Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 20 Ranked Power Plants 2009

Industry Report: Operating Performance Rankings

From Electric Light & Power Magazine

By Teresa Hansen, Editor In Chief

[Click on Chart to Enlarge]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EPA Guidance for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Cleanup

CFL Radiating LightThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today updated its guidance on how to properly clean up a broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Included with the guidance is a new consumer brochure with CFL recycling and cleanup tips. EPA encourages Americans to use CFLs for residential lighting to save energy and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change.
CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a CFL breaks, some of the mercury is released as vapor and may pose potential health risks. The guidance and brochure will provide simple, user friendly directions to help prevent and reduce exposure to people from mercury pollution. (EPA)

More information on the clean up guidance

More information on CFLs

General Electric Partners With Two Russian Firms

General Electric Company is joint-venturing with Russian energy company Inter RAO and state-owned technology-holding company Rostekhnologii. The Fairfield, Conneticut company, Rostekhnologii and Inter RAO will create a jointly owned entity to manufacture, sell and service GE's gas turbines and build a factory near the city of Rybinsk.  The agreement will introduce modern, highly effective solutions for steam and gas co-generation to the Russian energy sector and should increase the stability and reliability of the energy system.

With Rostekhnologii, the company will produce health-care equipment such as CT scanners, angiographs and other diagnostic devices.

GE will hold a 50% stake in each venture, while Rostekhnologii and Inter RAO will each hold a 25% stake in the energy joint venture; Rostekhnologii will hold a 50% stake in the health-care joint venture. (WSJ, 12/28/2010)

Fred Upton Should Draft Climate Change Legislation

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Designate Wrong on Climate Change

The Chairman's Op Ed in The Wall Street Journal today gets it all wrong.  Chairman Designate Upton is calling for legislation to delay EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases instead of drafting and promoting legislation that would provide a management plan for mitigating climate change.  Clearly, the delay approach is just a disguise for doing nothing about global warming.  It is disingenuous and avoids directly and immediately addressing the most important environmental issue facing us today.

Fred Upton
Chairman Designate Upton's claims that the regulations will kill jobs and raise electricity prices are wrong too.  The climate change regs will lead to innovation, create jobs and could actually lower electricity prices in the face of already needed electricity price increases.  Congress should do its duty and impliment a Cap and Trade program to effectively and efficiently deal with the climate problem.  Absent that, the EPA is forced to do the work of Congress.  Chairman Designate Upton knows this, but prefers to go for a political kill than get the U.S. Congress to address this most important of environmental issues.  He should be working with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer to craft legislation to address the climate change problem.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Remembering 2010


Norris McDonald

2010 was a very interesting year.  But aren't they all?  This one though, had some very interesting moments.

January included my participation in the Black Enterprise Energy Forum.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson could not attend because she was attending the funeral of Vice President Joe Biden's mother.  Deputy Associate EPA Administrator Stephanie Owens substituted for her.

In February, I presented testimony at the EPA Ozone hearing. I also met with the White House Office of Management and Budget on the fly ash issue.

In April, I presented testimony at the EPA hearing on on natural gas hydraulic fracturing.  I also traveled to South Africa from April 4-April13. I attended a White House Great Outdoors Conference at the U.S. Department of the Interior.  President Obama spoke at the conference.  I participated in an environmental justice listening session sponsored by EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

In May, I was a panelist at the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.  I met Exelon CEO John Rowe and discussed the future of nuclear energy with him.  I presented a statement at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public meeting in Buchanan, New York on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the license renewal for the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.  I present a statement at President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Power. I presented a presentation entitled, "Converting CO2 into Fuel" at the Environmental Justice in America 2010 Conference.

In June, I met with Florizelle Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President.

In July, I gave a statement at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Cooling Tower Hearing in Buchanan, New York.

In August, I presented a statement at the EPA fly ash hearing. I presented testimony before the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

In September, I visited Port Gibson, Mississippi on the 1st scoping visit for the biomass-to-energy project.  I presented at statement at the EPA greenhouse gas hearing. 

In October, I visited Port Gibson, Mississippi on the 2nd scoping visit for the biomass-to-energy project.

In November, I visited Santa Catalina Island no the 1st scoping visit for a biomass-to-energy project.  I participate as a panelist at the National Black Chamber of Commerce Fall Summit.  We celebrated the Center's 25th anniversary on November 20th.

In December, I visited Port Gibson, Mississippi on the 3rd scoping visit for the biomass-to-energy project.  I participated in a Green DMV home weatherization project in Alexandria, Virginia.

General Electric Sells Its Mexican Mortgage Business

Did you know that GE had a Mexican mortgage business?  Neither did we.

General Electric Co.'s finance division, GE Capital, has sold its $2 billion mortgage portfolio of Mexican real-estate assets to Spain's Grupo Santander for $162 million plus the assumption of debt. The deal, expected to close next year, involves Grupo Financiero Santander Mexico acquiring all of GE's consumer-mortgage business in Mexico, including its $2 billion consumer-mortgage portfolio.

The sale is part of GE Capital's strategy to exit businesses that do not help GE Capital's balance sheet while investing in core industrial businesses. GE Capital, which made a series of bad investment decisions leading up to the financial crisis, has been an active player in Mexico in recent years, dabbling in both commercial and residential real estate, as well as commercial leasing and lending.

One of GE Capital's Mexican initiatives was what it called a "Mexican Dream Mortgage" that hoped to sell Mexican retirement properties to U.S. baby boomers. In 2006, GE saw this as "a multibillion-dollar market" that could bring hundreds of millions to GE Capital.

GE Capital disposed of $14 billion worth of financial stakes and assets in 2010 and plans to dispose of another $17 billion in 2011 as the company aims to shrink its balance sheet. The goal is to expand its industrial business and shrink its financial division, so GE Capital would provide 30% of the company's earnings rather than 50%. (WSJ, 12/26/2010)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The New International Green Construction Code

From Today's Facility Manager

ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings is the compliance path within the IGCC (International Green Construction Code). Which facility manager (fm) activities does the Standard impact? Everything and nothing. Everything because the Plans for Operation chapter gets into almost all of the day to day and long-term activities of facility operations and maintenance (O&M). Nothing because none of this is mandatory.

Like many guidelines from ASHRAE and others, 189.1 is a design standard. It is not a building operations standard. The same care that went into the design ought to go into the construction and operation. But the designer can think about the operational needs and be asked to develop a Plan for Operation—which is exactly what 189.1 requires.

Ideally, the designer and fm would discuss these design choices (including how the building will be operated) and will collaborate throughout the design, construction, and startup process. The Standard encourages, but cannot require—such collaboration; instead, it fosters the opportunity for an integrated design byproduct.

The facility manager of a building designed in accordance with 189.1 will receive the following:
• Systems manual: giving information about the installed systems;
• Final commissioning report: outlining the intent of the building and its systems and how well the completed building meets this intent;
• Service life plan: detailing the expected life of the building and its components and maintenance activities; and
• Transportation management plan: describing operational plans for encouraging efficient transportation of employees to the building.
189.1 requires verification of water and energy use. Daily profiles are recorded to show peaks in consumption. Data is then entered in the Energy Star Portfolio Manager (a U.S. EPA program), performance assessed after 12 to 18 months, and documents retained at least three years. (Today's Facility Manager, November, 2010)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

EPA Completes Framework for GHG Gas Permitting Programs

EPA and states have worked closely to ensure a smooth transition

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing the final series of actions that will ensure that the largest industrial facilities can get Clean Air Act permits that cover greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beginning in January 2011. These actions are part of EPA’s common sense approach to GHG permitting outlined in the spring 2010 tailoring rule.

The first set of actions will give EPA authority to permit GHGs in seven states (Ariz., Ark., Fla., Idaho, Kan., Ore., and Wyo.) until the state or local agencies can revise their permitting regulations to cover these emissions. EPA is taking additional steps to disapprove part of Texas' Clean Air Act permitting program and the agency will also issue GHG permits to facilities in the state. These actions will ensure that large industrial facilities will be able to receive permits for greenhouse gas emissions regardless of where they are located.

In the second set of actions, EPA has issued final rules that will ensure that there are no federal laws in place that require any state to issue a permit for GHG emissions below levels outlined in the tailoring rule.
EPA has worked closely with the states to ensure that the transition to permitting for GHGs is smooth. States are best suited to issue permits to sources of GHG emissions and have experience working with industrial facilities. EPA will continue to work with states to help develop, submit, and obtain approval of the necessary revisions to enable the affected states to issue air permits to GHG-emitting sources.

Beginning in January 2011, industries that are large emitters of GHGs, and are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones, must obtain air permits and implement energy efficiency measures or, where available, cost-effective technology to reduce their GHGs emissions. This includes the nation's largest GHG emitters, such as power plants, refineries and cement production facilities. Emissions from small sources, such as farms and restaurants are not covered by these GHG permitting requirements. (EPA)

More information

EPA to Set Modest Pace for Greenhouse Gas Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its plan for establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards under the Clean Air Act in 2011. The agency looked at a number of sectors and is moving forward on GHG standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries—two of the largest industrial sources, representing nearly 40 percent of the GHG pollution in the United States. The schedule issued in today’s agreements provides a clear path forward for these sectors and is part of EPA’s common-sense approach to addressing GHGs from the largest industrial pollution sources.

Several states, local governments and environmental organizations sued EPA over the agency’s failure to update the pollution standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries, two of the largest source categories of GHG pollution in the United States. Under today’s agreement, EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

This schedule will allow the agency to host listening sessions with the business community, states and other stakeholders in early 2011, well before the rulemaking process begins, as well as to solicit additional feedback during the routine notice and comment period. Together this feedback will lead to smart, cost-effective and protective standards that reflect the latest and best information.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set industry-specific standards for new sources that emit significant quantities of harmful pollutants. These standards, called New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), set the level of pollution new facilities may emit and address air pollution from existing facilities. The Act allows flexible and innovative approaches that take into account cost, health and environmental impacts, and energy requirements. EPA must also periodically update these standards to reflect improvements in control technologies.

Earlier this year, EPA issued a common-sense approach to GHG permitting for the largest industrial sources. This approach, the GHG permitting guidelines issued in November, and these standards will give power plants and refineries a clear and sensible path for addressing GHG pollution.

EPA will accept public comment on these two agreements for 30 days following publication of notice in the Federal Register. (EPA)

More information

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EPA Statement on Chromium -6 in Drinking Water

Statement from Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Regarding Chromium-6 in Drinking Water
“Yesterday, I briefed Members of the Senate on chromium-6 in drinking
water supplies as it relates to the recent Environmental Working Group
report. EPA has already been working to review and incorporate the
ground-breaking science referenced in this report. However, as a mother
and the head of EPA, I am still concerned about the prevalence of
chromium-6 in our drinking water.

Today, I am announcing a series of actions that the EPA will take over
the coming days to address chromium-6 in our drinking water. It is clear
that the first step is to understand the prevalence of this problem.
While the EWG study was informative, it only provided a snapshot in
time. EPA will work with local and state officials to get a better
picture of exactly how widespread this problem is. In the meantime, EPA
will issue guidance to all water systems in the country to help them
develop monitoring and sampling programs specifically for chromium-6.
We will also offer significant technical assistance to the communities
cited in the EWG report with the highest levels of chromium-6 to help
ensure they quickly develop an effective chromium-6 specific monitoring

The science behind chromium-6 is evolving. EPA is already on a path
toward identifying and addressing any potential health threats from
excessive, long-term exposure with its new draft assessment released
this past fall. This assessment still needs to be reviewed by
independent scientists as an essential step toward tightening drinking
water standards for chromium-6. Strong science and the law will
continue to be the backbone of our decision-making at EPA. EPA takes
this matter seriously and we will continue to do all that we can, using
good science and the law, to protect people’s health and our
Once EPA’s chromium-6 risk assessment is finalized, EPA will work quickly to determine if new standards need to be set. Based on the current draft assessment, which has yet to undergo scientific peer review, it is likely that EPA will tighten drinking water standards to address the health risks posed by chromium-6.”

More information on chromium

To track the status of the ongoing risk assessment

FCC Rules on Net Neutrality

Commissioner Clyburn, Commissioner Copps, Chairman Genachowski,
 Commissioner McDowell, Commissioner Baker - October 2009
The FCC, on a 3 to 2 vote has issued its first Net Neutrality Rule with the intent of  preventing cable and DSL internet service providers from unduly influencing the open, free-wheeling nature of the internet. Chairman Genachowski voted for the Order; Commissioner Copps concurred and Commissioner Clyburn approved in part and concurred in part.  Commissioners McDowell and Baker dissented.

Critics are slamming the rules as woefully inadequate to protect the public from the predations of an industry keen on turning the internet into a cyber-version of cable TV, with tiers and premium packages affordable by the wealthy. However, the new rules seemed to be okay with the nation’s cable and telecommunications companies, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

Although the Obama administration hails the rules as fulfilling a campaign pledge — net neutrality — critics say the rule only consigns the issue to more lawsuits and uncertainty.

For the first time, federal policy allows for so-called reasonable “paid prioritization,” which critics argue is the first step toward cleaving out high-speed, premium fast lanes from the “public internet.” This could jeopardize internet innovation by disincentivising entrepreneurial activity on the free, or regular, internet.

In 2005, then-FCC chairman Michael Powell issued a set of principles, the so-called Four Freedoms:

1) internet users had the right to use the lawful software and services they want to on the internet,

2)  access their choice of content,

3) use whatever devices they like, and

4) get meaningful information about how their online service plan works.

The principles applied explicitly only to cable and DSL connections, and the FCC didn’t say if they applied to wireless providers, such as 3G plans for cellphones.

Both wireless and fixed broadband service providers will have to explain how they manage congestion on their networks. Cable and DSL companies will have to let you use the applications, online services and devices that you want to. Meanwhile, wireless companies will be prohibited from blocking websites and internet telephony services like Skype. Cable and DSL providers would be barred from “unreasonably” discriminating against various online services. It is unclear what will constitute the FCC’s standard of “unreasonableness.” But if the FCC determines such “unreasonable” discrimination is occurring, the FCC says it has the power to enjoin — or stop — the behavior, as well as issue fines or even seize assets.

Critics are calling the new rules “fake” net neutrality and believe the new rules open the possibility of providers creating internet fast lanes and slow lanes (for instance, charging YouTube to get to customers faster). Mobile carriers will also be free to charge users extra to watch online video services.

In the Bush years, the FCC deregulated broadband. That move declared that the Internet was not a communication service, which means the FCC has little authority over it. (Except oddly, when it comes to the rules about making the internet wiretap-friendly for the government, in which case, broadband is considered a communications service and thus carriers have to build-in wiretap equipment).

These net neutrality rules aren’t based on the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband internet service, which was struck down last April in the landmark Comcast federal appeals court decision.  Instead, the commission is relying on the authority of a hodgepodge of provisions cobbled together from the 1996 Telecommunications Act — authority the commission insists it can defend in federal court. One of those provisions gives the FCC authority to regulate video games. (Wired, 12/20/2010)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EPA Statement on Chromium-6 in Drinking Water

Today, EPA issued the following statement and background information in response to a study released on December 20, 2010 by the Environmental Working Group:

“EPA absolutely has a drinking water standard for total chromium, which includes chromium-6 (also known as Hexavalent Chromium), and we require water systems to test for it. This standard is based on the best available science and is enforceable by law. Ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for EPA. The agency regularly re-evaluates drinking water standards and, based on new science on chromium-6, had already begun a rigorous and comprehensive review of its health effects. In September, we released a draft of that scientific review for public comment. When this human health assessment is finalized in 2011, EPA will carefully review the conclusions and consider all relevant information, including the Environmental Working Group’s study, to determine if a new standard needs to be set.”

The total chromium standard is 0.1 mg/L (100 parts per billion).

The latest data shows no U.S. utilities are in violation of the standard.

More information on chromium

To track the status of the ongoing risk assessment


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sarah Palin on Environment, Energy & Climate Change

Energy & Oil (Full Quotes)

Cap-and-Trade is a Cap-and-Tax program. (Nov 2009)
Sues federal EPA for misusing Endangered Species Act. (Jan 2009)
Exxon & Conoco are not my biggest fan. (Oct 2008)
Nonsensical to leave domestic supply untapped. (Oct 2008)
First and foremost, we must become energy independent. (Sep 2008)
Energy is inherently linked to security and prosperity. (Sep 2008)
Produce more of our own oil & gas, for national security. (Sep 2008)
More pipelines; more nukes; more coal; more alternatives. (Sep 2008)
Resource rebate: suspend AK 8-cent fuel tax for one year. (Aug 2008)
Windfall oil profits tax prevents investment. (Aug 2008)
Lift moratorium on offshore drilling. (Jul 2008)
Exxon-Mobil should pay $507 million for Exxon Valdez spill. (Jul 2008)
Energy relief plan: $100 per person monthly, for oil & gas. (May 2008)
Fully fund the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office. (Feb 2008)
$250M for proven alternative energy, including wind & hydro. (Jan 2008)
Fund cellulosic biofuel research in Farm Bill. (Oct 2007)

ANWR & Alaska Energy (Full Quotes)

Goal of 50% of Alaska electric power from renewable sources. (Jan 2009)
Drill, baby, drill. (Oct 2008)
Crowning achievement: Alaska Gas Inducement Act. (Sep 2008)
Gasline Inducement Act: 1,715-mile natural gas pipeline. (Aug 2008)
Commercialize Alaska’s North Slope natural gas. (Aug 2008)
Agrees with Obama on more Alaska oil & gas production. (Aug 2008)
Convinced McCain to drill offshore; not yet on drilling ANWR. (Jul 2008)
Unlock ANWR. (Jun 2008)
Bush is right: drill ANWR & develop our own supplies. (Apr 2008)
Gas pipelines are approved if they meet Alaska’s needs. (Jan 2008)
Submitted legislation to build natural AGIA gas pipeline. (Mar 2007)
Get ANWR open. (Nov 2006)
Chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. (Nov 2006)
Opposes natural gas reserves tax--it’s not earned income yet. (Oct 2006)

Global Warming (Full Quotes)

I do support capping carbon emissions. (Oct 2008)
Cyclical temperature changes affect climate change. (Oct 2008)
All-of-the-above approach to deal with climate change. (Oct 2008)
Global warming affects Alaska, but is not man-made. (Aug 2008)
Analyze potential costs associated with climate change. (Oct 2006)

Environment (Full Quotes)

Exxon Valdez spill was environmental & economic disaster. (Nov 2009)

20 years to recover Exxon Valdez damages for people of AK. (Nov 2009)
Opposed protections for salmon from mining contamination. (Aug 2008)
Sue US government to stop listing polar bear as endangered. (Aug 2008)
We must encourage timber, mining, drilling, & fishing. (Jan 2008)
Wolf predator control is important for subsistence hunters. (Sep 2007)
Feds shouldn’t list beluga whales as endangered. (Aug 2007)
Convince the rest of the nation to open ANWR. (Jan 2007)
Supports “Roads to Resources”: subsidized access to mines. (Oct 2006)
Don’t duplicate effort in monitoring cruise ship emissions. (Oct 2006)
Don’t amend AK constitution for rural subsistence fishing. (Oct 2006)


(On The Issues)

EPA Delivers 15 Years of Acid Rain Reductions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report that shows 15 years of successful results from its nationwide effort to address acid rain. Since its inception in 1995 as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, EPA’s Acid Rain Program has earnedwidespread acclaim due to dramatic sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogenoxides (NOX) emission reductions that are saving American lives andecosystems. An analysis estimates annual public health benefits of the program in 2010 alone at more than $120 billion, about 40 times the estimated cost.

The Center is registered in EPA's Acid Rain Program (since 2003)

Some of the major accomplishments of the program through 2009 include:
· Power plants have decreased emissions of SO2, aprecursor to acid rain, to 5.7 million tons in 2009, a 67 percent decrease from 1980 levels and a 64 percent decrease from 1990levels.

· Air quality has improved; the average amount of ambientSO2 decreased 76 percent between 1980 and 2009. The largestsingle-year reduction in SO2 since the start of the Acid Rain Program occurred between 2008 and 2009.

· Reductions in fine particle levels yielded benefitsincluding about 20,000-50,000 lives saved annually.

· Many lakes and streams affected by acid rain in the eastare exhibiting signs of recovery.
The Acid Rain Program was established under the 1990 Clean Air ActAmendments and requires significant emission reductions of SO2 andnitrogen oxides (NOx) from the electric power industry. The program sets a permanent cap on the total amount of SO2 that may be emitted by electric generating units in the United States, and includes provisions for trading and banking emission allowances. The program is phased in, with this year phasing in the final 2010 SO2 cap set at 8.95 milliontons, a level of about one-half of the emissions from the power sectorin 1980. More information on the Acid Rain Program (EPA)

EPA Approves Use of E15 For Cars Made After 2007

On October 13, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a waiver request from the ethanol industry to allow ethanol content in a gallon of gas to climb from today's gas-pump blend of 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent. The waiver to the Clean Air Act to permit E15 fuel applies only to cars and light trucks made since model year 2007.

EPA bases its approval of the waiver request on testing that has shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. The waiver covers about one-fifth of the vehicles on the road. The agency is waiting for further engine emission tests by the Energy Department before deciding whether to extend approval of E15 for cars built since 2001. EPA is not advocating E15 but simply responding to a waiver request under the clean-air statute.

If the agency extends the waiver back to model-year-2001 vehicles, E15 would be approved in more than half the automobiles in the country. A push to add another 50 percent to the ethanol content of some automobile fuel has automakers worried that it could damage vehicles.  Power-equipment and boat manufacturers are complaining that it could damage their products too. These critics say a 15 percent ethanol blend would shorten engine life more and make equipment prone to fuel leaks and fire hazards( e.g., snowblowers, chain saws and mowers). Apart from causing engines to run hotter, ethanol fuel eats away at rubber components

Equipment makers are also worried that the ethanol, which absorbs water, will make the fuel unstable and destructive to engines when seasonable equipment is stored for months on end.
For gas station owners, the waiver has raised its own set of questions and concerns. Tanks, pipes and pumps must be listed by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product-safety testing organization, for E15 to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, as well as contractual obligations with insurers and others. The bigger issue is the pipes from the tanks to the dispensers and the materials used to connect them, the gaskets, glues and seals.

Congress is considering a bill that would shield gas retailers from liability suits for mis-fueled engines. (Wash Post, 12/20/2010)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Obama Administration Sues BP & 8 Others Over Oil Spill

The U.S. Justice Department has sued BP and eight other companies for what has been called the “worst oil spill in U.S. history.” The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, in a New Orleans federal court. BP and the other defendants were accused of violating federal regulations and failing to prevent the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig. The 27-page lawsuit asserts that the “companies failed to use the safest drilling technology and to maintain equipment ‘necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources, and the environment.’”

The lawsuit is seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and a federal statue for cleanup costs and damage to the environment. If BP and the other companies are found to have been engaged in “gross negligence,” each defendant could be fined up to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil. Authorities estimated that nearly 5 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. This case can potentially expose the defendants to tens of billions of dollars in fines, under civil environmental laws. (JusticeNewsFlash, 12/18/2010)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Center's Third Scoping Visit For Mississippi Power Plant

Derry Bigby, Al Dyson, Norris McDonald
The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) met with representatives from South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SMEPA) and Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association (SWEPA) to discuss feasibility studies, interconnection requirements and a power purchasing agreement on its third biomass-to-electricity (BTE) power plant scoping visit. Plans call for the new BTE plant to generate electricity by gasifying sawdust and woodchips to power a massive turbine.

The Southwest Mississippi EPA electrical substation is on Alcorn State University property and the utility has a long term lease with the university to operate the facility. The Center is seeking a similar arrangement for its proposed 10-megawatt power plant. The Center also met with Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves and other city representatives and stakeholders to discuss the power project.

Alton Johnson, Norris McDonald, Marcus Ward, Derry Bigby, Al Dyson
The Center met with Alcorn State University faculty and staff to discuss cooperative energy proposals, including leasing land to the Center for the biomass-to-energy power plant.  The meeting included Dean of Agricultural Research and Applied Sciences Alton Johnson, Vice President for Facility Management and Strategic Planning Jessie Stephney, and Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Marcus Ward.  The Center team included Center President Norris McDonald, Center Vice President Derry Bigby and engineering consultant Al Dyson, president of Dyson Engineering and Technical Services of Memphis, Tennessee.  The meeting was held on campus at the Extension and Research Complex.

The Center expects to meet with the new president of Alcorn State in January to begin negotiations to secure a long term lease for the property to build and operate the biomass -to-electricity plant. We are also discussing supplemental projects that could complement the biomass project. These projects include fuel cell electricity production and natural gas pipelines. The natural gas will serve as a backup source for the biomass plant.

The Center toured the Alcorn State University campus and met with facilities managers to discuss the implications of the power plant. The university is in a very rural area and is basically a self-contained city, providing its own drinking water from wells (see one below), water storage and treatment facility (see photo at left) and has its own wastewater treatment plant (see photo at right). There are also numerous research projects that are either ongoing or have ceased for various reasons, including the fuel cell and chicken production facilities. The Center is examining the feasibility of partnering with the university in an expanded program to assist this 'city' in meeting its energy needs.

Groundwater pump and pipe to treatment facility

Fuel Cell in background
Alcorn State University constructed a groundbreaking fuel cell electricity generating station 14 years ago.  However, lack of funding and staff changes led to the project being mothballed.  The Center is interested in working with Alcorn State University to install a modern hydrogen fuel cell to revive this groundbreaking project.  All of the infrastructure is still there, including a 3-transformer interconnect with the electricity line.

Ellis Neal, J.B. Darris, A.C. Garner, Clarence Scutter,
 Norris McDonald, Lorraine Lias, Al Dyson, Mayor Fred Reeves
The Center met with Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves and other stakeholders to discuss the biomass-to-electricity project.  Mayor Reeves has been a tireless advocate and ally in supporting the biomass-to-electricity.  In addition to the energy reliability and environmental benefits, Mayor Reeve's singular interest is in creating more jobs in Port Gibson.  The stakeholders shared their support for the project and encouraged Center representatives to proceed with all deliberate speed to get construction approved.  The Center has approval from the City of Port Gibson to proceed and is seeking county approval for the project.

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy and its project affiliate, National Clean Fuels (PinkSheets: NACF) are working together to build a biomass-to-electricity (BTE) plant near Port Gibson, Mississippi.  During the trip, Center President Norris McDonald described to area stakeholders how the biomass generator will produce an abundance of energy that can be redistributed along the energy grid in Port Gibson and surrounding areas.

The Center and National Clean Fuels are dedicated to developing clean, reliable electricity production.

1st Scoping Visit

2nd Scoping Visit

4th Scoping Visit

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EPA Publishes CO2 Geologic Sequestration Rule

In Federal Register

On Friday, December 10, 2010, EPA published in the Federal Register its final rule governing the underground injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) for geologic sequestration (GS) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA released a pre-publication version of this rule back on November 22, 2010. 

Background: Last Friday's rule focuses on protecting underground sources of drinking water (USDW) from endangerment due to CO2 GS activities. The rule was promulgated pursuant to EPA's SDWA authority. The rule, which becomes effective on January 10, 2011, resulted from a proposed rule issued by EPA on July 25, 2008 (73 FR 43492) and a notice of data availability and request for comment by EPA on August 31, 2009 (74 FR 44802).

Highlights: Last Friday's rule covers owners / operators of wells used to inject CO2 into the subsurface for GS. Complex and dense, EPA's explanation of last Friday's rule and the rule itself consume more than 70 pages in the Federal Register. The rule creates a new class of injection well (Class VI) to address CO2 injection for GS and imposes minimum federal requirements on Class VI well owners / operators. Boiled down to one sentence, those requirements cover: CO2 injection and site characterization, CO2 GS well permitting, construction, operation, testing, plugging, recordkeeping, corrective action, emergency and remedial response, closure / post-closure care and associated financial assurances.
Key elements of and deadlines included in last Friday's rule include:

Opportunities for States to Obtain Primacy to Regulate Class VI Wells: States must apply to EPA for approval to implement the new Class VI well program (i.e., to issue Class VI CO2 GS permits). Last Friday's rule gives states until September 6, 2011 to apply for primacy. After that deadline, EPA will implement this rule and serve as the Class VI permitting authority in all states whose Class VI programs are not yet federally approved.

Looming Requirements for Certain Class I and Class V Well Owners / Operators: Wells previously permitted as Class I wells for CO2 GS must apply for Class VI permits by December 10, 2011. The same is true of CO2 GS wells previously permitted as Class V experimental technology wells, provided such wells are no longer being used for experimental injection purposes. Last Friday's rule affords owners / operators of Class I and Class V wells requiring re-permitting as Class VI wells an opportunity to avoid the new Class VI well construction requirements under specific circumstances

Class VI Requirements Potentially Applicable to Class II Well Owners / Operators of CO2 Enhanced Recovery Injection Wells: CO2 injection is one of the principal techniques employed to enhance recovery (EOR) of underground oil and gas supplies. Wells used to inject CO2 underground for EOR have historically been regulated as Class II wells. That will remain true after last Friday's rule for most Class II CO2 injection wells. The rule, however, "clarifies" that the stringent Class VI well requirements (including the requirement to obtain a Class VI permit) will apply to any Class II CO2 wells used to inject CO2 for the primary purpose of long-term storage and which present "an increased risk to USDWs as compared to traditional Class II operations." The rule includes several factors for EPA, states and Class II owners / operators to use in evaluating whether Class II wells present sufficient risk to warrant regulation as Class VI wells.

Corollary Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program: EPA intends last Friday's rule to compliment the final CO2 injection and GS reporting rule published in the Federal Register earlier this month as Subparts RR and UU of EPA's federal GHG reporting program (75 FR 75060). Subpart RR includes reporting requirements for facilities conducting CO2 GS. Subpart UU imposes similar requirements on facilities injecting CO2 underground for other reasons. Whereas the purpose and intent of last Friday's rule is to protect USDW from endangerment, Subparts RR and UU were established to enable EPA to quantify the amount of CO2 sequestered underground as well as surface CO2 emissions from injecting facilities.

Adaptive Requirements: Last Friday's rule is future-looking and adaptable. For example, Class VI wells owners / operators will—every five years—need to re-evaluate the area around the CO2 GS project where USDWs may be endangered to ensure that the CO2 injected is moving as predicted beneath the surface. EPA itself intends to review the sufficiency of its Class VI program every six years to determine whether modifications to it are needed.

Last Friday's rule can be found at 75 FR 77230. Supporting information and in the rulemaking docket at (docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0390). (Stoel Rives Attorneys at Law, 12/13/2010)

Department of Energy HQ Get Cool Roof

Energy Department Completes Cool Roof Installation on D.C. Headquarters

Building to Save Money by Saving Energy

The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Headquarters West Building has completed the installation of a new cool roof. There was no incremental cost to adding the cool roof as part of the roof replacement project and it will save taxpayers $2,000 every year in building energy costs. Cool roofs use lighter-colored roofing surfaces or special coatings to reflect more of the sun's heat, helping improve building efficiency, reduce cooling costs, and offset carbon emissions. The cool roof and increased insulation at the facility were installed as part of the federal government's commitment to lead by example in increasing energy efficiency, reducing carbon pollution and demonstrating the benefits of clean energy technologies.

The Department of Energy also released today a video (see below) with Secretary Chu that shows the installation of the roof and explains some of the benefits that come with this important technology.

Earlier this year, Secretary Chu directed all Department of Energy offices to install cool roofs, whenever cost effective, when constructing a new roof or replacing an old one. The Department's new cool roof on the West Building covers approximately 25,000 square feet. In the spring, DOE will also install a cool roof on the Headquarters' South Building, covering approximately 66,000 square feet. As a result of the new cool roof installations on both buildings, taxpayers will save a total of $8,000 per year in energy costs.

Roofs and road pavement cover 50 to 65% of urban areas. Most traditional dark-colored roofing materials absorb 80 to 90% of incoming solar energy, increasing temperatures on the surface and in the case of roofing, heating the building, which in turn requires additional air conditioning. White or special "cool color" roofs absorb less than 50% of solar energy, reducing the roof temperature and decreasing the energy used in air conditioning.

A dark roof can reach temperatures above 180F on a hot day, while a cool roof can stay 50 degrees cooler. A study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that using cool roofs and cool pavements in cities around the world can help reduce the demand for air conditioning, cool entire cities, and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. (DOE)

Consumers can find Energy Star cool roofing products for homes and businesses at

RNC Chairman Michael Steele To Seek Another Term

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele announced Monday that he will seek another term.

The other declared candidates are:

Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus,
Former RNC official Gentry Collins,
Former RNC co-chairwoman Ann Wagner;
Former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis; and
Former RNC official Maria Cino.


GE Buys Wellstream Holdings For $1.3 Billion

General Electric is buying British oil and gas services company Wellstream Holdings for $1.3 billion.  GE is expanding its energy services business related to drilling for oil in deep waters around the world. (AP)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Center Supports Extension of Bush Tax Cuts

President Obama and House Speaker-Elect John Boehner are right to utilize this tool to stimulate the economy.

Center Supports EPA Climate Change Rules

"Tailoring EPA to Fit You"
Published: Sep 1, 2010
By Robynn Andracsek, P.E., Burns & McDonnell and Contributing Editor

EPA’s “Tailoring Rule” is here. So are your obligations to comply with Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V for your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Let’s look at what the rule means for several permitting scenarios common in the power industry.

First, a few definitions. The Tailoring Rule measures greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in terms of English short tons (2,000 lbs), not metric tons (2,204.6 lbs) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Keep in mind that the GHG reporting rule and the international community use metric tons. CO2e is defined as the sum of CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions each multiplied by their global warming potential. Don’t rely on your GHG reporting rule calculations as the basis for your tailoring rule calculations as there are several significant differences.

Fugitive emissions must be included in your CO2e emissions for all sources. As with criteria pollutants (NO2, SO2, carbon moNOxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulates) potential emissions of CO2e are used for PSD and Title V applicability. Here’s how the Tailoring Rule might be applied.

Example 1: Existing Synthetic Minor Peaking Plant: This facility has limits on emissions to keep it a minor source for PSD. It may or may not have a Title V permit. If the unit’s potential GHG emissions are above 100,000 tpy CO2e but its actual emissions will always be less than that, get a permit limit to keep your potential GHG emissions under 100,000 tpy CO2e. If actual GHG emissions are above 100,000 tpy CO2e, the facility will be “PSD major” for CO2e as of July 1, 2011. If you don’t have a Title V permit, you will need to get one. Keep in mind that any modifications that increase CO2e potentials by 75,000 tpy are subject to PSD for CO2e.

Example 2: Existing Base Load Plant: This facility is classified as PSD major for criteria pollutants and has actual CO2e emissions above 100,000 tpy (which makes it major for PSD for GHG emissions). Permits for modifications issued before Jan. 2, 2011 are not subject to GHG PSD. Permits for modifications issued between Jan. 2 and June 30, 2011 are subject to GHG PSD only if the modification also trips PSD for a non-GHG pollutant and has a potential increase of 75,000 tpy of GHG emissions.

Permits for modifications issued July 1, 2011 and later are subject to GHG PSD if the potential CO2e emissions increase is above 75,000 tpy, regardless of other pollutant increases.

Example 3: New Facility: Things get more complicated for new facilities (or those that were PSD minor but have become PSD major). The determining factors are the date of permit issuance and the date that construction starts. The table identifies key issues.

Other aspects are important to note. First, no provisions exist for pollution control projects. If you retrofit a control device and CO2e emissions are subsequently increased, GHG PSD is tripped. Second, biomass combustion and biogenic emissions are not exempt. Third, the PSD major source threshold for criteria pollutants is broken into “listed” sources (100 tpy) and non-listed sources (250 tpy). All sources are considered major at 100,000 tpy CO2e. Fourth, a facility classified as “PSD major” for NOx, is classified as “major” for all other PSD pollutants. As a result, a modification that increases SO2 emissions by more than 40 tpy is subject to PSD for SO2. Likewise, if you are PSD major for CO2e (≥100,000 tpy), then you are considered major for all criteria pollutants regardless of whether or not your PSD major source threshold was 250 tpy or 100 tpy. Fifth, Title V major facilities pay fees on emissions based on actual tons emitted (SO2, NOx, PM10, VOC, HAPs), capped at 4,000 tons per pollutant and at a default fee of $43 a ton. Fees are not assessed against CO and PM2.5. The default position for CO2e is that it is exempt from fees; however, each state has the option to include it in its fee assessment.

The transition period of incorporating CO2e into PSD is reminiscent of 1976 to 1979 when PSD was first enacted. Back then, the timing of when permit applications were submitted, when permits were issued, when construction started and when operation began was crucial in determining if PSD applied. The lesson is that each power plant needs to understand what its actual and potential emissions are at each step of the 2011 GHG PSD transition.

In summary, the Tailoring Rule maintains the tradition of regulatory confusion exemplified by the current PSD program.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

Under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, states, territories, and authorized tribes are required to develop lists of impaired waters. These are waters that are too polluted or otherwise degraded to meet the water quality standards set by states, territories, or authorized tribes.

The law requires that these jurisdictions establish priority rankings for waters on the lists and develop TMDLs for these waters. A Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet water quality standards. (EPA)

Cancun, Mexico Climate Conference 'Cancun Agreements'

Delegates from 193 nations representing the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) agreed Saturday on the 'Cancun Agreements,' a new global framework to help developing countries curb their carbon output and cope with the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, they did not agree on how the international aid will be funded. The agreement created a "Green Climate Fund" that will:

1) Transfer money from rich countries to poor ones;

2) Research centers that will ease the transfer of clean-energy technology; and

3) A system for developing nations to be compensated for keeping rain forests intact.

The delegation postponed  addressing how industrialized and major emerging economies will achieve deeper greenhouse-gas emission cuts within a new international agreement. In short, they did not decide whether the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the current global climate pact, will be extended once its first commitment period expires in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol has an agreed-upon goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels. To achieve that, industrialized countries would have cut their emissions between 25 and 40 percent compared with 1990 levels in the next decade, as opposed to the 16 percent they have promised. None of the signatories have met their goals.

New language for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) establishes rules for calculating how much carbon is stored in forest stocks vulnerable to logging or burning, along with safeguards for rain-forest dwellers and biodiversity. (Wash Post, 12/12/2010)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Renewables Extension Included In Tax Package

Senate Amendment to House Amendment to Senate Amendment:


3 (a) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a) of section 1603 of
4 division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment
5 Act of 2009 is amended—
6 (1) in paragraph (1), by striking ‘‘2009 or
7 2010’’ and inserting ‘‘2009, 2010, or 2011’’, and
8 (2) in paragraph (2)—
9 (A) by striking ‘‘after 2010’’ and inserting
10 ‘‘after 2011’’, and
11 (B) by striking ‘‘2009 or 2010’’ and
12 inserting ‘‘2009, 2010, or 2011’’.
13 (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—Subsection (j) of
14 section 1603 of division B of such Act is amended by striking
15 ‘‘2011’’ and inserting ‘‘2012’’.

(Senate, Wikisource)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fish & Wildlife Service Rule on Bull Trout Affects 5 States

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) final rule designating critical habitat for the bull trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (the “ESA”), recently took effect. The species’ critical habitat now covers approximately 18,975 miles of streams, 488,252 acres of lakes and reservoirs, and 754 miles of marine shoreline in five states. While the area covered is less than FWS initially proposed earlier this year, it covers five times more marine and freshwater habitat than the USFWS’ 2005 designation. The majority of areas designated occur on federally- and privately-owned waterways in Idaho, Washington, and Montana, followed by substantial miles of streams and acres of lakes and reservoirs in Oregon, and under 100 stream miles in Nevada.

The USFWS map reproduced below shows areas designated as critical habitat (in blue) compared to areas proposed (in red), over 32 discrete critical habitat units (shaded):

In the listing decisions and proposed and final critical habitat rules, the FWS determined that the bull trout’s decline has resulted primarily from habitat degradation and fragmentation, blockage of migratory corridors, poor water quality, poor fisheries management, dams, water diversions, and nonnative species. USFWS determined that those effects have resulted largely from timber harvest, agricultural practices, and road building near riparian areas; operation of dams without effective fish passage features; mining near aquatic systems; introduction of nonnative species that prey upon, hybridize, or exacerbate stresses on bull trout; and urbanization in watersheds.

The FWS also determined that climate change poses additional threats to bull trout, since temperature models predict general air temperature warning by 1 to 2.5 degrees Celsius within the next 40 years, increasing water temperatures. Bull trout need substantially lower water temperatures than other salmonids to survive, and coldwater fish do not adapt well to thermal increases. Accordingly, the FWS determined that “bull trout may be among the species most sensitive to the effects of climate change.”

The rule is designed to provide sufficient habitat to allow for genetic diversity of the species, to ensure bull trout are well distributed, and to ensure sufficient connectivity between populations and allow for the ability to address threats to the species. Of the waterways proposed for designation, the majority of stream and shoreline area is federally owned, followed by privately-owned waterways. The remainder are owned by tribes, states, or jointly by federal/private or federal/state ownership. The Service recently re-evaluated its DPS designations, and identified six “recovery units” for the species, including the following: the Mid-Columbia recovery unit; Saint Mary; Columbia Headwaters; Coastal; Klamath; and Upper Snake. The Service determined that “conserving each [recovery unit] is essential to conserving the listed entity as a whole.” (Marten Law, 12/9/2010)

2010 National Healthy Homes Conference in Denver, Colorado


The 2011 National Healthy Homes Conference is a unique event that brings together individuals from across the public health and safety, housing, building design, and environmental spectrum. This 4-day conference will provide unparalleled opportunities to explore emerging trends in green and healthy building and design, discover why creating homes that are healthier makes our families and communities healthy, and exchange ideas with other health and housing professionals. Join us in Denver as we lead the nation to healthy housing, families, and communities. More information

EPA Delays Tightening Ground-Level Ozone Standard

Center Wants New Ozone Standard Now

The Environmental Protection Agency is punting the football on smog reductions.  Ozone is a principle component of smog that cause respiratory illnesses.  This is the third punt this year and EPA has announced that it will not be prepared to decide until next July whether to tighten a national air-quality standard for ozone.  The agency has said tightening the standard could save as many as 12,000 lives a year and yield health benefits worth as much as $100 billion annually in 2020.  EPA has proposed setting the standard at between 60 and 70 parts per billion, down from 75 ppb now.

A standard of 60 ppb could cost businesses as much as $90 billion annually in 2020. The costs would include new emissions controls that businesses would have to install; higher electricity prices as power plants switched to cleaner-burning but costlier fuels; and more frequent auto inspections.

Leading manufacturers and energy companies, such as Exxon Mobil Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, and American Electric Power Company, believe the EPA has not proven that the 60 ppb standard would save the number of lives the agency claims. They also believe EPA has underestimated the amount of ozone that forms naturally or drifts into the U.S. from abroad, from factories in China, for example.

The EPA's proposal has our support and the support of the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association, and is consistent with the recommendation of a 23-member panel of clean-air experts who advised the agency on the issue after reviewing more than 1,700 studies.

On Tuesday, the EPA decided to delay another costly, controversial proposed regulation aimed at smokestack industries, saying it needed another year to finish rules aimed at reducing pollution from boilers and solid-waste incinerators. (WSJ, 12/9/2010)

Ralph Hall to Chair House Science & Technology Committee

Ralph Hall (R-TX) will be the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress.

Ralph M. Hall, left, represents the Fourth Congressional District in Texas and was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980. Congressman Hall was selected as Ranking Member of the Committee on Science and Technology for the 111th Congress and received a waiver to continue as a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he serves on the Energy and Air Quality, and Health, and Commerce.

Between 1950 and 1962, Mr. Hall served as County Judge of Rockwall County, Texas. In 1958-1959, he served as President of the State Judges and Commissioners Association. He served in the Texas Senate from 1962 to 1972, where he served as President Pro Tempore in 1968-1969.

Ralph M. Hall was born in Fate (Rockwall County), Texas, on May 3, 1923 and graduated from Rockwall High School. He joined the U.S. Navy on December 10, 1942, serving as a lieutenant aircraft carrier pilot from 1942 to 1945. Hall attended Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, in 1943; attended the University of Texas, Austin, 1946-1947, and received his LL.B. from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, in 1951. He was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951 and maintained a private law practice in Rockwall for many years.

In 1944, he married the former Mary Ellen Murphy. They have three sons, Hampton, Brett, and Blakeley, and five grandchildren. (Ralph Hall House Website Biography)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Greenhouse Gases, EPA & The Courts

UPDATE:  5:30 pm Friday court announcement--The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a motion to partially stay implementation of pending EPA greenhouse gas regulations. 

A federal appeals court ruling on whether to stay U.S. EPA greenhouse gas regulations could affect the Supreme Court's consideration of whether states can regulate emissions using common law.

The Supreme Court announced on December 6th that it would take up the common law case, American Electric Power v. Connecticut.* The case before the Supreme Court was prompted by the combined efforts of eight states, New York City, and several land trusts to require utilities that operate fossil fuel-fired electric power plants to reduce emissions. American Electric Power Co. Inc. and several other power companies responded that the Clean Air Act supplants the federal common law when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states.The case will be argued in the spring, after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decides whether to stay the four EPA regulations, parts of which are due to go into effect on January 2. A ruling on the stay request is due at any time.

The regulations are relevant to the Supreme Court's consideration of the case because it may reach its conclusion by ruling on whether efforts by EPA to regulate carbon emissions in recent years have effectively supplanted any federal common law that would give the states the right to claim that emissions are a "public nuisance."

The four rules under attack from industry groups are:

1) the "timing" rule that requires new controls of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources would be triggered on Jan. 2, 2011, the day that new motor vehicle standards go into effect;

2) the "tailoring" rule that interprets the Clean Air Act in such a way that only major polluters are required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions;

3) the "endangerment" rule focusing on EPA's initial decision in which it held that greenhouse gases are harmful; and

4) the "tailpipe" rule, which adopts new standards for car and light-truck emissions.

The Obama administration wants the Supreme Court to send the case back to the appeals court. The administration want the appeals corut to decide "whether, in light of multiple actions that EPA has taken since the court of appeals issued its decision,  any other federal law claims have been displaced," such as whether comprehensive federal regulation pre-empted the common law nuisance action.  A stay might undercut the administration's argument.  If the rules are not stayed, the Obama administration's argument will be stronger, because it would telegraph that the existing regulations are here to stay. (NYT, 12/7/2010, American Constitution Society Blog, 12/6/2010, Wiki)
* The Supreme Court granted certiorari* in the case of American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a common law nuisance suit seeking an order compelling large electric utility companies to reduce their contributions to global climate change. At issue will be a variety of doctrines - such as standing and political question - that nominally originate from constitutional limitations on the role of the judicial branch, but that judges have, over the years, expanded well beyond the text and structure of the Constitution. AEP is the first climate change nuisance suit to reach the Supreme Court.

The Obama Administration intervened in support of certiorari, but on a more limited ground of implied preemption than industry had advocated. The Administration claims that the EPA has gotten busy implementing the Clean Air Act with respect to greenhouse gas emissions and that allowing federal common law nuisance claims to proceed would interfere with the regulatory initiative.

* A writ of certiorari means an order by a higher court directing a lower court to send the record in a given case for review. A minimum of four of the nine Justices are required to grant a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court is generally careful to choose only cases over which the Court has jurisdiction and which the Court considers sufficiently important, such as cases involving deep constitutional questions, to merit the use of its limited resources.

Do Not Require Utilities To Use Technology That Doesn't Work


By Norris McDonald

I support wind and solar, but they cannot reliably deliver electricity to hundreds of millions of people 24 hours a day seven days a week.  In fact, they work about 30% of the time and so have to be backed up by traditional technologies.  Thus, a Renewable Electricity Standard (aka Renewable Portfolio Standard) is just one more burden on a sector that already has its back against the wall in meeting customer needs and current regulatory requirements.  I say this even as supporting such a standard would probably benefit our current work to build an biomass-to-electricity plant in Mississippi (Green Port Gibson Project).

Billions in federal subsidies for manufacturers of solar panels and wind and solar power facilities will end January 1, 2011. These subsidies include a 30% tax credit for builders of plants that manufacture solar panels or other clean-energy components.  They will expire unless lawmakers renew these clean-energy incentives that were created by the 2009 economic stimulus legislation. Republicans are opposing extensions and Democrats are supporting extensions.  It is doubtful the Lame Duck congress will extend the subsidies and it will be an uphill climb to get new subsidies in the 112th Congress.

I support the energy subsidies for all sectors.  And I could also easily support removing supports for all energy sectors and let the market decide.  But since we live in a subsidy world, I support the subsidies for all sectors, particularly the emissions free technologies.

Wow.  The United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico is off the radar screen.  Let's hope interest picks up next year for the final Kyoto Protocol conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Dead Miners' Families Offered $3 Million To Wave Litigation

Family members of the 29 workers killed in the Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch coal mine accident in Montcoal, West Virginia on April 5 are being offered a settlement offer of $3 million for each deceased miner. If the settlement is accepted, recipients give up suing the company. To date, only three agreements have been finalized. Many families are awaiting the outcomes of federal and state investigations into the accident to see if the company is found responsible. Performance Coal Company is a subsidiary of Massey Energy Company.

Massey believes it is following standard operating procedure they believe they are offering generous settlements. Of course, families may seek punitive damages that could come to much more than $3 million. Under state law, any family members who were financially or emotionally dependent on the dead are allowed to seek the company's settlement. Legal experts say the $3 million offer is high for workers who earned at most about $80,000 a year, and they say the sum might be considered even richer in the context of rural West Virginia, where the poverty rate exceeds 19% and the unemployment rate is 9.3%.

Massey is supplementing workers' compensation benefits, so widows receive miners' full salaries for the rest of their lives or until they remarry. It also provides medical benefits to widows for 20 years and continued medical benefits for dependent children with no premiums. The company will also pay $5,000 a year for child care, and provide dependents with four-year scholarships to an accredited public college or vocational school in West Virginia.

Litigation involving miners' deaths, he says, usually takes three to four years to resolve. That could motivate some families to settle. But they stand to receive less if the company is cleared of wrongdoing and decides to lower its offer. Massey says it currently has no plans to do so. Regulators say the Massey mine had a pattern of serious and frequent safety violations over the past two years. (WSJ, 12/7/2010)

Fred Upton To Chair House Energy & Commerce Committee

The 34-member House Republican Steering Committee selected Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) today to be the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The full House Republican Conference will probably ratify the panel's recommendation.

Fred Upton has represented his southwest Michigan district for 24 years. Prior to his election to Congress in 1986, Fred worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He currently serves as the top Republican of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. 

Upton was born in St. Joseph, Michigan. Upton earned a B.A in Journalism from the University of Michigan in 1975. Fred and his wife Amey have two children, Meg and Stephen. (Office of Fred Upton)

EPA Timetable To Reduce Boilers/Incinerators Pollution

In a motion filed today in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking an extension in the current court-ordered schedule for issuing rules that would reduce harmful air emissions from large and small boilers and solid waste incinerators. The additional time is needed for the agency to re-propose the rules based on a full assessment of information received since the rules were proposed. The rules would cut emissions of harmful pollutants, including mercury and soot, which cause a range of health effects – from developmental disabilities in children to cancer, heart disease and premature death.

The rules seek to protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury and soot, which affect kids' development, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks. In order to meet a court order requiring the EPA to issue final rules in January 2011, the agency proposed standards in April 2010. While EPA requested and received some information from industry before the proposal, the comments EPA received following the proposal shed new light on a number of key areas, including the scope and coverage of the rules and the way to categorize the various boiler-types. Industry groups and others offered this information during the public comment period after EPA proposed the rule. After reviewing the data and the more than 4,800 public comments, the agency believes it is appropriate to issue a revised proposal that reflects the new data and allows for additional public comment. This approach is essential to meeting the agency’s legal obligations under the Clean Air Act and, as a result, provides the surest path to protecting human health and the environment.

EPA has estimated that there are more than 200,000 boilers operating in industrial facilities, commercial buildings, hotels and universities located in highly populated areas and communities across the country. EPA has estimated that for every $5 spent on reducing these pollutants, the public will see $12 in health and other benefits.

EPA is under a current court order to issue final rules on January 16, 2011 and is seeking in its motion to the court to extend the schedule to finalize the rules by April 2012. (EPA)

More information