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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coal Combustion Waste Storage and Water Quality

On Thursday, April 30, 2009, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment received testimony on the relationship between the storage and disposal of coal combustion waste (CCW) and water quality. The subcommitee is chaired by Dallas, Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, left. [Link to Hearing]

If EPA decides to rule CCW as a hazardous waste, the Center recommends an exemption for beneficial reuses, such as use in concrete production.

Witnesses included:

Barry Wren, EPA, Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response
Michael Shapiro, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water
Catherine McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance
Shari Wilson, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

Eric Shaeffer, Executive Director, Environmental Integrity Project
John M. McManus, V.P. of Environmental Services, American Electric Power
David Goss, Former Executive Director, American Coal Ash Association
Dr. Conrad Volz, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh

Concrete, Cement, Energy, Air, Environment & Fly Ash

Tuesday, March 31 Hearing

Congress Passes Obama's $3.5 Trillion FY 2010 Budget

Congress passed President Barack Obama's $3.5 trillion budget outline for 2010 on the 100th day of his presidency (April 29). The House voted 233-193, with no Republicans voting for it and 17 Democrats voting against it, while the Senate voted 53-43 with four Democratic defections, including Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who announced in the same week that he was switching from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

Budget of the U.S. Government, FY 2010

Department of Agriculture

Department of Energy

Department of the Interior

Department of Labor

Environmental Protection Agency

National Science Foundation

Now They're Saying There's Plenty of Natural Gas. Huh?

Just last year this time, natural gas was in such short supply that energy companies were prepared to invest billions to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to import the liquid methane. Just three years ago, the conventional wisdom was that U.S. natural-gas production was facing permanent decline. U.S. policy makers were resigned to the idea that the country would have to rely more on foreign imports to supply the fuel that heats half of American homes, generates one-fifth of the nation's electricity, and is a key component in plastics, chemicals and fertilizer. Now it is being reported that, due to large new finds and new drilling techniques, there is plenty of domestic natural gas. Go figure.

A massive natural-gas discovery here in northern Louisiana known as the Haynesville Shale, for the dense rock formation that contains the gas, could hold 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That's the equivalent of 33 billion barrels of oil, or 18 years' worth of current U.S. oil production. Oil companies knew about the Haynesville Shale, but it was considered a less viable prospect than the Barnett. The shale lies 10,000 or more feet below ground, where high pressure and 300-degree temperatures are enough to fry high-tech drilling equipment.

Huge new fields also have been found in Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. One industry-backed study estimates the U.S. has more than 2,200 trillion cubic feet of gas waiting to be pumped, enough to satisfy nearly 100 years of current U.S. natural-gas demand.

In the 1980s, Texas oilmen began trying to produce gas from a formation known as the Barnett Shale. They pumped millions of gallons of water at high pressure down the well, cracking open the rock and allowing gas to flow to the surface. Another company combined this method with a technique for drilling straight down to gas-bearing rock, then turning horizontally to stay within the formation. The first horizontal wells produced about three times as much gas as traditional vertical wells. The development of the Barnett Shale almost single-handedly reversed the decline in U.S. natural-gas production. Last year, the Barnett produced four billion cubic feet of gas a day, making it the largest field in the U.S. Other companies such as Newfield Exploration Co., Southwestern Energy Co. and Range Resources Corp. found shale fields across the U.S. The Haynesville Shale is centered in northern Louisiana, one of the country's oldest oil- and gas-producing regions.

The weakening economy has eroded demand for both oil and gas. But natural gas, unlike oil, suffered from a supply glut. U.S. gas production rose 7.2% last year, while oil production fell 1.9%. As a result, oil prices are up 12% since the start of 2009. Natural-gas prices have fallen 41% to their lowest since 2002. Gas producers saw their profits evaporate and share prices slump. Liquefied-natural-gas imports plunged, leaving import terminals nearly idle. (WSJ, 4/30/09)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

EPA Administrator Jackson and Transportation Secretary LaHood to Testify on Recovery Act Implementation‏

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on April 29 on implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Administrator Jackson and Secretary LaHood discussed how the EPA and DOT are working to get tens of billions of dollars in recovery act funding out the door to create jobs, protect human health and the environment, and boost local economies.

When Administrator Jackson was asked about the Green Project Reserve (GPR), her answer made Center staff immediately think about how that component of the ARRA could be combined with our Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR).

The ARRA requires that at least 20% of each State’s capitalization grant be used to fund projects referred to as the Green Project Reserve. The following is a set of examples for projects EPA believes would be eligible. It should be noted that all project eligibility requirements otherwise applicable to the CWSRF program apply to the Green Project Reserve. Under the Green Project Reserve in the CWSRF both entire projects may be considered for inclusion or appropriate identifiable components of larger projects may be considered for inclusion. Whatever projects or project components are included, such projects or project components must clearly advance the objectives articulated in the specific categories discussed in the Green Project Reserve (see GPR link above).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"60 Minutes" and Nuclear Power

As the first and still only environmental group to aggressively and publicly support nuclear power, we wonder if "60 Minutes" will leave us out, as others have, when they finally get around to a comprehensive piece on nuclear power? We came out for support of nuclear power in 2001, years before any other environmentalists in North America. Yet neither the media nor the nuclear industry acknowledge this fact. Admittedly we are an unknown group, but having the vision to figure out one of the major (controversial) solutions to global climate change would seem to merit some mention. To date, we have hardly received any publicity for our early scientific conclusion. Maybe "60 Minutes" will rectify that. Or maybe not.

We have toured nuclear power plants all over the United States, in China and France. We have toured Yucca Mountain and the French reprocessing plant near Normandie. We have testified at numerous Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearings and blogged like crazy to get the word out. We took a chance on publicly supporting this technology well before anybody else in America had the guts to step forward. Such vision and practical acceptance of the scientific facts should be recognized. Yet we hold this truth to be self evident that it might not be recognized even in the face of our ongoing lone environmental group support.

Maryland PSC Should Approve EdF Purchase of Constellation Energy Nuclear Unit

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) is holding hearings this week to determine if Electricite de France (EdF) can buy 49.99 percent of Constellation’s nuclear business. There is some concern, which we find ridiculous, that EdF could have “substantial influence” over Constellation’s regulated entity, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E) Company. If anything, EdF will have a very positive 'influence' on BGE by not only keeping them in business, but also by mitigating global climate change and smog reduction by building a new nuclear power plant at the site. The Maryland PSC should approve this merger with all deliberate speed. The commission expects to conclude its review of the deal in early June.

Constellation and EDF would each choose five board members to vote on company issues, and Constellation would appoint a chairman who would have the deciding vote in all budget, safety and security matters. In December, Constellation accepted a $4.5 billion offer from EDF for nearly half of its nuclear power business, ending a $4.7 billion merger deal with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. Constellation entered into the merger deal in September to avoid filing for bankruptcy after the state of its commodities business significantly deteriorated. EdF, Constellation’s largest shareholder at the time, also entered a bid in September, but it was denied. The decision to break the merger MidAmerican means that Constellation will remain an independent firm headquartered in Maryland with thousands of employees. EDF also plans on moving its U.S. headquarters to Maryland.

Constellation has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval to build a new nuclear reactor in Calvert County next to the company’s two Calvert Cliffs reactors. Building a new reactor could cost between $6 billion and $10 billion. The Constellation-EDF deal has received approval from federal regulators and from the Public Service Commission of New York state, where Constellation also owns nuclear reactors. (MD Daily Record, 4/27/09) (MD Daily Record, 4/28/09)

President Obama Announces Launch of Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

The President is pleased to announce today the launch of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. The Major Economies Forum will facilitate a candid dialogue among key developed and developing countries, help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the UN climate change negotiations that will convene this December in Copenhagen, and advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama has invited the leaders of 16 major economies and the Secretary General of the United Nations to designate representatives to participate in a preparatory session at the Department of State on April 27-28 in Washington, D.C. The preparatory sessions will culminate in a Major Economies Forum Leaders’ meeting, which Prime Minister Berlusconi has agreed to host in La Maddalena, Italy, in July 2009.

The 17 major economies are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Denmark, in its capacity as the President of the December 2009 Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations have also been invited to participate in this dialogue.

Clinton Remarks at the Major Economies Climate Forum

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made four main points during her remarks at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate at the State Deparment on April 27:

"I would like to underscore four main points.

First, the science is unambiguous and the logic that flows from it is inescapable. Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention.

Second, the United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time, both at home and abroad. The President and his entire Administration are committed to addressing this issue and we will act.

Third, the economies represented here today have a special responsibility to pull together and work toward a successful outcome of the UN climate negotiations later in the year in Copenhagen, and I’m delighted that Denmark could join us because they are going to host this very important meeting.

And fourth, all of us participating today must cooperate in developing meaningful proposals to move the process forward."
Full Statement & Video

Monday, April 27, 2009

G.M., Chrysler, Ford & the United Auto Workers Are....

Smaller and on life support.

Retired pensioners must be very nervous about their future. For even if GM survives bankruptcy, they might still have to abandon health and retirement benefits altogether to survive as an operating company. Maybe those who recommend a diversified retirement portfolio were right after all. Fritz Henderson, chief executive of General Motors, at a press conference on Monday at GM world headquarters in Detroit.

Ford Motor Company is the only major U.S. automaker surviving without federal aid even though they lost a record $14.7 billion last year. The company borrowed $23 billion in 2006 to forgo the U.S. bailouts GM and Chrysler received.

G.M. is eliminating another 21,000 factory jobs, closing 13 plants, cutting its network of 6,500 dealers almost in half and closing its Pontiac division. It will be a company one tenth its size at 38,000 union workers from its heyday in 1970 when 395,000 worked at 150 plants. G.M. is currently subsisting on $15.4 billion in federal loans and Chrysler on $4 billion. G.M. is still negotiating with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union and the government wants the union to accept company stock to finance half of G.M.’s $20 billion obligation for retiree health care.


The U.A.W. agreed to a similar health care deal with Chrysler, which has borrowed $4 billion from the government and hopes to get $6 billion more. The union’s new retiree health care trust would own a majority stake in Chrysler in exchange for helping the carmaker save $4.5 billion. It is being speculated that Fiat would ultimately own 35 percent and that 10 percent would be held by the government and Chrysler’s lenders. Chrysler will give the union a 55 percent ownership stake to cut its obligations to the health care trust in half. The deal suspends cost-of-living pay increases, limits overtime pay and reduces paid time off. It also provides for Fiat to begin building cars in at least one Chrysler plant.

G.M. and Chrysler have already received $27 billion in loans and want $21.6 billion in additional loans for a total of $39 billion in loans (does anybody think these loans can be paid back?). Another $5 billion in loans have already been approved for the financing arms of GM and Chrysler. Congress also approved funding last year for $25 billion in loans to help automakers convert their plants to produce more fuel efficient cars. And even more will be needed in federal bailout loans to keep these companies alive. Ford will be in line soon too. (NYT, 4/27/09, Bloomberg, 4/23/09, CNNMoney, 2/18/09, CNNMoney Chart)

Bingaman: Energy Bill to Tackle Key Issues

Statement from Senate E&NRC, Jeff Bingaman, right, Chairman, April 22nd, 2009. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has been working to produce a bipartisan, comprehensive energy bill since the beginning of this Congress. In developing a new energy bill, the committee plans to tackle several key challenges:

1) deploying clean-energy technology;

2) improving energy efficiency;

3) maintaining adequate supplies of conventional fuels as we make the transition to newer forms of energy;

4) increasing energy innovation; making energy markets more transparent; and

5) maintaining the proper balance between energy and environment policies, especially as it relates to global warming.
1) Deploying Clean-Energy Technology. A national renewable electricity standard will enhance the diversity of domestic electricity generation, position the United States to regain the lead in world technology in these areas and prepare our electricity sector for the inevitable requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to more renewable electricity, America needs to implement a smart and robust national transmission grid.

2) Improving Energy Efficiency. A huge source of potential for energy savings is in improving efficiencies in the way that we use energy, particularly in the building sector and appliances.

3) Promoting Conventional Fuels. Our push for new clean sources of energy and greater energy efficiency does not mean that we can ignore our existing major sources of energy. We must make the transition to an energy future where our reliance on traditional fossil fuels will be lessened.

4) Making Markets More Transparent. Better data and oversight over these new market players and forces, if we want energy markets to function effectively in the future.

5) Maintaining the Proper Balance. A robust debate on how best to construct a mandatory regulatory regime to mitigate global climate change.

NRC Approves 40 Year Nuclear Fuel Fabrication License

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed the operating license of Areva NP’s nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Richland, Washington for an additional 40 years of operation. This is the first 40-year renewal of a nuclear facility license in the United States. The Areva facility is licensed to possess and process uranium enriched to a maximum of 5 percent by weight in the isotope U235 for the manufacture of fuel assemblies for commercial nuclear power plants.

The license terms for fuel fabrication facilities are not specified in legislation or NRC regulations. Previously, the NRC had licensed fuel fabrication facilities for maximum terms of 20 years. In 2006, the Commission authorized extending the maximum license term to 40 years. Actual license terms depend on the facility, its safety programs and procedures, and its aging management program.

Areva submitted its application to renew the license on Oct. 24, 2006. The NRC published a notice of opportunity to request a hearing March 15, 2007; no hearing requests were filed. An Environmental Assessment and finding of no significant impact was issued April 3, 2009. The staff’s safety review examined Areva’s programs for criticality safety, fire safety, chemical safety, security and emergency planning. A public version of the staff’s Safety Evaluation Report on the Areva license renewal is available through the NRC’s ADAMS online document management system, by entering accession number ML090760702.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Calif Air Resources Board Passes Gas Content Reg 9 to 1

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed regulations expected to cut gasoline consumption by 25% and encourage development of low-carbon fuel sources for cars and trucks. CARB voted 9 to 1 in favor of the complex new rule that seeks to expand the market for electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles and jump-start a host of biofuels (mostly cellulosic ethanol) to replace corn-based ethanol, as well as oil. The reduction in gasoline will have the result of reducing greenhouse gases. The regulation requires producers, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel by 10% over the next decade. The state wants to cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

Under California's proposal, producers, refineries and importers would be forced to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their fuel by 10% by 2020, and by increasing percentages after that. Currently, California gasoline contains 10% corn-based ethanol, most of it from coal-powered Midwestern plants. Its carbon footprint is as high as gasoline's .But by measuring the "cradle-to-grave" effect of various fuels, the new rule would favor ethanol made from non-food sources. Even "low-carbon" corn ethanol -- such as the kind produced in California using gas-fired electricity and efficient machinery -- has a far higher carbon footprint than so-called cellulosic fuel from landfill waste, trees, switchgrass or sugar cane. (L.A. Times, L.A. Times, 4-24-09)

Ed Markey: Over 3 Decades of Energy Service in Congress

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

I first met Congressman Ed Markey, right, about thirty years ago when he served on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He actually offered me a job after I testified before the Energy Conservation and Power Subcommittee in 1983. Richard 'Dick' Ottinger chaired the subcommittee at the time and I was struck that many of the issues that Markey, now chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, covered this week during marathon hearings were covered back then. The big difference is that adequate funding has been provided via the stimulus package this year to genuinely supercharge the energy efficiency and renewable energy programs we championed in the early 1980s. Yet the global warming challenge looms and legislation is needed to address it.

The hearings this week were to take statements on The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), draft legislation introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey. (More) Markey is also Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

I attended the hearing when Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson presented their testimony on April 22 (Earth Day). I watched the next two days of hearings on C-SPAN2. Ed Markey sat through three full days of hearings and was attentive to each and every of the over 60 persons giving his or her statement. He was neither distracted, impatient, nor self indulgent. He seemed to be genuinely interested in what each person had to say, even as they read their oral statements.
Norris McDonald
What struck me when Chairman Markey was talking about his 33 years of service on the energy committee is that I almost go back that far with him. It made me remember the days when I testified on the Residential Conservation Service (RCS), Weatherization Assistance and Commercial and Apartment Conservation Service (CACS) energy efficiency retrofit programs, among others. Yet here sat Ed Markey three decades later still pushing just as hard for the programs we pushed thirty years ago. Except global warming was not on the radar screen back then. Now there is a new urgency to implement climate change mitigation programs, but a weakened economy has put a question mark over the solutions being offered. Chairman Markey's stamina is inspirational and I too remain energized in trying to solve our energy and environmental problems.

C-SPAN House Energy and Commerce Subcmte on Climate Change Legislation 4-24

Friday Afternoon Session

Former Vice President Gore

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrinch

Americain Clean Energy & Security Act

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Irvine Nature Center

Sometimes someone finds us and we are just delighted to meet them. This was the case with Christina Royster-Hemby, left & below, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Irvine Nature Center, which is located in Owings Mills, Maryland. Our president and founding board member Dr. Eric Watford, M.D., visited Mrs. Royster-Hemby the day after Earth Day and it was quite a thrill. Center president Norris McDonald picked up a pair of binoculars and the book, "Identifying Trees," by Michael D. Williams at the Irvine Nature Center store.

The new center opened in September of last year and is a great facility. The Center had almost 5,000 people at its opening ceremony. The facility has great exhibits inside and outside with snakes, turtles, lizards, barred owls and more. The Irvine Nature Center is a non-profit environmental education organization whose mission is to inspire appreciation and respect for the natural world, to increase awareness of environmental issues, and to encourage individuals to sustain earth's ecosystem.

Founded in 1975, the Irvine Nature Center has earned a reputation for providing quality environmental education for all ages. Irvine provides programs for Baltimore-area schools and the public. They also offer a number of special events each year. The Center has a museum, nature store and a walking trail. Visitors are welcome Monday-Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

America's Climate & Energy Depend on Constellation Energy

If a new nuclear power plant will be built, it will be built by the partnership between Constellation Energy (parent to Baltimore Gas & Electric) and Electricite de France (EdF). Last year, Electricite de France, the energy arm of the French government, bought a 49.9 percent stake in Constellation's nuclear power division. A foreign company cannot own outright an American nuclear power plant. So how does this lead to a scenario whereby Constellation Energy is the savior of America's climate and energy future you might ask? Well nuclear power has to lead the fight to mitigate global climate change, with wind and solar bringing up the rear. Due to a weakened Wall Street and significant increase in the cost of financing a nuke, the French collaboration with Constellation Energy is the best chance for a new nuke to be built in the U.S. within the next seven years.

The Center has been very protective of the proposed third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs site on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. We opposed Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway takover of Constellation because we knew Buffet would not authorize the construction of a new nuclear plant at that site or at the Nine Mile Point site in upstate New York. The switch from acceptance of Buffet's bid to acceptance of the EdF deal cost shareholders more than a million dollars in merger termination costs. But we think the cost was well worth it.

An untimely part of the French deal was a provision guaranteeing 120 senior managers at Constellation $32 million in bonuses meant to keep them on the job at the same time the news came that the company posted a $1.3 billion loss for 2008, cut its dividend, laid off hundreds of employees and pushed through a local rate increase. In response to the criticisms, Constellation's directors fired half of the top management team, including the chief financial officer in response to this debacle. Fortunately, Constellation has hired a climate change visionary and expert in James Connaughton, former chairman of the Counsel on Environmental Quality, as an executive vice president. (Wash Post, 4/24/09)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lisa Jackson Earth Day Statement Before Congress

Statement of Lisa P. Jackson
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Hearing on American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives

Chairman Waxman, Chairman-Emeritus Dingell, Ranking Minority Member Barton, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify about the draft American Clean Energy and Security Act. Let me begin by commending this Committee for embarking on the serious, difficult, and essential work of crafting comprehensive, detailed energy legislation and moving it through an open, careful process in which representatives hold hearings, make amendments, and cast votes. EPA is grateful for your work.

When President Obama was inaugurated ninety-two days ago, the United States found itself in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So the President worked with Congress to craft the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he signed into law sixty-four days ago. That law is now creating good jobs for Americans. Thanks to the Act, EPA is putting Americans to work overhauling clean-water systems, restoring and redeveloping polluted properties, installing clean-air equipment on diesel engines, and cleaning up leaking underground fuel tanks. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also injected an essential shot of adrenaline into the American clean energy sector. Economic recovery would not have been possible without that immediate relief.

But President Obama has leveled with the American people: Lasting economic recovery will come only when the federal government looks beyond the quick fix and invests in building the advanced energy industries that will help restore America’s economic health over the long term. So President Obama has called on Congress to pass forward-looking energy legislation. That legislation should create, here in America, millions of the clean-energy jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. It should catapult American innovators past the foreign competitors who, due to aggressive investments by their governments, now enjoy a head start in the advanced energy technologies that represent the new Internet revolution, the new biotech wave. It should reduce our dependence on oil and strengthen America’s energy security. And it should start, in a real and tangible way, to tackle greenhouse-gas pollution, which threatens to leave to our children and grandchildren a diminished, less prosperous, less secure world.

Twenty-two days ago, Chairmen Waxman and Markey released draft legislation that strives to accomplish those goals. The American Clean Energy and Security Act would introduce a clean energy requirement for American electric utilities and new energy efficiency programs for American buildings. Those initiatives aim to create good American jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. The legislation would launch programs to promote electric vehicles and deploy technologies for capturing, pipelining, and geologically storing carbon dioxide produced at coal-fueled power plants. Those incentives aim to help American companies make up for lost time in the advanced energy industries that will be to the 2010s what Internet software was to the 1990s.

The legislation would institute new low-carbon requirements for vehicles and fuels, and programs to help reduce vehicle-miles traveled with increased transportation options and help for communities that want to plan for sustainable growth. Those proposals aim to reduce America’s dependence on oil and cut back on the hundreds of billions of dollars that Americans send overseas every year. And the legislation would put in place a declining cap on greenhouse-gas pollution. That market-based system aims to protect our children and grandchildren from severe environmental and economic harm, and great threats to national-security while further invigorating advanced, American energy industries.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act draws on the thoughtful legislation that Chairman-Emeritus Dingell and Congressman Boucher drafted last October and is a serious effort at constructing comprehensive energy and climate legislation. We look forward to working with Congress as this bill moves forward to ensure that it meets the President’s objectives in the areas of an efficient and comprehensive approach that creates jobs, leverages our tremendous capacity for innovation, reduces our dependence on oil, and prevents the worst consequences of climate change. I would like to note that the Waxman-Markey discussion draft tracks many of the recommendations put forward by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition that includes American manufacturers such as Alcoa, John Deere, Caterpillar, Dow, Ford, General Motors, and General Electric. Those employers of American workers recognize, as they declare at the outset of their Blueprint for Legislative Action, that:

“The United States faces an urgent need to transform our nation’s economy, make the country more energy secure, and take meaningful action to slow, stop, and reverse [greenhouse-gas] emissions to address climate change.”
I believe that the leadership of this Committee is stepping up to provide the kind of “new vision and policy direction” that those companies talk about. Now, the “no, we can’t” crowd will spin out doomsday scenarios about runaway costs. But EPA’s available economic modeling indicates that the investment Americans would make to implement the cap-and-trade program of the American Clean Energy and Security Act would be modest compared to the benefits that science and plain common sense tell us a comprehensive energy and climate policy will deliver.

I ask the members of this Committee to recall the Acid Rain Trading Program, drafted by this Committee and signed by a Republican President in 1990. Beltway corporate lobbyists insisted that the law would cause “death for businesses across the country.” But as the members of this Committee who worked hard on that legislation know well, it ended up delivering annual health and welfare benefits estimated to be over 120 billion dollars at an annual cost of only 3 billion dollars. Our economy grew by 64 percent even as the program cut acid rain pollution by more than 50 percent. And past auto-emissions standards sparked key technological innovations that made cars more appealing to consumers here and abroad.

Achieving energy independence and reducing carbon emissions are not easy challenges. But this Committee has dealt with difficult challenges before. When Chairman Dingell and Chairman Waxman joined together with other Members of the Committee to pass the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, they were reported out of this Committee by a 42-to-1 vote. That bill dealt with controversial issues – not just acid rain, but also smog, hazardous air pollutants, and the threat to the ozone layer. But you found consensus, and your legislation has ended up cutting pollution at a fraction of the cost that was predicted at the time. There may be more than one dissenting vote this time, but that does not mean that the Committee’s history cannot be repeated this year. We want to work with you in finding consensus in the coming weeks, so that we can reduce our dependence on oil, create millions of new jobs in innovative energy technologies, and significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Thank you. I look forward to the answering the members’ questions. (Source: EPA)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EPA Proposes to Slash Cement Plant Mercury Emissions

EPA is proposing to significantly reduce mercury emissions from Portland cement kilns, the fourth-largest source of mercury air emissions in the U.S. The proposal would set the nation’s first limits on mercury emissions from existing Portland cement kilns and would strengthen the limits for new kilns. The proposed standards also would set emission limits for total hydrocarbons, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide from cement kilns of all sizes, and would reduce hydrochloric acid emissions from kilns that are large emitters.

Mercury and other chemicals flowing into these communities are health hazards for children, pregnant mothers, local residents and workers - people who deserve protection. Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. Americans are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the population of greatest concern.

The majority of the toxic emissions at cement kilns come from the burning of fuels and heating of raw materials. When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates that this rule would reduce annual emissions by at least: · Mercury – 11,600 pounds, a reduction of 81 percent · Total hydrocarbons – 11,700 tons, or 75 percent · Particulate matter – 10,500 tons, or 96 percent · Hydrochloric acid – 2,800 tons, or 94 percent · Sulfur dioxide – 160,000 tons, or 90 percent EPA estimates the benefits of this proposed rule will significantly outweigh costs.

The proposal is in response to a request to reconsider the December 2006 emissions standards for Portland cement manufacturing facilities. EPA will take public comments on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposal if one is requested. Hearing requests must be received within 15 days of publication in the Federal Register. More information

President Obama Will Not Reopen NAFTA Negotiations

The Obama adminstration has announced, through its Trade Representative Ron Kirk, that they have no present plans to reopen negotiations on the 1992 North America Free Trade Agreement. Such negotiations would have involved the possibility of adding labor and environmental protections into the core agreement instead of being side agreements, as they are now. It is historically interesting that the Clinton administration never sent the Kyoto Protocol up to the U.S. Senate for a vote and promoted a trade agreement that many traditional environmentalists and labor see as inadequate on labor and environmental grounds. Ron Kirk is pictured at left with President Barack Obama.

Although imports from Mexico, particularly oil, have exploded under NAFTA, some Midwestern states that have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. Mexico is the third largest exporter of oil the the USA. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and traditional environmental groups are disappointed because candidates Obama and Clinton said they would revisit NAFTA labor and environmental policies during the campaign. Traditional environmentalists, in particular, opposed NAFTA, finding the side agreements inadequate. Alternatively, former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk has been a strong advocate of free trade. (WSJ, 4/20/09)

EPA Reinstates Full TRI Reporting Requirements

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed a final rule to reinstate stricter reporting requirements for industrial and federal facilities that release toxic substances that threaten human health and the environment. The final rule reinstates Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements that were replaced by the TRI Burden Reduction Rule in December 2006. The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Obama on March 11, 2009, mandated that prior TRI reporting requirements be reestablished. These changes will apply to all TRI reports due July 1, 2009. TRI is a publicly available EPA database that contains information ontoxic chemical releases and waste management activities reported annually by certain industries as well as federal facilities.

The December 2006 TRI Burden Reduction Final Rule expanded Form A eligibility for non-Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic (non-PBT) chemicals to 5,000 pounds and allowed use of Form A for the first time for PBT chemicals under limited circumstances. This rule was met with concern over the availability of required data under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and resulted in a lawsuit by 13 states to restore the TRI Form A thresholds and usage to what they were prior to the 2006 rule. Following the rule signature, all reports on PBT chemicals must be submitted on the more detailed Form R. For all other chemicals, the shorter Form A may only be used if the annual reporting amount is 500 pounds or less and less than 1 million pounds of the chemical was manufactured, processed or otherwise used during the reporting year.

TRI-ME software and other reporting assistance materials are being revised and will be available soon. TRI reports for 2008 are due on July1, 2009.

More information on TRI

Questions on reporting requirements

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Future of New Nuclear Power Plants Is At Calvert Cliffs

If there is to be a renaissance in building new nuclear power plants, it will be decided at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant site in Maryland. Located on the Chesapeake Bay, this power plant was the first one to get relicensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Recently, the Center opposed Warren Buffet's attempted purchase of Constellation Energy's nuclear unit and supported the bid by Electricite de France (EdF). We made that decision because we knew Buffet would not build a new plant. We know that EdF, with French government backing, can and will build a third unit with the attendant cooling tower.

Because the price of nuclear power plants has increased so much over the past 8 years, even the consortia among nuclear utilities will be hard pressed to get a weakened Wall Street (to put it mildly) to put up the $6-$10 billion for a new nuke. EdF purchased the nuclear unit for a couple billion or so less. So even though some applications are being processed, at $100 million just for the license to build, the nuclear industry is going to be hard pressed to pull off the needed renaissance in construction of new plants. Plus, new plants will have to have cooling towers. If EdF can start construction, the flood gates could open and the new nuclear power plant construction could begin. However, because EdF is a foreign company, a war of epic proportions will be fought.

The war will pit the nuclear industry coalition against the newly formed Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC). The Center will watch this war with interest because, although we support nuclear power and the third reactor at Calvert Cliffs, both coalitions are hostile to the Center and we are ignored by Constellation Energy. Maybe EdF will see that the Center 'called the shot' on rejecting the Buffet deal and will seek our counsel.

Van Jones & Robert Redford Discuss Green Jobs on CNN

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Van Jones, right, President Obama's new Green Jobs Czar (he doesn't particularly like the Czar part) brings, along with other interesting folk, new energy to Washington's environmental movement. Jones' rise over the past four or so years has been phenomenal, just like President Obama's rise to the presidency. As Green Jobs Adviser at the Counsel on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Jones is not only a major asset to President Obama, he will bring renewed attention to 'greening the economy.' He was great on "Larry King Live," but I have to say that Redford took up a lot of his time. We suspect that Jones will get his time in the spotlight though. He is a great new dynamic presence on the environmental scene.

Actually, a little over 25 years ago, I hung out with Redford for a bit on the Navajo Reservation. Redford was on the board of what is now Friends of the Earth and I spent a few days with him and Navajo Nation Chair Peterson Zah. I think it was 1983 when I first met Redford at the White House Ruins at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona (click on photo below to enlarge). I am in the middle of the photo and Redford is kneeling in front of me. Well let us hope that substantive results will not only come from Jones at CEQ, but let us also hope that Redford will branch out a little bit more into new territory.

Diane E. Thompson Appointed EPA Chief of Staff

Diane Thompson has been appointed as EPA's new Chief of Staff. Ms. Thompson has worked for more than two decades at the highest levels of government and the non-profit world, building experience in law and policy, and advocating on a range of public health and environmental issues. She previously served at EPA as former Associate Administrator for Office of Intergovernmental and Relations (OCIR).

Recently, Ms. Thompson served as Vice President for Public Policy and Communications at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. From 2001-2004, she was an Environment Program officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Ms. Thompson served eight years in the Clinton-Gore administration in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Previously Ms. Thompson was Chief of Staff to Senator Barbara A. Mikulski; a partner in a public policy consulting firm; Counsel for the National Organization for Women and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission; and an adjunct faculty member at Hastings College of the Law, University of California. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a law degree from George Washington University’s National Law Center. (EPA, Congressional Management Foundation)

Kristina M. Johnson Nominated Under Secretary of Energy

President Barack Obama has nominated Kristina M. Johnson, left, as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Johnson will appear before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee on April 23. The Center supports her nomination.

Kristina M. Johnson was appointed provost and senior vice president of academic affairs of The Johns Hopkins University on Sept. 1, 2007. An electrical engineer with 129 U.S. and foreign patents and co-founder of several start-up companies, she is the university’s 12th provost and the first woman to hold the university's second-ranking position. Johnson had previously served since 1999 as dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

In 2004, she won the Achievement Award of the Society of Women Engineers. Johnson graduated from Stanford University in 1981 with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering. She earned her Ph.D. at Stanford in 1984. In 2003, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. (Johns Hopkins University)

Friday, April 17, 2009

President Obama & President Calderon Agree On Energy

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met this week and agreed on reducing carbon emissions fto ight against climate change and on creating green jobs. The two countries are establishing a bilateral framework on clean energy and climate change through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change. The framework will focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation, market mechanisms, green jobs, and low carbon energy technology development and capacity-building.

In 2008, the U.S. imported 1.2 million bbl/d of crude oil from Mexico, of which 97 percent went to the GulfCoast. The U.S. also imported about 100,000 bbl/d of refined products from Mexico in 2008, mostly residual fuel oil, naphtha, and gasoline blending components. Mexico is the 3rd largest exporter of oil to the U.S. after Canada and Saudi Arabia. (EIA)

In 2008, Mexico was the seventh-largest producer of oil in the world. The country produced an average of 3.19 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of total oil liquids during 2008. In 2008, Mexico exported 1.4 million bbl/d of crude oil. The United States receives the vast majority of Mexico’s crude oil exports, which mostly arrive via tanker at the GulfCoast.

(The White House, EIA, UPI)

EPA Issues Finding CO2 Poses Danger To Public Health

EPA Administrator P. Lisa Jackson
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to the public. Although the Obama administration prefers Congressional legislation to address this issue, today's finding by EPA will trigger promulgation of regulations to regulate greenhouse gases. This puts pressure of Congress to accelerate consider of legislation, particularly because many believe the Clean Air Act does not provide the framework to support regulations. The low hanging fruit for regulation includes power plants, oil refineries, automobiles and cement makers.

Although the U.S. has refused to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol, there is pressure to act because greenhouse gas limits under a new treaty on climate change are scheduled to be addressed at a meeting scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings a cap and trade program this month.

The EPA finding comes about two years after the Supreme Court found that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that the EPA can regulate it. After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding today that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat.

EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate. The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change impacts human health in several ways.

In ruling that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, the 133-page endangerment finding summarizes the scientific evidence on climate change and and concludes:
"The case for finding that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger public health and welfare is compelling and, indeed, overwhelming. This is not a close case in which the magnitude of the harm is small and the probability great, or the magnitude large and the probability small. In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem."
Findings from a recent EPA study titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone,” for example, suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:

· increased drought;
· more heavy downpours and flooding;
· more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires;
· greater sea level rise;
· more intense storms; and
· harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.

In proposing the finding, Administrator Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources. In addition to threatening human health, the analysis finds that climate change also has serious national security implications.

The proposed endangerment finding now enters the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process EPA must undertake before issuing final findings. Today’s proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations. Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input. Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy. (EPA, WSJ, 4/17/09)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Calif to Get $260 Million to Improve Water Infrastructure

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, announced this week that California will receive $260 million in economic-stimulus funds to improve its aging water infrastructure. The funds come from the $787 billion federal-stimulus package President Barack Obama signed in February. Of the $260 million pledged by Mr. Salazar for California, $40 million is designated for immediate drought relief. The rest of the funds would be used to improve dams and other infrastructure.

Nearly half of Interior Department's planned investment nationwide -- $450 million -- will go toward meeting future water supply needs. Some $235 million will fund environmental restoration, while $165 million is designated for improving infrastructure reliability and safety.

Californiat is in a state of emergency because of drought conditions and California's water system has not undergone major construction since the 1970s. (WSJ, 4/15/09))

Center Nervous About Plug-In Hybrid Car Development

The Center is very nervous about the capability of America's auto industry to produce and sell plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in large numbers. President Obama's own auto industry task force, which is trying to help GM and Chrysler emerge from the crisis that left them needing $17.4 billion in government loans, casts doubt on the Volt, which will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short term. GM has not announced pricing for the Volt, but it's expected to cost between $30,000 and $40,000. The Center was one of the first environmental groups in America pushing for utilities to get into the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle manufacturing business. Maybe there needs to be a more dynamic partnership between the auto industry and the utility industry. We marry electric vehicles to nuclear power plants to reduce smog, greenhouse gases and reduce our dependence on imported oil.

President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015 is faced with technical and engineering hurdles and the realities of the economy and the price of gasoline. It took eight years to get 1 million hybrids on the road in the United States and the president's goal could help revitalize the struggling U.S. auto industry and begin shifting motorists away from the gas pump. President Obama toured a California Edison electric utility company electric car facility in Pomona, California in March where he announced $2.4 billion to develop advanced batteries and electric cars.

Plug-in hybrids allow motorists to drive a limited number of miles on battery power before the engine switches over to run on gasoline or other fuels. A driver can plug the car into a conventional wall outlet at night and be ready to go electric again in the morning. The cars could dramatically reduce gasoline use because many commuters drive less than 40 miles a day. The administration has said the vehicles would play a role in its goal to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create "green" jobs.

During his campaign, Obama promised $4 billion in tax credits to automakers to revamp their plants to build plug-ins, and a $7,000 tax credit for consumers who buy early versions of the cars. He even pledged to convert the White House vehicle fleet to plug-ins within a year, as security permits, and require half of the cars bought by the government to be plug-in or all electric by 2012. The tax credits were included in the stimulus package.

One of the biggest hurdles is whether their large lithium ion batteries are ready for mass production. Some analysts have pegged the cost of the batteries at $1,000 per kilowatt hour, which could add about $16,000 to the cost of a first-generation Volt and thousands of dollars to a plug-in Prius. None of the major automakers has made a firm commitment on the mass production of plug-ins that would be required to meet Obama's goal. Conventional gas-electric hybrids account for less than 3 percent of the car market and it took about eight years to get 1 million hybrids on the road in the U.S., according to automotive consulting firm R.L. Polk & Company. (AP/AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Dept of Energy Announces $50 Million For Fuel Cell Markets

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has announced $41.9 million in funding to stimulate growth in fuel cell markets. This effort is designed to expand the use of clean and renewable energy sources and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. The funding comes from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for fuel cell technology.

These efforts will accelerate the commercialization and deployment of fuel cells and will create jobs in fuel cell manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and support services. The new funding will improve the potential of fuel cells to provide power in stationary, portable and specialty vehicle applications, while cutting carbon emissions and broadening our nation’s clean energy technology portfolio.

The $41.9 million will support immediate deployment of nearly 1,000 fuel cell systems for emergency backup power and material handling applications (e.g., forklifts) that have emerged as key early markets in which fuel cells can compete with conventional power technologies. Additional systems will be used to accelerate the demonstration of stationary fuel cells for combined heat and power in the larger residential and commercial markets. The increase in manufacturing volume in key early markets will also bring costs down and encourage the growth of a domestic supplier base. A variety of technologies will be developed and deployed, including polymer electrolyte, solid oxide and direct-methanol fuel cells.

The funding includes:

$41.9 million from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund 13 projects to deploy fuel cells – helping to build a consumer base for U.S. fuel cell manufacturers.
Approximately $72.4 million in cost-share funding from industry participants—for a total of nearly $114.3 million. This cost share demonstrates private sector commitment to developing and deploying these clean, energy efficient technologies. More information on DOE’s fuel cell activities.

State-by-State list of awards

Bamboo Can Be Used To Make 'Green' Products

Bamboo: The Green Renewable Resource

Bamboo: An Earth-Friendly Alternative


Bamboo, unlike traditional hardwoods, is a sustainable resource that can be grown quickly, easily, and without the use of pesticides or heavy fertilizers. In fact, it is the fastest growing plant (grass) in the world. The more you cut it the faster it grows as it has a rhizome root system that spreads rapidly. And it regenerates 25 times faster than a conventional hardwood forest. Another upside is that it fights CO2 emissions as it grows by releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Each and every acre of bamboo "eats up" 9,600 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Bamboo is considered a sustainable resource because it grows faster than any other plant on earth. Various types of this woody grass can grow 3 feet or more per day. When grown commercially, it is grown like other horticultural crops and harvested annually. Bamboo regenerates without replanting and requires minimal fertilization and planting. It is also an important economic resource in less developed countries, improving the quality of life of those that are involved in the commercial growth and distribution.

Bamboo as a Building material

Bambooandtikis.com fencing is made of Tonkin cane from southeast China, and has the strength equivalent to Cedar wood. Unlike hardwoods which can take 15-20 years to mature, bamboo matures in 3-4 years and has a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel.

New Green Bamboo Products from BambooAndTikis.com

100% organic Moso Bamboo Rugs -- Extremely durable and beautiful, these rugs can be used on all types of surfaces including hardwood, carpet, tile and cement floors.

Natural Bamboo Tambor Paneling -- Like most matting products, they look great when attached to walls, and ceilings. Designers use this product to produce beautiful countertops and tables when resins are applied over them. A cloth backing adds to the ease of applying construction cement, or wallpaper glues when attaching to various materials.

Thatch and Umbrella Kits -- Thatch roofing is one of the oldest forms of roofing known. Thatch is renewable, fast growing and earth-friendly. BambooandTikis.com carries coco palm thatch roof panels from Mexico (also known as palapas), cape reed panels from Africa, and thatch panels from Fiji.

BambooandTikis.com BambooandTikis.com, one of the largest distributors of bamboo, tikis, and thatch in the United States, is offering new, green bamboo products to eco-friendly consumers.Bamboo and Tikis is a Backyard X-Scapes Company which operates from a 65,000 square foot facility in San Diego, CA. They are one of the largest providers of outdoor and backyard related products in the western United States.

[Note: The Center does not endorse BambooandTikis or any of its products. This information is presented as an educational tool only]

President Obama's High-Speed Rail Plan

President Obama's high-speed passenger rail plan identifies 10 potential high-speed intercity corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New England. Each of the corridors identified by the president's plan are between 100 and 600 miles long. The plan describes trains traveling at top speeds of 150 to 250 mph.

The president's plan would be funded in part through the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan, which includes a total of $8 billion for improvements in rail service. President Obama has also proposed a separate five-year, $5 billion investment in high-speed rail as part of the administration's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget.

The city of Chicago, Illinois, would be the hub of the proposed Midwest Regional Rail System, which would stretch to Madison, Wisconsin, in the Northwest; St. Louis, Missouri, in the South; and Detroit, Michigan, in the East. (CNN)

The rail plan also highlights potential improvements in the Northeast Corridor running from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. Federal grants would also be directed toward separate individual rail projects that are deemed "ready to go," with preliminary engineering and environmental work already completed.

High Speed Rail: Strategic Plan, Route Map, Fact Sheet

The White House

China & South Africa Sign Pebble Bed Modular Reactor MOU

The Center is delighted that China and South Africa have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop a Pebble Bed Modular [nuclear] Reactor (PBMR). The Center travelled to China to tour the only PBMR in existence in 2007. We support the collaboration and intend to be involved in assuring the success of the partnership. The entire continent of Africa has only one nuclear power plant. PBMR uses helium gas as the coolant, which, along with using hundreds of thousands of tennis ball sized 'pebbles' with uranium pellets at the cores, makes it an entirely new type of nuclear plant.

Center volunteeer/consultant John McCormick spoke at the high temperature reactor (HTR) conference last year where the company PBMR and Tsinghua University started discussions about cooperating. Although South Africa's main utility Eskom has been discussing the construction of a PBMR for years, the Chineses have actually constructed a research reactor about 40 miles from Beijing. The Center also arranged for the lead PBMR physicist from China, Dr. Yujie Dong, to meet with American officials and took him on a tour of the city during his first visit to the United States (See videos).

The Center is in the forefront of promoting PBMR technology and we want the USA to get more involved. Center President Norris McDonald spoke to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu right after his Senate confirmation hearing, and after other hearings, about PBMR. The Center hopes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will consider PBMR via its International Activities Office, during consideration of climate change solutions. The Center also intends to share our experiences and recommendations with President Barack Obama. (Atomic Insights Blog)

EPA Using $600 Million From Recovery Act For Toxic Cleanup

EPA has announced that it will use $600 million in new funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the cleanup of hazardous waste (Superfund) sites across the nation. In most cases, this recovery act funding will accelerate the hazardous waste cleanup already underway at the sites and fund new clean-up projects. President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 17, 2009 and has directed the recovery act be implemented withunprecedented transparency and accountability.

The federal Superfund program was created in 1980 to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that pose unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. Superfund sites are often found inindustrial areas hardest hit by the recession. Superfund cleanups are major construction projects that employ thousands of workers nationwide. Since it began, the program has completed mitigation at more than 1,060 of the 1,596 sites on its National Priorities List. The Superfund program is implementing new or expanded cleanup actions at 50 sites around the country with recovery act funds. By starting or accelerating cleanup at Superfund sites, recovery act funding is also increasing the speed with which these sites are returned to productive use. When a Superfund site is redeveloped, it can offer significant economic benefits to local communities including future job creation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

EPA Administrator Jackson To Lead G8 Delegation

EPA Administrator Jackson will lead U.S. delegation to the annual G8 Environment Ministers meeting in Siracusa, Italy. Administrator Jackson will participate in meetings on children’s health and the environment, climate change and biodiversity. This marks her first international trip as EPA Administrator. Administrator Jackson will represent the United States among Environment Ministers from the Group of Eight (Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Canada, and Russia) as well as 12 additional Environment Ministers and leaders of international organizations from around the world.

Administrator Jackson will be an active participant in the meetings, which provide an opportunity for an in depth exchange of views.

Who: EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

What: G8 Environment Ministers Meeting

Thursday, 23 April 2009 Afternoon session: Working Session 3: Climate Change Actions

Friday, 24 April 2009 Morning session: Working Session 4: Children’s Health and the Environment

Presentation of Chair’s Summary

Press Conference

When: Thursday, April 23 - Friday, April 24

Where: Castello Maniace (Via Castello di Maniace, 51) on the island of Ortigia in Siracusa, Italy.

The nearest airport is Catania Fontanarossa.