Monday, March 12, 2012

Something is Rotten at the EPA

All photos of delectable decay in this Nobel?Rot series are from the demonic genius of Peter Lippmann
Over the weekend, Skeptical Science hosted a guest post written by Andy the geologist, in which he described the evolution of his enlightenment about climate change.  Among other evidence, he said that he was greatly influenced by studying the measured increase in CO2.  He describes his reaction to the graph of the famous Keeling Curve as follows:

"Suspecting that this near-linear trend had been graphically amplified, I looked at the Y-axis and was surprised to see that from the 1960’s to the 1990’s the absolute atmospheric concentration of CO2 had increased by nearly 15%. Fifteen percent in thirty years! To a geologist, thirty years is not even an eye blink and a fifteen percent change in any important global parameter in such a short time is unprecedented."

So, a fifteen percent change was enough to convince Andy the Geologist that something "unprecedented" was occurring.  That made me think how very extraordinary then, is the increase in the level of ozone in the tropospheric atmosphere, which DWARFS that of CO2.  Depending on where you want to determine the natural level of ozone in the troposphere to be, absent any anthropogenic contribution - and there is a certain amount of dispute among experts as to that - the increase in the constant background level has been described by scientists to be anywhere from double to an astonishing six times for background.  That's a minimum of a 100% increase...all the way up to a 500% increase!  Not to mention, it continues to rise, inexorably and maybe even exponentially, with population growth and consumption.  Here are a few randomly selected estimates from the ample literature:

"While ozone is a normal component of the troposphere, background levels of ozone have been increasing for more than 100 years.  They have doubled since pre-industrial times, and are continuing to increase, with average annual concentrations ranging from 20 to 45 ppb.  Despite national air quality regulations aimed at controlling ground level ozone pollution, it continues to be a major concern for crop production and forest health."

(from Ambient Ozone Impacts on Specialty Crops published 2007 Air & Waste Management, NE-1013/1030 CSREES project, F. Booker, Chair, USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, Department of Crop Science, NC State University).
Indicating a rapid increase from very low natural levels this overview for Environment Canada found:

"Surface ozone data collected at the alpine location of Arosa, Switzerland (elevation of 1800 m) during the 1950s, provide valuable insight in the progression of the rise in ozone concentrations over the past century. Based on measurements taken between June 1950 and May 1951, Staehelin et al. (1994) report a median annual ozone concentration of approximately 18 ppb. Measurements taken at the same location between 1989–1991, indicate an approximate doubling of the median ozone concentration over a period of three decades."

"Using ozone data collected at Montsouris, France, between 1876 and 1910, Volz and Kley (1988) reported an annual average ranging from 5 to 16 ppb with an average over the period of 11 ppb."

And skipping ahead, the very newest modeling (which will be discussed dissected with great glee! below) suggests:  "In some regions, PRB concentrations approach 60 -70 ppb...".

Let's not forget that in an interview John Reilly, one of the authors of "Global economic effects of changes in crops, pasture, and forests due to changing climate, carbon dioxide and ozone", said of vegetation:
"There is a threshold, 40 parts per billion of ozone in the atmosphere, above which damage starts occurring."

Imagine, I had just posted that a report from Union of Concerned Scientists has made a phenomenal case exposing the corruption of science by corporate interests, in myriad nefarious ways which they extensively detailed...and today we get to see just how this still operates, in real time. [shiver of excitement!]

On Friday last, the EPA held a teleconference with members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The CASAC had submitted their proposal recommending yet further revisions to the second draft of the "Integrated Science Assessment for Ozone and Related Photochemical Oxidants" (ISA).  At least one of the members - I'm not sure who - is quite insistant that two very new papers be included in a third version.  One is McDonald-Buller et al, the other is Emery et al.  This research investigates the background level of ozone, and the reason that it's important is...well...let's read their own descriptions in the abstracts, one at a time:
"Policy Relevant Background (PRB) ozone concentrations are defined by the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as those concentrations that would occur in the U.S. in the absence of anthropogenic emissions in continental North America (i.e., the U.S, Canada, and Mexico). Estimates of PRB ozone have had an important role historically in the EPA’s human health and welfare risk analyses used in establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)."

"The margin of safety for the protection of public health in the ozone rulemaking process has been established from human health risks calculated based on PRB ozone estimates. Sensitivity analyses conducted by the EPA have illustrated that changing estimates of PRB ozone concentrations have a progressively greater impact on estimates of mortality risk as more stringent standards are considered."

"As defined by the EPA, PRB ozone is a model construct, but it is informed by measurements at relatively remote monitoring sites (RRMS). This review examines the current understanding of PRB ozone, based on both model predictions and measurements at RRMS, and provides recommendations for improving the definition and determination of PRB ozone."
Note, the reason these two papers should be included, according to the CASAC letter, specified:

"There are deficiencies in the chapter that need to be addressed. There are two important new studies that should be considered (McDonald-Buller et al., 2011 and Emery et al., 2012) and more emphasis needs to be placed on background estimates relevant to the fourth-highest maximum daily 8-hour average ozone concentrations. The discussion needs to acknowledge the limitations of models in capturing the high extremes of the ozone distribution in remote sites. Long-term trends in ozone levels over the United States warrant more consideration in the ISA. More discussion of the western oil/gas field ozone scenario may be helpful, along with consideration of the value of satellite observations for ozone and its precursors."

And then take a look at this graph from McDonald-Buller:
annual 4th highest GEOS-Chem PRB MDA8 ozone concentrations for 2006-2008 from Zhang et al
Now for a comparison of their abstract to the Emery paper, which says much the same:

"Policy Relevant Background (PRB) ozone, as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), refers to ozone concentrations that would occur in the absence of all North American anthropogenic emissions. PRB enters into the calculation of health risk benefits, and as the US ozone standard approaches background levels, PRB is increasingly important in determining the feasibility and cost of compliance. As PRB is a hypothetical construct, modeling is a necessary tool. Since 2006 EPA has relied on global modeling to establish PRB for their regulatory analyses. Recent assessments with higher resolution global models exhibit improved agreement with remote observations and modest upward shifts in PRB estimates."

"This paper shifts the paradigm to a regional model (CAMx) run at 12 km resolution, for which North American boundary conditions were provided by a low-resolution version of the GEOS-Chem global model. We conducted a comprehensive model inter-comparison, from which we elucidate differences in predictive performance against ozone observations and differences in temporal and spatial background variability over the US. In general, CAMx performed better in replicating observations at remote monitoring sites, and performance remained better at higher concentrations."
"While spring and summer mean PRB predicted by GEOS-Chem ranged 20–45 ppb, CAMx predicted PRB ranged 25–50 ppb and reached well over 60 ppb in the west due to event-oriented phenomena such as stratospheric intrusion and wildfires. CAMx showed a higher correlation between modeled PRB and total observed ozone, which is significant for health risk assessments. A case study during April 2006 suggests that stratospheric exchange of ozone is underestimated in both models on an event basis. We conclude that wildfires, lightning NOx and stratospheric intrusions contribute a significant level of uncertainty in estimating PRB, and that PRB will require careful consideration in the ozone standard setting process."

What is the takeaway from this abstract?  "High resolution PRB predictions can be more than 10 ppb higher than global modeling."

Last December the American Automobile Association pounced on that and fired off a letter to EPA endorsing the incorporation of that research as follows:  "Since the submittal of our comments in November, an important new paper has appeared in press.  The new paper, Emery et al. (2011), which is attached to our comments along with the paper's supplemental material, employs a regional model, CAMx, run at a 12 km resolution over the continental U.S. to model ozone and estimate policy relevant background ozone (PRB) for the entire year of 2006."

"Boundary conditions were obtained using GEOS-Chem.  PRB was estimated by removing all anthropogenic emissions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  This study is significant not only because it uses such a high resolution grid but also because it uses CAMx, the most widely used and validated photochemical grid model for regulatory applications…"
"...EPA needs to add this material to the final ISA.  Furthermore,  we urge U.S.EPA to use the CAMx estimates of PRB and to run CAMx to derive USB, which is a more appropriate measure  of the minimum ozone concentration achievable if all U.S. anthropogenic emissions were eliminated in the Eastern two-thirds and the Southwestern U.S., than PRB."

Who are these researchers?  Well, let's see.  The McDonald-Buller paper is the result of a workshop held in Austin last March, 2011, followed by subsequent collaborative effort.  The paper ends with this:

"We also thank Chris Rabideau and Ted Steichen, the American Petroleum Institute observers for their attendance at the workshop, and Dr. Joseph Pinto of the Environmental Protection Agency for his attendance and participation in the workshop. We thank the American Petroleum Institute for providing financial support for the workshop, and the reviewers of the manuscript for their interest and insights."

Seriously.  The American Petroleum Institute.

Aside from academics, who else worked on this?  Allen Lefohn - but he's already been featured here at Wit's End, as The Cleaner.  Then, there's Greg Yarwood, Principal of ENVIRON, one of the top 12 largest global environmental consulting firms (and it's privatized...oooh!  PROFITS!).

Here's how they assess their role:  "ENVIRON’s expert assistance in assessing and mitigating potential environmental risks enables clients to respond more effectively to current business, regulatory and legal challenges, and to reduce or eliminate future liabilities...Clients rely on ENVIRON’s technical and strategic assistance to help ensure regulatory compliance and manage potential liabilities of facility operations, and to assess environmental, health and safety risks during the merger & acquisition due diligence process."

Who are their clients?  Friendly folks, like SunChemical, which for emitting 70,000 lbs was named the worst polluter by far in Newark, in a 2004 report by the NRDC.  (Gee coincidentally, that's when first daughter was a 2nd year law student at Seton Hall in Newark, just before she took the bar exam and was diagnosed with cancer.)  But to get a really good idea of what ENVIRON does, look no further than the article written by another principal, "Applying Regulatory Science Concepts to Risk-Based Decisions Under the New U.S. Tobacco Control Act".  The Merchants of Doubt never give up.

Another client:  Magna International, one of the world's largest manufacturer of automotive supplies - do you suppose they support a switch from personal to public transport?  Another client:  Emerson Electric.  Guess who just got elected to their Board of Directors?  Joshua Bolten.  Yeah, THAT Joshua Bolten.  For a sampling of the depth of delusion in a company that hires Environ to advise them on pollution issues, their Director of Alternative Energy imparted this cheery news in Forbes last month:  "The Tectonic Shift of New Oil and Gas Technologies Has Only Just Begun!" 

"The extent to which major new sources of unconventional fossil fuels are beginning to reshape the 21st century is just beginning to be appreciated.  Remarkably – and almost abruptly – it now appears that the enormous challenge of satisfying a doubling in world energy demand by 2050 will probably be met.  But it won’t be through renewable energy sources like solar and wind, although the role of these renewables will indeed rise.  The lion’s share of the new energy production will come instead from shale oil and shale gas, deepwater drilling, oil sands and other unconventional sources of fossil fuel."
"The geopolitical impacts will be huge.  Canada and the United States, Europe, India, China, Australia, and many countries in South America and Africa — few of them accustomed to energy wealth — stand to benefit tremendously."

"Behind these tectonic shifts are new technologies, some of which have quickly become well-known.  They include hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and horizontal drilling, in the case of shale gas and shale oil, and steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), in the case of oil sands. But alongside such prominent innovations have been many others that have been less well-recognized.  By creating new options in energy processing and energy conservation, these technologies have also begun to change our energy future."

"New technologies, for example, are converting natural gas to liquid fuels to run the world’s exploding population of automobiles.  They’re converting abundant coal to produce essential chemicals that previously were made only from petroleum. They’re re-engineering power plants that support major industrial facilities to use renewable fuels like wood waste and food byproducts.  And they’re minimizing energy loss in production processes."
"In these and other ways, new technologies are providing the world and its individual countries with greater flexibility in meeting their energy needs – and significantly reducing environmental impacts.
Consider, for example, so-called GTL (gas to liquid) and CTL (coal to liquid) technologies.  For a long time we have known it is possible to convert coal or natural gas to a liquid fuel that we can drop into the engines of today’s diesel-fueled automobiles.  With GTL or CTL technology, we can also capture impurities like sulfur, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and soot in the production process – thereby  creating a cleaner-burning fuel."

OHHHHH - goody goody!

Other authors include Charles Kolb, of Aerodyne Research, a firm with over 60 scientists making a tidy fortune from producing equipment like aerosol mass spectrometers and QC laser trace gas monitors and the world's most precise nitrous oxide monitors!!  It's a good thing we can measure our demise, isn't it.  Here is a snippet from a release about a symposium he organized for the American Chemical Society's 240th Annual Meeting:
"Symposium organizer Charles Kolb, Ph.D., observed that chemistry will play a central role in resolving the climate change challenge. 'There is a tremendous amount of chemistry involved in climate change science and even more chemistry will be required to develop and implement strategies to moderate climate change,' said Kolb, an atmospheric chemist and president of Aerodyne Research Inc. in Billerica, Mass. 'Keeping the planet habitable is one of the most important challenges facing society."

Aren't you so grateful that Charles is keeping the planet habitable??  Of course that makes it a little mysterious that of the four professors he asked to give presentations at that symposium, one of them was John Christy, from the University of Alabama.  Yes, THAT John Christy, who was to discuss "...evidence from the climate record indicating that the 'greenhouse effect' — the warming due to gases emitted by human activity — is overestimated."

Comments to EPA were once again submitted by Julie Goodman, an epidemiologist who studied at Johns Hopkins and MIT and is now an adjunct professor at Harvard.  Before that she was a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute.  Why then do you suppose a woman that has been among the most privileged on earth feels compelled to testify at the behest of Gradient Corp. - self-described as: " environmental and risk science consulting firm renowned for our specialties in Toxicology, Epidemiology, Risk Assessment, Product Safety, Contaminant Fate and Transport, and Environmental Chemistry. We employ sound science to assist national and global clients in resolving their complex problems relating to chemicals in the environment, in the workplace, and in consumer products"?
I am learning that as soon as I see the phrase "sound science" I need to wonder.  If you've got a strong stomach, you can read her testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Power, for the not-too-subtly titled hearing "The American Energy Initiative: What EPA's Utility MACT Rule Will Cost U.S. Consumers," where she argues that EPA has overstepped in trying to regulate mercury and particulate matter pollution.  I worry about how that that poor young woman can sleep at night, don't you?  At least, she openly states that her testimony is funded by the American Petroleum Institute, so I suppose that dignifies her as an honest opposed to a whore, which is how I would describe Nicole Downey.

Nicole Downey is one of the co-authors of the Emery paper, who felt compelled to send an appeal directly to the EPA as a public comment.  For credentials she has a ridiculous webpage for "Earth System Sciences", a consulting firm she established in 2010.  The webpage consists of exactly one paragraph, including this self-description:  "She works with industry and academic partners to facilitate research progress that addresses problems at the intersection of regulation and business."
The "intersection of regulation and business."  Hm.  Following is the significant part of her contribution - the part where she added the emphasis.  When I tried to copy and paste it the format went crazy with explanation points so rather than remove them, I retyped it...and it's just as well, because at first glance it seemed like the most random and incomprehensible word salad, I couldn't figure out what nonsense she was getting at.  Having been forced to reproduce it letter by letter, I think I understand.  First the relevant part:

"Finally, I would like to specifically address my January comments where I suggested that as we are approaching NAAQS near background, both the positive and negative health effects of emissions of criteria pollutants and their precursors should be considered.  It is simply not correct to only evaluate the negative health effects of emissions, and I am strongly in favor of defining a background emission scenario that protects public health, rather than basing background on a zero-emission scenario."

"If a zero emission scenario is the target, the very real health impacts of that scenario should be taken into account.  This includes eliminating emissions from the public health infrastructure, eliminating emissions from agriculture, eliminating emissions from domestic heating and eliminating emissions from the treatment and delivery of clean water.  The Clean Air Act has been tremendously successful at reducing emissions of criteria pollutants in the US, and as we approach background levels for species such as ozone, a more refined approach is necessary."

Okay, I'm going to reproduce the turgid text from the second paragraph - of what the "very real health impacts" from a zero emission scenario will be - and insert the translation in red...ready?
...eliminating emissions from the public health infrastructure we will all die from infectious disease and Obama will institute death panels, eliminating emissions from agriculture we will all starve to death, eliminating emissions from domestic heating we will all freeze to death and eliminating emissions from the treatment and delivery of clean water poop will fill the streets and we will have to drink urine.

And they call global warming activists "alarmist"!?

Perhaps the most fascinating remark in the suggested revisions to EPA is from Dr. Joseph D. Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA.  Don't get me wrong.  I quite like Dr. Brain.  Here's what he wrote in his comments:

"There is an elephant in the room that CASAC and/or the EPA Ozone Panel should address. Ozone concerns make clear that we need to revisit the Clean Air Act. It is now more than forty years since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970.  It has had an enormous positive influence on health and even has contributed to the economy. However, is it still possible to established air quality standards "allowing an adequate margin of safety…to protect the public health?"

"We are increasingly aware of susceptible individuals and it is clear that current ozone levels at the current standard have measurable health effects. Is it possible and practical to make further reductions in the standard and in ambient levels?"
"This problem has become more serious now that the EPA has established a 'policy relevant' background level, which appears to range from 0.015 to 0.05 ppm. The ozone standard is approaching background concentrations. I recommend that our committee and CASAC propose that we address this problem. While doing this, we need to be certain that we don‘t threaten the regulatory process and its historic successes. But if we don‘t address this challenge, this may also threaten the credibility of the Clean Air Act and the regulatory process and even the role of CASAC."

"Of particular importance is clarifying the 'framework for causal determination'.  Continuing clarification of this framework and using it in a consistent way has greatly improved the effectiveness and transparency of ISAs."

So what I get out of this query from the outspoken and candid Dr. Brain is, that the EPA is being asked the wrong question - and the proponents of raising the PRB should be careful what they ask for.  The issue has gone beyond whether we should raise the PRB, because they're correct - we have to admit, we cannot be in compliance with stricter standards.  That redefines the obligation then of the EPA, which should be making the case not for stricter US standards, but for a US initiative to forge a binding international agreement to deal with the transboundary nature of pollution.

That'll make them howl!


  1. Thanks to chemtrails and HAARP, the troposphere has been subjected to much higher levels of ionization in recent years. This altered chemistry has resulted in a 6-8 fold increase in lightning intensity, and added significantly more NOx and ozone to the atmospheric burden.

  2. Have you noticed the UV scale has been changed, 10 is no longer the expected max. Readings as high as 17 are now recorded. Weird. Considering anything over 11 is considered extreme- stay out of the sun. 17 is off the damn charts. Can't be healthy.

  3. No but I'll definitely look into it. I think fixing the ozone hole is like fixing acid rain - it's a sham that environmentalists like to point to as a success to make themselves think it's possible to legislate away the damage from industrial civilization.

    I kind of don't think UV is directly responsible for the trees dying though because I would expect the damage to foliage to be more confined to leaves that are in direct sun. On the other hand, more UV could mean more ozone, for sure.

  4. Gail - thank you for all the work that you do to try to warn of all the dangers that we seem to willingly ignore.

  5. Thank YOU, Anon. Some days it seems quite futile so I appreciate your comment!

  6. Nicely done, Gail. Astonishing detail, and wonderful references and writing style, in this and elsewhere. Thanks for doing it. I've put a shout-out to the site at apocadocs:

  7. Thank you so much for linking to Wit's End, Doc Michael!!


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