March 9, 2001

The Honorable Gary Locke
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504

Dear Governor Locke:

The Washington Environmental Council would like to express its concern about your recent Energy Supply Alert Orders and the future of energy production in Washington.

Energy Supply Alert Order No. 01-01 (Tacoma Steam Plant) and No. 01-02 (Temporary Electric Generators) both suspend or modify local air pollution control authority rules. Order No. 01-01 would allow the Tacoma Steam Plant to burn certain roofing tear-off materials and used oil. Order No. 01-02 would allow extensive temporary statewide use of diesel powered generators. The limiting condition under Order No. 01-01 is that currently permitted limits for air emissions will not be exceeded. The limiting condition for Order No. 01-02 is that operation will not cause or contribute to the violation of any state or federal ambient air quality standard.

In 1993, the Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency (now PSCAA) convened a PM Health Advisory Committee to determine if the federal particulate matter (PM10) standard was sufficiently protective of public health. The committee membership included representatives from the medical community, research scientists from the University of Washington, the Washington Department of Health, the Department of Ecology, PSAPCA (now PSCAA), and the American Lung Association. The committee concluded that the federal (PM10) standard was not adequate, and recommended to the PSAPCA Board of Directors the establishment of a new particulate standard, targeting a much finer particulate size, referred to as PM2.5, or fine particulate. The outcome of the Health Advisory Committee recommendation was a PSCAA stakeholder process which suggested ways to reduce fine particulate levels, but no standard was adopted.

PSCAA submitted comments to EPA supporting emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles and standards for sulfur content of diesel fuel, dated April 20, and August 10, 2000. The April comments note: “There is a compelling case for timely and effective action to protect the public from the ubiquitous and unhealthful criteria and toxic pollutants created by diesel engines and diesel fuel.” The August 10 comments note: “While the [stakeholder] group was able to identify a number of effective measures to reduce other source emissions … there were few strategies that could be implemented locally to address diesel particulate. The group adopted as one of its ‘Priority A’ recommendations that the Agency ‘Support EPA in the development of a coordinated engine standard and fuel strategy, including a reduction in diesel fuel sulfur levels’.”

Diesel exhaust is a major source of fine particulate, especially in urban areas. Roughly 95-99% of diesel particulate matter mass is PM2.5. In addition, diesel exhaust contains over 40 chemicals that are listed by California and EPA as toxic air contaminants, probable human carcinogens, known human carcinogens, reproductive toxicants and/or endocrine disrupters. Many of these toxics adhere to the fine particulate surface. For this reason diesel particulate and/or whole exhaust has been classed or recommended to be classed as a probable human carcinogen by the state of California, the EPA, the National Toxicology Program Advisory Board, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the National Institute of Health.

While we thank Dennis McLerran of PSCAA for the part he has played in assuring the use of ultra-low sulfur fuel and SCR particulate filter traps in diesel generators, we regret that yet another source of diesel contamination has found its way into our air through the start up of the diesel generators. We regret that these requirements have not been levied on all sources of diesel contamination in Washington state.

We concur with a statement in a Press Release from the Office of the Governor, dated Jan 26, 2001, which stresses the importance of public health, safety, and general welfare in the implementation of the Energy Supply Alert Orders. Therefore we are concerned that energy alert orders No. 01-01 and 01-02 may have confused the public by suggesting that safeguards to public health are in effect (i.e.; “standards which will not be exceeded”), when in fact there is no standard on the pollutant of primary concern to public health. This suggestion itself may put sensitive populations, such as the very young and the very old, at greater risk.

The Energy Supply Alert Orders mirror a larger concern, which is the future of energy production in Washington State. The diversity standard proposed to the Legislature by your office (HB2102, SB6027) includes provisions exempting a significant number of utilities from meeting the established conservation and renewables standards. Further, the bills do not include sufficient measures to ensure accountability. We are concerned that utilities will continue to choose traditional PM-producing energy sources.

The EPA heavy duty vehicle engine and diesel sulfur content rules, which PSCAA was depending on, and EPA standards promulgated for fine particulate matter are being vigorously opposed by industry. Even if not delayed by this opposition, the low sulfur diesel fuel rule would not take effect until 2005; and the engine rule would only affect manufactured trucks beginning in 2010.

Washington State must not wait for the federal government to protect public health. Although statewide diesel particulate reduction and PM2.5 standards are perhaps not possible at this time, an education program, as well as local or limited particulate reduction programs would be reasonable and timely, especially in metropolitan areas, and especially if utilities exercise an option for increased use of PM producing energy sources. An attachment lists some of the options for such local and/or limited programs.

Thank you for considering our concerns.


Rodger Herbst
Pollution and Health Committee