Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama Administration Proposes Expanded Offshore Drilling

Center Opposes Expanded Drilling Off East & West Coasts and Coast of Florida

The Obama administration is proposing to expand offshore oil and natural-gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico more than 125 miles from Florida's coast, from Delaware to central Florida and in the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska. Thankfully, the plan does not allow new oil and gas development off the coasts of Northern Atlantic states or expanded drilling off the coast of California. The president also announced that proposed leases in Alaska's Bristol Bay would be canceled and he is reversing last year's decision to open up parts ofthe Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska.

President Obama has opposed and supported expanded offshore drilling. The Obama administration is using expanded drilling as a carrot to attract support for climate/energy legislation. President Obama was joined by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Andrews Air Force Base today to announce the end of a 20-year ban on drilling in the proposed offshore areas. The Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior will conduct the first new offshore oil and gas lease sale that includes an area 50 miles off the coast of Virginia in 2012.

The Center will work to reestablish the moratorium on expanded drilling. The risks to our Atlantic coastlines and the Florida coastline are simply too great to accept in exchange for climate mitigation. Our oceans are already stressed with the prospect of increased acidification due to carbon dioxide emissions.

Congress allowed the moratorium to expire in 2008. President George W. Bush lifted the ban, which opened the door to Obama's change in policy. (WSJ, 3/31/10, NYT-graphic, 3/31/10)

Remarks by The President on Energy Security at Andrews Air Force Base

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cities & States Face Raising Utility Electricity Rates

The City of Los Angeles, California and the State of Maryland are good examples of what other cities and states are facing when it comes to raising electricity rates. Both are trying to significantly raise rates in order to meet their bottom lines and to provide reliable electricity service. Utilities are still wrestling with botched deregulation, which California and Maryland royally botched. Both froze retail rates while deregulating wholesales rates. Now utilities need to raise rates just to recover from deregulation rate freezes. Although L.A. did not deregulate its power, California did. L.A. is attempting to implement renewables and conservation programs that are forcing the Department of Water and Power to call for rate increases.

Green energy is not cheap. States are promoting Renewables Portfolio Standards, which require utilties to deliver a certain percentage of their electricity from wind, solar and other alternative technologies. This power is usually more expensive than hydrocarbon-based fuels (coal and natural gas).

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa is backing an L.A. City Council proposal to raise electricity rates about 22%, which would be achieved with four rate increases. Maryland is implementing a similar plan with a 76%.

The Center supports providing abundant energy supplies at reasonable prices. We support these rate increases because they are needed in order for the utilities to provide reliable power. We believe the rates are still reasonable even with the rate increases. (L.A. Times, 3/30/10, L.A. Times, 3/20/10, Maryland Restructuring--EIA)

Health Care/Reconciliation Signed By President Obama

President Obama signed the health care bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) into law on Tuesday, March 23, 2010

President Obama signed the follow-on reconciliation bill, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872) into law on Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Legislation & Executive Order

EPA Proposes to Revoke New Source Review Final Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to revoke a January 2009 rule that changed the way existing industrial facilities combine upcoming construction projects to determine if Clean Air Act permits are needed. EPA is concerned that the changes made last year to its “aggregation policy” would make the agency’s New Source Review permitting program less effective, allowing facilities to increase emissions that may impact air quality without a thorough review. The new proposal responds to a petition to reconsider the 2009 rule.

The 2009 rule directed facilities and permitting authorities to combine emissions from construction projects only when the changes are “substantially related,” such as having more in common than the timing of construction. EPA is proposing to go back to its original policy, which required combining projects based on a broader range of factors. This would ensure that potential emissions increases that could harm air quality do not avoid review and the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls.

New Source Review is a pre-construction permitting program to ensure air quality is maintained when factories, industrial boilers and power plants are built or modified. The program ensures that state-of-the art emission control technology is installed at new plants or existing plants that are undergoing a major modification.

EPA is also proposing to extend the effective date of the 2009 aggregation rule for an additional six months, to give the agency time to complete the reconsideration. EPA will take comment on the proposal rule for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. More information (EPA)

Anniversary of White House Signing of Wilderness Bill

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

U.S./India Sign Commercial Nuclear Power Reprocessing Deal

The U.S. and India have finalized an agreement allowing India the right to reprocess nuclear fuel it imports from the U.S., completing a landmark nuclear-energy deal the countries signed in 2008. India has no domestic uranium reserves for its reactors and must import nuclear fuel. Reprocessing allows spent nuclear fuel to be broken down and recycled for energy production. But it is considered a nuclear proliferation risk because it can be used to reproduce plutonium for weapons.

India must still pass a law signing the country onto an international convention that limits the liability of private nuclear companies in the case of nuclear accidents. U.S. nuclear firms will not sell reactor technology to India until such a law is in place. Nuclear-liability legislation has proved controversial in New Delhi. The opposition believes the deal sacrifices India's sovereignty—because India agreed to international inspections of its nuclear facilities—and will block the liability legislation. Final approval of the U.S.-India nuclear deal will also require the Indian government to submit non-proliferation assurances to Washington about not transferring material to third parties, which are necessary for U.S. companies to export sensitive technologies.

India produces about 3% of its power from nuclear energy. As of 2008, India has 17 nuclear power plants in operation generating 4,120 MW while 6 other are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 3,160 MW. Most of its electricity comes from coal-fired plants. But New Delhi is stepping up investments in a range of cleaner technologies, including solar, wind and hydropower and nuclear energy. The country plans to add 60,000 megawatts of nuclear electricity capacity by 2030. (WSJ, 3/29/10)

Green Coalition & Forest Service Want To Hear From You

More than 200 million people a year visit the nation’s 155 national forests and grasslands. As the Obama administration sets out to determine the future for the 193-million-acre National Forest System, a coalition of conservation organizations is calling on people to make their voices heard. From March 29 to May 12, the U.S. Forest Service is hosting a series of roundtable discussions with citizens across the country to determine how the forests are managed for generations. The coalition is urging people to tell the Forest Service it should:

Preserve clean supplies of drinking water: Guarantee safe drinking water by protecting headwater sources, streams and rivers, and by restoring damaged watersheds.

Save America’s outdoor legacy: Employ long-term and restorative management practices to ensure that our national forests offer recreation and related economic opportunities.

Protect fish and wildlife: Sustain fish and wildlife populations and their habitats by protecting them from the changing conditions brought on by global warming and population growth.

Protect America’s wilderness: Study and assess National Forest System wildlands and recommend to Congress all lands that should be preserved as Wilderness.

Address climate change: Protect and restore carbon-rich forests including those managed under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule that provide vital safe havens for fish and wildlife over the next century.
Learn More: Visit the conservation groups’ Web site at Our Parks Our Future and the forest planning rule section of the Forest Service’s Web site for a complete schedule of roundtables and other information. (From: a joint press release by: Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, National Center for Conservation Science and Policy and The Wilderness Society.

New GAO Study on Cap-and-Trade

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report urging Congress to set well-defined goals for what it wants to accomplish with climate change legislation before it makes decisions on the method for distributing valuable greenhouse gas emission allowances among regulated industries. The recommendations are based on research and interviews with officials who have experiences in Europe and the northeastern United States. They include setting up a simple and transparent system for selling the credits "to encourage participation, prevent discrimination and ensure easy access to allowances," as well as the need for maximum participation in the allowance sales to stimulate competition and limit the opportunity for price collusion.

The report also looks at price collar issues as well as the use of single versus multiple auctions. (Frank Maisano)

Congress is considering proposals for market-based programs to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Many proposals involve creating a cap-and-trade program, in which an overall emissions cap is set and entities covered by the program must hold tradable permits—or "allowances"— to cover their emissions. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the value of these allowances could total $300 billion annually by 2020. The government could either sell the allowances, give them away for free, or some combination of the two.

Some existing cap-and-trade programs have experience selling allowances. For example, member states participating in the European Union’s (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) have sold up to about 9 percent of their allowances, and the amount of auctioning is expected to increase significantly starting in 2013. In the United States, the 10 northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have auctioned about 87 percent of their allowances.

This report is part of GAO’s response to a request to review climate change policy options. This report describes the implications of different methods for selling allowances, given available information and the experiences of selected programs. GAO reviewed relevant literature and interviewed program officials from the EU and RGGI, economists, and other researchers. This report contains no recommendations.

"Climate Change: Observations on Options for Selling Emissions Allowances in a Cap-and-Trade Program." GAO-10-377, February 24.


EPA To Study Environmental Impact of Bisphenol A

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a number of actions to address the potential effects of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of a wide range of consumer and industrial products. The BPA action plan released today focuses on the environmental impacts of BPA and will look to add BPA to EPA’s list of chemicals of concern and require testing related to environmental effects. These actions are part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s comprehensive effort to strengthen the agency’s chemical management program and assure the safety of chemicals.

In January 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had some concerns about the potential human health impacts of BPA and it would study the potential effects and ways to reduce exposure to BPA in food packaging. Food packaging represents the most obvious source of BPA exposure to people and is regulated by FDA. Unlike FDA, EPA has authority over the potential environmental impacts of BPA. Releases of BPA to the environment exceed 1 million pounds per year. BPA has caused reproductive and developmental effects in animal studies and may also affect the endocrine system. The EPA action plan on the environmental impacts of BPA includes:

Adding BPA to the chemical concern list on the basis of potential environmental effects.

Requiring information on concentrations of BPA in surface water, ground water, and drinking water to determine if BPA may be present at levels of potential concern.

Requiring manufacturers to provide test data to assist the agency in evaluating its possible impacts, including long-term effects on growth, reproduction, and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife.

Using EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program to look for ways to reduce unnecessary exposures, including assessing substitutes, while additional studies continue.

Continuing to evaluate the potential disproportionate impact on children and other sub-populations through exposure from non-food packaging uses.
EPA is working closely with FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on research to better assess and evaluate the potential health consequences of BPA exposures, including health concerns from non-food packaging exposures that fall outside of the FDA’s reach but within EPA’s regulatory authority. Based on what this new research shows, EPA will consider possible regulatory actions to address health impacts from these other exposures.

In December, EPA announced that it will, for the first time, use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to list chemicals that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The decision to list chemicals signals EPA’s concern about the risks that the listed chemicals may pose and the agency’s intention to address those risks. These actions are part of the agency’s efforts to strengthen EPA’s chemical management program, utilizing current authorities to the fullest extent possible, while continuing to encourage legislative reform of TSCA, which has not been updated since 1976 and is in need of reform.

Polycarbonate plastic is the main use for bisphenol A (BPA), accounting for nearly 70% of total BPA production. Some of the common applications of polycarbonate plastic include:

CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and other discs
Roof lights
Covers for solar panels
Security glazing, e.g. transparent cabins for ski lifts
Roof modules in cars
Safety goggles and protective visors
Reusable water bottles
Shatter-proof baby bottles
Roofs of sport stadiums
Safety hats
Medical equipment (blood oxygenators, respirators, dialysers, single-use operating instruments) Housings for electronic equipment (cell phones, cameras, hairdryers, computers, TVs, coffee makers)
Electrical kettles
Plug connectors
Electrical equipment, such as plug connections or switches
Headlamps and bumpers in cars
Conservatory or green house glazing

More information on EPA’s BPA action plan, EPA,

EPA Announces GHG Transportation Rule

EPA Formally Announces Phase-in of Clean Air Act Permitting for Greenhouse Gases

No stationary source requirements until 2011

Under a final decision issued today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no stationary sources will be required to get Clean Air Act permits that cover greenhouse gases (GHGs) before January 2011. EPA has pledged to take sensible steps to address the billions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution that threaten Americans’ health and welfare, and is providing time for large industrial facilities and state governments to put in place cost-effective, innovative technologies to control and reduce carbon pollution.

Today’s announcement is the first step in EPA’s phased in approach to addressing GHG emissions laid out by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson earlier this month. Today’s action determines that Clean Air Act construction and operating permit requirements for the largest emitting facilities will begin when the first national rule controlling GHGs takes effect. If finalized as proposed, the rule limiting GHG emissions for cars and light trucks would trigger these requirements in January 2011 – the earliest model year 2012 vehicles meeting the standards can be sold in the United States. The agency expects to issue final vehicle GHG standards shortly. EPA has committed to focusing its GHG permitting requirements on the largest sources.

The agency will make a decision later this spring on the amount of GHGs facilities can emit before having to include limits for these emissions in their permits. Today’s action is the final step in EPA’s reconsideration of the December 18, 2008 memorandum entitled “EPA’s Interpretation of Regulations that Determine Pollutants Covered by Federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Permit Program.” The final action clarifies when GHGs and other pollutants are covered under Clean Air Act permitting programs.

More information and letter Administrator Jackson sent last month outlining this approach and timeline

Sound Bites

President Obama and Confined Animal Feeding Operations

As a candidate, President Obama was for:

• Capping farm-income eligibility for subsidies at $500,000

• Banning large-scale farms from breaking up into smaller "paper corporations" to get around subsidy limits

• Enacting a "packer ban" to halt the anti-competitive practice that allows slaughterhouse companies to own the animals they slaughter

• Confronting other anti-competitive biases in the animal agriculture marketplace • Cracking down on air and water pollution from animal factory farms

• Forcing animal factories to adopt and follow stringent "manure management" plans • Banning the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics as growth-promoters

• Supporting "local control" that allows counties to decide whether or not they want CAFOs in their area • Linking local food production to local food consumption

• Convening a "National Rural Summit" within 100 days of taking office, in part to address the impact of Agribusiness mega-monopolies on small and medium-sized family farms.

President Obama's current accomplishments and proposals include:

- EPA has proposed rules to enforce factory-farm compliance with discharge regulations under the Clean Water Act and is obliging reluctant states to comply with federal water rules. It's also begun to combat damaging nutrient levels in Chesapeake Bay, will bring more Delmarva chicken operations under federal CAFO rules, and has named animal waste runoff a "priority" target for federal enforcement.

- At USDA, some farm subsidy loopholes are being closed, including one allowing absentee owners to collect on property they do not personally manage, and another that links to IRS data to determine individual income eligibility (something that helps stem the "paper farm" problem, officials say).

- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder held the first of five promised hearings on competition in agriculture.

- USDA has also announced new transparency rules for loans to contract poultry growers, which will also be extended to pork growers; launched the "Know Your Farmer" program to link local producers and consumers;

- Increased funding for conservation efforts;

- Tabled a federal animal identification program too onerous for small farmers; and

- Rewritten organic meat-and-dairy rules to require that animals must pasture-graze at least 120 days-per-year and receive at least 30% of their dry food intake from pasture.

(Wash Post, 3/2010)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

BP Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Plant Closes

BP has announced that it is closing its solar-panel manufacturing plant in Frederick, Maryland. BP is moving its solar business out of the United States to facilities in China, India and other countries. Approximately 320 workers will lose their jobs. BP has been unable to sell or lease the unique building and will tear it down. BP acquired a half-interest in the Frederick plant when it bought Amoco Corporation in 1999; it bought the rest from Enron.

President's Note: I first toured this plant in 1983. I was so impressed. It was called Solarex and was described as a solar breeder plant because it used photovoltaics to make more photovoltaics. (Wash Post, 3/27/10)

Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck Should Give Us A Call


By Norris McDonald

O'Reilly & Beck Are NOT 'Fair and Balanced' When It Comes To 'Cap-&-Trade'

Bill O'Reilly rails against Cap-and-Trade every chance he gets. Give me a call Bill. I will show you the error of your ways. I watch your program all the time and you are mostly kind of fair and balanced. I never understood your opposition to the oil companies though until you admitted on air that they mistreated your Dad. Then it made sense from a personal standpoint. But as a matter of public policy, the oil companies power the American way of life. But I digress. Cap-and-Trade is the best tool in our arsenal for fighting the most important of environmental issues: climate change. I cannot believe you are drinking the Kool-Aid on this one. This untenable position, particularly by you, makes it look like FOX News has an agenda against President Obama. Call me. Let's talk this out. Use the GREEN PHONE at right.

Glenn Beck rails against Cap-and-Trade as another communist tax tool of the evil progressives. Fine. I don't like commies and I am a capitalist. The Center is a conservative environmental group. And we, unlike the two political parties, have been consistent on Cap-and-Trade, which is a market tool for addressing atmospheric problems. I am shocked that you oppose a capitalist market tool for addressing climate change. Oh that's right: you're a denier aren't you? Or are you? I think you and Bill are not being 'fair and balanced' when it comes to this issue. And if your logic does not add up, then something is amiss. Give me a call on the RED PHONE Glenn. The color was your idea.

The Center was one of the only environmental groups [besides Environmental Defense] to support President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative that would have used a Cap-and-Trade methodology to fight air pollution and address global warming. The Center supported President Herbert Walker Bush's amendments to the 1990 Clean Air Act that established the Cap-and-Trade Acid Rain Program, which is universally praised as a model for fighting harmful emissions. The Center strongly supports the current Cap-and-Trade proposals pending in Congress (with modifications: free allowances among them). The Center has been consistent in supporting Cap-and-Trade as a legitimate and effective tool for mitigating atmospheric problems. Yet politics seems to be getting in the way of passing a program that would work.

President Obama voted against the Cap-and-Trade Clear Skies Initiative when he was in the U.S. Senate. Democrats opposed Cap-and-Trade back then. Now President Obama is promoting a Cap-and-Trade proposal to address climate change. Senator James Inhofe and Representative Joe Barton supported a Cap-and-Trade mechanism during the Clear Skies Initiative legislative battle. Republicans supported Cap-and-Trade back then. Now Democrats are supporting it and Republicans are opposing it. Politics. But I expect more from O'Reilly and Beck.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Electricity: Direct Current (DC) & Alternating Current (AC)

Direct current (DC), illustrated above, is the type of electricity that is produced by batteries, static, and lightning. A voltage is created, and possibly stored, until a circuit is completed. When it is, the current flows directly, in one direction. In the circuit, the current flows at a specific, constant voltage (this is oversimplified but good enough for our needs.) When you use a flashlight, pocket radio, portable CD player or virtually any other type of portable or battery-powered device, you are using direct current. Most DC circuits are relatively low in voltage; for example, your car's battery is approximately 12 V, and that's about as high a DC voltage as most people ever use.

Alternating current (AC), illustrated below, is not provided as a single, constant voltage, but goes from a positive value to a negative value and back again. The way the science world measures the energy in an AC signal is to compute what is called the root mean square (RMS) average of the voltage. In simple terms, the RMS value of an electrical current is the number which represents the same energy that a DC current at that voltage would produce; it is in essence an average of the alternating current waveform.

Whenever you see an AC voltage specification, they are giving you the RMS number unless they say otherwise specifically. So for example, in North America, most homes have 115 VAC electricity. This is AC electricity equivalent in energy to a 115 V DC circuit. (This is an approximate number, and standard household electricity in North America is also sometimes called 110VAC or 120VAC; it's the same thing.)

The other key characteristic of AC is its frequency, measured in cycles per second (cps) or, more commonly, Hertz (Hz). This number describes how many times in a second the voltage alternates from positive to negative and back again, completing one cycle. In North America, the standard is 60 Hz, meaning 60 cycles from positive to negative and back again in one second. In other parts of the world the standard is 50 Hz.


EPA 2010 National Asthma Forum

Register today for the 2010 National Asthma Forum June 17-18, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

Join hundreds of dedicated health care professionals, community organizations, and other leaders to learn what it takes to create strong and sustainable asthma programs in your community.

Network with leaders in asthma care and hear best practices for community-based programs.
Learn how to evaluate your program’s impact, attract funders for program sustainability, and improve health outcomes through home-based environmental interventions.

Create your community’s leadership plan for asthma action with national asthma leaders.
Share your program’s successes with a national audience. Registration is now open.


Internat'l Maritime Organization Accepts EPA Air Proposal

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) today officially accepted the proposal to designate waters off the North American coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA) – a move that will result in cleaner air for millions of Americans. Large ships that operate in ECAs must use dramatically cleaner fuel and technology, leading to major air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland. The ECA was proposed in March 2009 and the IMO adopted it in the fastest possible timetable.

The sulfur, particulate emissions and other harmful pollutants from large ships reach from our ports to communities hundreds of miles inland -- bringing with them health, environmental and economic burdens. Cleaning up shipping lanes will be a boon to communities across North America. The large commercial ships that visit the nation’s ports, such as oil tankers, cruise ships and container ships, currently use fuel with very high sulfur content which, when burned, emits harmful levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide that can travel hundreds of miles inland, causing severe respiratory symptoms in children and adults. These ships, most flying the flags of other countries, make more than 57,000 calls at more than 100 U.S. ports annually. More than 30 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards. In total, nearly 127 million people currently live in areas that fail to meet U.S. air quality standards.

Enforcing the stringent ECA standards will reduce sulfur content in fuel by 98 percent - slashing particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80 percent. To achieve these reductions, tougher sulfur standards will phase in starting in 2012, ultimately reaching no more than 1,000 parts per million by 2015. Also, new ships must use advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016 which will help reduce NOx emissions. As a result of the cleaner air, nearly five million people will experience relief from acute respiratory symptoms in 2020 and as many as 14,000 lives will be saved each year.

Canada and France join the U.S. in this North American ECA, implementing a coordinated geographic emissions control program. In developing the U.S. proposal, EPA joined with federal partners at the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Transportation, and Commerce, among others. This is the first ECA adopted under amendments to an IMO treaty in 2008 that strengthened and expanded both the ECA emissions standards and the approval criteria. The North American ECA is a key part of a comprehensive EPA program to address harmful emissions from large ships. Other elements include voluntary partnerships under EPA’s Clean Ports USA program and implementation of a Clean Air Act rulemaking that EPA finalized last December. (EPA)

More information

Sound Bites

EPA Proposes Veto of Spruce No. 1 Mine Water Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced its proposal under the Clean Water Act to significantly restrict or prohibit mountain top mining at the Spruce No. 1 surface mine in Logan County, West Virginia. Spruce No.1 mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal operations ever proposed in Central Appalachia. The project was permitted in 2007 and subsequently delayed by litigation.

The Spruce No. 1 mine would bury over 7 miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland and degrade water quality in streams adjacent to the mine. EPA’s proposed determination comes after extended discussions with the company failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease of the environmental and health impacts of the Spruce No. 1 mine.

EPA has used its Clean Water Act veto authority in just 12 circumstances since 1972 and never for a previously permitted project. The proposed determination, signed today by EPA Regional Administrator for the Mid-Atlantic, Shawn Garvin, identifies numerous potential adverse impacts associated with the Spruce No. 1 project:

· Water Quality Impacts: The mine will cause adverse impacts to drinking water, native aquatic and water-dependent communities in the Spruce Fork watershed. Drainage from the Spruce No. 1 project is likely to include high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) and selenium which adversely affect the naturally occurring aquatic communities. These include birth defects in fish and other aquatic life and can also result in toxic effects to embryos, resulting in abnormal development or death for those organisms.

· Fish and Wildlife Impacts: Mining waste placed into headwater streams will impact fish and wildlife which depend for all or part of their lifecycles on these headwater systems. Ecosystem functions performed by headwaters are lost when the headwater stream is buried or removed. These functions are lost not only to the headwater stream itself, but also to downstream aquatic ecosystems.

· Mitigation Impacts: The project’s mitigation plan inadequately evaluates the nature and extent of mining related aquatic impacts and therefore fails to replace streams’ lost ecological services. Natural stream channels buried by mining will be replaced, in part, by ditches being built to drain stormwater off of the mine, not to compensate for natural stream losses. These ditches will also drain water contaminated by mining into streams adjacent to the mine.

· Cumulative Mining Impacts: EPA believes that the Spruce No. 1 project, in conjunction with numerous other mining operations either under construction or proposed for the Coal River basin, will contribute to the cumulative loss of water quality, aquatic systems, and forest resources. The Coal River basin is already heavily mined and substantially impaired. Landscape and site specific assessments reveal that past and current mountaintop mining has caused substantial, irreplaceable loss of resources and an irreversible effect on these resources within the Coal River basin.
CWA Section 404(c) authorizes EPA to restrict or prohibit placing certain pollutants in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waters if the agency determines that the activities would result in “unacceptable adverse impacts” to the environment, water quality, or water supplies. This authority applies to proposed projects as well as projects previously permitted under the CWA.

A final decision to restrict or prohibit the Spruce No.1 mine will be made in EPA Headquarters based on a recommendation from the Regional Administrator, public comments, and discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Mingo Logan Coal Company. The proposed determination is being published in the federal register and EPA is taking public comment for 60 days. EPA is also scheduling a public hearing in West Virginia to provide an additional opportunity for public input. Proposed Determination. (EPA)

Nuclear Blue Ribbon Commission Holds First Meetings

Blue Ribbon Commission Webcast on America's Nuclear Future (BRCANF)

March 25 and March 26, 2010
Willard Intercontinental in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, March 25th and Friday, March 26th, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BCANF), co-chaired by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, held its first meetings in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary of Energy, acting at the direction of the President, established the Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including all alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense used nuclear fuel, high-level waste, and materials derived from nuclear activities.

The commissioners made presentations and numerous stakeholders made 3-5 minute oral statements before the commission. Written statements can be submitted to Timothy A. Frazier, Designated Federal Officer, U.S. Department of Energy 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington DC 20585.

Commission Charter

Federal Register Notice

Note from Tim Frazier: {BRCANF} This is a basic website that makes available the archive webcasts, presentations, and other relevant information (limited at this time). Transcripts will be posted here when available along with the written statements received. The website will be maintained until the is operational. The website will be much more functional and allow for public interaction and comment.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

5 Congressmen Ask DOE's Chu To Keep Yucca Mountain

Five congressmen have signed their names on a letter sent to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, urging him to reconsider removing funding from the Yucca Mountain waste repository. Chu, testifying before House and Senate committees, stated that Yucca Mountain is not environmentally sound but has not presented a scientific basis for the decision. U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and U.S. Reps. John Spratt (D-S.C.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) all signed a letter to Chu urging him to:

"withdraw the reprogramming request in recognition of congressional intent as well as the serious legal implications of an action that would also render useless billions of previously appropriated funds."
The letter outlined their belief that Chu's decision to terminate the funding and license application for the high-level waste repository are "contrary to the clear intent of Congress" and that "these actions are premature and unwise." The letter also focused on the financial implications of the decision related to the government not meeting its own standards for waste removal and management:

"For 25 years, nuclear utilities have paid fees to the government totaling more than $16 billion for waste disposal services that they have not yet received. Since 1998, utilities have filed at least 72 claims for breach of contract against (the Department of Energy) for its failures to meet these obligations. To date, the courts have awarded more than $1 billion in damage awards and settlements."
The Center supports Yucca Mountain. (, 3/23/10)

Ocean Acidification

By Frank Hall

Scientists who study the Earth describe it as a series of interconnecting components or “systems”. These systems are dynamic, and changing aspects of one system can result in dramatic changes in another. The interconnectivity between the oceanic and atmospheric systems is perhaps the most studied of the Earth Systems and is also of greatest concern among Earth and environmental scientists. In particular, as we express concerns about human activities increasing carbon dioxide in the air, the oceanic system will adapt, perhaps in ways that are negative to us as human beings. The most well known interaction between air and ocean is the documented set of reactions is between water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

The chemical reactions between water and carbon dioxide are important for determining the pH of the oceans. Many people remember that pure water has a pH of 7, acids, like vinegar, have pH values less than 7, and bases, such as ammonia, have pH values greater than 7. The oceans, overall, are slightly basic, or alkaline, with a pH vale of ~8.1. The reactions between water and carbon dioxide produce two important compounds: bicarbonate (HCO3-: basic) and carbonic acid (H2CO3: acidic). In “normal” ocean waters, bicarbonate will be more abundant than carbonic acid. However, increasing carbon dioxide concentrations will cause the chemical reactions to favor the creation of carbonic acid.

Why should we care? Coral reef organisms build their shells from calcium carbonate (CaO + CO2 = CaCO3) minerals which remain solids in basic solutions. You can see in the chemical composition of these minerals that carbon dioxide (CO2) is contained within it. Coral reefs are literally taking the gas, CO2, from the air and converting it into a solid. As a solid, it no longer contributes to “global warming”. But, in acidic solutions, these minerals tend to dissolve. Also, many of the world’s fisheries rely on coral reefs as breeding grounds for important food species. Ocean acidification has the potential of ruining these breeding grounds resulting in declines of fisheries.

Of course, many other organisms make their shells out of CaCO3, such as clams and oysters. And, important oxygen-producing organisms, such as coccolithophorids not only convert CO2 to oxygen by photosynthesis, but store CO2 in their shells. The White Cliffs of Dover, for example, is comprised largely of the remains of ancient coccolithophorids. Therefore, our knowledge of the potential impacts of ocean acidification is vital to our understanding of how human beings may be affecting our climate.

Frank Hall, Ph.D. in Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, M.S. in Geology, Lehigh University, & B.A. in Earth Science/Geology, Kean University of New Jersey. Dr. Hall resides in Germantown, Maryland and periodically contributes articles to the Center.

See also: Oceanography

Center Supports 10 Senators Warning On Offshore Drilling

Ten Democratic senators wrote a letter to senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman (KGL climate bill drafters) on Tuesday warning that they would not support climate legislation that includes expanded offshore oil and gas drilling provisions.

They wrote:

"As coastal senators, we truly appreciate your efforts to develop comprehensive climate legislation," the senators wrote. "After all, our states are literally the front lines when it comes to the severe impacts we'll see from sea level rise and stronger storms. But we hope that as you forge legislation, you are mindful that we cannot support legislation that will mitigate one risk only to put our coasts at greater peril from another source."
Senators signing the letter (pdf) were: Bill Nelson of Florida, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin of Maryland, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Ted Kaufman of Delaware.

The Center opposes expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, particularly off the East and West coasts and Florida.

Phil Schiliro: Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs

White House Legislative Affairs Director Phil Schiliro, pictured with the president and at right, was born in Brooklyn, New York and as a teenager helped shut down a company that was polluting a reservoir near his home.

Schiliro was Congressional Liaison for Barack Obama's presidential campaign (July 2008 to November 2008); Democratic chief of staff for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (2005 to 2008 and 1997 to 2004); Policy Director for Sen. Tom Daschle (2004); Administrative Assistant to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (1982 to 1997).

Schiliro ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992 and 1994 in Long Island, N.Y.

Schiliro is a graduate of Hofstra University and Lewis & Clark Law School.

( Wash Post Company)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

President Obama Met With Senator John Kerry Today


By Norris McDonald

Let Us Hope That President Obama Told Senator Kerry To Tighten Up The Climate Legislation

Just as the Obama administration stiffened its back in the face of health care reform opposition, so too should it in the face of climate change mitigation opposition. We support an economy wide Cap-and-Trade climate change mitigation program that will inspire the rest of the world to join in. Senator Kerry is working with Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to craft global warming legislation and rumor has it that they are considering a watered-down plan that only includes the largest emitters. The cap would only apply to facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Their reported draft plan covers about 14,000 industrial pollution sources across the country, like coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturers, but not smaller sources like hospitals or most agricultural operations. Where are the innovation prospects in that plan?

The Center is the canary in the climate change legislation mine. If legislation allows for us to innovate and provides an avenue for participation, then it is a living plan. If it excludes us, then the plan is an innovation killer. The Center has been preparing for emissions trading 'big time' for some time. We have been registered in EPA's Acid Rain Program to hold and trade SOx and NOx for many years. We are registered in the Northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). We want to register in a national GHG allowance trading system and we have developed a trading house (CMX) process offsets. Innovation comes from small businesses and creative entrepreneurs.

So we hope President Obama strongly encouraged Senator Kerry to produce a legitimate climate change mitigation bill at their meeting this morning.

Constellation Proposing Fly Ash Landfill Near Baltimore City

Constellation Energy is proposing a fly ash dump at Millennium Inorganic Chemicals at Curtis Bay, left, near the Chestnut Hill Cove neighborhood in Pasadena, Maryland just over the Baltimore City line. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) granted a tentative approval of the permit for Constellation to build the landfill to dispose of coal combustion byproducts - also known as fly ash - generated at two plants in Pasadena and a third in Baltimore.

MDE will make a final determination after reviewing the comments made at a hearing today, as well as those submitted in writing to MDE headquarters. MDE probably will not make a decision for several months. An EPA ruling is pending that could rule fly ash as a hazardous waste, which could significantly alter how the product, currently labelled nonhazardous, is currently disposed.

Opponents fear the landfill will pose a danger to their health. Proponents not that the Millennium landfill is an "excellent choice" for fly ash disposal because it is already permitted for industrial waste, and the 100 feet of clay at its base provides a good buffer. In 2006, contamination in private wells in the Gambrills area was linked to a nearby fly ash dump owned by Constellation. The landfill would stand about 170 feet in the air.

The Center does not have a position on this proposal, but we generally promote beneficial uses for fly ash, primarily utilizing it to produce concrete. (Maryland Gazette HomeTown GlenBurnie, 3/20/10)

Kerry & Jackson Soft-Pedaling Climate Legislation & Regs?

Kate Sheppard writes in Mother Jones - "Climate Bill: Outlook Cloudy" about the 9-page Kerry Climate Change talking document:

Under the senators' plan, the cap would only apply to facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. That covers about 14,000 industrial pollution sources across the country, like coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturers, but not smaller sources like hospitals or most agricultural operations. (Utilities would be regulated in 2012; rules for other major sources would be phased from 2016 onwards.) The bill would also reportedly remove two of the strongest governmental tools for improving on federal carbon rules: It would strip the EPA's ability to restrict greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and would also halt more ambitious state programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If it is not economy wide, it will stifle the very innovation that could excite our international colleagues and keep the planet at or below 350 ppm. We also do not understand why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cannot see that economy wide legislation would lead to incredible entrepreneurial jobs opportunities. The Center is salivating at the prospect of having the opportunity to buy, sell, hold and trade GHG allowances and offsets (see CMX). Also, 'anyone' should be eligible to hold and trade the allowances and offsets. Senator Kerry's reported proposal obviates the small business engine that could drive innovation to the big boys.

Moreover, in a letter to senators, EPA stated that it is considering modifying and delaying its GHG regs:

EPA is also considering a modification to the rule announced in September requiring large facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to obtain permits demonstrating they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize GHG emissions. EPA is considering raising that threshold substantially to reflect input provided during the public comment process. · EPA does not intend to subject smaller facilities to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse gas emissions any sooner than 2016.
And at a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on EPA's FY 2011 Budget EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that it will set an initial stage of stationary-source greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions threshold of at least 75,000 tons a year—and possibly more than 100,000 tons a year—for power plants and other industrial projects for the regulations between 2011 to 2012.

In our opinion, the EPA plan and the Kerry plan are woefully inadequate in appropriately addressing climate change mitigation. It would be better to leave the state plans alone if EPA and Congress are unwilling to implement an economy wide program.

EPA To Add GHG Sources To Reporting System

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to include additional emissions sources in its first-ever national mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting system. The data from these sectors will provide a better understanding of where GHGs are coming from and will help EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce emissions. Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future. It is important to track potent gases like methane, which traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon and accelerates climate change.

EPA finalized the first-ever mandatory greenhouse gas reporting requirement in October of 2009. That rule required 31 industry sectors, covering 85 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, to track and report their emissions.

In addition to those 31 industries, the agency is now proposing to collect emissions data from the oil and natural gas sector, industries that emit fluorinated gases, and from facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide (CO2) underground for the purposes of geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery. Methane is the primary GHG emitted from oil and natural gas systems and is more than 20 times as potent as CO2 at warming the atmosphere, while fluorinated gases are even stronger and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Data collected from facilities that inject CO2 underground would enable EPA to track the amount of CO2 that is injected and in some cases require a monitoring strategy for detecting potential emissions to the atmosphere. The data will also allow businesses to track their own emissions, compare them to similar facilities, and identify cost effective ways to reduce their emissions in the future. EPA is also proposing to require all facilities in the reporting system, including those proposed today, to provide information on their corporate ownership. Under these proposals, newly covered sources would begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011 with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012.

These proposals will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold public hearings on these proposals on April 19, 2010 in Arlington, Va. and April 20, 2010 in Washington, D.C.

More information on these proposals and the hearings