Wednesday, February 26, 2014

U.S. DOT Orders Tests on Rail Shipments of Oil

Federal regulators ordered shippers to properly test and classify crude oil from the productive Bakken region before loading it onto freight trains, a move meant to tighten regulatory standards after a spate of derailments and explosions that highlighted the hazards of carrying crude oil on rails.
This is the fourth such emergency order by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in the last seven months related to the booming oil-by-rail trade.  The Transportation Department is under pressure to beef up the safety of these trains, a business that has soared in the last two years thanks to the growth of domestic oil production in North Dakota.
The order will help ensure that emergency responders are fully aware of the content of the tank cars in the event of a crash or derailment. Failure to comply is subject to civil fines of up to $175,000 a day as well as criminal pursuits that carry jail terms of up to 10 years.
Recent accidents have drawn attention to the risks of shipping large quantities of crude oil in unpressurized railcars. The danger was highlighted in July when a runaway train derailed in Quebec, killing 47 people.
On Friday, regulators announced that the major railroads had agreed to eight voluntary measures that would reduce the risk of rail shipments, including traveling at lower speeds and adding more braking mechanisms on freight trains.
The latest order directed shippers to label crude oil as Packing Group I or II hazardous material. These terms designate the strongest safety groups used by shippers and require the use of “more robust tank cars,” according to the department.
The order effectively limits the shipping of oil to the most commonly used type of tank cars, known as DOT-111s. Even those cars, however, are known to break up too easily in a crash. Regulators are also working on new, tougher tank car standards.  (NYT, 2/26/2014)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Supreme Court Hears Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA


After this Court decided Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that its promulgation of motor vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1), compelled regulation of carbon dioxide and other GHGs under the CAA's Title I prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and Title V stationary-source permitting programs.

Even though EPA determined that including GHGs in these programs would vastly expand the programs contrary to Congress's intent, EPA adopted rules adding GHGs to the pollutants covered. The panel below held the CAA and Massachusetts compelled inclusion of GHGs and, based on that holding, dismissed all petitions to review the GHG permitting program rules on standing grounds. The questions presented are:

1. Whether Massachusetts compelled EPA to in-clude GHGs in the PSD and Title V programs when inclusion of GHGs would (i) transform the size and scope of these programs into something that EPA found would be "unrecognizable to ... Congress," Petition Appendix 345a, 380a, and (ii) expand the PSD program to cover a substance that does not deteriorate the quality of the air that people breathe.

2. Whether dismissal of the petitions to review EPA's GHG permit-program rules was inconsistent with this Court's standing jurisprudence where the panel premised its holding that standing was absent on its merits holding that GHGs are regulated "pursuant to automatic operation of the CAA." Id. at 96a. (ABA, Wash Post, 2/23/2014, Wash Post, 2/24/2014)

Friday, February 21, 2014

BNSF To Buy 5,000 New Crude Oil Tank Cars

BNSF Railway plans to buy as many as 5,000 new tank cars to transport crude oil.  Railroads typically own engines and track but not the tank cars that run on their networks, 99% of which are owned by leasing companies, shippers and railcar manufacturers.
BNSF, a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has requested bids from major railcar manufacturers for 5,000 "next generation" tank cars that are more accident-resistant in order to help improve industry safety.

The rail industry has experienced several accidents recently involving tank cars containing crude oil—including a fiery derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people in July and a December derailment of two BNSF trains in North Dakota that triggered explosions and prompted the evacuation of a nearby town.

Oil shipments by rail have ballooned with the development of new oil fields in North America: Major freight railroaders were projected to ship 400,000 carloads of crude oil last year, compared with 4,700 carloads in 2006, according to the American Association of Railroads, which represents freight railroads.

Federal regulators are pressing the industry to improve safety practices, and railroads and energy companies, after meeting with officials last month, pledged steps to enhance tank cars, better avoid derailments and reroute trains around high-risk areas. Petroleum industry representatives agreed to share information on the composition of the oil coming from the Bakken oil fields in the Northern Plains and southern Canada, which the U.S. government has warned may be more flammable than other crude oils.

The main type of tank car used on U.S. railways is known as DOT-111, used to carry goods ranging from fertilizer to corn syrup. There are about 272,100 of these DOT-111 cars in service in North America, according to the Railway Supply Institute, a trade association. About 39,000 DOT-111 cars are used for crude oil, but less than one-third of those are new or retrofitted to meet voluntary safety guidelines agreed to by the industry in 2011 to make them better withstand accidents.

Next-generation cars like those BNSF is seeking are expected to exceed the voluntary 2011 standards, with measures including thicker shields, a thermal protection system and a device to relieve pressure. BNSF didn't give an estimate for the likely cost of the cars, and the industry doesn't typically disclose prices. Current-generation tank cars typically cost between about $120,000 and $175,000, according to industry experts, and the new cars BNSF is seeking would likely cost more, meaning a possible outlay of nearly $1 billion for the Fort Worth, Texas, company. (WSJ, 2/20/2014)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DOE Approves $6.5 billion in Loan Guarantees To Vogtle Nuclear Plant

Vogtle Construction Site
The Energy Department plans to grant final approval this week of $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for two nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia by a consortium led by Southern Company.

The money is part of an $8.3 billion package of loan guarantees that the federal government conditionally approved in 2010.

The reactors will be part of the Vogtle electricity generating facility outside of Waynesboro, Ga., where two nuclear reactors already operate. 
The overall cost for the new reactors at the Vogtle site is estimated at $14 billion.

The loan guarantees show that the White House is committed to the "all of the above" energy policy that President Barack Obama touted in his State of the Union speech last month.  The strategy, which includes natural gas, oil, coal, solar and renewable fuels.  (WSJ, 2/18/2014)

Supreme Court To Hear EPA Climate Change Case

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on Feb. 24 on the EPA's 2010 greenhouse-gas rules that imposed pollution-control requirements on facilities such as refineries, steel mills, chemical and cement plants that are expanded or modernized. It is one of two major Clean Air Act cases on the court's docket. The justices separately are considering EPA rules that limit power-plant emissions crossing state lines. Decisions in both cases are expected by July.

Businesses say a win for the EPA could pave the way for the agency to dictate the design and operation of a wide range of industrial facilities, imposing billions of dollars in new costs. A loss could threaten the EPA's immediate ability to require greenhouse-gas controls and complicate its broader carbon-emissions agenda.

The EPA is also attempting to limit carbon emissions more broadly through new regulations—an approach that has been criticized by business groups and Republican lawmakers as regulatory overreach. The agency has proposed rules to limit emissions from new power plants and also plans to propose limits for existing power plants, which now account for about a third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

The EPA concluded in 2009 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health, a finding that provided the foundation for the agency's 2010 regulations, including automobile-emissions standards that are now in effect. Opponents challenged the EPA's core findings and its auto rules, but lost handily in a Washington, D.C., appeals court. The Supreme Court announced last October it wouldn't review those issues.

A trade group of manufacturers said in a court brief that the best-available-technology requirement gives regulators the ability to "impose almost unlimited costs" and intrude into every aspect of a plant's operations, all the way down to "light bulbs in the factory cafeteria."

There is no legal basis for excluding greenhouse gases from the permitting program, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, where it ruled 5-4 that the EPA had the power—and was obligated—to regulate greenhouse gases if it found the emissions to be harmful. (WSJ, 2/18/2014)

Senator Ed Markey Joins Senate Environment & Public Works Committee


Monday, February 17, 2014

Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists Refuse To Recognize Center's Role in Supporting Nuclear Power


By Norris McDonald

The Center was the first environmental group to support nuclear power in the United States.  I was the first environmentalist in the United States to support nuclear power.  This support started in 2000 and continues to this day.  But you would never know that if you listened to environmentalists who followed in my footsteps.  Other environmentalists started coming out in support of nuclear power around 2005.  By then, I had carved a significant path of supporting nuclear power, from testifying at NRC hearings and meetings to touring nuclear power plants all over the United States.

I isolated Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York right away as the central domino of the anti-nuclear movement.  If this plant could be closed, the other dominoes would fall too.  I spoke all over New York, from the New York City Council to churches to county and civic meetings to the New York State legislature to the National Governor's Association to national and international forums.  The Center, through its outreach arm, African American Environmentalist Association  (AAEA), currently has full party status in the water permit adjudication and I intend to assure that Indian Point Energy Center gets its water permit(s) and license renewal(s).  I also testified at the water permit hearing for the James Fitzpatrick nuclear plant in upstate New York.  They received their water permit(s) and license renewal. 

I toured the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor facility 40 miles northwest of Beijing in China in 2007.  And I toured the Daya Bay nuclear facility in Guangdong, China.  I toured France's newest nuclear plant in Civaux, France and toured France's LaHague reprocessing facility near Normandy in 2007.  I toured Yucca Mountain in 2005.  I have toured 12 nuclear power plants throughout the United States, China and France.  All of this before most environmentalists ever publicly supported nuclear power. But do they recognize the Center's groundbreaking work?  No.  In fact, they go out of their way to avoid recognizing the Center's work.

Why?  And I have to be brutal here. It is part of the environmental movement's ethic of elitism and racism.  They exclude blacks in hiring and in their distribution of resources.  Plus, they thought (think) that support might lead to notoriety and financial benefits if nuclear power is adopted as a significant global warming mitigation tool. 

The Center has led the documentation of this elitism and racism.  The old school environmentalists relish this elistist status and give lip service to diversity.  They are privately very proud of their elitism.  And very good at denying their racism.  They like to hear minorities whine about their exclusivity (as I am doing right now).  Even new school environmentalists and a recent film are intent upon keeping the Center and me invisible on the nuclear scene.  I suspect they want us to stay in the Negro sections of weatherization, green jobs and renewable energy.

Ahhh.  That felt good.  I have been meaning to get that off my chest for some time.  Oh, and nuclear power is an environmental justice issue.  The emission free nature of nuclear power mitigates air pollution issues in environmental justice communities.  {Videos} [More Videos]

Oh?  So it's not just me:

Center Supports Trans-Pacific Partnership 'Fast Track' Authority

The Center believes "fast track" authority for the Executive Branch would bring economic and strategic value to the United States by streamlining trade negotiations among 12 Pacific countries. "Fast track" authority would require Congress to approve trade deals on an up-or-down vote without amending them.  The authority would apply most immediately to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending trade pact that would include the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.

The White House is pushin for the Pacific trade pact. President Barack Obama has said the trade agreements are a way to boost economic growth, lure high-paying jobs and boost exports. The Pacific pact is also seen as a way to put pressure on China to adopt fairer trade and investment rules or face isolation in the region. The Center agrees.  American jobs aren't going to be created by hiding from competition or making it more complext to export American goods and services to Pacific partners.  In terms of any threat to internet freedom of expression, Congress would still vote on any trade agreement.  We are confident that Congress will protect the integrity of the internet.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) oppose the fast-track bill. Unions and environmental groups have criticized the TPP talks, saying an agreement could pave the way for some U.S. job losses to Vietnam and other low-wage economies in the talks. Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the administration for a lack of transparency in the TPP talks. Mr. Wyden supports fast-track authority in some form and says trade agreements are a way to capitalize on America's strengths, including in new data-intensive technologies. (WSJ, 2/14/2014)

Mary Landrieu: New Chair of Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Senator Mary Landrieu
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is very different from her predecessor, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has moved to chair the Senate Finance Committee.

Landrieu favors building the Keystone XL piepeline, protecting tax breaks or incentives for oil drilling, and placing limits on the power of federal agencies to set mercury or carbon dioxide guidelines for coal-fired power plants. Wyden takes the opposite position on all those issues.

Landrieu supports giving oil companies the right to export crude oil as well as natural gas, while Wyden supports giving natural gas export permits on a case by case basis and does not have a public position on crude oil exports.

Landrieu could try to obstruct some Obama administration initiatives, especially on coal plants. She could work with committee Republicans to fashion legislation closer to the oil and gas industry interests.

Landrieu also wants to increase the portion of federal royalties that goes to states along the Gulf of Mexico coast.  All states get oil and gas royalties in water up to three miles from shore, but the federal government owns the waters beyond that point. She already led the successful fight in 2006 to get 37.5 percent of federal royalties on certain leases off the gulf states directed to those state governments and coastal restoration programs.  But in a compromise, the legislation imposed an annual $500 million cap on payments to the Gulf Coast producing states.

Landrieu has now introduced a bill that would lift the cap and shift revenue from the Treasury Department to the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. Her bill would also let inland states keep 50 percent of the royalty and rental payments on renewable energy produced on federal lands.

Here are some key differences between Landrieu and Wyden:

In 2012, Landrieu voted against a Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) bill to eliminate $2.4 billion in tax breaks for the big five oil companies; Wyden voted for it.

In 2010, Landrieu voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to set limits on the emissions of carbon dioxide, a common greenhouse gas. Wyden voted to maintain EPA’s authority.

In 2012, Landrieu voted to block new mercury and toxic emissions limits for power plants; Wyden supported the measures.

The League of Conservation Voters has given Wyden a 90 percent lifetime record and Landrieu 51 percent.
(Wash Post, 2/12/2014)

'Lady Bird' Digging Machine Solving DC Wastewater Problem

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Obama Proposes $1 Billion Climate Resilience Fund

President Obama announced a new climate change "resiliency fund" in a speech in drought-struck California. The fund, which would need to be approved by Congress, is intended to help communities dealing with negative weather like drought, wildfires, and floods that are the result of climate change.
Obama picked the trip to California to announce the fund proposal, which is to be included in his budget. California is experiencing a drought that is threatening its agriculture producers and has led Gov. Jerry Brown to call on people to conserve water.
Obama directly linked the drought to climate change in his commentts at a farm near Fresno: 
"One thing that is undeniable is that changing temperatures influence drought. We have to be clear a changing climate means that weather related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods are potentially going to be costlier and harsher. Water politics in California has always been complicated but scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense. 
The three ways climate change exacerbates droughts is that more rain falls in extreme downpours, causing water to be lost to runoff; more precipitation in the mountains comes as rain instead of snow, drying up rivers earlier in the year; and soil and reservoirs loose more water to evaporation.

What does all this mean? Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change this trend is going to get worse..  We are going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for and we have got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate, to start building infrastructure."

The administration's fund would invest in research to gather data on the impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for them and support innovative technologies and infrastructure to ready the country "in the face of a changing climate."
The new fund — separate from Obama's climate agenda announced in June — will be detailed in the president's 2015 budget, set for release next month.
While Obama has said he will use his executive authority to push his climate agenda and other policies during what he dubbed his "year of action," the president would need approval from Congress for the fund.

Obama was joined by Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, Brown (D) and California Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D) and California Rep. Jim Costa (D) during his visit on Friday.  (The Hill, 2/14/2014)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hong Kong To Get 80% of Daya Bay Nuclear Plants Electricity


By Norris McDonald

Hong Kong-based power utility China Light and Power (CLP), which already takes 70% of the output from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in mainland China, has agreed to take another 10%.

I and the Center team met with CLP in the Spring of 2007.  We went on to visit the Daya Bay nuclear facility too.

Simeon Cheng, Norris McDonald, Dr. Gail Kendall, Zhang Xiaoping & Derry Bigby

The company has been exploring ways to ease projected tariff increases on fossil fuels. One of the measures discussed has been the supply of an additional amount of electricity from the Daya Bay plant, which already meets about one-quarter of Hong Kong's electricity demand.  Tariffs on fossil fuels are expected to significantly rise by 2018, increasing the costs of coal and gas.

CLP has now reached an agreement to increase the proportion of electricity supplied by Daya Bay to Hong Kong from 70% to 80% of the plant's output over the next five years.

Derry Bigby, Zhang Xiaopin & Norris McDonald

Daya Bay lies 50 kilometres to the northeast of Hong Kong in mainland China's Guangdong province and was the first commercial nuclear power plant to open in China. Its two 944 MWe French-designed pressurized water reactors have been in service since 1994. It is 75% owned by China General Nuclear (CGN), while CLP holds the remaining 25% through its Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Co Ltd subsidiary. In September 2009, CLP's arrangement to take 70% of Daya Bay's output was extended to 2034.  The plant is managed and operated by the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Operations and Management Co (DNMC), which also manages and operates the four reactors at the adjacent Ling Ao plant.  (World Nuclear News, 2/13/2014)

Huge Solar Tower Power Plant Killing Birds

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, a giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert may be among the last such project, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds.  The owners of the project, NRG Energy, Inc and BrightSource Energy, Inc, the company that developed the tower power solar technology believe the bird death problem can be solved.

BrightSource wants to build a second tower-based solar farm in California's Riverside County, east of Palm Springs. But the state Energy Commission in December proposed that the company instead use more conventional technologies, such as solar panels or mirrored troughs.  One reason: the BrightSource system appears to be scorching birds that fly through the intense heat surrounding the towers, which can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company, which is based in Oakland, Calif., reported finding dozens of dead birds at the Ivanpah plant over the past several months, while workers were testing the plant before it started operating in December. Some of the dead birds appeared to have singed or burned feathers, according to federal biologists and documents filed with the state Energy Commission.

Regulators said they anticipated that some birds would be killed once the Ivanpah plant started operating, but that they didn't expect so many to die during the plant's construction and testing. The dead birds included a peregrine falcon, a grebe, two hawks, four nighthawks and a variety of warblers and sparrows. State and federal regulators are overseeing a two-year study of the facility's effects on birds.

BrightSource thinks it will be able to resolve the problem of bird deaths and build more big plants in California and elsewhere.

In response to BrightSource's blueprint for its second big solar farm in Riverside County, near Joshua Tree National Park, biologists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state regulators that they were concerned that heat produced by the project could kill golden eagles and other protected species.

The agency also is investigating the deaths of birds, possibly from colliding with structures, found at two other, unrelated solar farms. One of those projects relies on solar panels and the other one uses mirrored troughs. Biologists think some birds may have mistaken the vast shimmering solar arrays at all three installations for a lake.  (WSJ, 2/12/2014)

California Ivanpah Solar Tower Power Electricity Plant

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, a giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert, is the first of its kind.  U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak today [comments] at an opening ceremony for the project that received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.  The $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

The owners of the project— NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy Inc., the company that developed the "tower power" solar technology—call the plant a major feat of engineering that can light up about 140,000 homes a year.

Temperatures around the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System's towers can hit 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ivanpah is among the biggest in a spate of power-plant-sized solar projects that have begun operating in the past two years, spurred in part by a hefty investment tax credit that expires at the end of 2016. Most of them are in California, where state law requires utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the electricity they sell by 2020.
Utilities owned by PG&E Corp. and Edison International have agreed to buy electricity generated from the Ivanpah plant under 25-year contracts, according to NRG.
New utility-scale projects began operating at a record rate in the fourth quarter of 2013, adding 1,141 megawatts of capacity, according to research firm SNL Energy. But only a handful of new projects were announced, totaling 13 megawatts. Mirrors reflect sunlight on to boilers atop the Ivanpah facility's towers to create steam for generating power.                    
Facts about the Ivanpah project
  • $2.2 BILLION Cost of power plant's construction
  • 3,500 Acres covered by the plant, about five square miles
  • 459 FEET Height of each of three towers, which are topped by boilers
  • 347,000 Number of garage door-size mirrors that are used to reflect sunlight
  • 140,000 Homes per year for which the plant is expected to generate electricity
The company put plans for a third California solar farm on indefinite hold last year, and it abandoned a proposed fourth project for which it had sought state approval in 2011.
The Ivanpah plant draws water for the boilers atop its towers, and for washing its many thousands of mirrors, from underground wells at the site. The water will be recycled; an on-site treatment plant will filter out wastewater sludge, which a waste hauler will remove and dispose of, according to the company. (WSJ, 2/12/2014)

Coal Slurry Spill Pollutes West Virginia Creek

A 100,000 gallon coal slurry spill blackened six miles of a creek in West Virginia's eastern Kanawha County's Fields Creek, a tributary of the Kanawha River. According to officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection, inspectors are testing the water to determine exactly how much leaked into the creek.

The spill at Patriot Coal was caused when a valve inside a slurry line malfunctioned, according to the state environmental protection officials.  Containment efforts by Patriot Coal began immediately, and cleanup activities are underway.
A State EPA spokesman said the water in the county was safe to drink, though West Virginia American Water has a "do not use" alert in place for pregnant women in the Kanawha Valley after an unrelated January 9 spill.
More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry blackened a creek in West Virginia
Word of the slurry spill comes as West Virginia is trying to recover from the January spill that leaked 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, known as MCHM, into the water.
The chemical, used to wash coal before it goes to market in order to reduce ash, leaked into the Elk River and from there into Charleston's water supply on January 9. The result was a do-not-use order that left about 300,000 people in the area unable to drink or bathe in their water, some for more than a week.  MCHM is so strong that it can be picked up even if there is no detectable amount in the water.  (CNN, 2/12/2014)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ron Kirk New Co-Chair of CASEnergy Coalition

AAEA is delighted about this appointment.

Ron Kirk
Ambassador Ron Kirk, former U.S. Trade Representative and mayor of Dallas, has been named co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition. Kirk joins former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who has served as the coalition’s co-chair since its 2006 launch.
In his role as the CASEnergy Coalition Co-Chair, Kirk will provide perspectives on how electricity choices impact local communities, and how investments in advanced energy technologies today will better prepare America to compete in the global marketplace.

Kirk is currently Senior of Counsel for Dallas-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher with a focus on strategic advice pertaining to global interests.

His leadership as U.S. Trade Representative under President Obama will help provide policy leaders and other audiences a broader understanding of the role nuclear energy plays in creating and sustaining American jobs. The global market for nuclear energy trade is estimated at $500 billion to $750 billion over the next decade.

Kirk served as the mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2001. He was the city’s first African American mayor, and he led the city to garner more than $3.5 billion in new investment and created 45,000 new jobs. (CASEnergy Coalition)

About Clean and Safe Energy Coalition

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition is a national grassroots coalition that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy as part of a clean energy portfolio. The coalition is comprised of more than 3,400 members across the business, environmental, academic, consumer, minority, and labor communities. To learn more about the coalition, please visit, follow us on Twitter @CASEnergy, and checkout theirr blog, Clean Energy Buzz.

For more information please contact:

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition
(202) 338-2273

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New EPA Guidance on Using Diesel Fuel in Fracking

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

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released revised underground injection control (UIC) program permitting guidance for wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing activities. EPA developed the 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 EPA has developed the memorandum and technical guidance to achieve the following objectives:
  • To explain that any owner or operator who injects diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing for oil or gas extraction must obtain a UIC Class II permit before injection;
  • To explain the agency’s interpretation of the SDWA statutory term “diesel fuels” for permitting purposes; and,
  • To describe existing UIC Class II program requirements for permitting underground injection of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing and to provide recommendations for the EPA’s permit writers to consider in implementing these requirements to ensure protection of underground sources of drinking water (USDWs).

EPA is issuing the guidance alongside an interpretive memorandum, which clarifies that class II UIC requirements apply to hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels, and defines the statutory term diesel fuel by reference to five chemical abstract services registry numbers. The guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, existing class II requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, and technical recommendations for permitting those wells consistently with these requirements. 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 guidance as a basis for decision.

Although developed specifically for hydraulic fracturing where diesel fuels are used, many of the guidance’s recommended practices are consistent with best practices for hydraulic fracturing in general, including those found in state regulations and model guidelines for hydraulic fracturing developed by industry and stakeholders. Thus, states and tribes responsible for issuing permits and/or updating regulations for hydraulic fracturing may find the recommendations useful in improving the protection of underground sources of drinking water and public health more broadly.

Responsible development of America’s unconventional oil and natural gas resources offers important economic, energy security, and environmental benefits. The EPA is working with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that extraction of these resources does not come at the expense of public health and the environment. In particular, the EPA is moving forward on several initiatives, such as the diesel guidance, to provide regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance public health and environmental safeguards.

EPA released a draft of the guidance in May 2012 and held a 105 day public comment period to gain input on the guidance from a wide range of stakeholders. (EPA)

To read the guidance, visit:

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Shareholder Suits Challenge U.S.'s Profit-Taking Structure

How is the shareholder action described below affected by the fact that The Fed is sending at least $40 billion per month to Fannie and Freddie in the form of mortgage backed securities purchases?
The Treasury Department has faced a host of shareholder lawsuits over changes it made in 2012 to the terms of the bailout agreements with the mortgage-finance giants in 2008, when the government seized the firms as they neared collapse. The plaintiffs say that the Treasury wasn't authorized to make the changes—which required Fannie and Freddie to send all of their profits to the Treasury—and that the move amounted to unlawful seizure of private property.  About 20 lawsuits have been filed will take "a long time" to play out.

Litigants believe the Treasury "has effectively nationalized the companies and ensured that they will never return to private ownership" using steps that are "plainly unlawful. The government has argued that the plaintiffs don't have standing to challenge its decisions because the rescue legislation barred shareholder claims and that the cases don't have merit. According to the government, "Treasury committed and provided hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue the entities. Having gained that benefit, the shareholders cannot credibly claim that the [Constitution] demands that Treasury compensate them further for their investment."
Tens of billions of dollars are potentially at stake because Fannie and Freddie sent more than $130 billion to the U.S. Treasury last year, nearly seven times what would have been owed before the terms were changed. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits argue that those proceeds belong to the companies, not the U.S.
Investors, meanwhile, are betting on the side of the plaintiffs. Some classes of Fannie's and Freddie's preferred stock, a form of senior equity, have doubled over the past six months. While shares are still trading at deep discounts from where they stood before the companies were bailed out, many hedge funds and other speculators began amassing the shares when they traded at even deeper discounts over the past five years.
Some observers argue that the government's actions are at odds with the goals of conservatorship, the legal process by which the U.S. seized Fannie and Freddie. Unlike receivership, a form of liquidation that carries court oversight, conservatorship charged the U.S. with preserving the firms' assets so that they can one day be returned to private ownership.
But the bailout changes in 2012 made it impossible for Fannie and Freddie to rebuild capital, which according to some shareholders, means the U.S. effectively began liquidating the companies even though it never put the firms into receivership.
In the initial bailout agreement in 2008, the U.S. agreed to inject nearly unlimited sums of aid—ultimately around $188 billion—and received in exchange a new class of "senior preferred" shares that initially paid a 10% dividend. It also received warrants to acquire nearly 80% of the firms' common stock.
Because the common and preferred stock wasn't ever wiped out, investors continued to trade them. Some concluded—accurately, it turned out—that Fannie and Freddie had reserved more money for loan losses than they would need, and that they would one day return to profitability.
The Treasury revamped the bailout terms in August 2012. It eliminated the 10% dividend, requiring no payments during periods where the companies reported losses and collecting all of their profits as dividends in profitable quarters. In court filings, the Treasury has said the revamp was needed because of concerns that Fannie might eventually exhaust the aid pledged by the government simply to fund the 10% dividend.
If shareholders successfully argue the dividend changes weren't lawful, it isn't clear whether they will receive damages. One possibility would be that the government reduces the amount that Fannie and Freddie owe, a step that could make it easier for shareholders to eventually be paid when the firms are liquidated or restructured through legislation.
The Obama administration and Congress haven't shown much support for privatization proposals advanced by some investors. If investors are going to get any money out of this, it's going to come out of the courts, and it's going to take years. (WSJ, 2/10/2014)

Friday, February 07, 2014

U.S. Oil Production, Exports and Imports

The United States consumed a total of 18.83 million barrels per day in 2011 and 19.18 million barrels per day of refined petroleum products and biofuels in 2010. For both years, this was about 22% of total world petroleum consumption.

The U.S. imported approximately 10.6 million barrels per day of petroleum in 2012 from about 80 countries. We exported 3.2 MMbd of crude oil and petroleum products, resulting in net imports (imports minus exports) equaling 7.4 MMbd. Net imports accounted for 40% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1991.

Forecast production increases from an estimated 7.5 million bbl/d in 2013 to 8.5 million bbl/d in 2014 and 9.3 million bbl/d in 2015. The highest historical annual average U.S. production level was 9.6 million bbl/d in 1970.

"Petroleum" includes crude oil and refined petroleum products like gasoline, and biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. In 2012, about 80% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 57% of all crude oil that was processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2012 were Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia. Their respective rankings vary based on gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports). Net imports from OPEC countries accounted for 55% of U.S. net imports.

2012: Top sources of imported petroleum to the United States million barrels per day and percent share of gross and net imports
Import sources Gross imports Exports to import source Net imports

Total, all countries
10.596 3.184 7.412
OPEC countries 4.256 (40%) 177 4.078 (55%)
Persian Gulf countries 2.151 (20%) 0.088 2.144 (29%)

Top five countries2

2.955 (28%) 0.403 2.551 (34%)
Saudi Arabia 1.359 (13%) 0.001 1.358 (18%)
Mexico 1.031 (10%) 0.526 0.469 (6%)
Venezuela 0.952 (9%) 0.085 0.867 (12%)
Russia 0.477 (5%) 0 0.477 (10%)

U.S. Economy Added 113,000 Jobs in January

Unemployment Rate at 6.6 Percent

The U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs in January, according to a Labor Department report released Friday morning. This is far less than the average monthly gain of 194,000 last year. This follows December’s tepid increase of just 75,000. Job gains have averaged only 154,000 the past three months, down from 201,000 in the preceding three months.

U.S. growth came in at a sturdy 3.7 percent annual pace in the second half of last year.

The nation's unemployment rate ticked down to 6.6 percent.

Analysts expected the report to show that the country had added 180,000 jobs last month, and that the unemployment rate remained at 6.6 percent. (Wash Post, 2/7/2014)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

EPA to Hold Public Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 6, 2014 on the proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants. The proposed standards, which only apply to power plants built in the future, are 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 are no uniform national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.


Public hearing on proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants


Thursday, February 6, 2014
9:00 a.m. ET - 8:00 p.m. ET


William Jefferson Clinton East Building
Rooms 1152 and 1153
1201 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

**Members of the news media should be prepared to present photo credentials and allow additional time to enter the building and go through security.**

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 March 10, 2014.  (EPA)

More information on the hearings and instructions for submitting written comments.

Climate Hubs Announced By Obama Administration to Help Farmers

Tom Vilsack
The Obama administration has announced the establishment of regional hubs focused on mitigating climate change.  The hubs are the first-ever regional centers that will focus solely on risk adaptation and climate change solutions at seven locations across the country.

Dubbed "climate hubs," the new centers will address issues like increasing risks of fires, invasive pests, devastating floods and crippling droughts. The centers will aim to translate science and research into usable information for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to adjust their resource management.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack formally announced the new initiative during the daily White House press briefing. Vilsack mentioned his intention to first create the hubs last summer.

The seven designated locations for the hubs will service the surrounding region with climate change information and outreach.

The new climate hubs will be established in Iowa North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon New Mexico.

There will also be three sub-hubs in Michigan, Puerto Rico and California. (The Hill, 2/5/2014)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Lower Emissions Cap for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Takes Effect in 2014

Graph of RGGI CO2 emissions cap vs actual emissions, as explained in the article text
Source: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Note: States participating in the current program include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. New Jersey withdrew from the RGGI program in 2012. As a result, the program cap and associated emissions declined starting in 2012.

Last year, the nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide (CO2) decided to lower the program's emissions cap by 45% starting in 2014. RGGI is intended to limit CO2 emissions from electric power plants in the Northeast.

When it took effect in 2009, RGGI became the first mandatory CO2 cap-and-trade program in the United States. The cap was tightened primarily because actual CO2 emissions in the region since 2009 have been roughly 35% below the cumulative cap. This lower level of emissions is primarily attributed to low natural gas prices, which have shifted a large share of electricity generation in the region toward natural gas, and to lower overall electricity demand.

RGGI covers fossil-fueled electric power plants greater than 25 megawatts (MW) located in any of the nine participating states. CO2 emissions in the RGGI region accounted for 4% of the total emissions from the electric power sector in the United States in 2012. RGGI is one of the two legally mandated CO2 reduction programs in the United States, the other being a California cap-and-trade statute.

In 2005, which is when CO2 emissions in the RGGI states reached a peak, coal accounted for 23% of the regional generation mix and petroleum accounted for 12%. By 2012, coal's share had declined to 9%, while the natural gas share had risen from 25% share in 2005 to 44%. Petroleum's generation share in the region fell below 1% by 2012.

graph of electricity generation by fuel in nine participating RGGI states, as explained in the article text
Source: EIA 923 from Ventyx Energy Velocity
Note: States participating in the current program include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. This figure does not include New Jersey, which withdrew from the program in 2012.

At the same time the shift in fuels for electricity generation began lowering the carbon intensity of electricity in the region, demand for electricity in the Northeast became stagnant or started declining. Average annual retail electricity sales in the nine participating states from 2009 through 2012 were 6% below the annual sales in 2005.

Despite the reduction in the cap beginning in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the updated program caps will result in significant emissions reductions compared to the outcomes that might occur absent the new caps. CO2 emissions in 2012 in the participating states were still only 92 million short tons, close to the 2014 target cap of 91 million short tons. However, the cap is designed to tighten annually through 2020. CO2 emissions from coal-fired generation were up both in the RGGI region and nationally in the first half of 2013, compared with 2012 levels, which indicates that the new RGGI cap could become more binding in the future.

Because of a surplus of allowances obtained via auction during the initial years of RGGI, the value of these allowances remained close to the program's price floor of $1.93/ton of CO2 allowed in each quarterly auction. The value of allowances increased slightly to $3.00/ton of CO2 in the latest auction, with market participants possibly anticipating a rise in the future value of allowances. RGGI states use allowance revenues for a variety of programs that support cleaner generation and/or energy efficiency programs that reduce demand. Unless the supported programs using RGGI auction revenues would be funded at the same level using other funding sources in the absence of RGGI, these programs provide a tangible incremental reduction in emissions.

The RGGI program allows unused allowances from the early years of the program to be saved and applied after 2014, a strategy often referred to as banking allowances. Additional flexibility exists in the program through the recently created Cost Containment Reserve, which effectively created a price ceiling for allowances. When the price hits a given level, program participants can purchase allowances at a predefined fixed price. This is intended to prevent allowance prices from rising above defined levels. The price trigger starts at $4/ton of CO2 in 2014 and rises to $10/ton of CO2 in 2017.

The program also allows for the limited use of CO2 offsets, which are reductions in emissions from activities not subject to the RGGI cap, as a compliance option. RGGI program participants may cover 3.3% of their emissions using offsets. Although the RGGI caps have been lowered, it remains uncertain how much the new caps will affect generation choices and related emissions. (DOE-EIA)

EPA's 2012 Toxics Release Inventory

Total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-2012, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report released today. The decrease includes an eight percent decline in total toxic air releases, primarily due to reductions in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions.
The 2012 data show that 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were either disposed or otherwise released into the environment through air, water, and land. There was also a decline in releases of HAPs such as hydrochloric acid and mercury, which continues a long-term trend. Between 2011 and 2012, toxic releases into surface water decreased three percent and toxic releases to land decreased 16 percent.
This is the first year that TRI has collected data on hydrogen sulfide. While it was added to the TRI list of reportable toxic chemicals in a 1993 rulemaking, EPA issued an Administrative Stay in 1994 that deferred reporting while the agency completed further evaluation of the chemical. EPA lifted the stay in 2011. In 2012, 25.8 million pounds of hydrogen sulfide were reported to TRI, mainly in the form of releases to air from paper, petroleum, and chemical manufacturing facilities.
Another new addition to TRI reporting is a requirement for each facility located in Indian country to submit TRI reports to EPA and the appropriate tribe, and not the state where the facility is geographically located. EPA finalized this requirement in a 2012 rule aimed at increasing tribal participation in the TRI Program.
This year's TRI national analysis report includes new analyses and interactive maps for each U.S. metropolitan and micropolitan area, new information about industry efforts to reduce pollution through green chemistry and other pollution prevention practices, and a new feature about chemical use in consumer products.
The annual TRI report provides citizens with critical information about their communities. The TRI Program collects data on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water, and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country.
The data are submitted annually to EPA, states, and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste. Many of the releases from facilities that are subject to TRI reporting are regulated under other EPA program requirements designed to limit harm to human health and the environment.
Also available is the expanded TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool, which now allows users to graphically compare facilities within the same industry using a variety of environmental metrics.
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals. (EPA)
More information on the 2012 TRI analysis, including metropolitan and micropolitan areas.

EPA Administrator to Recognize Winners of National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

Gina McCarthy
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will recognize the winners of the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in a ceremony on Wednesday, February 5. The award recognizes and supports communities that use innovative policies and strategies to develop in ways that protect the environment, provide housing and transportation choices, and strengthen their economies.


Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Gwen Keyes-Fleming, Chief of Staff, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta

Roy D. Buol, Mayor of Dubuque

James Erb, Mayor of Charles City

Steve Hansen, City Councilman of Sacramento

Randy Blankhorn, Executive Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

WHAT: National Award for Smart Growth Achievement ceremony

WHEN: Wed., Feb. 5, at 11 a.m. EST


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Rachel Carson Green Room, William Jefferson Clinton South 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004

The ceremony will feature remarks by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and representatives of the communities receiving awards, and a video presentation of each of the winning projects. The ceremony will be followed by a panel discussion and reception on Capitol Hill hosted by Smart Growth America and Congresswoman Doris Matsui of Sacramento, California. The EPA administrator will not be part of the discussion. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized projects in seven communities as winners of the 2013 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for their creative, sustainable initiatives that better protect the health and the environment while strengthening local economies. Among the winners are an expansive greenway in Atlanta, a downtown whitewater rafting park in rural Iowa, and a regional development plan for metropolitan Chicago.

Other winners include the revitalized Historic Millwork District in Dubuque and an innovative, affordable infill housing development near public transit in Sacramento.

The 2013 award winners were judged in five categories: overall excellence; corridor or neighborhood revitalization; plazas, parks, and public places; policies, programs, and plans; and built projects. Specific initiatives include cleaning up and reusing brownfields; using green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff and improve water quality; providing transportation options; and providing green, energy-efficient housing in low-income areas.

The 2013 winners are: Overall Excellence – Winner Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail/Historic Fourth Ward Park, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., Atlanta, Ga. The Atlanta BeltLine is comprised of four individual “belt lines” that were built as railroad bypass routes around downtown Atlanta in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 2.25-mile Eastside Trail is the first section of the Atlanta BeltLine trail system to be redeveloped within the abandoned rail corridor. The trail connects five formerly divided neighborhoods by providing 30 acres of greenway, a pedestrian and bicycle trail, and an arboretum. The Eastside Trail connects to Historic Fourth Ward Park, a cleaned-up brownfield that is now a 17-acre park with a lake to handle stormwater runoff. The trail and park have spurred more than $775 million in private development, including more than 1,000 new mixed-income condominiums and apartments currently under construction.

Corridor or Neighborhood Revitalization – Winner Historic Millwork District and Washington Neighborhood, Dubuque, Iowa Once a bustling center of regional economic activity, Dubuque’s Millwork District sat vacant for decades after it fell victim to the economic shifts that touched much of the Midwest in the mid-1900s. The adjacent Washington Neighborhood was affected by the Millwork District’s decline, facing disinvestment and neglect when the mills began to shutter their doors and residents moved away from downtown. Today, thanks to strong community partnerships, public engagement, and an overarching citywide commitment to sustainability, Dubuque is successfully restoring both the Millwork District and Washington Neighborhood to the vibrant neighborhoods they once were.

Plazas, Parks, and Public Places – Winner Charles City Riverfront Park, Charles City, Iowa After years of fighting against the often-flooded Cedar River, Charles City used land acquired through Federal Emergency Management Agency flood buyouts to create an inviting riverfront park with a whitewater course. Capitalizing on the river’s natural features to help prevent future flooding, Charles City turned the river from an obstacle into an ecological and social benefit. Members of the community were involved in the park’s design and construction. Riverfront Park is a model of how to strategically use flooded properties to create a sustainable and economically valuable amenity.

Policies, Programs, and Plans – Winner GO TO 2040, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Metropolitan Chicago, Ill. GO TO 2040 is a policy-based regional plan and metropolitan Chicago’s first comprehensive plan since 1909. Developed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, GO TO 2040 aims to help the region’s municipalities and counties cope with common challenges and build a sustainable, prosperous future. GO TO 2040 envisions a region where residents have more housing and transportation options; parks and open space; jobs closer to home; cleaner air and water; and a better quality of life.

Built Projects – Winner La Valentina, Sacramento, Calif. Lying vacant for over 20 years, the area surrounding the Alkali Flat/La Valentina light-rail station in downtown Sacramento was known for crime, blight, and contamination. In 2007, a public-private partnership between the city of Sacramento and Domus Development brought together community groups to address neighborhood concerns and create a new vision for the area. From that vision came an affordable, mixed-use building complex—La Valentina and La Valentina North—that has cutting-edge energy-efficient features and is located next to a light-rail stop.

Policies, Programs, and Plans – Honorable Mention Lower Eastside Action Plan, Detroit City Planning Commission, Detroit, Mich. By 2010, Detroit’s once-vibrant Lower Eastside Neighborhood had the largest number of vacancies in the city. A group of local community development organizations helped residents with planning to start making positive change. They created the Lower Eastside Action Plan and planning process designed to engage residents in making decisions on their neighborhood’s future, stabilizing the thriving areas still left, and transforming vacant properties to improve quality of life.

Built Projects – Honorable Mention Via Verde, New York City Department of Housing Preservation, The Bronx, N.Y. Via Verde, a LEED Gold, mixed-income housing development in the Bronx, sets a new standard for how design and energy efficiency can help improve residents’ health and create a sense of community. The project is a partnership between the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development and private and nonprofit developers, and it sits on a cleaned-up former rail yard in a low-income neighborhood. Via Verde’s location near subway and bus lines, plus innovative design and attention to residents’ needs, offer a model for other developments.

EPA received 77 award applications from 31 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The winners were chosen based on their effectiveness in creating sustainable communities; fostering equitable development among public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders; and serving as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development.

EPA created the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to highlight exceptional approaches to development that protect the environment, encourage economic vitality, and enhance quality of life. In the past 12 years, 61 winners from 26 states have shown a variety of approaches that states, regions, cities, suburbs, and rural communities can use to create economically strong, environmentally responsible development. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities manages the awards program. EPA will host a ceremony on February 5 to recognize the winners. (EPA)

More information on the winners, including videos.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

State Department Finally Finalizes Final Keystone XL Pipeline EIS

The State Department issued the  Keystone XL Pipeline Final Environmental Impact Statement on Friday and ruled (again) that the project would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. 

The finding puts the pipeline one step closer to approval.  Of course, the pipeline has already been operating for years and the Obama administration already approved the southern leg, which is almost finished.

The Environmental Impact Statement reiterates key parts of a draft analysis released early last year, finding that oil sands extraction would continue regardless of whether the pipeline is built.  According to the report:
"Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios."

President Obama has said he would only approve the pipeline if he was convinced it would not "significantly exacerbate carbon emissions."  The report states Keystone XL would transport 830,000 barrels of oil each day, adding an extra 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.

While the report doesn't make the claim that Keystone would drastically "exacerbate emissions," it does state the crude oil will make it to market either way -- as a result Obama will have to determine if that oil will be burned even if he denies the project.

Before the decision reaches Obama's desk, there will be an interagency review, lasting roughly 90 days, where administration officials will determine whether Keystone XL is in the nation's best interest.  (The Hill, 1/31/2014)