clean air act

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The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

Tailpipe Exhaust
Flickr user JT

Americans care more about fuel economy than ever before, but did you know that the EPA does their MPG testing at their laboratory in Ann Arbor?

The EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality is located on Plymouth Road and employs 450 workers. It was created in 1970  for its close distance to the "Big Three." 

But cars aren't the only vehicle subject to MPG testing. From weed whackers to ocean vessels, anything with a motor must meet the EPA's standards.

With so many vehicles being released the lab doesn't have time to check all of them individually. Instead, the dealers themselves test their own vehicles and are subject to audits to make sure their own results can be matched when tested in the Ann Arbor lab.

Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, understands their work's importance.

The office is in charge of setting the standards along with enforcing them. Their testing is done not only to protect the environment, but to make sure consumers receive the quality advertised to them when investing in a new vehicle.

You can listen to our conversation with Grundler below.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Clean air advocates in Michigan are cheering a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow stricter regulation of coal-fired power plants.

The high court decided this week to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to slap new limits on pollution from power plants.

Battle Creek-based cereal maker Kellogg has agreed to pay a big fine for violating the federal Clean Air act.

The violations occurred at Kellogg plants in Battle Creek and Grand Rapids.   The government cited the cereal maker for operating without necessary permits and exceeding federal emission levels.

Some of the violations date back to 1993.  The most recent violation took place in 2007.

Air pollution around a highway in downtown Los Angeles
Ali Azimi / Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new proposal today to cap soot emissions at between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) annually. The current standard is 15 µg/m3 annually. The agency is required to update the standard every five years.

In a press release from the American Lung Association, Albert Rizzo, M.D., chair of the board of the ALA, emphasized the dangers of soot.

"Particle pollution kills — the science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution at levels currently labeled as officially 'safe' causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks," Rizzo said.

"The Clean Air Act gives the American public the truth about pollution that is threatening their lives and health—just as they would expect the truth from their doctor," he added.    

Last year the ALA, the Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, released a report warning of the dangers of soot and urging the EPA to set stricter emissions standards.

Their analysis estimated that capping emissions at 11 µg/m3 annually and 25 µg/m3 daily would prevent:

  • 35,700 premature deaths
  • 2,350 heart attacks
  • 23,290 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis
  • 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma

According to the report, these standards would save about $281 billion in medical costs annually.

(Flickr Senor Codo)

Air quality is getting better in Michigan, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.  The association’s annual ‘State of the Air’ report says ozone and particle pollution rates have eased in Michigan during the past decade.    Lansing and Saginaw have some of the cleanest air among U.S. cities.  

Shelly Kiser is with the American Lung Association.     She says the report’s not all good news. 

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has established new clean air standards for incinerators and boilers. From the EPA's press release:

"In response to federal court orders requiring the issuance of final standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators that achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year."

"Mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. These standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014."

An Associated Press article has some background on criticisms that may have prompted the move.

"Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have harshly criticized the EPA recently over the costs of a whole host of regulations, including the first-ever rules to control the gases blamed for global warming. At least a half-dozen bills have been introduced this year to block or curtail agency regulations, and House Republicans succeeded last week in attaching numerous anti-EPA measures to a bill aimed at funding the government for the rest of this fiscal year."