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Category — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

U.S. EPA’s Hyper Ozone Regulation: Deserved Pushback

“EPA should not be allowed to fund illegal experiments, hire surrogates to scare and propagandize us, or impose excessive, fraudulent rules that kill jobs and harm human health and welfare. Nor should it have so much fat in its budget that it can waste our money on useless, unethical programs.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s neo-Malthusian-inspired ecological battle against the economy centers upon mitigating emissions of the green greenhouse gas: carbon dioxide (CO2). But there is another part to the story: EPA’s rushed, hyper-restrictive standards for ozone.

Background

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must set standards for ozone and other pollutants – and periodically review existing standards, to determine whether they are adequately protecting public health, or need to be tightened further.

In 1997, the agency reduced the permissible ambient ozone level to 84 parts per billion (equivalent to 8.4 cents out of $1,000,000). In 2008, it lowered the standard again, to 75 ppb.

However, due to public outcry, and because EPA’s own clean air science advisory committee said the reduction wasn’t necessary, in 2009 the agency suspended the 75 ppb rule’s implementation, pending “further study.”

Shortly thereafter, though, Lisa Jackson’s EPA decided to slash allowable ozone levels to 60 ppb – without doing any further analysis. Sensing how politically volatile the issue could become, President Obama told EPA to postpone the hyper-restrictive rule until after the 2012 elections. [Read more →]

July 30, 2013   2 Comments

Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Operations: EPA’s Continuing, Conscious Overestimate

“As long as the EPA continues to rely on assumptions about industry activity that are not, in fact, based on actual industry activity, their estimates for methane emissions will remain wrong. The fact that those assumptions result in inflated emissions estimates makes the agency’s conscious decision not to adjust its methods even more troubling.”

Last month, the EPA released its latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory, in which the agency significantly lowered its estimate of the amount of methane emissions from natural gas systems. But even with those dramatic revisions, EPA still has a long way to go to get this right.

In its fact sheet about its changes to methane emissions estimates, EPA admits that at least some of its prior methods for collecting emissions data were flawed:

The study data show that there is more widespread use of emissions control technologies than had been assumed in the previous Inventory.  It also demonstrated that duration of emissions from liquids unloading activities is shorter than had been assumed in the previous Inventory.

The key word here is “assumed.” While EPA’s current revisions are certainly an improvement and bring its estimates closer to accuracy, there are still a number of assumptions that are simply wrong. Digging deeper, and frankly speaking, it’s difficult to ascertain anything other than a fundamental lack of understanding of the actual development process. [Read more →]

June 10, 2013   No Comments

EPA’s Tier 3: Transportation Overreach

“Nothing in the Clean Air Act says EPA needs to promulgate any of these rules. But nothing says it can’t do so. It’s largely discretionary, and this Administration is determined to ‘interpret’ the science and use its executive authority to restrict and penalize hydrocarbon use – and ‘fundamentally transform’ America.”

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has already promulgated a tsunami of 1,920 regulations (Heritage Foundation: forthcoming). Many will bring few health or environmental benefits but impose high economic and unemployment costs, often to advance the Administration’s decidedly anti-hydrocarbon (aka anti-industrial-growth) agenda.

The Heritage Foundation has calculated that his EPA’s twenty “major” rulemaking decisions (costing $100 million or more annually) alone could cost the United States over $36 billion per year.

Cleaning Up Clean

The latest example involves a third layer (or tier) of rules that the agency says will clean the nation’s air and save lives, by forcing refineries to remove more sulfur and other impurities from gasoline. EPA and refiners call the proposal Tier 3 rulemaking. Tier 3 tyranny is more accurate – as the rules would cost billions of dollars but bring infinitesimal benefits, and will likely be imposed regardless.

Since 1970, America’s cars have eliminated some 99% of pollutants that once came out of tailpipes. “Today’s cars are essentially zero-emission vehicles, compared to 1970 models,” says air pollution expert Joel Schwartz, co-author of Air Quality in America. Such makes a mockery of Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren, who back in the 1960s and 1970s declared the urban smog problem unsolvable with oil-based transportation.

In addition, Schwartz notes, more recent-model cars start out cleaner and stay cleaner throughout their lives. “As a result, fleet turnover has been reducing on-road emissions by an average of about 8 to 10 percent per year.” Over time, that has brought tremendously improved air quality, and continues to do so.

Moreover, since 2004, under Tier 1 and 2 rules, refiners have reduced sulfur in gasoline from an average of 300 ppm to 30 ppm – a 90% drop, on top of previous reductions. Those benefits are likewise ongoing. Using EPA’s own computer models and standards, a recent ENVIRON International study concluded that “large benefits in ground-level ozone concentrations will have accrued by 2022 as a direct result” of Tier 1 and Tier 2 emission standards and lower gasoline sulfur levels” that are already required by regulation.

By 2022, those existing emission reduction requirements will slash volatile organic pollutants by a further 62%, carbon monoxide by another 51% and nitrous oxides 80% more – beyond reductions achieved between 1970 and 2004.

Calculable Cost; Infinitesimal Benefits

But even this is not enough for EPA, which now wants sulfur levels slashed to 10 ppm – even though the agency’s models demonstrate that Tier 3 rules, on top of these earlier and ongoing reductions, would bring essentially zero air quality or health benefits.

To achieve those zero benefits, the new Tier 3 standards would cost $10 billion in upfront capital expenditures and an additional $2.4 billion in annual compliance expenses, the American Petroleum Institute says. The sulfur rules will raise the price of gasoline by an estimated 6-9 cents a gallon, on top of new fuel tax hikes and gasoline prices that have rocketed from $1.79 to $3.68 per gallon of regular unleaded over the past four years.

These and other hikes will ripple throughout the economy, affecting commuting and shipping, the cost of goods and services, the price of travel and vacations. (White House and EPA officials claim the Tier 3 rules would only add only a penny per gallon to gasoline costs, but that is highly dubious.)

These and other hikes will ripple throughout the economy, affecting commuting and shipping, the cost of goods and services, the price of travel and vacations. (White House and EPA officials claim the Tier 3 rules would only add only a penny per gallon to gasoline costs, but that is highly dubious.)

Time-Out Needed

EPA believes the additional sulfur reductions are technologically possible. Its attitude seems to be, if it can be done, we will require it, no matter how high the cost, or how minimal the benefits.

Citizens need to tell EPA: “The huge improvements to date are enough for now. We have other crucial health, environmental, employment and economic problems to solve – which also affect human health and welfare. We don’t have the financial, human or technological resources to do it all – especially to waste billions on something where the quantifiable health benefits payback is minimal, or even zero.”

Moreover, there are better ways to reduce traffic-related urban air pollution. Improve traffic light sequencing, to speed traffic flow, save fuel, and reduce idling, emissions, driver stress and accidents, for example. That’s where our efforts should be concentrated.

Another basic problem is that EPA always assumes there is no safe threshold level for pollutants – and pollution must always and constantly be ratcheted downward, eventually to zero, regardless of cost.

This flies in the face of what any competent epidemiologist knows: the dose makes the poison. There is a point below which a chemical is not harmful. There are even chemicals which at low or trace quantities are essential to proper operation of our muscular, brain and other bodily functions – but at higher doses can be poisonous. There are also low-level chemical, radiation and pathogen exposures that actually safeguard our bodies from cancer, illness and other damage, in a process known as hormesis.

Even worse, this Tier 3 tyranny is on top of other highly suspect EPA actions. The agency has conducted illegal experiments on humans, used secret email accounts to hide collaborations with radical environmentalist groups, and implemented 54.5 mpg vehicle mileage standards that will maim and kill thousands more people every year, by forcing them into smaller, lighter, less safe cars.

EPA also expanded the ethanol mandate to promote corn-based E15 fuels (15% ethanol in gasoline). That means we must turn even more food into fuel, to replace hydrocarbons that we again have in abundance (thanks to fracking and other new technologies). But our government won’t allow us to develop, and to substitute for cellulosic ethanol that doesn’t exist (but EPA tells refiners they must use anyway). So corn farmers get rich, while consumers pay more for gasoline, meat, fish, eggs, poultry and other products.

Climate Canard

The agency is also waging war on coal, automobiles and the Keystone XL pipeline – based on assertions that carbon dioxide emissions are causing “dangerous manmade global warming.”

Even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA, British Meteorological Office, and many once-alarmist scientists now acknowledge that average planetary temperatures have not budged in 16 years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts and sea level rise have shown no statistically significant variation from century-long averages – even as CO2 levels have “soared” to 395 ppm (0.0395% of Earth’s atmosphere).

True scientists increasingly recognize solar and other complex, interconnected natural forces as the primary drivers of Earth’s ever changing and unpredictable weather and climate.

These inconvenient truths have apparently had no effect on Administration thinking. Perhaps rising indoor CO2 emissions from larger EPA and White House staffs have “weirded” their thinking. The EPA’s yellow brick road to Eco-Utopia is not one our nation should travel. It will not take us to an economic recovery, more jobs, a cleaner environment, or improved human safety, health and welfare.

Conclusion

Nothing in the Clean Air Act says EPA needs to promulgate any of these rules. But nothing says it can’t do so. It’s largely discretionary, and this Administration is determined to “interpret” the science and use its executive authority to restrict and penalize hydrocarbon use – and “fundamentally transform” America.

EPA administrator nominee Gina McCarthy says EPA will “consider” industry and other suggestions that it revise greenhouse gas and other proposed rules. However, neither she nor the President has said they will modify or moderate any policies or proposals, or retreat from their climate change agenda.

We clearly need some science-based legislative standards, commonsense regulatory actions, and adult supervision by Congress and the courts. Unfortunately, that is not likely to be forthcoming anytime soon. Neither Republican Senators nor the House of Representatives seem to have the power or attention span to do what is necessary. Where this all will end is therefore anyone’s guess.

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Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death.

April 15, 2013   4 Comments

Economic Failure at U.S. EPA: NAM Study Raises the Hard Questions

A recent study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers critically assessed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s cost- benefit analysis with respect to six key regulations: Utility MACT, Boiler MACT, Coal Combustion Residuals, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Cooling Water Intake Structures, and Ground-Level Ozone. The NAM study details the significant differences between EPA’s cost estimates and those of industry sources, while highlighting problems and inconsistencies with EPA’s methodology. Most importantly for manufacturers, the study estimates the impact of EPA rules on the manufacturing industry, directly and through indirect macroeconomic effects.

A key finding of the report is that “the annual compliance costs for all six regulations range from $36 billion to $111.2 billion (by EPA estimates) and from $63.2 billion to $138.2 billion (by industry estimates).” Notably, the study was picked up in the trade press and recognized by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which reiterated the study’s finding that “major new EPA rules could cost manufacturers hundreds of billions of dollars and eliminate millions of American jobs.”

Textbook Regulation: Forgetting Government Failure

The NAM study acknowledges significant gains in air and water quality in the United States since the creation of the EPA but contends that federal regulators are up against steeply diminishing returns.

After more than 40 years of improvement in air and water quality, further progress is still possible. But how much more? What would be the benefits? And at what cost? Economics is about making the best use of scarce resources, and public policy formulation must heed its implications: policy decisions may produce economic benefits, but they also impose costs. Economics also teaches the theory of diminishing marginal returns, which holds that even though an additional unit of input may generate more output, there is a point beyond which the addition to total output from each new increment of input begins to decline. These economic concepts are relevant to the public’s understanding of the implications of these emerging EPA regulations.

Or, as Julian Simon put it when he discussed the trade-offs of dealing with pollution: [Read more →]

January 9, 2013   2 Comments

EPA’s (Anti) Energy Agenda: What About Wealth and Welfare?

Seven score and nine years ago, President Lincoln spoke about government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Yet, today, our lives are determined not so much by We the People, as by a distant central government, particularly increasingly powerful, unelected and unaccountable executive-branch agencies.

Consider the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguably the most intrusive administrative agency of all. Under Administrator Lisa Jackson, we have, at best, government of, by, and for some people. Or in the words of one public-choice economist, a government “of the Busy (political activists), by the Bossy (government managers), for the Bully (lobbying activists).” [1]

Secretary Jackson seeks not merely to regulate, but to legislate; not merely to protect our health and environment against every conceivable risk, but to control every facet of our economy, livelihoods and lives. Under her direction, EPA increasingly flaunts  regulation unbound.

Instead of following laws and policies set by our elected representatives, EPA is now controlled by environmental ideologues, determined to impose their utopian ideas, via a massive and arrogant power grab. President Obama set the tone, with his promises to “bankrupt” coal and utility companies and “radically transform” our economy and society, and serves as the rogue agency’s cheerleader-in-chief. With few exceptions, our courts have refused to intervene, and the Senate has obstructed any meaningful efforts to constrain agency overreach or reexamine the laws under which it claims jurisdiction. [Read more →]

September 10, 2012   12 Comments

POWER’s Peltier: MACT’s Missing Intellectual Justification

“EPA’s politically appointed leadership believes that the perversion of science is a ‘minor evil’ committed to achieve the ‘greater good’ of ridding the nation of coal-fired power generation. Science may be the first casualty in the EPA’s war on coal, but all of us are its victims.”

- Robert Peltier, “MACT Attack,” POWER, July 2012, p. 6.

Robert Peltier is no ordinary participant in today’s important energy debates. He is editor-in-chief of POWER magazine, which covers all technologies relating to electricity. He is a professional engineer with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Peltier in a previous life was a tenured professor. He has worked in manufacturing and for a public utility. And before that, he was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.

It is his job to study the technological possibilities with an eye to competitive viability in electric generation. When examining regulation—past, present, or proposed—he considers the peer-reviewed literature as well as personal opinions to get to the essence of things.

Utility Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Enter the  recent Utility Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (Utility MACT) rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the subject of Peltier’s ‘Speaking of Power’ editorial in the July 2012 issue of POWER. It is worth reading in whole. [Read more →]

July 23, 2012   6 Comments

EPA Overlook: Improved Health & Welfare from Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“The [EPA] Proposal ignores the obvious association between increased GHG emissions and positive health and welfare benefits. GHG emissions and improving quality of life are associated because the economy runs on energy, and that energy is principally derived from fossil fuels.”

Several detailed and extensive comments were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding their proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units documenting new and influential science that the EPA did not assess when issuing the proposed standards. Instead, EPA simply deferred to their Endangerment Finding that they issued in December 2009.

As yesterday’s post pointed out, a lot is new in the rapidly evolving field of climate (change) science, and thus the EPA Endangerment Finding is getting a bit stale—or should I say becoming “endangered.” A reassessment is sorely in order. After all, how long can you base new regulations on old science?

Here, I examine another aspect of the issue that was largely overlooked by the EPA—the benefits (not only costs) of manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Several commentors point to the good to the public health and welfare that came about as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions—or more specifically, the energy whose production gave rise to the GHG emissions.

One such commentor was Peabody Energy Company, the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a “leader in sustainable mining and clean coal solutions.” Peabody wanted to make darn sure that the EPA recognized not only that access to fossil-fuel produced energy that improved peoples’ lives, but also that limiting access to it, as proposed by the EPA, would result in negative consequences to public health and welfare—the very thing that the EPA’s regulations were crafted to avoid.

Here I excerpt the section from Peabody Energy Company’s rather extensive comment to the EPA in which they lay out the basics for how GHG emissions are associated with public health benefits rather than impairment as concluded by the EPA. Couple these with other positive externalities from carbon dioxide and modest GHG-induced climate change, and it isn’t hard to see why the EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding is out of date and out of touch. [Read more →]

July 13, 2012   5 Comments

New Science Endangers EPA’s “Endangerment Finding”

“If the EPA were to have done that with the regulations being proposed here … it is quite likely that their original Endangerment Finding would have to be revised and potentially overturned.”

The public comment period for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units closed on June 25, 2012. A number of extensive comments were submitted arguing that the basis of the Endangerment Finding—that human greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations”—has become so outdated as to require a thorough re-assessment.

Strong cases were made that the EPA failed to completely consider new and influential scientific results which have a direct relevance to the impact that climate change as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions may have on the public health and welfare. Overwhelmingly, the “missing” science from the EPA’s support documents included evidence that either lessened the certainty that human GHG emissions were behind the observed changes in the climate, or provided examples of positive impacts resulting from climate change on human health and welfare.

It is a recipe for pure waste and unintented consequences if EPA continues to propose regulations based upon static, even outdated, science in a field where the scientific knowledge-base is rapidly evolving. In his public comment to the EPA, the Cato Institute’s Dr. Patrick Michaels neatly described this situation: [Read more →]

July 12, 2012   5 Comments

Pandora’s NAAQS: CEI Comments on U.S. EPA’s ‘Carbon Pollution Standard’

“Some good may yet come of this. A policy crisis over NAAQS regulation of  man-made greenhouse gas would finally make clear that Massachusetts v. EPA created a constitutional crisis by authorizing the EPA to enact policies that the people’s representatives have not approved and would reject if proposed in legislation and put to a vote.”

Yesterday, June 25, 2012, I submitted the following comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, what EPA ideologically describes as the Carbon Pollution Rule. [1]

On behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a non-profit public policy group specializing in regulatory issues, I ask that EPA withdraw the Proposed Rule on the following four grounds:

1. The EPA’s proposal would effectively ban construction of new coal-fired power plants, a policy Congress has not approved and would reject if proposed in legislation and put to a vote.

2. The proposal is an underhanded ‘bait-and-fuel-switch.’ The EPA assured stakeholders in March 2011 that it would not redefine source categories to require fuel-switching from coal to natural gas. Had the EPA come clean about its agenda in 2010 and 2011, Senators Murkowski and Inhofe would likely have garnered more support for their efforts to overturn the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations.

3. The proposal relies on weird contortions – a consequence of the EPA’s attempt to use the Clean Air Act as a framework for regulating greenhouse gases, a purpose for which the Act was neither designed nor intended. For example, the EPA pretends that natural gas combined cycle – a type of power plant – is a “control option” and “system of emission reduction” that has been “adequately demonstrated” for coal-fired power plants.

4. The proposal will provide another precedent for establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards for greenhouse gases, taking America one step closer to policy disaster.

I. Introduction

The proposed rule requires new fossil-fuel electric generating units (EGUs) to emit no more than 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt hour (MWh). About 95% of all natural gas combined cycle power plants already meet the standard, according to the EPA.[2] No existing coal power plants come close; even the most efficient, on average, emit 1,800 lbs CO2/MWh.[3] [Read more →]

June 26, 2012   6 Comments

Reconsidering U.S. EPA’s Proposed NESHAP’s Mercury Emission Rule

“The proposed rules will have little, if any, impacts on mercury concentrations in the environment at a very high monetary and societal cost.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) newly proposed National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) from Coal- and Oil-fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Fossil-Fuel-Fired Electric Utility, Industrial-Commercial-Institutional, and Small Industrial-Commercial-Institutional Steam Generating Units1 failed to describe the scientific reality of natural processes and multi-factorial controls that govern the cycling of mercury (Hg) and the ultimate biomethylation and bioaccumulation processes for methylmercury (MeHg). As this report documents, this natural cycle has been taking place for at least the last 650,000 years.

According to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on mercury,2 U.S. mercury emissions from all sources are indeed far lower than those of China and India. Indeed, an earlier EPA press release and webpage acknowledge that U.S. emissions are only “roughly three percent of the global total”and that from “1990 through 2005, [U.S.] emissions of mercury into the air decreased by 58 percent.”3

The ultimate question that EPA and the public should therefore ask then is this: What will we get by cutting our already very small U.S. mercury emissions from power plants and other man-made sources – especially since new estimates from peer-reviewed papers suggest that mercury emissions from U.S. forest fires alone release about 44 tons of mercury per year,4 an amount roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from all power plants in the United States today?

The bottom-line remains that trace amounts of mercury (Hg) or the biochemically-active form of methylmercury (MeHg) in fish, either from lakes and streams or oceans, are essentially a natural manifestation that has no clearly controllable relationship vis à vis any anthropogenic emissions of mercury. More importantly, consuming reasonable amounts of fish, at reasonable frequency, is safe and should be a crucial component of a healthy dietary plan for every Americans.

The proposed rules will have little, if any, impacts on mercury concentrations in the environment at a very high monetary and societal cost.

EPA’s proposed NESHAP provides no detectable beneficial outcomes in the control of mercury emissions (even accepting EPA’s own risk-benefit analysis without a challenge). The new rules will result in a major economic impact, harm American public health by creating exaggerated and unfounded fears about eating fish that are beneficial in everyone’s diet, and further degrade the essential role of science in informing public policy.

This report makes the following findings regarding EPA’s proposed new emission rules focusing on mercury: [Read more →]

June 11, 2012   No Comments