Wednesday, October 30, 2013

EPA Announces $6.6 Million To Support Chesapeake Bay Projects

EPA funding is part of $9.2 million in grant money to support cleaner local waters across Bay region

This morning, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joined the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to announce the recipients of $9.2 million in grants for restoration and outreach initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia.

This year’s 40 projects will use both innovative and well-known ways to create cleaner waters, restore habitat and strengthen iconic species such as brook trout and oysters, and engage homeowners and residents in environmental work supporting their community’s quality of life.

The funding for these environmental initiatives was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund via the Small Watershed Grants Program and the Chesapeake Bay Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program, both of which are administered by NFWF. Officials and guests announced the awards at the waterfront center of the Earth Conservation Corps at Diamond Teague Park in Washington, D.C., the site of a wetland funded by NFWF in 2012 and subsequently restored by ECC youth volunteers.
The Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program (INSR), funded by EPA, awarded $6.6 million to 20 projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with recipients providing more than $14 million in matching funds. The INSR Program provides grants to innovative and cost-effective projects that dramatically reduce or eliminate the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution into local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. This year, many awardees’ projects show creative, collaborative partnerships that will engage everyone – local government, businesses and citizens – in better approaches for managing runoff from urban, suburban and agricultural lands.

The Small Watershed Grants (SWG) Program, funded by a combination of public agencies and private support, awarded $2.6 million to 20 projects in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with recipients providing $2.2 million in matching funds. The SWG program provides grants to organizations and municipal governments that are working to improve the condition of their local watershed through on-the-ground restoration, habitat conservation and community engagement. Many grant recipients expect to reduce pollution not only through infrastructures such as greener landscapes but through community outreach initiatives to promote sustainable landscaping and improved practices for managing runoff.
Examples of this year’s Chesapeake Stewardship Fund grant recipients in the DC metro region include:

- Low Impact Development Center, Inc. ($249,873) will work with 8 to 10 communities in Prince George's County in the Anacostia and urban watersheds as a liaison with Prince George's Department of Environmental Resources and the development community to implement superior water quality solutions that enhance the sustainability and economic viability of the community.

- Anacostia Watershed Society ($200,000) and its partners will work to restore more than 10 acres of tidal wetlands in the Anacostia River, improving flood control in the National Capital region and increasing areas for outdoor recreation.

- City of Greenbelt ($147,960) will build on existing partnerships to remove 17,000 square feet of asphalt from the city and install permeable, articulating concrete block. The project will serve as a model for future public parking lot retrofit projects.

Since 2006, the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program has provided $40 million to 94 projects that reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Since 1999, the Small Watershed Grants Program has provided more than $34.2 million to support 704 projects in the region and has further leveraged close to $115.1 million in local matching funds for a total conservation investment in on-the-ground restoration of over $189.3 million.

More information about the Chesapeake Bay Program

More information about the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program and the Chesapeake Bay Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program  (EPA Press Release)

Marcellus Natural Gas Pipeline Projects to Primarily Benefit New York and New Jersey

Click Image To Enlarge

Multiple pipeline expansion projects are expected to begin service this winter to increase natural gas takeaway capacity from the Appalachian Basin's Marcellus Shale play, where production has increased significantly over the past two years. These new projects are largely focused on transporting gas to the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions and would have limited benefit for consumers in New England, where price spikes during periods of peak winter demand appear likely to persist.

Expansion projects with expected in-service dates between 2013 and 2015 would add at least 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets. More than 2.0 Bcf/d of expansions are expected for this winter alone. The largest of these is the 0.78 Bcf/d New York-New Jersey Expansion project on a portion of Spectra Energy's Texas Eastern Transmission Company (TETCO) pipeline from Linden, New Jersey, to Manhattan, New York. On October 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) authorized the start of initial service on these expansions.

New England consumers, however, would not significantly benefit from currently planned pipeline expansions until 2016. The Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) pipeline, which takes gas from Marcellus and other sources to consumers in New England, has traditionally operated at near-full capacity during periods of peak winter demand. The next planned expansion on AGT is the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, which would enable the pipeline to flow north an additional 0.42 Bcf/d of gas received at its interconnect with Millennium Pipeline in Ramapo, New York. The target in-service date for the AIM Project is November 1, 2016.

The difference in construction activity for New York and New England markets is reflected in market prices for natural gas (see graph). Monthly forward prices for gas purchased at AGT continue to spike in winter months compared to the nationwide benchmark price for gas purchased at Henry Hub in Erath, Louisiana. By contrast, the forward price at the Transco Zone 6-New York (TZ6-NY) trading hub is similar to the Henry Hub forward price.

In addition to TETCO's New York-New Jersey Expansion project, a number of projects are expected to increase the takeaway capacity of Marcellus gas this winter to consumers in the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions, or were planned for this winter but have experienced delays.  (EIA-DOE)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Compton To Catalina Program - All Trips To Date


The Center for Environment, Commerce and Energy (Center) established a partnership with the Greater Union Baptist Church (GUBC) and the California Centere for Economic Initiatives (CCEI) to operate an environmental tour called the “Compton To Catalina Program,” which takes students and other young people from Compton, California to Catalina Island.  The Center also recruited Compton High School and Compton Community College (El Camino) as partners in the program.

The Center initiated its Compton-To-Catalina Program on Saturday, April 21, 2012, which is the day before Earth Day.  The program began with a press conference at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Compton, California.  Participants then travelled to Long Beach, California to board the Catalina Express to make the one hour trip to the island. Once on Santa Catalina Island, the participants boarded the Nautilus to observe underwater life around the island.  Finally, participants toured Southern California Edison's Pebbly Beach Generating Station, the island's primary electricity generation source.

The Compton To Catalina Program is being operated thanks to a grant from Southern California Edison.

The purpose of the program is to expose young people from Compton to the Pacific Ocean and an incredibly beautiful island. People take it for granted that the vast majority of these kids never get on the water and many people live their entire lives without directly experiencing the Pacific Ocean even though they live within five or ten miles of it. We believe that such early exposure to this environment could lead to a lifelong environmental stewardship ethic.

GUBC and CCEI recruited people to participate in the Compton To Catalina (CTC) Program.  The Center made arrangements for the tours and facilitate educational experiences for the students.  Each tour is be a daylong affair that includes transportation to Long Beach, where the tours originate.  Participants have escorts at all times and activities on the island are arranged to maximize the environmental experience.

We utilize the services of Catalina Express.  Passengers on board Catalina Express can expect to arrive in Catalina in about an hour from Long Beach.  There are numerous activities available on Catalina Island, including: hiking, biking, camping, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sightseeing, dining, shopping or relaxing, to name a few.  Our main activities are a Nautilus submarine ride to view submerged vegetation and fish species and a tour of the Southern California Edison Pebbly Generating Station.

The Center, GUBC and CCFEI are providing important environmental and technical services to the youth of Compton, California.  This partnership provides a rich environmental experience for participants.  We are engaging as many churches, schools and other institutions as possible and we are also appealing to the greater Los Angeles community to support the program.  

Call us today if you are interested in supporting this program: 443-569-5102  or email us at

Trip 6 December 5, 2014

AAEA conducted its 6th Compton To Catalina Island Trip on Friday, December 5, 2014. The trip included the following participants: Dimond Williams, 15, King Drew High School, Jasmin Bumpas, 15, King Drew , Jessica Cortez,10, Ritter Elementary School, and Jaela Bumpas, 17, King Drew High School.

The trip included a tour of the Southern California Edison Pebbly Beach electricity power plant and submersible underwater tour of Avalon Bay where they observed numerous fish species and submerged aquatic vegetation. An interesting footnote is the the sea kelp were totally wiped out by recent storms.

Jaela Bumpas aspires to be a marine biologist and she was particularly impressed by the experience.

Trip 5 October 18 2013

The Center conducted its 5th Compton To Catalina Program trip on Friday, October 18, 2013. The trip was completely successful and the students thoroughly enjoyed their experiences. The California Center for Economic Initiatives recruited the students and John Long conducted the tour of the Southern California Edison Pebbly Beach electricity generating plant.

The tour group left the Catalina Express Long Beach downtown landing at 10 a.m. ABC-7 TV covered the launch and it was broadcast on the evening news in Los Angeles. The tour group had a great burger/fry lunch at Eric's on the green pier and proceeded to the to the semi-submersible boat to view fish species and unique kelp. After the 45-minute submersible trip, we proceeded to the Pebbly Beach power plant for a tour. The group left the island on the 4 pm Catalina Express back to Long Beach.

Participants included:

1) Eduardo Torres, Firebaugh High School, 14,

2) Yamilex Martinez, Aloha Health Medical Academy, 12,

3) Carlos Martinez, Artesia High School, 14,

4) Akeem Arana, Stephens Middle School, 13,

5) Afeni Arana, Stephens Middle School, 13,

6) Melissa Tucker, Torrance High School, 16.

Ramon Martinez, the father of Yamilex and Carlos, accompanied us on the trip.

Norris McDonald and Bernard Peyton were also chaperones on the trip.

The Compton To Catalina Program is sponsored by Southern California Edison.

Trip 4

The Center conducted its 4th Compton To Catalina Program trip.  The trip was completely successful and the students thoroughly enjoyed their experiences.  The California Center for Economic Initiatives recruited the students and John Long conducted the tour of the Southern California Edison Pebbly Beach electricity generating plant. 

The tour group left the Catalina Express Long Beach downtown landing at 10 a.m.  ABC-7 TV covered the launch (but Oklahoma tornado coverage bumped us).  The tour group had a great burger/fry lunch on the green pier and proceed to the power plant tour.  We proceeded to the semi-submersible boat to view fish species and unique kelp.  After the tour, we boarded a golf cart to tour the mountains around the City of Avalon.  Two separate groups were taken up along winding roads to experience incredible views of the island.

Participants included:

1) Rebekah Ramirez, Torrance Elementary School, 11,

2) Mireya Palencia, California State Dominguez Hlls, 21,

3) Daniel Zepeda, El Camino Community College, 22,

4) Samantha Ramirez, J.H. Hull Middle School, 12,

5) Anthony Ramirez, Torrance High School, 15.

The Compton To Catalina Program is sponsored by Southern California Edison.


Trip 3 October 13, 2012

Third trip participants included:

1) Tia Bondley, 15, Centennial High School,

2) Kelsee Williams, 14, Bellflower High School,

3) Raejonette Morgan, 12, LaTiera,

4) Khalilah Muhammad, 13, New Designs Charter School-Watts,

5) Nekko Williams, 17, Home Schooled K-12.

Chaperones included Bernard Peyton and Norris McDonald.

The Compton To Catalina Program is being operated thanks to a grant from Southern California Edison.


Trip 2: October 6, 2012

Second trip participants included:

1) Carlee Shepherd, Bancroft Middle School,

2) Keiarah Mitchell, Gardena Valley Christian School,

3) Candyce Clifton, Gardena Valley Christian School,

4) Benjamin White, Mira Costa High School,

5) Darren Daniels-Stokes, King/Drew Magnet High School.

Chaperones included: Richard Hastings, Christ Center Church & Debra Hastings, Christ Center Church and Norris McDonald.

Participants board the Catalina Express in Long Beach, California to make the one hour trip to the island. Once on Santa Catalina Island, the participants toured Southern California Edison's electricity generating station at Pebbly Beach, the island's primary electricity generation source. Later they boarded a semi-submersible to observe underwater life around the island.


Trip 1: April 21, 2012

First trip participants included:

1) Sam Darling, Glendale College,

2) Moriah Earley, LaSerna High School, 11th Grade,

3) Lori Wright, King-Drew High School, 11th Grade,

4) Alexandra Kidd, La Serna High School, 11th Grade,

5) Spencer Potter, Lakewood High School.

Chaperones included Sammy Darling and Norris McDonald.



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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Compton To Catalina Program - Trip 5

The Center conducted its 5th Compton To Catalina Program trip on Friday, October 18, 2013. The trip was completely successful and the students thoroughly enjoyed their experiences. The California Center for Economic Initiatives recruited the students and John Long conducted the tour of the Southern California Edison Pebbly Beach electricity generating plant.

The tour group left the Catalina Express Long Beach downtown landing at 10 a.m. ABC-7 TV covered the launch and it was broadcast on the evening news in Los Angeles. The tour group had a great burger/fry lunch at Eric's on the green pier and proceeded to the to the semi-submersible boat to view fish species and unique kelp. After the 45-minute submersible trip, we proceeded to the Pebbly Beach power plant for a tour. The group left the island on the 4 pm Catalina Express back to Long Beach.

Participants included:

1) Eduardo Torres, Firebaugh High School, 14,

2) Yamilex Martinez, Aloha Health Medical Academy, 12,

3) Carlos Martinez, Artesia High School, 14,

4) Akeem Arana, Stephens Middle School, 13,

5) Afeni Arana, Stephens Middle School, 13,

6) Melissa Tucker, Torrance High School, 16.

Ramon Martinez, the father of Yamilex and Carlos, accompanied us on the trip.

Norris McDonald and Bernard Peyton were also chaperones on the trip.

The Compton To Catalina Program is sponsored by Southern California Edison.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Challenges To CO2 Regulations

The United States Supreme Court today denied industry and state petitions that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) historic finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. The high court also left standing EPA's emission standards for vehicles.

The Court granted review on the narrow question of "whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases."

Opponents of EPA's proposed rules on greenhouse gases have lined up to challenge the rules in court, arguing that they are far-reaching and intrusive. They say the court’s 2007 Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency ruling only directed the federal government to regulate tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act — and that it fell short of granting the EPA the authority to regulate “stationary” power plant emissions.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear some of those challenges:

The court accepted six separate petitions that sought to roll back EPA’s clout over carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. That could signal the court’s dissatisfaction with a 2012 ruling by the nation’s second most powerful court — the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit — affirming the agency’s authority.

The decision to accept cases brought by Texas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, energy producers and others represented a potential victory for groups that customarily enjoy considerable sway at the conservative-leaning court.  (Sierra Club, 10/15/2013, USA Today, 10/15/2013, Grist, 10/15/2013)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mississippi Kemper Plant Shows Costs of 'Clean Coal'

Mississippi Power Company's Kemper County plant here, meant to showcase technology for generating clean electricity from low-quality coal, ranks as one of the most-expensive U.S. fossil-fuel projects ever—at $4.7 billion and rising. Mississippi Power's 186,000 customers, who live in one of the poorest regions of the country, are reeling at double-digit rate increases. And even Mississippi Power's parent, Atlanta-based Southern Compnay has said Kemper shouldn't be used as a nationwide model.

The plant has not generated a single kilowatt for customers. The company this month said it would forfeit $133 million in federal tax credits because it won't finish the project by its May deadline.  Labor and material costs for the Kemper plant exceeded expectations.   The company in June 2010 won state approval to go ahead with the project and by that December had broken ground on a 3,000-acre tract.                 

Southern recently took $990 million in charges for cost overruns approaching $2 billion. The company's stock has been battered in the past year, and the company's market value has dropped $6.4 billion since April, to $35.8 billion. Mississippi Power's credit rating has dropped to three notches above junk.

Click on Image To Enlarge

The 582-megawatt Kemper plant is designed to convert a low grade of coal, lignite, into clean-burning syngas, which is similar to natural gas. As part of that process, the plant will strip out and capture 65% of the carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that would have been released into the atmosphere by burning coal. Turning coal to gas before burning it, or gasification, has proved necessary for capturing CO2 because efforts to cull it from plants that burn coal haven't been practical.

Keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere is a goal of the Obama administration's since greenhouse gases have been implicated in climate change. The government last month set limits on CO2 emissions from new power plants and cited Kemper as evidence that power plants could meet the new standards.

Through various subsidies, the federal government had committed nearly $700 million for the Mississippi Power plant, though part of that was the $133 million that the utility will forfeit because of delays.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission approved Kemper, fearing that the price of the natural gas that powers many plants in the state would increase. Mississippi Power told the commission in 2009 that natural gas could hit $20 per million British thermal units and would drop no lower than $7.38 between 2014 and 2054. Its forecast was made even after energy companies had discovered a way to pull gas from previously inaccessible shale-rock formations. The resulting glut means that natural-gas prices haven't topped $6 per million BTUs since January 2009. Today, they are around $3.75.

Kemper Plant Construction

Kemper's cost, previously projected at around $2.9 billion are now estimated to be $4.7 billion. The utility says it underestimated labor costs and the amount of steel pipe, concrete and other materials it would need for so big a plant.

Because the state Legislature allowed Southern to charge customers for the plant's costs before it began generating power, customer rates began to rise, jumping 15% this year. A 3% increase is scheduled for next year, though the company is seeking 7%.

Regulators and Southern agreed in January to cap costs that customers would cover at $2.88 billion, far below the $4.7 billion projected cost. But Southern recently won approval from the Legislature to sell up to $1 billion in bonds to help cover about half the difference; customers will repay the bonds through a surcharge on bills.

Some locals have another reason to remain enthusiastic: They don't have to pay for the plant. Many Kemper County residents get power from the federal Tennessee Valley Authority, which charges some of the lowest electricity rates in the country. (WSJ, 10/13/2013, photos/graphics courtesy WSJ)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Salvaging Wildfire Lumber?

The Rim Fire that charred a quarter-million acres of the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park over the summer.  The Rim Fire left an estimated one billion board feet of salvageable dead trees—enough to build 63,000 homes. The logging industry and its supporters are racing to get it, saying such work would provide jobs.

Sierra Pacific Industries Inc. has started felling trees on about 10,000 acres of its land that got caught up in the inferno. Now, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district covers the area, has introduced legislation in Congress that would waive environmental regulations so salvage logging can begin quickly on the national forest as well.

But Rep. Peter DeFazio, ranking Democrat on the committee, said Mr. McClintock's bill—which was heard in a committee hearing Oct. 3—"would be a license to clear-cut the entire burn area." Mr. DeFazio said he supports more limited salvage logging, while some environmental groups back almost none at all, saying it hurts forests by removing trees that provide nutrients for soil and habitat for wildlife.
Another limitation of the economic benefit, other industry officials say, is that there are only enough mills to process about half the available timber, or 500 million board feet of lumber.

Salvage logging has long been standard practice following fires in national forests, but it has drawn more scrutiny in recent years, U.S. Forest Service officials say. That is in part because legislation passed in 1995 directed federal land-management agencies to accelerate thinning out of dead trees—from burned and unburned areas—in the West, according to a 2002 report by the forest service's Pacific Northwest Research Station.  (WSJ, 10/11/2013)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hemp: Legalized for Industrial & Commercial Uses in California

California. Governor Jerry Brown officially signed SB 566, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act into law, making it legal for farmers to cultivate industrial hemp as a commercial crop without fear of fines or arrest.  The bill was sponsored by Senator Leno, D-San Francisco.

Hemp is completely different from the recreational drug that was recently legalized in Colorado and Washington. Though a close cousin of marijuana, hemp has none of the psychoactive qualities: ingest it any way you can, and you still won’t get “high.”
Hemp was lumped in with marijuana when the government decided to launch the long and unproductive war on drugs.

A few historical facts about hemp via Hemp History Week:
  • Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 1600′s.
  • The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.
  • George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp and actively advocated for commercial hemp production.
  • More than 150,000 acres of hemp were cultivated as a part of the USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program during WWII.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act will establish a framework for farming the oil seed and fiber varieties of the plant, which are used in a myriad of everyday consumer products, including food, body care, clothing, paper, auto parts, composites, building materials, and bio-fuels. Enforcement and oversight of hemp production would be conducted in concert with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and county agricultural commissioners, as is done with other crops.

Of course, cultivating hemp for commercial purposes is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. But with the government’s recent announcement that it wouldn’t challenge state medical or recreational marijuana legalization, hemp supporters are confident that they can proceed without interruption.  (Care2, 9/30/2013)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

U.S. Agrees to Nuclear Power Plant Fuel Deal With Vietnam

The Obama administration has agreed to sell Vietnam nuclear fuel and technology. 
Hanoi has agreed to initially purchase nuclear fuel for its reactors from international suppliers, rather than producing it domestically.  Vietnam is maintaining its right at a later date to develop domestic capabilities, either by enriching uranium or the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel.  For now though, Vietnam has agreed to high standards and made a political commitment to not enrich uranium.

The agreement gives the U.S. control over any material or technology it sells to Hanoi.

The administration views Vietnam and Iran differently. The administration has imposed tough sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program and Mr. Obama has criticized the country for what he says is its repeated flouting of international nonproliferation standards.  (WSJ, 10/9/2013)

7 States Sue EPA Over Wood Fired Boilers

Seven states filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency over health-damaging air pollution from outdoor wood-fired boilers that have become popular for residential heating.  The lawsuit asks a federal court to order the EPA to review and adopt updated emissions limits for the boilers, which have been banned in some states and are strictly regulated in others. The coalition includes New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the EPA’s emissions limits haven’t been updated in 25 years and cover wood stoves but not wood boilers. Schneiderman cited EPA data saying emissions from wood-burning devices account for 13 percent of all soot pollution in the nation.

Soot is linked to public health problems, including asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

An EPA spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency was reviewing the lawsuit.

New York state adopted regulations in April 2011 to require all new wood-fired boilers sold in the state to burn at least 90 percent cleaner than older models. A plan to extend the rules to existing boilers was shelved after a public outcry, particularly in rural areas of New York, where farms and homes that rely on the heaters would have to pay thousands of dollars to replace them.

An outdoor wood-fired boiler, which resembles an outhouse with a chimney, heats water that is piped to the home’s radiator system. The devices are exempt from EPA emissions regulations, but some states and municipalities have banned them because of pollution concerns. Others have used subsidies to get people to switch to cleaner boilers.

In court papers, the states said national standards are needed to level the playing field so less-polluting wood heaters become more widely available in all states.

The lawsuit seeks updated standards for indoor wood stoves as well as the inclusion of other categories of wood heaters, including indoor and outdoor wood boilers.  (Wash Post, 10/9/2013)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

President Obama to Nominate Janet Yellen as Fed Chief

Janet Yellen
President Obama will nominate Janet L. Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve today.  Yellen, 67, who has been the Fed’s vice chairwoman since 2010, would be the first woman to run the central bank.

A native of Brooklyn, she was previously president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a White House adviser, a Fed governor during the Clinton administration and a longtime professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her four-year appointment as chairwoman must be confirmed by the Senate.

Vice chair, Federal Reserve, 2010-present; president, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2004-2010; chair, White House Council of Economic Advisers, 1997-99; member, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, 1994-97; faculty member, University of California, Berkeley, 1980-94 (on leave); lecturer at London School of Economics and Political Science, 1978-80; economist, Federal Reserve, 1977-78; assistant professor at Harvard University, 1971-76.

EDUCATION — Bachelor's degree in economics from Brown University, 1967; doctorate in economics from Yale University, 1971.
FAMILY — Husband, George A. Akerlof, Nobel laureate in economics (2001) and Berkeley professor; a son, Robert Akerlof.  (ABC News, 10/9/2013, NYT, 10/8/2013, photo: NYT)

Monday, October 07, 2013

TVA Considers Building Two Small Modular Reactors

At Old Clinch River Breeder Reactor Site

The Tennessee Valley Authority is working with Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel Corporation to test a pilot small modular reactor (SMR) known as mPower.  Aided by up to $150 million of funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy, TVA and its nuclear contractor partners have agreed to be the first to test the mPower design and to submit plans for regulatory approval by next year to build a pair of the new reactors on the Clinch River in Oak Ridge.

TVA is planning to build two 180-megawatt small modular reactors on the Clinch River in Oak Ridge. Rendering by Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy

If approved by regulators and the TVA board, the new 180-megawatt reactors could be producing enough power for all the energy needs of Oak Ridge by 2022.
Developers hope the smaller and simpler design will allow for factory fabrication of most plant components. The simpler and passive cooling design also should allow for reactors to be located underground and to be built quicker and with less cost.

Small modular reactors also offer the prospect of adding nuclear generation in incremental stages with less one-time capital costs than the current generation of nuclear plants.  The new small modular nuclear reactors may be built in a factory and shipped to the Tennessee Valley in a truck or railcar.

In response to DOE's funding offer to support new small modular reactors, four applicants applied to build one of the new smaller reactors. So far, the consortium between TVA, B&W and Bechtel is the only one picked by DOE for the government assistance. TVA and B&W are scheduled to file an application for two of the mPower units by mid 2014, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide on the request the next year.

The proposed small modular reactor designed by Babcok and Wilcox would rely upon a passive cooling system with water supplies above the reactor so that in an accident water could flood the reactor core without having to rely upon so many pumps, valves and pipes. The smaller design also could allow major components to be made in the factory and shipped to the site by truck or rail, rather than having to build the much larger and complex plants at the site.

The mPower units could help TVA meet future power demand growth and make up for the planned closing of more aging coal-fired power plants.  The reactors for SMRs are buried in the ground and it's almost impossible to uncover the core in this design. So they have some inherent safety advantages.

TVA is focusing its nuclear attention right now on finishing the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar by 2014 -- nearly 40 years after work on the unit first began.

TVA is looking at building the reactors on the site of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor that former President Jimmy Carter scrapped in the 1970s.  (Times Free Press, 6/2/2013)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Natural Gas Combustion Turbines

1. Air Intake

When the unit is put into operation, air is pulled in from outside and compressed.

2. Combustion Chamber

This compressed air is ignited by burning fuel (low sulfur fuel oil or natural gas) and expands. The resulting combustion develops 300,000 horsepower. Combustion turbines operate differently from coal-fired or nuclear plants. Rather than using steam to drive a turbine, combustion turbines harness the nature of air to expand when it is heated.

3. Turbine
The expanding air pushes the turbine generators much like steam does in a steam-electric station. The turbines then turn the electric generators. In simplest terms, a turbine is a series of many long, thin blades similar to propeller blades. Two-thirds of the horsepower generated rotates the air-compressor turbine. The remaining energy spins the electric generator.

Gas turbines and combustion engines are also used to generate electricity. In these types of units, instead of heating steam to turn a turbine, hot gases from burning fossil fuels (particularly natural gas) are used to turn the turbine and generate electricity. Gas turbine and combustion engine plants are traditionally used primarily for peak-load demands, as it is possible to quickly and easily turn them on. These plants have increased in popularity due to advances in technology and the availability of natural gas. However, they are still traditionally slightly less efficient than large steam-driven power plants.

Combined Cycle Units

Many of the new natural gas fired power plants are known as 'combined-cycle' units. In these types of generating facilities, there is both a gas turbine and a steam unit, all in one. The gas turbine operates in much the same way as a normal gas turbine, using the hot gases released from burning natural gas to turn a turbine and generate electricity.

In combined-cycle plants, the waste heat from the gas-turbine process is directed toward generating steam, which is then used to generate electricity much like a steam unit. Because of this efficient use of the heat energy released from the natural gas, combined-cycle plants are much more efficient than steam units or gas turbines alone. In fact, combined-cycle plants can achieve thermal efficiencies of up to 50 to 60 percent.  (Duke Energy, Natural Gas . org)