The US EPA announced on Monday that a notice of violation, or NOV, of the Clean Air Act was issued to Volkswagen. The EPA states that the model years 2009-2015 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles (4-cylinder diesels) included software that allowed the cars to evade some emissions standards.
Cynthia Giles, the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, stated, “Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters.”
The NOV explains that these vehicles had software that turns on "full emissions control" only during automotive emissions testing and not during everyday use. This allowed the cars to pass the test but to emit NOx (nitrogen oxides) at up to 40 times the permitted allowance. The EPA defines this as a "defeat device" as it was designed specifically to evade testing.
This follows a 1.1 million dollar fine that Volkswagen paid back in 2005 when they failed to report the defect oxygen sensor that affected 199-2001 vehicles. These vehicles produced "thousands of tons of harmful pollutants including nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHC) and carbon monoxide (CO). NMHC are key reactants in the production of ozone, a major contributor to cancer-causing smog." (Volkswagen of America, Inc., Agrees to Pay More Than $1 Million for Clean Air Act Violation,Release Date: 06/15/2005)
To read the full NOV, check out the full post on the EPA site.
On 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.
Although 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.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (US EPA) recently released a series of 30 sec 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."
Last week, the EPA announced an extension of the public comment period for "Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program: Proposed Amendments and Confidentiality Determinations for Subpart I." The initial deadline for comment was December 17, 2012 and has been extended to January 16, 2013. In their announcement, the EPA stated that the reason for the extended comment period is the inclusion of two additional pieces of information. First, the summarization of a conference call the EPA held with the Semiconductor Industry Association in late October. The second is the EPA response to questions raised during that call about the calculation of Tier 2A emissions factors.
In brief, the amendment proposes changes to some of the calculation methods being utilized, provides some clarification of terms/definitions and adjusts the requirements for reporting. The amendments affect all manufacturers of electronics including semiconductors, LEDs, MEMS, LCDs and photovoltaic cells. The full proposal can be viewed here, and you can add your comments to the public record.
The EPA also has a fact sheet, which summarizes the proposal and can be viewed on the EPA site.
Here in CT, we are entering the months where unhealthy air quality emerges with the heat levels this summer. The American Lung Association has released an new advertising campaign featuring TV, online and billboard ads announcing the new State of the Air® smartphone application. The app, available for iPhone and Android, allows users to view EPA collected data on the air quality at their current location or at any other location of choice. Read this post to learn more about this data. The app is being praises as a user-friendly resource for people for low air quality affects most profoundly, those living with lung disease (such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes and the elderly and children.
ALA of the Northeast President and CEO, Jeff Seyler, was quoted to say, “We are excited to be able to provide this innovative tool so those with lung disease, and without, can effectively monitor their local air quality and limit their exposure to dangerous levels of pollution.”
The State of the Air app provides both the current and next-day air quality forecasts. Users can set alerts to notify them when the local air quality fails to a code orange, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Along with the quality information, the app provides tips on what activities are to be avoided depending on the current conditions.
The television and online messages are aimed at young people. They feature Alvin Grimes, an air collector, who collects air samples in glass jars. The promos tie into the ALA tagline "What are your lungs collecting?" "Alvin" has his own, twitter account and facebook page where he shares tips and information on air and air pollution. The TV spots can be viewed on his youtube page (one example below).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a standard for carbon pollution from new power plants, as required by the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling regarding the Clean Air Act.
This is the first Clean Air Act standard to address power plant carbon emissions. The carbon pollution standard, now open to public comment, reflects the existing move in to building plants that use clean-burning and take advantage of more efficient technologies. It also allows for the use of new technologies that will emit less carbon pollution but still burn coal. It is important to note that this standard applies only to new generating units, not those already operating, being built or that will begin construction within the next year.
Speaking about the proposal, EPA Administrator said, “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.”
The proposed standard gives a good deal of flexibility, and it can be met by facilities using a variety of methods, including natural gas technologies and coal with implementation of emissions reducing technologies. Since existing plants and those being built within the year are not subject to this standard, EPA did not project any additional cost to comply with this standard.
A number of statements from legislators, environmental and health groups and business people have been released regarding this proposal. Just a few of these are below. To read more, please visit the EPA.
Ranking Member of the US House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce, Henry A. Waxman, released the following, “The proposal is a breakthrough. It sets achievable limits on dangerous carbon pollution, spurs investments in new clean energy technologies, and provides certainty for industry. And it shows the President is listening to scientists, not extremists who deny the existence of climate change. Today’s action will reduce pollution, make families healthier, promote innovation, and help us compete with China and other countries that are investing in clean energy.”
The Sierra Club urged its member’s to send messages to EPA Administrator Jackson to urge implementation of these protections, stating “For the first time ever, the Obama Administration and the EPA are proposing national limits on carbon pollution. Carbon pollution is linked not only to climate disruption, but also to significant health hazards like the smog that triggers asthma attacks. Right now, 158 million Americans live in counties with unacceptable air pollution levels. By supporting the EPA's effort for clean air, we can make sure they go the distance and put new protections in place.”
Ralph Izzo, Chairman and CEO of Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG), released a statement, “While we would have preferred that Congress enact legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA took an important step today in addressing the significant environmental threat posed by climate change.
The Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.
We understand that the EPA continues to evaluate regulatory options for already existing plants that may be affected by the Clean Air Act and we look forward to working with the Agency to evaluate the best approaches for achieving meaningful greenhouse gas reductions in as flexible and economic manner as possible.”
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Today, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson testified before the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the U.S. Senate regarding President Obama's proposed EPA budget for the fiscal year 2013. You can read more about the EPA budget proposal in my earlier post. The full transcript of Jackson's testimony can be read here.
Earlier this month, the US EPA released their proposal for Implementing the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. This includes their suggested Nonattainment Area Classifications Approach and Attainment Deadlines.
The full proposal can be read here. This table from this proposal summarizes the ranges used to classify attainment based on the 2008 standard as well as the length of time to reach compliance.
Below is a summary of an earlier post regarding ozone generation and its uses, including calibration of ambient air monitoring systems.
Ozone used in industry, depending on the conditions (especially temperature and humidity) and method of generation, can be formed at concentrations ranging from 1 - 30%. It can be used to disinfect water, clean air and laundry or kill insects in grain. Ozone is also used in processing of manufacturing and production.
There are a variety of ways ozone is generated, but the two main methods of are corona discharge and UV light (Read the details about ozone generation).
In brief, the corona discharge method is the most common type of ozone generator for personal uses. The are used in ambient conditions and are more susceptible to environmental conditions.
UV ozone generators employ a light source that generates a narrow-band ultraviolet light, mimicking the production of ozone in the atmosphere. When used in calibration systems, such as those manufactured by Environics, there are a variety of industry standards that must be met to guarantee accuracy and reliability of the ozone produced (EPA criteria for ozone transfer standard).
Yesterday at EPA Headquarters, the President's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) FY 2013 budget request was announced by Administrator Lisa Jackson and her senior staff. The proposal allocates $8.344 billion, with is a reduction of $105 million from the approved FY 2012 budget. Elimination of completed programs and consolidation of others accounts for $50 million of that reduction.
In reaction to the proposal, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson echoed the President's message of "an America built to last." Jackson said, “This budget is focused on fulfilling EPA’s core mission to protect health and the environment for millions of American families. It demonstrates fiscal responsibility, while still supporting clean air, healthy waters and innovative safeguards that are essential to an America built to last.”
The EPA calls out eight key areas in the FY2013 proposed budget:
Support of States through grants to allow implementation of front line projects under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts ($1.2 billion, an increase over FY 2012)
Protecting America's Waters primarily through funding of wastewater and drinking water programs as well as infrastructure projects including green projects ($2 billion)
Contaminated Site Clean-up through funding of the Superfund Cleanup programs (both emergent and remedial), and will focus on compliance ($755 million)
Research and Innovation in the Science and Technology in a wide variety of arenas ($807 million)
Continued Support of "Economically and Environmentally Vital Water Bodies," including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay ($373 million)
Harmful Chemical assessment and risk reduction ($68 million, an increase of $11 million over FY 2012)
"Next Generation Compliance," which focuses on electronic reporting, data collection and monitoring, with a goal of cost savings, improved compliance and transparency ($36 million)
National Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards program funding to research new biofuel and renewable technologies and for compliance and certification of fuel economy and emissions, all with the goal of reducing dependence on oil ($102 million, a $10 million increase over FY 2012)
Jackson reviewed the EPA will continue to streamline so that while working with less, they can maintain the commitment to the EPA's core goals.
You can view the announcement on the EPA's site, including a brief Q&A, or read more here.
Throughout Europe, initiatives have resulted in an overall improved air quality since the 1970's. Some of the main components of air pollution are particulates, ozone, NOx, hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Most generally, air quality affects the health of the population on a daily basis. Especially at risk are the very young, the elderly and those with breathing issues. In most cities, traffic related air pollution is the most common source, with industrial emissions also playing a key role.
Recently, I posted about an EPA run site that allows website visitors to view the air quality (along with water quality, etc). Today, I want to share a site which shows air quality for cities throughout Europe.
The site, Air Quality Now, also provides details on the various components of air pollution, the health threats of each and some background to the current initiatives.
When searching, you can look at historical data, today's data, or a forecast for the following day. Also of interest, you can view background or roadside data.
Click here to search for your city or nearby areas or to learn more.