Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report

Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report
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POLLUTION CONSEQUENCES : A new study published Friday is the latest linking pollution exposure to a greater risk of dying from the coronavirus.


The study found that an increase in the concentration of multiple pollutants from a class known as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) was associated with a 9 percent increase in COVID-19 mortality. 

The study also linked diesel exhaust, soot and smog, as well as substances known as naphthalene and acetaldehyde on their own, to increased coronavirus mortality rates. 

Low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in areas with greater pollution rates and have also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

The specifics:

The study linked a 0.5 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in the concentration of diesel exhaust to a 182 percent increase in the mortality rate. It also linked a 0.3-microgram-per-cubic-meter increase of naphthalene to a 791 percent increase in mortality rate.

Per the study, an increase in soot of one microgram per cubic meter is associated with a 7 percent increase in mortality rate. Similarly, a Harvard study from earlier this year linked exposure to soot to a greater risk of dying from the virus. 

The new study, by researchers at the State University of New York College and ProPublica, found that a 1 part per billion increase in ozone concentration, commonly called smog, was linked to a 2 percent increase in mortality. 


And it linked a 0.9-microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in acetaldehyde with a 24 percent increase in coronavirus deaths. 

Read more about the study here.


UTILITY FUTILITY: Low-income and minority households spend more of their income on utility bills, prompting concerns that some may soon go without power as utilities sunset policies allowing bill forgiveness due to COVID-19. 

“Compared to white (non-Hispanic) households, Black households spend 43% more of their income on energy costs, Hispanic households spend 20% more, and Native American households spend 45% more. Low-income households...spend three times more of their income on energy costs than non-low-income households,” according to research compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which analyzed utility payments across the U.S.

The report relies on data from 2017, the most recent year available, but researchers say the disproportionate costs for minority and low-income households could be exacerbated by the economic factors tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

Though many utilities voluntarily offered to suspend shutoffs due to lack of payment, some are now beginning to lift those policies. Only 15 passed measures making such programs mandatory.

“Now, many of the same communities that were struggling to pay bills before the global pandemic are being hit the hardest by job losses and could be at particular risk for shutoffs ahead,” Ariel Drehobl, lead author of the report, said in a release.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons Democrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report MORE (D-Del.) was among those pushing for the federal government to make the shut off avoidance programs mandatory for utilities as part of stimulus legislation.

“Americans’ universal access to clean water is essential to our efforts to overcome this deadly pandemic. Every American needs access to clean water and soap to wash their hands, themselves and their home frequently,” he said in April.



Following yesterday’s announcement that lawmakers had reached an agreement on a dispute that was stalling a major Senate energy bill, sponsor Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Poll: 57 percent of Americans think next president, Senate should fill Ginsburg vacancy MORE (R-Alaska) said she’s working on bringing the bill to the floor “soon” but cautioned that she’ll need “cooperation and good faith.”

The bill was being held up over disagreements on an amendment by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) that would attempt to reduce the use of greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

“The agreement announced on the HFCs phasedown is welcome news and will make a good addition to our already bipartisan energy innovation bill,” Murkowksi told The Hill in a statement. 

"I’m working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring our bill back to the floor as soon as possible, but also recognize that given the calendar, that will require cooperation and good faith from members and stakeholders alike,” she said. 

The compromise amendment, like the original, would reduce the use of HFCs over a 15-year period, but appeased critics because it will prevent states from being allowed to further regulate the substances for at least five years. 



On Tuesday:

  • The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing “addressing the legacy of Department of Defense use of PFAS”

On Wednesday:

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine the nominations of Allison Clements and Mark Christie to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • The Environment and Public works panel will also hold a hearing to examine the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which limited the scope of the federal government to regulate water pollution. 
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “"Building a 100 percent clean economy: opportunities for an equitable, low-carbon recovery"
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining will hold a hearing on a series of bills

On Thursday:

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on titled “Examining the Barriers and Solutions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Department of the Interior”



How record-smashing heat invited infernos to the West, E&E News reports

NPR reports on How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

Oregon’s air quality is so far beyond ‘hazardous’ that no one knows what it means for health, Grist reports

Chicago announces plan to start replacing lead water pipes after decades of denying the dangers, The Chicago Tribune reports

Fracking in the Shale Fields Slows for the First Time Since 2017, Bloomberg reports