Clean Air Act Digest, 12.19.12
Last Wednesday, December 12, 2012, the House voted on the Asthma Inhalers Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 6190), sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). This bill was designed to put back on the market a 1960’s-vintage over-the-counter product called “Primatene Mist,” which was banned at the end of last year. Primatene Mist contains chemicals that deplete the earth’s ozone layer and a drug that the nation’s top asthma doctors consider ineffective and even dangerous. The bill failed on suspension—a process that requires a two-thirds majority—by a vote of 229 yeas to 182 nays. For more information about the bill, please see David Doniger’s blog.
On December 14, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, also known as PM 2.5), meeting a court-ordered deadline. The NAAQS updates strengthen the limits set for fine particulate matter—also known as soot—to 12 micrograms per cubic meter per year, lowered from the level of 15 micrograms set in 1997. The agency decided not to update the daily PM 2.5 standard, maintaining it at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. Fine particulate matter, which comes from power plants, cars, and other industrial sources, is known to contribute to serious health effects, including heart disease, asthma, and even premature death, particularly in vulnerable populations. The strengthened standards are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths and to yield healthcare savings between $4 billion and $9.1 billion per year by 2020. Moreover, certain types of particulate matter—black carbon and aerosols in particular—are believed to contribute to climate change. The strengthened standards may then have a role to play in helping to mitigate climate change. On the heels of this great news, League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has started an online petition asking their members to tell President Obama: “Thanks, now keep fighting for clean air protections!”
Mercury and Air Toxic Standards:
On December 12, EPA extended the public comment period for reconsideration of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for new power plants by one week. These safeguards as a whole prevent the release of certain heavy metals and toxic pollutants from power plants and are expected to reduce carbon pollution by 15 million metric tons per year by 2015. Proposed in November of this year, the MATS update would only apply to new power plants and would not alter the standards for existing power plants.
On November 30, the Office of the Federal Register mistakenly published the proposed MATS rule in the “Rules and Regulations” section of the Register, instead of the “Proposed Rules” section. The Office of the Federal Register then issued a correction notice on December 5, noting the error. In response, EPA extended the public comment period for the proposed updates, and will now accept comments for an additional week (until January 7, 2013). EPA will not hold a public hearing on the proposed MATS, as it received no public request to do so.
Carbon Pollution Standard Lawsuit:
On December 13, the Court of Appeals in Washington, DC issued a one-paragraph order dismissing a lawsuit brought by a handful of would-be coal-plant developers, attacking EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants, in a case called Las Brisas Energy Center v. EPA. EPA issued the proposal last April, is currently working through the public comments, and is expected to make a final decision soon. However, EPA has not finalized the standard yet, so the Court succinctly ruled, “The challenged proposed rule is not final agency action subject to judicial review.” For more background on the lawsuit, please see David Doniger’s blog here.
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) proposed an innovative plan showing how the President can slow climate change, save lives, create jobs, and grow the economy by using the Clean Air Act to cut the dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants. The plan achieves huge health and climate benefits at surprisingly low cost, is fair and flexible for each state and power company, holds power bills down, and triggers huge job-creating clean energy investments that can’t be outsourced.
Tell President Obama: “Thanks, Now Keep Fighting For Clean Air Protections!”, League of Conservation Voters Online Petition, 12.18.2012
Quotes from Health and Medical Groups in Response to New Soot Standard, American Lung Association, 12.14.2012
Sierra Club Applauds Finalized EPA Soot Standards, Sierra Club Press Statement, 12.14.2012
Sen. Carper Statement on EPA Announcement of Revised Clean Air Act Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution, Senator Tom Carper Press Statement, 12.14.2012
EPA Announcement Puts Farm Dust Regulation Issue to Rest, National Farmers Union News Release, 12.14.2012
New Soot Standard: Very Important Win for Public Health and Environment, League of Women Voters Press Release, 12.14.2012
Organizations Representing over 150,000 U.S. Businesses Issue Joint Statement on EPA’s Final Clean Air Standards for Fine Particle Pollution, Ceres and American Sustainable Business Council, 12.14.2012
Markey: Reduction in Soot Pollution an Early Holiday Gift for America’s Health, Congressman Ed Markey Press Statement, 12.14.2012
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.