Tuesday, June 30, 2009

EPA Grants California Greenhouse Gas Waiver

EPA has granted California’s waiver request enabling the state to enforce its greenhouse gas emissions standards for new motor vehicles, beginning with the current model year. This waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years and supports the prerogatives of the 13 states and the District of Columbia who have opted to follow California’s lead.

The first California waiver request was made in December 2005 and was subsequently denied in March 2008. This previous decision was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act finding that California did not have a need for its greenhouse gas emission standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” Shortly after taking office in January, President Barack Obama directed EPA to assess the appropriateness of denying the waiver. EPA received a letter from California on January 21, 2009, raising several issues for Administrator Jackson to review regarding the denial.

Last month, President Obama announced a first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards would cover model years 2012-2016. When the national program takes effect, California has committed to allowing automakers who show compliance with the national program to also be deemed in compliance with state requirements. With the decision to grant the California waiver, EPA returns to its traditional legal interpretation of the Clean Air Act that has been applied consistently during the past 40 years.

EPA found that California continues to have a need for its motor vehicle emissions program, including the greenhouse gas standards. EPA also found that the California program meets legal requirements regarding the protectiveness of public health and welfare as well as technological feasibility. The Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to allow California to adopt its own emission standards for new motor vehicles due to the seriousness of the state’s air pollution challenges. There is a long-standing history of EPA granting waivers to the state of California. (EPA)

More Information

EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards for Nitrogen Dioxide

The agency aims to reduce respiratory illness including asthma

For the first time in more than 35 years, EPA has proposed to strengthen the nation’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air quality standard that protects public health. The proposed changes reflect the latest science on the health effects of exposure to NO2, which is formed by emissions from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, and industrial facilities and can lead to respiratory disease.

EPA’s proposed revisions apply to the primary NO2 standard and would:

· establish, for the first time, a one-hour NO2 standard at a level between 80 – 100 parts per billion (ppb),
· retain the current annual average NO2 standard of 53 ppb,
· add NO2 monitoring within 50 meters of major roads in cities with at least 350,000 residents, and
· continue monitoring “area-wide” NO2 concentrations in cities with at least 1 million residents.

These proposed standards and additional monitoring requirements would protect public health by reducing people’s exposure to high, short-term concentrations of NO2, which generally occur near roadways. The proposal would also ensure that area-wide NO2 concentrations remain below levels that can cause public health problems.

Current scientific evidence links short-term NO2 exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, with increased respiratory effects, especially in people with asthma. These effects can lead to increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations such as children, the elderly, and asthmatics.

EPA first set standards for NO2 in 1971, establishing both a primary standard to protect health and a secondary standard to protect the public welfare at 53 ppb, averaged annually. Annual average NO2 concentrations have decreased by more than 40 percent since 1980. All areas in the United States are well below the current (1971) NO2 standards with annual averages ranging from approximately 10 – 20 ppb.

EPA will accept public comments for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold two public hearings in August 2009: one in Los Angeles and one in the Washington, D.C. area. EPA will provide details on the public hearings in a separate notice issued later this summer. EPA must issue a final decision on the NO2 standard by Jan. 22, 2010.


Source: EPA

EPA Posts List of 44 “High Hazard Potential” Coal Ash Waste Impoundments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a list of 44 “high hazard potential” impoundments containing coal combustion residuals, commonly referred to as coal ash, at 26 different coal burning electric utility facilities. EPA is releasing this information after interagency coordination with FEMA’s Risk Analysis Division Mitigation Directorate and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Following the failure of an impoundment at the TVA facility in Kingston, Tennessee, in December 2008, EPA has been gathering information on coal combustion residual impoundments from electrical utilities nation wide and conducting on-site evaluations to determine the impoundments’ vulnerabilities. Working closely with other federal agencies and the states, EPA will review the information gathered from this investigation and will require appropriate action at any facility that is found to pose a risk.

The results and analysis of this investigation will be compiled in a report and made available to the public and will help strengthen our ability to protect the American people, which is our foremost and urgent priority. The list of units was compiled from information submitted to EPA by the electric utilities in response to EPA’s March 9, 2009 information request.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kingston Ash Slide Root Cause Analysis

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) contracted with AECOM, one of the nation’s leading geo-technical engineering firms, in January to perform the very detailed root cause analysis to determine the cause of the ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant. The findings and analysis were part of a comprehensive six-month report made public by AECOM.

The root cause, as reported by AECOM, is a very complex set of conditions that came together to cause the ash spill. This is not a simple report or summary because what happened was not a simple thing. A combination of the high water content of the wet ash, the increasing height of ash, the construction of the sloping dikes over the wet ash, and the existence of an unusual bottom layer of ash and silt were among the long-evolving conditions that caused the ash spill at Kingston Fossil Plant on Dec. 22, 2008.

Kinston Ash Slide Root Cause Analysis

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Allowances, Offsets, Trading & Refunds in the ACES Act

The House version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Act) of 2009 (H.R. 2454) includes the following provision regarding allowance trading:


‘(a) Permitted Transactions- Except as otherwise provided in this title, the lawful holder of an emission allowance, compensatory allowance, or offset credit may, without restriction, sell, exchange, transfer, hold for compliance in accordance with section 722, or request that the Administrator retire the emission allowance, compensatory allowance, or offset credit.

‘(b) No Restriction on Transactions- The privilege of purchasing, holding, selling, exchanging, transferring, and requesting retirement of emission allowances, compensatory allowances, or offset credits shall not be restricted to the owners and operators of covered entities, except as otherwise provided in this title.

‘(c) Effectiveness of Allowance Transfers- No transfer of an allowance or offset credit shall be effective for purposes of this title until a certification of the transfer, signed by the designated representative of the transferor, is received and recorded by the Administrator in accordance with regulations promulgated under section 721(h).

‘(d) Allowance Tracking System- The regulations promulgated under section 721(h) shall include a system for issuing, recording, holding, and tracking allowances and offset credits that shall specify all necessary procedures and requirements for an orderly and competitive functioning of the allowance and offset credit markets. Such regulations shall provide for appropriate publication of the information in the system on the Internet.
An EPA "Offsets Integrity Advisory Board will determine what kinds of activities qualify as offsets.

The legislation also establishes an Offsets Integrity Advisory Board:


‘(a) Establishment- Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this title, the Administrator shall establish an independent Offsets Integrity Advisory Board. The Advisory Board shall make recommendations to the Administrator for use in promulgating and revising regulations under this part and part E, and for ensuring the overall environmental integrity of the programs established pursuant to those regulations.

‘(b) Membership- The Advisory Board shall be comprised of at least nine members. Each member shall be qualified by education, training, and experience to evaluate scientific and technical information on matters referred to the Board under this section. The Administrator shall appoint
Advisory Board members, including a chair and vice-chair of the Advisory Board. Terms shall be 3 years in length, except for initial terms, which may be up to 5 years in length to allow staggering. Members may be reappointed only once for an additional 3-year term, and such second term may follow directly after a first term.

‘(c) Activities- The Advisory Board established pursuant to subsection (a) shall--

‘(1) provide recommendations, not later than 90 days after the Advisory Board’s establishment
and periodically thereafter, to the Administrator regarding offset project types that should be considered for eligibility under section 733, taking into consideration relevant scientific and other issues, including--

‘(A) the availability of a representative data set for use in developing the activity baseline;

‘(B) the potential for accurate quantification of greenhouse gas reduction, avoidance, or sequestration for an offset project type;

‘(C) the potential level of scientific and measurement uncertainty associated with an offset project type; and

‘(D) any beneficial or adverse environmental, public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects associated with an offset project type;
ACES makes provisions for low-income people:

(a) Energy Refund Program-

(1) The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, or the agency designated by the Administrator shall formulate and administer the ‘Energy Refund Program’.

(2) At the request of the State agency, eligible low-income households within the State shall receive a monthly cash energy refund equal to the estimated loss in purchasing power resulting from this Act.
The Center lobbied for passage of ACES in the House and will now take our campaign to the Senate.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

EPA Establishes National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy & Technology‏

The EPA recently (June 2009) established the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology Subcommittee on Promoting Environmental Stewardship to provide independent advice to the EPA Administrator on environmental stewardship practices in the regulated community and other sectors as appropriate, in order to enhance human health and environmental protection. Subcommittee members include senior leaders and experts who represent academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and local and state governments.

They are:

Ian Bingham, Administrator, Arizona Environmental Performance Track Program
Suzanne Burnes, Assistant Director, Sustainability Division, Georgia Dept of Natural Resources
Patricia Calkins, Vice President, Environment, Health and Safety, Xerox
Myra Carpenter, Director of Environmental Affairs,
MichelinLaura Fiffick, Senior Environmental Scientist, Gresham, Smith and Partners
Nancy Girard, Executive Director, Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Performance Gary Hunt, Director, North Carolina Dept of Environment & Natural Resources
Isabel M. Long, Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program, Sierra Club
Mark McDermid, Bureau Director, Cooperative Environmental Assistance, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Erik Meyers, Vice President for Sustainable Programs, The Conservation Fund
David Monsma, Executive Director, Energy and Environment Program, The Aspen Institute
Jeff Muffat, Manager, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, 3M
Jennifer Nash, Director of Policy and Programs, Product Stewardship Institute
Lee Paddock, Assoc Dean for Environmental Law Studies, GW University Law School
David Paylor, Director, VA Department of Environmental Quality
Aseem Prakash, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Washington
John Rosenthall, President, National Small Town Alliance
Deidre Sanders, Environmental Justice Program Manager, Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director, Environmental Integrity Project
David Struhs, Vice President of Environmental Affairs, International Paper
David Vidal, Research Director, Global Corporate Citizenship, The Conference Board
John Walke, Director, Clean Air Project, Natural Resources Defense Council

The National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which regulates and governs its operations, including public participation and access to documents.

The first meeting of the Subcommittee is scheduled for June 30 – July 1, 2009, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Crystal City, Virginia. The meeting location is: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency One Potomac Yard Fourth Floor Conference Center South (S-4370-80) 2777 S. Crystal Drive Arlington, VA 22202

Subcommittee Updates

Agency Contact: Regina D. Langton Designated Federal Officer NACEPT Subcommittee on Promoting Environmental Stewardship U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (MC 1807T) Washington D.C. 20460 202.566.2178

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Center Supports Waxman/Markey Climate/Energy Bill

The House Rules Committee has issued the latest 1,201 page version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (Original Version) and a vote is scheduled for Friday. The Center supports the legislation as currently drafted and will lobby for its passage right up until the last minute in the House. Then on to the Senate. The legislation includes a much needed cap-and-trade system to limit the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill includes:

$7.5 billion in "green bonds" for a new federal financing agency called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration,

Extra emission allowances for politically powerful rural electric cooperatives,

Greater flexibility for states that want to use free allowances for mass transit,

Enhances benefits for biofuel producers and major petroleum refiners.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) was evidently successful in pressuring the Democratic leadership to move offset management from the EPA to the Agriculture Department. We oppose this proposal. EPA has more experience with managing a cap and trade program through its Acid Rain Program. (Wash Post, 6/24/09)

Latest Version of Bill (House Rules Committee)

Latest Version of Bill ( House Energy & Commerce Committee)


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, left, announced today that USDA Rural Development has approved a $25 million loan to enable a Minnesota biodiesel facility to diversify its operations and significantly expand the production of advanced biofuels. SoyMore Biodiesel ceased production of its operations due to tough economic conditions, but now USDA Rural Development is providing SoyMor Biodiesel a $25 million guaranteed loan to purchase equipment that will enable the company to convert multiple types of feed stocks, including an unrefined corn oil waste product from nearby ethanol facilities, into biodiesel. In its current configuration, the plant only has the ability to process soybean oil.

The loan is the second USDA Rural Development has made under the Section 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program of the 2008 Farm Bill. The funding will have a significant impact on the nearby communities by restoring nearly 30 jobs and providing an additional value-added opportunity for the ethanol industry and bolstering the local economy. High feedstock costs forced SoyMor to suspend operations at its Albert Lea, Minn., facility in Spring 2008. The plant opened in 2005 and has an annual capacity of 30 million gallons. The Biorefinery Assistance Program promotes the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of fuels that are produced from non-corn kernal starch biomass sources. The program provides loan guarantees to develop, construct and retrofit viable commercial-scale biorefineries producing advanced biofuels. The maximum loan guarantee is $250 million per project. The loan is contingent upon SoyMor meeting the conditions of the loan agreement.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. USDA Rural Development office


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama Administration Awards First Three Auto Loans for Advanced Technologies to Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motors and Tesla Motors

Today, the Obama Administration announced $8 billion in conditional loan commitments for the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies that will create thousands of green jobs while helping reduce the nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil. The loan commitments announced today by the President include $5.9 billion for Ford Motor Company to transform factories across Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio to produce 13 more fuel efficient models; $1.6 billion to Nissan North America, Inc. to retool their Smyrna, Tennessee factory to build advanced electric automobiles and to build an advanced battery manufacturing facility; and $465 million to Tesla Motors to manufacture electric drive trains and electric vehicles in California.

These commitments will help reduce the 140 billion gallons of gasoline Americans consume each year, lessening the nation’s dependence on the volatile world market for oil, and decreasing the cause of a fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions. The Obama Administration recently announced an agreement to raise passenger car fuel standards from 27.5 miles per gallon to a target of 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016.

The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program is an open and competitive process focusing on the best companies and best technologies in American manufacturing. First appropriated in the fall of 2008, the program will provide about $25 billion in loans to companies making cars and components in US factories that increase fuel economy at least 25 percent above 2005 fuel economy levels. The intense technical and financial review process is focused not on choosing a single technology over others, but is aimed at promoting multiple approaches for achieving a fuel efficient economy.

Ford Motor Company will receive $5.9 billion in loans through 2011 to help finance numerous engineering advances to traditional internal combustion engines and electrified vehicles. In addition, theses loans will help the company convert two truck plants to the production of cars. Ford will be raising the fuel efficiency of more than a dozen popular models, including the Focus, Escape, Taurus and F-150, representing close to two million new vehicles annually and helping to transform nearly 35,000 employees to green engineering and manufacturing jobs in factories across 5 states: Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. Ford is driving a major upgrade, leveraging a portfolio of technologies, including the direct injection, smart turbocharging EcoBoost engine, advanced transmissions, and new hybrid technologies. The facilities that will be impacted by today’s announcement include: Chicago Assembly, Louisville Assembly, Dearborn Assembly, Dearborn Engine, Livonia Transmission, Michigan Assembly, Van Dyke Transmission, Kansas City Assembly, Cleveland Engine, Lima Engine, and Sharonville Transmission.

Nissan will receive $1.6 billion to produce electric cars and battery packs at its manufacturing complex in Smyrna, Tennessee. The loan will aid in the construction of a new battery plant and modifications to the existing assembly facility. These fully electric cars are an important milestone for vehicles produced in the United States by a major international automaker. These cars are energy efficient, using electricity at a gasoline-equivalent rate of more than 350 mpg. This new state of the art facility is a notable effort by a major automaker with well-established US operations to produce its most advanced vehicles and lithium-ion batteries. Nissan aims to manufacture a cost-competitive all-electric car, overcoming a major obstacle to widespread adoption of pure electric vehicles. Nissan will offer electric vehicles to fleet and retail customers, and plans to ramp up production capacity in Smyrna up to 150,000 vehicles annually. Nissan anticipates the project may result in an increase of up to 1,300 jobs in Smyrna when full production is reached.

Tesla Motors will receive $465 million that will also advance electric vehicles. The first loan will finance a manufacturing facility for the Tesla Model S sedan. This vehicle demonstrates how the emerging electric car is becoming more affordable: the Model S is expected to be roughly $50,000 cheaper than Tesla’s first vehicle, the Roadster. The all-electric sedan consumes no gasoline and runs entirely on electricity from any conventional 120V or 220V outlet. It will get the equivalent of more than 250 miles per gallon, far exceeding the 32.7 mpg minimum efficiency required for large sedans. Production of the Model S will begin in 2011 and ramp up to 20,000 vehicles per year by the end of 2013. This integrated facility expects to create 1,000 jobs in Southern California.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Taxing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Allowances

From: Legal Energy Blog

The Center agrees with Mark Price on taxing allowances as ordinary income. Except in the case of nonprofits like us, whereby such allowances should not be taxed at all.

In June 15 testimony before the the US Senate Committee on Finance on the Federal income tax implications of proposed cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, the issue was whether emission allowances under the program should be treated as ordinary for tax purposes and, if so, then how should they be valued. In addition, when should valuation occur - when the allowances are first awarded or when they are used (i.e. when they can be surrendered to account for emissions produced)?

The cap-and-trade bill currently making its way through the US House of Representatives would cause the government to allocate at no cost to the recipient 85% of allowances and auction the remaining 15%.

At the hearing, Gary Hufbauer, a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics:

indicated his preference for a carbon tax over the cap-and-trade approach. But since politics favored cap-and-trade, he proceeded to advocate treating allocated carbon allowances as ordinary income to be valued upon issuance. The purchase price of an allowance bought at auction or in the secondary market, Hufbauer testified, should qualify as a business deduction in the year used. Trading in allowances should be accounted for on a first-in-first-out basis (on the assumption that values will increase over time) and trading gains and losses, he continued, should be taxed at the relatively higher rate of ordinary income and not lower rate applying to capital.

Taking a contrary view, Mark Price, an officer of the tax firm KPMG, testified:

that tax treatment of carbon allowances under a cap-and-trade program would likely follow Internal Revenue Service precedent involving the taxation of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission allowances under Title IV of the Clear Air Act Amendments of 1990. Under that program, SO2 allowances allocated at no cost create no tax basis and are not taxed as ordinary income. Also by analogy to the tax treatment of SO2 allowances, Mr. Price testified that trading gains and losses would likely be taxed as capital and not ordinary income, but that may vary depending on the purpose for which allowances are held. Mr. Price also addressed carbon offsets, such as forestry programs. Revenues from sales of offsets, he testified, would be taxed as ordinary income.

House Agriculture Committee Chair Influencing Climate Bill

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) believes global warming will benefit farmers by increasing the growing season and allowing them to grow more corn. He also wants the climate bill changed to allow coal-burning power plants to get more free carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. The Center believes all the allowances should be allocated free [except for a 2% 'market marker' amount].

Mr. Peterson opposes a measure in the legislation that could undercut the perceived climate-protection value of growing corn to make ethanol in the U.S. by counting the increased greenhouse gas emissions that would occur overseas when farmers or governments clear land to grow food in response to higher food prices. Mr. Peterson is pushing an amendment to the climate bill that would eliminate a requirement under the law for the EPA to measure such overseas emissions.

He wants the Agriculture Department, rather than the EPA, to decide what kinds of agricultural practices will qualify as "offsets," activities that avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation would allow businesses to pay farmers to engage in activities like injecting the soil with seed rather than plowing the ground and causing the release of carbon. The Energy Information Administration has estimated that the market for such agricultural activities could be worth as much as $24 billion annually. A recent EPA analysis suggested the market could be much smaller. (WSJ, 6/22/09, Photo: Getty Image)

House Agriculture Committee:

Compilation of Responses to Climate Change Questionnaire - Part 1 of 2 (110MB .pdf file)

Compilation of Responses to Climate Change Questionnaire - Part 2 of 2 (110MB .pdf file)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What A Year It Has Been So Far


By Norris McDonald

From the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to Cash For Clunkers, it has been quite the rollercoaster ride so far during the first half of the year. I attended the inauguration and had a ringside seat. I've been to a bill signing at The White House and a meeting with the EPA administrator in her headquarters office. I've chatted with Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu several times (pestering is more like it). Now we are fighting to get energy/climate legislation passed in the U.S. Congress. And to cap it off, we are supporting President Obama's health plan. Wow. What a ride. I have not seen this kind of action since.....well, ever.

I served on the planning committee for The State of Environmental Justice in America 2009 Conference. We also managed the Environmental Justice Blog for the conference. I finished the first draft of my autobiography. Some juicy stuff in there. Hopefully it will be published in early 2010. I even had time to do some clamming in The Hamptons.

And the year isn't even half way over yet. Man this president is setting one heck of a pace.

Monitoring Server Room Temperatures

By Shireen Qudosi

A server room is the brain of any effective well-networked company. However, this area is also most susceptible to failure. Your servers aren’t the only thing you’re paying heavily for in your office environment. For every $1 you sped on computing equipment and services, chances are that you probably spend another $1 for the power and cooling to keep that equipment running. Even with all the cost funneled through just to this one sector of your business, it remains that over heating (in even an otherwise well-cooled establishment) is the number one cause of malfunction and data loss.

Your servers aren’t the only thing you’re paying heavily for in your office environment. For every $1 you sped on computing equipment and services, chances are that you probably spend another $1 for the power and cooling to keep that equipment running.

The Emerson Network Power, in coordination with the U.S. EPA and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, released survey data entitled “Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency”. The report received participation from more than 150 Digital Communications User Group members and companies, as well as non-member Fortune 500 companies.

Central issues within this report included issues of power management, precision cooling, energy efficiency, technology implementation and consolidating.

What You Can do to Safeguard Your Server

As seen through the convergence of top companies and associations, cooling and energy efficiency is a major concern in any IT related industry. In a nutshell, the failure to meet requirements that are energy efficient and capable stems from miscommunication between IT professionals and facilities management. As such, even the best and most well-conditioned environments face considerable temperature gaps when it comes to the server room. When traditional air conditioning can't accomplish your cooling needs, a highly efficient portable air conditioning system may be what you need. A portable AC is a moving cooling unit designed to offer the same heat relief as conventional cooling systems. Designed for mobility, a portable air conditioner is small and compact. Discreetly fitting into even the smallest server room, the portable cooling unit is the smart business solution to a widespread problem.

Ideal for spot cooling, portable air conditioners provide economic cooling that is ideal for all environments, especially server rooms.

Why Traditional Systems Don’t Work

Server rooms are a special example of the dualities of portable ac units. While most office have a central AC unit, server room air conditioning is a big concern for business with server equipment. Server equipment generates a considerable amount of heat that could damage the tech systems unless a cool room temperature is maintained. The general office temperature is not adequate for a server room, however lowering the central AC temperature is not only expensive but will yield complaints from soon to be sick employees. Proper server room air conditioning can be achieved if a portable AC unit is used, which will not only be affordable but efficient.

Alternative Uses

Commercial grade portable units, such as Porta-A-Cool, are great for larger areas including industrial sites, sporting arenas, agricultural areas, military uses, and even the largest server rooms.

Key features that makes portable air conditioners attractive, include:

1. Improved Air Quality - many units include specialized filters, such as carbon and ion filters, that work to purify the air.
2. Eco-Friendly - a compact room portable air conditioner costs about as much to run as a light bulb. It doesn't get any more cost effective than that, meaning that you're using less energy to run your appliance, which in turn does not waste resources as a traditional central ac would.
3. Size Variety - as seen in the above paragraph, portable units come in all sizes that allows for diverse functional use, ranging from your home to a sports stadium.
4. Type Variety - in addition to coming in different sizes, a little known consumer fact is that portable ACs also vary in type. There are two types of units - traditional cooling units and evaporative coolers

Types of Units - Traditional Coolers vs. Evaporative Coolers

While evaporative coolers and central air conditioners keep us cool, evaporative coolers are often less expensive to maintain, operate, and they are especially suited for areas where air conditioning is impossible or impractical. They are also idea for dry desert climates (such as Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico), where humidity needs to be injected back into the air. Evaporative coolers cool the air by filtering it through water, and these systems work best when a small amount of outside air circulates into the space where the evaporative cooler is situated. Not only does this result in energy savings, but in indoor settings, it also introduces fresh air into the environment and reduces the risk of airborne contaminants.

How Well Can Your Portable AC Unit Work?

Just as with any other appliance, your portable AC unit will function its best if it's properly maintained. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most bang from your buck:

1. Dirt Removal - Run a damp cloth over it and make sure you wipe through the filter panels as well.
2. Filter - Consider the NewAir ACP-1000E with auto-evaporative technology and an activated carbon air filter that helps remove odors. Remember that while filters purify the air, filters themselves usually have to be cleaned once every summer.
3. Ventilation - Most units require ventilation in order to function effectively.
Most units require window ventilation in order to function effectively.
4. Drainage - The water drainage system also needs to be maintained on a regular basis.
5. Defrosting - Defrost the unit completely if nice builds up on the coils, and wait till this is done before re-using the unit.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home. A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Efficiency Produces Cheaper Electricity Than Nuclear

And the sky is blue too. So what? We need efficiency AND nuclear power in order for America to have the electricity it needs to be the leading economy in the world. This is particularly true considering that China will favor the production side for the next 50 years the way America did for the last 100 years. Efficiency is the low hanging fruit, but it will not prevent the relentless increase in electricity consumption. It does help in keeping consumption as effective as possible in terms of utilization of our natural resourses. Yet electricity use will grow at about 2% per year. And you can take that to the bank (or the Fed).

A new report by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, "The Economics of Nuclear Reactors," states: The likely cost of electricity for a new generation of nuclear reactors would be 12-20 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh), considerably more expensive than the average cost of increased use of energy efficiency and renewable energies at 6 cents per kilowatt hour. The report finds that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables.

The study notes that the required massive subsidies from taxpayers and ratepayers would not change the real cost of nuclear reactors, they would just shift the risks to the public. Even with huge subsidies, nuclear reactors would remain more costly than the alternatives, such as efficiency, biomass, wind and cogeneration. Efficiency is receiving significant subsidies now too in order to get it jumpstarted in the marketplace. We place nuclear power and efficiency right up there with airports, highways, the electricity grid and railroads in terms of importance to the American way of life. In a global climate changing world, nuclear power pays for itself many times over in terms of bang for the buck in helping the meet the 2% annual increase in electricity use. In fact, its contributions to mitigating global climate change would be so great that they probably cannot be calculated. And this does not even include the mitigating factors related to smog. Combined with plug in hydrogen fuel cell lithium ion battery electric vehicles, nuclear power is clearly a priority technology. And please, let us also be as efficient with our natural resources as possible. Let us also utilize technological innovations to find practical reuses for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases [see EDR Program]. (Earth Times)

Cash For Clunkers

Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 (CARS Act of 2009-H.R. 1550, S 247) passed in the House June 9 on a vote of 298-119. The Senate passed the legislation June 17 on a 60-36 procedural vote, winning the minimum number of votes needed to keep the program in a $106 billion war-spending plan.

The law will accelerate motor fuel savings nationwide and provide incentives to registered owners of high polluting automobiles to replace such automobiles with new fuel efficient and less polluting automobiles or public transportation.

Cash For Clunkers works by providing a $4,500 voucher for car owners whose present car gets less than 18 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency. Drivers who buy a car with a 10 MPG improvement over their previous car qualify for the entire $4,500 voucher, while those who choose a car with a 4 MPG improvement qualify for a $3,500 voucher. SUV and truck owners also qualify for the program but fall under slightly different qualifications.

Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 - Establishes in the Department of Transportation the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program. Directs the Secretary of Transportation, for FY2009-FY2011, to:

(1) encourage a dealer, dismantler, and scrap recycler to participate in the Program;

(2) authorize the issuance of a redeemable voucher by a participating dealer to the registered owner of a high polluting automobile for the purchase of a new fuel efficient automobile upon transfer of the eligible automobile title to a participating dealer, dismantler, or scrap recycler;

(3) require participating dealers to accept such vouchers as partial payment for the purchase of a new fuel efficient automobile; and

(4) electronically transfer funds to a participating dealer upon receipt of a voucher and relevant certifications from the dealer.

Requires any dealer receiving a certificate of title to any eligible high polluting automobile in exchange for a CARS voucher to certify to the Secretary that:

(1) such title has been retired or otherwise extinguished and not re-issued; and

(2) the dealer has received from a dismantler or recycler a certification that such automobile, engine, and drive train will be crushed or shredded within a certain period, will be processed prior to crushing or shredding to ensure removal and appropriate disposition of specified products, and has not been, and will not be, registered, sold, leased, exchanged, distributed, or otherwise operated at any time as an automobile in the United States or in any foreign country.

Requires the Secretary to promulgate regulations that allow operators of bus and rail public transit systems to redeem the allowable value of properly issued vouchers to offset the purchase price of annual or monthly transit passes or any other form of individual transit fare credit designated by the transit system operator.

Sets forth civil penalties for violations of this Act.

Directs the Secretary, for model year 2011, to revise the Program to provide for the issuance of vouchers to offset the purchase of a new battery electric automobile or a new plug-in electric drive automobile.

(CRS Summary-Govtrack.U.S.,PRNewsWire, Cash For Clunkers Facts, WSJ-6/13/09, CashForClunkers.org, CQPolitics, YahooAutos)

EPA Administrator To Join River Monitoring in Kansas City

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will visit Kansas on June 22 to mark the kickoff of the Obama Administration’s “United We Serve” initiative. Administrator Jackson will join local students to monitor and help clean up the Missouri and Kansas Rivers at Kaw Point Park in Kansas. Students will be testing mercury levels in fish and measuring water quality and volunteers will be using boats to pick up trash along the Rivers’ banks.

United We Serve is President Obama’s summer service initiative. It is a call to all Americans to join a volunteer effort this summer and be part of building a new foundation for America, one community at a time. United We Serve officially starts Monday, June 22, and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11.

WHO: EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

WHAT: Administrator Jackson will join students participating in river monitoring and cleanup as part of the Obama Administration’s “United We Serve” kickoff

WHEN: Monday, June 22, 11 a.m.

WHERE: Lewis and Clark Historic Park at Kaw Point, 1 River City Drive, Kansas City, Kan. 66115

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Joe Biden Keynotes Senate Green Jobs Summit

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee held a Green Jobs Summit in the Russell Caucus Room on June 17, 2009. Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker. The audience included CEOs of renewable and clean energy businesses from around the country, several Fortune 500 company leaders, labor union representatives, environmental leaders, renewable energy trade association representatives, and community college presidents. (Senate Democractic Committee) (Photo by AP)

HUD, EPA & Transportation Depts Coordinate Outreach

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, left, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, right, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, announced (6/16/09) an interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities to help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities established six livability principles that will act as a foundation for interagency coordination:

1) Provide more transportation choices.Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.

2) Promote equitable, affordable housing.Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.

3) Enhance economic competitiveness.Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers as well as expanded business access to markets.

4) Support existing communities.Target federal funding toward existing communities - through such strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling - to increase community revitalization, improve the efficiency of public works investments, and safeguard rural landscapes.

5) Coordinate policies and leverage investment.Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.

6) Value communities and neighborhoods.Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods - rural, urban or suburban.

Greater Union Baptist Church Scopes Catalina Island

The Center is in partnership with the Greater Union Baptist Church of Compton, California to take youth to experience the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The initiative is called "Compton To Catalina" and Assistant Pastor Sam Darling recently scoped the island in order to experience the island first hand.

Center President Norris McDonald and Assistant Pastor Sam Darling are picture below in front of Greater Union Baptist Church.

See Sam Darling scoping video below:

MD PSC Hearings On Constellation/EdF Merger Begin Aug 19

The Maryland Public Service Commission will hold hearings to decide whether Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG) and a French utility Electricite de France (EdF) can complete a $4.5 billion nuclear unit merger.

Hearings will begin on August 19 and are expected to continue through August 25.

EdF is seeking to acquire 49.9% of Constellation’s nuclear energy business and the PSC claims the review is needed because EdF could potentially exert some power over Constellation’s regulated entity, Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. Constellation immediately appealed the order to the Baltimore City Circuit Court and filed a motion for an expedited schedule. On Tuesday, Maryland’s Attorney General’s office filed a motion to dismiss Constellation’s lawsuit because it challenges a regulatory order that is not final.

The Center supports the acquisition and a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs. (Maryland Daily Record, 6/17/09)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

America Has Century of Natural Gas at Current Usage Rates

A report by the nonprofit Potential Gas Committee concludes the U.S. has more than 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas still in the ground, or nearly a century's worth of production at current rates. According to the report, the amount of natural gas available for production in the United States has soared because of a drilling boom and the discovery of huge new gas fields in Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. That's a 35.4% jump over the committee's last estimate, in 2007, of 1,532 trillion cubic feet, the biggest increase in the committee's 44-year history.

The Potential Gas Committee's study was prepared by industry geologists who analyzed individual gas fields using seismic imagery and production data provided by gas producers. The surge in gas resources is the result of a five-year-long drilling boom spurred by high natural-gas prices, easy credit and new technologies that allowed companies to produce gas from a dense kind of rock known as shale. The first big shale formation to be discovered, the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas, is now the country's top-producing gas field, and companies have made other huge discoveries in Arkansas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

The sudden increase in supplies, combined with a drop in demand due to the recession, has led to a gas glut, pushing prices to about $4 per million British thermal units [thuosand cubic feet] down from more than $13 per million BTUs last July. (WSJ, 6/17/09)

India Plans to Increase Coal Output

India is planning to raise its coal production target and divest coal-mining monopoly Coal India Ltd. Only a few state-run companies are currently allowed to mine domestic coal commercially. Coal India, Ltd, one of the world's largest coal companies by output, produces nearly 85% of the country's output. The company will likely exceed its production target of 435 million tons in the year that started April 1. The government may sell up to a 10% stake in Coal India as part of the reform process. (WSJ, 6/17/09)

President Obama's Global Climate Change Report 2009

The White House launched a new science report on Tuesday that represents a consensus of 13 agencies developed over a year and half and focused on potential climate change impacts on the United States. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States [View the powerpoint presentation] is the most comprehensive report to date on the possible impacts of climate change for everyone across America. The report recommends how we can effective manage our response to a changing climate falls into two general categories:

1) Implementing measures to limit climate change and therefore avoid many of the impacts discussed in the report. These measures must reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and might include increasing our reliance on clean energy, and developing energy efficient technologies
2) Reducing our vulnerability and increasing our resilience to ongoing climate change in pro-active, community-based ways. Examples of this include such measures as developing more climate-sensitive building codes to keep people out of harm’s way, or planting more drought or heat tolerant crops, for example.

Some of the impacts that the report mentions are:

· More rain is already coming in very heavy events, and this is projected to increase across the nation. This would have impacts on transportation, agriculture, water quality, health, and more;
· Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing threats to human health and quality of life, especially in cities;
· Warming will decrease demand for heating energy in winter and increase demand for cooling energy in summer. The latter will increase peak electricity demand in most regions;
· Water resources will be stressed in many regions. For example, snowpack is declining in the West, and there is an increasing probability of drought in the Southwest, while floods and water quality issues are likely to be more of a problem in most regions;
· In coastal communities, sea-level rise and storm surge will increase threats to homes and infrastructure including water, sewer, transportation and communication systems.

More of the report’s findings are located at U.S. Global Change Research Program, the interagency Government program that commissioned the report. The report was led by NOAA.

The White House

10 Ways Your Business Can Go Green

By Shireen Qudosi

If you’ve got a business, one of the most profitable things you can do is to go green. Going green has been proven to be rewarding in two key ways:

Why Go Green?

Positive PR – Showing a commitment to recycling and energy-saving habits is a great way to boost your company’s profile. It gives you a reason to talk about your company and market it in a unique and consumer-friendly way.

Don’t just save money, earn more - some companies, such as Whole Foods and Harbec Plastics have generated millions for cost cutting moves. They marketed themselves as eco-friendly, which got them featured by major online and print publishers – generating the kind of publicity that money can’t buy.

For the rest of us, there are still dozens of little things we can do around our office that can save big in even the shortest amount of time. Some slight policy changes here and there and an active interest in learning new ways to be more aware of consumption, can and does make a big difference toward protecting the environment.

Here’s what you can do…

1) Rooftop Gardens - Many urban landscapes are now utilizing green rooftops. Having vegetation, even something as simple as grass, on a rooftop not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but helps combat higher temperatures associated with urban environments.
2) Use Smaller Font – Aside from just recycling papers, using smaller front will actually saves reams per week. Other little paper saving tricks include double-sided printing and using electronic files over printed hardcopies. Not only will you be saving paper costs, but you’ll also be saving printing costs and trash-hauling costs. Hewlett Packard is one example of a company putting these ideas to use, recycling as much as 43 million pounds of paper – that’s about 367,000 trees.
3) Alternative CoolingPortable air conditioners are another great way to save cooling cost. The average 1200 sq. foot office can see cooling costs as high as $3,000 per month. Instead of cooling the entire office, get each room a portable cooling unit that’ll do the same job at a margin of the price of normal cooling.
4) Switching off – One of the most notorious office habits is leaving your PC running – now times this by the millions of business and times that by how many computers each business has! Simply switching your PC off can prevent an extra 1,000 pounds of greenhouse gases each year. Contrary to popular myth, this practice doesn’t hurt your computer, but if for any reason you have a program running or have a deep-rooted aversion to turning your computer off, then just set it to sleep mode before you call it a day.
5) Refurbish Furniture - Rather than buying new office furniture, see if your existing furniture can be refurbished. Not only is refurbishing cheaper than buying new furniture, but it also helps companies do their part in not wasting resources.
6) Lighting – Lighting amounts to about 44 percent of an office’s electrical consumption. Little things like shutting off the lights at the end of the day or when you leave the room for more than ten minutes
7) Recyclables – Set up different types of receptacles for recycling. You can get a separate one for trash, paper, plastics, and even metals/plastics since many gadgets face the trash bin as new ones get purchased.
8) Eco-friendly Cleaning - The average office is cleaned about once a week, four times a month. Each time products are used with little thought of what they're made of and what companies are washing down the drain. Simply opting to go with using environmentally friendly cleaning products, companies can do a big part in conservation.
9) Solar Energy - Depending on the size of a business, some companies may want to look into solar energy panels as an alternative means of energy. While solar energy systems can be expensive to set up, they are considerably favorable systems for larger companies willing to invest in long term savings. An added bonus is that many states now offer incentives for solar energy users, including rebates and purchasing extra energy back from the company.
10) Create a Niche - Many companies are quartering off a small section of their break room and setting up a small information section on eco-friendly habits. This not only shows your employees you're serious about conservation, but it reinforces positive office/home habits. Businesses can also encourage employees to think of new ways to save around the office.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home. A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling. She can be reached at Shireen@air-conditioner-home.com


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that Tom Tidwell, left, to serve as the new Chief for the U.S. Forest Service. Tidwell has spent 32 years with the Forest Service in a variety of positions. He began his Forest Service career on the Boise National Forest, and has since worked in eight different national forests, across three regions. He has worked at all levels of the agency in a variety of positions, including District Ranger, Forest Supervisor, and Legislative Affairs Specialist in the Washington Office.

Tidwell's field experience includes working from the rural areas of Nevada and Idaho all the way to the urban forests in California and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah, where he served as Forest Supervisor during the 2002 Winter Olympics. He also has extensive fire experience, beginning as a firefighter, and accumulating nineteen years as an agency administrator responsible for fire suppression decisions. Tom grew up in Boise, Idaho and attended classes at both Washington State University and the University of Idaho. (Forest Service NewsLog)

House Agriculture Chair Says Global Warming Is Good

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn), right, is quoted in The Wall Street Journal (6/17/09) on the global warming issue:
"They're saying to us [that climate change is] going to be a big problem because it's going to be warmer than it usually is; my farmers are going to say that's a good thing since they'll be able to grow more corn."
Congressman Peterson also believes the Waxman/Markey energy/climate bill would penalize farmers in the Midwest who rely on coal-burning electric cooperatives.

This throws a real wrinkle into the House energy/climate legislation, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes to bring to a vote soon. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee just passed its version of an energy bill today on a vote of 15-8.

Senate Energy Committee Passes Energy Bill 15-8

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an energy bill by a 15-8 vote today. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to combine the energy bill with a climate-change bill. The American Clean Energy Leadership Act:

1) Reforms to the existing Department of Energy loan guarantee program, including creating a new “Clean Energy Investment Fund” to allow collected costs to be used to support more technology deployment.

2) Rapidly ramps up clean, domestic sources of electricity by requiring the gradual increase of the amount of renewable energy utilities produce.

3) Enhance electricity grid reliability infrastructure.

4) Promotes energy efficiency with water efficiency.

5) Increases Production of Renewable Energy on Public Lands.

6) Improves U.S. Manufacturing Energy Efficiency.

7) Makes Consumer Products More Energy Efficient.

8) Increases Building Efficiency.

9) Aids in Thwarting Cybersecurity Threats.

10) Establishes a Federal advisory commission to conduct a comprehensive study of alternative means of safely managing or disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

11) Requires the Department of Energy to hold at least 30 million barrels of the total 1-billion-barrel SPR inventory in refined petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel fuel.

12) Quantifies Our Domestic Marine Resources.

13) Increases Domestic Production of Offshore Oil and Gas.

14) Facilitates of Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion.

15) Facilitates Carbon Capture, Transportation and Storage.

16) Improves Energy Market Information.

Clean Environment In Congressional Hearing Rooms

If everybody decided to bring signs into the Congressional hearings rooms, it would be chaos. In recent years, protesters have been allowed to bring in signs as long as they sit quietly. The signs should be banned because they distract congressional members and the public from serious public policy deliberations. These same people also scream out their protests in hearings. Screamers and disruptors should be arrested and fined. If everybody practiced this aberrant behavior in hearings, there would be chaos.

Citizens should be clearly warned that they can express their views to members outside of the hearing rooms. It is extremely selfish of chaos radicals to disrupt the hearings for everybody else. Decorum should be reestablished in the Congress of the United States. The hearing environment has been allowed to become polluted. Mitigation is in order. We hope Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are listening.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nominations: Miller to DOE Nuclear Energy, Norris to FERC

President Obama announced on June 10 his intent to nominate the following individuals:

Warren F. "Pete" Miller, Jr., PhD, left, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy: Warren F. "Pete" Miller, Jr., PhD, presently serves as a part time Professor at Texas A&M University and is a resident of Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Miller is originally from Chicago, Illinois. He holds a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point; is a Viet Nam veteran; and holds a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from Northwestern University. Dr. Miller served for many years as a researcher and administrator at Los Alamos National Laboratory, retiring in 2001. He was elected as Fellow of the American Nuclear Society in 1982. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 1996.

UPDATE 12/09: Norris Confirmed [Statements of Wellinghoff & Norris]

John R. Norris, Nominee for Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: John R. Norris is currently serving as Chief of Staff for Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prior to joining the USDA, Norris served as Chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) from 2005 to 2009. As a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) he worked on the Electricity Committee and was Co-Chair of the 2009 National Electricity Delivery Forum. He served as a Board Member, Secretary and President of the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) States as well as Chairman of the MISO Demand Response Working Group. He also was a member of the FERC/NARUC Demand Response Collaborative. Norris also worked for U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-3rd) as Boswell’s Chief of Staff from 1997 to 1998. From 1989 to 2003 he owned and managed a restaurant in Greenfield, Iowa and he was State Director of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition during the Farm Crisis of the 1980’s. Norris graduated with distinction from the College of Law at the University of Iowa in 1995 and received his undergraduate degree in 1981 from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

MD Attorney General: Constellation Cannot Sue MD PSC

The Maryland Attorney General has decided that Constellation Energy cannot appeal a ruling by Maryland's Public Service Commission to review a deal with Electricite de France (EdF). Constellation Energy immediately appealed Thursday after the PSC ruled that it has the right to sign off on EdF's plan to buy half of Constellation nuclear power business. The Office of the Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss. The PSC rejected arguments that its approval was not necessary for the $4.5 billion deal. Constellation is not regulated by the PSC, but its Baltimore Gas and Electric utility is regulated.

The Center supports the construction of a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs.

Governor Martin O'Malley supports a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs and opposes the review. Yet the PSC wants to assure that the does not meet the definition of substantial influence under last year's settlement. Yet maybe the PSC's concern is legitimate in general because of the high front end cost of building a nuclear power plant. The PSC is concerented that EdF might be forced to squeeze the nuclear operations for cash, leaving Constellation to squeeze BGE for cash, and in turn putting pressure on rates. A potential $87 million payout to Constellation Chief Executive Mayo A. Shattuck III, is also another concern of the PSC. Wow.

Constellation Energy's nuclear business includes three nuclear power stations (one in MD and two in NY) with two reactors in Maryland and three reactors in New York. Nuclear power accounts for 61 percent of Constellation's total electricity generating capacity. BGE accounts for 25 percent of Constellation's earnings and is responsible for 50 percent of the stock's 96 cents a share dividend. More (Wash Post, 6/12/09)

Constellation Sues MD PSC Over French Merger

Constellation Energy Group has sued the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) over its decision to review the utility's deal to sell nearly half of its nuclear power generation business to Electricite de France (EdF). The Maryland PSC issued an order Thursday saying that the $4.5 billion deal could affect customers at the regulated utility Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, which Constellation owns.

As part of a $2 billion settlement Constellation reached last year with the administration of Governor Martin O’Malley, the state agreed to give up regulatory controls over any deal involving the transfer of up to 20 percent of the company’s stock or control of 20 percent of its board of directors. Larger transactions would be monitored by the state under this “safe harbor” arrangement. The EDF deal would give the French company 9 percent of Constellation’s stock and 9 percent of the seats on its board. (The Daily Record, 6/11/09)

Climate Document Produced At Recent Bonn Summit

Delegates from more than 100 nations concluded 12 days of talks on the next climate change treat in Bonn, Germany this week and produced a 200-page document will serve as a starting point for treaty negotiations that open in Copenhagen, Denmark in December. Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Yvo de Boer, left, believes participating governments can reach an agreement to go beyond the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a climate-change agreement that set emissions targets for industrialized nations. Many of those goals have not been met, and the United States never ratified the treaty. [Bonn Climate Change Talks 2009]

The document outlines proposals for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases by rich countries and limiting the growth of gases in the developing world. It also discusses ways of preventing deforestation and providing financing for poorer nations to help them adapt to warmer temperatures. Many environment advocates are dissatified with the document. No news there. Representatives of poor countries believe developed nations have not made an adequate commitment to reduce their emissions.

The United States and China, which jointly produce 40 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. (In declining to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the United States cited China and India’s lack of participation.) (WSJ, 6/12/09)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Center Supports President Obama's Health Care Plan

We support President Obama's Health Care Plan because it improves on our current system, which is already the best health care system in the world. Unfortunately, too many people fall through the cracks without health insurance. That is the true power behind the president's plan: to put more competition into the health insurance marketplace to get insurance premiums down so more people will have health insurance and thus access to good health care.

Just as the president is aggressively addressing our energy and environmental concerns, so too is he getting to the root of protecting human health. And we know that this is personal for him because of the experience of his mother. It is personal for us too.

Some of the president's statements:

"For the government, the growing cost of Medicare and Medicaid is the biggest threat to our federal deficit, bigger than Social Security, bigger than all the investments that we've made so far."

"I know that there are millions of Americans who are happy, who are content with their health care coverage -- they like their plan, they value their relationship with their doctor. If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan."

"And we should change the warped incentives that reward doctors and hospitals based on how many tests and procedures they do. Doctors didn't get into the medical profession to be bean counters or paper pushers. They're not interested in spending all their time acting like lawyers or business executives. They became doctors to heal people, and that's what we have to free them to be able to do."

"So what we're working on is the creation of something called the Health Insurance Exchange, which would allow you to one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, choose the plan that's best for you."

"I also strongly believe that one of the options in the Exchange should be a public insurance option. And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care -- I've already said if you've got a private plan that works for you, that's great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down."
(The White House)

Center & EPA Recommendations For Analog TVs

After June 12, 2009 all full power television stations will only broadcast in digital signals. EPA and the Center are encouraging all U.S. citizens who own an analog TV set and who receive free broadcasts (via rabbit ears or a roof-top antenna) to extend the life of their TV by subscribing to a paid TV service or connecting it to a converter box. Energy Star-qualified digital converter boxes are available for purchase. For consumers who choose to buy a new TV, it is recommended to purchase Energy Star-qualified sets. Consumers should also recycle their unwanted TVs, which recovers valuable materials from the circuit boards, metal wiring, leaded glass, and plastics.

Last year Americans disposed of more than 20 million TVs, which represents a lost opportunity to conserve natural resources such as copper and iron. Consumers who are interested in recycling their old TVs can contact their local household hazardous waste collection and recycling program to find out whether they will be sponsoring an upcoming recycling event. EPA is working through its Plug-In To eCycling program to promote the environmental benefits of recycling and provide the public with information on safely reusing and recycling obsolete electronics products, including televisions, computers, and cell phones. Plug-In To eCycling is a partnership between EPA and electronic manufacturers and retailers to offer consumers more opportunities to donate or recycle their used electronics. More info

EP&W Committee Approve Peter Silva & Stephen Owens

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved Peter Silva as EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water and Stephen Owens to be the agency's Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. They now face confirmation by the full Senate.

Silva, left, was appointed to the California Water Resources Control Board in 2000. Prior to joining the Board, he served as general manager of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico since 1997. Silva was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Board of Directors of the Commission in 1994. The Commission was created under NAFTA to assist border communities in developing and constructing environmental infrastructure projects. Silva was deputy director of the Public Water Utility of the San Diego Water Department from 1992 to 1997, and assistant deputy director for the San Diego Clean Water Program from 1987 to 1992. Previously, he was the resident engineer for the International Boundary and Water Commission from 1983 to 1987. He is a registered civil engineer and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Water Works Association. Silva, 51, is a resident of San Diego. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. [Ofc of the Governor, California]

Mr. Owens, right, was appointed director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality by Governor Janet Napolitano in January 2003. Before joining ADEQ, Mr. Owens was a practicing environmental attorney in Phoenix for 14 years. Mr. Owens graduated with honors from Brown University in 1978 and received his law degree in 1981 from Vanderbilt Law School, where he was editor in chief of the Vanderbilt Law Review. From 1982-84 Mr. Owens served as counsel to the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. From 1985-88, he was chief counsel and later state director for then U.S. Senator Al Gore. Mr. Owens has served on numerous environmental panels, including the EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, the Phoenix Environmental Quality Commission and the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, which reviews environmental matters arising under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mr. Owens also has written and lectured on Arizona environmental law. [See also Water & Wastewater]