Friday, August 17, 2007

GAO Faults EPA Assessments Of Economics Of SPCC Amendments

Readers Note: While Congress and the President take their late summer break, WIMS will also be on break for the next two weeks. We'll be back with you on Tuesday, September 4, 2007, to catch you up on any late summer surprises and begin what should be an exciting period of activity this fall as developments begin to heat up in advance of next year's Presidential election and the global climate change debate intensifies. Have a safe and enjoyable end of summer and we'll be reporting to you again on September 4.

Aug 16: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report entitled, Aboveground Oil Storage Tanks: Observations on EPA's Economic Analyses of Amendments to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Rule (GAO-07-763, July 27, 2007). The report was prepared at the request of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) Ranking Member Committee on Environment and Public Works.

GAO indicates that oil in aboveground tanks can leak into soil and nearby water, threatening human health and wildlife. To prevent certain oil spills, U.S. EPA issued the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule in 1973. EPA estimated that, in 2005, about 571,000 facilities were regulated under this rule. When finalizing amendments to the rule in 2002 and 2006 to both strengthen the rule and reduce industry burden, EPA analyzed the amendments’ potential impacts and concluded that the amendments were economically justified. As requested, GAO assessed the reasonableness of EPA’s economic analyses of the 2002 and 2006 SPCC amendments, using Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines for Federal agencies in determining regulatory impacts, among other criteria, and discussed EPA’s analyses with EPA officials.

GAO found that EPA’s economic analysis of the 2002 SPCC amendments had several limitations that reduced its usefulness for assessing the amendments’ benefits and costs. In particular, EPA did not include in its analysis a number of the elements recommended by OMB guidelines for assessing regulatory impacts. For example, EPA did not assess the uncertainty of key assumptions and data. In the analysis, EPA assumed that certain facilities were already complying with at least some of the rule’s provisions and, as a result, they would not incur any additional compliance costs because of the amendments. However, the extent of facility compliance with the rule was highly uncertain. EPA did not analyze the effects of alternative rates of industry compliance on the estimated costs and benefits of the revised rule and, therefore, potentially misstated these amounts. Furthermore, GAO found that EPA’s 2002 analysis was limited in other ways that are listed in the report.

GAO also found that EPA’s economic analysis of the 2006 amendments addressed several of the limitations of its 2002 analysis, but it also had some limitations that made it less useful than it could have been for assessing the amendments’ costs and benefits. For example, EPA’s 2006 analysis assessed the potential effect of industry noncompliance on the estimated costs (or cost savings) and estimated the present value of costs (or cost savings) associated with different alternatives for burden reduction. Nevertheless, as with the 2002 analysis, EPA did not estimate the potential benefits of the 2006 amendments, such as the extent to which they would affect the risk of an oil spill and public health and welfare and the environment. In addition, EPA did not have available nationally representative samples for its analysis; therefore, its estimates of the number of facilities that would be affected by the 2006 amendments may not be accurate.

GAO recommends that EPA improve its analysis of future changes to the SPCC rule by more closely following OMB guidance. In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that, consistent with it, the agency will continue gathering data to improve its understanding of the regulated universe and oil spill risks and to address uncertainty and quantify benefits.

Access the complete 57-page report (
click here). Access further information on EPA's SPCC program (click here). [*Haz, *Water]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Morgan Stanley Announces Carbon Bank Service

Aug 14: Morgan Stanley (MS) announced the creation of the Morgan Stanley Carbon Bank to assist clients seeking to become carbon neutral. The new service, which leverages Morgan Stanley’s expertise in carbon trading, is being offered in conjunction with Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a leading international provider of emissions data certification. MS said It is the market’s first broadly offered service providing integrated carbon verification and offsetting capabilities based on the highest recognized international standards.

Simon Greenshields, Managing Director and Global Head of Power, Power Fuels and Carbon Trading at Morgan Stanley said, "We are pleased to offer clients a transparent and credible way to verify and offset greenhouse gas emissions by leveraging the expertise of two firms with a wealth of experience in the carbon market. Many companies have begun seeking ways to reduce their direct greenhouse gas emissions; our new service will help them more easily and reliably take the next step to achieve a zero carbon footprint. This is the first service we have seen giving clients a single source for everything from certifying emissions to buying and canceling carbon credits, all in accordance with the highest international standards.”

Under the new service, clients will compile their emissions inventory and calculate their carbon footprint by applying the monitoring standards of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative, which has provided the accounting framework for many mandatory greenhouse gas programs across the world, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. DNV will then verify these emissions inventories and calculated carbon footprints. Carbon quantification, monitoring and verification will be conducted consistent with ISO 14064 standards. Morgan Stanley’s Commodities Group will procure and cancel carbon credits equivalent to a client’s verified carbon footprint.

Clients will be able to select their preferred sources of carbon credits, although all carbon credits will be generated according to the standards of the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon credits will be procured from various sources including from Morgan Stanley’s own direct investments in emission reductions as well as those of MGM International, one of the carbon market's largest developers of emission reduction projects. Morgan Stanley last year acquired a 38 percent stake in MGM. Clients utilizing the service of the Morgan Stanley Carbon Bank will receive a “carbon zero” certificate from Morgan Stanley and DNV.

Access a release from Morgan Stanley and links to further information (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

GAO Releases Major Report On Agencies Regulations Review

Aug 15: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Reexamining Regulations: Opportunities Exist to Improve Effectiveness and Transparency of Retrospective Reviews (GAO-07-791, July 16, 2007). The report was prepared at the request of Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), Ranking Member Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Ranking Member Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Congress and presidents require agencies to review existing regulations to determine whether they should be retained, amended, or rescinded, among other things. GAO was asked to report the following for agency reviews: (1) numbers and types completed from 2001 through 2006; (2) processes and standards that guided planning, conducting, and reporting; (3) outcomes; and (4) factors that helped or impeded in conducting and using them. GAO evaluated the activities of nine agencies covering health, safety, environmental, financial, and economic regulations and accounting for almost 60 percent of all final regulations issued within the review period. GAO also reviewed available documentation, assessed a sample of completed reviews, and solicited perspectives on the conduct and usefulness of reviews from agency officials and knowledgeable nonfederal parties.

GAO found from 2001 through 2006, the selected agencies completed over 1,300 reviews of existing regulations. The processes and standards guiding reviews varied across agencies and the impetus and phase of the review process. They varied by the extent to which agencies applied a standards-based approach, incorporated public participation, and provided complete and transparent documentation. The outcomes of reviews included amendments to regulations, changes to guidance and related documents, decisions to conduct additional studies, and confirmation that existing rules achieved the intended results.

Nonfederal parties said that the lack of transparency was a barrier; they were rarely aware of the agencies’ reviews. Both agencies and nonfederal parties identified limited public participation as a barrier. To help improve the conduct and usefulness of reviews, agencies and nonfederal parties suggested practices such as pre-planning to identify data needed to conduct effective reviews, a prioritization process to address time and resource barriers, high-level management support, grouping related regulations together when conducting reviews, and making greater use of diverse communication technologies and venues to promote public participation.

GAO recommended that agencies incorporate various elements into their policies and procedures to improve the effectiveness and transparency of retrospective regulatory reviews and that they identify opportunities for Congress to revise and consolidate existing requirements. In commenting on a draft of this report, SBA’s Office of Advocacy agreed with and provided updated guidance in response to the recommendations. OMB reported having no comments on the draft. All others provided technical comments.

Access the complete 122-page report (
click here). [*All]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Senators Object To DOE's Loan Guarantee Rules

Aug 13: U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led a bipartisan group of eighteen Senators in urging President Bush to ensure that his Administration fulfills the Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan guarantee provisions in a manner consistent with Congressional intent. Following commitments to strengthen the program gained by Domenici during negotiations with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials earlier this month, the lawmakers drafted a letter to President Bush asking his Administration to work toward the common goal of a robust loan guarantee program. As Chairman of the Energy Committee in 2005, Domenici played a leading role in creating the program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE issued draft loan guarantee regulations that once final, will enable DOE to begin issuing loan guarantees for clean energy projects. A public meeting was held on the draft regulations on Friday, June 15, 2007 [See WIMS 5/10/07].

DOE proposed a broad portfolio of large and small projects, from a wide variety of technologies. Within DOE’s FY’08 budget request to guarantee up to $9 billion in loans, DOE has proposed to guarantee $4 billion in loans for central power generation facilities such as nuclear facilities or carbon sequestration optimized coal power plants; $4 billion in loans for projects that promote biofuels and clean transportation fuels; and $1 billion in loans for projects using new technologies for electric transmission facilities or renewable power generation systems. However, according to Domenici, many believe the program as proposed by DOE would not accomplish those goals.

The Senators indicated in their letter, "...we have become exceedingly frustrated by the Administration’s failure to interpret properly the provisions of Title XVII—Incentives for Innovative Technologies… As we examine ways to strengthen our energy security, increase our global competitiveness, and reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we enhance the federal assistance to the development of the clean energy technologies within the United States."

The specific concerns of the lawmakers centered on the provision authorizing DOE to grant guarantees for up to 80% of the project cost. DOE has issued a proposed rule for the loan guarantee program that limits guarantees to 90% of the face value of the loan, a limitation not required by EPACT. Equally frustrating for the lawmakers is the Administration’s cap on the total face amount of loans that can be guaranteed, which they say will limit assistance to only a few projects in small sectors of the energy industry.

Among the Senators who joined Domenici on the letter are Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Larry Craig (R-ID, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Mark Pryor (D-AR), James Inhofe (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), Chuck Hagel (R-NB), John Barrasso (R-WY), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), George Voinovich (R-OH), Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Gordon Smith (R-OR).

Access a release from Senator Domenici (
click here). Access complete information on DOE's Loan Guarantee Program (click here). [*Energy]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sustainable Business Council Launches Global Water Tool

Aug 13: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) will officially launch its Global Water Tool during World Water Week in Stockholm on August 15, 2007. The 2007 World Water Week conference sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is being held in Stockholm from August 12-18 and is expected to attract some 2500 top experts from 140 countries from August 12-18 [See related article below and WIMS 8/8/07].

The WBCSD Global Water Tool is free and easy-to-use for companies and organizations to map their water use and assess risks relative to their global operations and supply chains. Under the old business adage “what gets measured, gets managed”, the tool should help companies better manage their water use. Better local management leads to better global management. The Global Water Tool allows companies to quickly and accurately answer such key questions as: How many of our sites are in extremely water-scarce areas? Which sites are at greatest risk? How will that look in the future? How many of our employees live in countries that lack access to improved water and sanitation? How many of our suppliers are in water-scarce areas now? How many will be in 2025?

It does not provide specific guidance on local situations, which require more in-depth, systematic analysis. Through an easy to manage process, the tool allows companies to quickly and accurately: Compare their water use (including staff presence, industrial use, and supply chain) with validated water and sanitation availability information, both on a country and watershed basis; Calculate water consumption and efficiency; Establish relative water risks in their portfolio; Create key water Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators, inventories, risk and performance metrics; and Enable effective communications between internal and external stakeholders on water issues.

The tool has two parts: the input sheet and the online map. The input sheet contains the company's site location and water use information. After entering the company's water use figures, the sheet automatically provides outputs, including GRI water indicators and downloadable metrics charts that demonstrate the company's data combined with both the country and watershed figures. The online mapping feature enables companies to plot their sites with external water datasets and download those locations in a map. The datasets provide several key metrics including renewable water resource per capita, mean annual relative water stress index and access to improved sanitation. The tool is connected with Google Earth, which provides spatial viewing of a company's site locations in relation to detailed geographic information, including surface water.

Access a release from WBCSD listing member companies that provided oversight and pilot testing (
click here). Access the Global Water Tool website for extensive information, downloading the tool, a demo, flyer and PowerPoint presentation (click here). [*Water]

Friday, August 10, 2007

WHO Report On Exposure to Chemicals & Health Risks in Children

Jul 27: The World Health Organization (WHO) released the first-ever report highlighting children's special susceptibility to harmful chemical exposures at different periods of their growth. The new volume of the Environmental Health Criteria series, Principles for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals, is the most comprehensive work yet undertaken on the scientific principles to be considered in assessing health risks in children. It highlights the fact that in children, the stage in their development when exposure occurs may be just as important as the magnitude of the exposure.

According to a release, the scientific principles proposed in the document for evaluating environmental health risks in children will help the health sector, researchers and policy makers to protect children of all ages through improved risk assessments, appropriate interventions and focused research to become healthy adults. Dr Terri Damstra, WHO’s team leader for the Interregional Research Unit said, "Children are not just small adults. Children are especially vulnerable and respond differently from adults when exposed to environmental factors, and this response may differ according to the different periods of development they are going through. For example, their lungs are not fully developed at birth, or even at the age of eight, and lung maturation may be altered by air pollutants that induce acute respiratory effects in childhood and may be the origin of chronic respiratory disease later in life."

Air and water contaminants, pesticides in food, lead in soil, as well many other environmental threats which alter the delicate organism of a growing child may cause or worsen disease and induce developmental problems. Over 30% of the global burden of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors. Children have different susceptibilities during different life stages, due to their dynamic growth and developmental processes. Some examples of health effects resulting from developmental exposures prenatally and at birth include miscarriage, still birth, low birth weight and birth defects; in young children, infant mortality, asthma, neurobehavioural and immune impairment; and in adolescents, precocious or delayed puberty. Emerging evidence suggests that an increased risk of certain diseases in adults such as cancer and heart disease can result in part from exposures to certain environmental chemicals during childhood.

This central focus of this new study is on the child including developing embryo, fetus, infant and adolescent, and on the need to have a good understanding of the interactions between exposure, biological susceptibility, and socioeconomic and nutritional factors at each stage of a child’s development. The work was undertaken by an Advisory group of 24 scientific experts, representing 18 countries.

Access a release and links to related information (
click here). Access the complete 351-page report (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bisphenol A Panel Makes Conclusions; Sides Divided

Aug 9: The National Toxicology Program (NTP) Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) expert panel that met on August 6-8, 2007, in Alexandria, Virginia to evaluate an extensive Bisphenol A report, has posted a summary of its meeting [See WIMS 8/8/07]. This was the second public meeting of the expert panel, a group of 12 independent scientists convened to review and assess scientific studies on the potential reproductive and developmental hazards of Bisphenol A. The review has been highly controversial as previous reported. The panel divided its conclusions into three categories: For pregnant women and fetuses; For infants and children; and For adults.

According to the conclusions for pregnant women and fetuses the Expert Panel expressed: some concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero causes neural and behavioral effects; expressed minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero causes effects on the prostate; minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero potentially causes accelerations in puberty; and negligible concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero produces birth defects and malformations.

For infants and children the Expert Panel expressed: some concern that exposure to Bisphenol A causes neural and behavioral effects; and minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A potentially causes accelerations in puberty.

For adults the Expert Panel expressed: negligible concern for adverse reproductive effects following exposures in the general population to Bisphenol A. For highly exposed subgroups, such as occupationally exposed populations, the level of concern is elevated to minimal.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Senior Scientist Dr. Anila Jacob, MD, MPH, issued a statement in response to the panel saying they "largely ignore wide ranging scientific research connecting human health risks with exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA). The panel instead endorsed an error riddled, industry influenced 'report' minimizing the risks that BPA poses to humans."

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release saying the panel report "dramatically understates the human health risks from real-world exposure to the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA)" and, NRDC’s senior scientist in Health and Environment Programs, Dr. Jennifer Sass, said, “If I were a committee member, I wouldn’t sign off on this broken report.”

To the contrary, Steven Hentges, Ph.D., of the American Chemistry Council’s Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group said, “The safety of our products is our top priority. The conclusions reported today provide strong reassurance to consumers that they are not at risk from use of products made from bisphenol A. Most importantly, these conclusions are from a very credible, highly qualified group of independent scientists with no conflicts of interest, operating in an open and transparent review process.”

NRDC also points out that a consensus statement, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, from 38 internationally recognized scientific experts saying, “The wide range of adverse effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals exposed both during development and in adulthood is a great cause for concern with regard to the potential for similar adverse effects in humans.” ACC was highly critical of the journal report, saying, "conflicts of interest and the potential for bias are apparent in the list of authors, which includes several with well established positions who have actively advocated against bisphenol A."

The next steps will be for the National Toxicology Program to compile all information, including the consensus data of the 38 experts and its own in-house experts to draft its final report.

Access extensive information on the August 6-8 expert panel meeting including the meeting summary (
click here). Access a release from EWG (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Controversy Over Bisphenol A Continues

Aug 8: The National Toxicology Program (NTP), Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), second Bisphenol A (BPA) Expert Panel Meeting being held on August 6–8, 2007, in Alexandria, VA continues to generate controversy. The highly complex, 417-page, interim draft expert panel report containing sections 1–4 is currently being reviewed [See WIMS 6/27/07].

Bisphenol A (CAS RN: 80–5–07) is a high production volume chemical used in the production of epoxy resins, polyester resins, polysulfone resins, polyacrylate resins, polycarbonate plastics, and flame retardants. Polycarbonate plastics are used in food and drink packaging; resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. Some polymers used in dental sealants and tooth coatings contain bisphenol A. Exposure to the general population can occur through direct contact to bisphenol A or by exposure to food or drink that has been in contact with a material containing bisphenol A.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a release on August 6, indicating "...the CERHR assessment -- prepared in part by a contractor since fired over concerns about conflicts of interest -- fails to meet the most basic scientific standards, even as independent scientists have declared BPA a clear risk to human health." EWG said the draft report "contains hundreds of potential errors of fact and interpretation, inconsistencies, and biases. The independent scientists who reviewed the latest CERHR draft documented pervasive and fundamental errors throughout, identifying almost 300 potential errors and 195 instances of incomplete reviews, as well as at least 48 basic inconsistencies."

Meanwhile, the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it supports the sound scientific evaluation process of the CERHR and said they were "dismayed by the report on bisphenol A published on-line this week in the journal Reproductive Toxicology." According to a consensus statement from a panel of researchers contributing to the journal report, the low doses of BPA during pregnancy can have profound effects on fetal prostate, breast, testicle, mammary glands and brain development in animals.

Steven Hentges, Ph.D., of the ACC Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group said, “When the safety of common consumer products is in question, public health interests are best served by a rigorous, open and transparent scientific evaluation in which conflicts of interest and bias are tightly controlled and reported. The evaluation process used by CERHR was designed to meet these criteria and has been successfully applied for many years."

ACC said, unlike CERHR, the competing evaluation was conducted in a closed process with no opportunity for public input or participation. They said, "Although conclusions are represented as a scientific consensus, conflicts of interest and the potential for bias are apparent in the list of authors, which includes several with well established positions who have actively advocated against bisphenol A."

In March, EWG) released a report saying that the industrial chemical used to line cans of foods is linked to birth defects and was found in more than half of the samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula from supermarket shelves. EWG said a comprehensive independent laboratory analysis conducted for EWG found bisphenol A, in 55 of 97 cans of food purchased from major supermarket chains in California, Connecticut and Georgia [
See WIMS 3/6/07].

Access extensive information on the August 6-8 expert panel meeting (
click here). Access a release from EWG with links to further information (click here). Access a release from ACC with links to further information (click here). Access information on the journal article (click here). Access the NTP BPA website for links to meeting announcements and the complete draft report (click here). Access various recent media report on BPA (click here). [*Toxics]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Northern California River Watch v. City of Healdsburg

Aug 6: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 04-15442. The case provides another interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. U.S (See links below). Defendant/Appellant City of Healdsburg (Healdsburg) appeals the district court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff/Appellee Northern California River Watch (River Watch), an environmental group, in this litigation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Plaintiff alleges that Healdsburg, without first obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, violated the CWA by discharging sewage from its waste treatment plant into waters covered by the Act. Healdsburg discharged the sewage into a body of water known as “Basalt Pond,” a rock quarry pit that had filled with water from the surrounding aquifer, located next to the Russian River.

According to the Ninth Circuit, the issue is whether Basalt Pond is subject to the CWA because the Pond, containing wetlands, borders additional wetlands that are adjacent to a navigable river of the United States. The district court held that discharges into the Pond are discharges into the Russian River, a navigable water of the United States protected by the CWA. The court followed the United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc., 474 U.S. 121 (1985). The Supreme Court, however, has now narrowed the scope of that decision. See Rapanos v. United States, 126 S.Ct. 2208 (2006). In a 4-4-1 decision, the Appeals Court said, "the controlling opinion is that of Justice Kennedy who said that to qualify as a regulable water under the CWA the body of water itself need not be continuously flowing, but that there must be a 'significant nexus' to a waterway that is in fact navigable.

"In light of Rapanos, we conclude that Basalt Pond possesses such a 'significant nexus' to waters that are navigable in fact, not only because the Pond waters seep into the navigable Russian River, but also because they significantly affect the physical, biological, and chemical integrity of the River. We affirm the district court’s holding that Basalt Pond is subject to the CWA. We also affirm the district court’s ruling that neither the waste treatment system nor the excavation operation exceptions in the Act apply to Healdsburg’s discharges."

Access the complete opinion (
click here). [Access various posts on WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog and the WIMS-EcoBizPort Special Report on the Rapanos Supreme Court Decision & Related Activities]. [*Water]

Monday, August 06, 2007

House Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill 241-172

Aug 4: In a lengthy Saturday session, preceding the Congressional summer recess, a highly partisan debate ultimately led to the passage of the comprehensive 888-page House energy bill -- New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221). The bill passed by a vote of 241 to 172, that included 26 Republicans voting for the measure and 9 Democrats voting against. Twenty members did not vote on the measure including 13 Republicans and 7 Democrats. The Senate passed its version of a comprehensive energy bill on June 21 [See WIMS 6/22/07]. Of note, the House-passed bill does not address the controversial issue of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) gas mileage standards which were included in the Senate bill; and, the Senate bill does not address the hotly debated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS, aka RES, Renewable Energy Standard), while the House-passed bill does. The House Democratic leadership has indicated it will address the CAFE standards and other global warming related issues in the fall.

At a press briefing following passage of the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Today, the House propelled America’s energy policy into the future with the passage of the ‘New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act.’ Energy independence is a national security issue, an economic issue, an environmental and health issue, and a moral issue... A new coalition is forming in the Congress. The legislation proves that energy production, job creation, and environmental protection can be achieved all at once, which is why a new coalition of labor and environmental groups have come together to endorse our bill. It is a remarkable development that shows what cooperation and consultation can achieve... this was a flagship issue for my Speakership, that we get this energy bill passed, because it represented real change and a New Direction. It represented a break from the past. It represented a decision on the part of the Congress of United States, the House of Representatives, to make a decision for the future and not the status quo..." The speaker also released a Title-by-Tile summary of the bill and the full text [See links below].

One of the most significant amendments considered was that of the RPS standard. Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) offered the amendment which would require electric suppliers, "other than governmental entities and rural electric cooperatives," to provide 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy resources by the year 2020. The amendment would allows 4 percent of the requirement to be satisfied with electricity efficiency measures. The amendment passed by a vote of 220 to 190. Udall called the RPS an incremental federal standard for electric utilities to provide 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, other renewable energy sources and efficiency by 2020. The bill would require the RPS to be 2.75 percent by 2010, gradually increasing thereafter to meet the 2020 goal.

Udall said, "I am very proud to say that as a result of the extraordinary work of our amendment’s cosponsors and supporters, the House has passed a base Renewable Electricity Standard which will spur our nation one step closer to a clean energy future. Almost half of the states in our nation have already proven this standard is both achievable and realistic." Cosponsor Representative Todd Platts (R-PA) said, "This amendment is an important step -- similar to what is already taking place in many states, including my home state of Pennsylvania -- to help ensure America reduces its dependency on foreign oil and meets its growing energy needs in an environmentally-friendly manner. The question is whether we continue to approach the energy issue as we have for the past 30 years, or if we are going to work towards a more diversified, reliable, and clean energy supply. I look forward to seeing this or a similar provision in any final conference agreement with the Senate." The legislation was actively supported by a number of organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, and renewable energy industry groups.

A release from the House Science and Technology Committee highlighted several provisions of the bill that originated from that Committee including advancing the development of solar power, geothermal power, carbon capture and sequestration, alternative fuels, and other energy technologies. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, “With concerns about global climate change, high gas and electricity prices, and our growing reliance on unstable energy-supplying nations, energy has been placed at the top of the congressional to-do list. Our future lies in our ability to develop a wide-range of energy technologies, make the use of coal -- which is our country's most affordable and abundant domestic energy resource -- cleaner through carbon capture and sequestration, and improve energy efficiency.”

In a separate, but closely related action, the House also passed a package of tax incentives to encourage the use and production of renewable energy and energy conservation and repeal, what Democrats called "excessive tax breaks for oil and gas companies." H.R. 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 includes an estimated $16 billion in tax credits and bonds to promote investment in renewable energy production from wind, solar, geothermal, cellulosic ethanol and biofuels and other critical energy conservation initiatives. The measure would be financed by eliminating some $16 billion in oil and gas subsidies. The measure passed by a vote of 221-189.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) said, “This bill makes an investment in America’s energy independence through long-term incentives for the production and use of renewable energy and energy conservation. This bill sets an example by closing loopholes and repealing generous tax breaks to oil and gas companies enjoying record profits, to help American companies and communities lead the way in developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the harmful effects of global warming. H.R. 2776 will also help cities and states provide bonds and grants to make sure that working families and businesses can do their share to purchase energy efficient heat pumps, appliances and make home improvements to conserve energy.” According to Speaker Pelosi, H.R. 2776 will be "combined with the larger package through the rule."

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman issued a statement on the passage of H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221 saying, "Today the House passed legislation that does little to increase our nation's energy security or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the bills will actually lead to less domestic oil and gas production and increased dependence on imported oil. Because H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221 fail to deliver American consumers or businesses more energy security, but rather would lead to higher energy costs and higher taxes, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto these bills. As the full Congress considers this legislation, I urge them to implement President Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative that will reduce gasoline usage 20 percent in ten years and put America on a path towards a stronger, cleaner energy future." DOE also released a 2-page "Statement of Administration Policy" further detailing its objections to the bills.

[Note: Space limitations prevent a lengthy summary of individual groups' reaction. WIMS has included links to industry and environmental organization statements on H.R. 3221 below.]

Access legislative details for H.R. 3221 (
click here). Access the rollcall vote on final passage of the bill (click here). Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a summary of H.R. 3221 and H.R. 2776 (click here). Access the full text of H.R. 3221 (click here). Access a release from Representative Udall (NM, click here). Access a release from Representative Platts (click here). Access a release from Representative Gordon (click here). Access the briefing overview and link to the audio of the briefing (click here). Access links to various media reports on the bill passage (click here). Access a release from Representative Rangel (click here). Access a summary and additional information on H.R. 2776 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2776 (click here). Access the DOE statement and link to the Administration Policy (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (click here). Access information and link to a statement from the National Environmental Trust (click here). Access a letter from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a brief statement from the American Petroleum Institute (click here). Access a release and links to extensive information opposing the RPS from the Edison Electric Institute (click here).[*Energy, *Climate]

Need More Daily Environmental Information?
Try WIMS Daily or eNewsUSA Free For 30-days (
click here)
Daily Environmental Federal Register Report (
click here)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Senate Hearing On Renewable Fuels Infrastructure

Jul 31: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Energy, Chaired by Byron Dorgan (D-ND), held a hearing to receive testimony on Renewable Fuels Infrastructure. Witnesses testifying at the hearing include Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy; and representatives of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition; National Petrochemical and Refiners Association; VeraSun Corporation; Chrysler Technology Center; and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

In a release Senator Dorgan said, “There are 16,000 flexible-fuel vehicles on the road and only 23 E-85 pumps in North Dakota. The Senate has passed legislation to increase the production of renewable fuels by seven fold in the next 15 years. But if we don’t have the infrastructure in place like flexible-fuel vehicles and renewable fuels pumps to absorb all this new ethanol, we could be left with lots of undistributed fuel and have a collapse in the market. Big oil companies are contributing to the problem by placing barriers in their franchise agreements that discourage retail gas stations from offering E-85 fuel, while at the same time seeing record profits. Policy changes must be made to expedite the infrastructure development, which will have a profound impact on the ethanol market in North Dakota and the rest of the country.”

Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota, which ranks first in the nation in E-85 infrastructure with 320 pumps out of 1250 in the nation -- far more than any other state -- said the Federal government can learn from Minnesota’s example. First, she said, "wherever possible, we should encourage ethanol producers to sell directly to gas stations. Outside of Minnesota, ethanol is generally sold under long-term contract to blending terminals, which are part of the oil company-owned pipeline system. The terminals then re-sell the ethanol to gas stations. In essence, the price that consumers pay for ethanol is usually set by ethanol’s biggest competitor, the oil companies." When ethanol producers sell ethanol directly to gas stations without a middleman she said, "drivers get the benefit of a low-cost fuel; the ethanol producers collect the 51 cent-per-gallon federal blender’s credit instead of the oil companies; and America’s energy dollars come right back to our rural communities."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access a release from Senator Dorgan (click here). [*Energy]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Groups Say EPA Nano Plan "Too Little, Too Late"

Aug 2: According to a release from Environmental Defense, U.S. EPA must act much more aggressively to protect the public and the environment from the potential risks of engineered nanoscale materials. The urgent call came at a public meeting on EPA’s proposal for a voluntary Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP) in the only testimony given by a member of the Federal advisory committee that counseled EPA to launch such a program two years ago. Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Environmental Defense said, “Two years in the making, EPA’s tepid proposals have actually set back the clock. As a government response to addressing the possible downsides of the nanotechnology revolution, it’s simply ‘too little, too late.’”

On October 18, 2006, EPA invited stakeholders to participate in the design, development, and implementation of the NMSP under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) [
See WIMS 10/19/07]. Denison said that key features of the Federal advisory committee’s original proposal had been stripped out of EPA's proposal.

On July 12, EPA released two draft documents for public review and comment. The documents are entitled, (1) TSCA Inventory Status of Nanoscale Substances--General Approach (7-page); and (2) Concept Paper for the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program under TSCA (21-pages). The first document describes EPA's current thinking regarding whether a nanoscale material is a "new" or "existing" chemical substance under TSCA. The second document describes the Agency's general approach, issues, and considerations for NMSP and is intended to serve as a starting point for continuing work with stakeholders on the detailed design of NMSP. Comments on the documents are being accepted until September 10, 2007, and a public meeting about the proposed approaches was held on August 2, 2007, in Arlington, VA.

Environmental Defense indicated, the tiny high-tech materials -- measuring in billionths of a meter -- are already showing up in hundreds of consumer products, ranging from paints to cosmetics to stain-resistant treatments for clothing. Initial studies show that some of them may be able to enter the body and even individual cells and, once there, can cause damage. Denison said, “We supported the original proposal for a voluntary program two years ago because it was one element of a comprehensive plan that also included regulatory steps intended to provide a ‘backstop,’ and it was to be launched and completed quickly. By contrast, EPA now is calling for an open-ended program with no plan B should its voluntary plan A fall short.”

Environmental Defense indicated that the United Kingdom has operated a program, similar to what EPA is suggesting, for over nine months and has attracted only seven companies to volunteer. They said the design and timing of the EPA program is likely to yield similarly disappointing participation, resulting in a very selective and skewed picture of the state of nanotechnology.

Environmental Defense instead urged EPA to rapidly develop and implement mandatory reporting rules to level the playing field for the nanotechnology industry and ensure that relevant information is communicated -- a step EPA said it had initiated more than two years ago, but for which it has provided no public indication of actual progress. Environmental Defense also opposed EPA’s decision to treat nanoscale materials as if they are no different from their conventional counterparts.

On June 21, Environmental Defense and DuPont released their final comprehensive framework to assist with the responsible development and use of nanotechnology and to help inform global dialogue on its potential risks [See WIMS 6/21/07]. A preliminary framework was released on February 26, 2007 [See WIMS 2/27/07] to solicit comments from interested parties. Environmental Defense has been working since 2003 to ensure that the potential risks of nanoscale materials are identified and mitigated. The organization has advocated for more Federal funding for health and environmental risk research and says it is the only U.S. environmental NGO active at the international level in efforts to address nanoscale material risks.

Former EPA Assistant Administrator for Policy and Senior Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), J. Clarence (Terry) Davies also testified on EPA's NMSP. Davies said, "...the long delay in starting the volunteer program indicate that EPA is not serious about nanotechnology oversight. I hope this is not true. It is certainly not the signal the agency should be giving."

In a related matter, on July 31, 2007, a broad international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new nanotechnology and its products. The coalition release what it is calling the Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials. The coalition's declaration outlines eight fundamental principles necessary for adequate and effective oversight and assessment of the emerging field of nanotechnology.

Access a release from Environmental Defense and links to their complete statement and additional information on nanotechnology (
click here). Access the testimony from PEN (click here). Access the PEN website for extensive information (click here). Access a release from Friends of the Earth on the Principles and link to the complete document (click here).Access the FR announcement of the EPA documents, meeting and comment period (click here). Access links to the two draft reports and related information (click here). Access complete information on the conference (click here). Access the National Nanotechnology Initiative website for additional information (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Senate EPW Committee Passes "Landmark" Bills

Jul 31: The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved what Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called "landmark" bills banning the importation and use of asbestos (S. 742, Murray, Isakson, Boxer et al. manager’s substitute amendment); reversing the Bush Administration’s rollback of rules requiring polluters to fully report releases of toxic chemicals (S. 595, Lautenberg et al); and requiring U.S. EPA to issue a decision on California’s request for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from cars (S. 1785, Nelson, Boxer et al. manager’s substitute amendment, with technical correction). The Committee also approved the National Infrastructure Improvement Act, S. 775 (Carper, Voinovich et al. manager’s substitute amendment).

Senator Boxer said: “Today is a truly historic day for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the legislation we moved today will save lives, protect families and communities, and advance the fight against global warming. Today, we turned the page on a painful chapter in our nation’s history by reporting a bill that will finally ban asbestos and assist people who suffer from the deadly diseases it causes.

“We reversed a Bush Administration order that increased the level at which crucial information on toxic releases must be reported to nearby communities. For years, the reporting threshold was 500 pounds, but the Bush Administration increased the threshold to 2000 pounds. Our bill returns the reporting threshold to 500 pounds. Passage of the Nelson-Boxer waiver bill (S. 1785) sends a signal that EPA should stop stalling and act now on California’s request so California and 12 other states can begin setting and enforcing standards on carbon emissions from the transportation sector.”

In a release, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), sponsor of S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, indicated the 19-0 vote included strong support from Chairman Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Next, the bill will head to the Senate floor. A date for floor consideration has not been set yet. Murray said, "I'm thrilled that the entire committee has sent a clear and loud message of support, giving us strong momentum heading to the Senate floor. To the families who have been waiting for help, to the workers who need to be protected, I'd say we're almost there. We've made great progress in the past few months, but I'm not going to stop until we cross the finish line. I'm especially heartened that my bill has garnered unanimous bipartisan support in the EPW committee. I really want to thank Chairman Boxer for her commitment to moving this bill forward and Senator Isakson for his willingness to work in a bipartisan manner." Murray's bill would ban asbestos, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign.

Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), sponsor of S. 595 said, “My law creating the EPA’s Public Right-to-Know program has provided Americans with information about toxic chemicals stored and released in their communities. Last December, President Bush’s EPA weakened the rules to let companies report less information and keep the public in the dark. This decision by the Bush Administration was a gift to the chemical industry. People have a right to know about the toxic chemicals bordering their backyards and our bill today would restore that right.”

Senator Nelson's (D-FL) bill, S. 1785, to expedite the EPA approval of the California waiver petition, passed the Committee by a close 10-9 vote and sets the stage for what Nelson called a contentious showdown between the administration and other opponents of tougher auto emission standards versus a bipartisan coalition of governors, environmentalists and members of Congress who are all seeking cleaner air measures. Nelson filed the legislation to pave the way for Florida, and every other state, to set its own emission standards as long as they’re tougher than the limits in the federal Clean Air Act. More specifically, the bill would force federal environmental officials to act within one month on a long-delayed decision on California’s first-in-the-nation emission standards - which Florida Governor Charlie Crist adopted at a recent two-day global warming summit in Miami.

Senator Carper's (D-DE) National Infrastructure Improvement Act, S. 775 is designed to address the deteriorating condition of America’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems, dams and other public works. Carper said the legislation to establish a National Commission on Infrastructure, was included in a larger bill approved by the full EPW Committee to enhance economic growth by ensuring the nation’s infrastructure can meet current and future demands. The bill also has the support of Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Carper said, “No nation can be prosperous without maintaining its fundamental infrastructure building blocks. Economic development and public safety hinge on upgrading our nation’s infrastructure, including enhanced transportation, water quality and flood controls. As our federal budget constraints tighten, we must protect our communities’ current infrastructures and set priorities for future infrastructure investments.”

Access a release from Senator Boxer (
click here). Access a release from Senator Murray (click here). Access a release from Senator Lautenberg (click here). Access a release from Senator Nelson (click here). Access a release from Senator Carper (click here). Access legislative details for S. 742 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 595 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 1785 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 775 (click here). [*Toxics, *Climate, *Water, *Transport]