Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1st Solar Breeder Plant Now Owned By BP Faces Layoffs

British energy company BP PLC has announced that its American subsidiary BP Solar is laying off 140 employees at its Frederick plant in November. The company informed workers of the decision Tuesday.The layoffs amount to a 23 percent cutback in the factory's 600-member work force. The company announced in February that increased global competition had forced it to cancel expansion plans for the plant, which makes solar energy cells. It makes electricity from the photovoltaic panels on its roof, thus making it a breeder plant. The plant was originally owned by Solarex. (BaltimoreSun.com, 3/31/09, AP)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Center Attends Wilderness Bill Signing at The White House

Center President Norris McDonald attended the signing of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 at the White House today. The bill signing ceremony was held in the East Room and President Obama gave a speech before sitting down to sign the bill. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar spoke before the bill signing too. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also attended the signing. Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco were also in attendance.

The House approved the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R.146) on a vote of 285 to 140 on March 25, 2009 that includes the largest expansion of the wilderness system in 15 years -- 2 million acres in nine states -- and launched one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts in the West. The bill passed in the Senate on March 19, on a vote of 77-20. (The White House)

The bill was a massive omnibus, incorporating 164 different pieces of legislation. Major Highlights include:- Protecting treasured places like: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, Oregon’s Mount Hood, Idaho’s Omyhee Canyons, the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Zion National Park in Utah, as well as lands in Virginia and New Mexico;- Designating more than 2 million acres of federal lands as wilderness;- Creating the 26 million acre National Landscape Conservation System within the Dept. of Interior;- Protecting more than 1000 miles of rivers by adding them to the National Wild and Scenic System;- Designating thousands of miles of trails for the National Trails System and creating several new National Conservation Areas. (More)

Photos: President Obama in background in upper photo and Norris McDonald with former Maryland State Senator Gloria Lawlah (now Maryland Secretary of Aging) in lower photo.

President Announces Forum on Energy & Climate Change

President Barack Obama has announced the launch of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. The Major Economies Forum will facilitate a candid dialogue among key developed and developing countries, help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the UN climate change negotiations that will convene this December in Copenhagen, and advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama has invited the leaders of 16 major economies and the Secretary General of the United Nations to designate representatives to participate in a preparatory session at the Department of State on April 27-28 in Washington, D.C. The preparatory sessions will culminate in a Major Economies Forum Leaders’ meeting, which Prime Minister Berlusconi has agreed to host in La Maddalena, Italy, in July 2009.

The 17 major economies are:

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Denmark, in its capacity as the President of the December 2009 Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations have also been invited to participate in this dialogue. (The White House)

The Center attended the protest rally (see video below) and the "Major Economies Meeting on Energy and Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State on November 12, 2007. President Bush addressed the delegation at the State Department on the second day. Center President Norris McDonald attended the speech. He also spoke briefly to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (see picture below).

FOX News Launches The FOX Nation Web Site

Rupert Murdoch wants FOX News to be as competitive on the web as it is on cable television. As such, he has launched a new Web site to spread the conservative point of view. The Center simply wonders how much and how well they will cover energy and environmental issues. Here is how they describe themselves on their Web site:

The Fox Nation was created for people who believe in the United States of America and its ideals, as expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a community that believes in the American Dream: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One that believes being an American is an honor, as well as a great responsibility—and a wonderful adventure.

This is a place for people who believe we live in a great country, a welcoming refuge for legal immigrants who want to contribute their talent and abilities to make our way of life even greater. We believe we should enjoy the company and support of each other, delighting in the creativity, ingenuity, and work ethic of one and all, while observing the basic rules of civility and mutual respect and, most importantly, strengthening our diverse society by striving for unity.

The Fox Nation is for those committed to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse--and fair and balanced coverage of the news. It is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship.
Of course for the best and latest information on energy and environmental issues, one need only visit our Center site daily. And the Center is 'really' nonpartisan. We provide a real 'fair and balanced' view of the energy and environmental world. (Wash Post, 3/30/09)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thermal Oxidizers

Regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) and other types of thermal oxidation systems can be a highly effective and energy-efficient method of abating volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants emitted by industrial plants. Thermal oxidizers are essentially incinerators that thermally or catalytically convert pollutant-laden emissions into CO2 and water vapor. The oxidation process typically achieves better than 99-percent destruction/removal efficiency (DRE) levels for VOCs, hazardous air pollutants (HAPS) and odors. The thermal oxidation temperature is 1,400 to 1,600 degrees F.

Regenerative thermal oxidizers minimize fuel consumption by regenerating, or reusing, heat generated by the system. Prior to being exhausted to the atmosphere, the hot, purified air passes through a media bed to capture heat energy that will be used to pre-heat incoming air. RTOs can operate at thermal efficiencies of 85 to 99 percent, reducing or eliminating the need to burn natural gas in the combustion chamber. Once the system is sufficiently heated, the natural gas burners can be turned off if enough flammable gas is present in the exhaust stream.

A regenerative catalytic oxidizer (RCO) is similar in design to an RTO, except that the ceramic heat exchange media closest to the combustion zone is coated or impregnated with precious metals that function as a catalyst. The metals enable oxidation at significantly lower temperatures (600°F to 1,000°F). A catalytic system requires the presence of the type of VOCs that will oxidize at these lower temperatures.

By Paul Sims, Global Market Manager - Environmental at Koch Knight LLC. (Pollution Engineering, March 2009)

Friday, March 27, 2009

J. Charles Fox Appointed Adviser: Chesapeake Bay Program

J. Charles 'Chuck' Fox, right, has been appointed to serve as a senior adviser to the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Anacostia River. His appointment was announced on March 12 by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Most recently, he was a senior officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts, managing its international marine conservation programs. A former federal and Maryland environmental official, Mr. Fox was assistant administrator of the EPA's water division under former president Bill Clinton and has also served as secretary of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources from September 5, 2001 to january 15, 2003. Mr. Fox served as Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination, Maryland Department of the Environment, 1995-97, Associate Administrator, Vice President Gore Office of Reinvention, 1997-98, Assistant Administrator for Water, 1998-2001, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (special assistant, 1993; chief of staff, Office of Water, 1994-95).

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a unique regional partnership that has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. The Chesapeake Bay Program partners include the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; the Environmental Protection Agency, representing the federal government; and participating citizen advisory groups.

Center President Norris McDonald and Mr. Fox worked together at the Environmental Policy Center/Institute (now Friends of the Earth) in the early 1980's.

Maryland Legislature Approves Greenhosue Gas Bill

The Maryland House of Delegates has voted 107-31 for a measure that commits the state to a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.The measure seeks to reduce greenhouse gas through renewable energy and recycling, easing concerns by industry that the burden won't be put entirely on them.

Business and labor organizations support the bill because the current proposal specifically requires the state to ensure there will be no loss of manufacturing jobs as a result of the measure.

The Senate also has approved a similar bill. (BaltimoreSun.com, 3/26/09)

Republican Alternative Budget Includes Energy & Environment

The Republican Road to Recovery, March 2009 has been highly criticized for only being 19 pages long. But it does include some specifics on energy and environmental issues (pp 11-13).

The Center agrees that high electricity prices are bad for Americans.

The Center agrees that we should reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The Center disagrees with increased Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) drilling. Our oceans and beaches are too precious to put at risk of oil spills. As an alternative we support coal-to-liquids, shale-to-oil and oil sands conversion --all utilizing nuclear energy as the power source.

The budget is right to point out the hypocrisy of Democrats about wind power. Local environmentalists, NIMBYs and the Kennedy's are the first to oppose wind projects when they are proposed in their backyards. The high power lines too. The Center supports Cape Wind, other wind projects and the power lines that go with them.

We also agree with support for nuclear power.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

EPA Public Hearing on Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting

The Federal Register published a notice on the Public Hearings for the proposed Mandatory Reporting Rule for Greenhouse Gases on March 25, 2009.

There will be two public hearings for this proposal. EPA encourages those who wish to attend or give public comments, to register on-line in advance of the hearing. EPA will web stream both public hearings. The meeting information pages will be updated with this information as it becomes available.

Federal Register Notice of Public Hearings (PDF), (2 pp, 72.7 KB, About PDF)

April 6 and 7, 2009, at EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center, Arlington, VA; and

April 16, 2009, at Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento, CA.

Wilderness Bill Passes Congress Protects 2 Million Acres

The House approved the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R. 146) on a vote of 285 to 140 on March 25, 2009 that includes the largest expansion of the wilderness system in 15 years -- 2 million acres in nine states -- and launched one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts in the West. The bill passed in the Senate on March 19, on a vote of 77-20. President Obama will sign the bill on Monday, March 30. Provisions by state include:

* Preserve nearly 450,000 acres of wilderness and 73 miles of wild and scenic rivers near Santa Clarita and along the California Nevada border, including the White Mountains.
* Protect some 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness, including parts of Joshua Tree National Park.
* Protect about 70,000 acres of wilderness, including the new John Krebs Wilderness, named for the former congressman and conservationist who fought to protect these lands in the Mineral King Valley.
* Protect nearly 250,000 acres of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park.
* Protect 66,000 acres of red rock sandstone canyons, cliffs, streams and waterfalls in western Colorado.
* Protect as wilderness 517,000 acres in Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands.
* Protect 11,739 acres of wilderness at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
New Mexico:
* Protect more than 15,000 acres in San Miguel County as wilderness.
* Protect 13,700 acres of old-growth forest in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest.
* Protect more than 128,000 acres of national forest on Mount Hood.
* Protect nearly 31,000 acres of wilderness in the Badlands just east of Bend.
* Protect more than 250,000 acres of wilderness in and near Zion National Park.
* Protect 43,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest as wilderness, and 12,000 as a national scenic area.
West Virginia:
* Protect 37,000 acres in the Monongahela National Forest.

Source: Associated Press, L.A. Times, (Omnibus Wilderness Bill Key Provisions, The Wilderness Society)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fred Krupp Has It Right On Cap-&-Trade: AGAIN

Fred Krupp, right, is the Godfather of cap-and-trade and he nails it once again in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. We agree with Mr. Krupp on this issue. He did not state his position on auctioning in the article but we hope he stays true to the Acid Rain Program he helped draft and approve and agrees that allowances should be allocated free. He rejects a carbon tax and we oppose such a tax too.

Some highlights:

Curbing carbon emissions will spur a new generation of competition for the old ways of generating energy.

From an environmental point of view, the difference is stark. A cap is a legal limit on pollution. There is no guessing what will happen -- the level of emissions is set in law, and enforcement of
that limit proceeds accordingly.

Moreover, to require that other countries make the reciprocal commitments necessary to lower global pollution, we have to enact our cap -- and have other nations do the same in a transparent, verifiable and enforceable way. A carbon tax doesn't make such a system of commitments

From an economic point of view, the case for a cap is also strong. A well-designed cap will push our economy towards clean, domestic energy in the most flexible way possible, leaving business free to grow and thrive.

The system directly engages the profit motive in pursuit of the environmental goal. In addition, establishing the cap level in law will give companies the certainty necessary to make major, job-creating capital investments now.

Finally, rather than debate economic theory, we can look at history. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush and a Democratic Congress joined together to pass the world's first cap-and-trade law to limit the pollution that causes acid rain. It was a simple, straightforward plan to have government set the rules and let the people involved solve the problem. It worked faster and cheaper than anyone predicted.
Mr. Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

EPA 'Reviews' Hundreds of Coal Mining Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is 'reviewing' hundreds of mountaintop coal-mining permits to evaluate the projects' impact on streams and wetlands. The decision was announced Tuesday by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. It targets a controversial practice by coal-mining companies that dump waste from mountaintop mining into streams and wetlands.It could delay more than a hundred permits being sought by companies wanting to begin blasting mountaintops to access coal. The EPA also denied two permits the Army Corps of Engineers was planning to issue that would allow companies to fill thousands of feet of streams with mining waste in West Virginia and Kentucky. The agency says the projects could damage aquatic resources.

EPA has sent two letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressing serious concerns about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality caused by certain types of coal mining practices, such as mountaintop mining. The letters specifically addressed two new surface coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky. EPA also intends to review other requests for mining permits. The two letters reflect EPA’s considerable concern regarding the environmental impact these projects would have on fragile habitats and streams. EPA’s letters, sent to the Corps office in Huntington, WestVirginia, stated that the coal mines would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate. EPA has recommended specific actions be taken to further avoid and reduce these harmful impacts and to improve mitigation. The letters were sent to the Corps by EPA senior officials in the agency’s Atlanta and Philadelphia offices. Permit applications for such projects are required by the Clean Water Act.

EPA also requested the opportunity to meet with the Corps and the mining companies seeking the new permits to discuss alternatives that would better protect streams, wetlands and rivers. The Corps is responsible for issuing Clean Water Act permits for proposed surface coal mining operations that impact streams, wetlands, and other waters. EPA is required by the act to review proposed permits and provides comments to the Corps where necessary to ensure that proposed permits fully protect water quality. Because of active litigation in the 4th Circuit challenging the issuance of Corps permits for coal mining, the Corps has been issuing far fewer permits in West Virginia since the litigation began in 2007. As a result, there is a significant backlog of permits under review by the Corps. EPA expects to be actively involved in the review of these permits following issuance of the 4th Circuit decision last month. EPA is coordinating its action with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and with other agencies including the Corps. More information on wetlands and the letters. (EPA, WSJ, AP, 3/24/09)

Rockefeller Foundation Commissions Authors On 2050 Cities

"Century of the City: No Time to Lose"

by Neal R. Peirce and Curtis W. Johnson with Farley M. Peters

One in every ten people lived in urban areas a century ago. Now, for the first time ever, most people live in cities. By 2050, the United Nations projects, almost three-quarters of the world's population will call urban areas home. The majority of this growth is centered in struggling, developing countries of the Global South, but cities in developed (or Global North) countries face increasingly complex challenges as well.

Around the world, unplanned urban expansion is multiplying slums, overburdening housing, transportation and infrastructure systems, stifling economic growth, and leaving millions vulnerable to new environmental and health threats.

To help manage and plan for this accelerating urbanization, the Rockefeller Foundation convened an exceptional group of urbanists--leading policy makers and government officials, finance experts, urban researchers, members of civil society organizations, and other innovators--for a Global Urban Summit at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. This book shares their diverse perspectives, creative approaches, and urgent agenda for harnessing the vast opportunities of urbanization for a better world.

TO ORDER, email rockefeller@forbesamg.com and include 'Century of the City' in the Subject line of the email form. There is no charge for the books; however, you can order only up to two copies this way.

Greater Quantities: For consideration of requests for multiple copies for pertinent conferences or other group purposes, please email details of your request to rderrick@rockfound.org and put 'Century of the City multiple request' in the Subject line.

Hat Tip: Dr. Lenneal Henderson, former Center board member, who helped track the meetings and compile the research for the book that resulted from the month-long Global Urban Summit in Bellagio, Italy in July 2007.

EPA Sends CO2 Endangerment Recommendation To OMB

The Center agrees with President Obama that Congress should pass climate change legislation that includes a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. We disagree with President Obama on auctioning the allowances in a cap-and-trade program, preferring instead to allocate the credits free to utilities and other participants in the program. This will reduce complex and keep costs of the program in check and avoid unnecessary increases in utility bills. We also agree with the president that Congressional legislation is preferable to agency regulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed finding that carbon dioxide is a danger to public health. If approved, the endangerment finding could clear the way for the EPA to treat CO2 as a pollutant and to use the Clean Air Act to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The EPA program would involve about 13,000 facilities, including: coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants, oil refineries and domestic industries, such as energy-intensive paper, cement, fertilizer, steel, and glass manufacturers, among others. It is estimated that these facilities account for about 85% to 90% of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S.

Such a finding would raise pressure on Congress to enact a system that caps greenhouse gases and create a market for businesses to buy and sell the right to emit them, as President Barack Obama has proposed and the Center supports. The administration's proposed a cap-and-trade system could raise $646 billion by 2019 through government auctions of emission allowances (Center opposes the auction portion of the proposal).

Ideally, climate change legislation would be passed before the international Copenhagen meeting in December to address the climate change issue. We doubt a bill will pass this year, but one should pass in 201o. Representatives from over one hundred countries will be drafting a successor to the Koyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that commits many industrialized countries to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Supreme Court ruled ( Mass. v EPA, April 2, 2007) that the EPA must review whether greenhouse-gas emissions pose a threat to public health or welfare. (WSJ, 3/24/09)

EP&W Committee Hearing, “Regulation of Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act,” Tuesday, September 23, 2008. [Witness Statements]

Obama Describes Clean Energy Plans at White House

President Obama plans to spend about $59 billion out of the $787 billion economic stimulus funds (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-ARRA) and $150 billion from the $3.55 trillion FY 2010 federal budget to promote America's "clean-energy future." He said his plan will create more than 300,000 jobs and double the nation's supply of renewable energy. The FY 2010 budget includes nearly $75 billion to make permanent a tax credit aimed at stimulating private-sector investment in research and development. ARRA includes $39 billion for projects at the Energy Department and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy.

The funding is intended to create an advanced research agency for energy modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which developed the Internet, and to support Energy Frontier Research Centers, which could lead to breakthroughs in energy storage, super-efficient engines and inexpensive solar cells. The stimulus plan will also support U.S. manufacturing of advanced batteries needed for plug-in hybrids, renewable energy backup and other applications. About $1.2 billion is destined for "research infrastructure" at the Energy Department's national laboratories. (Wash Post, 3/24/09, The White House, White House Photo: Lawrence Jackson)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cement Kiln Rule Expected

The EPA is expected to release a new rule on Cement kilns by March 31 due to a legal settlement. The rule is expected to address emissions of mercury and total hydrocarbons from kilns that are fueled by coal or other typical fuels, or what EPA has deemed to be nonhazardous waste. If EPA doesn't meet that date, lawsuits could resume. (Frank Maisano) [More on Cement Kilns]

Jane Lubchenco Confirmed as NOAA Administrator

President Barack Obama's nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 19. Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., left, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In this capacity, she will serve as the ninth administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s top science agency for climate, oceans, and the atmosphere. Dr. Lubchenco is the first woman and the first marine ecologist to lead NOAA.

With a budget of $4 billion, and 12,800 employees in every U.S. state and locations around the world, NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Lubchenco, a Denver native, is a graduate of Colorado College, received her Masters degree from the University of Washington and Ph.D. from Harvard University in marine ecology, taught at Harvard for two years, and prior to assuming her new duties as NOAA administrator has been on the faculty at Oregon State University since 1977.

She served on the Pew Oceans Commission and the Joint Oceans Commission Initiative.
Lubchenco has received numerous awards including a MacArthur ("Genius") Fellowship, nine honorary degrees, the 2002 Heinz Award in the Environment, the 2003 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, the 2004 Environmental Law Institute Award and the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. (NOAA)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Concrete, Cement, Energy, Air, Environment & Fly Ash

Concrete is a construction material composed of cement (commonly Portland cement) as well as other cementitious materials such as fly ash gravel, limestone, or granite, plus a fine aggregate such as sand, water, and chemical admixtures. A typical process of manufacturing cement consists of grinding a mixture of limestone and clay or shale to make a fine "rawmix," heating the rawmix to sintering (almost melting) temperature in a cement kiln and grinding the resulting clinker, right, to make cement. The rawmix is fed into the kiln and gradually heated by contact with the hot gases from combustion of the kiln fuel. Typically, a peak temperature of 1400-1450 °C is required to complete the reaction. In order to achieve the desired setting qualities in the finished product, a quantity (2-8%, but typically 5%) of calcium sulfate is added to the clinker and the mixture is finely ground to form the finished cement powder.

The rotary kiln (picture above diagram below) consists of a tube made from steel plate, and lined with firebrick. The tube slopes slightly (1–4°) and slowly rotates on its axis at between 30 and 250 revolutions per hour. Rawmix is fed in at the upper end, and the rotation of the kiln causes it gradually to move downhill to the other end of the kiln. At the other end fuel, in the form of gas, oil, or pulverized solid fuel, is blown in through the "burner pipe", producing a large concentric flame in the lower part of the kiln tube. As material moves under the flame, it reaches its peak temperature, before dropping out of the kiln tube into the cooler. Air is drawn first through the cooler and then through the kiln for combustion of the fuel. In the cooler the air is heated by the cooling clinker, so that it may be 400 to 800 °C before it enters the kiln, thus causing intense and rapid combustion of the fuel.

Fly ash is used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement content of concrete. Fly ash is one of the residues generated in the combustion of coal. Fly ash is generally captured from the chimneys of coal-fired power plants, and is one of two types of ash that jointly are known as coal ash; the other, bottom, is removed from the bottom of coal furnaces. Toxic constituents include arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins, and PAH compounds. In the past, fly ash was generally released into the atomosphere, but pollution control equipment mandated in recent decades now require that it be captured prior to release. In the U.S., fly ash is generally stored at coal power plants, stored in retention ponds or placed in landfills. About 43 percent is recycled, often used to supplement Portland cement in concrete production.

Again, in making concrete much of the Portland cement can be replaced with two industrial waste products — fly ash, left over from burning coal in power plants, and blast-furnace slag, which can help make the concrete stronger. Portland cement is at the heart of concrete’s environmental problems. About a ton of CO2 is emitted for every ton of cement produced. The basic manufacturing process involves burning limestone and other minerals at about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit to create an intermediate product called clinker.

The CO2 associated with Portland cement manufacture falls into 3 categories: (1) CO2 derived from decarbonation of limestone, (2) CO2 from kiln fuel combustion, 3) CO2 produced by vehicles in cement plants and distribution. Nearly a ton of carbon dioxide is emitted to produce each ton of portland cement, while fly ash is a byproduct of energy generation. Mixes in which up to 25% of the cement is replaced by fly ash are quite common, and some designers are specifying over 50% substitution for certain applications. Use of fly ash in concrete in the U.S. is governed largely by ASTM Standard C618.

Cement kiln emissions:

Carbon dioxide
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Dioxins and furans (PCDD/F)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene (BTEX)
Gaseous inorganic chlorine compounds
Gaseous inorganic fluorine compounds

(BuildingGreen.com, Wiki: Concrete, Portland Cement, Cement Kiln, Fly Ash)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama Designates Jon Wellinghoff As FERC Chairman

President Barack Obama announced that Jon Wellinghoff, currently serving as Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will be designated as Chairman. Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory CommissionWellinghoff was named Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that oversees wholesale electric transactions and interstate electric transmission and gas transportation in the United States, by President Obama in January 2009. A member of the Commission since 2006, the U.S. Senate reconfirmed him to a full, five-year FERC term in December 2007.

Wellinghoff is an energy law specialist with more than 30 years experience in the field. Before joining FERC, he was in private practice and focused exclusively on client matters related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and distributed generation. While in the private sector, Wellinghoff represented an array of clients from federal agencies, renewable developers, and large consumers of power to energy efficient product manufacturers and clean energy advocacy organizations. While in private practice, Wellinghoff was the primary author of the Nevada Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Act. In addition, he worked with clients to develop renewable portfolio standards in six other states. Wellinghoff is considered an expert on the state renewable portfolio process and has lectured extensively on the subject in numerous forums including the Vermont Law School. His experience also includes two terms as the State of Nevada’s first Consumer Advocate for Customers of Public Utilities. Wellinghoff is co-chair of the Demand Response Collaborative launched jointly by FERC and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and is a member of NARUC’s Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Institute for Electric Efficiency and served as an advisor to the Defense Science Board’s Energy Policy Task Force.

Wellinghoff also advises the Energy Foundation and the NRDC on China-U.S. energy policy matters. He recently returned from China where he headed a delegation of U.S. energy regulators. He received his J.D. from Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., his M.A.T in Mathematics from Howard University, and his B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Nevada, Reno. (The White House)

Center Supports Free (CO2) Allowance Allocation To Utilities

There should be no doubt that selling auctions to utilities will significantly increase the price of the cap-and-trade program beyond that of allocating them free based on historical carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And no money is required from ratepayers to be given back to them them (huh?) in allocating free credits. Utility companies are in disagreement over what percentage of the allowances should be auctioned. Sixty of the country's biggest investor-owned companies developed a consensus position (pdf) that was organized by the Edison Electric Institute trade group.

Another outfit that includes participants in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a high-profile coalition lobbying for a cap-and-trade bill that includes other big corporations and a few mainstream environmental groups have a position similar to EEI's position when it comes to emission allowances. Five power companies -- Duke Energy Corp., Exelon Corp., FPL Group Inc., PG&E Corp. and PNM Resources -- have all agreed to side with U.S. CAP should it differ during the legislative debate from the EEI approach.

The Center disagrees with President Obama, EEI, utilities supporting auction and environmental groups supporting an auction of allowances.The Center would be happy to work with President Obama, environmental groups, EEI and any utility companies promoting the free allocation of allowances. That is how a successful system was operated in the Clean Air Act Acid Rain Program and that should be the model for any cap-and-trade program. (NYT, 3/19/09)

Obama Nominates Gina McCarthy for EPA Air Office

President Barack Obama has nominated Gina McCarthy, left, to be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. Gina McCarthy is currently the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). McCarthy came to the Connecticut DEP from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where she worked on environmental issues at the state and local level for 25 years in a variety of high-ranking positions.

Just prior to joining the Connecticut DEP, she served as the Deputy Secretary of Operations for the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development, a "Super Secretariat" that coordinates policies and programs of that state’s environmental, transportation, energy and housing agencies. In 1990, Governor Dukakis appointed McCarthy as Chair of the Council to oversee the review of a proposed hazardous waste incinerator in the Boston area. (EPA)

UPDATE: The E & PW Committee approved the nomination on April 23, 2009 to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA during a business meeting. The EPW Committee held a nomination hearing for Regina McCarthy on April 2. The nomination was approved by voice vote and now goes to the full Senate for consideration. (Full Committee Statement)

Center Plans Organic Garden: So Does The White House


The Center is planning its organic garden. Planting begins right around the last week of March. We wish we could duplicate the Accokeek Foundation's solar irrigation project, but we are too far from the Potomac River for that. They use a photovoltaic panel to charge a battery to power the drip irrigation system and electric fense. But we will be planting seed, including: lima beans, cauliflower, watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce, artichoke, broccoli, sunflower, celery, cucumber, okra, chinese cabbage, sweet corn, celery, carrot, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, squash, and pepper. Flowers too: cosmos, marigold, zinnia, coreopsis, and black-eyed susan daisy. And I read in The Washington Post today that the White House is planning an organic garden too.

First Lady Michelle Obama is planning a garden on the South Lawn. It will be a 1,100-square-foot garden and will include 55 kinds of vegetables (The selection is a wish list put together by White House chefs). There will also be berries, herbs and two hives for honey that will be tended by a White House carpenter who is also a beekeeper. The chefs will use the produce to feed the first family, as well as for state dinners and other official events. The White House will use organic seedlings, as well as organic fertilizers and organic insect repellents. The garden will be near the tennis courts and be visible to passersby on the street. The whole Obama family will be involved in tending the garden.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

President Obama Nominates Cynthia Giles For EPA OECA

President Barack Obama has nominated Cynthia J. Giles, left, to be Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cynthia Giles is Vice President and Director of Conservation Law Foundation's Rhode Island Advocacy Center, where she has focused on state and regional advocacy to combat climate change. From 2001 to 2005, Cynthia served as head of the Bureau of Resource Protection at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Giles worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a variety of capacities from 1991 to 1997.

The Center supports the nomination.

From 1995-1997, she was Enforcement Director for Region 3 and developed a "results-targeted" approach to enforcement, which she has since published in a paper written for OECA. Her responsibilities included overseeing enforcement of federal laws regulating toxics and protecting air, drinking water and surface water. She also chaired a regional ozone compliance initiative, developing strategies for reducing smog-causing emissions from stationary sources. Prior to joining EPA, Giles was an Assistant United States Attorney, where she prosecuted violations of federal environmental laws. She holds a BA from Cornell University, as well as a JD from the University of California at Berkeley and an MPA from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. She is admitted to the bar in the State of Rhode Island, U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island and State of Pennsylvania. (DOE Press Release)

What Does the Trillion Dollar Fed Move Mean To You?

We have no clue what it means for you or us, the nation or the world. But here are some facts:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's decision to buy Treasuries and double his purchases of mortgage debt is part of his plan to avoid a Great Depression II. Benanke has decided to pump as much cash into the economy as needed to end the current crisis.

U.S. central bankers decided yesterday to buy as much as $300 billion of long-term Treasuries and more than double mortgage-debt purchases to $1.45 trillion, aiming to lower home- loan and other interest rates. The Fed kept its main rate at almost zero and may keep it there for an “extended” time.

With the purchases of Treasuries and housing debt, Bernanke is effectively using the Fed’s powers to print money and aim it where he and other officials believe it will have the greatest impact in lowering borrowing costs.

Fed Purchases: Bernanke's decisions will add $750 billion in purchases this year of mortgage-backed securities issued by government- sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, for a total of $1.25 trillion.

Term Asset-Back Securities Loan Facilities (TALF) Program: The $1 trillion TALF will probably be expanded to include other financial assets.

Balance Sheet: The moves may more than double the Fed’s balance-sheet assets by September to $4.5 trillion from $1.9 trillion. (Bloomberg.com, 3/20/09)

EPA Issues Latest Information on Toxic Chemical Releases

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today is making available the most recent reporting on the amount of toxic chemicals released into the U.S. environment. According to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, the latest data, from the calendar year 2007, show an overall decrease of five percent in releases since 2006. Releases to air decreased seven percent and releases to water decreased fi ve percent.

The public’s right to know is the crucial first step in reducing toxic chemicals in the places where we live, work, and raise children. Congress under the leadership of Senator Lautenberg took action to restore the rigorous reporting standards of this vital program. The report shows increases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals like lead, dioxin, mercury and PCBs.

Overall PBTs releases increased one percent. The increases were primarily due to a handful of facilities, and most of the releases reported were not to the air or water. Total disposal or other releases of mercury increased 38 percent, but air emissions of mercury were down three percent. The majority of mercury releases were reported by the mining industry.

PCB releases went up 40 percent. EPA banned the production of PCBs in the U.S. in 1979 and disposing of it safely to permitted, hazardous waste landfills is the final important step in removing it from use. Dioxin releases or disposal increased 11 percent.

Lead releases increased by one percent. The majority of lead released was by the mining industry to land.

This year’s annual publication of the data includes 650 chemicals from 22,000 facilities. TRI provides the American public with vital information on chemical releases to communities and is an important tool industry can use to gauge its progress in reducing pollution. TRI reporting includes toxics managed in landfills and underground injection wells as well as those released into water and the air.

TRI tracks the chemicals and industrial sectors specified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 and its amendments. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also mandates that TRI reports include data on toxic chemicals treated on site, recycled, and burned for energy recovery. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste management activities related to these chemicals. Recently, TRI reporting changed with the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 11. The new law returns TRI to the more comprehensive reporting requirements that were in effect before December 21, 2006.

More information on the TRI reporting change

TRI 2007 Public Data Release

TRI Explorer tool

Electricite de France Must Kill Constellation Bonuses

Maybe Electricite de France is not aware of how radioactive the 'bonus' issue right now. If they did, they would not get close to agreeing to bonuses for Constellation executives. The Center has given EdF good advice in the past and they should take our advice now: Kill the Bonuses (by any means necessary). Under the pending purchase agreement between Constellation and EDF, the French utility has agreed to pay up to $19 million in performance awards covering 2007-2009 and up to $13 million for 2008-2010. The 120 senior managers would be eligible for $7.8 million and $5.7 million for those respective periods.

The BaltimoreSun.com is reporting that:

Constellation Energy Group, which narrowly avoided bankruptcy last year, negotiated a deal with France's largest utility ensuring senior managers would receive up to $32 million in long-term performance and retention incentives during the next two years. The move comes as the Baltimore company, which agreed to sell half of its nuclear power business to Electricite de France for $4.5 billion, has laid off hundreds of workers, slashed its stockholder dividend and is seeking rate increases for its BGE customers. I f the deal closes, EDF has agreed to pay the difference between awards the managers earn based on meeting company performance goals and the long-term incentives for which they're eligible. About 135 senior managers would have received those full payments immediately had the original deal with billionaire Warren Buffett gone through [Center opposed the deal]. In December, Constellation terminated its sale to Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company in favor of EDF's bid.
EdF cannot have full ownership or control of a U.S. nuclear plant because it is a foreign entity under federal law. The deal is subject to approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. EdF has to realize that this bonus deal could threaten the entire nuclear plant partnership deal because local, state, and federal politicians are on the warpath for their constituents over a similar AIG bonus arrangement. They will surely aim their attention at EdF and Constellation is this bonus proposal stands. Don't do it. We want EdF to build a new nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs. That is our primary interest in addition to bonuses are simply not feasible in the current economic climate.

Oil Companies Need Lots of Water for Oil Shale

Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are gaining rights to billions of gallons of water from Western rivers in preparation for future efforts to extract oil from shale deposits under the Rocky Mountains. These energy companies are collectively entitled to divert about 7 billion gallons of water a day during peak river flows. The companies also hold rights to store, in dozens of reservoirs, almost 2 million acre feet of water, enough to supply metro Denver for six years. The companies are holdings these water rights for future use in producing oil from shale.

The Center supports coal-to-liquids and extraction of oil from shale, but we oppose expanded offshore drilling.
The energy companies are not currently using most of the water rights, but they are leasing some of it to other users, mostly farmers. They are stocking up on water rights to be sure they will not be caught with sufficient water supplies to produce large quantities of oil. The Colorado River basin provides water to 30 million people from Wyoming to California. It includes dozens of uses, including power generation at the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona. Under Colorado law, river water is available, free of charge, to any entity that can show the water will be put to a "beneficial" use. Extracting oil fits into that category, as does, for example, growing alfalfa, providing household drinking water and making snow at ski resorts.

Oil companies can get water rights in two ways under the seniority system Colorado uses for appropriating water. For a minimal filing fee, the companies have claimed scores of "junior" rights that allow them to draw water from a particular river after other users have satisfied their needs. The companies have also purchased dozens of "senior" rights from old-time farming families; those rights give them priority access to water, even in dry years. Even if the oil companies use every last drop of their entitlements, there's no risk of the Colorado River drying up. (WSJ, 3/19/09)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harry Reid Proposes Nuclear Waste Commission

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), left, and Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) have introduced legislation that would establish a nine-member panel that would report its recommendations for a national nuclear waste repository to Congress in two years. The commission would be asked to recommend alternatives for managing highly radioactive spent fuel from commercial power plants, and also high-level nuclear waste that was generated by military weapons programs. Those wastes are now kept at sites in 39 states.

The government's policy has been to place the material in an underground repository under development at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. However, President Barack Obama opposes the Yucca site and has indicated he plans to dramatically scale back the project.Majority Leader Reid also oppose the Yucca Mountain repository.

The Center supports Yucca Mountain as the repository for nuclear waste and we want the entire nuclear waste operation taken out of the Department of Energy and placed in a new Nuclear Waste Management Agency, which would also handle reprocessing, preferably at Yucca Mountain. (Lexus/Nexus, 3/14/09)

Is The New Nuclear Power Plant Renaissance Over?

Update: "Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" - - March 11-14, 2011

Recent decisions and information coming out of Congressional hearings indicate that the new nuclear power plant building renaissance could be over before it truly begins. Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received 17 applications to build 26 reactors, rapid economic and political changes are putting these applications at risk. Some nuclear utilities have already suspended their applications. The Obama administration decision to zero budget funding for Yucca Mountain combined with insufficient loan guarantees in a weakened Wall Street world are twin blows that were discussed at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing this morning. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) expressed deep concerns about these twin threats to building new nuclear power plants.

The NRC is currently examining the potential effects of the Yucca Mountain decision and will issue its findings later this year. Nuclear industry representatives state that they anticipated the possibility of Yucca Mountain not being licensed and that this was not a death blow to building new plants. But Murkowski expressed doubt about this, particularly when combined with insufficient loan guarantees. Right now, about $16 billion in loan guarantees, out of about $110 billion, in total Department of Energy loan guarantees, are targeted to nuclear power. The remainder of the loan guarantees are for renewables projects.

The Center believes the threat to building new nuclear power plants is real. When we first started supporting nuclear power in 2001, it was estimated that a new nuclear plant would cost about $1 billion. Now that estimate has ballooned to $8-$10 billion. This at a time when Wall Street is in melt down [forgive the pun]. Frankly, unless the federal government is willing to support nuclear power the way it has supported other institutions it deems 'too big to fail,' then there will be no nuclear power plant building renaissance.

Chu and Gao Should Stop Climate Change Trade War Talk

Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, speaking at a House Science Committee hearing on Tuesday advocated adjusting trade duties as a "weapon" to protect U.S. manufacturing, just a day after one of China's top climate envoys warned of a trade war if developed countries impose tariffs on carbon-intensive imports. Mr. Chu postulated the establishment of a carbon tariff to help "level the playing field" if other countries haven't imposed greenhouse-gas-reduction mandates. Chu believes that if other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then America will be at a disadvantage. He wants to examine the imposition of duties that would offset that cost. This is not a good idea. But it was probably a political response to China's contention that countries buying Chinese goods should be held responsible for the heat-trapping gases released during manufacturing in China.

Li Gao, a senior Chinese negotiator from the National Development and Reform Commission, believes a carbon tariff would be a disaster, prompt a trade war and not be legal under World Trade Organization agreements. China wants importers of its carbon-intensive goods to bear the emission costs, concerned that targets such as those proposed by the U.S. would cripple the nation's growth as an industrializing nation. The U.S. does agree with China that an international agreement should be based on a principle that allows a less-stringent and longer-term flexibility for developed countries. Obama administration officials also agree that developed countries need to help to finance the technology transfer for low carbon energy and efficiency measures. (WSJ, 3/17/09)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Congressman Matheson Wants Post Yucca Waste Panel

The Center disagrees with President Obama's elimination of budgetary funding for Yucca Mountain. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has been telling Congress that the Yucca option is off the table and better solutions are needed. The Center disagrees with Secretary Chu on this issue too. Now it is being publicized that Utah Representative Jim Matheson is looking to study other options for dealing with radioactive waste.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and John Ensign (R-NV) are pushing for a blue-ribbon panel to find alternatives for managing nuclear waste. Congressman Matheson, who also backs such a panel, believes money saved by halting Yucca can shift toward analyzing options for what to do with the waste. Congressman Matheson has raised the idea of reprocessing the waste in a way that reduces the amount of material.

We agree with Congressman Matheson on reprocessing. We also have a suggestion for him: take the nuclear function out of the Department of Energy and place it in another, newly created agency: Nuclear Waste Management Agency (NWMA). Of course, the best place for monitored storage, retrieval and reprocessing is at Yucca Mountain. (The Salt Lake Tribune, 3/17/09)

Congressman Matheson is pictured below (center) in 1983 at a home weatherization project in Washington, D.C. with Center president Norris McDonald (left)and National Wildlife Federation Legislative Director Jim Lyon (right) when they all worked at the Environmental Policy Center (now Friends of the Earth).

Interior and FERC Agree On Offshore Wind Coordination

In a joint statement issued today Secretary of the Interior (DOI), Ken Salazar, left, and Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Jon Wellinghoff, right, announced that the two agencies have confirmed their intent to work together to facilitate the permitting of renewable energy in offshore waters. Turf battles between DOI and FERC have been slowing down consideration of offshore renewable energy projects. This agreement will help sweep aside red tape so that America can capture the great power of wave, tidal, wind and solar power off our coasts.

The agreement was announced in a joint statement (see below) today by the Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Acting FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.
Below is the joint Statement between DOI and FERC signed by Secretary Salazar and Acting Chairmain Wellinghoff:

The United States has significant renewable energy resources in offshore waters, including wind energy, solar energy, and wave and ocean current energy. Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Minerals Management Service, has the authority to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way on the outer continental shelf for the development of oil and gas resources. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide the Interior Department with parallel permitting authority with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from additional sources of
energy on the outer continental shelf, including renewable energy sources.

The Interior Department’s responsibility for the permitting and development of renewable energy resources on the outer continental shelf is broad. In particular, the Department of the Interior has permitting and development authority over wind power projects that use offshore resources beyond state waters. Interior’s authority does not diminish existing responsibilities that other agencies have with regard to the outer continental shelf. In that regard, under the Federal Power Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the statutory responsibility to oversee the development of hydropower resources in navigable waters of the United States. “Hydrokinetic” power potentially can be developed offshore through new technologies that seek to convert wave, tidal and ocean current energy to electricity.

FERC will have the primary responsibility to manage the licensing of such projects in offshore waters pursuant to the Federal Power Act, using procedures developed for hydropower licenses, and with the active involvement of relevant federal land and resource agencies, including the
Department of the Interior.

We have requested our staffs to prepare a short Memorandum of Understanding that sets forth these principles, and which describes the process by which permits and licenses related to renewable energy resources in offshore waters will be developed.
News Release

Friday, March 13, 2009

Move Nuclear Waste Management Out of Dept of Energy

The Center is a member of the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFR Coalition or NFRC) and we are promoting the removal of nuclear waste management from the U.S. Department of Energy and establishing an entirely separate agency to perform this function. We are proposing the formation of a Nuclear Waste Management Agency (NWMA) to handle all nuclear waste in the United States.

The NFR Coalition has been established to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants. Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

William Tucker writes in an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled, "There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste":

"France, which completely reprocesses its recyclable material, stores all the unused remains -- from 30 years of generating 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy -- beneath the floor of a single room at La Hague."
Center President Norris McDonald is standing (center) about three feet above that waste at LaHague in the photo above.

The draft legislation reads in part:

To amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (42 U.S.C. 10101) to establish the United States Nuclear Waste Management Agency to manage all Federal and civilian spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste management programs currently under the control of the United States Department of Energy; to establish and operate low-level radioactive waste receipt, supplementary segregation, treatment and burial or monitored/retrievable storage facilities on a fee basis; and to promote spent nuclear fuel reprocessing as a viable technology to aid in achieving and maintaining our national security and National Energy Policy goals, and for its potential to significantly reduce the total volume of radioactive waste designated for disposal in a Federal geologic repository.
The Center, in cooperation with the NFR Coalition, will be promoting this solution in Congress and to the Obama administration.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Maryland Coal Combustion Waste Spills Into Potomac River

Center President Norris McDonald (Center) on North Branch
A coal ash slurry pipeline from a coal-burning power plant ruptured and dumped 4,000 gallons of coal ash sludge into the Potomac River in Maryland on March 8. The spillage contaminated the West Virginia banks of the Potomac. The hole that caused the spill was about the size of a dime, but continuously spilled the slurry for about a full day until a routine inspection by employees turned up the slurry accident.

The spill occurred where New Page Corporation—a papermaker—maintains an ash storage lagoon. New Page also operates a coal-burning power plant to produce the electricity needed to run the paper mill. At the site, three 800-foot pipelines carry the ash to a 1.2 million gallon storage lagoon across the river. The damaged Maryland pipeline was shut down; two other lines continue to operate, carrying ash slurry from the power plant to an ash storage lagoon about 800 feet away in West Virginia.

Fly ash is a residue that results from coal combustion. This waste product can contain toxins such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, cobalt, dioxins, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, PAH compounds, elenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium. The North Branch, where the facility is located, defines the Maryland-West Virginia state line for more 60 miles from Maryland's western boundary to Oldtown, where it joins the South Branch to form the main stem of the Potomac. All the Potomac except the South Branch is owned and regulated by the state of Maryland. (NewsInferno.com, AP)

Coal Combustion Waste To Be Regulated

The Obama administration will propose new regulations governing coal combustion waste by the end of this year. Congress is also working on legislation to prevent accidents like the release in December of more than a billion gallons of coal ash that smothered 300 acres in eastern Tennessee and contaminated nearby waterways, land and homes.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall is proposing legislation to regulate coal-ash impoundments under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). Chairman Rahall’s legislation, Coal Ash Reclamation, Environment, and Safety Act of 2009, (HR 493), would require the Department of Interior to issue regulations that force coal-ash impoundments to meet standards “substantially similar” to those required for other coal-waste dams under SMCRA.

Coal ash impoundments are large holding ponds designed to contain coal compustion waste ash. Recent breaches at these ponds has brought pression for regulators, particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), to regulate CCW and holding ponds. The EPA would regulate coal ash under ther Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).

The Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant spill last December was the largest coal fly ash release in U.S. history (see photo above). It has now prompted 125 environmental groups and some senators to seek federal standards for safe disposal of coal combustion waste, which currently has no federal standards. A letter dated March 2 from small and large groups was sent to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to adopt standards as soon as possible. (NYTimes, 3/7/09, Newsreview.com)

[Additional Information]

Coal Combustion Waste

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published an excellent report in 2007 on coal combustion waste (CCW). The report, "Dangerous Disposals: Keeping Coal CombustionWaste Out of Our Water Supply," is an excellent source of background information on this subject.


Each year, America’s coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities produce approximately 130 million tons of coal combustion waste (CCW), the residue left behind when coal is burned. That’s enough waste to fill a train of box cars stretching from Washington, D.C., to Melbourne, Australia. Because CCW contains pollutants like arsenic, mercury, lead, and othertoxic substances, its disposal carries many risks. Without proper monitoring and safeguards, disposing of toxic coal combustion waste can pose seriousdangers to nearby ground and surface waters—and the people who rely onthese sources for safe drinking water.

There are multiple types of coal combustionwaste, including coal ash (fly ash, bottom ash), flue gas desulfurization waste (waste created when the exhaust from smokestacks at coal-burning facilities is treated to remove sulfur), and boilerslag (molten coal ash collected from the bottom of coal-burning furnaces). This waste containstoxic chemicals such as aluminum, arsenic,boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and sulfate—pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and learning disabilities in children.

[Latest Mitigation Proposals]

Highlights of $410 Billion Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Highlights of the $410 billion omnibus spending bill funding 12 Cabinet departments and lesser agency budgets for 2009:

Agriculture — $20.5 billion, including a 14 percent boost over 2008 for the popular WIC program that feeds infants and poor women.

Commerce — $9.3 billion, including $3.1 billion to conduct the 2010 Census.

Education — $66.5 billion, a 7 percent increase over 2008 levels.

Energy — $27 billion, including a $765 million, 54 percent hike for advanced energy research.

Health and Human Services — $66.3 billion, including $30.3 billion for health research.

Housing and Urban Development — $41.5 billion, including $24.5 billion for low-income and American Indian housing.

Interior — $10.1 billion, slightly more than 2008.

Justice — $26.1 billion, including a $715 million, 11 percent increase for the FBI.

Labor — $15.3 billion, including a 5 percent increase for employment and training programs.

State — $13.1 billion, a 3 percent decrease.

Transportation — $13.5 billion, plus $53.7 billion in highway and other transportation funding financed mostly through gasoline taxes.

Treasury — $12.7 billion, including $428 million over 2008 for the IRS, a 4 percent increase.

Source: The Associated Press

Toxics Release Inventory Detailed Data Requirement Restored

The $410 billion ‘‘Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (spending bill) (H.R. 1105) that President Barack Obama signed on March 11 will reinstate detailed toxic chemical reporting at more than 3,500 facilities nationwide that is included in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI program is the federal public right-to-know program for toxic chemicals. Health officials, federal, state and local governments, businesses and the public all use TRI to understand and reduce threats to public health. The law came in the wake of the tragic disaster at a Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India, killing thousands of people. Congress passed the law to ensure that communities know how much of a variety of dangerous industrial chemicals are released into the air, water and ground.

In 2006, as a response to terrorism concerns, the Bush administration reduced the amount of information that facilities storing and releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals had to submit to the federal government. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who authored the portion of the 1986 law requiring toxics reporting, sponsored the provision, believing terrorism threats have been reduced enough to restore the public's right to know about chemicals in their air and water.

Officials from industries affected by the rule, who estimate they spend $650 million a year complying with the current reporting requirements, believed the changes adopted under Bush lightened their regulatory burden without jeopardizing public health. Companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds, could use shorter, less detailed forms. Congressional auditors believed the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year.

New Jersey and 12 other states recently sued the EPA to restore the old reporting thresholds.

(AP, DenverPost.com, PolitickerNJ.com, OMB Watch)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Senate Energy Majority Draft Bill on Transmission Siting


Ø A national high priority transmission project is any project of 345 kilovolts or higher that is included in an interconnection-wide transmission plan as defined in this section.

Ø No person may construct, acquire or operate any new high-priority national transmission project or modify such a project without a certificate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Ø Provides for the FERC to condition applications for certificates, right of eminent domain, judicial review, and for a lead agency role for FERC in conducting environmental reviews under applicable Federal laws.


Ø Requires FERC to issue a request for applications for entities to assume the role of regional planning entity for the Eastern and Western Interconnections.

Ø FERC designates one entity to serve as the regional planning entity for each Interconnection.

Ø Not later than one year after designation, each regional planning entity shall submit to FERC an Interconnection-wide transmission plan.

Ø Planning for the addition of high-priority national transmission projects must take into consideration support for the development of new renewable generation, opportunities for reduction of emissions from regional power production, cost savings resulting from congestion reduction and other efficiencies, enhanced fuel diversity, reliability, and other national priorities.

Ø Failure to submit a plan by a regional planning entity will result in FERC assumption of the role of planning coordinator. States or sub-regions may submit sub-regional plans which FERC must consider.

Ø The Commission may impose a regional surcharge to fund activities of the regional planning entities.

Ø The plan does not apply to Alaska, Hawaii or ERCOT, unless such entities voluntarily elect to participate.

Cost Allocation

Ø The regional planning entity may, after consultation with states, file a cost allocation plan with FERC to allocate costs for the projects developed pursuant to the plan.

Ø FERC shall approve the cost allocation plan, unless it finds it to result in rates that are not just and reasonable and unduly discriminatory or preferential, would unduly inhibit the development of renewable generation projects, would not allow the transmission provider the opportunity to recover prudently incurred costs, including a reasonable return on investment.

Ø If the regional entity is unable to submit a plan, FERC will assume the allocation of costs, providing for costs for high priority national transmission projects to be allocate broadly within the interconnection, or a sub-region of it.

Ø It is the policy of the United States that long-term transmission rights, of firmness and duration to support generation development shall be available to new renewable generation facilities. (Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committe-Majority)

See Also Harry Reid Proposal