Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Is Already Producing Lots Of Energy Excitement


By Norris McDonald

Let me catch my breath. January 2010 was clearly a lion. So much has happened that it makes me excited about the rest of the year. What you ask? What has happened?

Well President Obama announced strong support for nuclear power at his State of the Union address this week. He followed that the next day by announcing that he wants to increase loan guarantees from $18.5 billion to $54 billion for nuclear power plants. Wow. About half of what is really needed, but what a great proposal. Unfortunately, he also announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. This commission is being created to study alternatives to Yucca Mountain, the 30-years-in-the-making nationally selected repository for 77,000 tons of nuclear waste. We support Yucca Mountain and believe President Obama is making a huge mistake by putting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's political needs before good national energy policy.

President Obama also announced plans to reduce federal government carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 28% by 2020. What a bold decision. Too bad we don't have a national cap and trade program in place yet so the federal government could get additional budgetary credit via offsets for its reductions.

President Obama said he wants to expand offshore oil drilling. We oppose this recommendation. Our East and West coasts are too valuable to risk to an oil blowout. We should not seek to bother that oil and gas until we have exhausted all other oil on the planet, including oil sands and shale oil.

We can't support the Cantwell/Collins Cap and Dividends bill because it still uses an auction, which we oppose. And it just seems to be too cumbersome with its vast government system of taking money via rate increases to pay for the auction and then returning money to everybody.

We could have done without terrorist Osama bin Laden putting out a press release stating the obvious that we caused global warming. Duh. He's dead anyway or he would send a video at least one time. So easy to do.

This week we have EPA smog hearings and the Obama administration submits its FY 2011 Budget proposal. I will attend the EPA briefing at their headquarters on Monday.

Obama Sets GHG Reductions For Federal Government

President Barack Obama utilized Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability to announce that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.

Federal Departments and Agencies will achieve greenhouse gas pollution reductions by measuring their current energy and fuel use, becoming more energy efficient and shifting to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal. Examples of agency actions that are underway are available on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) website.

On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, setting measureable environmental performance goals for Federal Agencies. Each Federal Agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010. The Federal target announced today is the aggregate of 35 Federal Agency self-reported targets.

Greenhouse gas emissions serve as a useful metric to measure the effectiveness of agency energy and fuel efficiency efforts as well as renewable energy investments. Agencies are already taking actions that will contribute towards achieving their targets, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models.

As a next step, the Office of Management and Budget will validate and score each agency’s sustainability plan, assuring a long-term return on investment to the American taxpayer. To ensure accountability, annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public. (The White House)

NRG Nuclear Plant Plans At Risk Over Dispute With CPS

NRG Energy, one of the four finalists selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive a share of $18.5 billion in loan guarantees, could terminate its plans to build a nuclear plant because of a dispute with San Antonio city-owned utility company CPS Energy. A dissolution of its current partnership with the city-owned utility could also threaten its loan guarantee if it decides to go forward with other partners.

A state-court has ruled that advised NRG and CPS Energy to resume negotiations surrounding CPS's desire to withdraw from efforts to build two nuclear reactors at a South Texas site, near Bay City. CPS has sued NRG, alleging unfair dealings and seeking $32 billion. The project is stumbling based on a a disagreement about projected costs and estimated expenditures to date for the project between the city-owned utility and the San Antonio elected officials. This project has the only proposal with a reactor design supplied and previously built elsewhere by its vendor.

NRG is disputing that CPS had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project without having received San Antonio city council approval. Support for the project faltered late last year when it became clear to elected officials that project costs could top $10 billion, apparently more than they understood from earlier estimates. The two sides are now trying to find a way to allow CPS to withdraw without jeopardizing a federal loan guarantee, without which the project wouldn't be economically viable. CPS Energy, the city utility is claiming it has invested $370 million in the project and believes it is entitled to far more in compensation. Negotiations have focused on finding a way to fairly compensate CPS, avoid more political fallout and find a way to substitute new investors so the project remains viable. NRG hopes to find a way to get CPS to surrender its interest to NRG so that it can bring in additional equity investors. Tokyo Electric Power Co. has expressed an interest in investing in the project.

The San Antonio city council was poised to approve a $400 million bond issuance in late October but held back when new numbers came to light that indicated the nuclear project could cost more than it expected. Like most municipal utilities, CPS has an appointed board that reports to elected city officials, whose approval is needed for rate changes or bond issuances. (WSJ, 1/30/10)

Obama Wants $54 Billion In Nuclear Power Loan Guarantees

The Obama administration is seeking to triple the current $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear reactors to $54 billion in its fiscal 2011 budget proposal. The U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program was established under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and authorizes the Secretary of Energy to make loan guarantees to qualified projects in the belief that accelerated commercial use of these new or improved technologies will help to sustain economic growth, yield environmental benefits, and produce a more stable and secure energy supply.

The Center supports President Obama's $54 billion nuclear power plant loan guarantee proposal.

In late 2008, the Energy Department received applications from the nuclear industry for $122 billion in federal support, more than six times the $18.5 billion amount it had available for loan guarantees. The $122 billion in requests would have been enough to back construction of up to 21 reactors, enough to have boosted U.S. nuclear capacity by a fourth. DOE cut the list to four finalists: NRG Energy, Scana Corporation, Unistar Nuclear, and Southern Company. DOE Secretary Stephen Chu, pictured above with President Obama, will make an announcement on loan guarantees among those four from the $18.5 billion very soon. (WSJ, 1/29/10)

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Center President Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain
Although the Center believes that Yucca Mountain is the best place to store (and reprocess) our nuclear waste, the Obama administration has decided to close the site that already has a five mile tunnel dug deep under the mountain. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner have announced the formation of a 15-member panel called the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future that will try to find an alternative to Yucca Mountain. The commission will be headed by former Representative Lee Hamilton and longtime presidential adviser Brent Scowcroft and is assigned the task of coming up with a draft report in 18 months and complete its work in 24 months.

This commission expands on a proposal last year by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to establish such a body.

[Presidential Memorandum]

[DOE Announcement & Commission List]

Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said the commission will have a free hand to examine a “full range of scientific and technical options” on waste storage, reprocessing and disposal. The Center Co-Chairs the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC), which is recommending removal of the nuclear waste function from DOE and placing it into a newly formed Nuclear Waste Management Agency. NFRC will be making that recommendation to the commission and is currently promoting legislation for the change in Congress. NFRC also supports reprocessing spent nuclear waste from commercial nuclear power plants. (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1/29/10)

Friday, January 29, 2010

President Obama and Expanded Offshore Oil & Gas Drilling

President Obama called for expanded offshore oil and gas drilling in his State of the Union address. The Center opposes expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, particularly off of our East and West coasts. We also need to protect the Florda coasts, even from foreign drillers.

Assuming there is oil and gas in these offshore areas, they should be off limits until all other oil and gas reserves on Earth, including shale and oil sands, have been exhausted. We estimate that it could be hundreds of years, particularly if we adopt alternative transportation fuels and vehicles. And carbon dioxide can also be converted into gasoline.

Our ocean environments and our coasts are also simply too valuable to put at risk.

President Obama, Nuclear Power and Yucca Mountain

The nuclear industry and their supporters got very excited when President Obama emphasized his support for nuclear power during his State of the Union address. We believe the president finally got off the fence on this issue in order to get support from Republicans for his health care and climate/energy proposals. Yet we are left to wonder how President Obama can support nuclear power development in the United States while stifling the nuclear renaissance by defunding Yucca Mountain, which was authorized by Congress and certified (Application) by the U.S. Department of Energy to be the national repository for nuclear waste.

On Thursday at a conference sponsored by the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Obama Climate Czar Carol Browner stated that the administration supports nuclear power. The next day she announced to the press that Yucca Mountain is off the table. In our opinion, these are contradictory statements. To take Yucca Mountain off the table is to kill the nuclear renaissance. Browner announced a 15-member panel, headed by Rep. Lee Hamilton and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, to study an alternatives for 18 months and issue a report with 24 months. (Las Vegas Sun, 1/29/10)

Of course, Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is the Senate Majory Leader, so we understand the president's desire to please a Congressional boss. But America's energy security and the climate change threat are more important than capitulating to Senator Reid's opposition to Yucca Mountain. Yucca Mountain is the ideal location to store (and reprocess) our nation's spent nuclear fuel. President Obama should restore funding to continue the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project in his FY 2011 Budget proposal.

Cantwell-Collins Cap-and-Dividend Climate Legislation

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), left, and Susan Collins (R-ME), right, introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce global warming pollution, spur job growth in clean energy technology, and return money directly to consumers on December 11, 2009. The Cantwell-Collins Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877) would set up a mechanism for selling “carbon shares” to fuel producers and would return most of the resulting revenue in checks to every American. The legislation will achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

The Center does not support auctioning allowances.

Along with the legislation, Cantwell issued a report today detailing the positive economic impact of the dividends to be returned directly to consumers. According to the report, a typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks from the government averaging $1,100 per year, or $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

Cantwell and Collins highlighted the findings of a recent report by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law that concluded: “carbon pricing is the only signal that can cut through the noise and direct diverse economic actors towards smart, green investments – investments that will create jobs, encourage technological development, and maximize returns.”

By establishing a predictable price on the carbon associated with fossil fuels, the bill provides the business incentive needed to develop and deploy clean energy technology. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that over the next half-century, the investment needed to meet global energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will reach $45 trillion.

Producers would bid in monthly auctions for “carbon shares.” The resulting revenue generated by the auctions is used for two vital functions:

~ 75 percent would be refunded to every individual residing legally in the United States. This dividend would more than compensate for the increase in carbon-based fuel that producers would pass on to consumers.

~ The remaining 25 percent would be used exclusively toward clean energy research and development, regionally-specific assistance for communities and workers transitioning to a clean energy economy, energy efficiency programs, and reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

For more background information on the CLEAR Act and a copy of the report on the dividend economic impact, consult Senator Cantwell’s web site and see the legislative descriptions:

One Page Summary

Detailed description

Legislative Text

[See also Grist discussion]

EPA Public Hearings on Air Quality Standards for Smog

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold three public hearings on the proposal to strengthen the nation’s air quality standards for ground-level ozone, also called smog.

Exposure to smog is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. The agency is proposing to set the “primary” standard, to protect public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million measured over eight hours. EPA is also proposing to set a separate, seasonal “secondary” standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees. The hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue until 7:30 p.m. local time, or later if necessary, at the following locations:

Feb. 2: Arlington, Va. Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport 2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy Arlington, Va. 22202

Feb. 2: Houston Hilton Houston Hobby Airport 8181 Airport Blvd., Houston, Texas 77061

Feb. 4: Sacramento, Calif. Four Points by Sheraton at Sacramento International Airport 4900 Duckhorn Dr. Sacramento, Calif. 95834

To register to speak at these hearings, please contact Tricia Crabtree (919) 541-5688.

The public may also register on the day of the hearing but may not be given a specific time slot to speak. EPA also will accept written comments on the proposed standards until March 22, 2010.

More information

Osama bin Laden Blames America For Global Warming

As if we did not already have enough problems in getting the world to address climate change, now, according to a new audiotape released today, Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, left, is blaming the United States for global warming. The terrorist has called for the world to boycott American goods, the U.S. dollar and other industrialized countries he accused of causing climate change.

The Al-Qaida terrorist leader said the way to stop global warming is to bring "the wheels of the American economy" to a halt. Bin Laden also blamed Western industrialized nations for hunger, desertification and floods across the globe. Kim Jung Il and Hugo Chavez will surely take bin Laden's cue to condemn America next. (WashPost, 1/29/10)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

President Obama: State Of The Union 2010

President Obama hit all of the climate and energy buttons during his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. He touted renewable energy, nuclear power, clean coal and jobs, jobs and more jobs. President Obama reference the Jobs For Main Street Act of 2010 and said the Senate should pass this legislation that the House has already passed. He also stated that the Senate should pass a climate/energy bill just as the House did back in June (Waxman/Markey).


"We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history -– an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy -– in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."

Companies Must Disclose Climate Risk To SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 on January 27 to approve guidance for publicly traded companies to disclose to investors information about climate-related 'material' effects on business operations, whether from pending legislation, the physical impacts of changing weather or business opportunities associated with substitutes for fossil fuels. Although this is an important step in raising investor awareness about climate change issues, the highly uncertain nature of climate change and particularly unpredictable political considerations, it may be hard for companies to judge just what to say.

Yet, it is hoped that with this guidance, investors can make more sound decisions based on better information with clear standards and expectations for disclosure. The guidance will help to ensure that the disclosure rules are consistently applied, regardless of the political sensitivity of the issue at hand, so that investors get reliable information. However, the SEC is not making any kind of statement regarding the facts as they relate to the topic of 'climate change' or 'global warming.' They also are not an opinion on whether the world's climate is changing; at what pace it might be changing; or due to what causes. (Wash Post, 1/27/10)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wind Capacity Grew 39% Via Recovery Act Investments

According to new numbers from the American Wind Energy Association, America’s capacity to generate electricity from wind grew by 39 percent in 2009 due in large part to investments from the Recovery Act. The wind industry pointed to the billions of dollars in the Recovery Act for clean energy as a driver for the gains in capacity in 2009. The Center supports this increase and hopes the market can continue this trend because wind provides around one percent of America's current electricity production. Wind power also has to be backed up for times when the wind is not blowing, but is an extremely valuable supplemental source of energy because it does not generate any smog forming or greenhouse gases.

The Waxman-Markey clean energy jobs bill that passed the House of Representatives in June would promote the deployment of clean energy technologies through a 20 percent renewable electricity standard, 5 percent of which can be met by energy efficiency. The Center supports renewable electricity standards if nuclear power is included in the standard.

Blanche Lincoln Supports Murkowski Motion of Disapproval

Democratic Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), left, has joined Senator Lisa A. Murkowski (R-Alaska), right, in a Republican effort to block EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases that negatively impact the Earth's climate. Senator Lincoln claims concern about the burden she perceives EPA regulation of carbon emissions could put on our economy. She also doubts the actual benefit EPA regulations would have on the environment. Lincoln also opposes the Boxer/Kerry cap-and-trade climate/energy bill currently pending in the Senate.

Under the currently proposed cap-and-trade legislation, farm groups favor a greater role for the Department of Agriculture, rather than the EPA. By declaring that greenhouse gases pose a public health hazard, the EPA places carbon emissions under the federal Clean Air Act.
Farm groups are watching for restrictions on farm practices or opportunities to take carbon from the air and tie it up in the ground whereby they could receive credit for such carbon offsets.

Other Democrats backing Murkowski's Motion of Disapproval include Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (Watertown Daily Times, 1/22/10)

G.M. To Build Own Electric Motors for Hybrids In Baltimore

General Motors has announced plans to build its own electric drive motors for future hybrid and electric vehicles. This makes GM the first major United States automaker to have in-house design, engineering and manufacturing of its own electric drive and hybrid motor technology. The hybrid engines will be made at the company’s transmission plant in White Marsh, Maryland, near Baltimore.

The Baltimore plant builds the Two Mode hybrid transmission, originally developed by G.M.’s former Allison division and used in hybrid S.U.V.’s and pickups made by G.M., BMW and Mercedes. The new motor’s first application will be in the next generation of the Two Mode hybrid system, slated for 2013. Tooling costs for the Baltimore plant will be covered primarily by a $105 million grant from the Energy Department. (NYT, 1/26/10)

Monday, January 25, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Renaissance: $18.5 Billion Federal Stimulus

The Obama administration is about to announce $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for four nuclear plants (probably Southern Co, Constellation Energy, NRG Energy and SCANA Corporation). This is almost $5 billion per plant and will go a long way towards attracting financing to build plants estimated to cost at least $10 billion each. There are numerous other government subsidies for nuclear power too. The Center supports nuclear power and the subsidies. The Center was the first environmental group in the United States to publicly support nuclear power and remains the only environmental group that actively supports the technology.

Of course, Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu expressed in a response letter to House Climate Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey that no guarantees will be available until and unless the nuclear plants are approved for construction. The $18.5 billion is not part of President Obama's stimulus package but comes from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law by President Bush on August 8th of that year. The Center attended that bill signing in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a special guest of The White House.

Judy Pasternak has written an interesting article for McClatchy, "Lobbying, Global Warming Portend U.S. Nuclear Renaissance," on the possible nuclear power renaissance. Pasternak, formerly a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote the article under contract with the Investigative Reporting Workshop , a project of the School of Communication at American University in Washington. (Yahoo News, 1/24/10, drawing courtesy WSJ)

Bill & Melinda Gates Waste Time & Money On Malaria

If Bill and Melinda Gates are not going to solve the malaria problem with their massive dollar input and influence, they should leave the issue alone. The Center has long promoted utilizing DDT and other effective pesticides to kill malaria carrying mosquitoes. After malaria has been eradicated, much as it was in the United States, the spraying of the insecticide should cease. Bill and Melinda? Time is short, particularly for children dying needlessly from this preventable killer. If the lives of your children and those of your friends were at stake, you know you would unhesitatingly use the most effective means available to prevent their deaths.

The Wall Street Journal describes the Gates charible operation:

The Seattle-based foundation focuses most of its donations on global health, agriculture development and education. Since 1994, the foundation has committed to $21.3 billion in grants. As of Sept. 30, 2009, its endowment totaled $34.17 billion. He talked about the way he and Melinda work as partners at the foundation, each focusing on problems that interest them and then sharing what they've learned and making decisions together on what the foundation should do.
Fine. But then Bill throws his hands up in the air and, regarding malaria, says:

"Vaccine development is progressing, but the cost to provide those vaccines to the poor is still a problem. It's going to be difficult to meet a six-year goal to get the retrovirus vaccine to more than half the kids who need it. Bed nets are helping decrease malaria deaths over Africa. Despite having one vaccine in a Phase III trial, an effective malaria vaccine is still 8 to 15 years away."
Combine vaccines with spraying to eliminate the vector. Burn the bed nets. You know we are right and if you do not have the backbone to stand up to politically correct but completely wrong 'bed net promoters,' please, just leave it alone. Just know that you have turned your backs on millions of children who could be easily saved from malaria deaths. Map shows malaria hot spots in red and yellow.

President Obama Wants To Privatize Some NASA Functions

The Center Supports This Proposal Because It Could Increase Efficiencies & Innovation

President Obama intends to propose privatizing some of NASA's functions in his FY 2011 budget. The goal of The White House is to set up a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of carrying U.S. astronauts into space.

We are particularly interested in The White House's stepped-up support for climate-monitoring and environmental projects.

Under the White House proposal, NASA's budget is expected to stay close to the $19 billion in the current 2010 fiscal year. Only a small portion—roughly $200 million—is likely to be slated for the initial phase of opening up NASA's manned space exploration program to private firms. However, that initiative is expected to cost a least $3.5 billion—and potentially much more—over the next five years. (WSJ, 1/24/10)

Westar Energy Settles Clean Air Act Violations With EPA

Emissions to be cut by more than 75,000 tons annually

Westar Energy has agreed to spend approximately $500 million to significantly reduce harmful air pollution from a Kansas power plant and pay a $3 million civil penalty, under a settlement to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced today. As part of the settlement, Westar will also spend $6 million on environmental mitigation projects.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Kansas, resolves violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements at the company’s Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kansas.

Under the settlement, Westar will install and operate pollution control equipment at the Jeffrey Energy Center, left, that is expected to reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by roughly 78,600 tons per year, which is 85 percent below 2007 emissions. In addition, Westar will surrender surplus sulfur dioxide allowances. These allowances cannot be used again, which means that the emissions will be permanently removed from the environment. Westar will also rebuild and optimize controls to reduce particulate matter emissions.

The settlement also requires Westar to spend $6 million on projects to benefit the environment and mitigate the adverse effects of the alleged violations including:

Retrofitting diesel engines on vehicles owned by or operated for public entities in Kansas with emission control equipment;

Installing new wind turbines that will result in the reduction of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, and provide electricity for the benefit of a school or nonprofit;

Installing advanced truck stop electrification to reduce harmful emissions from idling trucks;

Installing plug-in hybrid infrastructure to facilitate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles; and

Converting vehicles in Westar’s fleet to reduce pollution by retrofitting diesel vehicles with emission controls and purchasing hybrid vehicles.
In a complaint filed in February of 2009, the government alleged that Westar modified all three units at the Jeffrey Energy Center, its largest coal-fired electric generating station, without installing required pollution control equipment or complying with applicable emission limits, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The government discovered the violations through an information request submitted to Westar.

The settlement is part of the EPA’s enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission reductions secured from these settlements is more than 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can cause severe harm to human health and the environment. After being emitted from power plants, they are converted to fine particles of particulate matter that can lodge deep in the lungs, causing a variety of health impacts including premature death. Sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides are also significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. Air pollution from power plants can drift significant distances downwind and degrade air quality in nearby areas.

Westar Energy, based in Topeka, Kansas, generates and distributes electricity to more than 684,000 customers in Kansas. It owns and operates three coal-fired electrical generating stations in Kansas. The settlement applies to all three units at the Jeffrey Energy Center, which comprise 2,160 megawatts, or 73 percent, of Westar’s coal fleet.

The state of Kansas joined the federal government in the settlement. The proposed settlement was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

More information

EPA Announces New NO2 Stardards

First new NO2 standard in 35 years should improve air quality for millions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a new national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This new one-hour standard will protect millions of Americans from peak short-term exposures, which primarily occur near major roads. Short-term exposures to NO2 have been linked to impaired lung function and increased respiratory infections, especially in people with asthma.

The agency set the new one-hour standard for NO2 at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). EPA also is retaining the existing annual average standard of 53 ppb. NO2 is formed from vehicle, power plant and other industrial emissions, and contributes to the formation of fine particle pollution and smog. Earlier this month, EPA proposed to tighten the nation’s smog standards to protect the health of all Americans, especially children. EPA is establishing new monitoring requirements in urban areas that will measure NO2 levels around major roads and across the community. Monitors must be located near roadways in cities with at least 500,000 residents. Larger cities and areas with major roadways will have additional monitors. Community-wide monitoring will continue in cities with at least 1 million residents.

Working with the states, EPA will site at least 40 monitors in locations to help protect communities that are susceptible and vulnerable to elevated levels of NO2. The new standard will help protect Americans from NO2 exposures linked to respiratory illnesses that lead to emergency room visits and hospital admissions, particularly in at-risk populations such as children, the elderly, and asthmatics. EPA expects to identify or designate areas not meeting the new standard, based on the existing community-wide monitoring network, by January 2012. New monitors must begin operating no later than January 1, 2013. When three years of air quality data are available from the new monitoring network, EPA intends to redesignate areas as appropriate. More information (EPA)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

California Approves $350 Million Solar Hot Water Conversion

California regulators approved a $350-million rebate offer to encourage homes and businesses to install water-heating systems powered by solar energy. The state Public Utilities Commission established the California Solar Initiative Thermal Program, which will use $250 million to replace natural-gas-powered water heaters, with $25 million set aside for low-income customers. An additional $100.8 million will be used to swap out water heaters powered by electricity.

The program could result in systems that displace 585 million therms of natural gas, or the equivalent of placing a solar water heater on 200,000 single-family homes, according to the commission. It could also lead to systems that displace 275.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will offer the deal to ratepayers whose solar water heaters displace either electric or natural gas use. Southern California Edison customers who displace their electric use with their new system and Southern California Gas Co. ratepayers who do the same with natural gas will also get a rebate. The new rebate could mean more than 3,000 new jobs, a 5% reduction in natural gas demand and a 35% drop in wholesale natural gas prices. (L.A.Times, 1/21/10)

Global Internet Freedom: National Conflicts Have Begun

China and the United States are barking at each other over the issue of internet freedom. America has a completely open internet, but China and other countries, who seek more controls over information dissemination, are censoring the internet users and operators. Google recently threatened to pull out of China if the Chinese government continues to insist on censorship tools in the Google China search engine. Baidu is China's largest search engine service. The conflict was addressed by President Obama during his November 2009 Town Hall in China and came to a head last Thursday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a blistering speech on internet freedom. In addition to accusing China of limiting internet freedom, Secretary Clinton also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Needless to say, the Chinese government did not take kindly to the speech.


To use market terminology, a publicly listed company in Tunisia or Vietnam that operates in an environment of censorship will always trade at a discount relative to an identical firm in a free society. If corporate decision makers don’t have access to global sources of news and information, investors will have less confidence in their decisions over the long term. Countries that censor news and information must recognize that from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech. If businesses in your nations are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably impact on growth.

Increasingly, U.S. companies are making the issue of internet and information freedom a greater consideration in their business decisions. I hope that their competitors and foreign governments will pay close attention to this trend. The most recent situation involving Google has attracted a great deal of interest. And we look to the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement. And we also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent.

China's Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech saying that the United States should "cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China." Rao Jin, founder of Access China Communication Network, a pro-government Web site, said: "Why do we have to accept the standard of the United States? The attitude of the U.S. is so arrogant. Clinton mentioned one Internet. Actually, it's the Internet of the United States. It's Google of the States." (The Washington Post, 1/23/10, The Huffington Post, 1/22/10)

Partisan Hypocrisy On Cap-and-Trade

Some say that applying the success of cap-and-trade related to sulfur dioxide (SO2) in EPA's Acid Rain Program will not work for carbon dioxide (CO2). We disagree. It will work. In fact it will work better because it will lead to reductions and create a vast array of different kinds of jobs in every part of our economy. Although a big part of of the SO2 program was due to turning to low-sulfur coal, it also led to the installation of a significant number of scrubbers. So although EPA is currently considering industrial sites with greater than 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, the agency should also consider a way to include 'anyone' as an allowance or offset entrepreneur. With CO2, the sky is literally the limit.

As in the Acid Rain Program, 'anyone' should be allowed to hold and trade allowances and offsets in Congress' or EPA's CO2 cap-and-trade program. This will unleash American ingenuity like never before. Efficiencies we have never thought of will be created and even school children will help families in monitoring and controlling household energy (CO2) use. Just as kids did when they could make money at collecting and recycling cans and bottles. Flexible work schedules could become a reality if workers can make money by not needlessly commuting to work to sit behind the same type of computer they have at home.

Now the environmental community, Democrats and liberals opposed President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative (CSI), which was a cap-and-trade program for SO2, NOx and a voluntary CO2 'intensity' regime. When the Bush administration and Senate Republicans, including then Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe, could not get the cap-and-trade program passed out of committee, they did the same thing the Obama administration is doing now, they promulgated regulations at EPA (which as expected were overturned by the courts). The Center was the only environmental organization that supported the CSI because we know cap-and-trade works, regardless of which political party is pushing it.

Now industry, Republicans and the Right are opposing President Obama's cap-and-trade proposals in Congress and at EPA. And Senator James Inhofe is leading the charge. Ironically, President Obama voted against SCI when he served on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Is this starting to make sense to you yet?

So the Center rejects the partisan silliness when it comes to cap-and-trade. Congress needs to get serious about this most important of environmental issues and pass cap-and-trade legislation as soon as possible. Absent that, we are left with a flawed path in promulgating EPA cap-and-trade regulations, which, just as was the case during the Bush administration, will be overturned in the courts. Unfortunately, without action now, our climate and weather will continue to threaten us as we imbalance the gases in our roughly 90 mile high atmosphere. (image:

Charles Krauthammer Is Mostly Wrong On Energy Policy

Charles Krauthammer is a very smart man. His persona is a mix of William F. Buckley, Jr. and Stephen Hawking. He likes to write and he likes to talk. But he violates our policy of using price as a conservation tool. Using high prices to force conservation seems simple on its face, but America's might can be found in its productivity, which is supported by reasonable energy prices. High energy prices, particularly in the form of taxes, would ruin the American economy and are regressive. The cost of energy would simply be passed on to consumers and so higher and higher pricing to conserve precious energy resources would only serve to increase the prices of all goods and services and would crush the middle class and low-income people.

Krauthammer wrote in his Friday, November 11, 2005 Washington Post column, "Pump Some Seriousness Into Energy Policy:"

"We have a unique but fleeting opportunity to permanently depress demand by locking in higher gasoline prices...It is the simplest way to induce conservation. People will alter their buying habits... let the premium we force ourselves to pay at the pump (which begins the conservation cycle) go to the U.S. Treasury... plow right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes."
Charles Charles Charles. You know the federal government will just spend more if it gets more. And it won't be on reducing income taxes.

"The beauty of a that it obviates the waste and folly of an army of bureaucrats telling auto companies what cars in which fleets need to meet what arbitrary standards of fuel efficiency. Abolish all the regulations and let the market decide."
Sorry again Charles. Japan showed us that Americans will buy smaller and more efficient cars. Even as America's carmakers chased profits off of SUVs. We are lovers of the market too, but unfortunately, Corporate Automobile Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are one of our better federal programs that works in the national interest. George Bush even signed a law increasing the standard from 27 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020.

Krauthammer wrote in his Friday, January 26, 2007 Washington Post column, "Energy Independence?"

"There are three serious things we can do now: Tax gas. Drill in the Arctic. Go nuclear."
Charles got two out of three wrong again. We already described our objection to more taxes and we do not need any oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). Charles also supports expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, which we oppose. Our shores and the health of our oceans are not worth the risk. Charles got it right on nuclear power though.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Michael Brune New Executive Director of Sierra Club

Michael Brune, right, has replaced Carl Pope as the Executive Director of the Sierra Club and will take the reigns in March. Brune was previously with Rainforest Action Network for the last seven years, for Greenpeace and the Coastal Rainforest Coalition, now known as ForestEthics. Brune has undergraduate degrees in economics and finance. Brune, 38, grew up in Chadwick Beach, New Jersey.

Michael is married to Mary and they have two children, Olivia, five and sebastian, one. They live in Alameda, California. The Sierra Club is based in San Francisco, California. (L.A. Times, 1/21/10)

Is Wayne Curry Running To Be Maryland's Next Governor?


By Norris McDonald

I went to former Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry's birthday party last night at Camelot, which is located behind one of the county's largest megachurches. The roughly 2,000 attendees were clearly in 'Wayne's World.' It was a very impressive showing. Plenty of shrimp and beef, wine and beer, and a live band. Everybody was there (that Wayne wanted to be there--and even some that he probably did not want to be there. But it was clearly the place to be. The massive parking lot was completely packed. I had to squeeze in between two cars in a grassy area just to park. The question on everybody's minds though: Is Wayne planning a run for the Maryland governor's office?

The program included a Who's Whom of Maryland politics: C. Anthony Muse, current P.G. County Executive Jack B. Johnson, former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, former Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, former Congressman Albert R. Wynn, former Mayor of Baltimore Kurt L. Schmoke, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder and local power attorney Arthur J. Horne, Jr. of Shipley, Horne & Hewlett. There were numerous sponsors and committee members. Proceeds from the birthday event are to benefit Haiti. And the handout tribute pamphlet had plenty of pictures of Wayne and a comprehensive description of his life accomplishments.

Okay. Fine. My interest is in what kind of environmental governor Wayne would be. Would he protect the Chesapeake Bay? What about climate change? Does he support cap and trade and would he support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)? What about nuclear power? Would he support Constellation's plans to build a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs? What about an outer beltway? Subway service across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge? Appropriate economic development projects? Increased Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? What about groundwater protection? Wind power? Protection of our water resources and drinking water? Smog reduction? Well you get the idea. Well Wayne? What kind of environmental governor would you be?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Senate E & NR Committee Hearing on DOE R & D

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing today to receive testimony from Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, right, on the research, development, priorities and imperatives needed to meet the medium and long term challenges associated with climate change.


With our precious research dollars, the Department of Energy is seeking breakthroughs such as the following:

• Gasoline and diesel-like biofuels generated from lumber waste, crop wastes, solid waste, and non-food crops;
• Automobile batteries with three times today’s energy density that can survive 15 years of deep discharges;
• Photovoltaic solar power with a fully installed cost four times cheaper than today’s technology;
• Computer design tools for commercial and residential buildings that enable reductions in energy consumption of up to 80 percent with investments that will pay for themselves in less than 10 years; and
• Large scale energy storage systems so that variable renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power can become base-load power generators.
In addition to our base programs, the Department has launched a broad research strategy that begins by drawing upon the incredible resources of our National Laboratories. The Department is also pursuing three new, complementary approaches to marshal the nation’s brightest minds to accelerate energy breakthroughs.

The first approach is the Energy Frontier Research Centers, which are multi-year, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming known hurdles in basic science.

The second approach is the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E uses a highly entrepreneurial funding model to explore potentially transformative technologies that are too risky for industry to fund. We have already funded several extremely exciting projects, including a liquid metal battery that could provide grid-scale energy storage, a new wind turbine that can achieve higher efficiencies with a smaller size, and a new approach to carbon capture inspired by an enzyme used by the human body to capture and transport carbon dioxide generated in our cells during metabolism to the lungs where it is exhaled.

The third novel funding approach, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish larger, highly integrated teams working to solve priority technology challenges. This work spans from basic research to engineering development so that the ideas can be quickly commercialized.

Lisa Murkowski Introduces "Resolution of Disapproval"

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), left, introduced a "Resolution of Disapproval" today to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. Senator Murkowski's resolution would essentially neutralize EPA's "Endangerment Finding" and its accompanying proposed regulation for light trucks that the agency announced in December. The resolution would also preemptively prevent EPA from providing the carbon dioxide regulatory framework to back up increased fuel economy standards, which are regulated by the Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The resolution would also prevent the promulgation of "Tailoring Rule" regulations aimed at CO2 emitters of 25,000 tons per year or more.

A floor vote for the resolution has not been scheduled.

On December 19, 2007 President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires automakers to increase fleetwide gas mileage to 35 mpg by the year 2020 for all passenger automobiles and light trucks. On May 19, 2009 President Barack Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program that requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 (of 39 miles per gallon for cars and 30 mpg for trucks). Regardless of the outcome of the Obama/EPA/DOT proposal, a fuel economy standard of 35 mpg has already been established by the Energy Independence and Security Act.

The Center supports cap and trade. We favor Congressional legislation to the stand-alone EPA regulatory approach under the Clean Air Act. Absent Congressional legislation, the Center supports the EPA route. Congress needs to get its act together and tackle this issue.

MORE on "Motion of Disapproval"

Picarro Claims To Have Revolutionary New Gas Analyzers

Picarro makes gas analyzers that the company claims can track concentrations of all sorts of greenhouse gases and pollutants including methane, hydrogen sulfide, CO2, formaldehyde, ammonia and others. Picarro's units can be mounted on a car and driven around a neighborhood or around the perimeter of a refinery or chemical plant, and according to the company, can capture emissions plume information. The YouTube video below shows what one of the units can do. The video shows a real drive in California performed with a standard pickup truck.

Picarro says their emissions detectors are so easy to use that current users include an innkeeper and a high school teacher. According to Picarro, it is literally plug and play. Their customers are among the biggest names in atmospheric sciences including NOAA, the World Meteorological Organization and the Chinese Meteorological Administration. The EPA and other agencies have test-driven their products.

Note: The Center is not recommending the product and is not being compensated for this publicity. It does appear to be a very interesting product.

SCOTUS Overturns Corporate Ban On Campaign Ads

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 today to overturn a decision that banned corporations from spending company money on independent campaign advertisements. The decision removed all limits on corporate spending for political ads. The court's decision on the corporate campaign spending case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission overturned a 1990 decision that banned corporations from spending company money on independent campaign advertisements, as well as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as McCain-Feingold. The court struck down the part of McCain-Feingold that banned corporate-funded "electioneering communications" in the lead-up to primaries and elections. Today's ruling did not touch the rules governing direct contributions to candidates or advertisement disclosures. [Frank Maisano]

The Center agrees with this decision. The Center agrees with the ACLU that money is speech and corporations or environmental groups, like individuals, should be free to speak with their money. Restrictions on corporate spending for political speech are inconsistent with the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

Washington Post states what's out and still in>

What's out:

-- A 63-year-old prohibition on corporations using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads.
-- A prohibition contained in the McCain-Feingold Act that bars issue-oriented ads paid for by corporations or unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

Still in:

-- A century-old ban on donations by corporations from their treasuries directly to candidates.
-- The requirement that any corporation spending more than $10,000 in a year to produce or air a campaign ad covered by federal restrictions must file a report with the Federal Election Commission, revealing the names and addresses of anyone who contributed $1,000 or more to the ad's preparation or distribution.
-- The requirement that an ad include a disclaimer stating who is responsible for it, if the ad is not authorized by a candidate or political committee.

EPA & DOJ Announce 2 NSR Settlements at 28 Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed two major Clean Air Act New Source Review (NSR) settlements to reduce air emissions from 15 U.S. plants owned by Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., the nation’s second largest container glass manufacturer, and all 13 U.S. plants owned by the Lafarge Company and two subsidiaries, the nation’s second largest manufacturer of Portland cement. These settlements are the first system-wide settlements for these sectors under the Clean Air Act and require pollution control upgrades, acceptance of enforceable emission limits and payment of civil penalties.

The facilities are estimated to reduce a combined 41,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) each year. SO2, NOx, and PM can trigger respiratory difficulties and asthma, and environmental harms such as acid rain, visibility impairments, and water quality impacts.

Saint-Gobain Containers

Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc. of Muncie, Ind. has agreed, in a consent decree filed today in federal court in Seattle, to install pollution control equipment at an estimated cost of $112 million to reduce emissions of NOx, SO2, and PM by approximately 6,000 tons each year. The settlement covers 15 plants in 13 states. Two of the 15 plants have been closed by Saint-Gobain for independent business reasons.

The states of Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, joined in today’s settlement.

In addition, as part of the settlement, Saint-Gobain has agreed to pay a $2.25 million civil penalty to resolve its alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s new source review regulations. Of the $2.25 million civil penalty, Saint-Gobain will pay $1.15 million to the United States and $1.1 million to the 10 states and two local regulatory agencies that joined the case.

The settlement covers the following 15 facilities located in the following cities: Burlington, Wis. (two furnaces); Carteret, N.J. (one furnace) (closed); Dolton, Ill. (three furnaces); Dunkirk, Ind. (two furnaces); Henderson, N.C. (two furnaces); Lincoln, Ill. (one furnace); Madera, Calif. (one furnace); Milford, Mass. (two furnaces); Pevely, Mo. (two furnaces); Port Allegany, Pa. (three furnaces) (one closed); Ruston, La. (two furnaces); Sapulpa, Okla. (three furnaces); Seattle, (four furnaces); Waxahachie, Texas (one furnace) (closed); and Wilson, N.C. (two furnaces).

Saint-Gobain has agreed to implement pollution controls, including the installation of the first-ever selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system at a container glass plant in the U.S. Saint-Gobain will also install continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) at all of their glass plants.

In the complaint filed concurrently with today’s settlement, the federal government and the 10 state and two local governments alleged that the company constructed new glass furnaces or modified existing ones over the course of two decades without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The alleged violations were discovered after an EPA investigation that included inspections, file reviews, information requests, and the review and analysis of data obtained from the company. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant increase in emissions of any pollutant.

Lafarge North America

Lafarge North America, Inc., based in Herndon, Va., and two of its subsidiaries have agreed in a consent decree filed in federal court in Benton, Ill., to install and implement control technologies at an expected cost of up to $170 million to reduce emissions of NOx by more than 9,000 tons each year and SO2 by more than 26,000 tons per year at their cement plants.

The states of Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency are joining the settlement.

In addition, as part of the settlement, Lafarge has agreed to pay a $5 million civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s new source review regulations. Of the $5 million civil penalty, Lafarge will pay $3.4 million to the United States and $1.7 million to the 13 participating states and agencies. The facilities included in the settlement are located in or near: Whitehall, Pa., Ravena, N.Y., Calera, Ala., Atlanta, Ga., Harleyville, S.C., Paulding, Ohio, Alpena, Mich., Tulsa, Okla., Sugar Creek, Mo., Buffalo, Iowa, Fredonia, Kan., Grand Chain, Ill. and Seattle.

Lafarge has agreed to install the first-ever SCR system at a cement plant in the United States. In addition, Lafarge has also agreed to install seven selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) systems at long dry cement kilns. This is among the first application of this technology to this type of kiln in the United States. Lafarge will also install CEMS at all of their cement kilns.

In the complaint filed concurrently with today’s settlement, the United States alleged that Lafarge and its subsidiaries, or their predecessors, modified one or more of each of their facilities without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment as required by the Clean Air Act. These violations were discovered as a result of EPA investigations and review of company submitted data. The states and agencies joining in the settlement have made similar allegations in their complaint, which is filed separately.

More information on Saint-Gobain settlement

More information on Lafarge settlement