Polluted politics

Polluted politics

by digby

If you are wondering why the climate hawks are so up in arms over this ozone ruling today, the context will clear it up for you. Brad Plumer spells it out:

The last time new ozone standards were set was back in 1997 — at 84 parts per billion. In 2006, the EPA reviewed the science on ozone and health, which had advanced considerably over the years: It wasn’t until the 2000s, for instance, that researchers realized ground-level ozone might actually be killing people, not just causing respiratory problems. And so, that year, EPA scientists recommended a new level of 60 to 70 parts per billion. The Bush administration, however, went with a level of 75 parts per billion in its final rules, issued in 2008.

Groups such as the American Lung Association quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the Bush rules, which they claimed were too weak and would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and cases of respiratory disease. However, when Obama came into office, the new EPA said it basically agreed with the critics and would issue revised rules by August 2010. At that point, the ALA agreed to hold off on its lawsuit. “We said, that sounds reasonable to us,” says Paul Billings, the ALA’s vice-president for policy and advocacy. “We basically trusted that they had good intentions.”

But August 2010 rolled around. Still no rules. The EPA asked for a further extension. Then October. Then December. Still nothing. Then the EPA said it wanted to go back and look at the science again, just to double-check. Sure enough, EPA’s scientific review board said that 60 to 70 parts per billion was the way to go. And EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the final rules would be more or less in line with the science.

Industry groups, obviously, weren’t pleased with this. They noted that complying with a stricter standard could cost them anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion per year by 2020. (The EPA did, however, note that a tougher standard would yield benefits of $13 billion to $100 billion.) Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called it “possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama administration regulations.”

So now, today, the White House announced that it’s not going to have any new rules...

So what happens now? That’s unclear. Right now, most states are still operating under the old 1997 standards. The EPA had earlier directed states not to follow the (somewhat stricter) 2008 Bush standards because it was working on even tighter standards. But now those regulations aren’t happening. As Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Ar Agencies told me, the EPA could now direct states to follow the 2008 rules, but that seems unlikely given the White House’s preference to wait until the 2013 review. So that means states probably will keep operating under the old 1997 standards, which are weaker than even what the Bush administration had come up with. “We would have had tighter standards if we had just followed the Bush-era rules back in 2008,” notes Becker.

Once again you find yourself wondering what they are thinking and it would seem to boil down to a choice between a bizarre and useless political move or a sop to campaign donors. Maybe it's both. But if by announcing it today they thought this was a way to balance out the bad unemployment news, somebody needs to call the DEA and have them confiscate whatever it is they're smoking over there. This just adds to the sense of chaos and confusion.

On the other hand, they love to do the old "one from column A and one from column B" bipartisan menu planning, so maybe this means he won't approve the Alberta tar sands pipeline. We'll be coughing either way.

Oh and BTW:

Paper Disputing Basic Science of Climate Change is "Fundamentally Flawed," Editor Resigns, Apologizes

One month ago, a paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell was published in the journal Remote Sensing arguing that far less future global warming will occur than the scientific community currently anticipates. This highly controversial finding – controversial since it is at odds with observations, basic understanding of atmospheric physics, models, and with what most scientists think we know about climate science — was seized upon by climate change deniers and skeptics and broadcast loud and far.

While other climate experts quickly pointed to fatal flaws in the paper, it received a great deal of attention from certain media. In something of a media frenzy, Fox News, the authors themselves in press releases and web comments, Forbes, in a column by a lawyer at the Heartland Institute, Drudge, and others loudly pointed to this as evidence that the vast array of science on climate change was wrong.

The staggering news today is that the editor of the journal that published the paper has just resigned, with a blistering editorial calling the Spencer and Braswell paper “fundamentally flawed,” with both “fundamental methodological errors” and “false claims.” That editor, Professor Wolfgang Wagner of the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, is a leading international expert in the field of remote sensing. In announcing his resignation, Professor Wagner says “With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements.”

Just saying. Enabling polluters isn't going to solve anything. It will only make things worse.