Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stealing Grease

Thieves are stealing restaurant grease because they can get $3 per gallon for this product that is converted into biodiesel fuel.  Fairfax County, Virginia had eight grease/oil-theft reports in an eight-day stretch this month. 

One industry group, the National Renderers Association, estimates that 190 million pounds of used cooking oil — about 25 million gallons — is stolen each year. For comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled about 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Canola oil bubbles and sizzles at 350 degrees for a week before a restaurant dumps it into a  bin and lugs it outside. Bacon grease and charbroiled burger fat are scraped in as well.   Workers then cook it and spin it through a centrifuge at 40,000 revolutions per minute to remove the solids. Recyclers sell the cleaned-up grease as an ingredient in livestock feed or for biodiesel production. (Wash Post, 6/26/2012)

Federal Appeals Court Upholds EPA Authority on CO2

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld the Eenvironmental Protection Agency's (EPA) central 2009 finding that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide endanger public health and likely have been responsible for global warming over the past half century.

The opinion said the EPA

"marshaled substantial scientific evidence" to support its findings. The existence of some uncertainty does not, without more, warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2007 that the Clean Air Act not only gave the EPA such power, but obligated the agency to exercise it if greenhouse gases were found to be harmful.  After Mr. Obama's EPA followed up on the high-court ruling with new regulations, industry groups sued, saying there was too much uncertainty about global warming for the agency to act as it did.Tuesday's ruling flatly rejected that contention.

Electric Utilities that use coal believe that the Clean Air Act is ill-suited to handle issues like greenhouse gases, and that Congress should be the policy maker in this area.   The challengers could ask the full appeals court to rehear the case or seek Supreme Court review.

The court also upheld EPA rules that drew on its 2009 finding, including greenhouse-gas emissions standards for cars that took effect beginning with the 2012 model year. Unlike some other industries, auto makers support the Obama administration on the greenhouse-gas rules, saying it is easier to have a common national standard than to leave regulation to the 50 states, some of which would be likely to adopt their own rules if Washington didn't.
The ruling allows the EPA to move forward with additional efforts to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from industrial sources. The EPA is now working to make final its first set of national limits on carbon dioxide from new coal-fired power plants. The standards, first proposed in March, are expected to make construction of new coal plants increasingly unlikely as power generators opt for natural gas. (WSJ, 6/26/2012)

Nuclear Regulatory Commission IG Report on Gregory Jaczko

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Inspector General report (Summary) on NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has been completed.   It notes that senior executives and Jaczko’s fellow commissioners

“provided specific examples of what they perceived as intimidating and bullying tactics by Chairman Jaczko so that they would be influenced to side with the chairman’s opinion despite their own judgment.”

Jaczko announced his resignation in May following a tenure that included his four fellow NRC commissioners openly criticizing his behavior and management style, even complaining to the White House last year that he was causing “serious damage” to the agency.

The Center's brief interaction with Jaczko was not very positive and we join with the other NRC commissioners in delighting at his departure. (The Hill, 6/25/2012)

Allegheny County Implementing New Air Quality Policy

An Allegheny County Board of Health committee has agreed on more protective, public health-based guidelines.The proposed guidelines would be used to evaluate the human health impacts of toxic emissions from new or significantly modified industrial sources. Existing sources would not be subject to the guidelines but their emissions would be factored into health risk calculations based on cumulative impact of all air toxics emissions.

The five-page air toxics policy document, produced after two years of meetings and compromise by a 22-member ad hoc committee of industry, environmental and regulatory representatives, will be offered for adoption at the Health Board's meeting July 11.

The new policy mandates use of the best available information about toxic chemical exposure and takes into account cumulative impacts of multiple exposures to protect public health.  If approved, the new air toxics guidelines will replace the county's 1988 guidelines, which contain no exposure limits and have never been updated to reflect new chemical toxics or science.

The county Health Department receives 20 to 50 installation permit applications a year from industries that emit air toxics and thus would be subject to review and analysis under the new guidelines.

The county Health Department will require new and expanding industrial facilities to analyze both the cancer-causing and non-cancer-causing health risks produced by their emissions in combination with the emissions from existing sources.

If the risk of cancer-causing health effects beyond an industrial facility's fence line, known as the Maximum Individual Carcinogenic Risk (MICR), is less than 1 in 100,000, the Health Department will approve the facility's permit. If the cumulative risk is greater than 1 in 10,000, the Health Department will not grant an operating permit.

If the MICR is more than 1 in 100,000 but less than 1 in 10,000, the Health Department will require additional emissions modeling and testing. It also could require the facility to conduct ambient air monitoring, install additional pollution controls to reduce toxic emissions or offset new air toxics increases by reducing emissions at other nearby industrial operations.

Air toxics are defined in the policy as pollutants that can cause cancer or other serious health effects, including reproductive problems, birth defects, respiratory illnesses or neurological problems, or emissions that "cause adverse environmental effects that are predictive of adverse human health consequences."  (Post-Gazette, 6/25/2012)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Japan's Nuclear Catastrophe Vicitms Seek Compensation

The Fukushima Daiichi plant catastrophe contaminated a broad circle of Japanese countryside and left hundreds of thousands of people without homes, jobs or both.  Victims of the nuclear crisis have filed about 20 lawsuits against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., according to the company. 

The vast majority of victims of the Fukushima accident turn to one of two other options, one led by Tepco, the other by the central government — the two institutions most often blamed for the nuclear accident. 

More than nine of 10 evacuees who say the disaster harmed them have taken their claims directly to Tepco. Those who don’t want to deal with Tepco or who reject the company’s compensation offer can head to a government-created mediation center, which was established by law after the nuclear accident. Neither route, legal experts say, offers victims much leverage.

Tepco’s average payout to individuals is $24,000, according to company data.  The company has agreed to give anyone who at the time of the accident was living within 12 miles of the plant — the forced-evacuation zone — monthly payments of $1,250 to $1,500 as compensation for “non-economic damage,” or mental anguish. No end date has been set for the payments.  Evacuees may also be reimbursed for hotel stays in the aftermath of the crisis — but only up to $100 per night (the company hasn’t specified a limit on the number of nights).

For victims who want to file lawsuits, options are limited. That’s because of a special Japanese nuclear-accident law, drafted 51 years ago, that limits liability to the plant operator, preventing claimants from targeting, say, reactor manufacturers such as Toshiba or General Electric.

Almost 120,000 individuals have applied directly to Tepco for the initial round of compensation.  The company has reached settlement agreements in 102,000 of those cases and has since sent out the second and third batches as well, covering additional damages. Tepco estimates that it will be responsible, in the end, for at least $32 billion in compensation. 

The government last month gave Tepco a $12 billion bailout, putting it under state control

Lawyers who run the Dispute Reconciliation Committee, the government center that mediates between victims and Tepco, say they are counting on the company to satisfy most of the claimants, if only because the center could be “paralyzed” if too many come to it for help.  Already, about 500 victims a month come to the center, which has offices in Tokyo and Fukushima and settles 30 to 70 cases a month. Officials expect it will take three to five years for most claims to be resolved. (Wash Post, 6/25/2012)

EPA Awarding $2.7 Million to Revitalize Urban Waters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced it is awarding $2.7 million to 46 organizations in 32 states and Puerto Rico to help restore urban waters, support community revitalization and protect Americans’ health. Nancy Stoner made the announcement today in Atlanta and awarded a grant to the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper organization. The group will use the funds to expand its Water Watch program to improve water quality and human health in local metro Atlanta neighborhoods.

EPA’s Urban Waters program funding supports communities’ efforts to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land. Urban waters include canals, rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers, estuaries, bays and oceans in urbanized areas. The grants range from $30,000 to $60,000 for projects across the country, including in a number of underserved communities. Recipients will promote the restoration of urban waters through community engagement and outreach, water quality monitoring and studies, and environmental education and training. To view a list of the projects 

Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, economic, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities. By promoting public access to urban waterways, EPA will help communities become active participants in restoring urban waters while improving and protecting their neighborhoods.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports the goals and principles of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a partnership of 12 federal agencies working to reconnect urban communities with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community
led revitalization efforts.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership closely aligns with and advances the work of the White House’s place
based efforts, including the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, to revitalize communities, create jobs and improve the quality of life in cities and towns across the nation. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership also advances the work of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

Information on EPA’s Urban Waters Program

Information on the Urban Waters Federal Partnership

Monday, June 25, 2012

Center Considering Helicopter Surveillance Program

Sikorsky S-55 Whisperjet
Special Projects Chairman Doc Sloan operated a helicopter program a decade ago in the wake of the 911 terrorist attacks.  Doc Sloan was marketing the Sikorsky S-55 Whisperjet to municipalities as a surveillance tool because of its special feature: an unbreakable glass floor.

Center President Norris McDonald took a ride on the copter in 2003 from National Airport to areas around Washington, DC (approved copter airspace).  McDonald, who has taken several helicopter lessons, notes that the advantage of this helicopter is that you can look straight down, whereas in the average helicopter, there is more of a forward looking view.

Doc Sloan
The Center is examining the feasibility of utilizing the helicopter to supplement its programs.  Of particular interest is locating undocumented waste sites.  We could also utilize infrared scanning to measure thermal pollution from sewer and other outfalls.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses an airplane, the Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) aircraft that is capable of remotely detecting chemicals and radiation using an array of state-of-the-art chemical and radiological detectors, high resolution digital photography, video and GPS technology combined with sophisticated software applications.
The Center would be interested in examining the feasibility of supplementing the EPA program.

EPA Proposes Updates For 2010 Cement Standards

EPA Proposes Updates and Deadline Extension for 2010 Cement Standards

Proposal would maintain significant air toxic reductions, while making cost-effective changes to provide greater flexibility for industry

In response to a federal court ruling and data from industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to its 2010 air standards for the Portland cement manufacturing industry. The proposal would continue the significant emission reductions from the 2010 standards while providing industry additional compliance flexibilities, including more time to implement the proposed updates by extending the compliance date for existing cement kilns from September 2013 to September 2015.  

In December 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit determined that EPA’s standards were legally sound, but asked the agency to account for rules finalized after the cement standards were issued. The proposed updates to certain emissions limits, monitoring requirements and compliance timelines – which are expected to result in additional cost savings for industry - are being made in response to this court remand and petitions for reconsideration of EPA’s 2010 final rule, which will dramatically cut emissions of mercury, particle pollution (PM), and other air toxics from cement production.

Based on new technical information, EPA is proposing to adjust the way cement kilns continuously monitor for particle pollution and would set new particle pollution emissions limits and averaging times to account for these changes. The proposed rule would not apply to kilns that burn non-hazardous solid waste; those kilns would be covered by other standards. The proposed extended compliance date would allow industry to reassess their emission control strategies in light of the proposed changes to the PM limits and monitoring methods.

EPA will accept comment on the proposed changes for 30 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing if requested to do so. EPA will finalize the rule by December 20, 2012. (EPA)

More information

IG & GAO Review Powder River Basin Coal Leasing

The non-competitive nature of the federal coal leasing program is being reviewed by the Interior Department’s Inspector General and also will be the subject of an audit by the Government Accountability Office, according to officials at the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the leasing program.

Currently, a mining company draws up a proposed area for leasing, and the Interior Department’s BLM auctions it off to that same firm.  This is the rule rather than the exception in the country’s single biggest coal producing region. In the 26 coal leases the federal government has awarded in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming since 1991, 22 have gone to a single bidder. In the other four instances, there were only two bidders involved.

Powder River Basin Coal
On Thursday, the BLM will auction off the right to extract 721.2 million tons of coal from Wyoming’s North Porcupine tract in a region known as the Powder River Basin. Barring an unforeseen development, there will be one bidder for the lease: Peabody Energy, which bought the lease to mine 402 million tons on the adjacent tract in May.

In 1983, the GAO concluded that the BLM auctioned off lease rights there for $100 million below their fair market value.

Interior and mining industry officials said the lack of competition stems from the fact that there are only four major coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin, and mining equipment is so large and expensive that firms confine themselves to one place. The reason why a single company sometimes bids on a tract for leasing is that the company, which already has the existing infrastructure in place, is bidding on the adjacent parcel to their existing leased parcel. BLM oversees mineral rights for nearly 700 million acres of federal land.

Powder River Basin Coal
Four coal companies operate in the region — Peabody, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy.  They are reperesented by the National Mining Association.

Coal companies are complying with federal rules. The BLM establishes a secret floor price for each lease and withholds mineral rights if bidders fail to meet it. BLM is the one who determines the price.

The Powder River Basin supplies 44 percent of the nation’s coal and 47 percent of the coal in the United States used for electricity.

The economic future of the Powder River Basin may depend on whether it can export its coal overseas, where it can sell for more than six times what it costs to mine. All four firms there predict a rise in exports and support building new shipping terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Environmental groups are hoping to block those terminals, just as they oppose the lease auction that the BLM plans to hold Thursday. (Wash Post, 6/24/2012)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Interior Extends Comment Period For Fracking Rule

The Interior Department is extending the public comment period on draft rules to regulate oil-and-gas "fracking" by 60 days, "to ensure that the public and key stakeholders, including industry and public health groups, are able to provide important feedback that will help inform any final rule."  Interior’s Bureau of Land Management had initially required comments by July 10 on the regulations that will govern the oil-and-gas development method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands.

Interior floated draft rules in May that require industry disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process. The draft rules also address well integrity and management of so-called flowback water.

Interior plans to finalize the regulations by the end of the year.

Fracking involves high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand into shale formations to open seams that enable hydrocarbons to flow. The method is enabling a natural gas production boom in the United States, but is bringing fears of pollution along with it. (The  Hill, 6/22/2012)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chesapeake Energy Names New Chairman & Board Members

Chesapeake Energy Corporation appointed Archie W. Dunham, the former chairman of ConocoPhillips as its new independent chairman, along with naming four new independent directors to its reconstituted nine-member board.

Mr. Dunham, who formerly also served as chief executive of Conoco, succeeds Aubrey K. McClendon, who remains a director and will continue to serve as Chesapeake's CEO and president.

The board has faced tough scrutiny since it emerged in April that Mr. McClendon has secured loans for more than $1 billion from financial firms that do business with Chesapeake, pledging his stakes in the company's wells as collateral.

The company, which produces more natural gas than any U.S. company after Exxon Mobil Corp.,  has been beset in recent months by decade-low prices for its principal product and a string of governance controversies.

Days before its June 8 annual meeting, the embattled natural gas giant agreed to shuffle its board and allow activist investor Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management Inc. to appoint four new members.

New Directors

  • Archie W. Dunham, 73, is the retired chairman of ConocoPhillips.
  • Bob G. Alexander, 78, is the founder of Alexander Energy Corp.
  • Vincent J. Intrieri, 55, has been employed by Icahn related entities since 1998.
  • R. Brad Martin, 60, is former chairman and CEO of Saks Inc.
  • Frederic M. Poses, 69, is the CEO of Ascend Performance Materials.
Southeastern, Chesapeake's largest holder with a 13.9% stake, has appointed three new members: Bob G. Alexander, R. Brad Martin and Frederic M. Poses.

Mr. Icahn, who owns 7.6%, has appointed his own agent, Vincent Intrieri, to the board. (WSJ, 6/21/2012)

White House Opposes Inhofe Mercury Reg Assault


June 18, 2012


S.J. Res. 37 – Disapproving EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
(Sen. Inhofe, R-OK)


James Inhofe
Senate lawmakers on Wednesday blocked a GOP-led effort to scuttle Environmental Protection Agency regulations that mandate cuts in mercury pollution and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants. The 46-53 vote against Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) resolution staves off what would have been a stinging election-year rebuke of the White House green agenda. (The Hill)

The Administration strongly opposes S.J. Res. 37, which would overturn long-overdue national clean air standards limiting power plant emissions of toxic air pollution, including mercury. As a result, this resolution would cause substantial harm to public health and undermine our Nation's longstanding commitment to clean up pollution from power plants.

Since it was enacted in 1970 and amended in 1977 and 1990, each time with strong bipartisan support, the Clean Air Act (CAA) has improved the Nation's air quality and protected public health. Since 1970, the economy has grown over 200 percent while emissions of key pollutants have decreased more than 60 percent. More than forty years of clean air regulation has shown that a strong economy and strong environmental and public health protection go hand-in-hand.

S.J. Res. 37 would undermine more than forty years of CAA progress by blocking the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from harmful power plant emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gases, nickel, and chromium. By addressing the largest remaining source of mercury emissions in the United States, these standards will reduce our children's exposure to this neurotoxicant which can impair their ability to think and learn. Because technology to control toxics also reduces fine particle pollution, the standards will help America's children grow up healthier, preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and over 6,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. EPA further estimates that emissions reductions resulting from meeting these standards will prevent as many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks, annually. The annual value of these health benefits alone is estimated to be as much as $90 billion. In addition, the standards will reduce the risk of numerous other non-monetized yet devastating health effects, including illnesses of the central nervous system, damage to kidneys, and cancer.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will ensure that the Nation's power plants install modern, widely available technologies to limit harmful pollution – leveling the playing field for power plants that already have such controls in place. The standards are achievable; pollution control equipment that can help meet them already is installed at more than half of the Nation's coal-fired power plants. Numerous studies, including analysis by the Department of Energy, have projected that the standards can be met without adversely affecting the adequacy of electric generation resources in any region of the country.

Finally, if a rule is disapproved under the Congressional Review Act, an agency may not issue a rule that is "substantially the same." In this case, because EPA has adhered closely to its narrowly 2
circumscribed authority under the CAA in promulgating these standards, the enactment of S.J. Res. 37 could effectively prevent EPA from ever limiting mercury and air toxics pollution from power plants.

If the President were presented with S.J. Res. 37, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the resolution. (OMB)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

H.R. 4480, Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012

Update: Passed 6/21/2012 on vote of 248-163.
H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act, would establish certain fees for activities related to the development of oil and gas on federal lands. The bill also would direct the Secretary of the Interior to take actions aimed at facilitating onshore oil and gas leasing and production on federal lands; direct the Department of Energy to develop a plan to increase the amount of acreage leased for oil and gas development on federal lands if the department sells oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve; and establish an interagency committee to analyze the impact of certain rules and actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency on gasoline, diesel fuel, and natural gas prices.

H.R. 4480 combines five bills approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources and two bills approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. CBO has prepared cost estimates for the following bills:

  • H.R. 2150, the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on July 13, 2011;
  • H.R. 2752, the BLM Live Internet Auctions Act, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on October 5, 2012;
  • H.R. 4381, the Planning for American Energy Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on May 16, 2012;
  • H.R. 4382, the Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on May 16, 2012;
  • H.R. 4383, the Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on May 16, 2012;
  • H.R. 4471, the Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 25, 2012; and
  • H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on May 17, 2012.
Energy and Power Subcommittee member Cory Gardner (R-CO), together with several of his colleagues, has introduced H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act to provide a solution. The Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012 requires the Secretary of Energy to develop a plan to increase the percentage of federal lands leased for oil and gas production after the next SPR sale. Currently only three percent of federal land is leased for oil and gas development. The increase in the percentage of federal lands leased would be commensurate with the percentage that was drawn down from the SPR. The lands available for leasing would be among the vast 2.4 billion acres of government lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense.

Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012: What it Will Do
  • Would make a release from the SPR part of longer term energy strategy by requiring more federal lands to be leased after a release.
  • Would address the growing problem of falling production of oil on federal lands.
The Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012: What it Will Not Do
  • Would not limit the ability of the president to release oil from the SPR.
  • Would not open more then 10 percent of federal lands to leasing.
  • Would not allow leasing on federal lands managed under the National Park Service or National Wilderness Preservation System.
(CBO, House Energy & Commerce Committee, Status & Summary-GovTrack)

Most U.S. Coal Exported to European and Asian Markets in 2011

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Bureau of the Census

Coal exports to European and Asian markets represented 76% of total U.S. coal exports in 2011 (see chart above). While European markets have traditionally received a significant portion of U.S. coal exports, the share of coal exported to Asian markets is up since 2009 because of growth in sales to South Korea, China, and India. In 2011, total annual coal exports were up 31% compared to 2010, reaching 107 million short tons, due largely to rising exports to Europe and Asia.

Coal exports come in two forms: metallurgical coal, which can be used for steel production, and steam coal, which can be used for electricity generation. Metallurgical coal dominated U.S. coal exports in 2011 (see chart below); metallurgical coal exports totaled about 70 million short tons compared to about 38 million short tons for steam coal. Demand was high for metallurgical coal in European, Asian, and South American markets.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Bureau of the Census.  Note: In addition, the United Stated exported 333,503 short tons of steam coal (less than 1% of total steam coal exports) to Australia and Oceania collectively in 2011. The United States did not export metallurgical coal to this region.

Here is the coal export summary by region for 2011:

  • Europe. The Netherlands (11 million short tons) and United Kingdom (7 million short tons) ranked in the top 10 destinations for both U.S. metallurgical coal exports and steam coal exports. Germany (5 million short tons), France (4 million short tons), and Belgium (3 million short tons) ranked among the top 10 U.S. steam coal destinations, while Italy (6 million short tons) and Ukraine (5 million short tons) ranked among the top 10 U.S. metallurgical coal destinations.
  • Asia. South Korea (10 million short tons) ranked in the top 10 destinations for both U.S. metallurgical coal exports and steam coal exports. In fact, South Korea ranked first for U.S. steam coal destinations. Japan (7 million short tons), China (6 million short tons), and India (5 million short tons) ranked 3rd, 6th, and 9th, respectively, in the top 10 destinations for U.S. metallurgical coal exports.
  • South America. Brazil (9 million short tons) ranked number 1 for U.S. metallurgical coal destinations, and Chile (2 million short tons) appeared on the list of top 10 U.S. steam coal destinations.
  • North America. Steam coal exports to Canada and Mexico accounted for 12% of total steam coal exports in 2011. Canada also received 6% of total U.S. metallurgical coal exports.
  • Africa. Morocco ranked 6th in the top 10 destinations for U.S. steam coal exports with 3 million short tons.
Several major factors contributed to the rise of U.S. coal exports in 2011. In general, coal use abroad continued to grow. U.S. coal exports helped to meet rising Asian demand and provided coal for other emerging markets. Falling domestic coal consumption (down 4.6% in 2011) along with a slight increase in U.S. coal production (0.9%) freed up more coal to export. A series of international coal supply disruptions in 2011 in traditional supply areas such as Australia, Indonesia, and Colombia meant that Asian countries needed to secure coal supplies from alternative markets. Rising spot natural gas prices in Europe, up about 35% in 2011, prompted European electricity generators to use more coal. (DOE-EIA)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Last Salute - Costa Concordia Salvage Documentary

The Last Salute is a time-lapse historical documentary comprised of high resolution photographs of the Costa Concordia salvage that will be taken every minute of every day.  The working title for the documentary is The Last Salute.  During daylight hours, every 5 seconds, a photo will be refreshed.

Henry Kissinger, Doc Sloan CfECE Special Projects Chairman Doc Sloan will be participating in the salvage as a consultant.  Doctor Sloan has made several trips to the Italian island Isola del Giglio, where the Costa Concordia is shipwrecked.  He is also providing input into The Last Salute project.

Cameras are in place at several spots on the island, which will offer the best views of the salvage operation. The photographic library will grow to 1440 images per day.

The photography project has been specifically designed to be suitable for a wide variety of diverse media applications.  For example, media owners and other interested third parties can embed or live stream video within their own websites.  Time Lapse is the name of the photographic/cinemaographic techniques in which a series of photographs with fixed intervals are used to document changes that take place slowly in normal time.  The result will be played as a movie. 

On January 13, 2013, the Costa Concordia was shipwrecked and subsequently capsized just off the coast of the Italian island Isola del Giglio.  The vessel is no in 30 feet of water off the coast of the beautiful island.

If you have questions regarding this project, you can contact The Last Salute.  Contact CfECE.  Contact Dr. Sloan.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies

The National Research Council Report
Executive Summary Excerpt
Earthquakes attributable to human activities are called “induced seismic events” or “induced earthquakes.” In the past several years induced seismic events related to energy development projects have drawn heightened public attention. Although only a very small fraction of injection and extraction activities at hundreds of thousands of energy development sites in the United States have induced seismicity at levels that are noticeable to the public, seismic events caused by or likely related to energy development have been measured and felt in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Anticipating public concern about the potential for energy development projects to induce seismicity, the U.S. Congress directed the U.S. Department of Energy to request that the National Research Council examine the scale, scope, and consequences of seismicity induced during fluid injection and withdrawal activities related to geothermal energy development, oil and gas development including shale gas recovery, and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The study was also to identify gaps in knowledge and research needed to advance the understanding of induced seismicity; identify gaps in induced seismic hazard assessment methodologies and the research to close those gaps; and assess options for steps toward best practices with regard to energy development and induced seismicity potential. Three major findings emerged from the study:
(1) the process of hydraulic fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events;
(2) injection for disposal of waste water derived from energy technologies into the subsurface does pose some risk for induced seismicity, but very few events have been documented over the past several decades relative to the large number of disposal wells in operation; and
(3) CCS, due to the large net volumes of injected fluids, may have potential for inducing larger seismic events. Induced seismicity associated with fluid injection or withdrawal is caused in most cases by change in pore fluid pressure and/or change in stress in the subsurface in the presence of faults with specific properties and orientations and a critical state of stress in the rocks.

The factor that appears to have the most direct consequence in regard to induced seismicity is the net fluid balance (total balance of fluid introduced into or removed from the subsurface), although additional factors may influence the way fluids affect the subsurface. While the general mechanisms that create induced seismic events are well understood, we are currently unable to accurately predict the magnitude or occurrence of such events due to the lack of comprehensive data on complex natural rock systems and the lack of validated predictive models.
Energy technology projects that are designed to maintain a balance between the amount of fluid being injected and withdrawn, such as most oil and gas development projects, appear to produce fewer seismic events than projects that do not maintain fluid balance. Hydraulic fracturing in a well for shale gas development, which involves injection of fluids to fracture the shale and release the gas up the well, has been confirmed as the cause for small felt seismic events at one location in the world.

Wastewater Injection Well
Waste water disposal from oil and gas production, including shale gas recovery, typically involves injection at relatively low pressures into large porous aquifers that are specifically targeted to accommodate large volumes of fluid. The majority of waste water disposal wells do not pose a hazard for induced seismicity though there have been induced seismic events with a very limited number of wells. The long-term effects of a significant increase in the number of waste water disposal wells for induced seismicity are unknown.
Projects that inject or extract large net volumes of fluids over long periods of time such as CCS may have potential for larger induced seismic events, though insufficient information exists to understand this potential because no large-scale CCS projects are yet in operation. Continued research is needed on the potential for induced seismicity in large-scale CCS projects.
Induced seismicity in geothermal projects appears to be related to both net fluid balance considerations and temperature changes produced in the subsurface. Different forms of geothermal resource development appear to have differing potential for producing felt seismic events. High-pressure hydraulic fracturing undertaken in some geothermal projects has caused seismic events that are large enough to be felt. Temperature changes associated with geothermal development of hydrothermal resources has also induced felt seismicity.
Governmental response to induced seismic events has been undertaken by a number of federal and state agencies in a variety of ways. However, with the potential for increased numbers of induced seismic events due to expanding energy development, government agencies and research institutions may not have sufficient resources to address unexpected events. (The National Academies Press)

Allison MacFarlane Nominated & Svinicki Renominated To NRC

The Senate Environment & Public Works committee on June 13th held a hearing on the nomination of Allison Macfarlane and re-nomination of Kristine L. Svinicki to be Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -Witnesses testified about their nomination to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Among the issues they addressed were nuclear waste storage, working relations among commissioners, power plant safety, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Conservative Black Forum

Center President Norris McDonald participated in the Conservative Black Forum sponsored by Congressman Allen West (R-FL) today.  It was a very informative discussion and provided an excellent outlet for addressing this vitally important issue.  McDonald asked Congressman West and the Panel about the lack of African American ownership in the energy infrastructure and resources area.  The forum was covered by C-SPAN.

Norris McDonald w/ Robert Johnson, Allew West & Charles Payne

Congressman Allen West:
Conservative Black Forum
“Economic Empowerment in the Black Community”
Washington, D.C.
June 18, 2012
United States Capitol
Room HVC 200
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Black unemployment remains at 14 percent - double the white community. This is a trend that has continued for the past 50 years, during both strong and weak economies.
  • The Federal Government has invested billions of dollars to solve this crisis, yet the statistics remain staggering.
  • 4.8 percent of black students dropped out of high school in 2009, double the number of white students.

  • The Conservative Black Forum will discuss ways of enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit of black American small business owners to stimulate and strengthen the economy.
  • Black businesses, established in the heart of Black communities, often hire Black employees that in turn strengthen the black community as a whole.
  • Leaders in the Black community on both the state and federal level will have an open discussion on what barriers are preventing the Black community from achieving economic growth, which leads to economic stability and most importantly, economic “freedom.”

Moderator: Charles Payne - Fox Business Network contributor and co-host of "Varney & Co."

• Allen West- Congressman, Member of House Small Business Committee, Congressional Black Caucus
• Robert L. Johnson - Founder of Black Entertainment Television
• City Manager Ruth C. Jones – Riviera Beach
• Florida State Rep. Mack Bernard - (District 84) Committee Memberships: Business & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee, Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee
• Dr. Art Laffer - American economist
• County Commissioner Ashley Bell - Hall County, Georgia
• Toya Powell - Director, Government Engagement, U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.
• Harry C. Alford - President/CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce
• Kay DeBow - Executive Vice President, National Black Chamber of Commerce
• Darrell Jordan - House of Representatives Small Business Committee

(Allen West)

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at Rio +20

EPA Administrator Jackson Participates in the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will join international policy-makers, business leaders and youth leaders at the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. Discussions will focus on actions individuals, institutions, governments, and the private sector can take to achieve environmental protection, social development and economic prosperity over the next 20 years.

At the conference, Administrator Jackson will participate in a number of activities intended to expand the conversation on environmentalism, support the development of greener economies and smarter cities and protect human health.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10:00- 11:00 a.m.*
Rio + C40: Megacity Mayors Taking Action on Climate Change event featuring Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Paes, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and Dr. Judith Rodin
Location: Copacabana Fort, Copacabana, RJ

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

12:30-2:00 p.m.
Keynote at the US Center:
Re-investing in Our Communities: the U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability with EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira
Location: US Center, Athlete’s Park, RJ

3:00-4:30 p.m.
Participation as the US Representative in the Ceremonial Opening of Rio+20
Location: RioCentro, RJ

5:45-6:15 p.m.
Keynote at the US Center: US Water Partnership with EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
Location: US Center, Athlete’s Park, RJ

9:00-10:00 p.m.
Reception and Remarks in honor of The Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability: Building Greener Economies and Smarter Cities (invite only)
Location: Palácio da Cidade, 360 São Clemente Street, Botafogo, RJ

Thursday, June 21, 2012

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Keynote at the US Center: The Future We Want
Location: US Center, Athlete’s Park, Rio de Janeiro

2:00-3:00 p.m.
Advancing Public-Private Partnerships for Deforestation-Free / Sustainable Agriculture
Location: The Windsor Barra Hotel, Avenida Lucio Costa, 2630, Barra Da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro

3:00-6:00 p.m.
Rio+20 High-Level Roundtable
Location: RioCentro, Rio de Janeiro

Friday, June 22, 2012

10:00-11:00 a.m.
Participation as the US Representative at the Plenary Session of Rio+20
Location: RioCentro, Rio de Janeiro

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
High-Level Panel on the Climate and Clear Air Coalition
Location: RioCentro, Rio de Janeiro
These events are open to the press. Media should RSVP to the Department of State

Events at the US Center will be live streamed

EPA Hashtag:

EPA at Rio+20

U.S. Government at Rio+20

Working Crude Oil Storage Capacity at Cushing, Oklahoma Rises

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,
 Working and Net Available Shell Storage Capacity.

As of March 31, 2012 working crude oil storage capacity at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage and trading hub was 61.9 million barrels, an increase of 6.9 million barrels (13%) from September 30, 2011 and 13.9 million barrels (29%) from a year earlier, as reported in EIA's recently released report on Working and Net Available Shell Storage Capacity. Utilization of working storage capacity on March 31, 2012 was 64%, an increase from the 53% observed in September 2011, but lower than the 86% observed on March 31, 2011. The report also noted that operating shell storage capacity increased 8.1 million barrels (12%) from September 30, 2011 to reach 74.6 million barrels.

Both storage capacity and the level of inventories held at Cushing are closely watched market indicators, as Cushing is the market hub for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil that is the basis for crude oil futures contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Growing volumes of U.S. crude oil production, along with a higher level of imports from Canada, have helped contributed to the record levels of inventories at Cushing. Increased flows of crude oil from these two sources, along with expectations for future increases, have consequently created the need for additional storage at the hub. (DOE-IEA)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Japan Restarts Two Reactors

Yoshihiko Noda
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday ordered the the Kansai Electric Power Company to restart Ohi nuclear reactors 3 and 4.  A majority in the area argued that earthquake-prone Japan should back away from nuclear power because of safety concerns. The restart at Ohi could open the door for reactors to come back online elsewhere in the country, and Noda has said that the government will make judgments “on individual cases,” based on safety.  In the 15 months since the Fukushima disaster — an earthquake- and tsunami-triggered triple meltdown that forced the evacuation of some 100,000 — Japan has already managed to first abandon nuclear power and then re-embrace it.  Accordign to Noda:
“We are determined to make further efforts to restore people’s trust in nuclear policy and safety regulations.” 

As Japan’s 50 working reactors were shuttered because of either safety concerns or routine maintenance checks, officials in host communities formed a stiff resistance against any restart orders. Many charged that Tokyo had done too little to reform its discredited nuclear regulatory system or break up the traditional cozy ties between government and utility companies.  In early May, a final nuclear reactor on the northern island of Hokkaido came offline, and Japan, briefly, was nuclear free.

Though Japan is not required by law to have local approval for nuclear restarts, such consent has long been a de facto prerequisite. Public opposition remains massive. Specifically at Ohi, 71 percent said they were against a “hasty” restart at the plant, according to a survey conducted by the Mainichi newspaper earlier this month. Friday night, several thousand protested outside the prime minister’s office, yelling, “We oppose the restart!” (Wash Post, 6/16/202)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Harold Hamm - Mitt Romney Energy Advisor

Mitt Romney's energy adviser, Continental Resources Inc. Chief Executive Harold Hamm supports billions of dollars of tax breaks for the U.S. oil and natural-gas industry.  He believes any elimination of existing tax credits would lead to dramatic cuts in production. Hamm's views, presented during a Senate hearing, stands in direct contrast with President Barack Obama, who has tried for several years to remove $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the five largest eenrgy companies.

Harold Hamm
Hamm is an American oilman who was ranked in the March 2012 issue of Forbes as the 30th richest person in America and 76th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $11 billion.  In 2012, presidental candidate Mitt Romney named Hamm as his energy advisor.[2] Hamm is a key player in Hiland Partners and Hiland Holdings as well as the oil-exploration company continental Resources, Oklahoma's fourth largest public company

Just one month after he was named Mitt Romney's top energy adviser, Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm contributed $985,000 to the top pro-Romney Super PAC -- a donation that was the second largest the group collected in April.

He has five children and lives in Enid, Oklahoma.  Hamm holds honorary degrees from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Enid High School.

(The Maddow Blog, 6/8/2012, NASDAQ, 6/15/2012, Wikipedia)

EPA Proposes Clean Air Standards for Harmful Soot Pollution

99 percent of U.S. counties projected to meet proposed standards without any additional actions 

In response to a court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed updates to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution, including soot (known as PM2.5). These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and have been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. Today’s proposal, which meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by the EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the proposed standard without any additional action.

EPA’s proposal would strengthen the annual health standard for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5) to a level within a range of 13 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter. The proposed changes, which are consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors, are based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. By proposing a range, the agency will collect input from the public as well as a number of stakeholders, including industry and public health groups, to help determine the most appropriate final standard to protect public health. It is important to note that the proposal has zero effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), both of which would remain unchanged.

Thanks to recent Clean Air Act rules that have and will dramatically cut pollution, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the proposed standards without undertaking any further actions to reduce emissions.

Meanwhile, because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, these standards have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. Depending on the final level of the standard, estimated benefits will range from $88 million a year, with estimated costs of implementation as low as $2.9 million, to $5.9 billion in annual benefits with a cost of $69 million – a return ranging from $30 to $86 for every dollar invested in pollution control. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its standards for particle pollution every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. The law requires the agency to ensure the standards are “requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety” and “requisite to protect the public welfare.” A federal court ordered EPA sign the proposed particle pollution standards by June 14, 2012, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards.

EPA will accept public comment for 63 days after the proposed standards are published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold two public hearings; one in Sacramento, CA. and one in Philadelphia, PA. Details on the hearings will be announced shortly. EPA will issue the final standards by December 14, 2012.  (EPA)

More information