PEERMail: EPA Issues a Death Sentence

Auto SmogTropospheric, or ground level ozone (aka smog), is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). This is when pollution from autos, refineries, powerplants, and other sources reacts with sunlight.

The result is ozone at ground level (aka bad ozone) that damages the airways, aggravates cardiovascular impairments and lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. It factors into premature death from respiratory ailments.

So, what is EPA doing?

PEER caught the agency issuing guidance significantly increasing the allowable amount of ozone transport from an upwind state to a non-attaining downwind state. This will make it harder for downwind states to invoke the “good neighbor” protections under the Clean Air Act and meet national ambient air quality standards.

In an August 31, 2018 memo to all Regional Air Division Directors, Peter Tsirigotis, Director of EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, raised the amount of “upwind contribution” from 0.70 ppb (parts-per-billion) to 1 ppb, a more than 40% increase.

Thus, with a flick of the pen, this EPA guidance condemns hundreds of unlucky downwinders to early deaths every year.  That is because downwind states will have to accept more ozone from their upwind neighbors before EPA will step in and invoke the Clean Air Act “good neighbors” safeguards.  Instead of promoting good neighbors, EPA is running down the whole neighborhood.”

In 2015, EPA tightened the overall National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone.  Since Trump’s inauguration, EPA has been chipping away at ozone protections, such as a behind-the-scenes move this spring to allow industry to exceed current ambient air standards over rivers, mountains, and other remote areas.

Adding insult to injury, EPA also installed industry’s leading “ozone denier” Tony Cox

as chair of its newly purged Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.  And, for good measure, added him to its Science Advisory Board.

Meanwhile in a move of stunning hypocrisy earlier this month, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued an all-employee email stressing “the importance of elevating human health and environmental risks.”  Presumably, this request excludes risks created by Wheeler and his team.

Help us block this stealth public health rollback.


EPA Not Getting the Lead Out

Last week EPA celebrated what it calls “National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.” Yet, despite numerous admonitions over more than a dozen years, EPA still lacks the basic data it needs to proactively intervene before Flint-like drinking water crises occur. The needed data is already collected at the state and local level but not relayed to EPA.

Current rules only require states to submit drinking water sample results exceeding the lead action level. EPA lacks data on systems that are approaching danger levels, and therefore lacks the ability to step in before lead contamination reaches toxic levels. PEER has filed a formal petition seeking a rule that all this information be submitted to EPA.

Between 5 million to 22 million people receive their drinking water through pipes containing lead. Approximately 8,000 of the 68,000 water systems covered by EPA lead rules are schools and daycare facilities. Last year, PEER filed a separate petition to make sure parents and guardians in these facilities are notified when exceedances occur.

EPA admits that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. The adverse effects are particularly damaging for children, lasting their entire lifetimes.


Red Tide Rick

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Florida’s clean water crisis goes on. Red tides on both Gulf and Atlantic coasts are compounded by blue-green algae bloom outbreaks in freshwater. PEER has documented the evaporation of water pollution enforcement and helped earn Governor Rick Scott his newest nickname “Red Tide Rick.”

This week we trotted out the latest example of massive illegal wastewater discharges fueling the continuing putrification of Florida’s Gulf coast.


The Rise of Alternative Facts

It is often said that everyone is entitle to their own opinion but not their own set of facts.  That maxim does not apply to the Trump administration.  It has just issued instructions to agencies to withhold “PowerPoints/webinars” and “Internal summaries” on a range of Endangered Species Act issues and to purge these factual documents from the official administrative record.

PEER is preparing legislation requiring that administrative records for agency decisions and proposed regulations and must include all the information considered – even if it clashes with the official talking points.