Monthly Archives: June 2011

New Collaborative Efforts to Help Clean Up Port Pollution

EDF Staffers Marcia Aronoff (from left), Mark MacLeod, and Elena Craft (far right), join Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, at today's SmartWay press conference in South Carolina.

Today’s press conference in Charleston, S.C., marked another successful milestone toward reducing trucking emissions and improving local health in and around our nation’s ports.

Together with the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, Environmental Defense Fund and the Port of Charleston announced an agreement today to join forces with the Environmental Protection Agency on a new goods movement initiative called the U.S. EPA SmartWay Drayage Program. This program builds a partnership between the retail industry and the trucking and port communities, among other stakeholders, to solve a critical health and environmental challenge: how to reduce harmful air emissions from port trucks.

Dray trucks, typically older and more polluting than long-haul trucks, operate in and around port areas and represent one of the largest sources of port diesel emissions. Consequently, EDF appreciates EPA’s significant efforts in developing tools and funding opportunities that will help secure better environmental performance of trucks that operate at these ports.

We also appreciate the strong leadership from our nation’s top retailers in committing to hire trucks that meet specific environmental performance standards. In a statement released today, Target’s Director of Import Operations and President of the CRT said, “This partnership will generate private sector investment in clean technology, improve the environmental quality of our nation’s port communities and demonstrate the commitment we have made as the shipping industry’s leaders to emissions reductions.”

As you’ve read on this blog before, EDF has been working with CRT for some time now on a “clean trucks initiative” building a partnership between the retail industry and trucking and port communities. Such collaboration, often including port authorities, truck owners, retailers, local agencies and more, is cropping up at ports across the U.S. helping drivers meet new requirements.

The launch of a similar effort was just made today in Maryland, for example. The University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association have created the Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program, which will offer financial support to replace trucks serving the Ports of Baltimore, Virginia, Philadelphia and Wilmington.

Complex issues require collaborative solutions. As the hazards of air pollution and the effects that air pollutants on human health become more evident, creative partnerships are necessary to solve the most difficult environmental challenges like port truck emissions.

The real victory in such partnerships is the immediate and lasting health benefits for the people who live in and around U.S. ports. Fewer deaths, fewer asthma attacks, fewer lost workdays and schooldays, and reduced health care costs are just a few of the rewards that we can look forward to as a result of our collective efforts.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ports| Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

EDF Supports Comment Extension on Power Plant Standards

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the time period for the development of greenhouse gas (GHG) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for fossil fuel-fired power plants.  Proposed GHG NSPS will now be issued by September 30, 2011.

What are New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)?

NSPS are federal emission standards that are developed for major stationary sources of harmful air pollution.  These standards are based on emission reductions achieved by the most efficient emission reduction technology on the market, taking costs and impacts on energy and the environment into account.  The Clean Air Act directs EPA to review the standards at least every 8 years to see if new emission reduction systems can achieve greater emission reductions and health protection. Once EPA sets the level of emission reductions that can be achieved from existing stationary pollution sources, States develop plans to achieve the reductions.  EPA is currently designing the NSPS for GHG emissions from power plants, the largest source of GHG emissions in the country, and for refineries.  EDF submitted comments to EPA focused on how the standards could be designed to be legally robust and environmentally effective.

Why extend the NSPS development period?

The timeline for EPA’s development of these vitally important emission standards is set by a settlement agreement with Environmental Defense Fund and other parties.  EPA has been gathering input from stakeholders on how the standards should be designed, holding five “listening sessions” around the country and receiving over 5,000 written comments to date.  In light of this extensive public comment, all active parties in the settlement agreement have agreed to extend the standard’s development period through September 30th. This allows EPA to better incorporate the public input into the design of the new standards. Read More »

Posted in Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone| Comments closed

Update On White Stallion Coal Plant

Back in May I issued a statement on our court win against the While Stallion coal-fired power plant being proposed in Matagorda County, Texas.  The motion we filed against White Stallion was regarding their use of two conflicting site plans for air permit applications with US Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

On Monday, June 20, 2011, Judge Lora Livingston of the Travis County District Court entered EDF’s proposed order to require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to take additional evidence on White Stallion’s coal-fired power plant air permit application.

This means our motion for remand is now formalized and has specific action associated with it. (See the order here)

The additional evidence will show that White Stallion played “bait and switch.”   We know that six days after TCEQ’s air permit decision White Stallion significantly altered its site plan in an effort to win a different permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.  If White Stallion waited until after TCEQ’s air permit decision to change site plans, it made a mockery of TCEQ air permit hearings – the air emissions evidence taken was not on the power plant White Stallion intends to build. 

It’s important to mention that the change in site plans warrants re-notice of the entire permit application under Texas Health & Safety Code § 382.0291(d).  Otherwise, as the District Court said, “the public will not be afforded meaningful participation in the permit application review process” of White Stallion’s actual proposed power plant.

As this process moves forward, we’ll keep you updated.

Special thanks to lead EDF counsel Tom Weber and Paul Tough of McElroy, Sullivan & Miller.  As well as Pete Schenkkan of Graves Dougherty who assisted in the district court briefing and argument.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| 4 Responses, comments now closed

American Electric Power v. Connecticut

The most important thing about this [Supreme Court] decision is that it buttresses the foundation for EPA to do its job,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “The Supreme Court strongly underscored EPA’s responsibility under the law to address climate pollution that threatens the health and well-being of our nation.”

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday in American Electric Power v. Connecticut that because the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority and responsibility to regulate global warming pollution that endangers American health and welfare, a lawsuit asking for court-imposed limits on power plant emissions brought under the federal common law of nuisance must be dismissed.

The Court found that because Congress had granted EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution in the Clean Air Act, EPA’s authority “displaces” the federal common law in this area. This ruling reaffirms EPA’s Congressionally mandated responsibility to tackle global warming pollution and power plant emissions that threaten the integrity of Texas climate and air and the health of Texas citizens.

The nuisance case was brought by the states of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the City of New York and several land trusts against the nation’s five largest emitting power companies. These companies include AEP, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, Cinergy, and TVA. Power plant smokestacks are the single largest source of carbon pollution in our nation, responsible for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. emissions. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs| Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

White Stallion Air Permit: Setting the Matter Straight

Earlier this month, guest blogger Allison Sliva expressed approval for a court decision that effectively withdrew an air permit application to build a proposed coal plant (White Stallion) in Matagorda County.

EDF had filed a legal document called a “Motion to Remand” based on White Stallion's use of two different site plans in applying for permits with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The plans differed vastly in the locations of emissions sources, and changing emissions sources can affect the permits compliance with Clean Air Act standards and TCEQ rules.

Now, even though White Stallion “intends to move forward with its construction plans,” new approval from TCEQ should not be considered automatic as one might infer from an article this week in the Houston Chronicle:

“The plant's developers, Houston-based Sky Energy, already have a permit from the state for air pollution and need one from the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the Colorado for barge traffic.”

Yes, White Stallion received a permit from TCEQ. Yes, it was remanded. And yes, even so, TCEQ rules allow developers to depart from an approved site plan with the “submission of an ‘as built’ report” that does not require public notice.

However, the people’s right to know is the crux of the matter at hand. As State District Judge Lora Livingston wrote in her legal decision, “meaningful public participation in the permit approval process would be effectively eliminated” should the permit not be sent back for review given the site changes.

People have a right to know what’s going on in their backyards, especially those in Matagorda County and nearby Houston, where hazardous coal plant emissions will impact air quality. TCEQ should give the application review due diligence, with a fair and open process. The court has decided, not to mention that fundamentally it’s the right thing to do.

Posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Political Outreach Generates Mutually Beneficial Outcomes

Isabelle Silverman is an attorney in the New York EDF office and focuses on clean air, transportation and diesel issues.

Have you ever visited New York City and noticed black smoke billowing out of chimneys? Did you wonder why this was happening?

I work on a high floor in a New York City office building and a few years ago, began wondering just that. So I contacted a consultant and found out that about 10,000 residential, commercial and institutional buildings burn highly polluting grades of heating oil (No. 4 and No. 6 oil), which causes the black smoke. No. 6 oil is also referred to as “residual fuel” as it is the bottom of the barrel – leftover after the refining process.

Pursuing further, we at EDF decided to find out how much pollution was created by these 10,000 dirty oil buildings. After researching the issue, we wrote and released a 2009 report, The Bottom of the Barrel: How Dirty Heating Oil Harms our Health and Pollutes our Air, showing that the dirty oil buildings were responsible for more soot pollution than all the cars and trucks combined in New York City.

In addition, we launched a web page with an interactive map showing every dirty oil building’s address. EDF also approached Mayor Bloomberg personally and the Mayor’s Sustainability Office recommending that permits for the dirty oil boilers be phased out as fast as possible. These actions put the issue on the map – literally.

For the first time, building owners realized that they were burning dirty oil when they could be burning much cleaner natural gas or regular heating oil. Natural gas being significantly cheaper than oil even presented a business opportunity when switching fuel. When combined with efficiency measures, building owners can reduce their heating fuel costs by more than 40%. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution| Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

No Coal Coalition Weighs in on White Stallion Court Decision

Allison Sliva is board chair of the No Coal Coalition/Matagorda County.

When I heard the news that EDF’s Motion to Remand was recently granted by Travis County Court Judge Lora Livingston, I was pleased on several fronts.

First, the decision halts, even if temporarily, a process of approving building facility plans that has tried to circumvent air quality laws designed to protect public health. Building this coal plant would bring with it serious air quality impacts for people in and around Matagorda County, not to mention the greater Houston area. Projected emissions from the plant will include 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, nearly 5,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, more than 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, nearly 1,800 tons of particulate matter and nearly 100 pounds of mercury.

This pause in the process should make everyone involved – especially the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – think twice about the air impacts to present and future generations.

Second, the decision exposes a White Stallion action that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. TCEQ granted White Stallion an air permit after reviewing air dispersion modeling and testimony based on a site plan that White Stallion changed six days after the permit was issued. As EDF’s Jim Marston said, White Stallion “should be upfront with regulators about their intentions.”

Third, the decision renews public confidence in our legal system. As Judge Livingston wrote in her decision letter, “Without remand, meaningful public participation in the permit approval process would be effectively eliminated.”

Myself and members of the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County thank you EDF for your due diligence in helping to set the record straight.  Our call to action now is to help gather the evidence needed to prove that the air pollution coming from White Stallion would violate the law as well as harm human health.

WHITE STALLION TIMELINE

Here is a timeline of the community efforts that Matagorda County residents and others have undertaken over the years to prevent a poorly planned, poorly placed and poorly designed coal-fired power plant from coming online. – Elena Craft

September 2008 – White Stallion files for an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It proposes a 1,320 megawatt coal and petroleum coke-fired power plant to be located along the Colorado River eight miles south of Bay City in Matagorda County, in an ecologically sensitive area known as the Columbia Bottomlands. The proposed location is also 20 miles southwest of the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria region.

November 13, 2009 – In a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wetlands Section Chief Sharon Fancy Parrish recommended that an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted “for the proposed project to better access the substantial change to the human environment.” Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, GHGs, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed
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