Tuesday, October 31, 2006

UK's Stern Report On Impacts & Risks Of Climate Change

Oct 30: Being hailed as "the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change," the 700-page report known as The Stern Review, was released. The Review, which reports to the U.K. Prime Minister and Chancellor, was commissioned by the Chancellor in July last year and was conducted by Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the Government Economic Service and former World Bank Chief Economist. The report was released the same day as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, released its annual report on the latest available data on GHG emissions indicating that in the period 1990–2004, the overall emissions of industrialized countries decreased by 3.3 percent [See WIMS 10/30/06].

On releasing the report, Stern said, “The conclusion of the Review is essentially optimistic. There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and act internationally. Governments, businesses and individuals all need to work together to respond to the challenge. Strong, deliberate policy choices by governments are essential to motivate change. But the task is urgent. Delaying action, even by a decade or two, will take us into dangerous territory. We must not let this window of opportunity close.”

The first half of the Review focuses on the impacts and risks arising from uncontrolled climate change, and on the costs and opportunities associated with action to tackle it. A sound understanding of the economics of risk is critical here. The Review emphasizes that economic models over timescales of centuries do not offer precise forecasts – but they are an important way to illustrate the scale of effects we might see. The Review finds that all countries will be affected by climate change, but it is the poorest countries that will suffer earliest and most. Unabated climate change risks raising average temperatures by over 5°C from pre-industrial levels. Such changes would transform the physical geography of our planet, as well as the human geography – how and where we live our lives.

According to the report, "If we take no action to control emissions, each tonne of CO2 that we emit now is causing damage worth at least $85 -- but these costs are not included when investors and consumers make decisions about how to spend their money. Emerging schemes that allow people to trade reductions in CO2 have demonstrated that there are many opportunities to cut emissions for less than $25 a tonne. In other words, reducing emissions will make us better off. According to one measure, the benefits over time of actions to shift the world onto a low-carbon path could be in the order of $2.5 trillion each year. The shift to a low-carbon economy will also bring huge opportunities. Markets for low-carbon technologies will be worth at least $500bn, and perhaps much more, by 2050 if the world acts on the scale required [See WIMS 10/24/06]."

The second half of the Review examines the national and international policy challenges of moving to a low-carbon global economy. The report indicates that, "Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has seen. Three elements of policy are required for an effective response." (1) carbon pricing, through taxation, emissions trading or regulation, so that people are faced with the full social costs of their actions; (2) technology policy, to drive the development and deployment at scale of a range of low-carbon and high-efficiency products; and (3) removing barriers to energy efficiency, and to inform, educate and persuade individuals about what they can do to respond to climate change.

Access a release (click here). Access links to the complete report by chapters and two summaries (click here). Access additional links to Sir Nicholas Stern´s presentation and speaking notes, comments on the Stern Review by leading economists, background to the Review, and supporting commissioned research (click here). [*Climate]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kyoto Industrialized Parties Post 1990–2004 3.3 % GHG Reduction

Oct 30: Each year, developed countries submit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, which then publishes an annual report on the latest available data on GHG emissions from these countries. This year’s GHG data report covers emissions from 1990 to 2004. The GHG emissions data submitted by Annex I (industrialized) Parties under the United Nations Climate Change Convention are considered accurate and reliable as a basis for assessing progress in emission reductions.

The UNFCCC report, Greenhouse Gas Data, 2006, constitutes the first complete set of data submitted by all 41 Annex I industrialized Parties of the Convention to the Bonn-based secretariat. According to the secretariat, in the period 1990–2004, the overall emissions of industrialized countries decreased by 3.3 percent. However, this was mostly due to a 36.8 percent decrease in emissions on the part of economies in transition of eastern and central Europe (EITs). Within the same time-period, the greenhouse gas emissions of the other industrialized Parties of the Convention grew by 11.0 percent. The Kyoto Protocol presently requires 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in its first commitment period between 2008 and 2012.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said, "The worrying fact is that EITs, which were mostly responsible for the overall emissions reductions of industrialized countries so far, as a group have experienced an emission increase of 4.1 percent in the period 2000-2004. This means that industrialized countries will need to intensify their efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions." In particular, transport remains a sector where emission reductions are urgently required but seem to be especially difficult to achieve. Emissions from transportation grew by 23.9 percent from 1990 to 2004. According to the released data, the joint emissions of industrialized countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were 15.3 per cent below the 1990 level in 2004, while the individual performance of countries varied.

The UN’s chief climate change official pointed out that despite the emission growth in some countries in the period 2000-2004, Parties of the Kyoto Protocol stand a good chance of meeting their individual emissions reduction commitments if they speedily apply the additional domestic mitigation measures they are planning and use the Kyoto Protocol’s market-based flexibility mechanisms. de Boer said, “The challenge is well understood. After its entry into force in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol is now firmly in place and is guiding industrialized countries in identifying and implementing policy options, including the Protocol’s flexibility mechanisms, to meet their targets under the treaty."

One promising option for meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets is the use of the clean development mechanism (CDM). The CDM permits industrialized countries to invest in sustainable development projects that reduce emissions in developing countries and thereby generate tradable emission credits. To date, around 375 CDM projects have been registered, with a total estimated emission reduction potential of more than 600 million tonnes. More than 900 more projects are in the pipeline. The total estimated emission reduction potential of all projects currently in the CDM pipeline in the period up to 2012 stands at around 1.4 billion tonnes, which amounts to about 12% of what industrialized Kyoto Protocol Parties emitted in 1990 [See previous post, Post Kyoto Commitments Needed To Stabilize Carbon Markets]. Last week, the UNFCCC launched the second project-based mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol: joint implementation (JI), which allows developed countries to acquire carbon credits from greenhouse gas emission reducing projects undertaken in other industrialized countries [See WIMS 10/27/06].

de Boer said, “In the countries that are members of the European Union, the use of the EU emissions trading scheme is growing in importance. We are looking forward to emissions trading between all countries with emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol when the first commitment period starts in 2008. The United Nations Climate Change Secretariat is presently putting in place the required support infrastructure to make this possible. At the same time, it is clear that further global action on climate change is urgently needed to generate significant investment flows into clean technology, making use of existing and new market mechanisms.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference - Nairobi 2006 (November 6 to 17, 2006), negotiations on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will continue, along with a dialogue on the future of the climate change process under the UNFCCC. The meeting will be the second Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP 2), in conjunction with the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 12). The conference will also include, from November 6 to 14, the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 25), the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 25), and the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG 2).

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access a webcast from UNFCCC (click here). Access a Presentation slide show (click here). Access the GHG Data 2006 Booklet (click here). Access the table Changes in GHG emissions from 1990 to 2004 for Annex I Parties (click here). Access complete information on the COP12/MOP2 and related meetings (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dingell Requests Clarification On CERCLA Liability Issues

Oct 23: U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, has requested clarification of the case law and EPA's position relating to CERCLA responsible party liability issues since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc. 125 S. Ct, 577 (2004) [See WIMS 12/14/04]. In addition to the letter, Representative Dingell includes a list of 14 questions for Administrator Johnson and requests a response by November 9, 2006. In his letter, Dingell writes:

"On December 13, 2004, the Supreme Court decided in Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc. 125 S. Ct, 577 (2004) that a private party may not obtain contribution from other liable parties under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Section 113 (f)(1)) unless the private party has been sued under Section 106 or Section 107(a) of CERCLA. The ruling reversed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that held parties who initiate private cleanups may bring contribution suits irrespective of prior enforcement action. The Supreme Court reserved judgment on the question whether liable parties who are not subject to an action under Section 107 may instead seek relief under Section 107(a)(4)(B).

"Since the Supreme Court decision in Cooper Industries v. Aviall there have been several United States Circuit Court of Appeals decisions and numerous district courts that have directly addressed the availability of a CERCLA subsection 107(a) contribution claim to potentially responsible parties who have voluntarily incurred cleanup costs. I am aware of two Circuit Court of Appeals decisions, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. v. UGI Utilities, Inc., 423 F.3d 90 (2nd Cir., 2005) and Atlantic Research Corp. v. United States of America (8th Cir., August 11, 2006) [
See WIMS 8/14/06], that held a liable party may, under appropriate procedural circumstances, bring a cost recovery action under Section 107. These two Circuit Courts concluded that it no longer made sense to view Section 113 as a liable party's exclusive remedy. Several weeks after the Eighth Circuit's decision in Atlantic Research Corp., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in El Dupont DeNemours and Company and Conoco, Inc., et al, v. United States of America (August 29, 2006) [See WIMS 9/12/06] refused to imply a cause of action for contribution under Section 107 or the common law available to potentially responsible parties engaged in sua sponte voluntary cleanups.

"I would like to obtain additional information relating to the case law in the other circuits with respect to the availability of Section 107 for contribution as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) view on the impact of the decision in Cooper Industries v. Aviall on the overall cleanup program and the EPA's reaction to proposed legislative language to overturn the Supreme Court Decision in Cooper Industries v. Aviall."

Access the letter and questions to Administrator Johnson (click here). Access the complete Cooper Industries v. Aviall S.Ct. opinion (click here). [*Remed]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

EPA Launches New SmartWay Grow & Go Program

Oct 26: Promoting the environmental benefits of renewable fuels is the focus of the new SmartWay Grow & Go program, launched by the U.S. EPA. Expanding the successful SmartWay Transport Partnership, SmartWay Grow & Go companies are encouraged to make commitments toward improving the environment through the use of renewable fuels. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, "Through SmartWay Grow & Go, President Bush is moving the fuels of the future into the market today. By investing in technology that unlocks the energy from our domestic crops, EPA and our partners are bringing breakthroughs in renewable fuel from the labs to the streets." The goal of the SmartWay Grow & Go program is to have 25 percent of EPA's SmartWay Transport partners using renewable fuels by 2012, and 50 percent by 2020. There are currently 481 SmartWay Transport partners including major truck and rail carriers as well as shipping and logistics companies.

Leading SmartWay partners are already taking action. For example, H-E-B and Meijer are expanding the sale of renewable fuels at their retail pumps, while Coca-Cola Enterprises' light and heavy duty fleets are expanding their use of ethanol and biodiesel as these fuels become more widely available. EPA said, "Renewable fuels are available today and provide environmental benefits. Ethanol reduces emissions of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and benzene, a known human carcinogen, and biodiesel provides significant reductions in carbon monoxide, particulate matter and sulfates. Use of ethanol and biodiesel results in less greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional gasoline."

Access a release (click here). Access the SmartWay Grow & Go website for complete information (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

EPA Air Advisors Urge Strengthening The Ozone Standard

Oct 25: U.S. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Panel issued new recommendations for limiting ozone, or smog pollution. The 23-member scientific advisory panel unanimously presented their view that there is no scientific justification for retention of the current 8-hour ozone standard of 0.08 parts per million (ppm); and recommended instead that a substantially stronger standard in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm be adopted. Under a court-ordered schedule, EPA must propose action on the ozone standard by May 30, 2007, and take final action by February 2008.

In an October 24, 2006, cover letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the CASAC Ozone Panel said, "In its summary of EPA staff conclusions on the primary (health-related) ozone NAAQS found in Chapter 6 of the 2nd Draft Ozone Staff Paper, OAQPS set-forth two options with regard to revising the level and the form of the standard: (1) retain the current primary eight-hour (8-hr) NAAQS of 0.08 parts per million (ppm); or (2) consider a reduction in the level of the primary O3 NAAQS within the range of alternative 8-hr standards included in Staff’s exposure and risk assessments (which included a range from 0.064 to 0.084 ppm) with primary focus on an O3 level of 0.07 ppm with a range of forms from third- through fifth-highest daily maximum. The Ozone Panel unanimously concludes that: (1.) There is no scientific justification for retaining the current primary 8-hr NAAQS of 0.08 parts per million (ppm), and (2.) The primary 8-hr NAAQS needs to be substantially reduced to protect human health, particularly in sensitive subpopulations. Therefore, the CASAC unanimously recommends a range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm for the primary ozone NAAQS."

EPA is currently reviewing the standards under a court-ordered schedule in a suit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of health and environmental groups, including the American Lung Association. Earthjustice attorney David Baron issued a statement regarding the CASAC announcement saying, "Scientists are now telling us that ozone is much more dangerous to our lungs than previously thought. We urge EPA to heed the advice of the health experts and strengthen the standards so we can all breathe easier. Federal health standards for smog are too weak to protect public health. Only last month, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson rejected a recommendation of his science advisors, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and a host of other public health groups that he strengthen the annual clean air standard for another pollutant - airborne particulate matter (including soot). The stronger standards had been opposed by industry groups. It's time for EPA to base standards on sound science instead of political science. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to adopt standards strong enough to protect public health. We hope this time EPA will listen to the health experts and ensure the clean air Americans deserve."

Access the complete 112-page CASAC review and recommendations (click here). Access an Earthjustice release (click here). Access the CASAC Ozone Panel website for extensive background information (click here). [*Air]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Post Kyoto Commitments Needed To Stabilize Carbon Markets

Oct 17: According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, the world urgently needs a long-term legal framework to provide security for carbon markets and investments necessary to combat climate change. Speaking at the international conference “Make Markets Work for Climate” in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, de Boer said that while it was clear that globally there was strong commitment to address energy security and to green energy, it was also clear that poverty eradication and economic growth were the overriding concerns for developing countries.

de Boer said, “At present, the financial resources provided to developing countries do not suffice to meet the needs for mitigation and adaptation as required under the United Nations Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol." Last month, de Boer pointed out that a 100 billion dollars per year green investment flow to developing countries could be created if industrialized countries agreed to a 60 to 80% emission reduction by mid-century and used market-based mechanisms to help meet these commitments. Referring to this, he said, “To date, none of the sources of finance available to developing countries have a potential of this scale.”

Citing the need for a new global initiative to combat climate change, de Boer said that a self-financing climate compact would be the solution to generate financial flows between the North and South required to effectively tackle climate change. He said, This would ensure sustainable development for the future. But it requires a long-term legal framework to be in place.” The Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism (CDM) for example permits industrialized countries to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries, and thereby generate tradable emission credits.

The CDM already has over 1,200 projects in the pipeline and an overall emission reduction potential of about 1.4 billion tonnes by 2012, amounting to the combined annual emissions of Spain and the United Kingdom. de Boer said, “Whilst the CDM has been gaining speed very rapidly, there would be a significant risk for the value of carbon beyond 2012 without a long term provision for the carbon market. To guarantee continuity for investments, a post 2012 agreement is urgently needed. At this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi (November 6 to 17), governments will continue discussion of the future action on climate change, including commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. The Parties will also look at measures to expand the CDM by building capacity in developing countries and to make it more accessible to the least developed countries, in particular in Africa.

Access a release from UNFCCC (click here). Access the UNFCCC website (click here). [*Climate]

Monday, October 23, 2006

U.S. Recycling Rate Climbs To 32%; Generation Down

Oct 23: According to a new report from U.S. EPA, Americans are recycling more and throwing away less. Administrator Stephen Johnson, speaking at the National Recycling Coalition Conference in Atlanta, said that the U.S. recycled 32 percent of its waste in 2005. Including composting, Americans recycled 79 million tons, representing a 2 percent increase from 2004 and a huge jump from 16 percent in 1990. In all, Americans generated nearly 246 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2005 – a decrease of nearly 2 million tons from 2004. The decrease is due in part to the decline in individual waste generation to about 4.5 pounds per person per day, representing a 1.5 percent decrease from 2004. In addition to generating less waste, individuals recycled nearly 1.5 pounds per person per day.

Other data contained in the report show recycling trends across the board are generally up: container and packaging recycling increased to 40 percent; nearly 62 percent of yard waste was composted; and about 42 million tons of paper were recycled -- a 50 percent recycling rate. EPA has collected and reported on data going back to 1960 on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The information is used to measure the success of municipal solid waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. The data also shows where the nation needs to make improvements in municipal waste management. EPA is releasing the executive summary now, until the full report and data tables are available. EPA plans to update the full report every two years.

Access a release (click here). Access an Executive Summary of the report and links to previous reports (click here). Access a basic overview of 2005 Municipal Solid Waste Fact and Figures (click here). [*Solid, *P2]

Friday, October 20, 2006

Corporate Guide To Climate-Related Risks & Opportunities

Oct 18: The Pew Center on Global Climate Change released a new "how to" guide entitled, Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change. Representatives from Shell, Alcoa, Duke Energy, DuPont, Swiss Re and Whirlpool Corporation spoke about their companies’ corporate strategies to address climate change at the National Press Club announcement in Washington DC. The guide is designed for corporate decision makers as they navigate rapidly changing global markets and presents an in-depth look at the development and implementation of corporate strategies that take into account climate-related risks and opportunities. The guide, authored by Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan, lays out a step-by-step approach for companies to reshape their core business strategies in order to succeed in a future marketplace where greenhouse gases are regulated and carbon-efficiency is in demand. The research shows a growing consensus among corporate leaders that taking action on climate change is a sensible business decision. Many of the companies highlighted in the report are shifting their focus from managing the financial risks of climate change to exploiting new business opportunities for energy efficient and low-carbon products and services.

Relying on six highly detailed, on-site case studies, as well as results from a 100-question survey completed by 31 companies, the report offers a unique and in-depth look at the development and implementation of corporate strategies that address climate change. The featured case studies include Alcoa, Cinergy (now Duke Energy), DuPont, Shell, Swiss Re, and Whirlpool Corporation. One of the clearest conclusions is that businesses need to engage actively with government in the development of climate policy. Of 31 major corporations polled by the report author, nearly all companies believe that Federal greenhouse gas standards are imminent, and 84 percent of these companies believe regulations will take effect before 2015. The report offers policy makers insight into how companies are moving forward on climate change and how they can most effectively engage in the policy discussion. The Pew Center’s Eileen Claussen said, “If you look at what is happening today at the state level and in the Congress, a proactive approach in the policy arena clearly makes sound business sense. In the corporate world, inaction is no longer an option.”

The research draws from the experience of companies in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). The BELC, with 42 companies representing over 3 million employees and a combined market value of more than $2.4 trillion, is the largest US-based association of corporations actively pursuing solutions to climate change. Wal-Mart and Goldman Sachs also gave input. The members of the BELC are: ABB; Air Products; Alcan; Alcoa Inc.; American Electric Power; Bank of America; Baxter International Inc.; The Boeing Company; BP; California Portland Cement; CH2M HILL; Cummins Inc.; Deutsche Telekom; DTE Energy; Duke Energy; DuPont; Entergy; Exelon; GE; Georgia-Pacific; Hewlett-Packard Company; Holcim (US) Inc.; IBM; Intel; Interface Inc.; John Hancock Financial Services; Lockheed Martin; Marsh Novartis; Ontario Power Generation; PG&E Corporation; Rio Tinto; Rohm and Haas; Royal Dutch/Shell; SC Johnson; Sunoco; Toyota; TransAlta; United Technologies; Weyerhaeuser; Whirlpool Corporation; and Wisconsin Energy Corporation.

Access a release (
click here). Access links to the complete report, executive summary and individual case studies (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

EPA TSCA Nanotechnology Stewardship Program

Oct 18: U.S. EPA is launching a collaborative process to design a Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program under TSCA, to complement and support its efforts on new and existing nanoscale materials. Many nanoscale (one to 100 nanometers) materials are regarded as "chemical substances" under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA provides EPA with a strong framework for ensuring that new and existing chemical substances are manufactured and used in a manner that protects against unreasonable risks to human health and the environment. For example, EPA requires manufacturers of new chemical substances to provide specific information to the Agency for review prior to manufacturing chemicals or introducing them into commerce. EPA can require reporting or development of information to assess existing chemicals already in the marketplace. Additionally, EPA can take action to ensure that those chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment are effectively controlled.

EPA has received and reviewed a number of new chemical notices under TSCA for nanoscale materials and expects the number to increase in the future. The Agency will continue to implement TSCA to enable responsible development of nanotechnology and realize its potential environmental benefits. EPA says it will apply sound science, assess and, where appropriate, manage potential unreasonable risks to human health and the environment presented by nanoscale materials. EPA will be working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop and implement the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, and will announce a variety of opportunities for public input. The Agency will use the information resulting from the stewardship program to support the further development of its TSCA program for nanoscale materials, including any regulatory actions that may be needed to protect human health and the environment.

Elements involved in the design and implementation of the Stewardship Program will include: (1) public scientific peer consultations to discuss risk management practices and characterization for nanoscale materials; (2) an overall framework document describing the TSCA program for nanoscale materials; (3) a document on distinguishing the TSCA Inventory status of "new" versus "existing" chemical nanoscale materials; (4) a concept paper describing EPA's thinking for the Stewardship Program, as well as an Information Collection Request to collect data under the Stewardship Program; (5) workshops examining the pollution prevention opportunities for nanoscale materials; and (6) a public meeting to discuss these documents and program elements.

As part of the effort, EPA is creating a list of stakeholders. The Agency has sent letters to more than 500 organizations and individuals inviting participation in the design and development of a stewardship program that will help to better understand the potential risks and benefits of nanotechnology. Additionally, an email notification list is being established to distribute new information on EPA efforts on nanotechnology under TSCA (See below). EPA held a preliminary meeting in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2006 to launch its new effort.

Access an EPA release (click here). Access the stakeholder letter from EPA (click here). Access an overview of the Program and links to additional information (click here). Access a FR announcement of the October 19, 2006 meeting (click here). Subscribe to EPA Nanotech TSCA notification list (click here). Access the National Nanotechnology Initiative website for additional information (click here). Access the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies for additional information (click here). Access previous post Groups Call For Nanotechnology Consumer Protection [*Toxics]

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Third Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List

Oct 16: In a Federal Register announcement [71 FR 60704-60708], U.S. EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water has started the process to develop the third Contaminant Candidate List (CCL3) to help identify unregulated contaminants that may require a national drinking water regulation in the future. The CCL 3 contaminant nominations process is an opportunity to provide information on contaminants that the general public, stakeholders, agencies, and industry think should be considered for the CCL. Nominations must be received on or before December 15, 2006. The Agency will also accept nominations during the notice and comment period following EPA’s publication of the proposed CCL.

According to EPA, there are thousands of naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that have the potential to enter sources of drinking water (e.g., pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, industrial chemicals). Some of these contaminants may pose no risk to human health, but others may cause cancer or have endocrine disrupting, reproductive, or developmental effects. Naturally occurring microbial contaminants may also cause acute illness. To ensure that public health is protected, EPA must assess the universe of unregulated drinking water contaminants to determine if they may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The CCL is the primary vehicle used by EPA to target and prioritize unregulated contaminants in drinking water for research and analysis to determine which new contaminants should be regulated. SDWA requires that EPA publish, every five years, a list of unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and which may require regulation under SWDA. EPA is also required to consult with the scientific community and provide notice and opportunity for public comment prior to publication of the CCL.

Access EPA's Contaminant Candidate List 3 (CCL 3) Nominations website for complete details including links to the FR announcement and the nominations website (click here). [*Drink]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NAS Report On Science Of Seafood's Benefits & Risks

Oct 17: A new report -- Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks -- from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine(IOM) says that the fragmented information that consumers receive about the nutritional value and health risks associated with fish and shellfish can result in confusion or misperceptions about this food source. The report reviews the scientific evidence on seafood's benefits and risks and offers examples of how such information might be presented in a more coherent way to the public. It calls for Federal agencies to partner with state, local, and private groups to develop new informational tools and test them with consumers to make sure they work. Malden Nesheim, professor emeritus and provost emeritus, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "Consumers need better guidance on making seafood choices. The committee's approach to balancing the benefits and risks brings this information together in a coordinated way that applies to all population groups. Our model offers a foundation upon which agencies can develop advice that presents information in a user-friendly way and allows consumers to weigh all the relevant details and make well-informed choices."

The committee found that much of the evidence on seafood's health benefits and risks is preliminary or insufficient. Reliable data on the distribution of some contaminants is lacking, and there is little evidence on how beneficial effects of seafood might counteract some of the risks from contaminants. The committee concluded that, "Evidence suggesting that people who have suffered heart attacks can reduce their risk of future heart attacks by eating seafood is weaker than previously thought. It is also not clear whether consuming seafood might reduce people's risks for diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, or other ailments."However, the committee confirmed that eating fish and shellfish may reduce people's overall risk for developing heart disease. It is not certain whether this is because substituting the lean protein of seafood for fatty cuts of meat reduces consumers' intake of saturated fat and cholesterol or because of the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in relatively high amounts in many fish species. The report also found evidence that maternal consumption of omega-3 fatty acids through seafood can contribute to vision and cognitive development in infants and lengthen the duration of gestation.

The report indicates that seafood is the major source of human exposure to methylmercury, a contaminant that accumulates in the muscle of animals over time. Because evidence suggests that methylmercury can disrupt neurodevelopment in the fetus, the report supports current recommendations that women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant avoid consumption of lean, predatory fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, and limit their consumption of albacore, or "white," tuna. Other potential risks associated with seafood are exposure to persistent organic pollutants such as dioxin and PCBs -- though there is not clear evidence on the adverse effects associated with these compounds -- and microbial infections, which are contracted mainly through the consumption of raw or undercooked fish and shellfish.

The committee presented a variety of tools that could be used to inform consumers, including a series of questions designed to provide advice tailored to their specific needs. This way of arriving at a decision should be used as a basis for developing additional decision-support tools and other consumer guidance, the report says. The committee also developed sample graphs illustrating how levels of omega-3 fatty acids and methylmercury vary in different types of fish. These graphics may present this information to consumers more effectively than plain text or numbers, but their design and wording have not been tested among consumers.

The Mercury Policy Project (MPP) and other advocates wrote a letter expressing concerns over the selection of a consumer representative who had close ties with food producing companies and the process NAS used in selecting committee members. In their letter the groups complained that by selecting committee member, Jennifer Hillard of the Consumer Alliance of Canada, "the IOM has chosen someone whose past record suggests close ties with food producing companies as well as a wide range of industry trade groups."

Access a NAS news release (
click here). Access the complete report (click here). Access a report summary (click here). Access Sample Consumer Guidance (click here). Access a recording of the news conference (click here). Access the MPP letter (click here). Access the MPP website for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Acid Rain Program 2005 Progress Report

Oct 16: U.S. EPA released its Acid Rain Program 2005 Progress Report, which the Agency said marks the 11th year of "one of the most widely regarded and successful environmental programs in U.S. history." Since 1995, the program has significantly reduced acid deposition in the United States by decreasing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. EPA said that due to rigorous emissions monitoring and allowance tracking, overall compliance with the Acid Rain Program has been consistently high – nearly 100 percent. There were no units out of compliance in 2005. In 2005, SO2 emissions from electric power generation were more than 5.5 million tons below 1990 levels. NOx emissions were down by about 3 million tons below 1990 levels. The program's emission cuts have reduced acid deposition and improved water quality in U.S. lakes and streams. The report summarizes human health and environmental improvements due to the program and includes sections on compliance strategies, surface water quality monitoring, environmental justice, and EPA's framework for accountability.

The emission reductions to date also have resulted in reduced formation of fine particles, improved air quality, and human health related benefits. A 2005 analysis in the Journal of Environmental Management estimated the value of the program's human health and environmental benefits in the year 2010 to be $122 billion annually (2000$). Most of these benefits result from the prevention of air quality-related health impacts, such as premature deaths and workdays missed due to illness, but they also include improved visibility in parks and other recreational and ecosystem improvements. EPA said that the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), issued in March 2005, will build upon the Acid Rain Program to further reduce SO2 and NOx emissions. CAIR achieves large reductions of SO2 and NOx emissions across 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in these states by more than 70 percent and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels.

Access an EPA release (click here). Access links to the complete 32-page report and appendices (click here). Access EPA's Clean Air Markets Program website for information on the Acid Rain "Cap and Trade" and related programs (click here). [*Air]

Friday, October 13, 2006

EPA Issues Final Drinking Water Groundwater Rule

Oct 12: U.S. EPA issued a new rule which they say will provide greater protection to the drinking water of more than 100 million Americans. The rule targets utilities that provide water from underground sources and requires greater vigilance for potential contamination by disease-causing microorganisms. Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water said, "These first-ever standards will help communities prevent, detect and correct tainted ground water problems so citizens continue to have clean and affordable drinking water." Systems must begin to comply with the new requirements by December 1, 2009.

The risk-targeting strategy incorporated in the rule provides for: regular sanitary surveys of public water systems to look for significant deficiencies in key operational areas; triggered source-water monitoring when a system that does not sufficiently disinfect drinking water identifies a positive sample during its regular monitoring to comply with existing rules; implementation of corrective actions by ground water systems with a significant deficiency or evidence of source water fecal contamination; and compliance monitoring for systems that are sufficiently treating drinking water to ensure effective removal of pathogens. A ground water system is subject to triggered source-water monitoring if its treatment methods don't already remove 99.99 percent of viruses. Contaminants in question are pathogenic viruses -- such as rotavirus, echoviruses, noroviruses -- and pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella, and shigella. Utilities will be required to look for and correct deficiencies in their operations to prevent contamination from these pathogens.

Access a release (click here). Access EPA's Groundwater Rule website for links to the prepublication copy of the 287-page final rule, fact sheet, Q&A document, quick reference guide, supporting documents and background (click here). [*Drink]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Key European Vote May Strengthen REACH Proposal

Oct 10: The Environment Committee of the European Parliament decided by a large majority to take a tougher line on the European chemical regulation proposal than the Council of Ministers. The action sets the stage for a possible final agreement before the end of 2006. The members called for the most hazardous substances to be substituted wherever possible and also stressed the duty of care principle and the need to promote alternatives to animal testing. According to a release, the committee adopted its report on REACH (the regulation on the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals) by 42 votes to 12 with 6 abstentions. Rapporteur Guido Sacconi of Italy said the vote confirmed four of Parliament's key priorities, which should stiffen its resolve in negotiations with Council. These priorities are the substitution of the most dangerous substances, the duty of care, the compulsory safety assessment for chemical products in amounts of less than 10 tonnes and the promotion of alternatives to animal testing.

Alain Perroy, Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council) Director General said, "Today’s vote in the Environment Committee of the European Parliament (EP) will hamper the ability of REACH to achieve its goals to drive both greater safety of products and competitiveness of the European industry... For industry it is time that the REACH regulation gets finally adopted, ending a long period of uncertainty, as we need to start the implementation phase. Our member companies have already started to prepare themselves and we will support them through our Cefic ‘ReachCentrum’ service unit.”

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), representing 450 companies, including virtually all US refiners and petrochemical manufacturers issued a statement saying, "NPRA is disappointed that the European Parliament’s Environment Committee failed to approve an amendment designed to avoid additional unnecessary and overlapping testing requirements and costs. By rejecting this modest proposal, the Committee has paid a disservice to well-documented scientific data generated by OECD and other prominent international chemical programs. Adoption of this amendment also would have reduced future needs for animal testing—a benefit that will now go unrealized. Although we regret yesterday’s action, NPRA hopes that the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, and the European Commission will work to design a REACH program that avoids the unnecessary costs and animal tests that result from failure to include language recognizing the results of prior OECD work.”

Environmental organizations hailed the vote and said, "...today’s Environment Committee vote on the new EU chemicals law (REACH) [is] a vital step towards protecting health and the environment from chemical contamination. The Committee strongly supported the substitution of hazardous chemicals whenever safer alternatives are available. The vote reflects cross-party support for the substitution principle and re-confirms a decision made by the entire assembly last November, which has so far been ignored by the Council of Ministers. It sends a strong message back to the Council that MEPs remain determined that chemicals of very high concern should be replaced with safer alternatives whenever possible. This legal obligation is essential to drive innovation of safer chemicals, in order to end the build-up of harmful substances in our bodies and the environment - one of the key objectives of REACH."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said, "Today’s vote by a committee of the European Parliament is an unfortunate setback for the goal of achieving a fair, workable and proportionate result in the REACH debate. Many of the amendments adopted by the committee will adversely impact the US and other EU trading partners, specifically in areas such as time limited authorizations, mandatory substitution, disproportionate requirements on non-EU importers of polymers, limited rights for confidential business information, and introduction of a separate discriminatory legal ‘duty of care.’"

Access a release from the European Parliament (
click here). Access the June 2006 report from the Environment Committee (click here). Access a EurActiv report of the actions and key links (click here); and here (click here). Access a release from Cefic (click here). Access the Cefic REACH website (click here). Access the NPRA statement (click here). Access the ACC statement (click here). Access a release from environmental groups (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel At The Pump Oct 15

Oct 10: U.S. EPA announced that Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), which they said is the "single, most far-reaching environmental and public health achievement since lead was removed from gasoline," will be available for consumers at the pump by October 15, 2006. According to EPA, the clean-burning fuel has 97 percent less sulfur and will deliver billions of dollars in environmental and public health benefits. Under the administration's clean diesel rules, ULSD combined with new engine technology will not only enhance environmental protection, but will also prevent nearly 20,000 premature deaths and tens of thousands of cases of respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, "America's pumps are primed to deliver on President Bush's goal of clean diesel and cleaner air. Over the last century, diesels have been our nation's economic workhorse – reliable, fuel efficient and long lasting. Today, through the president's investment in clean fuel technology, America's economic workhorse is also becoming America's environmental workhorse."

The availability of cleaner-burning diesel at the pump will allow for the use of new pollution control technology in cars, trucks, and buses. The clean diesel rules are addressing diesel fuels and engines as a single system that will reduce air pollution from diesel engines by more than 90 percent -- or about 13 million -- of today's trucks and buses. Once fully implemented, ULSD will result in the annual reduction of 2.6 million tons of nitrogen oxides and 110,000 tons of particulate matter. The new fuel will help to open up markets to clean diesel passenger cars, pickup trucks, and delivery vehicles that are 30 percent more efficient than current fleets with similar reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to the fuel economy and carbon emission benefits, a new fleet of clean diesel vehicles will have lower maintenance costs, longer engine life, and typically lower fuel costs.

On June 1, refiners and fuel importers were required to start producing ULSD, which contains 15 ppm sulfur, down from 500 ppm. The roll-out of clean diesel fuel is smart environmental and fiscal policy. When fully applied, clean diesel fuels and engines will result in more than $70 billion annually in environmental and public health benefits at a fraction of the cost ($4 billion per year). Expanded use of ULSD also will enhance energy security since diesels tend to be more fuel efficient than gasoline engines.

Richard Kassel, head of Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Clean Fuels and Vehicles Project said, "Diesel is the invisible force that moves the American economy, but until now it has also been a big polluter. Combining the new fuel with cleaner and more energy-efficient engines will mean healthier air and help reduce our dependence on oil." Diesel trucks move 94 percent of the nation's goods -- more than 18 million tons of freight each day. Half a million diesel buses take 14 million people to work and school. The new fuel opens the door for auto companies to begin offering cleaner diesel cars that deliver greater fuel economy.

Access an EPA release (click here). Access EPA National Clean Diesel Campaign website (click here). Access EPA's Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Program website for additional information (click here). Access the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance, a stakeholder group dedicated to providing the public ULSD-related information (click here). Access a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (click here). [*Air]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Groups Call For Nanotechnology Consumer Protection

Oct 10: Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) challenged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect consumers from products laced with nanoparticles. The groups said that consumer products that currently contain unregulated nanoparticles, including sunscreens and cosmetics used by children and adults could pose new dangers to human health and the environment. The challenge was presented as FDA held its first-ever hearing on nanotechnology as it relates to FDA-regulated products. According to FDA, the purpose of the meeting was to help FDA further its understanding of developments in nanotechnology materials that pertain to FDA-regulated products. FDA said it was interested in learning about the kinds of new nanotechnology material products under development in the areas of foods (including dietary supplements), food and color additives, animal feeds, cosmetics, drugs and biologics, and medical devices, whether there are new or emerging scientific issues that should be brought to FDA's attention, and any other scientific issues about which the regulated industry, academia, and the interested public may wish to inform FDA concerning the use of nanotechnology materials in FDA-regulated products.

George Kimbrell, CTA staff attorney said, “With hundreds of nano-laced products already on the market, this meeting is dangerously overdue. For any credibility, this hearing must cut through the industry’s hype and focus on the real health and environmental risks of nanotechnology.” In May, 2006, CTA and FoE led a broad coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups in filing the first-ever legal petition challenging FDA’s failure to address the human health and environmental risks of nanomaterials in consumer products. The petition calls on FDA to require labeling of products containing nanomaterials, as consumers currently have no way to know which products might contain the untested ingredients. The FDA has not answered the petition.

Erich Pica, FoE’s Domestic Campaigns Director said, “FDA has been sleeping at the wheel, while hundreds of sunscreen and cosmetics products have been placed on store shelves without adequate regulations and safety testing. This is one of the most dramatic failures of regulation since asbestos.” In his comments, Pica highlighted FoE’s 2006 report, Nanomaterials, Sunscreens and Cosmetics: Small Ingredients, Big Risks, which lists several hundred cosmetics, sunscreens, and personal care products containing engineered nanomaterials now on market shelves. The groups also noted that FDA had so far received several thousand public comments critical of the agency’s inaction and concerned about the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials in consumer products.

David Rejeski, Director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, testifying at the hearing said, "Thanks to the promise of nanotechnology, people will benefit from fantastic new prescription drugs and from better ways of getting existing pharmaceuticals into the body for more effective disease treatments. But new nano-enabled drugs and medical devices also place new burdens on an oversight agency that is already stretched extremely thin. There are currently 130 nano-based drugs and delivery systems and 125 devices of biomedical devices in preclinical, clinical or commercial development -- an increase of almost 70 percent just since last year. While FDA already has approved some products with materials in the nanosize range, prospects for future growth in this area -- and the burden it will place on the agency’s resources -- are striking... Nanotechnology is emerging rapidly as a transformative technology across virtually every product category FDA regulates. The stakes are extremely high -- in terms of human health benefits, financial investments, and scientific progress. It’s up to FDA, with the strong support of Congress and industry, to ensure that these nanotechnology products are safe. Unless the FDA has the capacity to address potential nanotechnology risks now, public confidence in a host of valuable nanotechnology-based products could be undermined.”

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized.

In a related matter, on September 28 the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council (NRC) issued a new report that discusses the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) -- a Federal program created in 2000 to coordinate nanotechnology R&D efforts by several government agencies. The report indicated that NNI is successfully generating new technologies and fostering innovative interdisciplinary research, but the initiative’s impact on the U.S. economy is still unknown, and research on nanotechnology’s possible effects on humans and the environment has been limited and inconclusive [See WIMS 9/29/06].

Access a release from FoE with links to additional information including the FDA petition, the 2006 report and a brief explanation entitled Nanotechnology 101 (
click here). Access the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website for their complete presentation, reports and links to extensive additional information and resources (click here). Access FDA's Nanotechnology website with links to extensive information and details on the meeting (click here). Access the U.S.National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) website for additional information (click here). Access the complete NRC report (click here). [*All]

Friday, October 06, 2006

Groups Say Proposed Home Heating Standards Are Weak

Oct 6: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release stating that the Department of Energy's (DOE's) new efficiency standards for home furnaces and boilers proposed in the Federal Register [71 FR 59203-59259, 10/06/06] "are as weak as they are tardy." NRDC attorney Katherine Kennedy said the proposed standards, which by law were due in 1994, "will do little to save energy or cut costs for consumers. This long-overdue proposal misses the opportunity to bring home heating into the 21st Century. We need strong furnace and boiler standards to cut pollution and keep Americans warm -- without breaking the bank. The only promising aspect of DOE's proposal is to grant states greater authority to set standards appropriate to their own climates. The best solution remains for DOE to issue stronger national furnace standards, and the department can still do that. The next best solution, if the federal government refuses to lead, is to allow states to set tougher furnace efficiency standards that would lower energy bills and clean the air."

To date, three states -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont -- have passed laws to set stronger standards than the one proposed by DOE. But those laws cannot take effect without DOE authorization, a cumbersome process at best. Under DOE proposed rule, it is signaling that it would make it easier for states to set their own, tougher standards. In September 2005 NRDC filed a lawsuit along with 15 states and two consumer organizations. The still-pending lawsuit alleges that DOE has repeatedly ignored deadlines requiring them to set new efficiency performance standards for air conditioners, furnaces and 20 other types of "power-hungry" equipment.

According to a coalition of environmental, energy and consumer groups, the DOE proposal will "do little to actually save energy." Steve Nadel, executive director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said, “As expected, the DOE proposal provides for essentially no change in the national standard for natural gas furnaces. Fortunately, DOE has opened the door for states to set their own, stronger standards.” ACEEE, National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), and a coalition of consumer, environmental, and energy groups recommended that DOE set a national standard in two parts: a stronger level for cold weather states and a weaker level for those with shorter, milder winters. DOE rejected this advice claiming it lacked authority to set regional standards.

The proposed standards would require between 80-84 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for six common furnace and boiler types and would apply to all covered furnaces and boilers offered for sale in the United States, effective on January 1, 2015. The groups said the 80% AFUE rating -- is a level already met by virtually all furnaces sold today. They said a standard at 90% efficiency -- an efficiency level currently met by about one-third of all sales -- would save a typical consumer about 11% off their home heating bills relative to the current minimum efficiency units available.

According to DOE analyses the proposed standards would save a significant amount of energy -- an estimated 0.41 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or quads, of cumulative energy over 24 years (2015-2038). For comparison, approximately six quads are used annually for space heating in U.S. homes. The economic impacts on consumers--i.e., the average life-cycle cost (LCC) savings -- are positive. The cumulative national net present value (NPV) of total consumer costs and savings of the proposed standard (DOE's trial standard level 2, or TSL2) from 2015 to 2038, in 2004$, ranges from $650 million (seven-percent discount rate) to $2.48 billion (three-percent discount rate).

According to analysis by ACEEE, a strong furnace standard set at 90% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) applied in the northern half of the country would save 1.7 billion therms per year when fully implemented, enough to heat about 3.1 million typical homes. Consumers would save about $8 billion over about 20 years.

DOE said, "The Department has found the proposed standard represents the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified... The Department considered higher energy efficiency levels as trial standard levels; however, it found the burdens of the higher efficiency levels (loss of manufacturer NPV, LCC increases for some consumers, and safety concerns) outweigh the benefits (energy savings, LCC savings for some consumers, national NPV increase, and emission reductions)." The Department will hold a public meeting on the proposed rules on October 30, 2006, from 9 AM - 4 PM, in Washington, DC.

Access an NRDC release (click here). Access a release from ACEEE (click here). Access the FR announcement (click here). [*Energy]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New UNEP Report Evaluates State Of The Marine Environment

Oct 4: A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that a rising tide of sewage is threatening the health and wealth of far too many of the world’s seas and oceans. The report, State of the Marine Environment, was compiled by UNEP’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources (UNEP/GPA). In many developing countries between 80 per cent and nearly 90 per cent of sewage entering the coastal zones is estimated to be raw and untreated. According to the report the pollution -- linked with rising coastal populations, inadequate treatment infrastructure and waste handling facilities -- is putting at risk human health and wildlife and livelihoods from fisheries to tourism. There is also rising concern over the increasing damage and destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems like, mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds. According to the report, the problems contrast sharply with oil pollution. Globally, levels of oily wastes discharged from industry and cities has, since the mid 1980s been cut by close to 90 per cent. Other successes are being scored in cutting marine contamination from toxic persistent organic pollutants like DDT and discharges of radioactive wastes.

The study says overall good progress is being made on three of nine key indicators, is mixed for two of them and is heading in the wrong direction for a further four including sewage, marine litter and ‘nutrient’ pollution. Nutrients, from sources like agriculture and animal wastes, are ‘fertilizing’ coastal zones triggering toxic algal blooms and a rising number of oxygen deficient ‘dead zones’. The report also identifies new areas in need of "urgent attention." These include declining flows in many of the world’s rivers as a result of dams, over-abstraction and global warming; new streams of chemicals; the state of coastal and freshwater wetlands and sea level rise linked with climate change. Researchers are also calling for improved monitoring and data collection on continents like Africa where the level of hard facts and figures on marine pollution remains fragmented and woefully low.

The findings of the report will be given to governments attending an intergovernmental review of the 10 year-old GPA initiative taking place in Beijing, China, from October 16-20. The UNEP/GPA was adopted by governments in 1995. It is tasked with assisting governments in combating nine key coastal problems which the new report assesses. The nine key issues include: Persistent Organic Pollutants; Radioactive Substances; Oils; Heavy Metals; Sediment Mobilization; Sewage; Nutrients; Marine Litter; and Physical Alteration and Destruction of Habitats. Currently more than 60 countries across Continents including Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are now part of this global effort.

Access a lengthy release with extensive links to report documents and related information (click here). Access links to the report by parts (click here). [*Water]

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Department of Energy Releases Strategic Energy Plan

Oct 2: Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman released the Department’s five-year strategic plan that focuses on the Department’s role in powering and securing America’s future. The plan addresses overall Department goals for developing and deploying new clean energy technologies, reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources, protecting the nuclear weapons stockpile, and ensuring that America remains competitive in the global marketplace. DOE says the plan builds on President Bush’s Advanced Energy and American Competitiveness Initiatives, which are increasing America’s energy security, spurring scientific innovation, and sustaining our economic vitality.

Secretary Bodman said, “The Department of Energy’s strategic plan outlines a path forward to enhance our clean energy options and advance national security interests while protecting the health and safety of our workers and the public. Building on the Department’s rich and diverse history and the President’s initiatives, this plan details the steps necessary to keep our commitments, embrace innovation, and work together to ensure safe, secure, and environmentally responsible operations.”

The Department’s strategic plan seeks to deliver results along five strategic themes that include: (1) promoting America’s energy security through reliable, clean, and affordable sources; (2) ensuring America’s nuclear security by transforming the nuclear weapons stockpile through development of Reliable Replacement Warheads that are safer and more secure; (3) strengthening U.S. scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and improving quality of life through scientific innovations; (4)protecting the environment through responsible resolution of weapons era waste; and (5) strengthening the operations and management of the Department.

In terms of developing energy security the Department lists several strategies including: (1) Reduce dependence on energy imports, particularly oil in the transportation sector, by developing and effectively deploying technologies to increase fuel efficiency and enable the substitution of alternatives such as biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen. (2) Collaborate globally with governments and scientists to expedite the development and deployment of unconventional energy resources, such as biofuels, that can substitute for oil and natural gas. (3) Collaborate globally with governments and scientists to expedite the development and deployment of nuclear power which can substitute for natural gas. (4) Ensure adequate crude and regional home heating oil supplies during emergency shortages by maintaining the operational readiness of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. (5) Ensure an expanding supply of domestic energy for the American public by promoting the construction of an Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline and the environmentally responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Access a release (click here). Access links to the plan by sections (click here). [*Energy]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

EPA Scientific Advisory Group Rejects Agency PM Standards

Sep 29: U.S. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), in a strongly critical 3-page letter to Administrator Stephen Johnson, says that the Agency's newly finalized annual PM2.5 standard does not provide an “adequate margin of safety… requisite to protect the public health” which they say is required by the Clean Air Act. Further they say that their recommendations to the Agency "were consistent with the mainstream scientific advice that EPA received from virtually every major medical association and public health organization that provided their input..." On September 21, EPA announced what it said were the "strongest national air quality standards in the country's history" establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine and coarse particle particulate matter (PM). Administrator Johnson said at the time, "Regardless of the rhetoric, facts are facts -- today EPA is delivering the most health protective national air standards in U.S. history to all 300-million Americans. As a 26-year EPA scientist, I have spent my career working to hand down a cleaner, healthier environment -- and these stronger air quality standards do just that." [See WIMS 9/21/06]

In stark contrast, the CASAC begins its letter to Johnson saying, "We, the seven members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC or Committee), are writing to express our serious scientific concerns regarding the public health and welfare implications of EPA’s final primary (health effects) and secondary (welfare effects) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for airborne particulate matter (PM). As you know, the CASAC is mandated by the Clean Air Act to provide scientific advice on the setting of these standards that are intended to protect both public health and public welfare, and in the case of the protection of public health, to do so with 'an adequate margin of safety.' The Committee has conscientiously fulfilled its duty in providing our best scientific advice and recommendations to the Agency. Regrettably, however, EPA’s final rule on the NAAQS for PM does not reflect several important aspects of the CASAC’s advice."

CASAC said it was concerned that EPA did not accept its finding that the annual PM2.5 standard was not protective of human health and did not follow its recommendation for a change in that standard. In emphasized text, the CASAC writes, "...there is clear and convincing scientific evidence that significant adverse human-health effects occur in response to short-term and chronic particulate matter exposures at and below 15 µg/m3, the level of the current annual PM2.5 standard..." CASAC said that in addition to their recommendation, 20 of the 22 members of the CASAC’s Particulate Matter Review Panel that assisted in the review -- including all seven members of the chartered (statutory) Committee -- were in complete agreement. Again in emphasized text, CASAC said, "It is the CASAC’s consensus scientific opinion that the decision to retain without change the annual PM2.5 standard does not provide an 'adequate margin of safety … requisite to protect the public health' (as required by the Clean Air Act), leaving parts of the population of this country at significant risk of adverse health effects from exposure to fine PM. Significantly, we wish to point out that the CASAC’s recommendations were consistent with the mainstream scientific advice that EPA received from virtually every major medical association and public health organization that provided their input to the Agency... Indeed, to our knowledge there is no science, medical or public health group that disagrees with this very important aspect of the CASAC’s recommendations."

Describing another concern with EPA's final PM regulations, CASAC said they were, "completely surprised at the decision in the final PM NAAQS to revert to the use of PM10 the indicator for coarse particles. In our September 15, 2005 letter, the CASAC recommended a new indicator of PM10-2.5, which EPA put forward in its proposed rule for the PM NAAQS... The CASAC wishes to emphasize that continuing to rely on primary standards to protect against all PM-related adverse environmental and welfare effects assures neglect, and will allow substantial continued degradation, of visual air quality over large areas of the country."

In a concluding summary, CASAC says, "...the Agency has rejected the CASAC’s expert scientific advice with regard to lowering the level of the annual primary fine particle (PM2.5) standard and establishing a new coarse particle (PM10-2.5) standard -- both of which are consistent with the recommendations of the nationally-recognized science, medical and public health groups such as those cited above -- and, in addition, EPA has not followed our advice in setting a separate secondary PM2.5 standard. We note that, since the CASAC’s inception in the late 1970s, the Agency has always accepted the Committee’s scientific advice with regard to final NAAQS decisions."

Access the complete CASAC letter (click here). Access the WIMS 9/21/06 article on EPA's PM standards with links to further information posted on the WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog (click here). Access the CASAC PM Review Panel website for extensive background information (click here). [*Air]

Monday, October 02, 2006

Congress Approves Chemical Facility Security Legislation

Sep 30: The House and Senate approved the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, HR. 5441, which contains language authorizing the Department to regulate security at chemical facilities. The agreement was reached by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and was approved by a Senate-House negotiating panel [See WIMS 9/27/06].

American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement on the final approval saying, “ACC would like to thank Congress for their work in accomplishing our shared objective of passing meaningful chemical security legislation this year. This measure represents significant progress in the effort to secure America’s chemical industry, an essential part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. While this bill is not a home run, Congress came through in the last inning to deliver essential chemical security legislation. For the past several years, ACC has sought performance based chemical security legislation through the relevant authorizing committees. While we would have preferred a more comprehensive bill and still have concerns regarding certain provisions, the approved legislation gives the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) the power to establish effective national chemical security performance standards for the entire industry.

“Congress has given DHS risk-based tools to ensure that chemical facilities assess potential security vulnerabilities and implement appropriate security measures. Equally important, the legislation gives DHS clear authority to inspect facilities and apply strong penalties to those that fail to comply. ACC will work closely with DHS as it develops regulations that build on the leadership demonstrated by our member companies, who have invested nearly $3 billion on security enhancements under ACC’s mandatory Responsible Care Security Code®.”

Access the statement from ACC (click here). Access a release from Senator Collins on the agreement (click here). Access legislative details for HR 5441(click here). Access the Senate hearing website on Inherently Safer Technology (IST) for links to all testimony and statements (click here). Access the GAO statement on IST (click here). [*Haz]