On 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.Read More
The Environics, Inc. Post
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!Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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."
The 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 gathered 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