Friday, March 29, 2013

New EPA Clean Fuels & Cars Standard

EPA Will Propose Achievable Cleaner Fuels and Cars Standard, Slashing Air Pollution and Providing Extensive Health Benefits

Based on extensive input from auto manufactures, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive.

The draft rules on auto emissions and low-sulfur gasoline are designed to curb smog-forming, soot and toxic pollution.  The new requirements for vehicles and fuels include a mandate that refiners cut the sulfur content of gasoline by more than 60 percent to 10 parts per million in 2017, which is intended to improve the performance of catalytic converters. This means that vehicles built prior to the proposed standards will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur gas, providing significant and immediate benefits by reducing emissions from every gas-powered vehicle on the road.

Following a proven systems approach that addresses vehicles and fuels as an integrated system, today’s proposal will enable the greatest pollution reductions at the lowest cost. The proposal will slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, including reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard, and reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero. The proposal will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.

The proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their
ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

Today’s proposed standards – which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states.

By 2030, EPA estimates that the proposed cleaner fuels and cars program will annually prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually.

The program would also reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day.

The proposed sulfur standards will cost refineries less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The proposed vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025. The proposal also includes flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

The proposed standards will work together with California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The proposal is designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA’s national program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017. Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty and streamlining compliance.

Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be available for public comment and EPA will hold public hearings to receive further public input.

Information on EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking

Senate Symbolic Vote On Carbon Tax To Reduce Deficit

Sheldon Whitehouse
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-R.I.) pro-carbon tax amendment to a nonbinding budget plan failed with 41 votes, showing that proposals to impose a price on greenhouse gas emissions lack political traction.  Last week’s symbolic Senate referendum on taxing industrial carbon emissions to fight climate change would have gotten 42 counting, but  Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), wasn’t there to vote.

The Center opposes carbon taxes and supports cap and trade and Energy Defense Reservations as  better alternatives to mitigating climate change.

His amendment called for revenue from any carbon tax to be returned to the U.S. public through deficit reduction, reducing other tax rates and other “direct” benefits.  Whitehouse recently launched a Capitol Hill climate task force with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and they have floated a draft plan to impose emissions fees on big polluters.

Such plans for more aggressive steps to fight global warming face grim political prospects. But they are part of broader efforts by liberal Democrats to enhance support for battling climate change as President Obama prepares new executive actions.

It was part of a symbolic fight on climate during the budget battle, going head-to-head with a GOP anti-carbon tax plan that won more support (more on that here).  (The Hill, 3/28/2013)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Restart San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 2

Recommendation To Restart SONGS Unit 2 and Accelerate Review and Restart of Unit 3

Norris McDonald at SONGS on July 6, 2005

The Center believes Southern California Edison can operate the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) without undue risk to public health and safety.  The Center commends the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its exhaustive review of the steam generator situation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  The Center reached its conclusion after exhaustive review of the NRC evaluation of SONGS Unit 2 and Unit 3 steam generators.  We believe the NRC has been thorough and that the licensee has been completely responsive to any and all Requests for Additional Information (RAIs) related to the Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL).  As such, the NRC should grant permission for SONGS (Unit 2) to restart immediately.

We support NRC's prudence and know that the agency will not allow restart until it is satisfied the licensee can operate the plant without undue risk to public health and safety.  Edison has proposed re-starting San Onofre’s Reactor 2 at 70 percent power for five months.  We believe this is a prudent proposal and NRC should allow it.  We believe the licensee will shut down again if there is a problem because their principle concern is the safety of the public.  This safeguard assures public safety and health.  The NRC should complete its technical evaluation and render a decision to restart Unit 2 in May.

We also believe the licensee will complete its CAL actions for Unit 3 and that unit should be restarted as soon as possible.  The licensee shut down immediately upon detecting one of the Unit 3 generators was leaking and causing a tiny, but measurable increase in the radioactivity of the normally non-radioactive water in the secondary (steam) side of the steam generators. The licensee also reported the leak incident to the NRC.  Subsequent repairs and tube plugging have been completed and all of NRC's additional information requests have been, or are being, satisfied.  SONGS has been shut down for too long and the NRC should take immediate steps to allow the licensee to restart both units.

Chino Hills Obstruction of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project

The Center supports the timely completion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP).   The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) should reject the Chino Hills underground transmission line proposal.  The Center opposes undergrounding the Chino Hills section of the line because it is an unnecessary alteration of an already approved plan. 
The Center is particularly concerned about threats to a project that provides emission free electricity to Californians.  The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of total procurement by 2020.  California ratepayers do not need the significant increase in the cost of the transmission line simply to appease the aesthetic requirements of some stakeholders. 
The underground proposal undermines the CPUC's approval of the Alta Wind Power Project in the Tehachapi area, one of the largest wind energy contracts in the United States.  The underground proposal is also unacceptable because 12 of 16 transmission structures have already been completed as part of the approved overhead position in the existing utility right-of-way corridor.     

TRTP CPUC Order To Analyze Underground Options in Chino Hills

Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP)

Overview of TRTP Segments 4-11

and

CPUC Order to Analyze Underground Options in Chino Hills


Project Overview:

TRTP Segments 4-11 consist of new and upgraded electrical transmission facilities spanning approximately 173 miles and are being constructed to deliver up to 4,500 megawatts of renewable energy, enough capacity to power three million homes.
(TRTP Segments 1-3 were approved by the CPUC in March 2007 and construction is now complete).

The project traverses over 20 communities and three counties.

It is the first major transmission project in California being constructed specifically to access multiple renewable generators in a remote, renewable-rich resource area.

TRTP 4-11 was approved in December 2009, after two years of review and analysis by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and its team of environmental consultants.


Project Timeline:
Fall 2009
CPUC approves TRTP 4-11 after a two-year licensing phase
Spring 2010 Construction of TRTP 4-11 begins
Winter 2012-13 Segments 4, 5 and 10 completed
Fall 2013 Segment 6 expected to be completed
Winter 2015 Expected project completion

CPUC Order to Analyze Underground Options in Chino Hills

Currently the CPUC is considering whether or not the portion of TRTP within Chino Hills should be placed undergrounded instead of the already-approved overhead configuration.

The underground options being considered would cost approximately $540-$893 million* for the 3.5 mile area in Chino Hills, which is $370–$723 million more than the approved overhead portion in Chino Hills. These additional costs would likely impact ratepayers throughout California.

In the area considered for an underground option, 12 of 16 transmission structures have already been completed as part of the approved overhead position in the existing utility right-of-way corridor (the completed and partially-completed structures would need to be demolished and removed if the CPUC orders an underground option).

SCE’s cost and schedule estimates are based on optimistic scenarios. If SCE is ordered by the CPUC to underground TRTP in Chino Hills and delays are encountered, the operational date of TRTP could be pushed beyond the goal of 2015 and increase the total cost beyond estimates.

The CPUC issued a decision allowing SCE to recover as much as $33 million in pre-construction costs it would incur before the CPUC makes a final decision on whether to proceed with an underground option in Chino Hills. (SCE)


*Based upon SCE underground testimony served on 12/3/2012

**Based upon SCE rate recovery testimony served on 1/17/2013


City of Chino Hills Objections:
 

The map to the left depicts the SCE proposed route (Segment 8A) that would travel right through the heart of Chino Hills as part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP). While all Californians recognize the need for renewable energy (and the corresponding infrastructure), there is concern over a section of the chosen route’s proximity to homes, schools, and parks. Community concerns are widespread and range from health and safety issues to aesthetics, noise, and property value impacts.

Chief among the concerns are the following:

A 3-mile portion of the TRTP would consist of double circuit 500 kV transmission lines that would be located within 500 feet of more than 1,000 homes, directly affecting approximately 3,500 people in Chino Hills. In some areas, new 198-foot towers would be located as close as 40 feet from residents’ backyards.

Existing single circuit 220kV transmission lines on the 3-mile portion have been largely inactive for the past 30 years. Transmission towers that now rise 98 feet and are currently no closer than 50 feet from property boundaries. (City of Chino Hills)

Oil Spills On Railroad Tracks

As energy companies have turned to trains to move crude fromNorth American oil fields not adequately served by pipelines, railroad-related incidents have risen sharply in the past few years, according to federal data. From 2010 to 2012, 112 oil spills were reported from U.S. rail tanker cars, up from just 10 in the previous three years, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a part of the Department of Transportation that tracks most releases of hazardous materials.

Pipelines carry much more crude than trains and have fewer leaks per mile, though failures can be serious. In 2010, for example, an Exxon Mobil Corporation pipeline spilled 1,500 barrels of oil into Montana's Yellowstone River in an hour. The possibility of oil spills from derailments is only beginning to be on the public's radar.


image
 
 
Energy companies typically foot the cleanup bills. The railroad industry says the amount of oil spilled is tiny compared to the volume of oil transported by the U.S. rail system, which has surged from 9,500 carloads in 2008, the year widely seen as the beginning of the current oil boom, to 233,811 carloads in 2012, according to the Association of American Railroads.
 
Derailments, which are typically the cause of the largest rail spills, are down significantly in recent decades as railroads have beefed up monitoring the condition of equipment and the integrity of rail lines, according to BNSF Railway, which has become the largest shipper of crude via rail. In addition to regularly inspecting cars for leaks, BNSF also employs its own hazardous-materials response teams.

From 2008 to 2012, daily U.S. oil production has grown to an average of 6.5 million barrels, its highest level in more than 15 years, according to the Energy Information Administration. It is expected to grow to 7.3 million barrels a day this year and to 7.9 million barrels in 2014.

The surge comes thanks to a combination of technologies—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves pumping water, chemicals and sand down wells to break up rock formations. The increased production, much of which has occurred in remote areas of North Dakota and South Texas, has outpaced the ability of companies to build new pipelines or expand existing ones to move the oil to refineries.

Historically, railways have spilled more oil on a gallons-per-mile basis than pipelines, according to several studies. One 2009 analysis of oil spills between 1980 and 2003 done for the American Petroleum Institute by Environmental Research Consulting found 80 out of every 1 billion gallons transported via rail spilled, compared to 38 out of every 1 billion gallons transported via pipeline. (WSJ, 3/27/2013)



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SONGS Extended Outage Raising Southern California Electricity Rates


Graph of California wholesale power prices, as explained in the article text

Note: Day-ahead, on-peak power prices from the California Independent System Operator
 for the SP-15 (Southern California) and NP-15 (Northern California) hubs.
Daily prices are averaged on a rolling 10-day period to reduce apparent
 volatility and make the persistent difference between the two prices more visible.

The outages of both units at Southern California Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), starting in January 2012, have created a persistent spread in wholesale power prices between Northern and Southern California.

Historically, wholesale power prices for Northern and Southern California tracked closely with one another, indicating minimal market differences between the two areas. However, after the shutdown of SONGS in early 2012, the relatively inexpensive nuclear generation produced by SONGS had to be replaced with power from more expensive sources. Consequently, since April 2012 Southern California power prices have persistently exceeded Northern California prices, with the spread averaging $4.15/MWh, or 12% of the Northern California price.

Map of Southern California power supply, as explained in the article text

Relative differences in natural gas prices do not seem to be driving the gap between Northern and Southern California power prices (see chart below). Although SoCal Citygate spot natural gas prices have increased slightly compared to the northern PG&E Citygate, this difference accounts for less than $1 per megawatthour of the average change in the wholesale power price in Southern California.

Thus, higher wholesale power prices in Southern California more likely are attributable to the need for more-expensive generation in that region to fill the shortage. To ensure electric reliability in the densely populated Los Angeles and San Diego regions, Southern California needs to use local generation sources and cannot solely rely on imported electricity to replace generation from SONGS. The major nearby alternative sources, however, are more expensive, and seem to be contributing to higher wholesale power prices.

Graph of daily wholesale natural gas prices in California, as explained in the article text
Note: Daily spot wholesale natural gas prices for Pacific Gas & Electric hub
 (Northern California) and Southern California Edison Citygate (Southern California).


In 2012, the continuing SONGS closure put pressure on the electric power grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), to adjust both generation and transmission in order to meet summer demand for electricity, and in general, continues to change the generation profile in the area.

In a recent filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, CAISO requested changes to a transmission constraint rule in an attempt to resolve transmission congestion that is contributing to higher prices. The proposed change would reduce the price point at which CAISO relaxes a transmission operating limit and allows more electricity to flow.

Southern California Edison released an operational assessment on March 14 for restarting SONGS unit 2; the restart requires the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is holding public meetings and conducting a technical evaluation of restarting this unit and has tentatively scheduled a decision for some time after May 2013. (DOE-EIA)

International Monetary Fund Wants To Reform Energy Subsidies

January 28, 2013 (Report Release Date)
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

While aimed at protecting consumers, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. Subsidies also distort resource allocation by encouraging excessive energy consumption, artificially promoting capital-intensive industries, reducing incentives for investment in renewable energy, and accelerating the depletion of natural resources. Most subsidy benefits are captured by higher-income households, reinforcing inequality. Even future generations are affected through the damaging effects of increased energy consumption on global warming. This paper provides: (i) the most comprehensive estimates of energy subsidies currently available for 176 countries; and (ii) an analysis of ―how to do‖ energy subsidy reform, drawing on insights from 22 country case studies undertaken by IMF staff and analyses carried out by other institutions.

Energy subsidies are pervasive and impose substantial fiscal and economic costs in most regions.
On a ―pre-tax‖ basis, subsidies for petroleum products, electricity, natural gas, and coal reached $480 billion in 2011 (0.7 percent of global GDP or 2 percent of total government revenues). The cost of subsidies is especially acute in oil exporters, which account for about two-thirds of the total. On a ―post-tax‖ basis—which also factors in the negative externalities from energy consumption—subsidies are much higher at $1.9 trillion (2½ percent of global GDP or 8 percent of total government revenues). The advanced economies account for about 40 percent of the global post-tax total, while oil exporters account for about one-third. Removing these subsidies could lead to a 13 percent decline in CO2 emissions and generate positive spillover effects by reducing global energy demand.

Country experiences suggest there are six key elements for subsidy reform.
These are: (i) a comprehensive energy sector reform plan entailing clear long-term objectives, analysis of the impact of reforms, and consultation with stakeholders; (ii) an extensive communications strategy, supported by improvements in transparency, such as the dissemination of information on the magnitude of subsidies and the recording of subsidies in the budget; (iii) appropriately phased price increases, which can be sequenced differently across energy products; (iv) improving the efficiency of state-owned enterprises to reduce producer subsidies; (v) targeted measures to protect the poor; and (vi) institutional reforms that depoliticize energy pricing, such as the introduction of automatic pricing mechanisms. (IMF)

California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Established in 2002 under Senate Bill 1078, accelerated in 2006 under Senate Bill 107 and expanded in 2011 under Senate Bill 2, California's Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. The RPS program requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of total procurement by 2020.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission jointly implement the RPS program. The CPUC's responsibilities include:
  1. Determining annual procurement targets and enforcing compliance.
  2. Reviewing and approving each IOU's renewable energy procurement plan.
  3. Reviewing IOU contracts for RPS-eligible energy.
  4. Establishing the standard terms and conditions used by IOUs in their contracts for eligible renewable energy.
The original RPS legislation assigned the Energy Commission with the following responsibilities:


  • Certify renewable facilities as eligible for the RPS.
  • Design and implement a tracking and verification system to ensure that renewable energy output is counted only once for the purpose of the RPS and for verifying retail product claims in California or other states.
Senate Bill X1-2 increased the Energy Commission's role with responsibilities specific to publicly owned utilities:
  • Directs the Energy Commission to adopt regulations specifying procedures for enforcement of the RPS for publicly owned utilities.
  • Requires the Energy Commission to certify and verify eligible renewable energy resources procured by publicly owned utilities and to monitor their compliance with the RPS. The Energy Commission will continue to certify and verify RPS procurements by retail sellers.
  • The Energy Commission refers the failure of a publicly owned utility to comply to the Air Resources Board, which may impose penalties.
Subsequent recommendations in California energy policy reports advocated a goal of 33 percent by 2020, and on November 17, 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08 requiring that "...[a]ll retail sellers of electricity shall serve 33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020." The following year, Executive Order S-21-09 directed the California Air Resources Board, under its Assembly Bill 32 authority, to enact regulations to achieve the goal of 33 percent renewables by 2020.

In the ongoing effort to codify the ambitious 33 percent by 2020 goal, Senate Bill X1-2 was signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., in April 2011. This new RPS preempts the California Air Resources Boards' 33 percent Renewable Electricity Standard and applies to all electricity retailers in the state including publicly owned utilities (POUs), investor-owned utilities, electricity service providers, and community choice aggregators. All of these entities must adopt the new RPS goals of 20 percent of retails sales from renewables by the end of 2013, 25 percent by the end of 2016, and the 33 percent requirement being met by the end of 2020. (California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission)

Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project

Formerly Antelope Valley
Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) is the first major transmission project in California being constructed specifically to access multiple renewable generators in a remote renewable-rich resource area. Segments 4 to 11 include new and upgraded electric transmission lines and substations between eastern Kern County and San Bernardino County.

A series of new and upgraded transmission facilities equaling 250 miles (spanning an area of approximately 173 miles) is being built to deliver electricity from renewable wind energy generators in Kern County south through Los Angeles County and east to the existing Mira Loma Substation in Ontario, San Bernardino County.

California’s demand for electricity continues to grow. So too does its demand for electricity produced
by renewable power sources such as wind. The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which would interconnect renewable wind energy to the existing electric system, would help meet an important state requirement concerning renewable resources. State law requires that at least 33 percent of the electricity SCE delivers to customers be produced by renewable sources by 2020. New and modified transmission facilities are needed to help the state meet that target. TRTP can help meet these targets.
Currently, energy developers are planning new “wind farms” in an area of Kern County referred to as the “Tehachapi Wind Resource Area” that would help meet the demand for more renewable power. Although SCE does not have an ownership interest in any of the proposed wind farms, SCE is required to construct extensions of its transmission system to these proposed wind farms so that wind power can be delivered into the state’s energy grid.

In order to increase its ability to deliver this renewable wind energy to customers, SCE must upgrade its transmission lines and substations south of the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area by constructing the TRTP. These upgrades are also necessary to serve Southern California’s overall growing demand for electricity. (Southern California Edison, IQRA Associates)

Read the CPUC Project Approval
Read the Project EIR (Environmental Impact Report)

Current Project Activities


TRTP Segments 1-3
TRTP Segments 4-11

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Center for Sustainable Shale Development


The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), spearheaded by the Heinz Endowments, is a coalition of industry and environmental and philanthropic groups offering a voluntary certification process to make hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, less damaging to the environment and less risky to human health.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) is an independent organization whose mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification. Focused on shale development in the Appalachian Basin, the Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as the center of excellence for shale gas development.

The result of this unique collaboration: the development of rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development and a commitment to continuous improvement to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of our abundant shale resources. CSSD will offer an independent, third-party evaluation process to certify companies that achieve and maintain these standards.

Funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies, CSSD is intended to promote collaborative efforts by industry and its stakeholders called for by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

Board of Directors
  • Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force
  • Jared Cohon, President, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Nicholas J. DeIuliis, President, CONSOL Energy
  • Paul Goodfellow, Vice President, U.S. Unconventionals, Shell
  • Paul King, President, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • Fred Krupp, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Jane C.S. Long, formerly with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Bruce Niemeyer, President, Chevron Appalachia
  • Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury Department and retired Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
  • David Porges, President and CEO, EQT
  • Robert Vagt, President, The Heinz Endowments (Chair)
  • Christine Todd Whitman, President, The Whitman Strategy Group; former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the EPA
Corporate Officers:
  • Andrew Place, President
  • Daniel Clearfield, Secretary and Treasurer
Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)
625 Liberty Avenue | Suite 395
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412.804.4170

Andrew Place – Interim Director | andrew.place@sustainableshale.org
Faye Miller – Assistant to the Director | faye.miller@sustainableshale.org

EPA SAB Panel To Peer Review Fracking Research


EPA’s Science Advisory Board Announces Independent Panel to Peer Review Agency’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) today announced the formation of its Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel. This panel of independent experts will peer review EPA’s 2014 draft report of results for its national study on any potential health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Leading up to the peer review, the SAB panel will provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research in an open and transparent manner.

The development of the draft report, which is directed by Congress, is in line with the Administration’s focus on continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production.


The SAB has identified an independent panel of 31 experts that meet the SAB’s criteria of having the necessary expertise and breadth of experience to adequately review the EPA hydraulic fracturing study on the potential impacts on drinking water resources, and meet long-standing rules regarding financial conflicts of interest.

EPA will ask the SAB panel, as a part of its public process, to specifically seek input from applied science practitioners in the field. Assuring the most up-to-date information on emerging science and technology of this rapidly changing industry is a critical component of the entire process.

In March 2010, EPA announced its intention to conduct the study in response to a request from Congress. To ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor, the agency has engaged in a wide variety of activities, including public meetings with stakeholders and public webinars, technical roundtables and technical workshops. In addition, the agency’s Science Advisory Board reviewed the draft study plan and now has established a panel that will peer review the 2014 draft report of results, as well as provide scientific feedback as requested.

The SAB sought public nominations of nationally and internationally recognized scientists and engineers having experience and expertise related to hydraulic fracturing in an August 2012 Federal Register notice.

The SAB initially identified and sought public comment on 144 potential candidates. As required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, SAB staff worked to screen candidates for conflicts of interest and appearance of lack of impartiality. After reviewing public comments, confidential financial disclosure forms and additional information submitted by prospective candidates, the SAB identified the panel of 31 experts.

The SAB panel is comprised of five current employees of companies and consulting firms; two government employees; and 21 academics/university professors (including some previously employed in industry). It has at least three experts in each of the following nine areas of expertise that were sought for the panel: Petroleum/Natural Gas Engineering; Petroleum/Natural Gas Well Drilling; Hydrology/Hydrogeology; Geology /Geophysics; Groundwater Chemistry/Geochemistry; Toxicology/Biology; Statistics; Civil Engineering; and Waste Water and Drinking Water Treatment.

On May 7 and 8, 2013, the SAB panel will convene a meeting to provide individual feedback from panel members regarding EPA’s 2012 progress report on the study. The public will also have the opportunity to provide comments for the panel’s consideration. Comments from individual panel members will be considered as EPA develops its draft results in late 2014 for peer review by the SAB. The draft report of results will synthesize the findings from the study’s ongoing projects together with scientific literature to answer the study’s main research questions regarding hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.

Subsequent meetings will include an opportunity for presentations to the panel by experts in fracturing technologies.

More information on the SAB’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel and its activities


Factsheet on SAB Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel:

Names/Affiliations of the SAB Panel

Mr. John V. Fontana, Vista GeoScience LLC Mr. Walter R. Hufford, Talisman Energy USA

Dr. Stephen W. Almond, MeadWestvaco
Dr. E. Scott Bair, Ohio State University
Dr. Elizabeth Boyer, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Susan L. Brantley, Penn State University
Dr. Peter Bloomfield, North Carolina State University
Dr. Steven Bohlen, U.S. Department of Energy
Dr. James V. Bruckner, University of Georgia
Dr. Thomas L. Davis, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Joseph J. DeGeorge, Merck Research Laboratories
Dr. Joel Ducoste, North Carolina State University
Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Dr. David Dzombak, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Katherine Bennett Ensor, Rice University
Dr. Elaine M. Faustman, University of Washington
Dr. Daniel J. Goode, U.S. Geological Survey
Dr. Abby A. Li, Exponent Inc
Mr. Dean Malouta, Independent Consultant in Oil and Gas Exploration and Development
Dr. Cass T. Miller, University of North Carolina
Dr. Laura J. Pyrak-Nolte, Purdue University
Dr. Steve Randtke, University of Kansas
Dr. Joseph Ryan, University of Colorado
Dr. James Saiers, Yale University
Dr. Eric P. Smith, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Dr. Azra N. Tutuncu, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Paul Westerhoff, Arizona State University
Dr. Thomas M. Young, University of California, Davis
Dr. Bruce D. Honeyman, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Richard Jack, Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation
Dr. Dawn Kaback, AMEC E&I, Inc.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

U.S. Senate Symbolic Vote To Support Keystone XL Pipeline

The Senate on Friday voted 62-37 to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in an amendment to Senate budget.  Sen. John Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) amendment was symbolic, but served as a clear statement that the Senate backs the pipeline. The White House, the the State Department, has the final say because the project crosses an international border.  It puts the Senate on record in support of the Keystone pipeline project.

All Republicans voted in favor. The Democrats who supported the measure were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Mark Warner (Va.).

The Senate Democrats’ budget plan is non-binding, and reconciliation with the GOP House version is unlikely. Hoeven has proposed separate legislation that would bypass President Obama’s authority to decide the Canada-to-Texas pipeline's fate. (The Hill, 3/22/2013)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pennsylvania Natural Gas Production Rose 69% in 2012 Despite Reduced Drilling Activity

Graph of PA natural gas drilling and production, as explained in the article text

Natural gas production in Pennsylvania averaged 6.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2012, up from 3.6 Bcf/d in 2011, according to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) data released in February 2013. This 69% increase came in spite of a significant drop in the number of new natural gas wells started during the year.

Several factors contributed to the production increase. While accelerated drilling in recent years (primarily in the Marcellus Shale formation) significantly boosted Pennsylvania's natural gas production, increases were restricted by the state's limited pipeline and processing infrastructure. This created a large backlog of wells that were drilled but not brought online. As infrastructure expanded, these wells were gradually connected to pipelines, sustaining natural gas production increases through 2012 despite the decline in new natural gas well starts. Data from DEP show that a significant portion of wells that began producing in 2012 were drilled earlier.

Improved drilling and well completion techniques can reduce drilling time and lead to higher production per well. The increased use of horizontal drilling (see graph) and hydraulic fracturing, particularly in the more geologically favorable portions of the Marcellus, allows for more production per well. As operators continue to improve well completion techniques, they are achieving higher initial per-well production rates and boosting overall production.

Pennsylvania typically releases major production data twice a year for unconventional (horizontal) oil and natural gas wells and once a year for conventional oil and natural gas wells. (DOE-EIA)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fixing America’s Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act

Mary Landrieu
Lisa Murkowski
Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced legislation Wednesday that would give a portion of federal energy revenues to coastal states.  Currently, coastal states don’t get any federal energy revenues.

States in the interior of the country, on the other hand, get half of the revenues from energy produced on federal lands within their borders. The senators said their bill would remedy that inequity.

The Landrieu-Murkowski bill would divert 27.5 percent of federal revenues from energy — fossil fuel and renewable — produced offshore to most coastal states.  Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, however, would get 37.5 percent. The bill also gradually phases out a $500 million annual cap on the revenues those states can collect.

The bill also would award an additional 10 percent of offshore revenues to coastal states that invest in clean-energy projects. Additionally, it would give coastal states 50 percent of revenues from renewable energy on federal land, whether onshore or offshore.

Murkowski is the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Ron Wyden is chairman. (The Hill, 3/20/2013, Senate Energy &Natural Resources Committee)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Center President Norris McDonald Appears on Arise TV


Center President Norris McDonald appeared on Arise TV on Monday, March 18th to discuss, "Nuclear Cure For Asthma."  Also appearing on the show was Frank Fraley, Executive Director of  Safe Healthy Affordable Energy (SHARE) and asthma specialist Dre. Aletha Maybank.

The March 18 Program Segment can be seen at 1:07:30.

Friday, March 15, 2013

EPA Report Highlights Fuel Economy Gains In 2012

EPA released its annual report that tracks the fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States, underscoring the major increases made in the efficiency of the vehicles Americans drive, reducing oil consumption and cutting carbon emissions. According to the report, EPA estimates that between 2007 and 2012 fuel economy values increased by 16 percent while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have decreased by 13 percent, and in 2012 alone the report indicates a significant one year increase of 1.4 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and trucks.

The expected 1.4 mpg improvement in 2012 is based on sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers. EPA’s projections show a reduction in CO2 emissions to 374 grams per mile and an increase in average fuel economy to 23.8 mpg. These numbers represent the largest annual improvements since EPA began reporting on fuel economy.  (EPA)

For full press release

The new report

Energy Security Trust

 

 
From The White House
 
President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future

The United States is on the path to a cleaner and more secure energy future. Since President Obama took office, responsible oil and gas production has increased each year, while oil imports have fallen to a 20 year low; renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has doubled; And our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two decades. In short, the President’s approach is working. It’s a winning strategy for the economy, energy security, and the environment.

But even with this progress, there is more work to do. Rising gas prices serve as a reminder that we are still too reliant on oil, which comes at a cost to American families and businesses. While there’s no overnight solution to address rising gas prices in the short term, President Obama today reiterated his commitment to a sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy and urged Congress to take up common-sense proposals that will further reduce our dependence on oil, better protect consumers from spikes in gas prices, and reduce pollution.

Background: The Energy Security Trust


The Obama Administration is calling on Congress to establish a new Energy Security Trust, which is designed to invest in breakthrough research that will make the technologies of the future cheaper and better – technologies that will protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.
 

The Energy Security Trust, which builds on a proposal supported by a broad bipartisan coalition including retired military leaders, will provide a reliable stream of funding for critical, breakthrough research focused on developing cost-effective transportation alternatives.

The President’s proposal sets aside $2 billion over 10 years and will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuel cells, and domestically produced natural gas. The mandatory funds would be set aside from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in Federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), already included in the administration’s five year plan. These revenues are projected to increase over the next several years based on a combination of leasing, production, and price trends, with additional revenues potentially generated as a result of reforms being proposed in the FY 2014 Budget. The Trust is paid for within the context of the overall budget. 
 
Paired with other Administration policies, including our historic new fuel economy standards, the Trust would help solidify America’s position as a world leader in advanced transportation technology.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new report that underscores the progress we have made to improve fuel economy, save American families money at the pump, and reduce carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. According to the report, from 2007 to 2012, EPA estimates that CO2 emissions have decreased by 13 percent and fuel economy values have increased by 16 percent. In addition, compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher.

Producing More American Energy


President Obama is committed to an "all-of-the-above" approach that develops all American energy sources in a safe and responsible way and builds a clean and secure energy future. That’s why the President’s plan:  

Challenges Americans to double renewable electricity generation again by 2020. In order to double generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020, relative to 2012 levels, the President called on Congress to make the renewable energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable, which will provide incentive and certainty for investments in new clean energy. Instead of continuing century-old subsidies to oil companies, the President believes that we need to invest in the energy of the future. During the President’s first term, clean energy tax incentives attracted billions of dollars in private investment in almost 50,000 clean energy projects, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Permanent extension keeps the momentum building, while creating new jobs in clean energy.
 
Directs the Interior Department to make energy project permitting more robust. Last year, the President set a goal to permit 10,000 megawatts of renewables on public lands – a goal the Interior Department achieved. But there is more work to do. That is why the Department is continuing to take steps to enable responsible development of American energy on public lands. In support of this work, the President’s Budget will increase funding for energy programs of the Bureau of Land Management by roughly 20 percent. A significant share of these resources will support better permitting processes for oil and gas, renewable energy, and infrastructure, including the transition to an electronic, streamlined system for oil and gas permits that will significantly reduce the time for approval of new drilling projects. The Department will also propose more diligent development of oil and gas leases through shorter primary lease terms, stricter enforcement of lease terms, and monetary incentives to get leases into production.

Commits to safer production and cleaner electricity from natural gas. Our domestic natural gas resources are reducing energy costs across the economy – for manufacturers investing in new facilities and families benefiting from lower heating costs. This abundant, nearly 100-year resource can support new jobs and growth, but there are steps we should take to make this growth safe and responsible. The President’s budget will invest more than $40 million in research to ensure safe and responsible natural gas production. And as part of a $375 million investment in cleaner energy from fossil fuels, the President’s budget includes significant funding for clean coal technology and a new $25 million prize for the first, natural gas combined cycle power plant to integrate carbon capture and storage.

Supports a responsible nuclear waste strategy. Under President Obama’s direction, the Energy Department created a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to recommend how to manage the challenges associated with nuclear waste storage and disposal. After careful consideration of the Commission’s input, the Administration has issued a strategy for action in response to the recommendations and looks forward to working with Congress on implementing policies that ensure that our Nation can continue to rely on carbon-free nuclear power.
 
Investing in Energy Security

During the President’s first term, the United States cut foreign oil imports by more than 3.6 million barrels per day, more than under any other President. To ensure that we continue on a path towards greater energy security, the President’s plan:

Sets a goal to cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade. Increased production of domestic oil, natural gas, and biofuels, and improvements in the fuel economy of our cars and trucks allowed the United States to cut imports of oil by almost one-third since 2008. To build on this progress, the President will direct new policies and investments to set us on a course to cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade, relative to 2008 levels.
 
Commits to partnering with the private sector to adopt natural gas and other alternative fuels in the Nation’s trucking fleet. Private sector investments are building natural gas fueling infrastructure across the United States just as natural gas vehicle research is making the technology more economically and environmentally effective. The President is committed to accelerating the growth of this domestically abundant fuel and other alternative fuels in the transportation sector in a way that benefits our planet, our economy, and our energy security: putting in place new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels, providing a credit for 50 percent of the incremental cost of a dedicated alternative-fuel truck for a five-year period; supporting research to ensure the safe and responsible use of natural gas; and funding to support a select number of deployment communities: real-world laboratories that leverage limited federal resources to develop different models to deploy advanced vehicles at scale.

Making Energy Go Farther Across the Economy

Cutting the amount of energy we waste in our cars and trucks, in our homes, buildings, and in our factories, will make us a stronger, more resilient, and more competitive economy. Improvements in energy efficiency are critical to building a clean and secure energy future. To advance this priority, the President’s plan:
 
Establishes a new goal to double American energy productivity by 2030. The President has set a goal to cut our economy’s energy waste in half over the next twenty years. More specifically, the Administration will take action aimed at doubling the economic output per unit of energy consumed in the United States by 2030, relative to 2010 levels. This includes a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top challenge; building on the success of existing partnerships with the public and private sectors to promote energy efficiency; and continuing investments in technologies that improve energy productivity and cut waste.
Challenges States to Cut Energy Waste and Support Energy Efficiency and Modernize the Grid. Modeled after a successful Administration approach in education reform designed to promote forward-leaning policies at the State-level, the Budget includes $200 million in one-time funding for Race to the Top performance based awards to support State governments that implement effective policies to cut energy waste and modernize the grid. Key opportunities for States include: modernizing utility regulations to encourage cost-effective investments in efficiency like combined heat and power, clean distributed generation, and demand response resources; enhancing customer access to data; investments that improve the reliability, security and resilience of the grid; and enhancing the sharing of information regarding grid conditions.

Commits to build on the success of existing partnerships with the public and private sector to use energy wisely. Over the next four years, the President is committed to accelerating progress on energy productivity including through the Better Buildings Challenge, improving energy data access for consumers through the "Green Button" initiative, and making appliances even more efficient - saving consumers money, spurring innovation, and strengthening domestic manufacturing.

Calls for sustained investments in technologies that promote maximum productivity of energy use and reduce waste. The President’s Budget expands applied research and development of innovative manufacturing processes and advanced industrial materials. These innovations will enable U.S. companies to cut manufacturing costs, enhance the productivity of their investments and workforce, and reduce the life-cycle energy consumption of technologies, while improving product quality and accelerating product development.
International Leadership

The Administration has worked not only to strengthen our energy security at home, but also around the world. In concert with our domestic actions, we have pursued a robust international agenda that:

Leads efforts through the Clean Energy Ministerial and other fora to promote energy efficiency and the development and deployment of clean energy. Our efforts have helped to accelerate the global dissemination of energy-efficient equipment and appliances through the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative, improved energy savings in commercial building and industry through the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP), and supported the large-scale deployment of renewable energy through the 21st Century Power Partnership.
Works through the G20 and other fora toward the global phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Inefficient subsidies exact a steep toll on our economies, our energy security, and our environment, and the United States is leading efforts internationally to accelerate progress in eliminating them.

Promotes safe and responsible oil and natural gas development. The Administration has worked to promote safe and responsible oil and natural gas production through initiatives like the Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative, which provides technical and capacity building assistance to countries that are on the verge of becoming the world’s next generation of oil and gas producers, and the Unconventional Gas Technological Engagement Program, which works to help countries with unconventional natural gas resources to identify and develop them safely and economically and can support switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

Updates our international capabilities to strengthen energy security. We are working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others to ensure that our international institutions and processes reflect changes in global energy markets.

Supports American nuclear exports. We are providing increased support for American nuclear technology and supply chains to promote safe, secure, low-carbon nuclear power growth in countries that are pursuing nuclear energy as part of their energy mix.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oil & Gas Industry Running Ads To Protect Subsidies

The American Petroleum Institute (API) began running cable and broadcast ads inside the Beltway in March.  The oil-and-gas lobby group wants to convince Congress to keep its hands off its industry tax incentives.  The ads are also intended to oppose billions in new oil and natural gas taxes. API believes punitive tax schemes kill jobs and decrease revenues to the federal government over the long term.

API has long called the incentives cost-recovery mechanisms and business deductions that other sectors receive. It says the federal government would single the oil-and-gas industry out by blocking it from such tax treatment. API believes erasing the oil-and-gas industry’s ability claim the various tax items would deter investment in the United States and the drop in long-term federal revenues would outweigh any short-term gains.  Basically API believes higher energy taxes  would undermine development.

President Obama and many Democrats want to strip $4 billion in annual tax breaks given to oil-and-gas companies. (The Hill, 3/13/2013)



 

For more information visit www.energytomorrow.org 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

EPA Announces Membership of Great Lakes Advisory Board

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced on behalf of 16 federal agencies the membership of the first advisory board to support implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“Protecting the Great Lakes -- the largest surface freshwater system on Earth -- is important for the health and well being of millions of people," said EPA Acting Administrator and Acting Interagency Task Force Chair Bob Perciasepe. "Today I’m pleased to announce the membership of the first-ever Great Lakes Advisory Board. The scientists, business leaders, public servants, and representatives of non-profit organizations who make up the Advisory Board will help us build upon the success we've already seen and move forward into the next phases of Great Lakes restoration and protection.”


The Great Lakes Advisory Board will provide advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator, who serves as chair of the federal Interagency Task Force. EPA considered candidates from a broad range of interests including business, agriculture, foundations, environmental justice groups, youth organizations, environmental groups, academia and state, local and tribal representatives.

The first two-year appointments to the advisory board are:

- J. David Allen, Professor – University of Michigan.

- Patricia Birkholz, Founder – Great Lakes Legislative Caucus.
- Kathryn Buckner, President – Council of Great Lakes Industries.
- Naomi Davis, President – Blacks in Green.
- Molly Flanagan, Program Officer – The Joyce Foundation.
- Steve Galarneau, Director – Office of the Great Lakes, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
- Jennifer Hill, Field Manager – National Wildlife Federation and Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition.
- Roger Germann, Executive Vice President – John G. Shedd Aquarium.
- Bill Hafs, Director of Environmental Programs – Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District.
- Michael Isham, Tribal Councilman – Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Government and Chair of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
- Simone Lightfoot, Manager of Conservation & Sustainability – NAACP Detroit Branch.
- Joy Mulinex, Director – Public Policy and Great Lakes Land Conservancy Coalition Director – Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
- Jim Ridgway, Vice President – Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc.
- Joan Rose, Professor – Michigan State University.
- Richard Stewart, Co-Director – Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute.
- Matt Thompson, Environmental Resources Coordinator – Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
- David Ullrich, Executive Director – Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
- Jim Wagner, City Administrator – Trenton, Michigan.

The Interagency Task Force is in the process of scheduling next steps for the Great Lakes Advisory Board in the spring.

The Great Lakes provide more than 30 million Americans with drinking water and underpin a multi-billion dollar economy. In February 2009, President Obama proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. GLRI funds are being used to accelerate cleanup work in the 29 remaining AOCs identified by the U.S. and Canada under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. (EPA)

More information on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative