|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
February 28, 2011
Last Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency released new health standards under the Clean Air Act that will limit emissions of mercury, soot, and other harmful air toxics from boilers and incinerators. The EPA estimates that improvements in the performance and emission of the 200,000 small and large boilers in use at industrial sites across the country will avoid 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, 4,100 heart attacks and 42,000 asthma attacks. EPA also announced it will reconsider aspects of the rule due to changes made through the public comment process since the proposed rule was announced in April 2010. For more information visit the official EPA page.
In other Clean Air Act news last Tuesday the Natural Resources Defense Council released 20 new polls to gauge how Americans nationally and in 19 districts across the country feel about Congressional votes to block the EPA’s work to protect public health. Nationwide, nearly six out of 10 Americans (58 percent) – including 55 percent of Independents and about 48 percent of Republicans – oppose the U.S. House vote to “block the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution,” according to the survey of 784 registered voters conducted February 18-20. States where the district polling took place include Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Click here for more details.
On Friday House Republican leaders released a two-week stopgap plan that sought to significantly reduce spending but avoid a government shutdown. The short-term plan comes after the House passed a seven-month funding bill loaded with anti-environmental riders that included more than $60 billion in federal cuts – including $3 billion at EPA and more than $1 billion at the Energy Department. The new two-week continuing resolution (CR) leaves out riders and earmarks but would still slice $4 billion from the budget crippling many federal programs. For more details read the E & E article.
In other news, the clean-up of the Gulf Coast after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill is to move on to the next stage, the US government announced last weekend, as environmental scientists insisted that significant amounts of oil still remain on the seabed and parts of the shoreline. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, launched what she said would be an intensive public consultation process to decide how the gulf should be restored to its pre-spill condition.
The Financial Times reported that marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. Her video and slides demonstrate oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, is not degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.
“The overall goal of this process is to hold the parties responsible for the spill fully accountable to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of natural resources and services injured by the oil spill,” said Dr. Lubchenco. On the “polluter pays” principle, all costs will be met by BP and its contractors. Between the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 and the final capping of the leak on July 15 last year, 5 million barrels of oil leaked into the gulf.
Early last week Bloomberg reported a legally binding accord to combat climate change “is not on the cards” at a December summit, because developing countries such as China, Brazil and India won’t commit to it, according to U.S. negotiator Todd Stern. With developing countries unlikely to commit to reducing greenhouse gases by set targets, the U.S. will push for non-binding agreements to slow global warming, which will eventually result in a comprehensive and binding deal, Stern, President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, told reporters in Johannesburg today.
Signatories to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, who will discuss whether to extend emission cuts beyond the current 2012 expiry at the summit in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban, are still “deadlocked” on the matter, Stern said. The Kyoto plan called for a 5.2 percent reduction from 1990 levels among industrial nations. Japan, Russia and Canada all said they don’t want to extend Kyoto unless the two biggest emitters, China and the U.S., are brought into the pact.
Kate Smolski, Domestic Policy Director