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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

EPA & BPC 40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) are sponsoring The 40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act: Public Health Improvements, Technology Advancements, and Remaining Air Quality Challenges conference on September 14, 2010, at the Mellon Auditorium, Washington DC.

Registration to confirm your participation by registering on the following site (due by Sept 3).

Conference agenda with confirmed speakers and more specific topics for presentations and panel sessions. BPC will be hosting a reception after the conference at the Mellon Auditorium from 4:30 pm to 7 pm.

In addition the conference will be accessible to remote audiences via webcast (EPA) or (BPC).

Biden Releases Report Showing Recovery Act Energy Impact

On August 24 Vice President Joe Biden, left, unveiled a new analysis showing that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $100 billion investment in innovation is helping accelerate significant advances in science and technology. According to "The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy through Innovation," the United States is now on track to achieve three major energy innovation breakthroughs thanks to Recovery Act investments:

1) cutting the cost of solar power in half by 2015;

2) reducing the cost of batteries for electric vehicles by 70% between 2009 and 2015; and

3) doubling U.S. renewable energy generation and renewable manufacturing capacity by 2012.

The report projects cost of the typical all-electric vehicle (EV) battery will shrink from the current $33,000 to $10,000 in 2015, while plug-in hybrid batteries will drop from $13,000 to $4,000 apiece. These cuts will make EVs and hybrids competitive with similar non-electric vehicles.

Additionally, the United States is poised to both double renewable energy generation and renewable manufacturing capacity by 2012, aided by more than $23 billion of Recovery Act investments. The Recovery Act strategy calls for the doubling of U.S. renewable energy manufacturing capacity from an annual output of 6 GW of renewable equipment (such as wind turbines or solar panels) to 12 GW by the end of 2011. (DOE)

DOE Press Release

White House Innovation Web Site

Full Report (PDF 1.3 MB)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Center Presents Statement at EPA Coal Ash Hearing

FULL WRITTEN STATEMENT

Center President Norris McDonald provided comments at the EPA hearing on coal ash at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia. He also submitted a more detailed written statement for the record.

Norris McDonald with EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery Staff

The Center recommended a hybrid of the two proposed rules as the final rule. Coal combustion residuals (CCR) [1] (Coal Ash) should be ruled as hazardous if it is not directed to beneficial reuse. The Center is taking the best from both proposals and combining them into a rule that will both stimulate beneficial reuse while policing indiscriminate warehousing of such waste that can then pose a risk to surrounding communities.

The Center recommended that beneficial reuse should include utilizing coal ash as a substitute for Portland cement in the production of concrete. Beneficial reuse should exclude the use of CCR in residences. Our proposal should also eliminate the shipment of residuals to landfills in vulnerable communities.

The Center combines the two proposals by: making the effective date one year after the final rule is promulgated for most provisions; requiring state and local enforcement; the corrective action being self-implementation combined with monitoring by States and EPA; no requirement for financial assurance or permit issuance; requirements for storage, including containers, tanks, and containment buildings pending reuse; reinforce impoundments and cease receiving CCRs for surface impoundments built before rule is finalized; phase out new surface impoundments and install composite liners for newly hazardous CCR for surface impoundments built after the rule is finalized; no liner requirements, but require groundwater monitoring for landfills built before the rule is finalized; liner requirements and groundwater monitoring for landfills built after rule is finalized and requirements for closure and post-closure care monitored by States and EPA.

Norris McDonald with EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery Staff

[1] CCRs include fly ash; bottom ash; flue gas desulfurization (FGD) materials, including synthetic gypsum; and boiler slag.

InterAcademy Council Assesses U.N. IPCC in New Report

The InterAcademy Council released a report today saying the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) needs to make several changes to reduce errors and the chance of bias in its reports, including fundamentally reforming its management structure. The council is a consortium of national academies of science. The council said the IPCC should also establish an executive committee that includes people outside the climate-science community, and it should limit the term of its chairman to one term. The current limit of two six-year terms for the chairman "is too long," according to the council press release.

The reforms would aid in seeing that "due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views." In addition, the news release said, the IPCC's guidelines for dealing with sources that aren't peer-reviewed are "too vague" and should be made more specific to try to minimize errors from the use of such sources. The report called on the IPCC to better characterize uncertainty in particular aspects of climate science.

The report also called on the IPCC to develop a conflict-of-interest policy for participants.
The investigation was requested by the IPCC in March, following the disclosure of a handful of errors in the IPCC's 2007 climate-science report. Among the errors was a projection that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. The IPCC later said that projection lacked scientific basis. (WSJ, 8/30/2010)

EPA, DOT Propose New Fuel Economy Labels

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are jointly proposing changes to the fuel economy labels consumers see on the window of every new vehicle in dealer showrooms. The proposed rule seeks public comment on label design options and related issues. The public can view the proposed rule and labels and submit comments as part of the rulemaking process via email.

EPA and DOT are asking the American people to tell them what they need to make the best economic and environmental decisions when buying a new car. New fuel economy labels will keep pace with the new generation of fuel efficient cars and trucks rolling off the line, and provide simple, straightforward updates to inform consumers about their choices in a rapidly changing market. The agencies want to help buyers find vehicles that meet their needs, keep the air clean and save them money at the pump.”

New technologies such as battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are entering the American market in greater numbers. The goal of the new fuel economy labels is to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all types of vehicles, including electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.

DOT and EPA are looking to provide enhanced information on efficiency and environmental performance – including information about air pollutants, such as smog, that impact public health – to consumers. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 specifically calls on EPA and DOT to rate available vehicles according to fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and smog forming pollutants.

EPA and DOT are proposing two new label designs for comment. One label design prominently features a letter grade to communicate the vehicle’s overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions performance. The new design will also provide consumers with an estimate of the expected fuel cost savings over five years compared to an average gasoline-powered vehicle of the same model year.

The second proposed label retains the current label’s focus on miles per gallon (MPG) and annual fuel costs, while updating the overall design and adding the required new comparison information on fuel economy and emissions.

Both proposed label designs expand on the content of the current label by including new information on fuel consumption, tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and smog-related emissions. The new labels would provide information on a new web-based interactive tool that can also be accessed by smart phone. This tool would allow consumers to personalize the information about a vehicle’s performance.

For EVs and PHEVs, the agencies are proposing to show energy use by translating electricity consumption into miles per gallon equivalent. The proposed label designs for EVs also include energy use expressed in terms of kilowatt-hours per 100 miles.

DOT and EPA encourage public feedback on all aspects of the proposal, including which designs or design features would best help consumers compare fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles and across different vehicle technologies.

The agencies are proposing that the label only present information on vehicle tailpipe emissions. Upstream emissions, which are associated with electricity generation or refining fuel, would not be displayed on the label. EPA and DOT propose to develop a website to provide consumers additional information on non-tailpipe emissions, while taking comment on other approaches to provide consumer information about lifecycle emissions across various vehicle fuels and technologies. The agencies are aiming to complete the rule in time to allow the new label to appear on the windows of as many 2012 model year vehicles as possible.

DOT and EPA are providing a 60-day public comment period that begins with the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register.

More information on the proposed labels and submitting comments.

Friday, August 27, 2010

EPA Loses A Giant: Mr. M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure

M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure is ending his tenure at EPA today to join the Foreign Service. He is going back to his roots. Before going to work for state and federal governments, Brooks-LaSure was Senior Director of Communications for the Save Darfur Coalition (right).

M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure, left, joined EPA in February 2009 as Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Affairs. He was an aide to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine when Corzine was a U.S. senator and served as a spokesman for New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez.

California Proposition 23, the Suspension of AB 32

California Proposition 23, an initiative to suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006, is on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California. If it passes it will suspend AB 32, a law enacted in 2006 and referred to as the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Center supported AB 32 and worked with a coalition of environmental groups for its passage.

The goal of the potential November initiative is to freeze the provisions of AB 32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters. AB 32 requires that greenhouse emission levels in the state be cut to 1990 levels by 2020, in a gradual process of cutting that is slated to begin in 2012. AB 32 includes a provision allowing the Governor of California to suspend the provisions of AB 32 if there are "extraordinary circumstances" in place, such as "significant economic harm". However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not suspend AB 32; therefore, the supporters of Proposition 23 decided to circulate a petition to accomplish a suspension. (Ballotpedia)

EPA Denies Petition Calling for Lead Ammunition Ban

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today denied a petition calling for a ban on the production and distribution of lead hunting ammunition. EPA sent a letter to the petitioners explaining the rejection. EPA reached this decision because the agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – nor is the agency seeking such authority.

EPA is taking action on many fronts to address major sources of lead in our society, such as eliminating childhood exposures to lead; however, EPA was not and is not considering taking action on whether the lead content in hunting ammunition poses an undue threat to wildlife.

There are no similar jurisdictional issues relating to the agency's authority over fishing sinkers, so EPA, as required by law, will continue formally reviewing a second part of the petition related to lead fishing sinkers.

Those wishing to comment specifically on the fishing tackle issue. EPA will consider comments that are submitted by September 15. (EPA)

Obama Administration Right On Utility Supreme Court Case

The Obama administration sided with major utility companies in a Supreme Court case about climate change. Administration officials believe the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions made the lawsuit unnecessary. The Center agrees with the administration on this issue.

The case dates to 2004, when eight state governments, the city of New York and three land trusts sued the Tennessee Valley Authority and five other utilities burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. The plaintiffs said the utilities' greenhouse emissions posed a "public nuisance" because they contributed to climate change. They asked the court to order the utilities to reduce emissions "by a specified percentage each year for at least a decade." Although they lost in district court, a two-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled in their favor on Sept. 21, 2009. The administration weighed in on behalf of the TVA, a federal agency.

The Center agrees with Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, that the EPA was using its authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, an authority it won in a case decided in April 2007:
"The agency's actions since the 2nd Circuit ruling last year changed the situation, including fuel-efficiency standards, an EPA finding that carbon dioxide posed a danger and initial steps toward regulating emissions at new or rebuilt power plants. EPA has already begun taking actions to address carbon-dioxide emissions.

That regulatory approach is preferable to what would result if multiple district courts - acting without the benefit of even the most basic statutory guidance - could use common-law nuisance claims to sit as arbiters of scientific and technology-related disputes and de facto regulators of power plants and other sources of pollution."
(WashPost, 8/26/2010)

EPA Hearing On Coal Fly Ash Proposal

The Environmental Protection Agency is hosting hearings to allow residents to present their views on a proposed coal-ash disposal rule.

The hearing in the Washington Metropolitan Area will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday in the Potomac Room of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, at 2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy in Arlington County. Alexandria, Fairfax County and Dumfries have coal-ash dumps.

The Center will be presenting a statement at the hearing.

Other cities:

Thursday, September 2, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt, 1750 Welton Street, Denver, CO, 80202

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, 300 Reunion Blvd, Dallas, TX, 75207

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at the Holiday Inn Charlotte (Airport) 2707 Little Rock Road, Charlotte, NC, 28214

Thursday, September 16, 2010 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, 60605

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at the Omni Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at the Seelbach Hilton, 500 Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202-2518

To sign up to speak at the hearings

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Center Statement: National Deepwater Horizon Commission

Commission Co-Chair Reilly & McDonald
Center President Norris McDonald presented testimony before the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling today. The hearing was held in the Atrium Ballroom of the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

C-SPAN Video [McDonald statement at 03:55:25]

FULL STATEMENT

Excerpts:
The Center opposes expanded drilling off the East and West Coasts and Coasts of Florida. The Center will continue to work to reestablish the moratorium on expanded drilling.

The Macondo Well should be put into production by a responsible offshore oil production company. BP estimates that the reservoir contains upward of 50 million barrels of oil. A significant portion of the money from such production should go directly to the families of the 11 people killed during the April 20, 2010 explosion. Additional revenues should go to economic relief for the Gulf economies that have been negatively affected by the oil spill disaster.

The Center has opposed the moratorium on deepwater drilling because of the harm to the Gulf economy and our belief that the other companies have been operating responsibly.

The Center supports the efforts of some of Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips to provide emergency response services for deepwater oil blowouts.

Lisa Jackson Commerorates Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans

EPA Administrator Travels to New Orleans to Commemorate Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

Four-day visit will include visits with students, residents and community organizations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is traveling to New Orleans for a series of events commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the continued rebuilding of neighborhoods and areas devastated by the hurricane. She will remain in the region until Sunday.

Administrator Jackson, a native of New Orleans, who grew up in Pontchartrain Park, will speak to students on her New Orleans upbringing, Hurricane Katrina’s impact and EPA’s role in helping to revive and restore the region. Administrator Jackson will also give remarks to several environmental and community organizations and speak with residents and local volunteers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Commission On Gulf Spill Hearing in Washington, DC

NATIONAL COMMISSION on the BP DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL AND OFFSHORE DRILLING

Commission Co-Chairs: Bob Graham & William K. Reilly

Commissioners: Frances Beinecke; Frances Ulmer; Donald Boesch; Terry D. Garcia; Cherry A. Murray.Executive Director: Richard Lazarus

HEARING NOTICE: The National Oil Spill Commission extends an invitation for interested parties to attend its upcoming public hearing regarding regulatory oversight of offshore drilling, including:

History & Expansion of Offshore Drilling
Existing Regulatory Structure & Agency Roles
Meeting the Regulatory Challenges
Changing Government & Changing Business

More information about the hearing and the Commission.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 25th 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Public hearing

8:00 a.m. Registration begins

4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Public comment period

The meeting is open to the public, with a one-hour public comment period, with participants chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis. Time allotted per public comment will be 3 minutes. Registration for those wishing to participate in the public comment period opens on-site at 8:00 a.m. Please provide a written copy of public comments during on-site registration, if possible.

WHERE: Ronald Reagan Building (NOTE: Picture ID Required to Enter Building)
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Atrium Ballroom

BP Oil Spill Disaster Hearings Continue in Houston, Texas

The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement have continued hearings on the BP Oil Spill Disaster at the Hilton hotel across from the Houston Hobby Airport. The hearings will last all week. BP and Transocean employees are scheduled to testify this week. The previous hearings were in a New Orleans suburb, but for technical reasons involving jurisdiction and subpoenas, the government decided to relocate to Houston.

C-SPAN VIDEO

The federal investigators are not looking to bring charges, but they will write a report, with safety recommendations, at the end of their inquiry. The witnesses are sworn in, and they are questioned for hours at a stretch. The testimony could become material for the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed. The Justice Department is separately conducting a criminal probe. (WashPost, 8/223/2010)

Philippines Halting Indiscriminate Coal Fly Ash Disposal

A Mandaue City court issued a directive on Saturday halting the disposal of coal ash generated by coal-fired power plants located in Naga and Toledo Cities in Cebu. Last August 20, Mandaue City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Presiding Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap issued a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) to remedy the "indiscriminate coal ash disposal" in the cities of Naga and Toledo. The Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), EcoWaste Coalition and other concerned groups and residents acted as petitioners for invoking the precautionary principle to uphold the constitutional rights of affected communities in seeking protection from improperly disposed coal ash, which constitutes a public health hazard.

PEJC and other petitioners said that "even in the absence of full scientific certainty as to how much harm coal ash affects the health of petitioners and the ecosystem, this Court is still required under the rules to exercise and adopt a precautionary attitude." It also cited the "Supreme Court Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases," which said that the following factors may, among others, be considered in applying said precautionary principle, namely: Threats to human life or health, inequity to present or future generations, or prejudice to the environment without legal consideration of the environmental rights of those affected. (Yahoo News, Manila Bulletin, 8/21/2010)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition on Gulf Job Losses

Statement from the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition regarding Obama administration job loss estimates related to stalled drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico:
"Recent news reports indicate that prior to imposing the deepwater drilling moratorium, senior Obama Administration officials concluded that the ban would cost at least 23,000 jobs," said Jim Noe, Executive Director of the Coalition and President of Delta Towing, LLC. "Disturbing as that is, the figure does not come close to telling the real story of the economic impact that recent Administration offshore policies have had."

"Over 40,000 workers are directly employed in jobs related to shallow-water drilling, an industry that the Secretary of the Interior has repeatedly acknowledged is less risky than deep water drilling," said Randy Stilley, President and CEO of Seahawk Drilling. "And although Administration officials stand by their claim that there is no official moratorium on shallow water operations, the Interior Department's continuing delay in processing and approving shallow water permits has industry officials, politicians, and academics scratching their heads.

"Only three permits for new wells have been issued in over four months and no new exploration plans have been approved," continued Stilley. "As a result, 14 of the 46 shallow water rigs available for use are now idle waiting on permits to drill new wells. By the end of August, 25 rigs will be taken offline, 32 by the end of September. This will leave over 3,000 workers without a job to do, not even counting the thousands of crewboat workers, caterers, truck drivers, welders, manufacturers and scores of others supporting the industry. Several hundred rig workers have already been laid off."

"We look forward to a report next week from economic experts at the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University," said Noe. "The report will focus on the Department's inaction and the severe impacts that the delays in shallow-water permitting are having not only on the Gulf Coast but on the entire nation."
(Frank Maisano)

Renaissance in Construction of Coal Plants

An Associated Press examination of Energy Department records and information provided by utilities and trade groups shows that more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction. Coal is already used to generate 50% of the electricity in the United States. The expansion is the coal industry's largest in two decades. Proposals to regulate carbon emissions failed in Congress utilities are betting that building a coal-fired power plant attractive because Congress is probably not going to put a serious financial cost on emitting carbon dioxide.

Utilities stick with coal because it is abundant and cheaper than natural gas or nuclear power and more reliable than intermittent power sources such as wind and solar. Approval of the plants has come from state and federal agencies that do not factor in emissions of carbon dioxide, considered the leading culprit behind global warming. Lawsuits and other legal challenges led to the cancellation of numerous coal plants. Current construction is far more modest than projected a few years ago when 151 new plants were forecast by federal regulators.

Sixteen large plants have fired up since 2008, and 16 more are under construction, according to records examined by the AP. Combined, they will produce an estimated 17,900 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to power up to 15.6 million homes -- about the number of homes in California and Arizona combined. They also will generate about 125 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, according to emissions figures from utilities and the Center for Global Development. That's the equivalent of putting 22 million additional automobiles on the road. (Wash Post, 8/23/2010)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

BP Should Produce From Macondo Well (Or Donate It To Us)

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Now that the Macondo Well has been capped and the 'static kill' has worked, BP should proceed to producing oil from that field. We suspect that BP and the federal government will come to the same conclusion once the November 'political season' is over. I think there is evidence of this having read The Washington Post account:

"Before Macondo receives a conclusive dose of mud and cement at its base via a relief well, engineers want to take the old, damaged blowout preventer off the wellhead and replace it with a new blowout preventer. That will delay the "bottom kill" until after Labor Day, according to retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander."
Clearly, installing a new blowout preventer signals that BP wants to produce from this well. We agree with this approach. A significant portion of the money from such production should go directly to the families of the 11 people killed during the April 20, 2010 explosion. Additional revenues should go to economic relief for the Gulf economies that have been negative affected by the oil spill disaster. After all, according to The Post:

"The entire reservoir contains upward of 50 million barrels of oil, according to BP."
Do the math. Today's price for crude oil is $74 per barrel. That is at least $3.7 billion. The Center requested a five percent ownership share of the Macondo Well in June. Of course, BP turned down our proposal. We also requested such an ownership share from their partners (Anadarko 25% owner and Mitsui 10% owner) in the Macondo field. We have not heard from them yet. If these companies do not have the will to produce from the Macondo well, they should just donate it to us outright and we will produce from that site. (Wash Post, 8/21/2010)

Hawaii: The Sarah Dome Project

The purpose of The Sarah Project is to research, develop and introduce technologies for energy conservation and sustainability within the Hawaiian Islands. Their ultimate goal coincides with the non-profit sister organization, The Sarah Dome Project, which is working towards the development of a fully self-sustainable community with conservation and homeless rehabilitation as motivations. The Sarah Dome Project seeks to lead the world into the future with durable, affordable, eco-friendly and self-sustaining housing that produces its own energy and leaves no carbon footprint.

The Sarah Dome Project utilizes the superadobe model for residential construction. Superadobe is a form of adobe (earthen) construction that uses long snake-like sand bags and wire in buildings with arches and domes, for strong and attractive results. Superadobe construction is a development based on the principles of traditional adobe construction with a few adjustments made to further stabilize the system. Whereas some traditional adobe construction boasts structures standing for over 500 years, traditional adobe is vulnerable to damage by earthquakes. Superadobe, on the other hand, is intended to be earthquake-resistant. Another benefit of Superadobe construction - which can be said of many natural building techniques - is that renovation is simply a matter of mixing more Superadobe and applying it to the existing structure. Maintenance is therefore easily achieved as structures can be continually improved upon. (Apropedia-Superadobe)

The Sarah Dome Project is headed by Rex Shafer. Sarah is his daughter and the project is named after her. The Sarah Project operates under the Hawaiian Reforestation Program Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Sarah Project needs donations to hire experts and purchase the land from Hawaii county. Christopher J. Wong is president of The Sarah Project. 808-854-0490

Western Climate Initiative

On July 27, 2010, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) released the Final Design for its regional cap-and-trade program. Formed in 2007, the WCI is a partnership between seven states and four Canadian provinces aimed at reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions. The WCI and other regional greenhouse gas reduction programs have recently taken on renewed prominence in light of Congress’ stalled efforts to establish a comprehensive federal emission trading program.

The stated purpose of the WCI is to identify, evaluate and implement ways to collectively reduce greenhouse gases. The initiative requires partners to set an overall regional goal to reduce emissions, develop a market-based, multi-sector mechanism to help achieve that goal, and participate in a cross-border.

The initiative includes two types of membership: partners and observers.

The partners are: Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec

The observers are Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Wyoming, Saskatchewan (which objects to WCI plans for a cap and trade system), and the Mexican states of Baja California, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Sonora, and Tamaulipas.

The sustained economic downturn has withered state-level support for the WCI and cast doubt over the extent to which the program will be implemented by WCI’s January 2012 deadline. Some member states have expressly withdrawn support for the program, while others have indicated that they will not have regulations in place necessary to meet the January 1, 2012, implementation deadline. Nonetheless, the Final Design represents the clearest and most detailed articulation of an alternative to comprehensive federal climate change regulation. (Marten Law, FULL ARTICLE)

Friday, August 20, 2010

OSHA on Oil Spill Worker Training (Pre-Cap)

[Statement issued July 8, Macondo Well capped July 15]

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels issued the following statement yesterday regarding training for Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup:

"Employees hired to be supervisors in the onshore and marine cleanup are required to receive extensive training. A rigorous 40-hour program is required under OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response Standard.

In order to meet the certifications of this 40-hour training, a combination of classroom and hands-on, applicable experience is required. This includes instruction on the makeup and risks associated with the hazardous material(s) involved, and experience with the equipment needed for the work, safety gear and local environment.

We have received reports that some are offering this training in significantly less than 40 hours, showing video presentations and offering only limited instruction. This training cannot be shortened to anything less than 40 hours. Moreover, computer-based training, which could be offered over the Internet, can be used as part of an overall 40-hour HAZWOPER training course. However, such training alone does not meet the full course requirements.

OSHA also recommends that the trainer-to-student ratio for this type of training be one trainer for every 30 students in the class. "If a worker feels the training he or she received by a private company or organization does not meet the HAZWOPER training requirements, he or she may contact the closest OSHA area office to file a complaint or call 800-321-OSHA (6742) for more information."

(ISHN, July 8, 2010)

EPA, DOI, CEQ Reopen Delta National Wildlife Refuge

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, far right, in Venice, Lousiana
joined (clockwise) Interior Secretary Salazar, CEQ Chair Sutley, NOAA
Administrator Lubchenco and other officials on a boat tour of the
Delta National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday. The 49,000 acre refuge
is home to fish, waterfowl and other wildlife and has been closed
since April. They visited to announce the refuges reopening on August 22.

NRC Early Site Permit Processs Discussion

Summary of July 15, 2010 Public Meeting to Discuss Effective Multi-Agency Pre-Application Interactions During the Early Site Permit Process

The purpose of the Early Site Permit for nuclear power plants is to resolve isues with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before construction.

Under Section 309 of the Clean Air Act, EPA review and rates all EISs. EPA has regulatory authority under several statutes including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts. EPA has delegated authority to various states under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. EPA has an oversight role and veto authority under the Clean Water Act of the Section 404 permits that are issued by the Corps of Engineers.

The Corps of Engineers, per the Memorandum of Understanding with the NRC, is a cooperating agency with the NRC on its EISs for new reactors. The Corps is responsible for issuing Section 404 Clean Water Act permits for disturbing wetlands areas and Section 10 River and Harbors Act permit for impacts to navigable waters.

The nuclear industry wants to improve the efficiency of the environmental review process. The industry would like the Federal and State agencies to use the ESP environmental review to the maximum extent possible in their review at the combined operating license (COL) stage.

NRC Contact: Jack Cushing 301-415-1424

Woods Hole Study Challenges Governemt Gulf Oil Estimates

C. McIntyre, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
New findings from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution based on measurements taken in June when oil was still spilling from BP's Macondo well challenge government estimates that the vast majority of the 4.9 million barrels of spilled oil is already gone from the Gulf or being rapidly broken down by bacteria. The Woods Hole scientists reported their preliminary findings online in the journal Science and concluded that some of the oil may persist deep under water—at levels thousands of times higher than those caused by the natural oil seeps that dot the Gulf sea floor. The scientists made 57,000 measurements, mainly using sensors aboard a remote-controlled robot deployed from the ship.

No one knows yet how long oil plumes will last or what their long-term impact will be. Experts are concerned that if the trace chemicals linger long enough, they could damage fish eggs and larvae, as well as the plankton on which many fish feed.

For 10 days in June, the Woods Hole team was aboard a U.S. National Science Foundation research vessel exploring the plume—22 miles long and more than a mile wide—as it snaked along 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. The scientists confirmed that oil from the well had been caught below the surface of the Gulf in pools of microscopic oil drops and petroleum-based trace chemicals. The plume resembled a mist of trace chemicals largely invisible to the eye, rather than a river of oil. The Woods Hole researchers found high concentrations of benzene, toluene, xylene and other so-called BTEX petroleum compounds that could be traced to the leaking well. They calculated that the plume contained between 5% and 6% of the signature BTEX petroleum hydrocarbons released during the spill. (WSJ, 8/20/2010)

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget: Where Did The Oil Go?

The National Incident Command (NIC) assembled a number of interagency expert scientific teams to estimate the quantity of BP Deepwater Horizon oil that has been released from the well and the fate of that oil.

One team calculated the flow rate and total oil released. Led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and United States Geological Survey (USGS) Director Marcia McNutt, this team announced on August 2, 2010, that it estimates that a total of 4.9 million barrels of oil has been released from the BP Deepwater Horizon well.

A second interagency team, led by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed a tool called the Oil Budget Calculator to determine what happened to the oil. The calculator uses the 4.9 million barrel estimate as its input and uses both direct measurements and the best scientific estimates available to date, to determine what has happened to the oil. The interagency scientific report below builds upon the calculator and summarizes the disposition of the oil to date.

It is estimated that burning, skimming and direct recovery from the wellhead removed one quarter (25%) of the oil released from the wellhead. One quarter (25%) of the total oil naturally evaporated or dissolved, and just less than one quarter (24%) was dispersed (either naturally or as a result of operations) as microscopic droplets into Gulf waters. The residual amount — just over one quarter (26%) — is either on or just below the surface as light sheen and weathered tar balls, has washed ashore or been collected from the shore, or is buried in sand and sediments. Oil in the residual and dispersed categories is in the process of being degraded. Response efforts were successful in addressing 33% of the spilled oil. This includes oil that was captured directly from the wellhead by the riser pipe insertion tube and top hat systems (17%), burning (5%), skimming (3%) and chemical dispersion (8%). 16% of the oil dispersed naturally into the water column and 8% was dispersed by the application of chemical dispersants on and below the surface. Natural dispersion occurs as a result of the oil coming out of the riser pipe at high speed into the water column, which caused some of the oil to spray off in small droplets. For the purpose of this analysis, ‘dispersed oil’ is defined as droplets that are less than 100 microns — about the diameter of a human hair. (Deepwater Horizon Response, Oil Budget)

Alternatively, researchers at the Georgia Sea Grant program and the University of Georgia said earlier this weekthat up to 79% of the spilled oil may still be in the Gulf.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Administrator Jackson Announces EPA’s International Priorities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, has announced the agency’s international priorities at a meeting of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation she is attending in Guanajuato, Mexico. The international priorities echo Administrator Jackson’s priorities for EPA, which she announced earlier this year, and aim to promote citizen engagement, improve public health and increase government accountability on environmental enforcement. The agency’s international priorities will guide EPA’s collaboration with CEC and all international partners.

The priorities include:
· Building Strong Environmental Institutions and Legal Structures. Countries need adequate governmental structures to enforce environmental protections. EPA will work with countries such as India, Ghana, Kenya and Brazil to develop and support the promotion of good governance, improve judicial and legal structures and design the regulatory systems necessary for effective environmental protection around the world.

· Combating Climate Change by Limiting Pollutants. EPA has taken important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, but the global challenge of climate change requires a global solution. To make significant progress in reducing the effects of climate change, pollution must be cut throughout the world. EPA will promote global strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants such as methane from landfills and black carbon from cookstoves. These pollutants are damaging especially vulnerable regions such as the Himalayan glaciers and the Arctic.

· Improving Air Quality. Much of the pollution that contributes to climate change and increases cases of asthma and other respiratory diseases is concentrated in urban areas, which are growing in the U.S. and around the world. EPA will work with organizations and local and national governments, such as Jakarta, Indonesia, to improve urban air quality in rapidly developing cities and communities.

· Expanding Access to Clean Water. Water bodies in the United States and throughout the world remain imperiled. EPA will support global partners and regions, such as the Caribbean, in creating safe and efficient drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. The agency also will help in providing long-term, sustainable and high-quality drinking water and sanitation systems for overburdened and underserved communities such as those along the U.S.-Mexican border.

· Reducing Exposure to Toxic Chemicals. Chemicals are prevalent in everything from food to baby bottles. As children develop, they are especially vulnerable to these chemicals, particularly mercury and lead. In working with partners like the United Nations Environment Programme, EPA will strive to reduce or eliminate the impact of pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

· Cleaning Up E-Waste. The electronics that provide us with convenience often end up discarded in developing countries where improper disposal can threaten local people and the environment. EPA recognizes this urgent concern and will work with international partners to address the issues of E-waste. In the near-term, EPA will focus on ways to improve the design, production, handling, reuse, recycling, exporting and disposal of electronics.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation was created by the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The group of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican environmental leaders has gathered to discuss the commission’s strategic plan and establish priority projects for the next five years. Founded in 1994, the commission is an innovative organization that recognizes and acts to mitigate the impacts of cross-border commerce on the environment.

Since then, EPA’s cooperation with Mexico and other international partners has expanded to address the more complex role that environmental protection has played in ensuring our national security, facilitating global commerce, promoting sustainable development, and adapting to climate change.

More information on EPA’s international priorities

Transcript of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s speech

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maryland PSC Approves BGE Smart Grid Plan With Caveat

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) on Friday approved Baltimore Gas & Electric’s smart grid plan with the condition that the utility could not assess a surcharge upfront to customers to help pay for it. The PSC’s decision came a few days before the U.S. Department of Energy’s deadline to decide whether to redirect the $200 million in stimulus funds it had awarded to BGE.

The PSC's decision puts the ball in BGE’s court. Whether or not to go forward is now BGE’s decision. With a surcharge off the table, BGE will have to come before the commission in the future and make a case for why it needs to raise rates to cover the costs of implementing the smart grid plan.

Smart grids use two-way communication between power suppliers and upgraded power meters at homes and businesses to reduce electricity demand during peak hours, when power is most expensive. The company had proposed a plan where it would collect 25 percent of the project’s cost through a surcharge and the rest would come later through rate increases that have to be approved by the PSC.

Safety Testing for Gulf of Mexico Seafood

Fish, shrimp and other seafood catches from the Gulf of Mexico is being ground up and put under the microscope to hunt for minute traces of oil. - far more reassuring than that sniff test that made all the headlines. Health regulators are working to create a test for dispersant contamination. More Gulf waters are reopening to commercial hauls as tests show little hazard from oil. The oil contaminants of most health concern - potential cancer-causing substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs - show up in other everyday foods, too, such as grilled meat.

Here are some questions and answers about Gulf seafood safety:

Q: What are PAHs?
A: They're common pollutants from oil, vehicle exhaust, wood-burning fires and tobacco smoke. They can be in food grown in polluted soil and form in meat cooked at high temperatures.

Q: How does the government decide it's safe to reopen fishing waters?
A: Seafood testing begins when there's no longer visible oil in a particular area. First, inspectors smell samples for the slightest whiff of oil. Step 2 is chemical testing at the Food and Drug Administration, NOAA, or state laboratories. To reopen seafood harvesting, the samples must test below FDA-set "levels of concern" for 12 different PAHs, based on how much someone would have to eat for a potential health risk, and how much of each food fairly heavy seafood consumers tend to eat in a month.

Q: With so much oil in the Gulf, how could fish emerge untainted?
A: Commonly consumed fin fish - like grouper, snapper and tuna - rapidly metabolize those PAHs. That's been known for years and tracked during other oil spills, and the reason that fishing is being allowed first in reopened waters. The safe limit for the PAH naphthalene is 3.3 parts per billion. The highest levels found in recently reopened waters off the Florida panhandle were well below that, 1.3 ppb, mostly in red snapper.

Q: Why haven't crabs and oysters been cleared?
A: They're the slowest metabolizers, plus crabs require an extra testing step that FDA hasn't finished. Oysters are probably the best absorbers of oil, as they take in both droplets and dissolved oil, according to Carys Mitchelmore, an aquatic toxicologist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Most oyster testing is just beginning, so stay tuned, although the FDA recently cleared some from Alabama that contained less than a quarter of the total PAH limit of 66 parts per million.

Q: But what about that controversial dispersant - are the feds testing for it?
A: Not yet; they're still developing a good test.

Q: So why do they say dispersant isn't a seafood threat?
A: Some dispersant chemicals are FDA-regulated ingredients in skin creams and even foods. FDA contends the stronger cleansing ingredients under question degrade too quickly in water to accumulate in fish flesh. In experiments under way in Texas and Alabama, federal scientists are dumping dispersant into tanks full of shrimp, oysters and crabs to try to detect even minute levels

Health regulators will continue to test as long as it's needed. (Wash Post, 8/16/2010)

White House Promoting Safety of Gulf Seafood

Carol Browner, left, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, announced a live chat today at 2 p.m. with Dr. Jane Lubchenco, right, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about the safety of seafood from the Gulf region.

Browner states:
"The Federal Government is paying close attention to the safety of seafood in the Gulf. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NOAA, working closely with the states, are closely monitoring and testing the Gulf waters so they can be reopened as soon as they become safe.

Seafood from these open areas is safe for you and your family to eat. In fact, if you’re looking for a simple way to support the people of the Gulf who have been battered by this spill, enjoying some local seafood is one of the best things you can do."

The White House Blog: Seafood from Open Gulf Waters is Safe to Eat

RestoretheGulf.gov

Friday, August 13, 2010

Miller Environmental Group

Miller Environmental Group, based in Calverton New York, is an environmental response, remediation and restoration company, providing its services to industry, municipalities, commercial and residential customers. Established in 1971, Miller Environmental says it dedicates itself to "providing our customers with the all resources necessary for a successful conclusion to any job."

Recently, MEG went to the Gulf to assist the U.S. Coast Guard with oil removal. MEG recruited people interested in performing the clean up and trained hundreds of response workers. Each worker received OSHA 24 hr. training along with a complete physical exam and some background screening prior to being deployed. This wasl be the largest deployment of personnel and equipment to an incident in the 39 year history of the company. MEG provided over 20 response craft, pumps, pressure washer units, tracked vehicles and specialty equipment. In addition over three miles of containment boom was shipped and deployed off the coast of Alabama.

Mark E. Miller, MEG, left, is the Owner and Chief Executive officer of Miller Environmental Group, Inc. and Miller Environmental Services, Inc.

From 1992 to 1997, Mr. Miller served as the President of NRC, the largest commercial oil spill response company in the United States. He serves as Director of Applied Process Technology Inc.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

EPA Fish Value Survey & 5th Circuit's Take on Phase III Rule

The Fifth Circuit recently granted EPA’s request to voluntarily remand the portion of the “Phase III” rule governing cooling water intake structures (CWIS) at existing non-utility facilities. The court also upheld the portion of the Phase III rule setting national categorical standards for CWIS at new offshore oil and gas facilities. The Fifth Circuit’s decision, ConocoPhillips Co. v. EPA, is the latest twist in a series of CWIS rulemakings stretching back over fifteen years, including review by the U.S. Supreme Court last term in Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc. The partial remand sets the stage for a new rule combining existing utility (Phase II) and non-utility (Phase III) facilities later this year.

The ruling also comes just two days after EPA announced plans to conduct a survey of what the public would be willing to pay to protect aquatic organisms from CWIS, a move intended to support a new cost-benefit analysis of EPA’s upcoming proposal. EPA is accepting comments on the proposed survey through September 20, 2010 [Federal Register: July 21, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 139)].

(MORE: Marten Law, 8/12/200)