Monday, May 31, 2010

Pesticide Use Inside Occupied Planes Should Be Banned


By Norris McDonald

I was unexpectedly sprayed with a pesticide on a South African Airways flight from Dakar, Senegal to Johannesburg, South Africa. Just before takeoff, an announcement was made that the plane would be sprayed and about a minute later, flight attendants walked down both aisles with a can of pesticide in each hand spraying throughout the cabin. All I could do was put a hankerchief over my nose, lean down in my chair and take shallow breaths. I prayed that I would not start reacting. I am a chronic, acute asthmatic and this was my worst nightmare: an 8 hour flight facing me and I was just sprayed with a pesticide. One whiff of such vapor can send me to the ICU, or what my doctor friends call "I see you later."

I lived but vowed to take up this issue on behalf of all travelers involuntarily exposed to being sprayed with a pesticide. I know that this practice, known as "disinsection," endangers the health of both passengers and flight staff. I was just lucky. If given a choice, I would have gotten off of the airplane. Who initiated these pesticide applications, and who is responsible for the results of this practice? Not the airlines--they say it is required of them by the governments of various countries. But while authorities in those countries may be ordering the procedure, they are also acting on the recommendations of a United Nations affiliate, the World Health Organization WHO).

The application of these pesticides inside of occupied airplanes in other countries is outside of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) regulatory areas of responsibility. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) website lists the countries that require in-flight spraying. No U.S. agency requires pesticide use on planes. The World Health Organization has long held that the pesticides are safe for aircraft use when the active ingredient in an aerosol makes up no more than 2% of its ingredients.

The application method varies by country and airline. Typically, a pressurized spray containing 2% phenothrin or Permethrin #216 is sprayed over the passengers' heads during the flight (called "top-of-descent"). According to the Fair Air Coalition, people who have allergies or asthma or are pregnant and are booked on a flight requiring onboard spraying can request an exemption. The exemption only works if the spraying is done after landing. If spraying is scheduled after boarding you can ask them to spray after landing. The exemption will allow you to get off before the spraying on the ground, but no other passengers can deplane. Passengers with a letter from their doctor saying they are allergic to insecticide are usually allowed off the plane when the spraying is done after landing.

Some nations require passenger airplanes arriving from other countries to be sprayed with insecticide to protect plants, animals and people.

These countries require spraying of insecticides while passengers are on board:
Trinidad and Tobago
These countries allow planes to be treated while they are empty; the pesticides used are designed to be effective for up to two months.
New Zealand
These countries require spraying of planes from particular regions where there are contagious or infectious diseases.
Czech Republic
South Africa
United Kingdom
Source: Department of Transportation

(Mother Jones, 8/1998, Global Healing Center, Grist, 10/21/2003, Perry Sanders Law, )

Potential Civil Fine of $4,300 Per Barrel in BP Spill

A U.S. Clean Water Act regulation (Federal Register/Vol. 69, No. 30/Friday, February 13, 2004/Rules and Regulations page 7125 - TABLE 1 OF SECTION 19.4.—CIVIL MONETARY PENALTY INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS/U.S. Code Citation 33 U.S.C. 1321(b)(7)(D)-) exposes BP and others to civil fines that are not limited to the $75 million limit on compensation for economic damages. The Act allows the government to seek civil penalties in court for every drop of oil that spills into U.S. navigable waters, including the area of BP's leaking well.

The per-barrel fines could push BP's liability well beyond the cost of cleaning up the spill and paying legitimate claims for economic damages it causes. Cash raised from such fines would be funneled to government pollution funds, which provide economic aid for hazardous material spills. If BP's estimated spill rate of 5,000 barrels per day is accurate, responsible parties could face civil fines of $21.5 million per day, depending on levels of negligence. If the spill rate is 50,000 barrels per day, the civil fines could be $215 million per day. if 100,000 barrels per day, the fines could be up to $430 million per day. (Reuters, 5/26/10)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gulf Clean Up Workers Health Threatened

Oil Spill Workers on Dourchon Beach, Louisiana
The Center is interested in putting people to work in the Gulf to assist in cleaning the beaches and marshes, but we want to assure that anyone working with us will be protected from exposures that could threaten their health.

The Obama administration is concerned about potential health and safety problems posed by the oil spill, particularly health threats to oil clean up workers. The Labor Department has experessed concerns about its inability to force BP to respond to them. An assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health raised concerns the day before seven oil spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after they experienced nausea, dizziness and headaches. A memo states:
"The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in cleanup operations...these are not isolated problems. They appear to be indicative of a general systemic failure on BP's part, to ensure the safety and health of those responding to this disaster. BP has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety and health information on injuries and exposures."
The Department of Labor is also coming under fire for not being aggressive enough in monitoring BP or the contractors who are providing oil spill cleanup training.

The OSHA memo raised several significant concerns, including:
- Lack of sufficient control over work sites. May 20: the agency found more than 800 workers at one of the Biloxi, Miss., sites without the required training.
- Difficulty in obtaining adequate and timely data from BP on injuries and illness, chemical sampling, monitoring data and training materials.
- Concerns that BP's manager of workplace safety "does not appear to operate with the full support of the company, nor does he seem to have the authority necessary for the job which he has been tasked."
The Labor Department memo suggest that: BP place someone in this position who has the authority and the ability to make changes expediently in order to address the safety and health of cleanup workers."

President Obama Inpsect Oil Balls
It is being reported that most workers are getting only the minimum hazardous-material training required, which is four hours. That's because OSHA has chosen to apply training standards that date back to soon after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. While experts agree that the level of exposure is lower than federal safety standards, they say that what little data that has been released provides more questions than answers. (, McClatchy Newspapers, 5/28/10)

Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Minerals Management Service (MMS) began co-chairing an investigation starting May 11, 2010 to identify the factors leading to the explosion, loss of life, sinking, and subsequent oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit, which began on April 20, 2010.

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen, Minerals Management Service Director S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed an order convening the joint investigation. Mr. David Dykes, MMS, and Captain Hung Nguyen, USCG, are the co-chairs of the joint investigation. The USCG and MMS share jurisdiction for the investigation of casualties occurring on the Outer Continental Shelf. The agencies have a Memoranda of Agreement establishing the roles and responsibilities related to each agency’s areas of expertise.

Upon completion of the joint investigation, the team will issue a single report to the MMS Director and the Commandant of the Coast Guard containing the evidence brought forward, facts established and its conclusions and recommendations. The report will be submitted simultaneously to both agencies. The Commandant of the Coast Guard and the MMS Director will jointly sign and release the final report.

Public hearings for the joint investigation were held May 11-12 & May 26-29, 2010 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT). List of witnesses

Contact Info:

Oil Spill Response or (985) 902-5231

Marine Board Process: USCG – (504) 671-2019

Outer Continental Shelf Regulations: MMS – (504) 736-2485

Friday, May 28, 2010

Admiral Thad W. Allen

Admiral Thad W. Allen assumed the duties of the 23rd Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on May 25th, 2006. “The Face of the Coast Guard” is quickly becoming "The Face Responding to the Gulf Oil Spill." Admiral Allen has been the principal spokesperson responding to media inquiries about the status of plugging the pipe at the Deepwater Horizon spill site. He is pictured at right briefing President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Admiral Allen leads the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), comprised of about 40,150 men and women on Active Duty, 7,000 civilians, 8,000 Reservists and 34,000 volunteer Auxiliarists.

The Coast Guard serves the American people by saving lives and property at sea; ensuring the safety of thousands of professional mariners and millions of recreational and commercial vessels; protecting our ports and maritime infrastructure from terrorism, securing our borders, maintaining aids to navigation, responding to natural disasters, defending our nation, conducting humanitarian operations, protecting our marine environment, and keeping shipping routes in the Arctic and Great Lakes open and clear of hazards.

Admiral Allen graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1971, and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the George Washington University, and received their Alumni Achievement Award in 2006. He also holds a Master of Science degree from the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He is a native of Tucson, Arizona and the son of retired Coast Guard Chief Damage Controlman Clyde and Mrs. Wilma Allen. (DOD)

Gulf of Mexico Highly Contaminated By Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20 and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on April 22. New best total estimates of the spill range from 12 milion to 27 milion gallons of oil. This estimate is based on 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day spilling into the Gulf for over a month. by comparison, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill put 11 million gallons of oil along more than 1,000 miles of Alaska's coastline.

First Energy and Allegheny Energy File Merger Application

FirstEnergy Corporation of Akron, Ohio and Allegheny Energy Inc, formerly of Hagerstown, Maryland (1996 to 2004, presently Greensburg, Pennsylvania), filed a merger application Thursday with the Maryland Public Service Commission. The merged company says it will establish a regional headquarters somewhere in central or western Maryland if its proposed merger goes through. They announced the $4.7 billion deal in February.

The Maryland territory is served by Allegheny’s Potomac Edison subsidiary. Potomac Edison has about 250,000 Maryland customers in Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Montgomery and Washington counties. (AP, The Daily Record, 5/27/10)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program

DOI: The mission of the U.S. Department of the Interior's (Department) Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (Restoration Program) is to restore natural resources injured as a result of oil spills or hazardous substance releases into the environment. In partnership with other affected state, Tribal, and Federal trustee agencies, damage assessments provide the basis for determining the restoration needs that address the public's loss and use of these resources.

EPA: Natural Resource Trustees conduct NRDAs to calculate the monetary cost of restoring injuries to natural resources that result from releases of hazardous substances or discharges of oil. Damages to natural resources are evaluated by identifying the functions or 'services' provided by the resources, determining the baseline level of the services provided by the injured resource(s), and quantifying the reduction in service levels as a result of the contamination. Regulations for assessing NRD have been promulgated under both CERCLA and Oil Pollution Act. If natural resources are injured by a discharge or release of a mixture of oil and hazardous substances, the DOI regulations are used. Section 301(c) of CERCLA requires promulgation of regulations for the assessment of damages for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources resulting from a discharge of oil or release of a hazardous substance. The responsibility for this rulemaking was delegated to the Department of the Interior (DOI) by the President in Executive Order 12580 (January 23, 1987).

NOAA: an oil spill or hazardous substance release, response agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Coast Guard clean up the substance and eliminate or reduce risks to human health and the environment. But these efforts may not fully restore injured natural resources or address their lost uses by the public. Through the NRDA process, Damage Assessment, Remediation & Restoration Program (DARRP) and co-trustees conduct studies to identify the extent of resource injuries, the best methods for restoring those resources, and the type and amount of restoration required.

NOAA conducts the following three steps in an NRDA:

1. Preliminary Assessment
2. Injury Assessment/Restoration Planning
3. Restoration Implementation

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment Reference Deskbook
Environmental Law Institute (ELI)

12 Simple Ways to Fireproof Your Home for Summer

Summer leaves ample room for accidents when it comes to fire. While we’re off enjoying the weather, simple things can go wrong resulting in a fire that spreads like, well, wildfire. Keep a fire safety plan in play all year and go over it with children every season to ensure they know what to do should disaster strike.Taking the proper precautions to fireproof your home for summer will help you avoid an accident and can save lives.

Simple Ways to Fireproof Your Home Inside

Keep up with fireproofing through the summer by implementing these simple tools for the season. When in doubt, get the opinion of an expert (as in the case of overloaded wires). While it may cost you for a home visit, you can be sure your family is safe and any faulty hazards are taken care of immediately. This can wind up saving your life and a lot of money in home insurance.

1) Get rid of excess stuff.
2) Swap your candles for infused bamboo.
3) Double check your smoke alarms.
4) Make sure there are no overloaded wires.

Simple Ways to Fireproof Your Home Outside

Once you’re done taking care of fireproofing your home on the inside, don’t forget about the outsize fire hazards that can exist during the summer. The season means a lot of time is spent outdoors with the family, so take the proper precautions to ensure everyone’s safety for summer.

5) Move the recycling outside.
6) Fireproof your patio furniture.
7) Buy a fire extinguisher to keep outside.
8) Barbecue away from shrubs or trees.
9) Dispose of coals properly.
10) Never leave outdoor candles unattended.
11) Clean out dryer lint.
12) Keep a close eye on fireworks activity.

FULL DESCRIPTION (Source: Fire Science Degree)

EPA Initiates Rulemaking on Sanitary Sewer Overflows

EPA is initiating a rulemaking to better protect the environment and public health from the harmful effects of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and basement backups. In many cities, SSOs and basement backups occur because of blockages, broken pipes and excessive water flowing into the pipes. SSOs present environmental and health problems because they discharge untreated wastewater that contains bacteria, viruses, suspended solids, toxics, trash and other pollutants into waterways. These overflows may also contribute to beach closures, shellfish bed closures, contamination of drinking water supplies and other environmental and health concerns. EPA plans to address these issues as part of its efforts to protect public health and revitalize local waterways.

EPA is considering two possible modifications to existing regulations:

(1) establishing standard National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit conditions for publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) permits that specifically address sanitary sewer collection systems and SSOs; and

(2) clarifying the regulatory framework for applying NPDES permit conditions to municipal satellite collection systems. Municipal satellite collection systems are sanitary sewers owned or operated by a municipality that conveys wastewater to a POTW operated by a different municipality. As a part of this effort, the agency is also considering whether to address long-standing questions about peak wet weather flows at municipal wastewater treatment plants to allow for a holistic, integrated approach to reducing SSOs while at the same time addressing peak flows at POTWs.

To help the agency make decisions on this proposed rulemaking, EPA will hold public listening sessions and the public can submit written comments. EPA will accept written comments on the potential rule until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information on sanitary sewer overflows, the potential rule and a schedule of the upcoming listening sessions.

Director of Minerals Management Service Birnbaum Fired

Minerals Management Service (MMS) Director Elizabeth Birnbaum has been fired just hours before President Obama's planned press conference today on the oil spill. The MMS has been troubled for years with all kinds of improper conduct allegations about some staff members, criticism over lax oversight of drilling and cozy ties with industry.

As MMS Director, Birnbaum administered programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and ocean current energy; and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, including the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas, as well as the collection and distribution of revenues for minerals developed on federal and American Indian lands.

Before her appointment, she was staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw strategy development, budget management and staff activities for the committee that manages legislative branch agencies. From 2001-2007, she was Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel for American Rivers, where she directed advocacy programs for the nation’s leading river conservation organization.

EPA Settles Factory Farm Pollution Lawsuit With Enviros

EPA reached a settlement Tuesday with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance, which requies the agency to gather information about factory farms that don't have discharge permits and determine whether they should be regulated. The groups filed a federal lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in early 2009, claiming the EPA gave too much discretion to farm operators in determining which farms needed permits to discharge waste into waterways. EPA will propose a rule to collect information from the factory farms and will take final action on the proposed rule within two years. It will seek public comment as part of that process.

Large factory farms are known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. The EPA defines CAFOs as farms with any of the following: 700 dairy cows; 1,000 veal calves; 1,000 cattle; 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds or 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds; 10,000 sheep or lambs; 55,000 turkeys; and between 30,000 and 125,000 chickens, depending on the manure handling system used.

EPA will look at the number of animals, how much waste they produce and how waste is stored and disposed of - whether it is applied to farm land as fertilizer, shipped to another location or used for other purposes. (Wash Post, AP, 5/26/10)

Oil Pollution Act

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was signed into law in August 1990, largely in response to rising public concern following the Exxon Valdez incident. The OPA improved the nation's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by establishing provisions that expand the federal government's ability, and provide the money and resources necessary, to respond to oil spills. The OPA also created the national Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is available to provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident.

In addition, the OPA provided new requirements for contingency planning both by government and industry. The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) has been expanded in a three-tiered approach: the Federal government is required to direct all public and private response efforts for certain types of spill events; Area Committees -- composed of federal, state, and local government officials -- must develop detailed, location-specific Area Contingency Plans; and owners or operators of vessels and certain facilities that pose a serious threat to the environment must prepare their own Facility Response Plans.
Finally, the OPA increased penalties for regulatory noncompliance, broadened the response and enforcement authorities of the Federal government, and preserved State authority to establish law governing oil spill prevention and response.

Key Provisions of the Oil Pollution Act

§1002(a) Provides that the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of a discharge, is liable for: (1) certain specified damages resulting from the discharged oil; and (2) removal costs incurred in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).

§1002(c) Exceptions to the Clean Water Act (CWA) liability provisions include: (1) discharges of oil authorized by a permit under Federal, State, or local law; (2) discharges of oil from a public vessel; or (3) discharges of oil from onshore facilities covered by the liability provisions of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.

§1002(d) Provides that if a responsible party can establish that the removal costs and damages resulting from an incident were caused solely by an act or omission by a third party, the third party will be held liable for such costs and damages.

§1004 The liability for tank vessels larger than 3,000 gross tons is increased to $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater. Responsible parties at onshore facilities and deepwater ports are liable for up to $350 millon per spill; holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill, plus removal costs. The Federal government has the authority to adjust, by regulation, the $350 million liability limit established for onshore facilities.

§1016 Offshore facilities are required to maintain evidence of financial responsibility of $150 million and vessels and deepwater ports must provide evidence of financial responsibility up to the maximum applicable liability amount. Claims for removal costs and damages may be asserted directly against the guarantor providing evidence of financial responsibility.

§1018(a) The Clean Water Act does not preempt State Law. States may impose additional liability (including unlimited liability), funding mechanisms, requirements for removal actions, and fines and penalties for responsible parties.

§1019 States have the authority to enforce, on the navigable waters of the State, OPA requirements for evidence of financial responsibility. States are also given access to Federal funds (up to $250,000 per incident) for immediate removal, mitigation, or prevention of a discharge, and may be reimbursed by the Trust fund for removal and monitoring costs incurred during oil spill response and cleanup efforts that are consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).

§4202 Strengthens planning and prevention activities by: (1) providing for the establishment of spill contingency plans for all areas of the U.S. (2) mandating the development of response plans for individual tank vessels and certain facilities for responding to a worst case discharge or a substantial threat of such a discharge; and (3) providing requirements for spill removal equipment and periodic inspections.

§4301(a) and (c) The fine for failing to notify the appropriate Federal agency of a discharge is increased from a maximum of $10,000 to a maximum of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. The maximum prison term is also increased from one year to five years. The penalties for violations have a maximum of $250,000 and 15 years in prison.

§4301(b) Civil penalties are authorized at $25,000 for each day of violation or $1,000 per barrel of oil discharged. Failure to comply with a Federal removal order can result in civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each day of violation.

§9001(a) Amends the Internal Revenue Act of 1986 to consolidate funds established under other statutes and to increase permitted levels of expenditures. Penalties and funds established under several laws are consolidated, and the Trust Fund borrowing limit is increased from $500 million to $1 billion.
Full-text of Oil Pollution Act

President Obama To Extend Offshore Drilling Ban

File Photo: Obama 1st Trip To Gulf After Spill
President Barack Obama is reinstituting a moratorium on new deepwater oil drilling permits for six months while a presidential commission investigates. Lease sales off the coast of Alaska will be delayed pending the results of the commission's investigation. Lease sales planned in the Western Gulf and off the coast of Virginia will be canceled. In March, Obama and Salazar canceled a planned 2011 lease sale in Alaska's Bristol Bay. Salazar believes that fisheries, tourism and environmental values in Bristol Bay make the area inappropriate for oil and gas drilling. They canceled four scheduled lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas and said no additional leases would be offered there until more scientific data are collected.

These actions are the results of a 30-day safety review of offshore drilling conducted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Obama's direction. President Barack Obama ordered Salazar to conduct a review of the nation's offshore oil drilling safety after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month. Salazar's report says that he will not consider applications for permits to drill in the Arctic until 2011. Salazar wants to allow further study of proposed drilling technology and oil spill response capabilities in Arctic waters. (MSNBC, 5/27/10)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Center President Testifies Before Nuclear Commission

Center President Norris McDonald presented a statement before the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) hearing today at the Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. McDonald gave his statement as Co-Chairman of the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC). The BRC met on May 25 and 26 to hear presentations from experts, to conduct commission business and to hear statements from the general public. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was established in by President Obama to come up with an alternative to Yucca Mountain as the nation’s repository for nuclear waste. The BRC operates under the authority of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Excerpts from McDonald statement:

The NFRC is promoting the establishment of a Nuclear Waste Management Agency (NWMA) to manage all federal and civilian spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste management programs currently under the control of the United States Department of Energy (DOE). The NFRC is recommending an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (42 U.S.C. 10101) to establish the United States Nuclear Waste Management Agency. We request that the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future adopt the legislation we have drafted transferring nuclear waste management as a recommendation to Congress and President Barack Obama.

The Nuclear Waste Management Act of 2010 (NWM Act), in addition to transferring authority for managing nuclear waste from DOE to the NWMA, establishes and operates receipt of low-level radioactive waste, provides for supplementary segregation, provides for treatment and provides for burial or monitored/retrievable storage facilities on a fee basis. The NWM Act would establish spent nuclear fuel reprocessing as a viable technology to aid in achieving and maintaining our national security and national energy policy goals. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.
McDonald is pictured at right with former Senator Pete Domenici, who is a member of the commission. After the hearing, they reminisced about the signing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 at a ceremony at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. McDonald was a Special Guest of the White House.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BP Top Kill

BP engineers are going to use 50,000 barrels of dense mud and robotic submarines to attempt a "top kill" maneuver to plug the leaking well a mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been done successfully in the past but not at this depth.

This will be the first attempt to stop outright the flow of oil that has created a vast slick in the gulf and is now coming ashore and into marshes in Louisiana. Previous efforts by BP since the April 20 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig have focused on containing and/or dispersing the oil coming from a collapsed pipe.

By probing conditions inside the blowout preventer, BP will learn how much pressure must be overcome when the drilling mud is injected into the well. There are five portals into the blowout preventer. Mud will be pumped at 40 barrels a minute, or some similar quantity, through multiple lines, driven by a 30,000-horsepower engine on a ship at the surface some 5,000 feet above the well. (Wash Post, 5/25/10)

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments Act of 2010

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

A bill by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to increase the limits on liability under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.


This Act may be cited as the ‘Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments Act of 2010’.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink


(a) Civil Penalties- Section 24(b) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1350(b)) is amended--

(1) in the first sentence of paragraph (1), by striking ‘$20,000’ and inserting ‘$75,000’;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking ‘may be assessed’ and inserting ‘of not more than $150,000 for each day of the continuance of the failure shall be assessed’;

(b) Criminal Penalties- The first sentence of section 24(c) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1350(c)) is amended by striking ‘$100,000’ and inserting ‘$10,000,000’.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

1(c) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) take effect on April 15, 2010.

Commentary: This bill is a response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It would increase the fine for those who “knowingly and willfully” violate the provisions of 43 U.S.C. § 1350(c). “Any person” who “knowingly and willfully” violates a subsection of § 1350(c) is subject to imprisonment for 10 years, a fine, or both, and the bill would increase the amount of the fine from $10,000 to $10 million. Section 1350(d) of Title 43 currently provides that, where a corporation or other entity is subject to prosecution, “any officer or agent of the same corporation or entity who knowingly and willfully authorized, ordered, or carried out the proscribed activity” can be individually prosecuted. (

Monday, May 24, 2010

Glenn Beck Gets 'Shared Energy Savings' Wrong Too

Glenn, Glenn, Glenn, Glenn, Glenn, Glenn.

Center President Norris McDonald co-wrote the first 'shared energy savings' law with the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) in 1985. McDonald and NAESCO worked for the passage of the legislation and Congress passed it on voice votes. The legislation was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Today you described 'shared energy savings' as some sort of socialist plot led by communist revolutionaries. We assure you that the late former President Ronald Reagan would not have signed such authored legislation. Glenn, you keep getting this stuff wrong. We watch your show and it is just embarrassing. It is one thing to be obsessed with 'getting' President Obama. It is quite another to get the facts almost completely wrong. You did this on EPA's Faith Based Initiative and Climate Change (Cap & Trade).

You described how 'shared savings' works, but you made it sound sinister. Third party energy services companies put up the money to make efficiency investments and get a return on that investment and make a profit by sharing the saved energy (and money) over a period of years. It is a perfect instrument for any institution that does not have a budget to make the front end investment. And just as with Cap & Trade, it is an excellent market mechanism for implementing environmental and energy projects.

Oh. And we are getting sick of you slamming so-called radicalized communists when you will not correct your inaccuracies via our market-based 'Fair and Balanced' information. Our red phone is sitting right here. See it? Over there on the right. Pick up the phone. Give us a call. We like much of the information you share about markets, capitalism and democracy. We hate it when you are not fair and balanced and bend over backwards in twisting the facts just to hammer the president. Get it right. Pick up the telephone.

President Obama Creates Gulf Commission: Heads Appointed

Bipartisan Nat'l Commission on BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

William Reilly, Norris McDonald
President Barack Obama has announced the appointments of former EPA Adminstrator William K. Reilly, left (with Center President), and Bob Graham, right, a Democrat who also was Florida governor, as the panel's heads. Obama intends to name five others to the commission, which will examine issues such as what caused the spill, the safety of offshore drilling and operations at Minerals Management Service.

The bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling is tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

The commission will be focused on the necessary environmental and safety precautions we must build into our regulatory framework in order to ensure an accident like this never happens again, taking into account the other investigations concerning the causes of the spill.

The commission will have bipartisan co-chairs with a total membership of seven people. Membership will include broad and diverse representation of individuals with relevant expertise. No sitting government employees or elected officials will sit on the commission.

The Commission’s work will be transparent and subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Commission will issue a report within six months of having been convened.

(White House)

EPA & BP Fight Over Corexit Oil Dispersant Use in Gulf

After initially approving use of the Corexit oil dispersant via the 'Dispersant Monitoring and Assessment Directive for Subsurface Dispersant Application' protocol, EPA changed its mind and ordered BP to stop using Corexit and to switch to a less toxic product. BP refused the stop order and is defending Corexit as approved and available. However, EPA, in reexaming its initial approval of use of Corexit, concluded that so little is known about the use of dispersants on this scale or underwater that only the least toxic of approved products should be chosen. The hundreds of thousands of gallons of Corexit that BP has already used is the most chemical dispersant ever used in United States waters.

Stay tuned. The Obama administration is livid over this response and the ongoing catastrophy that is now being described as the 'worst environmental disaster in American history.' The Center is considering a program to mitigate the oil contamination in the Gulf. We are considering putting together a team to implement the use of Bio-Matrix Peat Moss to assist in solving oil contamination problem.

EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard have concluded that dispersants are less toxic and shorter-lived than the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. However, they also accept that much remains unknown about their impact on the environment when used in these unprecedented volumes. For that reason, EPA and the USCG directed that BP use dispersants in the most effective and efficient way possible, thereby minimizing the total amount used. What the monitoring data indicates so far is that the underwater use of dispersants is effective at breaking up the oil and, to this point, does not seem to have had any significant impacts on aquatic life. Using the dispersant underwater at the source of the leak also requires far less dispersant to be applied. For this reason, EPA and USCG have informed BP that they should focus the use of dispersants underwater and only use the dispersants on the surface under specific conditions- for example, if they are unable to apply them underwater for a period of time. This could cut overall dispersant use by half and possibly more.

· EPA and U.S. Coast Guard consider BP’s scientific analysis of alternative dispersants insufficient. Late last week EPA directed BP to analyze other available, pre-approved dispersants to determine if an alternative dispersant proved less toxic and more effective. BP responded within 24 hours by rejecting the EPA directive. EPA and the Coast Guard believe their response was insufficient and lacked sufficient analysis. EPA is concerned that BP seemed, in their response, more interested in defending their initial decisions than analyzing possible better options.

· EPA and other government scientists will independently verify the data presented by BP. As a result of being dissatisfied with the response, and to ensure that EPA knows as much as they can know about the current environmental impact, EPA will be performing independent scientific verification of the data BP presented. EPA will conduct their own tests to determine the least toxic, most effective dispersant available in the volumes necessary for a crisis of this magnitude. EPA's toxicity tests will address the claims and conclusions put forth by BP in their response to EPA late last week. And EPA scientists have been tasked with conducting parallel, independent tests to determine if BP’s argument that Corexit remains the best alternative is accurate and supported by the science.

Gulf Oil Spill Hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.


Tuesday, May 25: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds its third hearing on the Gulf oil spill tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in 325 Russell, the Kennedy Caucus Room. The Committee will examine liability and financial responsibility issues related to offshore oil production, including the Deepwater Horizon accident and S. 3346, a bill to increase the limits on civil and criminal penalties under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Members will hear from two panels of witnesses: the first will include Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, third ranking official in the Justice Department and supervisor of the Civil, Civil Rights, Antitrust, Tax and Environment divisions. The second panel will consist of Congressional Research Service experts in environmental policy, liability law and financing risk.

Wednesday, May 26: House Natural Resources Committee kicks off Part 1 of a series of 7 hearings related to Deepwater Horizon by convening to examine to Deepwater Horizon Rig Explosion at 10:00 a.m. Panel I: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Panel II: Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger, U.S. Coast Guard Deputy National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response; NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco; and MMS Director Elizabeth Birnbaum.

Thursday, May 27: House Natural Resources Committee holds Part 2 at 10:00 a.m. with BP's Lamar McKay and Transocean's Steven Newman, as well as Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association; API chief Jack Gerard; Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist for Oceana; and Michelle Foss, head of the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas.

Thursday, May 27: 10:00 a.m., the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies holds a hearing on the BP-Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, looking at the ongoing response and environmental impacts. Secretary Salazar and MMS Director Birnbaum will testify along with Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Asst. Interior Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland, and U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt.

Thursday, May 27: House Judiciary Committee, full committee examination of the legal liability issues surrounding the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

Thursday, May 27: 2 p.m. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convenes for a hearing on combating the BP oil spill. More debate on the dispersant fight.

Thursday, May 27: Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee to examine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on small businesses.

Source: Frank Maisano

EPA Administrator Returns to Gulf Region

To Oversee Ongoing Response to the BP Spill

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is back in the Gulf Coast today to monitor EPA’s on-the-ground response to the BP oil spill and speak with residents about efforts to mitigate the spill's impact on the region. This marks Administrator Jackson’s third visit to the gulf region since the oil spill began.

The Administrator is receiving a briefing at the Unified Command Center in Robert, Lousiana, meeting with BP officials and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Landry. The visit includes a tour of a Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA), a self-contained mobile laboratory being used by EPA to sample and analyze outdoor air quality in the gulf. Administrator Jackson is touring oil impacted wetlands by boat, launching from the Cypress Cove Marina in Venice. She is also participating in an Ecosystem Working Group Meeting at the EPA Incident Command Post.

The visit will also include briefings with the press on dispersants. The first briefing included Jackson and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry discussing BP's use of dispersants to address the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On Thursday, EPA directed BP to analyze available pre-approved dispersants for toxicity and effectiveness and report back within 24 hours. The directive called for a 72-hour window to analyze the options – that window closed on Sunday night. After receiving BP's response (refusal to stop using the Nalco Corexit dispersant) to the directive, EPA and NOAA scientists immediately called a meeting with BP scientists to discuss BP’s response.

Center's Opposition To Expanded Offshore Was Justified

The uncontrollable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is THE example of why the Center historically opposed expanded offshore oil and gas drilling proposals. Although we did not anticipate such an unprecedented and uncontrollable spill, we concluded long ago that the risk to our beaches and ocean ecosystems was just too great. Now we are not pure from a traditional environmental perspective because our opposition to expanded offshore oil and gas drilling is balanced by our support for coal, oil shale and tar sands to liquids. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal and we can convert it to transportation fuel. We figure to use it all before even considering expanding offshore exploration and production. If we assume expanded plug-in fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles, that could extend coal/shale/tar sands production and consumption for hundreds of years.

We had no clue that the USA was so unprepared to stop a deep water oil spill. The federal government, including we assume our Defense Department, has left mitigation to BP, probably because they supposedly have the expertise to stop the spill. But over one month has gone by and millions of gallons of crude oil have already spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. We just hope that BP can cap the well very soon. BP is planning a "top kill" that would cap the well by pumping heavy drilling fluid into it.

Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is assessing the ecological effect of the hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals (Nalco Corexit Technology) that BP has sprayed into the Gulf to break up the oil so far. EPA and BP are in a standoff over whether to continue using the same chemical dispersant. BP has been spraying unprecedented quantities of Corexit 9500, which the EPA approved for use on oil spills although EPA tests show it is more toxic to certain sea life than some other dispersants the agency has also approved. BP has been spraying the chemicals on the Gulf's surface and at the well on the sea floor. The stragety has never been tried before at these depths, but was approved by EPA on May 15. Last Thursday, the EPA changed course and told BP to switch to less-toxic dispersants by Sunday night. But, according to a letter from BP that the EPA released over the weekend, the oil company wants to keep using Corexit. BP says alternatives raise other environmental questions and are not available in sufficient volume for this spill. Knowledge of dispersants' environmental effect is limited. (WSJ, 5/24/10)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Can Bio-Matrix Peat Moss Absorbent Help In The Gulf?


Sphagnum peat moss is only found north of the 49th parallel and has the highest moisture absorbency characteristics of all the known peat mosses. In its natural state in the Bio-Matrix "Fison" peat bogs of Park land County, Alberta, each lb/kg of sphagnum moss retains from 9 to 14 lbs/kg of water. Bio-Matrix USA Inc then cultivates this high grade 90% moisture content raw resource to a +/- 60% content through bog preparation and aeration.

It is then carefully harvested, screened, and brought to a plant where a specialized heat treatment and air drying process reduces the moisture content to +/- 10%. At this level the peat fiber's water retention features change so that its cellular structure now becomes singularly hydrophobic (resistant to water) and has a natural affinity to absorbing and encapsulating hydrocarbons.
This activated peat is then double compressed into 4 cubic foot/200 liter and 2 cubic foot/100 liter bags for shipment to our worldwide network of licensed Bio-Matrix Master Stocking Distributors.

The video below shows the product as work as it absorbs transmission fluid from a glass of water.

Disclaimer: The Center is not yet endorsing the product or the company and has not been compensated for this article.

Glenn Beck Attacks EPA's Faith Based Program

The Center supported former President George Bush's Faith Based Initiative and we support President Obama's Faith Based Initiative. We specifically support EPA's Faith Based Initiative and established the Robert J. Knox Institute to recognize and continue his work. Beck seems to support Bush's program, but seems to oppose Obama's program. Beck decries mixing religion and government to fight global warming. That is the basis of his opposing President Obama and supporting President Bush. Except that Bush had the exact same program at EPA as Obama. The late Bob Knox, who was co-director of EPA's Office of Environmental Justice and director of its Faith Based Initiative, was excellent under the Bush administration and the program continues today. Mr. Beck has not done his homework.

Now Beck says Obama is replacing God with government. Glenn. Please. Pick up the Red Phone. Give us a call.

Beck dismisses social justice and environmental justice as progressive plots to subvert America. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Beck says these items are about redistribution of wealth. Clearly Glenn has not done his homework or he would know that disproportionate environmental impacts are real and pose a threat to the health of Americans everyday. Social justice put President Obama in the White House. Could that be what is really upsetting Mr. Beck? Glenn, we watch your show and your coverage of climate change, social justice, environmental justice and faith based initiatives is below par.

We are disappointed that Glenn Beck only presents one side of environmental issues, particularly when it comes to climate change and environmental justice. He could just read the Center Blog to get a proper education on green issues. Moreover, we find no contradiction in pursuing capitalism and social or environmental justice. Yet, to deny disproportionate impacts and global warming is to ignore profitable mitigation strategies. You cannot solve a problem that you do not acknowledge. Our Red Phone is sitting right here. We are waiting for it to ring.

Jackson, Salazar & Sutley Appear Before Senate EP&W

Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

Testimony on Federal Response to the Recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Statement of Lisa P. Jackson Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency



For weeks, EPA responders have been monitoring air pollutants including, particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide, and total volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – from the oil in the Gulf, as well as the controlled burning of oil. These pollutants could pose a health risk to local communities and this monitoring is essential to ensure that communities are protected as BP takes direct response actions. EPA is also monitoring water quality by conducting surface water testing along the Gulf Coast, both in areas that have been impacted and those not yet affected. All of this information is being made public as quickly as we can compile it. We have been posting regular updates to our webpage, which has been a critical resource since the beginning of this event.

A primary concern is to ensure the safe application of chemical dispersants. Oil spill dispersants are chemicals applied to the spilled oil to break down the oil into small drops below on the surface. The dispersed oil mixes into the water column and is rapidly diluted. Bacteria and other microscopic organisms then act to degrade the oil within the droplets. However, in the use of dispersants we are faced with environmental trade-offs. We know that surface use of dispersants decreases the environmental risks to shorelines and organisms at the surface. And we know that dispersants breakdown over weeks rather than remaining for several years as untreated oil might. But, we are also deeply concerned about the things we don’t know. The long term effects on aquatic life are still unknown and we must make sure that the dispersants that are used are as non-toxic as possible. We are working with manufacturers, with BP and with others, to get less toxic dispersants to the response site as quickly as possible.

EPA has previously authorized use of several dispersing chemicals under the National Contingency Plan. In order to be placed on this list, each dispersing chemical must undergo a toxicity and effectiveness test. On Friday, EPA and the On Scene Coordinator authorized the application of dispersant underwater, at the source of the leak. The goal of this novel approach is to break up and degrade the oil before it reaches the water’s surface, and comes closer to our shorelines, our estuaries and our nurseries. Based on our testing, this can be done by using less dispersant than is necessary on the surface. But let me be clear that EPA reserves the right to halt the usage of sub-surface dispersant if we conclude that at any time; the impact to the environment outweighs the benefit of dispersing oil. As with our other monitoring initiatives, EPA and the Coast Guard have instituted a publicly available monitoring plan for sub-surface dispersant application to understand the impacts to the environment. This data will come to EPA once a day and if the levels in the samples are elevated, EPA will re-consider the authorization of use of dispersants.




Let me be very clear: BP is responsible, along with others, for ensuring that –

• the flow of oil from the source is stopped;
• the spread of oil in the Gulf is contained;
• the ecological values and near shore areas of the Gulf are protected;
• any oil coming onshore is cleaned up;
• all damages to the environment are assessed and remedied; and
• people, businesses, and governments are compensated for losses.

I also deployed to Houston Dr. Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who is one of the nation’s most preeminent marine geophysicists, to provide oversight and to monitor the effectiveness of the BP command center’s activities. Dr. McNutt and the personnel assigned to the Houston Command Center by Secretary Chu, along with the Commanders of the U.S. Coast Guard, are there to ensure that no stone is left unturned as we search for solutions to the problem.

I established a new Outer Continental Shelf Safety Oversight Board within the Department. Composed of top Departmental officials, it will strengthen safety and improve overall management, regulation, and oversight of operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). It will also help us evaluate the broader questions that this spill raises about those activities.

Under MMS’s management, the OCS currently provides 31 percent of the Nation’s domestic oil production and almost 11 percent of its domestic natural gas production. The MMS is one of the largest collectors of non-tax and non-trust revenue for the Treasury, and has collected an average of more than $13 billion annually for the past 5 years. An agency with responsibilities of this magnitude should be governed by thoughtfully considered organic legislation.


Least Developed Countries Decry Multi-Donor Trust Fund

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are calling for adequately funding the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) to enable them to face the impact of climate change. The current demand was made at the 66th Ministerial Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) at the Songdo Convention Centre in Incheon, South Korea. The LDCs are also demanding adequate representation in the governing structures of multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank.

The LDCs (e.g., Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal, among others) contend that the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and the small island developing states remain highly vulnerable to the external economic environment and climate change. Some LDCs endorsed the Copenhagen Accord, hoping that it would serve as a building block towards a legally binding agreement in COP 16 scheduled this year in Mexico City. LDCs hope that the COP 16 outcome in Cancun, Mexico will address the critical concerns of the least developing countries and will give adequate consideration to the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Plan of Action. (The Daily Star, 5/17/10)

Seven Types of Offshore Oil Production Platforms

Source: U.S. Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico Region, Offshore Information, October 1999

A fixed platform (FP) is supported by piles driven into the seabed and is economically feasible for water depths up to 1,650 feet. The compliant tower (CT) is a narrow, flexible tower that can operate in water depths of up to 3,000 feet. The Sea Star or floating “mini tension leg” structure is suitable for smaller reservoirs and operates in water depths up to 3,500 feet. The floating production system (FPS) is anchored in place and can be dynamically positioned using rotating trusters. Connected to wellheads on the ocean floor this system can be used in water depths up to 6,000 feet. Subsea systems (SS), connected to nearby platforms, can operate at great depths. However, the drilling and completion cost penalties of subsea systems make these arrangements less preferable than floating structures.

Composite production risers (CPR) technology (replaced steel) is expected to be most appropriate for TLPs (tension leg platforms) and for SPAR platforms, which are vertical floating cylinders (Johnson 2003). TLPs and SPAR platforms consist of floating structures held in place by vertical tendons connected to the sea floor. TLPs and SPAR platforms account for 39 percent of announced Gulf of Mexico deepwater projects. It is expected that the availability of the CPR technology will significantly expand the operating reach of TLPs and SPAR platforms beyond 6,000 feet of water depth.

Worldwide, it is estimated that “there will be up to 22 deepwater projects each year during the next decade” (Hillegeist 2001). Of these, 10 are expected to be located in the Gulf of Mexico with 39 percent, or four projects, likely to use TLP or SPAR platforms. Of these four projects each year, one is expected to be located in excess of 6,000 feet water depth. Each year, this one project will be a strong candidate for the CPR technology (Johnson 2003).

Dramatic Changes at Minerals Management Service

Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Chris Oynes, the top official responsible for the supervision of offshore oil drilling for MMS, announced he would be retiring on June 30.

Subsequent to the Gulf accident, the Interior Department announced that it would realign the Minerals Management Service (MMS) by one part of the agency being charged with inspections of rigs and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties. Before this reorganization, MMS had the dual duties of collecting royalties from the oil industry and enforcing regulations that could impact companies' bottom lines. The implication being that MMS would relax regulations to insure that oil company production and thus royalty collections could be maximized. Critics are now charging that such a conflict led to the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), lef, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, is questioning why the government's leasing function under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act -- where environmental compliance would take place -- would still remain under the segment of the newly divided MMS that handles royalties rather than the new enforcement entity. Grijalva is opposed to deep-water drilling. (The Money Times, 5/19/10, Government Executive, 5/17/10)