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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

EPA Screens 1,000 Chemicals Using ToxCast

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ToxCast screening program has entered a new phase, screening 1,000 chemicals for potential toxicity to people and the environment. ToxCast is designed to determine how chemical exposures impact the human body and how the chemicals most likely lead to health effects. When fully implemented, ToxCast will be able to screen thousands of chemicals in fast, cost-effective tests that provide people with relevant information.

During the first phase ToxCast tested about 300 chemicals, primarily pesticides, in more than 500 fast, automated tests or assays. The assays use human and animal cells and proteins to screen chemicals. Another 700 chemicals are now being screened in Toxcast’s second phase. The chemicals being tested are found in industrial and consumer products, food additives and drugs that never made it to the market. The failed drugs and associated human clinical trial data, donated by major pharmaceutical companies, are significant because EPA will be able to compare ToxCast screening data to human clinical data and other toxicology studies.

Only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce have been adequately assessed for potential risks to human health and the environment. ToxCast is reducing EPA’s reliance on slow and
expensive animal toxicity tests, enabling the agency to screen chemicals more quickly and to predict and identify potential health risks. 

EPA scientists have compared the first phase of ToxCast data to the vast number of animal studies available in EPA databases. This comparison is helping determine which ToxCast assays can accurately predict different types of toxicity and disease. EPA scientific studies using ToxCast have already been published in peer-reviewed science journals and demonstrate the ability of ToxCast to predict a chemical’s potential to cause a variety of diseases.
 
The ToxCast research project is a substantial contributor to the the federal agency collaboration, Tox 21. Comprised of EPA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health, Tox21 will
screen 10,000 chemicals by the end of next year. (EPA)

More information on ToxCast and the list of chemicals

Agenda at the UN COP 16 on Tuesday November 30

United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico

COP 101 - The International Chamber of Commerce will hold its traditional introduction to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process to participants from business and NGOs. 

Presentation of EU report on fast-start financing: The EU and its Member States will present a report on progress in implementing their fast-start financing commitment for 2010, following a preliminary state of play given in June.
Patents, technological knowledge and access to climate change mitigation technologies: The panel will discuss how practical tools derived from a study by UNEP, EPO and ICTSD can contribute to a better understanding of IPR options in the UNFCCC negotiations.
Climate finance portal - Update on the progress of the finance portal for climate change being developed by the UNFCCC secretariat. The event will also serve as the formal launch of the climate finance options platform, which is being developed by UNDP and the World Bank Group. Venue: Pitaya
Aviation bunker fuels - At this side event, the aviation sector will be seeking a dialogue with governments and other interested stakeholders on how to address aviation bunker fuel emissions and on ways to present effective solutions for consideration at COP 16. Venue: Cacao (Cancunmesse Hall D).

More information on all events can be found in the Daily Programme and on the CCTV screens at the venue

Florida Phosphate Mining


Environmental groups are opposing a proposed 11,000 acre extension of a phosphate mine owned by Mosaic Company in central Florida.  The groups are arguing in federal court that the mining destroys wetlands, spoils water supplies and ruins farmland.  Phosphate is combined with sulfuric acid to produce fertilizer.

Mosaic, majority-owned by Cargill Inc., estimates its reserves are sufficient to continue mining for another 40 years in Florida. But it only has enough permits to cover about 10 years. The contested South Fort Meade extension would roughly double its permitted reserves. (WSJ, 11/30/2010, Photos: Mike Esterl/ The Wall Street Journal)

S. 510 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

The Senate passed the Food Safety Moderination Act (S. 510) 73-25 on Nov 30 and the House passed the bill more than a year ago. The law will restructure food safety, give significant new authority to the Food and Drug Administration, and place new responsibilities on farmers and processors to keep food free from contamination. Small farmers and other independent food producers and distributors are concerned about the legislation.

President Obama Statement

The FDA Food Safety Moderination Act amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to expand the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to inspect records related to food, including to:
(1) allow the inspection of records of food that the Secretary reasonably believes is likely to be affected in a similar manner as an adulterated food; and

(2) require that each person (excluding farms and restaurants) who manufactures, processes, packs, distributes, receives, holds, or imports an article of food permit inspection of his or her records if the Secretary believes that there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to such food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

(3) Authorizes the Secretary to suspend the registration of a food facility if the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

(4) Requires each owner, operator, or agent in charge of a food facility to: (1) evaluate the hazards that could affect food; (2) identify and implement preventive controls; (3) monitor the performance of those controls; and (4) maintain records of such monitoring.
 FULL CRS SUMMARY

The legislation follows a spate of national outbreaks of food poisoning involving products as varied as eggs, peanuts and spinach in which thousands of people were sickened and more than a dozen died.  Food illnesses affect one in four Americans and kill 5,000 each year and tainted food has cost the industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses. The FDA has been inspecting only about 1 percent of imported food products.

The bill would:
Place greater responsibility on manufacturers and farmers to prevent contamination - a departure from the current system, which relies on government inspectors to catch contamination after the fact.

Give the FDA authority to recall food; now, it must rely on food companies to voluntarily pull products off the shelves.

Give the FDA access to internal records at farms and food production facilities.

Set standards for imported foods, requiring importers to verify that products grown and processed overseas meet safety standards. Public health experts say this is urgently needed, given the increase in imported foods.
FDA is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services and consists of centers and offices, which are listed in menu at left.

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation, and by regulating the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.

The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods, and to reduce tobacco use to improve health. (FDA, Wash Post, 11/30/2010)

Monday, November 29, 2010

EPA Finalizes 2011 Renewable Fuel Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2011 percentage standards for the four categories of fuel under the agency’s renewable fuel standard program, known as RFS2.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) amended the Clean Air Act to greatly increase the total required volume of renewable fuels each year, reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates percentage-based standards for the following year. Based on the standards, each producer and importer of gasoline and diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

The final 2011 overall volume and standards are:

Cellulosic biofuel - 6.6 million gallons; 0.003 percent
Biomass-based diesel - 800 million gallons; 0.69 percent
Advanced biofuel - 1.35 billion gallons; 0.78 percent
Renewable fuel - 13.95 billion gallons; 8.01 percent
Based on an analysis of expected market availability, EPA is finalizing a lower 2011 cellulosic volume than the statutory target. Overall, EPA remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead. (EPA)

Lomborg, Nordhaus & Shellenberger Want Cheap Renewables

Shellenberger & Nordhaus
Bjorn Lomborg calls for cheaper renewables technologies to solve global warming in his movie, "Cool It."  Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger (authors of "The Death of Environmentalism"), in a Wall Street Journal article also recommend cheaper renewables to mitigate global warming. Nordhaus and Shellenberger also state that the United Nations Climate Change Conference is not the venue to get solutions because the smaller nations bog down the process and are not needed because the bigger nations generate most of the emissions.  At least Nordhaus and Shellenberger put nuclear [neo-kind-of-supporters-punt-to-next-generation-reactors] on the table.  The Center is now calling on the federal government to pay for reactors up front and let the nuclear utilities pay them back.

Bjorn Lomborg
Yet environmentalists have been making these recommendations for years now and the call for 'cheaper' renewables has been going on for decades.  Unfortunately, in the real world, renewables cannot carry the heavy loads or they would be the technologies of choice in the marketplace.  Utilities and oil and gas companies are not adopting them because they are effective.  So the recommendation to make them cheaper misses the point.  Wind and solar operate about 30 percent of the time and always have to be backed up with another source.  Renewables are excellent supplemental technologies for unique situations, but cannot reliably provide power for hundreds of millions of people twenty four hours a day and seven days a week.  So making something cheaper that does not work will not work.

United Nations Climate Change Conference Starts Today

Cancun Meeting November 29 - December 10

Expectations Significantly Reduced From Two Years Ago

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) is being held in Cancun, Mexico and includes the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 16). The Conference of the Parties is to discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol.  The final conference before the Kyoto Protocol Treaty expires in 2012 will be in Johannesburg, South in December 2011.

Stimulus Projects Exempted From Environmental Oversight

The Center for Public Integrity has found that approximately $2 billion in stimulus money has gone to some big polluters because they have be granted exemptions from environmental oversight. More than 179,000 "categorical exclusions" to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies have been granted, freeing the projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Officials do not consider companies' pollution records in deciding whether to grant the waivers. Creating jobs quickly was an important part of the stimulus plan officials decided that past environmental violations should not disqualify a company from pursuing federal contracts for unrelated projects.

 Examples of projects grant categorical exemptions:
- An electrical-grid upgrade project in Kansas led by Westar Energy, the state's largest coal-burning utility, which settled a major air pollution case by paying half a billion dollars in penalties and remediation costs.

- A wind farm project in Texas, as well as an electrical-grid upgrade project in five additional states, undertaken by Duke Energy.

- A project to create clean-burning biofuel from seaweed led by chemical giant DuPont, which received $8.9 million in stimulus funds in February. That amount nearly equals the environmental fine DuPont paid in 2005 for hiding the dangers of its toxic chemical known as C8 from federal regulators for two decades.
In all, about three dozen of the country's biggest polluters with past environmental problems won NEPA exemptions for the stimulus grants totaling $2 billion from the Energy Department - about 6 percent of the department's total money awarded so far.

Passed by Congress in 1969, NEPA requires companies to study possible threats to the landscape, wildlife or human health before proceeding with a major federally funded project. Critics have complained that the process can delay projects by months and even years, costing millions of dollars.

The idea of granting NEPA exemptions for stimulus recipients was first raised in Congress when the law was being crafted in early 2009. Congress passed an amendment mandating "expeditious" NEPA reviews and in order to give a categorical exclusion, officials must conclude that a project will not "individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment."

In filings with Congress, the administration has reported handing out exclusions to 96 percent of stimulus projects funded by $293 billion so far. The Energy Department, for its part, has granted NEPA exemptions to 99 percent of all stimulus projects it has funded so far - 8,012 actions costing $33 billion.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees compliance with NEPA, does not keep historical records on the percentage of federal projects that get NEPA exemptions. (Wash Post, 11/28/2010)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dyson Engineering & Technical Services Provides Outreach

In support of the Center's mission to construct a biomass-to-electricity plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi, Al Dyson, President of Dyson Engineering & Technical Services participated in the "Second Annual Mississippi Renewable Energy Conference: Utilizing Renewable Energy in Mississippi." The single day conference focused on renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, hydrogen and biomass and the role they play in the future of our state and nation. The conference was sponsored by the Mississippi Development Authority, which houses the state energy department. As a leader in economic development and local deployment agent for the U.S. Department of Energy, the Mississippi Development Authority is responsible for providing learning opportunities that teach the application and benefits of these energy sources.

Al Dyson at Substation in Port Gibson, Mississippi
The agenda included presentations on: The Brownfields Program, Geothermal Energy, Landfill Gas Projects, Financing Renewable Energy Projects: From Residential To Business Sector, Biomass, Solar Energy and Incentives, Wood Pellets, ARRA Project Highlight, Renewable Energy Projects in Mississippi.  Dr. Betty Norman, Bureau Manager of the MDA Energy Division, gave the closing remarks. Numerous attendees participated in the November 18, 2010 conference, which was coordinated by Terrence Spears.  Center representatives met with Mr. Spears to get a briefing on state energy programs on October 22, 2010. Dyson Engineering and Technical Services is providing engineering services for our Green Port Gibson Project (Green Electric plant biomass-to-electricity).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NOAA Oil Budget Calculator Estimates Oil Situation From Gulf Accident

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released an updated report called the Oil Budget Calculator, which concludes that of the estimated 4.9 million barrels released after the Deepwater Horizon off-shore rig exploded and sank last April, roughly 77% either was directly recovered, burned off, skimmed, dispersed or evaporated or dissolved. The earlier report release in August by the government put the percentage at about 74%.

The conclusion are based on data such as the amount of oil captured at the wellhead, combined with model-projected estimates based on historical oil spill data for similar types of oil, as well as the expertise and observations of oil- and oil spill-response scientists from government agencies, academia and the energy industry.

According to the report, chemical dispersants did a better job of breaking up oil spilled from BP PLC's blown-out Gulf of Mexico well than previously estimated.  The most significant change from the August report is that government scientists have doubled the amount of oil classified as "chemically dispersed"— from 8% in August to an estimated 16% now. (NOAA, WSJ, 11/24/2010)

Monday, November 22, 2010

EPA Finalizes Rules to Foster Safe Carbon Storage

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized two rules related to the capture and sequestration of carbondioxide. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies have the potential to enable large emitters of carbon dioxide, such as coal fired power plants, to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This technology allows carbon dioxide to be captured at stationary sources like power plants and large industrial operations and injected underground for long-term storage in a process called geologic sequestration.

The new rules aim to protect drinking water and to track the amount ofcarbon dioxide that is sequestered from facilities that carry out geologic sequestration. Together, these actions are consistent with there commendations made by President Obama’s interagency task force on this topic and help create a consistent national framework to ensure the safe and effective deployment of technologies that will help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race.

In August 2010, President Obama’s Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage, co-chaired by the EPA, delivered a series of recommendations to the president on overcoming the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years. The task force concluded that the rules being announced today were an important part of the strategy to promote development of this technology. CCS can play an important role in domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions while preserving the option of using coal and other abundant domestic fossil energy resources.

Drinking Water Protection: EPA finalized a rule that sets requirements for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, including the development of a new class of injection well called Class VI, established under EPA’s Underground InjectionControl (UIC) Program. The rule requirements are designed to ensure that wells used for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide are appropriately sited, constructed, tested, monitored, and closed. The UIC Program was established under the authority of the Safe Drinking WaterAct.

Greenhouse Gas Reporting: EPA also finalized a rule on the greenhouse gas reporting requirements for facilities that carry out geologic sequestration. Informationgathered under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program will enable EPA to track the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by these facilities. The program was established in 2009 under authority of the Clean Air Act and requires reporting of greenhouse gases from various source categories in the United States. (EPA)

More information on the geologic sequestration rule

More information on the greenhouse gas reporting final rule

Saturday, November 20, 2010

EPA Could Add DC Sites To Superfund List

According to the Washington Examiner, EPA has notified the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that it will list three sites in Washington, D.C. on the Superfund National Priorities List.  They include: 1) the Kenilworth Landfill, 2) a Washington Gas property near the Anacostia River and 3) the PEPCO Benning Road power plant site.

These sites have been on the CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability System) list for some time.  The DC City Council is concerned that it takes EPA too long to clean up sites once they are placed on the Priorities List, so a councilmember is introducing legislation to force property owners to clean up their sites.

When an abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste site is identified, information about the site is entered into a databased called CERCLIS.  The CERCL ACt was passed in 1980 and is more commonly knowns as Superfund.  The Superfund trust enables the government to clean up hazardous waste sites and then recover cleanup costs from pulluters. (Washington Examiner, 11/18/2010, AAEA "Our Unfair Share: Pollution in Washington, D.C., 1998)

Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy: 25th Anniversary

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Today is our 25th anniversary.  The Center was incorporated on November 20, 1985.

You can see a listing of many of our activities during that time at our original website, which we converted to Multiply when the original Msn Groups platform ended).  There is more activity information at our History page. My career has been very satisfying.  From my beginning in the Fall of 1979 at the Environmental Policy Center (now Friends of the Earth) until today, the adventure has been incredible.  I started out in the Washington, D.C.-based environmental movement.  Jimmy Carter was president and was just finishing a rough 4-year run.  I shook his hand at the Democratic National Convention in New York in 1980 not knowing that Washington was about to get a completely new makeover.  The Reagan era was interesting and quite the challenge for the environmental movement.  I still remember his 'no standard standard' for appliance efficiency standards.  I also remember the Air Florida crash and the Metro subway accident on the day that I was walking back from the U.S. Department of Energy after testifying on appliance standards.

Well, without sounding like the old guy in the room sharing old war time stories that nobody really wants to hear, the situation today is as exciting as ever.  We are embarking on trying to build biomass power plants in Mississippi, California and in Kenya.  The adventure continues and I am having more fun than ever.  Our team is lean and mean and green. 

I have kept the Center small on purpose and will continue to do so.  I almost died from respiratory failure in 1991 and 1996 (intubated for 4 days in ICU each time).  After getting divorced and full custody of my son when he was 2 years old, I decided that I wanted to stick around to see my son grow up.  But I also wanted to continue with my entrepreneurial environmentalism.  So keeping it small worked.  Although I still struggle with a chronic acute asthma that could kill me any day, my son is now 18 and I am still 'doing my green thing.'  Life is good.  Hey, and we just opened a new Center Hollywood blog this week.  Oh, and if you're feeling generous, feel free to click on our Donation button on our sites.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mortgage Electronic Registration: Who Really Holds Mortgages?

The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) is the privately run electronic database that is used by lending institutions and investment companies to track the transfer of the ownership of mortgages as they are packaged into securities and traded around the globe. But MERS does more than just track the trading of loans. In the vast majority of mortgage documents at local courts and offices across the country, it is listed as the holder of the loans. That allows the financial industry to trade mortgages as much as it wishes without spending the time and money to refile the paperwork.

The financial services industry is seeking legislation that would effectively affirm MERS's legality and block any bill that would call into question what MERS does. MERS has spent more than $1 million in lobbying since fall 2008, when lower courts around the country began to rule against it. But MERS had kept its name under the radar until the recent uproar over foreclosures revealed broad problems in mortgage paperwork.

If successful, the industry could make all lawsuits related to MERS across the country moot and remove one of the key uncertainties dangling over the mortgage industry. But lawmakers could create a new federal registry, effectively killing MERS's business and forcing the industry to submit to greater oversight. Reston-based Merscorp, which runs MERS, have been floating the idea of legislation that would establish the firm as the national registry to track the transfer of mortgages.

In recent years, MERS has become the target of numerous legal challenges from homeowners in foreclosure who allege that mortgage transfers made through the system are invalid because they bypass local recording laws. MERS, the lawsuits contend, does not have standing to foreclose because it is only a database and not the actual holder of the mortgage.

The liabilities could be astronomical for MERS. One lawsuit in California alone is seeking recording fees that could cost the company from $60 billion to $120 billion. But the consequences for the financial industry are even greater, as challenges to the validity of transfers done by MERS call into question the entire process of how loans were securitized and could render the 66 million mortgages in its system foreclosure-proof.

MERS is also under scrutiny by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which oversees national banks. The OCC is taking the lead in an interagency examination of MERS and the accuracy of the information in its database. The agency is also sending personnel to look at the foreclosure process at large mortgage servicers and how they use MERS. (Wash Post, 11/18/2010)

We Green Dogs Howl at the Losses of the Blue Dogs

The Center is a conservative environmental group and we call ourselves Green Dogs, utilizing a name similar to the Democratic Party Blue Dog Coalition.  We are extremely disappointed that the Blue Dog Coalition was cut in half, from 54 members to 23, during the midterm election. The 112th Congress will be ill-served by this significant reduction in the moderate voices in the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government. Blue Dogs have always been at odds with more liberal House Democratic leaders over fundamental policy issues.  The GOP has its Republicans In Name Only (RINO) and the Democratic Party has Blue Dogs.  The Center is a Green Dog in the environmental movement.

Their Republican opponents attacked them relentlessly for their ties to Pelosi, and many of the losers and the survivors opposed her successful bid to become minority leader in the new Congress. The election of moderate Democrats in many Republican-leaning districts in 2006 returned the House to Democratic control and Blue Dogs were the heavily wooed majority-makers on health-care reform, the stimulus, the cap-and-trade energy bill and other key Pelosi initiatives.

The Center believes passing energy legislation early in the 112th Congress is extremely important.  And while many conservatives have turned against Cap and Trade, the Center has been the only entity that has been consistent in supporting this market mechanism for fighting global warming.  As such, we are supporting the EPA push to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  (Wash Post, 11/19/2010)

GM IPO Biggest In History

General Motors Company initial public offering gave investors their first chance to buy and sell GM stock in more than 18 months on the New York Stock Exchange. GM was on pace to sell over $18 billion in shares in the largest U.S. initial public offering ever.  Buyers of the GM shares included giant pension and hedge funds as well as GM factory workers and retirees. Among foreign buyers was China's largest car maker, SAIC Motor Corporation, which is GM's biggest partner in the world's largest auto market. SAIC bought about $500 million of shares for a GM stake of close to 1%.


The proceeds will help pay back the U.S. government for the $49.5 billion it spent on its rescue of GM. The company, after eliminating half its eight brands, slashing its debt and trimming its work force in bankruptcy, has been gaining U.S. market share with strong-sellers such as the Chevrolet Equinox and Buick LaCrosse.

The U.S. Treasury will cut its ownership stake in GM to about 27% from 61% through the stock sale. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and President Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, will also scale back their oversight. (WSJ, 11/18/2010)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

EPA Issues Pollution Permitting Guidance for States

Focus on energy efficiency to reduce GHG pollution from largest industrial facilities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making available guidance and tools to help state and local air permitting authorities identify cost-effective pollution reduction options for greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. These tools are part of EPA’s common sense approach to GHG permitting of the largest emissions sources outlined this spring in the tailoring rule. GHG pollution threatens the health and welfare of all Americans, and contributes to climate change.

EPA recommends that permitting authorities use the best available control technology (BACT) process to look at all available emission reduction options for GHGs. After taking into account technical feasibility, cost and other economic, environmental and energy considerations, permitting authorities should narrow the options and select the best one. EPA anticipates that, in most cases, this process will show that the most cost effective way for industry to reduce GHG emissions will be through energy efficiency.

The guidance does not define or require a specific control option for a particular type of source because BACT is determined on a case-by-case basis. Instead, the guidance and resources provide the basic information that permit writers and applicants need to address GHGs. The guidance also provides examples of how permitting requirements could apply.

In January 2011, industries that are large emitters of GHGs, and are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones, will work with permitting authorities to identify and implement BACT to minimize their GHGs. This includes the nation’s largest GHG emitters, such as power plants, refineries and cement production facilities. Emissions from small sources, such as farms and restaurants are not covered by these GHG permitting requirements.

EPA welcomes public feedback on the guidance over the next few weeks on any aspect that contains technical or calculation errors or where the guidance would benefit from additional clarity.

Information on EPA’s guidance

EPA Releases Report on Dioxin Emissions During BP Spill

Emissions at Deepwater Horizon Controlled Burns Were Below Levels of Concern

Evergreen Burner

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released two peer reviewed reports concerning dioxins emitted during the controlledburns of oil during the Deepwater Horizon BP spill. The reports found that while small amounts of dioxins were created by the burns, the levels that workers and residents would have been exposed to were below EPA’s levels of concern. Controlled burning of oil on the surface of the ocean (also called insitu burning) was one method used by the Unified Command during theDeepwater Horizon BP oil spill, to reduce the spread of oil and environmental impacts at the shoreline. A total of 411 controlled burnevents occurred of which 410 could be quantified, resulting in thecombustion of an estimated 222,000 to 313,000 barrels of oil (or 9.3 to13.1 million gallons).

Dioxins are a category that describes a group of hundreds of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that can be formed during combustion orburning.

With support from the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA conducted sampling of emissions at the source of the controlled burns in the Gulf of Mexico to determine if dioxins were present. The sampling was conducted to identify potential dioxin exposures and determine the potential risks from inhalation to workers in the vicinity of the fires, risks from inhalation to the general population and risks to the general population from consuming fish caught in the area.

The first report summarizing EPA’s sampling effort indicates that while dioxins were created from the burning of oil on ocean water, they were created at low levels – levels similar to the emissions from residential woodstoves and forest fires. The second report, coauthored with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), presents the results of a screening risk assessment for the dioxins emitted from the controlled oil burns. The results indicate that increased cancer risk due to exposure to the dioxins released from the controlled burning of oil was small - less than a 1 in 1,000,000 increased cancer risk. Additional cancer risks for inhalation by workers and onshore residents and fish consumption by residents were lower than risk levels that typically are of concern to the agency.

Typically, the agency has a concern when therisk is greater than 1 in 1,000,000. Had the spill of oil continued, the results of these measurements would have been used by the Unified Command to determine if burning should continue. However, the well was capped on July 15, 2010 and the last insitu burn occurred on July 19, 2010. Consequently, these results aremost useful to inform and improve the agency’s ability to respond tofuture oil spills.

EPA and other federal agencies have developed a broad set of questionsand answers to provide the public with general information on dioxins, including what they are, where they can be found, and major sources of dioxins. The questions and answers explain the review process for thedioxin reassessment and discuss possible effects of dioxin exposure in humans, including advice about consumption of food that might contain dioxins.

Both reports and questions and answers about both reports 

General information on dioxins

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catalina Island Energy & Water Project Scoping Visit

The Center and National Clean Fuels (NACF) visited Santa Catalina Island on Thursday, November 11, 2010 to scope the island (see video).  Center President Norris McDonald and NACF principal Maurice Stone met with Catalina Island Conservancy COO Mel Dinkel to discuss utility issues on the island.

The Center and NACF are seeking to develop sustainable, reliable, efficient and effective utility systems on Catalina Island.  The partnership is recommending the construction and operation of new water, gas and electricity systems on the island. The Center and NACF are proposing to lead with the construction of a biomass-to-electricity (BTE) plant.

The Center and NACF are presenting energy and water system proposals to the island stakeholders and Southern California Edison (SCE) in order to get consensus on the best systems for residents and businesses.  Proposals range from construction of a ten megawatt wood chip-to-electricity power plant, construction of a desalination plant , installation of wind turbines, construction of a gas-fired power plant  photovoltaic electricity production to construction of separate drinking water and waste water lines.


The Center and NACF are seeking to get wood feedstock for the woodchip-to-methane-to-electricity plant from the wildfire areas around the State of California.  They are also examining the feasibility of following the electricity plant with a distillation desalination plant. Our intent is to enhance electricity and water resources capacity on Santa Catalina Island.  Planning and implementation of these two initial projects will serve as precursors to consideration and construction of the other projects.

Sacramento Outreach

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Companies Work With EPA on Natural Gas Chemicals Use

Eight of Nine U.S. Companies Agree to Work with EPA Regarding Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction

EPA conducting congressionally mandated study to examine the impact of the hydraulic fracturing process on drinking water quality; Halliburton subpoenaed after failing to meet EPA’s voluntary requests for information


Center Hydraulic Fracturing Evaluation Criteria

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that eight out of the nine hydraulic fracturing companies that received voluntary information requests in September have agreed to submit timely and complete information to help the agency conduct its study on hydraulic fracturing. However, the ninth company, Halliburton, has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study. As a result, and as part of the agency’s effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided.

EPA’s congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study will look at the potential adverse impact of the practice on drinking water and public health. The agency is under a tight deadline to provide initial results by the end of 2012 and the thoroughness of the study depends on timely access to detailed information about the methods used for fracturing. EPA announced in March that it would conduct this study and solicit input from the public through a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions. The agency has completed the public meetings and thousands of Americans from across the country shared their views on the study and expressed full support for this effort.

On September 9, EPA reached out to nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers – BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford – seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted.

Except for Halliburton, the companies have either fully complied with the September 9 request or made unconditional commitments to provide all the information on an expeditious schedule.

More information on the subpoena and mandatory request for information on Halliburton’s hydraulic fracturing operations

EPA Finalizes GHG Reporting for Petroleum & Gas Industries

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting requirements for the petroleum and natural gas industries as part of the mandatory reporting program. The petroleum and natural gas industries emit methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and are one of the largest human related sources of methane in the United States. Annual methane emissions from intentional venting and equipment leaks from these industries are comparable to annual emissions from more than 40 million passenger cars.
 
The data collected through the reporting program will provide important information about GHG emissions from petroleum and natural gas facilities. While methane is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping more than
20 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, it is also the primary component of natural gas, a valuable fuel. The data collected by the companies will help identify cost effective ways to minimize the loss of methane.

Beginning in 2011, petroleum and natural gas facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year are required to monitor and report all greenhouse gas emissions to EPA. Data
collection for petroleum and natural gas sources will begin January 1, 2011, with first annual reports due to EPA March 31, 2012.

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, launched in October 2009, requires the reporting of GHG emissions data from large emission sources and fuel suppliers across a range of industry sectors. The data will help guide the development of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More information on this rulemaking

More information on the GHG Reporting Program

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tyson & Syntroleum Build Plant to Convert Grease to Diesel

Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corporation have successfully opened a plant that makes diesel from chicken fat and leftover food grease. Tyson is a giant agricultural company and Syntroleum is a fuel developer.  The are making the diesel and jet fuel at a plant in Geismar, La., south of Baton Rouge. The raw materials are leftovers from Tyson's meat-processing plants and other food-processing factories and restaurants. The Louisiana refinery has the capacity to produce 75 million gallons of fat-based fuel annually.
Buyers include oil companies mandated by federal law to mix renewable fuel into their conventional diesel. The U.S. Air Force has contracted to buy about 40,000 gallons for testing the fuel for potential use in planes.

The fuel will not be economically viable unless Congress restores a $1-a-gallon federal tax credit that used to go to companies that mixed alternative fuels into petroleum-based diesel. That break expired at the end of 2009, when the $170 million Louisiana plant was under construction. Syntroleum probably would not have built the plant if they had known that Congress would let the break lapse.

Some believe that if the tax break isn't extended, the whole green-fuels industry in the U.S. is going to go own. Similarly, a 45-cent-a-gallon tax break for companies that blend ethanol into gasoline is due to expire at the end of this year. Makers of the corn-based fuel are lobbying Congress to extend it.

Tyson and Syntroleum aren't making biodiesel. They use heat to change the molecular structure of fats and oils and then refine them into fuel. It behaves more like conventional diesel and jet fuel than biodiesel does—meaning it could be used in large quantities in existing pipelines, gas stations, cars, trucks and planes.Their fuel is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for use in cars and trucks. It hasn't been certified for use in planes. (WSJ, 11/8/2010)

Carbon Climate Exchange Going Out Of Business

The Center's Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX) Will Stay Open Indefinitely

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) will close at the end of this year due to stalled legislation in Congress and Republican gains in the midterm elections. Since 2003, CCX has operated a voluntary network where companies can pledge to meet annual targets for the emissions of carbon from their factories and businesses. Those below the targets can sell surplus allowances or bank them; those above can purchase credits to offset their emissions.  The Center's CMX is available to provide this same service.

The users of the CCX platform did not want to continue to trade voluntarily in the absence of any credit for their work by the federal government.  The CCX platform will be replaced with the CCX Offsets Registry Program. The new program will allow users to offset gasses, rather than trade credits for their emissions. Should an executive take a lengthy flight, the new Registry will allow the company to purchase an offset for the gas emitted by the flight.

The House passed a climate bill last year that would set a national 2020 emissions reduction target on greenhouse gas emissions and outlined a national emissions trading scheme. But Senate Democrats  abandoned the cap-and-trade method of cutting emissions. Big Republican gains in the midterm elections further diminished the prospects of further climate legislation passing Congress in the near term. The CCX was envisioned as the main clearinghouse for what would eventually have been a $10 trillion non-voluntary market had cap-and-trade legislation passed the Senate as it did the House.

(FOXNews, 11/8/2010, Washington Examiner, 11/8/2010, National Geographic, 11/3/2010)

Monetizing Debt

In many countries the government has assigned exclusive power to issue or print its national currency to independently operated central banks. For example, in the USA the independently owned and operated Federal Reserve banks do this. Such governments thereby disavow the overly convenient 'slippery slope' option of paying their bills by printing new currency. They must instead pay with currency already in circulation, or else finance deficits by issuing new bonds, and selling them to the public or to their central bank so as to acquire the necessary money. For the bonds to end up in the central bank it must conduct an open market purchase. This action increases the monetary base through the money creation process. This process of financing government spending is called monetizing the debt.

Monetizing debt is thus a two step process where the government issues debt to finance its spending and the central bank purchases the debt from the public. The public is left with an increased supply of base money.

Effects on Inflation

When government deficits are financed through this method of debt monetization the outcome is an increase in the monetary base, or the money supply. If a budget deficit persists for a substantial period of time then the monetary base will also increase, shifting the aggregate demand curve to the right leading to a rise in the price level. When governments intentionally do this, they devalue existing stockpiles of wealth of anyone who is holding assets based in that currency. It is in essence a "tax" as the overall value of their assets decrease due to a loss in spending power. This is known as "inflation tax".

To summarize: a deficit can be the source of sustained inflation only if it is persistent rather than temporary and if the government finances it by creating money (through monetizing the debt), rather than leaving bonds in the hands of the public.

Examples

Monetizing the debt can be used as a component of quantitative easing strategies, which involve the creation of new currency by the central bank, which may be used to purchase government debt, or can be used in other ways.

However, there can be an insidious effect:
When governments reach the point where they are borrowing to pay the interest on their borrowing they are coming dangerously close to running a sovereign Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes have a way of ending unhappily. To get out of the Ponzi trap, governments will have to increase tax revenues, or cut spending, or monetize the debt--or most likely do some combination of all three. (Wiki)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Senators Up for Re-Election in 2012

Senate Environment & Public Works Committee members in Green

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members in Blue
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Daniel Akaka, Democratic Senator from Hawaii

Jeff Bingaman, Democratic Senator from New Mexico

Scott Brown, Republican Senator from Massachusetts

Sherrod Brown, Democratic Senator from Ohio

Joe Manchin [for Robert Byrd], Democratic Senator from West Virginia

Maria Cantwell, Democratic Senator from Washington

Benjamin Cardin, Democratic Senator from Maryland

Thomas Carper, Democratic Senator from Delaware

Robert Casey, Jr., Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania

Kent Conrad, Democratic Senator from North Dakota

Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Senator from California

Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic Senator from New York

Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator from Minnesota

Herb Kohl, Democratic Senator from Wisconsin

Claire McCaskill, Democratic Senator from Missouri

Robert Menendez, Democratic Senator from New Jersey

Ben Nelson, Democratic Senator from Nebraska

Bill Nelson, Democratic Senator from Florida

Debbie Stabenow, Democratic Senator from Michigan

Jon Tester, Democratic Senator from Montana

Jim Webb, Democratic Senator from Virginia

Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic Senator from Rhode Island

John Barrasso, Republican Senator from Wyoming

Bob Corker, Republican Senator from Tennessee

John Ensign, Republican Senator from Nevada

Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator from Utah

Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican Senator from Texas

Jon Kyl, Republican Senator from Arizona

Richard Lugar, Republican Senator from Indiana

Olympia Snowe, Republican Senator from Maine

Roger Wicker, Republican Senator from Mississippi

Joseph Lieberman, Independent Senator from Connecticut

Bernard Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lisa Jackson Holds 1st Gulf Restoration Meeting

EPA Administrator to Lead First Public Meeting of Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson  convenes the first official meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in Pensacola, Florida on Monday, November 8.  The public meeting will focus on challenges in the gulf, staffing and logistics, and task force objectives.  Members of the task  force will be introduced during the meeting.

Administrator Jackson will hold a press availability at 2:15 p.m. with other members of the task force.

President Obama issued an executive order in October to create the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, continuing the administration's ongoing commitment to the gulf region. The task force works to integrate federal restoration efforts with those of local stakeholders and state and tribal governments, and to facilitate accountability and support throughout the restoration process.

View the President’s executive order

To RSVP for this meeting, please visit

Federal Reserve Bails Out Economy With $600 Billion

Federal Reserve
In an effort to accelerate an economic recovery, the Federal Reserve (The Fed) will buy $600 billion of U.S. government bonds over the next eight months. Their hope is to drive down interest rates and encourage more borrowing and growth. The $75 billion a month in new purchases of Treasury debt come on top of $35 billion a month the Fed is expected to spend to replace mortgage bonds in its portfolio that are being retired. The Fed now will print money to buy as much as $900 billion in U.S. government bonds through June.

This is the Fed's second experiment with a big bond-buying program. Between January 2009 and March of this year, the central bank purchased roughly $1.7 trillion worth of government and mortgage bonds.

By buying a lot of bonds and taking them off the market, the Fed expects to push up their prices and push down their yields. The Fed hopes that will result in lower interest rates for homeowners, consumers and businesses, which in turn will encourage more of them to borrow, spend and invest. The Fed figures it will also drive investors into stocks, corporate bonds and other riskier investments offering higher returns. The Fed normally would push down short-term interest rates when the economy is weak. But it has already pushed those rates to near zero, leaving it to resort to unconventional measures. (WSJ, 11/3/2010)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

DOE and EPA Release 2011 Annual Fuel Economy Guide

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2011 Fuel Economy Guide, providing consumers with information about estimated mileage and fuel costs for model year 2011 vehicles. Choosing a more fuel efficient vehicle in a class will save consumers money and reduce carbon pollution. Increasing fuel efficiency is important for our environment, our economy and our health - and it helps families save money at the pump.This guide will help consumers make the right choice for the environment and for their wallets when buying a car.

Fuel efficient models come in all types, classes, and sizes. The 2011 Fuel Economy Guide can help consumers easily identify the most fuel efficient vehicles that meet their needs. Overall, the best fuel economy performers are hybrids, but the 2011 fuel economy leaders also include fuel efficient clean diesels as well as gasoline models.

Each vehicle listing in the guide provides an estimated annual fuel cost. The estimate is calculated based on the vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) rating and national estimates for annual mileage and fuel prices. The online version of the guide allows consumers to input their local gasoline prices and typical driving habits to receive a personalized fuel cost estimate.

For the first time, the guide includes medium-duty passenger vehicles, which are generally large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and passenger vans. These vehicles were not previously subject to fuel economy measurement and labeling requirements.

EPA and DOE will provide additional fuel economy information online as more 2011 vehicles, including electric and plug-in hybrid cars, become available.

In addition to being available on the EPA/DOE website and in automobile dealer showrooms, the Fuel Economy Guide is also readily accessible from many mobile devices (fueleconomy.gov/m).

More information, including a complete version of the guide

View the 2011 fuel economy leaders within each class and the lowest fuel economy models

Proposition 23 Defeated - Global Warming Law Safe in Cali

California voters defeated Proposition 23 by a wide enough margin. The measure sought to suspend California's landmark climate change bill, known as AB 32, until the state's 12.4 percent unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. Advocates with the Yes on 23 campaign argued that the law's strict regulations on greenhouse gas emissions place too high a burden on the state's struggling manufacturing base and would lead to even greater job losses.

The Center (through our outreach arm - AAEA) opposed Proposition 23 and joined with a large coalition of environmental groups to defeat it.  (Mercury News, 11/2/2010)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

BP Returns To Profitablity

According to BP, its replacement cost profit for the third quarter was $1.85bn, as against the $17 billion loss recorded from April to June.  The previous loss reflected the massive costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis, which followed an explosion on a drilling rig in April.  The cost of the oil spill had now risen by $7.7 billion to $40 billion. BP reported that the $39.9bn cost of the oil spill included $20bn set aside under pressure from the US government for compensation payments.

BP's $1.85 billion third-quarter profit compares with a $5bn profit for the same period in 2009. BP's return to the black shows quite how strong and profitable it is.

BP has benefited from a higher oil price, which boosted earnings in its giant exploration and production division by more than $2 billion, offsetting a fall in the amount of oil produced.  That division is being broken up, as part of comprehensive efforts to rehabilitate this battered business. BP is selling off up to $30 billion of assets by the end of the year, to cover those huge oil spill costs. (BBC News, 11/2/2010)

Bronchial Thermoplasty: New Surgery To Treat Asthma

A new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty permanently opens constricted airways by reducing the smooth muscle lining and can provide relief for chronic, acute asthmatics. About 22 million Americans suffer from asthma, an inflammation of the airways in the lungs that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It can range in severity from an occasional annoyance to a chronic, life-threatening condition; exercise, allergies and airborne dust or other irritants can set off attacks.

People with chronic asthma often develop a thickening of the smooth muscle lining the airways. Not only do you have too much muscle, it's too twitchy. If you have irritants in the airways, they can close down almost to the size of a pinhole. Most asthma medications work by reducing that "twitchiness. Bronchial thermoplasty uses radiofrequency waves to shrink the smooth muscle itself, a new approach to treating asthma symptoms.
This is the first non-drug treatment for asthma, and it's a very promising technology for patients who have been taking all the medications and whose symptoms are still not completely controlled.

National Jewish and New York's Beth Israel Medical Center are two of about 30 medical centers in the U.S. currently offering bronchial thermoplasty, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April. It was developed by Asthmatix Inc. The company was acquired by Boston Scientific Corp. in September and expects more hospitals to offer the procedure in the future.

Since bronchial thermoplasty is so new, few insurers cover it yet. The total cost to patients can range from $12,000 to $18,000. But some people with severe asthma pay that much per year for medications, doctor visits and hospital expenses.

This is an invasive procedure. It has some risks associated with it, mainly lung collapse, bleeding and additional breathing problems, mostly related to the bronchoscope. Patients also must be at least 18 years old to have the procedure. Since there are no nerves inside the airways, bronchial thermoplasty isn't painful. But patients generally do feel worse for a day or two following the treatments—one reason the procedure is divided into three separate treatments. There's a lot of mucous to cough up, and your throat is a little sore from putting the tube down in it.

Afterward, however, their symptoms improve—sometimes dramatically. In a randomized, double-blind controlled study of 297 patients at 30 sites, those treated with the Alair device had a 32% reduction in asthma attacks, an 84% reduction in emergency-room visits and a 66% reduction in school or work days lost due to asthma. Those results continued when the patients were evaluated again two years after the treatment, according to data presented this week at the annual CHEST conference of the American College of Chest Physicians meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Bronchial thermoplasty is done in three separate treatments, each focusing on different sections of the lungs. With the patient under light sedation, the interventional pulmonologist guides a standard bronchoscope, a long, flexible tube, through the patient's mouth or nose as far as possible down each airway. An attached camera and light allow the physician to view the airway on a video screen. The thermoplasty device, called the Alair System, travels inside the bronchoscope and has an array of electrodes on its tip that extends and expands to contact the airway walls. The electrodes are then heated with radiofrequency energy, shrinking the muscle and creating a larger opening.

Each activation of the device treats less than an inch of airway. The pulmonologist moves the device and activates it again and again along the dozens of bronchial branches. Some patients have been followed for more than four years now and the smooth muscle in the airways does not become thickened again. The muscle is just gone. It does not grow back.

Patients may still need to use their asthma-maintenance medications after the procedure, although many use their rescue inhalers less often and are able to engage in far more strenuous physical activity than before.
Experts do caution that bronchial thermoplasty isn't for patients with mild, occasional asthma—only those who are taking all possible medications and still having symptoms. As of now, the company estimates that about 10% of asthma sufferers are potential candidates. Some asthma sufferers may be too sick to for bronchial thermoplasty. Those with an FEV1 (for Forced Expiratory Volume, a measure of air exhaled per second) of less than 50% of normal aren't considered good candidates. (WSJ, 11/1/2010)

Controversies: Det Norske Veritas BOP Autopsy & Cement

The Interior Department is planning to pay the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV) $1.3 million to conduct the autopsy of the 60-foot high, 380-ton blow out preventer (BOP) that failed to prevent the Macondo oil and gas well from exploding on April 20. It is controversial because this is the same firm that approved safety procedures for the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before it exploded and sank in the accident. The BOP is now sitting on a dock at the NASA Michoud assembly plant in Louisiana. A diagnosis of what went wrong with the BOP is key to explaining the explosion that triggered the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Future regulations, and possibly billions of dollars of legal liability, are linked to the outcome.

Some believe the firm's earlier work for Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon, poses a conflict of interest. In 2007, DNV inspected and recertified the Deepwater Horizon's safety procedures. In 2009, Transocean hired DNV to study the reliability of subsea blowout preventers. That same year, DNV named a Transocean vice president, N. Pharr Smith, to be chairman of DNV's rig owners' committee, which provides "input" to DNV's rule-making process.

Hours after a presidential commission raised new questions about the safety of the cement mixture intended to temporarily seal BP's Macondo exploration well, oil field service giant Halliburton reported that the final version of the mixture did not undergo a foam-stability test. The presidential commission investigating the mammoth oil spill found that the cement mixture repeatedly failed lab tests before the April 20 blowout.

According to evidence collected by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, Halliburton was getting poor results in lab tests of the recipe for the cement it was planning to use.  Three separate tests suggested that the mixture would be "unstable." The two companies went ahead with the cementing job anyway. Its failure became the first in a cascade of factors leading to the accident. The cement at the bottom of the exploratory well was supposed to have provided a seal until a production facility could be built. The reason for the cement job's failure has been a matter of dispute for months. Halliburton has pointed at BP; BP has challenged Halliburton.

The commission has concluded that the cement was just one contributor to the disaster, noting that cementing wells is a complex endeavor and cementing failures are not uncommon even in the best of circumstances. But the new details call into question whether Halliburton's recipe - which mixed nitrogen and other additives with ordinary cement to create a foamy mixture - was the right one.

At the commission's request, Chevron recently carried out independent lab tests of a cement slurry that Halliburton said was the same as that used in the Macondo well. The commission staff said Chevron reported that "its lab personnel were unable to generate stable foam cement in the laboratory using the materials provided by Halliburton." The commission staff said in the letter Thursday that the Halliburton tests before the Macondo well blowout and the new lab tests conducted by Chevron show that "Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry before pumping it at the Macondo well.

Many of the earlier explanations of the failure of the cement job in the Macondo well have pointed to BP's decision to use six instead of 21 centralizers, devices that ensure the drill pipe is centered in the hole. Some speculate that the fact that BP and Halliburton knew this cement job could fail only solidifies their liability and responsibility for this disaster. (Wash Post, 11/2/2010, Wash Post, 10/29/2010)

Center Statement Before National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Monday, November 01, 2010

EPA Recognizes Top 50 Green Power Purchasers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has eleased its list of the top 50 organizations using the most renewable electricity. The Green Power Partnership’s top purchasers use more than 12 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electricity use of more than 1 million average American homes. Green power is generated from renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and low-impact hydropower.

The Center hopes to provide green power via its biomass-to-electricity facilities in the coming years.

The Intel Corporation tops the list as the Partnership’s largest single purchaser of green power and was recently honored with a 2010 EPA Green Power Leadership Award for green power purchasing. The company uses more than 1.4 billion kWh annually, equivalent to avoiding the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 125,000 average American homes.

EPA’s Green Power Partnership works with nearly 1,300 partner organizations to voluntarily purchase green power to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use. Overall, EPA’s Green Power Partners are using nearly 18 billion kWh of green power annually, equivalent to avoiding the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of more than 1.5 million average American homes.

Green power resources produce electricity with an environmental profile superior to conventional power technologies and produce no net increase to greenhouse gas emissions. Purchases of green power also help accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide.

More information on the top 50 list

More information on EPA’s Green Power Partnership

New President of Brazil Is An Energy Expert


Dilma Rousseff
Dilma Rousseff, won Brazil's presidency this past weekend. Ms. Rousseff was endorsed by outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Rousseff will become the country's first female president. 

Obama and Rousseff in 2009
President Elect Rousseff was appointed Secretary of Energy and Communication in 1993. She was appointed Minister of Energy by President Lula da Silva in 2002.  Her management of the Ministry was marked by the respect for contracts.  Rousseff supported market solutions and promoted investments in power generation. She clashed with the environment minister over embargoes on construction sites. (Wash Post, 11/1/2010, Wikipedia)