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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Republican Senators join with Democrats to stop Trump from eliminating an Obama climate change rule

There is hope for the environment yet as the U.S. Senate today defeated an attempt by the Trump administration to overturn a rule that regulates the emissions of methane from certain oil and natural gas production operations.


A decorated pumping unit in Coalinga oil field, Fresno County, CA. Photo by W. F. Guerard, Jr. (from DOGGR website)


Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine joined with their Democratic counterparts to defeat the measure by a vote of 51 - 49. The simple majority vote prevented President* Trump from using Vice-President Pence to break an anticipated 50 - 50 tie that never materialized.

More details are available at this link: Senate methane emissions vote

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bakersfield and San Joaquin Valley win again - worst air in the nation

The American Lung Association released its Annual State of the Air 2017 report today and once again, Bakersfield and other cities in the San Joaquin Valley share the dubious "honor" of having the worst air in the country.

The report found that although continued improvement in air quality across the nation has occurred, nearly four in ten Americans - roughly 125 million - live in counties where ozone or particle pollution in the air is at unhealthy levels. The consequences of this are increased risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, premature death, and developmental and reproductive harm.


Photo credit: California EPA

Bakersfield, in particular, has particularly nasty air, earning the distinction of having the number one worst short-term particle pollution (24-hour PM2.5) and the second worst ozone and long-term particle pollution (annual PM2.5).

The report demonstrates that in much of the country, the Clean Air Act has successfully reduced air pollution over the last 50 years. However, as noted by Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, the report "...adds to the evidence that the ongoing changes in our climate make it harder to protect human health. As we move into an ever warmer climate, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging, highlighting the critical importance of protecting the Clean Air Act."

The Full report may be accessed here: Annual State of the Air 2017

The summary of the most polluted cities may be seen below:

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • Fairbanks, Ala.
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  • Logan, Utah-Idaho
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nev.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • El Centro, Calif.
  • Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W.Va.
  • Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.
  • Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.
  • New York-Newark, N.Y.–N.J.-Conn.-Pa.
  • Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev.-Ariz.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Nittany Lion in the lion's den, Michael Mann takes on Congressional climate change deniers


The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held what was ostensibly a hearing on the scientific basis of climate change today, but, according to several reports, not much happened other than name-calling.

Led by climate change denier Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the committee put noted climate change researcher Dr. Michael Mann of the Pennsylvania State University on a panel with three other scientists, Dr. Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado.

It is generally safe to say that Dr. Mann represented the overwhelming consensus of world wide climate change experts that human activity is the main driver of climate change. To say he didn't get a lot of support from those convinced that they are right and 97-98% of the world's climate change researchers are wrong may be an understatement.

Today's hearing was entitled "Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method." 

However, various news reports about the hearing referred to it as a "colossal train wreck" and a "shitstorm," a "food fight among scientists," and one where both sides were referring to each other as using tactics similar to "Josef Stalin."

If you have two to three hours to spare, you can view all of the action at the video link below:




http://wtop.com/news/2017/03/house-hearing-on-climate-science-focuses-on-name-calling/

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump's War on the Environment begins with an Executive Order to end Obama's Clean Power Plan and other environmental protections

As promised to his many followers, particularly coal miners who cling to the belief that their jobs depend upon it, President* Donald Trump signed an executive order today that aims to undo many of the environmental protections implemented and/or planned for by the previous Obama administration.



Video Credit: The White House

The main target is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would reduce the nation's dependence upon coal fired power plants even more than current economic conditions (cheap natural gas, increased usage of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, etc.) are already doing.

Trump and his supporters claim the new executive order will result in more jobs for those in the energy industry, particularly coal miners. The latter group was represented by several miners at the signing who stood behind Trump as he signed the measure.

Additionally, the new order will open up federal lands to coal mining, eliminate requirements to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production facilities, and reduce the importance of climate change impacts on permitting decisions.

The ball is now in the court of environmentalists, the alternative energy industry, and individual states who will be impacted by the potential increase in emissions and environmental degradation expected.

Monday, March 27, 2017

California draws a line in the sand for Trump, Pruitt, and the new EPA

Our apologies for not having posted recently, but, we were in Palm Springs playing in an international team tennis tournament as well as attending some of the action at the BNP Paribas Open Tennis Championships at Indian Wells, CA.

Anyway, a lot has happened recently in the environmental world. One of the more significant is the response from California authorities to the efforts of the Donald Trump administration to effectively dismantle the EPA and roll back environmental regulations.



photo credit: St. Germaine / Marlene Swetlishoff/Tsu-tana, The Rainbow Scribe


Recent actions by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) demonstrate clearly that whatever Trump and his new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, try to do to weaken environmental rules, California is drawing a line in the sand and effectively challenging them to a fight.

Here are a few links that clearly show the differences between the new feds and California:

CARB finds vehicle standards are achievable and cost-effective



CARB votes to move forward with greenhouse gas reductions and zero emission programs through 2025; action sets the table for accelerating programs post-2025


CARB approves rule for monitoring and repairing methane leaks from oil and gas facilities



Regulation applies to natural gas pipeline equipment and storage facilities


CARB approves broad plan for reducing climate “super pollutants”



Reductions in short-lived climate pollutants enhance 2030 climate efforts



Today the California Air Resources Board approved two critical efforts to provide cleaner air for all Californians.  

In the first action, the Board approved the State Strategy for the State Implementation Plan (State SIP Strategy), which describes CARB’s commitment for further reducing vehicle emissions needed to meet federal air quality standards over the next 15 years. The Board also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.

The Board also directed staff to report annually on progress on implementation of the SIP Strategy including recommendations on additional funding as well as direction to expedite implementation where possible. 

In parallel to actions at the state level, CARB will continue to call for strong federal action to develop more stringent engine standards for cars, trucks, ships, aircraft and locomotives. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2016 - 2017 Check Before You Burn season ends

The San Joaquin Valley APCD announced today that the 2016 - 2017 Check Before You Burn season has ended.The APCD said that its 14th winter of the program ended with a record improvement of air quality.

The program was implemented to reduce the emissions and harmful effects resulting from the burning of wood in fireplaces and other heating devices.


“We are moving in the right direction thanks to the cooperation of Valley residents and their investments in cleaner devices,” said Seyed Sadredin, the District’s executive director and air pollution control officer. “Together with the increased funding for the Burn Cleaner program, which grants money for the purchase of cleaner devices, Check Before You Burn has had a remarkable effect on winter air quality in the Valley.”

Although the program will not kick in again until November of 2017, the APCD strongly discourages residential wood burning during this time. 

Here's how to get your money back from your dirty VW, Audi, or Porsche

This is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for all of you unfortunate souls who were mislead into parting with your hard earned dollars by Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries.

As you recall, the above vehicle manufacturers were caught in the biggest emission scandal ever, rigging certain of their products to bypass mandated federal and California air pollution controls except when the cars were undergoing a required inspection.

The vehicles - cars and SUVs - were marketed as having "clean diesel" technology, thereby misleading those whose concerns for the environment may have led them into purchasing or leasing in the first place.



Under a settlement with California and United States authorities, the company has agreed to provide the following options to the government and/or folks who got caught by this corporate scam:
  • Cash payments
  • Vehicle buybacks
  • Early lease terminations
  • Potential emission modifications & extended vehicle warranties
  • Environmental remediation
  • Promotion of Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) technology
Volkswagen has been running half-page ads in major newspapers across the country with details on how to make a settlement claim. The ads say that the only vehicles affected by this settlement are certain 2009-2016 models of the VW Touareg, Audi A6, A7, A8, A8L, Q5, Q7, and Porsche Cayenne.

However, additional vehicles were also part of the emissions scandal. A complete list can be found here: ARB Volkswagen Information

For more information on what settlements are available for which vehicles, please click on the following link or call 1-844-98-CLAIM:

Emissions Scandal Settlement



Monday, February 6, 2017

Bill Moyer on why Scott Pruitt is a bad choice to lead the EPA

Here is a terrific analysis of what it would mean if Scott Pruitt is named director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Kudos to Bill Moyer for putting this together.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Prepare for smoggier, less healthy air if Trump's pick for EPA is approved

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area are well aware of how bad photochemical smog can be. Both areas still fail to meet not only federal but also California standards for clean, healthy air.

However, based upon testimony during his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate, residents of those areas had better start getting prepared for a return to smoggier days based upon Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's answers yesterday.


Scott Pruitt, Photo by Michael Reynolds / EPA - Fair use


Pruitt, President*-elect Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has long been a friend to the oil and gas industry and a vocal opponent of several ground breaking environmental laws. During his testimony he refused to say that he would support a certain federal waiver that allows California and other states to adopt air pollution regulations that are more stringent than what EPA requires.

This waiver has allowed California to adopt tougher air pollution controls for motor vehicles, for example, as well as adopting stronger air permitting and air pollution control requirements for industrial sources as well. Those more robust regulations have demonstrably resulted in far greater progress in reducing air pollution in California than otherwise would have occurred under EPA regulations alone.

However, Pruitt, who has a history of arguing for state's rights when it benefits industrial concerns, hinted that continuation of the waiver if he is approved to be EPA's leader will not be a given.

Get out the gas masks - the air around here is going to get hard to breathe real soon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will 2017 be the year that all diesel car makers get nailed by EPA and CARB for emission control cheating?

Will 2017 be the year that all diesel car makers get nailed by EPA and CARB for emission control cheating?

Fresh after recent news that the EPA and CARB have agreed on settlement penalties (and some engine fixes) related to the Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche emissions cheating scandal, the agencies announced this week that they are charging Fiat/Chrysler with similar nefarious misdeeds and are issuing Notices of Violation to the corporation and its applicable entities.


Photo: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep website, Fair use

Apparently a number of auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs) were found in 3.0 liter diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickup trucks from the 2014 - 2016 model years. The devices were not disclosed to either of the agencies when they were submitted for certification under the Clean Air Act.

According to the government, the devices significantly increase emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a precursor to photochemical smog.

The NOVs apply to about 104,000 of these vehicles nationwide and 14,000 in California.
CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said, "Once again. a major automaker has failed to meet their (sic) legal obligations for vehicle certification and gotten caught. CARB and USEPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration."

Nichols was referring to a September 25, 2015 notice that it sent out to all major automakers that diesel vehicles would face expanded emissions testing as part of CARB's In-Use Compliance Program. The program was developed as a result of the Volkswagen scandal.

Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for USEPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, added, "Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle's engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe...All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage."

In defense of his company, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly ripped into USEPA, saying that his company had done nothing illegal. He referred to the charges as "offensive" and "incredibly belligerent."  He said, "We're trying to do an honest job here. We're not trying to break the bloody law."

He added that anyone who disagreed with his assertion that there is nothing in common with what VW did and the charges against FCA must be "smoking illegal material."

So far, VW, Audi, Porsche and now Jeep and Dodge have run afoul of EPA and ARB regulators. Many are now asking how many others will be found to have done similar things before the year is over?