Tag Archives: Clean Air Act

Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

Repost from The Hill

Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

By Timothy Cama – 12/19/15 08:35 AM EST 
Getty Images

President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.

The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.

The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.

“The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”

That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.

He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”

Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.

Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.

The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.

“While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.

Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.

They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.

All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.

In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.

Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.

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    Pittsburg CA: Suit claims EPA failed to investigate

    Repost from the Contra Costa Times

    Pittsburg: Suit claims EPA failed to investigate complaints of environmental discrimination

    By Bay City News Service, 07/21/2015 09:43:40 AM PDT

    PITTSBURG – A consortium of environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to investigate complaints of discrimination in the placement of power plants or hazardous waste dumps in various locations across the country, including two power plants in Pittsburg.

    The EPA has 180 days to respond to the complaints, but according to the suit, which was filed on July 15, the federal regulator has not responded to the complaints in 10 to 20 years in some cases.

    The suit includes allegations about facilities in Michigan, Texas, New Mexico, Alabama and California.

    In Pittsburg, the suit alleges that the local regulatory agencies — the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission — discriminated against residents by locating two power plants in an already environmentally over-burdened area, according to Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer with Earthjustice, which is representing the plaintiffs.

    “This is in a community where people have high rates of asthma or cancer and they were concerned that these plants would add to that,” Engelman Lado said.

    Californians for Renewable Energy, or CARE, filed a complaint with the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights in April 2000 charging the local agencies discriminated against the predominantly nonwhite and low-income residents by failing to consider the additional environmental burden of the two new plants, the complaint alleges.

    Permitting for the plants, the Los Medanos Energy Center LLC and Delta Energy Center, continued and the plants were approved and went online in 2001 and 2002, respectively, according to the complaint. The EPA accepted the complaint in December 2001 but has yet to conduct an investigation into the allegations, despite attempts in 2006 and 2009 by CARE to prompt the federal agency to respond, the complaint alleges.

    In June 2002, the EPA classified Los Medanos Energy Center as being in “significant violation” of the Clean Air Act and over the last five years the facility has had to pay over $3,000 in fines for violating the act, according to the complaint.

    In the meantime, residents have been suffering the consequences, Engelman Lado said.

    “The plants are still standing and they’re polluting,” she said. “They’re emitting toxins and the community is living with that everyday.”

    Engelman Lado said it’s clear the EPA has violated the law, and she’s hoping the lawsuit will result in the EPA completing their investigation.

    Engelman Lado added she’s confident that when the EPA does complete the investigation, it will make findings of discrimination.

    “We would hope, whether through a court order or by sitting down at the table, we could bring resources to bear to say, ‘What can we do to help these communities who are suffering from a lack of infrastructure or resources,'” she said.

    That could take the form of more monitoring, infrastructure to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the power plants, or more extensive buffers between the community and the plants.

    A representative from the EPA did not return a request for comment.

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      They Knew, They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

      Repost from TruthOut

      They Knew, They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

      By William Rivers Pitt, 16 July 2015 00:00
      (Photo: Los Angeles Smog via Shutterstock)
      Los Angeles Smog – Shutterstock

      Between 1956 and 1964, Bell Laboratories produced a number of television specials titled “The Bell Laboratories Science Series.” The topics ranged from an examination of the Sun, to human blood, deep space, the mind, the nature of time and life itself. The programs were produced by Frank Capra, whose films include It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so the production value of the series was notably superior. Even 30 years later, schools all across the US were still showing these Bell Labs films to students.

      In 1958, a chapter in this series titled “The Unchained Goddess” was broadcast. The topic was the weather, and it starred Richard Carlson and a USC professor named Dr. Frank C. Baxter. At one point in the program, Carlson asked Dr. Baxter, “What would happen if we could change the course of the Gulf Stream, or the other great ocean currents, or warm up Hudson Bay with atomic furnaces?” The “atomic furnaces” bit is a quaint throwback to the atom-crazy 1950s, but the response given by Dr. Baxter is what makes this particular film notable.

      “Extremely dangerous questions,” replied Dr. Baxter, “because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen. Even now, Man may be unwittingly changing the world’s climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release, through factories and automobiles every year, of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide – which helps air absorb heat from the Sun – our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer. It’s been calculated that a few degrees rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps, and if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi Valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water.”

      Again, this was broadcast in 1958. The fact that climate concerns were being voiced almost 60 years ago is likely surprising to many, but the history and beginnings of the environmental movement in the US date even earlier. Ten years before, in 1948, the first piece of federal legislation to regulate water quality – the Federal Water Pollution Control Act – was passed. President Eisenhower spoke to the issue of air pollution, which had killed nearly 300 people in New York City two years earlier, in his 1955 State of the Union Address. That same year, the Air Pollution Control Act was passed.

      Continue reading They Knew, They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

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        EPA Cites Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal for Clean Air Act Violations; Permit Invalid

        News Release from Earthjustice

        EPA Cites Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal for Clean Air Act Violations

        Federal agency says California oil train terminal is major air pollution source, permit is invalid without significant environmental review
        Contact: Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, 415-217-2084, mcaldwell@earthjustice.org, Monday, May 4, 2015
        The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft which the EPA has found in violation of the Clean Air Act.
        The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft which the EPA has found in violation of the Clean Air Act. | Elizabeth Forsyth / Earthjustice

        Taft, CA —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited the Bakersfield Crude Terminal for 10 violations of the Clean Air Act, declaring the California crude-by-rail facility a major air pollution source that should have been subjected to rigorous environmental review during the permitting process. The federal agency found that the terminal’s permit is invalid and that the facility lacks required pollution controls and emissions offsets, and that it is in violation of the Clean Air Act’s public notice and environmental review requirements.

        In January, Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment sued the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which issued the invalid permit, over the permitting process for the facility’s expansion— a process that was conducted without public review. Earthjustice is representing the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR), ForestEthics, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

        A public records request revealed communications between San Joaquin Valley Air District officials and the project manager for the terminal that included advice from the officials about how the project could avoid public noticing and pollution controls. The Air District approved the massive expansion in a piece-meal permitting process that allowed one of the largest crude oil operations in California to expand largely out of public scrutiny.

        “The EPA’s announcement declares the Air District’s permit a sham and that the Bakersfield terminal is operating illegally,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, Earthjustice attorney. “Air District officials went out of their way to exclude the public from the process and speed the approval through, ignoring the environmental review required by state and federal law. We applaud EPA for stepping in and enforcing the Clean Air Act.”

        EPA’s action could subject the terminal to serious Clean Air Act fines, and should force the Bakersfield Crude Terminal to undergo the major source permitting required by the Clean Air Act.

        “The EPA stepped in to protect California from this crude-by-rail facility’s dangerous air pollution,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal intervention is urgently needed because the air district and Kern County officials have utterly failed to safeguard public health and the environment. They’re turning a blind eye to air pollution and environmental risks such as catastrophic explosions linked to these massive trains full of volatile crude.”

        “EPA’s notice of violation should serve as a wake up call to local authorities around the country who help polluters when they should be protecting public health,” said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics Extreme Oil Campaign Director.  “Oil trains threaten 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone, plus millions more who live downwind of a refinery, downstream of where an oil train crosses a river, or in the Bakken and tar sands producing regions of North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.”

        “In Kern County, with the worst air in the nation, the air district has harmed the health of the public by intentionally allowing this facility to violate the Clean Air Act,” said Tom Frantz, with Association of Irritated Residents.

        “Given the increased pollution and hazards from refining and transporting a lower quality crude, there is immediate need for a moratorium that halts new permits and construction of extreme oil infrastructure, not the opposite fast track permitting process that Air District officials put this massive crude by rail terminal on – and in secret,” said Roger Lin, attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.

        “The US Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement today is a significant step forward for Bakersfield and Kern County residents who bear all the burdens of volatile, accident-prone crude by rail transport and none of the benefits,” said Gordon Nipp Bakersfield resident and Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter Vice Chairman. “This terminal wreaks havoc on our region’s already compromised air quality and our communities now fear the risk of exploding trains.”

        The agency also weighed in on the issue of vapor pressure of Bakken crude, declaring it unreasonable to underestimate the vapor pressure when permitting a crude-by-rail site and requiring vigorous monitoring and reporting of what crude oil is actually shipped. One way many of these facilities get around major source permitting is by cherry-picking the volatility of the crude oil being shipped, estimating the vapor pressure on the low end of the spectrum, which would keep emissions of volatile organic compounds under the threshold for triggering Clean Air Act review.

        In addition to emitting volatile organic compounds from the off-loading of crude oil, the facility endangers Bakersfield and other communities in California by increasing the amount of explosive crude oil transported by rail through the state. There have been multiple incidents of train derailments and explosions across the nation and in Canada. An oil train that derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, destroyed most of the town center, burning more than 30 buildings to the ground and killing 47 people. Just this year, there have been four derailments and explosions in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario involving oil trains.

        Read EPA’s Notice of Violation.

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