Essay by Kip Hansen — 16 March 2023
Many of us are not pleased with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which, over the years, has engaged in a seeming never-ending power grab, having both regulatory and enforcement authority over a wider and wide range of both individual and commercial activities in the United States. The EPA was established, not by Congress, but by an Executive Order signed by then-President Richard Nixon.
On the other hand, the EPA, in its first decade of operations, enforced environmental laws passed by Congress, primarily the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [of 1970]. Since then, regulations and enforcement of air quality standards have resulted in greatly reduced air pollution generally, and in some locales, such as Los Angeles, almost miraculous results.
Here are the results for aggregate air pollution [six most common pollutants] shown coincident with growth in Gross Domestic Product, Vehicle Miles Traveled, Population, Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions.
The EPA took off the low hanging fruit first (the steep drop at left) and has continued to lower air pollution levels to a hugely successful 80% reduction [eyeball estimate]. All that despite increases in the contributing factors.
So, why, to we find that this week a headline that:
”E.P.A. Tells Dozens of States to Clean Up Their Smokestacks”
“The Biden administration is strengthening the ‘Good Neighbor’ rule, to cut pollution from power plants and factories in the West and Midwest that wafts east.”
According to our long-suffering environmental journalist at the NY Times, Coral Davenport:
“The Biden administration on Wednesday finalized a rule forcing factories and power plants in 23 Western and Midwestern states to sharply cut smog-causing pollution that is released from their smokestacks and fouls the air in Eastern states.”
“Known as the “good neighbor” rule, the new regulation strengthens and expands an earlier interstate air pollution standard that was enacted during the Obama administration. While that rule directed power plants to clean up their emissions, the revised rule enforces similar controls on mills, factories and other industrial facilities.”
“The good neighbor rule holds that states should take measures to ensure that their pollution doesn’t affect downwind states. It directs coal-burning power plants and industrial facilities such as iron, steel, cement and concrete manufacturers in the Western and Midwestern states to reduce their emissions of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that causes smog and is linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.”
“Soot and exhaust belched from those industrial facilities is carried by prevailing winds toward Eastern states, causing high levels of pollution in states with fewer industries.”
Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? But (and there is always a ‘but’) is it true?
Let’s get a nitpick out of the way first: industrial facilities do not “belch”. The use of such language helps us to identify the statements in the NY Times as propaganda.
It is true that the prevailing winds in the northern USA east of the Rocky Mountains are West to East:
It is not true that “smog-causing pollution that is released from their smokestacks … fouls the air in Eastern states”. The new regulation is about NO2 (nitrogen dioxide though I suspect a close reading would reveal that it is more correctly about NOx).
Let’s see if NO2 is really being “carried by prevailing winds toward Eastern states”.
On the left above is satellite detected NO2 levels in 2005. One can easily see the megalopolises (and major cities) of the United States. By 2022, the problem has been reduced to near zero in the right- hand panel. In fact, NO2 levels are hardly detectable except in the largest population centers: mainly Dallas/Fort Worth, Northeast megalopolis (Boston to Washington Megalopolis), Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit. Very light-yellow shadings for other large cities.
What can be determined by the NASA supplied maps? The darkest, most affected areas are not the manufacturing centers of America, just dense population centers. The air of what used to be the deeply affected areas south of the Great Lakes has already been cleaned up – admirably by EPA and state air pollution regulations and by the shuttering of much of America’s manufacturing capability — and not by their pollution being carried by the wind to affect the Eastern-most states.
So, the main claimed motivation for the new rules is, simply put, claptrap. (Commonly known as “lies”.) “Power plants and factories in the West and Midwest” are no longer producing NO2 pollution in quantity….and it is not wafting East. It appears obvious, in fact, that the concentration of NO2 pollution that is seen in the Northeast megalopolis is not caused by power plants and factories to their West, but by local human activities – dare I say probably mostly transportation (cars and trucks).
Thus, there is no need, at least as claimed, for the new regulations.
1. EPA is using false claims to justify its of grabbing more authority to regulate and change America’s primary energy production – and to force the politically motivated shift away from fossil fuels in both power production and industry.
2. Earlier EPA and State air pollution regulations have cleaned up our air very successfully – federal agencies, headed by un-elected agenda-driven officials, are happy to claim success but loathe to give up their power – exercising it far beyond the point of gains and shifting over to societal harm through unnecessary regulation.
3. EPA is unabashedly playing anti-fossil fuel politics.
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It is interesting to note that the EPA was created by Executive order, and given both regulatory and enforcement power. Apparently in a follow-up to Rachel Carson’s emotionally powerful, but largely scientifically wrong, book Silent Spring.
I can’t state strongly enough my objections to executive branch agencies being given the power to both make and enforce regulations (with the power to fine, arrest and imprison) that have not been made into law by our elected legislators.
The fact that such agencies are allowed to be run to carry out and enforce political agendas, and not the laws of the land, is a very dangerous situation.
Thanks for reading.
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