The latest EPA rule reducing the level of mercury, lead and other pollutants emitted by industry boilers only applies to 1 percent of the industry, the EPA announced today. Still, industry has heavily opposed the relatively minor burden with vast health benefits, and House GOP have already voted to delay and weaken new standards.
Gina McCarthy, head of the E.P.A.’s office of air and radiation, said Friday that the new rules for boilers and incinerators were written to minimize costs and maximize benefits … She noted that 99 percent of the 1.5 million boilers in the United States would be exempt from the new rules or could meet them simply by performing routine maintenance and tune-ups. Only a fraction of the 14,000 boilers that are major sources of mercury, soot and other pollutants will be required to install abatement equipment, she said.
The EPA claims the health benefits are the same under the new rule, which would prevent 8,100 deaths, 5,100 heart attacks and 52,000 asthma attacks annually. The health benefits of cleaner air, estimated to save $27 billion to $67 billion, overwhelm the $2 billion cost of the industry’s compliance.
Yesterday, as a part of a day of actions related to World AIDS Day, a group of New York City protesters dressed as Robin Hood and demanded that we tax Wall Street to help fight HIV/AIDS. Eight protesters were arrested and put in jail. Their legal support team sent them pizzas and sodas — but the protesters never got these food items. “We could see the empty pizza boxes in the trash and the empty plastic bottles,” said Housing Works CEO Charles King, one of the protesters, alleging that the police ate their food. (HT: @micahuetricht)
Gas Company That Contaminated 18 Wells Through Fracking Refuses To Continue Providing Clean Water To Residents
As Republican lawmakers rush headlong to open up land to fracking, their constituents should heed the cautionary tale told by the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania. The small town of 1,400 people agreed to let Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Company employ hydraulic fracturing on local land to obtain natural gas in 2008. The result: 18 water wells contaminated with methane.
Dimock residents’ water “started turning brown and making them sick, on woman’s water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.” What’s more, the value of the land the residents lived on plummeted. The situation deteriorated so badly that by 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined Cabot, shut down several of the wells, and required the company to permanently provide drinking water to 11 families in Dimock.
But this Wednesday, Cabot told Dimock residents that they’re officially on their own. Cabot ended daily deliveries of clean water this week, asserting that “Dimock’s water is safe to drink.” DEP gave Cabot permission last month to stop paying for the water, and a judge, who sits on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, “declined to issue an emergency order compelling Cabot to continue the deliveries.” Now, Dimock families are left in a lurch, many unable to afford the provisions that run as high as $100 a day:
The decision left residents who don’t think their water is safe scrambling to find alternate sources.
“We are in desperate need here,” said Scott Ely, 42, who is married with three young children at home.
Ely, a former Cabot employee, said no option was appealing. A creek runs through his property, but the water hasn’t been tested and his wife doesn’t want it piped into their brand-new home. The Cabot contractor who had been supplying their water quoted him a price of $100 a day, he said.
“We’re sitting here with no answers, and I cannot believe Cabot got away with this,” he said.
Like those in Dimock, many Americans “signed millions of leases allowing companies allowing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on their land in recent years.” But as a New York Times review notes, “fewer than half the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination after drilling begins;” “most leases grant gas companies broad rights to decide where they can cut down tress, store chemicals, build roads and drill;” the drilling companies “Rarely describe to landowners the potential environmental and other risks that federal laws require them to disclose” in leases; and the majority of leases “allow extensions without additional approval from landowners” so if landowners feel differently about the situation, “they may be out of luck.”
The Dimock situation should certainly serve as a warning to its neighboring states. In Ohio, GOP Gov. John Kasich is trying to open up Ohio’s state and federal parks to fracking. While it’s banned high-volume fracking, New York is currently considering some companies being fracking, a move that could potentially jeopardize the drinking-water supply for 9 million people in New York City and Syracuse. Hearings on the proposed regulations on the drilling drew 6,000 people to four public hearings and have spurred more than 10,600 public comments out of concern for the future of their water supply.
You can make a difference. Making the effort to be more environmentally friendly is easier and cheaper than you realize – and good for both you as well as the environment. Read on for 5 easy ways to do your part.
It is so easy and simple to recycle these days that it’s almost harder not to recycle. Your local council will have provided you with a recycling bin and a calendar so you know which days to put out your recycling.
Have you ever had friends over and they have been confused when they go to throw out something and discover you don’t have a recycling bin? Avoid potential embarrassment and change this as soon as you can!
Glass, plastic, cardboard or aluminum should be recycled wherever possible. If you are unsure, turn the item upside down and look for the green triangle that will let you know if it can be recycled.
Going one step further and making an effort to buy items that are in biodegradable or very little packaging is even better if you can.
Bike or walk.
Cars are the largest contributor to air pollution in the world today and while you can do your best effort to look after your car or invest in a hybrid or greener model, the truly best thing you can do is reduce your car usage altogether! This will save you money AND work wonders for your health.
Switching your drive to work in the morning for a bike will mean you get exercise, fresh air and also save time searching for parking or being stuck in traffic – as well as save you money on petrol.
If biking isn’t your thing, go old school and walk – set yourself a challenge or a limit: if a place is less than 20mins walk away, make it a rule to always walk rather than drive. The more you get used to walking, the easier it will be, the fitter you’ll get, and the cleaner your air.
Cloth bags not plastic bags.
Green bags are very widely available and there is absolutely no reason that you should still be using plastic bags.
Not only are they reusable: they are also convenient. You can fit a lot more in cloth bags, including heavier or sharp items that just tear through plastic bags, and you can use them for pretty much anything.
Make a habit of keeping one handy at all times: there’s nothing more frustrating than heading to the supermarket and realizing you have left these bags at home. Constantly buying enviro bags is just as bad – if not worse – as constantly using plastic bags, and defeats the purpose.
Support eco businesses.
While it’s very easy now for businesses to practice greener habits, to recycle, to buy and stock environmentally friendly products and use eco promotional bags: it’s typically not the cheapest option for them.
Those businesses that are environmentally responsible are making a conscious effort and investment – and we are consumers are responsible in helping make their efforts worthwhile.
There are still so many businesses out there that, no matter what, will always choose the cheapest and easiest option because they only care about the bottom line.
The more we demand that businesses turn green, support those that do and avoid those that don’t, the sooner businesses will relent to pressure and start introducing more environmentally friendly practices.
Encourage your friends.
As one individual you may not think that your efforts alone can have a significant effect: but if you spread the word to your family, friends and all others you know, you can create a ripple effect and soon there will be an extra 100 or 1000 people practicing eco-friendly habits – all thanks to you!
Lead by example and become conscious of how others might be inspired by your habits – and encourage them to do the same.
Our guest blogger is Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.I don’t take pleasure in saying “I told you so.”
In this case, I am especially pained to say my predictions about President Obama’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein have borne out.
You may recall the background: in 2009, President Obama nominated his old friend, Harvard Law School Professor Sunstein, to run the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office little known outside the Beltway but one with enormous power. It is, in effect, the gatekeeper over all major rules issued by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency
In his prior life as an academic, Sunstein had raised serious questions about environmental requirements. He had urged, for example, changing the Clean Air Act to require that national clean air standards pass a cost-benefit test – a change in the law long sought by big corporate polluters who understood this meant a weakening of the law in the real world. (National clean air standards today are supposed to be based only on science so the public can know if the air is actually safe to breathe.)
I noted that had a Republican president nominated someone with similar views, public interest groups (and Democrats) would be screaming. But progressives and most Democrats basically gave Sunstein a pass.
His nomination was approved on a 57-40 vote. Once approved, Sunstein has generally worked in the office’s typical obscurity. Following his advice, the president issued an executive order demanding that agencies review existing regulations. This was generally viewed as a political concession to anti-governments groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In perhaps his best-publicized activity, as the New York Times recently reported, Sunstein joined forces with then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley to torpedo the EPA’s attempt to update national clean air standards for smog. Sunstein basically imposed his own illegal cost-benefit ideology on the decision. As a result, many millions of Americans will be breathing dirty air longer. To compound a bad decision, he then lied about it, claiming politics was not a factor.
If anyone thought this was an isolated incident, I suggest you read a provocative new report by the Center for Progressive Reform. It is the most thorough analysis I have ever seen of Sunstein’s office, and the results are pretty appalling. It documents in great detail how big business groups are using Sunstein as a tool to weaken health and safety standards. It has also become a tool of the administration’s foolish political efforts to mollify the business lobbies.
During a six-month period, Sunstein’s office literally met with nearly 6,000 lobbyists, 65 percent of whom represented industry, compared to only 12 percent representing public interest groups. In a shocking discovery, the analysis found that Sunstein’s office changed more rules than it did under the prior Bush administration!
The analysis notes that EPA rules were singled out for special review and change and that Sunstein’s office frequently ignores public disclosure requirements.
The report ends with a call for reform that it not likely to happen anytime soon. Indeed, even as I write, Sunstein’s office has become the conduit for meetings with dirty electric power companies who are seeking to weaken and include new loopholes in upcoming EPA standards aimed at cutting mercury and other life-shortening toxics from coal-fired power plants.
Will Sunstein strike again, as he did in the ozone decision?
by Cole Mellino
As the climate talks unfold in Durban, South Africa, farmers all over the world are feeling the impact of extreme weather exacerbated by a warming planet.
Changing weather patterns, especially rainfall, are having disastrous affects on global crops. Last year in the Caribbean, banana and vegetable crops were hit hard by months of drought followed by torrential rains that resulted in flooding. The story is the same in Southern Africa. Droughts and erratic rainfall in the South African desert are destroying the Redbush tea plant, known by its Afrikaner name Rooibos. In other areas of the world, a range of agricultural products like coffee, chocolate, peanuts, and pumpkins are all being harmed by extreme weather.
But farmers in Africa — a continent that would be worst hit by climate change — are not idly sitting by. Protesting outside the Durban climate talks, members of the Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly are expressing their frustration with international inaction on climate:
“We’ve come to join other rural women farmers from the southern African region,” said Thandiure Chidararume, a member of ActionAid, an international organization that helped bring together this meeting of the Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly. “We have come as one voice from Africa, we are saying no to damning deals, Africa is not for sale, we want this air pollution that is causing climate change to stop now.”
The assembly unites women’s farming and agricultural unions and movements from around the world.
Women from all across Africa, some as far north as Kenya, came out to the rally at a Kawaulu-Natal University in Durban, several kilometers from the downtown convention center where the more subdued, official meetings on climate change are taking place.
The protesters, who also have the support of women’s movements in Latin America, do not believe that government negotiators represent their interests.
They lament the inaction by developed countries, and point to schemes in which biofuel companies or other firms buy land in countries in Africa and Latin America to make money off of trading carbon credits. These land grabs drive people off the land and often don’t reduce carbon emissions. That’s why Mercia Andrews, the director of the South African Trust for Community Outreach and Education, calls the situation “climate apartheid”:
“We have a responsibility, we have to begin to mobilize and we have the power. We have shaken this country before, we brought down apartheid, now is another turn. This is a bigger struggle, a more important struggle and this is a struggle that we must unite around. We must say, ‘No, to climate apartheid, no.’ ”
The concerns are real, said Theresa Marwei, an activist from Zimbabwe.
“I think if we can agree, all the countries that we are here, not to let the air be polluted, because we are having hunger, no water to drink, no gardens, no money to send our children to school because no rain,” she said. “If the rain comes it will be floods, we can’t do anything.”
This group of women representing rural farming interests is just one of many protesting outside the Durban climate talks in an attempt to get negotiators to see the human consequences of their actions.
— Cole Mellino is an intern with the energy team at the Center for American Progress