Archive for Environmental Protection Agency
www.nytimes.com 21st January 2013
In perhaps a surprising move, President Barack Obama put climate change at the forefront of his inaugural speech. Eight whole sentences were devoted to the subject, more than any other. The focus on climate change comes after a comprehensive failure to introduce any legislation on the issue in his first term. This time around, the president plans to use his executive power to avoid opposition by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Climate change was also brought up in election-night speech where he related it directly to the rise of extreme weather. A number of steps will be taken to help the US tackle the issue of greenhouse gases. The main step will be the power given to the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on emissions from coal power-stations. Another is to increase energy-efficient standards in buildings and home-appliances. A third is to increase the development of public transport. Despite a failure to secure any legislation in his last term, emissions in the US still dipped 10% between 2008 and 2012, a result of the economic slow-down and moves towards energy efficiency by government and industry.
President Barack Obama made his priorities clear recently when he rejected proposals from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten the national standard from smog. The decision angered environmental and public health groups who called it: ‘bald surrender to business pressure, an act of political pandering and, most galling, a cold-blooded betrayal of a loyal constituency.’ The move is being seen as the first important environmental decision made in President Obama’s campaign season. Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the EPA, was told that she could revisit the Clean Air Act standards in 2013, if the Democrats were re-elected. Republicans and industry lobbyists praised the move but there have been other decisions that have not gone their way. Previously, the Obama administration stated that it was going to delay a key decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline until after the 2012 elections. Fears are afoot that the Democrats are abandoning their environmental promises after the Democrats also announced a significant expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Commentators have stated that these moves highlight the White House’s growing awareness of the cost of ‘environmental regulation in a battered economy’.
www.nytimes.com 3rd August 2011
The oil and gas industry has maintained that fracking, the process of hydraulic fracturing whereby water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the bedrock to release natural gas reserves, has absolutely no effect on drinking water supplies. The reason behind this certification, industry officials say, is that fracking occurs thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers therefore it is impossible for the chemicals used in the process to enter the water. However, a report published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987 describes hydraulic drilling carried out by the Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company contaminated a well belonging to a Mr James Parsons of West Virginia not 600 feet away. Furthermore, the EPA have claimed that there may be more cases out there that will never see the light of day due to sealed settlements made between fracking companies and those affected by the contaminated water. This made it impossible for EPA researchers to investigate cases due to the lawsuits. “I still don’t understand why industry should be allowed to hide problems when public safety is at stake,” said Carla Greathouse, the author of the E.P.A. report that documents a case of drinking water contamination from fracking. “If it’s so safe, let the public review all the cases.” The American Petroleum Institute has denied such claims, instead referring to ‘countless academic, federal and state investigators’ who have ‘conducted extensive research on groundwater contamination issues, and have found that drinking water contamination from fracking is highly improbable.’
www.latimes.com 19th July 2011
A group of environmental and public health organisations have lodged a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the latter’s perceived failure to curtail pollution levels, and therefore smog, in the city. The EPA had recently missed a deadline in May to calculate whether ozone levels in the area were hazardous to human health, a decision that could trigger tougher limits on vehicle and industry pollution. Los Angeles already has the highest rates of ozone in the country according to the American Lung Association. It is also has the highest rates if asthma with 1 million adults and 300,000 children diagnosed with the condition. The suit was filed by several organisations including Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Communities for a Better Environment and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In nearby San Joaquin Valley, a similar lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. If the EPA does end up determining that ozone levels in LA are too high then the regions regulatory agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, would have one year to submit a clean-up plan. The EPA have refused to comment on the lawsuit.
www.latimes.com 4th April 2011
A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley who embarked on a study to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming are finding that their results are actually supporting the existence of the phenomenon. Led by Professor Richard Muller, a long-term sceptic of climate studies, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was intended to challenge perceived over-exaggeration on the extent of global warming. But to the surprise of the project’s supporters, and researchers, Prof. Muller announced to a congressional hearing that the commonly used temperature trends underlying climate science are ”excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” The news will certainly annoy the project’s biggest private backers, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Charles and David Koch are oil billionaires and the most prominent funders of efforts to prevent curbs of burning fossil fuels. The statement by Prof. Muller is likely to exasperate the current political battle in the US over whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have the power to curb planet-heating emissions from industry and transport. The professor has cautioned that his statement is based on only 2% of the 1.6 billion measurements his project is going through.
www.guardian.co.uk 14th February 2011
In his 2012 Budget Report, US President Barak Obama has proposed opening up funding for clean energy by reducing subsidies for fossil fuels. The report would see the Department of Energy receiving a budget of $29.5 billion for the fiscal year, which is a mark up of 4.2% from the proposed 2011 budget. Of this, around $8 billion would go towards renewable energy such as wind and solar. To help make up this amount, Obama has asked Congress to take away $3.6 billion in oil and gas subsidies in addition to cut government funding for oil and gas research and hydrogen fuel programmes. Predictably, most of the Republican party, who now have the majority in the House of Representatives, oppose the budget claiming that the cuts would cost jobs in a time of economic uncertainty. The party has also vocalised its intention to reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s programme to regulate greenhouse has emissions claiming that ‘Congress should be the one to decide whether to fight Climate Change, not the administration.’ Obama’s budget already slashes $1.3 billion of the EPA by reducing funds aimed at the Great Lakes Restoration and a clean diesel programme. According to analysts, the most likely condition in the budget to make it into law is extra funding for electric cars, as this could be paired with an opposing bill to increase money for natural gas fuelled cars.
www.nytimes.com 24th January 2011
Anyone visiting the website of the ‘Waters Advocacy Coalition‘ would be forgiven for believing the group was another environmental organisation trying to protect North America’s waterways, such is the impression given by the banner “Protect the Clean Water Act” accompanied by images of crystal clear streams and rivers (see above). So when the Coalition protested on the subject of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rescinding a Clean Water Act Permit for the Mingo Logan Coal Company in West Virginia it may come as a surprise to some that they were in support of the coal company. In a rebuke of the EPA ruling, the Coalition wrote to President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality stating that the decision “has no legal foundation, is not warranted on the facts and will chill investments and job creation across America. The implications could be staggering, reaching all areas of the U.S. economy including but not limited to the agriculture, home building, mining, transportation and energy sectors.” As it turns out, the Coalition is actually a lobbying body for some of the USA’s ‘largest industrial and agricultural concerns’ including ‘the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Industrial Sand Association and the National Mining Association.’
www.latimes.com 30th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘If the GOP (the Good Old Party, i.e.: the Republicans) wins control of the House next week, senior congressional Republicans plan to launch a blistering attack on the Obama administration’s environmental policies, as well as on scientists who link air pollution to climate change. The GOP’s fire will be concentrated especially on the administration’s efforts to use the Environmental Protection Agency‘s authority over air pollution to tighten emissions controls on coal, oil and other carbon fuels that scientists say contribute to global warming. The attack, according to senior Republicans, will seek to portray the EPA as abusing its authority and damaging the economy with needless government regulations. In addition, GOP leaders say, they will focus on what they see as distortions of scientific evidence regarding climate change and on Obama administration efforts to achieve by executive rule-making what it failed to win from Congress. Even if Republicans should win majorities in both the House and Senate, they would face difficulties putting their views into legislative form, since Senate Democrats could use the threat of filibuster to block bills just as the GOP did on climate and other issues during the past year. Also, Obama could use his veto power. But the GOP’s plans for wide-ranging and sustained investigations by congressional committees could put the EPA and administration environmental policymakers on the defensive and create political pressures that could cause Obama to pull back on environmental issues as the 2012 presidential election draws closer.’
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Sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment 10th September 2010
On Friday, a huge fireball of natural gas tore through a quiet suburb of San Bruno, just south of San Francisco, killing 4 and destroying 50 homes. The cause of the fire was traced to a gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The incident, just one of many fossil fuel disasters the US has experienced of late, has drawn the spotlight onto the meteoric rise of natural gas consumption in the USA. Shale gas extraction has risen by 71% in the past decade and there are no signs of such a rate slowing. A method used in the extraction process is raising concern among environmental groups and local residents as reports of contaminated drinking water flood in. Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, is a process whereby a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals (mostly diesel fuel) is used to fracture rock formations to get at the gas beneath. However, between 20-40% of the chemicals are left underground causing potential environmental harm. The issue is documented in the film Gasland but is currently exempt from federal regulation. Congress has previously allowed the companies involved in fracking to keep the concoction of chemicals a ‘trade secret’ but pressure on Environmental Protection Agency means action is on its way.