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Environment: Federal appeals court focusing on toxic ozone smog in Utah’s Uinta Basin

EPA challenged on decision to designate polluted region as unclassifiable

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Environmental advocates and the EPA are facing off in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today over air quality in Utah’s remote Uinta Basin, where ozone levels often exceed standards set to protect human health.

In a weird twist to the case, the fossil fuel industry is claiming that its own air pollution data is of poor quality and unreliable, and shouldn’t be used by the EPA to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area, despite the fact that the area regularly sees some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the country.

At issue in the oral arguments is the EPA’s refusal to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area despite monitoring showing serious air quality degradation in northeastern Utah. The EPA’s decision to designate the area as unclassifiable is a clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups involved in the case. Continue reading

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Study: Cutting carbon pollution pays off in a big way by reducing health care costs

Feds make progress on environmental justice.

Study shows how cutting carbon pollution pays huge dvidends by reducing health care costs.

‘Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality’

Staff report

FRISCO — Adopting a carbon cap-and-trade program would easily pay for itself — and then some — by reducing health care costs associated with treating asthma and other medical conditions resulting from air pollution, MIT researchers said in a detailed study that looked at the comparative cost and benefits of three potential climate policies.

Policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles,  also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution, the scientists said, publishing their findings last month in Nature Climate Change.

Overall, the study found that savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation. Continue reading

Climate: Putting lipstick on the methane pig?

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Methane emissions: up, up … up.

EPA report shows the greenhouse gas dragon is far from tamed

Staff Report

FRISCO — The EPA may be putting lipstick on the methane pig by claiming that methane emissions dropped during the past year, according to watchdog groups who say the numbers put forth by the federal agency are misleading.

Overall, the EPA reported Sept. 30 that greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities climbed by 20 million metric tons in 2013, up 0.6 percent from the previous year. Continue reading

Environment: Big gaps in North America pollution data

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Pollution doesn’t respect national borders.

Report shows declines in some of the most dangerous pollutants

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new report from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation tracks the changing face of industrial pollution between 2005 and 2010, showing a total increase of 14 percent in the five year span.

The comprehensive report includes more complete reporting by the metal ore mining and oil and gas extraction sectors in Canada, as well as data from 35,000 industrial facilities in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The CEC was formed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Continue reading

Air pollution: There is no ‘safe’ level

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New York smog and ozone.

Outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million deaths each year

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by an Australian researcher underscores the fact that, when it comes to air pollution, there are no safe levels.

The research by Adrian Barnett, of the Queensland University of Technology, shows that the Australian government’s standards for key outdoor air pollutants are misleading, as many authorities wrongly assume them to be ‘safe’ thresholds for health.

But Barnett’s modeling shows that, if levels of those pollutants were all to rise to just below the government-set limit, it would result in 6,000 additional deaths and more then 20,000 hospital visits. Continue reading

Winter ozone formation in Utah linked with atmospheric inversions and persistent snow cover

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Air quality worsening in rural areas affected by fracking

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerously high levels of winter ozone pollution in parts of Utah can be traced directly to chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration. The volatile organic compounds, common byproducts of fossil fuel exploitation, get trapped under atmospheric inversion layers and sunlight reflected by snow sparks the chemical process that forms the corrosive gas.

For example, in 2013, ozone in Ouray, Utah, exceeded the national air quality standards 49 times during the winter season. By contrast, in the densely populated, urban area of Riverside, California, the standards were exceeded about half that amount that same year, but during the summer. Continue reading

Climate: EPA eyes limits on airline carbon pollution

U.S. airlines have long lobbied against any measures aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, but they probably won't be able to dodge new EPA pollution regulations developed under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

U.S. airlines have long lobbied against any measures aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, but they won’t be able to dodge new EPA pollution regulations developed under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

Agency targets spring 2016 to make initial findings

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. airlines may soon be required to at least start thinking about cutting their carbon footprint.

Aviation accounts for about 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, rising between 3 percent to 5 percent a year. Carbon emissions from global aviation will quadruple by mid-century without action. Continue reading

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