Wednesday, January 31, 2007

EPA Document Calls For Stricter Ozone Standards

Jan 31: U.S. EPA announced that a key document in its review of national air quality standards for ozone will recommend the administrator consider strengthening the current ozone standards to better protect public health. The document, known as the "final staff paper," contains staff recommendations for the administrator to consider in upcoming decisions about revising the Agency's ozone standards. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to periodically review its air quality standards to ensure they continue to protect health and the environment, and to update the standards if necessary. EPA last updated the standards for ozone in 1997. The final ozone staff paper addresses a primary standard, designed to protect public health; and a secondary standard, set to protect the public welfare, including crop health.

For the primary standard, staff recommends a range of levels for the administrator to consider in setting the ozone standard. That range extends from below 0.080 ppm down to 0.060 ppm. The previous draft of the staff paper identified options that included retaining the current standard of 0.084 ppm, along with a range of alternative levels down to 0.064 (the lowest level analyzed), with a focus on a level of 0.07 ppm.

For the secondary standard, staff recommends a standard that is a cumulative, weighted total of daily 12-hour exposures over a three-month period within the growing season. It would give greater weight to exposures at higher ozone concentrations. Staff recommended a range for this standard, from 21 parts per million-hours to 7 parts per million-hours.

EPA is making the final ozone staff paper available at this time and said it will release technical documents used in developing the staff paper sometime this week. The documents include a health risk assessment for meeting the current ozone standards along with potential alternative standards, and an assessment of the effects of ozone on vegetation. EPA notes that the assessments, conclusions and recommendations included in the staff paper are staff judgments. They do not represent Agency decisions on the ozone standards. EPA will propose action on the ozone standards by June 20, 2007 and take final action by March 12, 2008.

On October 25, 2006, 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 was 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 [See WIMS 10/25/06].

Access a release (click here). Access links to a fact sheet and the final staff document (click here, posted 1/31/07). Access links to the ozone technical documents to be posted later this week (click here). [*Air]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Senators' Perspectives On Global Warming

Jan 30: The full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing entitled, Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming. The purpose of the hearing was to hear from each Senator about his or her views on global warming, and what the Senator believes the nation's response should be to the issue. The statements from the Chair and Ranking Member illustrate how far apart opinions are on this issue.

Senator Boxer opened the hearing with a presentation saying, "My colleagues, I believe we must act now to address global warming. I believe it is our responsibility. I believe it is our duty. And I believe it is our challenge. I believe that just as consensus has been built among scientists, it is rapidly building among the American people. A recent Time Magazine/ABC News Poll found that 88 percent say that global warming threatens future generations. We are at a historic moment – the tide is turning. A real consensus is coming together around this issue in a way that has never happened before. Scientists, the public, and even the Bush Administration agree: global warming is real, and humans are making a serious contribution...

"We know what is happening-- the science is clear: The planet is getting warmer because humans are releasing too much carbon pollution into the atmosphere. If we fail to take action on global warming now, we can expect future catastrophic impacts like rising sea levels, more extreme weather events of all kinds, damage to coral reefs and fisheries, and negative impacts on food production and water supplies. We need to act soon, before we reach a tipping point when irreversible changes to the world we know may occur..."

Ranking Member, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), outspoken critic of conventional climate change theory, released his opening remarks saying that he disagree with the format of today’s hearing. He said, "Just to hold a hearing for members to provide testimony is duplicative of the Senate floor... This event today breaks every hearing protocol of this Committee, from no agreed to witness list to testimony not being submitted under our rules... I will object in the future to any similar hearings.

"On the issue of climate change in the last four years, I have spoken on the Senate floor more than a dozen times, held four hearings, two stakeholder meetings and many briefings within the Committee. I have looked at the science, the economics, and expected benefits of differing initiatives and proposals. And I have examined how well the world’s only large-scale carbon rationing program that has been implemented so far – the Kyoto Protocol – has fared in achieving its objectives... The Kyoto Protocol would cost the average household $2,700 per year. And it would accomplish virtually nothing. Even if the alarmists were right, the Kyoto Protocol would only reduce temperatures by 0.07 Celsius by the year 2050. Bills introduced in the Senate are no different. The Bingaman proposal would only reduce temperatures by 0.008 Celsius...

"Of course, while the U.S. was on an energy diet, the rest of the world would be free to continually increase their emissions. [for example] China does not plan to accept carbon caps, and will become the world’s largest CO2 emitter by 2009 – two years from now. It is building more than one new coal plant every three days. India and Brazil are not far behind. If they are not part of any effort, then efforts to curb emissions are doomed to failure...

"In regards to the 10 companies which announced their Climate Action Partnership last week, I would like to introduce into the record a commentary from the Wall Street Journal. This outlines the fact that each of the companies from Duke to GE, will individually profit from their plan. It is not an example of companies thinking of the quote “common good” as some of my colleagues have suggested, but more a case of climate profiteers..."

Access a webcast of the hearing (click here, hopefully available soon). Access Senator Boxer's opening presentation and links to charts and graphics used (click here). Access Senator Inhofe's statement and links to supporting information (click here). Access the hearing website for links to some additional statements (click here). Access a listing of Democrats and Republicans on the Committee (click here). [*Climate]

Monday, January 29, 2007

GAO Says Municipal Recycling Efforts Could Be Increased

Jan 29: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released a report entitled, Recycling: Additional Efforts Could Increase Municipal Recycling (GAO-07-37, December 29, 2006). The report was requested last year by former Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) and several other members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In 2005, the United States generated about 246 million tons of municipal solid waste, or over 1,600 pounds per person, according to the most current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. EPA reported that 79 million tons of this waste were recycled, while the remaining 166.7 million tons were combusted, went to landfills, or were otherwise disposed of. EPA currently has a goal of recycling 35 percent of national municipal solid waste by 2008.

According to the report, although recycling can generate environmental and economic benefits, the national recycling rate has increased only slightly since 2000 (i.e. from 29% to 32%), according to U.S. EPA [
See WIMS 10/23/06]. While local governments have the primary role in operating recycling programs, EPA and the Department of Commerce have some legal responsibilities for encouraging recycling. GAO was asked to (1) identify key practices cities are using to increase recycling, (2) describe what EPA and Commerce are doing to encourage recycling, and (3) identify Federal policy options that could help increase recycling. GAO interviewed recycling coordinators in 11 large cities about key practices and 13 additional recycling stakeholders about policy options. GAO selected both groups based on geographic representation and recycling expertise, among other factors.

GAO indicates that recycling coordinators interviewed in selected cities across the country identified several key practices they are using to increase recycling in their cities. The three practices they cited most frequently were (1) making recycling convenient and easy for their residents, (2) offering financial incentives for recycling, and (3) conducting public education and outreach. In addition, both recycling coordinators and the recycling literature identified other ways to increase recycling, such as targeting a wide range of materials for recycling and extending recycling programs to the commercial sector.

GAO found that one of EPA’s principal national recycling programs, WasteWise, creates voluntary partnerships with groups, such as universities, states, and businesses, to help them increase their recycling. EPA also provides competitive grants to support projects designed to increase recycling. However, the impact of EPA’s programs is unknown because the programs lack performance measures and comprehensive data on program performance. GAO also found that although Commerce is required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to stimulate the development of markets for recycled materials, the agency is not currently taking any actions to do so in the United States.

GAO reported that the recycling stakeholders they interviewed identified various Federal policy options that they believe could help municipalities increase their recycling rates. The three Federal policy options cited most frequently were to (1) establish a nationwide campaign to educate the public about recycling; (2) enact a national “bottle bill” in which beverage containers may be returned for money; and (3) require manufacturers to establish systems that consumers can use to recycle their products. Other identified policy options included: facilitating the sharing of recycling best practices among municipalities; expanding EPA research on the economic and environmental benefits of recycling; and providing additional grant money for recycling projects.

In its investigation, GAO interviewed recycling coordinators from Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington.

Access the complete 51-page report (click here). [*Solid]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Riverkeeper, Inc. v. U.S. EPA

Jan 25: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No.04-6692. Petitioners challenge a final rule promulgated by U.S. EPA pursuant to section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1326(b), that is intended to protect aquatic organisms from being harmed or killed by cooling water intake structures at large, existing power-producing facilities. In summary, the Appeals Court said, "While we conclude that certain aspects of the rule are based on a reasonable interpretation of the Clean Water Act and supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record, several aspects of the rule are not consistent with the statute, are not supported by sufficient evidence, or were not properly subject to notice and comment. We therefore grant in part and deny in part the petitions for review and dismiss in part one aspect of the petitions for lack of jurisdiction because there is no final agency action to review."

In its opinion, the Appeals Court says that it presumes familiarity with its previous decision in Riverkeeper, Inc. v. EPA, 358 F.3d 174 (2d. Cir. 2004). It explains, these consolidated petitions for review concern a final rule promulgated by the EPA regarding the water that large, existing power plants withdraw from rivers, lakes, and other waterways of the United States to cool their facilities. See 40 C.F.R. § 125.91(a). This cooling process requires power plants to extract billions of gallons of water per day from the nation’s waters, thereby impinging and entraining a huge number of aquatic organisms. Indeed, a single power plant can kill or injure billions of aquatic organisms in a single year.

In its final conclusion to the 80-page decision, the Appeals Court said, "For the foregoing reasons, the state and environmental petitioners’ petitions are granted in part and denied in part, and the industry petitioners’ petitions granted in part, denied in part, and dismissed in part for lack of jurisdiction. We remand to the EPA the provision establishing BTA [best technology available] so that it may provide either a reasoned explanation of its decision or a new determination of BTA based on permissible considerations. We further remand the site-specific cost-cost variance and the TIOP provision because the cost-cost variance and subpart (d)(2) of the TIOP provision provided inadequate notice and both depend on the BTA determination, which we remand today.

"We remand as based on impermissible constructions of the statute those provisions that (1) set performance standards as ranges without requiring facilities to achieve the greatest reduction of adverse impacts they can; (2) allow compliance through restoration measures; and (3) authorize a site-specific cost-benefit variance as impermissible under the statute. We further remand for notice and comment the independent suppliers provision. We also direct the EPA on remand to adhere to the definition of 'new facility' set forth in the Phase I Rule or to amend that definition by rulemaking subject to notice and comment. Finally, we dismiss for lack of jurisdiction so much of the petitions as challenges the purported definition of “Great Lakes” and deny as moot the motions to strike certain material from the record and to supplement the record with other material."

Access the complete opinion (
click here). Access EPA's Cooling Water Intake Structure website for additional information (click here). [*Water, *Wildlife]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dealing With Global Warming Without Nuclear Power

Jan 24: Greenpeace USA joined with other climate and energy advocates and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), to release what they are calling "a landmark analysis" showing that the United States can address global warming, without relying on nuclear power or so-called “clean coal” as President Bush proposed in his State of the Union Address [See WIMS 1/24/07]. John Coequyt, energy policy analyst with the Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign said, “This blueprint not only shows us what needs to be done to address global warming, but how to do it using existing technologies. America can deal with global warming without nuclear power, which is inherently dangerous. We can do it without enshrining another century of dependence on coal -- which is only ‘clean’ if you ignore the tremendous environmental devastation caused by coal mining. The fact is we can have our cake and eat it, too.”

According to the report, which details a worldwide energy scenario -- in the United States, nearly 80% of electricity can be produced by renewable energy sources; carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced 50% globally and 72% in the U.S. without resorting to an increase in dangerous nuclear power or new coal technologies; and, America’s oil use can be cut over 50% by 2050 with much more efficient cars and trucks, potentially including new plug-in hybrids, increased use of biofuels, and greater reliance on electricity for transportation.

The study, Energy [R]evolution -- A Blueprint for Solving Global Warming, commissioned from the internationally-respected German Aerospace Centre, shows that significantly increasing renewable energy and efficiency improvements alone can solve the global warming problem. Greenpeace said it is the first study to fulfill the promise of Princeton Professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow’s “wedge” framework, by presenting an alternative scenario for reaching greenhouse gas stabilization.

Access a release and link to a webcast of the press conference (
click here). Access the complete 92-page report (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State Of The Union Energy & Climate Initiatives

Jan 23: According to the White House there were eight major policy initiatives contained in the President's State of the Union message. The initiatives include: ENERGY: Twenty In Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security; HEALTH CARE: Affordable, Accessible, And Flexible Health Coverage; EDUCATION: Building On Results: A Blueprint For Strengthening NCLB; IMMIGRATION: President Bush's Plan For Comprehensive Immigration Reform; HIV/AIDS: Leading The Worldwide Fight Against HIV/AIDS; MALARIA: The President's Malaria Initiative Is Saving Lives; DEFENSE: Strengthening Our Military; and SPENDING REFORMS: Reforms To Spend Tax Dollars Wisely.

On the energy issue, the President asked Congress and America's scientists, farmers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs to join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years – "Twenty in Ten." The plan calls for increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels and by reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and extending the current light truck rule. The President's energy plan also includes stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

Further details provided by the White House indicated the President's Twenty In Ten Goal would be reached by: Increasing The Supply Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels By Setting A Mandatory Fuels Standard To Require 35 Billion Gallons Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels In 2017 – Nearly Five Times The 2012 Target Now In Law. In 2017, the will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use. Additionally, the plan calls for Reforming And Modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards For Cars And Extending The Current Light Truck Rule. In 2017, which will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels -- bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.

On the subject of climate change, the President did acknowledge the issue and said, "America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change." Further White House details indicated that the President's Plan will help confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon dioxide emissions from chars, light trucks and SUVs within 10 years. By 2017, the White House indicated that the renewable fuel and fuel efficiency components of the plan would cut annual emissions from cars and light trucks by as much as 10 percent, about 175 million metric tons – equal to zeroing out the annual emissions of 26 million automobiles. And, the plan could cumulatively prevent the buildup of more than 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

In a press briefing held before the actual State of the Union that included, Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett; National Security Advisor Steve Hadley; Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Joel Kaplan; and Press Secretary Tony Snow; Kaplan told reporters, "It's also important to note that under this President's climate change policy, we're making significantly more progress than any of our friends and allies who have adopted some kind of national carbon trading system. In between 2000 and 2004, while our economy was growing 10 percent, our carbon emissions grew by 1.7 percent, as compared to the European Union, which had economy growth of 7 percent and carbon emissions growth of 5 percent. So we've been making good progress under this President, and we'll continue to make progress with the types of energy policies the President is talking about tonight."

Access the complete State of the Union text (
click here). Access further details on the Energy Initiatives (click here). Access an overview of other initiatives in the address (click here). Access the full text of the advance press briefing (click here). Access links to webcasts of the address (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sustainable Farm Groups Outline Farm Bill Agenda

Jan 22: A broad alliance of family farm, rural, conservation, sustainable and organic agriculture, anti-hunger, nutrition, faith-based, public health and other groups say the next farm bill should advance a new generation of farm and food policies designed to address some of the nation’s most pressing social, economic, environmental and public health challenges. The group known as the Farm and Food Policy Project (FFPP) detailed their recommendations in a report entitled, Seeking Balance in U.S. Farm and Food Policy. The groups indicated, "The renewal of the Farm Bill in 2007 creates a rare opportunity to take significant steps towards reversing these trends. More than $300 billion in taxpayer dollars is at stake over the next five years. These resources must be managed more responsibly and used to create greater balance in our public policies and ultimately in our farm and food system."

The report outlines innovations which the groups says would make real progress toward creating opportunities for young and beginning farmers, expanding new agricultural markets and value-added enterprises, helping more farmers move to organic production to meet increasing demand, reducing hunger and soaring rates of obesity; encouraging local food production and access to healthy food choices, promoting entrepreneurship and economic development in rural communities; providing incentives for more environmentally friendly farming systems; fostering cooperative conservation partnerships; and providing increased support for socially disadvantaged farmers and farmworkers.

FFPP indicates the report has been endorsed by more than 350 organizations across the country. Some of the lead organizations involved in the effort include: American Farmland Trust; Community Food Security Coalition; Environmental Defense; Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative; Northeast Midwest Institute; Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Access links to various speaker presentations, press release, the report, endorsements, and related information (
click here). [*Land, *Energy, *Agriculture]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Enviros & Businesses Call For Climate Change Action

Jan 22: Environmental Defense, a founding member of a group of high-level corporate and environmental leaders, issued a release announcing that the group would make a groundbreaking announcement in Washington, D.C. The group is calling for a cap-and-trade system to combat climate change. Saying the "historic proposal" is "A Call to Action," that urges the Federal government to set limits for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to create market-based incentives and, most of all, to act swiftly and thoughtfully.

The new alliance known as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), includes the well-known corporations: Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, Florida Power & Light, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, Pacific Gas & Electric, and PNM Resources; and environmental organizations: Environmental Defense, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute.

The partners pledged to work together to support six recommendations for national action: (1) Account for the global dimensions of climate change – the U.S. government should become more involved in international arrangements for addressing global warming; (2) Recognize the importance of technology – the cost-effective deployment of existing energy efficient technologies should be a priority; (3) Be environmentally effective – mandatory requirements and incentives must be stringent enough to achieve necessary emissions reductions; (4) Create economic opportunity and advantage – a climate protection program must use the power of the market to establish clear targets and timeframes; (5) Be fair – global warming solutions must account for the disproportionate impact of both global warming and emissions reductions on some economic sectors, geographic regions, and income groups; and (6) Encourage early action – prior to the effective date of mandatory pollution limits, every reasonable effort should be made to reduce emissions.

In a joint statement released on January 19, 2007, the members of US-CAP said, they are "...committed to action and believe that properly constructed policy can be economically viable, environmentally responsible, and politically achievable. Swift legislative action on our proposal would encourage innovation and provide needed U.S. leadership on this global challenge. Our goal is to help our nation create public policy that would act aggressively and sustainably to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Toward this end, USCAP urges lawmakers to enact a policy framework for mandatory reductions of GHG emissions from major emitting sectors, including large stationary sources, transportation, and energy use in commercial and residential buildings. The cornerstone of this approach would be a cap-and-trade program..."

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, commended the coalition of business and environmental organizations for working together to save the planet. Boxer said, "There are just a few moments in history when all sides come together for the common good. Such a moment has arrived with the agreement by these companies and organizations to work together to call for action to avoid a global warming crisis."

Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). Access an additional release from US-CAP (click here). Access the 9-page Consensus Principles and Recommendations from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership: A Business and NGO Partnership (click here). Access the joint statement (click here). Access the US-CAP website (click here). Access a release from Senator Boxer (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort Climate Change website for links to related information (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, January 19, 2007

House Approves CLEAN Energy Act 264 to 163

Jan 18: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a brief statement on the passage of H.R. 6, the CLEAN Energy Act, which rolls back subsidies and tax breaks for "Big Oil" [See WIMS 1/18/07]. Following extensive debate, the bill passed at approximately 6:00 PM by a vote of 264 to 163. Some 32 Republicans voted for the bill and only three Democrats voted against the measure; and, eight members did not vote.

Pelosi said, “Today’s vote represents the first step toward a future of energy independence. By rolling back $14 billion in subsidies for Big Oil at time when they have recorded record profits, and investing that money in clean renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. By investing in American ingenuity, Democrats will accelerate the implementation of existing clean, energy-efficient technologies. We will promote homegrown alternatives, creating good paying jobs while bolstering our national security, sending our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East.”

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman issued a lengthy statement on the House passage of H.R. 6. Bodman said in part, "Energy is a bipartisan issue and together we can work to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy while expanding our nation's economy. We can accomplish this by increasing our investments in new energy technology and also in the further development of our nation’s natural energy resources... We support the bill’s effort to repeal some of the unnecessary oil and gas incentives from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). In addition, we would ask that Members consider repealing other unneeded incentives contained in EPAct, such as federal funding for oil and gas research and development.

"While there are areas of agreement in this legislation, there are also areas of disagreement. Among them is a provision requiring companies that signed favorable oil development leases with the Department of the Interior in 1998 and 1999 to renegotiate those leases. While I agree that the leases are out of line with prior and current policy, the bigger issue is protecting the sanctity of contracts... I would ask Congress to closely review this provision as the bill moves forward.

“In addition, we can continue our work to invest more in clean energy technology today. So I am again asking that Congress fully and immediately support the President's $2.1 billion Advanced Energy Initiative. This 22 percent increase in funding for projects in vehicle technology, solar and wind research, nuclear energy, and clean coal projects would kick start the development and eventual deployment of these new clean energy technologies and allow us to more quickly wean our dependence from foreign sources of energy. Also, I encourage the Congress to fund the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative. This multi-billion investment is important to advance basic science research, which can lead to revolutionary discovery and ultimately greater energy independence.”

As previously reported, the bill has sharply divided business and environmental interests. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups strongly opposed the bill, while Sierra Club and other environmental organizations praised the bill [See WIMS 1/18/07].

Additional representative business comments were issued by National Manufacturers Association (NAM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). NAM President, John Engler said, "The debate over energy policy should not focus on punishing oil and gas companies through new taxes or costs. Instead, Congress should focus on improving access to domestic energy supplies, energy efficiency technology and creating a more secure energy future for all consumers.” API said, "HR 6 is a repeat of failed energy legislation and is a disappointment for all Americans who want to insure a secure energy future. Punitive taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry are ultimately anti-consumer and contrary to the goal of providing stable and cost-effective supplies."

Additional representative environmental group comments were issued by National Wildlife Federation (NWF). NWF called the House vote the "Opening Salvo in Fight Against Global Warming" NWF said, “Today’s vote is the opening salvo in the fight against global warming and in favor of creating of a new energy future for America. Ending the nation’s oil addiction and shifting to renewable energy sources will put us on a pathway that reduces global warming pollution and promotes energy independence. Forty percent of America’s carbon emissions that contribute to global warming are attributable to the use of oil, and 60 percent of our oil supplies come from foreign sources."

Access the Pelosi statement (
click here). Access the details of the House vote (click here). Access the statement from Energy Secretary Bodman (click here). Access the statement from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a letter from the Chamber to House members (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a statement from NAM (click here). Access a statement from API (click here). Access a statement from NWF (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6 (click here). Access the House Floor consideration of the bill (click here). [*Energy]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

UN Climate Change Head Calls For Global Summit

Jan 16: The head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proposed the convening of a global summit backed by the UN to plan a future course of action for tackling the cross-cutting problem. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo De Boer told a press briefing in New York, Since climate change “affects energy, energy security, economic issues [and] development issues, it really needs to be taken to the level of heads of State and heads of government." De Boer, who met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the UN leader would be an ideal advocate on the issue, saying, “I feel that the Secretary-General of the United Nations is in an excellent position to mobilize that kind of leadership and to help to move the process forward.”

A spokesman for the new Secretary-General said he is well aware of the urgent nature of reversing or stopping climate change and believes that it is “an important issue that has serious consequences for humanity, including social and economic impacts.” Ban himself has said, “We must do far better in the mission to halt climate change.” At a news conference earlier this month, he added, “This, too, will be one of my priorities.”

Despite some progress towards positive change made by some of the world’s major emitters, De Boer pointed out that the issue has reached a major turning point given that developing countries are already burdened by effects of climate change such as prolonged drought and loss of infrastructure. The current Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 UN treaty mandating targets for reducing greenhouse gases, expires in 2012. De Boer said that the interests of developing nations must be considered when creating a replacement mechanism after the treaty’s cessation. He said, “I feel it’s so important to bring the question of climate change back to the UN process, back to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change where basically all of the interests can be addressed and you can find a solution for after 2012 that really does represent the diversity of views.”

Access a UN release (click here). Access a 43 minute informative webcast of the press briefing (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for additional information (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Senate Hearing On Agriculture & Biofuels Production

Jan 10: The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Chaired by Senator Tom Harkin, (D-IA) held a hearing entitled, Agriculture and rural America's role in enhancing national energy security. Witnesses representing the following organizations testified at the hearing: Resources for the Future; US Department of Agriculture; 25 x25 Steering Committee; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, LLC & Renewable Fuels Association; Strategic Energy Institute; National Pork Producers Council & Iowa Pork Producers Association; The Minnesota Project; and the American Forage and Grassland Council.

Providing an industry overview, RFA testimony indicated that the current ethanol industry consists of 110 biorefineries located in 19 different states with the capacity to process more than 1.8 billion bushels of grain into 5.3 billion gallons of high octane, clean burning motor fuel, and more than 12 million metric tons of livestock and poultry feed. The 5.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2006 resulted in the following impacts: Added $41.1 billion to gross output; Created 160,231 jobs in all sectors of the economy; Increased economic activity and new jobs from ethanol increased household income by $6.7 billion, money that flows directly into consumers’ pockets; Contributed $2.7 billion of tax revenue for the Federal government and $2.3 billion for State and Local governments; and, Reduced oil imports by 170 million barrels of oil, valued at $11.2 billion. There are currently 73 biorefineries under construction. With eight existing biorefineries expanding, the industry expects more than 6 billion gallons of new production capacity to be in operation by the end of 2009.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) projects that by 2015, corn growers will produce 15 billion bushels of grain. According to the NCGA analysis, this will allow a portion of that crop to be processed into 15 billion gallons of ethanol without significantly disrupting other markets for corn. In fact, many analysts are predicting an additional 10 million acres of corn will be planted this spring, providing enough corn from those additional acres to produce more than 4 billion gallons of ethanol while still meeting the needs of all corn markets, including feed and export markets. RFA said, "While there are indeed limits to what we will be able to produce from grain, cellulose ethanol production will augment, not replace, grain-based ethanol. Ethanol from cellulose will dramatically expand the types and amount of available material for ethanol production, and ultimately dramatically expand ethanol supplies."

There are now more than 1,000 E-85 refueling stations across the country, more than doubling in number since the passage of EPAct. Today there are approximately 6 million flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the road capable of using E-85, a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Those six million FFVs represent less than 3% of the total U.S. motor vehicle fleet of more than 200 million vehicles. Clearly, U.S. auto manufacturers have made a significant commitment to FFV technology, and their commitment is increasing. Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler have made significant strides in producing and promoting FFVs.

On the cautionary side, the Minnesota Project testified that, "We must design the policies that simultaneously meet objectives for energy, the environment, and rural prosperity. If we do it right, we can continue food production and expand the pool of biomass feedstocks in a way that achieves all of those objectives at the same time. On the other hand, if we do it wrong, we may find that environmental tragedy and rural decline will overwhelm the hopes of renewable energy and create a backlash against the ethanol industry and farmers. We stand at the crossroads and must steer the change in the proper direction.

"Environmental Benefits of Biomass To be specific, I’m talking about opening the door for agriculture production of cellulosic biomass on a major scale. We need to shift the policy focus from annual crops, with attendant soil tillage, chemical use, erosion and habitat loss – to perennial crops, with the opportunity for building up soil quality with no soil disturbance, few chemicals, and managed habitat. Switchgrass is not the only feedstock; different cellulosic materials appropriate to every region of the country might include prairie grass mixtures, alfalfa hay, and woody crops like poplar trees, willow, and hazelnuts. Perennial energy crops are the best bet for cleaning up the nation’s water quality and shrinking the Dead Zone in the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico. If done right, cellulose production could be an excellent way to restore wildlife habitat for hunters, birdwatchers, and fishermen..."

(In a related matter)...

Grain Needed For Ethanol Is "Vastly Underestimated"

Jan 4: Lester Brown at the Earth Policy Institute in the latest Eco-Economy Update says that the distillery demand for grain to fuel cars is "vastly underestimated" and the world may be facing the highest grain prices in history. According to the update, investment in fuel ethanol distilleries has soared since the late-2005 oil price hikes, but data collection in this fast-changing sector has fallen behind. Because of inadequate data collection on the number of new plants under construction, the quantity of grain that will be needed for fuel ethanol distilleries has been vastly understated. Brown says, "Farmers, feeders, food processors, ethanol investors, and grain-importing countries are basing decisions on incomplete data."

The Update indicates, "The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that distilleries will require only 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest. But here at the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), we estimate that distilleries will need 139 million tons -- more than twice as much. If the EPI estimate is at all close to the mark, the emerging competition between cars and people for grain will likely drive world grain prices to levels never seen before. The key questions are: How high will grain prices rise? When will the crunch come? And what will be the worldwide effect of rising food prices?

According to the EPI compilation, the 116 plants in production on December 31, 2006, were using 53 million tons of grain per year, while the 79 plants under construction -- mostly larger facilities -- will use 51 million tons of grain when they come online. Expansions of 11 existing plants will use another 8 million tons of grain (1 ton of corn = 39.4 bushels = 110 gallons of ethanol). In addition, easily 200 ethanol plants were in the planning stage at the end of 2006. The grain it takes to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year. Converting the entire U.S. grain harvest to ethanol would satisfy only 16 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs.

Brown says, "The competition for grain between the world’s 800 million motorists who want to maintain their mobility and its 2 billion poorest people who are simply trying to survive is emerging as an epic issue. Soaring food prices could lead to urban food riots in scores of lower-income countries that rely on grain imports, such as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, and Mexico. The resulting political instability could in turn disrupt global economic progress, directly affecting all countries."

Access the Agricultural hearing website for links to all testimony (click here). Access the complete Eco-Economy update (click here). Access a separate data document listing plants and information by state and extensive tables and calculations (click here). [*Energy]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Supreme Court Denies Hearing TMDL "Daily" Case

Jan 16: The United States Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling requiring limits on the amount of pollution allowed in the Anacostia River each day (See WIMS: 5/2/06, Friends of the Earth vs. EPA, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 05-5015, 4/25/06). Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth obtained a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals last year requiring EPA to set the daily pollution caps, and the High Court's action rejected an attempt by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority to overturn the Court of Appeals' decision. The Anacostia runs through the heart of our nation's capital from Maryland through the District of Columbia and eventually into the Potomac River. It has been described as one of the dirtiest rivers in the country.

Earthjustice attorney David Baron said, "Today the Supreme Court closed the final chapter in this long saga to require daily pollution caps for one of America's dirtiest rivers. The Anacostia River runs right through the backdoor of Congress, EPA and the White House. This decision will go a long way toward finally cleaning up the river so it will be safe for fishing and swimming once again."

In the Appeals Court ruling the Appeals Court said, the case poses the question whether the word, “daily,” as used in the Clean Water Act, is sufficiently pliant to mean a measure of time other than daily. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes the position that Congress, in requiring the establishment of “total maximum daily loads” [TMDL] to cap effluent discharges of “suitable” pollutants into highly polluted waters, left room for EPA to establish seasonal or annual loads for those same pollutants. The Court ruled, "If EPA believes using daily loads for certain types of pollutants has undesirable consequences, then it must either amend its regulation designating all pollutants as 'suitable' for daily loads or take its concerns to Congress. We therefore reverse and remand with instructions to vacate the non-daily 'daily' loads."

Access a release from Earthjustice with links to background information (click here). Access the complete D.C. Circuit opinion (click here). Access the Supreme Court order document denying the appeal (click here, Search #06-119) [*Water]

Friday, January 12, 2007

NAS Says OMB Risk Assessment Document "Fundamentally Flawed"

Jan 11: A draft bulletin issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) prescribing technical standards for Federal risk assessments is "fundamentally flawed" and should be withdrawn, according to a new National Academy of Sciences' (NAS), National Research Council report. OMB requested that the Research Council review the bulletin.

Last January OMB issued the draft bulletin, which included a new definition of risk assessment and proposed standards aimed at improving Federal risk assessments [See WIMS 1/10/06]. Risk assessments are often used by the Federal government to estimate the risk the public may face from such things as exposure to a chemical or the potential failure of an engineered structure, and they underlie many regulatory decisions.

John F. Ahearne, chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "We began our review of the draft bulletin thinking we would only be recommending changes, but the more we dug into it, the more we realized that from a scientific and technical standpoint, it should be withdrawn altogether." The committee agreed with OMB that there is room for improvement in Federal risk assessments and that additional guidance would help. However, it concluded that the bulletin would not accomplish its stated goal of enhancing the technical quality and objectivity of Federal risk assessments. The Committee said, "OMB should instead issue a different type of bulletin that outlines goals and general principles for risk assessments, but that directs federal agencies to develop their own technical guidelines to meet those goals and principles. The new bulletin should draw on the risk assessment expertise that exists in federal agencies and the organizations that advise them."

In a release the Committee indicated that although the general thrust of the draft bulletin appears to be consistent with past expert recommendations on risk assessments, a number of specific proposals are inconsistent. It added that the bulletin attempts to move standards for risk assessment into "territory beyond what previous reports have recommended and beyond the current state of the science." Also, OMB's definition of risk assessment is "too broad and in conflict with long-established concepts and practices."

Many of the standards proposed in the bulletin are unclear, the report adds. In particular, OMB's proposal of separate standards for general risk assessments and "influential" ones is problematic because agencies may not know at the outset whether a risk assessment will be considered influential. The committee also took issue with the bulletin's definition of an "adverse health effect" because it implies that only clinically apparent effects should be considered adverse. They said, "This ignores a fundamental public health goal to control exposures well before they cause functional impairment."

The Committee said the bulletin also omits several topics, further limiting its usefulness. For example, OMB erred in focusing mainly on human health risk assessments while neglecting risk assessments of technology and engineered structures. The bulletin's incomplete and unbalanced approach to engineering, ecological, and other types of risk assessments contradicts its stated objective of improving the quality of risk assessment throughout the Federal government. The bulletin also gives little attention to the integral role of risk communication, the importance of default assumptions in conducting risk assessments, and the risks faced by sensitive populations, such as children and pregnant women.

The Committee said, "OMB has not established a baseline of each agency's proficiency at conducting risk assessments, nor estimated the cost of implementing the bulletin. However, the committee determined -- based on comments from the agencies and its own knowledge of risk assessment practices -- that some aspects of the bulletin's implementation could be beneficial but that the costs are likely to be substantial. Overall, the committee concluded that the potential for negative impacts on the practice of risk assessment in the federal government would be very high." The Committee noted that risk assessment is not a monolithic process or single method, adding that "one size does not fit all."

House Chairmen Bart Gordon (D-TN, Science & Technology), John D. Dingell (D-MI, Energy & Commerce), Henry A. Waxman (D-CA, Oversight & Government Reform), and James Oberstar (D-MN, Transportation & Infrastructure) issued a joint release saying they agreed with the NAS conclusions that the document was fundamentally flawed. The Members, who have been critical of the document, expressed their concerns in a letter to NAS last May when they initiated their review of the Risk Assessment Bulletin.

Access a release from NAS (
click here). Access the complete report on-line and a summary report (click here). Access the complete 26-page OMB Proposed Risk Assessment Bulletin document (click here). Access the Members joint release (click here). [*All]

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Energy Policy For Europe To Reduce GHG

Jan 10/11: The European Commission proposed a comprehensive package of measures to establish a new Energy Policy for Europe to combat climate change and boost the EU's energy security and competitiveness. The package of proposals set a series of ambitious targets on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and renewable energy and aim to create a true internal market for energy and strengthen effective regulation. The Commission believes that when an international agreement is reached on the post-2012 framework this should lead to a 30% cut in emissions from developed countries by 2020. To further underline its commitment the Commission proposes that the European Union commits now to cut GHG emissions by at least 20% by 2020, in particular through energy measures.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "Today marks a step change for the European Union. Energy policy was a core area at the start of the European project. We must now return it to centre stage. The challenges of climate change, increasing import dependence and higher energy prices are faced by all EU members. A common European response is necessary to deliver sustainable, secure and competitive energy. The proposals put forward by the Commission today demonstrate our commitment to leadership and a long-term vision for a new Energy Policy for Europe that responds to climate change. We must act now, to shape tomorrow's world".

Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment stated that, "Climate change is one of the gravest threats to our planet. Acting against climate change is imperative. Today, we have agreed on a set of ambitious, but realistic targets which will support our global efforts to contain climate change and its most dire consequences. I urge the rest of the developed world to follow our lead, match our reductions and accelerate progress towards an international agreement on the global emission reductions".

On January 11, in a major follow-up speech on climate change to the Launch event of the European Commission and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change co-operation for 2007, Stavros Dimas indicated, "...the fight against climate change is much more than a battle. It is a world war that will last for many years and probably for many generations. Damaged economies, refugees, political instability, and the loss of life are typically the results of war. But they will also be the results of unchecked climate change. It is like a war because to reduce emissions something very like a war economy is needed. All sectors – transport, energy, agriculture and foreign policy must work closely together to meet a common objective. And it is a world war because every country in the world will be affected by the results of climate change – although it will be the poorest who are hit hardest...

"The science on climate change is clear and we can see the evidence is before our eyes. We have a good idea of the likely social, environmental and – following the Stern Review - economic cost of climate change [
See WIMS 10/31/06]. We already have the basic technologies that can reduce emissions ... and these are being improved all the time. We have the resources to make the necessary investments. If we are to have a chance of successfully tackling climate change the real challenges are not scientific, or technical or economic. They are political...

"As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Union I am convinced that protecting the environment – and in particular tackling climate change – will be at the very heart of the European project over the next 50 years. The alternative is to surrender in the war against climate change ... and that is really no alternative at all."

Access a release and overview from the European Commission (
click here). Access links to all documents (click here). Access a EurActiv report on the actions and links to extensive information (click here). Access the Dimas 1/11/07 speech (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two OCS Areas May Be Offered For Oil & Gas Leases

Jan 9: Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced that President George Bush has modified the leasing status of two areas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in response to Congressional action and the requests of state leaders. In addition, Kempthorne announced that he has increased the royalty rate for most new offshore deepwater federal oil and gas leases to 16.7 percent (1/6th). Kempthorne said, “Together, these actions will enhance America’s energy security by improving opportunities for domestic energy production, and will also increase the revenues that the federal government collects from oil and gas companies on behalf of American taxpayers.”

The areas were withdrawn from consideration for leasing through 2012 by President Bill Clinton in 1998. By modifying that Presidential withdrawal to remove these two areas, President Bush’s action allows the Secretary of the Interior the option of offering these areas during the Minerals Management Service’s next five-year OCS oil and gas leasing program (2007-2012). Kempthorne said, “Both OCS areas -- one in the North Aleutian Basin of Alaska (known as Bristol Bay) and the other in the Central Gulf of Mexico (referred to as the 181 South Area) – would receive thorough environmental reviews. There will be significant opportunities for study and public comment before any oil and gas development could take place in these areas.”

Saying it will increase opportunities for domestic energy production to meet escalating demand, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the U.S. Department of Interior for modifying the leasing status of two areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Bristol Bay, Alaska and an area in the Central Gulf of Mexico. Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber executive vice president for Government Affairs said, "Allowing the development of new oil and gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf is an important step in meeting the energy needs of a growing nation. This decision, along with recent legislation allowing additional exploration in a portion of the Gulf of Mexico, underscores the growing realization among policymakers that increasing domestic production is an important component of breaking our dependence on foreign oil."

American Chemistry Council (ACC) President & CEO Jack Gerard issued statement saying, “We applaud the President’s action making more of America’s own energy supplies eligible for leasing to meet our nation’s needs. It represents another decisive step toward a more rational natural gas policy, addressing the supply-demand imbalance by adding more than 11 million acres to the deep sea federal waters eligible for exploration. Today’s announcement along with the historic Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act – signed into law last month – signal growing national recognition that affordable, reliable access to natural gas is critical in our economy and to progress on priorities such as jobs, competitiveness, energy security and the development of alternative and cleaner energies, many of which rely on natural gas.” The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also issued a statement of support for the action (See link below).

Bristol Bay, called America's "Fish Basket," supports a billion dollar fishery, valuable sport hunting and fishing industry, Native Alaskan cultural and subsistence values, and marine wildlife populations. Environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund have said, "We strongly urge President Bush to leave Bristol Bay alone Oil and gas drilling would jeopardize the nation's most important fishery, hundreds of communities reliant on fishing and a treasure trove of wildlife." [See WIMS 12/4/06].

The 181 South Area was included in the 2007-2012 OCS Oil and Gas Proposed Program. In December 2006, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which requires leasing in that area [See WIMS 12/11/06]. On December 4, then Speaker of the House-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement saying, “The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 showed the world the devastation and destruction that oil spills could have on Alaska’s fragile waters... The American people paid $95 million to buy back leases from oil companies to ensure that Bristol Bay would be forever protected from devastating oil spills... Allowing oil drilling to go forward in Bristol Bay puts our precious environment at risk. Allowing new oil company leasing of these lands is an insult to all taxpayers who have helped protect them."

Bill Eichbaum, managing director and vice-president of the marine portfolio at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), issued a statement saying, "I am very disappointed with the president's action today. Bristol Bay should be off the table for drilling. WWF will now work with Congress to override the president's action and re-instate the Congressional moratorium on oil and gas development in Bristol Bay which was allowed to expire in 2004. Why risk ruining a billion dollar fishery, a valuable sport hunting and fishing industry, a critical resource for Native Alaskans and one of the most important places for marine wildlife populations in the Bering Sea?"

Access an Interior Department release (
click here). Access a fact sheet (click here). Access the Bush Memo to Kempthorne (click here). Access a map of the Bristol Bay area (click here). Access a map of the Gulf/181 South area (click here). Access a release from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access the ACC release (click here). Access the NAM statement (click here). Access a release from Representative Pelosi (click here). Access a release from WWF (click here). [*Energy, *Water, *Wildlife]

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Supreme Court Oral Argument In Solid Waste Flow Control Case

Jan 8: The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of United Haulers Assoc., Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (Case No. 05-1345). The case is being appealed from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, February 16, 2006, decision (Case No. 05-2024) which upheld the Northern District of New York decision [See WIMS 3/1/06]. The district court found that the municipal solid waste flow control ordinances enacted and implemented by the Authority did not impose a "differential burden on interstate commerce."

The Second Circuit said in its decision, "even if we were to recognize that the ordinances burden interstate commerce, we would find that the burden imposed is not clearly excessive in relation to the local benefits conferred by the ordinances... We therefore decline to resolve the former question," and affirmed the district court decision. The Second Circuit said further, "In our view, then, the local benefits of the flow control measures substantially outweigh whatever modest differential burden they may place on interstate commerce." The Second Circuit decision raises a rationale for local flow control regulations, which have basically been deemed invalid since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its definitive ruling in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383, 386 (1994) [
See WIMS 11/14/06].

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Second Circuit's "controversial decision" which they say could lead to a resumption of local solid waste disposal monopolies – reducing competition and raising prices for consumers [
See WIMS 11/17/06].

Adding to the interest in the case the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, in the case of National Solid Wastes v. Daviess County KY (Case No. 04-6498), upheld a district court ruling in a similar case saying that a proposed Daviess County Ordinance was unconstitutional, and enjoined the County from enforcing it [See WIMS 1/25/06]. In that case the Sixth Circuit said, it refused to adopt what it termed, "the public-private distinction with respect to the dormant commerce clause;" as provided in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals United Haulers case.

The Supreme Court oral argument included appearances by Evan Tager representing the waste hauling Petitioners; Michael Cahill, representing the Respondent Authority; and Caitlin Halligan, Solicitor General, New York, N.Y.; on behalf of New York, as amicus curiae, supporting Respondents. After arguments from each, Tager was allowed a rebuttal. Tager argued that, "The barriers to interstate commerce imposed by the flow control ordinances in this case are even more severe than those resulting from the ordinance this Court struck down in Carbone."

The Justices appeared to be carving out an exception regarding public vs. private operations. Chief Justice Roberts asked the question, "What happens in a lot of municipalities of course is that they decide, well, we're going to run the waste treatment facility and we're going to tax the people in the municipality to support it and the service is going to be free. Now, is that a violation of the Commerce Clause?" Justice Ginsburg said, "I'm sorry. At least as I read the Carbone opinion, it didn't deal with the public-private distinction." Justice Breyer said, "Well, there is still at least the obvious distinction, that one of the main purposes of the dormant Commerce Clause is to prevent protectionism... But now where the municipality is running it itself, no one is favored." Justice Souter said to Tager, "It sounds to me as though, if we accept your argument that, going back to Justice Breyer's first question, every municipal utility in the United States is going to fall."

Respondent attorney Cahill said, "No decision of this Court has held that public service is comparable to private enterprise for purposes of dormant Commerce Clause analysis. Here the only entity that benefits from these laws is the government itself... I don't think that we're engaging in commercial activity in this particular case. If we were to offer our services to citizens to whom we do not have a governmental responsibility, then I think we're entering into the realm of competition with the private sector.

The New York Solicitor General Halligan argued, "As you suggested, Justice Breyer, the theory that petitioners would have the Court adopt here is in fact a novel one. What they are suggesting is that there is discrimination sufficient to trigger near fatal scrutiny every time the government takes over, to the exclusion of all private actors both in state and out of state, a government service, that that is sufficient to trigger strict scrutiny. That is completely inconsistent with the way that this Court has defined what constitutes discrimination for purposes of the dormant Commerce Clause."

Access the complete oral argument transcript (
click here). Access the Supreme Court docket in the case (click here). Access a more detailed account of the long history in this case from the Medill School of Journalism (click here). Access the Second Circuit opinion (click here). Access the Sixth Circuit opinion (click here). [*Solid]

Monday, January 08, 2007

Senate Committee "Conference" On Biofuels

Jan 5: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), has issued a request for submissions from interested parties to respond to five questions related to transportation biofuels. Responses may address any one or more of the listed questions. Submittals must be received by Friday, January 12, 2007, and a conference/meeting will be held by the Committee on February 1, 2007. Specific forms and instructions are provided for the submittals.

All submittals will be reviewed; however, only a limited number of participants can be invited to participate in the conference. The limitation is necessary to manage the meeting and permit a useful exchange of ideas. All efforts will be made to ensure that a variety of stakeholders and recommendations are represented. Invitations to participate in the conference will be made by January 18, 2007. The submittals to be discussed at the conference will be posted in advance of the meeting on the Committee website.

Senator Bingaman said, “One of the preeminent energy policy questions facing us is how to diversify energy supplies for transportation. As our first energy hearing next week will show, the United States faces significant energy security challenges stemming from our dependence on foreign oil. Biologically derived fuels have an important role to play in promoting our energy security.”

The five questions include: (1) What is a sustainable goal for biofuels penetration of the U.S. transportation energy market? And, in what timeframe? (2) What are the key economic challenges to the development of the biofuels transportation industry? (3) What infrastructure will be required to support increased use of biofuels for transportation? Please discuss whether a national transportation and distribution network will be necessary, versus a larger number of regional networks. (4) What are the key environmental impacts of increased biofuels consumption? If some of the environmental impacts are adverse, what policy responses would be appropriate? (5) How should government support research and development efforts related to transportation biofuels?

Access an announcement of the Conference (click here). Access links to the instructions and five questions (click here). [*Energy]

Friday, January 05, 2007

Senate Dems Sets Stage On Energy & Climate Change

Jan 5: In a floor statement regarding the National Energy and Environment Security Act of 2007, the new Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), set the stage for the energy and climate change debate of the 110th Congress. The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and is cosponsored by Senator Bingaman and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Bingaman said, "I'm pleased to cosponsor S. 6, the National Energy and Environment Security Act of 2007. This is a message bill that Sen. Reid introduced earlier today. It lays out a number of important goals that will guide our thinking and our action on energy-related matters, including the issue of global warming, in the 110th Congress.

Bingaman outlined five key goals of the bill: (1) to reduce our dependence on foreign and unsustainable energy sources; (2) to reduce exposure to the risks of global warming; (3) to diversify and expand our use of secure, efficient and environmentally friendly energy supplies and technologies; (4) to reduce the burdens on consumers of rising energy prices; and (5) to eliminate tax giveaways and prevent energy price gouging and manipulation.

Bingaman indicated, “All of this is a tall order for Congress. I would predict that instead of seeing just one big energy bill, we will be addressing these issues through multiple bills that move through the Senate as issues and proposals for addressing these issues become ripe for action. In the Senate we will not make much progress on energy or environment unless we can develop a strong bipartisan approach on the issues. The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has a strong tradition of bipartisan accomplishment that I plan on continuing in this new Congress. I look forward to working with my colleague, Sen. Pete Domenici, and all members of the committee as we forge an effective path forward to promote our energy and energy-related environmental security.”

In a lengthy speech announcing a number of legislative initiatives, Majority Leader Reid said, "This year, the Senate will work full weeks, with votes on Monday and Friday... The extra time will give our committees the time they need to put their expertise to use for our country. The best legislation -- with the broadest possible support -- always comes from our Committees. Senator Bingaman has scheduled a full Committee hearing, Wednesday, January 10, to receive testimony on the global oil balance and its implications for U.S. economic and national security. Specific witnesses have not yet been announced.

Specifically, on the S. 6 bill, Reid said, "For too long, our country’s energy policy has had only one concern: oil company profits. We’ve allowed Exxon’s bottom-line to take priority over families struggling at the gas pump and the harmful effects of global warming. In an effort to begin to solve the energy crisis, our sixth bill will take an aggressive approach to reducing America’s dependence on oil, especially foreign oil, and putting more advanced technologies in the hands of consumers. It will boost production of electricity from solar, geothermal and other renewable sources that are abundant in states like Nevada, and grow the nation’s renewable energy technology jobs and manufacturing base. Freeing ourselves from Oil, particularly from unstable regimes, is a tremendous challenge, but it’s one we cannot afford to ignore."

In a related matter, the Brookings Institute scholars offer a variety of publications and commentary on energy, transportation, and environmental issues, as well as pertinent policy recommendations. According to the Institute, the rise of China and India as major global economic powers, the continued growth in U.S. energy demand, and instability in key oil-exporting regions are dramatically affecting international energy markets. These dynamics have implications for the global balance of power, as energy security is becoming an increasingly important factor in countries' national security and economic development calculations. The series of papers include discussions of energy matters in China, India, Japan, The Russian Federation and the Middle East.

In yet another related matter, the December 26, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) contained an article entitled, The Iranian petroleum crisis and United States national security. According to the article, the U.S. case against Iran is based on Iran's "deceptions regarding nuclear weapons development. This case is buttressed by assertions that a state so petroleum-rich cannot need nuclear power to preserve exports, as Iran claims. The U.S. infers, therefore, that Iran's entire nuclear technology program must pertain to weapons development. However, some industry analysts project an Irani oil export decline... If such a decline is occurring, Iran's claim to need nuclear power could be genuine. Because Iran's government relies on monopoly proceeds from oil exports for most revenue, it could become politically vulnerable if exports decline. Here, we survey the political economy of Irani petroleum for evidence of this decline."

Access the statement from Senator Bingaman (
click here). Access available legislative details for S. 6 (click here). Access the statement from Senator Reid (click here). Access the hearing website for the energy security hearing (click here). Access the policy papers from the Brookings Institute on energy security (click here). Access the PNAS article (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Thursday, January 04, 2007

DHS Regs To Improve Security At Chemical Facilities

Dec 22: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made available for public review what it said is an aggressive and comprehensive set of proposed regulations that will improve security at high-risk chemical facilities nationwide. The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2006, as an Advanced Notice of Rulemaking entitled, Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, and will be available for public comment until February 7, 2007 [71 FR 78275-78332]. In October 2006, the President signed the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, H.R. 5441, which contained language requiring the Department to regulate security at the nation’s “high-risk” chemical facilities.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “The consequences of an attack at a high risk chemical facility could be severe for the health and safety of the citizens in the area and for the national economy. Congress has provided the department with a critical new authority to set performance standards that are both sensible and disciplined, allowing owners and operators the flexibility to determine an appropriate mix of security measures at their facility under our supervision and subject to our approval. We’re grateful for this new authority, and we intend to implement it quickly and apply it aggressively."

The proposed regulations require that chemical facilities fitting certain profiles complete a secure online risk assessment to assist in determining their overall level of risk. High-risk facilities will then be required to conduct vulnerability assessments and submit site security plans that meet the department’s performance standards. The department will validate submissions through audits and site inspections, and will provide technical assistance to facility owners and operators as needed. Performance standards will be designed to achieve specific outcomes, such as securing the perimeter and critical targets, controlling access, deterring theft of potentially dangerous chemicals, and preventing internal sabotage. Security strategies necessary to satisfy these standards will depend upon the level of risk at each facility.

The proposed regulations provide chemical facilities with two quick and simple opportunities to challenge the disapproval of a site security plan. Failure to comply with performance standards may result in civil penalties up to $25,000 per day, and egregious instances of noncompliance could result in an order to cease operations.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) President & CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement saying that ACC and its members "recognize our obligations to secure our facilities and the chemicals we produce. Following 9/11, without waiting for the federal government, members of ACC moved aggressively to secure their facilities and have invested more than $3.5 billion enhancing security under ACC’s Responsible Care® Security Code... DHS is now authorized to establish risk-based performance standards to ensure that high-risk chemical facilities assess security vulnerabilities and develop and implement security plans. Equally important, DHS has clear enforcement authority to inspect these facilities and apply strong penalties to those that fail to properly address security. This represents a major step forward in the effort to secure America’s chemical industry, an essential part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. ACC looks forward to providing comment during the rulemaking process and will continue working closely with DHS in securing the nation’s critical chemical assets.”

Access a DHS release (
click here). Access the FR announcement (click here). Access the DHS website and contact information for the proposed regulations (click here). Access the ACC release (click here). Access the 10/2/06 WIMS article and links on the legislation approval posted on the WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog (click here). [*Haz]

Get More Each Day! (click here)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Boxer & AWWA Differ On Monitoring For Perchlorate

Dec 22: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), incoming Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a statement on EPA’s final rule which will require monitoring drinking water for up to 25 unregulated chemicals under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR2) [See WIMS 1/2/06]. Boxer said the rule will not require testing drinking water for the toxic chemical perchlorate. She said the toxin has been found in millions of Americans’ drinking water. EPA’s original 1999 rule ordered testing for perchlorate, and just last year EPA proposed to extend that requirement. However, she indicated in a release that, in the wake of industry opposition, the new final rule says that “based on public comment and further consideration, EPA has removed the requirement for monitoring perchlorate….”

The Senator said, “I am distressed that the agency has said there will be no required testing of our drinking water for the dangerous chemical perchlorate. This is another unwelcome holiday gift from EPA to the American public, one of several recent EPA actions undermining health protection. As a result of this new rule, Americans will not have up-to-date information on whether their tap water is contaminated with this toxin. I also remain deeply concerned that EPA has dragged its feet and refused to set a safety standard for perchlorate in our drinking water. Until EPA sets a standard, at the very least we should know if it's in our drinking water. We will not let this kind of action stand. We will closely examine this issue when the new Congress convenes.”

An October 21, 2005, letter from the American Water Works Association (AWWA), representing 4,200 utilities that supply roughly 80 percent of the nation's drinking water, commenting on the regulation indicated, "...we have significant concerns with an apparent disconnect between the CCL [Contaminant Candidate List] and the UCMR and the inclusion of perchlorate in the proposed UCMR2... AWWA recommends that perchlorate not be included in the final UCMR2. The perchlorate monitoring is unnecessary and will not provide meaningful data that for any regulatory decisions for any potential perchlorate drinking water regulation."

AWWA argued that, "The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) conducted a review of the health effects of perchlorate and concluded that a daily ingestion of up to 0.0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can occur without adversely affecting the health of even the most sensitive populations. EPA translated this to a Drinking Water Equivalent Level (DWEL) of 24.5 ug/L, assuming a 70 kg body weight and 2 L per day consumption.

"Based on our evaluation of the current regulatory data, it does NOT appear that any potential perchlorate regulation would be below 4 ppb, which was the UCMR1 minimum reporting level. Therefore, the monitoring requirement for perchlorate in the proposed UCMR2 is duplicative and unnecessary, and would be an inappropriate use of utilities’ limited resources. Requiring utilities to spend more than $4 million to obtain perchlorate occurrence data that is not needed for regulatory development is not justified. EPA already has a large, robust occurrence database above 4 ppb from UCMR1, and this occurrence database is adequate for a regulatory determination for perchlorate."

Access the statement from Senator Boxer (
click here). Access an overview of the UCMR2 from AWWA regulations (click here). Access the AWWA comment letter of 10/21/05 (click here). Access an EPA release (click here). Access a pre-publication copy of the final rule (click here). Access EPA's UCMR 2 website for extensive information (click here). [*Drink]