Friday, February 27, 2015

Senator Inhofe Throws Snowball On Senate Floor

FCC Net Neutrality Rulemaking

The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its meeting today, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure "that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet."

The Open Internet Order helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs.

Republicans who warned that the FCC was overstepping its authority and interfering in commerce to solve a problem that doesn't exist. They also complained that the measure's 300-plus pages weren't publicly released or openly debated. The new policy would replace a prior version adopted in 2010 — but that was put on hold following a legal challenge by Verizon. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year that the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband.

After that ruling, the FCC looked at ways to reclassify broadband to gain broader regulatory powers. It will now treat Internet service providers as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services as public utilities.

The ACLU noted that it was a victory for free speech. Americans use the Internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them. The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens' ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference. Title II provides the firmest possible foundation for such protections.

Opponents say: "The FCC's decision to impose obsolete telephone-era regulations on the high-speed Internet is one giant step backwards for America's broadband networks and everyone who depends upon them. These 'Title II' rules go far beyond protecting the Open Internet, launching a costly and destructive era of government micromanagement that will discourage private investment in new networks and slow down the breakneck innovation that is the soul of the Internet today."

The new FCC policy will "ban blocking, ban throttling, and ban paid-prioritization fast lanes." For the first time, open Internet rules will be fully applicable to mobile. By a 3-2 vote, the FCC voted to adopt net neutrality rules to "protect the open Internet.  (NPR)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jewell, McCarthy & Moniz Head To Capitol Hill on Budget

Sally Jewell
Jewell Heads to Senate Energy – The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will convene a hearing tomorrow  to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016 for the Department of the Interior.  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will testify.

Gina McCarthy
McCarthy Heads to House Energy and Appropriations Committees – EPA Head Gina McCarthy will visit the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016 for EPA. 

Then on Thursday, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and David Bloom, U.S. EPA Acting Chief Financial Officer, will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on FY 2016 Budget. EPA’s proposed budget provides resources to ensure that the agency can make the investments needed to meet its mission to protect public health and the environment.

Ernest Moniz
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz Heads to House Energy Appropriations – The House Energy and Water Appropriations panel will examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016 for DOE on Thursday with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz testifying.

(Frank Maisano)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Legislation

President Obama vetoed legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline today, rebuffing the new Republican Congress amid a battle over Homeland Security funding. 
The veto — just the third of Obama’s presidency — was made in private and without fanfare, reflecting the tensions in the Democratic Party over whether the pipeline should be approved.
"Through this bill the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama said in his veto statement.

"The presidential power to veto is one I take seriously ... and because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety and environment — it has earned by veto."
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ripped Obama's veto, calling it a "national embarrassment."

First proposed more than six years ago, the Keystone XL pipeline project has sat in limbo ever since, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary. The pipeline would connect Canada's tar sands with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast that specialize in processing heavy crude oil.

Republicans and the energy industry say the $8 billion project would create jobs, spur growth and increase America's independence from Mideast energy sources. Democrats and environmental groups have sought to make the pipeline a poster child for the type of dirty energy sources they say are exacerbating global warming.

President Obama's administration, through the State Department, is still weighing the pipeline's merits, and he has repeatedly threatened to veto any attempts by lawmakers to make the decision for him.  (The White HouseThe Hill, ABC News/AP, 2/24/2015)

Center Partners With Nuclear Matters

CfECE has joined Nuclear Matters as a partner.  CfECE's long history [China - France] of supporting nuclear power makes this a natural fit.  We expect this partnership to be dynamic and to enhance the maintenance of our current fleet of reactors.

The mission of Nuclear Matters is to inform the public about the clear benefits that nuclear energy provides to our nation, raise awareness of the economic challenges to nuclear energy that threaten those benefits, and to work with stakeholders to explore possible policy solutions that properly value nuclear energy as a reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity resource that is essential to America’s energy future.

In furtherance of this mission, Nuclear Matters has reached out to stakeholders around the country to hear directly from them about the importance of nuclear energy to their states and communities and find the solutions that will help to preserve this essential energy resource.  Nuclear Matters reached out to CfECE and we enthusiastically reacted in the affirmative.  We look forward to a productive partnership.

Evan Bayh
Judd Gregg
Co-Chairs for Nuclear Matters are former Indiana United States Senator and former Indiana Governor Evan Bayh and former New Hampshire United States Senator and former New Hampshire Governor Judd Gregg.

Nuclear Matters is supported by a cross-section of individuals, organizations, and businesses united in their view that nuclear power plays a critical role in our energy portfolio, and that existing nuclear power plants should be preserved.

Nuclear Matters is currently recruiting partners and CfECE is proud to be among some of the original individuals, organizations, and businesses that are aligning with this dynamic pro-nuclear campaign.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Exxon Mobil Refinery Explosion in Torrance, California

An explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery caused structural damage and was felt for miles around Torrance on Wednesday, but there were no major injuries. The blast happened in a processing unit at the refinery in the 3700 block of 190th Street at 8:50 a.m.

A structure was damaged in an explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California

The explosion was followed by a ground fire, which was quickly knocked down. The explosion was so strong that it registered as a 1.7-magnitude earthquake on a nearby seismometer operated by Caltech and USGS.

Smoke is seen after an explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance in this photo from ABC7 viewer Jeffery Smith. <span class=meta>ABC7 viewer Jeffery Smith</span>

Exxon Mobil said in a statement that four contractors were transported to Long Beach Medical Center for minor injuries, and everyone was accounted for. Some area residents reported feeling an earthquake-like jolt. Then, they saw ash falling in the neighborhood following the blast. The Torrance Fire Department says the white ash-like substance is non-toxic, but may pose inhalation risk as all airborne particles do.

View image on Twitter

The blast was strong enough to break a window at an apartment complex across the street from the refinery and damage a cinder block wall. Torrance police said air quality readings were normal, but area residents were advised to shelter in place temporarily. The shelter-in-place order has since been lifted. The Torrance Unified School District advised schools to shelter in their students. A total of 13 schools were affected, and parents were notified. Torrance fire officials say the situation was stabilized by noon.

The cause of the blast was not known. For more information, residents can call the Exxon Mobil hotline at (310) 505-3158.  (ABC 7Eye Witness News, Los Angeles, 2/18/2015)

Friday, February 20, 2015

L.A. Long Beach Port Strike

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents 20,000 dockworkers, who spend years earning full membership and whose current contract pays $26 to $41 an hour, with free healthcare for members, want more money. Some earn six figures with overtime.  The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shipping companies, does not want to pay more and sees little need to back down.  Thus, the L.A./Long Beach Port is shut down.  And this is affecting the entire country with billions of dollars in commerce on the line.

The two parties are at the negotiating table, where U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is now trying to broker a deal.  Both parties say they want to avoid repeating the 10-day lockout of 2002, which then-President George W. Bush stepped in to end. They have reportedly agreed on many major elements of a new contract but remain at odds over finer points.  The same forces that have pulverized private sector unions in other industries — overseas manufacturing, lower transportation costs, global markets — have strengthened the hand of the ILWU. Every day, ship owners have to pay a lot of money for a ship. The cranes are very expensive, and if they're not being used, that's wasted money.  Containerization made the shipping industry very capital-intensive, and that effectively gave power to the union.

Center President Norris McDonald observing the cargo ships outside the port

So did two decisions by ILWU's founder and longtime president, Harry Bridges.  The first was negotiating a single contract covering every port from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington. That prevents shippers from playing one West Coast port against another, as sometimes happens on the East Coast.  The other was a 1960 agreement that embraced the arrival of containerization, essentially agreeing to shed thousands of jobs manually hauling crates and bags from ships' holds in order to save thousands in the higher-tech — and higher-paid — work of operating forklifts and giant cranes.

As container traffic boomed in the decades since, that tough choice paid off.  But the industry faces a new round of changes. Ever-larger ships are dumping more cargo at once on the docks, creating more congestion even when the work is going smoothly. That's increasing the demand for automation.  Ports in Europe and Asia increasingly use robotics to move goods that union longshoremen handle today on the West Coast. Another threat is the widening of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion next year. That will enable some larger ships to pass more quickly to the East and Gulf Coast, though experts disagree on how much that could hurt Southern California.

The employers and the union both have a common interest in the success of L.A.-Long Beach and in keeping the port as efficient as possible. As the dispute drags on, the union's solidarity could be a key factor. The ILWU is known as an aggressive union — forged in violent strikes on San Francisco's Embarcadero in the 1930s, booted from national labor groups in the McCarthy-era 1950s for being "too red," and willing to shut down the docks several times in recent years in solidarity with smaller unions. That's what happened in 2012, when clerical workers at the L.A.-Long Beach docks went on strike and clogged the ports for several days.

In the port towns, everyone has a friend, a brother, a cousin, a niece who works in this industry and benefits from the power of the union. Many would like to join. Membership is typically earned only after years of so-called "casual" work, which involves showing up in the early morning at the cracked parking lot next to a junkyard in Wilmington, where day labor jobs are doled out — if there's work to go around — at the lower end of the pay scale. Log enough hours, and eventually you qualify for full membership, with better hours and full benefits. When they open the rolls to new casuals, the lines are thousands of people long.

Last year, it was the Justice for Port Truck Drivers work stoppage over “unfair labor practices” at Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services and Pacific 9 Transportation that temporarily hemorrhaged the port system. The Teamsters affiliated group has backed three previous strikes in the last two years, each lasting less than 48 hours, at these carriers serving Southern California ports.  The Teamsters charge the three carriers violated labor laws and interfered with unionization efforts. (L.A. Times, 2/17/2015, CCJ Digital, 7/8/2014)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New York Mayor DeBlasio Releases 2015 Climate Report

Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the release of the New York City Panel on Climate Change’s 2015 report, Building the Knowledge Base for Climate Resiliency, focused on increasing the current and future resiliency of communities, citywide systems, and infrastructure around New York City and the broader metropolitan region.
The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) is an independent body that advises the City on climate risks and resiliency. As the best available data, NPCC science informs the City’s comprehensive climate policies, including its multilayered, citywide resiliency plan and sweeping sustainability initiatives—in line with President Obama’s recent Executive Order. The NPCC worked in partnership with the City, including with the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the Mayor’s Office of Operations, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Today’s NPCC report provides climate projections through 2100 for the first time, for temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise, representing advancement in the science. New topics covered in the report also include public health, with a focus on extreme heat events and coastal storms and enhanced dynamic coastal flood modeling, which incorporate the effects of sea level rise. 
The full reportBuilding the Knowledge Base for Climate Resiliency: New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report.
The City is announcing today new progress as it implements a comprehensive resiliency plan based on the NPCC’s science, including the kickoff of scoping and preliminary design work on the Lower East Side integrated flood protection system, the launch of the first-ever comprehensive regional analysis of New York City’s food supply chain resiliency, key steps forward to combat the urban heat island effect, and the start of an approximately $100 million shoreline investment program to protect the most vulnerable waterfront communities.
Additionally, Mayor de Blasio will launch NPCC3, which will build on today’s report, and, in particular, look at climate risks through the lens of inequality at a neighborhood scale in a report due early next year. NPCC3 will also focus on ways to enhance coordination of mitigation and resiliency across the entire New York metropolitan region.
In addition to providing climate projections through 2100, NPCC2’s new content today includes:
  • New coastal flood risk maps to the end of the century for the current 100-year (1 percent annual chance of occurrence) and 500-year (0.2 percent annual chance of occurrence) coastal flood events.
  • Enhanced dynamic flood inundation modeling of future coastal flooding that includes the effects of sea level rise. 
  • A review of key issues related to climate change health risks relevant to the citizens of New York City. 
  • A process for enhancing a New York City Climate Resiliency Indicators and Monitoring System. 

Key Recommendations and City Action
The City is announcing new progress on a number of key projects, including:
  • The launch of scoping and preliminary design work on the Lower East Side to implement a $335 million integrated, neighborhood-sensitive flood protection system to mitigate risk and help connect the community with the waterfront. This project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition, runs from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street and is intended to be just the first phase of a larger project that will ultimately provide coastal resiliency for all of Lower Manhattan. To that end, the City has already allocated additional funds to advance planning and preliminary design south of Montgomery Street.
  • The Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), partnering with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), has also launched the first-ever, comprehensive regional resiliency analysis of New York City’s food supply chain network. The study will examine key distribution assets both locally and in surrounding jurisdictions, examine regional transportation routes, and work with the city’s food community to help ensure continuity of operations during a disaster.
  • To combat the urban heat island effect, as of the end of 2014, NYC Cool Roofs has coated over six million square feet of building roofs with reflective paint to address the climate change risks associated with urban heat. The City’s recent green buildings plan commits to coating at least one million square feet a year more to continue mitigating the urban heat island effect and provide energy savings in affordable housing, public buildings, and non-profit organizations. ORR has also convened urban heat island experts to advance research and understanding on this issue, and continues to focus its heat response protocols on vulnerable populations.
  • ORR and NYCEDC have also launched an approximately $100 million shoreline investment program to protect the most vulnerable waterfront communities, including Coney Island Creek and Staten Island’s South Shore, and other low-lying parts of the city that will be evaluated as part of the first phase of work. This will include a nine-month first phase to identify and prioritize approximately 43 miles of at-risk shoreline, following by design and construction of site-specific resiliency measures that might include bulkhead upgrades, revetment installation, and living shoreline treatments.
The City has already implemented short-term measures to immediately reduce risk. For example:
  • 4.15 million cubic yards of sand placed on city beaches.
  • 26,000 linear feet of dunes on Staten Island alone, with additional dunes on the Rockaway peninsula.
  • 10,500 linear feet of bulkhead repairs around the city.
  • Updated building and zoning codes, including 16 new local laws to improve residential and commercial resiliency.
  • $1 billion in resiliency investments being made by ConEd to harden critical assets like substations and other critical distribution equipment.
  • Reforms to FEMA’s national flood insurance program, critical flood insurance affordability studies, and education efforts for homeowners across the city.
Additional longer-term measures are being advanced all across the entire city, including but not limited to:
  • Over $450 million to construct new armored levees and other infrastructure along Midland Beach and Staten Island’s East Shore, to substantially reduce risk in the future, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State.
  • Substantial investment in the next phase of coastal protection in the Rockaways and the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay, in partnership with the Army Corps and State.
  • T-groins and beach nourishment in Sea Gate, on which ground was broken on Saturday, in partnership with the Army Corps and the State.
  • Dunes and other coastal protection in Breezy Point.
  • Integrated flood protection system measures in Red Hook.
  • Over $15 million in natural infrastructure resiliency projects funded by the Department of Interior in Jamaica Bay, the Bronx River, and elsewhere.
  • Additional coastal protection projects funded by the federal Rebuild by Design program (in addition to the Lower East Side flood protection system), including:
    • Hunts Point Lifelines—food distribution center investments in coastal protection, waterfront access, and energy resiliency.
    • Living Breakwaters—natural infrastructure investments in wave attenuation off of Staten Island’s South Shore, being implemented by the State.
  • Major investments in the Staten Island Bluebelt and other stormwater infrastructure across the city to better accommodate increasing precipitation.
  • Key resiliency upgrades at critical facilities, such as hospitals like Staten Island University Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, Bellevue, and more.
  • NYCHA recovery and resiliency funds to elevate boilers and install emergency generators and flood protection systems.
  • Agency recovery and resiliency funds to restore and protect critical City agency services like schools, parks, and other facilities.
  • Major flood and coastal protection studies, including at Coney Island Creek, Gowanus Canal, Southern Manhattan, and Newtown Creek, to evaluate the feasibility of additional tidal barrier and surge barrier investments.
  • Department of City Planning Resilient Neighborhoods studies to advance land use measures to support the vitality and resiliency of individual communities in the flood zones.
  • Small business resiliency support, including new resiliency technologies to be applied through the NYC: RISE competition and assistance through Business PREP, a new program to provide small businesses with education and technical support to enhance their resiliency.
The City is also taking dramatic steps to reduce its contributions to climate change, including becoming the largest city in the world to commit to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That commitment kicks off with Mayor de Blasio’s sweeping 10-year green buildings plan, One City: Built to Last, to retrofit public and private buildings, while creating green jobs and generating operational savings. (Office of the Mayor of New York)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

EPA Announces Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal

The Obama Administration Fiscal Year 2016 budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $8.6 billion.  The request is $452 million above the agency’s enacted level for FY 2015.  (More at EPA)