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Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Jackson’

Election season is imminent and advocates for environmental welfare and public health need not look very far for the hyper-political red tape and drawbacks to pollution legislation. Like many of her colleagues in the Democratic Party, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been campaigning nationwide for the regulation of toxins such as mercury from coal burners which, in effect, could prevent thousands of related deaths and stimulate the job market. Just two weeks ago, Jackson even made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” encouraging viewers to exercise vigilance in the fight against toxic emissions and to demand personal protections for clean air and water.

Her sentiments were met with grand applause due to their pertinence in 2011 where it is estimated that 72% of all toxic mercury air pollution in the United States is attributable to coal plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Just to add some perspective to this statistic, such a figure indicates that 386,000 tons of hazardous compounds are being emitted into the atmosphere per year at an unprecedented rate.

Jackson’s apparent support for tightened environmental regulations was short-lived however, when just one week following her Comedy Central interview the EPA halted essential protections for controlling exposure to air-borne mercury, arsenic, lead, and a plethora of acid gases. The basis for these laws were established in 1990 when President H.W. Bush signed Clean Air Act amendments into law thus making it the EPA’s responsibility to establish emission standards for industrial facilities. Originally, these plans operated on a permit system designed to pinpoint power plants, factories, and additional sources of ground level ozone that had exceeded allowable limits for what was deemed “requisite to protect the public welfare.”

One of these statutes created under H.W. Bush’s administration, called Boiler MACT, monitored emission caps from boilers that produced power sources specifically like those found in large to small coal plants. As of February 2011, under a court issued order, the EPA was also charged with the task of enforcing this body of legislative action. And now, a mere two years after the Obama administration vowed to protect the interests of public health and respect the law, this regulation is one of many that Jackson’s post at the EPA has indefinitely delayed.

Historically, the EPA has acted as an outspoken critic of the industrial “Powers that be” and their habits of ignoring Clean Air Act restrictions with economic impunity. In fact it was the EPA’s records that first indicated that more than 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 1,600 cases of acute bronchitis and an excess of 313,000 missed work and school days could be avoided if these laws were enacted properly- and this doesn’t even account for the upwards of 6,600 toxic related deaths. But the EPA strayed its course due to the fast-approaching 2012 elections. They managed to place re-election aspirations above environmental necessities on the hierarchy of political agendas, caved to industry pressures, and watered down many of their contingencies to begin with.

In lieu of this regressive blow to mandatory emission guidelines, Lisa Jackson and the EPA as a whole have endangered countless vulnerable Americans by casting a blind eye to the Boiler MACT legislation. Not only are these steps in reverse potentially (almost certainly) disastrous, people living near industrial giants and coal-fired power plants are now at serious odds with their own health and well-being.

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Towards the end of January an independent panel of judges, the Office of Public Interest Counsel, and the EPA all recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality deny the proposed permit for the Las Brisas petroleum-coke burning plant based on its multiple deficiencies and clear violations of the Clean Air Act. The Perry-appointed commissioners approved it anyways. According to its permit, Las Brisas will emit 220 pounds of mercury, 100 pounds of lead, 8,096 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 1,767 tons of particulate matter every year.

Communities in Corpus Christi are left with few options: the ultimate authority of the EPA, and the leadership of their elected officials.

“This is my hometown, and I love it,” Rebecca Lyons, a graduating honors student at TAMU Corpus Christi, told Matt Tresaugue of the Houston Chronicle back in January, “But I don’t want to raise a family here because of the health risks…There has to be a better way.”

After hundreds of letters, petitions, and phone calls made to the EPA, Corpus Christi residents are taking their fight to the online world. Join us!


Take Action Online!

Copy and paste this status and video to the EPA’s Facebook pages!

Corpus Christi doesn’t want Las Brisas. Stop the air permit now! http://bit.ly/merA7n

EPA’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/X4FYe

EPA Region 6 Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/lBXW9C

Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/130rQ6

Are you on Twitter? Tweet with us!

@epaGOV @lisapjackson I want clean air! Stop the Las Brisas air permit in Corpus Christi, TX!
http://bit.ly/merA7n

Ready to go the distance?

Ask your elected officials if they support responsible growth, or Las Brisas. Copy and paste this to their Facebook pages:

I’m a voting constituent, and I don’t want Las Brisas. Do you?
http://bit.ly/merA7n

US House Rep Blake Farenthold: http://on.fb.me/f2XnkP

State Rep Connie Scott: http://on.fb.me/jj0qJv

State Rep Todd Hunter: http://on.fb.me/mpSG5d

Mayor Joe Adame: http://on.fb.me/km137a

State Senator Judith Zaffirini: http://on.fb.me/lbxOW5

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa does not have a Facebook page.
Send his office an email instead!

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At a time when in much of the US we are facing the most significant heat waves in decades, global temperature averages have shown 2010 to be the hottest year ever in recorded history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Climactic Data Center just released its most comprehensive report on climate change which may as well have been called “It’s Real and It’s Here: NOW!”, and droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires are causing Armageddon-like conditions around Moscow, causing even the global warming denying Russian government to capitulate to the scientific consensus…..  Even with all of that, it would seem like an odd time for the state of Texas to send a shot across the EPA’s bow, insulting them and goading them into a fight over Texas carbon emissions and the Clean Air Act.

But yet they have.

Monday August 2nd the state of Texas sent a letter to the EPA (original can be downloaded here) informing them that we would no longer be complying with the Clean Air Act, specifically provisions relating to the regulation of greenhouse gases.  This letter signed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and TCEQ Commissioner Bryan Shaw is full of bluster and short on reasoned legal arguments with any real merit.

Famous painting of Ukrainian Cossacks writing a triumphant and bawdy letter to the Turkish Sultan after the Cossacks defeated his army

What it really remind me of is one of my favorite paintings, Запорожцы пишут письмо турецкому султану or, Zaprozhe Cossacks Writing a Letter to the Turkish Sultan by Ilya Repin.  (For comparison’s sake, I would highly recommend following that link to read the text of the Cossack’s letter– it has language saltier than anything else I’ve heard this side of South Park)  I just can’t help think of the unabashed joy that must’ve coursed through the veins of the Atty General and TCEQ Commissioner as they drafted this, using phrases like (more…)

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Activists are risking arrest by demonstrating outside EPA national headquarters in make-shift tripod stands. They say they won’t go away until EPA administrator Lisa Jackson promises to make a fly-over of the Appalachian Mountain Top Removal coal mines to see first hand the destruction it is causing.

Despite the Obama administration making claims they would crack down on MTR mining, the EPA has been slow to act and has actually granted some new MTR mining permits. It is only through continued pressure and media exposure that this horribly destructive practice can finally be stopped.

Civil disobedience and direct action are one of the most effective means of fighting injustice and tyranny. These activists are putting their freedom and their safety on the line to non-violently oppose one of the most irreversibly and violently destructive industries in history. Please help support their actions by posting at RAN and by contacting Lisa Jackson and asking her to go to Appalachia and take action against MTR.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Environmental Groups Applaud EPA Choice

New Regional Administrator could signal change in direction for polluted state

DALLAS – Environmental advocates across several states are applauding the Obama Administration’s choice of Dr. Al Armendariz to lead Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Armendariz, an engineering professor at Southern Methodist University, has worked with diverse constituencies ranging from corporations to citizens groups and has published dozens of studies on myriad environmental issues throughout his career. His appointment garnered high praise from the environmental community.

“Our region has typically provided a haven for some of the worst polluters in the country, and has paid a steep price,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas Director for Public Citizen. “I believe the appointment of Dr. Al Armendariz signifies a new direction for Region 6.”

In an effort to make sure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House chose a strong environmental leader for Region 6, about twenty prominent advocates signed on to a list of principles that they hoped would guide the appointment. Dr. Armendariz was one of two candidates the groups endorsed for the position. Their list of qualities for an ideal administrator included a commitment to environmental justice and science-based policy, minimal ties to industries regulated by EPA and a strict adherence to the President’s Executive Order on Ethics, which was intended to prevent conflicts of interest between lobbyists and government agencies.

“Al Armendariz demonstrates the kind of vision, integrity and grassroots approach to enforcing environmental law this region needs if we’re truly going to clean up our act,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, Program Director at the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE). “He embodies the ‘Principles for Environmental Leadership and Real Change’ we believed should guide this appointment.”

Indeed, many within the environmental community see appointment of Armendariz as indicative of a new approach for the regional EPA.

“We are thrilled with Dr. Armendariz’s appointment,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “After eight years of the Bush EPA, it’s a new day for Texas’ environment. Move over polluter lobbyists, science and human health are in charge now.”

In addition to environmentalists, some within the business community were also pleased with Obama’s choice. Former Austin City Councilmember Brigid Shea, now principal and co-founder of an environmental consulting firm, stated, “As a businessperson who’s concerned about the environment, it’s time this region got someone who understands that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy, that the two are not at odds.”

Dr. Armendariz will take over for Acting Region 6 Administrator Larry Starfield. During his tenure, he will face a number of pressing environmental challenges, including potentially overseeing the implementation of federal climate change legislation, bringing metropolitan areas in Texas into compliance with the Clean Air Act and working to clean up toxic “hot spots” along the Gulf Coast.

“Texas needs a tough air enforcement chief at EPA 6 Dallas like Dr. Armendariz who’s willing to tackle head on the state’s serious air quality challenges with large urban areas like Dallas and Houston failing to meet new ozone standards, and who is willing to require Texas to clean up its large dirty coal plants and refineries,” stated Dr. Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.

Environmental justice activists from communities across the state are also hopeful that the appointment of Dr. Armendariz will benefit Texans living directly adjacent to polluting facilities

“The Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice is a document that looks good on paper, but in the real world EPA’s office of Environmental Justice has at times sided with industry over our communities; and pollution problems in poor communities have gotten worse, not better,” said Suzie Canales, Executive Director of Corpus Christi-based Citizens for Environmental Justice. “Now under Armendariz, we have real hope that environmental justice issues will be a serious priority to the agency.”

Many environmental justice groups endorsed Armendariz from the beginning of the Regional Administrator selection process, citing his commitment to science, his understanding of the issues and his dedication to enforcing the spirit of environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

“Dr. Armendariz is exactly the kind of person you’d want to have this job, but seemingly never gets it,” said Jim Schermbeck, long-time Field Organizer with Downwinders at Risk. “Because of what’s at stake and the fact that Texas is the belly of the polluter beast, this may be one of the most important, far-reaching appointments the Obama Administration makes. Downwinders at Risk is proud to have been the group that first utilized Dr. Armendariz’s expertise for our cause of cleaning up the Midlothian cement kilns back in 2005. That work lead directly to his becoming the premier ‘citizen’s scientist’ in Texas on air pollution, and paved the way for his much larger influence on the state scene. Congratulations to both Dr. Armendariz and the EPA.”

As enthusiastic as environmentalists are about the appointment, they also promised to hold Dr. Armendariz accountable to the people affected by pollution issues in the five-state region. “As outstanding as Dr. Armendariz has been on paper and in interviews, we’ll be watching to make sure he walks the walk,” says Jacoby, who works in TCE’s Dallas office, “Remember, Al, my office is right down the street.”

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Environmental Groups welcome EPA’s proposed rejection of key elements of TCEQ’s air permitting plan and call for proper enforcement of Clean Air Act protections in Texas

(Austin)  — Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the Galveston/Houston Association for Smog Prevent (GHASP) welcomed the EPA proposal today to disapprove key aspects of the Texas clean-air permitting program that “do not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements” followed by other states.

Texas environmental community leaders commented on the proposed decision –

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, Director of the Texas office of Public Citizen –

It’s refreshing to see an agency that actually believes in enforcing our clean air laws.  We’ve gotten too comfortable with allowing substandard permits through TCEQ, and our air quality and our quality of life have suffered the consequences.  We must put the public’s interest above the special interests of the polluters if we are to pass on a better Texas than we found to our children and grandchildren.

Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club –

The Sierra Club welcomes today’s action by EPA to disapprove portions of the State of Texas air pollution control program. Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears for years, but the new Administration at EPA is taking action once again to enforce the nation’s environmental protection laws.  We now need EPA to take swift action to ensure that every permit issued in Texas complies with the Clean Air Act’s health based protections.

Matthew Tejada, Executive Director of GHASP, Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention

This means two things to GHASP and for everyone in the Houston region: first it means that President Obama and Administrator Lisa Jackson have solidly put the EPA back where it is supposed to be – aggressively protecting the human and environmental health of this country.  Second, and possibly most important for us in Houston, it means that the government has finally jammed a crowbar into the most opaque and ineffective air permitting program in the country in order to shed a little bit of light – and hopefully let in a little bit of clean air.

The EPA will post notice for comments in the Federal Registry and the public will have sixty days to comment.

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shockingNEWSFLASH!  Carbon Dioxide emissions may represent a threat to public health or welfare.

Shocking, I know.  But what is old news to the rest of us, released in the form of a proposed endangerment finding by the EPA, is actually a really big deal.  Environmentalists and concerned citizens alike have been waiting years for this announcement.  In 2007, as a result of the landmark Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, the court ordered the EPA administrator to determine if greenhouse gas emissions could “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”  The Bush Administration delayed reacting to this order, but Friday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a proposed endangerment finding which identified six global warming gasses that pose a threat to human health.

The finding will now enter a 60-day comment period, and have no immediate regulatory effect, but could give the EPA power to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA’s official statement,

Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input. Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.

After years of global warming being the elephant in the room that the government would not address, the EPA’s proposed finding finally gives the agency the ability to take action on climate change — though as stated, everyone would rather Congress take care of business.  Hopefully, this finding will light a fire under cap-and-trade negotiations.

Its kind of like when my mother used threaten that she’d clean my room herself if I didn’t get cracking — which I knew meant she would just come in with a trash bag and clear everything out.  The EPA could straight up regulate carbon dioxide — but few people would really be happy with the result, most environmentalists included.  By creating new policy, Congress is simply better equipped to deal with our greenhouse gas emissions than the EPA.

So sorry Congress — no more reading the comics you found with the dust bunnies under the bed.  Go clean up, or Mom’s going to start vacuuming.

But don’t take my word for it.  Andy Wilson (Citizen Andy, if you will), Global Warming Program Director here at the Texas Office, wrote a statement on how this finding relates to the big picture, and Texas specifically.  Check it out!

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The EPA in the last day or so has assumed the dreaded playground title of “taker backer”. Tuesday, Lisa Jackson announced that they would be putting a moratorium on all mountain top removal mining permits, which could delay 150-200 surface coal mines. Yay for the environment right? Well, not so fast. Later that day the announcement was made that they weren’t actually putting any type of hold on mining permits, and that they were simply reviewing two of them.

Check out the EPA’s official, and somewhat grumpy, statement:

The Environmental Protection Agency is not halting, holding or placing a moratorium on any of the mining permit applications. Plain and simple. EPA has issued comments on two pending permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressing serious concerns about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality. EPA will take a close look at other permits that have been held back because of the 4th Circuit litigation. We fully anticipate that the bulk of these pending permit applications will not raise environmental concerns. In cases where a permit does raise environmental concerns, we will work expeditiously with the Army Corps of Engineers to determine how these concerns can be addressed. EPA’s submission of comments to the Corps on draft permits is a well-established procedure under the Clean Water Act to assure that environmental considerations are addressed in the permitting process.

So put away the champagne; the fight’s not over yet. But we are moving forward in the battle. At least they are finally looking at these mining permits permits seriously, as opposed to the flat denial of potential harm we heard from the Bush administration. Additional good news is that last week, in conjunction with a week-long lobbying campaign against mountain top removal, Senators Lamar Alexander and Benjamin Cardin sponsored a ban on the dumping of mine waste into streams.

While it is a little upsetting to have fallen victim to the one of the most severe cases of environmental Taker Backering in history,  there is still hope for the future. We may not be getting the silver bullet we thought, but if the current EPA is even willing to address these types of problems, we’re still in a better place than we were a year ago.

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app_mtns2

MOST EXCELLENT news from Dina Cappiello at the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency put hundreds of mountaintop coal-mining permits on hold Tuesday, saying it wants to evaluate the projects’ impact on streams and wetlands.

The decision by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson targets a controversial practice that allows coal mining companies to dump waste from mountaintop mining into streams and wetlands.

It could delay 150-200 surface coal mines, including mountaintop removal operations, according to the EPA.

Those permits are issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency that has been criticized by environmental groups and has been sued for failing to thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of mountaintop removal.

Under the Clean Water Act, companies cannot discharge rock, dirt and other debris into streams unless they can show that it will not cause permanent damage to waterways or the fish and other wildlife that live in them.

Last month, a three-judge appeals panel in Richmond, Va., overturned a lower court’s ruling that would have required the Corps to conduct more extensive reviews. The appeals court decision cleared the way for a backlog of permits that had been delayed until the lawsuit was resolved.

The EPA’s action on Tuesday leaves those permit requests in limbo a little longer.

The EPA said in a statement that it would be actively involved in the review of the long list of permits awaiting approval by the Corps, a signal that the agency under the Obama administration will exercise its oversight. The EPA has the authority to review and veto any permit issued by the Corps under the Clean Water Act, but under the Bush administration it did that rarely, environmentalists say.

The freeze only appears to apply to permits for new mines, and not those already in operation, but just the same — this is truly fantastic news for opponents of coal, the communities living near these mountains, and the environment in general.  Happy Day! Purple Mountains Majesty! Yonder Mountain String Band! Rocky Mountain High! My Home is in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

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Exactly a month ago today, I was distressed and depressed by USA Today’s investigative report on toxic air quality and America’s schools. But this morning, I was cheered by USA Today’s announcement that… Obama’s pick to head the EPA has pledged to address this very issue!

They report,

President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency promised Wednesday that she would deploy federal regulators to check air quality around schools in response to a USA TODAY investigation that identified hundreds of schools that appeared to be in toxic hot spots.

TRDEPP28 4 KURDZUKThe nominee, Lisa Jackson, told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that she would “send investigators and samplers out to verify the extent of the problem” and “mobilize” agency efforts within 30 days of her confirmation. Parents, she said, “have a right to know their children are safe when they are in school.”

This is an incredibly important issue, and its good to hear that if chosen, Jackson is committed to protecting the lungs of America’s youth.  We’ll know for sure if she’s official some time after the inauguration.

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fudge1

The EPA’s newest decision definitely brought the dreaded “F-dash-dash-dash” word to mind.

Reports Grist.org:

Coal-fired power plants’ greenhouse-gas emissions shouldn’t be taken into consideration when determining whether to approve their construction, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson ruled this week. The ruling could clear the way for at least a handful of new coal plants to be approved in the final days of the Bush administration. “The current concerns over global climate change should not drive EPA into adopting an unworkable policy of requiring emission controls,” Johnson wrote.

Just as I was getting into the holiday spirit, Stephen Johnson has to hit us with this.

In case you’re not quite as obsessed with carbon dioxide regulation and coal plants as we are here at Texas Vox, let me provide a little background.  In November the EPA’s governance board ruled that its regional office had been too hasty in approving  a new coal-fired power plant in Bonanza, Utah because the plant didn’t include carbon dioxide emissions or control techniques in their permit application.  The Sierra Club helped secure this victory by filing a suit against Utah’s Deseret Power Electric Cooperative for not controlling carbon dioxide. Their argument was based upon the landmark Massachusetts v EPA case, which required the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

The Bonanza decision was, in a word, wicked awesome (okay, two words).  It gave environmentalists a great new tool for stopping coal-fired power plants and signalled a sea change in the government’s willingness to take action over carbon dioxide emissions.  So the fact that the EPA is now telling permitters that they cannot consider greenhouse gas emissions when processing applications  is a major kick in the pants.  It could mean slated plants that wouldn’t have been approved could get the green light during these last weeks of the Bush administration. In a New York Times article, Vickie Patton, from the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that as many as 8,000 megawatts of new coal-fired power plants could skate through as a result of this ruling.

I’m still rather uncertain of what this decision means for the incoming administration.   Lisa Jackson, Obama’s new pick to head the EPA, is considerably more progressive on greenhouse gas emissions than Johnson, and could theoretically reverse this decision.

Reports the Washington Post:

It was unclear yesterday what the ruling’s real-world impact will be. The EPA says that about 50 plants — either new or significantly remodeled — must obtain a permit under this provision every year. But Meyers said he does not know if any are positioned to receive final approval before President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

The Obama administration is likely to review the case, and Democratic officials close to the president-elect’s team say that the Supreme Court ruling and the EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide can serve as powerful levers to bring corporations and other parties to a bargaining table about broad framework for controlling greenhouse gases.

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