Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WIMS. . . December 24, 2008

We're on our Holiday break right now.
But, we'll be back on January 5, 2009
We wish you a happy Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Senator Boxer Says EPA's Johnson Has "Run Amok"

Dec 22: In a sternly worded letter, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, made clear that U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson "has run amok and will waste taxpayer dollars in his most recent action to avoid controlling global warming pollution in Clean Air Act permits." Senator Boxer's outrage is over Johnson's December 18 memo to Regional Administrators outlining his policy calling for no regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under the Clean Air Act. Johnson said he was clarifying the recent EPA Environmental Appeals Board ruling that concluded EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cause global warming [See WIMS 11/14/08].

Senator Boxer said, "This illegal document issued by Stephen Johnson makes it clear that he has become a renegade Administrator. He defies the clear language of our environmental laws and acts without legal authority. Mr. Johnson's latest action is intended to make the job of combating global warming more difficult and will add to the millions of taxpayer dollars he has wasted in defending his illegal decisions. The Attorney General has an obligation to intervene when the actions of the Administration are so clearly outside the law."

In her letter to the Attorney General, Senator Boxer refers to the Johnson document as a "blatantly illegal memo." She said, "Swift and decisive action on your part to ensure that Administrator Johnson immediately withdraws this unauthorized document will not only prevent a gross waste of taxpayer money defending an illegal decision, but it will also make clear that the waning days of the Bush Administration should not be used to issue 'midnight rules' that undermine the law and threaten the health of our people and our planet. Given the urgency of this matter, please contact me immediately regarding your next steps to ensure that this illegal policy is suspended and that more taxpayer dollars are not wasted."

Access a release and link to the complete letter (click here). Access the Johnson Memo (click here). [*Air, *Climate]

Monday, December 22, 2008

A National Carbon Tax: Another Option For Carbon Pricing

Dec 22: In early December, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on the issue of a "carbon tax" as opposed to a "cap and trade" system to control carbon emissions. The controversial topic has been debated for years but is still unsettled in the political discussions of methods to address climate change. The immediacy and simplicity of the carbon tax system is still attracting attention. Speakers at the EESI briefing included: Representative John Larson (D-CT) and sponsor of America's Energy Security Trust Fund Act (H.R.3416 of 2007); James Hansen, PhD, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies; Gilbert Metcalf, PhD, Professor of Economics, Tufts University; Robert Shapiro, PhD, Co-Founder and Chairman, Sonecon; former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs; James Hoggan, British Columbia Public Affairs Advisor; Chair, David Suzuki Foundation; and Brent Blackwelder, PhD, President, Friends of the Earth (Moderator).

In his presentation NASA's James Hansen summarized the carbon tax benefits saying, "A rising price on carbon emissions is the essential underlying support needed to make all other climate policies work. . . A rising carbon price is the most effective way to encourage compliance with codes designed to increase energy efficiency. A rising carbon price is needed to decarbonize the economy and move the nation toward the era beyond fossil fuels. . . The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts. No bureaucracy is needed. . . The tax will spur development of renewable energies and other no-carbon or low-carbon energies. . . A carbon tax is honest, clear and effective. . . The carbon tax has social benefits. It is progressive. It is useful to those most in need in hard times, providing them an opportunity for larger dividend than tax. It will encourage illegal immigrants to become legal, thus to obtain the dividend, and it will discourage illegal immigration because everybody pays the tax, but only legal citizens collect the dividend. . ."

Last February, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report entitled, Policy Options for Reducing CO2 Emissions [
See WIMS 2/13/08], which said that carbon taxes are the “most efficient” means of reducing global warming pollution. CBO Director Peter Orszag, who oversaw the preparation of the report has now been nominated by President-elect Obama to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Obama is on record as an advocate for a federal cap and trade system with "strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emission to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050." [See WIMS 11/18/08]. Perhaps, Orszag presence in the Obama Administration and the strong position of NASA's James Hansen, will raise the issue for Presidential reconsideration. Hansen has already prepared an 8-page draft letter to President-elect Obama that discusses the urgency of addressing the climate change issue and the reasons a carbon tax is the best approach (See contact information below).

Following the CBO report release, Friends of the Earth (FOE) commented saying, "This underscores the fact that a carbon tax is a serious policy option that should be considered alongside other ways of fighting global warming. A majority of Californians already support a corporate carbon tax, and with leadership from top elected officials, the majority of Americans might ultimately feel the same way -- especially if revenue from such a tax were returned directly to middle class voters through tax rebates or other mechanisms."

Even one of the most cynical climate change opponents, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, commented on the report saying it shows that carbon taxes are the “most efficient” way to regulate CO2 emissions and “could offer significant advantages” over the cap-and-trade approach [
See WIMS 2/22/08]. . And, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at the 2007 Mayors Climate Protection Summit in Seattle [See WIMS 11/06/07], and at the February, 2008 United Nations General Assembly thematic debate on Climate Change said, "Cap-and-trade is an easier political sell because the costs are hidden -- but they're still there. . . A cap-and-trade system will only work if all the credits are distributed from the start -- and all industries are covered. But this begs the question: If all industries are going to be affected, and the worst polluters are going to pay more, why not simplify matters for companies by charging a direct pollution fee? It's like making one right turn instead of three left turns. You end up going in the same direction, but without going around in a circle first."

Access the EESI briefing website for links to available presentations and a video (
click here). Access the Hansen draft letter to Obama (click here). Access Hansen's Columbia University website (click here). Access an article on the carbon tax issue and many links from the Worldwatch Institute (click here). Access links to previous EESI briefings on the carbon tax issue (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posts on the carbon tax issue (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Friday, December 19, 2008

NAS Recommends Cumulative Risk Assessment For Phthalates, Etc.

Dec 18: A new report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) -- Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment: The Tasks Ahead -- indicates that U.S. EPA should examine whether combined exposures to chemicals known as phthalates could cause adverse health effects in humans. In addition, the cumulative risk assessment, should consider other chemicals that could potentially cause the same health effects as phthalates, instead of focusing on chemicals that are similar in structure, which is EPA's current practice. Furthermore, EPA should consider using the recommended approach for future cumulative risk assessments on other kinds of chemicals.

Phthalates are used in a wide variety of consumer products, such as cosmetics, medical devices, children's toys, and building materials. In light of concerns, the European Union and the United States have passed legislation that restricts the concentrations of several phthalates in children's toys, and the European Union has also banned several phthalates from cosmetics. EPA asked the Research Council to recommend whether it should conduct a cumulative risk assessment for phthalates, and if so, how it should be framed. Accordingly, the NRC report is not a comprehensive profile on the health effects of phthalates.

The NRC committee that wrote the report said recent animal studies have increased understanding of the potential risks from phthalates, although few human studies on the health effects of phthalates are available. To decide whether a cumulative risk assessment is warranted, two factors needed to be determined: (1) whether humans are exposed to multiple phthalates at any given time; and, (2) whether sufficient evidence exists linking exposures to similar adverse health effects. The committee established that recent studies have shown widespread human exposure to multiple phthalates, including "in utero exposure."

Then, the committee reviewed animal research and found that exposure to various phthalates in lab animals produced similar health outcomes, including a range of effects on the development of the male reproductive system. The most notable effects in male rats are infertility, undescended testes, malformation of the penis, and other reproductive tract malformations. However, the severity of effects differs among phthalates; some exhibit less severe or no effects. Furthermore, the age of the animals at the time of exposure is critical to the severity of the effects. For example, the fetus is most sensitive. Given that multiple human exposures to phthalates occur and that research shows exposure to different phthalates leads to similar outcomes in lab animals, the commitee said, "a cumulative risk assessment is called for."

The animal studies reviewed by the committee also indicated that some phthalates reduce testosterone concentrations. Depending on when this drop occurs, it can cause a variety of effects in animals that are critical for male reproductive development. Other chemicals known as antiandrogens, which prevent or inhibit male hormones from working, can produce similar effects in lab animals. The committee recommended that phthalates and other chemicals that affect male reproductive development in animals, including antiandrogens, be considered in the cumulative risk assessment. The committee emphasized, "A focus solely on phthalates to the exclusion of other chemicals would be artificial and could seriously underestimate risk."

The committee indicated that, currently when conducting cumulative risk assessments, EPA often considers only chemicals that are structurally related, on the assumption that they have the same chain of reactions that lead to a final health outcome. That practice ignores how exposures to different chemicals may result in the same health effects. The conceptual approach taken for phthalates -- to consider chemicals that cause similar health effects -- should also be applied when completing any cumulative risk assessment. For instance, "EPA could evaluate the risk of combined exposures to lead, methylmercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls because all contribute to cognitive deficits consistent with IQ reduction in children."

In addition, the report recommends "further research should be conducted to allow greater refinement of the cumulative risk assessment associated with phthalates and reduce uncertainty associated with such an assessment. Moving beyond the constraints of grouping chemicals based on structural similarity may appear challenging, but it is feasible to evaluate the multiplicity of human exposures. It also directly reflects EPA's mission to protect human health. Such a shift in approach would entail substantial efforts by EPA, such as defining and setting priorities among the most prominent adverse health effects. However, a focus on similar outcomes facilitates the process by identifying the groups of chemicals that should be included."

Access a release from NAS (
click here). Access links to the complete report and a 28-page executive summary (click here). Access a 4-page brief summary (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Annual Energy Outlook 2009: No Growth In U.S. Oil Consumption

Dec 17: The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released its Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (AEO2009) reference case that presents updated projections for U.S. energy consumption and production through 2030. EIA notes that for the first time in more than 20 years, the new AEO reference case projects virtually no growth in U.S. oil consumption, reflecting the combined effect of recently enacted CAFE standards, requirements for increased use of renewable fuels, and an assumed rebound in oil prices as the world economy recovers. With overall liquid fuel demand in the AEO2009 reference case growing by only 1 million barrels per day between 2007 and 2030, increased use of domestically-produced biofuels, and rising domestic oil production spurred by higher prices, the net import share of total liquids supplied, including biofuels, declines from 58 percent in 2007 to less than 40 percent in 2025 before increasing to 41 percent in 2030. The following is a brief EIA summary of major issues.

Natural Gas Use and Import Dependence: The reference case raises EIA’s projection for U.S. production and consumption of natural gas, reflecting increased availability of resources and higher demand for electric power generation. With growing production of natural gas from unconventional onshore sources, the Outer Continental Shelf, and Alaska, the net import share of total natural gas use also declines, from 16 percent in 2007 to less than 3 percent in 2030.

Total Primary Energy Use and Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Efficiency policies and higher energy prices in AEO2009 slow the rise in U.S. energy use, which is projected to grow from 101.9 quadrillion Btu in 2007 to 113.3 quadrillion Btu in 2030. When combined with the increased use of renewables and a reduction in projected additions of new coal-fired conventional power plants, this slows the growth in energy-related GHG emissions. Energy-related CO2 emissions grow at 0.3 percent per year from 2007 to 2030 in the AEO2009 reference case, reaching a level of 6,410 million metric tons in 2030, as compared with 6,851 million metric tons in the AEO2008 reference case.

Oil Prices: The assumption of a higher world oil price path in the AEO2009 reference case reflects tighter constraints on access to low cost oil supplies in a setting where the forces driving growth in long-term demand in non-OECD countries remains as strong as previously expected. In 2007 dollars, the world crude oil price, averaging near $60 in 2009, rises as the global economy rebounds and global demand once again grows more rapidly than non-OPEC liquids supply. In 2030, the average real price of crude oil is $130 per barrel in 2007 dollars ($189 per barrel in nominal dollars).

Renewable Energy Use: Total consumption of marketed renewable fuels -- including wood, municipal waste, and biomass in the end use sectors; hydroelectricity, geothermal, municipal waste, biomass, solar, and wind for electric power generation; ethanol for gasoline blending; and biomass-based diesel -- grows by 3.3 percent per year in the AEO2009 reference case. This rapid growth reflects the EISA2007 renewable fuel standard and strong growth in the use of renewables for electricity generation that is spurred by renewable portfolio standards for electricity generators in many States.

Vehicle Characteristics: A sharp increase in the sale of unconventional vehicle technologies, such as flex-fuel, hybrid, and diesel vehicles, and a significant decline in the new light-truck share of total light-duty vehicle sales are projected. Hybrid vehicle sales (all varieties) increase from 2 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales in 2007 to 38 percent in 2030. Sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) grow to 90,000 vehicles annually by 2014, supported by recently enacted tax credits. By 2030, PHEVs account for 2 percent of new light vehicle sales.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) completed an initial review of the AEO2009 and reports that it contains a "dramatic turnaround" in the projection of new coal-fired power plants which are significantly reduced from earlier projections. UCS says, "EIA has reduced its 2030 projection of new coal plants from 104 GW to 46 GW. . . This is the equivalent of nearly 100 typical-size new coal plants (600 MW), and indicates that EIA expects the trend of coal plant cancellations and rejections to continue."

Access a release from EIA (click here). Access links to a summary presentation and the various AEO2009 tables (click here). Access a release from UCS and brief analysis (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reps. Report "Drastic Deterioration" Of CWA Enforcement

Dec 16: Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) have written to President-elect Obama regarding their investigation into what they called "the drastic deterioration of the Clean Water Act [CWA] enforcement program." Chairman Waxman said, "One of the legacies of the Bush Administration is its failure to protect the safety and health of the nation's waters. Our investigation reveals that the clean water program has been decimated as hundreds of enforcement cases have been dropped, downgraded, delayed, or never brought in the first place. We need to work with the new Administration to restore the effectiveness and integrity to this vital program."

The two Representatives reported that new internal documents obtained by the Committees show that "hundreds of Clean Water Act violations have not been pursued with enforcement actions. Dozens of existing enforcement cases have become informal responses, have had civil penalties reduced, and have experienced significant delays. Many violations are not even being detected because of the substantial reduction in investigations. Violations involving oil spills make up nearly half of the Clean Water Act violations that have been detected but are not being addressed."

They said EPA refused to produce hundreds of documents to the Committees and redacted many of the documents it did produce. EPA concealed the identity of corporations and individuals accused of polluting waters and the specific waters that may have been affected. In addition, the Committees' investigation revealed that the Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works "placed the interests of corporate lobbyists over the scientific determinations of career officials in making Clean Water Act decisions about the Santa Cruz River in Arizona."

Chairman Oberstar said,"This Administration has only exacerbated a series of bad Supreme Court decisions by not enforcing the Clean Water Act and by placing development interests above those of the public. By withholding relevant information and misleading Congress our nation's waters have gone unprotected for too long. Only through Congressional action can we restore necessary Clean Water Act protections to our nation's waters."

The Committees' investigation included the review of more than 20,000 pages of documents produced to the Committees by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Much of the review relates to the June 2006, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Rapanos v. United States that federal agencies could assert jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act for many waters only after going through a time-consuming and resource-intensive process of demonstrating a "significant nexus" to "traditional navigable waters."

In their 23-page Memo of findings, the Representatives say, "The documents indicate that the Supreme Court's decision . . . [in Rapanos] and the Administration's guidance implementing that decision have resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of Clean Water Act inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions. In numerous e-mails, memos, and other documents, EPA field offices across the country have expressed serious concerns about this negative trend, warning that they are no longer able to ensure the safety and health of the nation's waters. . ."

Jan Goldman-Carter Wetlands and Water Resources Counsel for National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reacted to the legislative investigation and said, “This memorandum reveals what we always feared -- the Clean Water Act is being crushed by the current legal uncertainty and our important water resources are suffering. It is time for Congress to stop the bleeding and restore full protections to our Nation’s waters.” NWF attorney Jim Murphy said, “It is now beyond question that leaving the status quo in place is a catastrophic choice for our children’s future. The new Congress, with vigorous support from the new Administration, must reverse the damage done to the Clean Water Act and put us back on the path to clean water.”

Joan Mulhern, Legislative Counsel for the public interest law firm Earthjustice said, "We have known for some time that the Clean Water Act is broken and that thousands of streams, rivers and wetlands have lost federal anti-pollution protections. But now we know the extent to which the Bush administration has been covering up the problem. While the committees' report is very revealing, the EPA's cover-up continues. They are still withholding documents on hundreds of dropped enforcement actions, and the information they did give the chairmen redacted identifying information that would tell the American people which water bodies have been contaminated illegally with oil spills, fills, and other industrial discharges by polluters. The new administration must immediately reverse this pattern of leaving waters unprotected and hiding the mess from the public, and support swift Congressional passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act."

Access a release and link to the text of the letter to President-elect Obama, a memorandum discussing the Committees' findings, and accompanying internal documents (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort Special Report on Rapanos for links and extensive information (click here). Access WIMS eNewsUSA Blog for various articles related to Rapanos (click here). [*Water]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

OIG Report Chronicles ESA Conflict Between Science & Policy

Dec 15: The U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a 141-page report entitled, Investigative Report: The Endangered Species Act and the Conflict between Science and Policy. According to the cover letter transmitting the report to Secretary Kempthorne, "This investigation was initiated by request of Senator Ron Wyden who believed that 18 ESA decisions may have been improperly affected by MacDonald [Former Fish, Wildlife and Parks Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald]. Our investigation was expanded by requests from Chairman Nick J. Rahall, II, House Committee on Natural Resources, and Congressmen Jay Inslee and Peter DeFazio, who requested that we add two other decisions to those under our review.

"As you know, in previous investigations we determined that MacDonald injected herself personally and profoundly in a number of ESA issues. We determined that MacDonald's management style was abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive, and that her conduct demoralized and frustrated her staff as well as her subordinate managers. Our findings from this investigation are much the same, although we found that the nature and extent of MacDonald's influence varied dramatically from one decision to another. For example, in one instance we found that MacDonald went to extraordinary efforts to influence a particular decision, but her efforts ultimately had no effect on the outcome. In other instances, her involvement clearly caused a particular result. Ironically, in several instances, she played no role in the decision-making process, but because of her reputation, FW personnel believed that she had, in fact, been exerting influence, as did members of Congress and the public. . ."

The OIG indicates that, "Recognizing that this comes late in your tenure as Secretary of the Interior, we are providing this report to you for whatever action you deem appropriate; however, it is also my intention to thoroughly brief and refer this report to your successor." That successor, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, is expected to be officially nominated as Secretary of the Department of Interior by President-elect Obama later this week.

Senator Wyden (D-OR), who chairs the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, the primary requestor of the report, issued a release saying, “This report makes it crystal clear how one person’s contempt for the public trust can infect an entire agency. Ms. MacDonald’s narrow focus on her own agenda not only endangered the Endangered Species Act, it opened the door for countless land-use decisions and developments that would have never otherwise been considered. “While I look forward to working with a new Administration with a much greater respect for the law, Congress needs to take immediate steps to make sure that Julie MacDonald’s legacy can never be repeated.”

Wyden continued, "Why my office needed to request an Inspector General’s investigation to get this information is beyond me; but as usual, General Devaney’s [the OIG] work is not only beyond reproach, it gives Congress what is needed to take action. I believe that General Devaney’s exemplary service during what is unquestionably one of the darkest periods in the Interior Department’s history more than merits his being kept on in the Obama Administration to continue prosecuting the case.”

Commenting on the report, Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, “Political interference by MacDonald and other Bush administration officials threatens the survival of numerous species like bull trout, marbled murrelet and the southwestern bald eagle.” CBD said, the report found that MacDonald “frequently contested the scientific findings of FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) biologists and often replaced their scientific conclusions with her own, even though she was not a biologist.”

CBD indicated that the report also found that MacDonald “acted as an economist in her efforts to restrict critical habitat designations,” even though she lacked such training. Greenwald said, "MacDonald’s reign of terror at the Department of Interior will have a lasting negative impact on endangered species, but she was not alone in this effort. MacDonald was the administration’s attack dog, not its general. The contempt for science and law that she came to symbolize goes much deeper than a single Department of Interior employee.”

Access the cover letter and report from DOI's OIG (click here). Access a release from Senator Wyden (click here). Access a release from CBD (click here). Access a release from Defenders of Wildlife (click here). [*Wildlife]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Climate Conference Ends With New Commitments Despite Economy

Dec 12: According to a release from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) and the 4th Meeting of the Parties (CMP 4) in Poznań, Poland ended with "a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year" in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. UNFCCC indicated that progress was made in the area of technology with the endorsement of the Global Environment Facility’s “Poznań Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer”. The aim of that program is to scale up the level of investment by levering private investments that developing countries require for both mitigation and adaptation technologies.

The President of the conference, Polish Minister of the Environment Maciej Nowicki said, “We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome. Parties agreed that a first draft of the text would be available at a UNFCCC gathering in Bonn in June of 2009. In addition to having agreed [on] the work programme for next year, we have cleared the decks of many technical issues. Poznań is the place where the partnership between the developing and developed world to fight climate change has shifted beyond rhetoric and turned into real action. In that spirit, at Poznań, the finishing touches were put to the Kyoto Protocol’s adaptation fund, thereby enabling the fund to receive projects in the course of 2009. Parties agreed that the fund (Clean Development Mechanism, CDM), fed by a share of proceeds from the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism and voluntary contributions, would have a legal capacity granting developing countries direct access."

However, the release indicates that the Parties were unable to reach consensus on scaling up funding for adaptation by agreeing to put a levy on the other two Kyoto mechanisms, Joint Implementation and Emissions Trading. Together with decisions aimed at streamlining and speeding up the CDM, Parties asked the CDM Executive Board to explore procedures and methodologies that would enhance regional and sub-regional distribution of projects. Parties also asked the Board to assess the implications of including carbon capture and storage projects and extending the eligibility criteria for afforestation and reforestation projects.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC indicated that a key event at the conference was a ministerial round table on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action on climate change. He said, “Governments have sent a strong political signal that despite the financial and economic crisis, significant funds can be mobilized for both mitigation and adaptation in developing countries with the help of a clever financial architecture and the institutions to deliver the financial support. We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed countries, the financial support required and the institutions that will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome."

The release states that countries meeting in Poznań made progress on a number of issues that are important in the short run - up to 2012 - particularly for developing countries, including adaptation, finance, technology and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. In addition , the conference discussed in detail the issue of disaster management, risk assessment and insurance, essential to help developing countries cope with the inevitable effects of climate change.

Governments meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agreed that commitments of industrialized countries post-2012 should principally take the form of quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, in line with the type of emission reduction targets they have assumed for the first commitment period of the protocol. In addition to the major COP/CMP meeting in Copenhagen (December 7-18, 2009), at least four other significant UNFCCC meetings will take place next year -- the first two in Bonn, Germany (March 29-April 08, and June 1-12 ) and a third in August/September.

In the listing of 13 specific items from the ministerial round table meeting, item 13 indicates, "Participants at the round table voiced their resounding commitment to and optimism for achieving an agreed outcome at COP 15 that can be ratified by all. The round table provided the opportunity to lay the foundations for further work on the components of an agreed outcome. Further, it sent a clear message regarding the need to continue to build momentum on the many points of convergence among all nations. The current financial and economic crisis should not weaken the determination to undertake decisive action."

On December 11, Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation; James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Harlan Watson, Alternate Head of the U.S. Delegation; and Daniel Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development held a press briefing. Dobriansky said, "We are working to ensure an efficient and effective handoff of responsibilities to the incoming administration in the United States, and part of that has involved making sure that many of our talented career officials -- who will remain in their positions -- are front and center here in Poznan. And that’s why I’m very delighted that we’re joined here by Dan Reifsnyder, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development, a real veteran of climate change negotiations from the late ‘80s to the present time. . . we’ve laid a solid foundation here in Poznan and, most importantly, it looks like we’re on track to agree to a comprehensive and flexible work plan going forward, including a transition to intensive negotiations in 2009."

Reifsnyder said briefly about his role in carrying on with the new Obama Administration, "I think I’m the bridge to the future, and I’m also the bridge to the past, having been here on this issue since 1989. I was thinking today that this will be my ninth transition in working for the federal government, and my fifth transition working on the climate issue. So I’ve seen a lot over the years. It’s been very interesting. I would characterize this transition so far as very smooth, collegial, and cooperative. "

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access links to documents of decisions adopted by COP 14 and CMP 4 (click here). Access a report on the informal ministerial round table on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action -- revised summary by the chair (click here). Access the link to the important background paper (FCCC/CP/2008/6) prepared with the objective of facilitating an optimal outcome of the ministerial round table, the first ministerial debate on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to related information (click here). Access the U.S. State Department website on the COP14 meeting (click here). Access the transcript from the U.S. December 11 press briefing (click here). Access complete detailed day-by-day coverage and a 20-page summary from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Auto Bucks Stop On President Bush's Desk

Dec 11: A late night procedural cloture motion vote requiring 60 votes, on H.R. 7005, the Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008, to provide assistance to Ford, GM and Chrysler, was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 52-35, with 12 not voting [See WIMS 12/9/08]. The House had approved a $14 billion assistance package on December 10. President Bush, who had agreed to, and was actively supporting the House-approved bill, is now the last stop for the failing U.S. automobile industry. The President can still authorize or direct the use of already approved funds under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the past few days of negotiations with House Democrats, the White House has been insistent that auto industry funding must come from the so-called, Section 136 account created at the Department of Energy and intended to help automakers retool, to become more energy efficient. That option is now not available, and the only apparent source of funds for the auto industry is the TARP funds, or perhaps funding from the Federal Reserve. The White House reportedly has said it will consider the TARP funding.

Following the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a brief statement saying, “The House-passed bipartisan legislation protects taxpayers, preserves environmental standards and places tough accountability measures on the auto companies to help ensure their long term viability and competitiveness. The House-passed bill demanded deep concessions from all parties -- the executives, shareholders and the union. Senate Republicans’ refusal to support the bipartisan legislation passed by the House and negotiated in good faith with the White House, the Senate and the automakers is irresponsible, especially at a time of economic hardship. The consequences of the Senate Republicans’ failure to act could be devastating to our economy, detrimental to workers, and destructive to the American automobile industry unless the President immediately directs Secretary Paulson to explore other short-term financial assistance options, including TARP and those available to the Federal Reserve. That is the only viable option available at this time.”

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement saying, “This has been a challenging exercise for everyone involved on both sides. We all remember, just a couple of months ago, we were called upon to rescue the American financial system. At the end of the day, after a few fits and starts, 74 out of 99 senators present thought it was a good idea to do that. . . Now we've moved into a very tricky and challenging area and that is a sort of industry by industry rescue. And we've had before us the whole question of the viability of the American automobile manufacturers. None of us want to see them go down but very few of us had anything to do with the dilemma that they've created for themselves. . .

“The Administration negotiated in good faith with the Democratic Majority a proposal that was simply unacceptable to the vast majority of our side because we thought it, frankly, wouldn't work. Into this breach stepped the Junior Senator from Tennessee who, I must say, has made an extraordinary impact in a very small amount of time. I’m hard-pressed to think of another member who's been here such a short period of time who's made such an impression on colleagues on both sides of the aisle by mastering an extraordinarily complicated subject and being able to explain it in a way that is understandable.

“And he has diligently pursued an agreement that could pass, that could enjoy broad support on both sides. And he has made great progress in that direction. The sticking point that we are left with is the question of whether the UAW is willing to agree to a parity pay structure with other manufacturers in this country by a date certain. And I understand their reluctance to do that. So far in the discussions that Sen. Corker [Bob Corker, R-TN] and Sen. Dodd and others have had, they have not been willing to give a date specific by which parity could be achieved. It is upon that issue that we’ve reached an impasse for the moment.”

Today (December 12) the White House issued a statement saying (complete verbatim), "It is disappointing that while appropriate and effective legislation to assist and restructure troubled automakers received majority support in both houses, Congress nevertheless failed to pass final legislation. The approach in that legislation provided an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers, and presented the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy while ensuring taxpayer funds go only to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make the difficult decisions to become viable, competitive firms in the future.

"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms. However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers. A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time. While the federal government may need to step in to prevent an immediate failure, the auto companies, their labor unions, and all other stakeholders must be prepared to make the meaningful concessions necessary to become viable."

Access the Senate roll call vote details (
click here). Access a White House press briefing explaining the Administration's position on the auto funding assistance (click here). Access a release from the House Speaker (click here). Access a statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access a floor speech and video on Senator Corker's alternative legislation (click here). Access the 12/12/08 statement from the White House (click here). Access legislative details on H.R. 7005 (click here). [*Energy, *Air, *Climate]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon: "The World Is Watching Us."

Dec 11: The important High-Level Segment (CMP 4), of the Poznań, Poland Climate Change Conference [See WIMS 12/8/08] of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) takes place today and tomorrow -- December 11 and 12. At a press briefing on December 10, a day before the High-Level Segment UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said that delegates had managed to resolve a number of outstanding issues.

He said two issues still had to be resolved. The first, the Adaptation Fund, was close to finalization, with the question of direct access by developing countries seen as very important. The second outstanding issue was whether Carbon Capture and Storage should be allowed as a pilot or definite decision under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). He added that it may take a little time for the Adaptation Fund to become fully operational, since the Fund is filled from a levy on credits obtained via the CDM, which would first have to be sold on the market. De Boer indicated that, "The decks were now cleared for Ministers to hold a round-table discussion on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action." He said he hoped the Ministers action "would send a strong signal on cooperation and willingness to work together in order to meet the Copenhagen deadline for a strengthened agreement."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is addressing the High-Level segment and appealing to the Ministers and other top officials from nearly 200 nations to not let the food, financial and other current crises dissuade them from taking urgent action on climate change. The CMP 4 meeting caps off the two-week Poznan conference, which marks the half-way point in efforts to reach agreement on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions whose first commitment period ends in 2012. The conference has drawn some 11,600 participants.

The Secretary-General said, "The world is watching us. The next generation is counting on us. We must not fail. Together, we face two crises: climate change and the global economy. But these crises present us with a great opportunity -- an opportunity to address both challenges simultaneously. . . We need a Green New Deal."

He continued, "What we need, today, is leadership -- leadership by you. We look for that leadership from the European Union. The decisions currently being made by European leaders in Brussels are at great consequence for the whole world. We look for leadership from the United States. It is therefore encouraging to hear about the incoming administration’s plan to put alternative energy, environmentalism and climate change at the very center of America’s definition of national security, economic recovery, and prosperity. . .

"Here in Poznan, we have three challenges: First, is a work-plan for next year’s negotiations. I am glad that an agreement has already been achieved. Second, you need to sketch out the critical elements of a long-term vision. We need a basic framework for cooperative action starting today, not in 2012. . . Third, we must re-commit ourselves to the urgency of our cause. This requires leadership -- your leadership. . . There can be no backsliding on our commitments to a future of low-carbon emissions. We must break free of entrenched positions -- who is to blame, who must act first. . . It is fitting that we meet in Poland, the land of Copernicus. Let us launch a new Copernican revolution -- a revolution in thinking, a revolution in action. Let us save ourselves from catastrophe and usher in a truly sustainable world. . ."

De Boer said on December 11 in a statement to the High-Level Ministers, "Distrust and suspicion have haunted these talks for much too long. You have decided to advance. This is your opportunity to move on. To tell the world how you will deliver together. To tell the world how you will reach out to each other on finance and technology. To tell the world how you will create governance structures for finance in which no one is more equal than the next. . . When you adopted the Bali Road Map, you agreed to the 2009 deadline. Twelve months before Copenhagen, you must give the process clear political guidance and show resolve. Your arrival here in Poznan signals that negotiations have begun in earnest. . .

". . . when the world has recovered from the economic recession, it will not have recovered from climate change. . . So how will you create a new way forward here? How will you spark a global green revolution? . . . You reached a breakthrough in Bali. Now you must make progress in Poznan, so that you can lay the cornerstone for strong action in Copenhagen. . . "

At a press briefing on December 8, Harlan Watson, Alternate Head of the U.S. Delegation in Poznań, in response to a question about any interactions with the Obama transition team in terms of briefing them on what's going on at the conference, he said, "No, I've not been in direct contact with them. As you know, the President-elect asked members of Congress to report back -- he would not be formally sending members of his transition team here, but rather would be relying on reports of members of Congress who would be attending. So we will be fully updating the Congressional delegation on the status of the negotiations, and rely on them to report back to the President-elect."

Access daily briefings from UNFCCC's de Boer (click here). Access a general release from the UN (click here). Access the complete 12/11 statement from the UN Secretary-General (click here). Access the complete 12/11 statement from the UNFCCC Executive Secretary (click here). Access a transcript of the Department of State press briefing (click here). Access the COP14 website for extensive information including links to all conference documents (click here). Access links to live webcasts of the meeting sessions (click here). Access the U.S. State Department website on the COP14 meeting (click here). Access complete detailed day-by-day coverage from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NAS Report Finds "Serious Weaknesses" In U.S. Nano EH&S Plans

Dec 10: A new report -- Review of the Federal Strategy For Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health and Safety Research -- from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) finds "serious weaknesses" and is highly critical of the government's plan for research on the potential health and environmental risks posed by nanomaterials [See WIMS 2/20/08], which are increasingly being used in consumer goods and industry. The committee that wrote the report said, "An effective national plan for identifying and managing potential risks is essential to the successful development and public acceptance of nanotechnology-enabled products.

The committee did not evaluate whether current uses of nanomaterials represent unreasonable risks to the public. Rather, the report focused on what would constitute an effective national research strategy for ensuring that current and future uses of nanomaterials are without significant impacts on human health or the environment. Committee chair David Eaton, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle said, "The current plan catalogs nano-risk research across several federal agencies, but it does not present an overarching research strategy needed to gain public acceptance and realize the promise of nanotechnology."

According to the report, "The research plan, developed by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), does not provide a clear picture of the current understanding of these risks or where it should be in 10 years. Nor does the NNI plan include research goals to help ensure that nanotechnologies are developed and used as safely as possible. And though the research needs listed in the plan are valuable, they are incomplete, in some cases missing elements crucial for progress in understanding nanomaterials' health and safety impacts. A new national strategic plan is needed that goes beyond federal research to incorporate research from academia, industry, consumer and environmental groups, and other stakeholders."

According to a release from NAS, nanoscale engineering manipulates materials at the molecular and atomic level to create structures with unique and useful properties -- materials that are both very strong and very light, for example. More than 600 products involving nanomaterials are already on the market, the majority of them health and fitness products, such as skin care and cosmetics. And over the next decade, nanomaterials will be used increasingly in products ranging from medical therapies to food additives to electronics. The release says, "Growing use of nanomaterials means that more workers and consumers will be exposed to them, and uncertainties remain about their health and environmental effects; while nanomaterials can yield special benefits, they may also have unexpected and possibly toxic properties."

The report says NNI plan ". . . fails to identify some important areas that should to be investigated; for example, "Nanomaterials and Human Health" should include a more comprehensive evaluation of how nanomaterials are absorbed and metabolized by the body and how toxic they are at realistic exposure levels. . . the NNI plan overstates the degree to which already funded studies are meeting the need for research on health and environmental risks. . . In addition, the NNI strategy does not adequately incorporate input from industries that produce and use nanotechnologies, environmental and consumer advocacy groups, and other stakeholders, which is necessary to identify deficiencies in research strategies."

The committee said, "Accountability is also lacking in NNI's plan. Although lead agencies -- such as the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among others -- are given roles for overseeing nanotechnology research, there is no single organization or person that will be held responsible for whether the strategy delivers results." Also, it is pointed out that, "The federal funding to specifically address nanotechnology-related environmental health and safety issues is actually far less than indicated in the NNI plan and may be inadequate. Probably less than half of the research projects described in the plan will ultimately yield useful data to support regulatory decision making. If no new resources are provided, the research generated cannot adequately evaluate the potential risks posed by nanomaterials."

The committee indicates that, "A truly robust national strategic plan would involve a broader group of stakeholders, and would consider the untapped knowledge of nongovernment researchers and academics. The plan should identify research needs clearly and estimate the resources necessary to address gaps, as well as provide specific, measurable objectives and a timeline for meeting them. It should also focus on providing solutions to challenges that do not fit neatly into disciplinary or institutional categories. The current structure of NNI would make developing a visionary and authoritative strategy difficult. NNI should continue to foster successful interagency coordination, with the aim of ensuring that the federal research strategy on the health and safety impacts of nanotechnology is an integral part of the broader national strategic plan."

Access a release from NAS (
click here). Access links to the complete 97-page report and 26-page executive summary (click here). Access the complete NNI EHS Strategy report (click here). Access the NNI website for additional information (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). Access various WIMS eNewsUSA Blog posts on Nanotechnology issues (click here). [*Toxics]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Energy Independence Implications Of Auto Bailout

Dec 9: Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing entitled, Auto Bailout Hearing to Explore Energy Independence Implications. According to an announcement from the Committee, "As Congress considers a multi-billion dollar program of loans to America’s auto industry, many measures of success or failure exist for the industry and the government’s attempts to help the automakers. Chief among those measures of success is how effectively America’s auto industry, and the industry as a whole, is transformed to build cars for the future that reduce our dependence on oil. Will the auto industry meet the fuel economy rules passed by Congress and signed into law nearly a year ago, which could revitalize the industry? Should American taxpayers expect even higher fuel economy performance in return for their investment of additional billions in loans? Do the auto companies’ plans impair their ability to meet the current fuel economy regime?"

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representatives of: Public Citizen; Bright Automotive; Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland; Art Center College of Design; and MAG Industrial Automation Systems. In opening comments, Chairman Markey said, "This week Congress will vote on whether to extend a lifeline to a broken domestic industry teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The same companies that fought seat belt requirements in the 1960s, air bags in the 80’s, and fuel economy for more than three decades, have returned, hat in hand, unable to survive the month without a taxpayer intervention. Once untouchable symbols of American industrial might and ingenuity, it has become clear the Detroit Three have ceded leadership to the innovators and are now running in fear. . .

". . . the fundamental reason the Big Three need life support today is their inability to move from Car 1.0 to Car 2.0 over the past half century. A business model premised on bigger cars, wider highways, and more oil is a failed equation. Any recovery of these companies will require more than just fresh cash. It will require a change of culture. I have reviewed the pending draft legislation that would make available $15 billion in emergency loans and require the Big Three to withdraw pending lawsuits against the states that support adopting California’s greenhouse gas emission standards. I commend that provision and strongly believe that Congress must go one step further and require that these companies meet the California targets on a nationwide basis. . ."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) of the House Financial Services Committee held a press conference late the afternoon of December 8 on the draft aid package to the auto industry. The two outlined the Democrats plan to use $15 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program authorized by section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) [
See WIMS 11/5/08]. Previously, Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had strongly opposed using the "section 136 funds." They agreed, however, to use the funds because the Bush Administration refused to give in on its opposition to use the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) of 2008.

Speaker Pelosi said, “It is important to note that unless the restructuring that is called for in this legislation and the goal of viability is achieved by March 31, [2009] there is no justification for spending any more taxpayer dollars. Now it has been said this is a loan of $15 billion because it’s for a different purpose than under Section 136; 136 is for innovation. . . I am very encouraged by the conversations so far. We are on the path. I will only support using Section 136 with the assurance that we will get it back in a number of weeks. And in fact, in a number of weeks, if the Big Three are not on the path to viability, we may want our money back sooner than March 31 instead of over the longer term that would be built into the bill should they again be a thriving, competitive, innovative auto industry for the future.” The Bush Administration is still reviewing the draft legislation and reportedly wants additional stipulations on the auto companies. A deal was expected later today or tomorrow; however, it is still unknown if the compromise will pass the Senate.

In a related matter, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released new data indicating that General Motors and Ford are "now positioned to comply with California's landmark global warming standards if they are applied nationwide." NRDC said the new findings are critical as Congress considers a major bailout of the auto industry. NRDC said, "Despite the capacity to meet these standards, however, GM and Ford remain embroiled in efforts to block the California standards through lawsuits and lobbying."

Roland Hwang, vehicles policy director for NRDC said, “Producing modern and efficient vehicles will expand America’s workforce, make GM and Ford globally competitive, and save drivers billions at the pump. In a future of insecure oil markets and intensifying global warming, American auto companies will only be competitive by making cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars.” The NRDC study is based on the fuel economy levels in the plans submitted by GM and Ford to Congress on December 2, 2008.

Access the hearing website and links to all testimony and Chairman Markey's opening comments (click here). Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a release from NRDC and link to the analysis (click here). [*Energy, *Air, *Climate]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama: "Your Seat at the Table" Transparency Policy

Dec 5: In a memo the Obama-Biden Transition Project Co-chair John Podesta announced that all policy documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be publicly available for review and discussion on the transition website The Transition Team said, "This means we're inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and engage in a dialogue about these important issues and ideas -- at the same time members of our team review these documents themselves."

The announcement includes a video from the Obama Administration Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs Michael Strautmanis providing an overview of this unique program. On December 5, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Christina M. Tchen will serve as White House Director of Public Liaison and Michael Strautmanis will serve as Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison [See link to release below].

The announcement indicates that, "Talking face-to-face with advocates and experts is a vital part of the Transition. But in past transitions, meetings like these took place behind closed doors and lacked the public input and transparency we're working hard to provide." In the Memo to all Obama Transition staff, Podesta says, "As an extension of the unprecedented ethics guidelines already in place for the Obama-Biden Transition Project [See WIMS 11/12/08], we take another significant step towards transparency of our efforts for the American people. Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a 'seat at the table' and that we receive the benefit of their feedback. Accordingly, any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on. In addition to presenting ideas as individuals at, the American people deserve a “seat at the table” as we receive input from organizations and make decisions. In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations."

The Memo states further: "The following information will be posted on our website: 1. Documents: All policy documents and written policy recommendations from official meetings with outside organizations. 2. Meetings: The date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices, with any documents presented as noted above. This scope is a floor, not a ceiling, and all staff are strongly encouraged to include additional materials. Such materials could include documents (recommendations, press releases, etc.) presented in smaller meetings or materials or made public by the outside organization without a connection to an official meeting."

On the "Your Seat at the Table" website the information is organized chronologically and can also be searched. Each item that is listed includes a link to the documents. Additionally, each listing includes an option to: view or leave a comment and to submit ideas or documents about this entry. As an example, the following is a listing of some items:

- “Our Opposition to ‘Multi-Pollutant’ Legislation and Support for CAIR Fix”
- “Support the IBEW-Boilermakers-UMWA-AEP international provision in climate change legislation.”
- “These recommendations, respectfully submitted to the transition team for its consideration, were compiled by a broad coalition of leading national environmental and conservation groups.”
- “We urge the next President of the United States to include SSP as a new start in a balanced federal strategy for energy independence and environmental stewardship.”
- “Summary of the September 2007 Water Policy Dialogue and a copy of the letter sent to the President, all governors, and key leaders in Congress.”
- “Western Governors are very concerned that during our nation’s deepening energy crisis, the United States lacks an effective long-term energy policy.”
- “Taken in total, the recommendations in this report propose a transformational role for government. It calls for reconnecting our government with all of us, “We, the people.””

Access the Team announcement (click here). Access the Memo from Podesta (click here). Access the "Your Seat at the Table" website (click here). Access the Transition Energy & Environment sections where the Obama plan is outlined and ideas and comments may be submitted (click here). Access a release on the two new appointments (click here). Access the website for additional information (click here). [Note: WIMS has added a link to the Obama Transition website on the homepage under "Executive Office" (click here).]

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Clean Coal" Argument Rages On With New Campaign

Dec 4: The Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club launched the “Reality” Coalition, a national grassroots and advertising effort which they say is designed "to tell a simple truth: in reality, there is no such thing as 'clean coal.' They said, "Environmental experts agree that coal is the dirtiest fuel America uses to produce electricity. The Reality Coalition, then, is challenging the coal industry to come clean -- in its advertising and in its operations. Coal cannot be considered clean until its carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored.

On December 4, the Reality Coalition launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign, running in print, broadcast and online media and supported by the website, "This Is Reality." The ads are designed and produced by Boulder, Colorado-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the agency responsible for the “Truth” anti-tobacco campaign. The first “Reality” print ad shows a solitary door labeled “Clean Coal Facility Entrance.” Behind the door, though, lies a barren field. “In reality, there’s no such thing as clean coal,” the ad states.

The ad continues: “Coal is one of the leading causes of global warming. But that hasn’t stopped the coal industry from advertising clean coal. Yet, the truth is there isn’t a single commercial coal plant in America today that captures its global warming pollution. Learn more about what the coal industry is not telling you …” Reality’s first TV ad follows the same premise and can be viewed on the website indicated below.

Former Vice President Gore said, “The coal industry has spent hundreds of millions promoting ‘clean coal’ technology, but in reality, there is not a single large-scale demonstration project in the United States for capturing and safely burying all of coal’s CO2 emissions. The industry must make good its promise if they truly want to do their part to solve the climate crisis. Until that happens, coal cannot be called ‘clean’.” The “Reality” Coalition said it echoes the call made by Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection in a recent New York Times op-ed that "until coal is truly clean, there should be no new coal-fired power plants built in America."

Vice President for Communications Joe Lucas, of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a partnership of companies involved in producing electricity from coal, responded immediately with a lengthy statement saying, "I'm surprised that a coalition of environmental special interest groups has placed ads doubting the existence of clean coal technologies. For over 40 years, private industry, academia, and the federal government have been working in partnership to bring new technologies to the marketplace that reduces the environmental footprint of using coal to generate electricity. . .

"In our America's Power campaign ( we have consistently talked about the need to invest in advanced clean coal technologies to ensure that we can capture and safely store CO2 emissions at coal-based power plants both here at home and around the world. While this remains a complex and challenging task, anyone who is skeptical about the progress that is being made on this front would only need to visit the U.S. Department of Energy's website (Clean Power Initiative). . . to get a better appreciation and understanding of the industry's commitment to this cause.

"We join President-elect Barack Obama in calling for additional funding for advanced clean coal technologies to ensure that we meet the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time enjoying the benefits of relying upon coal, our most abundant domestic energy resource, to meet future energy needs. I would have hoped that the environmental special interest groups that are sponsoring this new ad would support such an effort, but they have obviously chosen a different path."

During his campaign for the Presidency, George W. Bush pledged to commit $2 billion over 10 years to advance clean coal technology - a pledge he has subsequently carried out in the National Energy Policy and in budget requests to Congress. The DOE website, identified by ACCCE in the statement describes the extensive effort of the Federal government in advancing and promoting "clean coal" technology.

In a related matter, on December 1, 2008, Greenpeace released an analysis showing that the global cost of coal was at least 360 billion (Euros, $US 456 billion) last year alone. The report, The True Cost of Coal, released with the independent Dutch Institute CE Delft, arrived at this figure by looking at very modest CO2 damage costs, health costs and mining accidents. Joris Thijssen, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace International said, "The relentless expansion of the coal industry is the single greatest threat to averting dangerous climate change. Coal is the most climate-polluting fossil fuel, responsible for one third of all CO2 emissions, and is projected to increase to 60% of emissions by 2030. Clearly, quitting coal will benefit not only the climate, but also reduce the other impacts which everybody else has to pay for."

President-elect Obama has said as part of his overall energy plan that he would "Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology." [
See WIMS 10/21/08]. Specifically, the Plan says, "Carbon capture and storage technologies hold enormous potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as we power our economy with domestically produced and secure energy. As a U.S. Senator, Obama has worked tirelessly to ensure that clean coal technology becomes commercialized. An Obama administration will provide incentives to accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale zero‐carbon coal facilities. In order to maximize the speed with which we advance this critical technology, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will instruct DOE to enter into public private partnerships to develop 5 “first‐of‐a‐kind”commercial scale coal‐fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration."

Access a release from NRDC (
click here). Access the Reality Coalition website for links to the ads and additional information(click here). Access the statement from ACCCE (click here). Access the DOE website on Clean Power (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace (click here). Access the Greenpeace 92-page report (click here). Access the details of the Obama Energy Plan (click here). Access the SourceWatch Coal Issues Portal (click here). Access the Sierra Club data (click here). [*Energy, *Air, *Climate]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Changes For EPA's "Bogged Down" Risk Assessment Process

Dec 3: A new report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) says the U.S. EPA's process of generating risk assessments -- which estimate the potential adverse effects posed by harmful chemicals found in the environment in order to protect public health -- is bogged down by unprecedented challenges, and as a decision-making tool it is often hindered by a disconnect between available scientific data and the information needs of officials. The report recommends EPA's risk assessment process should be streamlined to ensure the appropriate use of available science, technical accuracy, and tailoring to the specific needs of the problem.

According to a release from NAS, the risk assessment process entails four steps -- hazard identification, exposure assessment, dose-response assessment, and risk characterization -- which were described in a 1983 National Research Council report known as the Red Book. After a risk assessment is complete, officials and regulators use it to decide how to protect the public from exposure to toxic substances. However, the challenges of risk assessment have become increasingly complex.

As knowledge of environmental contaminants and potential health impacts advances, EPA must address issues of multiple exposure, multiple risks, and susceptibility of different populations. Recognizing this, the agency asked the NRC to identify improvements it could make to enhance risk assessment. In turn, the committee that wrote the report presented recommendations and a proposed framework for risk-based decision making to provide a template for risk assessment in EPA and strengthen the scientific basis, credibility, and effectiveness of future risk management decisions.

The committee found that EPA is struggling to keep up with demands for hazard and dose-response information and is challenged by a lack of resources. For example, the risk assessment for trichloroethylene, a chemical that is linked to cancer, has been under development since the 1980s and is not expected until 2010. However, state and federal officials often must continue to make risk management decisions in the absence of completed risk assessments. The Committee stressed, "If this practice continues, the value and credibility of risk assessment will erode. Perfection in scientific knowledge is unattainable; therefore, risk assessment should incorporate the best available scientific information and reasonably capture uncertainties in information so it is still useful for officials."

The Committee said, "EPA should focus more attention on the formative stages of risk assessment, specifically on planning, scoping, and problem formulation, which have been applied inconsistently, the committee said. This includes defining a clear set of options for consideration and involving decision makers, stakeholders, and risk assessors upfront to evaluate whether the design of the assessment will address the problems."

To this end, the Committee proposed that EPA adopt an expanded risk assessment framework that has the same core as the Red Book model but differs in its preliminary and final steps. The three-phase framework begins with enhanced problem formulation and scoping, in which risk management options and the types of technical analyses needed to evaluate and discriminate among the options are identified. The second phase involves planning, hazard identification, exposure assessment, risk characterization, and deciding whether the assessment is appropriate and allows discrimination among risk management options. The final phase examines the relative health or environmental benefits of the proposed risk management options for the purpose of reaching a decision.

Under this framework, the questions posed come from early and careful planning and stress the appropriate level of scientific depth that is needed to evaluate the relative options being considered. The goal of the new approach is to assure that risk assessments are focused on the right questions, use the best available science, and address the needs of decision makers.

The committee also recommended that EPA adopt a unified approach for the dose-response step of risk assessment, which estimates the amount of a chemical that would lead to an adverse health effect. Currently, dose-response assessments are conducted differently for chemicals that produce cancerous effects and those that produce other health effects. For carcinogens, EPA assumes that even a low exposure may result in cancer, and scientists estimate the probability of cancer developing in a certain population given different levels of exposure. For chemicals that could produce noncancerous effects, such as asthma or birth defects, scientists currently try to determine a threshold -- the amount below which effects of the chemical are not expected to occur or are extremely unlikely.

However, the current noncancer assessment process, while valuable in certain public-health situations, does not provide decision makers with information on varying estimates of risk at different exposure levels, nor does it allow for adjustment of background exposures and underlying disease that may lead to increased risk. Rather, it provides a distinct line between possible harm and safety for all populations. The Committee suggested unifying the cancer and noncancerous dose-response assessment approaches to include assessments of background disease processes and exposures, possible vulnerable populations, and modes of action that may affect a chemical's dose-response relationship in humans. This unified approach would incorporate advances in scientific knowledge and provide clearer estimates of population risk -- information that is most useful for decision making, including informing risk trade-offs or cost-benefit analyses. Moving toward this approach would require new research and development, but the tools are available to do this.

The Committee cautions that EPA's current institutional structure and level of resources may pose a challenge to implementation of the report's recommendations, which are equivalent to major transformations in the Agency's culture. It would require a commitment to leadership, cross-program coordination and communication, and training to ensure the requisite expertise. EPA should initiate a senior-level strategic re-examination of its risk-related structures and processes to make sure that it has the institutional capacity and resources to implement the Committee's recommendations. In addition, EPA should develop a capacity building plan that includes budget estimates required for implementation.

Access a release from NAS (click here). Access links to the 478-page complete report --Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment -- and a 32-page executive summary (click here). Access a 4-page summary (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

GAO Report On Lessons From International Climate Change Programs

Dec 2: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report entitled, International Climate Change Programs: Lessons Learned from the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme and the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (GAO-09-151, November 18, 2008).

According to GAO, international policies to address climate change have largely relied on market-based programs; for example, under the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) phase I (2005 to 2007) carbon dioxide emissions reductions were sought by setting a cap on each member state's allowable emissions and distributing tradable allowances to covered entities, such as power plants. Beginning operation in 2002, the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has relied on offsets, allowing certain industrialized nations to pay for emission reduction projects in developing countries -- where the cost of abatement may be less expensive -- in addition to reducing emissions within their borders.

Legislative proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions are under consideration in the United States. In this context, GAO was asked to examine the effects of and lessons learned from (1) the ETS phase I and (2) the CDM. GAO worked with the National Academy of Sciences to identify experts in market-based programs and gathered their opinions through a questionnaire, interviewed stakeholders, and reviewed available information.

GAO reports that according to available information and experts, the ETS phase I established a functioning market for carbon dioxide allowances, but its effects on emissions, the European economy, and technology investment are less certain. Nonetheless, experts suggest that it offers lessons that may prove useful in informing congressional decision making. By limiting the total number of emission allowances provided to covered entities under the program and enabling these entities to sell or buy allowances, the ETS set a price on carbon emissions. However, in 2006, a release of emissions data revealed that the supply of allowances -- the cap -- exceeded the demand, and the allowance price collapsed. Overall, the cumulative effect of phase I on emissions is uncertain because of a lack of baseline emissions data. The long-term effects on the economy also are uncertain.

One concern about design and implementation was that the economic activities associated with emissions from covered entities would shift from the European Union to countries that do not have binding emission limits -- a concept known as "leakage." However, leakage does not appear to have occurred, in part because covered entities did not purchase allowances but received them for free. The effect of the ETS on technology investment also is uncertain but was likely minimal, in part because phase I was not long enough to affect such investments.

Phase I of the ETS offers three key lessons: (1) accurate emissions data are essential to setting an effective emissions cap; (2) a trading program should provide enough certainty to influence technology investment; and (3) the method for allocating allowances may have important economic effects, namely, free allocation may distribute wealth to covered entities whereas auctioning could generate revenue for governments.

According to available information and experts, the CDM has provided flexibility to industrialized countries with emission targets and has involved developing countries in efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but the program's effects on emissions are uncertain, and its effects on sustainable development have been limited. Nonetheless, the CDM's effects reveal key lessons that can help inform congressional decision making. Specifically, the CDM has provided a way for industrialized countries to meet their targets that may cost less than reducing emissions at home; however, available evidence suggests that some offset credits were awarded for projects that would have occurred even in the absence of the CDM, despite a rigorous screening process.

Such projects do not represent net emission reductions and can compromise the integrity of programs -- including the ETS -- that allow the use of CDM credits for compliance. We also found that the cost-effectiveness and overall scale of emission reductions are limited by the current project approval process, although proposed changes may improve its effectiveness. Key lessons from the CDM include: (1) the resources necessary to obtain project approval may reduce the cost-effectiveness and quality of projects; (2) the need to ensure the credibility of emission reductions presents a significant regulatory challenge; and (3) due to the tradeoffs with offsets, the use of such programs may be, at best, a temporary solution.

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click here). Access more information on the EU ETS (click here). Access complete information on the CDM program (click here). [*Climate]