Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3 Judge NRC Panel Says DOE Cannot Drop Yucca Application

Administration Cannot Drop Bid for Nuclear Waste Dump in Nevada, Panel Finds
Center President Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2003
In a 47-page decision, a three-member panel of administrative judges at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled on Tuesday that the Energy Department could not withdraw its application to open a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. They said the Energy Department lacked the authority to drop the petition because it would flout a law passed by Congress. The decision on Tuesday could be overruled by the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself. President Obama had promised in his election campaign to drop the Yucca Mountain plans if he were elected. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also opposes Yucca Mountain.

In the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, Congress directed the Energy Department to file the application and the commission to consider it and:

“issue a final, merits-based decision approving or disapproving the construction. Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process.”
Congress would have to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the Energy Department to pursue the application. But the president’s budget for next year proposes no money at all.

The three-judge panel noted that the Energy Department was not claiming that Yucca was unsafe or that there was anything wrong with the 86,000-page application, but was saying only that the site was “not a workable option.”

The Energy Department’s waste program has been mostly financed by electricity consumers, who pay one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour into a nuclear waste fund. About $10 billion has been spent so far. (NYT, 6/29/2010)

Constellation Energy Group Invests in NC Smart Grid Company

BGE Parent Invests $17.7 Million In Consert Inc

Constellation Energy Group has invested in Raleigh, N.C.-based Consert Inc., a "smart grid" technology provider. Consert on Tuesday announced the $17.7 million investment by Constellation, GE Energy Financial Services, Qualcomm Inc.,, Verizon Ventures and others.

The investment by Constellation, the corporate parent of Baltimore Gas and Electric, comes as Maryland regulators have denied the utility's smart grid proposal because of up-front costs to consumers. The technology allows consumers to track their electricity use in real time and enables two-way communication between customers and the utility. (The Baltimore Sun, 6/29/2010)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

EPA Releases Draft Strategic Plan for Public Comment

The Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan is now available for public review and comment. The Agency’s Strategic Plan identifies the measurable environmental and human health outcomes the public can expect over the next five years and describes how the EPA intends to achieve those results.

EPA welcomes comments from all stakeholders. To read and comment on the Draft Strategic Plan. EPA will use stakeholder feedback to prepare the final FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan, which will be released by September 30, 2010. Comments must be received on or before July 30, 2010 for consideration.

EPA has also established a Discussion Forum to engage with the public on the cross-cutting fundamental strategies and actions the Agency can take to tangibly change the way we work.

Additional information about the Agency’s Strategic Plan and the public review and comment on the Draft Strategic Plan.

First Uranium Mill in 25 Years Proposed In Colorado

Western Colorado's Paradox Valley
A proposal to build the nation's first uranium mill in 25 years could transform Paradox, Colorado into the a principle source of uranium milling for the nuclear fuel industry. The mill would process ore from 41 nearby mills and could provide up to 85 jobs paying $45,000 to $75,000 per year, according to mill operator Energy Fuels Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Canadian corporation of the same name. A county study showed the mill could increase county housing demand by 31 percent and generate up to 564 additional long-term jobs in the county in sectors like construction, retail, and mining.

The demolished company milling town of Uravan, 16 miles from Naturita, shows the other side of uranium. Originally a radium mining site in the early 1900s, it became a company town in 1935, when U.S. Vanadium Corp. built a mill and expanded the mine. Its output fueled the Manhattan Project and the Cold War's nuclear arms race. But few measures were in place to protect workers, residents or the environment from uranium's harm, and the town was evacuated in 1984 due to extensive radioactive contamination.

After becoming a federal Superfund clean-up site in 1986, the site was reclaimed in 2008 at a cost of $127 million, paid for Vanadium Corp.'s owner, Union Carbide Corporation. In August 2009, a federal appeals court ruled against past residents of the mill town who sought compensation for their illnesses, siding with Union Carbide. Mill supporters discount that history, arguing that regulations have drastically improved since Uravan, with multiple government agencies now overseeing milling and mining operations.

The company will have to post a $12 million bond upfront for clean-up of the site should the company go bankrupt, according to application documents. The mill would use about 150 gallons per minute to process uranium ore. (The Daily Climate, 6/29/2010)

Oil Imports For the United States of America

Total Imports of Petroleum

(Top 15 Countries)

(Thousand Barrels per Day)

(As of April 2010)


CANADA - 2,486

MEXICO - 1,276


NIGERIA - 1,125


RUSSIA - 587

ANGOLA - 508

IRAQ - 490




BRAZIL - 307


KUWAIT - 278


[OPEC Countries in bold]


The founding members are Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Later members include Algeria, Ecuador, Indonesia, Libya, Qatar, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates

OPEC has twelve member countries: six in the Middle East, four in Africa, and two in South America.

(EIA-DOE, Wiki)

EPA's GHG Reporting Requirements For 4 Sources

EPA Issues Greenhouse Gas Reporting Requirements for Four Emissions Sources
Agency Also To Consider Data Confidentiality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing requirements under its national mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting program for:

1) underground coal mines,

2) industrial wastewater treatment systems,

3) industrial waste landfills and

4) magnesium production facilities.

The data from these sectors will provide a better understanding of GHG emissions and will help EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce them.

Methane is the primary GHG emitted from coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems and industrial landfills and is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. The main fluorinated GHG emitted from magnesium production is sulfur hexafluoride, which has an even greater warming potential than methane, and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

These source categories will begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011, with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012.

In a separate proposed rule, EPA is requesting public comment on which industry related GHG information would be made publicly available and which would be considered confidential. Under the Clean Air Act, all emission data are public. Some non-emission data, however, may be considered confidential, because it relates to specific information which, if made public, could harm a business’s competitiveness. Examples of data considered confidential under this proposal include certain information reported by fossil fuel and industrial gas suppliers related to production quantities and raw materials. EPA is committed to providing the public with as much information as possible while following the law.

The GHG reporting program requires suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial GHGs and large direct emitters of greenhouse gases to report to EPA. Collecting this data will allow businesses to track emissions and identify cost effective ways to reduce emissions. EPA is preparing to provide data to the public after the first annual GHG reports are submitted in March 2011.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the proposed rules that will begin upon publication in the federal register.

More information on the final rule to add reporting requirements for four source categories

More information on the proposal on data confidentiality

Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Reasserts Standard for Injunctive Relief in NEPA Cases

The United States Supreme Court reiterated the four-part standard for injunctive relief it announced in 2008, confirming that this same standard applies in cases arising under NEPA. In a 7-1 opinion delivered by Justice Alito in Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms (Monsanto), the Court relied on its earlier opinions in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, and eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., holding that showings of:

1) irreparable injury,

2) inadequacy of legal remedies,

3) a balance of hardships tipping in favor of the party seeking the injunction and

4) consideration of the public interest

are all necessary before an injunction may issue.

More: Marten Law

ACEEE to Release Smart Meter Report

Advanced (or “smart”) meters for residential electricity use are all the rage today.

According to a new study by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), if Americans are to cut their household electricity use by a substantial margin and save tens of billions of dollars in the process, the nation’s electric utilities will have to lend a hand by providing consumer-friendly “residential feedback” tools, including real-time (or near-real time) Web-based or in-home feedback devices (the Google PowerMeter is one example) and enhanced billing approaches.
The ACEEE analysis shows that advanced metering initiatives now being used by many utilities are neither necessary nor sufficient alone for providing households with the feedback that they need to achieve energy savings. To realize potential feedback-induced savings, advanced meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or on-line) displays and well-designed programs that successfully inform, engage, empower, and motivate people.

ACEEE’s new report analyzes the results of 57 different residential sector feedback initiatives performed between 1974 and 2010. With approximately 115 million households nationwide, aggregate residential sector energy savings could make a meaningful contribution to U.S. energy security and climate goals, according to the study, which also details potential consumer pocketbook savings. Through tools such as real-time feedback and enhanced billing, residential electricity consumers can better evaluate their energy consumption practices, determine how energy is being wasted, and then take action to be more energy efficient. (ACEEE)

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

Senate Energy Committee will have a business meeting (Tues 6/29/2010) mark-up at 9:30 a.m. to consider S. 3516, a bill to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to reform the management of energy and mineral resources on the OCS, and for other purposes.

House Natural Resources holds its final hearings in a series of seven (Tues 6/29/2010) at 10:00 a.m. looking at state planning for offshore energy and the performance of MMS. Witnesses include Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; MMS (Bureau of Ocean Energy) Management Director Michael Bromwich; Janis Searles Jones of the Ocean Conservancy and David Dismukes, Louisiana State University's Center for Energy Studies policy director.

House Energy and Commerce Committee revisits legislation to respond to the BP oil spill on Wednesday (6/30/2010) at 9:30 a.m.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds a hearing on Wednesday (6/30/2010) at 10:00 a.m. to examine the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, focusing on holding industry accountable. (Frank Maisano)

Offshore Drillers Test Blow Out Preventers for MMS

Blowout Preventer
In hopes of moving them along on permit approvals, shallow water drillers recently conducted successful shear ram testing of a Blow Out Preventer (BOP) shearing drill pipe. The drillers wanted to show the Agency Formerly Known As MMS (or TAFKA MMS) (now Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) (or BOE) that it could comply with new rules.

Two different types of shear rams within the BOP - interlocking shear ram (ISR) and shearing blind ram (SBR) ram blocks – were used in these tests. The objective of these tests was to demonstrate that the BOP, with either the SBR/ISR ram blocks, could shear the highest grade drill pipe that well operators plan to use in their well plans.

During the shearing test, the drill pipe and dual string tubing sheared within the allowable shearing pressure tolerances. After the pipe was sheared, pressure was applied beneath the rams at a low and high (10,000 psi) pressure to simulate well bore pressure. The BOP shear ram tests were witnessed by TAFKA MMS, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and several drillers. (Frank Maisano)

Groups Sue To Stop Cape Wind Project

The Center supports the Cape Wind Project.

Several groups filed suit late last week against the proposed Cape Wind project saying that the proposed development may have violated several federal laws including the Endangered Species Act. The project, recently approved by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The groups include the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Cetacean Society International, The Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, Californians for Renewable Energy and Three Bays Preservation.

The Groups argue that

“required scientific studies were not done and that mandated protective measures were ignored in approving the controversial 130-turbine project slated for Nantucket Sound, a principal bird migration corridor off the Massachusetts coast.”
Issues raised by the suit include claimed refusals to adopt recommended protective measures for certain birds, such as shutting turbines down during peak migration periods; refusals to collect or submit acoustic, radar, infrared, or observational data on bird migration; and a failure to “prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement when new information came to light that a large aggregation of the highly imperiled North Atlantic Right Whale was present in the project area.”

This is a frivilous lawsuit and we hope it is dismissed quickly. The Cape Wind folk have been trying to get approval to build this offshore wind project for about 10 years. If their experience is any indication, not many other companies will be follow. Unnecessary delays kill projects. (Frank Maisano)

'A Whale,' World's Largest Oil Skimmer Heading to Gulf

The six opening's (six on each side of the vessel, 12 openings in all) near the bow of the vessel that pulls in the oil. 'A Whale,' is billed as the largest oil skimmer vessel in the world, is 1115 feet long and 196 feet wide and can hold 1 million barrels of recovered oil. The Taiwanese ship is owned and operated by TMT Shipping and will hopefully begin assisting in the clean up effort in the Gulf very soon.

The company is still negotiating with the Coast Guard to join the cleanup and does not have a contract with BP to perform the work. The company also needs environmental approval and waiver of a nearly century-old law aimed at protecting U.S. shipping interests.

Environmental Protection Agency approval is required because some of the seawater returned to the Gulf would have traces of oil.

The company says it also needs a waiver of the 1920 Jones Act, which limits the activities of foreign-flagged ships in coastal U.S. waters. Other interpretations conclude that the Jones Act is does not apply to skimming operations outside of 3 miles from shore. Oil skimming outside 3 miles, including near the well 50 miles from shore that is the source of the leak, is completely open to foreign oil spill response vessels. (Daily Press, 6/24/2010,, 6/25/2010)

White House Clean Energy Summit

President Obama is hosting a 'White House Clean Energy Summit (6/29/2010) to bring together a bipartisan group of Senate energy leaders to the White House to craft comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation.

Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, hosted a live chat on to take your questions on energy and climate change legislation. The session laste 24 minutes. The White House Facebook chat was bombarded with questions and comments long after Ms. Zichal signed off. There were some complaints about the shortness of the session.

President Obama is continuing with his recommendation to put a price on greenhouse gases. Kerry and Lieberman released a climate bill last month that capped greenhouse gases from power plants, transportation and trade-sensitive manufacturers but it is doubtful that it can get 60 Senate votes.

Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich attended the White House meeting. The want "a national energy tax off the table in the middle of a recession.” They want reduce American dependence on oil from hostile countries.

There was a partisan National Clean Energy Summit in August 2009 too that brought together public and private sector thought leaders. It was hosted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Politico, 6/29/2010)

BP Spending on Gulf Disaster Response

BP PLC has issued an estimate of its costs to date of about $2.65 billion for its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The costs include spill response, containment, relief-well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs. BP said it has received more than 80,000 claims and made almost 41,000 payments, totaling more than $128 million. The amount doesn't include a $20 billion fund for Gulf damages it created this month.

BP PLC reported that it had recovered or flared 435,600 barrels of oil since the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20. BP was spending $6 million a day when the spill began, but that cost has soared to $100 million a day as the slick has spread and efforts to cap the leaking well have intensified.

BP has taken new steps to bolster its cash and available credit, adding $5 billion to its oil-spill war chest amid deepening concerns about the escalating costs of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. BP PLC has a stake in the Russian state oil giant OAO Rosneft (TNK-BP International)and has picked up $2 billion in cash borrowed against its stake in Rosneft and other assets. BP has also arranged more than $3 billion in new unsecured bank credit lines in the past week. (WSJ, 6/28/2010)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Congressional Conference Committee Reconciles Finance Bills

A panel of 43 Congressional lawmakers spent two weeks reconciling differences between financial regulation bills that passed the House in December and the Senate in May. They concluded their negotiations along party lines today around 5 a.m. in a Capitol Hill conference room. Description follows:

The "Volcker" rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, prohibits banks from making risky bets with their own funds. Financial companies can make limited investments in areas such as hedge funds and private-equity funds. It requires some big banks to spin off divisions, known as proprietary-trading desks, which make bets with the firms' money.

The bill also includes a provision that would limit the ability of federally insured banks to trade derivatives. It still allows banks to trade interest-rate swaps, certain credit derivatives and others—in other words the kind of standard safeguards a bank would take to hedge its own risk. Banks, however, would have to set up separately capitalized affiliates to trade derivatives in areas lawmakers perceived as riskier, including metals, energy swaps, and agriculture commodities, among other things.

Government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain a multibillion dollar drain on the U.S. Treasury, and largely untouched by this proposal.

The legislation would redraw how money flows through the U.S. economy, from the way people borrow money to the way banks structure complicated products like derivatives. It would erect a new consumer-protection regulator within the Federal Reserve, give the government new powers to break up failing companies and assign a council of regulators to monitor risks to the financial system.

The legislation gives the Securities and Exchange Commission new powers to regulate Wall Street and monitor hedge funds, increasing the agency's access to funding. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would also have new powers to force most derivatives to face more scrutiny from regulators and other market participants. To pay for some of the new government programs, the bill would allow the government to charge fees to large banks and hedge funds to raise up to $19 billion spread over five years. The assessment is designed to eventually pay down a part of the national debt. (WSJ, 6/25/2010)

Maryland PSC Orders New ‘Price to Compare’ Information

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has ruled that the old “Price to Compare” formula, a weighted average of summer and non-summer rates, is no longer helpful, because customers need to use more than one number for an accurate comparison to offers from other suppliers.
Beginning no later than Aug. 1, utilities will have to publish several pieces of information on monthly bills, including current and known future standard utility service rates, along with the dates they are effective. For example, summer rates run from June 1 through Sept. 30 each year, while non-summer rates cover October through May.

The problems mounted this spring when suppliers were sending out offers that looked like they would provide big savings compared to rates at Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. or Potomac Electric Power Co., but the utilities’ rates only ran through May 31. Falling market rates led to lower rates for all of the utilities and many of the utilities had lower non-summer electricity prices than the suppliers. Under the PSC’s order, the utilities also will continue to offer the price to compare with the effective dates on bills, although at the recommendation of the Office of the People’s Counsel, the term “price to compare” will no longer appear on bills. (The Daily Record, 6/24/2010)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maryland PSC Rejects BGE Smart Meter Proposal

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected the Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) proposal to install smart meters at the homes of its Maryland customers. The PSC has asked BGE to resubmit their plan to address their concerns. BGE proposed an $835 million 5-year plan to install 1.36 million new "smart" electric meters and 730,000 advanced gas meters with communication ties between customers and the utility.

The PSC did not want to approve BGE's new "dynamic" electricity rate plans that allow prices to rise during the day when power demand peaks and fall when demand is slack. Such real-time pricing plans are essential to prompt customers to shift energy usage to slack times and reduce overall consumption. The PSC ruling was influenced by concern from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Office of the People's Counsel, a state consumer advocacy agency, about higher summer energy bills . The PSC noted that it would not approve an advanced meter plan that includes mandatory dynamic or "time of use" electricity rates. BGE proposed to create a customer Web portal that would allow customers to review hourly electricity usage from the previous day over the Internet. The PSC criticized BGE for not including in-home displays to alert people that power prices were rising.

The estimated cost of the meter deployment was to be $486 million, $136 million of which was to be paid from DOE's Smart Grid grants. The Energy Department (DOE) pledged $200 million toward the BG&E program, most of which was targeted for advanced meter installation. It was one DOE's Smart Grid stimulus grant program last year. BGE was prepared to put in $280 million of their shareholders' money into advanced meter introduction. BGE anticipated $2.6 billion in benefits over 15 years, from conservation, lower prices, reduced capital expenditures for new power sources and other sources.

To achieve savings, BGE proposed to offer residential customers a "peak time rebate" from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on "critical" days declared by the company during heat waves when power supplies are stressed, and other emergencies called by the region's grid operator. Customers would be notified the evening before and then could earn a rebate, initially $1.25 per kilowatt-hour, if they reduce their power consumption below a predetermined base case amount. BGE also proposed to charge lower rates at all other times.

BGE proposed to recover the costs of the meter rollout as they are incurred through a "tracker" surcharge added to customers' bills, rather than waiting to recover the costs in a traditional rate case proceeding. The PSC singled out BG&E's proposal to recover advance costs of the smart meter deployment through a surcharge on customers, calling it a "no-lose" proposition by the company. The PSC objected to BG&E asking ratepayers:

"to take significant financial and technological risks and adapt to categorical changes in rate designs, all in exchange for savings that are largely indirect, highly contingent and a long way off. BG&E has provided no persuasive reason why its customers should subsidize this program in that manner. Surcharges guarantee dollar-for-dollar recovery of specific costs, diminish the Company's incentive to control those costs," and put those costs outside the commission's reach."
The commission noted that the BGE surcharge would raise the average electricity customer's monthly rate by 38 cents beginning in 2010, rising to $3.78 in 2013.

The PSC has approved such surcharges in some limited cases, it drew the line on BG&E's current proposal. (NYT, 6/23/2010)

I'm Thinking About Raising Some Chickens In My Backyard


By Norris McDonald

My garden is giving me great joy this summer. I have everything growing back there and I am feeding about 6 other households on my suburban block.

Maybe if I am successful with chickens, I might get ambitious and go for a couple of pigs. That way I could use the organic waste generated in the house.

Organic Fence & Garden in March
But is it legal to raise livestock in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.? Yes it is.

In the Washington area, the District alone has an outright ban on farm animals, but suburbs such as Montgomery, Prince George's and Fairfax counties allow pigs, chickens, goats and other livestock under certain conditions.

Organic Garden in June
I'm going to name my rooster Rooster and maybe get 3 hens. I'll produce my own eggs and use the egg shells to fortify my garden plants with calcium. Three hens and a rooster should generatte about a dozen eggs a week I hope. And I think they will be 'free range.' I will let them run around in the garden. I already put up a deer fence. It wouldn't take much more effort to make it chicken exit proof. All organic of course. The garden fruits and vegetables, the animals and the fence.

Hoyer Wants East Coast Oil Preparedness Summit

Hoyer Wants White House to Hold East Coast Oil Preparedness Summit

House Majority Leader and Maryland Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer has sent a letter to the White House requesting a summit with East Coast governors and local officials to ensure they are prepared if oil from the Gulf spill makes its way up the Atlantic coastline.

Computer models show that the oil could enter the Gulf’s loop current, go around the tip of Florida and up the coast. Officials are concerned about the impact of oil “within the fragile, ecologically rich and economically important resources they represent.” (The Daily Record, 6/23/2010)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CNN Invites Nominations for 2010 CNN Heroes

Do you know an everyday person who is changing the world? Your nomination of a 2010 CNN Hero could help the person that inspires you achieve even greater recognition and success. The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 each receive $25,000 and will be honored on our Thanksgiving night global telecast, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."

Help us share your Hero’s story with the world -- click the link below and submit your nomination today! July is the last month to nominate someone for consideration.

How to nominate a CNN Hero

U.S. Senate Confirms FERC Nominees Moeller, LaFleur

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Phillip Moeller for the second term and Cheryl LaFleur for the first term to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ms. LaFleur served as Senior Vice President of the National Grid, USA.

Bob Dudley - CEO, BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization

Bob Dudley, left, has been appointed to head the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the oil spill. The appointment was effective immediately.

Robert "Bob" Dudley (born c. 1955) served as President and Chief Executive TNK-BP. He grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Dudley received a BA in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, an MIM degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and an MBA from Southern Methodist University.

He joined Amoco in 1979. He worked in a variety of positions including negotiating deals in the South China Sea. In 1994 to 1997 he worked for Amoco in Moscow. He became a general manager for strategy. After BP acquired Amoco he assumed a similar position at BP. (Wiki)

Interior Secretary Salazar Issues New Deepwater Drilling Ban

Day After Judge Lifts Obama Deepwater Drilling Moratorium, Salazar Trumps Judge

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is issuing a new order imposing a moratorium on deepwater drilling after a federal judge struck down the existing one. The new order will contain additional information making clear why the six-month drilling pause was necessary in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. The judge in New Orleans who struck down the moratorium earlier in the day complained there wasn't enough justification for it. Salazar is citing inadequate industry safety precautions on deepwater wells to justify the new moratorium. The federal judge in Louisiana granted the request for a preliminary restraining order that would prevent the ban from taking effect until a trial is held. He did not set a trial date.

While 33 deepwater drilling sites were affected, there are still 3,600 oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf. The moratorium was declared May 6 and originally was to last only through the month. President Barack Obama announced May 27 that he was extending it for six months. (MSNBC, 6/22/2010)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Future of Smaller Offshore Drilling & Oil Companies Uncertain

Smaller oil companies could never handle the costs BP is paying out as a result of the Gulf oil disaster. Some smaller firms include:

Plains Exploration & Production Company
Noble Energy Inc.
Kerr McGee
Ocean Energy
Cobalt International Energy
Gas Corporation

[See list of Current Deepwater Operators]

Although a federal judge lifted the moratorium this week on drilling in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, it will become more expensive and have much tighter regulations and some companies and investors will not think it is worth the effort. The rising cost of insurance premiums, longer estimated time frames for completing projects and the potential lifting of a $75 million cap on oil spill liability make the independents' role uncertain. Shareholders are not going to want small exploration and production companies in the deep water because it is cost-prohibitive and the risks are too great. (WSJ, 6/22/2010)

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, left, signed a Secretarial Order on Monday that changed the name of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (“Bureau of Ocean Energy” or “BOE” or "BOEMRE). Salazar split up the agency that oversees offshore drilling to avoid "conflicting missions" of revenue collection and safety oversight.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar also swore-in former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich, right, on Monday to lead reforms at BOE that will strengthen oversight and policing of offshore oil and gas development. (MMS Press Release)

Federal Judge Reverses Obama Ban on Deepwater Drilling

A federal judge struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico today. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans ruled that the government rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger too. The Interior Department had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf. President Obama believes drilling at such depths does not make sense and puts the safety of workers "at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford."

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs filed the lawsuit. They argued the moratorium was arbitrarily imposed after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater. It has spewed anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Feldman sided with the companies, saying in his ruling the Interior Department assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

The Center agrees with the ruling. (Wash Post, 6/22/2010)

Monday, June 21, 2010

EPA Supports Superfund “Polluter Pays” Provision

EPA Submits Administration’s Guidance to Congress

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today sent a letter to Congress in support of reinstating the lapsed Superfund “polluter pays” taxes.

Superfund is the federal government's program that investigates and cleans up the nation's most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. If reinstated, the Superfund provision would provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue for the program and increase the pace of Superfund cleanup. It would also ensure that parties who benefit from the manufacture or sale of substances that commonly cause environmental problems at hazardous waste sites, and not taxpayers, help bear the cost of cleanup when responsible parties cannot be identified.

The Superfund taxes expired on December 31, 1995. Since the expiration of the taxes, Superfund program funding has been largely financed from General Revenue transfers to the Superfund Trust Fund, thus burdening the taxpayer with the costs of cleaning up abandoned hazardous waste sites. The administration is proposing to reinstate the taxes as they were last in effect on crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals, and imported substances that use hazardous chemicals as a feedstock, and on corporate modified alternative minimum taxable income. Under the administration’s proposal, the excise taxes and corporate environmental taxes would be reinstated for a period of 10 years beginning in January 2011.

More information on the Superfund program

Gulf Spill Hearings

Senate Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Feinstein, will receive testimony from Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., looking at the pending reorganization of the Minerals Management Service.

House Science Committee will look into response technologies at a hearing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn. Look for a significant discussion on how to address the spill with a significant focus on R&D opportunities to develop new technologies.

House Resources Committee continues its overall look at the spill on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. by focusing on emergency response issues. The hearing is expected to feature state, local and non-governmental officials about the how they write their spill response plans.

Senate Judiciary Marks Up "Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act" – The Judiciary Committee marks up three bills, including Senator Pat Leahy's (D-VT) Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act (S.3466) on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., The bill aims to hold companies accountable for environmental crimes and protect victims by mandating restitution for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.

Senate Energy will consider bills on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., related to Minerals Management Service (MMS) reform and to offshore drilling: S. 3497, a bill to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to require leases entered into under that Act to include a plan that describes the means and timeline for containment and termination of an ongoing discharge of oil; S. 3431, a bill to improve the administration of the Minerals Management service; and other legislation which will be added to the agenda next week.

Senate Commerce Committee's Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday at 2:30 p.m. on ensuring the safety of our Nation's pipelines. Witnesses will include Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration administrator Cynthia Quarterman, Tim Felt of Colonial Pipeline Company (representing the Association of Oil Pipelines), Rocco D'Alessandro of Nicor Gas (representing the American Gas Association), Gary Sypolt of Dominion Energy (representing the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America) and Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust.

Senate Energy to Look at Oil Dependence – The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in 366 Dirksen on efforts to reduce oil dependence. The hearing will review policies to reduce oil consumption through the promotion of accelerated deployment electric-drive vehicles. Witnesses will include Patrick Davis, program manager, Office of Vehicle Technologies, Department of Energy; FedEx CEO Fred Smith, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers researcher Kathryn Clay, Electric Drive Transportation Association president Brian Wynn, Union of Concerned Scientists David Friedman and National Research Council’s Alan Crane.

Senate EPW to Address Superfund – The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health holds a hearing Tuesday June 22 at 2:30 p.m. on oversight of the EPA's Superfund Program. Already, Democrats have indicated a willingness to reimpose the Superfund business tax. Witnesses will include EPA's Mathy Stanislaus, GAO's John Stephenson, Lois Gibbs of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice; Helene Pierson of Heart of Camden; former Bush 41 EPA Superfund expert Dr. Win Porter (president of the Waste Policy Center) and Fort Valley, GA mayor Dr. John Stumbo.

House Natural Resources Considers Coal Accountability Bill – The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. on H.R. 5479, the "Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act of 2010." The bill aims to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to provide for use of excess funds available under that Act to provide for certain benefits.
[Source: Maisano, Frank]

CNN Larry King Live "Disaster In The Gulf" Telethon

The Center welcomes donations so that we can provide mitigation services in the Gulf.

A special LARRY KING LIVE telethon focusing on "Disaster in the Gulf: How You Can Help," which will be featuring three charities, so you will be able to choose which one you want to help out. The money raised will go to aid in rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

Celebrity participants include Chelsea Handler, Sting, Tim McGraw, Kathy Griffin, Alyssa Milano, Deepak Chopra, Pete Wentz, Ted Danson, Robert Redford, Harry Connick Jr., Jenny McCarthy, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Aaron Neville, Kerry Kennedy, James Carville and Mary Matalin, Anderson Cooper, Tyson Ritter, Lenny Kravitz, Ian Somerhalder, Edward James Olmos, Philippe Cousteau and more!

All donations for the Gulf Coast Relief Telethon will go to the following three charity organizations:


United Way is offering help to the families along the Gulf that are facing financial, educational and health-related challenges as a result from the economic disruption from this Oil Spill. The United Way Gulf Recovery fund will provide emergency assistance, such as help with food, rent and utilities, and support long-term recovery efforts to rebuild these lives and these communities.


The National Wildlife Federation Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund supports efforts to find and save oiled wildlife, and help recover their delicate ecosystems that make up their nesting and breeding grounds.


In response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, The Nature Conservancy has launched their Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration, expanding their efforts for long term recovery for the Gulf of Mexico and habitats along the coast, including salt marshes, oyster reefs, marshlands, beaches and estuaries.

BP Will Not Pay For 6-Month Deepwater Drilling Moratorium

BP Also refusing demands to pay for restoration of the Gulf coast beyond its prespill conditions

Although BP is opposing to pay worker' salaries for the 33 rigs idled by President Obama's 6-month moratorium, BP has agreed to earmark $20 billion for a claimant fund and an additional $100 million for Gulf workers idled by the drilling moratorium.

BP should pay for all restoration costs related to the spill, but President Obama should immediately lift the moratorium. It is causing more harm to the economy in that region and is creating dangerous conditions at the 33 idled rigs. The drilling industry estimates the moratorium will cost rig workers as much as $330 million a month in direct wages, not counting businesses servicing those rigs like machine-shop workers. The $100 million, 0.5% of the total, won't come close to covering collateral damage from the White House's moratorium. (WSJ, 6/21/2010)

BP Claims Payments To Date

According to BP [sigh], to date, more than 65,000 claims have been submitted and more than 32,000 payments made, totaling about $105 million.

According to BP [sigh], its costs related to its oil-spill response have reached $2 billion as it continues work to contain the leak and to pay claims for damages.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

EPA's Air, Water & Land Monitoring in the Gulf

An EPA Mobile Command Post in Venice, Louisiana keeps tabs on monitoring and sampling efforts in the field.

EPA data in Google Earth

View EPA air, surface water, sediment and waste sampling locations in Google Earth.

Read more.

If you don't have Google Earth installed on your computer, get the free download here.

[From EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's Facebook, and EPA BPSpill]

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation versus BP on Gulf Spill

BP's main partner at the Macondo well, Anadarko Petroleum, is declaring that information from investigations of the Gulf oil accident indicates that BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor and react to several critical warning signs during the drilling of the well. Anadarko is a 25 percent partner in the Macondo well and ordinarily would be responsible for a quarter of all cleanup and damage costs.

Anadarko's chief executive, Jim Hackett, believes BP's behavior and actions represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement. Anadarko will donate to charity and civic groups any proceeds it receives from the sale of oil collected during the cleanup.

BP strongly disagrees with Hackett's allegations. Tony "I want to get back to my life" Hayward, the most controversial figure in the BP leadership, will no longer be in charge of the company's gulf response, according to BP board chairman Carl-Henric "We care about the small people" Svanberg. (Wash Post, 6/19/2010)

Retired General Honore Recommends Stafford Act

Retired General Russel Honore , former commander Joint Katrina Task Force was on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning recommending that the Stafford Act should be invoked and the Gulf BP Oil disaster should be treated like a war. He is also recommending that BP should not be allowed to make the final decisions. He says that is like having a mugger decide how much money you're going to get from him after he mugs you. He says the governors should be in charge at the state level and the president should declare a national emergency and bring in the Defense Department. He says they could then grid the oil out and attack it systematically with numerous military and civilian boats. The retired general also says we need to mitigate the oil disaster before hurricane season because that will seriously exacerbate the current situation.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) (Pub.L. 100-707), signed into law November 23, 1988, is designed to bring an orderly and systemic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens. The Stafford Act is an amended version of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Pub. L. 93-288). It created the system in place today by which a presidential disaster declaration of an emergency triggers financial and physical assistance through the Federal Emergency Managaement Agency (FEMA). The Act gives FEMA the responsibility for coordinating government-wide relief efforts. The Federal Response Plan it implements includes the contributions of 28 federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross. (Wiki)

Friday, June 18, 2010

EPA Public Meetings on Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Center Hydraulic Fracturing Evaluation Criteria

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting four public information meetings on the proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that helps production of natural gas or oil from shale and other geological formations. By pumping fracturing fluids (water and chemical additives) and sand or other similar materials into rock formations, fractures are created that allow natural gas or oil to flow from the rock through the fractures to a production well for extraction.

The meetings will provide public information about the proposed study scope and design. EPA will solicit public comments on the draft study plan.

The public meetings will be held on:

July 8 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas
July 13 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. MDT at the Marriot Tech Center’s Rocky Mountain Events Center in Denver, Colo.
July 22 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Pa.


[Postponed- see note below from EPA]
August 12 at the Anderson Performing Arts Center at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. for 3 sessions - 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT


After months of work organizing the New York Hydraulic Fracturing public meetings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the Syracuse meeting, originally scheduled for this Thursday, August 12th at the Oncenter Complex Convention Center, has been cancelled. The Agency now intends to hold a new public meeting on the study in upstate New York in September and will announce the location as soon as it is confirmed.

EPA was forced to cancel this meeting following a conversation this morning with the Onondaga County Executive’s office, during which they expressed concerns about the ability to complete preparations for the meeting on such short notice. The last minute change to Syracuse was caused by Binghamton University taking several actions to dissuade EPA from holding the meetings at their campus including increasing the cost from $6,000 to almost $40,000. The Agency also reached out to Broome County officials in Binghamton to hold the meeting at the Arena and they pulled out of negotiations with EPA. The Agency searched a 40 mile radius from Corning to Ithaca to Cortland to Oneonta but no options were available for Thursday. Onondaga County officials did not feel they could arrange the necessary security for the potential protests and rallies outside the meeting itself, and EPA respects and understands their decision.

From the beginning, EPA has been committed to ensuring that the public has an opportunity to express their opinions on the study. There are serious concerns about whether the process of hydraulic fracturing impacts drinking water, human health and the environment. To address those concerns and strengthen our clean energy future, EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water and would be seeking input from people across the country. EPA has held had three successful meetings in Fort Worth, Texas, Denver, Colorado and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where more than 1200 participants attended, and the Agency is committed to holding a similar meeting in upstate New York.
Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing this vital resource. However, serious concerns have been raised about hydraulic fracturing’s potential impact on drinking water, human health and the environment. To address these concerns, EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water.

To support the initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, the agency sought suggestions and comments from the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)—an independent, external federal advisory committee. The agency will use this advice and extensive stakeholder input to guide the design of the study. Stakeholders are requested to pre-register for the meetings at least 72 hours before each meeting.

More information on the meetings

Obama on Converting Nuclear Warheads to Commercial Fuel

The White House

Notice from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Russian Highly Enriched Uranium


On June 21, 2000, the President issued Executive Order 13159 (the "order") blocking property and interests in property of the Government of the Russian Federation that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons that are directly related to the implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, dated February 18, 1993, and related contracts and agreements (collectively, the "HEU Agreements").

The HEU Agreements allow for the downblending of highly enriched uranium derived from nuclear weapons to low enriched uranium for peaceful commercial purposes. The order invoked the authority, inter alia, of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) and declared a national emergency to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the risk of nuclear proliferation created by the accumulation of a large volume of weapons-usable fissile material in the territory of the Russian Federation.

The national emergency declared on June 21, 2000, must continue beyond June 21, 2010, to provide continued protection from attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process for the property and interests in property of the Government of the Russian Federation that are directly related to the implementation of the HEU Agreements and subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to the risk of nuclear proliferation created by the accumulation of weapons-usable fissile material in the territory of the Russian Federation. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

June 17, 2010