Thursday, January 12, 2012

EPA Makes Available 2010 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities

The USEPA has issued, for the first time, "comprehensive greenhouse gas (GHG) data reported directly from large facilities and suppliers across the country." The data are the first made accessible to the public through EPA’s GHG Reporting Program.   According to EPA, "the 2010 GHG data released today includes public information from facilities in nine industry groups that directly emit large quantities of GHGs, as well as suppliers of certain fossil fuels."

The public can now go online to "view and sort GHG data for calendar year 2010 from over 6,700 facilities in a variety of ways—including by facility, location, industrial sector, and the type of GHG emitted. This information can be used by communities to identify nearby sources of GHGs, help businesses compare and track emissions, and provide information to state and local governments."

In their press release, EPA notes that "GHG data for direct emitters show that in 2010:
•Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), followed by petroleum refineries with emissions of 183 mmtCO2e.

•CO2 accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions with 95 percent, followed by methane with 4 percent, and nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases accounting for the remaining 1 percent.

•100 facilities each reported emissions over 7 mmtCO2e, including 96 power plants, two iron and steel mills and two refineries."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

President Obama "Stands With" the EPA

President Barack Obama made his first visit to the USEPA to thank them for their service.  The visit comes during a time when two of EPA's most visible leaders - Steve Owens and Paul Anastas - have recently stepped down to return to private and academic careers.  According to his remarks:

The main reason I’m here is simple:  I just want to say thank you.  I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, because the EPA touches on the lives of every single American every single day.  You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe.  You protect the environment not just for our children but their children.  And you keep us moving towards energy independence. 

Over the last 3 years the EPA has faced considerable political attack on its ability to carry out its functions, with Congress voting to cut its budget severely and blocking needed regulatory efforts to constrain greenhouse gas emissions to fight man-made climate change.  Obama countered the artificial argument offered by some in Congress that human health and the environment must be sacrificed for economic reasons, saying:

Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy.  I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way.  I think that is a false debate. 

Finally, the President indicated he would stand up for the EPA so that they can do their jobs.  He noted:

So all of you, and all of those who served before you, have made a difference.  Our environment is safer because of you.  Our country is stronger because of you.  Our future is brighter because of you.  And I want you to know that you’ve got a President who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world. 

The White House press release is available here.

The full text can be read here.

A video of the President's speech can be seen below.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GAO Finds that "Challenges" Remain with EPA's IRIS Chemical Assessment Program

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that "EPA faces both long-standing and new challenges in implementing the IRIS program," a conclusion of which EPA agrees and backs further improvements to increase the transparency and efficiency of its chemical risk assessment program - the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS.  GAO issued its final report on January 9, 2012 after issuing a preliminary report last year.

IRIS has come under attack from both industry and NGOs as either not adhering to "sound science" or "being too slow to complete assessments," respectively. 

The GAO report, "Challenges Remain with EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program," recommends the EPA present a workable time frame for each step of the IRIS assessment process.  GAO also recommended that EPA work out how it will implement previous recommendations of the program offered by the National Academy of Sciences, and provide agendas for chemicals under review and when they will be completed. 

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) welcomed the GAO report, saying in their press release:

The report by the Government Accountability Office affirms widespread recognition, including recent comments from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), that despite a series of attempts to improve the process behind EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, the program still falls short of meeting the benchmarks of objectivity, scientific accuracy and transparency. The report shows that these longstanding problems have yet to be addressed and EPA has not developed a clear plan for fixing IRIS.

And yet, a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an NGO, suggested that the chemical industry was engaging in a "delay game" to "duck" regulations. The NRDC report, "The Delay Game: How the Chemical Industry Ducks Regulations of the Most Toxic Chemicals," charges that weaknesses in TSCA "have allowed chemical companies to exploit the act by thwarting the EPA's attempts to finalize health assessments and delaying regulation of chemicals -- sometimes for decades."

How EPA will implement the GAO and NAS recommendations is uncertain, as is who will lead the effort since last week Paul Anastas, the head of EPA's Office of Research & Development, is leaving his position to return to academic life at Yale.

The GAO report can be downloaded as a PDF here.