Category Archives: Clean Air

>Upside Down

>Nearly two weeks ago Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski defeated a bill that would increase BP’s liability cap to clean up the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico. Her stated reasons (looking out for the oil industry’s “little guys”: all together now, awwwwwww!) were completely bogus, as I explained in my post here. It was basically a big fat kiss to the multinational corporations which keep Alaska’s economy running. Why not just say it and be done with it? You’re not fooling anyone.

And now Murkowski has another gift for her friends at Big Oil: it’s called the Murkowski Resolution. This would basically gut the Clean Air Act by making it illegal for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Yes, you read that right. The Clean Air Act would no longer allow the EPA to regulate the crap that keeps our air from being clean.

While you’re trying to wrap your head around that legislative oxymoron, here’s another one for you: The Murkowski Resolution will come up for a vote on June 10 and three of the Democratic Party’s worst offenders are supporting it:

Murkowski’s resolution would need 51 votes to clear the chamber. She already has 41 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Well, isn’t that special. These three names are familiar burrs in progressive knickers, and I would just love to see them squirm on this one. Especially Lincoln, who is facing a tough primary race.

The timing on this should be lost on no one. The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert has an excellent commentary about the Gulf oil spill in this week’s issue. She takes us back to 1969 and the twin environmental disasters of the Santa Barbara oil spill and burning of the Cuyahoga River:

By the end of the year, Congress had passed the National Environmental Policy Act, known by the acronym NEPA, which requires federal agencies to file impact statements for all actions that could have a significant ecological effect. The following spring, millions of people took to the streets for Earth Day, and by the second anniversary of the spill President Richard Nixon had created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Clean Air Act.

For you young kids who don’t remember: Nixon was a Republican.

So now it’s 40 years later, we have a Democrat in the White House and we’re battling an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that, as Kolbert writes, “makes the Santa Barbara spill look like a puddle.”

We’ve had coal miners die in West Virginia and Kentucky, and we’ve had 1.1 billion gallons of coal sludge cover 300 acres of Roane County, Tennessee. And instead of a massive call to action to stop our polluting ways, we have Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting to gut the Clean Air Act and tie the EPA’s hands on regulating air pollutants.


I really hope everyone gets on the phone and calls their senators about this, pronto. Because if this Murkowski Resolution passes in the wake of a massive oil spill, then what that’s going to tell Washington and the rest of the world is that we really just don’t give a crap about the planet.


Filed under Clean Air, environment, EPA, Gulf oil spill

>Don’t Breathe The Air, Either

>A half hour ago this popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA sez toxin levels in H2O are now back down to what TDEC consistently finds in their well water samplings (“acceptable levels”)

Given that the EPA has said folks using well water would be advised not to, I wouldn’t be listening to TVA right now, people. But that’s just me.

And while you’re at it, try not to breathe the air, either. Ash spill live-blogger LifeOnSwanPond reports:

The Ash is drying… and it’s not all wet anymore.  Still no answers to the exact content of the ash….

This is a HUGE concern.  Large amounts of dry ash & even a calm breeze moves these lightweight particles around.  They settle on everything.  We are breathing them.

Yes you are. And I would say, don’t. If you can help it, don’t.

It goes without saying that this stuff is toxic. Even if they tell you it’s safe, it’s not. Remember the lessons of 9/11:

Within days of the World Trade Center collapse, someone ordered Environmental Protection Agency administrators to tell New Yorkers the air was safe. Reopen Wall Street, and bring back its thousands of workers. Reopen Stuyvesant High School, which Orkin’s son attended. Ignore Brooklyn, where residents like her vacuumed inches-deep white ash from their windowsills. No matter that private tests showed the air remained full of lead, asbestos, mercury, benzene. No matter that, according to documents forced out of the EPA by a Freedom of Information request, the agency’s own tests agreed that the air in Lower Manhattan—who wanted to bother with Brooklyn?—wasn’t fit to breathe.

Even without testing, anyone could see the billowing cloud of debris released when the 110-story twin towers came crashing down. Dust from the Trade Center hung in the air for weeks. Putrid fires burned for three months.

“Any half-wit knew it was hell after 9-11,” Orkin says. She has been pressing the EPA to test for and clean up toxic dust in her Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, across the East River from ground zero and smack in the plume’s path. After tests revealed high levels of asbestos in her home, she paid thousands of dollars for a full abatement, which included ripping up the carpets. Her World Trade Center Environmental Organization website,, is devoted to the 9-11 fallout and replete with aerial photos and satellite images of the plume.

I’d say we’re looking at a similar situation. Given that the TVA’s own admitted first priority was clearing the railroad tracks “because that’s how they get the coal into the plant,” I’d say the health and well-being of a few local residents is not exactly high on their radar right now.

But what do I know.

This just popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA says they want to hydro mulch the coal waste from helicopters (planting grass seed) to prevent airborne particulates.

This tells me TVA is concerned about the ash too, even though they won’t say so openly, and won’t tell anyone what’s in it. But make no mistake, the stuff is toxic and should not be breathed. Keep it out of your home, if at all possible. Stay indoors if you must stay in the area.

At least, that’s what I would do, if it were me.

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Filed under ash spill, Clean Air, clean coal, environment, EPA, TVA

>Smoky Mountains: An Adjective AND A Destination

>Thanks a lot, BushCo. It’s bad enough we’re tearing down the mountains in east Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia so your buddies at Big Coal can reap bigger profits. Now look what they’re ramming down our throats:

Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008; Page A01

The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, according to rank-and-file agency scientists and park managers who oppose the plan.

The new regulations, which are likely to be finalized this summer, rewrite a provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to “Class 1 areas,” federal lands that currently have the highest level of protection under the law. Opponents predict the changes will worsen visibility at many of the nation’s most prized tourist destinations, including Virginia’s Shenandoah, Colorado’s Mesa Verde and North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt national parks.

Nearly a year ago, with little fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed changing the way the government measures air pollution near Class 1 areas on the grounds that the nation needed a more uniform way of regulating emissions near protected areas. The agency closed the comment period in April and has indicated it is not making significant changes to the draft rule, despite objections by EPA staff members.

And here I thought the “P” in EPA stood for protection not pollution.

Here in Tennessee, the National Park Service has already issued dire reports about air pollution affecting the Great Smoky Mountains:

Research and monitoring conducted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has shown that airborne pollutants emitted from mostly outside the Smokies are degrading park resources and visitor enjoyment. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—causes most of the pollution. Inadequate pollution control equipment in power plants, factories, and automobiles is the primary problem.

Wind currents moving toward the southern Appalachians transport pollutants from urban areas, industrial sites, and power plants located both near and far. The height and physical structure of the mountains, combined with predominant weather patterns, tend to trap and concentrate human-made pollutants in and around the national park.


Plants and animals in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are also threatened by airborne sulfur and nitrogen pollution. The park receives the highest sulfur and nitrogen deposits of any monitored national park. These pollutants fall to the ground not only as acid rain, but also as dry particles and cloud water. The average acidity (pH) of rainfall in the park is 4.5, 5-10 times more acidic than normal rainfall (5.0-5.6). Clouds with acidity as low as 2.0 pH bathe the high elevation forests during part of the growing season. 

Research shows that certain high elevation soils in the park are receiving so much airborne nitrogen that they are suffering from advanced nitrogen saturation. This condition limits the availability of forest nutrients, especially calcium, to plants and causes the release of toxic aluminum that can hurt vegetation and streamlife. Mountain streams and forest soils are being acidified to the point that the health of the park’s high elevation ecosystems is in jeopardy. Nitrate levels in some streams are approaching the public health standard for drinking water

So we want to relax clean air rules because why?

All of this is so unnecessary when we know how to build power plants that run on clean energy sources. Sharp USA manufactures solar panels right here in Memphis, TN. Why aren’t we encouraging a clean power source that employs Tennesseans?

Please, get a Democrat in the White House, pronto. The Republicans will just rape, pillage and plunder the earth for short-term gain. We need some people in Washington whose vision extends beyond the next shareholder report.

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Filed under Clean Air, environment, EPA, solar energy