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Monday, October 31, 2011

EPA Grants Clean Air Act Petition to Improve Air Quality in NJ

Action protects public health and cuts harmful emissions from Pennsylvania power plant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today granted a petition submitted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to limit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant that are adversely impacting air quality in Warren, Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. This is the first single-source petition the agency has granted and it will require the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, Pa., to significantly cut its SO2 emissions within three years, with a portion of those cuts happening by the end of the first year. Carried across state lines by wind and weather, SO2 can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory problems. SO2 emissions can also react in the air and contribute to harmful levels of particle pollution, which is linked to widespread illnesses and premature deaths.

The final rule provides the Portland plant with the flexibility to choose the most cost-effective strategy for meeting these limits, including installing proven and widely available pollution control technologies. The two units covered under this rule are large sources of SO2 emissions in the region, are about 50 years old and are currently among the 44 percent of coal-fired units in the country that do not have advanced pollution controls, such as scrubbers or catalysts, installed to limit emissions.

Actions taken to meet these limits are similar to those that the facility would need consider taking to meet the recently finalized Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the upcoming Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This common-sense and coordinated approach supports the development of strategies that reduce all pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, particle pollution, ozone and others; minimize costs; and maximize public health protection.

EPA conducted air quality modeling analyses to evaluate SO2 levels in New Jersey. These analyses show that the level of SO2 in the air is exceeding the agency’s 1-hour national air quality standard and that the Portland plant is the main source of emissions. Monitoring data showing SO2 concentrations in Warren County exceeding the level of the 1-hour SO2 standard, support the agency’s modeling results.

Under the Clean Air Act, when a facility’s emissions impact air quality in another state, the affected state can petition EPA and request that the facility be required to reduce its impact. If EPA finds that the emissions do contribute to an air quality problem, the agency must set emissions limits that will eliminate this contribution. In a September 2010 petition, New Jersey asked EPA to find that emissions from the Portland power plant are impacting the state’s air quality and to require the facility to reduce its SO2 emissions. EPA proposed to grant the petition in March 2011. (EPA)

Litigation Over Mineral Rights Could Stymie Fracking

The natural-gas boom in Pennsylvania is causing legal battles over who owns gas in underground formations. Lawsuits over the mineral rights in Pennsylvania are proliferating. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a relatively new drilling technique, has made it possible for energy companies to extract natural gas from a layer of rock deep underground called the Marcellus Shale, and the companies have paid Pennsylvania property owners billions of dollars since 2008 for the right to do so. But because surface rights to properties in the state are sometimes sold separately from rights to the underlying minerals, such as coal, or oil and gas, and because mineral law in Pennsylvania remains murky, lawsuits are mounting.

This litigation could cause problems both for the energy industry and for land owners. No one tracks the number of disputes over gas ownership in Pennsylvania, but lawyers and court clerks in counties with heavy drilling say such conflicts are mounting. Pennsylvania is a particularly fertile ground for lawsuits because mineral law there hasn't developed as thoroughly as in states with longer histories of natural-gas production.  Laws governing ownership of mineral rights vary from state to state, but it is common in many to sell separate rights to minerals, coal, oil and gas.

That is the case in Pennsylvania, where new legal questions are coming up on some fundamental issues. These include whether ownership of shale gas, which is tightly bound to the rock in which it is found and usually extracted using horizontal-drilling techniques, should be treated differently from conventional gas extracted through traditional vertical wells. (WSJ, 10/31/2011)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Green For All Report on Upgrading Water Systems

Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment

Report: upgrading water systems can reduce pollution – and put nearly 1.9 million people to work.

Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That's the message of a new report released today by Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems – enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation's infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.

The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.

Further, the report notes that this is the best moment to make the investment. With the recession creating a shortfall of 11.1 million jobs that would be needed to keep pace with the population and 9.1% unemployment, these are jobs that are critically needed. Moreover, the cost of financing these essential upgrades is at historic lows, and the still-struggling economy means much cheaper construction costs. Investing in green infrastructure approaches that more closely mimic natural systems is part of the solution – and further provides the additional benefits of reducing pollution of creeks and other waterways, saving energy, and increasing green space in urban areas. (Green For All)

The Full Report

EPA's New Approach to Improving Water Quality in U.S. Cities

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a commitment to using an integrated planning process to help local governments dealing with difficult financial conditions identify opportunities to achieve clean water by controlling and managing releases of wastewater and stormwater runoff more efficiently and cost effectively. The integrated planning process, outlined in a guidance memo to EPA’s regional offices from EPA’s Office of Water and Office of Enforcement and Compliance, will help municipalities prioritize infrastructure investments to address the most serious water quality issues and provide flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective stormwater and wastewater management solutions.

Aging sewer systems, not designed to handle heavy rain and snowfall in addition to handling the wastewater from growing populations and local industries, can overflow, releasing untreated sewage into waterways, onto city streets or into the basements of homes. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, including paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants. Overflows and stormwater can carry a variety of harmful pollutants, including bacteria, metals and nutrients that threaten communities' water quality and can contribute to disease outbreaks, beach and shellfish bed closings, flooding, and fishing or swimming advisories.

To better protect water quality, EPA will work with local governments to review the Clean Water Act requirements that each municipality must comply with and look for opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of solutions developed to meet those obligations. This integrated approach will identify efficiencies where more than one water quality issue can be addressed by the same solution and where competing requirements may exist, including how to best make capital investments and meet operation and maintenance requirements.

Integrated planning approaches can also have other benefits, like leading to the identification of innovative, sustainable solutions that improve water quality and enhance community vitality. Green infrastructure, such as green roofs, rain gardens, planter boxes, and permeable pavement, is an example of an integrated solution that can reduce, capture, and treat stormwater runoff at its source before it can reach the sewer system. Green infrastructure provides a cost effective way to reduce overflows and add green space in communities.(EPA)

Read the EPA memorandum

More information on green infrastructure

G77 Countries and COP17

The Group of 77 (G77 ) is a loose coalition of so-called "developing nations." Founded in 1964, it now comprises 131 members. There are fears that any chance of a new climate change mitigation deal in Durban will be undermined by the reluctance of rich countries to assist poorer nations to adapt to the demands of climate change. The Durban climate talks (COP17), which will bring together nearly 200 nations, is expected to produce, at a very minimum, a political declaration. Some still hope for a binding international treaty, though the ­likelihood is fast receding.

Considering the economic woes of many of the principal developed nations, some representatives of develping nations believe developed countries will do their best in Durban to dodge any existing commitments, because they now realise how hard it will be for them to meet their ­promised targets. Some critics believe the developed nations want to get rid of legally binding commitments and want new ones, which would allow them to continue their wasteful lifestyles. (Mail & Guardian, 10/28/2011) 

Full Length of Intercounty Connector To Open On November 22

Along With Woodrow Wilson Bridge Replacement, One of Center's Biggest Victories

Intercounty Connector
According to Maryland Transportation Authority, the full Intercounty Connector is scheduled to open November 22. The 18.8-mile highway will open between Intersate 270 in Gaithersburg and Route 1 in Laurel. The ICC’s first 7.2-mile segment opened between I-270 and Norbeck Road, just east of Georgia
Avenue, in February.

The Center was the only environmental group to support the Intercounty Connector.  We believe it will reduce congestion, reduce air pollution and get families reunited earlier.

Toll rates on the full ICC will remain the same as those set for the first section. A passenger vehicle will be charged $4 to drive end to end during peak times, $2.40 during non-peak hours and $1.60 during overnight
hours. Drivers who don’t have an E-ZPass transponder will be charged a new “video toll rate” amounting
to 150 percent of the base toll rate. Motorists will be billed by mail for the surcharge. State officials have said the toll highway will be finished within its $2.56 billion construction budget. (Wash Post, 10/28/2011)

Senator John Kerry Pressured on the Keystone XL Pipeline

John Kerry
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is reviewing the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline ahead of the Obama administration’s decision on whether to permit the controversial project. His committee oversees the State Department, the agency vetting TransCanada Corporation’s proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline to bring crude from Alberta’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries. Kerry says, "I’ll do my best to leave no question unanswered including every possible economic and environmental consideration before a final decision is made.” The State Department hopes to make a final decision by the end of the year.

Friends of the Earth has a new website that urges people to call Kerry’s office about the pipeline.  The website encourages callers to urge Kerry to use his Foreign Relations perch to hold State “accountable,” and back the call for a inspector general probe.

The Foreign Relations Committee has been conducting regular oversight of the permitting process because of concerns about Keystone XL. The committee has hosted several briefings with the State Department to discuss the environmental impact assessments as well as the process for determining the national interest.

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute are lobbying in favor of the project, arguing it would create scores of jobs while improving energy security by expanding imports from a friendly neighbor. Canada is already the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. TransCanada claims the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs and is emphasizing that it would operate under strict safety standards. But environmental groups, which have called the jobs estimates inflated, oppose the pipeline due to greenhouse gas emissions, forest damage and other impacts from oil sands projects, as well as the potential for pipeline spills that could contaminate farmland and drinking water in states along the route. (The Hill, 10/27/2011)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Maryland LCV Executive Director - Karla Raettig

Karla Raettig
New League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Executive Director, Karla Raettig, comes from the National Wildlife Federation where she was Program Director for the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Program.

She brings over a decade of experience in environmental advocacy and litigation.

According to Raettig:
“I am excited to carry on the powerful combination of advocacy and accountability of the Maryland LCV.  The work of the organization is part of what makes Maryland a great place to live and even in hard economic times, we will continue to work to protect our air, land, water and people.”

Southern Company Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant Construction

Video of Current Plant Construction

Land has been cleared, cranes delivered
 and the site prepared to receive
 the first structures for the new units.
Southern Company subsidiary Southern Nuclear has received the Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's technical staff for the Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) for Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 near Waynesboro, Georgia. The commission staff has determined the Vogtle design is safe, meets all regulatory requirements, and is acceptable for issuance of the COL. This action allows the hearing process to begin before the commission votes on the issuance of the Vogtle COL.

This is a significant step forward in the licensing process for the Vogtle project, which will be the nation's first new nuclear units in 25 years.

The NRC has also issued its Final Safety Evaluation Report on Westinghouse Electric Company's AP1000 design for Vogtle units 3 and 4. This allows the commission to move forward toward issuance of the Design Certification Amendment rulemaking, and ultimately the COL to Southern Nuclear for the new Vogtle units. The report signifies the approval of the design by the NRC's technical staff.  Upon receipt of the COL, full construction can commence at the site. Southern Nuclear has been working under a Limited Work Authorization permit since 2009, which allows for certain safety-related construction activities.

Southern Nuclear is overseeing construction and will operate the two new 1,100-megawatt AP1000 units for Georgia Power and co-owners Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent of the new units.

Southern Nuclear currently operates Plant Vogtle's two existing nuclear power units as well as Georgia Power's Plant Hatch nuclear facility near Baxley, Ga., and Alabama Power's Plant Farley nuclear facility near Dothan, Ala.

With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. (Southern Company, 8/9/2011)

Cherry Point, Washington Coal Export Terminal

The Center Supports The Terminal

It is perfectly legal to dig up coal, transport it thousands of miles by rail, ship, and burn it for electricity. The Center intends to address carbon dioxide and global warming concerns by promoting Energy Defense Reservations (EDR) in the United States, China and other Asian nations.  We support the terminal because we believe the global warming gases can be mitigated via technology innovation, jobs can be created, Asia needs cheap, reliable electrification fuel to become fully developed (thus serving as a source of jobs in the USA via exports), train traffic can be mitigated via vehicle overpasses, fugitive coal dust can be mitigated via wetting and terminal fugitive dust can be mitigated via covered conveyor belts and fencing the facility.

A 133-car coal train is loaded at the Buckskin Coal Mine
 in Gillete, Wyo. Each car carries 120 tons of coal.

Bellingham, Washington is a progressive college town of 81,000 that values sustainability and some local activists are concerned that the area's reputation will be damaged by shipments of coal through the town to the nearby coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Washington.  Opponents are also concerned about coal dust and train traffic.  Proponents rightfully point out that train traffic will be there anyway because coal from Wyoming will go to the Westport facility in British Columbia just across the Canadian border.


A coal-fired power plant on the outskirts of Beijing

China and other Asian nations are going to burn coal.  The Center believes this demand can be utilized most efficiently if technology is developed to convert carbon dioxide into gasoline.  Although the United States probably does not have the wherewithal to develop this technology, we believe that China has both the money, motivation and technical expertise to develop the Center EDR concept.  Morever, as the percentage of coal is reduced due to environmental regulations in the United States, exporting American coal is an excellent way to reduce America's trade deficit with China.

China will simply get the coal from somewhere else if it does not come from the USA.  In particular, if Mongolia beefs up its railways, it can cheaply transport coal to China.  U.S. coal exports to China would not satisfy China's current appetite for coal because it is so massive that even if the two proposed U.S. terminals (Cherry Point & Longview) ended up exporting at full capacity — that is, 100 million tons a year, or 10 percent of current production levels — that would only satisfy 3 percent of China's appetite. (North Country Public Radio, 10/27/2011, NPR, 10/27/2011, NPR, 10/26/2011, Photos Courtesy Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images, Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Durban Climate Change Conference


November 28 - December 9, 2011

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011, will bring together representatives of the world's governments, international organizations and civil society. The discussions will seek to advance, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 last December.

[United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kissinger Featured at Middle East Business Opportunities Event

Dr. George W. Sloan To Represent Center at Event

The Pittsburgh Middle East Institute is holding its annual conference Wednesday (Oct 26) at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, which will address business opportunities in the Middle East and will feature former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. A number of officials from the countries of Saudi Arabia and Oman will discuss investment and business development potential for American companies.

Dr. Sloan, Chairman of the Center's Special Programs, will participate in the conference and will share potential investment and business opportunities with attendees.

Henry Kissinger, George 'Doc' Sloan, former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

The conference will end with a gala at the Carnegie Music Hall in which former Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh will interview Kissinger on stage. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary and Alcoa Inc. CEO Paul O'Neill is scheduled to make opening remarks.

Among speakers during Wednesday conference will be Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Sa'ud and Hunaina Al-Mughairy, Oman's ambassador to the United States. (Pittsburg Trib Live, 10/20/2011)

More information on the event.

Some Solar Companies Want Duties On Chinese Solar Imports

Some U.S. solar companies are pressuring the Obama administration to impose duties on Chinese solar imports. SolarWorld Industries America, a solar panel manufacturer, filed petitions Wednesday with the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission alleging that China is illegally subsidizing its solar industry. The company alleges that China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels and subsidizing its solar industry in violation of World Trade Organization rules. China’s efforts, the company says, are burdening U.S. solar manufacturers and are partly responsible for seven U.S. companies going out of business or downsizing in the last year.

Some solar companies believe the Chinese industry is illegally seizing control of the U.S. solar market and manufacturing and our jobs. But the petition has caused a backlash in parts of the solar industry, with several companies raising concerns that the effort will hurt some solar companies by raising the cost of panels. Petition opponents believe putting a trade barrier in place would protect this market and keep it safe for a group of manufacturers who can’t compete would stop growth. Opponents hold that petitioning companies can’t compete in the market so they are trying to use tariffs so they can sell their more expensive panels.

Solar panel prices have dropped by more than 40 percent in 2011. That’s great news for U.S. solar developers and generators, who have access to an inexpensive product. But U.S. manufacturers are struggling to compete with countries like China, which has invested billions to build its domestic solar industry and produces huge quantities of cheap panels. Companies like SolarWorld say that they simply can’t compete with the low-cost solar panels produced by China.

The 3,000-page petition alleges that China subsidizes its raw materials, provides preferential loans and offers discounted land, power and water to companies, among other things. The petition also says China is “dumping” underpriced solar panels into the market, making it impossible for U.S. companies to compete. Petitioners believe these subsidies are enormous in size and scope and they are illegal under U.S. law and World Trade Organization law.

Six other solar manufacturers have signed on to the SolarWorld petition. But all of the other companies remain anonymous, fearing backlash for challenging China.

The solar industry’s trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, has not taken a formal position on the petition, noting that it has a broad membership that likely has differing positions on China’s role in the solar sector. (The Hill, 10/23/2011)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Want To Operate A Nuclear Power Plant?

Just click on the image below:

Environmental Group Sues Railroads Over Local Pollution

Blames Them for Medical Problems of Commerce, Carson and Downtown Los Angeles Residents.

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s has sued the two major railroads operating in Los Angeles, alleging that diesel pollution from their trains is causing health problems for residents living near the yards.
The complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, seeks to hold Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. accountable for what it contends are medical problems suffered by those living near rail yards in Carson, Commerce and downtown Los Angeles.

The lawsuit seeks to prove harm and force the railroads to clean up the rail yards. Research shows diesel pollution is linked to cancer, asthma, and other respiratory and heart conditions, according to the litigants. Groups suing include East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

The suit represents “hundreds of thousands of Californians” who live near the state’s 17 railyards. Some of these people live in Commerce and East Los Angeles and, according to the NRDC press release, have been severely affected by railyard pollution.

The litigants argue that the railroad companies have long disregarded the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, RCRA. Under this act, “if you are a company and you release toxic pollution, you are required to either eliminate or reduce it so that public health is not at risk.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific maintains that the railroad is in compliance with state and federal regulations and recently received a Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Texas-based BNSF, characterized the suit as one of a series of attacks on “the goods movement industry,” and said the railroad has successfully reduced emissions and purchased new, cleaner locomotives. They have spent millions of dollars to ensure that their railroads are environmentally friendly.

Before suing, NRDC attorneys gave the railroad companies 90 days to reduce harmful pollutants. Methods included using locomotives, trucks and equipment that meet stringent EPA emission standards, such as electric vehicles; adopting idling control devices and prohibiting idling near residences, and fleet modernization. However, “no progress was made or any good faith effort on behalf of UP or BNSF to address the pollutants,” according to NRDC. (EGP News, 10/19/2011)

California Finally Adopts Cap and Trade Program

California formally adopted its "cap-and-trade" system Thursday, which is designed to provide financial incentives for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to approve the final draft of its plan, a key part of the state's landmark 2006 global warming law, AB 32, which seeks to reduce the emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The Center supported AB 32 and supports California's cap and trade program.

Some businesses regulated under the program argue it will increase the price of electricity for consumers and hurt job creation by raising the cost of doing business in the state. But the program's supporters expect cap-and-trade to spur economic recovery and innovation, by pushing business to invest in clean technologies.

While implementation of some parts of the program will begin in 2012, compliance for power plants and other of the worst polluting facilities actually starts in 2013, with others joining in 2015. In total, the plan will cover 85 percent of California's emissions.

In general, the program will require pollution producers like refineries and cement manufacturers to buy permits, called allowances, from the state. Each permit allows for a specified amount of greenhouse gases each year, with the amount declining over time. Companies that cut emissions and have extra allowances can then sell the permits in a marketplace; greenhouse gas emitters could purchase those allowances if they failed to cut emissions. Polluters that reduce emissions could turn a profit if the market price for extra allowances rises above the initial cost of the permit. A company can also meet up to 8 percent of its emissions reduction obligations by purchasing carbon "offsets," or investments in forestry or other projects that reduce greenhouse gases. To help companies prepare, 90 percent of the allowances would be free in the first years, providing time for equipment upgrades.

The program was briefly halted by a judge after environmental justice groups sued, arguing the market-based approach of cap-and-trade would allow polluters to buy the right to pollute more by purchasing more allowances. This, they argued, would affect mostly low-income neighborhoods located near governed facilities. The California Supreme Court in September allowed work to continue on the regulations.

In response to these concerns, the board on Thursday also approved a new "adaptive management plan," under which the air quality of neighborhoods near power plants and other regulated facilities will be monitored to see if any more pollution results from cap-and-trade. If increases are found to be a result of cap-and-trade, the board said it would respond. (Anchorage Daily News, AP, 10/19/2011)

Libya Oil Production Post Gaddafi

Most of Libya's wealth is from oil exports.  Ninety-five percent of Libya's export earnings are from oil.  The country was pumping 1.4 million barrels a day before the revolt.  Those earnings are a quarter of the country's GDP.

The country is already producing about 400,000 barrels a day, thoughmost of that is going to domestic use. About 130,000barrels a day of refining capacity is back online, and the figure could expand to 300,000 by the end of the year. How long it will take to get production back up to pre-civil war levels of about 1.6 million barrels a day remains uncertain. Most industry analysts expect at least 500,000 barrels a day of output by year’s end, and more soon after. (Wash Post, 10/22/2011)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition

The Center has been managing the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC) blog(s) for 9 years. The blog has taken three different forms over the years (2nd blog).  NFRC was started by co-chairs Norris McDonald and Clinton Crackel.

The NFRC was established in 2002 to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants.

Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

"Too Dirty To Fail"?

Op Ed

Los Angeles Times

By Lisa Jackson
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

FULL ARTICLE

Excerpts:
Americans must once again stand up for their right to clean air and clean water. 

We can put Americans to work retrofitting outdated, dirty plants with updated pollution control technology. There are about 1,100 coal-fired units at about 500 power plants in this country. About half of these units are more than 40 years old, and about three-quarters of them are more than 30 years old. Of these 1,100 units, 44% do not use pollution controls such as scrubbers or catalysts to limit emissions, and they pour unlimited amounts of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases into our air. Despite requirements in the bipartisan 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, these facilities have largely refused to control their emissions — creating an uneven playing field for companies who play by the rules and gaming the system at the expense of our health.

By contrast, the nation's first-ever standards for mercury and other air toxic pollutants which the EPA will finalize this fall — and which the Republican leadership aims to block — are estimated to create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term jobs in the utility sector through modernizing power plants. And the savings in health benefits are estimated to be up to $140 billion per year by 2016.

Our environment affects red states and blue states alike. It is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water. Let's end "too dirty to fail."
(L.A. Times, 10/21/2011)

Coal Plant Has Duke Energy Taking $220 Million Charge

Duke Energy Corporation will take a $220 million charge against earnings to cover some of the huge cost of building its 600-megawatt "clean coal" power plant in Indiana. Indiana regulators will begin hearings to determine how much Duke's customers will have to pay toward the cost of the Edwardsport facility. Duke now projects the plant's cost at $3 billion—$1 billion more than originally forecast. Consumer groups and large industrial power users in the state argue that much of that cost should be absorbed by Duke and its shareholders.

Duke Energy's Edwardsport, Indiana 'clean coal' plant

The plant will be one of the most expensive nonnuclear power plants ever built in the U.S. The project had been intended to show how coal could be converted into a clean-burning gas and used to make affordable electricity, but its rising costs make that goal more challenging. The plant is expected to boost electricity rates in Indiana when it enters service next year.

Regardless of the plant's eventual price tag, state regulators have agreed to let Duke's Indiana utility charge customers for $2.35 billion of Edwardsport's cost. The Charlotte, N.C., company and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission are wrangling over the remainder, which tops $700 million. (WSJ, 10/21/2011)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Water Produced With Coalbed Methane

Natural gas produced from coal beds (coal-bed methane, CBM) accounts for about 7.5 percent of the total natural gas production in the United States. Along with this gas, water is also brought to the surface. The amount of water produced from most CBM wells is relatively high compared to conventional natural gas wells because coal beds contain many fractures and pores that can contain and transmit large volumes of water.

How is coalbed methane extracted from coal?

When water is removed from a coal seam, it lowers the reservoir pressure. Methane that was held in place by water pressure tends to follow the water as it is pumped to the surface, where it is captured and transported through pipelines to storage facilities or shipped. This relatively inexpensive and straightforward procedure has made coalbed methane a useful, easily accessible form of energy.

Estimates of the amount of recoverable CBM have increased from about 90 trillion cubic feet (TCF) 10 years ago to about 141 TCF, spurred by advances in technology, exploration, and production (Nelson, 1999). As the number of CBM wells increases, the amount of water produced will also increase.

Water coproduced with methane is not reinjected into the producing formation to enhance recovery as it is in many oil fields.  Instead it must be disposed of or used for beneficial purpose.

(Science Education Research Center, USGS)

EPA to Develop Natural Gas Wastewater Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing a schedule to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction from underground coalbed and shale formations. No comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities, and over the coming months EPA will begin the process of developing a proposed standard with the input of stakeholders – including industry and public health groups. Today’s announcement is in line with the priorities identified in the president’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, and is consistent with the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board recommendations on steps to support the safe development of natural gas resources.

Natural gas drilling
Recent technology and operational improvements in extracting natural gas resources, particularly shale gas, have increased gas drilling activities across the country. Production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades. The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources safely and responsibly, including understanding any potential impact on water resources.

Truck (4,000 gallon capacity) hauling used fracking water
Shale Gas Standards:

Currently, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways and other waters of the U.S. While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. As a result, some shale gas wastewater is transported to treatment plants, many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.

Coalbed Methane Standards:

Wastewater associated with coalbed methane extraction is not currently subject to national standards for being directly discharged into waterways and for pre-treatment standards. Its regulation is left to individual states. For coalbed methane, EPA will be considering uniform national standards based on economically achievable technologies.

Information reviewed by EPA, including state supplied wastewater sampling data, have documented elevated levels of pollutants entering surface waters as a result of inadequate treatment at facilities. To ensure that these wastewaters receive proper treatment and can be properly handled by treatment plants, EPA will gather data, consult with stakeholders, including ongoing consultation with industry, and solicit public comment on a proposed rule for coalbed methane in 2013 and a proposed rule for shale gas in 2014.

The schedule for coalbed methane is shorter because EPA has already gathered extensive data and information in this area, EPA will take the additional time to gather comparable data on shale gas. In particular, EPA will be looking at the potential for cost-effective steps for pretreatment of this wastewater based on practices and technologies that are already available and being deployed or tested by industry to reduce pollutants in these discharges.

This announcement is part of the effluent guidelines program, which sets national standards for industrial wastewater discharges based on best available technologies that are economically achievable. EPA is required to publish a biennial outline of all industrial wastewater discharge rulemakings underway. EPA has issued national technology-based regulations for 57 industries since 1972. These regulations have prevented the discharge of more than 1.2 billion pounds of toxic pollutants each year into US waters. (EPA)

More information

Municipal authorities enjoy the extra revenue created by accepting Marcellus Shale wastewater. If a 4,000 gallon tanker truck pays 5¢ per gallon for wastewater disposal, that amounts to $200.00 per truckload, which adds to a municipal authority's bottom line. (Marcellus Shale US)

Rick Perry & Ron Paul Contradictory On Energy Subsidies

Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry, right, and Ron Paul, left, have been speaking out against federal subsidies for energy projects, but evidence is being presented that shows both of them have tried to obtain such benefits in 2008. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) pressed Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman in 2008 to approve a federal loan guarantee to help NRG Energy compete for a part of $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees set aside for nuclear production. In recent candidates debates, the two have criticized federal energy loan programs.

Perry at the Tuesday night CNN debate:
“We don’t need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion. The federal government should not be involved in that type of investment, period. If states want to choose to do that, I think that’s fine for states to do.”

“We need to have a discussion in this country about our 10th Amendment and the appropriateness of it, as it’s been eroded by Washington, D.C., for all these many years, whether it’s health care, whether it’s education, or whether it’s dealing with energy. We don’t need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion, allow the states to make the decision.” 
Paul at the Tuesday night CNN debate:

“The government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing any form of energy.”

The programs were created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 during the George W. Bush administration and were expanded in 2007 and again in President Obama's 2009 stimulus plan.

Perry requested loan guarantee support:
“I am writing to express my strong support for the proposed nuclear power generating facility in Matagorda County.”
Paul rquested loan guarantee support:
“I am writing in support of the loan guarantee application filed by NRG Energy, Inc. for two new nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project. Additionally, the construction and operation of STP 3 and 4 will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs.”
The NRG plant had been among 15 finalists for part of the nuclear loan guarantees. The Energy Department decided to grant its first round of loan guarantees to a nuclear plant in Georgia. Last spring, after the Japanese tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis chilled the appetite for nuclear investment, NRG Energy abandoned its five-year pursuit of a plant expansion. (Wash Post, 10/19/2011)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GOP Presidential Candidates Oppose Yucca Mountain

Don't They Know That President Obama Opposes Yucca Mountain Too?

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum,
 Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney,  Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
 and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., pose for a photo before a  Republican
 presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. Photo: Chris Carlson / AP

Tuesday's CNN sponsored debated revealed that the Republican candidates agree with President Obama in opposing Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

Ron Paul, like President Obama, supports nuclear power, but said the other 49 states don't have the right to "put our garbage in your state [Nevada]."  Paul opposes all energy subsidies.

Both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich oppose the proposed Nevada repository.  Newt: “I’m not a scientist. I mean, Yucca Mountain was certainly picked by the scientific community as one of the safest places in the United States.  It has always had very deep opposition here in Nevada. But we have to find some method of finding a very geologically stable place, and most geologists agree that Yucca Mountain is that.”

Although the other candidates did not comment, they also did not attempt to jump in to address the issue.  Maybe that had something to do with the debate being in Nevada, proposed home for the site.

The Center supports Yucca Mountain as the national repository for nuclear waste.  We also recommend locating a reprocessing facility at the Yucca site.

CFTC Imposes Restrictions On Speculative Energy Trading

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) voted Tuesday to impose new restrictions on speculative trading in energy futures markets. The rules, required under last year’s Dodd-Frank law, are aimed at reigning in speculative Wall Street trading that some allege has driven up oil prices and worsened market volatility in recent years.

The rules impose “position limits” on the amount of futures and swaps contracts for oil and other commodities that traders hold. The rule sets limits on contracts for oil, natural gas and other energy contracts, as well as some agricultural and metals contracts.

The five-person CFTC includes Democrats Bart Chilton, Chairman Gary Gensler, Michael Dunn, and Republicans Jill Sommers and Scott O’Malia opposed it. The rule was approved along party lines.

The rule sets federally enforced limits, for the first time ever, on the amount of concentration anyone may control in energies and metals. (The Hill, 10/18/2011)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Herman Cain Wants To Close The U.S. EPA

Surely He's Kidding Again

We have not read presidential candidate Herman Cain's explanation about how he or the marketplace would protect our air, land and water.  The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act are no small matters. He would have to repeal all of those laws in order to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.  The late President Richard Nixon must be turning over in his grave about this Cain proposal.  Nixon signed the law that created the EPA.  Nixon also signed all of the aforementioned environmental laws.  Of course, in the Republican camp, Nixon is no Reagan.

How would Herman Cain implement the requirements of the Clean Air Act without EPA?  Relaxing regulations are one thing, but leaving air pollution mitigation completely to the marketplace would be a disaster.  Don't get us wrong, AAEA is marketplace oriented.  Just look to the smog-filled skies of China for the reality of unbridled economic development without sufficient clean air regulations.  We are still baffled too about the flip flop of both parties on Cap-&-Trade.  First it was a Republican strategy and then it was a Democratic strategy.  Now it is not a strategy at all.  But we digress. 

How would Cain manage clean water permits?  Industry already self reports.  Does Cain really believe that unscrupulous companies would not maximize profits by indiscriminately dumping its waste into our waterways?  Come on Herman.  What about our drinking water plants and safe drinking water standards?  Does Herman really think the public will trust oversight of our drinking water systems to private companies? 

What about toxic wastes?  Would Mr. Cain get rid of all of the regulations that control the generation, transportation and disposal of hazardous wastes?  We don't think so.

So Mr. Cain is kidding again.  Plus, we know he could never do it anyway.  The legendary President Ronald Reagan came to Washington with grandiose plans to reform and reduce government.  He didn't do it.  In fact, Bill Clinton implemented more of Ronald Reagan's plans than the Gipper ever achieved.  Herman has to get the Republican nomination first.  And then he has to defeat the best politician in the history of the United States. 

AAEA is here to advise you Mr. Cain on energy and environmental issues if you are so inclined. Give us a call.  We are nonpartisan.  And stop joking around when it comes to protecting our environment.

Anadarko To Pay BP $4 Billion To Settle Gulf Oil Disaster Claim

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has agreed to pay BP $4 billion to settle claims arising from last year's Gulf oil disaster.  This action reverses a hard-line stance by Anadarko that BP should pay the entire bill. Anadarko, which owns a 25 percent stake of BP's blown-out Macondo well, will also drop all charges against BP, including one accusing the British oil giant of gross negligence, which held the threat of far greater liabilities for BP.

BP set aside more than $40 billion to pay for estimated spill costs and claims in the wake of the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and launched the nation's worst oil spill. But from the beginning, it has argued the accident was the result of errors by multiple parties, and that it shouldn't bear the entire burden for damages.

In May, BP reached a $1 billion settlement with Japan's Mitsui, which held a 10 percent stake in the well. The following month, it struck a $75 million deal with Weatherford International, which provided drilling services at Macondo.

Under the settlement, Anadarko will make a single cash payment into a $20 billion trust fund BP established to pay for claims and cleanup costs. BP, in turn, will waive the $6.1 billion it had sought from Anadarko to cover its share of Gulf cleanup costs and other spill-related claims, as well as indemnify Anadarko for nearly all past and potential future costs.

Last week, the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement began the process of assessing government penalties. It sent notices of alleged violations to BP; Transocean, owner of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig; and Halliburton, whose cement work in the well has come under scrutiny. (Houston Chronicle, 10/17/2011)

The Ron Paul "Plan To Restore America"

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has released an 11-page "Plan To Restore America" that is full of budget cuts and spending freezes.

Here is a 7-point summary of the plan:

1) Cuts $1 trillion in one year and more in following years through attrition.

2) Reduces other funding to 2006 levels.

3) Eliminates 5 cabinet secretaries (Energy, HUD, Commerce, Interior, and Education).

4) Block grants Welfare Programs to remove federal strings and let states work out their best solutions.

5) Eliminates subsidies and Corporate Welfare.

6) Slashes perks and salaries for congressman and Bureaucrats. President Paul will take a salary of around $39,000 per year, the median salary for an American worker.

7) The corporate tax rate would fall to 15% from the current 35%.

Senate Passes Oil & Gas Pipeline Safety Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Monday to toughen federal safety regulation of oil and gas pipelines. The bill is an attempt to close gaps in federal safety regulations exposed by a deadly gas pipeline rupture in San Bruno, California last year.  Other recent gas explosions and oil pipeline spills also prompted the Senate to act quickly. It would authorize more federal safety inspectors, increase penalties for violations and require pipeline companies to verify their records on pipelines’ physical and operational characteristics and establish maximum operating pressures based on the verified information.

Under the bill, federal regulators could order that automatic shutoff valves be installed on new pipelines so leaks can be halted sooner. And it directs regulators to determine whether mandatory inspections of aging pipelines in densely populated areas should be expanded to include lines in rural areas. It would be paid for by industry fees.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bill in May without opposition. The bill is supported by the industry’s major trade associations — the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Gas Association and the Association of Oil Pipelines — as well as the Pipeline Safety Trust, a safety advocacy group. (The Associated Press, Wash Post, 10/17/2011)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canada Grants LNG Export License to KM LNG Partnership

On October 13, 2011, the National Energy Board granted KM LNG Operating General Partnership an export licence for its proposed Kitimat LNG Project, an LNG export facility on the west coast of British Columbia. This export licence represents the first time since deregulation of Canada's natural gas markets that the National Energy Board has considered an export of LNG from Canada. This decision serves as an important precedent for industry participants that wish to export LNG from Canada in the future. The decision also sends a strong signal that exporting LNG from Canada to Asia is in the Canadian public interest.

Background

Export licences are required from the National Energy Board (NEB) whenever oil or natural gas is proposed to be exported for a term exceeding two years. Historically, export licences were used to export natural gas from Canada to major utilities in the United States under long-term purchase and sale contracts.

Kitimat LNG Project

The proposed Kitimat LNG project involves the construction of an LNG export terminal near the Port of Kitimat on the northern coast of British Columbia. The export terminal will have an initial capacity of 0.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas, with expansion capacity to add an additional 0.7 Bcf/d. The Kitimat LNG terminal will connect to the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP), which is a proposed 1.4 Bcf/d pipeline running approximately 463 kilometres from the export terminal to Spectra Energy's existing pipeline network, which ties into the broader North American natural gas grid. The proponents of both the Kitimat LNG terminal and the PTP are partnerships between Apache Canada, EOG Resources Canada and Encana Corporation.

Apache Canada and EOG Canada plan to build the Kitimat LNG facility on Bish Cove, approximately 400 miles north of Vancouver. The facility is planned for an initial output capacity of 5 million metric tonnes per annum Apache Canada is the managing partner of KM LNG Operating General Partnership, which owns 51 percent of the Kitimat LNG facility and is the facility operator. EOG Canada, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, owns the remaining 49 percent of the Kitimat LNG facility.

Kitimat LNG partners Apache Canada Ltd. (Apache Canada) and EOG Resources Canada Inc. (EOG Canada) have agreed to purchase the 50 percent interest in the Pacific Trail Pipelines Limited Partnership (PTPLP) they do not own from Pacific Northern Gas Ltd. (PNG) for $50 million.  Apache Canada and EOG Canada will pay PNG $30 million on closing – expected by the end of February – and a second payment of $20 million when the purchasers decide to proceed with construction of the Kitimat liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility.

Acquiring the PTP is an important step in building a comprehensive system that will enable Apache and EOG to tap Asian markets for our abundant natural gas resources in the Horn River Basin and elsewhere in Western Canada.

PTPLP is planning to build a 287-mile, 36-inch diameter underground line from Summit Lake, British Columbia, to Kitimat, the location of the planned LNG export terminal on the northern British Columbia coast. Following the completion of the purchase, Apache Canada will own 51 percent of the partnership and EOG Canada, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, will own the remaining 49 percent.

PNG will operate and maintain the planned pipeline under a seven-year agreement with Apache Canada and EOG Canada with provisions for five-year renewals. Apache Canada and EOG Canada also agreed to 20-year transportation service arrangements requiring them to use a portion of PNG's current pipeline capacity.

About Apache Canada Ltd.

Apache Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Apache Corporation (NYSE:APA)(NASDAQ:APA), is one of Canada's top oil and gas producers with operations in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

About EOG Canada

EOG Resources Canada Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of EOG Resources, Inc., one of the largest independent (non-integrated) oil and natural gas companies in the United States with proved reserves in the United States, Canada, Trinidad, the United Kingdom and China. (Mondaq, 10/17/2011, Marketwire, 2/7/2011)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rick Perry Issues Energy Plan To Create Jobs

Rick Perry
Rick Perry issued his energy plan this week that he claims will increase domestic energy production and create jobs. His proposals call for increased domestic production of natural gas and oil.  Perry believes it is necessary to revive the U.S. economy.  Perry's plan calls for increased oil drilling off the Atlantic Coast, around Alaska and on federal land in Western states. He also urged ending the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Perry said that as president he would severely curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in setting emissions standards for businesses because he believes the rules often hurt the economy

Perry said he would oppose tax credits and benefits that favor specific kinds of energy. (Rick Perry, Wash Post, 10/15/2011)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Offshore Wind Power For Maryland? Pay More? Sure

Brian Lewis/The Gazette.
 Gov. Martin O'Malley
 addresses a conference
 on wind power at the
Baltimore Convention Center
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has made offshore wind power a cornerstone of his environmental policy.  O’Malley has proposed legislation to allow about 120 wind turbines 11 miles off the coast. In the last General Assembly session, it stalled in House and Senate committees amid concerns and uncertainties about the cost.

The Center supports the offshore wind power proposal.

A telephone survey of 805 registered voters last month by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies. It found that almost 62 percent of Marylanders said they would be willing to pay an extra $2 per month for electricity generated by “clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil and gas.”

The poll was conducted for the National Wildlife Federation and the Offshore Wind Coalition.  (The Gazette, 10/14/2011)