Tag Archives: Clean Water Act

Proposed EPA Regulation could force Cleaner Energy and Protect Health

In a world and nation where water and energy are two things our growing population is starving for, an issue that combines both is of the utmost importance. This is why I’d love to inform you about a recent regulation proposed by the EPA that would place limits on the amount and type of toxic metals and other pollutants that can be discharged by steam electric power plants (coal, oil, and natural gas) into our waterways. These regulations, dubbed Effluent Limitation Guidelines, will have the greatest effect on coal plants so I will address it as pertaining to coal henceforward.

Toxic waste discharged from power plant

Toxic waste discharged from a coal plant

This bill is extremely important in guiding the future state of human and environmental health as well as the phasing into cleaner sources of energy. It is going to be implemented but what has yet to be decided is which option out of four will be chosen to be implemented. “The four options are based on varying levels of treatment for seven different waste streams generated by the plants and differ in the stringency of the treatment controls to be imposed” said the congressional research service. There are allegations being made that the White House Office of Management and Budget is attempting to weaken the proposed standards in response to coal industry demands. The coal industry will obviously be fighting for the least strict regulations, which brings in the underdog, “we the people”, to stand up for more regulated water pollution.

I will now make a claim as to why it is so important that the strongest regulation (option 4 out of 4), which will reduce annual pollutant discharge by 2.62 billion pounds and reduce annual water usage by 103 billion pounds, needs to be implemented.

These regulations need to be in the strongest form possible because, as a study conducted  in North Carolina by Duke University revealed, coal plants have implemented scrubbers and other technologies to reduce the amount of toxic air pollution (coinciding with the Clean Air Act) but those pollutants are just ending up in the waste water that the coal plants produce, defeating the purpose of the “CLEAN” Air Act. The study also uncovered other disturbing information: the highest concentration of contaminants were found in a waste water pond that was being directly released into a primary drinking water source for Charlotte, North Carolina. After testing the water, the scientists found a couple of areas that exceeded the EPA guidelines for safe drinking water and aquatic life. These unhealthy levels were also found in two popular recreational lakes in the northern part of the state. This is just 1 example.

Why doesn’t the Clean Water Act regulate this water pollution problem?

For one, existing guidelines that limit the pollutants emitted into the water by coal plants have not been updated in over 30 years. Also, many regulators have said the Clean Water Act is inadequate because is does not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste and it is also claimed to have loopholes that the energy industry takes advantage of. In addition to that, 90% of 313 coal plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or penalized by federal or state regulators, according to a New York Times Analysis of EPA records.

There is countless information that supports the need for this nation-wide water pollution regulation in its strongest form, so I proceed… Here is a link to fish consumption advisories in Texas due to water pollution. All the water bodies surrounding my hometown, including some I have previously caught fish in (and eaten), are polluted with the following advisory given for a couple: “Persons should not consume any species of fish from these waters”.  Although coal plants cannot be solely blamed for this (as it is hard to trace back pollution), they are definitely a large contributing factor. Some other unfortunate statistics found in a report produced by a coalition of environmental and clean water groups: “Of the 274 coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber waste water into waterways, nearly 70% (188), have no limits on the amount of toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, boron, cadmium, and selenium they are allowed to dump into public waters.” When you consider this pollution which produces horrible health effects such as reduced growth and development, cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, and death, one begins to hope that policy decisions regarding this pollution are really going to be made on our behalf.

I digress from the smorgasbord of depressing health and environmental data on this pollution and focus on what this bill will do. It will:

1.  Set national standards that limit the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into our waterways by coal plants and is based upon technological improvements in the industry over the last 30 years.

2. Require coal plants to monitor and report the amount of pollution dumped into our waterways. (We deserve to know this!)

The strongest proposal is common-sense, affordable, and is already being used by some coal plants. This regulation will force coal companies to internalize the cost of pollution, justly relieving that burden from the health of our communities and precious water sources. If you feel strongly about this issue, make your voice heard! It will take a strong force to overcome the corporate interests that are going to fight their hardest for the lowest regulation for what they can dump into our waters.

Things you can do:

1. Make a meeting with your Senator or Representative to let them know you support the strongest regulations

2. Write a Letter to the Editor and submit it to your local newspaper

3. Educate your friends!

More information on the bill can be found here

Future for the Gulf is Healthy Transportation

Texans Hold ‘Second Line’ New Orleans Style Funeral for the Gulf on One-Year Memorial of BP Oil Disaster

Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper Release Gulf Future Action Plan and Call for Moving Beyond Oil

(Austin) – The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper today held a New Orleans-style jazz funeral for the Gulf where they released the Gulf Future Action Plan, the result of a year-long collaboration of Gulf state communities and they called for moving away from dependency on oil to healthier transportation solutions.

One year ago today, the BP-Horizon explosion and fire caused the loss of 11 workers’ lives and possibly the worst oil spill disaster in world history.  The disaster flooded the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with almost 5 million barrels or about 260 million gallons of oil. The oil was estimated to have covered an area of somewhere in the range between 2,500 to 68,000 square miles.

Gulf Future Action Plan  “America’s Gulf Coast is still suffering, and we need the support of the nation for a full and fair recovery,” said Galveston Baykeeper Charlotte Wells.  While Texas was not as significantly damaged as Louisiana, Mississippi and other Gulf states, Wells showed a map of Texas beaches that were impacted.  The Gulf Future Action Plan calls for:

  • 80% of Clean Water Act fines to be directed to ecosystem restoration on the Gulf Coast
  • Affordable, accessible health care by professionals trained in oil-spill related illnesses
  • Full funding for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment
  • Implementation of the Oil Spill Commission recommendations including prohibition of the use of dispersants
  • Stakeholder participation and Transparency
  • Investments in Renewable Energy and local jobs

The Gulf Future Action Plan is available online at http://www.gulffuture.org/

Moving Beyond Oil

Over two years ago, Sierra Club launched its Beyond Oil campaign asserting that drilling for oil in difficult scenarios such as in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in the sensitive Arctic wilderness, and piping the dirtiest tar sands oil across the continent from Canada are prohibitively dangerous and risky.

“The only way to truly protect our communities and our oceans is to end Big Oil’s stranglehold on our economy and break our addiction to oil. Instead of chasing dirty, dead-end fossil fuels, we should be investing in 21stCentury transportation solutions like smarter, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, electric vehicles and mass transit,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club.

Professor Tad Patzek, Chair of the University of Texas Department of Petroleum and Geosciences Engineering pointed to individuals responsibilities but also said that the world is running out of oil.

“So what are the two main lessons from the Macondo well tragedy?,” said Patzek.  “One is that we need to be a lot more careful in how we drill and produce oil and gas reservoirs in the most difficult and inhospitable environment on Earth — the deep ocean. The second lesson is that we have to snap out of our stupor and realize that the time of cheap gasoline and sprawling suburbs accessible only by car is coming to an inevitable end, no matter what anyone says. This second lesson has not been learned yet.”

Gulf Future Action Plan participating groups, Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper are looking to local, state, and federal government to lead.

 

“The time is now for leadership from Congress – the restoration of the Gulf, the health of our economy and the safety of all Americans depends on it,” said Hernandez.

Become a fan of Texas Sierra Club on Facebook and view the photo album from this event — http://www.facebook.com/TexasSierraClub#!/media/set/fbx/?set=a.10150168401047920.311091.119581047919

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Sierra Student Coaltion – National Day of Action to Fight Coal!

Support the Sierra student Coalition DC Action Today! (and feel good about your daily hour on facebook)

CIMG0019 Right now hundreds of young people from all over the world are in Cancun, Mexico fighting for an international climate treaty.  And today, we’re taking over Washington, D.C. as well.

Over the past month students across the country held actions on their campuses to show our demand for the clean energy solutions we need and today those voices are reverberating throughout our nation’s capital. We’ve set up displays at the Environmental Protection Agency and near Capitol Hill showing off the bright, colorful pinwheels handmade by students from across the country.

Join the effort by posting your own messages to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on facebook and twitter.

This week the EPA celebrates their 40th anniversary, just in time for us to celebrate their awesome recent work to protect public health and stand up to Big Coal.  Their actions to implement new rules for polluting energy sources will help safeguard our communities by reducing pollution in our air and water.

At the same time, we’re working on our campuses to retire the fleet of more than 60 campus-based coal plants and move all our schools off coal to 100 percent clean energy solutions.  We’ve come to D.C. to show that we’re leading the way and ask our nation’s leaders to follow.

Already schools like the University of North Carolina, University of Illinois and Western Kentucky University have committed to stop burning coal on campus. We’re on the way, but still have a lot of work to do and need our leaders in Washington to join us in creating a cleaner, safer, healthier energy future.

So let Lisa Jackson know you’ve got her back when she steps up to the plate to take on Big Coal.

CIMG0027 Our generation was lucky enough to grow up with the EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental policies and we must ensure we maintain these critical protections for the health and prosperity of our and future generations.

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The Future of Abilene’s Water

polluted water ABILENE- Did you know that coal-fired power plants are one of the largest users of water for energy?  According to Matthew Tresaugue of the Houston Chronicle, coal-fired power plants suck up over 150 billion gallons of water each year in Texas alone.  That’s enough water for over 3 million people!  Out in west Texas, water is a precious commodity.  Out in West Texas the proposed Tenaska plant is attempting to find ways to use the community’s precious, scarce water reserves.  Not only that, but in an attempt to make their dirty coal a little bit less dirty, Tenaska’s coal plant will install scrubbers attached to the smoke stacks.  Now, this might seem like a great idea at first, but these scrubbers use copious amounts of water in order to clean the smoke stacks.  The problem, in addition to the even greater consumption of water, is that once the scrubbers have “cleaned” the smoke stacks, all of the water is released right back into the environment.  According to the New York Times, this tainted water contains hazardous chemicals like lead and arsenic, which are not prohibited by the Clean Water Act when coming from Coal waste. Imagine having your drinking water poisoned with arsenic or lead!  If Tenaska is granted a permit, toxic water could be a reality for the city of Abilene, that is, if the plant leaves them any water at all.

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Stopping the Frack Attack

From our national offices, we bring you the latest on fracking and the national effort to find out what exactly is in those chemical cocktails…

CONTACTS:
Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 289-8618
Gwen Lachelt, EARTHWORKS, (505) 469-0380

Americans Call For Tighter Regulation of Hydraulic ‘Fracking’ in Oil and Gas Drilling

Overflow Crowds of Concerned Residents Attend EPA Public Meetings across the Country

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Thousands of Americans are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a comprehensive study of the environmental and health threats of natural gas fracturing. Pollution from this drilling technique – commonly known as fracking – has been the focus of three heavily attended public meetings in Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania this summer. The final meetings, next week in Binghamton, N.Y., drew so much interest that the EPA was initially forced to reschedule them.

“Natural gas companies should welcome additional scrutiny and embrace regulation that will protect public health and the environment,” said Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton. “Indeed some of them have already called for greater disclosure. EPA’s proposed scope of study is a good first step but it can and should go much further. This hydraulic fracturing study must be fully funded to allow an in-depth analysis of the data. We also need changes in federal and state regulations requiring this industry to protect our air, water, and communities.”

Fracking involves the high pressure injection of enormous amounts of water, sand and chemicals into drilling sites to force gas deposits to the surface. Estimates vary, but anywhere from 30% to 85% of fracking fluids remain underground and could potentially harm underground water resources.  Most wells are fracked several times over the life of the well. The EPA should also study threats to geological formations from drilling and fracking to identify ground fractures that have the potential to carry fracking fluids to domestic drinking water supplies.

“Oil and gas drilling is spreading across the American landscape with little regulation, putting our air, water and health at risk,” says Gwen Lachelt, Director of EARTHWORKS’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “This industry is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and most other environmental laws. Hopefully this new EPA study will provide a scientifically reliable, independent analysis of the impacts of fracking.”

Improperly sealed drilling wells can also contaminate groundwater. The industry claims that less than 1 percent of fracking fluids are comprised of chemical agents but EARTHWORKS’ research shows that companies can use as much as 40 tons of chemicals for every million gallons of water used in fracking.  There are no requirements at the federal level to compel industry to disclose what chemicals it is injecting into the ground, although just this week the EPA announced that it is asking natural gas companies to voluntarily disclose this information.

The EPA proposes to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential drinking water pollution. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board — an independent, external federal advisory committee — recently recommended that EPA’s study look at the entire life cycle of fracturing operations.

Oil and gas is produced in 34 states from an estimated 800,000 wells, according to the Energy Information Agency. Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil and gas producers are also exempted from part of the Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governing hazardous waste, the federal Superfund law, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (which requires companies to report their toxic releases), and part of the Clean Air Act. These exemptions threaten the air, water and health of communities affected by natural gas.

The final public meetings on the proposed EPA study are September 13 and 15, 2010 in Binghamton, NY, in the heart of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. For more information on these meetings, contact Roger Downs at roger.downs@sierraclub.org or Nadia Steinzor at nsteinzor@earthworksaction.org.

For more information visit

http://sierraclub.org/naturalgas/
http://hfmeeting.cadmusweb.com/
http://www.earthworksaction.org/hydfracking.cfm

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