U.S. Supreme Court nixes EPA’s mercury limits

Conservative majority ruling puts thousands of lives at risk

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The EPA will have to go back to the drawing board if it wants to regulate toxic mercury emissions from factories and power plants, as the U.S. Supreme Court today voided the agency’s 2012 regulations that were set to take effect this year.

In a divided five-four ruling, the court sided with heavy industry and fossil-fuel burning power plants, saying that the EPA should have considered the costs of the regulations as part of its initial evaluation. The EPA had argued that those costs would be evaluated at the next step of the regulatory process.

Mercury is a global pollutant that has been detected in California’s coastal fogs. In a national assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey found unhealthy mercury levels in 25 percent of all U.S. Streams. And near Hawaii, scientists say mercury concentrations in yellowfin tuna have been increasing 3.8 percent a year. Researchers have even documented signs of environmental stress in Alaskan sled dogs who primarily eat mercury tainted fish. Continue reading

Environment: $160 million cleanup ordered at coal-burning, pollution-spewing Four Corners power plant

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New pollution controls will cut emissions at the Four Corners power plant.

Settlement includes requirements for regional public health and environmental mitigation projects

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the country will be required to upgrade pollution controls, cutting thousands of tons of harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The $160 million cleanup at the Four Corners Power Plant, located on the Navajo Nation near Shiprock, New Mexico, comes under a court-ordered Clean Air Act settlement between the EPA and several Arizona and New Mexico-based utility companies.

The total combined emission reductions secured from the settlement will exceed 2 million tons each year, once all the required pollution controls are installed and implemented. Continue reading

Study: Cleaning the air would save millions of lives worldwide

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Thick smog along the east coast of China. Satellite image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘With no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 percent during the next 15 years in India and China …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Numerous public health studies have shown how cleaning up air pollution in the U.S. could prevent thousands of premature deaths. On a global scale, the benefits of cleaner air are staggering, according to scientists and engineers.

The researchers developed a global model showing how reductions in outdoor air pollution could lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer, potentially saving millions of lives every year. Continue reading

Environment: Proposed new ozone standards seen as challenge for regulators

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A snapshot of ozone conditions in early June 2015.

Scientists say more monitoring will be crucial for regulators

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed new standards for harmful ozone pollution could present a big challenge for air quality managers at the state and local level. More monitoring is needed to help tell apart local sources from ozone that’s generated elsewhere, Boulder-based scientists wrote last week in Science.

Last November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed lowering the primary ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 or 65 ppb, based on ozone’s known effects on children, the elderly, and people who have lung diseases such as asthma. A decision by the EPA Administrator is expected in October 2015. Continue reading

Public lands: Grant helps Rocky Mountain National Park boost green transit efforts

Every little bit helps!

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A $167,000 grant has helped Rocky Mountain National Park boost environmental efforts.

The 2013 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities National Parks Initiative supports alternative transportation projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and educating park visitors about the environmental benefits of reducing our dependence on petroleum.

Through the partnership, the park purchased two electric sedans and one hybrid pickup truck, installed two electric charging stations, launched an idle reduction campaign and enhanced the parks education and outreach efforts toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing sustainable operations.

Climate: When good ozone goes bad

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.

La Niña weather pattern found to contribute to spikes in western ozone levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — Spring ozone formation in parts of the western U.S. appear to be linked with the hemispheric La Niña weather pattern, when the path of the jet stream forces high altitude ozone down to ground level.

After discovering the link, a team of researchers say their findings may help forecast harmful ozone episodes well in advance, which could have implications for attaining the national ozone standard. Continue reading

Dirty little secret: West’s ozone problem is growing

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.

Proposed EPA standards would help bring relief to residents of fossil fuel development zones

Staff Report

FRISCO — The mythology of the American West includes standard notions of pristine vistas and clean air, but the reality is far different. Some parts of the region have a dirty little secret — air quality that, at times, is worse than places like L.A.

And for now, the problem is getting worse. Expanded drilling on public lands is resulting in emissions of more volatile organic compounds that form the chemical basis for ozone. Global warming won’t help either. By mid-century, ozone pollution will become much more widespread as temperatures rise, potentially leading to widespread plant damage, according to one recent study.

Proposed new EPA ozone standards could help, but only if there’s an active year-round monitoring regime in the region, a coalition of environmental groups said in their formal public comments on the proposed new standards. Continue reading

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