Getting the EPA story right

KAAL's David Springer, giving TV news a good name.

Loyal reader and regular news-tip-sharer Bob Moffitt sent me a link to a story this morning from a Rochester, Minnesota, TV station about the EPA’s new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

My initial reaction was skepticism. Having worked at a newspaper for five years, it’s in my DNA to have a low opinion of local television news. The “Braking Wind” hack job from our local Fox affiliate earlier this year didn’t help matters.

But seriously, check out this story from Rochester’s KAAL. Given the time limitations of the TV format, reporter David Springer does an outstanding job explaining what the rule does, and, more importantly, that the costs of the regulation need to be weighed against the health benefits. Moffitt, who is interviewed in the story, says those benefits will far outweigh the costs, a prediction that is in line with the EPA’s estimate of $120 billion to $280 billion in health and environmental costs savings.

That, in turn, is consistent with retrospective studies of past EPA actions, one of which found the benefit/cost ratio of the Clean Air Act between 1970 and 1990 was 42 to 1 (while the U.S. economy continued to grow).

As Grist’s David Roberts pointed out last fall, every new regulation comes with a hew and cry over the costs, often with little discussion of the benefits, and that historically, the industry’s dire predictions of economic disaster have failed to materialize.

Hats off to KAAL for keeping this fiction out of their reporting.

5 thoughts on “Getting the EPA story right

  1. Thanks! It’s really great to see better quality coverage of these things, and I was glad to see the Grist article too. By the way, it’s “hue and cry,” not “hew.”

  2. Just to underscore the point, the Twin Cities metro is under an air quality advisory from noon until midnight today, for ground level ozone.

  3. What you fail to mention, and what the Rochester news story fails to mention, is that the electricity consumers use from actual base load electrical generation CAN NOT be replaced with wind turbines and solar panels. Wind is inherently unreliable, and horribly expensive. Why does the 2007 MN Renewable Energy Standard/ Next Generation Energy Act exempt wind energy from all MN regulations related to electrical generators??? I asked Bill Grant, Dir. of the MN Energy Facilities Permitting office, former head of the Izaak Walton League, and one of the designers of this law. He said the goal was “speed” in order to get as much of the federal 1603 grant money as possible. Mr. Grant said speed for federal tax money is the reason wind energy is also exempt from MN laws regulating the use of prime agricultural production land. The most valuable use for land in Southern MN and northern Iowa is producing FOOD – this area contains about 20% of the most productive soil on the planet. Why does anyone think it is a good idea to permanently remove thousands of acres from food production to enrich foreign corporations for putting up turbines that produce electricity at about 25% (or less) of their rated capacity most often at times when there is no consumer demand and no room on the grid?

    As for the FOX9 News story being a “hack job” – have you actual read the MPUC documents related to the Bent Tree/ Bernie Hagen case? Mr. Hagen’s health has been so negatively impacted by wind turbines that since the FOX9 story aired, his VA doctors have advised him to move out of his home. The 2009 MN Department of Health study “Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines” says “headache and sleeplessness as the most common complaint”, recognizes that the MN Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) noise regulation DOES NOT measure low frequency sound and has no consideration of wind turbine noise, and recommends the State evaluate low frequency sound produced by industrial wind turbines. The MPCA recognized this failure in testimony at hearings on the MDH study in 2009. The first ever MN post construction noise evaluation of a wind project (Bent Tree) completed within the last few weeks states this deficiency plainly.

  4. My wife and I are new readers of Midwest Energy News. Have you reported on the on-going electrical failures at one of MN’s newest and largest industrial wind complexes – Nobles? Went on line in Dec 2010; went off line March 11, 2011. Their June 23, 2011 letter of “Resolution” states, “…we have not yet ascertained” the source of our electrical problems. Nice “resolution”. Noble isn’t the only major electrical failure at an industrial wind complex in MN – see Grand Meadows’ record.

    We’ve asked MN State officials and wind industry officials repeatedly, “What happens to the induced electricity produced by G.E. 1.5 MW wind turbines?” According to industry documentation, up to 1200 volts and 60 amps are bled to ground during routine operations. Where does it go?

    Maybe you could ask this question? We would love an answer. Why the apparent cover-up?

  5. rural55956, Farmer Bob:

    First, I want to be clear that this site does not advocate one energy source over another. That said, some of our new readers’ opposition to the Goodhue wind development causes them to view things through a different lens than I do.

    So, here we go:

    1) The base load issue is a bit of a red herring. No one is arguing that you can take down a coal plant and simply replace it with a wind farm. Trust me, utilities and grid operators are very much aware of wind farms’ variability. We’ve got a story in the works on the challenges of integrating wind power into the grid, meanwhile, this article explains how Germany is already years ahead of us in solving the problem.

    2) I haven’t heard anyone raise concerns that wind farms are displacing farmland. Turbines have a small footprint, and you can still work the land around them. I’d think residential development would be a bigger threat.

    3) If you look at my post on the Fox 9 story, you’ll note that at no point to I question the veracity of Bernie Hagen’s claims. My issue is with the misleading use of audio to exaggerate the issue of turbine noise.

    4) It’s not at all surprising that wind farms – like coal plants, nuclear plants, cars, microwave ovens, computers, and any other piece of machinery you can think of – occasionally fail. As far as where the grounded voltage goes, it depends on how much conductive material is in the ground. Next week, I’ll see what I can find out on Nobles and do a follow-up post.

    Thanks for reading and offering feedback.