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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wind Energy Industry Installed Equivalent of 13 Large Power Plants Last Year



U.S. companies installed a record amount of wind power in 2012, according to an industry study. The American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) quarterly market report counted 13,124 megawatts installed in the U.S. during 2012. According to AWEA, that represented about $25 billion in private investment. In total, the U.S. now has about 60,000 megawatts of wind capacity.

The wind-power tax credit is worth 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated.

Texas added the most wind capacity of any state in 2012, installing 1,826 megawatts, followed by California, Kansas and Oklahoma, each of which installed more than 1,000 megawatts, the report said. Through November, wind power accounted for about 3.4% of U.S. electricity generation in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (WSJ, 1/30/2013)

American Water Offers Grants

American Water Now Accepting Applications For 2013 Environmental Grant Program

 Grants Available to Community Projects in Service Areas in 13 States

American Water, the nation’s largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company, announced recently that applications are now being accepted by its participating state subsidiaries for the company’s 2013 Environmental Grant Program awards. The grant awards will be available in American Water service areas in 13 states as follows: California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.Established in 2005, American Water’s Environmental Grant Program offers funds for innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect the watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies through partnerships. To qualify, proposed projects must:

  • Address a source water or watershed protection need in the community
  • Be completed between May 1, 2013 and November 29, 2013
  • Be a new or innovative program for the community, or serve as a significant expansion to an existing program
  • Be carried out by a formal or informal partnership between two or more organizations
  • Provide evidence of sustainability (continued existence after the American Water grant monies are utilized)
  • Be located within one of American Water's service areas in the following states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Information and application requirements can be obtained directly from participating American Water state subsidiaries, or on the company website. Applications must be postmarked by March 11, 2013 and recipients will be notified by April 12, 2013.

In 2012, a total of 48 projects throughout American Water’s service areas in ten states were awarded grants totaling more than $180,000.

U.S. Economy Shrinks 0.1%

The U.S. economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended.  The decline occurred despite faster growth in consumer spending and business investment.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter and the first contraction since the second quarter of 2009. The weakness was primarily the result of one-time factors.

Another positive aspect of the report: For all of 2012, the economy expanded 2.2 percent, better than 2011’s growth of 1.8 percent.

Exports fell by the most in nearly four years, likely a result of Europe’s recession and slower growth in China and some other large developing countries.

The economy has created about 150,000 jobs a month, on average, for the past two years. That’s barely enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which has been 7.8 percent for the past two months.(Wash Post, 1/30/2013)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lisa P. Jackson: Best U.S. EPA Administrator In History

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Norris McDonald and Lisa P. Jackson

We supported Lisa Jackson's nomination to be EPA administrator when it was announced in 2008.  I remember like it was yesterday greeting her in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee right after her confirmation hearing. I knew she would be a great administrator.  And she proved me right.  I was also with her on the Friday before President Obama's Inauguration Day in her office at the EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC. 

Lisa Jackson never got 'The Big Head.' I've been around Washington, DC for over three decades and have seen many come and go.  I have also observed many heads explode upon experiencing the intoxicating elixir that is power Inside The Beltway.  Not Jackson.  She's the same now as when she came in.  My guess is that she was already experienced in the ways of Washington, having worked at EPA for years.  She was also commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  It probably doesn't get much more political than that at the state level.  So she was ready for this town.  And I am very impressed that she did not let it swell her head.

I was Lisa's groupie when she started as administrator.  Actually I was making it a point to get in front of all of the energy and environmental officials in the new Obama administration.  But Administrator Jackson was at the top of my list.  I would be there on the Senate side.  I would be there on the House side.  We got to know each other a bit better via these encounters.  She invited me to meet with her early on.  And we met in her office for about 45 minutes and discussed international, national, state and local environmental issues. 

I found out that Administrator Jackson and I shared a birthday (February 8th) and I gave her a really goofy card right after one of her Senate hearings.  She was a bit more controversial by now and a bit slippery.  But I handed her the card right outside of the Dirksen Senate Office Building just before she got into her chauffeur-driven town car.  It was one of those speaking cards that goofed on our getting older.  She got me back though.



The next year I asked if we could 'do lunch' for our birthdays.  She said she had another engagement (her husband's birthday is on Feb 8th too), but could I do an early breakfast.  I said sure and wondered where we might go.  She got back to me a few days later with arrangements for us to have breakfast at The White House (West Wing Navy Mess).  We sat and ate breakfast and chatted for an hour.  It was funny when I asked if she minded if I talked while eating because it's not everyday you get this kind of quality time with the U.S. EPA administrator.  She laughed and said it was okay.  And talked with food in her mouth too.  It was my best birthday ever.  Thank you Lisa.

Adminstrator Jackson mused about whether she would stay on for a second term during that breakfast.  Although I wanted her to stay on, I am not surprised that she decided to step down.  Her sons are at a very crucial age and you can't get that time back. 

I spent the afternoon with Administrator Jackson at a sustainability roundtable and environmental forum at EPA Headquarters on the Friday before the beginning of President Obama's second term.  She was the same Lisa Jackson at this forum as she was at that Senate confirmation hearing.  She made me feel real special on this day too.  She went out of her way to arrange for us to take a picture in her office.  I could see how busy she was when I walked in as she was wrapping up her tenure as administrator.  We took the photo and shared a hug.  We remain in contact.

Virginia Uranium Mining


Move the play bar to about 29 minutes in for the beginning

The Virginia General Assembly is currently reviewing the Commonwealth's moratorium on uranium mining, which has been in place since 1982. The Heritage Foundation hosted a forum today on the issue.  The Heritage Foundation believes that lifting the moratorium could not only bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of economic activity to Virginia's south-central region, but also provide the nation with a major energy source for years to come. They believe that despite these benefits and the strong history of safe uranium mining in countries like Australia and Canada and in the United States, many Virginia Assembly members remain skeptical that uranium mining is good for the state.   
Dr. Bob Seal
Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey

Andrea Jennetta
Founder and Publisher, Fuel Cycle Week

Walter Coles Jr.
Owner, Coles Hill, and Executive Vice President, Virginia Uranium, Inc.

Hosted By

Jack Spencer
Jack Spencer
Senior Research Fellow, Nuclear Energy Policy

Energy Department Releases Study on Natural Gas Exports

Invites Public Comment


As part of a broader effort to further inform decisions related to LNG exports, the Department of Energy commissioned NERA Economic Consulting to conduct a third party study in order to gain a better understanding of how U.S. LNG exports could affect the public interest, with an emphasis on the energy and manufacturing sectors. The Department is releasing that study and making it available for public review and comment. As this is not a Department of Energy product, the Department will be conducting its own review of the study as well as consideration of relevant comments made throughout the process prior to making final determinations.
 
Federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have a free trade agreement with the United States. For countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the U.S., the Department of Energy is required to grant applications for export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports "will not be consistent with the public interest." Factors for consideration include economic, energy security, and environmental impacts.

On December 5, 2012, the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy posted the final NERA report into the 15 pending export application dockets, and invites the public to provide comment. The report and resulting comments will be taken into consideration as the Department makes its public interest determinations in each case. The Department will accept initial comments on the report for 45 days after the official notice of the study appears in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be accepted for a period of 30 days, beginning on the day after the conclusion of the initial comment period. All comments received need only be submitted once as they will be placed in the administrative record for each of the 15 currently pending export application dockets. 

Following the closing of the reply comment period, the Department of Energy will begin to act on the 15 applications on a case-by-case basis. The study released today will be one of the inputs considered during evaluation of those applications. The Energy Department expects to act first upon applications for which the applicants have commenced the pre-filing process at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as of December 5, 2012, in the general order in which the Department received them. Following disposition of those applications that have pre-filed with FERC, the Energy Department expects to act upon the rest of the pending applications – and any others submitted - in the order received.

Overall the report finds little effect on prices in the initial years of exports, but notes a growing impact as years go by and exports grow.

From the report:

U.S. natural gas prices increase when the U.S. exports LNG. But the global market limits how high U.S. natural gas prices can rise under pressure of LNG exports because importers will not purchase U.S. exports if U.S. wellhead price rises above the cost of competing supplies. In particular, the U.S. natural gas price does not become linked to oil prices in any of the cases examined.

Natural gas price changes attributable to LNG exports remain in a relatively narrow range across the entire range of scenarios. Natural gas price increases at the time LNG exports could begin range from zero to $0.33 (2010$/Mcf). The largest price increases that would be observed after 5 more years of potentially growing exports could range from $0.22 to $1.11 (2010$/Mcf). The higher end of the range is reached only under conditions of ample U.S. supplies and low domestic natural gas prices, with smaller price increases when U.S. supplies are more costly and domestic prices higher.

(See also: Baker Institute Study)

(DOE, The Hill, 12/5/2013))

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wind Energy Tax Credit Extended By ATRA

The “fiscal cliff bill” (American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 - ATRA) the President signed in early January provided a lifeline to renewable energy development by extending eligibility for wind energy tax credits. Tax credits have allowed the industry to remain cost effective. Eligibility for those credits was set to expire at the end of 2012 for wind projects and at the end of 2013 for other renewable energy sources. As part of the “fiscal cliff” tax deal, however, Congress extended eligibility for tax credits for renewable energy projects through the end of 2013, provided developers “begin construction” before the end of the year. Unfortunately, the Act gives developers little direction as to what the phrase “begin construction” means.”

The production tax credit (PTC) was enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, and has been extended several times. The PTC is an income tax credit based on production of electricity from certain renewable energy sources. Eligible taxpayers receive a credit at an inflation-adjusted rate per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated from qualified resources and sold to unrelated persons. The credit is available for 10 years, beginning when the facility is placed in service.



For calendar year 2012, the Internal Revenue Service calculated the credit for the sale of electricity produced from wind, closed-loop biomass, geothermal energy, and solar energy at 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour and the credit for the sale of electricity produced from open-loop biomass facilities, small irrigation power facilities, landfill gas facilities, trash combustion facilities, qualified hydropower facilities, marine and hydrokinetic energy facilities at 1.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

Section 1102 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided taxpayers with the right to elect to claim a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of the PTC for wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, municipal solid waste , hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic energy facilities. Unlike the PTC, which is claimed over the 10 years after the facility is placed in service, the ITC is claimed in the year the facility is placed in service. Under the ARRA, the ITC and PTC were made available for wind energy projects placed in service before January 1, 2013, and other projects placed in service before January 1, 2014.

With respect to renewable energy and alternative fuels, ATRA extends and modifies several important benefits, including:
  • The credit for cellulosic biofuel production and bonus depreciation for cellulosic biofuel plant property were both extended through 2013 and expanded to include algae; (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has vacated the cellulosic biofuel portion of EPA’s 2012 Renewable Fuels Standard)
  • The expired credits and payments for biodiesel and renewable diesel were resurrected, with expiration dates extended two years, to the end of 2013, as was the credit for property used to refuel alternative fuel vehicles;
  • The credit for plug-in electric vehicles, which previously was restricted to vehicles with “at least 4 wheels,” was expanded to include plug-in electric vehicles with 2 or 3 wheels.[
Section 407 of the Act extends the PTC and ITC to qualified facilities “the construction of which begins before January 1, 2014.” In other words, the ATRA not only extends the PTC and ITC expiration for wind facilities beyond the December 31, 2012 expiration, it changes the threshold for vesting of the right to claim the PTC or ITC. (Martens Law, 1/28/2013)

Court Rules ON Biofuels and Utility Mercury

Court Vacates Cellulosic Biofuel Part of RFS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has vacated the cellulosic biofuel portion of EPA’s 2012 Renewable Fuels Standard.

They also denied a challenge over EPA’s refusal to lower the overall volume of advanced biofuels for 2012. 
 
Court Declines To Rehear Vacated Ruling On EPA's on Cross State Ruling – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also declined to rehear the court’s ruling that vacated EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  EPA will have to go back to the drawing board.  Will EPA’s other big power plant rule – the MATS rule –  be upheld in court. The same court that struck down CSAPR will be ruling on MATS later this year. If MATS is overturned the Obama Administration will need to work with Congress to come up with an acceptable approach for regulating emissions from power plants. (Frank Maisano)

Royal Dutch Shell & Exxon Mobil LNG Export Plans

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has struck a deal with a unit of U.S. pipeline giant Kinder Morgan to export liquefied natural gas from an existing import terminal near Savannah, Georgia. The bid adds to energy-sector efforts to capitalize on North America's newly found abundance of natural gas from shale and comes in the wake of a recent report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy that came out in favor of LNG exports.


Exxon Mobil Corp.  last year announced plans to turn an import terminal in Texas into a facility that can also export, and Chevron Corp. last month partnered with Apache Corp.  in order to liquefy and export natural gas out of western Canada. Shell is also working on a competing western Canada LNG export project.

The Georgia export project would need U.S. permission to export to countries with which the U.S. doesn't have free-trade agreements, and the companies must finalize investment decisions. But due to Shell's deep pockets and its experience in the LNG business, the effort could stand out amid 20 or so different projects awaiting for permits to sell LNG to non-FTA countries. So far only one project, Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Louisiana terminal, is authorized for exports and is under construction.

Shell and Houston-based Kinder Morgan said that they would seek to modify El Paso Pipeline Partners LP's  Elba Express Pipeline unit and the Elba Island LNG Terminal to move natural gas to the terminal, liquefy it and ship it. El Paso, a Kinder Morgan unit, will own 51% of the partnership and run the facility, and Shell will own 49% and have rights to 100% of the liquefaction capacity of the terminal. The project is expected to be able to ship 350 million cubic feet of gas per day. (WSJ, 1/28/2013)

Ford, Daimler & Renault-Nissan To Produce Hydrogen Cars

Ford, Daimler and Renault-Nissan have joined forces to speed development of cars that run on hydrogen, with hopes of bringing a vehicle to market in as little as four years. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles generate electricity after a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is stored in special high-pressure tanks, and the only emissions are water vapor and heat.



Under the alliance, each company will invest equally in the technology. They plan to develop a common fuel cell system that the companies will use to power their own vehicles. The companies also plan to take advantage of their combined size to reduce costs.

Many automakers have been testing the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for years, but so far haven’t been able to bring costs down enough to sell the vehicles in mass markets. The zero-emissions cars have great potential to cut pollution and reduce the world’s reliance on oil for transportation.





The alliance between Ford Motor Co., of Dearborn, Mich.; Daimler AG of Germany, maker of Mercedes vehicles; and the joint operations of France’s Renault SA and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co., is another example of global automakers combining forces to develop engines and other new technology. The companies are trying to share expensive development costs, yet keep their products different.



Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG said earlier this month that they are working together on next-generation batteries for green vehicles called “lithium-air.” Their collaboration, first announced in late 2011, also is working on fuel cells with hopes of completing a vehicle by 2020.  (Wash Post, AP)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lisa P. Jackson's Last Day Features Sustainability

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

I was delighted to be invited to Lisa Jackson's last day at EPA headquarters where sustainability issues were discussed.  Jackson is the best admininistrator in the history of the agency to me.


Lisa Jackson center, Norris McDonald third from right
 
Lisa P. Jackson's last official workday included a meeting at EPA headquarters with an Executive Roundtable on Applying a Sustainability Lens to Environmental Protection. Jackson announced that EPA will continue to invite stakeholder dialogue on sustainability.  According to Jackson: 
"We believe that continued input from business, trade associations, other government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations will be essential as we move to further integrate sustainability principles into our work. We will be sharing more information about our plans for these dialogues in a follow-up communication next week."
EPA also just launched a new website on sustainable manufacturing. We hope it will be a valuable resource for your organization. This new portal pulls together information from a variety of government and non-governmental sources.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Chicken Litter To Power Maryland Universities & Offices

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has announced that Maryland and its university system have joined forces to purchase at least 10 megawatts of power from a plant that will run primarily on chicken waste. O’Malley’s spending plan for the budget year that begins in July includes $2.5 million for so-called “manure to energy” projects. Obtaining manure from poultry manure or animal waste helps helps Maryland government reach its goal of generating 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources.

The state’s contract is with a California-based renewable energy company called Green Planet Power Solutions. It plans to locate the chicken-litter plant in Federalsburg, in Caroline County.



The governor’s office said it hopes the initiative will save the state between $53 million and $80 million over the course of the 15-year contract period. The governor’s statement also said construction of the plant would create 200 construction jobs and 24 permanent ones as well as reduce 230,000 pounds of nitrogen runoff into the Chesapeake Bay annually.

The state advertised in late 2011 that it would be accepting proposals for animal waste to energy initaitives. In order to qualify, “The successful supplier must have an electric generating capacity of up to 10MW from animal waste – such as poultry litter or livestock manure – and must be directly connected to the regional electricity grid. The selected supplier must begin providing electricity to the State by December 31, 2015.” (Wash Post, 1/25/2013)

Gas Turbine Electricity Generation & Cogeneration

Electrical Power Generation


How A Gas Turbine Engine Works

In electricity generating applications the turbine is used to drive a synchronous generator which provides the electrical power output but because the turbine normally operates at very high rotational speeds of 12,000 r.p.m or more it must be connected to the generator through a high ratio reduction gear since the generators run at speeds of 1,000 or 1,200 r.p.m. depending on the AC frequency of the electricity grid.

Gas Turbine
 
 


Turbine Configurations


Gas turbine power generators are used in two basic configurations

  • Simple Systems consisting of the gas turbine driving an electrical power generator.
    Gas Turbine Electricity Generation

  • Combined Cycle Systems which are designed for maximum efficiency in which the hot exhaust gases from the gas turbine are used to raise steam to power a steam turbine with both turbines being connected to electricity generators.

Combined Cycle Gas Turbine System
 
(Electropaedia)

Steam Turbine

 

Bilateral Climate and Energy Partnerships

The United States is committed to working actively with other nations to promote cooperative and collaborative approaches to address this important issue. U.S. policy also recognizes that efforts by Americans and other nations to address climate change will only be sustainable if they also serve a larger purpose of fostering prosperity and well-being for citizens around the globe. (U.S. Department of State)

India: Prime Minister Singh and President Obama agreed to strengthen U.S.-India cooperation on energy and climate change. White House Releases: Clean Energy Security & Green Partnership
China: President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao announced a far-reaching package of measures to strengthen cooperation between the United States and China on clean energy. White House Release
NALS: North American Leaders’ Declaration on Climate Change and Clean Energy White House Release
Indonesia: President Obama and President Yudhoyono make enhanced cooperation on clean energy and climate change a key element of the new U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership White House Release
Canadian Flag
Canada: President Obama and Prime Minister Harper vow joint effort on North American economic recovery. White House Release
Mexician Flag

Mexico: U.S.-Mexico Announce Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change. White House Release

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Washington Post Endorses Keystone XL Pipeline

Editorial Board

Excerpt

FULL TEXT

Mr. Obama should ignore the activists who have bizarrely chosen to make Keystone XL a line-in-the-sand issue, when there are dozens more of far greater environmental import. He knows that the way to cut oil use is to reduce demand for the stuff, and he has begun to put that knowledge into practice, setting tough new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. That will actually make a difference, unlike blocking a pipeline here or there. (Wash Post, 1/23/2013)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Death of Cap & Trade

NAMING THE PROBLEM

What It Will Take To Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight Against Global Warming

Theda Skocpol

Harvard University

January 2013

Prepared for the Symposium on

THE POLITICS FOR AMERICA'S FIGHT AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING

Co-Sponsored by the

Columbia School of Journalism and the Scholars Strategy Network

February 14, 2013 4-6 pm

Tsai Auditorium, Harvard University

CONTENTS

Maing Sense of Cap & Trade Failure

Beyond Easy Answers
     Did the Economic Downturn Do It?
     Did Obama Fail To Lead?

An Anatomy Of Two Reform Campaigns
     A Regulated Market Approach To Health Reform
     Harnessing Market Forces To Mitigate Global Warming
     New Investments in Coalition Building and Political Capabilities
     HCAN On The Left Edge of the Possible
     Climate Reformers Invest In Insider Bargains and Media Ads

Outflanked By Extremists
     The Roots of GOP Opposition
     Climate Change Denial
     The Pivotal Battle For Public Opinion in 2006 and 2007
     The Tea Party Seals The Deal

What Can Be Learned
     Environmentalists Diagnose The Cause of Death
     Where Should Philanthropic Money Go?
    
The Politics Next Time
     Yearning For An Easy Way
     New Kinds Of Insider Deals?
     Are Market Forces Enough?
     What Kind of Politics?
     Using Policy Goals To Build A Broader Coalition
     The Challenge Named

(Scholars Strategy Network - Paper)

(Scholars Strategy Network - Organization)



Electricity Grid Reliability

graph of weekly coal prices by basin, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration and North American Electric Reliability Corporation, 2012 Long-Term Reliability Assessment


The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the electric reliability organization certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish and enforce reliability standards for three major electrical interconnections serving the United States, issues a reliability assessment each year. NERC estimated in November 2012 that the United States would have 966 gigawatts (GW) of electric supply capacity available for the summer of 2013. NERC estimated that about 786 GW would be needed to meet projected peak electricity demand and determined that another 117 GW should be available in case of supply outages or extreme weather (known as target reserve supply).

The United States has 63 GW of capacity above and beyond the NERC target reserve supply. The electricity industry has reserve capacity on hand to maintain reliability. Because large-scale electricity storage is not currently economic, electric systems must have sufficient supply resources available to meet electricity demand and replace unexpected losses of supply. Each NERC region has a reserve margin target—the amount of supply capacity over and above a region's expected hourly peak demand for the year needed for reliability. The NERC regions' reserve margin targets typically range from 14%-17% and together total 117 GW of supply capacity.

There are several reasons why the total electric supply capacity within a particular region may exceed NERC's target capacity level. These include:
  • Changes in demand growth. Demand within a region may grow more slowly than had been anticipated when capacity was added, or demand may even decline with changes in regional demographics and economic activity.
  • Time lags in investment. New generating units with low operating costs are lumpy investments: they have high capital costs, regulatory procedures, and long lead times, making it challenging to match the timing and level of supply additions to meet expected increases in demand. This is especially true for units providing large increments of capacity, such as nuclear and coal generators.
  • Past trends in capacity builds. Some of the current above-target supply is also the result of a building spurt for natural gas capacity between 1999 and 2003, driven partly by the desire of new competitive suppliers to gain market share. In recent years, supply additions in wind and solar capacity were spurred by both state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards and federal tax incentives. (DOE-EIA)

Nebraska Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) on Tuesday approved a route through his state for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The State Department has yet to decide whether to approve a cross-border permit for the pipeline, which is designed to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. State Department review will be completed at the end of the first quarter of 2013, at the earliest.



Obama delayed a final decision on Keystone in 2011, punting the politically thorny decision until after the presidential election. The State Department, which must review the 1,700-mile pipeline because it crosses an international border, is in the final stages of preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project. An earlier EIS found that it would have minimal adverse effects along its route.

Environmentalists oppose Keystone due to greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive oil sands projects and warn of the potential for devastating spills. They have held a series of rallies outside the White House in opposition to the project, and are planning another large-scale demonstration for Feb. 17. While the environmental movement is dead-set against Keystone, many of the president’s union allies favor it, due to the large number of construction jobs it would likely create.

The American Petroleum Institute support the Keystone XL because of the jobs, economic benefits and energy security that come with building pipeline.

TransCanada has assured Nebraska environmental officials that the chances of a spill would be minimized and that the company would assume all responsibility for a cleanup in case of an accident.
(The Hill, 1/22/2013, NYT, 1/22/2013))

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama on Climate Change During Inaguration Speech




"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

EPA Review of DC Circuit Court Ruling on Air Standards

DC Circuit Decision on Fine Particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards Implementation Rule and New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration Rule

The EPA is currently reviewing the January 4, 2013, decision from the DC Circuit which held that the EPA should have issued its 2007 PM National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) Implementation Rule and the related 2008 New Source Review (NSR)/Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) rule for the 1997 PM NAAQS according to the Clean Air Act requirements for PM nonattainment areas (Title I, Part D, subpart 4), not the general requirements for nonattainment areas (subpart 1).



The Court’s decision does not affect EPA’s recent strengthening of the annual PM (signed on December 14, 2012), nor does it affect EPA’s assessment of the costs and benefits associated with meeting the new standard. The EPA will, however, address the Court decision as we develop a proposed rule for implementing the new annual standard. The agency intends to move as quickly as possible to develop the proposed rule, which will be subject to public notice and comment. The Court remanded the two rules back to the agency, but did not vacate them and did not set a deadline for EPA to issue new rules.



EPA is assessing the effect of the Court’s decision on a variety of SIP-related actions currently pending or anticipated in the short-term (for example, nonattainment area State Implementation Plan (SIP) submittals for the 2006 PM. The agency also is assessing the impact of the decision on pending NSR actions in nonattainment areas for the 1997 and 2006 standards. As EPA reviews the decision and determines the next steps, the agency is reaching out to state, local and tribal air agencies through existing workgroups and EPA’s Regional Offices. (EPA)

PM NAAQS Final Rule Published in Federal Register

EPA Announces Next Round of Clean Air Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution

PM NAAQS Final Rule Published In Federal Register

The PM NAAQS final rule was published in the Federal Register today (Tuesday January 15th).

SUMMARY

Based on its review of the air quality criteria and the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM), the EPA is making revisions to the suite of standards for PM to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare and to make corresponding revisions to the data handling conventions for PM and to the ambient air monitoring, reporting, and network design requirements.

The EPA also is making revisions to the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permitting program with respect to the NAAQS revisions. With regard to primary (health-based) standards for fine particles (generally) referring to partiles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers the EPA is revising the annual standard by lowering the level to 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter so as to provide increased protection against health effects associated with long- and short-term exposures (including premature mortality, increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits, and development of chronic respiratory disease), and to retain the 24-hour PM.

The EPA is revising the Air Quality Index (AQI) to be consistent with the revised primary PM standards. With regard to the primary standard for particles generally less than or equal to the EPA is retaining the current 24-hour PM standard to continue to provide protection against effects associated with short-term exposure to thoracic coarse particles (i.e., PM With regard to the secondary (welfare-based) PM standards, the EPA is generally retaining the current suite of secondary standards (i.e., 24-hour and annual PM standards and a 24-hour PM Non-visibility welfare effects are addressed by this suite of secondary standards, and PM-related visibility impairment is addressed by the secondary 24-hour PM.

The final rule is effective on March 18, 2013. (Federal Register)

DOI Secretary Salazar Resigning In March



Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he will return to his home state of Colorado, having fulfilled his promise to President Obama to serve four years as Secretary. Secretary Salazar has informed President Obama that he intends to leave the Department by the end of March.

Secretary Salazar has helped usher in a new era of conservation to protect America’s lands, wildlife, and heritage. Under the banner of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program, Interior has established ten national wildlife refuges and seven national parks since 2009; established forward-thinking protections for wildlife and preserved millions of acres of land; and implemented community-driven, science-based conservation strategies that take into account entire ecosystems and working landscapes.

Under Secretary Salazar’s leadership, Interior has played a keystone role in developing a secure energy future for the United States, both for renewable and conventional energy.

Since 2009, Interior has authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands that total 10,400 megawatts - or enough to power over 3 million homes. Salazar also oversaw a visionary blueprint for solar energy development in the West and established the nation’s first program for offshore wind leasing and permitting in America’s oceans.
“Today, the largest solar energy projects in the world are under construction on America’s public lands in the West, and we’ve issued the first leases for offshore wind in the Atlantic,” said Salazar. “I am proud of the renewable energy revolution that we have launched.”
Salazar has also undertaken an historic overhaul of Interior’s management of oil and gas resources, implementing tough new ethics standards for all employees. He led Interior’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and split the former Minerals Management Service into three independent agencies with clear, independent missions to oversee ocean energy management and revenue collection. Interior has offered millions of acres offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for safe and responsible exploration and development and is proceeding with cautious exploration of Arctic resources. Onshore, Interior has also leased millions of acres for oil and gas development over the last four years while protecting special landscapes for hunting and fishing and other uses.
“We have undertaken the most aggressive oil and gas safety and reform agenda in U.S. history, raising the bar on offshore drilling safety, practices and technology and ensuring that energy development is done in the right way and in the right places,” said Salazar. “Today, drilling activity in the Gulf is surpassing levels seen before the spill, and our nation is on a promising path to energy independence.”
Secretary Salazar’s term was marked by historic progress for Indian Country with the passage of the Cobell settlement that honorably and responsibly addressed long-standing injustices regarding the U.S. government’s trust management. The President also signed into law six Indian water rights settlements, totaling over $1 billion, that will help deliver clean drinking water to tribal communities and provide certainty to water users across the West. Salazar spearheaded a sweeping reform – the first in 50 years – of federal surface leasing regulations for American Indian lands that will streamline the approval process for home ownership, expedite economic development, and spur renewable energy in Indian Country. (DOI Press Release)

Court Denies Challenge to EPA Ethanol Ruling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday preserved an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling that permits the sale of a high-ethanol fuel blend.  The court denied a rehearing on the EPA decision that put fuels with a 15-percent ethanol concentration, known as E15, on the market.

The development is a win for the biofuels industry, which also is fighting off a lobbying effort against E15 and a biofuel blending mandate vital to the industry. This is a major victory for the renewable fuels industry and opens the door for further investment in new fueling technology to offer E15 to consumers.

The court decision is a setback for the oil-and-gas industry, which opposes the use of E15.

While EPA has said cars made in 2001 or later can safely use E15, the oil industry contends it harms vehicles. It warns that most auto companies can or will void warranties for E15-related damage.

 


Getting E15 more widely available would also help the biofuels industry meet rising blending targets established by the Renewable Fuel Standard. But E15 is currently sold at only a handful of gas stations across the country.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into traditional transportation fuels by 2022.

The oil-and-gas industry calls that need for E15 the "blend wall." The American Petroleum Institute is pushing Congress to repeal the mandate largely to avoid reaching that threshold.  Opponents of the mandate say it unfairly props up the biofuels industry at the expense of traditional fuels. Supporters, however, argue that repeal would chill investment in new energy technologies. (The Hill, 1/15/2013)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

EPA Finalizes Stationary Engines Standards

EPA Finalizes Revisions to Clean Air Standards for Stationary Engines

Updated rule provides extensive public health protections, slashes costs of compliance

Today, in compliance with settlement agreements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized revisions to standards to reduce air pollution from stationary engines that generate electricity and power equipment at industrial, agricultural, oil and gas production, power generation and other facilities.

The final revised rule announced today will reduce the capital and annual costs of the original 2010 rules by $287 million and $139 million, respectively, while reducing harmful pollutants, including 2,800 tons per year (tpy) of hazardous air pollutants; 36,000 tpy of carbon monoxide; 2,800 tpy of particulate matter; 9,600 tpy of nitrogen oxides, and 36,000 tpy of volatile organic compounds.
 


Pollution emitted from the engines can cause cancer and other serious health effects including: aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease; premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease; neurological, cardiovascular, liver, kidney health effects; and effects on immune and reproductive systems.

EPA estimates annual health benefits of the updated standards to be worth $830 million to $2.1 billion.

The final amendments to the 2010 “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE)” reflect new technical information submitted by stakeholders after the 2010 standards were issued. The updates will ensure that the standards are cost-effective, achievable, and protective, while continuing to provide significant emission reductions.

The amendments also specify how the standards apply to emergency engines used for emergency demand response.  (EPA)

More information

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sustainable DC Act of 2012

Mayor Vincent C. Gray will sign into law the Sustainable DC Act of 2012 on Wednesday January 16 at 10:00 am.  The Sustainable DC Act will benefit the District in each of the three legs of sustainability: economy, equity, and environment. The legislation will help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, urban agriculture, and will keep dangerous chemicals out of our rivers.

Vincent C. Gray

Specifically, the act:

Refines the terms of PACE financing for energy retrofits in large projects;

Authorizes additional funding for two existing programs in the District that are key for energy efficiency and renewable energy: the Energy Star Benchmarking Program and the Renewable Energy Incentive Program;

Reduces the use of fertilizers by increasing the buffer between fertilized areas and waterways to help clean our rivers and streams;

Makes it much easier to keep bees, which is valuable not only for agriculture and gardens, but also for the educational opportunities its affords to schoolchildren and the general public;

Protects children from toxic exposure by separating the location of children-occupied facilities and drycleaners that use chemicals with dangerous health effects; and

Provides assistance to low-income and elderly households to access weatherization services and energy system retrofits to tune-up heating systems and hot water heaters, so that these households can reduce their utility bills and live in comfortable, efficient homes.

(Sustainable DC)

The New York Times Drops Environment Desk

The New York Times will close its environment desk in the next few weeks and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk.



[Managing editor Dean] Baquet said the change was prompted by the shifting interdisciplinary landscape of news reporting. When the desk was created in early 2009, the environmental beat was largely seen as “singular and isolated,” he said. It was pre-fracking and pre-economic collapse. But today, environmental stories are “partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects,” Baquet said. “They are more complex. We need to have people working on the different desks that can cover different parts of the story.”

Baquet added that the Times “[has] not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter.”  (Grist, Inside Climate News, 1/11.2013)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

EPA Announces Next Round of Clean Air Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution

In response to a court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an update to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. By 2020, ninety-nine percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions. The announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources), both of which remain unchanged.

Fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. Today’s announcement, which meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the standard without any additional action.



It is expected that fewer than 10 counties, out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rest can rely on air quality improvements from federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard.
More on the 2020 Map

By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness.

Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the PM2.5 standards announced today have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, with estimated costs of implementation ranging from $53 million to $350 million. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011. More information (EPA)

Court Rules EPA Cannot Regulate Stormwater As Pollutant

A federal court ruled this month that the Environmental Protection Agency can't force Virginia to regulate stormwater flow because stormwater itself is not considered a pollutant. The debate brought together Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Democratic-led Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in a lawsuit against the EPA filed early in 2012. The debate stemmed from regulations the EPA established in April 2011 that limited the rate of stormwater allowed into Accotink Creek, a 25-mile tributary of the Potomac River. The intent was to limit the amount of sediment entering into the creek, since the EPA believed it had a negative effect on organisms in the river.

But Virginia officials argued that the EPA has overstepped its bounds by seeking to regulate stormwater levels and said that the Clean Water Act only gave the EPA permission to regulate pollutants themselves -- and stormwater is definitively not a pollutant.

U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady sided with Virginia and Fairfax County in a ruling last week, and oral arguments were heard last month.  While EPA is charged with establishing limited on pollutants, "that does not give them authority to regulate nonpollutants," the judge wrote.



State officials have argued that it would have cost the county $250 million and the state $70 million to come into compliance with the rules set by the EPA, which would have required a nearly 50 percent reduction in peak stormwater flow into the creek.

Critics of the EPA had used the situation to deride the agency as taking such a hard line that it had essentially declared water itself as a pollutant. "EPA literally is treating water itself—the very substance the Clean Water Act was created to protect—as a pollutant," Cuccinelli wrote in his lawsuit.

That's somewhat of a mischaracterization of the EPA's position, which sought to use stormwater measurements as something of a proxy for sediment.  The EPA had argued that it's policy wasn't expressly prohibited by the Clean Water Act, so the agency was allowed to pursue it. Cuccinelli disagreed, and the judge took his side.It's unclear why the EPA sought to use stormwater as a "surrogate" for sediment -- as opposed to limits directly on sediment itself.  (Governing, 1/8/2013)

DOT To Require Electric Vehicles To Make Noise

Congress directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to propose new regulations that would require hybrid and electric cars to make more noise when their engines are running when it passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 (S. 841 - Bill Text).  The rules are designed to make it easier for pedestrians to hear the quiet automobiles when they are approaching.

Safety is our highest priority, and the regulations will help keep everyone using the nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired.  Under the requirement, cars would be required to be heard above typical street noises when they are traveling at speeds less than 18 miles per hour. The engines of cars traveling faster than that are typically loud enough to be heard. 

 



The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA), part of DOT, has taken into consideration the cost to hybrid and electric automakers of implementing the new rules. The proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street.

NHTSA said the minimum sound requirements would prevent 2,800 pedestrian and bicycle injuries each year. (The Hill, 1/7/2012)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Environmental & Clean Energy Inagural Ball



The 7th Environmental and Clean Energy Inaugural Ball is on Monday, January 21, 2013. The event will once again be held at the beautiful Sequoia Restaurant located on the Washington Harbour waterfront in Georgetown from 8-12:00 midnight.

This bi-partisan celebration has become a Washington tradition over the past 24 years as the environmental and clean energy communities gather to welcome a new Administration and make headway towards a more sustainable future. (Environmental Ball)

2013 Green Inaugural Ball



The 2013 Green Ball is on January 20. The ball is a celebration of the past four years of accomplishment on the environment, energy, and clean technology and a look forward to another four years of progress. The Green Ball brings together top leaders from the environmental, conservation, clean tech, and renewable energy communities. A complete list of the Host Committee can be found here.

The event will be held at the Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.

(NWF)

Falcons Used To Clear Refineries of Starlings

The Phillips 66 refinery in Billings, Montana two nearby refineries have used falcons to scare thousands of starlings from roosting each night. Refineries across the country are now paying thousands of dollars a day to bring in rare raptors to chase away the nuisance birds that sully their facilities. It is a relatively new form of pest-control. The falcons are worth about $1,000.
 


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department started issuing commercial falconry licenses six years ago and has only issued 92 as of last month. But refineries say falconry is proving far more effective than old methods like poison, pellet guns or sonar devices, and as the technique takes off, some oil-industry veterans are going soft for the birds, which can travel faster than 200 miles an hour and spot a meal from a great distance. Meanwhile falconers, many of them die-hard conservationists, say they are learning to appreciate the virtues of the oil industry.

Falcons are being used to rid Exxon Mobil's refinery in Torrance, California of pigeons. The Valero McKee refinery in Sunray, Texas, about four winters ago, starting using falcons to solve their night bird problem.
image 
Michael Gregston

Starlings, which arrived in the U.S. more than a century ago, have become particularly vexing to refineries in recent years. The tiny birds travel in enormous flocks seeking warmth in the winter months, and their corrosive, slippery droppings pose safety hazards and can cause structural damage.
 
Falconers typically fly a team of three to four birds for an hour nightly over a period of several weeks, until the starlings eventually disappear for the season. Falconers simply release the birds into the air, which causes the starlings to scatter and squawk in distress. At the falconer's call, the predators zoom back to their perch. It works, falconers say, because the threat of predation is the only thing that will keep nuisance birds at bay for longer than a day or two. As a bonus, there is hardly any carnage—the starlings flee out of sheer terror. On the rare occasion that a raptor does manage to scarf down a starling on the job, his shift is over, since the birds hunt only when they are hungry. (WSJ, 1/6/2013, illustration courtesy WSJ, Photo Credit: Refinery Flock Triptych by Massimo Cristaldi)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Changes at Senate Energy & Environment Committees

Senate Republicans Freshmen Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) have been added to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) is also coming back to the committee after an absence. The committee oversees topics including offshore oil-and-gas drilling, Energy Department programs and an array of others. Leaving the panel are Rand Paul (Ky.), Dan Coats (Ind.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.).

On the Environment and Public Works Committee, the new GOP members will be Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and freshman Sen. Deb Fisher (Neb.).

Sens. Alexander and Mike Johanns (Neb.) left the committee. (The Hill, 1/3/2012)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Al-Jazeera Buys Current TV From Al Gore

Gore netted $100 million with his 20 percent stake in the network when it was sold for a reported $500 million on Wednesday. Critics were surprised by Mr. Gore's decision, one of the best-known proponents for global warming mitigation, to sell to a Middle Eastern Qatari royal family monarchy built with oil wealth. Mr. Gore will have an unpaid seat on the board of the new Al Jazeera channel.

Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the news network. Fomer vice president and Current TV co-founder Al Gore confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shared Current TV's mission:

"to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling."
The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera's reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al Jazeera English. Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a new channel called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists.



Previous to Al-Jazeera's purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes. It is carried by Comcast Corp., which owned less than a 10% stake in Current TV, as well as DirecTV. Neither company announced plans to drop the channel.

Current began as a groundbreaking effort to promote user-generated content. But it settled into a more conventional format of political talk television with a liberal bent. Gore worked on-air as an analyst during its recent Election Night coverage.

Current TV, founded in 2005 by former vice president Gore and Joel Hyatt, is expected to post $114 million in revenue in 2013. The firm pegged the network's cash flow at nearly $24 million a year.

Mr. Gore.is a co-founder of Generation Investment Management, an investment partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, an adviser to Google and a board member at Apple. He also is the chairman of a nonprofit called the Climate Reality Project.(USA Today, Associated Press, 1/3/2012, NYT, 1/4/2012))

Transocean To Pay Criminal Fines & Civil Penalties

Transocean Agrees to Plead Guilty to Environmental Crime and Enter Civil Settlement to Resolve U.S. Clean Water Act Penalty Claims from Deepwater Horizon Incident

Transocean to pay record $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal fines

 
Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) and to pay a total of $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties, for its conduct in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Department of Justice announced today. The criminal information, and a proposed partial civil consent decree to resolve the U.S. government’s civil penalty claims against Transocean Deepwater Inc. and related entities were filed today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Transocean Deepwater Inc. has signed a cooperation and guilty plea agreement with the government, also filed today, admitting its criminal conduct. As part of the plea agreement, Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed, subject to the court’s approval, to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties and to continue its on-going cooperation in the government’s criminal investigation. In addition, pursuant to the terms of a proposed partial civil consent decree also lodged with the court today, Transocean Ocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., Transocean Deepwater Inc. and Triton Asset Leasing GMBH have agreed to pay an additional $1 billion to resolve federal Clean Water Act civil penalty claims for the massive, three-month-long oil spill at the Macondo Well and the Transocean drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Under the civil settlement, the Transocean defendants also must implement court-enforceable measures to improve the operational safety and emergency response capabilities at all their drilling rigs working in waters of the United States.



According to court documents, on April 20, 2010, while stationed at the Macondo well site in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions and fire, which resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers and the largest oil spill in U.S. history. In agreeing to plead guilty, Transocean Deepwater Inc. has admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s “Well Site Leaders” or “company men,” were negligent in failing fully to investigate clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well.

The criminal resolution is structured to directly benefit the Gulf region. Under the order presented to the court, $150 million of the $400 million criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving – in consultation with appropriate state and other resource managers – the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This portion of the criminal recovery will also be directed to significant barrier island restoration and/or river diversion off the coast of Louisiana to further benefit and improve coastal wetlands affected by the oil spill. An additional $150 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education and training.

The civil settlement secures $1 billion in civil penalties for violations of the CWA, a record amount that significantly exceeds last year’s $70 million civil penalty paid by MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, a 10 percent partner with BP in the Macondo well venture. The unprecedented $1 billion civil penalty is subject to the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (Restore Act), which provides that 80 percent of the penalty will be to be used to fund projects in and for the Gulf states for the environmental and economic benefit of the region. This civil resolution reserves claims for natural resource damages and clean-up costs.  (EPA)

Natural Gas Industry Leaking Methane & Profits

The U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Can Reduce Pollution, Conserve Resources, and Make Money by Preventing Methane

Waste Methane makes up as much as 90 percent of natural gas, a fossil fuel used extensively in the United States to produce electricity, heat buildings, and fuel factories and vehicles. Currently, when natural gas is extracted by hydraulic fracturing or other techniques, significant amounts of methane are wasted: from wells during the extraction process, from processing equipment while compressing or drying gas, and from poorly sealed equipment while transporting and storing it. In fact, at least 2 to 3 percent of all natural gas produced by the U.S. oil and gas industry is lost to leaks or vented into the atmosphere each year.

Since methane is a global warming pollutant at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, methane pollution accelerates and magnifies climate change. Preventing the leakage and venting of methane from natural gas facilities would reduce pollution, enhance air quality, improve human health, and conserve energy resources. The oil and gas industry can afford methane control technologies. Indeed, capturing currently wasted methane for sale could bring in more than $2 billion of additional revenue each year. Technically proven, commercially available, and profitable methane emission control technologies can capture more than 80 percent of the methane currently going to waste. (NRDC)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Avis Budget Groups Acquiring ZipCar For $500 Million

Avis Budget Group Acquiring Zipcar For $12.25 Per Share In Cash - Combined company will be the global leader in car sharing and mobility solutions.

- Combination expected to produce $50-70 million in annual synergies.

- Transaction targeted to close in spring 2013.

- Avis Budget re-affirms its prior estimates of full-year 2012 results.

Avis Budget Group, Inc. and Zipcar, Inc., the world's leading car sharing network, have announced that Avis Budget Group has agreed to acquire Zipcar for $12.25 per share in cash, a 49% premium over the closing price on December 31, 2012, representing a total transaction value of approximately $500 million.

The transaction is subject to approval by Zipcar shareholders and other customary closing conditions, and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013. The Boards of Directors of both companies unanimously approved the transaction, and Zipcar shareholders representing approximately 32% of the outstanding common stock have agreed to vote their shares in support of the transaction.

Car sharing has grown to be a nearly $400 million business in the United States and is expanding rapidly in major cities around the world. Zipcar has led this industry, leading in innovation and world-class service. Zipcar now has more than 760,000 members, known as Zipsters, with a market-leading presence in 20 major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada and Europe, and fleet positioned at over 300 college and university campuses. Zipcar has combined leading-edge technology, an outstanding customer experience, and clear brand messaging to develop strong loyalty and advocacy among its customers.

Zipcar, founded in 2000, was originally only available in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington. It went public in April 2011 at $18 per share. Currently Zipcar has more than 10,000 vehicles and serves 20 major metropolitan areas. The service is particularly popular in urban areas and among college students

Avis, which also operates the Budget car rental service, expects to generate $50 to $70 million in annual synergies as a result of the transaction. In particular, Avis Budget expects significant cost reductions across the fleet life cycle (from procurement to operations and maintenance to disposition, as well as financing), in addition to savings from eliminating Zipcar's public-company costs. Avis Budget also plans to achieve substantial cost savings by increasing fleet utilization across the two companies. Significant revenue growth opportunities exist, including by leveraging Avis Budget's fleet to meet more of Zipsters' weekend demand, which is currently constrained by fleet availability.

These synergies, combined with the expected growth and rising profitability of Zipcar, are expected to make the transaction accretive to Avis Budget's earnings per share in the second year following the acquisition, excluding certain items and purchase-accounting effects.

Following the acquisition, Zipcar will operate as a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group and will continue with its planned move to new headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Avis Budget anticipates that key members of the Zipcar management team, including Mr. Griffith and Mark Norman, president and chief operating officer, will continue to set the overall direction and run day-to-day operations of Zipcar.

Avis Budget Group expects to fund the purchase price primarily with incremental corporate debt borrowings, as well as available cash. As of September 30, 2012, Avis Budget Group had cash and marketable securities of approximately $554 million, and Zipcar had cash and marketable securities of approximately $82 million, or approximately $2 per Zipcar share.

Citigroup is acting as financial advisor, and Kirkland & Ellis LLP is acting as legal counsel, to Avis Budget Group. Morgan Stanley is acting as financial advisor, and Latham & Watkins LLP is acting as legal counsel, to Zipcar. (ZipCar Press Release, Wash Post, 1/2/2012)

About Avis Budget Group, Inc. Avis Budget Group, Inc. is a leading global provider of vehicle rental services through its Avis and Budget brands, with 10,000 rental locations in approximately 175 countries around the world. Avis Budget Group operates most of its car rental offices in North America, Europe and Australia directly, and operates primarily through licensees in other parts of the world. Avis Budget Group has approximately 29,000 employees and is headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. 

About Zipcar, Inc.  Zipcar is the world's leading car sharing network, with more than 760,000 members and over 10,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria. Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to residents and businesses looking for an alternative to the high costs and hassles of owning a car.