The Week That Was
July 30, 2005

New on the Web: Read the Ethanol story by Alan Reynolds and weep. Less fuel at higher prices, plus more oil imports. (The Congressional Budget Office estimates the ethanol cost at $36 billion over the next 5 years.) Ethanol must be the worst item in the just-passed Energy Bill, which the President should veto -- but won't.

But there is more pork: subsidies to oil and gas producers (who certainly don't need most of them with today's high prices), tax breaks for purchasers of hybrid cars (which will most likely raise their price and allow greater profits for Japanese companies), --- and there is so much more (to quote a popular ad). The total cost, often quoted as $14 billion, is not really known, but one WSJ estimate is $66 billion. It's a heavy price for very little. We agree with Senators Feingold (D-WI) and Gregg (R-NH) that "this Bill is fiscally irresponsible." [Of course, so is the just-passed Transportation Bill.]

There are some nuggets of gold in the Bill -- very few, to be sure: More rationality for electric power and encouragement for nuclear energy (which is needed because of existing constraints that inhibit its use).

But it could have been worse: Requiring utilities to produce 10% of electric power from "renewables;" Caps on emission of CO2 to avert imagined "climate catastrophes;" and higher CAFÉ fuel-efficiency standards on cars. If these spineless legislators really want to cut oil consumption and imports, they should vote higher gasoline taxes instead of ineffective feel-good measures (of which this Bill has a great selection - from hydrogen and wind to "clean" coal (whatever that means).

Read more views in Item #1 below.

The other big event this week was more hyperventilating by the NY Times, Wash Post, and assorted scientific organizations (that should know better) against Congressman Joe Barton, who had the temerity to enquire why underlying scientific information about the Hockeystick was being withheld from scientists who tried to reproduce the result independently. [Well, maybe his letters were a bit too intrusive; I would have written them differently.] (More detail in Item #2 and in TWTW of July 23)

Roger Pielke, Sr's new climate science blog is critical of the Senate Hearing on Global Warming.
You are encouraged to visit and comment. The July 21 hearing produced an unsurprising unanimity of views. How come? Potential dissenters were disinvited (see Item #3).

Item #4 brings you a miscellany about chemicals and their possible toxicity and carcinogenicity, plus news about POPs (persistent organic pollutants) Treaty and REACH (EU's chemicals testing and registration program). Item #5 is the latest about CARB's extreme ozone standards. And Item #6 reports on NAS support for LNT. As an antidote, to this pernicious report with far-reaching economic consequence, read Prof Ed Calabrese's review of Hormesis - why small amounts of poison or radiation are actually good for you; they apparently stimulate the natural immune system.

US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) director Dr Jim Mahoney is planning to retire - after signing a huge contract with the National Research Council-NAS to take over effective supervision of CCSP. An interesting question: Is there a conflict of interest for Panel members who get financial support from CCSP?

And finally, Stanford's perennially failed eco-prophet Paul Ehrlich teams up with his old pal, Science editor Don Kennedy, to promote something called Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior (Science, 22 July 2005). MAHB is supposed to do for human behavior what the IPCC did for climate science (I'm not kidding.) It would control population growth, "constrain corporate power," and indulge in discussions of global governance. Oh well, if these exercises soak up lots of foundation money, there will be less left over for real mischief-making activities. But no tax money, please!

1. Congress, After Years of Effort, Is Set to Pass Broad Energy Bill


WASHINGTON, July 26 - After coming up short for years, Congress is preparing to enact a broad energy plan that would provide generous federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries, encourage new nuclear power plant construction and try to whet the nation's appetite for renewable fuels like ethanol and wind power.

The mammoth energy policy measure, whose final details were hammered together in nine hours of negotiations that went into the early morning hours Tuesday, also gives the federal government new power to override local objections to facilities for handling growing imports of liquefied natural gas and takes a swipe at China's bid for Unocal. (Related Article)

"It is a darn good bill, and it is going to help this country, and the sooner we get it done, the better," said Representative Joe L. Barton, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

House and Senate leaders hope to send the legislation to President Bush by week's end, finally delivering an energy policy that has been on the administration's to-do list since 2001. But it has remained out of reach despite a crippling summer blackout two years ago and soaring gasoline prices today.

Mr. Barton, who in his second year as chairman was eager to deliver a measure that has eluded Congress for six years, dropped a contentious plan to provide legal immunity to manufacturers of a gasoline additive that has been blamed for pollution in order to get an agreement. He also did not balk at the Senate's refusal to go along with a relaxation of air pollution rules that he had sought for his district, another potential impediment to a bill.

Senate negotiators suffered some losses as well, including a plan to require utilities to increase their use of renewable fuels in producing electricity and a proposal to direct the president to find ways to cut American oil use by one million barrels a day within 10 years. The bill also sidesteps the issue of opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, another past sticking point.

While the authors of the energy legislation said it held the potential to transform the way the United States produces and consumes energy, other lawmakers and critics attacked it as a wrongheaded giveaway at a time of huge energy company profits. They said it represented a missed opportunity to take serious steps to reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil or to cut American energy consumption.

"This bill is simply a failure," said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and a senior member of the energy committee. "It is a huge waste of money."

Even advocates of the bill acknowledge it will do almost nothing to reduce gasoline prices immediately, though they say it sets the stage for diversity in the nation's energy mix in coming years by creating markets for emerging sources like ethanol, wind and biomass.

In a provision that may be most noticed by Americans, daylight savings time would be extended in 2007, beginning on the second Sunday in March and lasting until the first Sunday in November, to save electricity.

The final part of the energy package - an estimated $11 billion in tax breaks for energy production and efficiency - was still being negotiated Tuesday night, and some lawmakers said they were worried that some incentives to reward energy savings were being scaled back.

Mr. Barton estimated the overall cost of the measure in direct spending would be in the range of $10 billion to $12 billion, which he said was acceptable to the administration. But the group Taxpayers for Common Sense said its analysis showed there was a potential $80 billion in spending in the bill, though most of the projects would have to win separate Congressional approval.

Much of the criticism of the legislation was tied to the billions of dollars that would flow to energy producers through tax breaks, relief from federal oil and gas royalties, grants for research into new ways to extract hard-to-reach deposits, loan guarantees and other financial aid.

"It's outrageous that this bill helps line the pockets of the oil and gas industry, which is already making record profits," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters.

The bill's authors say that the aid to producers will ultimately pay big dividends in terms of domestic production and that the nuclear industry, which has been unable to build new plants partly because of environmental and safety concerns, needs federal assurances that it can recoup higher costs caused by permitting delays before moving ahead.

Conservation groups also denounced the defeat of the provisions to cut oil use and increase use of renewable fuels as well as the fact that the measure sidestepped the issue of global warming and ignored automotive mileage standards. They complained, too, that sections of the bill created new exemptions in some of the nation's bedrock environmental laws, like the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The bill would also repeal the Depression-era Public Utility Holding Company Act, which limits utility mergers, an action that some consumer watchdog groups fear could lead to a wave of utility acquisitions and consolidation.
With the nation's increasing demand for natural gas, the authors of the measure rejected objections from state officials and granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new authority to approve the location of terminals to handle the imports.

Comments on Energy Bill from Tom Randall (Winningreen)

Oil and gas inventories in the outer continental shelf will be taken and updated on a regular basis and tax breaks will be given for deep-water exploration. However, although the bill authorizes expansion of oil and gas exploration, the outer continental shelf is not included.

The nuclear industry will get billions of dollars in loan guarantees aimed at building the first new reactors in decades. However, there seems to be little relief from permitting delays and litigation.

Oil facts:
"Global demand is expected to grow by nearly two million barrels a day this year but the world's capacity to refine and process crude oil is expected to grow by less than half that." ("Oil Industry's Refining Squeeze Limits Prospects of Price Relief", Wall St. Journal, May 24, 2005)

The U.S. is now importing about 12.5% of its gasoline -- mostly from Europe, which has switched to more efficient diesel automobiles.

OPEC has increased its crude oil production, but refining capacity in the U.S. hasn't kept pace. No new refinery has been built in the U.S. since 1976 and existing refineries are operating above 90% of capacity.

As China's need for oil increases, its government is increasingly making deals with oil-rich countries from Canada to Venezuela, Sudan, and Iran.

Remarks: These facts all point to the need for the U.S. to explore and develop more of our own oil and gas fields. That's why we need to have an inventory of our off shore assets, why we need to open oil and gas fields in the inner mountain West and develop the coastal plain of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

Nuclear facts:
As noted by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, while no nuclear power plants have been built in the U.S. in 30 years, China plans to build 40 over the next 15 years.

Nuclear energy is a virtually limitless source of clean, safe electricity.

In coastal areas, waste heat from nuclear energy could provide abundant, inexpensive fresh water made from sea water.

Nuclear energy is our safest source of energy:
o No pollution of any kind, no oxides of nitrogen, no sulfur, no lead, no mercury is emitted. For those who believe CO2 is a pollutant, nuclear energy does not emit it.
o Virtually radiation-free. The annual radiation dose of a person living close to a U.S. nuclear plant is one-tenth that of those of us working daily with computers. (Nuclear Energy Institute)
o There has never been a significant radiation leak from a U.S. nuclear power plant.
o The famous Three-Mile Island nuclear plant incident proved the safety of nuclear power. Investigators found that operators did nearly everything wrong in that incident, the plant shut itself down safely and automatically.
o Nuclear plants are virtually terrorist proof. Hardened from outside attack by their massive containment vessels which surround a hardened reactor vessel and with safeguards from internal tampering, they make more vulnerable facilities much more attractive to terrorists.

New technology, such as pyro-reprocessing and Integrated Fast Reactors can make nuclear waste a problem of the past. They can also turn decommissioned warheads into useable energy.

WSJ Editorial 7/29/2005

Next to this highway extravagance, the energy bill seems almost a bargain at an estimated $66 billion or so. Minor highlights here include the repeal of a Depression-era law (Puhca) that will open up electricity sector investment; new reliability standards for the national power grid; more federal authority to settle siting disputes over much-needed natural gas terminals; and an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources that may someday encourage more exploration.

We can also say this for the bill: It doesn't pick energy winners or losers. Everyone who produces so much as a kilowatt hour is a winner in this subsidy-fest of tax credits and new federal mandates. There's $550 million for forest biomass, $100 million for hydroelectric production, and $1.8 billion for "clean coal." There are subsidies for wind, solar, nuclear and (despite $60 oil) even for oil and gas.

Most egregious is the gigantic transfer of wealth from car drivers to Midwest corn farmers (and Archer-Daniels-Midland) via a new 7.5-billion-gallon-a-year ethanol mandate, which will raise gas prices by as much as a dime a gallon on the East and West coasts. Oh, and don't forget the $15 billion (a 155% increase) in federal home heating subsidies, $100 million for "fuel cell" school buses, and $6 million for a government program to encourage people to ride their bikes--presumably along Mr. Oberstar's newly paved trail.

All of this points up the bill's underlying mortal failing, which is that it abandons the lesson of the 1980s that the best way to ensure abundant energy supplies is to let the price system work. At least the House-Senate conferees dropped a Senate provision that would have mandated that 10% of all electricity come from "renewable" sources by 2020, regardless of supply and demand. Although in return for killing this, the House had to drop its liability protection for producers of MTBE, a gas additive that Congress itself mandated in 1990 but now wants to feed to the trial bar.

From National Center for Policy Analysis

DALLAS (July 28, 2005) - Compromise national energy legislation due for a vote in Congress before week's end is a good bill for special interests but not consumers, according to scholars with the NCPA's E-Team project.

"This is not meaningful legislation; it is loaded with pork and special interest projects," said NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett. Rob Bradley, E-Team Adjunct Scholar and President of the Institute for Energy Research, agreed. "The legislation represents a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to energy producers," he said.

Bradley noted, however, that "There are some free-market reforms and nods to the supply side that will help consumers over time." And E-Team Adjunct Scholar and President of the Science and Environmental Policy Project S. Fred Singer said, "There are a few nuggets of sensible legislation in the areas of nuclear energy and electric power."
But there are a lot of subsidies in the bill, most notably for ethanol production and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. "The good news is that the Soviet-style quota known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard is out. The bad news is that the Soviet-style quota known as the ethanol mandate is in," said Marlo Lewis, E-Team Adjunct Scholar and Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"Ethanol is pure pork," Burnett. "It doesn't pay its way." He also noted that the provision for renewable energy sources in the bill is consumer-hostile. "They're not competitive without tax credits," he noted, "and taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill." Burnett also noted that the provision for wind power is neither viable nor economically sound. "The bill is a sop to the green lobby," he said.

Singer noted that subsidies for purchases of hybrid cars "will end up mostly with Japanese producers," rather than consumers. He also explained that the bill ignores several important energy needs, such as "sensible expansion of oil and gas leasing, refinery construction, and protection for MTBE manufacturers from avaricious trial lawyers."

Burnett and other E-Team scholars said that in the final analysis the bill puts special interests ahead of consumers' interests. "Thirty years of subsidies haven't worked," Burnett said, "let the market do it." Singer added, "The bill should be vetoed, but probably won't be.."

2. The Congressional Hockeystick Flap
Letter to Editor, Wash Post

Your editorial ("Hunting Witches," July 23) faults Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, for requesting information from Drs. Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes (MBH) about their research. In 1998, they published a hockeystick-shaped graph of temperatures of the past 1000 years, suggesting that the 20th century was the warmest. Their result bolstered political demands to control emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

With so many public-policy consequences involved, the research becomes a valid concern for Congress - especially after a number of respected scientists concluded that the MBH result is spurious. In trying independently to reproduce the MBH result - a traditional science task- two Canadian researchers, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (MM), discovered major problems with the MBH methodology and with the underlying data. But it was only after Mr. Barton's letter to MBH, that MM were given essential information that had been withheld earlier.

This episode affirms government policy that publicly funded research should be freely available to the scientific community for legitimate scientific purposes. Mr. Barton's requests were entirely proper and legitimate. It is an embarrassment to science that the matter had to be raised by a non-scientist.

S. Fred Singer July 25, 2005
University of Virginia and Science & Environmental Policy Project

3. Did The July 21 Senate Committee Hearing On "Climate Change Science And Economics" Provide A Balanced Perspective On Climate Science Issues?
Reporting - Roger Pielke Sr. July 25, 2005

On July 21, 2005, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Full Committee Hearing entitled "Climate Change Science and Economics." The Hearing was:

"To receive testimony regarding the current state of climate change scientific research and the economics of strategies to manage climate change. Issues to be discussed include: the relationship between energy consumption and climate change, new developments in climate change research and the potential effects on the U.S. economy of climate change and strategies to control greenhouse gas emissions."

I am particularly interested in learning what testimony was given since I was called on July 11 and invited to present testimony at this Hearing. However, on July 13, I was e-mailed

"Dr. Pielke: we have had a change in plans. We have decided to ask NCAR to provide a senior scientist from that organization for the hearing. As a result we won't be asking you to drop everything and appear at our hearing. My apologies for the confusion."

When I read the testimony that was presented, Dr. Jim Hurrell of NCAR was my "replacement." He provided a much different perspective on the science issue than I would have given

For example, he reported
"…. The CCSP Assessment Product on Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere is assessing these new data, and the preliminary report (which has been reviewed by the NRC) finds that the surface and upper-air records of temperature change can now, in fact, be reconciled. Moreover, the overall pattern of observed temperature change in the vertical is consistent with that simulated by today's climate models."

The CCSP Report he refers to has not been finalized, nor has the final version been subjected to public comment (I am a Convening Lead Author on the chapter "What measures can be taken to improve our understanding of observed changes?"). The revised Executive Summary has not even been circulated to the Committee (in the draft version that was reviewed by the National Research Council there were major issues with the draft Executive summary (see, which were so serious that I authored a report of its deficiencies (Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Minority Report, Comments Provided to the NRC Review Committee of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program's Synthesis and Assessment Product on Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere).

His statements "that the surface and upper-air records of temperature change can now, in fact, be reconciled" and "the overall pattern of observed temperature change in the vertical is consistent with that simulated by today's climate models" oversimplify and mischaracterize the text as it currently exists. Moreover, these are not scientifically balanced conclusions. This testimony is an example of cherrypicking of information to promote a particular view of climate science.

Indeed, other testimony similarly cherrypicked information. For instance, while Dr. Ralph Cicerone in this testimony ( included some information from the National Research Council report, he missed the opportunity to educate the Committee on the spectrum of newly recognized human climate forcings, as reported in the NRC (2005) report, and how this complicates our ability to achieve skillful climate forecasts. He should have summarized the findings of that report in his testimony. As President of the National Academy of Science, it is particularly important that he provide a balanced presentation of climate science. He did not do so.

If my invitation to present had not been withdrawn, I would have built on my 2002 testimony to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This testimony was given in my capacity as President-Elect of the American Association of State Climatologists. I would have used the Findings in the National Research Council report, my invited essay, and other recent work in the science community to prepare my testimony.

Unfortunately, the Senators were not provided a balanced Hearing on climate science.

4. Chemicals Miscellany

EPA Releases Chemical Data Sealed After 9-11: Under pressure from a government watchdog group, EPA has re-released to the public risk estimates posed by chemicals produced at industrial facilities. Regulators shielded the data - mandated by Risk Management Plans (RMP) under the Clean Air Act - in response to security concerns following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. But environmental and other citizen groups have argued that right-to-know laws require EPA to provide full access. Although EPA has rejected claims filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency complied when the organization OMB Watch filed a formal petition demanding the data be reposted. "Rather than argue before the court, they just gave us that data," says OMB Watch. According to BNA's Daily Environment Report, the RMP debate could impact efforts in Congress to pass legislation to establish chemical site security requirements.

Study Finds No Link Between Chlorine Byproducts and Miscarriages: A new study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill concludes that fears linking the chlorine byproducts known as trihalomethanes to risks of miscarriages are unsubstantiated. The UNC findings, which are national in scope, contradict a 1998 study from Northern California. "We think our new work should be an important contribution to policy studies," says principal investigator David A. Savitz of the UNC School of Public Health. "While it is not the final answer, what we found is largely reassuring relative to what had come before." In the study, researchers tested more than 3,000 women near three properly functioning water purification facilities. It found "no clear-cut evidence that trihalomethanes harmed women or their developing infants," says a UNC news release. The study was sponsored by the American Water Works Association's Research Foundation..

CDC Report Praises PUR, Bleached Water Treatments: The use of Proctor & Gamble's PUR water treatment system, a combined flocculant and chlorine disinfectant for household use, has significantly decreased incidents of diarrhea and related deaths in villages of Kenya, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and reported by the Associated Press. The study, published by the British Medical Journal, found similar results using diluted bleach to purify water. This research confirms previous findings that household water treatment significantly reduces waterborne illnesses, and is the first study to show a significant reduction in mortality. The evidence suggests that "simple, affordable tools such as the PUR product or diluted bleach can be used by people very inexpensively and very practically even people who live in very remote areas who get their water from nasty-looking ponds and streams," says Eric Mintz of CDC.

Green Group Releases "Body Burden" Report: In a study released by the activist-driven Environmental Working Group (EWG), researchers detected an average of 200 chemicals in tested blood from the umbilical cords of newborns. Of the total, "76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests," says The Palm Beach Post. Chemicals that were found to be "pervasive" include 4,4'-DDE, a byproduct of DDT; the former fungicide hexachlorobenzene; and PFOA and PFOS chemicals used in Teflon and Scotchgard brands. However, many chemicals were only detected at extremely low levels at which known adverse health effects may not occur. "A typical EWG study is a pseudo-science ruse meant to scare the ordinary American to death about the food we eat and the air we breathe," says David Martosko, research director at the Center for Consumer Freedom. "They never met a square on the periodic table of elements that they couldn't turn into a sound bite."

California Biomonitoring Plan Spurs Tough Debate: A bill in the California state legislature to set up a state-wide biomonitoring program would, if passed, provide state officials with the information needed to make difficult policy decisions on human health and the environment, states The Daily Review (Bay Area). The sponsor of the bill believes this is a basic right-to-know issue, allowing individuals to know what is in their bodies and providing a better understanding of human exposure to toxic substances. However, industry groups are concerned that the resulting data on chemical "body burdens" could be misinterpreted by regulators and the public and would lead to unnecessary restrictions on industry and products. Scientists are raising questions about the biomonitoring program outlined in the bill, particularly the inability to know the health effects of the levels of chemicals found in program participants. However, Richard Jackson, the state's top public health officer, says "Biomonitoring is the future. We've got to do it, but we've got to do it right."

Michigan Dioxin Ruling Draws Industry Praise: A recent ruling by the Michigan State Supreme Court that removed half of a dioxin related lawsuits against Dow Chemical Company is winning praise by industry representatives, who say it will prevent "a flood of frivolous suits." In a 5-2 decision, the court rejected claims by plaintiffs who sought to make Dow responsible for the costs of monitoring the health of residents along the Tittabawassee River, which was found to contain dioxin. Justice Maura D. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion that liability should not be based solely on potential exposure "without a requirement of present injury," says The Saginaw News. The majority observed that the Legislature is better equipped to address such issues. "This is a terrific decision and a very well-reasoned one," says Robin Conrad, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce litigation center, which supported the Dow position in a friend-of-the-court brief. Though the decision prevents plaintiffs from suing Dow for medical monitoring, the remainder of the case on property damage will proceed.

Environmental Activists Set Up EU Watchdog Group: Environmentalists in Europe have set up a new watchdog group to monitor how corporations are lobbying the decision-making process in the European Union (EU). The group, called the Alliance for Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), claims industry is having "far too much political influence" on legislators, according to the Inter Press Service. One of their alleged examples is the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics industry. "Eight years after the EU started addressing the environmental problems caused by 4.1 million tonnes of PVC plastic waste annually, the PVC industry has succeeded in preventing any real progress," says Jorgo Riss of Greenpeace Europe. The establishment of ALTER-EU also follows environmentalist charges that the industry has unduly influenced the European Commission's decisions on the proposed REACH chemical testing and registration plan.

Overzealous Security Officials Threaten Chlorinated Drinking Water: An op-ed by Steven Milloy on the Fox News Web site warns that the extraordinary worldwide health benefits of chlorinated drinking water are threatened by an "unfortunate alliance between junk science-fueled environmentalists and overzealous homeland security officials." Milloy states that environmentalists have attacked the chlorine industry since the 1970s using scare tactics. The author cites a newly published article by Fred Reiff, a Pan American Health Organization official during the Latin American cholera outbreak of the 1990s. In his personal account, Reiff documents how press releases and published scientific studies on the cancer risk due to chlorine disinfection by-products were widely distributed by environmental agencies to Latin American officials. In the minds of these well-intentioned officials, the low, potential public health risk of cancer took on a higher level of importance than the significant, immediate risk of cholera. Reiff describes encounters with local officials who expressed concerns that they could be subject to lawsuits if they chlorinated or raised the level of chlorine in their water supplies. The preventable cholera outbreak eventually took 10,000 lives and caused 1,000,000 cases of illness. Milloy concludes that the new scare tactic of environmentalists consists of generating fears of terrorist attacks on water treatment facilities that disinfect with chlorine gas. He points out that this concern has "been picked up by some in our ever-expanding homeland security industry."

States Challenge New EPA Rule Designed to Reduce Mercury Emissions: Fourteen states are petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a new final rule that the states argue will lead to a much weaker regulatory scheme to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. According to BNA Daily Environment Report, EPA argues the new rule will help reduce mercury emissions from power plants by more than 70 percent when the rule is fully implemented after 2020. The states, along with five environmental groups and four Indian tribes that have filed similar petitions, also believe the new rule allows coal-fired power plants to avoid technology based emission limits called for in an EPA regulatory determination released in 2000 that was withdrawn by the agency. Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, reacted to the rule challenge, saying, "Unbelievable. The activist community has been behind every substantive effort to delay the mercury rules. Arguing for delay while demanding faster rules is hypocritical at best, schizophrenic at worst."

White House Pushes Again on POPs Treaty: The White House is again planning to urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow the United States to implement the international treaty to ban or restrict persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including dioxins and furans. According to Risk Policy Report, the push is a response to complaints by unidentified legislators, who say the bill continues to languish nearly four years after President Bush officially signed the treaty. The Department of State is now preparing a letter to Congress, which would be jointly signed by top administration environmental officials, asking that partisan differences be resolved and an agreement be reached. Before the Senate can ratify the POPs treaty, Congress needs to approve relevant legislative changes to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bill has been delayed because of a dispute over how new chemicals would be added to the pact.

REACH Feared Because of Europe's Power: The European Union's proposed REACH chemicals testing and registration program is a primary example of Europe's potential power to set policies and reshape the behavior of major U.S. companies, according to Fortune magazine. "REACH takes a sledgehammer approach," says American Chemistry Council managing director Mike Walls. "It's unworkable, it's unwieldy, and it will be very difficult to administer." But if REACH eventually takes effect, it will be "impossible to ignore" and could end up costing 8 billion Euros (more than $9.7 billion USD) over the next 11 years to implement. General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt remarks that, "Europe in many ways is the global regulatory superpower."

Radiocarbon Dating Used to Distinguish Natural Halogenated Organics from Synthetics: Using radiocarbon dating on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) isolated from whale blubber, Woods Hole chemists have found the persistent compounds to be of natural origin, possibly from marine sponges. According to a June 6, article in The Scientist, the chemists developed a technique to distinguish between fossil fuel-derived, industrial organohalogens and their natural analogs. The method is based on the fact that fossil fuel-derived compounds are radiocarbon-dead, while burning wood, for example, is characterized by a recent, biological carbon-14 signature. The researchers showed that both natural and industrial PBDEs accumulate in blubber in the same way. The article concludes with speculation that the radiocarbon dating technique "might prove invaluable for assessing the relative contributions of industry and nature for many compounds." Dartmouth Professor Gordon Gribble, who has documented over 4,000 naturally-occurring organohalogen compounds, is quoted as saying that dioxins should be a priority in this effort, given their variety of known sources..

5. Much Ado About Ozone Pollution

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is using shaky science to propose costly, new ozone standards for the state, says Joel Schwartz (Heartland Institute). Meanwhile, researchers question the effect of ozone pollution on public health, and whether reductions will provide much of a health benefit.

CARB used an analysis of several single-city studies by the World Health Organization, but even WHO admits it likely overestimated the benefits of ozone reduction due to publication bias -- that is, there are more rewards for publishing significant positive findings than negative ones.

Several studies dispute the effects of ozone on mortality. For example:

o A 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Economics concludes an indistinguishable effect of ozone on mortality rates.

o Researchers for the National Morbidity, Mortality and Air Pollution Study (NMMAPS) examined 95 U.S. cities and found that the relationship between ozone and mortality was 70 percent lower than the analysis of single-city studies.

o CARB's own estimates show that more stringent standards would produce a mere .06 percent reduction in premature deaths, a .28 percent reduction in respiratory hospital admissions and a .49 percent reduction in asthma-induced emergency room visits.

Furthermore, the cost to Californians would be prohibitive:

o CARB's new eight-hour ozone standard -- which is stricter than the EPA's standard -- would cost about $16.6 billion a year in the South Coast.

o Risk analysts estimate that each $17 million in cost would actually induce one additional death since resources would be diverted from other risk-reduction measure.

CARB's proposed standard would kill more lives than it saves, says Schwartz.

Source: Joel Schwartz, "California Considers Stringent Ozone Standard," Heartland Institute, May 1, 2005; Gary Koop and Lisa Tole, "Measuring the Health Effects of Air Pollution: To What Extent Can We Really Say that People are Dying from Bad Air?" Journal of Environmental Economics, vol. 47, no. 1; JM Samet, et al., "The National Morbidity, Mortality, and Air Pollution Study. Part II: Morbidity and mortality from air pollution in the United States," Research Report, Health Effects Institute 2000, June 1994; and World Health Organization, "Health Aspects of Air Pollution with Particulate Matter, Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide," January 2003.

For text: Courtesy NCPA

6. NAS stands by "no-threshold" theory for radiation damage

After 5 years of study, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences announced its support of the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis for the carcinogenic effect of ionizing radiation. According to this hypothesis, even very low doses of radiation pose a risk of cancer (AP 6/30/05). Exposure to an extra 100 mSv over a lifetime would produce a 1 percent excess risk of cancer, the panel concluded. This means that 43 out of 100 persons would get cancer, instead of the 42 who are expected to get cancer without the added radiation exposure.

The LNT hypothesis also raises fears about the use of medical diagnostics. Exposure from a chest x-ray is about 0.1 millisievert and from a whole-body CT scan, about 10 mSv, the panel stated. Helical CT scans can deliver a dose up to 18 mSv, and a virtual colonoscopy up to 78 mSv, compared to an average annual background dose of 2.4 mSv (240 mrem)/yr. (

Stringent regulations based on acceptance of the LNT hypothesis greatly increase the cost of nuclear-generated electricity and other beneficial applications of nuclear chemistry and physics. In the event of the detonation of a terrorist nuclear weapon, trillions of dollars in clean-up costs would be needed to meet current standards based on the LNT hypothesis (Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., National Journal, 6/25/05 ).

The NAS panel rejected evidence that low doses of radiation (up to 10,000 mGy per year) are generally harmless or even beneficial (J Am Phys Surg 2004;9:35), as well as developments in radiobiology pertaining to adaptive protective mechanisms ( The Institute of Medicine of the NAS does not apply similar reasoning to the potential threat of neurologic damage from thimerosal in childhood vaccines (News of the Day 6/30/05).

Additional information:
Calabrese EJ and RR Cook. "Hormesis: How it could affect the risk-assessment process" Human & Experim Toxicology (2005) 24:265-270
Chen WL, et al. "Is Chronic Radiation an Effective Prophylaxis Against Cancer?" J Am Phys Surg, Spring 2004. (Cancer rates were reduced by more than 95 percent in persons accidentally exposed to doses around 50 mSv per year.)
Cuttler JM, Pollycove M. "Can Cancer Be Treated with Low Doses of Radiation?" J Am Phys Surg, Winter 2003.
Kauffman JM. "Diagnostic Radiation: Are the Risks Exaggerated?" J Am Phys Surg, Summer 2003.
Source Am Assoc of Physicians and Surgeons



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