Archive for January, 2011

Bill to repeal bulb ban introduced

January 7, 2011

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced a bill to repeal the 2007 law that bans incandescent bulbs starting in 2012.

Here is Barton’s media release:

Barton leads Republican effort to repeal light bulb ban

WASHINGTON: Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, joined 12 other Republicans to reintroduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act or BULB Act, H.R. 91.

The BULB Act repeals Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which is a de facto ban on the incandescent light bulb.

“This is about more than just energy consumption, it is about personal freedom. Voters sent us a message in November that it is time for politicians and activists in Washington to stop interfering in their lives and manipulating the free market. The light bulb ban is the perfect symbol of that frustration. People don’t want congress dictating what light fixtures they can use,” said Rep. Barton. “Traditional incandescent bulbs are cheap and reliable. Alternatives, including the most common replacement Compact Fluorescent Lights or CFL’s, are more expensive and health hazards – so why force them on the American people? From the health insurance you’re allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to you and your family.”

“Thousands of American jobs have been shipped overseas as a direct consequence of this light bulb provision in the Democrats’ 2007 energy bill,” Burgess said. “I have stated all along that exposing our citizens to the harmful effects of the mercury contained in CFL light bulbs, which are being manufactured in China, is likely to pose a hazard for years to come. Not only would this bill be better for the environment, but it would be one step to bringing jobs back to America.”

“These are the kinds of regulations that make the American people roll their eyes. It is typical of a ‘big Washington’ solution to a non-existent problem. In this case it manifests itself as an overreach into every American home, one that ships good jobs overseas and infuriates the American consumer,” added Rep. Blackburn.

Other co-sponsors include: Reps. Todd Akin (R-Missouri), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Paul Broun (R-Georgia), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-New York), Dan Burton (R-Indiana), Howard Coble (R-North Carolina), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Tom McClintock (R-), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), and Don Young (R-Alaska).

Alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs have many drawbacks. They are all considerably more expensive. The most common alternative, compact florescent light bulbs have a number of problems:

  • Most CFLs are not manufactured in the United States. A recent Washington Post story reported that GE is shuttering a plant in Winchester, Va., killing 200 jobs in the process.
    CFLs contain mercury and have to be disposed of carefully. The amount of mercury in one bulb is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels. The EPA recommends an elaborate cleanup ritual, including throwing away any clothes or bedding that has come in direct contact with the mercury from the bulb.
  • CFLs are not designed to be turned off and on frequently; the lifespan of a CFL may be reduced by up to 85 percent if you switch it off and on a lot.
  • People with certain health conditions can be harmed by CFLs. Reactions range from disabling eczema-like reactions, to light sensitivities that can lead to skin cancer.
  • The Energy Star program warns that CFLs can overheat and smoke.

Don’t miss GreenHellBlog’s exclusive: EPA’s Mercurial Hypocrisy.

Ohio EPA’s Cancer Scare

January 7, 2011

By Steve Milloy
January 7, 2011,

As if there’s not enough to be worried about already, the Ohio EPA just reported that residents in seven Ohio counties face a great than acceptable risk of cancer from air pollution.

Based on air monitoring data, the Ohio EPA reported that cancer risks ranged from 1.01 additional cancers per 10,000 people in Scioto County to 2.1 additional cancers per 10,000 people in Columbiana County.

But these claims are specious and the scare is irresponsible.

First, even accepting for the sake of argument the dubious notion that the low levels of exposure to the metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at issue actually increase cancer risk, people should be aware of the insignificance of the risk.

Like it or not, about 44 percent of all men and 37 percent of all women will develop some sort of cancer during their lifetimes. This means that of every 10,000 men and women, about 4,000 will develop cancer over their lifetime.

If what the Ohio EPA claimed were true, the 4,000-estimate would increase to perhaps 4,002 — an insignificant and undetectable change that would be lost in the margin of error.

But then, that’s only if there is a real cancer risk from the exposures at issues — and that is doubtful.

There are no scientific studies of human populations showing that typical exposures to the ambient concentrations of the metals and VOCs at issue have ever caused anyone’s cancer risk.

So what the Ohio EPA did was to rely on the U.S. EPA’s risk assessment methodologies — a very dubious proposition.

In the mid 1990s on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, I led a comprehensive study of the EPA’s risk assessment practices – none of which have changed in any significant way since that time.

We found that in the face of omnipresent gaps and uncertainties in scientific knowledge and data, the EPA employs assumptions that are usually not science-based.

In deciding whether or not to label a chemical as potentially causing cancer, for example, the EPA typically relies on laboratory studies in which cancer-susceptible rodents are virtually poisoned with unrealistically high doses of the chemical. If the rodents then exhibit increased rates of cancer, however slight, then the EPA assumes that the same thing will happen in humans.

But mice are not little people. They metabolize chemicals differently than humans — a fact that the EPA only grudgingly admits once in a while when researchers have gone to great effort and expense to make the point as they did, for example, in the case of unleaded gasoline.

The Ohio EPA calculated make-believe, not actual cancer risks. Its cancer alarmism relies on presumptuous assumptions that are scientifically indefensible.

The dirty secret that America’s environmental establishment doesn’t want to acknowledge, much less publicize, is that our air is clean and safe. We are now in an era of ever-vanishingly small returns from ever-increasing environmental regulation.

American manufacturing is on the decline and jobs are going overseas. While there are many reasons for this phenomenon, they include excessive environmental regulation.

Sure the Ohio EPA can tighten its air quality regulations and write more stringent permits to reduce the hypothetical cancer risks to “acceptable levels,” but at some point, employers will say enough is enough and simply move on to more welcoming jurisdictions.

Do Ohioans really want its government to chase away jobs for no good reason, and then be terrorized with baseless cancer scares to boot?

Steve Milloy publishes and is the author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).

House GOP offers bill to block EPA climate rules (Update)

January 6, 2011

Update: The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports:

Three Republican House members — Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.) and Ted Poe (Tex.) have each introduced separate bills aimed at blocking EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The three measures hamstring the agency’s authority in different ways: Blackburn’s would “amend the Clean Air Act to provide that greenhouse gases are not subject to the Act,” even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that they are; Capito’s would delay EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and methane for two years; and Poe’s would prohibit any agency funding “to be used to implement or enforce a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.”

While Capito’s bill is the most modest of the bunch, the West Virginia lawmaker explained in a statement that she has introduced a more limited bill because she thinks it has enough votes to pass and block initiatives such as new EPA permitting requirements that now require major new greenhouse gas emitters to show how they would use the best available current technology to lower their carbon footprint.

The Hill reports,

Dozens of Republicans used the opening day of the new Congress on Wednesday to introduce legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored the bill. The measure’s 46 co-sponsors are all Republicans except for Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

Co-sponsors include Oversight and Government Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Absent from the list at the moment: Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is weighing his approach to stifling greenhouse-gas rules he alleges will burden the economy.

The bill would amend the Clean Air Act to declare that greenhouse gases are not subject to the law, according to a brief description in the Congressional Record…

What’s Fred Upton waiting for? Isn’t this what he said he wanted?

On the Senate side, meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Fox News yesterday,

“We are going to introduce legislation that says all regulations should sunset. If the EPA writes a regulation, it expires in six months, unless Congress votes on it and approves it.”

Let’s hope he presses hard for such legislation.

GE sued (more) over PCB clean-up

January 6, 2011

Poor, General Electric. The EPA makes the company spend hundreds of millions of dollars dredging the Hudson River to remove sediment-bound PCBs — something which everyone knew would stir-up the otherwise safely entombed chemical — and now the company is being sued for just that consequence.

According to CBS-6 (Albany),

SARATOGA — The Saratoga County Water Authority has filed a federal lawsuit against General Electric, seeking $27 million for the damages it says it incurred trying to avoid PCBs during GE’s dredging project in the Hudson River.

Law firm Dreyer Boyajian LLP said Thursday the Water Authority had to spend $27 million building a water treatment plant in the town of Moreau in order to stay upriver of the General Electric plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward plants and the PCB dredging project.

SCWA said the move was necessary to avoid possible PCB contamination in their water, as GE continues to dredge up the contaminants in a massive $500 million clean-up project.

PCBs are classified as the EPA as probably human carcinogens, associated with adverse effects on reproductive, endocrine, and immunological function.

Several town and villages within Saratoga County have already filed their own suits against GE for the damages and costs related to the PCB dredging project.

As this blog pointed out in August 2009,

Chalk up another green disaster, courtesy of:

  • RFK Jr, Planetary Zero. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his activist group Riverkeeper pressured GE to undertake the clean-up. Ironically, Time magazine had declared Kennedy one of its “Heroes of the Planet” for his Hudson River activism.
  • Corporate Neville Chamberlain-ism. GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt who, in hopes of appeasing the greens, reversed former CEO Jack Welch’s policy against dredging; and.
  • Your gooberment at work. The EPA, which in forcing GE to dredge sediments that should have been left alone, failed its eponymous mission — environmental protection.

EPA may try cap-and-trade on its own

January 6, 2011

… and everyone thought cap-and-trade was dead. Sen. John Kerry said so. West Virginia Senate candidate Joe Manchin shot it in a campaign video.

Now comes news that the EPA may resurrect cap-and-trade via regulation under the Clean Air Act.

Carbon Control News (CCN) reported today that,

… EPA air chief Regina McCarthy has said that any [greenhouse gas] trading program using existing air law authority would have to be established under the [Clean Air Act Section 111(d) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)] rather than other sections.

While McCarthy denied taking steps to advance this idea, CCN reports,

“The agency sought $5 million in its fiscal year 2011 budget ‘to assess and potentially develop NSPS regulations for major industrial sectors and seek, where possible, market-oriented mechanisms and flexibilities to provide lowest cost compliance options’ for reducing GHG emissions, according to EPA’s FY11 Annual Performance Plan. Sources have said EPA’s mention of market-oriented mechanisms is likely a reference to cap-and-trade programs.”

A limitation of cap-and-trade under the NSPS would be that,

… it can only operate within specific industry sectors, rather than operate economy-wide like the trading program that would have been established under legislative proposals for a climate cap-and-trade program introduced in the 111th Congress.

But you can bet that the first industry sector to be regulated would be electric power generators, which would have economy-wide impacts.

Let’s hope that the Republican-controlled House zeroes out any funding the EPA requests for bringing a cap-and-trade Frankenstein to life.

Wimp & Sellout Watch — No. 2

January 6, 2011

While we have high hopes that the newly empowered Republican Members of Congress will make every effort to fight the socialization of America, we are also aware that the GOP has an ignominious history of wimping- and/or selling-out, especially on environmental issues. Wimp & Sellout Watch is GreenHellBlog’s effort to spotlight the GOP’s weak links because:

In the 112th Congress, it should take more courage for GOP-ers to retreat than to advance.

Today’s update on potential wimps and sellouts to watch:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC). According to a report in today’s E&E Daily, Graham told South Carolina reporters that,

“I think $4 a gallon for gas is coming and is an opportunity to re-engage on the energy policy. … Four dollars a gallon for gas is going to reignite this debate… [At $4 gasoline] everybody is tripping over themselves to find an energy policy.”

So Graham is trying to use the current rise in gasoline prices as a reason for his coming “clean energy standard” bill which would put a cap on carbon emissions. But the primary sources of energy that would be affected by such legislation — i.e., coal, solar & wind — have nothing to do with the price of gasoline. A carbon cap, moreover, would make gasoline even more expensive. Keep in mind that USCAP member General Electric has a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Greenville, SC.

For more on Graham, see Wimp & Sellout Watch — No. 1.

Rob Portman (OH). The global warming industry is gazing fondly at new Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Apparently taking note of former Ohio Sen. George Voinovich’s identification of Portman as a moderate who will do business with Democrats, E&E Daily reports that,

[Portman] has also been floated by the Obama White House and Democrats as someone across the aisle who may be open to negotiations on several issues, including energy and environmental policy.

In addition to Portman being named to the Senate Republican whip team, E&E Daily also reported that,

Kayaking and outdoor trips are passions that Portman shares with Dan Reicher, his former roommate at Dartmouth College who is a former assistant secretary for energy in the Clinton administration, a clean energy adviser on President Obama’s transition team and director of climate change and energy initiatives for Google.

Reicher, now head of Stanford University’s new Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, declined to comment on Portman, explaining he was a “good friend.”

E&E Daily omitted mentioning that Reicher was also a senior attorney at the radical Natural Resources Defense Council where he specialized in anti-nuclear activities. In 1990, Reicher almost snuck into a position with the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the George H.W. Bush administration. But he was exposed a week or so before he was to begin work, and his appointment was cancelled.

Portman also received significant campaign contributions from USCAP members General Electric Co. ($59,510) and Duke Energy Corp. ($32,000).

For more on Portman, see Wimp & Sellout Watch — No. 1.

Wimp & Sellout Watch — No. 1

January 4, 2011

While we have high hopes that the newly empowered Republican Members of Congress will make every effort to fight the socialization of America, we are also aware that the GOP has an ignominious history of wimping- and/or selling-out, especially on environmental issues. Wimp & Sellout Watch is GreenHellBlog’s effort to spotlight the GOP’s weak links because:

In the 112th Congress, it should take more courage for GOP-ers to retreat than to advance.

Today’s potential wimps and sellouts to watch:

Sen. Chuck Grassely (IA). Climatewire reported today that, “Germany’s Siemens AG and MidAmerican Energy Co. are expanding their wind energy partnership in Iowa, rolling out plans to add to the state’s wind capacity in 2011.” No doubt this means Grassley will be even more incentivized to push for anti-carbon policies.

  • In 2010, Grassley supported a national renewable electricity standard, which would have operated like the “cap” part of cap-and-trade.
  • In the last election cycle, the wind and solar industries contributed to Grassely ($5,000 from the American Wind Energy Association, $2,500 from Iberdrola Renewables, $1,000 from Horizon Wind Energy, $2,400 from Growth Energy) as did electric utilities pushing for cap-and-trade ($3,000 from Florida Power & Light and $2,500 from Duke Energy).

Sen. Rob Portman (OH). While Portman admirably has been skeptical of climate alarmism and opposes EPA climate regulation, Carbon Control News reported today that,

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), a senior member of the Environment & Public Works Committee who is retiring after two terms in office, says he is optimistic about the chances for bipartisanship in the 112th Congress, pointing to the election of moderate freshmen senators such as Rob Portman (R-OH), who is taking Voinovich’s seat, and Christopher Coons (D-DE), who won after moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) lost a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate, as potential deal-makers in the new session, along with current moderates like Murkowski and others. [Emphasis added]

Portman is also a supporter of so-called “clean coal,” which means carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Ohio’s major utility, American Electric Power, is a proponent of CCS as it expects to receive hundreds of millions in taxpayer largesse for burying a miniscule amount of carbon. Aside from its taxpayer boondoggle aspects, CCS is little more than a sticky pad for trapping utility cockroaches into supporting cap-and-trade.

We don’t know whether Voinovich knows of what he speaks, but considering Portman’s CCS tendencies, he will need to be watched.

Rep. Fred Upton (MI). Not only did Upton publish a wimpy strategy for protecting American from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulation, but last week on Fox News Sunday, he said,

We want to [regulate carbon] in a reasonable way.

But what could possibly be reasonable about junk science-fueled regulation?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC). While Sen. Graham does get credit for backing out of the ill-fated Kerry-Graham-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill, he apparently has yet to learn his lesson. In December, Graham began floating the idea of a “clean energy standard,” which is little more than a carbon cap with lip service paid to increasing nuclear power. He told Climatewire at the time,

“I’m concerned that if the Republican Party doesn’t embrace the idea [that] it’s OK to clean up the air, we’re gonna lose young people forever. Whether you like it or not, young people are environmentally sensitive. I happen to like it.”

I suppose the rest of us are environmentally insensitive. We must not breathe the same air as Graham’s morally superior youngsters.

Sen. Scott Brown (MA). In addition to Brown’s worrisome tendency toward bipartisanship (e.g., voting to ratify the START treaty), he has stated,

… I support the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy.

The state of Massachusetts is seeking proposals to develop 4,000 megawatts of wind power 14 miles south of the controversial Cape Wind Project. Brown has opposes Cape Wind, but at some point he may feel the need actually have to walk his talk — and this could come at the price of some sort of renewable electricity standard since wind makes expensive electricity.

EPA’s Mercurial Hypocrisy

January 3, 2011

How cynical is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the potential mercury hazard of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)?

Last week the EPA issued new guidance for the clean-up of mercury-containing CFLs.

Atypically minimizing any potential health risks and arrogantly assuming that people patronize the agency’s web site, the EPA’s media release states,

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a CFL breaks, some of the mercury is released as vapor and may pose potential health risks. The guidance and brochure will provide simple, user friendly directions to help prevent and reduce exposure to people from mercury pollution. [Emphasis added]

But consider that EPA’s “Mercury and Hazardous Chemicals in Schools: A Manual for Students in Southeast Asia” (April 2008) states that:

Just as there are no safe uses of mercury and mercury-containing equipment in schools, there are no safe uses for these products in homes, either. Tell your parents about the toxic effects of mercury, and encourage them to remove all mercury products from your home.

Also consider that EPA says that eating the mercury from a broken thermometer is safer than inhaling mercury vapor (i.e., how you would be exposed to mercury from a broken CFL):

It is not uncommon for children to break fever thermometers in their mouths. Mercury that is swallowed in such cases poses low risk comparison [sic] to the risk of breathing mercury vapor.

Consider what Brown University researchers had to say in an August 2008 study of CFL breakage published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology:

Some [CFL] lamps are inevitably broken accidentally during shipping, retail sales, consumer use, and recycling and release a portion of their mercury inventory as volatile vapor, which is the dominant mercury form in the early stages of lamp life. Inhalation exposure is a concern because 80% of inhaled [mercury] is physiologically absorbed.

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) occupational exposure limit (8 h, 5-day week time average) is 100 [micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3)].
  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limit is 50 μg/m3, while American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists recommends 25 μg/m3 under the same conditions.
  • Because children are more susceptible, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommends 0.2 μg/m3 level as a safe continual exposure limit for children.

As an illustration of the effects of CFL breakage, the release of only 1 mg of [mercury] vapor (~20% of the Hg inventory in a single CFL) into a 500 m3 room (10 × 10 × 5m) yields 2.0 μg/m3 or ten times the ATSDR-recommended level of 0.2 μg/m3 in the absence of ventilation. [Footnotes omitted, and bullets and emphasis added]

So how much mercury was released into the air when these researchers fractured CFLs in their study? According to the Brown researchers,

The release is initially rapid producing vapor concentrations from 200−800 μg/m3 during the first hour, which far exceed the OSHA occupational limits.

And if you go to EPA’s IRIS data base, you’ll see that the EPA’s Reference Concentration (RfC or permissible exposure via inhalation) for elemental mercury is 0.3 μg/m3. Note that the reported 200-800 μg/m3 air concentrations upon bulb breakage are somewhat greater  than the EPA’s RfC (by 667 to 2,667 times to be precise).

The EPA promotes the safety of CFLs  in order to advance its jihad against greenhouse gases. The agency would apparently rather have you and/or your children exposed to possibly thousands of times more mercury than the agency itself deems safe than to have you use an incandescent bulb and emit an ounce or so more of CO2 per hour of bulb use.

Were CFLs not useful in the EPA’s cause —  let’s say they were just a funny looking light bulb sold as a novelty item — there can be little doubt that the agency would have long ago taken action to ban them as needlessly unsafe. The agency has stated, after all, “there are no safe uses for mercury-containing products] in homes” and children should tell their parents “to remove” them from homes.

Would you rather be exposed to possibly thousands of more times mercury than the EPA says is safe or....

... or would you rather have your power plant emit an extra ounce or so of carbon dioxide per hour of bulb use?

One common requirement for science, law and government to function as intended is consistency. Exposure to low levels of mercury is either safe or it is not. But the EPA wants it both ways, depending on the purpose being served.

In the realm of federal regulation, this sort of hypocrisy would seem to be proscribed by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) as “arbitrary and capricious.” When the APA was enacted in 1946, then-Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran called it “a bill of rights for the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose affairs are controlled or regulated in one way or another by agencies of the Federal Government.”

But since there is typically no meaningful way for anyone to enforce that law against the EPA, it is a mere vestige of Congress’ post-New Deal efforts to make the burgeoning federal bureaucracy accountable to the people that pay for, and are impacted by it.

Maybe that accountability is something that the 112th Congress, which begins this week, can begin to reinstate.

Fred Upton = Henry Waxman-lite?

January 2, 2011

The chairman-designate of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Fox News Sunday today that he is in favor of regulating of carbon dioxide. According to a report in The Hill:

Asked whether he believes greenhouse gases are a problem in need of addressing at all, Upton replied, “we want to do this in a reasonable way,” and cited the need to boost development of energy sources like low-emissions coal, nuclear power and natural gas to meet growing demand.

I’m sure outgoing Energy Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman thought his plan to regulate CO2 was “reasonable” as well.

Prepare yourself for the coming GOP wimp-out

Not too bright about coal at the Washington Post

January 2, 2011

The front-page of the today’s Washington Post Business section features a lengthy article about investors and utilities shunning coal (Coal’s Burnout: Have investors moved on to cleaner energy sources?).

This photo took up about one-fourth of the front-page:

The photo was captioned:

In the battle over coal’s place in U.S. energy policy, President Obama hopes to prod utilities and manufacturers to switch to natural gas to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Sadly, that is not a photo of coal; it is charcoal. And charcoal is not coal. Not even close. This particular charcoal was obviously made from trees. It was not mined. It is not the same substance that provides nearly one-half of our electricity.

You may remember when, in March 2008, the Washington Post ran the image below of a hazy Beijing, attributing the haze to carbon dioxide — even though CO2 is invisible and plays no role in the formation of smog.

It kind of makes you wonder about the Post‘s opposition to coal since it seems to know little about it.

Memo to the Washington Post: The photo below is of the fruit known as grapes; but that does not mean they are grapefruit.

(h/t Johnny Lucid)