Clean Air Act Digest, 1.18.13
Fiscal Cliff Part 2:
On New Year’s Day, Congress postponed the “fiscal cliff” by passing a last-minute tax bill. After years of significant spending cuts, the bill was the first to provide needed revenue to continue popular federal programs, including incentives promoting clean energy. But the final bill did not raise enough revenue to put the country on a sustainable fiscal footing, nor did it close irresponsible tax loopholes.
Moreover, the deal only postponed automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, called the sequester. The sequester process, which Congress put in place in 2011, was supposed to force legislators to put together a sensible compromise on the budget, but it has not. Instead, the deep, automatic cuts—now due to take effect March 1—will cripple essential programs that protect our air, our water, our wildlife and our national parks.
For more information, see NRDC’s new website:
New Soot Standards:
On January 15, 2013, the Final Rule for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Particulate Matter was published in the Federal Register. The Rule strengthens limits set on fine particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller—also known as soot—to a standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter annually, lowered from a 1997 annual standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter. These strengthened standards are a welcome step in the right direction towards better protecting public health and the environment. Moreover, recent research suggests that soot may play a far larger role in contributing to climate change than was previously understood and suggests soot has surpassed methane as the number-two driver of climate change, behind only carbon dioxide. EPA additionally launched a new voluntary initiative called “PM Advance” on January 17, 2013, designed to aid communities in identifying strategies to implement and comply with the updated standards.
New Soot Implementation Approach:
The new soot standards referenced above will be more effectively implemented thanks to a court ruling earlier this month. On January 4, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must implement stronger requirements to clean up particulate matter, or soot pollution
The court ruled that the agency must follow strict implementation requirements specific to soot pollution written into the Clean Air Act, as opposed to the more general and lax requirements the agency had been following. This ruling will mean stronger protections against deadly soot pollution.
The suit was brought by Earthjustice on behalf of the American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air.
New Boiler, Incinerator, and Cement Standards:
On December 21, the Environmental Protection Agency released long-overdue health protections from mercury, toxic metals, acid gases and other harmful pollution emitted by industrial boilers and incinerators. The standards will save thousands of lives every year, but the earlier provisions affecting cement manufacturers and incinerators have been loosened.
Nearly 40 million Americans live within three miles of industrial boilers or incinerators that emit harmful pollution, such as mercury and toxic metals. Mercury, for instance, is a neurotoxin that affects brain development of children and the unborn. Other pollution from these facilities causes a range of other harmful health impacts.
The EPA’s final safeguards for boiler emissions are estimated to prevent up to 8,100 premature deaths annually, which is 1,600 more lives saved than previous standards the agency considered. In addition, reducing the mercury, toxic metals and other harmful emissions will annually prevent about 5,000 heart attacks, more than 50,000 asthma attacks and close to a half million missed days of work due to illness.
Climate Change Letter to President Obama:
On January 7, nearly 70 national and regional organizations released a letter calling on President Obama to take three direct steps to address the deepening climate crisis. The steps are: to continue elevating the problem of climate change and its solutions before the American public; to use existing Clean Air Act authority to reduce dangerous carbon emissions, particularly from existing power plants; and to reject dirty fuels, beginning with disapproving the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson steps down:
On December 27, 2012, Lisa Jackson announced that she would step down from her position as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The President’s nominee to succeed her has not yet been announced.
Soot is No. 2 Global-warming Culprit, Study Finds (+Video), The Christian Science Monitor, 1.15.13
Critical Next Steps for Clean Air, Moms Clean Air Force Blog, 1.15.13
Broad Coalition Letter Urges President Obama to Tackle Climate Change, Nearly 70 Groups Sign-on Letter, 1.7.13
Keep Pollution Cops on the Beat: Congress Proposes Stripping $100 Million from Clean Air Enforcement, Climate Guest Blogger, Peter Iwanowicz, ThinkProgress Blog, 1.9.13
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Clean Air, Group Press Release, 1.4.13
Global Toll of Air Pollution: Over 3 Million Deaths Each Year, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog, 12.14.13
#SootKills more Americans each year than car accidents. RT to thank @BarackObama for moving forward with life saving protections.
Above is a sampling of the most recent resources related to upholding the Clean Air Act. Don’t forget USCAN has a series of pages that compile items like these and much more:
Clean Air Act Digest is a publication put together by US Climate Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. Please contact Lara Levison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Click here for past issues.