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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

EPA Issues Final Yucca Mountain Radiation Standards


EPA has established radiation standards for the proposed spent nuclearfuel and high-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. EPA is required to set standards consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and satisfy a July 2004 court decision to extend the standards' duration. The YuccaMountain standards are in line with approaches used in the international radioactive waste management community. The final standards will:

· Retain the dose limit of 15 millirem per year for the first 10,000 years after disposal;
· Establish a dose limit of 100 millirem annual exposure per year between 10,000 years and 1 million years;
· Require the Department of Energy (DOE) to consider the effects of climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes, and corrosion of the waste packages to safely contain the waste during the 1 million-year period; and
· Be consistent with the recommendations of the NAS by establishing a radiological protection standard for this facility at the time of peak dose up to 1 million years after disposal.

Human exposure to radiation varies from natural sources, such as radon and ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and other sources, such asmedical X-rays. The average annual radiation exposure from bothnaturally occurring and man made sources for a person living in the United States has been estimated to be 360 millirem per year. EPA, DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission perform different functions related to Yucca Mountain. Learn more about this action and the roles of the three federal agencies.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mergers & Acquisitions

J.P. Morgan Chase has purchased Washington Mutual (WaMu).

Wells Fargo has purchased Wachovia.

MidAmerican Energy [or Electricity de France] is purchasing Constellation. (10/1/08)

Electricite de France purchased British Energy.

All of this just in September.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

S.C. Closes Low-Level Nuclear Waste Storage Site

A South Carolina state law closed the Barnwell, South Carolina low-level nuclear waste site. Now nuclear waste is piling up at locations for hospitals to research institutions around the country. The law that ended nearly all disposal of radioactive material at the site took effect on July 1, 2008 and now 36 states have no place to ship their low-level waste.

This sort of situation is why the Center created and cochairs the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC) to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to establish the U.S. Nuclear Waste Management Agency (NWMA) to manage all Federal and civilian spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste management programs currently under the control of the U.S. Department of Energy. NWMA would also establish and operate low-level radioactive waste receipt, supplementary segregation, treatment and burial or monitored/retrievable storage facilities on a fee basis.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) carries out the responsibilities of managing the storage of low-level nuclear waste as delegated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as an Agreement State. DHEC:

Regulates the Barnwell low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.
Regulates the transportation of radioactive waste into and within South Carolina
Licenses facilities that process and transport radioactive waste
Provides technical assistance to other areas of DHEC, industry, and government agencies, such as oversight of the Savannah River Site
Provides technical assistance in regulating air emissions of radionuclides at federal facilities
Conducts engineering reviews of waste processes and containment systems
Provides oversight of radiological decommissioning at state and federal facilities
Regulates facilities that manufacture products containing radioactive material

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rhode Island's Offshore Wind Farm: Deepwater Wind

Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri today announced that Deepwater Wind was chosen as the successful developer to construct a wind energy project off the shores of Rhode Island that will provide 1.3 million megawatt hours per year of renewable energy -- 15 percent of all electricity used in the state. It is expected that the project will cost in excess of $1 billion to construct -- all from private investment sources. Deepwater Wind was established to develop utility-scale offshore wind projects in the northeastern part of the United States. The company's major investors are FirstWind, a major developer of on-shore wind projects in the United States, D.E. Shaw & Co., a capital investment firm with deep experience in the energy sector, and Ospraie Management, a leading asset management firm with a focus on alternative energy markets.

Rhode Island has a goal of providing at least 15 percent of all electricity in the state by using renewable energy. Deepwater Wind has pledged a significant private investment in Rhode Island of approximately $1.5 billion with the construction of a regional manufacturing facility in Quonset, and creating up to 800 direct jobs, with annual wages of $60 million. The Quonset facility will manufacture support structures upon which the turbine and its tower are based and will serve the entire northeast.

The exact location of the wind project will be determined from the results of the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) permitting process led by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council in partnership with URI's Graduate School of Oceanography.

The state and Deepwater Wind will now enter a 90-day period to negotiate a
formal development agreement. The final agreement will include the total commitment to Rhode Island made by Deepwater Wind, including the establishment of a manufacturing headquarters in the State and the reimbursement of the cost of the SAMP to the Renewable Energy Fund.

First Wind, based in Newton, Massachusetts, is a leading developer of onshore wind projects in the United States. First Wind's portfolio of wind energy projects includes 5,507 MW of capacity of which 92 MW were operating and 182 MW were under construction. Their projects now in operation include projects done in cooperation with government regulators and the community in environmentally sensitive areas of Hawaii, New York, and Maine.

D.E. Shaw, based in New York, New York, is a global investment and technology development firm with more than 1,300 employees; approximately $39 billion in aggregate investment capital; and offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Source: Office of the Governor, Amy Kempe, 401-222-8290

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Light Emitting Diode: Successor To Compact Fluorescents?


Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) use 85% electricity than other incandescent light bulbs and 50% less in than compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They cost more than CFLs because they are still relatively new with limited production. Just as with CFLs, the more they are produced and purchased, the more the price will come down.


Philips Light, part of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics has invested in purchasing LED manufacturing companies. Cree Inc based in Durham, North Carolina also produces LEDs.

Another environmental advantage of LEDs is that they do not contain mercury like CFLs. LEDs consist of a small semiconductor that emits photons when electricity is applied. You probably recognize them as indicator lights on small appliances and stereo equipment. The LED lasts 30 times longer than incandescent light bulbs and five times longer than CFLs. Source: The Wall Street Journal, 9/15/08

Is 'Mark-to-Market' Similar To 'Check Kiting?'

In accounting and finance, mark to market is the act of assigning a value to a position held in a financial instrument based on the current market price for that instrument or similar instruments. For example, the final value of a futures contract that expires in 9 months will not be known until it expires. If it is marked to market, for accounting purposes it is assigned the value that it would fetch in the open market currently.

Example: If an investor owns 100 shares of a stock purchased for $40 per share, and that stock now trades at $60, the "mark-to-market" value of the shares is equal to (100 shares × $60), or $6,000, whereas the book value might only equal $4,000. [Source: Wikipedia]

This accounting method is also being held responsible for some of the financial crisis. Doesn't Mark-to-Market sound just like having 40 dollars in your checking account, but you will have twenty more dollars in there in two weeks but you go ahead and write a check for $60 to cover a bill right now? I think the American public understands what is going on. That extra $20 dollars did not come in and the check bounced.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Describes the Past Two Weeks

The financial crisis paper of record describes the actions of the federal government in the last two weeks to free market private enterprise:

1) Nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and flooded the mortgage market with taxpayer funds to keep it going [fired their chief executives (Herb Allison replacing Daniel Mudd at Fannie and David Moffet replacing Richard Syron at Freddie) and run by the Federal Housing Finance Agency].

2) Crafted a deal to seize the nation's largest insurer, American International Group Inc, fired its chief executive and moved to sell it off in pieces [The Federal Reserve gave AIG an $85 billion rescue loan in exchange for an 80% ownership stake in the company].

3) Extended government insurance beyond bank deposits to $3.4 trillion in money-market mutual funds for a year.

4) Banned, for 799 financial stocks, a practice at the heart of stock trading, the short-selling in which investors seek to profit from falling stock prices.

5) Allowed or encouraged the collapse or sale of two of the four remaining, free-standing investment banks: Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

6) Asked Congress by next week to agree to stick taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars of illiquid assets from financial institutions so those institutions can raise capital and resume lending.

The WSJ on its Sept 20-21, 2008 Opinion page gives us a cautionary warning:
"As for insuring money-fund deposits, this too carries substantial taxpayer risk. The Treasury money-fund protection is unlimited, while insurance on bank deposits stops at $100,000. As word of this disparity spreads, millions of Americans will figure out that they should drop their bank savings account and get into a higher-yielding (and now also protected) money fund. Even if Treasury levels this playing field, money funds will have the advantage because of their higher return. Fund managers may also be encouraged to take greater risk, knowing that they have
Uncle Sam's guarantee."

Contagion: Toxic Stocks, Toxic Securities, Toxic Paper

Blue chip securities are not what they used to be. Now many are being described as 'toxic.' The stock market environment is clearly contaminated. Emergency mitigation is being contemplated by Congress, which is considering making the Treasury Department the financial markets EPA. Wall Street is on Congress' Superfund List and is being scheduled for clean up. Let's hope there is less litigation that in EPA's real Superfund Program. Of course, this toxic paper from money market funds is needed to keep factories open so that people can keep their jobs. This money market paper was supposed to be available to maintain confidence in the financial markets, particularly banks borrowing from banks. Unfortunately when this commercial paper became toxic, the Fed, which is supposed to be the lender of last resort, has become the bailout lender of first resort. Now Treasury wants to buy up these bad loans and assets from troubled companies and could auction them off at some point in the future.

Now the Treasury Department wants Congress to approve a $700 billion blanket bailout power so that the Treasury Department can buy illiquid asets from American financial institutions in order to stabilize markets. This comprehensive approach quickly replaced the one-at-a time rescues of the previous weeks. Unfortunately, before this legislation could be approved quickly, Congress, particularly the House, is very reluctant to give the Treasury Department this much money and that much power. They will probably approve something that has them looking over Treasury's shoulder and maybe even needing Congressional approval for purchases over a certain amount. Plus, seeing that it is an election year, many members want a special funding mechanism that would help homeowners in trouble with their mortgage payments. Such assistance, combined with fixes, such as the Federal Housing Finance Agency running both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will get our economy back on track. In a perfect world, maybe recession can even be avoided.

Black September, Black Wednesday, Black Bear

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 will be known as 'Black Wednesday' even though the stock market hit bottom on Thursday. Black Wednesday symbolized the temporary failure of top flight capitalism in America. As with collosal failures in many businesses and markets, greed was at the core of this meltdown. Speculators and short sellers are two of the primary culprits. Greedy home purchasers and unscrupulous mortgage bankers are right up there with them. We add speculators to the list because of their manipulation of the oil market at the worst possible time. Maybe they already picked the bones of the housing market and needed a commodity to manipulate. They speculated before Black Wednesday and now they are coming back for more. The price of oil rose by $25 in one day a week after Black Wednesday.

Short selling is the selling of a security (stock) that the seller does not own. The stock is borrowed. Short sellers assume that they will be able to buy the stock at a lower amount than the price at which they sold short. They make money by basically buying low and selling high, pocketing the difference between the lowered stock price and the higher price of the borrowed stock when it is returned. Selling short is the opposite of going long because short sellers make money if the stock goes down in price. Doesn't it sound like a racket? It also begs for insider trading. One might know that a stock price is going to drop by studying a company, but if one has inside information that the company is in trouble, it would be very easy to profit from short selling. Clearly something is wrong with the practice because the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has banned short selling of 799 stocks for ten days, which will probably be extended for 30 days. Some think this is catering to CEOs who don't want investors betting on their stock falling. Maybe when the markets stablize, short selling can return, but there should be more oversight because of its inherent structure that can be abused.

More on Selling Short, Wiki: To profit from a stock price going down, short sellers can borrow a stock and sell it, expecting that it will be cheaper to repurchase in the future. When the seller decides that the time is right (or when the lender recalls the shares), the seller buys back the shares in order to return them to the lender. The process generally relies on the fact that securities are fungible, so that the shares returned do not need to be the same shares as were originally borrowed. The short seller borrows from their broker, who usually in turn has borrowed the shares from some other investor who is holding his shares long; the broker itself seldom actually purchases the shares to lend to the short seller. The lender of the shares does not lose the right to sell the shares.

Housing Bubble Burst Creates Toxic Assets

We knew that housing prices seemed too high for many years. In the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area alone, we wondered how federal government workers could afford $800,000 mortgages for what looked like $300,000 homes. This is just to illustrate that there has been more than just the subprime crunch going on out there. We also wondered how mortgage backed securities could make enough money to service a trillion dollars in debt yet still generate profits to keep stock prices high. Well that bubble burst as it had to and now Wall Street wants welfare. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns and AIG went on welfare first. Now their associates are lining up to get public assistance. Although the situation is dire, and while Bernanke, Paulson and Cox are testifying in the Senate for an emergency $700 billion food stamp, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are rebelling against the proposed bail out package. Moreover, nobody really knows if the Wall Street bailout will work or whether it will simply end up being the first installment of an unlimited credit card. Financial instruments are now being described as toxic assets.

So what is the solution? We propose a hybird that includes some relief for Wall Street combined with some significant relief for mortgage holders and renters alike. Maybe $4,000 to each taxpayer and that combined with the stimulus package payment of $600 earlier this year would get American capitalism back on track. At a minimum it might give us all time to figure out how to get the economy humming again without becoming a complete socialist state. China is rolling in money because they have yet to become addicted to debt. Yet they are buying our paper and Heaven only knows what will ever happen if those chickens ever come home to roost. That check could bounce. Our guess is that they will want military equipment and technology in return. Mao would. [Hat Tip: Sharon Welborn]

Friday, September 19, 2008

United States and China Cooperate on Emissions Reduction

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed more than $1 million to study the economicand technical feasibility of recovering and using methane from coal mines in China. If methane recovery programs are implemented at allthree project sites, up to large amounts of carbon dioxide each year. Under its commitment to the Methane to Markets partnership, EPA is conducting three full-scale feasibility studies at the Luizhang Mine inAnhui Province, a group of six mines in the Songzao coal basin in Chongqing, and a group of six mines in the Hebi region of Henan Province. The studies will:

· determine the amount of methane emitted from each mine,
· study the end uses for captured methane,
· evaluate different methane-capture technologies, and
· estimate the costs and profits of a methane recovery and use program.

Mining coal allows methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, to escape into the atmosphere. In addition, methane is the primary constituent of natural gas and an important energy source.

The U.S. and China work collaboratively to promote the recovery of coal mine methane through the Methane to Markets partnership, the U.S. EPA's Coalbed Methane Outreach Program, the China Coalbed MethaneClearinghouse, the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue.

Methane to Markets, launched in 2004, is a public/private partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the cost-effective,near-term recovery and use of methane, while providing clean energy to markets around the world. China and the U.S. were two of the foundingmembers of the partnership, which has grown to include 27 countries and more than many private sector entities, financial institutions, nongovernmental agencies and other organizations. More information on Methane to Markets projects and Information on Coalbed Methane Outreach Program.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Warren Buffett Buys Constellation Energy Group

Constellation Energy Group has agreed to sell to Warren Buffett's, right, MidAmerican Energy Holdings for $4.7 billion, or $26.50 per share. Constellation is the owner of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. MidAmerican Energy Holdings is controlled by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate based in Omaha, Nebraska. The deal was unanimously approved by both companies' boards but still requires approval from shareholders and governmental officials and is expected to close within nine months.

Constellation was experiencing significant financial problems because Standard & Poors threatened to downgrade the company. In fact, recent concerns about its liquidity sent the stock down nearly 60 percent. Standard & Poor's placed Constellation's investment-grade "BBB" debt ratings on Credit Watch" developing. Who knows what effect this will have on the EdF and Constellation joint venture, Unistar Nuclear, to build an EPR nuclear reactor at the Calvert Cliffs site. (The Baltimore Sun, 9/18/08)

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Memoriam: Robert J. Knox

Bob Knox was a friend and inspiration to AAEA as he was to many other institutions and people all over the country.

Robert J. Knox was a founding Deputy Director and former Acting Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Justice(OEJ). Mr. Knox was an engineer by training and he began his career in Region 4 as a manpower development specialist working on water related issues. He moved to Region 2 where he led manpower and training programs.

In the early 1980s he served as the Director of the Office of Civil Rights. Thereafter, he was the Hazardous Waste Ombudsman for OSWER. When the Office of Environmental Justice was formed in 1992, he served as the founding Deputy Office Director with Dr. Clarice Gaylord, then OEJ Director. Bob spent his last 12 years in EPA working on community engagement activities. Bob retired from EPA in December 2004. In his retirement, he began taking coursework toward a masters degree from Howard University's School of Divinity. He was also a former deacon at the Gethsemane Baptist Church.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Energy Plan 2008: Democrats versus Republicans

Democrats

  1. Allow drilling 100 miles off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and in the gulf off the west coast of Florida. The limit could be amended to 50 miles offshore with the approval of each state's governor and legislature.
  2. End tax breaks for oil companies.
  3. Apply royalties from increased drilling and money from rescinded tax breaks to creation of more renewable energy sources.
  4. Include a loan program of $25 billion to $50 billion to help the auto industry transition to the production of vehicles that use clean fuels.
Republicans

  1. Allow offshore drilling in the same locations without the mileage limits imposed by Democrats.
  2. Allow exploration of oil shale in the Rocky Mountain West.
  3. Apply royalties from increased drilling to the search for renewable energy sources.
Sources: The Washington Post, House Democrats and Republicans.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

EPA Releases 2007 TRI Data

EPA has releases the 2007 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Data using the Electronic Facility Data Release(e-FDR) to better inform communities about releases of toxic chemicals from industrial facilities in their area. This is the 5th annual Electronic Facility Data Release(e-FDR) and displays the TRI data exactly as received by EPA from thefacilities - one form for each chemical at a facility. Many stakeholders have requested that EPA share TRI data sooner and in theformat received, without waiting for further analysis. The "raw" data released today are not grouped in any way or are as easily searchable as the traditional Public Data Release (PDR), which also includes morequality checks, national trends and analysis. EPA will still publish the complete 2007 PDR in early 2009.

TRI provides American communities with vital information on chemical releases including disposal of chemicals. In addition, TRI tracks releases of chemicals and industrial sectors specified by the EmergencyPlanning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also mandates that facilities report data onother waste management activities such as treatment, recycling, and energy recovery. Get the e-FDR. Contact: Suzanne Ackerman (202) 564-4355

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NRC Officially Reviewing DOE Yucca Mountain Application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will take four years to review the 8,600-page Department of Energy (DOE) application to store 77,000 tons of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Why it will take DOE that long to decide whether to grant permission for the site to proceed is beyond us. Would someone at DOE please tell us why this review cannot be completed in one year? DOE submitted the application in June after years of delay. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act targeted the dump to be open by 1998. What happened? We know but the question expresses our frustration. The Center supports Yucca Mountain as the appropriate location for the repository. We would also like to see reprocessing there too.

About $14 billion has already been spent on the repository and the total cost is now estimated to be $96 billion. Why so much? The five-mile tunnel is already dug out. The opening date has been pushed back repeatedly and the best-case scenario is now 2020. This is the very reason we formed the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC) to work for taking the nuclear waste function out of DOE and placing it in an agency that only focuses on nuclear waste. AAEA President Norris McDonald is pictured standing at the tunnel exit hole at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. (AP)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plug-In Electric Hybrid

Finally, someone is producing the car we have been salivating over for a decade. The Honda FCX Clarity is a hydrogen fuel-cell lithium ion plug in electric car. Hydrogen gas from the car's fuel tank and oxygen in the air pass through membranes in the fuel cell, resulting in an electrochemical reaction that generates electricity to run the motor and produces water vapor as exhaust. A backup lithium-ion battery pack helps when more power is needed than the fuel cell is producing. About 200 go to consumers in the next three years. Most will be leased for $600 a month to Southern Californians who have other cars and live near one of three 24-hour public hydrogen stations. Each Clarity costs Honda some $200,000 to manufacture.

The test car's 61 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in suburban use equated to 62 miles per gallon of gasoline. Washington, D.C.'s only public hydrogen pump, a Shell station, charged $8.18 per kg. So, $8.18 for 61 miles in Clarity, vs. about $9.35 in a 24-mpg, four-cylinder Accord. Honda's developing a home-fill unit. It would hook to a residential natural gas line and produce hydrogen for your fuel-cell car, heat for your home's water and electricity for your house. Honda won't predict timing or price. Honda FCX Clarity:

• What? Limited-production, midsize, front-wheel-drive, four-door, four-passenger sedan powered by electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell backed up by lithium-ion battery pack.
• When? First was delivered July 25 in Southern California, where public hydrogen filling stations make a hydrogen car feasible.
• Where? Built at Tochigi, Japan.
• Why? To field-test production hydrogen cars in customers' hands.
• How much? Leased for $600 a month for three years.
• How many? About 200 the next three years, most in the U.S., a few in Japan.
• How potent? Electric motor is rated 134 horsepower, 189 pounds-feet of torque. Lithium-ion battery pack is rated 288 volts.
• What's missing? Power seats, sunroof, leather, auto on/off headlights. Otherwise loaded.
• How big? Four inches shorter than Honda Accord, about 200 lbs. heavier, otherwise similar. Clarity is 190.3 inches long, 72.7 in. wide, 57.8 in. tall on a 110.2-in. wheelbase. Weighs 3,582 lbs. Passenger volume is listed as 100.8 cubic feet.Trunk: 13.1 cubic feet with under-floor storage well. Carries up to 700 pounds of people, cargo.
• How thirsty? Rated 77 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in town, 67 on the highway, 72 in combined driving. That equates to 79/68/74 mpg of gasoline, according to Honda.Regular-production test car's trip computer showed 61 mpkg in suburban driving.Tank holds 4.1 kg hydrogen compressed at 5,000 lbs. per square inch.
• Overall: System whines a little. (USA TODAY, 9/5/08)

BLM Issues EIS for Oil Shale and Tar Sands

The Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has issued a final environmental impact statement to open 2.4 million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to oil-shale and tar-sands development. The 1,800-page environmental-impact statement is the first step towards figuring out how to get to this oil in an environmental friend and economically viable manner. According to the BLM plan, getting at the oil will require the construction of a 1,500- to 2,400-megawatt power plant and about three barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced. Two very large nuclear plants should be used to generate this electrical capacity. The technologies to extract the oil are still experimental, making it difficult to know the real impact.

Despite Thursday's release of the final environmental-impact statement, extraction of oil shale won't happen anytime soon. The BLM is still blocked by congressional moratorium from issuing a plan to actually lease the land, and it could be years before the technology to actually extract the oil is perfected. Commercial leasing of oil shale will not occur for at least a decade because companies have yet to develop mature technologies. If Congress lifts the moratorium and the BLM is able to issue a Record of Decision on those proposed rules, then companies could potentially nominate lands for commercial oil shale leases. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 declared “oil shale and other unconventional fuels to be strategically important domestic energy sources that should be developed to reduce the nation’s growing dependence on imported oil.

Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing organic matter from which oil may be produced, either through heat or a chemical process. According to the Interior Department, the deposits under Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have about three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that there are 800 million barrels of oil in the shale and sands, which is enough to meet the U.S. demand for imported oil for 110 years.

Most research into oil shale recovery in Colorado is focusing on in-situ processing, which means extracting hydrocarbons without having to mine oil shale. Many in the area recognize Shell as the leader in that effort.The current plan by Shell Exploration and Production is to lower electrical heaters into the rock formation and heat it to 650 to 700 degrees over a period of three to four years. When the oil shale gets to a suitable temperature, the hydrocarbon material — called kerogen — becomes a vapor. When it is pulled to the surface, it cools and condenses to produce a liquid that is two-thirds oil and one-third natural gas.The company is also developing a “freeze-wall” technology that is intended to build a frozen wall that protects the surrounding water formations from hydrocarbons during the oil shale conversion process. The freeze wall sounds like science fiction to us. Get the PEI.

[Hat tip: Gristmill, Sources: The Daily Sentinel, Post Independent, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

EPA Provides Clean Water Permit Fee Program Incentives

EPA is issuing a new rule that will provide financial incentives for states to use fees when administering a clean water permit program. EPA can give up to a total of $5.1 million to states that have adequate permit fees for their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) programs. This rule is designed to encourage states to voluntarily implementadequate fee programs and shift part of the financial burden to thosewho benefit from the permits. It will also allow states to move funds to the critical water quality program activities.

The increased cost of administering water permit programs has already prompted some states to implement permit fee programs to cover some costs. A number of states, however, still operate with little or no reliance on permit fees. The permit fee incentive will only be made available if federal funding for state water pollution control programs is more than the fiscal year 2008 level. Therefore, state grants will not decrease as a result of this rulemaking. The rule will be in effect for the fiscal year 2009 grant cycle and beyond. As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit program controlswater pollution by regulating municipal, industrial and related sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. About the Water Pollution Control Program Grants.

Contact Information: Enesta Jones (202) 564-4355

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

EPA Adds 6 and Proposes 11 Sites to Superfund List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding six new hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health and the environment to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. EPA is also proposing to add 11 other sites to the list. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country.

To date, there have been 1,587 sites listed on the NPL. Of these sites, 329 sites have been deleted, resulting in 1,258 sites currently on the NPL. With the proposal of the 11 new sites, there are 64 proposed sites awaiting final agency action: 58 in the general Superfund section and six in the federal facilities section. There are a total of 1,322 final and proposed sites.

Contaminants found at the final and proposed sites include arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), selenium, silver, sulfuric acid, tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethane (TCA), trichloroethene (TCE), vinyl chloride, and zinc.

In addition, EPA is withdrawing the proposal to add the Kennecott (South Zone) site in Copperton, Utah to the NPL because all cleanup projects have been completed and no further EPA actions are needed.

With all Superfund sites, EPA tries to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting significant cleanup at the site. Therefore, it may be several years before significant cleanup funding is required for these sites.

Sites may be placed on the list through various mechanisms:
· Numeric ranking established by EPA's Hazard Ranking System.
· Designation by states or territories of one top-priority site.
· Meeting all three of the following requirements:

· The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the U.S. Public Health Service has issued a health advisory that recommends removing people from the site;
· EPA determines the site poses a significant threat to public health; and
· EPA anticipates it will be more cost-effective to use its remedial authority than to use its emergency removal authority to respond to the site.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for these final and proposed sites.

The following six sites have been added to the National Priorities List:

Iron King Mine – Humboldt Smelter (Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz.)
Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock (Creede, Colo.)
Flash Cleaners (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Aberdeen Contaminated Ground Water (Aberdeen, N.C.)
East Troy Contaminated Aquifer (Troy, Ohio)
Old Esco Manufacturing (Greenville, Texas))

The following 11 sites have been proposed to the National Priorities List:

B. F. Goodrich (Rialto, Calif.)
Raleigh Street Dump (Tampa, Fla.)
Arkla Terra Property (Thonotosassa, Fla.)
U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery, Inc. (East Chicago, Ind.)
Fort Detrick Area B Ground Water (Frederick, Md.)
Curtis Papers, Inc. (Milford, N.J.)
Behr Dayton Thermal System VOC Plume (Dayton, Ohio)
New Carlisle Landfill (New Carlisle, Ohio)
Borit Asbestos Tailings Pile (Ambler, Pa.)
Barite Hill/Nevada Goldfields (McCormick, S.C.)
U.S. Magnesium (Tooele County, Utah)

Contact: Latisha Petteway, (202) 564-4355

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Treasury Dept Creates Environment & Energy Position

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has created a new position at the Treasury Department and has appointed William 'Billy' A. Pizer, right, to be its new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy. The position was created to coordinate the department's growing role in domestic and international programs addressing environmental and energy concerns.

The new office will be Treasury's focal point for development of policy options to address climate change. The office will oversee international financial mechanisms to support U.S. and global environmental goals. A resource on energy and environmental issues, Pizer spent the past 12 years at Resources for the Future (RFF), where he worked on environmental policy. His last position at RFF was Senior Fellow and Director of Research. Pizer has a Ph.D., M.A. in economics, Harvard University, 1996 and a B.S. in physics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1990.