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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Senators Johnson & Crapo Seek To Dissolve Fanne Mae & Freddie Mac


Lawmakers are rallying around a core set of principles crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that could lead to the dissolution of federal mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The Johnson-Crapo proposal would eventually dismantle government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie, and replace them with a Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC) over a period of at least five years.  In order to reduce the government’s role in the market, the new agency would charge fees to provide a federal backstop on mortgage-backed securities and would only step in to cover losses once private investors have exhausted their 10 percent in capital reserves. The new agency’s underwriting standards are expected to set down payment requirements at 3.5 percent for first-time homebuyers and at 5 percent for most other borrowers.
 
Since Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in 2008 and given $188 billion in taxpayer funds to stay afloat, they have become the central backstop in the mortgage market, owning or backing about 60 percent of all mortgages. All told, the federal government guarantees about 90 percent of all new loans.
 
Democrats and industry advocates insist the housing market cannot function properly without some form of a government backstop in case of a catastrophe. Community groups and liberal lawmakers concerned about affordable credit have been slow to warm to it, and conservatives are balking at the size of the government’s footprint in the plan. (The Hill, 4/1/2014)

Monday, March 31, 2014

IPCC Report Warns About Effects of Global Warming

The world’s leading environmental scientists, via the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told policymakers that climate change is already hurting the poor, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of coastal cities, lowering crop yields, endangering various plant and animal species, and forcing many marine organisms to flee hundreds of miles to cooler waters.

Findings of the summary report:
Climate change’s effects will grow more severe and that spending and planning are needed to guard against future costs.  Damage from climate change and the costs of adapting to it could cause the loss of several percentage points of gross domestic product in low-lying developing countries and island states. Climate change could “indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence” by “amplifying” poverty and economic shocks.

The most likely damage from climate change will be linked to rising sea levels and temperatures. Those changes could turn the advantages of growing coastal cities into vulnerabilities if interlocking transportation, electrical and information systems fail.

Efforts to adapt could include constructing emergency cyclone and flood shelters like those in parts of Bangladesh, moving generators out of New York City basements that flooded during Hurricane Sandy, changing farming techniques to cope with higher temperatures, and conserving water and curbing pollution in areas threatened with more-frequent droughts.

The “very high confidence” category of climate-change effects included exacerbating more-intense heat waves and fires, increased food- and water-borne diseases, and a steady rise in sea level in certain regions, such as the East Coast of the United States.
World leaders and businesses must act to slow climate change, not just adapt to it. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. Some of the warming could have “cascading effects.”
The summary of the report, ratified at a five-day meeting in Yokohama, Japan, avoided specific forecasts or timetables or cost estimates, but it described a range of likelihoods and outcomes in an attempt to give decision-makers the tools to set priorities to combat those effects. The IPCC’s new report underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

The risk-based approach opened the door to discussion in the report of grave climate scenarios, even if their likelihood is relatively remote, just as a company might plan for an extremely rare flood, earthquake or tornado.

The impact and adaptation report is Part 2 of a four-part assessment by the IPCC. It relied on about 12,000 papers and was written by 309 scientists, who voted on the final version Sunday morning in Japan.

The report attached a “medium confidence” rating to some of those events, but it highlighted the danger of “abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change” if high temperatures hurt the ability of the Arctic boreal tundra or the Amazon forest to store carbon dioxide, or sped the collapse of a continental ice sheet.  (Wash Post, 3/30/2014)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Obama Administration Proposes New Rules To Reduce Methane Emissions

The Obama administration today announced a four-pronged strategy of new regulations and guidelines on methane, a greenhouse gas whose effect warming the planet is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide. The strategy primarily addresses practices in the natural-gas industry, agriculture, landfills and coal mines.

The most controversial source of methane in the past few years has been from natural gas, whose primary component is methane.  Natural gas burns 50% less carbon emissions than coal and 30% fewer than oil.  Methane accounts for nearly 9% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions today.

The White House strategy orders several federal agencies to propose rules and guidelines cutting down on methane emissions produced from several sources. According to the administration, 36% of methane emissions come from agriculture, primarily from gases emitted by livestock; 23% from natural-gas systems, including production and transmission; 18% from landfills and 10% from coal mining.

In April, the Interior Department will start the rule-making process to develop a program to capture and dispose of waste mine methane on lands leased by the federal government.  The Interior Department will propose standards later this year to require companies to reduce the amount of natural gas they vent and flare, a practice that has grown in the last several years as pipeline infrastructure hasn't kept pace with companies' natural-gas and oil drilling. This rule will only apply to drilling on public lands, however; and much of the new oil and gas drilling, done using hydraulic-fracturing technology, is conducted on private lands.

This June the Agriculture and Energy Departments will release voluntary strategies for the dairy sector to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.

This spring the Environmental Protection Agency—already the target of congressional Republicans for its regulations targeting the coal industry—will gather input from the industry and other experts through a series of white papers on how best to address methane from the energy sector. The EPA also will propose updated standards to cut methane from new landfills and take public input about whether to update standards for existing landfills.

The strategy reflects a reluctance to commit to new EPA regulations targeting methane, which could be politically unpopular and contradict the administration's rhetoric and actions on natural gas in the last couple of years. It leaves open the option for EPA to propose new rules, but doesn't say whether it will.

EPA doesn't currently regulate methane and hasn't decided whether it will.  Rules EPA finalized in 2012 targeting other air pollutants indirectly help cut methane emissions. (WSJ, 3/28/2014)

EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Clarify Protection for Nation’s Streams and Wetlands

EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs and the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Act.

The agencies are launching an outreach effort over the next 90 days, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule. Learn more about the proposed rule and how to comment when the rule is available in the Federal Register. Read the op-ed "Clearer Protections for Clean Water" by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the proposed rule here. (EPA)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chris Christie Illegally Cancelled NJ Regional Greenhouse Gas Iniatiative

A New Jersey court ruled Tuesday that the Christie administration broke the law when it excused power plants from complying with regulations limiting dangerous climate-changing pollution. The three-judge panel ruled  that Christie’s administration broke state law in 2011 when it withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled in favor of Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a lawsuit the organizations brought against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2012.

The Christie administration did not go through any formal rulemaking procedures before pulling out of the carbon-cutting program. Instead, administration officials stated on a government website that the state wouldn’t participate in the program — and then argued in court that the online statement was sufficient public outreach under state law.

The RGGI is a carbon-trading program that caps greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The RGGI has sold about $1 billion worth of carbon pollution permits since 2009, reinvesting much of that money in clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives, resulting in estimated lifelong energy savings of about $2 billion — all the while cutting carbon pollution.

The ruling doesn’t automatically push New Jersey back into the RGGI, and it remains to be seen whether the state rejoins of the program. The court gave the administration 60 days to initiate a public process around any changes to the climate change pollution rules.

The year before, when the Christie Administration posted a notice on a website that power plants no longer had to comply with pollution limits, it effectively ended New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI), a nine-state program that has been reducing climate-changing pollution from East Coast power plants for the last five years.  The Christie Administration sidestepped the public process required by law.  Neither Governor Christie nor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection can simply repeal state laws by fiat.

RGGI took effect in 2009 and has:
  • Helped to reduce regional climate-change pollution by more than 30 percent, demonstrating that states can successfully clean up climate-altering pollution from power plants, just as they have successfully reduced emissions of arsenic, lead, soot and other types of power plant pollution;
  • Created more than 23,000 job-years (aka one year’s worth of work)—in the nine remaining RGGI states;
  • Implemented energy-efficiency measures that will save ratepayers of all kinds—residential, business and industrial—more than $1.8 billion on their energy bills; and
  • Added $2.4 billion in economic activity to the RGGI region.
When withdrawing from RGGI in 2011, Governor Christie acknowledged that climate change is real and that it is already having an impact on New Jersey, but expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the program.   (Grist, 3/26/2014, NRDC)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

DOE Approves Oregon LNG Export Facility

The Energy Department on Monday gave its conditional approval for a new facility in Oregon to liquefy and export natural gas.  The Jordan Cove terminal is the sixth plant to receive the green light from the administration in the last year and the seventh overall.  The facility still must pass regulatory and environmental reviews before it can be built.

The Center supports LNG exports.

Exporting U.S. natural gas will both help the U.S. economy and counter Russia’s use of its energy resources as an economic weapon against Europe.

Some environmental groups have warned it could lead to an increase in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a controversial mining methodology they say increases global warming and pollution.  Another argument against increasing exports has been the idea that it would increase low U.S. prices for natural gas.

This marks the seventh consecutive approval that will allow the export of more than 13 percent of domestically produced natural gas.  The latest approval shows the Obama Administration is committed to pushing more exports of natural gas.

Assuming Veresen Inc., the owner of the Jordan Point project, gets the remaining federal, state and local approvals, it will break ground on the project in about a year, and will be able to export gas by 2019 at the earliest.  The Jordan Point terminal won’t have much of an impact on Eastern Europe because the gas is target for export to the
Asia-Pacific area. (The Hill, 3/24/2014)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bill Magwood To Head OECD Nuclear Energy Agency

NRC Commissioner William Magwood will take over as head of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in September of this year following the retirement of current chief Luis Echavarri.

Bill Magwood was appointed to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010. Previous to that he was the director of nuclear energy at the Department of Energy. He was also chairman of both the Generation-IV International Forum and the OECD's steering committee on Nuclear Energy.

Echavarri retires at the end of April after 17 years as director general of the agency. (World Nuclear News, 3/21/2014)


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Week In Review

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

This was a very good week.  Two very exciting events included, 1) meeting two of my latest program partners in person: Wayne Hubbard and Candice Price of Urban American Outdoors and 2) opening a Seattle Office.  Wayne and Candice were in town for a meeting at The White House.

Wayne Hubbard, Candice Price, Norris McDonald

We had an excellent chat over lunch at our office.  We are trying to implement some very exciting programs together.  It is always refreshing when people want to work together for the greater good.

We also came to an agreement with Paris Yates to open an AAEA Office in Seattle, Washington.  The AAEA Seattle Office will cover environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest.  AAEA is one of the outreach arms of the Center.

Paris Yates

Paris was born and raised in Seattle Washington. Over the past two decades, Yates has worked at local government and state parks departments operating and maintaining parks and recreation grounds and facilities. He has also worked with local community leaders and environmental agencies volunteering for projects designed to get residential people of color involved in their natural environment and access to federal environmental incentives. Yates holds an A.A.S. in Horticulture from South Seattle Community College and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Combine Ultra-Supercritical Tech With Kemper Energy Facility CCS

Kemper Coal Plant Carbon Capture and Sequestration



 
AEP's Turk is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.
AEP's Turk is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.

 Turk power plant is a great technological leap forward unlikely to ever be repeated again in the United States.  The Turk project was announced in August 2006 but didn't go online until seven years later.  AEP succeeded in bringing online

AEP's 600 MW  ultra-supercritical coal-fired Turk Power Plant is the most efficient coal-fired commercial power plant ever built.  Turk is situated in Hempstead County, in the southwestern corner of Arkansas.

The attribute that makes Turk unique among power plants-that gives cause to append the word "ultra" to the preexisting and more familiar "supercritical"-is that it works just like a supercritical power plant, only better. As an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant, Turk operates at extraordinarily high pressures and temperatures, well above typical supercritical pressures of around 4,500 psi and hotter than 1050 degrees Fahrenheit.

As you increase temperature you increase your efficiencies. By working at such a high temperature and pressure, Turk achieves the highest efficiencies around in coal power generation today; according to AEP, between 39 and 40 percent of the thermal energy available in the fuel comes out as electric power. This level of efficiency in extracting energy from coal allows Turk to use less of the stuff to produce the same amount of power. Less coal burned means less emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, carbon dioxide and particulate matter. It also means fewer waste products and less fly ash, and decreased need for the commodities used in environmental control activities, like activated carbon and ammonia. The reduction in pollutants is combined with the latest emission-control technologies, like catalytic reduction systems, dry flue gas desulfurization, baghouse technology to combat particulate releases and activated carbon injection to reduce Hg emissions. The end result is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.  (Power Engineering, 6/12/2013)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kemper County Energy Facility

A demonstration of Coal Plant Carbon Capture and Sequestration

New Jersey Leading Other States In Opposing Tesla Direct Sales

Tesla, the electric car manufacturer that sells its vehicles directly to consumers rather than through authorized dealerships, is running into roadblocks in several states that say the company must follow a traditional auto franchise model.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved a rule this week explicitly requiring that all new motor vehicles be sold through authorized franchisees. Tesla does not use franchises, meaning the company will have to close its two Garden State stores by April 1.

Two other states — Arizona and Texas — ban the selling of cars directly to consumers. Colorado and Virginia have also placed limits on Tesla’s ability to sell directly to consumers, and several other states are considering following suit.
In Ohio, the state Senate is considering a bill that would prevent an auto manufacturer from owning a dealership. In New York, auto dealers met with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) last year to advocate for a bill that would have prevented direct sales.
Georgia legislators are also considering a bill that would end a $5,000 tax credit for electric cars, which would hurt Tesla customers. But the same state representative who introduced that bill also proposed legislation that would allow Tesla to sell as many as 1,500 vehicles in Georgia every year. The company is currently allowed to sell 150 cars in the state annually under an exemption from auto dealer regulations.
In Minnesota, Tesla beat back legislation in both the state House and Senate that would have banned direct sales in 2013.

The New Jersey decision caught California-based Tesla off guard.  Tesla criticized the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) for speeding up the rule-
making process rather than allowing the legislature to decide how to proceed. The company said it had been informed that the Motor Vehicle Commission would vote just one day before the meeting took place.

Christie’s office believes Tesla should not have been surprised and that the onus was always on the auto manufacturer to get the legislature to change the rules. According to Christie's office, since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law. The administration did not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation.

Auto dealers stand to lose out if Tesla’s direct-sales model becomes more prevalent. Most states require car dealers to contract with local franchises. Auto dealers say the approach helps create competition and protect consumers.

In many states, auto dealers are powerful political interests, contributing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to state and federal politicians. In the 2012 election cycle, auto dealers contributed more than $16 million to federal candidates and political action committees, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The industry spent at least $3.6 million lobbying Congress in 2013.
In defense of its sales policy, Tesla says marketing directly to consumers and cutting out the dealer middleman helps both reduce costs and introduce the electric car to a public that is not familiar with it.   (Wash Post, 3/12/2014)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Senate 'Sleep Over' Illustrates Pitiful State of Climate Change Policy

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and about 28 other Democrats stayed up all night Monday in a takathon on climate change on the Senate floor.  Democrats control the Senate with 55 seats, but the issue is apparently not so pressing that they could rally the rest of their Senate majority to show up. And it isn't so pressing that Mr. Reid plans to bring any legislation to the Senate floor.

Mr. Reid won't do so because he knows he would lose. In 2010, Harry Reid pulled a cap-and-trade bill from the Senate floor when Democrats had 59 seats and the House had already passed a similar bill. Global warming supporters in the Senate know that a vote on cap and trade, or a carbon tax, or any other measure to raise energy prices would probably end their political careers.

So we are left to depend on pending EPA regulations that will not survive court and technology challenges.  America does not have a global warming mitigation policy.

Interestingly, hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer has pledged to raise and spend $100 million, including $50 million of his own money, to elect Democrats this year who say they want to do something about climate change.  (WSJ, 3/11/2014)

Bipartisan Senate Proposal Envisions Home-Loan Market Without Fannie, Freddie

Nearly six years after the government rescued Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, top members in the Senate and the White House agreed on a framework to wind down the mortgage giants and overhaul the nation's $10 trillion mortgage market. The bipartisan proposal, coming just as the firms have begun to generate huge profits for the Treasury, complicates the picture for a host of deep-pocketed investors who had bet that Fannie and Freddie would be restructured.
 
After initially holding up on the news of the plan, Fannie shares fell 31% to $4.03 and Freddie stock slid 27% to $4.04. 

The plan, by Senate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson (D., S.D) and Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), calls for replacing Fannie and Freddie with a new system of federally insured mortgage securities in which private insurers would be required to take initial losses before any government guarantee would be triggered.

Fannie and Freddie, which don't make loans but instead buy them from lenders, were taken over by the U.S. during the 2008 financial crisis, with the Treasury providing nearly unlimited support. As the housing market has rebounded and reversed losses, the firms have become very profitable. The companies have sent more than $185 billion to the Treasury as dividend payments, and the White House budget office said Monday that the firms could return an additional $181.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The current arrangement, in which Fannie and Freddie are backing nearly three in five new loans while under government control, is "unacceptable," to Mr. Crapo. His proposal with Mr. Johnson provides a balance between providing broad access to mortgages while protecting taxpayers from losses.

Several firms have already filed lawsuits challenging the government's decision to require Fannie and Freddie to pay all of their profits to the Treasury as dividends, which prevents the firms from recapitalizing.

Critics are skeptical of any approach that does not end the permanent government guarantee in the secondary mortgage market. Industry groups believe that any such guarantees are needed to preserve broad access to the popular 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

The Senate framework would allow private entities to purchase an explicit government guarantee to cover catastrophic losses on mortgages issued as bonds from a new guarantor, similar to how the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. regulates banks and provides deposit insurance to minimize bank runs. Rather than issuing separate securities with an implied federal guarantee as Fannie and Freddie did, the new system would see multiple firms issue a common security in which the government would stand behind the payment of principal and interest to bondholders, preserving the deep and liquid markets created over the last 30 years by Fannie and Freddie. (WSJ, 3/11/2014)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

316(b)

The Clean Water Act Section 316(b) rule was not finalized on Jan. 14 as scheduled. Due to the government shutdown in October, the EPA missed a November 4 deadline, so it was extended to January. EPA will release the final rule "as soon as possible."

Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act requires that the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best available technology (BAT) for minimizing adverse environmental impact.

The rule focuses on two parts: impingement and entrainment. Plant owners have eight years from when the rule is finalized to be in compliance with the impingement requirement. How long it will take to comply with the entrainment requirement will be determined by how long the project takes to complete.

Despite pressure from environmental groups and the courts, the EPA decided not to mandate closed-cycle cooling for entrainment in the draft rule.

The Center supports Wedgewire Screens as BAT

EPRI's national closed-cycle cooling analysis four years ago estimated $100 billion to retrofit 450 power plants. Those retrofit costs are now estimated to be at least $50 million per plant, or $22.5 billion total. The system itself could cost $2 billion or more per plant, particularly for nuclear facilities.

Some states are being proactive in establishing permitting requirements, including what they consider to be the best available technology. The state of California, for example, is requiring Pacific Gas & Electric to look into converting its intake system to closed-loop cooling at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

A wedge wire screen is a cylindrical screen that is placed in the water in front of the intake structure. It's a passive screen that gives enough surface area so you're in compliance with the impingement criteria. Cooling towers could bring a facility into compliance with the entrainment criteria, but they are costly and can impact plant performance by raising back pressures and creating other issues.

Larger plants that have been designed with closed-cycle cooling may still have to install modified Ristroph screen with fish returns for impingement compliance.

The finalized rule could include a streamlined or pre-approved approach based on modified Ristroph-type traveling screens for impingement, a credit for protective measures already in place, allowing local permitting agencies to determine BAT through screen velocity compliance, modifying the compliance schedule for impingement and entrainment and modifying monitoring requirements.

Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act would affect roughly 670 U.S. power plants. It would require plants that draw more than 2 million gallons a day and use 25 percent of that water for cooling to install the best technology available (BTA) to minimize the mortality of aquatic life. Losses occur when fish and other organisms become trapped (impinged) against water intake structures or sucked (entrained) into cooling systems and exposed to heat, pressure and machinery. The rule requires the best technology to mitigate what it describes as "adverse environmental impact" resulting from entrainment and impingement. The measure would require some power producers to modify cooling water intake structures or construct new cooling towers.

The 316(b) rule was first enacted in 1972 when Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments. Since then, the rule has been suspended and rewritten several times in a long and drawn out legal battle between utilities and environmental groups.

The EPA has not performed a single study that shows entrainment and impingement impact fish populations any more than commercial fishing. Adverse impacts have been implicitly or explicitly defined as entrainment and impingement per se, irrespective of whether any adverse changes in populations can be demonstrated or predicted. The 316(b) rule does not provide a definition for "adverse environmental impact."  (Power Engineering, 1/30/2014, Power Engineering, 9/9/2-13)

The Ultra-Supercritical Coal-Fired Turk

AEP's Turk is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.
AEP's Turk is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.

AEP's ultra-supercritical coal-fired Turk power plant is a great technological leap forward unlikely to ever be repeated again in the United States.  The Turk project was announced in August 2006 but didn't go online until seven years later.  AEP succeeded in bringing online the most efficient coal-fired commercial power plant ever built.

The 600 MW Turk Power Plant is situated in Hempstead County, in the southwestern corner of Arkansas, where it employs 109 people on a total payroll of $9 million and pumps $6 million in school and county property tax revenues every year, according to AEP. Through its subsidiary the Southwestern Electric Power Co., or SWEPCO, which operates the facility, AEP invested $1.3 billion of the $1.8 billion required to build the plant and the company now owns 73 percent of its output. The remaining ownership is divided between the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., the East Texas Electric Cooperative, and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.

The attribute that makes Turk unique among power plants-that gives cause to append the word "ultra" to the preexisting and more familiar "supercritical"-is that it works just like a supercritical power plant, only better. As an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant, Turk operates at extraordinarily high pressures and temperatures, well above typical supercritical pressures of around 4,500 psi and hotter than 1050 degrees Fahrenheit.

As you increase temperature you increase your efficiencies. By working at such a high temperature and pressure, Turk achieves the highest efficiencies around in coal power generation today; according to AEP, between 39 and 40 percent of the thermal energy available in the fuel comes out as electric power. This level of efficiency in extracting energy from coal allows Turk to use less of the stuff to produce the same amount of power. Less coal burned means less emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, carbon dioxide and particulate matter. It also means fewer waste products and less fly ash, and decreased need for the commodities used in environmental control activities, like activated carbon and ammonia. The reduction in pollutants is combined with the latest emission-control technologies, like catalytic reduction systems, dry flue gas desulfurization, baghouse technology to combat particulate releases and activated carbon injection to reduce Hg emissions. The end result is one of the most efficient, least polluting coal-fired power plants on the planet.

Achieving super-high temperatures and pressures wasn't as easy as just dialing up the heat. Special materials had to be tested to withstand the pressure and temperature of an ultra-supercritical power plant. For use in the facility materials need to have high creep rupture strength, resistance against embrittlement, and low oxidation growth in addition to ease of manufacture and availability. High chrome, creep strength enhanced ferritic steels (CSEF), and nickel based alloys meet these needs.

Unfortunately with the new environmental rules for new generating facilities, the proposed CO2 limits are probably going to prevent another such plant from being built.
"This could very well be one of the last conventional coal burning facilities built in the country. (Power Engineering, 6/12/2013)

AP 1000 Nuclear Reactors Ready For Operation In China

The final module - the containment water tank - has been installed at the first of two AP1000 units under construction at Haiyang in China's Shandong province.

Haiyang 1 CB20 module installed 460 (SNPTC)
The water tank is put in place on Haiyang 1 (Image: SNPTC)

The 285-tonne containment cooling tank (large round component) is a major part of the AP1000's safety systems. It will hold some 3000 cubic metres of water ready to flow down to evaporate from the surface of the containment vessel in any emergency situation where the reactor system may be overheating. This evaporation would help to cool the overall system. The water could also be directed to top up the used fuel pool, while the tank itself can be refilled from water stored elsewhere on site.

In September 2007, Westinghouse and its partners the Shaw Group received authorization to construct four AP1000 units in China: two at Sanmen in Zhejiang province and two more at Haiyang in Shandong province.

The construction of the Haiyang AP1000s is being managed by Shandong Nuclear Power Company, in collaboration with State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC) and China Nuclear Energy Construction Corp. SNPTC has a major role in the transfer of knowledge and technology from the plant supplier, Westinghouse.
Sanmen unit 1 is expected to be the first AP1000 to begin operating. The unit is scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2014. Haiyang 1 is also slated for commercial operation by the end of this year. All four Chinese AP1000s are scheduled to be in operation by 2016. Third and fourth units are planned at both Sanmen and Haiyang.

Four AP1000s are also currently under construction in the USA: Vogtle 3 and its sister unit Vogtle 4 in Georgia, and Summer units 2 and 3 in South Carolina. All of these units are currently scheduled to start operation between late 2017 and 2019. (World Nuclear News, 4/11/2014)

Monday, March 10, 2014

U.S. Forest Projects Offset Protocol Model Document Services

Request for Proposals

Proposal Submissions Due April 15, 2014
 
March 10, 2014 - RGGI, Inc. has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for U.S. Forest Projects Offset Protocol Model Document Services.

The Contractor will provide services supporting the offset component of the Participating States’ CO2 Budget Trading Programs through development of model application and submittal materials and model guidance documents for the new U.S. Forest Projects Offset Protocol.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Inc. (“RGGI, Inc.”) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Mailed proposals must be received by RGGI, Inc. no later than 5:00 PM Eastern on April 15, 2014. Complete submission instructions are specified in the RFP.
 
Contact
All communications regarding this RFP should be addressed to:
Katie Ho
Program Manager, RGGI, Inc.
Phone: (212) 417-7325
Fax: (212) 417-4034

Friday, March 07, 2014

CO2 Allowances Sold at $4.00 at 23rd RGGI Auction

First Auction with New RGGI 2014 Cap The nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first market-based cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, today announced the results of their 23rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

23,491,350 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.00. Allowances sold include the 18,491,350 allowances offered for sale by the nine states and all of the 5,000,000 allocation year 2014 cost containment reserve (CCR) allowances. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.00 to $11.85 per allowance.

The CCR is a fixed additional supply of allowances that are only available for sale if CO2 allowance prices exceed certain price levels ($4 in 2014, $6 in 2015, $8 in 2016, and $10 in 2017, rising by 2.5 percent, to account for inflation, each year thereafter). There are no more CCR allowances available for sale in 2014.

According to the independent market monitor’s report, electricity generators and their corporate affiliates have won 78 percent of CO2 allowances sold in RGGI auctions since 2008. Additional details are available in the Market Monitor Report for Auction 23.

The auction generated $93.96 million for reinvestment by the RGGI states in a variety of consumer benefit initiatives, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and greenhouse gas abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions currently total over $1.6 billion dollars. (RGGI)

To receive announcements relating to future auctions and other RGGI news, please join the RGGI, Inc. mailing list.

Auction 23 Results At-A-Glance
Auction DateMarch 5, 2014
Allowances Offered for Sale18,491,350
2014 CCR Allowances Available for Sale5,000,000
Allowances Sold23,491,350
Ratio of Bids to Initial Supply3.1
Ratio of Bids to Total Supply with CCR2.5
Clearing Price$4.00
Reserve Price$2.00
Proceeds from Auction 23$93,965,400
Total Cumulative Proceeds (All Auctions)$1,661,724,034.96
Number of Bidders in Auction 2345
Percent of Allowances Purchased by Compliance Entities & their Corporate Affiliates in Auction 2345%
Percent of Allowances Purchased by Compliance Entities & their Corporate Affiliates in Auctions 1-2378%
More data is also available at: http://www.rggi.org/market/co2_auctions/results.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

2013 American Wind Power Milestones

American wind power topped 4 percent of the U.S. power grid for the first time last year and has delivered 30 percent of all new generating capacity for the last five years. In Iowa and South Dakota, wind power now exceeds 25 percent of total electricity production. In nine states it provided more than 12 percent and in 17 states, more than five percent.

Wind power generated 4.13 percent of all the electricity in America in 2013 as the fifth largest electricity source in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Department of Energy Energy Information Administration (EIA). That is enough to power the equivalent of 15.5 million American homes, which is equivalent of all the residential households in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and Ohio combined.



Texas, the state with the largest electricity load and the most installed wind capacity, also generated the most electricity from wind energy Ă¢€“ over 35.9 million megawatt-hours, or enough to power 3.3 million homes. ERCOT, the main electric grid in Texas, received 9.9 percent of its electrical generation from wind energy during 2013 and is on track to top 10 percent in the coming years considering the 7,000 MW of new capacity now under construction in Texas.

The top states for installed wind capacity all set records in 2013 for the amount of electricity generated. Texas, Iowa, California, and Oklahoma each generated enough electricity to power more than 1 million American homes.



The geographic diversity and abundance of American wind installations is a reflection of the United States' strong wind resource. In a 2010 study, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported over 10 million MW of wind resource in the U.S., enough to power the equivalent of the nation's total electricity needs 10 times over.

The wind energy industry started 2014 with a record 12,000 MW of wind project capacity under construction and will deliver even more clean and affordable energy to our nationĂ¢€™s electricity generation portfolio.

Access more information on wind generation data and state-level wind energy statistics.  (American Wind Energy Association)

Monday, March 03, 2014

EPA Sets Cleaner Fuel and Car Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized emission standards for cars and gasoline that should significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive.  Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.

The final standards are intended to cut harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks.  The final standards are designed to also improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases from these same vehicles that will also result in average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime. The fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards covering model year vehicles from 2012-2025 are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.

The standards slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, reducing standards for smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establishing a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and virtually eliminating fuel vapor emissions. These standards will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene by up to 30 percent.

The final fuel standards could reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down from 30 to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. New low-sulfur gas could provide significant and immediate health benefits because every gas-powered vehicle on the road built prior to these standards will run cleaner – cutting smog-forming NOx emissions by 260,000 tons in 2018.

The Tier 3 standards cut tailpipe pollution where people live and breathe – reducing harmful emissions along the streets and roadways that run through our neighborhoods and near our children’s schools. By 2018, EPA estimates the cleaner fuels and cars program will annually prevent between 225 and 610 premature deaths, significantly reduce ambient concentrations of ozone and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 260,000 tons. That is about 10 percent of emissions from on-highway vehicles, with those reductions reaching 25 percent (330,000 tons) by 2030.

By 2030, EPA estimates that up to 2,000 premature deaths, 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.4 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $6.7 and $19 billion annually. The program is designed to reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day.

The final standards are expected to provide up to 13 dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards, more than was estimated for the proposal. The sulfur standards will cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $72 per vehicle in 2025. The standards support efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and aids their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

The final standards will work together with California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The standards are designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA’s national program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017.

To meet the cleaner gasoline standards necessary to reduce tailpipe emissions and protect public health, the agency has built in flexibility and adequate time for refiners to comply. For those refineries that may need it, the program would provide nearly six years to meet the standards. In addition, the agency is giving special considerations to small refiners, while offering provisions for compliance assistance in the case of extreme hardship or unforeseen circumstances. (EPA)

More information

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

U.S. DOT Orders Tests on Rail Shipments of Oil

Federal regulators ordered shippers to properly test and classify crude oil from the productive Bakken region before loading it onto freight trains, a move meant to tighten regulatory standards after a spate of derailments and explosions that highlighted the hazards of carrying crude oil on rails.
 
This is the fourth such emergency order by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in the last seven months related to the booming oil-by-rail trade.  The Transportation Department is under pressure to beef up the safety of these trains, a business that has soared in the last two years thanks to the growth of domestic oil production in North Dakota.
 
The order will help ensure that emergency responders are fully aware of the content of the tank cars in the event of a crash or derailment. Failure to comply is subject to civil fines of up to $175,000 a day as well as criminal pursuits that carry jail terms of up to 10 years.
 
Recent accidents have drawn attention to the risks of shipping large quantities of crude oil in unpressurized railcars. The danger was highlighted in July when a runaway train derailed in Quebec, killing 47 people.
 
On Friday, regulators announced that the major railroads had agreed to eight voluntary measures that would reduce the risk of rail shipments, including traveling at lower speeds and adding more braking mechanisms on freight trains.
 
The latest order directed shippers to label crude oil as Packing Group I or II hazardous material. These terms designate the strongest safety groups used by shippers and require the use of “more robust tank cars,” according to the department.
 
The order effectively limits the shipping of oil to the most commonly used type of tank cars, known as DOT-111s. Even those cars, however, are known to break up too easily in a crash. Regulators are also working on new, tougher tank car standards.  (NYT, 2/26/2014)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Supreme Court Hears Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA

QUESTION PRESENTED:

After this Court decided Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that its promulgation of motor vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1), compelled regulation of carbon dioxide and other GHGs under the CAA's Title I prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and Title V stationary-source permitting programs.

Even though EPA determined that including GHGs in these programs would vastly expand the programs contrary to Congress's intent, EPA adopted rules adding GHGs to the pollutants covered. The panel below held the CAA and Massachusetts compelled inclusion of GHGs and, based on that holding, dismissed all petitions to review the GHG permitting program rules on standing grounds. The questions presented are:

1. Whether Massachusetts compelled EPA to in-clude GHGs in the PSD and Title V programs when inclusion of GHGs would (i) transform the size and scope of these programs into something that EPA found would be "unrecognizable to ... Congress," Petition Appendix 345a, 380a, and (ii) expand the PSD program to cover a substance that does not deteriorate the quality of the air that people breathe.

2. Whether dismissal of the petitions to review EPA's GHG permit-program rules was inconsistent with this Court's standing jurisprudence where the panel premised its holding that standing was absent on its merits holding that GHGs are regulated "pursuant to automatic operation of the CAA." Id. at 96a. (ABA, Wash Post, 2/23/2014, Wash Post, 2/24/2014)

Friday, February 21, 2014

BNSF To Buy 5,000 New Crude Oil Tank Cars

BNSF Railway plans to buy as many as 5,000 new tank cars to transport crude oil.  Railroads typically own engines and track but not the tank cars that run on their networks, 99% of which are owned by leasing companies, shippers and railcar manufacturers.
 
BNSF, a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has requested bids from major railcar manufacturers for 5,000 "next generation" tank cars that are more accident-resistant in order to help improve industry safety.

The rail industry has experienced several accidents recently involving tank cars containing crude oil—including a fiery derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people in July and a December derailment of two BNSF trains in North Dakota that triggered explosions and prompted the evacuation of a nearby town.

Oil shipments by rail have ballooned with the development of new oil fields in North America: Major freight railroaders were projected to ship 400,000 carloads of crude oil last year, compared with 4,700 carloads in 2006, according to the American Association of Railroads, which represents freight railroads.

Federal regulators are pressing the industry to improve safety practices, and railroads and energy companies, after meeting with officials last month, pledged steps to enhance tank cars, better avoid derailments and reroute trains around high-risk areas. Petroleum industry representatives agreed to share information on the composition of the oil coming from the Bakken oil fields in the Northern Plains and southern Canada, which the U.S. government has warned may be more flammable than other crude oils.

The main type of tank car used on U.S. railways is known as DOT-111, used to carry goods ranging from fertilizer to corn syrup. There are about 272,100 of these DOT-111 cars in service in North America, according to the Railway Supply Institute, a trade association. About 39,000 DOT-111 cars are used for crude oil, but less than one-third of those are new or retrofitted to meet voluntary safety guidelines agreed to by the industry in 2011 to make them better withstand accidents.

Next-generation cars like those BNSF is seeking are expected to exceed the voluntary 2011 standards, with measures including thicker shields, a thermal protection system and a device to relieve pressure. BNSF didn't give an estimate for the likely cost of the cars, and the industry doesn't typically disclose prices. Current-generation tank cars typically cost between about $120,000 and $175,000, according to industry experts, and the new cars BNSF is seeking would likely cost more, meaning a possible outlay of nearly $1 billion for the Fort Worth, Texas, company. (WSJ, 2/20/2014)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DOE Approves $6.5 billion in Loan Guarantees To Vogtle Nuclear Plant

Vogtle Construction Site
The Energy Department plans to grant final approval this week of $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for two nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia by a consortium led by Southern Company.

The money is part of an $8.3 billion package of loan guarantees that the federal government conditionally approved in 2010.

The reactors will be part of the Vogtle electricity generating facility outside of Waynesboro, Ga., where two nuclear reactors already operate. 
The overall cost for the new reactors at the Vogtle site is estimated at $14 billion.

The loan guarantees show that the White House is committed to the "all of the above" energy policy that President Barack Obama touted in his State of the Union speech last month.  The strategy, which includes natural gas, oil, coal, solar and renewable fuels.  (WSJ, 2/18/2014)

Supreme Court To Hear EPA Climate Change Case

 
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on Feb. 24 on the EPA's 2010 greenhouse-gas rules that imposed pollution-control requirements on facilities such as refineries, steel mills, chemical and cement plants that are expanded or modernized. It is one of two major Clean Air Act cases on the court's docket. The justices separately are considering EPA rules that limit power-plant emissions crossing state lines. Decisions in both cases are expected by July.

Businesses say a win for the EPA could pave the way for the agency to dictate the design and operation of a wide range of industrial facilities, imposing billions of dollars in new costs. A loss could threaten the EPA's immediate ability to require greenhouse-gas controls and complicate its broader carbon-emissions agenda.

The EPA is also attempting to limit carbon emissions more broadly through new regulations—an approach that has been criticized by business groups and Republican lawmakers as regulatory overreach. The agency has proposed rules to limit emissions from new power plants and also plans to propose limits for existing power plants, which now account for about a third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

The EPA concluded in 2009 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health, a finding that provided the foundation for the agency's 2010 regulations, including automobile-emissions standards that are now in effect. Opponents challenged the EPA's core findings and its auto rules, but lost handily in a Washington, D.C., appeals court. The Supreme Court announced last October it wouldn't review those issues.

A trade group of manufacturers said in a court brief that the best-available-technology requirement gives regulators the ability to "impose almost unlimited costs" and intrude into every aspect of a plant's operations, all the way down to "light bulbs in the factory cafeteria."

There is no legal basis for excluding greenhouse gases from the permitting program, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, where it ruled 5-4 that the EPA had the power—and was obligated—to regulate greenhouse gases if it found the emissions to be harmful. (WSJ, 2/18/2014)

Senator Ed Markey Joins Senate Environment & Public Works Committee

 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists Refuse To Recognize Center's Role in Supporting Nuclear Power

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

The Center was the first environmental group to support nuclear power in the United States.  I was the first environmentalist in the United States to support nuclear power.  This support started in 2000 and continues to this day.  But you would never know that if you listened to environmentalists who followed in my footsteps.  Other environmentalists started coming out in support of nuclear power around 2005.  By then, I had carved a significant path of supporting nuclear power, from testifying at NRC hearings and meetings to touring nuclear power plants all over the United States.

I isolated Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York right away as the central domino of the anti-nuclear movement.  If this plant could be closed, the other dominoes would fall too.  I spoke all over New York, from the New York City Council to churches to county and civic meetings to the New York State legislature to the National Governor's Association to national and international forums.  The Center, through its outreach arm, African American Environmentalist Association  (AAEA), currently has full party status in the water permit adjudication and I intend to assure that Indian Point Energy Center gets its water permit(s) and license renewal(s).  I also testified at the water permit hearing for the James Fitzpatrick nuclear plant in upstate New York.  They received their water permit(s) and license renewal. 

I toured the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor facility 40 miles northwest of Beijing in China in 2007.  And I toured the Daya Bay nuclear facility in Guangdong, China.  I toured France's newest nuclear plant in Civaux, France and toured France's LaHague reprocessing facility near Normandy in 2007.  I toured Yucca Mountain in 2005.  I have toured 12 nuclear power plants throughout the United States, China and France.  All of this before most environmentalists ever publicly supported nuclear power. But do they recognize the Center's groundbreaking work?  No.  In fact, they go out of their way to avoid recognizing the Center's work.

Why?  And I have to be brutal here. It is part of the environmental movement's ethic of elitism and racism.  They exclude blacks in hiring and in their distribution of resources.  Plus, they thought (think) that support might lead to notoriety and financial benefits if nuclear power is adopted as a significant global warming mitigation tool. 

The Center has led the documentation of this elitism and racism.  The old school environmentalists relish this elistist status and give lip service to diversity.  They are privately very proud of their elitism.  And very good at denying their racism.  They like to hear minorities whine about their exclusivity (as I am doing right now).  Even new school environmentalists and a recent film are intent upon keeping the Center and me invisible on the nuclear scene.  I suspect they want us to stay in the Negro sections of weatherization, green jobs and renewable energy.

Ahhh.  That felt good.  I have been meaning to get that off my chest for some time.  Oh, and nuclear power is an environmental justice issue.  The emission free nature of nuclear power mitigates air pollution issues in environmental justice communities.  {Videos} [More Videos]

Oh?  So it's not just me:

Center Supports Trans-Pacific Partnership 'Fast Track' Authority

The Center believes "fast track" authority for the Executive Branch would bring economic and strategic value to the United States by streamlining trade negotiations among 12 Pacific countries. "Fast track" authority would require Congress to approve trade deals on an up-or-down vote without amending them.  The authority would apply most immediately to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending trade pact that would include the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.



The White House is pushin for the Pacific trade pact. President Barack Obama has said the trade agreements are a way to boost economic growth, lure high-paying jobs and boost exports. The Pacific pact is also seen as a way to put pressure on China to adopt fairer trade and investment rules or face isolation in the region. The Center agrees.  American jobs aren't going to be created by hiding from competition or making it more complext to export American goods and services to Pacific partners.  In terms of any threat to internet freedom of expression, Congress would still vote on any trade agreement.  We are confident that Congress will protect the integrity of the internet.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) oppose the fast-track bill. Unions and environmental groups have criticized the TPP talks, saying an agreement could pave the way for some U.S. job losses to Vietnam and other low-wage economies in the talks. Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the administration for a lack of transparency in the TPP talks. Mr. Wyden supports fast-track authority in some form and says trade agreements are a way to capitalize on America's strengths, including in new data-intensive technologies. (WSJ, 2/14/2014)

Mary Landrieu: New Chair of Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Senator Mary Landrieu
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is very different from her predecessor, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has moved to chair the Senate Finance Committee.

Landrieu favors building the Keystone XL piepeline, protecting tax breaks or incentives for oil drilling, and placing limits on the power of federal agencies to set mercury or carbon dioxide guidelines for coal-fired power plants. Wyden takes the opposite position on all those issues.

Landrieu supports giving oil companies the right to export crude oil as well as natural gas, while Wyden supports giving natural gas export permits on a case by case basis and does not have a public position on crude oil exports.

Landrieu could try to obstruct some Obama administration initiatives, especially on coal plants. She could work with committee Republicans to fashion legislation closer to the oil and gas industry interests.

Landrieu also wants to increase the portion of federal royalties that goes to states along the Gulf of Mexico coast.  All states get oil and gas royalties in water up to three miles from shore, but the federal government owns the waters beyond that point. She already led the successful fight in 2006 to get 37.5 percent of federal royalties on certain leases off the gulf states directed to those state governments and coastal restoration programs.  But in a compromise, the legislation imposed an annual $500 million cap on payments to the Gulf Coast producing states.

Landrieu has now introduced a bill that would lift the cap and shift revenue from the Treasury Department to the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. Her bill would also let inland states keep 50 percent of the royalty and rental payments on renewable energy produced on federal lands.

Here are some key differences between Landrieu and Wyden:

In 2012, Landrieu voted against a Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) bill to eliminate $2.4 billion in tax breaks for the big five oil companies; Wyden voted for it.

In 2010, Landrieu voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to set limits on the emissions of carbon dioxide, a common greenhouse gas. Wyden voted to maintain EPA’s authority.

In 2012, Landrieu voted to block new mercury and toxic emissions limits for power plants; Wyden supported the measures.

The League of Conservation Voters has given Wyden a 90 percent lifetime record and Landrieu 51 percent.
(Wash Post, 2/12/2014)