Environmental Group Pushing for Carbon Dioxide Emissions Limits on Existing Power Plants

Natural Resources Defense Council makes emissions controls for existing power plants its top priority. The group’s proposal would offer ways to limit the regulation’s economic impact by letting states use different routes to meet federal standards, including credits for utilities that adopt major energy efficiency programs. While the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed emissions limits on new power plants, it has yet to address CO2 emissions from existing plants. The NRDC said that its plan would help slash existing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists say contribute to global warming, 26 percent by 2020, versus 2005 levels. The proposal likely would speed the closing of old coal-fired plants. The Washington Post 

Poorer cancer patients less likely to be referred for clinical trials of experimental drugs, UK study suggests. Researchers said it’s important to test representative samples of patients because early drug trials eventually will help regulators decide if drugs should be approved for a wider population. In addition, “There is an ethical issue of access to trials, because in general [for these patients], the standard therapeutic options have been exhausted,” said one researcher. Poorer patients may have more chronic diseases that exclude them from a trial, but limited education and access to care also could play a role. Separately, a study found that breast cancer patients who double the years they take tamoxifen can sharply cut their risk of death. Reuters, USA Today

Even small reductions in fine particle air pollution can increase life spans, study finds. Researchers examining data from around the U.S. found that a drop between 2000 and 2007 in fine particulate matter corresponded with an average life expectancy rise of more than one-third of a year. The study, led by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, is described as the largest to find benefits from reduced U.S. air pollution. Researchers wanted to determine whether relatively small decreases in fine particles since 2000 still improve life expectancy. Fine particles, about 1/30 the average width of a human hair, come from sources including vehicles, smokestacks and fires. The U.S. has proposed strengthening pollution rules for fine particles. Los Angeles Times

Reports say small traces of mercury can hurt brain development. The newly released data also indicated that mercury contamination in big fish such as sharks, swordfish and some tunas is on the rise. “There does appear to be evidence now, fairly persuasive evidence, that adverse effects occur from normal amounts of seafood consumption,” said an author of one of the reports, published in time for a United Nations conference on mercury pollution. The reports say existing U.S. and European guidelines are too weak to prevent the risks that low mercury levels can pose for brain development in unborn children. The reports are from the Maine-based Biodiversity Research Institute and Zero Mercury Working Group, a global group. GlobalPost

House Republicans attack research on health effects of fracking. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, GOP leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee accused officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring “preconceived notions” about the possible health effects of the controversial drilling technique. “Despite the significant growth of natural gas development,” the members wrote, “we are greatly concerned that the scientific objectivity of the Department of Health and Human Services is being subverted and countless jobs could be in jeopardy.” The lawmakers cited a published comment by a CDC official that drilling “has been a disaster” in some communities. EnergyWire  

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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