Tag: air pollution

Alabama Power Parent Southern Company Commits to ‘Net Zero Carbon’ by 2050 but Won’t Quit Fossil Fuels

Alabama Power Company’s parent organization told shareholders it will reduce its greenhouse carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 for all its electric and gas operations, replacing its 2018 commitment to a “low-to-no carbon” future for all.

The company will, however, continue to use fossil fuels to generate most of its energy and depend on carbon-reduction technology and energy-efficiency, tree-planting and other programs to offset its use of natural gas and coal to generate energy.

 Southern’s CEO, Tom Fanning, also said the company may be able achieve 50% of its goal by as early as 2025.
Read more.

EPA Rejects Move to Strengthen Air Pollution Limits

The Trump EPA announced this week that it will not lower the current limit on particulate air pollution, an action that disappointed but didn’t surprise public health scientists and clean-air advocates who pointed to a new Harvard study connecting the pollution to a higher mortality risk from COVID-19.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s decision flew in the face of the agency’s own career scientists, who had urged adoption of stricter air quality standards for what is commonly referred to as soot.

Wheeler was backed up by a majority of the agency’s independent advisory group on air quality, including Corey Masuca of the Jefferson County Health Department. Read more.

Gasp, SELC Challenge ABC Coke Consent Decree

A fight over ABC Coke’s air pollution in Birmingham and Tarrant entered federal court Tuesday as groups charged that a consent decree agreement approved last spring is too weak to guarantee that unlawful discharges of the cancer-causing chemical benzene will stop. The action came in response to a government motion two weeks ago to finalize the consent decree. The Jefferson County Department of Health said today that it supported making the decree final. Read more.

Advisory Panel Majority, Including JeffCo’s Masuca, Recommend That Air Pollution Standards Not Be Strengthened

A federal advisory group recently voted in a split decision against strengthening the current standard for fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. Corey Masuca, an environmental health scientist with the Jefferson County Department of Health and one of the six members of the panel, sided with the majority.

The 4-2 decision during a contentious meeting of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee last month pitted Masuca and three other members against Environmental Protection Agency scientific staff and an independent panel of scientists. Read more.

Do Current Pollution Standards Protect Human Health? Clean Air Panel Will Hear Comments, Review Draft Proposal

A government panel of air pollution experts, including one from the Jefferson County Department of Health, will gather for public meetings in North Carolina later this month to hear comments and review a draft report on whether the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon particles in the air are stringent enough to protect human health.

Politico Pro recently reported that the draft document, the Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter, questions whether the current standard for particulate matter in the air is adequate to protect public health. Read more.

The Heat Goes On, and So Do the Ozone Alert Days

It’s Alabama’s uncharacteristic September heat, not lack of rain, that’s caused recent air quality ozone alerts in numbers unheard of this late in the summer. That’s the word from the Jefferson County Department of Health expert Corey Masuca.

Masuca, who is the county’s air quality control engineer, is one of six experts who the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to depend on for recommendations on air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, among other air pollutants, to protect public health and safety.

Ozone alerts have occurred nine days since May, according to the health department. Six of those have occurred in September. Check here for daily information on air quality in Jefferson County.

Ninety-degree Fahrenheit temperatures are expected to persist for the next several days in a “heat dome” effect that occurs only once every 10 to 30 years, according to an analysis by the joint national weather services of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Read more.

In Reversal, EPA to Add ‘Very Important’ Expertise to Air Quality Panel

More scientific help is on the way for the committee charged with providing independent advice to the federal government on whether to change its air quality standards.

Local air quality expert Corey Masuca, one of the seven members of the committee, said he “is delighted” with the decision by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to add consultants for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, known as CASAC.

CASAC is under a tight deadline to trudge through hundreds of new studies and advise Wheeler on potential changes in National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and, later, for ozone. Read more.

EPA Overrides Civil Rights Complaint About JCDH, Adding to Residents’ Frustration

The Environmental Protection Agency and Jefferson County’s Department of Health have settled civil rights complaints over air permits the department awarded to coke manufacturers in north Birmingham and Tarrant in recent years. But the EPA response has added to frustration over recent environmental developments in the heavily industrial part of Jones Valley, according to residents and officials at Gasp, a clean-air nonprofit group that has been involved in antipollution efforts there for most of the past decade.

“I am totally disappointed. It’s a slap in the face,” said Jimmy Smith of the Collegeville neighborhood, one of the complainants. “It makes no sense that we taxpaying citizens cannot (experience) happiness because we live in a ZIP code (35207) where toxic chemicals and metals poison our air and ground.”

Smith said the community’s relationship with the health department is broken.

“I would trust strychnine poison to not hurt my body more than I’d trust anybody at the health department now,” he said. “They are duty bound to protect citizens’ health, but it’s my experience that, from the head of it on down, they give decisions against us and for big business.”

The “informal resolution agreement” brokered by the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office instructs JCDH to enhance communication procedures and update nondiscrimination processes, but it does not include additional, targeted monitoring of air emissions and reduction in particulate matter and odors, which have been called for by the complainants. Read more.

Read BirminghamWatch’s earlier investigation:

County’s Major Air Polluters Concentrated in Low-Income, Minority Neighborhoods

Frustration With Health Department Intensifies as Environmental Groups Seek to Overturn ABC Coke’s Air Permit Renewal

Environmental groups say ABC Coke’s air permit renewal issued in April is flawed and are appealing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to agree that it does not comply with requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

The groups are asking the EPA to object to the five-year renewal of the permit issued to the coke plant by the Jefferson County Health Department under Title V of the act.

The EPA has until Aug. 13 to respond to the request by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Gasp, a Birmingham-based clear-air advocacy group.

The permit renewal was hotly contested by area residents and organizations at a health department public hearing last year, largely over health concerns in the neighborhoods near the Tarrant facility. Read more.

After Recent CASAC Meeting, Former Chairman Says, “If I Were Still Working for EPA, I Would Resign”

The recent public hearing of a top air pollution advisory committee exposed faults so grave that a former chair of the group wrote an article in the Washington Post on Tuesday that was headlined, “If I Were Still Working At the EPA, I Would Resign.”

Jefferson County air pollution engineer Corey Masuca, a member of the committee, wouldn’t go that far, but on Thursday he told BirminghamWatch that he thought the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did need greater support from the Environmental Protection Agency to properly evaluate whether current pollution standards are adequate to protect public health. Read more.