Thursday, May 31, 2012

United States Puts Tariffs on Chinese Wind Turbine Towers

The U.S. Department of Commerce has put tariffs of between 13% and 26% on Chinese wind-turbine towers. The preliminary ruling, made in response to a complaint filed in December by a group of U.S. turbine-tower makers, found that Chinese firms enjoyed unfair government support, including grants, preferential tax treatment and cheaper prices for raw materials.

The Commerce Department announced tariffs of 13.74% on CS Wind and 26% on Titan Group companies. All other Chinese tower makers received preliminary tariffs of 19.87%. If the department affirms its preliminary findings later this summer and the U.S. International Trade Commission makes a separate determination that the subsidies are injuring U.S. companies, the tariffs could be final by October.

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition, the group of U.S. firms that filed the complaint, called the ruling "an important step in remedying the harm caused by unfairly traded wind tower exports. The tower coalition includes Broadwind Towers Inc., DMI Industries, Katana Summit LLC and Trinity Structural Towers Inc.

The outlook for the U.S. wind-energy market is uncertain because of the looming expiration of tax credits the industry needs to compete with traditional sources of electricity. American companies that make components for wind turbines are further battered by competition from Chinese and other foreign firms that have lower costs for labor and raw materials, making the massive towers cheap enough to ship around the world.

China is now the world's largest tower-manufacturing center. That has led to oversupply and falling prices for key components used in renewable-energy projects. Wind-tower manufacturers world-wide have production capacity that doubles global demand.  According to the Commerce Department, U.S. wind-farm developers imported $222 million worth of Chinese towers in 2011. Imported towers accounted for about half of the U.S. market. Chinese and Vietnamese towers together captured more than one-quarter of the U.S. market in 2011. (WSJ, 5/30/2012)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The Pantex Plant, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, in Carson County, is charged with maintaining the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The facility is managed and operated by B&W Pantex for the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration.

In 1942, the U.S. Army constructed the original Pantex Ordnance Plant on 16,000 acres. The mission of the Plant was to load and pack conventional artillery shells and bombs in support of the World War II effort. When the war ended in 1945, the site’s operations ceased and the land was sold to Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock.

In 1951, Pantex was reopened and refurbished for nuclear weapons, high explosive and non-nuclear component assembly operations. By 1960, Pantex Plant had taken on a new high explosives development mission in support of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Between 1965 and 1975, the Atomic Energy Commission moved various weapons modification, assembly and high explosives missions to the Plant from other facilities around the country.

Pantex workers assembled thousands of weapons during the Cold War. The last new nuclear weapon was completed in 1991. Since then, Pantex has safely dismantled thousands of weapons retired from the stockpile by the military and placed the resulting plutonium pits in interim storage.

Pantex has a long-term mission to safely and securely maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and dismantle weapons retired by the military. Much of Pantex’s future workload includes life extension programs designed to increase the longevity of weapons in the stockpile. (Pantex)

Maryland & DC Water Bills To Double

Washington, DC

District residents will see their water bills more than double over the next six years in an effort to pay for a massive tunnel project aimed at stopping sewage from overflowing into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.  Much of the increase is due to a dedicated tax to pay for a $2.6 billion tunnel that will run 13 miles from Northeast Washington, under the Anacostia, and end at D.C.'s Blue Plains treatment facility on the Potomac. The tax was implemented in 2009, but as construction ramps up, the average annual tax of $41.40 per household will increase to more than $345 by 2019, according to a recently released Brookings Institution report. Meanwhile, water bills are projected to increase from an average $576 per year to $1,248 per year for District residents.

Bills, bills, bills
Average monthly charge for:20092011201910-yr change
D.C. water retail rate$37.53$46.09$70.4588%
Impervious Area Charge*$1.24$3.45$28.772,220%
Metering fee$2.01$3.86$3.8692%
* dedicated tax for tunnel project
Source: Brookings Institution
The tunnel project, which will collect sewage and other runoff that now overflows into the surrounding waterways during rainstorms, isn't slated to wrap up until 2025.  The District is locked into the project, which is federally mandated by a 2005 consent decree to reduce sewer overflows.

Federal help with the project has been unpredictable, as funding went from $20 million in 2010 to $11.5 million this year.


Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation on Mya 1st that will double the flush tax for most Marylanders. The flush tax, a fee used to renovate wastewater treatment plants in an effort to clean up the Bay, will double from $30 to $60 starting in July, raising roughly $56 million.

The tax as passed is a far cry from the governor's earlier proposed hikes to the fee -- a panel had originally suggested tripling the charge.

Lawmakers say the extra revenue will help the state comply with new federally led efforts to restore the Bay's water quality by 2025, and that the legislation keeps Maryland ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting the environment.

Another bill requires local jurisdictions to adopt development practices that move septic systems away from areas where water pollution is more likely to occur. And the governor signed legislation that requires locally funded projects to prevent storm water runoff from making its way from roads into rivers, streams and farmland. (Washington Examiner, 5/23/2012, Washington Examiner, 5/2/2102)

EPA Regulations on Fracking Air Emissions

EPA To Regulate Air Emissions from Hydraulic Fracturing As Industry Under Scrutiny

By Adam Orford
May 29, 2012
EPA will begin imposing new emissions control requirements on natural gas wells that are developed using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) under final regulations adopted last month. New hydraulically fractured wells, and older wells that are refractured, must immediately employ emissions combustion (flaring) technology, and must be fitted with emissions capturing devices, known as “green completion” technology, by 2015. The new rules also impose a number of additional technical requirements intended to reduce fugitive emissions from natural gas transmission, storage, and processing plants and equipment. These are the first significant updates to natural gas clean air regulations since 1999, and the first national environmental regulations to specifically address hydraulic fracturing. (Marten Law)

Monday, May 28, 2012

WIPP Can Supplement Or Replace Yucca Mountain

Carlsbad, New Mexico is a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) city when it comes to storing nuclear waste.  This vibrant city of 25,000 would love to replace Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository for high level nuclear waste.  The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) already accepts low level nuclear waste.  WIPP is the nation’s only permanent, deep geologic repository for nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Fund has already collected about $30 billion from the ratepayers of nuclear reactor owners for a national repository.  Carlsbad wants this money.

Thanks to WIPP, unemployment sits at 3.8%, versus 6.5% statewide and 8.5% nationally. Also, New Mexico has received more than $300 million in federal highway funds in the past decade, $100 million of which has gone into the roads around Carlsbad.  The roads have to be good for the two dozen trucks a week hauling in radioactive drums brimming with the plutonium-laden detritus of America’s nuclear weapons production.

The Department of Energy’s $6 billion program created 1,300 permanent jobs, many of them high-paid engineering positions. Energy’s annual budget for WIPP is $215 million, much of which stays in the community as wages. The leaders of neighboring Lea and Eddy counties have established a 1,000-acre atomic industrial park.  On June 23, 2006, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) was issued a license to construct and operate a $3 billion gas centrifuge uranium enrichment/fabrication plant to be known as the URENCO USA facility, located five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.

The Energy Department’s budget for the project has fallen in recent years from $250 million to $215 million; last year WIPP contractors shed 130 workers; those who remain are handling fewer shipments and less waste than before.


Since opening in 1999, WIPP has operated so smoothly and safely that Carlsbad is lobbying the feds to ­expand the project to take the nuclear mother lode: 160,000 more tons of the worst high-level nuclear waste in the country—things like the half-melted reactor core of Three Mile Island and old nuclear fuel rods—that are residing at aging nuke plants.

Though taxpayers have already spent some $12 billion mining out and engineering Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, power brokers in Nevada fought the congressionally approved project from the get-go. Bowing to Nimby—and Nevada’s powerful Senator Harry Reid—two years ago President Barack Obama’s Administration declared Yucca DOA. Contractors have since laid off some 1,000 workers there.

On Mar. 26, 1999 the townsfolk of Carlsbad gathered to cheer the first truck to deliver waste to WIPP.   New Mexico, in agreeing to WIPP, required that Congress enshrine in law a promise that the feds would not send high-level waste into the state. WIPP won’t be the next Yucca unless that issue is wrangled, and reversed, by Albuquerque and Washington, DC.

Carlsbad has perfect geology for the waste because it sits atop the biggest salt deposit in America, stretching from New Mexico clear to Kansas.  The 3,000-foot salt layer is the thickest in the country, is nearly impervious to seismic activity, quickly heals any cracks or faults and remains completely impermeable, with no way for any water to get in or for any radiation to escape.

The waste drums’ final resting place is down an elevator 2,150 feet into the salt.  WIPP’s tunnels and rooms have 15-foot ceilings, enough to stack drums three high. So far it’s swallowed 10,200 shipments totaling 200,000 tons impregnated with 5 tons of plutonium. To get that stuff to WIPP drivers have logged 12 million miles with loaded trucks and 10 million miles empty.

Low-level waste (LLW) is nuclear waste that does not fit into the categorical definitions for interemediate-level waste (ILW), high-level (HLW), spent nuclear nuclear fuel (SNF), transuranic waste (TRU), or certain byproduct materials known as 11e(2) wastes, such as uranium mill talings. In essence, it is a definition by exclusion, and LLW is that category of radioactive wastes that do not fit into the other categories. While the bulk of LLW is not highly radioactive, the definition of LLW does not include references to its activity, and some LLW may be quite radioactive, as in the case of radioactive sources used in industry and medicine.

High level waste (HLW) is very radioactive and contains many of the fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core.  HLW accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity produced in the nuclear power process. In other words, while most nuclear waste is low-level and intermediate-level waste, such as protective clothing and equipment that have been contaminated with radiation, the majority of the radioactivity produced from the nuclear power generation process becomes high-level waste.  High level waste is very radioactive and, therefore, requires special shielding during handling and transport. It also needs cooling, because it generates a great deal of heat. Most of the heat, for the first several hundred years, is from the fission products cesium-137 and strontium-90.

(Wiki, Urenco, Forbes, 1/25/2012)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Obama Nominates Allison Mcfarlane To Chair NRC

Allison Mcfarlane
President Obama nominated George Mason University Professor Allison Macfarlane to serve as chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Allison Macfarlane is an associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She is also an affiliate of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

Allison received her PhD in Geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992. She has held fellowships at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, the Centre for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University, and the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

From 1998-2000 Allison was a Social Science Research Council - MacArthur Foundation fellow in International Peace and Security. She has served on National Academy of Sciences panels on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues.

She is currently a member of the White House’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. She is also chair of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and serves on the Keystone Centre’s Energy Board.

Her research focuses on environmental policy and international security issues associated with nuclear energy, especially the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle. In 2006, MIT Press published her book, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, which explores the unresolved technical issues for nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. (The Mark News, The Hill, 5/24/2012)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Northwest Coal Exports

  • Cherry Point, Wash. SSA Marine is planning to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal, a new shipping facility north of Bellingham, Wash., that would be capable of handling 48 million tons of coal per year. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company, has already agreed to supply 24 million tons of coal.

  • Longview, Wash. Millennium Bulk Terminals, a subsidiary of the Australian coal mining company Ambre Energy, purchased a port site on the Columbia River. Arch Coal, a major American coal mining company, has a 38 percent stake in the site. Ambre hopes to export 44 million tons of coal, with 25 million tons in the first phase.

  • Grays Harbor, Wash. According to newspaper accounts, RailAmerica is planning to develop a coal export terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor’s Marine Terminal 3 that could handle 5 million tons of coal each year.

  • Port of St. Helens, Ore. Kinder Morgan is planning to build and operate a coal export terminal at the Port Westward Industrial Park near Clatskanie, Ore., that will be capable of handling 30 million tons of coal per year, with 15 million tons in an initial phase of development.

  • Port of Morrow, Ore. Ambre Energy is planning to construct a facility on the Columbia River in eastern Oregon that will transfer coal from rail to barges that will be towed downriver to Port Westward, where the coal will be loaded on ongoing vessels. The company says that the system will be capable of handling 8 million tons per year.

  • Coos Bay, Ore. The Port of Coos Bay is considering a mysterious proposal, known to the public only as “Project Mainstay,” that officials say could export 6 to 10 million tons of coal per year.
  • (Grist, 5/23/2012)

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Costa Concordia Removal Plan Presented

    On May 15, Italian authorities provided the necessary permits for the work to begin in salvaging the Costa Concordia.  The work will begin in a few days and is expected to last about 12 months.

    Titan Salvage , part of the Crowley Group, is an American-owned specialist marine salvage and wreck removal company and is a world leader in its field. Micoperi is a well-known Italian marine contractor with a long history as a specialist in underwater construction and engineering.

    The plan to refloat the hull in one piece gives top priority to minimizing environmental impact, protecting Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and maximizing safety.

    Environmental protection will have top priority throughout the monumental salvage operation, the likes of which has not been attempted before anywhere in the world. Once removal is complete, the sea bottom will be cleaned and marine flora replanted.

    Operations will be divided into four basic stages:

    1. After stabilizing the ship, a subsea platform will be built and caissons that can be filled with water will be fixed to the side of the ship that is out of the water
    2. Two cranes fixed to the platform will pull the ship upright, helped by the caissons, which will be filled with water
    3. When the ship is upright, caissons will also be fixed to the other side of the hull
    4. The caissons on both sides will then be emptied, after treating and purifying the water to protect the marine environment, and filled with air.

    Once floated, the wreck will be towed to an Italian port and dealt with in accordance with the requirements of Italian authorities.

    The plan was selected by an evaluation team with specialist representatives from Costa Crociere, Carnival Corporation & plc, London Offshore Consultants and Standard P&I Club, with the collaboration of RINA and Fincantieri, because it best fulfills the main objectives of the operation — removal of the wreck in one piece, minimal risk, minimal environmental impact, protection of Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and maximum safety. (Marine Link, 5/18/2012)

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    EPA Carbon Standard Hearings For New Power Plants

    EPA to Hold Public Hearings in Washington, D.C. and Chicago on Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold two public hearings on May 24, 2012, on the proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The proposed standard, which only applies to power plants built in the future, is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.

    U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

    Public hearings on proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants

    WHEN: May 24, 2012

    The hearings will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and Central Daylight Time according to the location.


    May 24: Washington, DC
    Ariel Rios East Building
    Room 1153
    1301 Constitution Avenue
    Washington, DC 20460

    May 24: Chicago, Ill.
    Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building
    Lake Michigan Room (12th floor)
    77 West Jackson
    Chicago, Ill.

    Please take picture identification and allow additional time to enter the buildings and go through security. Pre-registration for the hearings has closed. The public may register to speak in person on the day of the hearing and will be accommodated as time allows. EPA also will accept written comments on the proposed standards until June 25, 2012.

    More information on the hearings and instructions for submitting written comments

    NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko Resigns

    And The Center Could Not Be Happier

    Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko announced his resignation today after three tumultuous years.  His decision follows a tenure that has featured complaints about his management style from other members of the commission. 

    The Center found Chairman Jaczko to be arrogant, aloof and rude.  We are delighted to see him go.  He abused his colleagues, harassed staff and has consistently attempted to sabotage the permit process for approving Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository for nuclear waste.

    We know the other NRC commissioners and staff are celebrating today.  So are we.  Gregory Jaczko was a horrible NRC Chairman and his tenure hurt the agency and the nuclear renaissance.

    Now the bad news: The White House plans to nominate a new commission chairman soon and Mr. Jaczko has said he would step down after his successor is confirmed. Please.  Please. Please.  Leave immediately.  (The HIll, 5/21/2012, WSJ, 5/21/2012))

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    EPA Launches College Stormwater Management Competition

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching a new design competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge to encourage student teams on college and university campuses across the country to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. Stormwater is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas in the U.S., impacting the health of people across the country as well as tens of thousands of miles of rivers, streams, and coastal shorelines, and hundreds of thousands of acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. The competition will help raise awareness of green design and planning approaches at colleges and universities, and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure principles and design.

    Student teams, working with a faculty advisor, will submit design plans for a proposed green infrastructure project for their campus. Registration for the Campus RainWorks Challenge opens September 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14, 2012 for consideration. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 - $2,500, as well as $8,000 - $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. In 2013, EPA plans to expand Campus RainWorks by inviting students to design and complete a demonstration project assessing innovative green infrastructure approaches on their campus.

    EPA is encouraging the use of green infrastructure as a solution to help manage stormwater runoff. Green Infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater runoff at its source and provide other community benefits, including economic development.. Green infrastructure is increasingly being used to supplement or substitute for single-purpose “gray” infrastructure investments such as pipes, and ponds. The Campus RainWorks Challenge will help encourage the use of green infrastructure projects on college and university campuses to manage stormwater discharges. (EPA)

    More information on the Campus RainWorks Challenge

    Lisa Jackson Senate Appropriations 2013 Budget Testimony

    Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
    EPA’s budget request of $8.344 billion focuses on fulfilling EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment, while making the sacrifices and tough decisions that Americans across the country are making every day.

    Specifically, this budget proposes that $1.2 billion - nearly 15 percent of EPA’s overall request - be allocated back to the States and tribes, through categorical grants. This includes funding for State and Local Air Quality Management grants, Pollution Control grants and the tribal general assistance program.

    The budget also proposes that a combined $2 billion - another 25 percent of EPA’s budget request - also goes directly to the States for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. This funding will help support efficient system wide investments and development of water infrastructure in our communities. We are working collaboratively to identify opportunities to fund green infrastructure - projects that can reduce pollution efficiently and less expensively than traditional grey infrastructure.

    Additionally, EPA’s budget request would fund the protection of the nation’s land and water in local communities, including important waters such as the Narragansett Bay. Reflecting the President’s commitment to restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, this budget requests that Congress maintain the current funding level of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This support will continue to be used for collaborative work with partners at the State, local and tribal level, and also with non-profit and municipal groups. The budget also requests support for protection of the Chesapeake Bay, and several other treasured and economically significant water bodies. The budget reflects the importance of cleaning up contaminated land sites in our communities by requesting $755 million for continued support of the Superfund cleanup programs and maintains the Agency’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

    EPA’s budget request makes major investments in its science and technology
    account of $807 million, or almost 10 percent of the total request. This request includes $576M for research, including $81 million in research grants and fellowships to scientists and universities throughout the country for targeted research as part of the Science to Achieve Results - or STAR – program, including children’s health, endocrine disruption, and air monitoring research. Also, as part of this request, EPA includes funding increases into key areas that include green infrastructure and hydraulic fracturing.
    As I’ve mentioned before, natural gas is an important resource which is abundant in the United States, but we must make sure that the ways we extract it do not risk the safety of public water supplies.
    This budget continues EPA’s ongoing congressionally directed hydraulic fracturing study, which we have taken great steps to ensure is independent, peer reviewed and based on strong and scientifically defensible data. Building on these ongoing efforts, this budget requests $14 million in total to work collaboratively with the United States Geological Survey, the Department of Energy and other partners to assess questions regarding hydraulic fracturing. Strong science means finding the answers to tough questions, and EPA’s request does that.

    Taken together, the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks are projected to result in $1.7 trillion dollars of fuel savings, and 12 billion fewer barrels of oil consumed. This funding will also help support implementation of the first ever carbon pollution and fuel economy standards for heavy duty trucks.

    Mister Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. While my testimony reflects only some of the highlights of EPA’s budget request, I look forward answering your questions. (EPA-Shortened by the Center)

    Palm Oil Biofuels Under the Renewable Fuels Standard

    March 29, 2012

    The Honorable Lisa Jackson
    Environmental Protection Agency
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20460

    Re: The Treatment of Palm Oil Biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard from the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center); Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2011–0542

    Dear Ms. Jackson:

    The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) is a national environmental organization  dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies and increasing participation in the environmental movement.  We focus on regulations, taxes, trade policies, monetary policies, and environmental issues as they relate to energy policy.

    The Center is a strong advocate for U.S. energy prosperity and our organization raises awareness of the costs and consequences of policy changes for consumers. We believe it is important to ensure that minority communities are not burdened by artificially high energy costs. We also believe communities should be free to exercise a full range of choices in the marketplace, unburdened by short-sighted regulation or market manipulation.

    To that end we stand in firm opposition to the EPA’s recent decision to penalize palm oil under the Agency’s management of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Palm oil is by far the lowest-cost biodiesel fuel source on the international market. By not allowing the lowest cost vegetable oil into the U.S. biofuel market, the EPA is ensuring that the RFS2 will lead to significantly higher prices at the pump as blenders rely on more costly vegetable oil feedstocks, like soybean oil and canola.

    Blocking its trade in the United States will unduly burden poor communities.  We have already seen the baleful effects of higher energy costs in recent months as prices paid at the gas pump have risen steadily. These price increases have meant minority households have had less money at their disposal for food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, savings and investment, and more. The EPA’s decision will make an unfortunate situation worse.

    More choices means more options when prices of one fuel rise. More choices means greater predictability and security when it comes to planning for the future. Restricting choices means minority groups are acutely vulnerable to price shocks in other sectors of the energy market.

    Businesses and their workers are also keenly interested in policies regarding energy availability and affordability. For example, truckers and independent rail and transportation owner operators are significant consumers of diesel energy, including biodiesel. Many of these workers are minorities, and many of the businesses are minority owned and managed. Indeed, the transportation sector has been important to ensuring upward mobility and economic growth for minority communities.

    As such, denying these communities the widest range of options in the energy market reduces their flexibility and their earnings prospects. It makes it more difficult to plan for growth, to hire workers and to expand operations that create opportunities and jobs for others.

    The advance of sophisticated biodiesel systems is one of the most promising technological developments in recent memory. It promises to lower costs and generate long-run efficiencies that will benefit all stakeholders. But the full promise of biodiesel will not be realized without ample global competition and diversity of supply. As such, the EPA would be wise to avoid manipulating the market for biodiesel and let competition and consumer choice determine the ultimate shape and contours of market.

    While we appreciate the EPA’s interest in ensuring a healthy domestic environment, we believe its rush to penalize foreign biofuel will do little to help America’s ecology and a great deal of harm to America’s minority communities. The EPA should reconsider its decision.

    Sincerely yours,

    Norris McDonald

    Norris McDonald

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    EPA To Remove Vapor Capture Boot

    Rubber Boot To Be Removed From Gas Pump Handles

    The Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday they intend to phase out the rubber boots on gas pump handles now used to capture harmful gasoline vapors while refueling cars. The EPA says the vapor-capturing fuel pumps are redundant because more than 70% of all cars on the road today are equipped with on-board systems that capture the harmful vapors.

    According to the EPA, 31,000 affected gas stations in mostly urban areas where smog is a problem will each save $3,000 apiece once the ruling is fully implemented.

    Since 1994, gas stations that did not meet air quality standards have been required to use gas vapor recovery systems.

    The most obvious gas vapor recovery system for drivers is the rubber boot at the end of the fuel pump nozzle that fits directly over the gas tank opening. When drivers refuel, gas vapors can escape and contribute to smog and harmful air pollution. To combat the release of these vapors, most gas stations have installed special gas pump nozzles that include the rubber boot to block vapors from escaping.

    The EPA says the rubber fittings will be phased out as part of the new rule. The White House decision is the latest government-wide review of federal regulations. (CNN, 5/10/2012)

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Third Annual Industry Day at Cardozo Senior High School

    Center President Norris McDonald participated as a panelist at the Cardozo Senior High School Third Annual Industry Day.  The Industry Day is sponsored by TransTech in collaboration with the Academy of Construction and Design and hosted by the National Association of Black Women in Construction (NABWIC) and Lockheed Martin.  Specialists addressed four broad areas: 1) Aviation, 2) Construction, 3) Engineering and 4) Transportation.  Cardozo Senior High School students attended the sessions with a general theme: "Preparing Students For College and Workforce-Linking Industry Leaders To The Classroom."

    Industry Day presenters included representatives from a broad range of industries, including: aerospace, construction, engineering, environmental, transportation, consultants, government, architecture, and media, among others.

    The afternoon Construction Session was facilitated by Sherry Snipes, American Institute of Architects and included panelists: Edward M. Johnson, Edward Johnson & Associates PC, and Jacque Ross, R & D Develpment, Inc.

    Sherry Snipes, Edward M. Johnson, Jacque Ross, Norris McDonald

    The sessions were held at the Cardozo High School Academy of Construction and Design.  The Academy of Construction of Design was created by the District of Columbia Public Schools Office of Career and Technology Education and the District of Columbia Students Construction Trades Foundation to develop student skills in carpentry, electricity and plumbing.  The students are equipped with necessary skills to move successfully from high school to an industry seeking competent workers.  Students engage in a core academic course that includes: basic safety, construction mathematics, introduction to blueprints, hand and power tools and more.  Students also participate in hands-on programs and field experiences.  Each student is also received certification in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and OSHA 10 hour safety course.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2012


    Microturbines are small combustion turbines that produce between 25 kW and 500 kW of power. Microturbines were derived from turbocharger technologies found in large trucks or the turbines in aircraft auxiliary power units (APUs).

    Most microturbines are single-stage, radial flow devices with high rotating speeds of 90,000 to 120,000 revolutions per minute.

    Natural gas, hydrogen, propane, diesel
    20 – 30% (Recuperated)
    Low (< 9 – 50 ppm) NOx

    Microturbines are a relatively new distributed generation technology being used for stationary energy generation applications. They are a type of combustion turbine that produces both heat and electricity on a relatively small scale. Microturbines offer several potential advantages compared to other technologies for small-scale power generation, including: a small number of moving parts, compact size, lightweight, greater efficiency, lower emissions, lower electricity costs, and opportunities to utilize waste fuels. Waste heat recovery can also be used with these systems to achieve efficiencies greater than 80%.

    Because of their small size, relatively low capital costs, expected low operations and maintenance costs, and automatic electronic control, microturbines are expected to capture a significant share of the distributed generation market.

    (Ca. gov, Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG)-National Institute of Building Sciences)

    Weak Link? Wind Turbine Step-Up Transformers

    The key wind turbine generator (WTG) step-up transformer design issues that wind farm owners and developers should pay attention to include transformer loading, harmonics and non-sinusoidal loads, transformer sizing and voltage variation and special requirements to withstand faults.  The role of the WTG step-up transformers is critical and its design must be carefully and thoughtfully analyzed and reevaluated.

    Wind turbines are highly dependent upon local wind and other climatic conditions, and their yearly average load factors can be as low as 35 percent.

    Harmonics and Non-Sinusoidal Loads

    WTG transformers are switched with solid state controls to limit the inrush currents. While potentially aiding in the initial energization, these same electronic controls contribute damaging harmonic voltages that, when coupled with the non-sinusoidal wave forms from the turbines, cannot be ignored from a heating point of view.

    Normal voltage is alternating at 60 cycles per second. If the transformer operates at other voltages, the voltage peaks will not line up and you will not get the amplification you would achieve when frequencies line up. The transformer tries to pass the voltage it sees through the circuit and causes extra loading. All the electronics used today send spikes on the line and each time a frequency disturbance goes back to the transformer, the transformer must be able to handle the higher loading it sees.

    When a rectifier/chopper system (the electronic controller used in wind turbines) is used, the WTG transformer must be designed for harmonics similar to rectifier transformers. These are "dirty" from a harmonics point of view, meaning they may contain high frequencies that the wind farm owner does not want to pass onto the utility power's grid, because it will affect other equipment.

    If this happens, it can result in a protective equipment fault, causing transmission grid equipment to protect itself against faults by shutting down. The WTG must be able to take the additional loading into consideration and provide electrostatic shields to prevent the transfer of harmonic frequencies between the primary and secondary windings. It must be able to handle the energy and not transmit it to the grid.

    Cost Risk

    When purchasing a WTG step-up transformer, make sure you factor in how reliability affects the total cost of ownership. Wind farm turbines are unique because they are ganged together and dependent upon each other. For example, say one transformer fails, with a loss of revenue of about $1,000 per day. It may take two or even three days to replace the transformer, and in the meantime, the faulty generator may take down 10 to 14 other generators, not allowing them to produce. So that loss of $1,000 of revenue could turn into $30,000 in lost revenue, plus the cost of another transformer, construction labor and crane expenses. (Power Engineering, April 2012)

    The Air Rule Puzzle Continues

    The Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) was finalized in 2005 and overturned by DC Circuit Court in 2008. Two years later it was re-proposed and rechristened as the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR) and last year it was finalized as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

    Utilities affected by the rule have been presented with five different sets of allowance allocations since July 2010. Some states have been "in" the group covered by the rule, then out, or vice versa. Allowances aren't the only aspect that has changed. Assurance provisions, which limit the amount of trading a state can do without being heavily penalized, have also gone through several iterations.

    Additionally, since the CSAPR is based on helping downwind states comply with ozone and Pm2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as the NAAQS limits are lowered, it is likely that the CSAPR allowance allocations will be reduced as well.

    The CSAPR was scheduled to replace CAIR starting Jan. 1, 2012. However, on Dec. 30, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling to stay the CSAPR pending judicial review.

    The Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule is currently in litigation. While it is doubtful that the underlying endangerment finding will be revoked, if the court decides EPA overstepped its authority by eliminating smaller sources from regulation, the resulting universal applicability will overwhelm both state agencies and industry.

    The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are likewise still facing legal challenges. And, no one knows quite where regulations for coal combustion residues and cooling water intake and discharge systems [316(a) and (b)] are going to end up. (Power Engineering, April 2012)

    NRC Approves COLs for SCE&G, Santee Cooper Nuclear Units

    South Carolina Electric & Gas Company SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation (NYSE:SCG), and Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, have received approval for combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for two new nuclear units at V. C. Summer Station in Jenkinsville, S.C.

    SCANA received approval for licenses to construct and operate units 2 and 3 at the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant site.  About 1,000 workers are currently engaged in early-site preparation work at the V.C. Summer construction site. The project will peak at about 3,000 construction craft workers over the course of three to four years. The two units, each with a capacity of 1,117 megawatts, will then add 600 to 800 permanent jobs when they start generating electricity.


    SCE&G is a regulated utility engaged in the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity to approximately 664,000 customers in South Carolina. The company also provides natural gas service to approximately 317,000 customers throughout the state. More information about SCE&G is available at

    SCANA Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Cayce, S.C., is an energy-based holding company principally engaged, through subsidiaries, in electric and natural gas utility operations and other energy-related businesses. Information about SCANA is available on the company’s website at

    Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility and the state’s largest power producer. The ultimate source of electricity for 2 million South Carolinians, Santee Cooper is dedicated to being the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina. For more information, visit


    Tuesday, May 08, 2012

    Chesapeake Energy Abuses Private Jet Travel?

    A shareholder lawsuit has revealed that Chesapeake Energy's cost for personal jet travel of top executives and directors totaled nearly $14 million over the past five years. The suit claims that was understated by as much as $10 million a year, largely because of the lack of inclusion of fixed costs, but any details may be included in the redacted portions.

    The company owns fractional shares in 22 different jets, according to Federal Aviation Administration records, including a high-end Gulftstream G-550, eight other Gulfstreams and 13 Cessna aircraft. That is a large number given the size of Chesapeake, but comparisons are difficult because FAA records don't show the company's percentage ownership in each plane.

    Even before the lawsuit, Chesapeake was viewed as unusually generous with its fleet of jets, which are operated by NetJets Inc. The company requires CEO Aubrey McClendon to fly on its aircraft for both personal and business travel for efficiency and security reasons. Other top executives also are permitted extensive personal usage, while outside directors are allowed 40 hours of personal aircraft travel a year.
    Last year, Chesapeake disclosed it spent $2.9 million in personal travel for executives and board members. (WSJ, 5/8/2012)

    David Hahn-Baker


    By Norris McDonald

    David Hahn-Baker, Norris McDonald
    Hooked up with my old buddy David Hahn-Baker today.  He is Inside The Beltway for a board meeting and staying with a friend in Silver Spring.  We met out there and Dave updated me on his work.  Wow.  The man is busy.  But David was always ahead of his time.  In fact, there was a time when Dave and I were the only blacks working in the DC-based environmental movement.  My my how times have changed.

    It was good to see Hahn-Baker.  He is hobbled by MS and I carry the asthma cross.  But we are still kicking.  And evidently having the best times of our lives professionally.  Dave is operating out of Buffalo now and is involved in a variety of issues, causes and environmental work. 

    David walks with a cane and uses a wheelchair for more extensive getting around.  But my boy is still sharp of mind, if not fleet of foot.

    We drove down to the part of Silver Spring near the Discovery Channel and found an outside place to eat.  It was great to catch up and share some time.  Baker, to me, is a legend.  He cut quite the path in the environmental movement in the early 1980's.  And though banged up a bit, he is as active as ever.  We picked each others brains for ideas and broke bread together. 

    What a time.  Dave, you still inspire me.

    NRDC Profile

    In Reality, Keystone XL Pipeline Has Been Operating Since 2010

    The current proposal would complete a Southern portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline
    Phase 3

    This phase, known as Cushing MarketLink, is part of the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposed phase would start from Cushing, Oklahoma where domestic oil would be added to the pipeline, then it would expand 435 miles (700 km) to a delivery point near terminals in Nederland, Texas to serve the Port Arthur, Texas marketplace. Also proposed is an approximate 47 miles (76 km) previous pipeline to transport crude oil from the pipeline in Liberty County, Texas to the Houston, Texas area.

    Domestic oil producers in the USA are pushing for this phase so the glut of oil can be distributed out of the large oil tank farms and distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma. On November 16, 2011, Enbridge announced it is buying ConocoPhillips' 50% interest in the Seaway pipeline that flows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Cushing hub. In cooperation with Enterprise Products Partners LP it plans to reverse the Seaway pipeline so that an oversupply of oil at Cushing could reach the Gulf. This project will replace the earlier proposed alternative Wrangler pipeline project from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. However, according to industries, the Seaway line alone is not enough for oil transportation to the Gulf Coast.

    On March 22, 2012, President Obama announced an approval of the Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast portion of the pipeline. TransCanada said that work on that section of the pipeline could start in June 2012 and be on-line by the middle to late 2013.

    Click Image To Enlarge


    Santa Catalina Island


    By Norris McDonald

    Recently, I had the pleasure of exploring Santa Catalina Island, which is 22 miles off the coast of California (from Long Beach).  As a follow-up to our Compton To Catalina Program (CTC Program), I decided to really get to know the island.  I took a few days to walk most of Avalon, the only incorporated city on the island. I previously visited the island two times, once with my son and once with an investor to scope the island for a wood chip to electricity power plant we are promoting.  My intent on this extended stay was to not only learn about the many activities that are available on the island, but to gain enough details to significantly enhance our Compton To Catalina Program.  I would say goal was completely fulfilled.

    I took the tour bus up to the Airport In The Sky.  That was one scary ride.  It twisted and turned around the mountain road.  There were incredible views. 

    I took the Zip Line Eco Tour.  That was fun.  I will recommend it to CTC Program participants (but only if parents participate).

    I played the 9-hole golf course.  I played 18 holes by playing from the white tees first and the blue tees second.  I like the course.

    Other activities available on the island include para-sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, boat rental, golf cart rental, bike rental (including battery assist), submersible tour, glass bottom boat tour, stand up surf boat rental, Jeep Eco tours, hiking, camping, Segway rental, miniature golf, mini-bowling and arcade, swimming, pedal boats, and a climbing wall, among other activities.  I think it was important for me to personally see all of these activities so that I can make appropriate arrangements for CTC Program participants to experience them.

    The inner harbor area also has numerous retail shops, restaurants, eateries, hotels, a grocery store, drug store, post office and other facilities.

    I stayed at the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel.  I highly recommend it because it has the best view of any reasonably-priced hotel in Avalon.

    Monday, May 07, 2012

    Environmental Groups Target Coal Ash Disposal

    Environmental groups have asked a federal court to compel EPA to finalize rules regulating the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). They are joined by a manufacturer and marketer of products made with recycled coal ash who alleges, in a companion suit, that the agency is harming its business by not acting to finalize rules proposed nearly two years ago.

    Coal ash is beneficially used in a variety of products, including construction materials like concrete, cement, and roofing materials, and the beneficial use industry is concerned about the potential economic impacts that would result if coal ash is designated as a RCRA hazardous substance.

    At the same time, the new rules would have a substantial financial impact on firms that generate, transport, and dispose of coal combustion residuals. Indeed, EPA estimates that its proposed rules would have annualized regulatory compliance costs between $587 million to $1.4 billion, while industry trade groups estimate that the rule’s potential costs could be three to four times higher. (Marten Law)

    EPA's Draft Guidance On Oil & Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

    EPA Releases Draft Permitting Guidance for Using Diesel Fuel in Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

    Guidance will clarify means of compliance with 2005 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act

    Today (May 4), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft underground injection control (UIC) program permitting guidance for class II wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing activities. EPA developed the draft guidance to clarify how companies can comply with a law passed by Congress in 2005, which exempted hydraulic fracturing operations from the requirement to obtain a UIC permit, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid.

    The draft guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, technical recommendations for permitting those wells, and a description of diesel fuels for EPA underground injection control permitting. The draft guidance describes diesel fuels for these purposes by reference to six chemical abstract services registry numbers. The agency is requesting input on this description.

    While this guidance undergoes public notice and comment, decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances of the specific injection activity and applicable statutes, regulations and case law, and will not cite this draft guidance as a basis for decision.

    EPA continues to work with states, industry and other stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas is developed safely and responsibly.

    EPA will take public comment on the draft guidance for 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register to allow for stakeholder input before it is finalized. (EPA)

    More information

    Fact Sheet

    Maryland Dept of the Environment Climate Change Hearings

    The public comment period for Maryland's climate change plan is now open and your opinions and ideas are needed.

    In 2009, Maryland Governor O'Malley and the Maryland General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009. The law requires the State to develop and implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2020.

    Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to climate change. With the fourth longest tidal coastline, Maryland is the third most vulnerable state to sea level rise -- one of the major consequences of climate change. Rising sea levels, along with increased storm intensity could have devastating and far-reaching environmental and economic impacts on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the quality of life Marylanders currently enjoy.

    Public Meeting Dates:

    May 8, 2012 - noon - 2 p.m.
    Elkton Central Library
    301 Newark Avenue
    Elkton, Maryland 21921

    May 15, 2012 - noon - 2 p.m.
    Queen Anne's County Health Department
    206 North Commerce Street
    Centreville, Maryland 21617

    May 24,2012 - noon - 2 p.m.
    C. Burr Artz Public Library
    First Floor - Community Room
    110 East Patrick Street
    Frederick, Maryland 21701

    May 31, 2012 - 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
    Maryland Department of Natural Resources
    C1 Conference Room
    580 Taylor Avenue
    Annapolis, Maryland 21401

    June 5, 2012 - 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
    Maryland Department of the Environment
    First Floor - Aqua & Terra Conference Rooms
    1800 Washington Boulevard
    Baltimore, Maryland 21230

    AFL-CIO President Supports Keystone Pipeline

    Richard Trumka
    The AFL-CIO does not have a formal position on Keystone XL pipeline, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is backing construction of the project. Trumka is also downplaying divisions among unions in the labor federation over the controversial project.

    President Obama, who has won the AFL-CIO’s endorsement, has said more review is needed but has not taken a position on the cross-border pipeline itself.
    Regarding the different positions by unions, Trumka notes:
    “They are not divided on the pipeline itself; they are divided on how the pipeline is done. I think we are all unanimous by saying we should build the pipeline, but we have to do it consistent with all environmental standards, and I think we can work that out, I really do, and we are for that happening.”
    The pipeline has been a thorny issue for the labor federation and harmed at least one major union's relationship with environmentalists.  Environmentalists bitterly oppose Keystone due to greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and burning oil sands, forest damage from the massive projects in Alberta, and fear of spills along the pipeline route.

    Although some unions oppose the pipeline, others support it. Many unions including the Laborers’ International Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Teamsters, the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and others strongly back construction of Keystone, calling it a way to create jobs.

    But the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union have opposed Keystone due to environmental concerns about the oil sands and potential pipeline spills. The United Steelworkers, the United Autoworkers, the Communications Workers of America and the Service Employees International Union joined those two unions and two big green groups in a statement that backed Obama’s January decision to reject a permit for Keystone.

    The White House, when rejecting a permit for the pipeline in January, said the decision was not on the “merits” of the project but instead alleged the GOP was demanding a deadline that would short-circuit review. TransCanada Corp. re-applied for a federal cross-border permit late last week.
    Backers of the project say construction should be authorized and that the project should go forward even as a route to avoid ecologically sensitive regions of Nebraska is studied.  (The Hill, 5/6/2012)

    Saturday, May 05, 2012

    Maryland Flush Taxes To Double To $60

    Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation Wednesday that will double the flush tax for most Marylanders. The flush tax, a fee used to renovate wastewater treatment plants in an effort to clean up the Bay, will double from $30 to $60 starting in July, raising roughly $56 million.

    The tax as passed is a far cry from the governor's earlier proposed hikes to the fee -- a panel had originally suggested tripling the charge.

    Lawmakers say the extra revenue will help the state comply with new federally led efforts to restore the Bay's water quality by 2025, and that the legislation keeps Maryland ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting the environment.

    Another bill requires local jurisdictions to adopt development practices that move septic systems away from areas where water pollution is more likely to occur. And the governor signed legislation that requires locally funded projects to prevent storm water runoff from making its way from roads into rivers, streams and farmland. (Washington Examiner, 5/2/2102)