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Cleaning Up Power Plants & Big Polluters

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Cleaning Up Power Plants & Big Polluters

The Clean Air Act has been the law of the land for over 40 years, with a proven track record of success in cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment and spurring American innovation. It’s past time to clean up our nation’s dirtiest sources of pollution, and it is critical the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to implement the Clean Air Act, one of the nation’s most effective public health protection laws.

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Government studies show that the health benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed its costs by a 40-to-1 ratio. It is essential that the Obama Administration use the tools it currently possesses to protect public health and the environment from the devastating impact of climate change. The Clean Air Act is a appropriate law to address just the kind of emerging public health threat presented by global warming. Fortunately, after years of delay under the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is moving forward to enforce the Clean Air Act and cut global warming emissions and toxic pollution from some of the nation’s largest sources, including large power plants and other big polluters.

Scroll down to see current rulemakings that are under way to achieve reductions in dangerous pollution:

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Proposed Fine Particulate Matter (Soot) Standards

On December 14, 2012, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller), meeting a court-ordered deadline. Particulate matter- also known as soot- comes from power plants, cars, and other industrial sources, and has serious health implications. It is known to contribute to heart disease, asthma, and even premature death, particularly in vulnerable populations such as children, and the elderly. Moreover, certain types of particulate matter-black carbon and aerosols in particular-are believed to contribute to climate change. These strengthened standards may then have a role to play in helping to mitigate climate change. The NAAQS updates strengthen the limits set for fine particulate matter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter per year, lowered from the level of 15 micrograms set in 1997. The agency decided not to update the daily PM 2.5 standard, maintaining it at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The strengthened standards are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths, and to yield healthcare savings between $4 and $9.1 billion in per year by 2020.

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Carbon Pollution Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants and oil refineries, which produce nearly 40 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. On March 27, 2012, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Proposed "Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources," which would help reduce industrial pollution from these sources. Click here to find out more.

Natural Gas Well Picture"Fracking" Air Pollution Standards

On April 17, 2012, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized updated standards to reduce air pollution from the production, storage, and transmission of oil and natural gas. Proposed in 2011, the Final Air Rules for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, will greatly reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from wells that are hydraulically fractured. The rule would also reduce emissions of air toxics and of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (CC photo credit: flickr/pennstatelive.)


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boilersmall.jpgMercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants, Boilers, Brick and Cement Kilns

The Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) is taking common sense steps to update Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for polluting industrial sources including power plants, boilers, brick kilns and cement kilns. These updated air quality standards (also referred to as MACT—Maximum Available Control Technology) for life-threatening hazardous air pollution such as mercury and arsenic save lives, prevent disease and avoid hospitalizations, while creating new jobs installing air pollution control equipment.

On December 12, 2012, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the public comment period for reconsideration of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for new power plants by one week. These safeguards as a whole prevent the release of certain heavy metals and toxic pollutants from power plants and are expected to reduce carbon pollution by 15 million metric tons per year by 2015. Proposed in November 2012, the MATS update would only apply to new power plants and would not alter the standards for existing power plants. On November 30, 2012, the Office of the Federal Register mistakenly published the proposed MATS rule in the “Rules and Regulations” section of the Register, instead of the “Proposed Rules” section. The Office of the Federal Register then issued a correction notice on December 5, noting the error. In response, EPA extended the public comment period for the proposed updates, and will now accept comments for an additional week (until January 7, 2013). EPA will not hold a public hearing on the proposed MATS, as it received no public request to do so.

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  • Clean Air Promise Comes To Holyoke

Clean Air Promise comes to Holyoke: wwlp.com

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Air PollutionCross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)

At the end of August, 2012 a panel of judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Environmental Protection Agency safeguard designed to reduce power plant air pollution that crosses state lines. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) would have prevented thousands of premature deaths and saved tens of billions of dollars a year in health costs. This safeguard was initially finalized on July 6, 2011, and would have required 28 states in the East, Midwest, and South to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that would cross state lines and worsen air quality in downwind states. The rule would have protected the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and attain clean air standards.

In October 2012, the EPA, environmental groups, and certain states and power companies filed petitions for rehearing en banc in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. These petitions ask all of the judges on the Court to reconsider the 3-judge panel’s decision to strike down the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

A federal court had placed the rule on hold in December, 2011, preventing its implementation pending legal challenges from opponents of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. EPA estimated that the rule as proposed would have in 2014 prevented 14,000-36,000 premature deaths, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.9 million missed school or work days.

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coalash.jpgCoal Ash Standards under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal and contains high concentration of toxic heavy metals. It is stored in ponds and landfills that threaten surrounding communities with drinking water contamination and serious health risks. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed two options: federally enforceable safeguards under RCRA subtitle C, or state “guidelines” under subtitle D. Federally enforceable safeguards are much more protective of public health.

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Fact Sheets

Oppose the Dumpers' Bill of Rights, HR 2273, Coal Ash Fact Sheet, April 2012

Comparison of Coal Ash Regulation under Four RCRA Regulatory Schemes, Chart, April 2012

Opposing Organizations to HR 2273, April 2012

Coal Ash Myth Fact Sheet 10.13.10

Letters

  • Congressional Letters

Opposition Letter to Cantor Memo re HR 2273 Coal Ash Bill, Group Sign On 10.13.11

Rep. Quigley Dear Colleague Re Letter to Environmental Protection Agency

Groups Urge Congress to Vote NO on the Recycling Coal Combustion Residuals Accessibility Act of 2011 (H.R. 1391), 4.28.11

Rep. Quigley Letter to Environmental Protection Agency on Coal Waste, 10.4.10

Letters

Letter Challenging Coal Act Amendment in Transportation Bill, Public Health and Environmental Community, 6.5.12

Letter in Opposition to HR 2273 Coal Ash, Environmental and Health Community 10.12.11

American Boiler Manufactures Association Letter in Opposition of HR 2250, 10.10.11

Letter to President Obama Concerning Coal Waste, 4.15.10

Coal Waste Regulation Letter to Environmental Protection Agency Admin. Lisa Jackson, 3.2.10

Coal Ash Rider Letter to the House, 2.16.11

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Tr-Ash Talk: Living With Lies and Coal Ash

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Reports and Other Resources

State of Failure: How States Fail To Protect Our Health and Drinking Water from Toxic Coal Ash, Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 8.18.11

Toxic Waters Run Deep, Environmental Integrity Project 6.23.11

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Ozonesmall.jpgOzone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Ozone is one of the primary pollutants that make up smog causing unsafe air quality days in warm weather. Exposure to smog triggers asthma attacks, causes permanent lung damage and can even lead to premature death. In fact, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 5,000 asthma-related deaths occur each year in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency should adopt the most protective standards to reduce harmful ozone. On September 2, 2011 the White House announced that the ozone standard will be delayed, this time until 2013.

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