Monday, January 30, 2012

California Advanced Clean Cars Program

Last Friday, after three years in the making, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved automobile standards known as the California Advanced Clean Cars program. This emissions-control program will increase the number of low-pollution vehicles available to consumers starting in 2017, with a goal to have 1.4 million zero-emission cars on the road by 2025. These vehicles include plug-in hybrids, electric battery-powered cars, and hydrogen fuel cell cars. By 2025 one in seven new cars sold in the state must emit little or no pollution. Half a million of these cars are expected to be fuel cell or electric powered. The clean car rules also set the goal that by 2050 87% of vehicles must be fueled by clean technologies.

The Advanced Clean Cars program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions into a single coordinated package of requirements for model years 2017 through 2025. Starting with model year 2015, automakers will have to meet tougher standards for smog-forming emissions and in 2017, greater limits on pollutants that contribute to global warming. By 2025, the standards are designed to reduce the average smog-forming emissions of new cars and light trucks by 75% compared with those sold today.

The greenhouse gas limits, which would be the same as the federal government has proposed for vehicles nationally, should cut those auto emissions by a third more in 2025 than required under current standards. To meet the new limits, the board staff anticipates the auto industry will make greater use of advanced hybrid technology, stronger and lighter materials and improved emission control equipment.

If oil companies don't reach an agreement with the state to voluntarily install alternative fueling stations, such as for hydrogen fuel cells, the new rules will also require them to do so when a certain number of cars using that fuel is reached. The outlets could be placed at an existing gasoline station or a free-standing site.

The California clean car rules also address emission standards for gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by extending limits on greenhouse gas emissions and smog forming pollutants. Again, by 2025 all new vehicles must emit 34% fewer global warming gases and 75% fewer smog forming emissions. California has over 26 million cars and the top five smoggiest metropolitan areas in the country.

The California Air Resources board estimates that the initial increase in cost will be offset by an average of $6,000 worth of fuel savings over a vehicle’s lifetime. (Think Progress, 1/30/2012, LA Times, 1/28/2012)

(More Information)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Obama Commission on America's Nuclear Future Final Report

Norris McDonald Testifying at BRC Hearing in Washington, DC
President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) has issued its final report. Fully implementing the Commission’s recommendations will require several changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act or other legislation:

Establishing a new facility siting process – The NWPA, as amended in 1987, now provides only for the evaluation and licensing of a single repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Act should be amended to authorize a new consent-based process to be used for selecting and evaluating sites and licensing consolidated storage and disposal facilities in the future, similar to the process established in the expired Nuclear Waste Negotiator provisions of the Act (but under new organizational leadership, as described below).

Authorizing consolidated interim storage facilities – The NWPA allows the government to construct one consolidated storage facility with limited capacity, but only after construction of a nuclear waste repository has been licensed. One or more consolidated storage facilities should be established, independent of the schedule for opening a repository.

The Act should be modified to allow for a consent-based process to site, license, and construct multiple storage facilities with adequate capacity when needed and to clarify that nuclear waste fee payments can be used for this purpose. Broadening support to jurisdictions affected by transportation – The NWPA provides funding and technical assistance for training public safety officials to states and tribes whose jurisdictions would be traversed by shipments of spent fuel to a storage or disposal facility.

The Act should be amended to give the waste management organization the broader authorities given to DOE in the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act that supported the successful large-scale transport of transuranic waste to WIPP (including a public information program, support for the acquisition of equipment to respond to transportation incidents, and broad assistance for other waste-related transportation safety programs).

Establishing a new waste management organization – Responsibility for implementing the nation’s program for managing spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes is currently assigned to the U.S. Department of Energy. Legislation will be needed to (1) move this responsibility to a new, independent, government-chartered corporation focused solely on carrying out that program and (2) establish the appropriate oversight mechanisms.  [This is a Center recommendation]

Ensuring access to dedicated funding – Current federal budget rules and laws make it impossible for the nuclear waste program to have assured access to the fees being collected from nuclear utilities and ratepayers to finance the commercial share of the waste program’s expenses.

They have recommended a partial remedy that should be implemented promptly by the Administration, working with the relevant congressional committees and the Congressional Budget Office. A long-term remedy requires legislation to provide access to the Nuclear Waste Fund and fees independent of the annual appropriations process but subject to rigorous independent financial and managerial oversight.

Promoting international engagement to support safe and secure waste management – Congress may need to provide policy direction and new legislation to implement some measures aimed at helping other countries manage radioactive wastes in a safe, secure, and proliferationresistant manner, similar to the expired NWPA provisions for technical assistance to non-nuclear weapons states in the area of spent nuclear fuel storage and disposal. (BRC)

Coal Export

The Powder River Basin currently represents approximately 50% of the US’s total coal production and the reserves are massive. The key to accessing the Asian export market is port capacity. The US west coast currently supplies only 8Mtpa of Asia’s total thermal coal demand of 550Mtpa. Current port capacity restricts any further growth.

In 2009, coal accounted for 28% of global energy use and generated 42% of the world’s electricity. Japan is the world’s largest coal importer (182 million tons in 2009), South Korea imported 110 million tons and Taiwan imported 65 million tons. Asia’s thermal coal demand is forecast (Wood Mackenzie) to increase by 560Mtpa over the next 10 years. The US can only participate in this phenomenal growth if new port capacity comes on stream. (Ambre Energy)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Center Supports President Obama's 'Clean Energy Standard'


By Norris McDonald

President Obama covers all bases when it comes to energy policy.  He is pro coal and pro nuclear, while being on the cutting edge in promoting a 'green energy economy.'  We support President Obama's 'all of the above' energy strategy because that is what it will take to meet America's voracious energy appetite.  The president stated in his 2012 State of the Union, "This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs."  President Obama also called for a 'Clean Energy Standard:'
"The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."
In his 2011 State of the Union, President Obama proposed a Clean Energy Standard (CES) to require that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from clean energy technologies by 2035. That is a bold goal, particularly considering that the percentage he cites for clean energy is now held by fossil energy.  According to the “Annual Energy Outlook 2012” from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2010, fossil fuel represented 83 percent of U.S. energy consumption. Although total energy use grows only 10 percent between 2010 and 2035, the fossil fuel share stays high at 77 percent in 2035. The electricity sector reflects similar percentages to the total energy sector.

Since 1985, part of the Center's mission has been to promote 'practical solutions to energy and environmental problems,' and to 'promote the efficient use of natural resources.'  I believe that President Obama brings a balanced approach to energy and environmental policies and it is for this reason that we support most of his proposals.

See Also:

Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Lisa Murkowski WHITE PAPER ON A CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD

Obama Wants A “Clean Energy Standard.” What Does That Mean? The Washington Post, 1/25/2012

Ener1 Car Battery Company Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Ener1, an electric car battery company that the Obama administration awarded a $118 million stimulus grant to expand its operations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday after being unable to repay pressing debts.

Lithium Ion Batteries
Ener1 is the third company to seek bankruptcy protection among those the Energy Department backed as part of the president’s signature program to invest in clean energy. Solyndra, a California solar-panel maker, and Beacon Power, a Massachusetts energy-storage firm, entered bankruptcy court proceedings in the fall, after having received taxpayer-guaranteed loans of $535 million and $43 million, respectively.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President foreshadowed the bad news by saying that he remained proud of his administration’s $80 billion commitment to clean-energy projects and companies, despite periodic failures. The Ener1 grant, among $2.4 billion in federal awards to spur the electric car industry. (Wash Post, 1/26/2012)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

USA Energy Outlook: Fossil Fuels & More CO2

According to the “Annual Energy Outlook 2012” from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2010, fossil fuel represented 83 percent of U.S. energy consumption.  Although total energy use grows only 10 percent between 2010 and 2035, the fossil fuel share stays high at 77 percent in 2035.

The gains in efficiency and the expansion of renewables are offset by increased energy demand from a larger population (390 million in 2035, up from310million in 2010) and more homes, buildings,malls and cars. In 2035, emissions of carbon dioxide—the largest greenhouse gas—are reckoned to be 3 percent higher than in 2010. This contrasts with the declines of 50 to 80 percent that some scientists say are needed by midcentury to stabilize global temperatures.

Advances in “fracking” have opened new oil and natural gas fields. From 2007 to 2010,U.S. oil production rose from 5.1 million barrels a day (mbd) to 5.5mbd. By 2020, itwill hit 6.7 mbd.

In 2010, oil imports accounted for 49 percent of U.S. consumption, down from60 percent in 2005.  By 2035, imports could decline to 36 percent, projects the EIA. (Wash Post, 1/26/2012)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ConocoPhillips Fined By Chinese Government For Oil Spill

Houston-based ConocoPhillips and China National Offshore Oil Corporation have agreed to pay 1 billion Chinese yuan, or around $159 million, to settle compensation claims resulting from oil spills in Bohai Bay, off northeastern China. Center staff visited the Bohai Bay area in 2007.

The two companies had reached an agreement with China's Ministry of Agriculture related to the June 2011 incidents at the oil field, known as Peng Lai 19-3.  The leaks, although tiny compared with BP PLC's 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, provoked a storm of media protests in China and harsh criticism by the authorities of the Bohai field operator, Conoco.  The Chinese government in early September ordered a complete halt in production at the field, which produced an average 56,000 barrels a day in 2010. It is still offline.

Conoco said the compensation money would be used to "settle public and private claims of potentially affected fishermen in relevant Bohai Bay communities.

In two accidents in June, 3,343 barrels of oil and mud used in drilling leaked through the seafloor near platforms at the field, operated by Conoco and 51% owned by Cnooc's listed unit Cnooc Ltd. In November, China's State Oceanic Administration charged that "Conoco was deficient in management of the field and didn't adopt the necessary measures after the spill, all of which caused a larger oil spill because of its negligence."

In December, Conoco Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Mulva said that his company expected to pay "reasonable compensation" and that a fund it had set up "can help address the challenges of those who have been affected and promote the environmental sustainability of Bohai Bay." In its Wednesday statement, Conoco said it also is allocating approximately $16 million of that fund to improve fishery resources in the area. (WSJ, 1/25/2012)

House Bill Seeks To Resurrect Keystone XL Pipeline

Lee Terry
The legislation, which Representative Lee Terry (R-Neb.) has introduced legislation in the House that, “imposes narrow time constraints and creates automatic mandates that prevent an informed decision.” Terry's legislation would put the final verdict on the pipeline into the hands of the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), not the State Department. The bill instructs FERC to issue a permit and limits its discretion to reject the project.

House GOP leadership is weighing attaching the bill to upcoming legislation to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year in an effort to overturn Obama’s decision last week to reject the pipeline.

Opponents of the bill, particularly the State Department, believe the legislation:
Raises serious questions about existing legal authorities,

Questions the continuing force of much of the federal and all of the state and local environmental and land use management authority over the pipeline, and

Overrides foreign policy and national security considerations implicated by a cross border permit, which are properly assessed by the State Department.
President Obama rejected the pipeline under a GOP-backed provision in a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that mandated a decision within 60 days. (Politico, 1/25/2012)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

President Obama State of the Union - Energy


Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

State of the Union Address

“An America Built to Last”

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Washington, DC

Excerpts - Energy

Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”

Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.

Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.

Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world. (The White House)


Summit Promoting a Billion Dollar Private Endowment for Parks

As the National Park System prepares for its centennial in 2016 it is turning toward corporate funding for support, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A core strategy announced by National Park Service (NPS) leaders in August 2011 is creating a billion dollar corporate-financed endowment outside the federal appropriation process.

Today through January 26th, an invitation-only summit in Washington, DC focuses on how to build support for the NPS agenda, called a Call to Action. While not hosted by the NPS, the summit is being staged by the National Park Foundation, the congressionally-chartered fundraising arm for NPS, and the network representing park vendors and concessionaires. “America’s Summit on National Parks” does, however, feature NPS and Interior Department officials from both the Obama and Bush administrations.

One of the main financial sponsors of the summit is Coca Cola, which recently leveraged its substantial contributions channeled through the National Park Foundation to temporarily block a ban on disposable plastic water bottle sales at Grand Canyon National Park. Coca Cola is a major water bottler whose products would have been affected. Five weeks after the company’s role was exposed in November 2011, NPS backed off its veto of Grand Canyon’s plans.
“Our national parks do not need a super PAC to flourish in the 21st century,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that a big private “slush fund” raises issues of accountability and transparency not addressed in agency plans. “Corporate money comes with strings attached, which inevitably means special treatment for special interests at the expense of our national commons.”
PEER points to the $2.5 million “Proud Partner” agreement Coca Cola entered into with NPS and its Foundation as an example of “creeping corporatization” of national parks. Under the 5-year arrangement which runs through 2012, Coca Cola gets exclusive use of park logos for cause marketing campaigns (to the exclusion of all other beverage companies). In addition, the company obtains –

• “Special visitation opportunities, e.g., for executives and key customer hospitality, in the Parks”;

• “Marketing Support” including a “promotional media commitment.” The agreement specifically mentions that Coca Cola will “develop executions around the parks that are part of the African American Experience Fund under the system multicultural marketing platform”; and

• A variety of “in-park activities including tours, events and interpretation” as well as unspecified “additional mutually beneficial program enhancements.” The company will also receive discounted National Park Passes for its employees and approved “promotional purposes.”

Coca Cola’s contributions to the National Park Foundation are completely tax deductible. The only explicit limit on cross-marketing is that NPS does not explicitly endorse the company’s products.
“Taxpayers are underwriting commercial marketing campaigns courtesy of the National Park Foundation,” added Ruch, noting that NPS will need 400 agreements similar to the Coca Cola Proud Partner deal to reach its billion dollar goal. “Any summit on the centennial of our nation’s park system should ponder how to preserve the integrity of America’s best idea from the seduction of material pressures – a topic apparently not on this week’s agenda.”
PEER obtained the Coca Cola agreement after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Park Foundation. PEER is calling for all of these fundraising deals to be on the public record.

(Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility, 1/24/2012)

See how corporate contributions confer access and influence

Look at the Coca Cola Proud Partner agreement

Revisit Coke role in blocking plastic bottle ban

View Coke sponsorship of the summit

New Pennsylvania Law Identifies Fracking Wells & Pipelines

Tom Corbett
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will sign legislation passed by the Pennsylvania State Legislature that will help emergency officials locate shale gas wells. That legislation, from Senator Lisa Baker, a Luzerne County Republican, requires drillers to inform state and local officials of well pad locations and access roads. They also must submit an emergency response plan to those officials, and post GPS coordinates at the entrance to each well site. The provisions will ensure that those responding to a well site accident have properly information.

The measure's approval puts it among just a handful of bills related to Marcellus Shale drilling activity that have cleared the legislative process this session.

The state Public Utility Commission (PUC) is working to implement the provisions of another of those bills, involving oversight of the state's growing miles of gathering pipelines. The legislation, approved in December, requires the PUC to inspect those pipelines, respond to complaints and issue fines for any violations. The PUC released a proposed set of guidelines for pipeline operators. Companies would be required to submit a $250 registration fee, along with information on how many miles of gathering lines they manage.

The PUC is hiring seven new inspectors, whose salaries were advertised between $51,000 and $66,000. Their placement throughout the state will be determined once officials have analyzed which areas have the most gathering lines. These gathering lines are not registered anywhere at this point in time.  The state does not know with any certainty how many miles of pipeline there are.

The state will receive some federal funding for the program, estimated to cost $1.4 million in the coming year. Operators also will be charged an assessment based on their pipeline mileage. (Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 1/19/2012)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maryland Governor O'Malley's Complicated Wind Power Subsidy

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has a new plan to promote offshore wind electricity generation that seeks to guarantee that a subsidy would not increase residents’ rates by more than $2 per month and 2.5 percent for the state’s largest commercial and industrial businesses. The plan would also require state regulators to hire an independent analyst to assess whether the costs to ratepayers, which would probably be added to monthly bills beginning in 2017 and continue for 20 years. Governor O'Malley believes the expenses would be outweighed by the potential benefits: 1,800 new construction jobs, increased electricity production and reduced air pollution.

Although O’Malley’s bill would mandate that the cost be no more than $2 per month, that per household price would have to be estimated up front on a 20-year prediction of future energy prices — a term twice as long as the state’s Public Service Commission typically forecasts.

The model is one that Republican
Gov. Chris Christie has backed in New Jersey, but Maryland’s version would come with an explicit requirement that the cost of the credits add no more than the $2 a month to residents’ bills. Although the arrangement is highly complicated, Maryland lawmakers are familiar and more comfortable with it. The state has a similar renewable energy credit requirement that subsidizes solar power generation, albeit at a much smaller cost to ratepayers.

This plan might be complicated, but ultimately it is trying to figure out how to add a subsidy of 21 cents per kilowatt hour to the bills of Marylanders for the offshore wind project(s).  That was the plan last year.  A subsidy is a subsidy.  It appears that the governor is trying to sneak it in under some sort of guarantee that residents can't be charged over $2 per month.  This is how states botched utility deregulation.  The Center supports reasonable subsidies for Maryland offshore wind power. (Wash Post, 1/23/2012)

Oil Prices Rising As Natural Gas Prices Are Falling

Light, sweet crude oil for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 1.3%, or $1.25 higher, at $99.58 a barrel. ICE North Sea Brent crude settled up 72 cents at $110.58 a barrel. Heating oil for February delivery settled up 2.14 cents, at $3.0098 a gallon, while reformulated gasoline blendstock was 0.65 lower, at $2.7779 a gallon. Conversely, gasoline futures have fallen 4.75 cents over the past three days, as demand recently hit 11-year lows.

U.S. natural-gas inventories stand at 3.29 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a record for this time of year. Last week, gas prices fell as low as $2.322 per million BTUs, the lowest settlement price in 10 years. (WSJ, 1/23/2012, WSJ, 1/23/2012))

President Obama Wants To Move NOAA To Dept of the Interior

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is being targeted by the Obama administration to be moved from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior.  The reorganization is part of a larger plan by the Obama administration to streamline government. Such a reorganization requires approval by Congress.

NOAA was placed in the Commerce Department by the Nixon administration.  NOAA’s $4.9 billion budget is about 60 percent of Commerce’s overall funding. NOAA has more than 12,000 employees.

Its functions include:


National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

Operates satellites that gather information on weather and topography and other environmental and climatological data.

Full Time Employees: 831

Budget: $1.4 billion


National Weather Service

Monitors, analyzes and forecasts weather and issues alerts for imminent storms, floods and other emergencies.

Full Time Employees: 4,644

Budget: $1 billion


National Marine Fisheries Service

Assesses and protects fisheries, including the Chesapeake Bay and finds ways to restore overfished species and their habitats.

Full Time Employees: 2,823

Budget: $1 billion


National Ocean Service

Monitors coastal areas for ecological threats, creates nautical charts and leads restoration efforts after disasters such as oil spills.

Full Time Employees: 1,246

Budget: $578 million


Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Conducts research investigating deep sea vents and analyzing changes in the ozone layer.

Full Time Employees: 744

Budget: $449 million

(Wash Post, 1/23/2012, NOAA)

"As California Drives, So Drives The Nation"

William K. Reilly
By William K. Reilly

Op Ed: San Francisco Chronicle, 1/23/2012)
These days, people seem surprised when government works the way it was intended. This week, in San Francisco and in Los Angeles, we have the satisfaction of witnessing firsthand government working exactly as it is supposed to. A state agency is working in concert with not one, but two federal agencies, supported by many local ones. Businesses are pleased with the outcome of a government regulation, consumers will save money, and they will be healthier as a result. I was fortunate to have been there when the achievements we will observe this week were but a vision.

A cross-country series of hearings focusing on the next round of national standards for cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars will wrap up in San Francisco this week. That's appropriate. California has long played a leading role in ensuring cleaner, more efficient cars for all Americans - not just Californians.

The hearings, hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will gather public comments on a proposal to require automakers to hit a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. It is an ambitious goal, yet a doable one - and it is the right step for consumers, for automakers, for the environment, and for our economy overall.

Raising the bar for autos helps to protect the health - and the wallets - of America's families. It also drives innovation and investment, as automakers look for ways to make vehicles that run more cleanly and more efficiently. The drive toward innovation will help create jobs and an American automobile industry that is more competitive in the international marketplace.

A goal of 54.5 mpg would have seemed all but impossible when I was EPA administrator for President George H. W. Bush. Back then, average mileage hovered around 20 mpg. For years afterward, the United States made little progress on gas mileage, as the rest of the world passed us by.

After decades of stagnation, President George W. Bush got the ball rolling again, ratcheting mileage standards upward. When President Obama announced the 54.5-mpg goal last year, executives at the major automakers stood by his side in a show of support.

Make no mistake: We would not be where we are today if California had not kept up the pressure for cleaner cars.

Later this week, the California Air Resources Board will hold a hearing on the state's Advanced Clean Car Program. Had California never introduced its groundbreaking clean-cars standards in 2002, we would not be where we are today as a nation - cruising toward 54.5 mpg and growing healthy markets for hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels, electrics and other innovative technologies.

California's tailpipe emissions standard for carbon is set at the same level as the federal standard. Automakers will have a single, clear target that they have said publicly they can meet. Meanwhile, the air board will continue to press for improvements in California.

This is the kind of leadership California must continue to demonstrate if we, as a nation, hope to create a vehicle fleet that is cleaner, more efficient, safe and innovative to compete in the 21st century global vehicle market.
William K. Reilly is a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator and is currently a San Francisco-based adviser to TPG Capital.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Costa Concordia Poses Pollution Threat To Italian Waters

Costa Concordia
Italy declared a state of emergency in the area around the shipwrecked Costa Concordia on Friday. Officials from Dutch marine contractor Smit Salvage have also been examining it.  Fast winds and rough waters could further damage the Concordia and rupture the fuel tanks.  Because any spill would be close to shore, there would be little time for the diesel to break down and degrade.

The ship also was stocked with foodstuffs, paints, metals and solvents. The shipwreck is the equivalent to dumping a self-contained "city" into Giglio's crystalline waters. The state of emergency declared Friday is intended to ease operations around an accident area by allowing state funds to be disbursed more easily to local authorities.

‪Workers from Smit Salvage signed a contract with Concordia's operator Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corporation, to pump fuel from the ship's 17 tanks. In addition to the heavy fuel, some 200 tons of lighter diesel will also have to be removed. Pumping is expected to take around four weeks.

‪Giglio, the island, is a popular holiday spot for Italians and foreigners. Most of its 500-odd residents make their living from tourism.  (WSJ, 1/21/2012)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oppose SOPA and PIPA

The Center opposes the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) because, although the intent of the bills now in Congress are meant to protect content creators from theft in the form of piracy, the bill gives content creators the power to force ISPs, search engines or payment services to shut down access to a Web site that the owner believes violated its copyright. On its face, the bill is designed to stop access to foreign Web sites that are profiting off of stolen content. (U.S.-based business can simply be dragged into court.) In reality, it’s much more insidious than that.  Washington Post reporter Joshua Topolsky provides a succinct description of the problem:
Say a French company just started a social networking site in which users can upload videos of themselves singing. Now let’s say some kids upload a video of themselves singing their favorite Britney Spears song, not even playing back the original recording but simply singing along innocently to a song they like.

In the eyes of Spears’s record label or any number of parties associated with her continued cash flow, that might very well look like an instance of piracy — and indeed, major labels have had content pulled off YouTube for similar “violations.” All the label has to do is send a letter to someone such as your ISP and request that the service stop routing traffic to the offending site, and, boom, no more French-sharing site for U.S. Internet users. And what’s really scary is that U.S. Internet service providers have immunity when it comes to what they can pull from their networks, so that French site might not even have a clear path to resolving the issue.
Now take that concept and begin to apply it across all the places you could potentially find “infringing” material. Sites about art, sites about movies, sites that let users generate content of all types — some of that content containing pieces of other work that should be considered fair use by any modern standard. Suddenly, a lot of destinations on the Internet will begin to look like island vacation spots — that is, they’re really hard to get to. And the impact won’t just be cultural or legal; the technical workings of the Internet itself will be dramatically affected.
The SOPA and PIPA bills are being driven through our government by lobbyists who have been given a mandate to protect private companies and their profits by any means necessary.  The laws are too far-reaching and too simplistic to accurately police real piracy online, and they have been created by people who either don’t fully understand the Internet or can’t appreciate its value. (Wash Post, 1/18/2012, Joshua Topolsky is the founding editor in chief of the Verge, a technology news Web site.)

Center Seeks Ownership of Nuclear Power Plant


By Norris McDonald

The Center was the first environmental organization in the United States to support nuclear power in 2000. The Center remains the only environmental organization in the United States that supports nuclear power.  We support nuclear power because it creates no greenhouse gases, produces no smog forming gases, spent fuel can be recycled and nuclear warheads can be converted to be used as fuel to produce emission free electricity in nuclear power plants.  In short, there is no contest when it comes to producing environmentally friendly baseload electrical power for millions of homes and businesses.

It is for these reasons that the Center is seeking an ownership stake in a nuclear power plant. We are seeking this ownership in the form of a donation of 1% of the value of a power plant.  Any nuclear company or utility can step forward and make this donation.  We believe the Center has earned this distinction and we look forward to becoming a partial owner of one of the 104 reactors currently operating in the USA. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

President Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

The State Department rejected the Keystone XL pipeline today, rejecting the imposition of an “arbitrary” 60-day deadline imposed by Congress for the State Department to review the project by Feb. 21.  The State Department is in charge of the review.  President Obama favors oil and gas drilling as part of an “all of the above” energy strategy — as long as it can be done safely and responsibly.  Although the permit has been rejected, pipeline company TransCanada is still allowed to continue to work on and pitch an alternative route through Nebraska. (Politico, 1/18/2012)

54.5 mpg Fuel Economy Standard Hearings

A panel of federal officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a public hearing Tuesday in Detroit to address the proposed new standards for automakers to increase the average, fuel-economy rating of their vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from about 27 miles per gallon today. The hearing included about 100 people who spoke and generally agreed that the stricter fuel economy requirements would create jobs, reduce oil consumption, create cleaner air and save drivers money, all while helping automakers increase their profits. Because of the way testing is done, the 2025 requirement correlates to a window-sticker rating of about 36 miles per gallon.

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), however, did speak out against the idea of setting requirements for vehicles made more than a decade from now until more is known about the strength of consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. They are worried that vehicles would become too expensive for some consumers to afford. “

Additional hearings on the standards will take place Thursday in Philadelphia and Jan. 24 in San Francisco. The Obama administration this month extended the public comment period for the proposal by two weeks, to Feb. 13, and expects to finalize the regulations this summer.

The administration says the higher standards will cause vehicle prices to increase about $2,000 but that owners will save an average of $6,600 over the life of the vehicle by using less fuel. The rules also will create 484,000 jobs and cut oil consumption in the United States by 1.5 million barrels a day by 2030, according to the Go60mpg coalition, an association of environmental advocacy groups that support the proposal.

NADA believes the government’s analysis greatly underestimates how much the rules will cause vehicle prices to rise. He said the actual increase could be up to $5,000, causing an average buyer’s monthly payments to go up by $60 or $70 and potentially locking out shoppers who would not be able to obtain financing for the higher price, regardless of their fuel savings later on.

G.M., the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, and other automakers agreed last summer to support the framework of the higher standards.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, said all of its members supported the standards through 2016, when they would be required to achieve 36 miles per gallon. The German carmakers Volkswagen and Daimler have not endorsed the requirements past that point.

The United Automobile Workers supports increasing the fuel economy of vehicles because it would create jobs and better protect the jobs of current workers by helping the industry thrive.  (New York Times, 1/17/2012)

Seth Oster Goes to KPMG

Seth Oster, EPA's Director of External Affairs, left EPA in December to take a top communications job at KPMG LLP, one of the world’s largest tax, audit and advisory firms.  According to Politico, “Oster will be moving to New York and starts his new gig in January.” Oster's automatic email states:  "I am no longer at the EPA. I am out of the office until 03/01/2012." So his official date must be March 1, 2012.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote an all-staff note regarding Oster's departure, writing that “Seth has transformed the way EPA talks about our work protecting the environment and people’s health and I am deeply grateful for his service to the agency.” (Politico, 12/14/2011)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

President Obama Touts Fracking Jobs?

"Investing In America: Building An Economy That Lasts"

Last week the White House issued its latest report on jobs and it includes a section on "America's Natural Resource Boom," which states that a few years ago there were widespread "fears of a looming natural gas shortage," but that:
"the discovery of new natural gas reserves, such as the Marcellus Shale, and the development of hydraulic fracturing techniques to extract natural gas from these reserves has led to rapidly growing domestic production and relatively low domestic prices for households and downstream industrial users." 
This is probably the first time the White House has favorably mentioned the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas reservoir below Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other Northeastern states. The administration appears to be  taking credit for this soaring production.  As the White House report puts it:
"Of the major fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest and least carbon‐intensive for electric power generation. By keeping domestic energy costs relatively low, this resource also supports energy intensive manufacturing in the United States. In fact, companies like Dow Chemical and Westlake Chemical have announced intentions to make major investments in new facilities over the next several years.In addition, firms that provide equipment for shale gas production have announced major investments in the U.S., including Vallourec's $650 million plant for steel pipes in Ohio. An abundant local supply will translate into relatively low costs for the industries that use natural gas as an input. Expansion in these industries, including industrial chemicals and fertilizers, will boost investment and exports in the coming years, generating new jobs."
The report does add the obligatory disclaimer about hydraulic fracturing that:
"appropriate care must to be taken to ensure that America's natural resources are extracted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner" with safeguards "to protect public health and safety." 
The endorsement appears to run against energy policies pursued by the Obama Administration for three years. The Institute for Energy Research reports that royalties from oil and gas drilling have fallen more than 90% since 2008 because of Interior Department permitting delays and rejections.  The EPA recently issued a report on groundwater contamination that could shut down the fracking process the President is now touting as a jobs producer. EPA's political goal is to grab power to supercede state drilling regulation. The industry regards new EPA authority as a real threat to its future. The Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed extensive new reporting requirements on oil and gas fracking companies.

Smart politics or a one-year wonder?  And if he wins President Obama might revert to form in 2013.(WSJ, 1/17/2012)

Center Hydraulic Fracturing Evaluation Criteria

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New York Assembly Hearing on Indian Point Energy Center

Norris McDonald Statement

The New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Energy and Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions held a hearing on the Potential Closure of Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) on January 12, 2012 in New York City. The hearing examined alternatives to IPEC, including new generation facilities and upgrades to the state's electric transmission system that would prevent power supply disruptions and adequately address the electricity needs of New Yorkers.

Norris McDonald Interviewed by Channel 1

Indian Point Energy Center, located in Buchanan, Westchester County, New York, has two active nuclear reactors with a combined rated capacity of 2,000 megawatts. In 2012 and 2015 respectively, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) operational licenses for both reactors will expire. Entergy Corporation, which operates both reactors, has petitioned the NRC to operate the reactors for an additional 20 years.

The hearing was held in New York City in the Assembly Hearing Room at 250 Broadway on the 19th floor in room 1923.
Center President Norris McDonald was interviewed Channel 1, The New York Times (see article at link) and quoted in Your News Now.

Obama Asks Congress To Consolidate Federal Agencies

President Obama has asked Congress for the authority to consolidate the roles of several federal agencies, which he said would lead to streamlined services and a smaller government workforce. The new department would combine the trade and commerce functions of the:

Commerce Department,

Small Business Administration,

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative,

Export-Import Bank,

Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the

Trade and Development Agency.

The Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics would also be included to focus on government statistical data. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — now the largest part of Commerce’s budget — would be moved to the Interior Department.

The new department would be led by a Cabinet secretary; the U.S. trade representative would remain a member of the Cabinet.

Congress would be able to vote on each specific proposed merger. (Wash Post, 1/13/2012)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

President Obama Visits EPA

President Obama joined EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for an employee town hall to praise the agency's  work on protecting the environment and public health. This was his first visit to EPA, however early in his administration, First Lady Michele Obama visited the agency.  He expressed his support for Administrator Jackson and for the work of EPA.

Barack Obama is defending the work of the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it performs a vital role protecting the environment and moving the country toward energy independence. Obama spoke Tuesday during his visit to the EPA, seeking to boost morale at an agency that has been a target for Republicans.  Several GOP presidential candidates have questioned the science of global warming and said they'd overturn EPA regulations that harm the economy.

The president said that improving the environment and improving the economy shouldn't be contradictory goals, and he questioned those who say regulations are not needed. He said environmental regulations are responsible for cleaning up badly polluted sites, and he said the EPA should be commended for making vehicles more fuel efficient and promoting clean air and water. (Associated Press, 1/10/2012)

Court of Appeals Dismisses Fly-Ash Petition

The Court of Appeals has changed its mind about getting involved in a dispute over a fly-ash storage facility in southern Maryland.  The top court, which heard argument on Friday, decided Monday that it should never have agreed to review the matter.  The one-page per curiam order says simply that the petition for a writ of certiorari is “dismissed with costs, the petition having been improvidently granted.”

The case began in 2008, when the Environmental Integrity Project, Potomac Riverkeeper and five individuals who live along the Potomac or Wicomico rivers notified the state that they intended to file suit in federal court over the operation of the Faulkner Fly Ash Storage Facility.

The Maryland Department of the Environment filed its own action against the facility’s operators, Mirant Maryland Ash Management LLC and Mirant Mid-Atlantic LLC, in Charles County Circuit Court. MDE sought injunctive relief and penalties under state law.

The environmental groups and the individuals, who lived within 15 miles of the facility, filed a motion to intervene. The circuit court found they lacked standing, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed in December 2010.

Monday’s action leaves that decision in place.

The case is Environmental Integrity Project et al. v. Mirant Ash Management LLC et al., Court of Appeals No. 70, Sept. Term 2011. (Daily Record, 1/9/2012)

Monday, January 09, 2012

U.S. Refineries & Blenders Produced Record Amounts of Distillate Fuels

U.S. refiners produced historically high volumes of distillate fuels (a category that includes both diesel fuel and heating oil) and motor gasoline in 2011. By fine-tuning their production mix, refineries consistently set record levels of distillate production, most recently topping 5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) for the weeks ending December 2 and December 16, 2011.

In 2011, weekly distillate production was above the five-year historical range 25 times, and ranked second highest an additional 19 times. Finished motor gasoline production was robust over the same period, but was slightly more in line with production volumes at comparable times of year since 2006.

Because of its chemical composition, crude oil run through a refinery typically yields roughly twice as much motor gasoline as distillate fuels. Therefore, regardless of economic or other incentives, refiners cannot completely stop making some finished petroleum products in favor of others. However, by adjusting downstream processes and the types of crude oil used, refineries can optimize production to fine-tune the balance of their finished products output. For much of 2011, refiners saw favorable margins and robust global demand for distillate fuels. In order to benefit from these trends, refineries:

• Increased crude runs to maximize overall output. This explains why both motor gasoline and distillate fuels production levels are high relative to the five-year historical ranges.

• Shifted production mix. This explains why the distillate fuels production levels exceeded historical ranges in more weeks than motor gasoline production did.

Since early October, the spot price for ultra-low-sulfur distillate fuel oil rose, while the spot price for motor gasoline (as measured by New York RBOB spot prices in the chart below) declined, widening the spread between these two petroleum product prices. On November 14, 2011, the spot price for ultra-low-sulfur distillate was nearly 65 cents per gallon higher than the spot price for RBOB. The spread between these product prices had not been more than 60 cents per gallon since November 2008.

Along with high domestic prices, strong international markets for distillate fuel oils have spurred increased production. In the United States, refineries have typically optimized production for finished motor gasoline to meet high U.S. demand. European refineries, on the other hand, tend to produce higher percentages of distillate fuel oils, as diesel is used more broadly there for transportation. Robust global distillate demand has led to a significant inventory draw, despite heightened U.S. production. From the end of September to the end of December, U.S. distillate inventories fell by more than 13 million barrels.  (DOE-EIA)

Triad Mining Fined By EPA Agrees To Restore Waterways

Triad Mining Resolves Clean Water Act Violations To Restore Affected Waterways in Indiana

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Triad Mining Inc., the owner and operator of 31 surface mines in Appalachia and Indiana, has agreed to pay a penalty and restore affected waterways for failing to obtain the required Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for stream impacts caused by its surface mining operation in Indiana. Since 2002, Triad's mining operation has resulted in the unpermitted excavation and filling of more than 53,000 feet of streams that flow into the White River.

With this settlement, Triad will achieve compliance with the nation’s Clean Water Act and be held accountable for its unpermitted discharges into streams of the White River watershed. Triad must also undertake restoration efforts and mitigate impacts from its mining activities by enhancing stream beds and creating buffer areas that will benefit aquatic life and recreational resources for the people of Indiana.

Triad, a subsidiary of James River Coal Company, obtained the required Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act permits from the state of Indiana for its mining operations, but never obtained the required CWA permit for the site, despite the fact that its surface mining operation involved excavating coal seams located directly below stream beds.

On March 24, 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a cease and desist order requiring Triad to stop its unauthorized stream-filling activities. Triad continued its mining practices until the Army Corps of Engineers sent a second order on June 24, 2009, which Triad complied with. Since the second order was issued, Triad has continued mining, but has avoided additional impacts to streams.

Under the settlement, Triad must restore 34,906 linear feet of streams and enhance 4,330 linear feet of stream bed to address and mitigate impacts to stream beds caused by its mining activities. Triad will also create and maintain 66 acres of forested buffer areas and nine acres of forested wetland to protect the restored streams. Triad will also pay a $810,171 civil penalty.

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. (EPA)

More information on the settlement

Mining Ban Near Grand Canyon Extended By Dept of Interior

The Interior Department is moving forward with a plan to ban new mining claims on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon, which is known to contain high-grade uranium ore. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to finalize a 20-year ban on new mining claims on public land surrounding the Grand Canyon at an event Monday in Washington.

The Center supports the ban because of the threat to the Colorado River. The Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, is the source of drinking water for 26 million Americans.

The mining industry and some Republican members of Congress called the ban detrimental to Arizona’s economy and the nation’s energy independence. Rep. Jeff Flake (RAriz.) and other GOP lawmakers are backing legislation to prevent Salazar from moving forward with the 20-year ban.

The ban would not affect more than 3,000 mining claims already staked in the area near the Grand Canyon. The Bush administration had opened up the land to new mining claims. Salazar reversed the Bush policy in 2009 and called for a two-year moratorium on new mining claims around the canyon. He followed up with a six-month extension last year.  (AP, Wash Post, 1/9/2012)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Beijing To Use PM 2.5 Air Quality Monitoring Level

Beijing will be the first Chinese city to publicize hourly air quality data based on the so-called PM2.5 standard, which measures particles smaller than 2.5 microns that cause the most serious health problems because they get deep inside the lungs. Chinese authorities now publish data that measure larger air particles of up to 10 microns in diameter. The decision represents one of the most significant examples yet of Chinese authorities yielding to public pressure exerted principally over the Internet via microblogs, which are similar to Twitter and have become hugely popular over the last few years.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said late Thursday that it would start PM2.5 readings every hour on its website by the start of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 23, and in real time by the end of 2012. The national government had previously said PM2.5 readings were only for internal use and did not have to be made public until 2016.

Beijing is ranked as one of the world's most polluted cities by the World Health Organization and is regularly shrouded in choking smog that grounds flights, forces parents to keep children indoors, and causes widespread respiratory problems. Beijing was the fifth worst with average annual levels of 121 micrograms per cubic meter of air, compared with a global average of 71 and a recommended level of 20.

The most polluted city in the U.S. based on PM10 was Bakersfield, Calif., with an average of 38 micrograms, according to the WHO report. (WSJ, 1/7/2012)

BP, Halliburton & Transocean Contest Federal Spill Charges

BP, Halliburton and Transocean Ltd are contesting charges that were issued by U.S. regulators in response to the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in 2010 and the ensuing oil spill. The Interior Department last year issued citations saying all the firms violated federal rules, leading to the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

Charges were expected for BP, but the "incidents of noncompliance" given to Halliburton and Transocean surprised the oil industry. Contractors hired by a well's owner typically escape liability in such situations.

The citations will likely serve as the foundation for future fines from U.S. officials. Their significance, however, lies in the fact that they could be used in lawsuits that seek to assign blame for the oil spill.  The appeals will be reviewed by a panel of administrative judges known as the Interior Board of Land Appeals. (WSJ, 1/6/2012)