Saturday, October 30, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Renaissance Stalling?

The Center supports nuclear power and was the first environmental group in the USA to publicly and aggressively support the technology. The Center remains the ONLY environmental group in the USA that legitimately supports the technology. Yet, individual neopronuclear green converts do not acknowledge the Center's groundbreaking nuclear work and the nuclear industry prefers to promote their Clean and Safe Energy (CASE) Coalition. Fine.  But now the best solution for mitigating global warming is at risk and it should be 'all hands on deck.'  The price of new reactors has stalled the renaissance.  Our colleagues in the environmental movement lost on the environmental merits of nuclear power and are left to celebrate the cost hurdle instead.

The Constellation Energy Group 3rd nuclear nuclear debacle clearly does not help our case.  That was ugly.  Brutal.  As nasty a divorce as we have observed in any sector.  Electricite de France (EdF) is now left to put together the pieces from that prenup to try to get  new reactors built in the USA.  The Center stands ready to assist them in any way we can to accomplish this mission, both in the USA and abroad.  In the USA, our take is that it might be easier to build with a new partner in New York or Mississippi than to build in Maryland.  Our assessment is that the divorce probably did not leave a good taste in the mouth of either partner for Maryland.  And this distresses us because our president lives in Maryland and presented statements before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in support of Calvert Cliffs 3. 

We hope that EdF will find a partner in Exelon an/or Entergy because both are very good companies and have excellent records in operating nuclear power plants. We mentioned Mississippi because we believe Port Gibson, Mississippi would be an excellent site for EdF to build its EPR.   In addition to Constellation-owned units of Ginna and Nine Mile Point in New York, Entergy also has the nearby James Fitzpatrick Reactor that could use another unit or two at that site.  Ideally 3 more units could be added to those 3 sites.

Sigh. We have been at this for 10 years and the future is not looking very good for new nuclear power plants.  And to be honest, we are more than a little concerned about the current aging fleet of reactors.  And so is the nuclear industry.  That is why they presented statements at the recent Gulf oil spill hearings. The Center will continue with its aggressive and enthusiastic support for building new nuclear power plants. (The Baltimore Sun, 10/30/2010)

Center 25th Anniversary is November 20, 2010


Norris McDonald

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy was incorporated 25 years ago on November 20, 1985.  How time flies.  Although not well known, our organization has been incredibly busy with significant accomplishments along the way.  We spent most of the first eight years of the 21st Century operating more through our outreach arm, the African American Environmentalist Association.  Sulaiman Mahdi, founding member and Director of our Southeastern Regional Office in Atlanta, came up with that name 25 years ago and we are proud to be the first African American-led environmental organization that is still operating.

We basically targeted climate change as the most important environmental issue to concentrate on and promoted plug in fuel cell hybrdi electric vehicles combined with nuclear power plants as our lead strategies for fighting the global warming menace. We did conservation, green jobs and efficiency during the last 15 years of the 20st Century.

The organization remained small on purpose because of my personal circumstances: single parenthood [divorce/full custody of a 2-year old] and  acute asthma that has tried to kill me often since I became chronic starting in 1991.  Complete respiratory failures in 1991 and 1996 that landed me in the ICU for four days each time.  Oh the hunger when I came out each time.  I commited to keeping myself alive so that I could raise my son. I succeeded.  My son is now 18 years old and has been accepted to attend South Carolina State University.

I will list some of our many accomplishments on November 20th.  It has been an interesting ride.  And it aint over yet.  The future is looking more exciting than ever.  We are trying to build power plants.  [Also see Autobiography]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Constellation Energy Group Has 3Q Loss of $1.4 Billion

Constellation Energy Group reported a net loss of $1.4 billion after taking large write-downs to reflect the reduced value of its nuclear power business and its new nuclear development venture which it abandoned this week. The loss was $6.99 per share in the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $137.6 million, or 69 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Also earlier this week, Constellation and EDF agreed to a deal that gives EDF full ownership of its new nuclear development called Unistar, which is seeking to build a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs. Constellation withdrew from negotiations with the Department of Energy over a federal loan guarantee deemed crucial for the $9.6 billion project. Constellation took a write-down of $86.3 million, or 43 cents per share, for its Unistar investment.

Under the agreement reached with EDF on Tuesday, Constellation will sell its 50 percent stake in Unistar nuclear development company to the French company for $140 million. Constellation owns the nuclear plants with its French partner EDF Group, which bought nearly half of that business two years ago amid a financial crisis

Constellation reaffirmed its 2010 earnings guidance range of $3.05 per share to $3.45 per share. (The Baltimore Sun, 10/29/2010)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Electricite de France & Constellation End Nuclear Partnership

Electricit√© de France SA (EdF) and Constellation Energy Group Inc. have agreed to end a joint venture to develop nuclear power plants together. The agreement allows EdF to continue pursuing the construction of a new reactor in Maryland and at Nine Mile Point and R.E. Ginna in New York. In exchange, Constellation Energy will receive $250 million in cash and stock. EDF's nearly 50% ownership stake in Constellation's existing nuclear power plants will not change.

The deal eliminates a contentious requirement under which EDF is required to buy 12 power plants— most of them coal-fired—from Constellation for as much as $2 billion. Under the deal, EDF will acquire Constellation's 50% ownership in UniStar for $140 million. EDF will transfer 3.5 million shares—valued at $110 million—it holds in Constellation to the Baltimore company. That will cut EDF's holdings in Constellation to an estimated 13.5 million shares, and EDF will no longer hold a seat on Constellation's board. (WSJ, 10/27/2010)

Guess Which One Has Been Left Out

1. Climate Change

2. Green Jobs

3. Nuclear Power

Monday, October 25, 2010

John H. Hankinson Appointed Director of Gulf Coast Task Force

EPA Administrator Names Executive Director for New Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has named John H. Hankinson, Jr. to be the executive director of the newly established Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. President Obama signed an executive order earlier this month establishing the task force, which will coordinate efforts to implement restoration programs and projects in the gulf coast region. Jackson, a New Orleans native, was named as chair of the task force due to her considerable involvement in the Obama Administration’s immediate response efforts following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and her knowledge and extensive experience in environmental issues – factors that will be central in spurring actions to help to restore the region’s ecosystem while providing important support for the economy.

Hankinson, left, has spent 30 years working on environmental issues in the private, public and non-profit sectors. The Florida native has brought together industry, government and stakeholder groups to form partnerships to restore ecosystems across the southeast. He has worked on the National Estuary Program in the Gulf of Mexico and directed the development and implementation of a water quality protection plan for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He has over 10 years experience overseeing the restoration and protection of the St. Johns River system in Florida. Hankinson currently serves as an environment and conservation lands consultant, advising on land conservation, strategic land use decision-making, and constructive environmental management and policy projects across the Southeastern United States. He served as regional administrator of EPA region 4 from 1994-2001.

As the executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Hankinson – who will report directly to Administrator Jackson – will coordinate interagency efforts, oversee staff and outreach efforts develop a regional ecosystem restoration strategy and ensure that science underpins the task force’s efforts. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will each have a state representative on the task force. The representatives will be selected by the governors of each gulf state and then appointed by President Obama, along with one senior official from each of several federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation. The task force will also integrate local stakeholders, representatives from affected tribes, and the scientific and academic communities. The task force will have a presence in each of the gulf states, in addition to Washington, D.C.

Administrator Jackson will hold the first meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on November 8 in Pensacola, Fla. More information about that meeting will be announced as it becomes available.

View President Obama’s executive order

EPA & DOT Propose 1st GHG Standards for Trucks & Vans

DOT, EPA Propose the Nation’s First Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks and Buses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced the first national standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses. This comprehensive national program is projected to reduce GHG emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years.

EPA and DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new standards for three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles. The categories were established to address specific challenges for manufacturers in each area. For combination tractors, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by 2018 model year.

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards, which phase in starting in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by 2018 model year (12 and 17 percent respectively if accounting for air conditioning leakage). Lastly, for vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year which would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 2018 model year.

Overall, NHTSA and EPA estimate that the heavy-duty national program would provide $41 billion in net benefits over the lifetime of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles. With the potential for significant fuel efficiency gains, ranging from seven to 20 percent, drivers and operators could expect to net significant savings over the long-term. For example, it is estimated an operator of a semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year, and save as much as $74,000 over the truck’s useful life. Vehicles with lower annual miles would typically experience longer payback periods, up to four or five years, but would still reap cost-savings.

EPA and NHTSA are providing a 60-day comment period that begins when the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The proposal and information

As part of the process of developing this proposed rulemaking, NHTSA has prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed fuel efficiency standards. The draft EIS compares the environmental impacts of the agency’s proposal with those of a number of regulatory alternatives. Comments may be submitted on the Draft EIS through January 3, 2011, and information on the submission of comments for this document may be found at the NHTSA web address listed above.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2nd Center Scoping Visit For Biomass Electricity Plant

Scoping Visit 1

Center Planning To Build Biomass Electricity Plant in Mississippi

The Center and National Clean Fuels (NACF) engaged in their second scoping trip in Mississppi, which is part of the process for their planned construction of a 10 megawatt biomass-to-electricity plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi.  The team included our Center President Norris McDonald and Center Vice President Derry Bigby, NACF President Maurice Stone and Al Dyson, president of Dyson Engineering and Technical Services, Inc.  The Rudy Shields Green Electric plant is projected to begin operating in 2012.

Bigby, Dyson, McDonald, Stone
 The Center scoping team met with representatives of Entergy Mississippi at one of their substation offices in Clinton, Mississippi to get a briefing on the process for interconnection to the electrical grid.  Entergy Mississippi provided a comprehensive and technical presentation on the steps necessary to complete a power purchasing agreement and all of the required steps to construct the plant.   The Entergy briefing was provided by Ed W. Porter, Senior Account Service Manager-Commercial & Industrial Accounts and Dr. Rick Bowley, Ph.D, Senior Wholesale Executive-Transmission Project Development.

Bigby, McDonald, Dyson, Stone
 Our team met with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at their headquarters office in Jackson, Mississippi.  The DEQ meeting included a briefing about the air and other environmental issues involved in getting appropriate permits for the facility.  These include construction and operating permits (Clean Air Act) and a stormwater runoff permit.  DEQ staff was very helpful and addressed all of our questions.  These questions ranged from capacity factors to timetables to forestry issues.  The DEQ briefing team included Bryan D. Collins, Chief, Energy & Transportation Branch, Montie Hardaway Glenn, Environmental Engineer, Office of Pollution Control, and John Havard, Permit Writer.

The Center scoping crew met with staff at Alcorn State Univesity, in Alcorn State, Mississippi, which is just outside of Port Gibson.  We briefed them on the biomass-to-electricity project and they shared their research projects in the areas of sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.  We discovered that there is an electrical substation on the campus that has a gas line nearby.  A gas line can serve as backup for the wood feedstock for a woodchip power plant.  The Alcorn State University team included Dr. Alton B. Johnson, V.P. for Development and Marketing and Foundation Director, Dr. Dalton McAfee, Dean, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences (AREAS), Dr. Girish K. Panicker, Director, Conservation Research Center, Yaw A. Twumasi, Assistant Professor, Geographic Information Sciences & Technology Program Coordinator, Micheal Ezekwe, Director, Swine Development Center, Professor of Animal Science, among others.

Stone, Dyson, McDonald, Bigby
Our team met with a representative of the Mississippi Development Authority Energy Division.  Terrence R. Spears, Senior Project Manager, provided a description of the renewable energy programs at the agency.  After describing our project, Mr. Spears described their agency's energy investement program, the various education and outreach programs available from the agency and he answered all of our questions.

Photo Credits: Dexter Dyson 

 Substation at Alcorn State University
Dyson Engineering President Al Dyson at Entergy Port Gibson Substation
Alcorn State Methane Gas Line (note solar panel)

Lunch at The Old Country Store
 w/ Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves (2nd from right) and Charles Shepphard (far right)
NACF President Maurice Stone at Alcorn State Farm Area
Scoping Visit 1

Scoping Visit 3

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Xi Jinping on Track To Succeed Hu Jintao as China's President

Photo Credit: Andy Wong
China's Communist Party has placed Vice President Xi Jinping, bottom left, on a track to the country's next president.

Xi is from Shaanxi province and has long been assumed to be the successor to President Hu Jintao, top left.

Hu will step down as Communist Party leader in 2012 and as president the following year. (Wash Post, 10/19/2010)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Support Our AAEA Kenya Office - 3 Proposals / General Support

Boaz Adhengo, left, is working very hard to address environmental issues in Kenya.  The AAEA Kenya Office needs your help to assure that we can accomplish our environmental mission in Kenya.  Help today. Give a small or large general support donation or support one of the proposals below.

Click on the Donate button and donate.

Education & Environment Proposal

The purpose of the project is:

1. To support civil society organizations in the rural areas and the Government of Kenya to participate meaningfully in the climate change debates at the international level, including Conferences of Parties (COP).
2. To strengthen the civil society to campaign for good policies that are designed to help Kenya’s poor to adapt to climate change
3. To re-examine the present critique of the economic development as a main source of environmental crises;
4. To explore the thought and representations of crisis awareness of rural Kenya, especially on ecological aspects;
5. To determine the ways in which mitigation ideas of the relationship between humanity, nature and science provide a starting point for a renewal of environmental ethics and for rethinking ideas of sustainability

Medical Advisory Support Services for the Maringo Community in Kenya

Objectives of the Project:

The objective of this project is therefore to organize a medical seminar that will be delivered freely to a target group. It is planned that this medical seminar will follow up with arranging for the implementation of a medical camp where minor illnesses could be treated and sensitization on key medical issues can be addressed. The main beneficiaries will be the youth and parents of Maringo village who have greater trust on ‘Mwarubaini for its popularity on having a capability to treat forty diseases as confirmed by herbal doctors.

Increased Access For Women in Kenya

Objective of the Project:

Access to education for girls remains a challe
nge in Kuria district due to poverty, retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and a general negative attitude towards educating girls. It is important that these causes are addressed to ensure gender equity in education. This program works towards eliminating the root causes of inequalities in access to education.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

EPA Threatens To Stop Arch Coals Spruce No. 1 Mine

Spruce Mine No. 1
The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to veto another mountaintop removal operation.  We have been down this road before and EPA approved most of the mines anyway.    EPA is preliminarily recommending [note the prelim] that Arch Coal’s proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County should be stopped because it “would likely have unacceptable adverse effects on wildlife.”

The Center opposes mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal involves dynamiting the tops off mountains  to get at the coal beneath while dumping the resulting rubble, known as spoil, into nearby valleys and streams. In this aerial photo, part of the work already done at the site of the Spruce Mine can be seen alongside Pigeonroost Hollow, at right. Photo by Vivian Stockman, flyover courtesy of Southwings.

In its review, the E.P.A. found that the project would bury more than seven miles of the Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch streams under 110 million cubic yards of spoil, killing much in them and sending contaminants downstream.

Arch Coal is challenging the recommendation and says it plans to spend $250 million on the project, creating 250 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues in a struggling region. The E.P.A. believes the construction of waste ponds as well as other discharges from the Spruce No. 1 mining operation would spread pollutants beyond the boundaries of the mine itself, causing further damage to wildlife and the environment. Arch Coal had proposed to construct new streams to replace the buried rivers, but the E.P.A. said they could not reproduce the numbers and variety of fish and plant life supported by the indigenous streams. (NYT, 10/15/2010)

Fretting Over Calvert Cliffs 3


By Norris McDonald

The Center supports building a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs.  So does Maryland's Congressional delegation.  The governor too.  And my state needs the emission free electricity that would come from the plant.  Yet, right at a time when I was awaiting the Obama administration's announcement of a loan guarantee for the project, Constellation walks away from the loan guarantee and serves divorce papers on its nuclear partner.  The Constellation Energy Group and Electricity de France (EdF) nuclear marriage is unraveling in the most unpleasant of ways.  Constellation wants to get out for $1 and EdF is seeking a new mate.  Lawyers don't build nuclear power plants.

We met with representatives of the parties before the turmoil because we want this plant built 40 miles from where I live.  We have met with AREVA too.  They want to build the plant.   EdF cannot own and operate an American nuclear plant so they need a new American partner.  My guess is that they are courting Exelon and Entergy because they are the largest nuclear power companies in Ameirca.  EdF is offering to cover the loan guarantee service money and it appears to me that they will do whatever it takes to get this plant built.  And that is why we supported the EdF purchase over Warren Buffet's purchase in 2009.  We knew Buffet would not 'go all the way' and build a new plant.  Fortunately, Constellation listened to our advice.  And now this.

Exelon and Entergy are excellent companies and have outstanding records in operating nuclear power plants.  If the Constellation split is permanent (and we suspect it is), then either of these companies would be acceptable to us in providing the emission free electricity Maryland needs for the rest of the 21st Century.  We believe there could also be a positive economy of scale by building a fourth reactor at the Calvert Cliffs location.  Finally, we would love to have equity in a 3rd reactor.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Center Planning To Build Biomass Electricity Plant in Mississippi

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) is working to build a biomass-to-electricity plant that will primarily utilize wood chips as the feedstock.  The plant will be located in Port Gibson, Mississippi.   The Center is working in cooperation with National Clean Fuels (NACF) to implement its Port Gibson Biomass-To-Electricity (BTE) Project.
The Center and NACF have a Letter of Commitment from the Town of Port Gibson to proceed with the project.  Center President Norris McDonald and NACF President Maurice Stone recently met at the Center K Street office in Washington, DC to finalize preparations for initiating the scoping process for the project.  McDonald has been to Port Gibson many times and the last trip included a tour of the Mississippi River and Lake Yucatan in Northcentral Louisiana. 
BTE Project engineering will be provided by General Vortex Energy, Inc (GVE) with supplemental engineering and technical services provided by Dyson Engineering and Technical Services (DET Services) .  GVE is a development company founded in 2002.  GVE’s latest technology innovation is its “Vortex Combustor,” which is capable of burning virtually any gaseous, liquid, or bio-mass fuels.  DET Services is a consulting engineering firm that specializes in engineering projects, environmental services, hazardous materials management, technical training, technical support tasks, project management and planning.
We envision a ten megawatt, wood chip/sawdust syngas turbine power plant that will operate as a base load unit.  We expect a capacity factor of at least 90 percent.  It is anticipated that the plant will consume approximately one ton of wood chips per hour.  The power plant will couple a wood gasifier to a turbine, which will more than match the efficiency (30-35%) of conventional coal-fired power stations in converting fuel to electricity. Wood gas is a syngas that is produced by thermal gasification of biomass. It is the result of two high-temperature reactions (1,292 °F): an exothermic reaction where carbon burns to CO2 but is then reduced partially back to CO where carbon reacts with steam, producing carbon monoxide (CO), molecular hydrogen (H2), and carbon dioxide (CO2). In several gasifiers, the actual gasification process is preceded by pyrolysis, where the biomass or coal turns into char, releasing methane (CH4).
 Scoping Visit 1

 Scoping Visit 2

 Scoping Visit 3

Unfunded Pension Liabilities Threaten Municipalities

Prior research by the Kellogg School of Management has found $3 trillion in unfunded legacy liabilities from state-sponsored pension plans. However, new research finds additional liabilities from municipalities that magnify the growing public pension crisis. In a new report issued today by the Kellogg School, economists estimate an additional $574 billion in unfunded liabilities from pension plans at the city and county levels.

Joshua Rauh
The paper, “The Crisis in Local Government Pensions in the United States,” is co-authored by Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester. In this latest study, Rauh and Novy-Marx calculate the aggregate unfunded liabilities and forecast the number of years assets will last for 77 defined pension plans sponsored by 50 major U.S. cities and counties. The sample represented all non-state municipal entities with more than $1 billion in pension assets, covering 2.04 million local public employees and retirees. Rauh will present the paper at the Brookings Institution on Oct. 15 in Washington, D.C.

In many cities, these unfunded promises will be a long-standing and substantial burden for municipal revenues. For example, even if all other spending was shut down, the city of Chicago would need to allocate about eight years of dedicated tax revenues to cover pension promises it has already made.

Six major cities have current pension assets that can only pay for promised benefits through 2020: Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and St. Paul. An additional 18 cities and counties, including New York City, Detroit, Cook County in Illinois and Orange County in California would be solvent through 2020 but not past 2025. According to Rauh, it is clear that state and local governments in the U.S. are not far from the point where these pension promises will impact their ability to operate. (Joshua Rauh)

Maryland & States Grapple With Unfunded Pension Funds

Thursday, October 14, 2010

EnergyWorks Biopower Plans Chicken Manure Power Plant

Annapolis-based EnergyWorks North America says its EnergyWorks Biopower subsidiary and Hillandale Farms Gettysburg have agreed to build the 2.5 megawatt plant. The companies say the plant, expected to begin operation in 2012, will turn manure from as many as 5 millino chickens into gas to produce electricity.

In addition, the Annapolis, Maryland-bsed company says it will keep the waste from being spread as fertilizer on farm land, where it can run off into waterways. Reducing farm runoff is one of the key strategies in a new, tougher federal strategy to restore the Chesapeake Bay, a strategy that has prompted concern from agriculture interests over its costs. (The Daily Record, 10/14/2010)

Environmentalists To Sue EPA Over Dispersant Use

William Reilly, Bob Graham (Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
A coalition of environmental and community groups, the Louisiana Shrimp Association, the Gulf Restoration Network, citing a draft report released last week by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission, petitioned the EPA to write new rules regulating the future use of dispersants in fighting oil spills. The petition was organized by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental justice group, which also filed a 60-day notice of a lawsuit to try to force EPA to publicly identify where dispersants may be used and how much is safe.

The Louisiana Shrimp Association noted that:

"Unprecedented use of toxic dispersants during the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster without prior scientific study and evaluation of the effects to the Gulf of Mexico marine ecosystems and human health was a horrific mistake that should never have been allowed to happen." 
In its draft report on the use of dispersants, the commission staff concluded that they could not say EPA acted "unreasonably" in its decision to use massive volumes of dispersants, "because federal agencies had failed to plan adequately" and they simply knew too little to make a better informed decision. The Center agrees with the commission's conclusion.  The commission is chaired by Bill Reilly and Bob Graham.

The EPA responded to the petition with a statement saying that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson "has made clear that one of the lessons of this spill is that we need to learn more about the use and long-term impact of dispersants" and that she is "committed to revising the 15-year old process by which these products end up on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule," and had committed $2 million to conduct additional research. (, 10/13/2010)

Maryland & States Grapple With Unfunded Pension Funds

States are facing an unfunded pension fund crisis.  Maryland is a case study that reflects a major crisis facing America. Having shortchanged its contributions to the pension plan that covers more than 100,000 former employees, the state faces unfunded pension liabilities of more than $18 billion and unfunded health-care obligations projected at $15 billion. That's $33 billion in bills coming due, a sum equal to an entire year of state spending. No one knows where the money will come from.

As stocks plummeted two years ago, so did the pension fund's balance sheet. With liabilities exceeding $50 billion, the fund now has little more than $31 billion in assets. Against the $15 billion owed for health care and other benefits, the state has less than 1 percent on hand.

Maryland is one of 19 states facing serious long-term problems. The state's pension fund was fully funded in 2002; now assets are just 65 percent of liabilities. It is one of just eight that has made no real progress in restoring the health of its retiree benefit plan

A state commission has started looking into the problem and is set to make recommendations this year. Some painful choices are going to have to be made.  (Wash Post, 10/13/2010)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EPA Raising Gasoline Ethanol Content From 10% to 15%

EPA Grants E15 Waiver for Newer Vehicles

A new label for E15 is being proposed to help ensure consumers use the correct fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will allow ethanol levels in gasoline blends to be raised from the current 10% level to 15% for vehicles made since 2007.  EPA is awaiting the outcome of additional research for cars made between 2001 and 2006 and is not ready to announce a decision for those models. The plan is strongly opposed by auto makers, livestock ranchers, oil refiners and some public-health advocates.

Without the increase, some speculate the U.S. will not be able to meet a congressional mandate requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the domestic fuel supply by 2022.

The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15 percent ethanol – known as E15 – and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. This represents the first of a number of actions that are needed from federal, state and industry towards commercialization of E15 gasoline blends. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) extensive testing and other available data on E15’s impact on engine durability and emissions.

A decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after EPA receives the results of additional DOE testing, which is expected to be completed in November. However, no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks – or in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines – because currently there is not testing data to support such a waiver. Since 1979, up to 10 percent ethanol or E10 has been used for all conventional cars and light trucks, and non-road vehicles.

Additionally, several steps are being taken to help consumers easily identify the correct fuel for their vehicles and equipment. First, EPA is proposing E15 pump labeling requirements, including a requirement that the fuel industry specify the ethanol content of gasoline sold to retailers. There would also be a quarterly survey of retail stations to help ensure their gas pumps are properly labeled.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated an increase in the overall volume of renewable fuels into the marketplace reaching a 36 billion gallon total in 2022. Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel because it is produced from plant products or wastes and not from fossil fuels. Ethanol is blended with gasoline for use in most areas across the country.

The E15 petition was submitted to EPA by Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers in March 2009. In April 2009, EPA sought public comment on the petition and received about 78,000 comments.

The petition was submitted under a Clean Air Act provision that allows EPA to waive the act’s prohibition against the sale of a significantly altered fuel if the petitioner shows that the new fuel will not cause or contribute to the failure of the engine parts that ensure compliance with the act’s emissions limits. (EPA, WSJ, 10/13/2010)

More information

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GM Volt Battery Pack Gets Gasoline Drive Assist

GM Volt
General Motors Company's battery-powered Chevrolet Volt car battery pack is assisted by the gas engine to help drive the wheels through a gear system, working in conjunction with the electric motor, in situations such as high-speed driving.

The Volt is a bit more like a conventional hybrid gas-electric car such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius, however, the current Prius cannot be plugged in to recharge. After the batteries are drawn down, the Volt has a gasoline engine that kicks in to power a generator, which creates electricity to keep the car's electric motor turning. The Volt, like other coming electric cars, has a big battery pack that allows it to travel 25 to 50 miles purely on battery power.

Some are trying to make a big out of the regular gasoline engine 'assist,' even though GM has noted that it did not share all the details until now because the information was competitive and they were awaiting patent approvals. GM never before said there was a mechanical link between the gasoline engine and the drive train. (WSJ, 10/13/2010)

PG&E To Upgrade Old Pipeline System

PG&E Corp announced plans to upgrade its California pipeline system to boost safety today.  A key element will be the installation of hundreds of automatic shutoff valves and replacing manual valves.  Eight people killed in San Bruno, California when one of PG&E's natural-gas pipelines exploded on September 9. It took utility employees one hour and 46 minutes to navigate rush-hour traffic to reach manually controlled valves and shut off the flow of gas following that rupture.

The cost of upgrading pipelines likely would be passed on to consumers and could mean higher rates for the San Francisco company's roughly four million natural-gas customers. Regulators have no current estimate of the program's cost.

The explosion is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. (WSJ, 10/13/2010)

Obama Administration Lifts Deepwater Drilling Ban

Napolitano, Salazar, Obama
The Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico today. The ban was on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet and idled 33 rigs.  The ban was put in place shortly after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig contracted by BP PLC.

The massive spill changed the deepwater offshore drilling enterprise forever because it was the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. Rig operators must demonstrate they can comply with a lengthy list of new safety regulations designed to prevent a repeat of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster. Several independent government panels are still investigating what caused the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. The accident killed 11 people.

Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement will need time to make sure that drilling plans comply with the new rules. (WSJ, 10/13/2010)

Current Deepwater Operators (as of June 2010)

EPA Administrator Speaks at Town Hall in China

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at Sun Yat-sen University Town Hall


I have come to China to mark 30 years of environmental partnership between our two nations. The environmental issues of this generation – from local concerns about pollution in water and air, to global concerns about climate change – have made our ability to work together more crucial than ever. That is why my first official action on this trip was to join Minister Zhou to renew the official cooperation between the US and China.

One of the top priorities on our list is combating climate change by limiting pollutants. Yesterday, I helped opening a Regional Air Quality Meeting in Beijing, under which EPA will work with MEP to address climate forcing pollutants like methane and NOx. Climate change is a concern for both the US and China, and we must consider both environment and economic factors. President Obama and I have continued to emphasize that a strong economy and a clean environment must go hand-in-hand.

I just finished a boat tour of your Pearl River, in which I discussed the challenges and progress in addressing water pollution with the Director General of the Guangdong Environmental Protection Board. Clean water is an essential part of every community. China’s rivers stretch across the country, providing vital resources to hundreds of millions. The health of those waters is integral to the health of your people, to the health of your environment, and to the health of your economy.

President Obama Announces $50 Billion Infrastructure Plan

President Obama hopes Congress will get to his $50-billion "roads, railways and runways" program by or before December. The White House also hopes the 'roads, railways and runways' plan will create middle-class jobs in manufacturing and construction. The president described the plan from the Rose Garden, which included a report estimating that more than half of the new jobs would come in construction, where unemployment figures are higher than 17%. To pass the measure, the president needs to win over Republicans, who generally have opposed his suggestions for government spending as a way out of the country's economic malaise.

President Obamais pictured with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the Rose Garden at the White House. (L.A. Times, 10/12/2010) (Mark Wilson / Getty Images / October 11, 2010)

EPA Administrator Signs MOU with China

Lisa P. Jackson signs Memorandum of Understanding with China on Environmental Protection

Lisa P. Jackson
During her first official visit to China, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian signed an agreement that formalizes the partnership between the United States and China on environmental protection.

Under the MOU, EPA will continue to collaborate with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on the prevention and management of air pollution, water pollution, pollution from persistent organic pollutants and other toxics, hazardous and solid waste, and the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental law.

The MOU, which was a renewal of an MOU that expired in 2008, also provides opportunities distinct from existing agreements on science and technology cooperation and establishes a joint committee that is co-chaired by EPA’s administrator and China’s environmental protection minister. The joint committee meets every two years, and the next meeting will be hosted by Administrator Jackson in Washington, D.C. on November 16-17, 2010. At the meeting, MEP and EPA officials will review progress made during the last two years and approve work plans for the next two years.

For 30 years, the United States and China have engaged in a wide range of cooperative activities aimed at increasing energy efficiency, reducing emissions of pollutants, toxics, and greenhouse gases, limiting threats to public health caused by pollution, and creating a foundation for long-term environmental sustainability. EPA and MEP have been at the forefront of environmental collaboration and are building on past successes to jointly address current and emerging environmental challenges. (EPA)

More information about Administrator Jackson’s mission in China

More information about EPA’s International Priorities

White House Issues Guidance on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released final guidelines on Oct 6 for how federal agencies must catalog climate-changing pollutants that result from federal operations. The guidance established reporting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions and is accompanied by a separate technical support document that describes calculation methodologies.

Federal agencies are required to create inventories of greenhouse gas emissions by Jan. 31, 2011, under Executive Order 13514. The inventory must include emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perfluorocarbon gases and sulfur hexafluoride.

The guidance clarifies many questions officials have had, such as which agencies are responsible for reporting emissions at shared or leased facilities (the ones that pay the utility bills) and stipulates that agencies also must report emissions associated with government-owned/contractor operated facilities, known as GOCOs.

It also describes buildings that could be excluded from the inventory, such as privately owned structures located on federal land or military installations.

Agencies must report all direct GHG emissions from sources owned or controlled by the agency within what is known as Scope 1, which includes emissions resulting from power generation, vehicle fleets, manufacturing processes and fugitive emissions, such as leaks from landfills or wastewater treatment plants on federal property.

In addition, agencies must account for Scope 2 emissions -- those that occur elsewhere as a result of agency activities, such as emissions at power plants supplying electricity to a federal facility.

The guidance also includes a phased approach for reporting indirect emissions known as Scope 3, such as those occurring as a result of employee travel or commuting, for example. Because reliable data are more difficult to develop in Scope 3 emissions, the guidance notes a substantial portion of these emissions won't be captured in the initial inventories. (Government Executive, 10/6/2010)

Google, Good Energies, Marubeni Promoting Trans-Elect Project

The New York Times
Trans-Elect, Google, Good Energies, Marubeni, and Atlantic Wind Connection announced their plans today at the National Press Club to construct a major electricity transmission project to connect offshore wind to onshore interconnections. The project has been in the planning stage for more than two years and will be located off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Project Development team:

Bob Mitchell - Trans-Elect
Rick Needham, Dan Reicher - Google
John Breckenridge - Good Energies
Richard Straebel - Marubeni
Markian Melnyk - Atlantic Wind Connection

The system, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, includes a 350-mile underwater line that could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development along the East coast. Before any wind farms are built, the cable would channel existing supplies of electricity from southern Virginia, where it is cheap, to northern New Jersey, where it is costly, bypassing one of the most congested parts of the North American electric grid while lowering energy costs for northern customers.

Good Energies, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy, along with Google, have each agreed to take 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project. Trans-Elect is a Maryland-based transmission-line company that proposed the venture. Marubeni is a Japanese trading company that has taken a 15 percent stake in the venture. Trans-Elect said it hoped to begin construction in 2013. If they hold on to their stakes, that would come to an initial investment of about $200 million apiece in the first phase of construction alone. Trans-Elect estimated that construction would cost $5 billion, plus financing and permit fees. The $1.8 billion first phase, a 150-mile stretch from northern New Jersey to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware could go into service by early 2016. The rest would not be completed until 2021.

While several undersea electrical cables exist off the Atlantic Coast already, none has ever picked up power from generators along the way. The system’s backbone cable, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, equal to the output of six large power plants, would run in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters 15 to 20 miles offshore, from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, Virginia. Within three miles of the shore, regulatory control is from the state. The plan is to harvest electricity from turbines in an area where the wind is strong but the tall towers would barely be visible.

Four connection points — in southern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey and northern New Jersey — would simplify the job of bringing the energy onshore, involving fewer permit hurdles. In contrast to transmission lines on land, where a builder may have to deal with hundreds of property owners, this project would have to deal with a maximum of just four, and fewer than that in its first phase.

The PJM Interconnection, the regional electricity group that would have to approve the project and assess its member utilities for the cost, has no integrated procedure for calculating the value of all three tasks the line would accomplish — hooking up new power generation, reducing congestion on the grid and improving reliability. (NYT, 10/12/2010)

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Disappointment in Green Jobs and Nuclear Power


By Norris McDonald

Having promoted conservation and weatherization since 1980, I was delighted to support the Green Jobs Act of 2007.  Being the first environmentalist to publicly support nuclear power in the United States in 2000, I was delighted that legislation assisting the technology we supported in 2005 became law (Energy Policy Act).  I attended the signing in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a special guest of the White House.  Unfortunately, although billions have been poured into creating green jobs, such jobs are not readily identifiable and did not help in an American economic recovery.  Similarly, although the nuclear industry has almost every conceivable subsidy and support from the U.S. government, the nuclear renaissance I so enthusiastically promoted is not going to happen [notwithstanding its global warming mitigation benefits].

Now proponents of each area will disagree with me and that is fine.  But they know the reality of the situation just as I do.  So what are we to do?  If nuclear power plants are too expensive to build and wind and solar cannot meet our continuous bulk electricity needs, how can we meet new capacity?  Conservation and efficiency are fine too, but American economic health is based on growth.  And growth requires more energy, regardless of the amount of conservation and efficiency retrofits. 

It appears that natural gas will slip into the gap created by carbon dioxide concerns from coal, the expense of new nuclear plants and the inability of alternatives and efficiency to meet new growth demands.  We have been down this road before and the price fluctuations for natural gas should be a real concern, particularly when it will be used to produce base load electrical power.

I will continue to push a combination of green jobs and nuclear power.  Heck, nuclear jobs are green jobs too.  But I am not optimistic that they will have the huge impact that I  hoped and worked for during the past few decades.

Constellation Cancels Nuke Loan Guarantee and Reactor

Constellation Energy has cancelled its proposal to build a new reactor at its Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.  The utility pulled out even though the Obama administration had decided to award the project a $7.5 billion loan guarantee.  Evidently, the administration's loan guarantee terms were "unworkable" for  Constellation.  The core problem was a "credit subsidy cost" or up-front fee of 11.6% of the amount guaranteed, which works out to approximately $880 million.  It completely destroys the economics of the project.

Constellation's nuclear partner, Electricite de France (EdF) is left out in the cold by this unilateral decision.

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

Constellation and French power company Electricite de France are partners in Unistar, a joint venture that had intended to make the new Calvert Cliffs reactor the first of a fleet of identical units around the country. They filed the loan guarantee application in July 2007. Unfortunately, the escalating cost of building nuclear reactors have made nuclear power projects "unworkable."  EDF appears to have been surprised by Constellation "unilateral decision to withdraw from the project.  EDF remains committed to pursuing new nuclear [power plants] in the U.S.

The administration has approved only one conditional loan guarantee for a nuclear power project and that went to a Georgia plant to be built by Southern Company, which under state law can begin to recover costs while the plants are under construction. There are serious environmental justice issues at the proposed Vogle plant proposal in Georgia.  Unlike Georgia, Maryland regulations say that power plant construction costs can be passed through to customers only once the plant is operating.

Constellation and EDF, a major shareholder in Constellation, also have a major conflict over whether Constellation can force EDF to buy several older fossil fuel power plants for $2 billion.

Shares in Electricite de France SA slid as much as 1.5 percent to $43.43 on the Paris stock exchange on Monday after the French state-owned utility’s U.S. partner, Constellation Energy Group, pulled out of a project to build the first of a new generation of nuclear power plants in Maryland.  (Wash Post, 10/9/2010, The Daily Record, 10/11/2010))

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

CEIL Sponsors GOVgreen Conference and Expo

The Center for Environmental Innovation and Leadership (CEIL) will present the GOVgreen Conference & Expo on November 9-10, 2010 in Washington, DC. The conference will bring together government employees, contractors and suppliers to learn how to achieve sustainability goals as mandated by President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13514. GOVgreen is free for all federal government and military personnel to attend and offers a variety of programs from notable and respected speakers that will address the critical topics of energy, transportation, conservation and facilities.

Speakers include:

* Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and environmental advocate for over 20 years.

* Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Installations & Environment, Department of Defense

* Robert Peck, Commissioner, Public Buildings, U.S. General Services Administration

The full speaker list and program can be viewed at and register. There's also a panel on using social media, called "Moving Beyond Government to Engage Citizens in GreenGov Conversations and Results", featuring Jeffrey Levy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cammie Croft of the Department of Energy, Todd Solomon of the Department of Transportation and Bev Godwin of the GSA. A special crowdsourcing site has been set up for submitting questions to the panel.

EPA Administrator Jackson to Travel to China

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, will travel to China from October 9 through October 14. This is the administrator’s first official visit to China, where she will highlight and build on a wide range of joint efforts aimed at addressing current and emerging environmental challenges, from sustainability to greenhouse gas pollution.

During the trip, Administrator Jackson will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with her counterpart from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, open the Regional Air Quality Meeting in Beijing; visit the world’s largest electronic waste site; and host a town hall meeting with students at Sun Yat-sen University.

For 30 years, the United States and China have engaged in a wide range of cooperative activities aimed at increasing energy efficiency; reducing emissions of pollutants, toxics, and greenhouse gases; limiting threats to public health caused by pollution; and creating a foundation for long-term environmental sustainability. EPA and MEP have been at the forefront of environmental collaboration and are looking to build on past successes to jointly address environmental challenges.



5:30 p.m. Joins MEP Minister Zhou Shengxian for renewal ceremony for EPA Memorandum of Understanding with MEP, Beijing, China


9:30 a.m. Delivers opening remarks at Regional Air Quality Meeting, Beijing, China

4:30 p.m. Tours electronic waste site, Guiyu, China


11:00 a.m. Holds town hall with university students on “30 Years of U.S.-China Cooperation on the Environment,” Guangzhou, China


9:15 a.m. Delivers opening remarks at corporate environmental stewardship seminar, Shanghai, China

11:00 a.m. Attends event to highlight success of EPA-Shanghai EPB AirNow, International pilot project,
Shanghai, China

Center Trip To China 2007

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Executive Order on Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force

President Obama Signs Executive Order Officially Forming Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
EPA's Jackson to oversee national transition from emergency response to coastal recovery in the gulf

With an executive order in place setting up the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to continue the recovery after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, EPA Administrator and Task Force Chair Lisa P. Jackson, left, today started a series of meetings in the region to focus on the next steps.

Jackson was a key part of the Obama Administration’s immediate response efforts following the oil spill, and her deep expertise in environment-related issues will be central in spurring actions that help to restore the region’s ecosystem while providing important support for the economy.

President Obama today signed the executive order formally creating the task force. Its mission is to coordinate efforts to implement restoration programs and projects in the gulf coast region. The task force also will coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services on public health issues and with other federal agencies on ways to enhance the economic benefits that ecosystem restoration will bring to the region.

It will have five state representatives, appointed by the president upon recommendation of the governors of each gulf state, along with one senior official each from many federal departments and agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation. The task force may also include representatives from affected tribes.

The executive order follows the release last week of the long-term restoration proposal, written by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus -- an aggressive plan that included a call for dedicated funds to support the gulf coast’s environmental and economic recovery. Included in the Mabus report was a recommendation for Congress to authorize a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to manage the overall restoration efforts in the gulf coast. The president created the task force to enhance the coordination and implementation of important restoration efforts, even before Congress acts.

View the Executive Order