EPA Releases Analysis of Power Plant Bills

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on October 27 2005 the cost and benefit analysis to the Bush administration's "Clear Skies Initiative" along with two other proposals. The two competing measures are from Senators Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.). All of the proposed plans suggest different methodologies to reduce emissions from power plants. As expected, the more costly bills (Carper and Jeffords) return greater health benefits. According to the report, the costs to industry of the Carper and Jeffords bills would be about $10 billion and $41 billion, respectively. The Clear Skies Initiative is estimated at $3 billion. The health benefits from the Carper bill would be worth about $109-128 billion, while the Jeffords bill shows health benefits at $139-162 billion. The Clear Skies health benefits would only be between $66 and 72 billion. Additionally, by 2020 the cost of the Carper bill would decline to $9.5 billion, while the Clear Skies would rise to $5.7 billion and the Jeffords bill would be at $50.8 billion. Again, the health benefits reflect the costs.

An analysis of these indicates that the three proposals do not fair any better when compared to the existing regulations, which makes you wonder why our government has spent so much time on the issue. Some attribute the political attention to the power of the coal lobby. The Clear Skies and the Carper proposal are the most coal friendly. While the existing regulations and the Jeffords proposal would force a decline in coal production. Coal production, in effect, would have an impact on the cost of power generation. The retail price of power generation per kilowatt/hr is expected to decrease slightly under Clear Skies, remain constant under the Carper proposal and increase slightly under the Jeffords plan. Although Clear Skies has mustered the most political attention, a strict review of the numbers shows that the Carper proposal has a substantially greater societal economic payback. Furthermore, the Carper plan also includes controls on carbon dioxide to help defray that pesky problem of global warming.

More information on the three proposals can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/mp/

Finally, a Rule That Makes Sense

Anyone who has tried to buy property, especially industrial property over the past 25 years, has experienced the pain of the environmental property assessment. Although the assessments have purpose and are really in the best interests of the buyer, many have complained of the ambiguous guidance in the standard and the unnecessary requirements to repeat assessments. To address this issue, the EPA issued a final rule on November 1 2005 called "All Appropriate Inquiry." The final rule allows for the use of older assessments for properties being acquired, provided those assessments are updated. More importantly, the final rule better aligns with the ASTM Standard E1527-05 (Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I), so anyone following the ASTM standard will be in compliance with the rule. Nonetheless, there is still more to be done in the private sector to streamline the process, including convincing the financial institutions to accept previous assessment data.

National Disasters Can Lead to an Increase in Worker Injuries

Hurricane season may be over, but the clean-up will go on for awhile. Although many workers are injured during routine tasks, a large portion of injuries occur when someone begins a new job in which they are not as experienced. Employers, workers and volunteers involved with storm and flood cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and the proper safety precautions. Possible work-related hazards include electrical, CO, musculoskeletal, heat stress, motor vehicles, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) has done a good job of assembling relevant information specific to nonroutine tasks associated with natural disasters. Links to information about hazards associated with storm and flood cleanup can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/flood/.

Powered Industrial Trucks Safety

OSHA continues to crack down on powered industrial truck violations at companies. The fines can be substantial as one company in Pennsylvania learned after they were cited for raising employees on forklifts using unsafe and illegal platforms. The fine was for $135,000 and has placed the company on the annual OSHA inspection list. There are specific platform requirements if you are going to use your fork lift trucks as to lift a worker. In addition, any employing using a powered industrial truck must be trained. More information on OSHA's powered industrial truck program can be found at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/index.html.