Air pollution, death and disease, and unjournalism from the Star-Tribune

Professionally funded and staffed scams seldom have much trouble getting their emissions into the mainstream media disguised as reporting.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune we get a nice example this morning:

To fight Twin Cities smog, give up that lawn mower, diesel buses?”


Umbrella group urges action on Twin Cities air pollution from all corners.”

The Strib story mirrors a campaign to evade having the US EPA designate the Metro area as in “non attainment” of the PM-2.5 particulate and/or ozone standards.  Why?  Because that might lead to some
regulatory screw-tightening that could actually clean up the air a bit.

The story itself is a example of the Strib at its worst, essentially regurgitating official and quasi-official points of view without balance or independent investigation.  Mike Calvan’s Strib, so to speak.

Other point of view:  Julie Mellum, fiery anti-wood-smoke activist, described the Strib article as “GREAT” in an email to her members, because it mentions wood smoke as a problem.

The whole bogus “clean air dialogue” is managed by an industrial front “non profit” calling itself “Environmental Initiative,” and is funded by the MPCA (Which Governor Dayton, while campaigning, once called the “Minnesota Pollution Protection Agency”) and Flint Hills Resources, the big Koch Bros. owned Pine Bend Refinery.  (We think there is broader industrial polluter support but “Environmental Initiative” has refused to disclose the details.)

The objectives are to promote “voluntary” measures and shift the blame from industrial sources to personal actions by residents.  “Blame the victim.”

Shame on the Minnesota Center for Env. Advocacy, the Sierra Club, and the American Lung Association for participating in this scam rather than working to expose it.

See the “work group roster” if you doubt my characterizations.

For example, the HERC garbage burner is a big and important source of air pollution in the Metro, but obviously not the whole story.  To make the air healthy a lot of changes are needed and many levels.   Big ones could be: (1) getting the MPCA back on track as a regulator of, rather than a promoter of, air pollution, (2) restoring independence and integrity to Minnesota’s “environmental community,” (3) electing a Minneapolis city administration concerned with the reality of a clean and sustainable city, not just self-congratulatory greenie-weenie rhetoric behind which hides a garbage burner, and (4) phasing out wood and “biomass” burning in big industrial belchers as well as backyard boilers, wood stoves, and fire pits.

Related:  The Minnesota Center for Env. Advocacy and the Environmental Integrity Project (headquartered in Washington DC) have signed a deal (posted here) with Flint Hills Resources (Koch Brothers) promising not to oppose, or help anybody else oppose, a permit allowing increased crude oil processing and emissions at the Pine Bend Refinery.  They feel they negotiated some concessions that reduce the increases.  Part of the deal is one million dollars from Flint Hills to our buddies at Environmental Initiative, supposedly for “clean diesel” work.  EIP was helpful in providing details.  MCEA, per usual, didn’t return our calls.  Is this a good deal for Minnesota?  More later.  Many Minnesota media outlets have regurgitated the pressers on this, so no insight there.

Related:  Rep. Jean Wagenius asked the MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health for information on the health costs of air pollution in Minnesota, and both agencies presented to a Legislative committee hearing in January.

The MPCA presentation is here

The MDH presentation is here

These reports are very different and neither captures the total impact of air pollution in Minnesota.

Both present “non-attainment” as a threat rather than an opportunity, essentially echoing the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce line.

Both consider only the harm done by ozone and “PM2.5” (tiny particles), and don’t include the effects of mercury, dioxin, other toxins, and other “criteria” air pollutants.

The MPCA report, based on EPA methodology used to estimate the cost-effectiveness of air regulatory programs, estimates that all man-made PM2.5 pollution is killing 3,800 people per year in Minnesota, those lost people being worth 34 billion dollars.  The Minnesota PM2.5 emissions alone are estimated to be killing 1,600 people per year, those lost people being worth $14 billion dollars.  Of course, many more people are made sick but survive.  For example, Minnesota PM 2.5 emissions alone are estimated to be causing 460 non fatal heart attacks per year, worth forty nine million dollars per year.

Whether these are costs or benefits likely depends on whether you are in the health care or funeral businesses, or are paying the bills and mourning dead friends and relatives.  A little relevant testimony here.  Dr. Skurla is a prominent Minnesota “economic evaluations” type often engaged by big industrial polluters.

Upcoming:  Why is Minnesota spending real money to improve water quality, while spending almost nothing on air?  Why is the MPCA promoting garbage burners all over the state while ignoring, and sometimes actively falsifying, information about the air pollution caused?


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