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Yet Another Bush EPA Air Rule Goes Down:

The Bush Administration's EPA has had a hard time defending its air pollution regulatory reforms in federal court (as I've noted before). Today, yet another regulation went down in (another case styled) Sierra Club v. EPA. The majority opinion by Judge Rogers, joined by Judge Tatel, begins:

Petitioners challenge the final rules promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency exempting major sources of air pollution from normal emission standards during periods of startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions ("SSM") and imposing alternative, and arguably less onerous requirements in their place. Because the general duty that applies during SSM events is inconsistent with the plain text of section 112 of the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), even accepting that "continuous" for purposes of the definition of "emission standards" under CAA section 302(k) does not mean unchanging, the SSM exemption violates the CAA's requirement that some section 112 standard apply continuously. Accordingly, we grant the petitions and vacate the SSM exemption.
Senior circuit Judge Randolph dissented. I hope to have more to say about the opinion later.

Meanwhile, the EPA ruled yesterday that power plant carbon dioxide emissions should not be considered in the air pollution permit approval process. I expect this decision will be the subject of litigation or a notice-and-comment rulemaking in 2009, if not both.

Preferred Customer:
Wouldn't it be more efficient to just have a perpetual open docket at the court styled "Sierra Club v. EPA?"
12.19.2008 12:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
Those darn Democrats. If they hadn't blocked all those judges that George wanted to appoint, he be winning these cases.
12.19.2008 12:37pm
Andrew Paterson (mail):
I don't know about the practicality of this decision. I had a mineral acid mfr client and if you don't take the plant down for maintenance it will eventually stop working or begin operating outside the limits. I don't believe there is technology or technique that will allow you to shut down (or start up) without exceeding the standards. This is similar to airplanes using most of their fuel on takeoff (and spewing the most emmissions). What were the judges basing their opinion on? Congress determining that science be dammed, we will have no pollution?
12.19.2008 12:46pm
therut (mail):
I will be happy when citzens have as much standing to sue for their 2nd amendment rights as Congress gave to the eviro people. Some how I doubt it.
12.19.2008 12:58pm
Oren:
PC, when the Dems go into office that docket will have to be converted to API v. EPA.
12.19.2008 12:59pm
Harry Schell (mail):
The thing that consistently bothers me about CO2 regulations is that 96% of annual emmissions are from natural sources.

4% of emissions are from mankind's activities. This is well established science.

So, if we all agree to die at once, shut off all the lights and pwoer plants, no more driving...eradicate ourselves and every manifestation thereof:

CO2 emissions will go down four percent!

Will someone tell me again why we have to have controls on CO2.

PLEASE?
12.19.2008 1:05pm
Allan (mail):
Phooey.

These laws came into affect more than 35 years ago when a Republican was president. Don't like the laws, elect enough representatives to overturn them. The answer is not to ignore them (as Bush has tried to do).

Please remember, these laws were passed when you could set fires to rivers in Cleveland and needed infrared cameras to see across Pittsburgh. Raise your hand if you want to go back to those times.
12.19.2008 1:12pm
MCM (mail):
The thing that consistently bothers me about CO2 regulations is that 96% of annual emmissions are from natural sources.

4% of emissions are from mankind's activities. This is well established science.

So, if we all agree to die at once, shut off all the lights and pwoer plants, no more driving...eradicate ourselves and every manifestation thereof:

CO2 emissions will go down four percent!

Will someone tell me again why we have to have controls on CO2.

PLEASE?


Your post implicitly assumes that there is a linear relationship between CO2 emissions and whatever detrimental supposedly come from CO2 emissions. I would guess that people calling for controlling CO2 say there is not a linear relationship, but that each additional unit of CO2 is more harmful than the last.
12.19.2008 1:29pm
martinned (mail) (www):

I will be happy when citzens have as much standing to sue for their 2nd amendment rights as Congress gave to the eviro people. Some how I doubt it.

AFAIK, if you want a gun and Congress or whoever won't let you have one, standing isn't usually the problem.
12.19.2008 2:04pm
FWB (mail):
The science behind much of what is claimed about CO2 emissions is garbage. I speak from 30 yrs as an environmental scientist specilizing in the fate of chemical in the environment.

Those PC scientists (anyone who believes in consensus science) leave out much of the information, ignore or don't know the interactions, hold mispreconceptions and devise their work to reach a predrawn conclusion, or simply spread falsehoods in order to force a particular agenda.

There is no arguing that the daily emissions (6 GT/yr) of C are in the range of 0.002% of the C in the atmosphere at any given instant (824 GT). There can be no argument that the oceans contain around 42,000 GT of C. Le Chatelier's principle explains what occurs when a system in equilibrium (IF one can ever say the environment is in equilibrium since the geological evidence contradicts any equilibrium) is perturbed. Human breathing releases 3 GT of CO2/yr. Remember that in 1950, there were about 2.5 B people who would have produced about 1.25 GT of CO2. So population change is contributing 1.75 GT more CO2.

So what effect does 0.002%/day or 0.73%/yr change in the atmosphere C have? Since the heat capacities of the substances in the atmosphere are linear, that is constant from 1 particle to the next, the addition of another particle simply adds a constant and known amount of heat capacity to the atmosphere, IF that particle stays in the atmosphere. However, CO2 is highly soluble in water and as more adds to the atmosphere the equilibrium shifts so that more dissolves in the oceans. If the concentration in the oceans rises and certain cations are present, Ca for instance, the dissovled CO2 is converted to solid forms in which there are currently about 4500 GT.

The primary force driving heat holding in the atmosphere is water vapor. If the water vapor were removed the planet would cook during the day and freeze at night because CO2 and the other gases are incapable of holding sufficient heat to provide the protective moderation of water vapor.

Many will state the the water vapor content of the atmosphere has not changed but those who make such statements confuse relative humidity with the more important absolute humidity. Heat capacity is base on moles of substance. And as temps increase the number of moles of water in the atmosphere increases which in turn allow for a greater amount of heat build up.

Mankind is too egotistical to understand that WE are not in charge. I think the IPCC coalition of scientists should have to stand in the path of the next hurricane and yell STOP. Maybe then we will begin to understand.

Another cause of changes in climate patterns is urbanization. Should we destroy our cities to save ourselves?

Dominus providebit!
12.19.2008 2:09pm
RobinGoodfellow:
Man-made CO2 emissions are a fraction of world-wide CO2 emissions. More importantly, CO2 is not the only "greenhouse" gas: methane and water vapor are, I believe, even worse.

Efforts to regulate CO2 through the environmental air permitting process are problematic. It is not one of the 6 criteria pollutants listed in the Clean Air Act, nor is it listed as one of the 189 (or 188) hazardous air pollutants.

Given that even Mars is seeing increased warming recently, perhaps we are acting a little too quickly to ascribe anthropogenic (or even terrestrial) causes for earth's percieved climate change.
12.19.2008 2:28pm
RobinGoodfellow:
As far as SSM rules, no process operates perfectly well 100% of the time. Even a well-maintained process will have unforeseeable malfunctions. Facilities must be allowed to have a plan whereby, if they establish and follow their maintenance procedures, they are allowed exemptions for these unforeseeable malfunctions.

Similarly, all processes must shut down, then start back up. During these (brief) startup and shut down periods, emissions are harder to manage for a variety of reasons. Often, however, while emission concentrations (ppm, or pounds per cubic foot) may be higher, emission rates (pounds per hour) are typically lower due to lower stack flow rates.
12.19.2008 2:34pm
Floridan:
FWB, are you arguing that thse scientists are advocating the wrong solution, or that any solution would be too costly, or that there is no solution?
12.19.2008 2:37pm
MQuinn:
I am not a scientist, and thus I am not here to argue any particular point of view. That said, I suggest that this GW debate is not as straight forward as some of the commenters above -- such as FWB and Harry Schell -- make it seem.

True, man made CO2 emissions are relatively small compared to natural CO2 emissions. However, that fact doesn't account for the effect of man made CO2 emissions on the earth. Take this bit of evidence as an example...

Ice cores show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have remained between 180 and 300 parts per million for the past half-a-million years. In recent centuries, however, CO2 levels have risen sharply, to at least 380 ppm

Link.

Again, I am not a scientist, and thus I have a hard time deciding whom I believe in the whole global warming debate. My only point is that both GW advocates and GW skeptics should avoid using rhetoric that makes this debate appear settled. There is simply too much evidence on each side of this debate.
12.19.2008 4:03pm
GEORGE LARSON (mail):
I lived in Pittsburg in the 60s and 70s. I never needed an infrared camera to see across the rivers. There was a time that it was a problem but it was before the EPA existed.
12.19.2008 4:12pm
Oren:

As far as SSM rules, no process operates perfectly well 100% of the time. Even a well-maintained process will have unforeseeable malfunctions. Facilities must be allowed to have a plan whereby, if they establish and follow their maintenance procedures, they are allowed exemptions for these unforeseeable malfunctions.


As I recall, the CAA establishes time-average emission limits, not instantaneous emission-rate limits. Thus, plant operators can design their systems with some headroom for these incidents. For instance, if your normal emission rate is 90% of the legal limit as averaged over 24 hours, then you can afford to run at 150% the legal limit for 2 hours a day.

You can then calibrate exactly how much you should spend on reliability versus general pollution control.
12.19.2008 4:56pm
Oren:
Scratch my last post, I appear to be confusing the CAA with something else (didn't we have a post about time-averaged emission on here sometime recently?).
12.19.2008 5:25pm
Curt Fischer:
I agree with MQuinn; Harry Schell's post is incredibly difficult to take seriously. His statistics might even be accurate but I am sure that they are totally irrelevant to the AGW issue.

Imagine a swimming pool which is filled by runoff from a small creek at 10 gallons per minute. Also, let's say the pool has a drain that lets water out at 10 gallons per minute. The level of water in the pool stays constant.

Now imagine that far in the future, Harry Schell's hydrogen-powered car is set up to exhaust into the pool. This adds 0.01 gallons per minute to the flow in. What happens to the level of water in the pool?

But wait! Anthropogenic emissions are only 0.1% of the total! If Harry stopped driving his car emissions would only go down by a fraction of one in a thousand! Why would we ever talk about having emissions controls?

The answer is obvious. If we waited long enough, eventually Harry's car would make the pool overflow. Of course, it may well be that overflowing the pool is easier to deal with than making Harry walk to work. In that case, we wouldn't worry if the pool overflowed. But maybe having Harry walk to work wouldn't be so bad, and if the pool overflowed it would be cataclysmic for our rose bushes. Who knows how to deal with the rising water level? It's hard to say, and on that point I think there can be legitimate debate.

But whatever happens we can be sure that the water level in the pool is rising.
12.19.2008 6:53pm
Cecilius:
"Scratch my last post, I appear to be confusing the CAA with something else."

There are time averages in CAA permits, but they vary widely. Opacity permit limits, for instance, are on 6 minute averages with some standard exemptions such as being able to exceed the opacity limit for one-6 minute period an hour, but no more than 6 times a day. The SSM exemptions become problematic as permitting agencies (pushed by the environmental groups) continue to press permit limits down to 3-hr. averages, from 24-hour averages or even 30-day averages. The problem is that when you start up and shut down the unit, the temperature and volume of the flu gas decreases. Pollution controls, such as a dry scrubber (that will capture hazardous air pollutants under CAA 112), won't operate when the flu gas is too cool. Startups take a few hours, which means you're running without being able to turn on the pollution controls. While there are opportunities to fudge, you can run a squeaky-clean operation and still have the technical aspects of unavoidable SSM events put you over the limits if the time-average is too tight.
12.19.2008 9:58pm
Jay Myers:

Your post implicitly assumes that there is a linear relationship between CO2 emissions and whatever detrimental supposedly come from CO2 emissions. I would guess that people calling for controlling CO2 say there is not a linear relationship, but that each additional unit of CO2 is more harmful than the last.

Svante Arrhenius showed a century ago that warming is a logarithmic function of CO2 concentration. In other words, each unit of CO2 is less harmful than the last and you would need a geometric increase in CO2 concentration in order to obtain a linear increase in temperature.

Even if human sources of CO2 equaled natural sources and thus doubled the atmospheric concentration of CO2, it would only have a 1.5 degree Celsius effect on the climate. Of course our carbon emissions are only equal to about 4% of the Earth's natural emissions.

I should also mention that for the last million years or so we have been in an ice age and global average temperatures have only been this low twice in the last four billion years and neither of those cold periods lasted half as long as this one has. Although warmer temperatures would be a change from our experience, it isn't unusual from a larger perspective.

Finally, all of this evil carbon that we are releasing into the atmosphere originally came from the biosphere. Unless you think that the Earth magically knows how much carbon to sequester in order to keep things at an optimal balance, why should we assume that restoring this carbon to biosphere is a bad thing? 60 million years ago the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was nearly three times what it is today. Humans didn't cause that, it didn't cause temperatures to skyrocket, and life thrived.
12.20.2008 5:01am
Curt Fischer:
Jay Myers: Let me take your post one paragraph at a time.


Svante Arrhenius showed a century ago that warming is a logarithmic function of CO2 concentration. In other words, each unit of CO2 is less harmful than the last and you would need a geometric increase in CO2 concentration in order to obtain a linear increase in temperature.


This is true only if CO2 is the only relevant greenhouse gas. Of course, the direct warming caused by CO2 leads to greater water evaporation and higher absolute humidities. FWB already noted the importance of absolute humidity on climate in this very thread. More CO2 leads to more humidity, and this effect is not accounted for by the logarithmic relationship you mention. Therefore, the relevance of the logarithmic relationship to real climate is limited at best. What is important is to understand the feedbacks.



Even if human sources of CO2 equaled natural sources and thus doubled the atmospheric concentration of CO2, it would only have a 1.5 degree Celsius effect on the climate. Of course our carbon emissions are only equal to about 4% of the Earth's natural emissions.


First, human emissions do not need to be equal to natural emissions for atmospheric CO2 levels to double. You are incorrectly conflating the emission rate with the atmospheric level of CO2. My earlier comment contains an example that you may find helpful in understanding your error. Secondly, even if we assume that atmospheric CO2 doubled, your statement that average temperatures would increase by only 1.5 degrees Celsius is vastly overconfident. No one knows how much the temperature would increase, in large part because of the many poorly understood feedback mechanisms (such as warming-induced increases in absolute humidity).


I should also mention that for the last million years or so we have been in an ice age and global average temperatures have only been this low twice in the last four billion years and neither of those cold periods lasted half as long as this one has. Although warmer temperatures would be a change from our experience, it isn't unusual from a larger perspective.


That is a good point, although it looks as if wikipedia thinks the most recent long-time ice age has been going on for ~2.5 million years, not one million. But speaking to your larger point, most people agree that warmer temperatures would change the human experience. The question is how much and in what direction. Maybe Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents will be blessed by a northern shift in the location of the agricultural "breadbasket" of the great plains to shift north, for example. Boom times!


Finally, all of this evil carbon that we are releasing into the atmosphere originally came from the biosphere. Unless you think that the Earth magically knows how much carbon to sequester in order to keep things at an optimal balance, why should we assume that restoring this carbon to biosphere is a bad thing? 60 million years ago the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was nearly three times what it is today. Humans didn't cause that, it didn't cause temperatures to skyrocket, and life thrived.


I think your larger point here is also a good one. Sometimes some environmentalists are motivated by a false sense that Earth as it existed 100 or 600 years ago is somehow the "proper" natural state of the planet. But as you indicate in your post, nature is always changing. That said, your paragraph did make me wonder who it is exactly that thinks carbon is "evil"? Also, keep in mind that just because "life" thrived at CO2 levels 3x higher than now doesn't mean that humans would thrive at the same conditions.
12.20.2008 12:01pm
Oren:

The SSM exemptions become problematic as permitting agencies (pushed by the environmental groups) continue to press permit limits down to 3-hr. averages, from 24-hour averages or even 30-day averages.


Curt:

(1) Thanks for clarifying this issue for me.

(2) The power to smooth things out on a time-average should not be squelched by reducing it below a reasonable time threshold. My original post assumed that you should not need SSM mandates because you can soak SSM emissions into a large enough average. 3 hours is clearly not enough.
12.20.2008 12:57pm
Portland (mail):

What were the judges basing their opinion on? Congress determining that science be dammed, we will have no pollution?


Yes, thank goodness we have the Bush administration fighting the good fight for science against those who would distort it for political ends.
12.20.2008 2:59pm
Portland (mail):

The thing that consistently bothers me about CO2 regulations is that 96% of annual emmissions are from natural sources.

4% of emissions are from mankind's activities. This is well established science.

So, if we all agree to die at once, shut off all the lights and pwoer plants, no more driving...eradicate ourselves and every manifestation thereof:

CO2 emissions will go down four percent!

Will someone tell me again why we have to have controls on CO2.


They dissect this "man-made CO2 admissions are insignificant" myth over at the New Scientist:

So what's going on? It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources. But the fact that CO2 levels have remained steady until very recently shows that natural emissions are usually balanced by natural absorptions. Now slightly more CO2 must be entering the atmosphere than is being soaked up by carbon "sinks".

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11638

Basically, natural systems both release and absorb large amounts of CO2. It's like assets under management in a bank -- just because people move a trillion dollars in and out of a bank's instruments in the course of a year, it doesn't follow that a $40 billion loss is insignificant.
12.20.2008 3:06pm

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