Wednesday, March 16, 2011

National Standards for Mercury, Arsenic and Other Toxic Air Pollution

EPA Proposes New Emission Standards for Power Plants
John M. Broder and John Collins Rudolf, NY Times, March 16, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first national standard for emissions of mercury and other pollutants from coal-burning power plants.

The rule, which would likely lead to the early closing of a number of older plants, is certain to be challenged by the some utilities and Republicans in Congress.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson pointedly included the head of the American Lung Association and two prominent doctors in her announcement of the rule to highlight that the regulations were designed to protect public health and not to penalize the utility industry.

The EPA estimates the total annual cost of compliance at about $10 billion, in line with some industry estimates (although some are much higher), and the health and environmental benefits at more than $100 billion a year. Ms. Jackson said that households could expect to see their electric bills rise by $3 to $4 a month when the regulation was fully in force after 2015.

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a group of utilities, questioned Ms. Jackson's assertion that the technology needed to reduce emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium and other airborne pollutants was readily available and reasonably inexpensive. The need to retrofit scores of plants in the same short period of time will tax resources and lead to delays, it said.

One utility executive said compliance would not be unduly burdensome. "We know from experience that constructing this technology can be done in a reasonable time frame, especially with good advance planning," said Paul Allen, senior vice president and chief environmental officer of Constellation Energy. "And there is meaningful job creation associated with the projects."

The new rules bring to a close a bitter legal and regulatory battle dating back to the passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act, which first directed the EPA to identify and control major industrial sources of hazardous emissions. The long delay has meant that emissions of some major pollutants have grown in recent years. The EPA's most recent data shows that from 1999 to 2005, mercury emissions from power plants increased more than 8 percent, to 53 tons from 49 tons. Arsenic emissions grew even more, rising 31 percent, to 210 tons from 160 tons.

Read the complete NY Times article here.

The Human Costs of Contaminated Drinking Water

Cost to clean contaminated water in San Joaquin Valley would be over $150M
Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee, March 16, 2011

A new study, The Human Costs of Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water in the San Joaquin Valley, a collaboration of the Pacific Institute, Community Water Center, Clean Water Fund, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, focuses on the household costs of avoiding nitrate-contaminated drinking water connected to community water systems and the costs to these systems of removing or avoiding nitrates.

The study reports that families in the San Joaquin Valley of California are paying more than $100 a month for both water service and bottled drinking water because local drinking water is often contaminated with nitrates and other harmful chemicals.

Tulare County, one of the most productive farming counties in the country, is the epicenter of the problem, the study says. The state tested 181 drinking water wells in 2006, finding more than 70 tainted with nitrates.

The study also suggests key policies and further research needed to better understand and resolve the situation.

Read the complete Fresno Bee article here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oakland City Council Adopts Energy and Climate Action Plan

On March 1st, Oakland's City Council adopted a resolution that accepts the city's first Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP)--with some of the strongest greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals of any city in the country--and directs the staff to proceed with appropriate California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.

The February 22, 2011 Draft ECAP is available for review here.

The purpose of the ECAP is to identify and prioritize actions the City can take to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions associated with Oakland. The ECAP recommends GHG reduction actions and establishes a framework for coordinating implementation, as well as monitoring and reporting on progress.

In July 2009, the Oakland City Council approved a preliminary GHG reduction target for the year 2020 of 36% below 2005 levels. The primary sources of Oakland’s GHG emissions are:
  • Transportation and Land Use
  • Building Energy Use
  • Material Consumption and Waste
The ECAP outlines a ten year plan including more than 150 actions that will enable Oakland to achieve its target reduction and recommends a Three Year Priority Implementation Plan.

Read more here.  A video of the Council meeting is available here (skip to about 2:43:00 in the video for the ECAP agenda item).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Illegal Dumping In Bayview

City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed suit against Hector Santamaria of New High Protection Roofing Company and Salvador Gonzalez of Salvador Trucking Service for repeatedly disposing tons of roofing material and other debris in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. As part of the City Attorney's larger investigation, administrative subpoenas will be served on other suspected polluters.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is seeking maximum civil penalties and damages for dumping more than 100 tons of construction and roofing material illegally on the streets and sidewalks of the Bayview since late September 2010.

In partnership with the City Attorney's Office, Supervisor Malia Cohen also introduced legislation that will amend San Francisco's municipal code to declare illegal dumping a public nuisance and empower the City with the ability to recover costs from those who commit illegal dumping.

San Francisco's Department of Public Works has spent more than $36,000 to remove the illegally-dumped waste and more than $25,000 to investigate and document the illegal dumping.

Click here for the press release.

Read more on (click here).