Friday, February 29, 2008

EPA Signs FR Notice & Releases Documents On CA Waiver Denial

Feb 29: U.S. EPA has posted documents on its website explaining its rationale for the Agency's decision to deny California's waiver request for its greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for motor vehicles [See WIMS 1/2/08]. The documents will soon be published in the Federal Register (FR). On January 24, 2008, U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on his decision to deny the California waiver request [See WIMS 1/23/08]. The waiver would have allowed California and 16 other states to adopt the California-equivalent rules to curb GHG emission from vehicles.

At that time Johnson said he made the decision fully by himself after receiving input from staff, the public and others and reviewing available information. He said he was comfortable with his decision and repeatedly said it was the "right" decision. He said that EPA would complete submitting information to Congress by February 15, 2008, and indicated that he anticipated a full California denial document, explaining the decision, would be published in the Federal Register by the end of February. Until now the only official denial has been a letter to California dated December 19, 2007, setting forth EPA's intent to deny the waiver in favor of a national solution for vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions. The documents posted by EPA include an officially signed, 47-page Federal Register Notice Denying a Waiver of Clean Air Act Preemption for California's 2009 and Subsequent Model Year Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for New Motor Vehicles.

On January 2, 2008, California Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr., on behalf of the State of California, filed its lawsuit against U.S. EPA for “wrongfully and illegally” blocking the State's landmark tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards. Brown filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to challenge the EPA’s denial of California's request to implement its emissions law -- which requires a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle GHG emissions by 2016. Simultaneously, five nonprofit groups -- the Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense, International Center for Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) and the Sierra Club -- also filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA decision. 15 states have also filed a motion to intervene in support of California [See WIMS 1/3/08].

According to the prepublication copy of the signed Federal Register announcement, "Under section 209(b) of the Clean Air Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ' 7543(b), the Environmental Protection Agency denies the California Air Resources Board’s request for a waiver of the Clean Air Act’s prohibition on adopting and enforcing its greenhouse gas emission standards as they affect 2009 and later model year new motor vehicles. This decision is based on the Administrator’s finding that California does not need its greenhouse gas standards for new motor vehicles to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions."

The notice explains further, "While I [Administrator Stephen Johnson] recognize that global climate change is a serious challenge, I have concluded that section 209(b) was intended to allow California to promulgate state standards applicable to emissions from new motor vehicles to address pollution problems that are local or regional. I do not believe section 209(b)(1)(B) was intended to allow California to promulgate state standards for emissions from new motor vehicles designed to address global climate change problems; nor, in the alternative, do I believe that the effects of climate change in California are compelling and extraordinary compared to the effects in the rest of the country. Based on this finding, pursuant to section 209(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act (Act), CARB’s [California Air Resources Board’s] waiver request for its GHG standards for new motor vehicles must be denied. Because my finding regarding section 209(b)(1)(B) must, and is sufficient to, result in a denial of California’s waiver request, it is unnecessary for me to determine whether the criteria for denial of a waiver under sections 209(b)(1)(A) and (C) have been met. I therefore will not address these criteria in this decision."

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued a statement on EPA's "decision document" released saying, "It is shocking that even though the whole world now knows that the professional staff at EPA strongly urged Mr. Johnson to grant California's waiver, he completely walked away from his advisors, the science, and precedent, and did the bidding of the special interests instead. This decision is especially disappointing and incomprehensible because the Administrator's position will not stand up in court, and the Presidential candidates have all said they will sign the waiver. It will only result in more delay in cleaning up our air and tackling the challenge of global warming." Boxer has been relentless in her pursuit of documents describing how Johnson made his decision. On January 26, she release a number of summary documents obtained and has instructed Johnson to provide all remaining records no later than March 5, 2008 [
See WIMS 2/27/08].

Access EPA's website for the posted documents related to the California GHG Waiver (
click here). Access the statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access various WIMS eNewsUSA Blog posts on the waiver denial (click here). [*Climate,*Energy,*Air]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ocean Policy Report Card Blames Feds; Praises States

Feb 27: The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released its annual U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card, praising state and regional initiatives while criticizing the lack of significant progress at the Federal level to commit adequate funding and affect meaningful ocean policy reform. This year’s report card expands to include global threats associated with climate change and highlights the enduring failure of the United States to accede to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, jeopardizing the nation’s ability to benefit from and conserve ocean resources of economic and ecological importance.

While the nation’s overall grade inched up to a C from a C- average in 2006, the report card challenges our nation’s leaders to implement and fund policies that will ensure the longterm health and vitality of our oceans and our coastal communities. Leon Panetta, co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative said, “Because states and regions have done much of the groundwork for ocean and coastal protection on the local level, the building blocks are in place. But they can only go so far without federal collaboration and support. This nation cannot successfully protect the oceans with one hand tied behind our back.”

According to the Report Card, states and regions continue to lead the way, maintaining an A- grade. The report card praises the introduction, passage and implementation of new ocean-related legislation in states such as New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. There has also been substantial regional progress in the Gulf of Mexico and along the West Coast. To realize the full potential of these improvements and ensure their long-term sustainability, the report card states, the federal government must step up its support of these state and regional efforts.

Admiral James D. Watkins, (U.S. Navy, Ret.) co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative ““We have been waiting for five years for federal policymakers to implement the recommendations of these commissions. Time is no longer a luxury. The economic and security concerns alone caused by their failure to act should be enough to warrant great concern and unified action from Congress and the administration.”

(NRDC) issued a statement saying, "Our oceans are in a state of silent collapse and we need our government to act now in order to reverse this trend. The longer we wait to address problems like pollution, habitat degradation and overexploitation, the harder and more expensive it will be to fix them. Millions of Americans depend on the oceans for work, for recreation, and for the food on their plates, which makes this a crucial economic and environmental challenge for our entire nation. We need the federal government to bring order to this lawless frontier through comprehensive measures that will reform the nation’s lack of a cohesive ocean policy. To keep the oceans clean and healthy, we need a National Healthy Oceans Act, such as Oceans-21 legislation (H.R. 21) that is currently pending in Congress. This law would coordinate national efforts to reduce pollution and protect ocean habitats so that beaches are clean, and fish and other ocean animals can thrive."

The Pew Environmental Group issued a statement saying, "Within the next several months, the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to finally issue two proposed rulemakings that could help end overfishing in the United States. One aims to set catch limits based on best available science, the other attempts to increase public participation in fishery management decisions. These core components of the recently-reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law that governs our nation's fisheries, need strong backing from the federal government. But, with a C plus for fisheries management reform, down from a B plus last year, the JOCI report card calls into question the administration's commitment to end overfishing."

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) applauded the Commission and said, "Several NOIA members have been involved in regional ocean governance efforts in the Gulf of Mexico; NOIA’s Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of calls for the United States to accede to the Law of the Sea Convention; and NOIA has worked closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as it develops the Integrated Ocean Observing System. The oceans are a vital economic, energy and environmental resource for the nation, and deserve a well-crafted, coordinated management regime that recognizes all these aspects. By issuing this annual report card, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative has been effective in keeping the attention of policymakers on the scope and interdependence of the challenges facing them.”

Access a release from the Commission (
click here). Access the details in the 20-page report card (click here). Access the Ocean Commission website for more information (click here). Access a statement from NRDC (click here). Access a statement from Pew Environmental Group (click here). Access a statement from NOIA (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 21 (click here). [*Water]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Senator Boxer Presses On For CA Waiver Denial Records

Feb 26: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), held a press conference to release details of U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's decision to deny California's request for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles. Senator Boxer said, "These documents paint a picture of an Environmental Protection Agency in crisis. They show the dedicated professional staff of the EPA working hard to do what they are paid to do by the American people -- protect our health and our environment. At the same time, we see more and more evidence of Administrator Johnson ignoring the science and the facts, and discarding the advice of his professional staff.

"I believe this decision will be reversed by the next President or by the courts, but the Administrator can save the taxpayers time and money, and can get us started cleaning up our air if he would simply follow the law, the facts, and the advice of his agency professionals."

In a release, Senator Boxer highlighted excerpts from the EPA briefing documents shown to the EPW Committee staff. She said EPA has not released these documents to the committee or to the public, despite ongoing requests. Boxer also issued a statement regarding the role that former U.S. EPA Administrator William Reilly played in urging current EPA Administrator Johnson to grant California's request for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles.

She said, "We now know that not only was the professional staff of the EPA advising Administrator Johnson to grant the California waiver, but Bill Reilly, the EPA Administrator under President Bush's father, also contacted the EPA and discussed the serious implications of the decision with senior EPA staff. He then communicated his concern directly to Administrator Johnson. The bipartisan chorus of respected voices urging Mr. Johnson to do the right thing is overwhelming. The impact of the decision to deny the waiver has been devastating on the EPA, and Administrator Johnson must reverse course and grant California's petition now. We are losing precious time in cleaning up our air."

In another letter to Administrator Johnson, dated February 26, Senator Boxer continues to press for the release of all documents related to the EPA denial of the California waiver. She reminds the Administrator that he promised the release of all documents by February 15, when he appeared before the EPW Committee on January 24. She said, "According to EPA staff, these documents are being withheld because they are still being reviewed by other executive agencies as well as by the White House Counsel's office." In addition, she adds, ". . .the continued provision of the heavily redacted documents remains unacceptable. EPA is obligated to produce all of these records -- in complete and un-redacted form, and without restrictions -- so that the EPW Committee can exercise its oversight jurisdiction." She has now requested that all remaining records no later than March 5, 2008.

Access a release with highlights and links to the 27-pages of information received thus far; a waiver chronology; the press conference charts; the letter to Administrator Johnson; and a webcast of the press conference (
click here). Access a release on William Reilly (click here). Access various WIMS eNewsUSA Blog posts on the waiver denial (click here).[*Climate,*Energy,*Air]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

House White Paper On Various Government Roles In Climate Change

Feb 25: House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chaired by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) and its Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Rick Boucher (D-VA) are continuing their strategy of issuing Legislation Design White Papers as the next step toward enactment of a mandatory, economy-wide climate change program. The latest White Paper entitled, Appropriate Roles for Different Levels of Government, is intended to foster discussion of these issues by raising key factors that should be considered in determining what roles are appropriate for each level of government.

The previous White Paper released on January 31, 2008, Competitiveness Concerns and Prospects for Engaging Developing Countries [
See WIMS 2/4/08], will be the subject of a hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on February 28, at 1:00 PM. The paper discusses potential domestic legislative provisions that could encourage developing countries to curb their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The latest White Paper indicates that, "The country is now at the difficult and familiar stage of transitioning from multiple, often unconnected, State and local climate change programs to a comprehensive, national approach to addressing the global problem of climate change. For a variety of reasons, State and local environmental programs have often led to enactment of Federal environmental legislation. Industry is often interested in Federal legislation to avoid or replace a patchwork of State regulations, which helps reduce the burden on companies involved in interstate commerce. . . Federal programs can also provide resources for environmental protection where State and local programs are insufficient. . . Addressing climate change will require employing a variety of tools. The primary tool at the Federal level will be a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade program that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050. . .

"A comprehensive, national approach to climate change will require a melding of different governmental roles and tools. Given the breadth of actions that will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change, Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments will need to play a variety of roles.

"This White Paper is intended to explore the key factors that the Committee will need to consider and balance as it constructs a national greenhouse gas control program and seeks to rationalize the roles of different levels of government. These factors include: the global effect of greenhouse gas emissions; the effect on the level and cost of national greenhouse gas reductions; the efficient use of government and societal resources; the benefit of States, Tribes, and localities as laboratories; differing local circumstances; the burden on interstate Commerce; imposition of costs on other States; and stakeholder needs."

Steve Cochran, national climate campaign director at Environmental Defense issued a statement on the White Paper saying, “Though we strongly disagree with some of its conclusions, this paper could be an important examination of the state-federal issues facing the committee as it crafts legislation. In the absence of a federal legislative proposal, however, it remains, at best, largely an academic exercise. The sooner we have a bill, the sooner we can have a constructive debate. We’re pleased that the paper, in some ways, recognizes the important role of states, because state leadership has provided the only concrete steps toward solving the climate problem so far. But we’re disappointed that it raises questions about their future role, particularly without pointing to any concrete federal policy. Suggesting that states should never move beyond federal policy when it comes to tailpipe emissions ignores a long pattern of success under the Clean Air Act, and could be a recipe for failure on this most urgent of issues."

Access the latest 25-page Levels of Government White Paper (
click here). Access the previous 16-page White Paper on Developing Countries (click here). Access links to all previous White Papers, letters, hearings, etc regarding the Committee activity on climate change (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). [*Climate]

Monday, February 25, 2008

National Governors Address Clean Energy & State Roles

Feb 23: The National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting officially kicked off with a governor-led opening plenary discussion highlighting the recent successes and planned actions of NGA Chair Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's Securing a Clean Energy Future Initiative (SCEF Initiative). During the session, governors held a discussion about the role states can play in shaping America's energy future, heard from two notable clean energy advocates, released a new SCEF Initiative publication and unveiled the formation of a clean energy public-private partnership between NGA and Wal-Mart.

Governor Pawlenty said, "For the better part of the past century, our nation has enjoyed an energy system that's been relatively inexpensive and easy to use. But our continued reliance on this system makes us vulnerable to unstable and sometimes hostile countries that control vast amounts of the world's energy resources and has created environmental concerns. Governors and states are stepping forward to lead an energy revolution that will 'Americanize' our energy production in order to improve our national security, our economic well-being and our quality of life."

The governors announced a partnership between NGA and Wal-Mart designed to provide governors an opportunity to reduce the overall energy consumption of their state capitol complexes by having a team of Wal-Mart energy experts conduct a clean energy audit of the facility. Under the "Greening the Capitols" partnership Wal-Mart will send experts to as many as 20 state capitol complexes throughout 2008 and 2009 with the goal of identifying energy efficiency improvements that will provide a return on investment within five years. In addition, the Wal-Mart team will demonstrate the anticipated cost savings and carbon dioxide reductions each state could experience by implementing the recommended improvements. The NGA Center for Best Practices will help identify states for participation and catalog the successes each state experiences.

NGA also officially released a new report from the SCEF Initiative, Greener Fuels, Greener Vehicles: A State Resource Guide. The new report provides an overview of the economic and environmental implications of an oil-dependent transportation sector and looks at state policy tools that can encourage greener transportation such as financial incentives, rules and mandates, purchasing power and research and demonstration projects. In addition, the report describes the core barriers preventing wider consumption of alternative fuels and production of alternative vehicles, as well as examples of promising state policies designed to overcome these specific barriers. Gov. Pawlenty also shared with his colleagues the recently released SCEF Initiative publication, A Call to Action, a report declaring America's current energy path unacceptable because of escalating economic risk and serious environmental consequences. The report compels the nation's governors to act now to solve America's energy challenges.

Access a release from NGA with links to the above referenced documents (
click here). Access the NGA Clean Energy website for additional information (click here). [*Energy]

Friday, February 22, 2008

Diverse Interests Calling For Carbon Tax Consideration

Feb 14: Following the release of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report entitled, Policy Options for Reducing CO2 Emissions [See WIMS 2/13/08], there has been some interesting reactions from diverse interests. Among other things, the CBO report said that carbon taxes are the “most efficient” means of reducing global warming pollution.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) President Brent Blackwelder responded to report with a statement saying, “Yet again, another group of experts has concluded that a corporate carbon tax is the most efficient way to reduce global warming pollution. 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.

“Today’s report also has implications for the current debate about cap-and-trade legislation in the U.S. Senate. Any cap-and-trade system should include 100 percent auctions of carbon allowances -- making polluters pay for all pollution, as a carbon tax would do. As the CBO director has previously testified, ‘Giving the allowances away … would largely prevent the government from using the allowance value in ways that would lower the cap’s total cost to the economy.’ A cap-and-trade system with 100 percent auctions would be better for the economy and could yield financial benefits for low and middle income Americans.”

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, commented 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. Inhofe said, “This groundbreaking CBO report validates what I have been saying all along: Cap-and-trade approaches are the wrong way to go. The report is unequivocal in finding that cap-and-trade approaches are inefficient compared to a straightforward tax. The report reveals that no matter how a cap-and-trade approach is modified, on a ton-for-ton basis of emission reductions, it is worse for the American economy."

Inhofe continued, "If we are going to impose enormous costs to our economy, a carbon tax would be a much more efficient and transparent approach. While I do not support either a tax or a cap-and-trade approach, I do strongly believe that we should be having an honest debate. . . Not only is the entire cap-and-trade approach fatally flawed, a cost-benefit analysis of the upcoming Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill reveals it is simply all economic pain for no climate gain. Numerous analyses have placed the costs at trillions of dollars. Even if you accept the dire claims of man-made global warming, this bill would not have a measurable impact on the climate.”

Another strong carbon tax advocate is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the 2007 Mayors Climate Protection Summit in Seattle [
See WIMS 11/06/07], and most recently at the February 11-12, United Nations General Assembly thematic debate on Climate Change at the UN Headquarters in NYC, Bloomberg has said, "Cap-and-trade is an easier political sell because the costs are hidden -- but they're still there. And the payoff is more uncertain. . . the price volatility for carbon credits can discourage investment since an investment that might make sense if carbon credits are trading at $50 a ton, may not make sense at $30 a ton. . . 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."

Senator Inhofe excerpts several quotes from the CBO report on the subject of a carbon tax as follows:

A carbon tax "would provide firms with an incentive to undertake more emission reductions when the cost of doing so was relatively low and allow them to reduce emissions less when the cost of doing so was particularly high."

. . .“a tax would keep the costs of emission reductions in balance with the anticipated benefits, whereas a cap would not.”

“A tax on emissions would be the most efficient incentive-based option for reducing emissions and could be relatively easy to implement.”

“A cap that is too tight will disproportionately increase costs over benefits and a cap that is not tight enough will disproportionately lower costs relative to benefits. A tax, by contrast, will tend to hold the costs of emission reductions in line with the constant (although uncertain) expected benefits, encouraging greater emission reductions when costs are low and allowing more emissions when costs are high.”

“When analysts take into account the degree to which costs are likely to vary around a single best estimate, they conclude that a tax could offer much higher net benefits than a cap. One study suggests that the net benefits of a worldwide tax on CO2 emissions in 2010 would be more than eight times larger than those of an equivalent inflexible cap.”

“Viewed another way, any long term emission-reduction target could be met by a tax at a fraction of the cost of an inflexible cap-and-trade program.”

“A tax would provide a steady, predictable price from emissions. An inflexible cap, however, could result in volatile allowance prices, making a cap-and-trade program more disruptive to the economy than a tax would be.”

“Price volatility could be particularly problematic with CO2 allowances because fossil fuels play such an important role in the U.S. economy. They accounted for 85 percent of the energy consumed in the United States in 2006. CO2 allowance prices could affect energy prices, inflation rates, and the value of imports and exports. Volatile allowance prices could have disruptive effects on markets for energy and energy-intensive goods and services and make investment planning difficult. The smoother price path offered by a CO2 tax would better enable firms to plan for investments in capital equipment that would reduce CO2 emissions (for example, by increasing efficiency or using low-carbon fuels) and could provide a more certain price signal for firms considering investing in the development of new emission-reduction technologies.”

Access a release from FOE and link to California poll on carbon tax (
click here). Access Senator Inhofe's statement (click here)Access Mayor Bloomberg's speech at the UN thematic debate (click here). Access the complete 42-page CBO report (click here). Access the Carbon Tax Center analysis Tax vs. Cap-and-Trade (click here). Access various Internet postings regarding carbon tax v. cap-and-trade (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Toxic Releases Down 2% In Earliest Ever TRI Data Release

Feb 21: U.S. EPA releases the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) information database for the 2006 reporting year earlier than ever before in the 20-year history of the program. Improvements in electronic reporting and data processing have made the early release possible. Nationwide, EPA said chemical releases into the environment are down by two percent from 2005. EPA’s Chief Information Officer, Molly O’Neill said, “Citizens have information about hundreds of chemicals at their finger tips and, we’re getting that information to them faster than ever with improvements made in electronic reporting, data processing, and analysis. Making the public aware of this inventory of releases is a powerful tool for reducing pollution. From 2001 to 2006 we have seen a 24 percent decrease in total releases.”

The TRI is an on-line electronic database that includes information about chemical releases at facilities across the country. TRI tracks and contains detailed information on releases of nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories from about 23,000 industrial and federal facilities. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 established the TRI program following the tragic 1984 incident where a deadly cloud of methyl isocyanate that killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India. In 1990, The Pollution Prevention Act expanded the program by including data on toxic chemicals released, as well as treated, recycled, and burned for energy recovery.

In summary for 2006, 22,880 facilities, including federal facilities, reported to EPA’s TRI Program. They reported 4.25 billion pounds of on-site and off-site disposal or other releases of the almost 650 toxic chemicals, as shown in Table 1. Almost 88 percent of the total was disposed of or otherwise released on-site; 12 percent was sent off-site for disposal. Metal mining facilities reported 29 percent and electric utilities reported 24 percent of the total in 2006.

Persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals accounted for 455 million pounds or 11 percent of reported on- and off-site disposal or other releases in 2006. Of that total, lead and lead compounds accounted for 98 percent or 446 million pounds of PBT’s. Total disposal or other releases for mercury and mercury compounds were 5.1 million pounds and, for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, they were 130,277 grams (287 pounds).

There were 179 known or suspected carcinogens on the TRI list in 2006. They accounted for 820 million pounds or 19 percent of reported on- and off-site disposal or other releases in 2006. Of that total for carcinogens, lead and lead compounds accounted for 54 percent and arsenic and arsenic compounds for 14 percent. Almost three-quarters (592 million pounds or 72 percent) were disposed of or otherwise released to some form of on-site land disposal. Styrene air emissions were 45 percent of the total 105 million pounds of air emissions of carcinogens.

All Federal facilities are required to report to EPA’s TRI Program. For 2006, a total of 306 Federal facilities submitted 1,015 forms and reported 106 million pounds of total on- and off-site disposal or other releases.

From 2005 to 2006, total production-related waste managed, which focuses on waste management practices rather than ultimate disposition of a chemical, decreased by 2 percent. From 2005 to 2006, the quantity of production-related waste recycled increased by 2 percent (156 million pounds), the quantity used for energy recovery increased by 4 percent (133 million pounds), while the quantity treated decreased by 7 percent (642 million pounds) and the quantity disposed of or otherwise released decreased 1 percent (65 million pounds).

Disposal or other releases of PBT chemicals decreased by 5 percent in from 2005 to 2006. However, while air releases of mercury and mercury compounds decreased by 4 percent, total disposal or other releases of mercury and its compounds increased by 17 percent from 2005 to 2006. Total disposal or other releases of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds increased by 52 percent.

Disposal or other releases of carcinogens decreased by 11 percent (104 million pounds) from 2005 to 2006, including a decrease of 39 percent (72 million pounds) in arsenic and arsenic compounds and a decrease of 5 percent (25 million pounds) in lead and lead compounds. Air releases of carcinogens decreased by 7 percent (7 million pounds).

Federal facilities showed an overall decrease in disposal or other releases of almost 624,000 pounds or 1 percent from 2005 to 2006. Total production-related waste managed at federal facilities increased by 15 million pounds or 6 percent.

Access an overview release (
click here). Access links to extensive information on the TRI 2006 report (click here). Access the TRI Explorer on-line tool that generates reports based on facilities, chemicals, geographic areas, or industry type at the county, state, and national level (click here). [*Toxics]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Administration Strategy For Nanotechnology-Related EHS Research

Feb 14: The Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology released a document describing the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) strategy for addressing priority research on the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of nanomaterials. The report, Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research, was prepared by the subcommittee’s Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group.

Importantly, it should be emphasized that the NSET Nanotechnology Strategy should not be confused with the U.S. EPA draft report titled, Draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (EPA/600/S-08/002), which was prepared by EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD), and announced in the Federal Register [73 FR 8309-8311, 2/13/08]. The EPA draft is undergoing an external peer review and public comment process that will hold a peer review meeting April 11, 2008 [See WIMS 2/13/08]. Public comments on the EPA strategy are due by March 13, 2008. Additionally, and also somewhat confusing, on January 28, 2008, EPA announced its Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP) that 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 [
See WIMS 1/28/08].

EHS research and information needs related to nanotechnology were identified in the NSET Subcommittee documents, Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials, published in September 2006 and, Prioritization of Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials: An Interim Document for Public Comment, released in August 2007.

According to a release, the latest NSET EHS Strategy presents a path for coordinated interagency implementation of research to address the needs identified in earlier reports. It is based in part on a detailed analysis of the Federal Government's FY 2006 nanotechnology-related EHS research portfolio, a $68 million investment in 246 projects. Experts from the NEHI Working Group analyzed how these activities addressed the priority research needs and then proposed emphasis and sequencing for future research efforts. Agency-specific research and regulatory needs, public comments on the prior documents, and considerations of the state of EHS research in the national and international nanotechnology communities all played an important role in shaping the strategy.

Dr. Clayton Teague, Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office said, “This EHS research strategy is the result of a terrific team effort led by the NEHI Working Group. It reflects a strong consensus and commitment among the NNI [National Nanotechnology Initiative] member agencies on the roles they will assume, consistent with their respective missions and responsibilities, to move the Federal efforts in nanotechnology-related EHS research forward. The quality of the document demonstrates that the NNI is working hard to understand -- and to think strategically about -- nano EHS issues in a systematic, coordinated fashion."

Also on February 14, NSET released a summary of the NNI Fiscal Year 2009 budget. According to the summary, the 2009 NNI budget provides increased support for research on fundamental nanoscale phenomena and processes, from $481 million in 2007 to $551 million in 2009. The proposed budget reflects substantial ongoing growth in funding for instrumentation research, metrology and standards (from $53 million in 2007 to $82 million in 2009) and in nanomanufacturing research (from $48 million in 2007 to $62 million in 2009). EHS R&D funding in 2009 ($76 million) is more than double the level of actual funding in 2005 ($35 million) -- the first year this data was collected.

In a related matter, Jim Gulliford, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, conducted an online interactive forum today (February 20) on the new Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program designed to examine the human health and environmental risks and benefits of nanoscale chemical products. A transcript of the forum is available from the links below.

The Federal Government's nanotechnology research programs, in general, fall under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Coordination of research in the field takes place through the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office provides technical and administrative support to the NSET Subcommittee and serves as a central point of contact for the NNI. The above programs operate under the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

Access a release from NSET with links to previous reports (click here). Access the complete EHS Strategy report (click here). Access the NNI website for additional information (click here). Access the FR announcement for EPA's Draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (click here). Access EPA's draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (click here). Access the EPA interactive forum transcript (click here). Access the Office of Science & Technology Policy website (click here). Access links to other nanotechnology publications from EPA (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, February 19, 2008

House Science Committee Wants GAO Investigation Of FutureGen

Feb 15: The Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology Bart Gordon (D-TN) -- joined by fellow Committee Members Nick Lampson (D-TX), Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) -- have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Administration’s recent decision to pull their support for FutureGen -- a project intended to demonstrate the next generation of coal-fired power production and once the centerpiece of the Department of Energy’s(DOE) program on clean coal technology.

On January 31, 2008, the DOE announced a significant departure from its clean coal initiative, FutureGen [See WIMS 1/31/08]. Originally conceived in 2003, FutureGen was touted as a pollution-free power plant of the future intended to showcase cutting-edge technologies to address climate change and advance the President’s hydrogen initiative. In announcing its "restructured" FutureGen program, DOE withdrew support for the Mattoon, IL site announced by the FutureGen Alliance in December 2007.

DOE said, it had issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking industry’s input by March 3, 2008, on the costs and feasibility associated with building clean coal facilities that achieve the intended goals of FutureGen. Following this period and consideration of industry comment, DOE intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement -- or competitive solicitation -- to provide federal funding under cooperative agreements to equip Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC, or other clean coal technology) commercial power plants that generate at least 300 megawatts, with CCS technology aimed at accelerating near-term technology deployment. Initial input from industry will assist in determining how many demonstrations can be commissioned.

In a letter to GAO the Representatives said, “The recent FutureGen announcement takes the program in a dramatically different direction. The reasons for this abrupt change in the FutureGen program are unclear. However, the Administration claims that increases in cost estimates for the program were a contributing factor in this decision. We wish to have a better understanding of the developments in the program that led to this recent decision and an examination of the Administration’s rationale and plans for restructuring this program. There is a need to accelerate the development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies and we want to ensure the Department’s approach to this challenge will deliver the capability we need in the most cost-effective and rapid time frame possible.”

The Committee is asking GAO to investigate a number of concerns surrounding the Administration’s abandoning of FutureGen, including the methods DOE used to estimate the costs of the FutureGen program; what factors accounted for the increases in cost estimates that DOE reports as a major reason for restructuring the FutureGen initiative; and what costs, if any, are associated with the decision to terminate the existing FutureGen program and any contracts or cooperative agreements associated with it.

On February 7, the FutureGen Alliance Board of Directors reaffirmed what it said was "the importance of proceeding with the development of the FutureGen facility in Mattoon, Illinois" at a Board meeting held at the host site. The Board announced its plan to push the project forward as planned, as it believes that FutureGen at Mattoon remains in the public interest. The Board said the Mattoon site has all of the attributes required to be successful, including a secure water source and the ability to inject CO2 on-site eliminating the need for an extended offsite pipeline. The FutureGen Alliance represents some of the world's largest coal companies and electric utilities.

The Alliance indicates that the estimated gross project cost, including construction and operations, is $1.8B (billion). Consistent with its non-profit mission, the Alliance will return 100% of the powerplant’s estimated $300 million in revenue to the project; thereby, reducing the total net project cost to $1.5B. Alliance member companies will make nearly $400 million in additional contributions. The remaining $1.1B was to be contributed by DOE and foreign governments. Thus far, the foreign governments of China, India, Australia, South Korea, and Japan have pledged to assist DOE in covering DOE’s share of the project cost.

Access a release from the Committee (
click here). Access the letter (click here). Access a lengthy release from DOE on the restructured FutureGen program with links to additional information (click here). Access the DOE FutureGen website for additional information (click here). Access the FutureGen Alliance website (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Chemical Testing Agreement Will Reduce Reliance On Animal Use

Feb 15: According to a release from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. EPA, testing the safety of chemicals ranging from pesticides to household cleaners will benefit from new technologies and a plan for collaboration. Federal scientists from the two agencies announced a new toxicity testing agreement. The concept behind this agreement is highlighted in the February 15, 2008 issue of the journal Science.

Two NIH institutes have formed a collaboration with the EPA to use the NIH Chemical Genomics Center's (NCGC) high-speed, automated screening robots to test suspected toxic compounds using cells and isolated molecular targets instead of laboratory animals. This new, trans-agency collaboration is anticipated to generate data more relevant to humans; expand the number of chemicals that are tested; and reduce the time, money and number of animals involved in testing. Full implementation of the hoped-for paradigm shift in toxicity testing will require validation of the new approaches, a substantial effort that could consume many years.

The collaboration is being made possible through a newly signed, five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which leverages the strengths of each organization. The MOU builds on the experimental toxicology expertise at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), NIH; the high-throughput technology at NCGC, managed by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NIH; and the computational toxicology capabilities at the EPA's recently formed National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT).

The MOU provides for sample and information sharing necessary to more rapidly and effectively identify chemicals that might pose possible risks to the health of humans and animals and to the environment. It addresses opportunities for coordination in four basic areas related to achieving the toxicant testing goals, including: identification of toxicity pathways; selection of chemicals for testing; analysis and interpretation of data; and outreach to scientific and regulatory communities. The collective budget is yet to be determined.

The MOU and the plans articulated in the Science article provide a framework to implement the long-range vision outlined in the 2007 National Research Council (NRC) report, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy [See WIMS 6/15/07], which calls for a collaborative effort across the toxicology community to rely less on animal studies and more on in vitro tests using human cells and cellular components to identify chemicals with toxic effects. Importantly, the strategy calls for improvements in dose-response research, which will help predict toxicity at exposures that humans may encounter.

Data collection to determine chemical toxicity currently relies heavily on whole-animal tests. The growing number of new chemicals, high testing costs and public unease with animal testing led to the search for alternate toxicology testing methods. Quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS), developed at NCGC, increases the rate at which chemicals are tested, and profiles compounds over a wide range of concentrations. These qualities make the new qHTS technology ideal for toxicology testing, with the potential for advancing the goal of more accurate and timely public health decisions. NHGRI's Dr. Collins said, "A central component of federal effort will explore the use of high-throughput screening assays in toxicology. Such assays allow for the testing of thousands to hundreds of thousands of chemicals a day to determine their possible toxic effect."

EPA's Dr. Gray said, "As our detailed research strategy continues to develop, we will welcome the participation of other federal partners, as well as interested public and private sector organizations, to make this vision of 21st century toxicology a reality. The EPA's engagement in this collaboration is part of its ToxCast™ program -- an initiative launched in 2007 to revolutionize the agency's chemical toxicity evaluation procedures. ToxCast™ will use advances in computers, genomics and cellular biology to speed up toxicity testing and enhance capacity to screen new compounds [See WIMS 11/15/07].

Access a lengthy release from EPA and NIH with links to related information (
click here). Access further information on the ToxCast™ Program (click here). Access links to the complete NRC report, a 25-page executive summary and related information (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Senate Hearing On International Aspects of Carbon Cap & Trade Program

Feb 14: The Senate Finance Committee, Chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), held a hearing on the International Aspects of a Carbon Cap and Trade Program, a subject that was also discussed in the recently release Congressional Budget Office report, entitled, Policy Options for Reducing CO2 Emissions [See WIMS 2/13/08]. The Committee heard testimony from: Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA); Senior Counsel, Environmental Defense; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers; Point Carbon North America; and VP Government and Environmental Affairs, Holcim, Inc.

In an opening statement, Senator Baucus said, "I believe it is a moral imperative to deal with climate change. We all have a basic duty to leave this world to our children better than we found it. But, as we address climate change, we must also strive to do so in harmony with economic growth. Establishing a cap on carbon emissions has the potential to affect the American economy. It could raise costs, especially for energy-intensive industries like aluminum and cement. We must strive to minimize the competitive disadvantage that these costs will place on America. We can do that by encouraging other countries to commit to their own carbon
reductions. In that way, we can level the regulatory playing field. And in that way, we can reduce the incentive for American manufacturers to move their operations and jobs overseas.

"Pending legislation attempts to safeguard American economic competitiveness through measures taken at the border. For instance, proposals require importers to buy carbon allowances for products imported from countries that have not made commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. Our trading partners are watching these proposals carefully. Our challenge is to craft
border measures in a manner that both meets our domestic priorities and respects international trade rules.

"Likewise, we can preserve American economic competitiveness by reducing compliance costs for Americans. As we design the American carbon market, we must provide opportunities for American industries to buy carbon allowances wherever they are available, not only in the United States. At the end of the day, climate change is a global problem. It requires a global solution. The solution that we develop must also provide incentives for emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil to join our effort. Their economies compete with ours. They cannot enjoy a free ride, while we bear the cost. . ."

Senator Specter commented that the Bingaman-Specter, Low Carbon Economy Act, S. 1766, and the Lieberman-Warner bill America’s Climate Security Act, S. 2191, that was reported out of the Senate and Environment and Public Works Committee [
See WIMS 12/6/07], have provisions designed to address competitiveness concerns.

Specter said he had made three observations: "(1) First, while this is a developing and unsettled area, there are very good arguments to be advanced that the United States can apply measures at the border to ensure that imports are treated the same as domestic products in terms of the burdens and costs of climate change legislation. (2) Second, to the extent there may be uncertainty in how international rules will be applied, it only makes sense to interpret them in the manner that will allow for the most equitable treatment between imports and domestic products -- and that will thereby provide for the greatest level of environmental protection. (3) Third, to make U.S. climate change legislation effective and to garner public support, it is vital that the same burdens be borne both by imports and domestic products. If it is concluded that this cannot be done (whether for legal or other reasons), it may be impossible to make current climate change proposals work as intended and to actually have the effect of lowering global greenhouse gas concentrations. Therefore, the work being done by this Committee to consider and educate Congress about the trade and legal implications of climate legislation is vital if we are to make progress in this area going
forward. . ."

Holcim Ltd, with U.S. headquarters in Waltham, MA, a worldwide leader in the building materials sector, with over 150 million tons of cement and almost 200 million tons of aggregates supplied annually, testified that it had extensive experience with CO2 emission trading regimes with 27 cement production facilities in 10 countries in the European Union Emission Trading System (EU-ETS). Holcim said, "To be effective in reducing domestic and global carbon emissions, a domestic cap and trade program must contain provisions to avoid 'leakage of carbon emissions' to countries that either have no, or less stringent obligations. This can be achieved by adopting a system of equal rights and equal obligations for domestic producers and importers. . ."

The Environmental Defense attorney, who held previous positions as Assistant US Trade Representative for Environment and Natural Resources, under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations testified in 21-page of testimony that, "We can do this now. At this point in the debate, you’ve heard many arguments about why it’s impossible for us to act. Chief among them is the argument that the U.S. cannot and must not go forward without having secured caps on emissions from major developing nations. I will use my time before you today to rebut this assertion. The objective of national climate legislation is to create broad-based incentives for a new round of innovation in the economy away from high carbon content products to more efficient and profitable alternatives. We can design a U.S. carbon market that achieves our environmental goals while maintaining a level playing field for our companies and workers competing in the international marketplace and creating new market opportunities. . ."

Access the hearing website for links to testimony and opening statements as they become available (
click here). Access a webcast of the hearing (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

CBO Report: Policy Options for Reducing CO2 Emissions

Feb 12: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a new report entitled, Policy Options for Reducing CO2 Emissions. According to the preface to the report, "There is a growing scientific consensus that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, which result from the burning of fossil fuels, are gradually warming the Earth’s climate. The amount of damage associated with that warming remains uncertain, but there is some risk that it could be large and perhaps even catastrophic. Reducing that risk would require restraining the growth of CO2 emissions -- and ultimately limiting those emissions to a level that would stabilize atmospheric concentrations -- which would involve costs that are also uncertain but could be substantial.

"The most efficient approaches to reducing emissions of CO2 involve giving businesses and households an economic incentive for such reductions. Such an incentive could be provided in various ways, including a tax on emissions, a cap on the total annual level of emissions combined with a system of tradable emission allowances, or a modified cap-and-trade program that includes features to constrain the cost of emission reductions that would be undertaken in an effort to meet the cap.

"This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study -- prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources [Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)] -- compares those policy options on the basis of three key criteria: their potential to reduce emissions efficiently, to be implemented with relatively low administrative costs, and to create incentives for emission reductions that are consistent with incentives in other countries. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, the report contains no recommendations."

Further the report says, "Given the gradual nature of climate change, the uncertainty that exists about the cost of reducing emissions, and the potential variability of the cost of meeting a particular cap on emissions at different points in time, a tax could offer significant advantages. If policymakers chose to specify a long-term target for cutting emissions, a tax could be set at a rate that could meet that target at a lower cost than a comparable cap. In addition, if policymakers set the tax rate at a level that reflected the expected benefits of reducing a ton of emissions (which would rise over time), a tax would keep the costs of emission reductions in balance with the anticipated benefits, whereas a cap would not.

"There is significant interest, however, in a cap-and-trade approach (which has been used in the United States to reduce emissions that cause acid rain and is currently being used in the European Union to limit CO2 emissions). This study therefore explores ways in which policymakers could preserve the structure of a cap-and-trade program but achieve some of the efficiency advantages of a tax."

Access the complete 42-page CBO report (
click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Monaco Will Host Major Global Ministerial Environment Forum

Feb 11: The biggest gathering of environment ministers to take place since the climate change breakthrough in Bali will be happening in Monaco later this month under the theme "Mobilizing Finance for the Climate Challenge". More than 100 ministers from across the globe are scheduled to attend the 10th Special Session of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF) -- the world's forum for environment ministers -- alongside senior figures from industry and economics; science; local government; civil society, trades unions and intergovernmental bodies. The meeting takes place in the small European country of Monaco, February 20-22.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, "The last climate convention meeting delivered the Bali Road Map. This is the path along which over 190 countries are traveling in order to deliver a new and decisive climate deal by Copenhagen in 2009. Mobilizing finance, focusing markets and unleashing innovation will be central to successfully negotiating the Road Map and avoiding too many detours and dead ends. We are already glimpsing a transition to a low carbon society. Billions of dollars are now being invested in renewable energy and hundreds of institutions with trillions of dollars of assets are now endorsing investment principles that reflect environmental alongside social and governance concerns. Designing and delivering a Green Economy will not only avert dangerous and debilitating climate change. It can address the wider sustainability challenges outlined in UNEP's recent Global Environment Outlook from loss of biodiversity and rapid ecosystem degradation to collapsing fish stocks and depleted soils. In doing so, it opens the door to true sustainable development - development that benefits rich and poor alike by unleashing creativity and innovation, spawning new technologies and industries and stimulating new kinds of green employment patterns. In short, it is about investing in tomorrow's economy today."

Other key issues on the table in Monaco include the approval of UNEP's new Medium-Term Strategy for 2010-2013. It is designed to evolve the institution into a more efficient, focused, effective and results based environmental body of the United Nations better equipped to deal with the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. Ministers will also address the issue of International Environment Governance and how well UNEP is placed to address the challenges and opportunities outlined in the recently published landmark report, Global Environment Outlook-4 [
See WIMS 10/26/07] .

Also to be considered are reports on improved funding for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management and the extent to which the international community is moving forward on the management of the hazardous heavy metal mercury. Ministers will also be presented with a key report on tackling illegal international trade in hazardous substances alongside one outlining recommendations on how to improve waste management including recycling in developing economies.

Meanwhile in New York, the United Nations General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim convened the February 11-12, 2008, thematic debate entitled "Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work," at the UN Headquarters. Two interactive panel discussions were scheduled: Rising to the Challenge: Partnerships on Climate Change; and Responding to a Multifaceted Challenge: The UN at Work. On February 12, discussions were open to all in which Member States to make statements [See links below].

Access a lengthy release with extensive links to additional information (click here). Access the 10th Special Session website for complete details including links to session documents and information (click here). Access a release with links to the individual speeches at the UN meeting (click here). Access the homepage for the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly (click here). Access the UN thematic debate website with links to information and documents (click here). [*All, *Climate]

Monday, February 11, 2008

Senator Inhofe And Studies Question New RFS Mandate

Feb 8: U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has posted information on the Committee website indicating that the EPW is "M.I.A." in the biofuels increase debate and that "New Studies Raise More Concern over Dramatic RFS Increase Passed by Congress in 2007."

Senator Inhofe's posting says that, "Barely a month after Congress passed the most onerous fuels mandates in history, two new studies have found that an increased use of biofuels may have a significant impact on the environment. But of course this isn’t surprising to those who actually applied a critical eye to the legislation before Congress imposed a nearly five-fold expansion of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate [See WIMS 2/8/08]. The studies released this week are the latest to raise mounting questions surrounding ethanol’s effect on livestock feed prices, its economic sustainability, its transportation and infrastructure needs, its water usage and numerous other issues."

Inhofe cites the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog reports saying, “Ethanol loses more glitter after a new study shows it is worse for the environment than fossil fuels, reports the WSJ. Planting biofuel crops in grasslands or forests wipes out natural carbon sinks, prompting Grist to argue that the U.S. Congress 'blew it' with its recent biofuel mandate. The NYT reports that prominent scientists wrote the White House and Congress urging a rethink.”

On the Nature Conservancy website it reported that one of the new studies from The Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota finds that many biofuels -- seen by many as a potentially low-carbon energy source -- actually emit more greenhouse gases than the fossil fuels they aim to replace. According to the study, co-authored by Joe Fargione, a regional scientist for the Conservancy, “converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide than the fossil fuels they replace."

Fargione said, "Previous conclusions that biofuels reduce greenhouse gases were based on incomplete analyses. They did not include the effect that biofuels have on the conversion of natural ecosystems to crops." Commenting on the new RFS standard, and responding to the question: But won't biofuels contribute to energy security?; Fargione said, "Unfortunately, not much. Congress recently passed a 36-billion-gallon biofuel mandate, but that will offset only 14 percent of projected gasoline usage by the year 2022 and would require about 60 million acres. After accounting for the energy needed to produce the ethanol, the true offset would only be 8-11 percent."

According to the information posted by Senator Inhofe, "Last year, while the Senate Energy Committee was the prime mover of the hastily increased RFS mandate, Senator Inhofe called for increased oversight by the EPW Committee and warned of the unintended consequences of such a drastic increase. Before 2007, the EPW Committee had held at least 13 hearings on the RFS program, most recently an oversight hearing in September 2006 which highlighted the implementation of this new federal RFS program. In 2007, the EPW Committee failed to hold one..."

The second study, Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change, by Princeton University researcher Timothy Searchinger indicates that, "Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. Using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products."

On February 7, at the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Oversight Hearing on the recently-passed renewable fuel standard (RFS) contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA. H.R. 6, now Public Law No: 110-140 [
See WIMS 12/14/07]), both Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Pete Domenici (R-NM) expressed concerns over the new RFS [See WIMS 2/8/08].

Access the information posted by Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release on the report from the Nature Conservancy (click here). Access information on the report from the Nature Conservancy (click here). Access an abstract and further information on the Princeton report (click here). The Access the statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access the statement from Senator Domenici (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, statements and a webcast (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Friday, February 08, 2008

State of New Jersey v. EPA Vacates Agency Mercury Rules

Feb 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 05-1097, consolidated with 05-1104, 05-1116, 05-1118, 05-1158, 05-1159, 05-1160, 05-1162, 05-1163, 05-1164, 05-1167, 05-1174, 05-1175, 05-1176, 05-1183, 05-1189, 05-1263, 05-1267, 05-1270, 05-1271, 05-1275, 05-1277, 06-1211, 06-1220, 06-1231, 06-1287, 06-1291, 06-1293, 06-1294. In this high profile case involving many states [CA, CT, DE, IL, ME, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, VT and WI], environmental organizations and industry groups, the Appeals Court considered petitions for review of two final rules promulgated by U.S. EPA regarding the emission of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) -- the so-called Delisting Rule and CAMR.

The Appeals Court sets the stage saying New Jersey and fourteen additional States, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the City of Baltimore (Government Petitioners), and various environmental organizations (Environmental Petitioners) contend that EPA violated Section 112’s plain text and structure when it did not comply with the requirements of section 112(c)(9) in delisting EGUs. Government and Environmental Petitioners further contend that CAMR is inconsistent with provisions of section 111, and that both the Delisting Rule and CAMR should be vacated. Certain intervenors -- including various industry representatives, States, and state agencies -- join EPA in urging the lawfulness of the two rules.

The first rule removes coal- and oil-fired EGUs from the list of sources whose emissions are regulated under section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), Revision of December 2000 Regulatory Finding (Delisting Rule), 70 FR 15,994 (3/29/05). The second rule sets performance standards for new coal-fired EGUs and establishes total mercury emissions limits for States and certain tribal areas, along with a voluntary cap-and-trade program for new and existing coal-fired EGUs. Standards of Performance for New and Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Steam Generating Units (CAMR), 70 FR 28,606 (5/1805).

The Appeals Court said, "Petitioners contend that the Delisting Rule is contrary to the plain text and structure of section 112. In response, EPA and certain intervenors rely on section 112(n), which sets special conditions before EGUs can be regulated under section 112, to justify the rule. We hold that the delisting was unlawful. Section 112 requires EPA to regulate emissions of HAPs. Section 112(n) requires EPA to regulate EGUs under section 112 when it concludes that doing so is 'appropriate and necessary.'"

The Appeals Court states further that, "In December 2000, EPA concluded that it was 'appropriate and necessary' to regulate mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants under section 112 and listed these EGUs as sources of HAPs regulated under that section. In 2005, after reconsidering its previous determination, EPA purported to remove these EGUs from the section 112 list. Thereafter it promulgated CAMR under section 111. EPA’s removal of these EGUs from the section 112 list violates the CAA because section 112(c)(9) requires EPA to make specific findings before removing a source listed under section 112; EPA concedes it never made such findings. Because coal-fired EGUs are listed sources under section 112, regulation of existing coalfired EGUs’ mercury emissions under section 111 is prohibited, effectively invalidating CAMR’s regulatory approach. Accordingly, the court grants the petitions and vacates both rules."

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a release saying, "In ruling as it did, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with New Jersey and other states, as well as numerous environmental petitioners that EPA cannot avoid its legal duty to promulgate strict limits on mercury emissions from all power plants -- and do so expeditiously. The ruling means elimination of the EPA’s cap-and-trade approach to regulating mercury emissions. Cap-and-trade allows power plants to purchase emissions reduction credits from other plants that have cut emissions below targeted levels, rather than meet strict emission levels by installing stringent pollution controls to reduce mercury emissions at their own plants."

Milgram added, “From the beginning we have maintained that the EPA adopted standards for regulating mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin, which were weak, ineffectual and ran counter to the clear intent of the Clean Air Act.” Milgram's release indicates that, "Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of uncontrolled mercury emissions, generating 48 tons of mercury emissions per year nationwide. EPA finalized its cap-and-trade system for regulating mercury emissions from power plants in May 2006 despite reports that called into question the conclusions underlying the rule. Research funded by the EPA itself found that wet mercury deposition rates from local coal-fired industrial sources were many times higher than EPA projections. The research, conducted in Steubenville, Ohio, bolstered arguments that there was significant potential for uncontrolled local emission sources to perpetuate mercury hot-spots."

Vickie Patton, an attorney with Environmental Defense, which along with Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation was represented by Earthjustice in the lawsuit said, “The federal court agrees with the American Medical Association that EPA's flawed mercury program for coal plants is hazardous to our health. This decision is a victory for the health of all Americans, but especially for our children who can suffer permanent brain damage from toxic mercury pollution.” Alice McKeown, coal analyst for the Sierra Club said, “Coal company claims of ‘clean coal’ will now be put to the test. These mercury pollution reductions will be an important trial run to see if coal is still viable in a cleaner energy future.” The environmental groups said that approximately 1,100 coal-fired units at more than 450 existing power plants account for the emissions of 48 tons of mercury annually. Yet only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury is needed to contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat.

Access the complete 18-page opinion (click here). Access a release from the New Jersey AG (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). [*Air, *Toxics]

Thursday, February 07, 2008

U.S. Funding Russian Assistance On Iranian Nuclear Projects

Feb 6: In a startling revelation, Representatives John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-MI), Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee say that a highly touted Department of Energy (DOE) nonproliferation program, which is intended to keep Soviet-era scientists from migrating to rogue states following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been funding Russian research institutes that support nuclear projects in Iran. Dingell said, “Only this Administration would complain about proliferation in Iran, as part of President Bush’s nuclear axis of evil, and then finance it with American taxpayer dollars."

The two Representatives wrote Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman regarding the Department of Energy’s (DOE's) Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program (IPP). The letter from Stupak and Dingell notes that two IPP-funded institutes in Russia have performed work on the Buhsher nuclear reactor in Iran. The revelations came the day before Bodman testified before the Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee on the Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2009 Budget.

Stupak said, “During our hearing in January, Department of Energy and State Department witnesses told me they didn’t know if the United States is funding projects at institutes that are also doing work for the Iranian nuclear program. We now know that they are. I find it to be a rather schizophrenic foreign policy position for the Bush Administration to label Iran part of the ‘axis of evil’ but then send millions of U.S. tax dollars intended for non-proliferation programs to Russian institutes that are doing work on Iran’s nuclear program. I look forward to hearing the Energy and State Departments’ justifications for such a policy.”

Bodman said he is unsure if the allegations are true and DOE is still investigating the charges in the letter, but said it is his belief that U.S. funds are "not contributing to the Iranian nuclear program." He said DOE will get the Committee answers to their questions.

Access a release from Dingell and Stupak with links to the letter and two attachments (
click here). Access the Committee hearing website and archived webcast where Secretary Bodman is questioned on this issue (click here). [*Energy, *Haz/Nuclear]

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Senate Second Hearing On Surface Transportation Commission Report

Feb 6: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing entitled, Perspectives on the Surface Transportation Commission Report. The hearing is the second by the Committee on the recent Transportation for Tomorrow report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission released on January 15, 2008. The report was 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 1/31/08].

Witnesses testifying at the second hearing included: Mary Peters, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation; the Secretary for the Kansas Department of Transportation; the Director of Transportation Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance; and the Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues Government Accountability Office (GAO). Committee Ranking Member, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) also delivered an opening statement.

Senator Inhofe said, "First, I want to point out that although Secretary Peters along with two other Commissioners voted against the final report, there was much agreement on most of the policy recommendations. For the most part, all the Commissioners found agreement on the vast and unmet needs of our nation’s transportation network, but where they differ is in how to pay for it. I have long advocated for a decreased federal role, which I believe allows for greater flexibility for states to manage their own transportation funding priorities. It would appear those who wrote the dissenting views concur...

"I think the important lessons to take from the report are that if we don’t take dramatic action, growing congestion and deteriorating pavement conditions will choke the US economy. I am glad that there is consensus among the commissioners that modal specific decisions and the current program structure are outdated. Finally, I have to comment on the proposed financing mechanism. I believe increasing the federal fuel tax by the amount proposed in the final report is neither politically viable nor economically sound..."

GAO testified that the nation has reached a critical juncture with its current surface transportation policies and programs. Demand has outpaced the capacity of the system, resulting in increased congestion. In addition, without significant changes in funding mechanisms, revenue sources, or planned spending, the Highway Trust Fund -- the major source of federal highway and transit funding -- is projected to incur significant deficits in the years ahead. GAO's testimony discusses 1) principles to assess proposals for restructuring the surface transportation program and 2) GAO’s preliminary observations on the Commission’s recommendations.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce testified, "We -- Congress, state and local governments, and the private sector -- cannot treat infrastructure like other problems or programs where you can wait until the very last minute and then write a big check. Infrastructure projects require foresight and years of careful planning... On a typical day, about 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion, moved nearly 12 billion ton-miles on the nation’s interconnected transportation network. Bridges serve as critical links in the system... Congestion costs drivers $78 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs. Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic... Shoddy road conditions result in $67 billion in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs per year. More important, poorly maintained roads contribute to a third of all highway fatalities. That’s more than 14,000 deaths every year -- a national disgrace..."

The Chamber said it "agrees with Senator Inhofe’s observation made at the EPW hearing last week, '…Both the current model of stovepiped modal decisions and the current program structure are outdated...' When it comes to funding and financing our national transportation system, the Chamber believes that every option must be considered to address the enormous problems of the aging transportation infrastructure..."

Access the hearing website with links to all testimony, opening statements and a webcast (
click here). Access the complete 258-page Commission report or individual sections (click here). Access the Commission's website for extensive background information (click here). Access a release from the U.S. Chamber (click here). [*Transport]