The EPA and sulfur dioxide: the absurdity marches on

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, is at it again.  It would appear that she will not be happy until all existing power plants are shut down, and all proposed new plants exist solely “on the drawing board”.  Her latest attack involves sulfur dioxide emissions.

Last December the EPA proposed new rules governing these emissions.  After the comment period had expired, in June, the EPA published the formal rules, but, like magic, and without comment, the new rules added a preamble which wiped out 40 years of EPA policy.

In determining how much sulfur dioxide was emitted by a plant, so as to make sure that the plant was in compliance, the EPA in the past, (and quite logically) has used actual measurements of emissions.  As of June, that procedure will stop.  Instead, to determine compliance, the EPA will now use,

computer estimations of what air quality might be.

Of course, the EPA hasn’t yet devised these computer models, so all “yet unborn” power plants will remain unborn for the time being.  

Even worse, as to existing power plants, it matters not how much sulfur dioxide is actually being emitted.  If the computer model shows that the plant is in violation, then it is in violation, and the facts be damned.

Funny thing, though, since 1980, the amount of sulfur dioxide emissions has fallen by 56%, even though the number of fossil fuel power plants has risen by 70%.  I can only assume that this type of success would eventually put the EPA’s “sulfur dioxide” division, or section or department out of business.  So, now they will have something to do…developing computer models of assumed emissions.

And, according to the EPA, the benefits of this new sulfur dioxide modeling procedure will amount to a mere $12 million in 2020.  As the article points out:

Liquidating the EPA budget would yield better returns.

7 replies
  1. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    I am sorry SOS, but writing about power plants emissions seems a bit too far for you. Measurements of emissions at the stack are not indicative of SO2 in the neighborhood of the plant because of dispersion in the atmosphere due to temperature gradients, winds etc. Some computer modeling is called for. The SO2 at a stack in OH does not tell anybody what the SO2 at ground level in CT might be from the power plant in question. Acid rain killed lakes in Norway from emissions in North America. But that was before we even had an EPA.

  2. PatRiot
    PatRiot says:

    There are 2 real points being made here.

    1. The gov't is being changed out 1 Dept at a time.  Re-read the part about the new rules, un-commeneted(unchallenged OR not published?) having a preamble that wipes out 40 years of EPS policy.  Why the whole thing when only parts need to be adjusted?  WHY ?!?! Sounds like the health care issue all over again  And do we expect different results with the same employees at the wheel?  Rosa Delauro is ramping up to do the same thing to the FDA.

    2.  Putting untested theory into law and action is DANGEROUS.  And the problem with computer modelling is that the input can be manipulated( by the highest bidder not doubt).  You know – garbage in, garbage out.  And the SO2 at ground level in CT? – I recall having a dialog with a state EPA rep at a short air quality testing stack in East Hartford about 10 years ago.  Nothing like reality for facts.  Questions: Where are the results?  What do they tell us?  Who is afraid to make decisions based on the FACTS? Why spend money we don't have for data that already exists and equipment already paid for?

    I am all for being responsible stewards of our planet, but not at the risk of having my gov't changed out at huge cost with no explanation for any of it.  Just "Because" doesn't work.

  3. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    In the real world there are uncertainties. The garbage-in, garbage-out phrase is a bit worn. The reliability of instrumentation can also called into doubt, there may not be enough instruments to provide accurate estimates, their placement may not be optimal etc., etc.

  4. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    The only place that the SO2 is going to be measured is at the smokestack.   The origin of SO2 at a distance from the stack simply cannot reliably be ascertained (as a function of the distance), and only estimates of its distribution via wind patterns, removal by precipitation etc will be made.  The effects and permissible levels of emissions will be arbitrarily decided by the government.  The same government that insists that CO2 is a gross pollutant.


    The truly big offenders, China and India will continue to pump out whatever emissions they like, and that will be the real problem.  Rather than killing our economy even more by trying to squeeze emissions down to 99% clean, we should be sellling/giving our technology to these countries for the biggest bang for the buck.

  5. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    If SO2 cannot reliably ascertained at a distance how can one simply point to India and China as being the "truly big offenders"? Just another convenient way to shift the argument away from what the US is contributing to the SO2 levels?

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