Tag Archives: Air Quality

Federal spending deal falls short on environment

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

Spending deal falls short on environment

By Annie Notthoff, December 17, 2015  |  Annie Notthoff is director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California advocacy program.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

The spending and tax policy agreement Congress and the White House have reached to keep the government funded and running includes important wins for health and the environment.

But there’s good news to report, only because of the Herculean efforts of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House, who worked tirelessly to block nearly all of the dozens and dozens of proposals Republican leaders were pushing.

Those proposals would have blocked action on climate, clean air, clean water, land preservation and wildlife protection and stripped key programs of needed resources. The Republican leaders’ proposals were the clearest expression yet of their “just say no” approach to environmental policy. They literally have no plan, except to block every movement forward on problems that threaten our health and our planet.

The worst aspect of the budget agreement is another clear indication of Republican leaders’ misplaced priorities — they exacted an end to the decades-long ban on sending U.S. crude oil overseas in this bill, in return for giving up on key elements of their antienvironment agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made that give-away to the oil industry one of his top priorities. It will mean increased oil drilling in the U.S., with all the attendant dangers, with the benefits going to oil companies and overseas purchasers. That won’t help the American public, or the climate. It’s simply an undeserved gift to Big Oil.

In good news, the agreement extends tax credits for wind and solar energy for five years, which will give those industries long-sought certainty about their financing.

Wind and solar will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, helping domestic industry, reducing carbon pollution and making the U.S. less vulnerable to the ups and downs of fossil fuel prices.

Democratic leaders deserve all our thanks for what they were able to keep out of the budget deal. Gone are the vast majority of obstacles Republican leaders tried to throw in the way of environmental protection. Recall for a moment the 100 or more antienvironmental provisions Republican leaders tried to attach to these spending bills. Those included efforts to:

• Block the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants — our best available tool to combat dangerous climate change.

• Roll back the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, which would restore protections for the potential drinking water supplies of 1 in 3 Americans.

• Repeal the EPA’s newly issued health standards to protect us from smog.

• Bar the Interior Department from protecting our streams from the pollution generated by mountaintop removal during coal mining.

• Strip Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves, the greater sage grouse, elephants, the Sonoran Desert tortoise, and other threatened animals.

• Force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, which President Obama already has rejected.

There’s more work ahead to protect the environment, starting with eliminating the threat of oil drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Coast.

But despite the efforts of Republican congressional leaders to hold the public hostage and bring us to the brink of another government shutdown, a budget deal has emerged that protects environmental progress.

 

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Health advisory issued after flaring at Tesoro refinery in Martinez

Repost from KQED News

Martinez Refinery Flare Prompts Brief Contra Costa Health Advisory

By Dan Brekke, December 15, 2015 UPDATED 2:10PM
Smoke plume rises from Tesoro’s refinery in Martinez early Tuesday afternoon. Andrew / News 24-680 via Twitter)

A flaring incident at the Tesoro oil refinery in Martinez prompted Contra Costa County health officials to issue a health alert in several communities early Tuesday afternoon.

The Level 2 alert was issued for people in Martinez, Pacheco, North Concord and Clyde who have “respiratory sensitivities.”

The alert was canceled at about 1:30 p.m., after smoke produced by the flaring dissipated.

Maria Duazo, with the county Department of Health Services’ hazardous materials program, said the flaring occurred after a boiler in a unit of the refinery malfunctioned at around 12:15 p.m.

“As a result there was some black smoke that came off,” Duazo said. “It appears that some odors came off, so we have some air monitors downwind from the refinery.”

The Department of Health Services says the smoke, which was rapidly dispersed by brisk northerly winds, should not pose a hazard to most people in the area.

Just after 2 p.m., Tesoro issued a statement on the incident:

At approximately 11:47 PST this morning, Tesoro Martinez experienced a loss of our primary steam generation unit that caused upsets in several process units. These upsets resulted in flaring with visible smoke. A Community Warning System Level 2 was activated per procedure, due to the smoke drifting offsite.

There were no injuries as a result of this event. We do not expect any adverse health effects. We are working closely with Contra Costa County health personnel and other regulatory agencies.

At this time, the steam generation unit is back on-line, and the refinery is currently in stable condition at reduced rates. The refinery is no longer flaring.

Our main priority is to safely return the refinery to normal operations and to minimize the impact to the community and the environment.

As of 1400, the event has been downgraded to a CWS Level 0. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
The hazardous materials program is expected to require Tesoro to provide a report on the incident within the next 72 hours.

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NY Times: Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris

Repost from the New York Times – Science
[Editor:  See also the Times’ Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris.  – RS]

What Does a Climate Deal Mean for the World?

Times staff, Dec. 12, 2015

A group of 195 nations reached a landmark climate agreement on Saturday. Here is what it means for the planet, business, politics and other areas.

An event at the United States’ pavilion during the Paris climate conference, known as COP21. Credit Christophe Ena/Associated Press
The Planet

The planet is under threat from human emissions, and the Paris climate deal is, at best, a first step toward fixing the problem. Ice sheets are starting to melt, coastlines are flooding from rising seas, and some types of extreme weather are growing worse. Yet some of the consequences of an overheated planet might be avoided, or at least slowed, if the climate deal succeeds in reducing emissions. At the least, by requiring regular reviews, the deal lays a foundation for stronger action in the future. – JUSTIN GILLIS


Christiana Figueres, the United Nations climate chief, left; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and President François Hollande of France, on Saturday after the Paris climate accord was adopted. Credit Christophe Petit Tesson/European Pressphoto Agency
Global Politics

Strange bedfellows emerged during the Paris negotiations, with industrial powerhouses such as the European Union joining with Pacific island nations and former adversaries, like China and the United States, swapping brinksmanship for bonds over joint action to cut fossil fuel emissions. The pact could leave more geopolitical shifts in its wake. It could further move the energy balance of power away from the developing world toward the industrialized countries, boost the economy in technology economies like the United States and Japan as they develop solutions for the generation and distribution of renewable energy, and create economic stars out of relatively poor countries with an abundance of sun and wind for renewable energy. On the other hand, major oil producers like Russia and Saudi Arabia, already weakened by the slide in the price of oil, could shed some power. – MELISSA EDDY


President Obama Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
American Politics

The Paris accord is a triumph for President Obama and Secretary of
State John Kerry, who both lobbied hard for it, but it has outraged
many Republicans who are skeptical of the extent of human-caused
climate change and believe the deal favors environmental ideology over economic reality. The environment has not typically played a major role in voters’ choices, and the issue will most likely be overshadowed in the current election cycle by fears of terrorism, though the drought in California and severe weather in many parts of the country have raised concerns for many Americans. The Republican-controlled Congress can do little to stop the deal, which is not considered a treaty under United States law, though Congress would need to sign off on any new money to help other countries adapt to climate change — an important aspect of the American commitment to the accord. – SEWELL CHAN


A worker inspected solar panels at a solar farm in Dunhuang, China. Credit Carlos Barria/Reuters
Business

The ambitious targets included in Saturday’s deal for limiting the rise in global temperatures may help companies involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency by expanding their markets. Setting a high bar may also make the energy industry attractive for innovators and venture capitalists, increasing the chances of sweeping shifts in what has been a conservative business. The agreement may make life difficult for some of the incumbent companies like electric utilities and coal producers, whose product emits high levels of carbon dioxide. – STANLEY REED


Environmental activists and supporters at a rally in Los Angeles last week called for action on climate change. Credit Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
American Citizens

The average American most likely will not feel an immediate effect from the Paris deal. There will be greater emphasis on more efficient electrical products, homes and vehicles. Jobs could be created through the construction of a new energy infrastructure, the maintenance of solar fields and the development of new transportation systems that move away from dependence on the gas pump, as Secretary of State John Kerry has said. Or, as Republicans warn, Americans could see a loss in jobs and American economic competitiveness, as developing economies with less stringent targets are allowed to grow at American’s expense. The deal’s intended long-term effect: avoiding the catastrophic effects of climate change and leaving behind a healthier planet. – MELISSA EDDY

 

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