power plants

Community-Based Programs are Key to Addressing Asthma Triggers

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month? If you or a family member are among the nearly 23 million Americans who are affected by this chronic respiratory disease, you probably already knew. Each year, in May, we increase our public awareness efforts, further strengthen our partnerships with community–based asthma organizations, and recognize exceptional asthma programs.

The chart below shows the prevalence of asthma, its cost to us as a society and what is called the “asthma disparity.” As you can see, poor and minority children suffer a greater burden from asthma and we need to work together to ensure everyone has access to the care they need to get their asthma under control.

What’s the best way to address the asthma disparity? The medical and public health communities have found that the key is a comprehensive, community-based approach that incorporates medical treatment and the management of environmental triggers like secondhand smoke, mold, dust mites and pet dander. This approach can lead to fewer asthma episodes and better quality of life for children and families struggling with asthma.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Another Favorable Opinion from the Supreme Court

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding win for EPA. At issue was how certain Clean Air Act permitting programs apply to carbon pollution. Justice Scalia, writing for seven of the nine justices, largely upheld EPA’s approach to requiring that carbon pollution be addressed in permits for large emitters, such as power plants and refineries. As Justice Scalia reportedly noted from the bench, “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”

EPA’s inaugural suite of carbon pollution rules have now been fully vetted in federal court, and have emerged victorious, and largely unscathed. In fact, the most significant pieces of the Agency’s approach were not even granted Supreme Court review, having been found sound and upheld by the D.C. Circuit. EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare was upheld by the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to it. Similarly, the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s first set of rules limiting carbon pollution from cars and trucks (and simultaneously saving consumers money at the pump), and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to those rules.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the “Ask Me Anything,” Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics — including President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

Gina McCarthy here. EPA Administrator, mom, wife, Boston area native, Red Sox fan.

Yesterday the EPA proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The science shows that climate change is already posing risks to our health and our economy. The Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and our environment, now and for future generations. Read more here: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/06/our-clean-power-plan-will-spur-innovation-and-strengthen-the-economy/

I’ll be here to answer questions starting at 6:00 PM ET. Ask Me Anything. Proof it’s me: https://twitter.com/GinaEPA/status/473899708721946625

Question: Why do you think climate change has become the partisan issue that is has recently? Do you think we have a chance of moving away from the politicization of science in the foreseeable future?

Reply: We know what the science tells us – the time to act is now. There is nothing political about public health and clean air.

Question: Hi Secretary McCarthy! Thanks so much for taking our questions, and thank you for your efforts in rolling out this historic proposed rule. I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of complaints, but you have also made many people incredibly happy and relieved to finally see action in this area, including myself.

  1. Can you discuss the legal authority for setting standards for each state as opposed to individual existing power plants? I think it’s great that the state-wide solution adds more flexibility, but I’m curious about how EPA Office of General Counsel justified authority for this.
  2. Many coal towns are lamenting the inevitable loss of jobs. While jobs are likely to be created elsewhere if the proposed rule becomes final, how can the EPA and the Obama administration directly provide for these communities?
  3. How was a 30% reduction decided upon, and how was it decided to use 2005 as the baseline?
  4. How often do people tell you that your Boston accent is the greatest thing ever? I interned at EPA last summer when you first started as EPA Secretary and all that people on my floor were talking about for a week was the welcome video in which you called EPA employees “soopah smaaht.”

Reply: This is a Clean Air Act rule. State standards make the most sense. We’ll get substantial reductions in carbon emissions in practical, flexible, achievable ways. We expect states can take actions that will protect their communities, public health and local economy. Check out how we did the state standards, it wasn’t about getting 30%, that’s what the standards will achieve nationally. You are wicked cool!

Question: How did you like the Simpson’s Movie?

Reply: I sure hope I’m a better EPA Administrator than Russ Cargill. But seriously, Marge is my favorite. Love the hair.

Question: Can you talk a little about how the EPA Clean Power Plan targets fit into President Obama’s broader 2009 UN Copenhagen Accord targets or long-term plans after 2030? The EPA proposed rule hopes to get to a 30% reduction in electricity emissions by 2030, and the UN Copenhagen Accord targets are quite a bit more ambitious: 17% reduction in total emissions by 2020, 42% by 2030, and 83% by 2050 (1). Based on the EPA GHG inventory (2), this looks like the EPA rules would get us about 30% of the way to the Copenhagen Accord goals by 2030 – what do you see as making up the rest of this gap?

Reply: Our Clean Power Plan is only one action in the President’s Climate Action Plan. It’s a gigantic leap forward and shows significant US leadership, check out the full range of things the President is moving forward: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change. And don’t forget the innovation and investment across the US that this rule will unleash will push our energy revolution forward. It turns out that carbon reductions actually do more than save the planet, they protect kids’ health today.

Question: What are the chances of a zombie apocalypse happening?

Reply: Probably a better question for the CDC!

Question: Hi Gina, Junior Environmental Engineer here. What advice do you have for someone like me who wants to make an effective change towards our environment ? What are effective ways of promoting and implementing the principles of sustainability?

Reply: See what’s going on your community. There’s lots happening across the US, and your skills and energy can really make a difference. When it comes to sustainability local engagement can make the most difference. Check out epa.gov. We’ve got a lot of resources there to get you started.

Question: Hi Gina, why do some many EPA employees go work for the industries they regulate? Do you approve of that ? It seems to be a conflict of interest. Wouldn’t you agree?

Also, why are your fines so low? It appears any kind of EPA action is just a cost of doing business for polluters.

Reply: We have lots of people who come from industry to work at EPA, and they’re totally committed to public health and environmental protection. If people leave EPA and go to work in the private sector, I can’t imagine that they’re going to leave that commitment behind – people who work at the EPA are too passionate about the environment.

I don’t agree that our fines are low. We work very hard to make sure that it doesn’t pay to pollute in this country.

Question: Thanks for taking our questions! What is the number 1 thing individuals can do to support more progress in this direction? What 1 thing would you ask of the private sector?

Reply: The number one thing you can do is to get in the game! Make your voice heard and take action. The same thing goes for the private sector.

Question: Good evening, Administrator McCarthy. West Virginia lawmakers and power industry leaders are worried about the effects of the Clean Power Plan on the state. 1. How many jobs do you predict will be lost in the coal mining industry? 2. How will it affect the price of electricity in the state? 3. How will it affect WV’s economy? 4. Is the base line for the target reductions 2005 or 2012?

Reply: The proposed plan gives the state the flexibilty to design a plan that works for them. We’ll be working closely with folks in West Virigina to make sure they understand what their goal is and the full range of options available. EPA cares about the health and economy of every community in this country.

Question: Do programs like WaterSense and EnergyStar factor into the future climate change initiatives?

Reply: They sure do. Both WaterSense and EnergyStar drive efficiency that benefits every consumer and the planet. You’d be surprised how small reductions add up to big savings for the planet and your pocketbooks. The more people choose EnergyStar and WaterSense products, the more we all win.

Question: Any comments/background/behind the scenes on your marathon of a confirmation fight?

Reply: What confirmation fight? I’m here now and having the time of my life!

Question: Hi Gina! I’d love to hear what your opinions are in regards to nuclear power vs. fossil fuels, specifically as it relates to how best to deal with nuclear waste. Thanks!

Reply: When it comes to nuclear, we know there are some questions, but there’s no denying that it’s carbon free and will be part of the energy mix.

On the issue of waste, it’s been a long standing challenge and one that needs a long term solution. Folks across the Administration are working on it.

Question: Favorite rap/hip hop album?

Reply: I’m more of a Marvin Gaye fan.

Question: I live in Montana and we’re getting bombarded with messages about how this is going to cost us jobs. I recall hearing that global warming wasn’t an issue because technology, in future generations, would fix any problems we might encounter. Won’t that same American ingenuity come up with “clean coal” solutions or other options? Isn’t this more a job shift away from incumbents toward innovators?

You’ve got a tough job ahead. Stick to your guns. History will remember you as being on the right side, no matter what the coal and gas industries say.

Reply: We’re bullish on American ingenuity, that’s what makes this country so great. Thanks for your faith and optimism!

Question: Do you think such an impactful rule should be voted on by Congress? If this rule were put to a Congressional vote, would it pass?

Reply: Congress gave EPA the authority and responsibility to implement the Clean Air Act. We regulate power plants for mercury, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants. Why wouldn’t we regulate power plants for harmful carbon pollution? It fuels climate change and threatens public health.

UPDATE: This has been great – so many great questions. Next time I’ll have to type faster! Thanks everybody.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the “Ask Me Anything,” Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics — including President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Our Clean Power Plan Will Spur Innovation and Strengthen the Economy

It’s an important day.  Today, at the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. And we don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Setting the Record Straight on the Chamber of Commerce’s Report

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that makes unfounded assumptions about the EPA’s upcoming proposal for commonsense standards to cut the harmful carbon pollution from power plants.

First, before EPA even put pen to paper to draft the proposed standards, we gathered an unprecedented amount of input and advice through hundreds of meetings with hundreds of groups—including many members of the Chamber.  That input fed into the draft proposal we’ll release on June 2, and we plan to kick off a second phase of engagement as we work through the draft and get to a reasonable, meaningful final rule.

Second—the Chamber’s report is nothing more than irresponsible speculation based on guesses of what our draft proposal will be.  Just to be clear—it’s not out yet. I strongly suggest that folks read the proposal before they cry the sky is falling. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Mullen Monument – Not What It Used To Be

By Nancy Grundahl

I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the Philadelphia sculptor, Daniel Kornbau. I hadn’t either until I began researching my ancestry. I learned that Daniel was the brother of my great grandmother Emma. His most famous work is the Mullen Monument, which was commissioned by the millionaire William James Mullen. It was, in fact, on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park. You can see it today in Laurel Hill Cemetery, where its location is marked on the visitors’ map. For Rocky fans, Laurel Hill is the cemetery where Adrian Balboa was buried.

After seeing many photos of the Mullen Monument on the web, I was surprised to see how weathered it was “in person.” Sharp edges were rounded. You can barely read Daniel’s name and address under the seated woman. Years of acid rain have not been kind to my great uncle’s work of art.

Philadelphia is downwind of many industrial sources of sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, particularly power plants that burn fossil fuels. These pollutants combine with moisture in the air to form the acid rain that reacts with the calcite in marble and limestone, causing the calcite to dissolve, destroying the fine details that Daniel worked so well to create.

The good news is that in the last few years, pollutants causing acid rain in the Philadelphia area have been reduced by actions including installing additional controls on power plants and burning cleaner coal. And, it was a pleasure to see Administrator Jackson’s recent announcement about requiring significant new reductions in power plant mercury and toxic emissions.

What can we do to help? Conserve energy, since energy production causes the largest portion of the acid rain problem. In this way we can help preserve fine works of art for future generations.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently works in Program Support for the Water Protection Division. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Telling the Truth About the Environment and Our Economy

This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

It’s a certainty in Washington that lobbyist talking points and inside-the-beltway speeches are going to be overblown and exaggerated. But lately, misleading claims about the EPA’s work have been making their way into the mainstream debate.

The most notable is an industry report that the EPA is responsible for an unprecedented “train wreck” of clean air standards that will lead to the mass closure of power plants. The “train wreck” claim has been repeated by everyone from congressional leaders to major newspapers. It sounds pretty scary, but the trouble with these reports — there is no “train wreck.”

Earlier this month a Congressional Research Service report concluded that industry’s claims were made “before EPA proposed most of the rules whose impacts they analyze,” and are based on “more stringent requirements than EPA proposed in many cases.”

On the issue of plant closures, I take the word of industry leaders like the Chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, who said “These regulations will not kill coal… up to 50% of retirements are due to the current economics of the plant due to natural gas and coal prices.” The Congressional Research Service report also found that EPA’s standards will primarily affect “coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls.” That echoed the remarks of the CEO of American Electric Power from April of this year: “We’ve been quite clear that we fully intend to retire the 5,480 megawatts of our overall coal fleet because they are less efficient and have not been retrofitted in any particular way.”

This is just one example from the larger debate over the EPA’s effect on the economy. That’s an important debate when job creation is our nation’s top priority, and that makes it all the more troubling to see the EPA attacked for measures we haven’t actually proposed, and to hear our fundamental responsibility of protecting the health and environment for all Americans targeted as an enemy of job creation.

Some in Washington are working to weaken safeguards and undermine laws that protect our families from pollution that causes asthma, cancer and other illnesses, especially in children. Big polluters are lobbying congress for loopholes to use our air and water as dumping grounds. The result won’t be more jobs; it will be more mercury in our air and water and more health threats to our kids. As a senior official from the Bush EPA recently wrote, “Abolishing the EPA will not cause a revival of America’s economy, but it will certainly result in a major decline in public health and our quality of life.”

It’s time for a real conversation about protecting our health and the environment while growing our economy. EPA’s 40 years of environmental and health protection demonstrate our nation’s ability to create jobs while we clean our air, water and land.

When big polluters distort EPA’s proposals as a drag on our economy, they ignore the fact that clean air, clear water and healthy workers are all essential to American businesses.

They also overlook the innovations in clean technology that are creating new jobs right now. The CEO of Michigan’s Clean Light Green Light recently said, “EPA has opened the doors to innovation and new economic opportunities. By spurring entrepreneurs who have good ideas and the drive to work hard, the EPA has helped give rise to countless small businesses in clean energy, advanced lighting, pollution control and more, which in turn are creating jobs.”

It’s time to recognize that delays of long-expected health standards leave companies uncertain about investing in clean infrastructure, environmental retrofits, and the new workers needed to do those jobs. These are potential opportunities for engineers and scientists, as well as pipefitters, welders and steelworkers. Pledges to weaken or slow proposed standards, many of which have been developed over years and with industry input, prevent businesses from investing in those jobs.

Some leaders in congress have already stated their intent to roll back critical environmental protections when they return to session. Misleading claims are translating into actions that could dismantle clean air standards that protect our families from mercury, arsenic, smog and carbon dioxide. All of this is happening despite the evidence of history, despite the evidence of Congress’ own objective Research Service, and despite the need for job creation strategies that go well beyond simply undermining protections for our health, our families and our communities.

Telling the truth about our economy and our environment is about respecting the priorities of the American people. More than 70 percent of Americans want EPA to continue to do its job effectively. Those same Americans want to see a robust economic recovery. We have the capacity to do both things if we don’t let distractions keep us from the real work of creating jobs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Protecting the Public from Power Plant Air Toxics

By Ellen Kurlansky

I will admit that there were times in the past decade and one-half that I feared we would never reduce toxic emissions from power plants . Last month, EPA proposed a regulation to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants. These plants are a very large source of these pollutants, which along with mercury include other metals such as arsenic and cadmium, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen cyanide. The regulation, called the Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will have tremendous benefits for public health. It is expected to prevent between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks, and 850,000 lost work days every year beginning in 2016.

The regulations had been long delayed, first because the studies that were required by the Clean Air Act took us longer than Congress had envisioned and then because the EPA took a tack during the last administration that was resoundingly rejected by the Court. But finally, in 2009 we set out to develop the regulation. One of our managers’ guiding principles was that the regulations adhere closely to the requirements of the Clean Air Act so that if it is challenged in the courts we will prevail and the benefits to public health will not be further delayed.

Many power plants in the US operate today with modern pollution controls. But many do not. Cost effective technology to control air pollution is available and proven. The Mercury and Air Toxics standard will mean that all coal- and oil-fired plants will need to limit their air emissions.

Developing this proposal was a massive undertaking involving staff from many offices at EPA. It required teams of engineers, economists, lawyers, and scientists. We had a hard deadline of March 16 ordered by the Court and so toward the end everyone was working evenings, weekends, pretty much all the time. I was struck, however, by the good humor and even excitement exhibited by most of the staff throughout those last busy days. I think people felt really good knowing that the regulation would be so important to improving public health. I personally felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of that.

About the author: Ms. Kurlansky is a policy analyst in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  She has broad experience in environmental and energy policy gained from work at other EPA offices and at other government agencies, non-profit organizations, and as a consultant.  Ms. Kurlansky, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, has a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Economics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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