September Ends Smog Season

1 10 2008

 

By Coreen Savitski | Todays MGT

With the end of September comes the end of smog season in metro Atlanta, which has seen worse years for air pollution. As cooler temperatures arrive to clear the skies, air quality experts say pollution controls combined with good weather gave the area one of its easiest-breathing summers in a decade.

Michael Chang, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech, says there has been “some measurable progress.”

This was the third-best year for air quality since 1998, when Georgia began measuring eight-hour periods of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog.

But the standard is rising. The Environmental Protection Agency has new limits on ground-level ozone of 75 parts per billion over eight hours, down from 84 parts per billion.

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Air quality a bit better in Atlanta

29 09 2008

Tuesday marks the end of smog season, when cooler temperatures arrive to clear the skies and freshen the air.

A full retinue of pollution controls, coupled with some good weather, gave metro Atlanta one of its easiest-breathing summers in a decade. In fact, this was the third-best year for air quality since 1998, when the state began measuring eight-hour increments of ground-level ozone, a key ingredient in smog.  When smog does cloud the skyline, it’s not as bad now as it was in the mid- to late 1990s.

“We just don’t see those extraordinarily high peaks, even on those brutally hot summer days when the winds are just stagnant,” said air quality expert Michael Chang, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech. “We’ve made some measurable progress.”

But the standard continues to get tougher. Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightened the limit on ground-level ozone to 75 parts per billion measured over eight hours, down from the old limit of 84 parts per billion. The change was made to protect public health. The region violated the new standard on 29 days, which keeps it among the smoggiest metropolitan areas in the nation.

With most pollution controls checked off, Chang said it’s time to change the way the region develops and start investing in different modes of transportation, including commuter rail.

 

5 REASONS METRO ATLANTA’S AIR QUALITY HAS IMPROVED:

1. Power plant cleanup: Georgia Power Co. installed $800 million worth of pollution controls at seven of the state’s largest coal-burning power plants between 2001 and 2003.

2. More power plant cleanup: Out-of-state power plants that had dirtied metro Atlanta’s air installed similar controls to reduce emissions by 2004 under a federal requirement.

3. Vehicles got cleaner: During the past several years, new cars and pickup trucks have had to meet tighter emission standards.

4. Gas got cleaner: Georgia began requiring low-sulfur gasoline for 45 counties in and around metro Atlanta three years earlier than last year’s final phase-in of national low-sulfur requirements. Federal standards also require cleaner diesel fuel.

5. More people, less driving: High gas prices have forced drivers off the road; more commuters are opting to car pool, telework, take mass transit, bike or walk to work.

 

WHAT METRO ATLANTA PLANS TO DO TO GET EVEN CLEANER, AND COMPLY WITH THE FEDERAL CLEAN AIR ACT:

1. Convert Georgia Power’s Plant McDonough from coal to natural gas, scheduled to be completed in 2012.

2. Add pollution controls at all but the smallest of Georgia Power’s coal-fired units between 2011 and 2015.

3. Reduce emissions from older heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses.

4. Reduce emissions from locomotives and construction equipment.

Source: Georgia Environmental Protection Division





Washington County suddenly awash in power plant proposals

29 09 2008

Washington County could be poised to become Power Plant Central.

It already is home to two natural gas “peaker plants” that run during periods of high demand, and now two different companies are eyeing three sites for additional plants that would operate year-round.

In January, Power4GeorÂgians applied for permits to build an 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant northeast of Sandersville. This month, Oglethorpe Power announced that two Washington County sites east of Sandersville are in the running to host a 100-megawatt power plant, which would use wood chips for fuel.

If built, the plants would join those constructed in Washington County during the past five years by Progress Energy and Duke Energy Sandersville. They are also close to Georgia Power’s 1,500-megawatt Plant Branch in Putnam County.

Electricity might be “the new kaolin” for Washington County, said Tommy Walker, chairman of the Washington County Commission. The white clay, used in finishing glossy paper and making other products, was once the backbone of the local economy, but hundreds of kaolin jobs have disappeared in the past decade. Most recently, Imerys eliminated 50 jobs, Walker said.

“I’m pro-business, and I don’t think the (Environmental Protection Agency) or the state would allow us to have anything that would hurt us,” Walker said. “We want healthy industries. But certainly we need jobs.”

Oglethorpe Power estimates that the biomass plants would employ about 40 people each, which would mostly replace the recent jobs lost from Imerys, Walker noted.

While Plant Washington would be fueled by coal, which has faced broad opposition in recent years for its pollution, the Oglethorpe Power project is meant to broaden the company’s “green power” base.

Both Oglethorpe and Power4Georgians are companies made up of a conglomerate of energy cooperatives from around the state.

Oglethorpe is choosing among five sites to build two or three plants, which would be fueled by woody debris called biomass. Waste wood from logging, particle board plants and the construction industry will be burned to create steam for power. The plants will be designed to allow for mixing in other types of biomass, such as pecan hulls and peanut shells.

Read on here.





Georgia to conduct pipeline pollution study

29 09 2008

COMER, Ga. (AP) – The Georgia Division of Public Health will conduct a study to see if a natural gas pipeline compressor station has polluted an area in northeast Georgia.

Officials want to know if air, soil and water near the Williams Transco compressor station in Comer are contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals.

Division of Public Health spokeswoman Belen Moran says residents are complaining their health may be in jeopardy.

The station is on the Georgia Hazardous Site Inventory because of soil contamination by PCBs, chemicals commonly used as coolants and lubricants in transformers.

The Environmental Protection Division estimates the station annually emits nearly 5,000 tons of pollutants into the air.

The study begins next month. A final report should be available in early 2009.





Augusta violates air rule

26 09 2008

By Rob Pavey|  Augusta Chronicle

Augusta has violated a stricter federal standard for measuring air pollution four times this year, increasing the likelihood it could face an unwanted “non-attainment” designation for flunking the U.S. Clean Air Act.

“It does look like we will be recommending the Augusta area for non-attainment for the new standard,” said Jimmy Johnston, the manager of Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Air Protection Branch.

Generally, in non-attainment areas, it can be more difficult for industries to obtain — or renew — permits to release industrial emissions. It also means stricter controls on outdoor burning, which Augusta already has through summer burning bans. It can also make it more difficult to obtain federal transportation money.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new standard for ozone, unveiled in March, lowered the allowable concentration in the air to no more than 0.075 parts per million, stricter than the old standard of 0.085. In Augusta, all four violations this year — ranging from 0.0077 to 0.082 parts per million — would not have violated the old standard, but exceeded the new one.

Next March, EPD must make recommendations to EPA regarding which Georgia communities should be declared in non-attainment, Mr. Johnston said. The designations would take effect in 2010 and could trigger restrictions on industrial air permits and transportation projects.

Read on here.





Southeastern U.S. sees widespread gas shortages

24 09 2008
By Richard Fausset | Los Angeles Times
When the gas gauge on Jada Burns’ Kia wagon was on empty Tuesday afternoon, she lucked out, catching her neighborhood Chevron station at a time when its pumps were open.

But the clerk, Mamadou Diallo, said he expected to be sold out by rush hour. With drivers already forming a line, it was about 20 minutes before Burns could fill up.

“This is the first time I’ve had to actually wait,” said Burns, 33, who earlier had passed by a station where the line was much longer. “This is crazy, isn’t it?”

The impact of hurricanes Gustav and Ike was being felt far beyond the wind-battered Gulf Coast this week: In Southeastern states, gas shortages and long lines were widespread due to oil industry interruptions and damage to the energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.

At least half of the stations in Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas ran out of gasoline over the weekend, said Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service.

In Atlanta, gas could be found without trouble in some areas Tuesday, but in others the stations were closed and pumps were bagged. The federal Environmental Protection Agency granted a waiver for the Atlanta metro area, allowing for the sale of a less-clean kind of gas.

Georgia leaders hope that will help alleviate the shortages, since Atlanta normally relies on a specially produced low-sulfur blend meant to help with the city’s smog problem.

Similar waivers have been issued in more than a dozen states since late August to address hurricane-related shortages, said Mary Welge, an editor with the Oil Price Information Service.

But a waiver like Georgia’s is not likely to solve the problem immediately, Welge said, noting that it could be “a few more weeks” before supplies return to normal.

The problem is compounded by worried motorists who don’t know where their next tank of gas will come from.

Read on here.




Group Says Clean Air Standards Will Cut Summertime Smog Pollution, Protect Kids’ Health

4 09 2008
WASHINGTON, Sept 04, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today took action to cut pollution from a major source of summertime smog and to protect human health by finalizing clean air standards for nonroad gasoline engines. These include smaller gasoline engines that power lawn equipment and personal marine watercraft.
“Cleaner lawn mowers means less summertime smog and healthier air for millions of kids,” said Environmental Defense Fund Deputy General Counsel Vickie Patton. “These new clean air standards will reduce dangerous smog pollution from high-emitting gasoline engines while helping to cut costs at the gas pump.”  EPA’s new standards will protect human health through a combination of limits on the evaporative pollution from gas tanks and emission standards that require cleaner engines.
The new standards will be phased in beginning in 2010, depending on engine type, and will annually cut smog-forming volatile organic compounds by 600,000 tons and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen by 150,000 tons when fully implemented.
These gasoline-powered engines release up to 25 percent of the gasoline unburned in their exhaust, so cleaner emission standards also help save fuel costs at the pump.
Read on here.