Wednesday, July 31, 2013

EPA Proposes Rule to Modernize Clean Water Act Reporting

E-reporting initiative will increase efficiency, ease burden for states and improve public access to data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would modernize Clean Water Act (CWA) reporting processes for hundreds of thousands of municipalities, industries, and other facilities by converting to an electronic data reporting system. The proposed e-reporting rule would make facility-specific information, such as inspection and enforcement history, pollutant monitoring results, and other data required by permits accessible to the public through EPA’s website.

EPA estimates that, once the rule is fully implemented, the 46 states and the Virgin Island Territory that are authorized to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program will collectively save approximately $29 million each year as a result of switching from paper to electronic reporting.

Currently, facilities subject to reporting requirements submit data in paper form to states and other regulatory authorities, where the information must be manually entered into data systems. Through the e-reporting rule, these facilities will electronically report their data directly to the appropriate regulatory authority. EPA expects that the e-reporting rule will lead to more comprehensive and complete data on pollution sources, quicker availability of the data for use, and increased accessibility and transparency of the data to the public.

The CWA requires that municipal, industrial or commercial facilities that discharge wastewater directly into waters of the United States obtain a permit. The NPDES program requires that permitted facilities monitor and report data on pollutant discharges and take other actions to ensure discharges do not affect human health or the environment.

Most facilities subject to reporting requirements will be required to start submitting data electronically one year following the effective date of the final rule. Facilities with limited access to the Internet will have the option of one additional year to come into compliance with the new rule. EPA will work closely with states to provide support to develop or enhance state electronic reporting capabilities.

EPA has already scheduled several webinars in an effort to help states, trade organizations, and other interested parties better understand the details and requirements of the proposed rule. Over the next few months, EPA expects to schedule additional webinar sessions.

The proposed rule will be available for review and public comment for 90 days following the publication date in the Federal Register. (EPA)

View the proposed rule in the Federal Register

More information on webinars

Monday, July 29, 2013

S. 1240: Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013

Sponsor: Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR]

S. 1240, the Nuclearr Waste Administration Act of 2013 ia a bill [text] to establish a
Ron Wyden
new organization to manage nuclear waste, provide a consensual process for siting nuclear waste facilities, ensure adequate funding for managing nuclear waste, and for other purposes.

The Center was one of the first groups to recommend a nuclear waste management agency outside of the Department of Energy via its work with the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC). (Gov Track)


Sunrise Powerlink Transmission Project

Sources: San Diego Gas and ElectricApproved Route for Sunrise Powerlink

The Sunrise Powerlink Transmission project, which came online on June 18, 2012, adds approximately 800 megawatts (MW) of transmission capability to the Southern California electric grid. The new transmission lines, shown as blue and green lines on the map, will bring renewable energy from Imperial County to San Diego. The additional transmission capability will also help the Southern California electric grid address this summer's capacity shortage that resulted from the unplanned outages at the San Onofre nuclear generation station located near San Diego.

San Diego Gas and Electric, the owner and operator of this transmission line, announced on June 18, 2012 the activation of this 500 kilovolt transmission line. The project cost approximately $1.9 billion dollars and will eventually have a capacity of 1,000 MW.

The Imperial County region has significant solar, geothermal, and wind resources. The transmission line connects two proposed solar photovoltaic facilities under construction by Tenaska Solar Ventures as well as Pattern Energy's operating Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility—all of which are located in Imperial County. The Sunrise Powerlink path is indirect, skirting the Cleveland National Forest and the Campo Reservation as well as other sensitive ecological habitats.

The Sunrise project included the construction of the Suncrest substation (shown on the map at the intersection of the green and blue lines) as well as upgrades to seven other substations along the path through the control area of the Imperial Irrigation District. The project also interconnected with the control area of Southern California Edison's Edison International transmission system.

California imports significant supplies of electricity from neighboring systems, making transmission capability a critical reliability concern. (DOE-EIA)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Utility Bill Payment Scams

Do Not Fall For The Scam

It appears to be going on all over the country

From: Mississippi Secretary of State

Mississippi businesses and residential customers are being targeted by con artists posing as Entergy employees who demand immediate payment for an alleged past due utility bill.

According to Entergy officials, the scammer calls a customer to say the electric bill payment is past due and threatens to cut off utility service within one hour unless payment is made immediately. Customers are then told they can transfer funds electronically, usually using a system referred to as “Money Pak.” This payment processing system is NOT authorized to receive funds for Entergy.
Entergy officials say the scam apparently started in Arkansas in May and then spread to Louisiana. The first reports of Mississippi scams were received late last week from three Jackson-area restaurants.

Entergy Mississippi warns customers not to fall victim to the scam. They remind everyone that Entergy never demands immediate payment of a past due bill.
  • While Entergy does place courtesy calls if a customer is at risk for disconnection for past-due accounts, they are recorded calls made in advance of the cut-off date and are not from live customer service representatives.
  • Entergy bills may be paid by phone using a credit or debit card, but only through Billmatrix, a third-party vendor under contract with Entergy.
  • Customers should never give personal or financial information to strangers.
  • If a phone call sounds suspicious, customers should call 1-800-Entergy (1-800-368-3749) and ask to speak with an Entergy customer service representative.
If any individual or business has been the target of such a scam or other attempts to defraud, they should immediately contact the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection at 1-800-281-4418 or 601-359-4230 to file a report. If customers are concerned their Entergy account has been affected, they can call 1-800-ENTERGY (1‑800‑368‑3749) to speak with an Entergy customer service representative.
More information on payment options for Entergy bills is available online at

From: Southern California Edison - - Press Release

Utility Bill Scams Continue to Target Southern California Edison Customers

ROSEMEAD, Calif., July 25, 2013 — Southern California Edison (SCE) is advising customers to be aware of a telephone scam that demands immediate payment for allegedly past due electricity bills.

Imposters have been calling SCE customers telling them they must make immediate payment on past due bills or have their electric service disconnected. The callers are also demanding that payment be made through a prepaid cash card. Other forms of fraud involve customers being asked to purchase prepaid debit cards. Scammers ask for the debit card number and collect the value deposited on the card.

SCE customers have reported about 800 instances of phone scams this year. About 150 residential and commercial customers have been victimized by some form of bill scam with the incidents costing them an average of $800 to $1,000.

“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,”  said Henry Martinez, SCE vice president of Safety, Security & Compliance. “Customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police or SCE at 800-655-4555.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office prosecutes crimes in about 80 cities within SCE’s service territory, joins the utility in warning consumers about telephone scams.

“SCE and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office share a common interest in keeping Los Angeles County residents safe from bill scams and other financial crimes,”  Lacey said.

A first step to preventing financial scams particularly among the elderly and in ethnic communities is to educate the public, she said. When these crimes do occur, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is fully committed to prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.”

SCE also reminds customers to ask for identification when a stranger comes to the door or calls claiming to be a utility worker. SCE utility workers will provide verification, including their department and phone number, when asked.

In most cases, home visits by SCE are scheduled by the customer and SCE will confirm the appointment in writing. If there are any concerns, SCE and law enforcement officials suggest having the utility worker wait outside until their identity can be verified. 

SCE customers should also note that:

·      An SCE employee will never ask for money in person.

·      Never reveal your credit card, ATM or calling card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.

·      If someone calls and requests you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. This could be a burglary attempt set up by the caller.

·      Be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring or suggesting that there may be some other electrical problem inside or outside your residence.

·      For more ways customers can stay safe, please see and read the safety tips section.

About the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
District Attorney Jackie Lacey leads the largest local prosecutorial office in the country. Each year, the district attorney’s office prosecutes more than 60,000 felonies and 140,000 misdemeanors.  
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is the largest electric utility in California, serving a population of more than 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California. 

Maryland Governor Releases Global Warming Mitigation Plan

Martin O'Malley
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley released a global warming mitigation plan on Thursday at a summit on climate change with scientists, business leaders and environmental advocates.  The plan calls for increasing the amount of energy from renewable sources under the Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 25 percent by 2020. The program previously had set an 18 percent benchmark by 2020 and 20 percent by 2022.

The plan also calls for pushing legislation next year aimed at increasing the recycling rate statewide, because waste in landfills is a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Under the plan outlined by the governor, the state would strive to better utilize or recycle 60 percent of Maryland's government managed solid waste by 2020.
Maryland's county recycling rates already average around 45 percent.  Much of the framework includes environmental measures the O'Malley administration already has pushed through the Legislature. They include initiatives to develop offshore wind and boost solar energy policies.
An offshore wind initiative off the coast of Ocean City will take years to develop. It would increase monthly electricity bills for ratepayers by an estimated $1.50 a month, once energy is generated by wind turbines.  Environmental advocates note that Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to climate change and rising waters. The state has more than 3,000 miles of shoreline.  (Times Union, 7/25/2013)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gulf Rig Natural Gas Blowout: 47 Rescued

This photo released by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement shows natural gas spewing from the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Tuesday, July 23, 2013.

Natural gas flowed uncontrolled from the Hercules 265 oil drilling rig off the Louisiana coast on Tuesday after a blowout that forced the evacuation of 47 workers aboard a drilling rig.  No injuries or fires were reported. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) says the blowout happened south of Grand Isle, about 55 miles offshore, where the water depth was reported as 154 feet.

Tuesday's blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not currently producing natural. The workers were aboard a portable drilling rig known as a jackup rig, operated by Hercules Offshore. Hercules said in a news release that it was operating the rig for Houston, Texas-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

The Houston-based Talos Energy-owned platform sits over three wells in water 144 feet deep.  Energy Resource Technology LLC is trying to seal the well.

Walter Oil & Gas reported to the BSEE that the rig was completing a "sidetrack well" - a means of re-entering the original well bore.  The purpose of the sidetrack well in this instance was not immediately clear. Industry websites say sidetrack wells are sometimes drilled to remedy a problem with the existing well bore. It is a way to overcome an engineering problem with the original well. (Times Union, 7/23/2013)

Kior Opens Wood To Oil Plant in Mississippi

A new wood-to-crude oil conversion facility opening this week in Mississippi. Source: Kior

Kior Inc. opened its first commercial-scale plant in Columbus, Mississippi last November to take in 500 tons of biomass a day and transform it into 40,000 gallons a day of gasoline and diesel.  The company’s technology uses catalysts to vaporize biomass, removing the oxygen and condensing the remainder to oil that can be refined into cellulosic gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Silicon Valley powerhouse Khosla Ventures owns more than half of the five-year-old company, which is based in Pasadena, Texas.

If you think about the way nature makes crude oil, Kior just accelerates that natural process. Nature does it thermally; Kior does it catalytically. They start with the same material nature started with, compress that process from a million years, or a very long period of time, into literally seconds. They take solid biomass through a single-step conversion to renewable crude oil. And then they upgrade that crude oil to cellulosic gasoline and diesel.

Kior's next plant is planned for Natchez, Mississippi. International Paper Company shut down a paper mill there about 7 years ago. As the pulp and paper industry has continued to go down, Kior would imagine building these conversion units to convert their unused biomass. It's the tops of the trees, the limbs and the small trees from thinning the forest that have little or no market today, and Kior convert that to oil.

Kior sold out their plant in Columbus, Mississippi, before they ever broke ground. Their customers are Catchlight Energy LLC, which is a joint venture between Chevron Corp. and Weyerhaeuser Co., Hunt Refining Co. and FedEx Corp.  They see it as the most effective and least disruptive avenue for them to achieve their internal strategic renewable energy objectives as well as their near term Renewable Fuel Standard volumetric obligations [RFS2]. What the companies like about Kior is it's a thermo-chemical process. It's not a biological process. They like the fact that Kior produces fundamentally indistinguishable gasoline and diesel from what they do from petroleum.

Their significant customers will be both integrated oil companies as well as independents that are striving to satisfy their growing renewable fuel obligations under RFS2. In addition to that, there is a tremendous market of energy-conscious businesses, like FedEx, that are looking for cost-effective, non-disruptive, low-carbon, environmentally-friendly fuels solutions to continue to grow their business in a truly sustainable manner.  (Bloomberg, 11/8/2013)

Company To Produce Jet Fuel From Overgrown Forest Wood

But Many Other Issues Are Plaguing 4 Forest Restoration Initiation

Concord Blue Energy, a German alternative-energy company, wants to produce 40 million gallons of jet fuel a year from wood harvested in the four overgrown northern Arizona forests.  The German company is so confident in its plan that it will start building facilities even before it obtains state environmental permits. 

An advisory group of university, non-profit and other organizations supporting the nation's largest forest restoration effort, known as the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), is supporting the jet fuel production project.

Pioneer Forest Products, the embattled U.S. Forest Service contractor selected to do
the work for the 4FRI  enlisted Concord early in the project.

Concord claims that it can produce jet fuel from chips for no more than $2 a gallon, but airlines testing such fuels recently have paid more than $30. Another confounding variable is that Concord isn’t  sure what they would be expected to pay for a ton of wood harvested from the forest.

Regardless of the role jet fuel may play in reducing fire threats and restoring Arizona’s ecology, the program aims to reinvigorate Arizona’s timber industry to accomplish a thinning job that the federal government cannot afford to do alone.

Jerry Nicholls, Lance Barnum and Allen Reidhead
 discuss logging. Mark Henle/The Republic
Pioneer, which won the U.S. Forest Service contract more than a year ago, has so far thinned about 500 acres near Heber, above the Mogollon Rim. Its contract calls for it to thin 300,000 acres over 10 years, but the company so far has not secured financing for a needed mill and is asking the government’s permission to sell its contract to an unnamed company.  Pioneer’s contract is for the first 300,000 acres. An environmental study that could open about twice that much is now under review.

The lack of progress has drawn criticism from environmentalists and county officials who support the program but questioned the contract award. This week, the Center for Biological Diversity called on the Forest Service’s inspector general to look into the contract award and potential shuffling. Forest Service officials said Wednesday that they hope to decide within a month whether to allow Pioneer to sell out.

In other developments, large log piles are sitting idle and would have been hauled off already if a Heber-area biomass electricity plant slated to receive them had reopened on schedule.

Pioneer has not disclosed the company it wants to sell its contract to, but it is incorporated in Arizona, Pioneer says the company has the money to open the $230 million Winslow mill that his company has been unable to get financing to build.

Forest Service officials also have declined to name the company.

The initiative is meant to restore about a million acres of forests to conditions approximating what they were before the last century of fire suppression. Constant firefighting has allowed young trees and brush to crowd the forest and, ironically, threaten worse fires.  (The Republic/ AZCentral .com, 7/24/2013)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Forest Service Job Corps

The Forest Service’s Job Corps curriculum expands employment opportunities for its graduates, helps revitalize local economies in rural communities and enhances the mission of the agency.   According to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell: 

"The Forest Service congratulates high school and college students far and wide...and we are especially proud of our own graduates of the Forest Service Job Corps centers. Our students have completed valuable, hands-on projects giving them excellent tools to pursue career paths in green jobs while also creating life-long connections with America’s great outdoors.”

The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Cherokee, North Carolina has implemented training and conservation ideals across each of its training programs including Forestry Conservation and Wildland Firefighting, Office and Business Administration, and Health Occupations.  Projects throughout western North Carolina include transplanting culturally significant rivercane with Western Carolina University in Cherokee, education trail construction with the Watershed Association for the Tuckasegee River in Dillsboro and trail revitalization on the Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville.

Oconaluftee JCCCC Forestry Conservation students and Instructor
 help repair a retaining wall in trail rehabilitation work on the
Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville.  Shown (left-right) are:
 Crystal Adu, Instructor Darrell McDaniels, Anthony Brown,
and Steven Morris. (Photo courtesy of Holly Krake/OJCCCC)

The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina and currently serves 68 students. The USDA Forest Service operates 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers across 18 states with a capacity of 6,200 students. 

The centers directly contribute to the agency’s mission of conserving the nation’s national forests and grasslands. Job Corps students have fought forest fires, planted trees, improved wildlife habitat and built or maintained recreation facilities and miles of hiking trails.  In the last 12 months the centers have graduated 4,263 students, better preparing them to enter the job market. Historically, approximately 80 percent of Job Corps graduates have started new careers, enrolled in higher education programs or have enlisted in the military. Job Corps students are making Forest Service facilities and operations sustainable, lowering its operating costs, reducing our carbon footprint, and restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.  (Cherokee One Feather, 6/11/2011)

San Bernardino National Forest Association Urban Conservation Corps Wins U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester's Honor Award

A picture from one of the weeks the crew was in the wilderness
The Angeles and the San Bernardino National Forest(s) in partnership with the SBNFA Urban Conservation Corps and the U.S. Forest Service Southern California Consortium were the recipients of the Region 5 Regional Forester’s Honor Award. On November 28, 2012, they attended the Honors Award at the Hyatt-Regency Sacramento.

They were presented with this award for their joint efforts in developing and implementing a Wilderness Spike Crew Project that trains corpsmembers from diverse, underrepresented communities from both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to conduct wilderness GPS monitoring, inventorying and restoration on National Forest System lands in Southern California.

The existence of a wilderness crew of urban young adults comprised of Latinos, African Americans and Pacific Islander to help manage wilderness areas by collecting data and developing and collect data on the National Forest is rare and nontraditional. This project truly embraces the spirit of promoting diversity and civil rights on National Forest System lands in Southern California.

The Urban Conservation Corps would like to thank the many supporters that continue to help provide opportunities to underserve youth so they can become employable citizens, assets to their communities and the next generation of stewards of the land. (The Corps Network)

The UCC Gave Special Thanks to:

Elwood York, U.S. Forest Service Wilderness Office, Washington D.C
Jody Noiron, Forest Supervisor San Bernardino National Forest
Tom Contreras, Forest Supervisor Angeles National Forest
L’Tanga Watson, U.S. Forest Service, Angeles National Forest
Gabe Garcia, U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest
Larry Lawrence, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water
Fabian Garcia, U.S. Forest Service, Southern California Consortium
Gerry Lopez, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office
Sarah Miggins, Southern California Mountains Foundation, Executive Director
The Wilderness Society

Center President on Energy Panel at CBC Institute Tunica Conference

The Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute (CBC Institute) is holding its Annual Policy Conference, TUNICA-2013. at the Mid-South Convention Center in Tunica, Mississippi from Thursday, August 15 to Saturday, August 17 , 2013.

Center President Norris McDonald will serve on the energy panel, Energy’s Future Impact on the American Consumer scheduled for August 16 at 4:00pm.

The Annual Policy Conference is representative of the CBC Institute’s ongoing commitment to meeting that mission. The policy sessions and working luncheons provide a perfect opportunity for a cross section of committed individuals including, community leaders, state and locally elected officials, private sector leaders, labor leaders, academics and government officials to join in discussions with Members of Congress and highly qualified issue specific experts.

The CBC Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission, in part, is to educate today’s voters and train tomorrow’s leaders.

EPA Software Helps Reduce Water Pollution

National stormwater calculator helps manage stormwater runoff 

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the National Stormwater Calculator, an innovative addition to the administration’s virtual climate resilience toolkit. EPA’s new calculator will help property owners, developers, landscapers, and urban planners make informed land-use decisions to protect local waterways from pollution caused by stormwater runoff. Preventing stormwater runoff, which can impact drinking water resources and local ecosystems, protects people’s health and the environment.

The calculator, which is phase I of the Stormwater Calculator and Climate Assessment Tool package announced in the President’s Climate Action Plan in June, is a desktop application that estimates the annual amount of stormwater runoff from a specific site, based on local soil conditions, slope, land cover, and historical rainfall records. Users can enter any U.S. location and select different scenarios to learn how specific green infrastructure changes, including inexpensive changes like rain barrels and rain gardens, can prevent pollution. This information helps users determine how adding green infrastructure can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce stormwater runoff.

The Stormwater Calculator demonstrates different types of green infrastructure approaches which can result in protection from flooding, energy savings, improved air quality, increased property values, healthier communities, and cost savings for the American people.

Each year billions of gallons of raw sewage, trash, household chemicals, and urban runoff flow into our streams, rivers and lakes. Polluted stormwater runoff can adversely affect plants, animals, and people. It also adversely affects our economy – from closed beaches to decreased fishing and hunting in polluted areas. Green infrastructure is an affordable solution to promote healthy waters and support sustainable communities.

An update to the Stormwater Calculator, which will include the ability to link to several future climate scenarios, will be released by the end of 2013. Climate projections indicate that heavy precipitation events are very likely to become more frequent as the climate changes.  (EPA)

More information about the National Stormwater Calculator

More information about the virtual climate resilience toolkit

More information on EPA’s Green Infrastructure research

EPA Carbon Pollution Standards for New and Existing Power Plants

Coming Soon?

President Obama is calling for action against climate change, but the plan doesn’t go far enough to put a real dent in the greenhouse gas pollution warming the planet.  The EPA is in the process of establishing carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants.

The Center supports a cap and trade program and EPA should consider such an approach. We are also promoting a technological approach to mitigation climate change by converting CO2 into fuel.

The power plant pollution-controls and other measures the president has announced are aimed at fulfilling his administration’s pledge to put the United States on the path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Such a reduction, however, would not be enough to avert catastrophic temperature rises, according to climate scientists.

A carbon cap would not require new legislation. The Obama administration could
declare carbon dioxide a “criteria pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and set a national pollution cap for CO2 at no greater than 350 parts per million (ppm).

Many scientists have concluded that atmospheric CO2 levels above 350 ppm will cause catastrophic global warming. Pollution caps could also be set for other dangerous greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide. The EPA has already set caps on other air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, lead and ozone. These national pollution caps are known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Once the safe level has been scientifically established, each of the 50 states develops strategies to attain the prescribed pollution caps.  (The Hill, 7/23/2013)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act

Center Supports Congressman Scott Tipton's Legislation

Scott Tipton
Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) is pushing the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act. The bill would streamline hazardous fuels reduction projects.  The bill asks for no additional money and places no requirement on state and local officials to act. It also enables governors and county commissioners to designate high-risk areas and develop emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal land.
Wildfires burned 9.3 million acres in 2012, while the U.S. Forest Service only harvested approximately 200,000 acres of timber. The cost of proactive healthy forest management is far less than the cost of wildfire suppression and cleaning up the aftermath.

Representative Scott Tipton believes the U.S. Forest Service could spend less fighting wildfires if it spent more preventing them. In 2012, the Forest Service spent $1.77 billion fighting wildfires, and $296 million removing the fuels that make Western Colorado so vulnerable.  According to Tipton:
“If we proactively manage our forests we can remove dead trees and re-forest areas with healthy trees that will once again absorb carbon, restore our environment to a healthy state, and protect people and communities from catastrophic wildfire.”
Proactive forest management can help prevent catastrophic wildfires.  In addition to tragically taking lives and destroying property, wildfires cause significant damage to the environment including air quality, habitats and watersheds.
According to NASA, carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires have increased 240 percent across the West since the 1980s.  Carbon emissions from wildfires have grown from an average of 8.8 million tons per year from 1984 to 1995, to more than 22 million tons from 1996 to 2008.
In 2006, wildfires in Idaho produced 1.6 times more CO2 than all other fossil fuel sources. In 2006 wildfire emissions accounted for 47 and 42 percent of CO2 emissions in Montana and Washington respectively.
Wildfire CO2 emissions are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2050, according to a report from researchers with the Forest Service, Auburn University and George Mason University.  (Vail Daily, 7/22/2013)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wood Cut To Prevent Wildfires Could Make Electricity

The Center is promoting utility scale biomass power plants as an employment program and as a wildfire mitigation program.  The Center Wildfire Mitigation Program (WMP) is designed to prevent and reduce wildfires.

Utility scale biomass power plants have been proposed in different parts of the country as partial solutions to preventing wildfires.  Pre-cut trees and brush in wildfire areas could not only prevent wildfires, but could provide fuel for electricity generation.  America’s forest owners, farmers and ranchers can play a crucial role in providing renewable energy from wood, switchgrass and other agricultural products. The push for biomass power as a way to thin dead forests near mountain communities is drawing more interest of the intense wildfire season this year.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed for three years carbon dioxide emissions permits for biomass boilers that convert wood and other plant material into energy. These deferred greenhouse gas permitting requirements for biomass are believed to be helpful to construction of these plants by reducing costs.

Markets for woody biomass in particular can be especially important in allowing the
U.S. Forest Service and other landowners to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire while restoring more natural conditions in our forests.

Critics of using forest products for power worry that it will become an excuse to push more roads into the national forest, overly log certain areas and ultimately create a market that still emits greenhouse gases.

In many cases, energy produced from biomass will provide significant reductions of greenhouse gases relative to fossil fuels. We intend to work with USDA and EPA in ensuring that policies use the best science and spur innovation and job creation in the renewable energy sector.  (The Colorado Independent, 1/12/2011)

The New EPA Administrator Called Me Today


By Norris McDonald

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, pictured below in the video message to her staff, called me today. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last Thursday and sworn in at the newly named William Jefferson Clinton building (EPA HQ) on Friday. I have to say that I am impressed that she would take the time to call.

She is personally reaching out to environmental protection stakeholders and I am delighted to be on that list.  I look forward to working with her going forward.

San Onofre Owner Starts Legal Action Against Mitsubishi

Norris McDonald at SONGS in 2005
Southern Califronia Edison Company (SCE) has started legal action against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the manufacturer of steam generators whose failure forced the permanent closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. The plant is on the northern San Diego County coast.  Rosemead, California-based SCE is filing a formal Notice of Dispute with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and its United States subsidiary Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems.

Edison is the senior partner at the massive nuclear plant. Juniors include San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside's electric utility.  SCE's action is about making sure that Mitsubishi takes responsibility for providing the defective steam generators that led to the closing of SONGS" -- the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

In the notice, Edison alleges that Mitsubishi manufactured "a lemon" and could not fix
"defects in its product because they were so fundamental and pervasive."  Mitsubishi does not dispute that the generators failed after being installed as part of a repowering project designed to prolong the life of a facility that provided electricity for over 1.4 million homes in Southern California. Mitsubishi Nuclear concedes that a previously unknown phenomenon caused the pipes to vibrate and leak, preventing the plant from producing energy.

The contractual dispute is over who is responsible for the problem and how much financial liability is involved.  Damages related to the failed steam generators likely will top $2 billion, according to Edison's most recent business update on costs associated with San Onofre.

Edison's notice opens a 90-day window for the two sides to resolve the the problem. If that is unsuccessful, Edison would initiate a binding-arbitration proceeding against Mitsubishi as stipulated in the original contract with the Japanese firm. (L.A. Times, 7/18/2013)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

DC Stormwater Management Final Rule & Guidebook

Center Stormwater Credit Exchange

On July 19, 2013, DDOE released the 2013 Rule on Stormwater Management and Soil Erosion and Sediment Control (2013 SW Rule), which amended Chapter 5 (water Quality) of Title 21 (Water and Sanitation) of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR). DDOE also released the 2013 Stormwater Management Guidebook (2013 SWMG), which provides technical guidance on how to comply with the rule.

Transition to 2013 SW Rule and 2013 SWMG

Section 552 of the 2013 SW Rule describes DDOE’s plan for transitioning to the new stormwater management performance requirements. The official language is in the DCMR, but for the convenience of the public DDOE has provided a summary of the transition plan. Other provisions of the 2013 SW Rule (including those for erosion and sediment control, Stormwater Retention Credit trading, and service fees) take effect upon final publication of the rule.

Projects regulated under Transition Period 1 of the transition plan should consult the 2003 SWMG.

Key Documents
Training Sessions

DDOE will soon post a schedule for public training sessions on the new requirements in the 2013 SW Rule and 2013 SWMG. DDOE will also send email announcements to individuals on the notification list (see information below).


The rule and SWMG are designed to accomplish the following:
  • Significantly reduce stormwater pollution flowing into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, Rock Creek, and other District waterbodies by making the land “spongier” and to better mimic how the vegetated natural environment captures rainwater and soaks it into the soil;
  • Improve the health of District waterbodies over time, making them more usable and attractive for District residents, businesses, and visitors;
  • Update the District’s existing requirements to reflect the current scientific, engineering, and practical understanding in the field and to be comparable to other urban jurisdictions, such as Philadelphia, PA and Montgomery County, MD;
  • Improve equity in how the burden of stormwater management is allocated in the District;
  • Provide flexible compliance options for regulated sites to maximize cost savings while still protecting District waterbodies;
  • Create a financial incentive and business opportunity for voluntary installation of stormwater retrofits to earn Stormwater Retention Credits that can be sold to regulated sites to meet part of their requirements; and
  • Allow the District to comply with federal requirements established in its stormwater permit, which is issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
Notification List

To be added to a notification list for news related to the rule and SWMG, please email Arquena Dailey at  or call (202) 741-2136.


If you have questions on the 2013 SW Rule and SRC trading, contact Brian VanWye at  or (202) 741-2121. If you have questions about the 2013 SWMG, to please contact Rebecca Stack at  or (202) 727-5160.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Senate Confirms Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator

The Senate voted 59-40 on Thursday to confirm the controversial nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and John McCain (Ariz.) voted for McCarthy's confirmation, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined most Republicans in voting against her nomination.  The Senate voted 69-31 to end debate on her nomination. (The Hill, 7/18/2013)

Gina McCarthy with Carol Browner and Bob Perciasepe

National Parks, National Forests, U.S. Wildernesses & National Wildlife Refuges

National Parks: In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act that established
Great Basin National Park
Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park. Sequoia and Yosemite followed, both designated as national parks in the year 1890. In 1916, the Organic Act led to the creation of the National Park Service, a bureau of the Department of the Interior, to protect all designated national park land. The fundamental purpose of National Park Service is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Hunting, commercial fishing, livestock grazing, mining and logging are all strictly prohibited on national park land. Today, a total of 84.9 million acres has been designated national park land, approximately 3.6% of all land in the United States. Of the 84.9 million acres in the National Park Service, 55 million acres are located in Alaska.

A few of the 58 National Parks in the United States: Arcadia, Badlands, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Denali, Everglades, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Basin, Hot Springs, Joshua Tree, Katmai, Mammoth Cave, Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Petrified Forest, Redwood, Sequoia, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion

National Forests: In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act allowed the president to designate
Angelina National Forest
public land reserves. Fourteen years later, the Transfer Act placed these reserves, which were renamed national forests, under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Forest Service was created within the department specifically to regulate and manage these lands. Similar to national parks, land preservation is one of the primary functions of national forests. However, unlike national parks, these forests and grasslands are open to commercial activities like logging, livestock, as well as recreational activities like camping, hunting, and fishing. Currently, 193 million acres of land is designated national forests, located in 42 states. The first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, once stated that National Forest land is managed “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”

U.S. Wildernesses: Wilderness areas were established in response to heightened concern about pollution in the 1950s and 1960s. The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. The Act gave a legal definition of the term wilderness:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

The passage of the Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) to protect the then 9 million acres of federal land officially recognized as U.S. wilderness. Wilderness areas are parts of national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and the public domain. Today, there are 107.5 million acres of wilderness spanning 44 states and Puerto Rico, accounting for 4.82% of the United States. About half of that total is in the state of Alaska. The largest contiguous U.S. wilderness area is the Noatak and Gates of the Arctic Wilderness in Alaska at close to 13 million acres. Broken up by a series of roads into 35 small wilderness areas, Death Valley Wilderness is technically the largest wilderness area outside Alaska. However, at close to 2.4 million acres, Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is the largest, roadless protected wilderness area in the lower 48.

Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Unlike national parks, wilderness areas allow regulated hunting. And although wilderness areas prohibit logging, mining, and motorized vehicles, some resource extraction and livestock grazing persists in areas where those activities occurred prior to its wilderness status.

To be eligible for wilderness designation, an area must be at least 5,000 acres large or a roadless island; appear natural with unnoticeable human presence; provide space for recreational activities and solitude; and contain features that are deemed ecologically, scientifically, or historically significant.

National Wildlife Refuges:  is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States
managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to over 560 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres

The National Wildlife Refuge System welcomes more than 45 million visitors each year, generating over $1.7 and creating approximately 27,000 jobs for local economies. The Refuge System manages six wildlife-dependent recreational uses in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. (PBS, Wikipedia)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FERC Orders $453 Million in Penalties for Western Power Market Manipulation

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today ordered Barclays Bank PLC and four of its traders to pay $453 million in civil penalties for manipulating electric energy prices in California and other western markets between November 2006 and December 2008. FERC also ordered Barclays to disgorge $34.9 million, plus interest, in unjust profits to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs of Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.

In the order, FERC finds Barclays, Daniel Brin, Scott Connelly, Karen Levine and Ryan Smith built and then flattened substantial monthly physical index positions at four of the then-most liquid trading points in the western United States for the fraudulent purpose of manipulating the index price to benefit Barclays’ financial swap positions. FERC finds that their actions demonstrate an affirmative, coordinated and intentional effort to carry out a manipulative scheme, in violation of the Federal Power Act and FERC’s Anti-Manipulation Rule.

Given the seriousness of the violations and the lack of any effort by Barclays and the traders to remedy their violations, FERC ordered Barclays to pay $435 million in penalties; Connelly to pay $15 million; and Brin, Levine and Smith to pay $1 million each. The Federal Power Act authorizes penalties for such manipulative acts of up to $1 million per day per violation.

These penalties must be paid to the U.S. Treasury within 30 days. Barclays also has 30 days to distribute the unjust profits, with 19 percent going to Arizona, 63 percent to California and 9 percent each to Oregon and Washington. 

Today’s action comes after Barclays and the traders responded to a FERC order directing them to answer allegations that they manipulated western electric energy markets. Barclays and the traders opted for a procedure under the Federal Power Act in which FERC may assess a penalty without a hearing before an administrative law judge. If Barclays and the traders do not pay the penalties assessed by FERC, then FERC may seek affirmation of the penalties from a federal district court. (FERC 7/16/2013)

California PUC Lawyers Want $300 Million Fine For Gas Pipe Accident

A new proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission's staff lawyers, asks the agency's commissioners to levy a $300 million fine and additional penalties exceeding $1.9 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for its role in a lethal natural-gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010. 

A ruptured gas pipeline that caused a deadly explosion in San Bruno, Calif., pictured in September 2010.


The plan replaces an earlier proposal that ordered the utility to pay the same total amount but included no fine, which analysts said lowered the company's costs on an after-tax basis. The new proposal also limits the amount of money already spent on pipeline upgrades that PG&E can count toward paying the penalties. The company has already put aside $200 million to cover a fine. The commission still is months away from reaching a final decision.

The penalty case stems from the September 2010 explosion of a high-pressure natural-gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric that cut through a residential neighborhood in San Bruno. The rupture caused a massive fireball that killed eight people, injured 58 others and damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes. It was one of the largest pipeline disasters in U.S. history, and reconstruction of the neighborhood is continuing.

Federal and state investigators determined that PG&E was to blame for the pipeline rupture, following separate investigations that revealed a pattern of neglect, including lost or incomplete pipeline records, shoddy welding of the pipeline that ruptured and inadequate safety testing.

City officials also have asked the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to strip California regulators of responsibility for enforcing federal pipeline-safety laws. PHMSA, which in most states delegates those duties to utility regulators, told the city on Monday that it would audit California's inspection and enforcement program.  (WSJ, 7/16/2013, Photo: Associated Press)

Friday, July 12, 2013

California Public Utilities Commission Votes To Underground Chino Hills Electricity Line

The California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday in San Francisco to underground the lines in Chino Hills, California.

The Center opposes this decision.

The cost estimate of undergrounding in Chino Hills is approximately $224 million, including offset for Chino Hills’ financial contribution of real property, which is valued at approximately $17 million. The Southern California Edison estimate of the cost is $533 million.  Completion of the portion of the Tehachapi overhead line in Chino Hills, as originally approved by the commission in 2009, would have cost $4 million.

The Southern California Edison transmission lines, built on land owned by the utility company since the 1940s, bring wind-generated electricity to consumers. Thursday's vote to move 3.5 miles of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project underground, combined with the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, puts Southern California electricity reliabily at significant risk.

Commissioners Michael R. Peevey, Mark J. Ferron and Catherine J.K. Sandoval voted in favor of putting the lines underground. Commissioners Michel Florio and Carla Peterman opposed the plan.

(NBC Southern California, 7/12/2013, CPUC Press Release, CPUC Decision)

Wildfire Mitigation: Why Can't We Solve This Simple Problem?

Outcomes from reducing hazardous (trees and brush) fuels are hard to quantify because you can't measure fires that might have gotten out of control or destroyed houses but didn't because of fuel source reduction or elimination programs?  Yet, no lives should be lost trying to save homes from burning.

The Center has a Wildfire Mitigation Program.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 65 million to 82 million acres of National Forest lands are at a "high or very high risk of fire," and are in need of restoration.

Between 1960 and 1970, there was only one year, 1969, when wildfires burned more than five million acres in the U.S. In the last decade, it happened eight out of 10 years.

The U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department agencies spent a combined $206 million on fire suppression in 1991, $953 million in 2001 and $1.7 billion in 2011.

If the pending federal budget passes, funding for the Forest Service's hazardous-fuels program would decline to $201 million from $301 million, and the Interior Department's would fall to $96 million from $145 million.

Why are the Forest Service and Interior Department budgets being reduced? Officials at the Forest Service and Interior Department note the growing costs of fighting larger fires forced them to choose.  And again, wildland firefighting is utilized more than wildfire prevention because fighting wildfires can be easily quantified and wildfire prevention cannot.

According to the USDA Forest Service, the number of housing units within a half mile of a national forest grew to 1.8 million in 2000, from 484,000 in 1940. In the same period, housing units within national forest boundaries grew to 1.2 million, from 335,000.  (WSJ, 8/11/2013)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

California State Energy Panel Hearing on San Onofre Closing

California State Capitol Building
The Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, chaired by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, held a hearing on Wednesday to hear from officials from San Onofre's operator Southern California Edison, commissioners from the California Public Utilities Commission and the chief executive of the California Independent System Operator. The hearing was to discuss the lost electricity, lost jobs and other consequences of the permanent shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant that was announced last month.

Southern California Edison, owner of the San Onofre nuclear generating station (SONGS), recently told state utility officials that 30 percent of the utility's electricity was from carbon-free resources last year.  That's a decline from 2011, when San Onofre was still running, and 50 percent of its electricity came from carbon-free nuclear, hydroelectric and renewable sources. 

San Onofre was responsible for one-fifth of the electricity used by San Diego County and southern Orange County. Lawmakers are trying to figure out how to replace its capacity.  Edison announced June 7 that it was permanently closing San Onofre.
San Onofre's twin reactors hadn't produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water in nearly new steam generators. The problems arose just after a $670 million upgrade to the plant.
San Onofre was a key part of California's energy supply both because of the more than 2,000 megawatts it produced but its strategic coastal location between San Diego and Los Angeles. It was able to power 1.4 million homes and was responsible for about 20 percent of the electricity used by San Diego and southern Orange County.
Since the shutdown, utilities have upgraded transmission lines and increased generation at other plants, businesses have been paid to shift consumption to off-peak hours and consumers have been paid to have their air conditioners automatically shut down during heat waves.

July 10, 2013 - Electrical System Stability and Reliability: Life After SONGS.
August 13, 2013 - Electrical System Stability and Reliability: Life After SONGS.
  • Agenda
  • Background
  • Presentation:
September 24, 2013 - Electrical System Stability and Reliability: Life After SONGS.
  • Agenda
  • Background
  • Presentation:
(Times Union, 8/10/2013, California Senate, Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee)