Friday, June 28, 2013

Senate Confirms Anthony Foxx as DOT Secretary

Anthony Foxx with President Obama
The Senate on Thursday voted 100-0 to approve the nomination of Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx as Transportation Secretary. Att 42, Foxx will be the youngest member of the Obama Cabinet. He replaces Ray LaHood at the helm of DOT.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Manchester 4-Walls Project

Center President Norris McDonald spoke at a forum in Manchester, Connecticut sponsored by MC2 Technology, Inc (MC2) with the theme: "Preparing Failing Students for Success In Education & Life."  The forum was coordinated by MC2 President Samuel O. Cephas.  The forum was held at St. Mary's Episcopal Church on Friday, June 14, 2013.  The Manchester 4-Walls Project is being coordinated by Sam Cephas.

The Manchester 4-Walls Project is a 3-year pilot program that prepares failing students for success in education and life.  The 4-Walls Project partners include Beyond The Gap and Students of Color (SOC). St. Mary's Episcopal Church will also serve as an instruction site for the students.  The partnership grew from the shared vision of providing services that will attack the achievement gap, reduce truancy and drop-out rates, and provide paths to gainful employment or post high school education for low-performing students who are really "on-the-bubble."

Norris McDonald, Sam Cephas, Rev. Josh Pawelek

MC2 Technologies, Inc (MC2) provides training to young people through youth-at-risk programs. These programs include mentoring, tutoring, after school programs, scholarship assistance, life choices instruction and apprenticeship opportunities. Math and science are major emphases of MC2 programming. MC2's mission is to decrease truancy, reduce drop-out rates, raise student's GPA by one point, ensure success in core subjects, work primarily with low income students, provide scholarships to all program participants, promote retention for Connecticut colleges and universities, offer certifications and college credits, provide internship and co-op opportunities, teach financial literacy, build special curricula to overcome achievement gap, emphasize math and science and hands-on courses with field research.

The 4 Walls Project began in July 2012 and included discussions with local businessmen, town leaders, social service providers and surrounding colleges. The goal is to begin with 12-15 students during the first year.

Norris McDonald, Rev. Paul Briggs, pastor at St. Mary's Episcopal Church

The first year of the program will introduce students to basic math, science and financial literacy principles and concepts, providing the student with the foundation that will enable them to participate in the second year program. Students will also be assigned to instruction teams during the first year that will provide individuals with professional knowledge and experience in the targeted field of study.

MC2 staff and volunteers work with students who are serious about making a difference in their own lives. Students are identified with the assistance of guidance counselors, teachers, parents and it is expected that a number of students will self-identify. Tutors work with these students to develop skills within the fields of mathematics, science, reading, writing, business -- utilizing desktop computers, interesting reading materials, and industry-related supplies and services, while also providing fun activities, such as games and field trips. Healthy food and beverages will also be available to ensure our young people remain mentally alert.

Sam Cephus, Norris McDonald, Dr. Duncan Harris

In order to be accepted into the program, students are required to go through an application process, with the added requirement of a minimum 2.0 GPA. All students are required to attend seminars, programs or classes within the program three days a week. The students are required to fill out an application, provide a resume and letters of recommendation. Students are required to submit a writing sample; complete a pre-test that includes a math aptitude test; provide GPA and school attendance records, along with a letter from a current instructor and parental permission. The plan is that students accepted into MC are able to take their skills and leverage them into paid positions and acceptance into institutions of higher learning after high school.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

President Obama's 'Net Effect' Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline

President Obama will direct the State Department to approve the Keystone XL pipeline because he will conclude that the oil would be shipped by rail anyway, probably further increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

In his climate change speech on Tuesday, President Obama said:
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” Obama said. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

“The net effects of climate impact will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward,” he added. “It is relevant.”
The State Department draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) already concluded that Keystone XL would not lead to significantly more carbon pollution.  Of course, an EPA assessment concluded that shipping tar sands oil by rail would be cost prohibitive.  The State Department report estimates that shipping Alberta’s heavy crude by pipeline costs about $10 per barrel, with rail in the $15 to $18 per barrel range. Yet some producers estimate that shipping by train to the Gulf Coast could cost as much as $30 per barrel.

The amount of oil on Canada’s rail system has already hit 150,000 barrels a day and is on track to hit 300,000 barrels a day by year’s end.  At least two oil sands producers, Suncor and MEG Energy, are adding rail capacity. Canadian National Railway expects to double its crude shipments this year and will expand storage and other facilities in Geismar, La. Two large heavy crude refineries are located there. 

The $5.3 billion Keystone pipeline addition (875 mile northern leg) and extension will carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day 1,200 miles from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Gulf Coast. (Wash Post, 6/24/2013, Wash Post, 6/24/2013, FleetNewsDaily)

Penny Pritzker Confirmed as Secretary of Commerce

Penny Pritzker
Penny Pritzker was nominated as United States Secretary of Commerce by President Barack Obama on May 2, 2013. Her confirmation hearing was on May 23 2013 and she was confirmed by the full Senate on June 25, by a vote of 97 to 1 (Bernie Sanders-I-Vt opposing)

Penny Sue Pritzker (born May 2, 1959) is an American business executive, entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist who is the founder, chairman and CEO of PSP Capital Partners and Pritzker Realty Group..  She's also co-founder and chairman of Artemis Real Estate Partners.  She is a member of the Pritzker family.

In 2011 the Forbes 400 list of America's wealthiest showed her as the 263rd richest person in the U.S., estimated net worth of US $1.8511 billion, and the world's 651st richest person.

Born in 1959, the daughter of Sue (Sandel) and Donald N. Pritzker (1932–1972), co-founder of Hyatt hotels. She earned an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College in 1981 and both a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1984. She has two brothers: Anthony Pritzker and Jay Robert Pritzker. She is married to Bryan Traubert, president of the Chicago Park District board.  (Wiki, Biography)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SCOTUS Reviewing Cross State Air Pollution Rule

U.S. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court decision that nullified Environmental Protection Agency rules aimed at cutting soot- and smog-forming power plant emissions that cross state lines.

The EPA, when finalizing the rule in the summer of 2011, said substantially cutting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions would bring public health benefits that far outstrip the projected costs. The agency estimated that the rule, when phased in, would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths; 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks and 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis annually. The rules would force emissions cuts in more than two dozen states in the eastern half of the country.

In a 2-1 August 2012 decision,  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, ruling that the regulation exceeded the EPA’s powers under the Clean Air Act to force pollution cuts in upwind states.

The appellate decision was a victory for industry groups, some states and GOP lawmakers, who alleged the rule would create economic burdens and force the closure of substantial numbers of coal-fired power plants.

Specifically, the appellate judges said the rule allows the EPA to “impose massive emissions reduction requirements on upwind states without regard to the limits imposed by the statutory text.”

The Supreme Court’s agreement to examine the rule, depending on the outcome, could breathe new life into the regulation. (The Hill, 6/24/2013)

The President's Climate Action Plan

President Obama is putting forward a broad-based plan to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and affects public health.

Cutting carbon pollution will help spark business innovation to modernize our power plants, resulting in cleaner forms of American-made energy that will create good jobs and cut our dependence on foreign oil.

The plan, which consists of a wide variety of executive actions, has three key pillars:

1) Cut Carbon Pollution in America
2) Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
3) Lead International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts


1) Cut Carbon Pollution in America:  

I. Deploying Clean Energy  Cutting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants Promoting American Leadership in Renewable Energy    
  • Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting
  • Expanding and Modernizing the Electric Grid

Unlocking Long-Term Investment in Clean Energy Innovation
  • Spurring Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects
  • Instituting a Federal Quadrennial Energy Review
II. Building a 21st Century Transportation Sector
  • Increasing Fuel Economy Standards
  • Developing and Deploying Advanced Transportation Technologies
III. Cutting Energy Waste In Homes, Businesses and Factories
  • Establishing A New Goal For Energy Efficiency Standards
  • Reducing Barriers To Investment In Energy Efficiency
  • Expanding The President's Better Buildings Challenge
IV. Reducing Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Curbing Emissions of Hydrofluorocarbons

Reducing Methane Emissions
  • Developing and Interagency Methane Strategy
  • Pursuing A Collaborative Approach To Reducing Emissions
Preserving the Role of Forests in Mitigating Climate Change

V. Leading at the Federal Level

Leading in Clean Energy

Federal Government Leadership in Energy Efficiency

2) Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change:

I. Building Stronger and Safer Communities and Infrastructure

Directing Agencies To Support Climate-Resilient Investment

Establishing a State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness

Supporting Communities as they Prepare for Climate Impacts

Boosting the Resilience of Buildings and Infrastructure

Rebuilding and Learning from Hurricane Sandy

II.  Protecting Our Economy and Natural Resources

Identifying Vulnerabilities of Key Sectors of Climate Change

Promoting Resilience in the Health Sector

Promoting Insurance Leadership for Climate Safety

Conserving Land and Water Resources

Maintaining Agricultural Sustainability

Managing Drought

Reducing Wildfire Risk

Preparing For Future Floods

III. Using Sound Science to Manage Climate Impacts

Developing Actionable Climate Science

Assessing Climate Change Impacts in the United States

Launching a Climate Data Initiative

Providing a Toolkit for Climate Resilience

3) Lead International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts:

I. Working with other Countries To Take Action to Address Climate Change

Enhancing Multilateral Engagement with Major Economies

Expanding Bilateral With Major Emerging Economies

Combatting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation

Expanding Clean Energy Use and Cut Energy Waste

Negotiating Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services

Phasing Out Subsidies that Encourage Wasteful Consumption of Fossil Fuels

Leading Global Sector Public Financing Towards Cleaner Energy

Strengthening Global Resilience to Climate Change

Mobilizing Climate Finance

II. Leading Efforts to Adress Climate Change Through International Negotiations

(The White House)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Utilities Fight 3rd Party Solar Ownership Deals But Not Solar

Disputes over the use of small-scale solar power are flaring across the nation, with utilities squaring off against solar-energy marketers over rules for the growing technology.  Utilities have sought to cut what they claim are unfairly high payments they are required to make to owners of homes or larger buildings with solar systems.

At issue is whether solar-system marketers can sell electricity in territories where local utilities have exclusive rights to customers. Such an arrangement isn't allowed or is under dispute in many states, limiting solar firms to sales of panels to homeowners and businesses.

Utilities are proponents of renewable energy if they own the energy assets and the electrons flow through their grid and they can bill you.

In March, an Iowa District Court judge said Eagle Point, an 18-employee company, could sign power-purchase contracts in the Dubuque territory of Alliant Energy Corp., one of the state's largest utilities. Under the disputed deal, Eagle Point would own solar panels on the roof of a Dubuque municipal building and sell power to the city at a rate similar to Alliant's.
The disputed Dubuque deal employed a "third party" ownership arrangement, in which a rooftop solar system is owned by someone other than the property owner. Solar deals using that structure are growing in popularity—for both residential and commercial properties—because they allow building landlords or homeowners to tap into solar power without a significant upfront investment.

Alliant says the ruling contradicts Iowa's policy of not allowing competition for electricity service. Eagle Point is selling energy to one of Alliant Energy Corp's customers. (WSJ, 6/23/2013)

Maryland Drinking Water Pipe Problems

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, serving Maryland close to Washington, DC, has 350 miles of concrete mains that have been prone to exploding without warning.  The particularly large mains are designed to carry high volumes of pressurized water. Utilities around the world have struggled with this type of pipe since the 1980s, when they began bursting decades before their 100-year life expectancy was up.

Many of the WSSC's large concrete mains were installed during the 1970s, when industry standards in place at the time permitted design and manufacturing changes that were later found to make the pipes significantly more prone to breaking. The WSSC also has significant amounts of pipe from a defunct New Jersey company blamed for making some of the most vulnerable mains during the 1970s and 1980s.

The pipes span up to eight feet in diameter, big enough to hold a minivan. Because they carry so much pressurized water, they can blow like a bomb, leaving 50-foot craters in roads and hurling rocks and other debris like shrapnel. 

The 350 miles of large concrete pipe — technically called prestressed concrete cylinder pipe — form the backbone of the 5,600-mile water distribution system for 1.8 million people in Montgomery’s and Prince George’s counties. The large transmission mains carry water from the treatment plants to the smaller pipes that reach into neighborhoods.

According to WSSC officials, replacing all of them would cost a prohibitive $2.9 billion. Doing so also wouldn’t be cost-effective because inspections have shown that only 1.5 percent of concrete pipe sections need to be repaired or replaced.  According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency estimate, the nation’s water distribution systems will require $384 billion over the next 20 years to keep drinking water safe.

The WSSC, on the other hand, must move water across 1,000 square miles. Most of the utility’s water comes from the Potomac River, on the western border of its service area. The rest comes from the Patuxent River, at its eastern edge.

Moving 170 million gallons of water daily around the Capital Beltway, up toward the Frederick and Howard county lines, and down into southern Prince George’s with enough pressure to run showers and flush toilets required hundreds of miles of large pipe. 

The District has 37 miles of concrete pipe. The city’s older water system was mostly built out by the time concrete pipes became widely used.

The WSSC now has 77 miles of concrete pipe monitored by the acoustic equipment — the most of any U.S. water utility, according to Pure Technologies, the Columbia-based firm that patented the technology. The system provides alerts of a wire break almost daily. 

The WSSC is about to begin using robots to inspect 68 miles of smaller concrete mains. Those pipes also will have acoustic equipment installed for monitoring.  (Wash Post, 6/23/2013)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nuclear Debate Between Robert Kennedy & Robert Stone

After a Jacob Burns Film Center screening of "Pandora's Promise," a new documentary defending nuclear energy, the director, Robert Stone, engaged in a debate with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the environmental activist and lawyer and solar-energy investor.

Film site:

Plans for Decommissioning of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Units 2 and 3

On June 7, 2013, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced plans to permanently retire Units 2 and 3 at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).  One June 12, the licensee submitted a Certification of Permanent Cessation of Power Operations to the NRC, certifying that SCE has permanently ceased power operations of SONGS Units 2 and 3.  With this announcement, the NRC staff is refocusing efforts on establishing an inspection and oversight program that is appropriate for the licensee’s proposed decommissioning activities.

As one of the conditions for an operating license, the NRC requires the licensee to decommission the nuclear plant after it ceases operations.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has strict rules governing nuclear power plant decommissioning, involving cleanup of radioactively contaminated plant systems and structures, and the removal of the radioactive fuel.  These requirements protect workers and the public during the entire decommissioning process and the public after the license is terminated.

For more information, see the following topics:

Related Information


Congress Should Approve Yucca Mountain AGAIN

According to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), House Republicans will unveil legislation that affirms Yucca Mountain as the nation's sole repository for spent nuclear fuel.  The Center supports the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) staunchly opposes the Yucca project, and a bipartisan group in his chamber is crafting a bill that would allow the storage of nuclear waste at other sites. Reid was a major force behind, and backed, President Obama’s 2010 decision to pull the plug on federal reviews of the Yucca site. President Obama's decision violated a 1982 federal law that says only Yucca could store nuclear waste, and has been the subject of a court fight.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Reid is pleased with the Senate progress on its bill, but noted any legislation can’t be a backdoor avenue for restarting Yucca.

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), is one of the four lawmakers working on the Senate bill, which would enable the transfer of spent fuel currently housed at commercial reactors to intermediate storage facilities, so long as the federal government is actively looking for a permanent repository.  The Center opposes this alternative.  It is an unnecessary diversion from a permanent solution to the management of our nation's nuclear waste.

Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that oversees nuclear waste issues believes a bill could prod a federal court to decide whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must complete its review of the Energy Department’s application to use Yucca as a permanent waste site.

Yucca Mountain

Petitioners want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to force the NRC to complete its review. They say halting the process — former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the agency ran out of money — ran afoul of the 1982 federal nuclear waste law.  The Center did not think very highly of Jaczko or his tenure as NRC Chairman.

The federal court issued a stay last August to see whether Congress would send a signal — say, by giving the NRC more funding — before making a final decision. But Congress did not provide additional funding for NRC, leaving the federal case in a holding pattern.

A legislative push — such as one to authorize more funding for Yucca — might be the type of action the court needs to see to make a ruling.  (The Hill, 6/19/2013)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Killing Filibuster Is Worth Approving Yucca Mountain


By Norris McDonald

The filisbuster has been abused for many years now.  Even routine legislation needs 60 votes to pass now instead of a simple majority of 51 votes.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to use the so-called 'nuclear option' to 'blow up' filibustering. Reid is under pressure to use the parliamentary maneuver known as the "nuclear option" to end filibusters on judicial and administration nominees, though some in his conference worry the rules change would be used to hurt Democrats if they are in the minority again.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently said he’s sure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is bluffing about ending the filibuster.  Alexander said that’s because doing so would let Republicans play their trump card against Reid: Yucca Mountain.

I think it would be worth it.  The Senate would work in a reasonable fashion again and we would finally get the best place to permanently store our nuclear waste.  A win-win in my opinion.  But I am not the Senate Majority Leader with the repository in my back yard. Obviously, I support Yucca Mountain as the permanent repository for storing the nation's nuclear waste.

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2005

Reid opposes completing the nuclear waste site the government began building at Yucca Mountain. And Republicans would be able to use a simple majority vote to push ahead with the project once they held the Senate majority if Reid waters down the minority's ability to filibuster while Democrats are in charge, Alexander suggested.

Reid, like most Nevada lawmakers, has a long history of resisting the Yucca project. He put it into action in 2009 by backing President Obama's decision to pull the plug on federal reviews for using the site as the nation’s repository for spent nuclear fuel.

Yucca Mountain

Republicans have said the move was illegal, noting that a 1982 federal law names Yucca as the nation’s sole nuclear waste dump. They say depositing the spent fuel elsewhere would violate that law.

Alexander is one of four senators working on a bipartisan bill that would permit storing waste in places other than Yucca, though Senate Republicans have not fully embraced that idea.  House Republicans, on the other hand, have insisted on using the Yucca site. They have given little impression they intend to budge. That would prove a major hitch for the Senate effort, but it’s unlikely that Reid would let that get to the floor. (The Hill, 6/18/2013)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Southwest Education Center - Tinley Park, Illinois

Careful calibration between the vertical spacing and the depth of the mullions
  creates a perfect daylighting ratio and a self-shading aperture.
 The result is a significant construction cost savings and reduced energy
 use during daytime operation. (IMAGE COURTESY OF LEGAT ARCHITECTS)

(Environmental Design + Construction, 5/13/2013)

Rushern Baker Proposes Stormwater Runoff Fee To Help Pay Bay Cleanup Costs

Prince George’s County homeowners could pay up to $62 annually for a new fee to help fund a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  The fee, subject to approval by the County Council, would appear along with other utility fees on residents’ property tax bills. It was proposed Tuesday by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and would take effect later this year if approved by the council. Proposed fee would cost Prince George’s County homeowners up to $60 annually.

Businesses also are subject to a fee, which would be based on the amount of blacktop and other impervious surfaces on their properties. A nine-store strip shopping center would pay about $12,000 annually under Baker’s plan.

  The county must enact some type of fee by July 1, to help pay for a program to minimize stormwater runoff, a major pollutant of the Bay. The program was mandated by the federal and state governments after a successful lawsuit by environmental groups. Several counties near the Bay, as well as Baltimore, are required to enact similar programs, and most already have.

Prince George’s officials have estimated that they need about $1.2 billion in revenue in the next
decade to pay for their program, which would help finance stormwater management systems on county government and school system property.

Under the Prince George’s proposal, homeowners and businesses could lower their stormwater fees by better managing runoff from their properties. They may install rain gardens, green roofs, rain barrels and other systems to help cleanse runoff before it flows into waterways that empty into the Bay.

Prince George’s property taxes are capped by law. However, utility fees, such as the stormwater fee, are not subject to the cap. (Wash Post, 6/18/2013)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Administrative Law Judge Rules Against Undergrounding High-Voltage Lines In Chino Hills

AAEA Supports ALJ Decision & Opposes Underground Lines In Chino Hills

An administrative law judge has ruled against undergrounding high-voltage powerlines through a portion of Chino Hills citing the state's ratepayers should not have to pay the cost of the project. A proposed decision by Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth has denied the city's request to place the lines below ground, saying while undergrounding is feasible and could be completed on a timely basis "the cost is prohibitive and should not be borne by ratepayers at large for the benefit of a few."

However, an alternative proposed decision by state Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey sided with Chino Hills to underground a portion of the project and orders Southern California Edison to construct an single circuit line underground.

Every proceeding is assigned a ALJ and a commissioner. Both decisions were issued Tuesday.

The process continues and the full commission will consider the oral arguments in the case on June 26. 

The earliest the ALJ's decision or Peevey's viewpoint are expected to be up for discussion or vote by the PUC is on July 11.

For five years Chino Hills has insisted Edison's 5-mile right-of-way is too narrow for the 198-foot high-voltage towers, and that they cause hazards and potentially unknown health issues.
City officials and a residents group - Hope for the Hills - have been advocating the lines to be built underground, while Edison officials have said undergrounding would be expensive and makes the system less reliable.

The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project was approved in 2009 by the PUC, but it has been on hold since 2011 as the final outcome is debated by the commission.

The 225-mile Tehachapi project costs $2.1 billion, and when complete is expected to bring wind-produced electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin. Estimates for undergrounding through Chino Hills would be an additional $268 million to $296 million, according to the ALJ's documentation.

The strip of land being considered for undergrounding through the city is about 3.5 miles long and begins west at the end of Eucalyptus Avenue and goes between Pipeline Avenue and the 71 Freeway and then into Chino and Ontario.

Six years ago in May residents first approached the City Council asking them to help fight Edison's proposed route.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

EPA Gives $3 Million in Workforce & Job Training Grants

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the selection of 16 grantees for a total award of $3.2 million through the agency's Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program. The grants support local work to recruit, train, and place unemployed individuals in jobs that address environmental challenges in their communities. By providing Americans in economically disadvantaged communities with environmental job training, EWDJT grants promote environmental justice by equipping trainees with environmental health and safety certifications while creating a locally skilled workforce that advances local economies. Rather than filling jobs with contractors from distant cities, EWDJT grants provide employment opportunities for local residents to participate in the revitalization of their communities.

The EWDJT Program is unique because graduates are provided with a wide range of skills and certifications that improve their ability to secure not only short-term work, but full-time careers in the environmental field. The program also underscores President Obama’s call to strengthen job training across the United States. Program graduates  acquire training and certifications in a variety of areas, such as: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazardous waste operations (HAZWOPER), CPR and first-aid, confined space entry, chemical  lead and asbestos abatement, landfill management, wastewater treatment facility operations and stormwater management, brownfields assessment and cleanup, Superfund site-specific cleanup, leaking underground storage tank removal, electronics recycling, emergency response and disaster site worker certification, clean energy and solar installation, weatherization, native plant revegetation and landscaping, oil spill cleanup, heavy machinery operations and hazardous waste transport (HAZMAT), and uranium mine-tailings cleanup and mine-scarred land remediation. 

As of May 2013, more than 11,000 Americans have completed training through the support of the EWDJT Program, of which, more than 8,000 have obtained employment in the environmental field. Individuals who have completed the training include unemployed, low-income and minority residents of all age groups, as well as veterans, single mothers, ex-offenders, dislocated workers who have lost their jobs as a result of manufacturing plant closures, and other individuals with significant barriers to employment.

The 16 grantees for Fiscal Year 2013 are:

Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board, Connecticut – Plans to train 42 students, and place 40 graduates in environmental jobs.
Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, Massachusetts – Plans to train 45 students, and place 31 graduates in environmental jobs.
The Fortune Society, Inc., New York – Plans to train 45 students and place 33 graduates in environmental jobs.
Pathways-VA, Inc., Virginia – Plans to train 40 students and place 32 graduates in environmental jobs.
Florida State College at Jacksonville, Fla. – Plans to train 60 students and place 45 graduates in environmental jobs.
OAI, Inc., Illinois – Plans to train 45 students and place 40 graduates in environmental jobs.
EmployIndy, Indiana – Plans to train 48 students and place at least 36 graduates in environmental jobs.
Mott Community College, Michigan – Plans to train 51 students and place 36 graduates in environmental jobs.
Southern University at Shreveport, La. – Plans to train 60 students and place 55 graduates in environmental jobs.
Rose State College, Oklahoma – Plans to train 95 students and place 70 graduates in environmental jobs.
St. Louis Community College, Missouri - Plans to train 81 students and place 55 graduates in environmental jobs.
Northern Arizona University, Arizona – Plans to train 36 students and place 35 graduates in environmental jobs.
City of Oxnard, California - Plans to train 55 students and place 45 graduates in environmental jobs.
City of Richmond, California – Plans to train 60 students and place 45 graduates in environmental jobs.
Zender Environmental Health and Research Group, Alaska – Plans to train 32 students and place 28 graduates in environmental jobs.
City of Tacoma, Washington - Plans to train 54 students and place 39 graduates in environmental jobs.
More information on EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants Program

China Tests Cap and Trade

China is getting ready to test out cap-and-trade systems to constrain carbon-dioxide emissions in seven different cities. By the end of 2013, the pilot programs will cover about 7 percent of the country’s pollution. Jane Qiu provides more detail in Nature:

On 18 June, the country will launch an emissions-trading scheme in the southern city of Shenzhen, marking its first attempt to cut emissions using market mechanisms.Under the scheme, more than 630 industrial and construction companies will be given quotas for how much carbon dioxide they can emit. Companies that pollute more than they are allowed will have to buy credits from cleaner counterparts that reduce emissions below their quota — thereby creating a price for the greenhouse gas.

 Another six such cap-and-trade schemes will be rolled out by the end of the year in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing, and the provinces of Guangdong and Hubei. The trial will cover 864 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2015 — around 7% of China’s total emissions and about the total amount emitted by Germany each year, according to a report by the London-based analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. If these pilot programs prove effective, China then hope to roll out a nationwide system by 2016. The stated goal, at least for now, is a program that will require China’s overall carbon emissions to peak by 2020. But that’s only if things go according to plan.

Measuring and verifying emissions in such a large, sprawling country will be tricky. It’s not at all clear whether companies will be fined or punished for violating the cap. And other experts have doubts that a cap-and-trade system will actually curb emissions so long as the price of electricity in China is heavily controlled and regulated by the state. But there might be an even bigger structural problem. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science points out that the wealthy coastal provinces in China are now “outsourcing” a big chunk of their carbon pollution to the poorer inland provinces. That is, factories and coal plants in China have been migrating to less-developed areas, where they’re used to make goods that are then shipped to places like Beijing and Shanghai. Here’s a map illustrating the emissions flows:

Okay, so why does any of this matter? Because, the authors of the PNAS study note, different provinces have different targets for carbon-dioxide emissions. But if wealthier provinces can simply shift around some of their pollution to the poorer provinces, the targets could conceivably be met without any real progress being made.  We call this creating 'hot spots.' The more ambitious targets set for the coastal provinces may lead to additional outsourcing and carbon leakage.  If such provinces respond by importing even more products from less developed provinces where climate policy is less demanding. (Wash Post, 6/12/2013)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Support Tree Cuts To Prevent Wildfires Around Oakland

Center Wildfire Mitigation Program

The Center supports a proposal by the East Bay Regional Park District, the city of Oakland and the University of California, Berkeley to fell tens of thousands of eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees on more than 1,000 acres of parkland.  Officials at the park district, the city of Oakland and UC Berkeley say wildfire prevention is the main intent of the plan. The Claremont Canyon Conservancy is in favor of the tree-cutting plan.

The local officials cite what they call the high fire risk the non-native trees pose on a roughly 25-mile-long swatch of hilly land that stretches from Pinole to Lake Chabot, most of which is owned by the park district. In 1991, a wildfire in the Berkeley Hills destroyed more than 3,000 homes and killed 25 people.

Eucalyptus trees are especially flammable because the oil in their leaves is combustible and the bark takes so long to decompose. The eucalyptus trees in the East Bay were planted around the turn of the 20th century by logging speculators who intended to chop most of the trees down every two decades or so for lumber, he says.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to make a decision this summer on up to $5.6 million in funding for the project.   In May, FEMA issued a draft environmental impact statement evaluating the hillside tree clearing proposal, and is now accepting public comments until June 17. (WSJ, 6/12/2013)

Monday, June 10, 2013

2,000 Megawatts of Solar Power In California

Solar power set a new all-time high output in California of 2,071 megawatts (MW) at 12:59 p.m. on June 07, 2013. This amount of energy is enough to power more than 2 million homes across California.

This new record is remarkable considering the amount has more than doubled since last September when solar peaked at 1,000 megawatts.

California is the largest producer of solar power in the nation. Today’s peak demand was about 36,000 megawatts and solar power supplied more than five percent of demand for electricity. (California Independent System Operator)

Southern California Electricity Supply and Demand Summer 2013

Southern California's electric power system is facing a number of challenges heading into the summer peak demand season, largely because of the prolonged outage of the two units at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which have been offline since January 2012. A combination of recent capacity additions and electric system upgrades made since June 2012 will help meet peak electric demand this summer.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the grid operator for most of the state, noted in its Summer Loads and Resources Assessment that 2,502 megawatts (MW) of capacity (capacity adjusted for planning purposes) have been added since June 2012, with an additional 891 MW slated to come online by June 1, 2013. The two off-line SONGS units, in comparison, total 2,246 MW.

This new capacity will help make up for the loss of the generation from SONGS, but the reliability issue is more complicated than simply providing replacement generation. Geographically, SONGS is in a localized pocket of electric power demand near San Diego and Los Angeles. Given the characteristics of the electric transmission system, the loss of SONGS limits the amount of power that can be brought into the area over the transmission grid—rather than generated locally—under some conditions. Much of the new capacity lies outside of the San Diego-Los Angeles area, meaning that additional transmission upgrades are needed to supply that area.

Southern California Edison also plans to reconfigure the existing 220-kilovolt Barre-Ellis transmission line from two circuits to four by June 15, increasing the amount of electricity that transmission path can move. However, the region also needs local sources of reactive power (a portion of generated electricity which is lost in large quantities when transmitting power over long distances, i.e. importing power from some of the new generating capacity to Southern California). Capacitors will be added to several substations (see map above) by June 1, and two natural gas-fired generators at the Huntington Beach facility will be converted to synchronous condensers by June 28. Capacitors and synchronous condensers are commonly used to provide voltage support in the form of reactive power to the transmission grid. All of these system upgrades are designed to allow the system to bring more power into the region.

The two units at SONGS have been offline since January 31, 2012 as a result of mechanical problems currently being evaluated by Southern California Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Replacing the power from a low-cost source of generation like SONGS already has changed wholesale electricity prices in the state. Rising natural gas prices are likely to increase that effect in 2013. In its annual report, CAISO noted that 2012 wholesale power prices were higher than prices in the previous three years even when adjusted for the lower 2012 natural gas prices. In addition, the unusually large spread in wholesale electricity prices between the northern and southern portions of the state indicates system congestion. (DOE)

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rose 1.4 Percent in 2012

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record and putting the planet on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals, the International Energy Agency said in a report scheduled to be issued Monday.  The agency said continuing that pace could mean a temperature increase over pre-industrial times of as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), which would be a disaster for all countries.
The energy sector accounts for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, so energy has a crucial role to play in tackling climate change.
The United States was one of the few relatively bright spots in the report. Switches from coal to shale gas accounted for about half the nation’s 3.8 percent drop in energy-related emissions, which fell for the fourth time in the past five years, dipping to a level last seen in the 1990s. The other factors were a mild winter, declining demand for gasoline and diesel, and the increasing use of renewable energy.
Emissions also fell in Europe.

But they rose 3.8 percent in China. That was one of the slowest increases in the past decade, and half of 2011’s rate of increase. The level of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of electricity generation has fallen about 17 percent. But China remains the largest contributor of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with about a quarter of global emissions.

Japan’s emissions jumped 5.8 percent as the country imported and burned large amounts of liquefied natural gas and coal to compensate for the loss of electricity production from nuclear plants that have been idle since a tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. (Wash Post, 6/10/2013)


Southern California Edison's Bad Decision To Close SONGS


By Norris McDonald

I was extremely disappointed on Friday when I heard that Southern California Edison had made a dcision to permanently close the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).  My disappointment is now concern for electricity reliability in California.  At the very least, Southern Californians are going to have to pay through the nose for imported electricity to help meet demand (remember this is why Gray Davis was replaced with Arnold Swarzenegger).  At worst, there will be rolling blackouts all over Southern California if it is a very hot summer.  I know.  I know.  SCE will assure everyone that they can still deliver.  But at what price?  Californians already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country.  SONGS can still deliver power reliably, safely and cheaply. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should allow SCE to run SONGS at 70% power for five months, as SCE has requested.  NRC's heavy hand in keeping the plant closed for a year and a half is unconscionable.

AND, the SONGS closure will significantly increase smog in an area that is consistently designated as a Clean Air Act nonattainment area.  We asthmatics take this very personally.  Firing up those two natural gas units down in Huntington Beach are not replacement for SONGS when it comes to smog generation.  SONGS does not emit nitrogen oxides.

Oh.  And what about carbon dioxide (CO2)?  California is just implementing a groundbreaking CO2 reduction plan and closing SONGS blows a complete hole in that plan.  Whatever reductions that are achieved via other industrial facilities will be neutralized by the closure of SONGS.

I am sure SCE never anticipated that NRC would not give them approval to restart after they voluntarily shut down after a few steam tubes (out of thousands of tubes) leaked a bit (within regulatory guidelines).  SCE would shut down again if tubes started leaking.  NRC please give SCE permission to restart now so that they can reverse this severely harmful decision to permanently close he facility.

Me at SONGS in 2005

Overlooking SONGS Control Room

Utilities Want Solar Panel Users To Pay More

Every time people install a solar system, it means the need for more power distribution is reduced and the need for more electricity generation by utility companies is reduced. But utilities contend that customers without solar panels are subsidizing those who have them — by paying more for the power generating stations, transmission lines and distribution wires that both groups use. They want regulators to change that pricing structure so people with solar panels pay more.

This is clearly point of view and point of investment.  The utilities want to maintain the return on their investment and so does the solar panel investor. 

Solar advocates say every home that installs solar panels provides a savings for utility companies, and ultimately society: Fewer generating stations must be built, fewer distribution lines must be strung.

Forty-thhree (43) states have adopted net energy metering, but the basic arrangement works like this:

Homeowners install solar panels on their roofs. On sunny days, particularly at midday, those panels can generate more electricity than the home needs. The excess automatically spills back onto the electric grid and is distributed to nearby homes, causing the solar home’s electricity meter to spin counterclockwise. The electricity generator is credited for providing the power and pays less overall than a traditional utility customer.

But at night, on cloudy days and at times of high demand, that customer still needs power from the utility company, which must provide it instantaneously, as it does for other homes. That electricity flows from the only place it can: the company’s generating stations. And it arrives over the giant network of transmission and distribution lines that utility customers pay to build, maintain and expand.

Southern California Edison, for example, serves customers over a 50,000-square-mile area.
Utility officials contend that their solar customers enjoy the benefits of that network, whenever they need it. But they pay less to build and maintain it, shifting costs onto other ratepayers. Of course, the ratepayer did invest in his own infrastructure in order to provide electricity for his or her own use.

Pacific Gas and Electric, the northern California utility, counts 85,000 solar energy users among its 5 million electricity customers. Arizona Public Service, which has 18,000 rooftop solar systems among its 1.1 million electricity customers, estimates that solar homes each shift about $1,000 in costs annually to other ratepayers.

The number of homes with rooftop solar systems in the United States has grown to about 270,000, according to the SEIA. More than 80,000 solar systems were added last year. Homeowners are now able to lease panels from solar installation companies for 20 years.

The spread of such “distributed generation,” while limited now, holds enormous potential to upend the century-old system under which monopoly utilities provide power to everyone, in exchange for a rate of return guaranteed by regulators.

One possible alternative is to charge solar customers for the right to have the utility’s services available whenever they need it. That “standby charge” went into effect two years ago in Virginia, where just 833 of Dominion Virginia Power's 2.3 million customers take part in net metering and only five produce enough power to pay the charge.

“If you have a solar panel on your house and it’s cloudy for a week and it produces no electricity, those utility assets have to be paid for.  Of course, that customer is paying for it when he uses it. (Wash Post, 6/9/2013)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

San Onofre Nuclear Plant To Close Permanently

Norris McDonald at San Onofre in 2005
Edison International said Friday that it would permanently close two reactors at its San Onofre plant in California.  A Jan. 31, 2012 steam leak revealed cracks in the steam generator system and the plant has been close since the incident. 

The two reactors, built at a cost of about $2.1 billion, once provided 17 percent of the power delivered by the utility.

This closure clearly represents a blow to electricity delivery reliability, particularly if there is an unusually hot summer.  Wildfires are also threatenning transmission and distribution lines.

The Center supports the operation of the San Onofre reactors, which were relicensed to operate until 2022. We hope this is not a final decision by Edison International.  We suppor Edison's proposal to the NRC to allow Unit 3 to operate at 70% power for five months.  We believe it is a prudent proposal and know that Edison would shut down immediately again if there were any steam tube leaks.  We believe unit 2 could operate safely this summer too.

It is frustrating that the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries steam generator replacement, designed to last 20 years, failed in less than 2 after vibrations caused a few of the 9,727 heavy alloy tubes in each steam generator to rub against one another, rupture and leak.  The new steam generators were installed in
reactor unit 2 in 2009 and unit 3 in 2010.  Unit 2 was already closed for maintenance, but unit 3 was shut down after an 82-gallon-a-day leak was discovered.

San Onofre nuclear generating station

Craver said that seeking a license amendment, and fending off legal challenges, would delay a restart enough that it would no longer be worthwhile. (San Onofre unit 1 operated from 1968 to 1992.)

Edison International willld seek compensation from Mistubishi for the faulty steam-generator design. And consumer groups are seeking the refund of extra costs, including for replacement fuel. Craver said costs subject to potential refund amounted to about $1.3 billion. Edison International said it would take a charge of $450 million to $650 million and cut its earnings outlook by 20 cents a share. The company’s shares closed at $47.61 a share, up $1.25. (Wash Post, 6/7/2013)

June Is National Oceans Month

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Presidential Proclamation -- National Oceans Month, 2013
For Immediate Release
May 31, 2013




From providing food and energy to helping sustain our climate and our security, the oceans play a critical role in nearly every part of our national life. They connect us to countries around the world, and support transportation and trade networks that grow our economy. For millions of Americans, our coasts are also a gateway to good jobs and a decent living. All of us have a stake in keeping the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes clean and productive -- which is why we must manage them wisely not just in our time, but for generations to come.

Rising to meet that test means addressing threats like overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Alongside partners at every level of government and throughout the private sector, my Administration is taking up that task. Earlier this year, we finalized a plan to turn our National Ocean Policy into concrete actions that protect the environment, streamline Federal operations, and promote economic growth. The plan charts a path to better decision-making through science and data sharing, and it ensures tax dollars are spent more efficiently by reducing duplication and cutting red tape. Best of all, it puts stock in the American people -- drawing on their knowledge and empowering communities to bring local solutions to the challenges we face.

By making smart choices in ocean management, we can give our businesses the tools they need to thrive while protecting the long-term health of our marine ecosystems. Let us mark this month by renewing those goals, reinvesting in our coastal economies, and recommitting to good stewardship in the years ahead.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2013 as National Oceans Month. I call upon Americans to take action to protect, conserve, and restore our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Friday, June 07, 2013

June is “Great Outdoors” Month

In 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum creating the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative as a strategy to help Americans conserve natural and wild places so that they may continue to be used for recreation. In accordance with the initiative and in celebration of the resources nature has to offer, June has been designated as Great Outdoors Month.

The year before, Center President Norris McDonald attended The White House signing of the Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

Here are some ideas and helpful tips:

1. Take a hike to explore the beauty of nature, but be sure to check the air quality and UV Index with these helpful apps before heading out.  and

2. Get the kids to enjoy sun and water with recreational fishing. June 1-9 is National Fishing & Boating Week

3.  Young fishing enthusiasts can discover here which kinds of fish are safe to eat.

4. Heading to the beach? Check for beach closures with BEACON 2.0 – Beach Advisory and Closing On-Line Notification.

5. Since June is also American Rivers Month, learn more about your watershed before setting out for a local river.

6. Taking a trip to one of our nation’s National Parks is a great way to get outdoors, but experiencing America’s natural environment doesn’t always require travel; enjoy the green spaces close to home by planning a picnic.  . Check out the America’s Great Outdoors website for more ideas on getting outside. 

7. Biking to work instead of driving replaces time in an indoor gym and reduces your carbon footprint. Learn more about Bike to Work Week, share personal photos, and express your thoughts or calculate your carbon footprint.

8. Creating a backyard GreenScape is an excellent outdoor option for those who want to bring nature close to home. 

9. Check out Landscape Irrigation Controllers through EPA’s WaterSense program for products and tips to help you keep your garden green while using less water more efficiently. 

10. Learn about the conditions of your lake before taking a swim using the EPA’s web app “How’s My Waterway?”

We wish you a safe and enjoyable time as you enjoy your environment during Great Outdoors Month!  (EPA)

For the 2013 Presidential Proclamation

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Net Metering

Net metering is an electricity policy for consumers who own small renewable energy facilities (such as wind, solar power or home fuel cells) or electric vehicles. "Net", in this context, is used in the sense of meaning "what remains after deductions" — in this case, the deduction of any energy outflows from metered energy inflows. Under net metering, a system owner receives retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate.
Most electricity meters accurately record in both directions, allowing a no-cost method of effectively banking excess electricity production for future credit. However, the rules vary significantly by country and possibly state/province: if net metering is available, if and how long you can keep your banked credits, and how much the credits are worth (retail/wholesale). Most net metering laws involve monthly roll over of kWh credits, a small monthly connection fee, require monthly payment of deficits (i.e. normal electric bill), and annual settlement of any residual credit. Unlike a feed-in tariff (FIT) or time of use metering (TOU), net metering can be implemented solely as an accounting procedure, and requires no special metering, or even any prior arrangement or notification.
Net metering is generally a consumer-based renewable energy incentive. While it is important to have Net Metering available for any consumer that interconnects their renewable generator to the grid, this form of renewable incentive places the burdens of pioneering renewable energy primarily upon fragmented consumers. Often over-burdened energy agencies are not providing incentives on a consistent basis and it is difficult for individuals to negotiate with large institutions to recover their Net Metering credits and/or rebates for using renewable energy.
In the United States, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public electric utilities are now required to make available upon request net metering to their customers.  (Wiki)

Public Health and Clean Air Groups Petition California Energy Commission to Evaluate Successful Clean Energy Policy

Net Metering
Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE) have requested that the California Energy Commission (CEC) quantify the air quality and economic benefits associated with California’s "net energy metering" policy. Net metering provides solar consumers with fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid, which utilities then sell to other customers. Monopoly utilities in California and across the United States are trying to eliminate net metering in order to halt the consumer-driven popularity of rooftop solar.

The full list of petitioners includes: American Lung Association in California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Brightline Defense Project, California Center for Sustainable Energy, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Distributed Energy
Consumer Advocates, Environment California Research & Policy Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc., Local Energy Aggregation Network, Dr. Luis Pacheco,, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Vote Solar Initiative.

The groups believer that by driving the expansion of rooftop solar, net metering helps improve the quality of the air we breathe while creating jobs in our communities. 

The requested study would supplement analyses of the more limited impact of net metering on non-solar ratepayers’ electric bills, and would include the following benefits:

 Local job growth and increased employment throughout California

 Increased local economic activity that generates tax revenue for state and local governments

 Improved air quality through reduced need for fossil fuel power generation, including natural gas peaker plants

 Reduced death and disease associated with fossil fuel power generation

 Reduced greenhouse gas emissions

 Lower wholesale market prices for electricity due to decreased demand

 Improved grid security and reduced economic costs from power outages