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In the News : New US Ozone Standard Takes Effect

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 @ 02:06 PM

epa_logo-resized-600.jpgOn October 1, 2017, a new ozone standard took effect in the US amid widely differing opinions. In late 2014, the EPA had proposed lowering the ozone standard to a between 65 to 70 from the current standard of 75 ppb (set in 2008 under the Bush administration). Public discussion was heated with many groups urging the EPA to maintain the existing standard. On October 1, 2015, under a court-ordered deadline, the EPA finalized the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) standard at 70 ppb.

This was not the end of the discussion however. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Association, who said that the rules would be a huge burden and that the cost to comply could be in the billions, filed for a review to challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  At the same time, five states filed a lawsuit challenging EPA's new 70 ppb ozone standard, with four additional states later joining them Earlier this year, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted EPA’s motion to indefinitely stay the lawsuit to give them the necessary time to review the data and the standard.

With all of this going on for the part 2 years, the EPA, now under the Trump administration, had initially sought to delay the rule. However, after lawsuits were filed by 16 state attorney generals, the EPA declined to delay the rule, which took effect on October 1, 2017. On July 20th, the House passed HR-806 by a vote of 229 to 199. Also known as the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, the bill would double the time frame under which the EPA reviews the ozone standard (from 5 yrs to 10 yrs) and also gives the EPA the ability to consider factors other than human health. This bill now sits in the Senate.

Why is this important?  Michael Greenhouse,co-author of a report issued by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute spoke to Forbesabout the importance of these regulations, stating, “Our research shows that efforts to reduce ozone extend lifespans. While previous research had suggested this, the especially novel finding here is that pollution reductions lead to significant reductions in the purchase of medications that protect people from becoming sick or even dying prematurely … The implications for air pollution policy are potentially enormous.”

The new regulations have a large impact on the number of areas in the US that now are noncompliant. According to the EPA, 28 counties were classified as nonattainment areas under the 75 ppm standard and data sugegsts 241 counties violate the 70 ppb standard. 

US 8-Hour Ozone Nonattainment Areas at 70ppb
Projected 8-Hour Ozone Nonattainment Areas in U.S. under 70 ppb Standard

The democrats from House Department on Energy and Commerce share the dissenting views on the HR-806. The National Parks Conservation Association statement claimed, "This legislation would actually systematically weaken the Clean Air Act without a single improvement, undermine Americans’ 46-year right to healthy air based on medical science, and delay life-saving health standards already years overdue."

 

Clearly, there are strong and widely varying opinions on how best to proceed. It will be interesting to hear the Senate discussions if this comes up for debate.

 

 

Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, Emission Standards, News

In the News : Hypoxia Training with the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Tue, Aug 01, 2017 @ 11:24 AM

Several Air Force bases in the United States have recently unveiled their new Reduced Oxygen Breathing Devices (ROBD). The ROBD simulates altitude exposure and can be utilized for both research and training purposes. The U. S. Armed Forces use the ROBD 2 to train aircrew to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoxia and to perform the appropriate emergency procedures. Congratulations to these sites on their new facilities!

Scott Air Force Base

"The ROBD will be used by Airmen assigned to 375th Air Mobility Wing, 932nd Airlift Wing, and 126th Air Refueling Wing who routinely fly at altitudes requiring supplemental oxygen."

(375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs; U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Daniel Garcia)

 

Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, Emission Standards

This Week in the News : Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 @ 08:31 AM

This week, the US House of Representative's Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee discussed H.R. 806, known as the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. HR 806 was introduced on February 1, 2017 by Pete Olson, the Representative for Texas's 22nd congressional district and cosponsored by Mr. Flores, Mr. Latta, Mr. Bishop of Georgia, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Cuellar, Mr. Scalise, Mr. Costa, Mr. Cramer, Mr. Long, Mr. Jenkins of West Virginia, Mr. Burgess, Mr. Renacci, Mr. Hensarling, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Bucshon, Mr. Johnson of Ohio, Mr. Weber of Texas, and Mr. Babin. CT AT.jpg

According to the bill, the goal is "to facilitate efficient State implementation of ground-level ozone standards, and for other purposes." One of the key changes is in the timeline for review the guidelines for all criteria air pollutants of the national ambient air quality standards. Currently, the standard must be reviewed every 5 years. This bill aims to change this to every 10 years. Another change which reflects the overall theme heard from EPA Administroator Pruitt is within the "plan submissions and requirements for ozone non attainment areas" section. The phrase "and economic feasibility" is proposed to be added. This parallel's the new administration's statements that they want to remove the burden on businesses to meet regulation standards.

The Senate is considering a bill in parallel that states the same changes. This is S. 263: Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, introduced by ShelleyMr. Flake, Mr. Manchin, Mrs. Fischer, Mr. Cornyn, and Mr. Inhofe. Also introduced on February 1, the bill was considered by Clean Air and Nuclear Safety on May 23rd.

To learn more about the health effects of ozone, check out the US EPA's ozone page or the Health Effects of Ozone published by the European Environment Agency. To follow these bills, you can request email alerts for either HR 806 or S263.

 

Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, Emission Standards

This Week in the News : US EPA Budget Hearings

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 @ 09:14 AM

This week, the US House of Representative's Appropriations Subcommittee held hearings to discuss President Trump’s 2018 budget request for the EPA. Newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruit testified before the subcommittee regarding the proposed 30% cut to the EPA budget and the impact this might have both in terms of funding for various projects as well as the workforce reduction. The hearing lasted about two hours, with Representatives from both parties asking Administrator Pruitt questions about the cut. The main focus was the impact such cuts would have on the local and regional air, water and land pollution protection/cleanup programs that exist within their districts.

What are your thoughts?

Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, Emission Standards

US EPA Released Sixth Year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program Data

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Tue, Oct 04, 2016 @ 01:10 PM


Today, the US EPA released the 2015 data under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The report details the sixth year of greenhouse gas pollution trends from large industrial sources.

Overall, reported emissions decreased by almost 5% percent from 2014, and 8.2 percent from 2011.  The more than 8,000 large sector facilities contribute about half of the total Greenhouse Gas emissions annually.

Capture-3.jpg

  • Power plants accounted for approximately 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which accounts for 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution in 2015. This is a declined of 6.2 percent as compared to 2014, and 11.3 percent since 2011. These ~1,500 plants are the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
     
  • Second to power plants, petroleum and natural gas systems reported 231 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, down 1.6 percent from than 2014. Overall, however, this sector is actually up over 4% from the 2011 figures.
     
  • Most other sectors reported emissions reductions. The most significant declines were reported by the iron and steel sector and the production of fluorinated chemicals.  

The data can be used by businesses and communities to find opportunies to reduce pollution and wasted energy and to enjoy cost savings. The report can also be used to aid in the development of climate policies

To learn more, check out the GHG Emmissions page. You can also utilize the EPA's FLIGHT ( Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool), to "quickly and easily filter GHG data in a variety of ways, including by facility, industry, location, or gas." 


 

Tags: EPA, Air Pollution, air quality

Air Quality and the Paris Agreement

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

800px-Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005-resized-600.png

As we end the summer, this year is expected to be the hottest on record for the second year in a row. Climate change is on the forefront of President Obama's mind in his final months in office. Last week, he delivered paperwork commiting the US to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas pollution to about a quarter below the levels from 2005 by 2025. Likewise, China , the leading producer of greenhouse gas, has committed to a halt in emissions by 2030. A large part of this decrease has been attributed to the reduction in coal consumption.

The Paris agreement now has been signed by 55 countries, responsible for over 55% of the global pollution, and it is expected to take effect this November. It remains to be determined how the agreement will be implemented. Clinton is likely to follow the lead of President Obama. It is less likely that Trump would continue on this path since he has voiced his opinion that global warming is not real.

Once it takes effect, countries are expected to self-regulate. This would include reporting levels as well as actions and activities that are being conducted to meet the agreed upon levels. While the UN is unable to enforce commitment to the agreement, countries that fail to live up to the standards could leave themselves open to embargoes or other trade related sanctions. In the end, following through on the agreement is entirely voluntary.

With the Paris agreement in the news, air quality monitoring will continue to be a key issue going forward.

 

To Learn More About the Environics Ambient Monitor Calibration Systems, click here.

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Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, ambient air calibrator, Emission Standards, European Union Emissions

In the News - US EPA Presents Clean Power Plan

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 12:09 PM

in the newsOn June 2, following an announcement by President Obama, the US EPA presented the Clean Power Plan, "a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plant" with the stated goal of maintaining "an affordable, reliable energy system" while reducing pollutants that are harmful to people as well as the environment."

Throughout the US, power plant emissions account for roughly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, there are no national guidelines to limit carbon pollution levels, though the levels of other toxins, including arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particles, are restricted.  In the US, CO2 emissions account for 82% of all green house gas emisions, according to data reported by the EPA from 1990-2012.

us epaAlthough the mandate is set at the federal level, the guidelines give states the ability to establish their own internal goals and to design a program based on their specific needs and capabilities.  These plans must be submitted to the EPA by June 2016. Each state's plan must have enforceable limits, and must include how the levels will be reported and monitored.  There must also be a method for corrective actions for those who fall short. The EPA will require biannual reporting of the state's progress.

Once the plan is accepted, states have to reach interim goals by 2020 and have until 2030 to meet the final goal of a 30% decrease in carbon emissions from the levels reported in 2005. To put that in perspective, that is equal to the emissions from powering 65 million homes, roughly half of the homes in America.

In addition to the 30% reduction in carbon emissions, the Clean Power Plan will also result in the reduction of particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.  Consumers should also benefit from a roughly 8 percent decrease in their electric bills due to increased energy efficiency and reduced demand in the electricity system.

 

 

To read the plan or to learn more, visit the US EPA's Clean Power Plan sitePublic Hearings are to be held during the last week of July. 

Share your thoughts on the new plan below.

Tags: USA Emissions, EPA, Air Pollution, air quality, Emission Standards

Changes in Ambient Air Policy in China

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:04 PM

In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change is one of the most serious issues facing our world today and that he considers it "the greatest challenge of our generation."  Following his visit to China last week,  Kerry focused back on the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama, stating climate change is an undeniable fact.  China, the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and the US will share "information and policies so that we can help develop plans to deal with the U.N. climate change negotiation that takes place in Paris next year."  

shanghair ozone resized 600The condition of the air in China has long been a source of concern, brought to the forefront during the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008.  According to the World Health Organization, approximately 65%-70% of China's energy sources comes from coal and China is second only to the United States as an energy producer.  The Chinese government revised air quality standards which will progressively require cities to meet the restrictions by 2015.  The standard includes 8-hour standards for ambient air monitoring of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) 2.5, which are considered "fine" particulates that are the most harmful.   As of 2013, two thirds of cities do not yet conform to the new standard.  Studies by the WHO and others show that a million Chinese die every year due to the effects of interior and exterior air pollution.

In response to the lack of willingness of the Chinese government to share detailed information, the U.S. embassy in Beijing began posting air quality measurements shanghai airgathered at the embassy in real time, both on its website and through a twitter account (@BeijingAir).  Chinese officials had disputed the American data, however Chinese citizens and environmental groups continued to press for data to be gathered and shared.  Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited one of the most affected cities, Shanghai, back in December.  China is looking for help as the heavy pollution threatens to turn away foreign investors.  McCarthy discussed shale development and the use of natural gas to reduce pollutants.

It appears that the concern of the long term effects on not addressing pollution is beginning to instigate change.  Just this month, Beijing has ordered 15,000 factories to begin providing data regarding their emissions to the public in real-time.  Also, China's Cabinet announced $1.6 billion in incentives has been set aside for companies that are making strides to cut their emissions.  At the same time, the official Xinhua News Agency said 300 polluting factories were slated to be shut down in Beijing during 2014. 

Although these are excellent first steps, it will take international collaboration to clear the air because pollution wafts in from the surrounding regions.

To learn more, check out the WHO's site on China and the US EPA Collaboration with China

image source: Shanghai Rela Time Air Quality (2/17/2014 1:55 PM EST), http://www.semc.gov.cn/aqi/home/English.aspx

Tags: ozone, Air Pollution, air quality, Ambient Air calibration, Emission Standards, China

US Regulation of Wood-burning and Indoor Air Pollution

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 01:39 PM

winterRecently, the US EPA released their final proposal to update the new source performance standards (NSPS) for new woodstoves and heaters, and to add NSPS for the first time for pellet stoves, furnaces, hydronic heaters, and masonry heaters.   The measures, if approved, would take effect in 2015.  The report states, "Emissions from wood stoves occur near ground level in residential communities across the country, and setting these new requirements for cleaner stoves into the future will result in substantial reductions in exposure and improved public health."

Wood heaters release smoke which increases the levels of various pollutants into the air.  These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide and particles (soot), all of which cause serious health concerns.  Those at greatest threat are children, the elderly and those with breathing conditions such as allergies, asthma, emphysema or other lung diseases. 

The proposal states that the tighter regulation will mean heaters burn 80% cleaner than those on the market today. Consumers will see cost savings due to lower fuel consumption and in projected health cost savings.  The total benefits are estimated to be $1.8 to $2.4 billion annually.The proposal is open for comment for 90 days and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2014.  To read the proposal, visit the EPA's website.

While these regulations aim to improve air quality in the US, scientists in India are striving to improve the conditions in India.  In 2012, India was ranked as having the worst air quality of the countries studied and in 2013 they ranked second to last.  Outdoor air pollution led to approx. 165,000 deaths in 2008 (up from ~141,000 in 2004) while internal air pollution claimed ~500,000 in 2004 according to World Health Organization figures.

The largest single source of these pollutants is the traditional cooking stoves, known as chullas.  One can find a chulla, which burns wood, remains of crops or dung, in more than 100 million Indian households.  A high level of smoke is generated due to poor fuel consumption.  The stoves use a great deal of fuel and the required cook times are long.  Since the cooking is done in the home, the poor indoor air quality effects women and children, who spend more time in the home, the most.  Scientists compared daily use of the traditional chulla to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. 

annapurna

In addition, the environmental impact is high due both to the high consumption of wood as a fuel and the output of toxic smoke. 

Development of a move efficient stove aims to help.  These stoves, sold under the name Annapurna.  In Hinduism, Annapurna is the goddess of food and cooking, and in Sanskrit, the name Anna means “food” and purna means “filled completely.”

The Annapurna stoves have better combustion, require less fuel and cook more quickly, all leading to reduced pollution.  These stoves can run on electricity or can be set up to use a solar charged battery.   The efficiency of the stove comes from the addition of a small fan that draws air into the combustion chamber.  The manufacturer had the stove tested by accredited laboratories and saw a 50% decrease in fuel needs, a 70% decrease in smoke and a 50% decrease in cooking time.  Small changes such as this will make a large impact in the effort to improve air quality throughout India.  annapurna stove

To see a news story about this technology, check out this video from The Time of India.

Tags: USA Emissions, State of the Air, Air Pollution, air quality, Emission Standards

News - EPA releases a series of PSAs on Climate Change

Posted by Rachel Stansel on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:56 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (US EPA) recently released a series of 30 sec US EPA ambient and 1 minute public service videos on climate change. The videos discuss small changes people can make to their daily lives that have an impact on emissions. Citizens are encouraged to reduce the amount of energy they use to both cut their own utility costs and protect their health.  The cumultive effect of these small changes to the economy and environment are stressed. The series was developed in support of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, released in June.  In his plan, the President stressed the importance of reducing carbon pollution while simultaneously prepareing for the impacts of changes to the climate.

What do you think?  Do you give thought to how your actions may impact the climate?  What things do you do at work and home to minimize your carbon "footprint."

You can watch the videos here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBhfkkujnoRAgTFtLreccWDfpxBIspCGv

Tags: USA Emissions, ozone, EPA, Air Pollution, air quality, Ambient Air calibration, Emission Standards