The Front Porch Blog, with Updates from AppalachiaThe Front Porch Blog, with Updates from Appalachia

Weak fracking rules pass in N.C.

Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Kellogg | No Comments

keep_nc_frack_free2 The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission issued their final vote on proposed changes to the rules regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas last Friday, voting unanimously to approve the rule set. Despite the outpouring of public comments requesting stronger rules, almost all of the commission's changes fell short of what the public overwhelmingly asked for, and the few changes that strengthen the rules only minimally do so. [ More ]

EPA’s Benefits Greatly Outweigh Costs, According to OMB Report

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 | Posted by AV's Intern Team | No Comments

By Davis Wax
Editorial assistant, Spring/Summer 2013

A new report shows the EPA's rules, especially on air pollution, are saving money and lives.

During their push to abolish, obstruct and stymie the Environmental Protection Agency over the past few years, House Republicans have beleaguered the agency for regulatory measures they consider “job-killing” or “anti-industry,” hoping to revert federal environmental regulation to state control or make protections obsolete altogether.

Those in favor of federal rules have argued that national standards allow for the most effective and consistent protections and, as a result, will lead to reduced costs in health care directly associated with air and water pollution.

A new report from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget makes a clear case for why the country needs the EPA. The report includes an analysis of the costs and benefits of a number of federal regulations over the past decade and shows EPA rules, especially those pertaining to air protection, to be the most costly among all the rules evaluated but also the most beneficial.

The budget office estimates that the EPA’s rules account for 58 to 80 percent of the monetized benefits of all federal rules, but 44 to 54 percent of the total costs. Out of these benefits, close to 99 percent come from rules that seek to improve air quality. The report claims that the large estimated benefits of the EPA rules following the arrival of the Clean Air Act stem mostly from the reduction of a single air pollutant: fine particulate matter.

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Clean Air, Water Standards Important to Undecided Voters

Monday, October 1st, 2012 | Posted by | No Comments

By Matt Abele
Multimedia Communications intern, Fall 2012/Spring 2013

In light of the upcoming national elections, the National Resource Defense Council’s Action Fund investigated how undecided voters view some of today’s key environmental concerns. Public Policy Polling polled over 22,000 likely voters in eight battleground states, including Ohio and Virginia. These polls came back overwhelmingly in favor of candidates who support clean air standards and clean energy policies.

In these states, 60 percent of those polled favored reducing toxic mercury pollution from power plants and increasing fuel efficiency standards. A majority also favored stronger limits on carbon pollution and supported greater incentives for renewable energy.

Undecided voters were also asked how they would vote for candidates based on clean energy investments and the EPA’s role in protecting our resources. Fifty-three percent favored candidates who back increased incentives for renewables, and 72 percent believed that the EPA should protect “the air we breathe and water we drink.”

Overall, the message is clear from this polling and can best be summed up by a statement from NRDC Action Fund director Heather Taylor-Miesle: “Most Americans want clean air and energy and want polluters held accountable for the pollution they dump in our communities.”

For more information, visit:

VICTORY: Alexander, Hagan, Rockefeller vote for Clean Air

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Inhofe Resolution fails despite support of Virginia Senators Webb, Warner

Big news out of the Senate as Senator Inhofe’s most recent effort to stop clean air protections (SR 37) was killed by a vote of 46 to 53. Much more on the specifics of the legislation here. A handful of Republicans, including Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, did the right thing by voting this bill down. This was despite the fact that Inhofe has been connected with groups running attack ads against his fellow Republican regarding this vote. Other Republicans who voted correctly alongside Senator Alexander were Senators Ayotte (NH), Brown (MA), Collins (ME), and Snowe (ME).

Most Democrats opposed the resolution, including West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller. This was following a moving floor speech by the Senator on the future of coal, and their need to embrace change. Senator Rockefeller has traditionally worked in lockstep with the coal industry. However, his blunt advice to them, perhaps for the first time, conjured memories of the late West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd. In some of his final public statements, Byrd had warned that the coal industry needed to adapt and change to have a strong future.

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Congress’ Big Day: Voting on two polluter-friendly proposals

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | Posted by | No Comments

By Erin Burks
Red, White and Water intern, Summer 2012

This is a critical week in the U.S. Congress. The House will vote on a bill that could have negative impacts on the quality of waterways in our nation for years to come. With the most anti-environmental Congress to date currently in charge, today is a big day for clean air and water. By a narrow margin, the Senate voted against a bill that would take away power from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Steve Johnson and his daughter on his coal-ash-covered driveway

On the House side, there will be a vote on the floor of the House about “a motion to instruct conferees” to include a rider that would freeze the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s public rule-making on coal ash storage and disposal. EPA’s rule-making does not cover the use of coal ash in construction and is therefore not relevant to the final Transportation bill, but coal industry allies have been making false claims that coal ash regulation will influence highway construction. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia has been the leading the charge on this front.

Email your congressional representative today to ask them to keep coal ash out of the Transportation Bill. (more…)

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What’s Clean Air Worth to You?

Monday, January 16th, 2012 | Posted by Jeff Deal | No Comments

Why is the EPA Advancing the Mercury
and Air Toxics Standard (MATS)?

How much will the EPA’s MATS be worth
to your state? CLICK HERE to find out.

What happens when 40 year old coal-fired electric power plants don’t have modern pollution control systems to remove mercury and other air toxics from their smoke stack emissions? Its not pretty.

These pollutants end up in our environment – and eventually our bodies and those of our neighbors and loved ones.

To safeguard human health against these pollutants, such as mercury – a powerful toxin which effects the brain and nervous system, the Environmental Protection Agency has developed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which limit these hazardous emissions. To learn more about the EPA’s air toxics standards and how they protect the health of you and your state, visit their website at:

Bad Coal Boyfriend Doesn’t Want Change His Dirty Ways!

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Our letter about the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Rule was published in the Charlotte Observer last week.

In response to “EPA limits toxic plant emissions” (Dec. 22):

Thanks to EPA, it just got easier to dump that ‘bad boyfriend’ coal

The coal industry reminds me of a controlling, abusive boyfriend when it complains about the EPA’s new guidelines to reduce coal plants’ mercury emissions. He tries to convince you that you can’t live without him. But the toxins he emits give you bronchitis, give your children asthma and poison the fish you eat. Fortunately, the EPA just performed an intervention. Big Coal has known for two decades that he’d have to make changes to stick around. If he can’t treat you better, there are better options out there. Thanks to the EPA, it will be a little easier to break the cycle of abuse. Now you can breathe a little easier – and maybe one day, eat the fish again.

Sandra Diaz Boone

Now, what I couldn’t fit into a 150-word letter is all the false arguments our bad boyfriend coal makes for not being able to make these changes. Like it’s going to cost him too much. And because of that, you will end up freezing in the dark.

Joe Romm cuts through the industry talk with aptly titled blog post: Big Coal: Children’s Health and Clean Air Are Not Worth Our Spending One Penny of the Billions in Cash We’re Sitting On, he shows that the utilities overall have the cash reserves to make these changes.

Right now, that cost is being paid- by us, by the American people. When mercury and other toxins enter our air, water, and food supply, there is a cost to that. When we and our children get sick, there is a cost to that. To that child missing school, from the adult missing work. There is the cost of going to the doctor, to the medicine that will be needed, to the hospital stay that may be required. The coal industry wants YOU to keep footing that bill, not them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Coal isn’t really becoming more expensive, in that regard. It just coal always has been that expensive, we were just blind to the cost. Let’s make the transition to new sources of energy, wind, solar and energy efficiency (which I know isn’t a a source of energy). It can be done, and it is being done, all across the world.

Businesses that adapt make it in the world, the ones who cling to their old business models, will not. The people are demanding cleaner air, cleaner water, and the jobs that come with making those treasure. Coal is a dead man walking, and there are other sources of energy eagerly awaiting to take its place.

Breathe Easier: EPA Finalizes Historic and Life-Saving Guidelines To Reduce Power Plant Pollution

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | 2 Comments

The American people have won a fundamental victory in our right to clean air and water. Special thanks to the 900,000 Americans who spoke their truth to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how power plant pollution has impacted their lives. And the EPA listened.

Yesterday, the EPA released scientific guidelines that will slash toxins like arsenic, chromium, nickel and particulate matter from coal-fired power plants starting in 2016. Coal-fired power plants are the single largest, and till now, unregulated, source of air pollution in the U.S.

These standards have been 20 years in the making. In 1990, Congress gave EPA the authority to limit hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants through amendments in the Clean Air Act.

George W. Bush’s EPA actually finalized a rule in 2005, but the D.C. Circuit threw it out because the agency had removed power plants from the Clean Air Act list of sources of hazardous air pollutants. The court “required EPA to develop standards that follow the law and the science in order to protect human health and the environment.”

The Riverbend Plant near Charlotte, NC, is ancient. Built in 1929, part of the plant will close in 2015

Over half the power plants in the country already use some form of pollution control– the guidelines are actually based on existing technology being used today on many of these plants.

The coal industry has been crying that the new guidelines are too expensive and will cause grandmothers across the country to freeze in the dark.

Actually, coal-burning for electricity has been a bad investment for a long time, and the price of not having these pollution controls has been unduly placed on the American public, in the form of health costs.

Power plant pollution like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) can cause and/or aggravate respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma.

Mercury enters local waterways, where it bio-accumulates at levels dangerous enough for human consumption. People of lower income tend to eat more fish from their local rivers and streams, and therefore have more exposure to mercury. Children and infants are most at risk, since their brains have not developed the blood-brain barrier needed to keep toxins like mercury from affecting mental capacity.

Instead of touting this victory of public health, especially for low-income communities who are unfairly impacted by power plant pollution, some news outlets have decided to focus on the impact that these life-saving guideline will have on the power plants themselves.

In anticipation of the EPA guidelines, the Associated Press published an article titled, “EPA rules threaten old power plants” that went on to say that while EPA’s guidelines were a factor in their decision to shutter these plants, that “these plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them.”

Yes, placing pollution controls will be the final straw for some of these power plants, but according to the AP article, “The average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years”. 50 years is the average lifespan of a coal-fired power plant, so these plants should up for retirement, regardless of any EPA rules.

The other fear that the coal industry like to inflame is the issue of reliability. Anticipating that, the EPA guidelines give plants more time if needed in order to ensure reliability. Quoted in the AP article is John Moura, manager of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation

“We can’t say there isn’t going be an issue. We know there will be some challenges,” Moura said. “But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.”

Thank the EPA for siding with public heath, not polluters!

Not only will the lights stay on, we will be healthier in the long run. In central and southern Appalachian states, the new EPA standards will prevent 2276 premature deaths and provide 18.8 billion in health benefits.

Now that is news that should make us all breathe a little easier.

Let the EPA know that you appreciate their leadership; the way that Big Coal’s allies in the House of Representatives have been ripping into the EPA for simply doing its job, they need to be encouraged to do more to represent the public interest.