green and sustainable business

Groups use energy security scare tactic in opposing EPA

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Talk about turning logic on its head: Four right-wing, anti-big government groups contend the EPA is “abusing” air-quality laws because the agency’s MACT (maximum achievable control technology) utility rules will force coal-fired electrical plants to shut down, thus jeopardizing the security and reliability of the U.S. power supply.

A recent petition by the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Prosperity, Center for Rule of Law, and the Freedom Through Justice Foundation is asking EPA to “look at the facts on electric reliability and its Utility MACT rule, which the agency is rushing to finalize in November.”

The coalition’s petition contends the EPA is rushing to judgment and questions the EPA’s assumptions on electric reliability. “EPA has never taken reliability seriously,” it says. “The message of this petition is simple: slow down, do the job right, and do not put reliable electric service at risk.”

It sounds somewhat reasonable until one looks into the source, and then it becomes political double-talk. It’s really part of an all-out attack on all things EPA by the Republican Party. The public relations firm (CRC Public Relations) that disseminated the information about the coalition’s petition includes the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and he National Republican Senatorial Committee in its client base.

It’s also part of a larger campaign in Congress to box up and derail the EPA. The House of Representatives recently passed the TRAIN Act, which calls for establishing a committee to analyze the economic impact of recent regulations imposed EPA. The bill includes an amendment to delay EPA’s Utility MACT and new transport rules that set more stringent emissions standards on large institutions. It would delay EPA action on the rules until six months after completion of the TRAIN Act analysis. In other words it would choke off any action on air quality for years.

House Republicans are closing are closing in on 200 votes to gut or eliminate EPA programs.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune had this to say about House passage of the TRAIN Act on September 23:

“The U.S. House Leadership’s continued, all-out assault on essential clean air protections demonstrates a complete and reckless disregard for Americans’ well-being and the things we care most about – our health, our families’ health and air that’s safe to breathe.

“House Leadership claims that the costs of basic pollution protections, protections that Americans have relied on for 40 years, are too high. But their passage today of the so-called TRAIN Act will cost 34,000 lives. That’s 34,000 people – fathers, mothers, neighbors, friends and children – who could be saved by protections against dangerous pollution and who the majority of the U.S. House has identified as collateral damage for their pro-polluter agenda. In addition to these initial, unnecessary deaths, the TRAIN Act will result in 25,000 more lives lost each year that it delays critical protections against pollution.

“Sacrificing tens of thousands of American lives will not create more jobs. Allowing corporations to dump toxic pollution into the air our children and our families breathe will not help the economy recover. Burdening the American people with billions of dollars in health bills will not lead to economic growth.”

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman recently weighed-in on this topic, writing in his blog about an American Economic Association paper, “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” by Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn and William Nordhaus. The paper estimates the cost imposed on society by air pollution, and allocates it across industries. The costs do not include the long-tern threats imposed by climate change.

“Even with this restricted vision of costs,” Krugman writes, “they find that the costs of air pollution are big, and heavily concentrated in a few industries.

“In fact, there are a number of industries that inflict more damage in the form of air pollution than the value-added by these industries at market prices.

“It’s important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal — maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.”

In another recent column, “The Party of Pollution,” Krugman notes the GOP solution for the jobs crisis is “in large part, to allow more pollution.” He continues: “So what you need to know is that weakening environmental regulations would do little to create jobs and would make us both poorer and sicker.”

Consider these points from the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Burning coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxics. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates:

  • 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming–as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
  • 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
  • 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
  • 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
  • 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.
  • 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
  • 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
  • 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
  • 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.”

Which spin is more reasonable: the right’s anti-EPA, pro-dirty energy agenda? Or clean air, health and jobs? It should be an easy call.


Written by William DiBenedetto

25 October, 2011 at 2:00 am

One Response

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  1. Touchdown! That’s a raelly cool way of putting it!


    30 October, 2011 at 4:22 am

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