Thursday, January 31, 2008

Senate Hearing On National Surface Transportation Report

Jan 31: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing entitled, “A Hearing to Receive the Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.” On January 15, 2008, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission released its major report entitled, Transportation for Tomorrow, prepared by the specially convened Commission, under Section 1909 of the Safe Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act -- A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The Report includes detailed recommendations for creating and sustaining a pre-eminent surface transportation system in the United States [See WIMS 1/15/08].

The Commission's report concluded: "The Commission concludes that the current Federal surface transportation programs should not be 're-authorized' in their current form. We must begin anew. This New Beginning is the dawn of the third era in the modern history of the Federal surface transportation program."

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP; the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; BNSF Railway Company; and The Skancke Company. Senator Boxer and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) both delivered opening statements.

Senator Boxer said in part, "On August 1, 2007, the collapse of the I-35 west bridge in Minneapolis claimed the lives of 13 and injured 145 people. This tragedy served as an urgent wake up call that we cannot neglect our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The current highway, transit and highway safety programs of SAFETEA-LU expire at the end of 2009.

"Today we begin our process of developing a new authorization for those programs... In reviewing the Commission’s recommendations, it is clear to me that there is no easy answer to the challenges we face. But without action by the Federal government, our infrastructure will further deteriorate, congestion will increase, additional lives will be lost, and our economy will suffer... If we don’t aggressively pursue safety improvements, more lives will be lost on U.S. roads. In 2006, almost 43,000 people died and 2.6 million were injured... If we act, the Commission’s report suggests that by 2025 we could cut fatalities in half and reduce per-vehicle delay on major urban highways by 20 percent...

"The discussion on financing will explore a myriad of options – several of which are discussed in the report. While the gas tax will continue to fund our surface program, we know that it is not a sustainable, long-term source of funding. Options could include private-sector investment, pricing through tolls and the like, and charges for vehicle miles traveled or VMT. Global warming and other important environmental considerations need to be integrated into our transportation planning..."

Access the hearing website and link to all testimony, opening statements, webcast and related information (click here). Access the complete 258-page report or individual sections (click here). Access the Commission's website for extensive background information (click here). [*Transport]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

600+ U.S. Scientists Urge Congress To Act On Climate Change

Jan 29: According to a release from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), more than 600 prominent scientists from across the United States are calling on Congress to pass legislation that will curb America’s global warming pollution and help protect wildlife and other natural resources threatened by global warming. Spearheaded by some of America’s greatest scientific minds, including Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy, Paul Ehrlich and Camille Parmesan, the scientists have sent a letter to Congress urging action.

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, renowned conservation biologist and president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment said, “The science is irrefutable not only about the reality of climate change, but also that plant and animal species are already being harmed by it. Alarming effects are already being observed in nature from mountaintops to the oceans, and from the equator to the polar regions. We have the choice to allow these effects to intensify or to move to avoid the more disastrous consequences for life on earth.”

Dr. Dan Svedarsky, president of The Wildlife Society, on behalf of its over 8,000 professional wildlife biologists said, “The precarious status of polar bears and their melting sea ice habitat in the Arctic is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s not just polar bears -- wildlife across America are being impacted by global warming, including birds, butterflies, fish and mammals.” Jeff Price, one of the authors of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (2007) said, “The science is clear that without major action to both reduce global warming pollution and to help wildlife survive global warming, species will suffer rapidly increasing extinction rates. It is not too late, but we must take action now.”

The U.S. Senate is currently considering legislation that would begin to take the urgent actions these scientists say are necessary [See WIMS 12/6/07 & 1/18/08]. The Climate Security Act (S. 2191), introduced in 2007 by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), creates a market-based system that cuts global warming pollution and helps communities address the impacts of climate change. John Kostyack, executive director of wildlife and global warming at NWF said, “Global warming is an unprecedented challenge for wildlife, adding a host of new threats such as thawing permafrost, disappearing mountain snow pack, and the warming of rivers, lakes and estuaries. Senators Lieberman and Warner recognize the gravity of the threat and the necessity of timely and effective action. The Climate Security Act provides the best hope for saving wildlife at risk of extinction and for conserving ecosystems that are essential for both wildlife and people.”

The signers are hoping to convey to Congress “our sense of urgency. Global warming is already causing serious damage and disruptions to wildlife and ecosystems, and reliable projections call for significant additional damage and disruptions. To fulfill the nation’s longstanding commitment to conserving abundant wildlife and healthy ecosystems for future generations, Congress must craft legislation that greatly reduces global warming pollution and generates substantial dedicated funding to protect and restore wildlife and ecosystems harmed by global warming.”

Access a release from NWF (
click here). Access the letter and complete list of signers, organized by state (click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

President Bush Delivers Last State Of The Union Address

Jan 28: President George W. Bush delivered his final State of the Union Address, Monday, January 28, 2008, at the U.S. Capitol. The Address dealt largely with the U.S. Economy and the war in Iraq. The word "environment" appeared once in the speech in a sentence stating, "Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil." The term "climate change" also appeared once in the speech in a sentence stating, "The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change."

The term "energy" appeared five times in sentences as follows: "To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology... Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources... The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology..."

In his speech the President emphasized the need to generate coal power with carbon sequestration, said the nation should increase renewable and nuclear power; and stressed the need to develop new and advanced technology to deal with energy and climate change issues. He also re-emphasized his position that an international climate change agreement must include "commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride."

In context, approximately three paragraphs of the speech dealt with the subjects of environment, energy and climate change. The President said, "To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.

"This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride. The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology.

"To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth."

Congressional Democrats React To The State of the Union Address

Senate Democrats issued a broad-based response saying, "We agree with the President that we must work together to make progress on our most pressing challenges. Yet, tonight, the President offered little more than the status quo. At a time when our economy is on shaky ground and our leadership around the world is eroding, the status quo won't do." On their website they posted a list of what they would like to hear."

On the issue of climate change they said, "We need to hear a plan to take further significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are pushing us closer to the brink of global climate catastrophe -- and to make the U.S. a global leader in bringing all countries into binding agreement. We must build on the work of this Congress to lower vehicle emissions for the first time in 32 years with new CAFE standards, to increase efficiency for buildings, lighting, and appliances, and to increase clean, renewable fuel usage. We need to hear a plan to: design a carbon cap and trade system [and] set a renewable electricity standard nationwide."

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming issued some comments and a point-counterpoint response to some of the President's statements. Markey said, "During President Bush’s tenure, oil has risen from $26 per barrel to spiking above $100 barrel, and total U.S. heat-trapping emissions have risen by more than 3 percent, and by more than 210 million metric tons in carbon dioxide equivalent -- about the same as the total yearly output of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden combined.

“Too often, President Bush has used positive rhetoric to mask the reality that on his watch, the United States has undermined, not reinforced, the international effort to cap the emissions of heat-trapping gases that endanger the planet. In his short-sighted concession to ignore real solutions to global warming in favor of expediency and special interests, he is risking the fate of the world. History is not likely to judge this legacy kindly.

“But we in the Congress intend to give this president opportunities in his final year to reverse his pattern of negligence when it comes to global warming and be part of kick-starting a green revolution in our country. The president asked Congress to ‘cooperate for results’ tonight – I hope he will follow his own advice.”

The official Democratic response to the State of the Union Address was delivered by Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of the State of Kansas. In one passage, Governor Sebelius says, "You and I - stand ready - ready to protect our environment for future generations, and stay economically competitive. Mayors have committed their cities to going green; governors have joined together, leading efforts for energy security and independence; and the majority in Congress is ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America. So we ask you, Mr. President, will you join us? It's time to get to work..."

Pelosi and Reid issued a second, brief reaction saying in part, "We hope that the bipartisanship on the economic stimulus package that has marked the start of this new year is a sign of things to come. But the President must do much more than simply give speeches that promise progress and commit to cooperation – he must work with Congress to make it happen. If the President holds fast to the commitment he made to bipartisanship tonight, we can make great progress for the American people this year."

Groups React To State of the Union Address

The following is some reaction to the President's State of the Union Address. WIMS notes that very few industry groups issued statements commenting on the President's Address.

Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group (formerly the National Environmental Trust), issued a statement on advance text of the address saying, “The President’s proposal for a worldwide clean technology fund is a major landmark in addressing global warming. Developing countries will need billions in financial assistance to cut the growth of their global warming pollution over the next several decades.

“Still, $2 billion is a very small amount of money given the scale of the problem. China alone is investing over $100 billion a year through its state-owned enterprises in new energy projects and resources, mostly in oil and coal-fired electricity. The President’s proposed fund must be accompanied by a strong new climate treaty to direct global business investment into clean energy technologies.”

Greenpeace USA issued a statement saying in part, "Under his watch, greenhouse gas emissions have increased as the United States’ reputation has plummeted. The damage to both the environment and the U.S.’s international standing will take years to undo. Rather than offer real solutions to global warming, the President has repeatedly kowtowed to the oil and energy industries by sowing confusion on the science and offering policies that are comparable to throwing a thimble-full of water on a raging fire."

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "In his final State of the Union address, President Bush missed his last opportunity to confront America's global warming challenge and commit to enacting binding climate legislation by the end of his term... Any presumption that the crisis of global warming can be met through voluntary measures is a fantasy. Anything less than science-based, binding reductions in global warming pollution isn't going to meet the challenge. American researchers and entrepreneurs respond to market signals, which a market-based cap-and-trade program will send. If there are no mandatory controls there is very little incentive to invest or innovate..."

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) issued a statement saying, "Unfortunately, the president’s plan outlined tonight offers old approaches instead of bold solutions. Congress should act quickly to pass the bipartisan Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act to energize America’s economy and reduce global warming pollution. Doing nothing on global warming is a recipe for economic failure. We need to reject the defeatist attitude of those who say that protecting our environment will harm our economy. In the fight against global warming, the science is clear: the path to avoid catastrophic climate change starts with mandatory limits on global warming pollution that create bold new opportunities for clean energy jobs and technologies. A voluntary approach adds up to lots of rhetoric and little actual change..."

Eileen Claussen, President of Pew Center on Global Climate Change issued a statement saying, "President Bush’s proposal tonight to invest $2 billion to deploy clean energy technologies in developing countries is a step in the right direction. A fair and effective global response to climate change is possible only with strong support from industrialized countries. But compared to the level of investment needed, and the $10 billion pledged two days ago by Japan, the president’s proposal appears modest at best.

"The White House must go much further if it wants to be seen as a leader on climate action. At home, the president should work with Congress to enact a mandatory cap-and-trade bill to significantly reduce U.S. emissions. Abroad, the United States must sit down with other countries and negotiate binding international commitments. The so-called national commitments the administration is advocating would be little more than promises, providing no assurance that China, India, and other countries would hold up their end of the bargain. American business and the American public are calling for mandatory federal action on climate change..."

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) issued a statement saying, “After seven years of a presidential assault on environmental protections, of siding with Big Oil over consumers and the environment, of refusing to address the global warming crisis and actively thwarting state efforts to do so, the President promised more of the same tonight. The best thing about President Bush’s State of the Union speech tonight is that it is his last. The very idea that the President would attempt to take credit for ‘leadership’ in the post-2012 global warming program is absurd, especially considering that his Administration was internationally shamed in Bali."

Access the full transcript of the 2008 State of the Union Address with links to video and related information (
click here). Access the Senate Democrats "State of Our Union" website (click here). Access the transcript of general comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (click here). Access a lengthy release from Representative Markey (click here). Access the Governor Sebelius response (click here). Access the second release from Pelosi and Reid (click here). Access a release from the Pew Environment Group with links to additional information on China Investments (click here). Access the statement from Greenpeace (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the NWF statement (click here). Access a release from the Pew Climate Center (click here). Access a release from LCV (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Monday, January 28, 2008

EPA Launches Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program

Jan 28: U.S. EPA announced its Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP) and said it wants answers to "What are the human health and environmental risks and benefits of nanoscale chemical products?" Jim Gulliford, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances said, “This program will help strengthen the scientific understanding of nanoscale materials and allow the EPA to more quickly assemble the information needed to ensure appropriate oversight of the products of this promising technology. Participation in this program can help assure the responsible development, use, and acceptance of these materials in the marketplace.”

According to EPA the program calls on manufacturers, importers, processors, and users of engineered nanoscale materials to voluntarily report to EPA key information about these materials within six months. EPA is not requesting that participants develop additional data, only that participants submit existing data.

The Agency will evaluate the information to help ensure the safe manufacture and use of these nanoscale materials. EPA said it will also work with manufacturers, importers, processors and users of nanoscale materials to develop test data to provide a scientific basis for assessing the hazards, exposures, and risks of nanoscale materials. The NMSP is designed to complement and support EPA's new and existing chemical programs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) [
See WIMS 8/2/07 & 10/19/06].

The NMSP includes, but is not limited to, existing chemical nanoscale materials manufactured or imported for commercial purposes as defined by TSCA. EPA encourages manufacturers and importers of new chemical nanoscale materials, which are subject to TSCA reporting requirements prior to manufacture, as well as researchers to consider reporting under the NMSP. EPA said the NMSP will help provide a firmer, scientific foundation for regulatory decisions by encouraging the development of key scientific information and use of risk management practices in developing and commercializing nanoscale materials.

EPA said to would publish an interim report on the program in approximately a year from its launching on January 28, 2008. A more detailed report and program evaluation will be published after approximately two years. At the time of the two-year report, EPA intends to determine the future direction of both the basic reporting and in-depth data development phases, although adjustments or decisions on future steps may be made at an earlier point if sufficient experience is gained. This would also include consideration of use of regulatory authorities under TSCA.

Environmental Defense a persistent watchdog, participant and critic of EPA's approach thus far issued a release saying, "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) long-awaited voluntary reporting program for engineered nanomaterials will not deliver critically needed information and serves only to postpone key decisions on how best to mitigate nanotechnology’s potential risks to human health and the environment, according to Environmental Defense. The group harshly criticized the EPA’s new Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program... Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense Senior Scientist said, “EPA is simply ‘kicking the can down the road’ by shunning approaches that could have delivered needed information faster, and by opting instead to pursue an open-ended approach with no end in sight."

In a related matter, EPA announced that it has awarded 21 grants totaling $7.34 million to universities to investigate potential adverse health and environmental effects of manufactured nanomaterials. The grants were awarded through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program in partnership with the National Science Foundation's (NSF), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) who awarded another eight grants for a total of 29. Nine of the grants focus on potential toxicity, and 12 grants study the fate and transport of nanomaterials in the environment.

Access a release from EPA announcing the NMSP (
click here). Access EPA's Federal Register announcement [73 FR 4861-4866] (click here). Access further details on the NMSP (click here). Access more information on Nanotechnology under the Toxic Substances Control Act (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). Access a release on the nanomaterials grants listing the recipients (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]

Friday, January 25, 2008

House Begins Investigation Into Bisphenol-A (BPA)

Jan 17: Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Bart Stupak (D-MI), Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, have begun an inquiry with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the manufacturers of infant products regarding bisphenol-A (BPA). The two sent letters to seven manufacturers and the FDA asking questions and requesting information within two weeks. The inquiry focuses on the use of BPA in plastic baby bottles and to line cans that contain infant formula and possible leaching into the infant formula. As well, the letters request information on FDA's review of bisphenol A.

On December 5, 2007, a new investigation by Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that BPA is used to line nearly all infant formula cans. They said BPA levels found in liquid formula are likely to be far higher than those that leach from bottles under normal use.

On November 30, 2007, the National Toxicology Program (NTP); Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR); issued a Federal Register announcement [72 FR 67730-67731] indicating the availability of the Final 396-page bisphenol A Expert Panel Report and also requested comments on the report by January 25, 2008 [See WIMS 11/26/07]. The expert panel report is an evaluation of the reproductive and developmental toxicity of bisphenol A conducted by an independent, 12-member expert panel composed of scientists from the public and private sectors convened by CERHR.

Access links to the letters from Representatives Dingell and Stupak (
click here). Access several posting on the WIMS eNewsUSA Blog on BPA issues (click here). Access a release from EWG for links to its complete study, an executive summary and on-line guide for parents (click here). Access the EWG website on BPA for additional information (click here). Access the 396-page final bisphenol A report (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

European Commission Proposes Energy & Climate Change Package

Jan 23: The European Commission agreed on what they called "a far-reaching package of proposals that will deliver the European Council's commitments to fight climate change and promote renewable energy." According to a release the proposals demonstrate that the targets agreed last year are technologically and economically possible and provide a unique business opportunity for thousands of European companies. They said these measures will dramatically increase the use of renewable energy in each country and set legally enforceable targets for governments to achieve them. All major CO2 emitters will be given an incentive to develop clean production technologies through a thorough reform of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) that will impose an EU-wide cap on emissions.

The package seeks to deliver the European Union to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 20% and increases to 20% the share of renewable energies in the energy consumption by 2020, as agreed by EU leaders in March 2007. The emissions reduction will be increased to 30% by 2020 when a new global climate change agreement is reached. Commission President, José Manuel Barroso said, "Responding to the challenge of climate change is the ultimate political test for our generation. Our mission, indeed our duty, is to provide the right policy framework for transformation to an environment friendly European economy and to continue to lead the international action to protect our planet. Our package not only responds to this challenge, but holds the right answer to the challenge of energy security and is an opportunity that should create thousands of new businesses and millions of jobs in Europe. We must grasp that opportunity".

Commissioner for the environment, Stavros Dimas said, "Building on Europe's pioneering emissions trading system, this package demonstrates to our global partners that strong action to fight climate change is compatible with continued economic growth and prosperity. It gives Europe a head start in the race to create a low-carbon global economy that will unleash a wave of innovation and create new jobs in clean technologies. These proposals implement the commitments made by EU leaders last year through a fair share-out of the effort. Now all Member States must make their full contribution."

Building on the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), the Commission proposes to strengthen the single, EU-wide carbon market which will include more greenhouse gases (currently only CO2 is included), and involve all major industrial emitters. The emission allowances put on the market will be reduced year-on-year to allow for emissions covered by the ETS to be reduced by 21% from 2005 levels in 2020.

The power sector -- forming the majority of EU emissions -- will face full auctioning from the start of the new regime in 2013. Other industrial sectors, as well as aviation, will step up to full auctioning gradually, although an exception may be made for sectors particularly vulnerable to competition from producers in countries without comparable carbon constraints. In addition, auctions will be open: any EU operator will be able to buy allowances in any Member State. Revenues resulting from the ETS will accrue to Member States and should be used to help the EU to adjust to an environment friendly economy by supporting innovation in areas such as renewables, carbon capture and storage and R&D. Part of the revenues should also go towards helping developing countries adapt to climate change. The Commission estimates that the revenues from the auctioning could amount to €50 billion annually by 2020.

The Commission said the EU Emissions Trading System, now in its fourth year of operation, has proved an effective instrument to find a market-based solution to provide incentives for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. At present the system covers some 10,000 industrial plants across the EU -- including power plants, oil refineries, and steel mills -- accounting for almost half the EU's CO2 emissions. Under the new system over 40% of total emissions will be covered by the ETS. To reduce the administrative burden, industrial plants emitting less than 10,000 tonnes of CO2 will not have to participate in the ETS.

The proposal also addresses the minimum target of 10% for use of biofuels in transport in the EU to be reached by 2020. This is the same for each Member State. Sustainability is essential in implementing this target -- the directive includes clear sustainability criteria. The Commission has also adopted new State aid guidelines on environmental protection which will help Member States to develop a sustainable European climate and energy policy. In comparison with the 2001 guidelines, these new guidelines broaden the scope of aid projects as well as increase the aid intensities. The guidelines set out new conditions for State aid measures to promote environmental protection and strike a very important balance between delivering larger environmental benefits and minimizing distortions of competition.

Access a release from the Commission with further details (
click here). Access details of the Commission's proposals (click here). Access a statement from Neelie Kroes European Commissioner for Competition Policy Guidelines (click here). Access a statement from Stavros Dimas Commissioner for the environment (click here). Access a EurActiv article on reactions to the proposals with numerous links to additional information (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2008 Index Ranks Countries Environmental Performance: U.S. 39th

Jan 23: Switzerland tops the global list of countries ranked by environmental performance according to the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by a team of environmental experts at Yale University and Columbia University. The 2008 EPI, was released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change. The EPI identifies broadly-accepted targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the Index provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.

The 2008 EPI ranks Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Costa Rica two to five, respectively. Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger occupy the bottom five positions. The United States placed 39th in the rankings, significantly behind other industrialized nations like the United Kingdom (14th) and Japan (21st). The United States ranked 11th in the Americas, and 22 members of the European Union outrank the United States. According to a release, the U.S. score reflects top-tier performance in several indicators, including provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, and forest management. But poor scores on greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of air pollution on ecosystems dragged down the overall U.S. rank. Other major countries ranked as follows: China 104; Russia 28; India 120; Mexico 14.

Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies said, “The United States’ performance indicates that the next administration must not ignore the ecosystem impacts of environmental as well as agricultural, energy and water management policies. The EPI’s climate change metrics ranking the United States alongside India and China near the bottom of the world’s table are a national disgrace.”

The Index also provides “peer group” rankings for each country showing how its performance stacks up against others facing similar environmental challenges. These benchmarks allow easy tracking of leaders and laggards on an issue-by-issue and aggregate basis. The data also support efforts to identify “best practices” in the environmental realm.

Analysis of the drivers underlying the 2008 rankings suggests that wealth is a major determinant of environmental success. At every level of development, however, some countries achieve results that far exceed their peers, demonstrating that policy choices also affect performance. For example, Costa Rica (5th), known for its substantial environmental efforts, significantly outperforms its neighbor Nicaragua (77th). Nicaragua’s history of poor governance and political corruption, violent conflicts, and budgets skewed towards the military instead of environmental infrastructure no doubt adds to the disparity. Top-ranked countries have all invested in water and air pollution control and other elements of environmental infrastructure and have adopted policy measures to mitigate the pollution harms caused by economic activities. Low-ranked countries typically have not made investments in environmental public health and have weak policy regimes.

Project leaders say the Environmental Performance Index aims to promote data-driven and analytically rigorous environmental decisionmaking by using the best global datasets available. Yet, they say, serious data gaps limit the ability to measure performance on a number of important issues, and the overall data quality and availability for some countries are poor. Incomplete data excluded 89 countries from the 2008 EPI. The absence of broadly collected and methodologically consistent indicators for even the most basic issues such as water quality -- and the complete lack of time-series data for most countries -- hampers efforts to shift pollution control and natural resource management onto more empirical foundations. Marc Levy, Deputy Director of Columbia’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network and one of the EPI project leaders said, “At a time when so much scientific evidence is telling us that the Earth's ecosystems are in crisis, it is inexcusable that our collective investment in environmental monitoring is so low. For some critical issues such as water it is actually decreasing. When a hospital patient's health worsens, doctors increase their monitoring, and we need to do the same for the planet.”

Access a release from Yale University (
click here). Access the Summary for Policymakers (click here). Access the EPI website for complete information (click here). [*All]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Groups Report 59 Proposed Coal Plants Cancelled In 2007

Jan 17: Research compiled by Coal Moratorium NOW! (CMN) and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) indicates that fifty-nine proposed coal-fired power plants were cancelled or shelved during 2007. Both groups are calling for a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. The list, "Coal Plants Cancelled in 2007," including documentation, is posted online (See links below). It includes data supplied by Sierra Club, coalSwarm, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Lab, and utility industry sources.

Becky Tarbotton, director of Rainforest Action Network's Global Finance Campaign said, "Coal-fired power plants are the wrong investment for our climate, our health, and our economy. Utilities, regulators, and investors are realizing that the path ahead is energy efficiency and renewable energy. It's time to stop financing and building coal and to start funding the future." Ted Nace, founder of CWN said, "Although we knew that many plants were being nixed, we were stunned by the total number. It spells real hope for the movement seeking to blunt the coal rush."

Because coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, coal plants are at the top of the list of global warming threats cited by climate scientists. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Space Center, the world's largest climate research agency, told Congress on April 26, 2007, that a moratorium on new coal plants is "the most critical action for saving the planet at this time."

Among the study's conclusions: Climate concerns played a role in at least 15 plant cancellations; Coal plants disappeared entirely from some utilities' long-range plans; Renewables began elbowing out coal; Grassroots opposition mounted, financial markets cooled to coal; More plants were abandoned than rejected; and Heavy spending but poor results for "clean coal."

According to the groups' release, after mainly building natural gas turbines during the 1980s and 1990s, utilities returned to coal when natural gas prices jumped in 2000. In May 2007, the Department of Energy's "Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants" (5/07) study counted 151 proposed coal plants. Five months later, "Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants" (10/07) counted 121 proposed plants. According to a survey completed in the first week of January 2008 by Coal Moratorium NOW! and Rainforest Action Network, the number of proposed plants (including those under construction or recently completed) now stands at 113.

Sierra Club also maintains up to date status information about proposed coal plants across the country. The detailed table with links to additional information includes: Status; State; Name; Size(MW); Technology/Plant Type; Fuel Type; Finance Info; and Estimated Annual CO2 Output (in metric tons).

Access a release with links to extensive background data (
click here). Access the list of cancellations (click here). Access a Jan. 15, 2008, state-by-state list of new plant proposals with plant information and contacts (click here). Access the SourceWatch Coal Issues Portal (click here). Access the Sierra Club data (click here). [*Energy,*Climate]

Friday, January 18, 2008

House Subcommittee Hearing Sets Stage For Climate Change Debate

Jan 17: The House Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), held a hearing entitled, Administration Perspectives on United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali [See WIMS 1/2/08]. The meeting set the stage for what will likely be a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans in the House in the coming months. House leaders have indicated they want a climate change bill vote by this summer. In the Senate, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), approved S. 2191, the Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act on December 5, 2007 [See WIMS 12/6/07]. The Senate bill was reported from Committee with an 11-8 vote that included all eight Democrats, two Independents, and one Republican, the cosponsor Senator Warner. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill within the next few months.

The only witness for the hearing was James Connaughton, Chairman Council on Environmental Quality for the White House. Additionally, Chairman Boucher introduced the new Ranking Member of the Subcommittee Representative Fred Upton (R-MI). Representative Upton is a strong advocate for nuclear power and is against mandated CO2 limits. He says the solution must involve a global solution and a free market approach.

Representative Upton presented some extensive comments in his opening remarks. He said in part, "Emphasis must be placed on GLOBAL issue. While I feel strongly that addressing climate change is certainly important, I believe we must address this through a global voluntary framework that focuses on innovations in technology and efficiency rather than a pure government mandate. At the end of the day, we’ll need to demonstrate that the price paid – in both jobs and dollars – equates to some tangible environmental benefits to the American people. In my view, spending trillions of dollars and losing a countless number of jobs, to maybe alter temperatures by a tenth of a degree, while China and India continue to spew emissions is not the option that we’re looking for..."

Representative Upton said, "By the year 2030, our energy needs are going to grow by more than 50 percent." He indicated, "Just to stay even with these two zero emissions sources, we would need to build – by 2030 – over 50 new nuclear plants and more than 1,900 hydroelectric plants."

Members of the Subcommittee, including full Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), indicated their displeasure and concern with the brief 1-page testimony prepared James Connaughton. One member asked if this was an indication that the Administration thought the Subcommittee was not important enough for them to prepare full testimony.

Connaughton's full written testimony included the following: "Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify on the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place last month in Bali, Indonesia. As my testimony, I am submitting the Bali Action Plan as agreed to by all parties attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of Parties.

"Additionally, I have included for the Committee a presentation which I delivered on December 12, 2007, at the U.S. Side Event in Bali, entitled, “Partnerships in Action: Energy Security, Clean Development, and Climate Change”. I have also attached additional technical presentations which describe the potential of technologies and some of the actions the U.S. has undertaken to date. These presentations were delivered at the U.S. Side Event by Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; William Hohenstein, Director of USDA’s Global Change Program Office; and William Irving, Team Leader of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

"Lastly, I am submitting the President’s remarks at the first Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, delivered on September 28, 2007, in Washington, DC. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I look forward to responding to your questions."

Access a the hearing website for a link to the brief testimony document and a webcast of the hearing (
click here) [Note: the webcast is very instructional in setting the stage for upcoming U.S. climate change debate]. Access the a WIMS article on the Major Economies meeting with links to related documents (click here). Access the complete statement of Representative Upton (click here). Access a release from UNFCCC and a fact sheet on accomplishments (click here). Access the so-called Bali Action Plan (click here). Access details on all decisions adopted by the COP 13 and CMP 3 and related information (click here, scroll down). Access the U.S. Department of State COP 13 website for links to all releases and statements (click here). Access the UNFCCC COP13/MOP3 website for additional details (click here). Access the IPCC website for additional information including links to reports (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

$202.5 Billion Needed For Wastewater Management For 20 Years

Jan 16:A new report from U.S. EPA estimates $202.5 billion is the nationwide capital investment needed to control wastewater pollution for up to a 20-year period. Delivered to Congress this week, the 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey summarizes the results of the agency's 14th national survey on the needs of publicly owned wastewater treatment works (POTWs). The estimate includes $134.4 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $54.8 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections, and $9.0 billion for stormwater management. Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles said, "Water infrastructure is a lifeline for health and prosperity in communities across America. EPA is working with our partners to promote sustainable solutions and help utilities and households save money, water and energy."

EPA said communities across the country face challenges in sustaining their water infrastructure. EPA is working with states, tribes, utilities, and other partners to reduce the demand on infrastructure through improved asset management, improved technology, water efficiency, and watershed-based decision making, and is working with Congress to enact the Administration's Water Enterprise Bond proposal.

The report provides information to help the nation make informed decisions about pollution control needs necessary to meet the environmental and human health objectives of the Clean Water Act. The figures represent documented wastewater investment needs, but do not account for expected investment and revenues. Wastewater treatment utilities pay for infrastructure using revenue from rates charged to customers and may finance large projects using loans or bonds. State and federal funding programs, such as EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, are also available to help communities meet their wastewater pollution control needs. The needs in this survey represent a $16.1 billion (8.6%) increase (in constant 2004 dollars) over the 2000 report. The increase in overall national needs is due to a combination of population growth, more protective water quality standards, and aging infrastructure.

The largest reported total publicly owned wastewater treatment works needs, both more than $20 billion, occur in New York and California. Florida, Illinois and Ohio each have needs in excess of $10 billion. The States with the largest needs per capita are the District of Columbia ($3,670), Hawaii ($1,660) and West Virginia ($1,400). Over three-fourths (76.8 percent) of the total needs reported are concentrated in 18 States; 20 States each reported less than 1 percent of the total needs.

In terms of providing funding for wastewater treatment needs, the CWSRF is one of many supplementary Federal, State and local funding sources. From July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2004, EPA provided an annual average of $1.3 billion in grants to State CWSRF programs to assist with point and nonpoint source pollution control needs. In the same period, States combined these CWSRF funds with State matching funds, bond proceeds and loan repayments to provide assistance, mostly in the form of loans, of approximately $4.4 billion per year to local communities. The gap between facilities’ funding and their total needs is addressed not only by other Federal, State and local funding sources, but also is expected to be increasingly addressed by activities related to EPA’s Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative.

In response to the EPA’s Gap Analysis and other recent 20-year estimations of wastewater treatment needs, the EPA Administrator convened a forum in January 2003 -- Closing the Gap: Innovative Responses for Sustainable Water Infrastructure. Using input from industry, government and academia obtained through this forum, EPA developed the Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to reduce the infrastructure funding gap through a four part strategy focused on advanced facility management practices, water efficiency promotion, full-cost pricing and a watershed management approach.

In testimony before Congress, EPA Administrator Johnson has described the Water Enterprise Bond proposal as follows. "EPA has worked with Treasury and other parts of the Administration to propose expanded use of tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds for capital investments in drinking water and wastewater projects. The President’s Budget proposes to exempt PABs from the private activity bond unified state volume cap. PABs are tax-exempt bonds issued by a state or local government, the proceeds of which are used by another entity for a public purpose or by the government entity itself for certain public-private partnerships. By removing drinking water and wastewater bonds from the volume cap, this proposal will provide states and communities greater access to PABs to help finance their water infrastructure needs and increase capital investment in the nation’s water infrastructure.

"This Water Enterprise Bond proposal would provide an exception to the unified annual State volume cap on tax-exempt qualified private activity bonds for exempt facilities for the 'furnishing of water' or 'sewage facilities.' To ensure the long-term financial health and solvency of these drinking water and wastewater systems, communities using these bonds must have demonstrated a process that will move towards full-cost pricing for services within five years of issuing the Private Activity Bonds. This will help water systems become self-financing and minimize the need for future subsidies."

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access EPA's Clean Watershed Needs Survey website for additional information and background documents (click here). Access links to the 166-page complete report, individual sections, appendices and a summary of findings (click here). Access Congressional testimony on the Water Enterprise Bond proposal (click here). [*Water]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Groups Issue Report Card On Oil Sands Of Alberta

Jan 10: The oil sands of Alberta, Canada contain the second largest known reserve of oil in the world. With global demand for oil expected to increase nearly 40 percent over the next quarter century and production becoming increasingly dominated by Middle Eastern countries, Canada's oil sands are an important global resource. However, mining this oil is extremely environmentally costly--producing one barrel of oil from the oil sands generates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. Several environmental organizations are now calling for a halt on further oil sands project approvals until effective emissions reduction strategies are employed.

Pembina Institute and World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Canada) have released, Under-Mining The Environment, the Oil Sands Report Card, which they say is the most comprehensive comparative assessment of 10 of Alberta’s operating, approved or applied for oil sands mines. The mines, they say "for the most part, get a failing grade." According to a release, the average score among all oil sands projects surveyed was only 33 per cent, demonstrating substantial room for improvement across the sector. The leading operation in the survey was the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine, scoring 56 per cent. The weakest operations were Syncrude and the proposed Synenco Northern Lights Mine both with scores of 18 per cent.

Oil sands mines were ranked on 20 different environmental indicators in five categories: environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use, and management of greenhouse gases. Companies were invited to complete the survey questionnaire and provided with two opportunities to comment on their performance. In total, seven of the 10 projects participated in the survey. Three companies, Total E&P, Syncrude and Canadian Natural declined to respond. Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute said, “There is growing concern in Alberta, in the rest of Canada and internationally about the environmental impacts of oil sands mining. Despite these concerns we found that oil sands companies are making weak efforts to manage their environmental impacts. We found only one mining operation came close to a passing grade and that substantial improvements in environmental performance were possible for all projects.”

Key findings of the report card include: (1) While the majority of oil sands operations have comprehensive environmental policies in place, only two companies provided evidence of having an independently-accredited environmental management system such as ISO 14001. (2) With the exception of the existing Albian Muskeg River Mine, no operation has voluntary targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions. (3) No project or company has publicly-reported targets to reduce water usage from the Athabasca River. (4) Despite more than 40 years of oil sands development, not a single hectare of land has been certified as reclaimed under Government of Alberta guidelines.

In the report card, Pembina Institute and WWF-Canada also provide recommendations to improve oil sands environmental management, including a need for greater transparency from Government and industry on environmental performance, the need to implement currently available best-practices and a stronger commitment to voluntary reductions in environmental impacts.

Access a release on the report from WWF-Canada with links to extensive information (click here). Access an overview of the report from the World Resources Institute (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

High Court Refuses To Hear "South Coast" Cases

Jan 14: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied hearing two important and related air quality cases -- National Petrochemical v. South Coast Air Quality (Case No. 07-311), and Chamber of Greater Baton Rouge v. South Coast Air Quality (Case No. 07-333). In doing so, the High Court has let stand decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.

On June 8, 2007, the D.C. Circuit, in Case Nos. 04-1200, 04-1201, decided South Coast Air Quality Mgmt. Dist. v. EPA. The case involved five petitions for rehearing with regard to the vacatur and remand of a final rule implementing the eight-hour national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone under the Clean Air Act (CAA) [See Final Phase 1 Rule To Implement the 8-Hour Ozone NAAQS, 69 Fed. Reg. 23,951 (Apr. 30, 2004) (codified at 40 C.F.R. parts 40, 51, 81) (2004 Rule)]. The petitions were filed by a group of Environmental Petitioners, the Chamber of Greater Baton Rouge et al. (Baton Rouge), National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), American Chemistry Council et al. (ACC), and EPA.

According to the Appeals Court, the petitions overlapped in part, challenging principally the court’s interpretation of the statutory gap, described in Whitman v. American Trucking Ass’ns, 531 U.S. 457 (2001), that arises from the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change from a one-hour to an eight-hour measurement system for ozone, and the court’s construction of the CAA’s anti-backsliding provision. See S. Coast Air Quality Mgmt. Dist. v. EPA, 472 F.3d 882 (D.C. Cir. 2006) [See WIMS 1/02/07].

The Appeals Court said, "None of these challenges has merit and we deny the petitions. However, we grant the joint request of EPA and the Environmental Petitioners to clarify the description of the required conformity determinations and to modify the scope of the vacatur of the 2004 Rule."

Earthjustice represented a group of public health and environmental organizations including the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club; that challenged the EPA rule and then subsequently defended the court's December decision that overturned the rule. In explaining the Appeals Court decision, Earthjustice said, "Today's decision reaffirms that EPA violated the Clean Air Act by relaxing limits on ozone, or smog pollution, from large power plants, factories and other industrial sources. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the EPA and industry petitions for rehearing, and actually clarified in even stronger terms that weakening air protections is illegal under federal law. The court characterized the industry's desired readings of the law as a 'glaring loophole' that nothing suggests Congress intended." The Appeals Court said, "EPA is urged to act promptly in promulgating a revised rule that effectuates the statutory mandate by implementing the eight-hour standard, which was deemed necessary to protect the public health a decade ago."

Access the Supreme Court order denying hearing (
click here, Search South Coast Air). Access the Supreme Court Dockets for Case No. 07-311 (click here); and Case No. 07-333 (click here). Access the complete 8-page, June 8, 2007, Appeals Court opinion (click here). Access a June 8, 2007, release from Earthjustice (click here). Access the complete 40-page, December 22, 2006, Appeals Court opinion in the consolidated cases (click here). Access other related South Coast articles posted on the WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog (click here). [*Air]

Monday, January 14, 2008

Waxman Presses EPA On Releasing CA Waiver Documents

Jan 14: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is continuing to pressure EPA to release documents relating to the Agency's denial of the waiver request from the State of California to implement its landmark tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards. Waxman announced his investigation into the decision on December 20, the day after EPA denied California request [See WIMS 1/2/08]. Other investigations are also underway from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies [See WIMS 1/4/08], and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee [See WIMS 1/11/08].

Waxman's January 14, letter follows a January 11, letter from U.S. EPA's Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley. In his letter, Bliley tells Waxman that the Agency will not be able to meet the January 10, deadline that Waxman set, but that the Agency "respects your very strong interest in this issue and is committed to providing the Committee information necessary to satisfy its oversight interests to the extent possible and consistent with our Constitutional and statutory obligations." Bliley says that EPA may be able to complete its search for documents by January 18.

In his January 14th reply, Waxman says, "I appreciate the efforts EPA is taking to collect responsive documents, but I am concerned about the failure of the agency to meet the Committee's January 10 deadline. I am also concerned that no schedules for document production are proposed in your letters. In an effort to accommodate the agency without unduly delaying the Committee's investigation, I ask that your staff work with Committee staff to establish by the close of business on January 16 mutually agreeable deadlines for producing documents to the Committee. The Committee will also be conducting transcribed interviews or depositions of agency staff who may have knowledge of the agency's deliberations. As a first step in this process, I request that a schedule be established by the close of business on January 16 for the interview or deposition of the following officials..." Waxman requests depositions from seven top-ranking EPA officials.

In a related matter, Senator Boxer last week expressed her outrage at a field briefing in Los Angeles regarding U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for not showing up at the briefing to explain why he refused California's request and for not making other EPA staff available. Boxer said, "The Administrator’s continuing refusal to cooperate with the Committee’s oversight of the EPA is absolutely unacceptable. What started off as foot-dragging is looking suspiciously like a cover-up. What is Stephen Johnson trying to hide?" [See WIMS 1/11/08]

Access the Committee website page for this matter with links to a various letters (
click here). Access Senator Boxer's California field hearing website and links to all testimony and statements (click here). Access a release from Senator Dianne Feinstein calling for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of U.S. EPA to immediately open an investigation into the decision (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Friday, January 11, 2008

Worldwatch Institute Issues State of the World 2008 Report

Jan 9: Pioneering entrepreneurs, nongovernmental organizations, and governments around the globe are inventing the Earth’s first sustainable global economy, according to the annual flagship report, State of the World 2008: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy, by the Worldwatch Institute. In response to climate change and other environmental problems, these leaders are field-testing a remarkable array of economic innovations that offer surprising and hopeful new opportunities for long-term prosperity. Project co-directors Gary Gardner and Thomas Prugh said, “Once regarded as irrelevant to economic activity, environmental problems are drastically rewriting the rules for business, investors, and consumers, affecting over $100 billion in annual capital flows."

The report describes a host of new economic opportunities that are attracting capital. An estimated $52 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2006, up 33 percent from 2005. Preliminary estimates indicate that the figure reached $66 billion in 2007. Carbon trading is growing even more explosively, reaching an estimated $30 billion in 2006, nearly triple the amount traded in 2005.

Some of the most powerful players in today’s economy have announced breakthrough environmental initiatives in the past two years, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, McKinsey & Company, and Wal-Mart. And many large companies are putting their political muscle where their investment capital is: 27 major corporations, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, General Motors, and Xerox, are actively urging the U.S. Congress to pass legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions -- something that would have been unthinkable two years ago.

Innovative companies are also revolutionizing industrial production to meet environmental challenges, while finding that they’re saving money: the chemical giant DuPont cut its greenhouse gas emissions 72 percent below 1991 levels by 2007, saving $3 billion in the process. Another sign of dramatic change is the 575 environmental and energy hedge funds now in existence, most of them formed in the last few years. “Clean tech” has rapidly grown to be the third largest recipient of venture capital, trailing only the Internet and biotechnology. And 54 banks, representing 85 percent of global private project finance capacity, have endorsed the Equator Principles, a new international standard of sustainability investment.

State of the World 2008 cites two major economic modeling studies that find that the damage from global climate change could equal as much as 8 percent of global economic output by the end of this century. Citing World Bank data, the report also notes that some 39 countries experienced a decline of 5 percent or more in wealth when accounting measures also included factors such as unsustainable forest harvesting, depletion of non-renewable resources, and damage from carbon emissions. For 10 countries, the decline ranged from 25 to 60 percent. To avoid economic collapse at the global level, the State of the World authors call for major reforms of government policy to steer investment away from destructive activities such as the extraction of fossil fuels and toward a new generation of environmentally sustainable industries. Specific recommendations include making prices tell the ecological truth by reducing subsidies and adopting environmental taxes.

The report urges a full assessment and valuation of the services that nature provides free of charge to the human economy and describes several efforts to create markets to protect biodiversity. The report cites a recent assessment that found green accounting programs in place in at least 50 countries and identified 20 other countries that were planning to initiate such programs. State of the World 2008 finds growing evidence suggesting that the global economy is now destroying its own ecological base. It quotes former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, author of the acclaimed Stern Review on the economics of climate change, who describes the changes now under way in Earth’s atmosphere as “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.”

Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin said, “Continued human progress now depends on an economic transformation that is more profound than any seen in the last century. We should be practicing a sustainable approach to economics that takes advantage of the ability of markets to allocate scarce resources while explicitly recognizing that our economy is dependent on the broader ecosystem that contains it.”

Access a release on the State of the World 2008 report (click here). Access the State of the World 2008 website for links to additional information including the Foreward, a Discussion Guide, audio summaries, background reading and more (click here)Access information on ordering the State of the World 2008 report for $18.95 (click here). [*All]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stakeholders Support Development Of Federal Nanotechnology Strategy

Jan 8: A diverse group of nanotechnology stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, large and small companies, and research organizations, applauded the inclusion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 of a measure that will aid in the development and implementation of a comprehensive federal nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research strategy. The legislation, signed by President Bush on December 26, 2007, expresses Congress’ intent that the U.S. EPA contract with the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST) to “develop and monitor implementation of a comprehensive, prioritized research roadmap for all Federal agencies on environmental, health and safety issues for nanotechnology.”

The diverse group that urged the Congressional measure is mindful of the significant efforts of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, but strongly believes that a comprehensive, independently developed research roadmap is urgently needed to ensure that sufficient federal resources are directed to address the pressing need for better information on the EHS implications of nanotechnology. Under the provisions included in the legislation, Congress urges EPA “to contract or enter into a cooperative agreement with the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology within 90 days of enactment” (by March 21, 2008) to develop and monitor implementation of the research strategy.

A release from the group indicates, "BEST’s groundbreaking work in devising and overseeing EPA’s research on the health effects of airborne particulate matter serves as a useful model for the work BEST is expected to undertake for nanotechnology EHS research. We anticipate that BEST will build upon its experience while taking into account ongoing related efforts, to develop and oversee execution of an integrated strategy to guide federal EHS research needed to support the safe development and use of engineered nanoscale materials and technologies."

Some of the groups backing the initiative include: American Chemistry Council; DuPont; Environmental Defense; NanoBusiness Alliance; The Dow Chemical Company; and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Many of the organizations have been critical of national efforts to monitor and regulate the developing nanotechnology industry. Environmental Defense and DuPont announced their Nano Risk Framework last February. Environmental Defense has called U.S. EPA nanotechnology plan "too little, too late" [
See WIMS 8/2/07]. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) accuses the U.S. government of gross failure to use its authority to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry [See WIMS 5/15/07].

In a related matter, the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI) and Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies will hold the 1st Annual Conference on Nanotechnology Law, Regulation and Policy, February 28-29, 2008, at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, in Washington, DC. The conference will bring together top officials at the agencies responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology products -- including the Food and Drug Administration, EPA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Agriculture -- to discuss their plans for managing and monitoring these products. Food and drug industry representatives also will find out what’s happening internationally on nanotech regulation, how venture capitalists look at the future of nanotechnology and what the leading corporations, scientific laboratories and academic centers are focusing on in this dynamic field.

Nanotechnology was incorporated into more than $50 billion in manufactured goods last year, according to Lux Research. By 2014, the market will grow to $2.6 trillion. By 2011, over $15 billion in nano-enabled drugs and therapeutics will be sold -- up from more than $3 billion in 2006. And industry experts project that nanotechnology will be incorporated into $20 billion worth of consumer food products by 2010. Yet, despite this rapid commercialization, no nano-specific regulation exists anywhere in the world. Most regulatory agencies remain in an information-gathering mode -- lacking the legal and scientific tools, information and resources they need to adequately oversee expediential nanotechnology market growth.

Access a release from American Chemistry Council including the complete list of group members and link to additional information (
click here). Access the Federal National Nanotechnology Initiative website for additional information (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). Access various articles on Nanotechnology on the eNewsUSA Blog (click here). Access the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (click here). Access complete information on the FDLI conference (click here). Access additional information from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Insurer Will Pay $42.5 Million To Cleanup MI, NJ & TN Sites

Jan 9: American International Specialty Lines Insurance Company Inc. (AISLIC) has agreed to pay $42.5 million to clean up contamination at four industrial facilities in a suit in which the Department of Justice intervened on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. The four sites, formerly owned by Fruit of the Loom, are located in Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said, "Insurers should take note that they may be liable for the cost of cleaning up their bankrupt clients' environmental messes.EPA will keep pursuing companies who pollute the environment."

Fruit of the Loom filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and the court set up two trusts to receive and distribute the company's remaining assets, including its environmental insurance policies. The trusts subsequently tried to collect environmental cleanup costs from AISLIC, a member company of AIG Insurance, under the insurance policy which covered response costs and natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). AISLIC denied coverage and then brought a suit seeking to confirm that it was not obligated to pay the trusts for these costs.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit that began in 2005 over environmental insurance coverage between AISLIC and the two bankruptcy trusts, and concludes litigation in which the Department of Justice intervened on behalf of EPA, the Department of Interior, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The states of New Jersey, Tennessee, Illinois and Michigan have also joined the settlement.

Under the settlement agreement, AISLIC will make an initial $30 million payment plus interest from May 15, 2007 and ten annual payments of $1.25 million to the Fruit of the Loom trusts. The three largest sites -- the St. Louis, MI, the Bergen County, NJ, and the Toone, TN, sites -- will each receive more than $12.5 million for environmental cleanup and restoration activities. The Breckenridge, MI, site will receive $2.1 million for cleanup. The proposed settlement agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period. Following public comment, if appropriate, the United States would file a motion for entry with the court, seeking final court approval of the settlement agreement.

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a fact sheet and link to the 139-page settlement agreement (click here). [*Remed]

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Supreme Court Decides John R. Sand & Gravel Co. Case

Jan 8: The Michigan case of John R. Sand & Gravel Company v. U.S. (No. 06-1164) was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case on appeal from the Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, Case No. 05-5033. decided on August 9, 2006. According to the Supreme Court docket, the issues in the case are: (1) Whether the statute of limitations in the Tucker Act limits the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims; and (2) Whether a claim for a permanent physical taking of a portion of real property first accrues upon the government’s temporary exclusion of the property holder from another portion of the property.

The various briefs for Petitioner John R. Sand & Gravel Co.; Brief for Respondent United States; Reply Brief for Petitioner John R. Sand & Gravel Co.; and two amicus briefs from the Pacific Legal Foundation and National Association of Home Builders are available from the links below.

In its 7-2 opinion the Supreme Court said, "The question presented is whether a court must raise on its own the timeliness of a lawsuit filed in the Court of Federal Claims, despite the Government’s waiver of the issue. We hold that the special statute of limitations governing the Court of Federal Claims requires that sua sponte [spontaneous action without prompting from another party] consideration." The High Court opinion said a Federal Appeals Court was correct in raising the deadline question without being asked to do so (sua sponte), and to rule that the company had missed the deadline for suing the Federal government in property disputes. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas and Alito joined in the opinion. Justice Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined and Justice Ginsburg filed a separate dissenting opinion.

In the opinion, the High Court explains that petitioner John R. Sand & Gravel Company filed an action in the Court of Federal Claims in May 2002. The complaint explained that petitioner held a 50-year mining lease on certain land [in Metamora Township in Lapeer County, MI]. And it asserted that various Environmental Protection Agency activities on that land (involving, e.g., the building and moving of various fences) amounted to an "unconstitutional taking of its leasehold rights."The Government initially asserted that petitioner’s several claims were all untimely in light of the statute providing that "[e]very claim of which the United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction shall be barred unless the petition thereon is filed within six years after such claim first accrues.” 28 U. S. C. §2501.

The Government subsequently won on the merits and petitioner appealed the adverse judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Government’s brief said nothing about the statute of limitations, but an amicus brief called the issue to the court’s attention. The court considered itself obliged to address the limitations issue, and it held that the action was untimely. The Supreme Court subsequently agreed to consider whether the Court of Appeals was right to ignore the Government’s waiver and to decide the timeliness question.

The Supreme Court majority affirmed the Appeals Court decision which said, "Because we conclude that JRS&G did not file its complaint within the six-year limitations period of 28 U.S.C. § 2501, we hold that the Court of Federal Claims lacked jurisdiction. We therefore vacate the Court of Federal Claims’s decision and remand the case to the court with the instruction that it dismiss JRS&G’s complaint." [See WIMS 8/10/06]. Commentary on the SCOTUS Blog indicates the decision means that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit must always consider whether cases making claims against the Federal government were filed on time, even if the Federal government has waived that issue. And, that the Supreme Court concluded the result was dictated by the Court’s precedents from 1883, 1887 and 1957, among others.

In the dissent of Justice Stevens, concurred in by Justice Ginsburg, he said, "With respect to provisions as common as time limitations, Congress, in enacting statutes, and judges, in applying them, ought to be able to rely upon a background rule of considerable clarity. Irwin [Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U. S. 89, 95–96 (1990)] announced such a rule, and I would apply that rule to the case before us. Because today’s decision threatens to revive the confusion of our pre-Irwin jurisprudence, I respectfully dissent." Justice Ginsburg indicated that her separate dissent was, " explain why I would regard this case as an appropriate occasion to revisit those precedents even if we had not already 'directly overrule[d]' them."

Access the complete opinion, syllabus and dissenting opinions (
click here). Access the SCOTUS commentary (click here). Access the Supreme Court Docket No. 06-1164 (click here). Access the complete Appeals Court opinion (click here). Access links to various briefs in the case (click here). Access a link to the oral argument transcript (click here). Access links to various media reports on the decision (click here). [*Land]