com/standards/us/hd.php ]
Several other initiatives have contributed to lower air pollution. In 1997, 2005 and 2008, U.S. EPA revised standards for ground-level ozone. A further revision was postponed in 2011. EPA has also tightened emission limits for locomotives, ships, heavy vehicles and small gasoline engines, reduced the allowed sulfur content of gasoline and diesel fuel, specified vapor recovery for gasoline and recommended reformulation of paints. States began to restrict roofing techniques, solvent cleaning and mercury disposal and also began to require better vapor controls in manufacturing and dry cleaning and use of construction materials with low volatiles content. Combined effects have been gradual but substantial.
Before the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990, Massachusetts reported only a small amount of air pollution data. After 1995, the state began to report more categories. It developed plans to maintain acceptable levels of ozone and particulates. [ Long-term trends by pollutant, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 2011, at http://public.dep.state.ma.us/MassAir/Pages/ChartByPollutant.aspx?&ht=2&hi=201 ]
Clearest trends of improvement for Massachusetts air pollution are in organic vapors emitted from vehicles (about 70 percent reduction from 1990 to 2005), nitrogen oxides from "point sources" that are mostly power-plants (about 65 percent reduction) and sulfur oxides from point sources (about 65 percent reduction).
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 12/31/2011 11:07 PM ESTIncorrect. The acid rain deposition project started restrictions on the use of high sulfur coal in the 80`s. It was a regulatory threat that the data prove to be effective. Look it up. The sox emmissions were well reduced before 1995. This was shown in the acid rain deposition models in 1992. The issue is regulation vs action. I monitored action, you think you look at "regulatory attainment", but you are wrong. The target is a paper one. The changes were real. Currently diesel and home heating oil must comply with lower sulfur pollution. This was a target of the 1990 guidlines. A lot of legal money was spent in opposition but this guide is also on the way to completion As to the small amount of reporting data from mass. This is stupid. The fed reporting and the data that mass collected are entirely separate, this is a specious statement. Acid rain data was already collected and reported for 8 years at your date, so what was not reported as ASKED FOR?
Federal agency background
posted at 1/1/2012 5:31 AM EST
A brash reader cites no references and provides no links--appearing to confuse stages in the U.S. EPA acid rain programs--notably the use of Title IV-A of the Clean Air Act Amendments Act of 1990 (PL101-549). That authorized the regulations effective in 1995 and 2000, which proved far more effective than earlier stages.
[ History of the Clean Air Act, U.S. EPA, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/caa_history.html ]
[ Also see description, under Title IV Acid Deposition Control, in Robyn Kenney, et al., Clean Air Act, United States, Encyclopedia of Earth, 2010, at http://www.eoearth.org/article/Clean_Air_Act,_United_States#gen4 ]
The same reader also confuses dependence of U.S. EPA on state agencies, dating from the limited role of the federal agency when it was established under Executive Order 11602 in 1971, rather than by statute. As a result of political compromises, for good or ill EPA has always depended on state agencies as sources of data about emissions and for routine enforcement of emissions regulations.
[ For a recent update on perennially tangled federal-state relationships, see Arthur A. Elkins, EPA Inspector General, EPA must improve oversight of state enforcement, Report No. 12-P-0113, December 9, 2011, pp. 4-79 at http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2012/20111209-12-P-0113.pdf ]
EPA has been transitioning its paper-based data submission to electronic gateways. [ For a description of the Emission Inventory System gateway, see U.S. EPA, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/eis/gateway/index.html ]
Hazards of air-pollution data
posted at 1/1/2012 5:36 AM EST
Massachusetts has produced annual air-quality reports since 1996 and air-emission inventories for 1990, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2005. The next inventories are for 2008, available now from U.S. EPA but not the state, and for 2011. The 2005 state inventory shows trends of progress. However, data from these sources are inconsistent. Both data standards and measurements have changed, notably for particulates, organics and metals. Some trends of components are unstable, with unexplained gaps and discontinuities. [ Emissions inventories, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 2011, at http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/priorities/aqdata.htm ]
The 2002 emissions inventory has broader coverage than the earlier ones, but the added components appear more erratic than the "criteria pollutants" long measured: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, ammonia, organic vapors and filterable particulates. Massachusetts DEP does not disclose the measurement and reporting issues that, under the Obama administration, U.S. EPA admits it has been struggling to address.
[ Pechan & Associates, Documentation for the 2008 National Emissions Inventory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/net/2008_nei/nmim_documentation.pdf ]
[ 2008 EPA datasets for point sources and chromium speciation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/net/2008nei_v1/point_sources_and_chromium_speciation.pdf ]
[ 2008 NEI Version 1.5 improvements and remaining issues, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 16, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/net/2008nei_v1/v1_5_issues.xls ]
Even reports of "criteria pollutants" show strange, unexplained behaviors. For example, according to data sent by Massachusetts to U.S. EPA, between 2004 and 2007 sulfur dioxide emitted by the six main "waste to energy" plants increased by a factor of about 150. [ Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/egrid/index.html ]
Air pollution information is pitifully slow to appear. Federal EIA distributes electricity generation data from power-plants within 3 to 4 months, but for the corresponding emissions data, U.S. EPA takes 3 to 4 years. Because of erratic reporting, many indications of progress are uncertain. U.S. EPA now warns: "...it is not meaningful to compare...assessments.... Change[s] in emissions, ambient concentrations or risks may be [from] either improvement in methodology or...real changes in emissions or source characterization." [ National Air Toxics Assessments, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/natamain/ ]
So far, the Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990 has not been implemented as Congress and the public expected it would be. Up to 2011, the only major, sustained enforcement action was the Acid Rain Program of the 1990s. Several attempts by the Walker Bush administration at regulatory mischief were vacated in a dramatic series of major federal court rulings, mostly from lawsuits filed by states. Despite more than 20 years of work, except for a few pollutants that usually have been consistently measured since the 1980s or before, air-pollution reporting has been erratic, and knowledge of long-term trends remains fragmentary.
Air-pollution control: the first generation
posted at 1/3/2012 9:46 AM EST
U.S. regulation of air pollution, so far, divides into three generations: 1955-1970, 1970-1990 and 1990-2011. A fourth generation may have started with the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule that became effective in December, 2011. However, survival of those regulations over political mischief and legal challenges, already underway, and scopes of their applications and consequences will take years to unfold. [ Lisa Heinzerling, Missing a teachable moment, American Constitution Society, November, 2011, at http://www.acslaw.org/sites/default/files/Heinzerling_-_Missing_a_Teachable_Moment.pdf ]
The first generation set a pattern linking local, state and federal activities that largely still holds. A federal agency conducts research, reviews information and sets air quality standards. State and local agencies decide on control strategies, provide routine enforcement and conduct routine surveys of air quality and emissions. Sometimes state or local governments take initiatives, and sometimes a federal agency intervenes.
Despite its title, the Eisenhower-era Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 (PL84-159) authorized only research and review, leaving regulation to states, counties and municipalities. It was strongly inspired by concerns over factories and coal smoke. The 1948 "Donora smog" in Pennsylvania, from the U.S. Steel zinc smelter and ASW plant, killing at least 19 people, and the "London fog" of 1952, killing 3,000 to 12,000 people, were recent memories. [ The Donora smog disaster, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1948 and 1999, at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/documents_from_1946_-_present/20426/donora_smog_disaster/999079 ]
Several other federal laws followed in the 1960s, but the federal activities they authorized remained largely research and review. Most significant were the Clean Air Act of 1963 (PL88-206), the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965 (PL89-272) and the Air Quality Act of 1967 (PL90-148). The 1963 act replaced the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 with a grievance board approach to air pollution, calling on the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to organize a "conference" of government officials about any air-pollution problem reported and "recommend...remedial action." Federal action, if any, was left to the U.S. Attorney General, under statutes and common law for nuisances and torts.
The 1965 act resulted in recommended standards for motor vehicle emissions, without strong enforcement powers. More than half of 1968 and 1969 automobiles violated standards. The 1967 act set up a National Air Pollution Control Administration (NAPCA), and it policed state regulation of motor vehicle emissions, which NAPCA could review and modify. It led to designating "criteria air pollutants," as they are now known, and federal air quality control regions. However, the federal government made little headway in reducing air pollution until the second generation of air-pollution control.
Air-pollution control: the second generation
posted at 1/5/2012 11:31 AM EST
After a long struggle led by former Sen. Muskie (D, ME), in 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Amendments act of 1970 (PL91-604), the first law with clear enforcement powers. It rewrote statutes from previous acts, recognizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by an executive order in 1970, as the main federal agency and assigning powers of regulation to the EPA administrator. [ imaged text of PL91-604 available at http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/documents/publiclaws/PDF/91-604.pdf ]
The 1970 act was strongly inspired by concerns over motor vehicle pollution. Choking smog in the Los Angeles basin had become legendary, but by the late 1960s, smog had afflicted several other large cities--including Washington, DC, where it was noticed. The 1970 act explicitly required 90 percent reductions in carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions by the 1975 model year and in nitrogen oxide emissions by the 1976 model year, for light-duty vehicles. [Secs. 6-9 of PL91-604]
Over the next 20 years, many EPA air-pollution efforts were devoted to the difficult tasks of reducing motor vehicle emissions. In 1970 there was no reliable technology, and ultimately Congress had to stretch the time frames. For 1982, emission limits in grams/mile became 15 for carbon monoxide, 0.4 for hydrocarbons and 1.0 for nitrogen oxides, after Congress relaxed nitrogen oxides goals in 1977. A rule to eliminate lead from gasoline was issued in 1973 but took 22 years to become fully effective. National inspection programs started in 1983, and standards for buses and trucks were issued in 1985.
Another strong concern of the 1970 act was expansion of highly polluting power-plants and factories. EPA was charged to regulate "new stationary sources" and directed to issue a "standard of performance" for each type of source, reflecting the "best system of emission reduction," as determined by the EPA administrator. The 1970 act set a pattern for the second generation of air-pollution controls: strictly regulating new facilities and equipment but not existing ones. [Sec. 4 of PL91-604, adding Clean Air Act Sec. 111, now at 42 USC 7411]
The 1970 law codified political alignments combining local, state and federal regulation, assigning "primary responsibility" to states unless the EPA administrator determined that a state failed to act responsibly. EPA was directed to issue a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for any pollutant with "an adverse effect on public health." States were expected to prepare and carry out plans to comply with standards. EPA was also authorized to issue an "emission standard" for a "hazardous air pollutant" lacking a NAAQS, now called a National Emission Standard for a Hazardous Air Pollutant (NESHAP). [Sec. 4 of PL91-604, adding Clean Air Act Secs. 108-110 and 112, now at 42 USC 7408-7410 and 7412]
In over 40 years, EPA has issued a NAAQS for only six "criteria air pollutants," five in 1971 and one in 1978: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. EPA has issued a NESHAP for only eight "hazardous air pollutants," four in 1971 and four during 1975 to 1984: arsenic, asbestos, benzene, beryllium, coke oven emissions, mercury, radionuclides and vinyl chloride. The system of regulating air pollutants fell into torpor from continual legal struggles, probably far more than Congress had expected.
From 1970 to 1990, U.S. pollution control efforts significantly reduced smog. The greatest effects were in California, under stricter state standards. Nationwide, results were mixed. From 1970 to 1990, on-road motor vehicle emissions were reduced by 99 percent for lead, 51 percent for all organic vapors and 34 percent for carbon monoxide, but only 4 percent for nitrogen oxides. Sulfur dioxide emissions from stationary sources were reduced by 24 percent. [ National air pollution emission trends, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1998, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/trends/trends98/trends98.pdf ]
Dissatisfaction led to public pressures that drove a third generation of air-pollution control.
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 1/5/2012 9:11 PM ESTNice bit of work. You fail to mention the voluminous lawsuits regarding the 1990 standards though. This was the upgrade requirement for existing plants to higher standards. The actual requirement was reduced emission but what the oldest, many TVA plants did was shift fuel source when they expanded production. It was not that the act was ineffective. It was that by the time the courts got the cases it was the bush administration. These circuit courts are not friendly to the reduction of jobs and costs of plant shutdowns and continued every case with abandon. EPA does not currently have power of physical enforcement. They have not swat teams to chain the gates of polluters. Particularly if they bend, even harshly, the rules. That is a civil law case. Many take 15 years at this level. Even the BIA indian mining royalties case took 25 years and is still not right.
Air-pollution control: origins of a third generation
posted at 1/6/2012 8:51 PM EST
Despite over 30 years of of air-pollution control efforts, in the late 1980s, for parts of the year, air in many U.S. cities and some rural areas turned opaque from pollution. While usually not as bad as 10 or 15 years before, people could see that control efforts had done only fractions of the jobs. Measurements continued to show acid rain affecting forests and water, with most finding continued worsening.
Following a campaign pledge, the Herbert Bush administration sent a bill to Congress in 1989. It appeared hard on power-plants but lenient toward the auto industry, probably to curry favor with former Pres. Bush's backers in the oil industry and with Rep. Dingell (D, MI), a close ally of General Motors and then chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. EPA soon admitted that some U.S. cities would probably fail to meet air quality standards for more than 20 years. [ Douglas Jehl and David Lauter, Bush details clean air plan, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1989, at http://articles.latimes.com/1989-07-22/news/mn-3295_1_clean-air ]
Environmental forces enlisted Sen. Baucus (D, MT), then chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Environmental Protection. Three months later his subcommittee reported a bill that became the focus of Senate action, while the House marked up the Administration's bill. Next, former Sen. Majority Leader Mitchell (D, ME) became a dealmaker in the developing battle, organizing a bipartisan group of Senators who negotiated with the Administration in February, 1990. An amended Baucus subcommittee bill passed the Senate 89-11 in early April, but then the Senate began wrangling with the House. In October, a compromise bill passed 89-10 in the Senate and 401-25 in the House. [ Alan C. Miller, Longtime foes cleared air for Clean Air Act, Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1990, at http://articles.latimes.com/1990-05-25/local/me-165_1_air-for-clean-clean-air-act ]
The Administration bill (filed in the House as H.R. 3030) was focused on meeting air quality standards in states by actions within the same states, allowing the EPA administrator to make adjustments in individual cases. Continuing a pattern set in the Clean Air Amendments acts of 1970 and 1977, the 1989 Administration bill was heavily prescriptive, specifying both air quality and emission standards for up to ten years rather than delegating responsibility to EPA expertise.
For 1995, the Administration proposed automobile emission limits of 3.4 g/mi carbon monoxide (no change), 0.25 g/mi hydrocarbons (37% reduction) and 0.7 g/mi nitrogen oxides (30% reduction). In 1989, California already required new cars to achieve the same standards except 0.4 g/mi nitrogen oxides (60% reduction). It had become clear that the Administration's 1989 proposals for lowering emissions were less than industry could deliver and would fail to achieve its proposed air quality goals in parts of the U.S.
To address acid rain and its largest cause, sulfur dioxide, the Administration proposed declining national emission limits and allocations for existing facilities, mostly power-plants, that could be bought and sold. Soon called a "cap and trade" system, it was based on total emissions from regulated U.S. facilities of 2.5 lb/MMBtu by 1996 and 1.2 lb/MMBtu by 2001. The bill specified allocations for 260 large power-plants.
Instead of delegating responsibility, the Administration bill also specified 191 "hazardous" chemicals to be regulated as air pollutants, when emitted at an arbitrary rate of at least 10 tons per year each. There were no Congressional Budget Office cost reports for the bill, but the Administration estimated national costs of about $19 billion per year after 2000, largely for sulfur dioxide reductions under the Acid Rain Program.
The Baucus subcommittee's bill ventured into mission creep for EPA, proposing that the agency should regulate chlorofluorocarbons and other gases that can deplete stratospheric ozone and also "greenhouse gases" including methane and carbon dioxide. Since those emissions had little direct health effect and were of global rather than national concern, other agencies, such as NOAA, were likely regulators, but circumstances had offered a political vehicle, and environmental advocates hitched rides on it.
On its return to the Senate after the February, 1990, negotiations, EPA regulation of "greenhouse gases" was gone from the Senate bill, but regulation of stratospheric ozone-depleting gases remained. National automobile emission limits for 1995 were near the California standards of 1989, plus required warranties extending from 50,000 to 100,000 miles, at about 25 percent higher limits. The Administration's "cap and trade" system for sulfur dioxide was retained, with its basis changed to a national limit of 8.9 million tons for the year 2000. Elements of regulating cross-state pollution were introduced, without specifying how they would work.
The background of the Clean Air Amendments act of 1990 (PL101-549) is instructive. It became a complex law, 315 pages in Statutes at Large, compared to 38 pages for the 1970 act. The original bill filed in the Senate focused on motor vehicle emissions (S. 1630). Several more topics accrued. Acid rain, toxic emissions, diesel sulfur limits, automobile diagnostic systems, facility permits and enforcement sanctions were inevitable, since they had appeared in the Administration bill. Extended emission control warranties, stronger emission limits and regulation of waste-burning, cross-state pollution, outer continental-shelf zones and stratospheric ozone-depleting gases were added by Senate initiatives.
Application of the 1990 act was strongest in areas where the law was prescriptive: the Acid Rain Program and reduced auto emissions of the 1990s. It has been weakest where the law provided powers but did not write the rules: how to exert control over toxic air emissions and how to cope with cross-state transport of pollution. What may prove to be effective implementation of the 1990 law in some of those areas has only just begun.
Re: Second shoe drops on power-plants
posted at 1/7/2012 10:21 PM ESTWow, So much verbiage dedicated to the process. I geuss you were trying to bury the lead.
This was that the 1990 act did, inspite of your previous statement to the contrary, contribute to significantly cleaner air. Remember co2 is not an air pollutant. CO is an air pollutant. Rising CO2 does not increase human health concerns. Rising ozone due to photochemical smog does have harsh human health concerns.
By the way the emmision control warranty for cars was dropped from 100k to 60k not the other way around. My 1987 car had a 100k warranty. The auto companies were allowed to drop this to 60k with ODBII computers (implemented in 1995/6)that allowed better monitoring of specific emmissions components. This was a part of the 1990 bill.
Air-pollution control: third-generation standards
posted at 1/9/2012 5:13 AM EST
The Clean Air Amendments act of 1990 (PL101-549) parted with precedents from the previous 35 years of federal air-pollution efforts in requiring costly improvements to existing facilities and equipment as well as new ones. It also established clearer procedures to govern relationships between a federal agency engaged in setting standards and state agencies expected to enforce them. Those who wrote the 1990 act were aware of difficulties. Over a fifth of the law's text is spent on procedures to address violations of air-quality standards, with strongest concerns for ground-level ozone. [PL101-549, Secs. 101-107]
EPA recently updated a report on improvements to average air quality under the 1990 law. [ Air-quality trends, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012, at http://epa.gov/airtrends/aqtrends.html ]
* Airborne lead 83 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
* Carbon monoxide 73 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
* Sulfur dioxide 68 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
* Nitrogen dioxide 45 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
* Particulates (PM10) 38 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
* Ozone (8-hr std) 17 percent decrease, 1990 to 2010
In some cases, pollution measurements decreased less than corresponding regulated emissions. Differences are pronounced for ground-level ozone, long recognized as difficult to control. Organic vapors and nitrogen oxides are the main precursors, reacting in sunlight. EPA reported that the regulated emissions decreased by 52 and 48 percent, respectively, from 1990 to 2010.
As EPA found, however, ground-level ozone decreased much less. That is partly because EPA reports annual peaks for ozone concentrations, as measured over 8 hours through a complex standard revised in 1997, then adjusts measurement trends for weather. [ Ozone documents, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1997, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/s_o3_pr.html and Trends in ozone adjusted for weather conditions, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012, at http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/weather.html ]
With greater responsibilities of EPA under the 1990 act came greater legal work. Almost every significant action has been challenged. Because new and changed regulations can now require costly reinvestments in existing facilities, stakes became higher, and opposition became more organized and entrenched.
After proposing revisions to ozone standards in 1996, for example, EPA was challenged by a trucking and power industry group and by a group of states. Those challenges took over five years to resolve. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld EPA actions, although it required EPA to justify its changes to standards more closely in conformance with laws. [ Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, U.S. Supreme Court, 531 US 457, 2001, at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/boundvolumes/531bv.pdf and Final response to remand, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 68 FR 614-645, 2003, at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/fr/20030106.pdf ]
Muddy legal arguments in Whitman v. American Trucking produced a unanimous Supreme Court decision but a muddy majority opinion written by Justice Scalia, ruminating on the phrase "legislative powers" in pilpul only a Constitutional lawyer could love. It serves as a warning of sand traps dotting the course of federal air-pollution control.
Despite the perils, updating standards and defending changes to standards against legal challenges turned out to be among the easier tasks for EPA in the third generation of air-pollution control. Stronger headwinds were encountered in less familiar territories.