Monday, March 31, 2008
They said the new rule would clarify how to provide compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to the nation's wetlands and streams. They said it would enable the agencies to promote greater consistency, predictability and ecological success of mitigation projects under CWA. The rule will become effective 60-days following publication in the Federal Register which is tentatively scheduled for April 4, 2008.
Woodley said, "This rule greatly improves implementation, monitoring, and performance, and will help us ensure that unavoidable losses of aquatic resources and functions are replaced for the benefit of this Nation. This is a key step in our efforts to make the Army's Regulatory Program a winner, and the best it can be for the regulated community we serve and those interested in both economic development and environmental protection." Grumbles said, "This rule advances the president's goals of halting overall loss of wetlands and improving watershed health through sound science, market-based approaches, and cooperative conservation. The new standards will accelerate our wetlands conservation efforts under the Clean Water Act by establishing more effective, more consistent, and more innovative mitigation practices."
They outlined benefits of the compensatory mitigation rule including: Fostering greater predictability, increased transparency and improved performance of compensatory mitigation projects; Establishing equivalent standards for all forms of mitigation; Responding to recommendations of the National Research Council to improve the success of wetland restoration and replacement projects; Setting clear science-based and results-oriented standards nationwide while allowing for regional variations; Increasing and expanding public participation; Encouraging watershed-based decisions; and Emphasizing the "mitigation sequence" requiring that proposed projects avoid and minimize potential impacts to wetlands and streams before proceeding to compensatory mitigation.
In a release they indicated that each year thousands of property owners undertake projects that affect the nation's aquatic resources. Proposed projects that are determined to impact jurisdictional waters are first subject to review under the Clean Water Act. The Corps of Engineers reviews these projects to ensure environmental impacts to aquatic resources are avoided or minimized as much as possible. Consistent with the administration's goal of "no net loss of wetlands" a Corps permit may require a property owner to restore, establish, enhance or preserve other aquatic resources in order to replace those impacted by the proposed project. This compensatory mitigation process seeks to replace the loss of existing aquatic resource functions and area.
Property owners required to complete mitigation are encouraged to use a watershed approach and watershed planning information. The new rule establishes performance standards, sets timeframes for decision making, and to the extent possible, establishes equivalent requirements and standards for the three sources of compensatory mitigation: permittee-responsible mitigation, mitigation banks and in-lieu-fee programs.
The new rule changes where and how mitigation is to be completed, but maintains existing requirements on when mitigation is required. The rule also preserves the requirement for applicants to avoid or minimize impacts to aquatic resources before proposing compensatory mitigation projects to offset permitted impacts. Wetlands and streams provide important environmental functions including protecting and improving water quality and providing habitat to fish and wildlife. Successful compensatory mitigation projects will replace environmental functions that are lost as a result of permitted activities.
Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's Wetlands Compensatory Mitigation website for links to a prepublication version of final 232-page rule, a fact sheet, a Q&A document, the Final 134-page Environmental Assessment, FONSI and Regulatory Analysis and background materials (click here). [*Water]
Friday, March 28, 2008
According to the report, "Today, the scientific consensus on climate change is changing our assumptions about water resources. Over the coming years, we in the United States can expect: • shorelines to move as a result of sea level rise; • changes in ocean chemistry to alter aquatic habitat and fisheries; • warming water temperatures to change contaminant concentrations in water and alter aquatic system uses; • new patterns of rainfall and snowfall to alter water supply for drinking and other uses and lead to changes in pollution levels in aquatic systems; and • more intense storms to threaten water infrastructure and increase polluted storm water runoff.
"There remains significant uncertainty about the exact scope and timing of climate change–related impacts on water resources, but the National Water Program and its partners need to assess emerging climate change information, evaluate potential impacts of climate change on water programs, and identify needed responses."
EPA indicates that the ideas and response actions outlined in the report are the product of a cooperative effort among EPA water program managers in national and Regional offices. The EPA Offices of Air and Radiation and Research and Development provided valuable support for this work. And, a wide range of stakeholders participated in initial “listening session” meetings.
Initially, the report asks the question: Why is the Earth Warming? And responds, "The Earth absorbs energy from the Sun and radiates energy back into space. Much of the energy going back to space, however, is absorbed by 'greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere. Because the atmosphere then radiates much of this energy back to the Earth’s surface, the planet is warmer than it would be if the atmosphere did not contain these gases. As levels of greenhouse gases increase, partly as a result of human activity, the Earth will continue to warm."
Access a brief announcement from EPA (click here). Access an overview, background and commenting instructions (click here). Access the 115-page Strategy (click here). [*Climate, *Water]
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Theo Spencer of NRDC said, “Global warming is hitting the West hard. It is already taking an economic toll on the region’s tourism, recreation, skiing, hunting and fishing activities. The speed of warming and mounting economic damage make clear the urgent need to limit global warming pollution.” Study author Stephen Saunders of RMCO said, “We are seeing signs of the economic impacts throughout the West. Since 2000 we have seen $2.7 billion in crop loss claims due to drought. Global warming is harming valuable commercial salmon fisheries, reducing hunting activity and revenues, and threatening shorter and less profitable seasons for ski resorts.”
For the report, RMCO analyzed new temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for 11 western states. For the five-year period 2003-2007 the average temperature in the Colorado River Basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico, was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the historical average for the 20th Century. The temperature rise was more than twice the global average increase of 1.0 degree during the same period. The average temperature increased 1.7 degrees in the entire 11-state western region.
The Colorado River Basin is in the throes of a record drought, shrinking water supplies for upwards of 30 million people in fast-growing Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. Most of the Colorado River’s flow comes from melting snow in the mountains of Wyoming, Utah and Wyoming. Climate scientists predict even more and drier droughts in the future as hotter temperatures reduce the snowpack and increase evaporation.
To date, the governors of Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington have signed the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), an agreement to reduce global warming pollution through a market-based system, such as cap-and-trade. The WCI calls for states to reduce their global warming emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Conservationists say the states should commit to meeting these targets, and that there should also be a firm target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Spencer said, “We need strong leadership from western senators to pass America’s Climate Security Act [S. 2191]. The longer we wait to put a concrete cap on global warming pollution, the greater the threat to all Americans.” The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill by summer, and NRDC said supporters are optimistic about strengthening the bill even further [See WIMS 3/17/08].
Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access links to the 64-page report and related information (click here). Access the WCI website (click here). [*Climate]
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Deseret Power facility has also been the subject of an investigation of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Concern, Chaired by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) which held a hearing on November 8, 2007, regarding EPA Approval of New Power Plants: Failure to Address Global Warming Pollutants. The hearing examined the implications of U.S. EPA's refusal to consider the global warming effects of a coal-fired power plant’s greenhouse gas emissions in a recent permitting decision in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA [See WIMS 4/2/07]. On March 11, 2008, Waxman introduced H.R. 5575, to require new coal-fired electric generating units to use state-of-the-art control technology to capture and permanently sequester carbon dioxide emissions. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Representative John Dingell (D-MI).
Quentin Riegel, NAM Vice President for Litigation and Deputy General Counsel said, “A successful appeal by the Sierra Club would create an impassable regulatory gridlock that would overwhelm permitting authorities and bring new permits to a halt. Arguments to the contrary, the Clean Air Act does not allow the permitting process to be turned into an all-purpose weapon against new energy production.” Riegel said the Clean Air Act defined emissions from major stationary sources -- such as power plants -- in terms of traditional pollutants (e.g. NOx and SOx). Emissions of carbon dioxide are orders of magnitude larger, which means the EPA’s inclusion of CO2 in the permitting process would dramatically expand the number of facilities requiring EPA regulatory approval.
He said, “Big-box stores, schools, fast-food restaurants -- the number and type of facilities requiring EPA permits would explode if the Sierra Club gets its way. Even slight changes to these facilities or plans for new structures would require Clean Air Act pre-construction permits under the ‘Prevention of Significant Deterioration’ program.” The amicus curiae brief includes a legal analysis that demonstrates that the EPA’s regulations do not require “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” permits to address greenhouse gases. In addition, an opposite finding would create enormous practical difficulties, the brief argues.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson testified at the Waxman hearing last November and said, "...while EPA has been implementing voluntary programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gases for years, in the past several months we have been exploring the additional tools provided by the Clean Air Act to help us expand on the solid foundation we have built... EPA is actively evaluating how best to regulate technologies that may curb or otherwise address greenhouse gas emissions... While we continue to grapple with how best to address the challenge of global climate change, the Agency also has a legal responsibility to continue processing PSD preconstruction permit applications, such as that submitted over three years ago by Deseret Power... The August 30th PSD permit allows Deseret Power to move forward in providing a reliable and secure supply of electricity, while at the same time making use of a previously untapped reserve of waste coal."
Access a release from NAM (click here). Access a copy of the NAM brief (click here). Access the Environmental Appeals Board Deseret Power website with links to all of the extensive briefs and filings in the case (click here). Access the Waxman hearing website for links to all testimony, a webcast, overview and Chairman Waxman's opening statement (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 5578 (click here). [*Energy, *Air, *Climate]
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The chemical, oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3), is widely used in sunscreens. It was last reviewed for safety in the 1970’s but since then significant new evidence has been published on its toxicity and pervasive exposure. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. A recent review by the European Union found insufficient data to determine whether oxybenzone in sunscreen is safe for consumers. Rebecca Sutton, a scientist with EWG said, “These studies are the latest in a long list of reasons the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must thoroughly review the safety of all chemicals used in sunscreens Americans use every day. FDA must do what it promised 30 years ago: Enact permanent, enforceable federal safety standards for sunscreens so consumers can get the best and safest sun protection.”
Nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain oxybenzone, including products by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat, according to an analysis of ingredient labels by EWG. And, although oxybenzone is most common in sunscreen, companies also use the toxic chemical in at least 567 other personal care products, including lip balm, lipstick, moisturizers and fragrance for women. EWG research shows that 84 percent of 910 name-brand sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients, like oxybenzone, with significant safety concerns. EWG says, "These products are on the market because FDA has failed to finalize sunscreen safety standards that have been under development since 1979, but has instead issued a series of delays and revisions at the request of the personal care product industry. FDA issued a new draft of the standards last October under pressure from EWG, but continues to delay finalizing the standards at the behest of the regulated industry."
Update: On July 1, 2008, EWG issued an update to its Sunscreen Report and database (click here).
Access a release from EWG (click here). Access EWG's research on oxybenzone (click here). Access links to the FDA 2007 Proposed Sunscreen Rule, and related background information (click here). [*Toxics]
Monday, March 24, 2008
On October 18, 2007, Roderick Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), announced that he had denied the air quality permit for two proposed 700-megawatt generators at the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation plant near Holcomb, KS. Bremby said, “After careful consideration of my responsibility to protect the public health and environment from actual, threatened or potential harm from air pollution, I have decided to deny the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation application for an air quality permit.” A State bill, House Substitute for SB 327, that would have allowed what the Governor said would be "the massive new coal-fired power plants," subsequently found its way to her desk.
In her veto announcement the Governor said the, "bill goes well beyond this specific project by stripping emergency powers from the KDHE Secretary and prohibiting the consideration of any standards beyond the Clean Air Act. It not only mandates 11 million tons of new carbon for power we don’t need, but invites other coal plants to be sited in Kansas while eliminating any requirements to mitigate their environmental and health risks for our citizens. I am encouraged that the legislature made a modest attempt to address some of our alternative energy assets, but this bill fails to promote our wind assets and sends the wrong signal to potential investors for transmission lines and additional wind power. . . My offer of a compromise energy proposal, with additional base load power for Western Kansas, combined with mitigation strategies and additional wind power is once again extended, and I am hopeful that some serious consideration can now occur. . ."
She said in the spirit of reaching a true compromise with utility company officials the State had made the following offer which they would support: Build one new plant similar in size to the Sand Sage permit previously approved (660 MW); Kansas base load power needs must receive top priority; Plant must be able to implement carbon sequestration technology; Commitment for 20% wind power (132 MW); Commitment for 100 MW of energy efficiency; and Net metering allowed in the Sunflower service area. She said the framework of the proposal seeks to find a middle ground between all parties concerned and allows for the construction of one power plant that is reasonable and sensible in terms of scope and size.
The Governor said the newly appointed Energy and Environmental Advisory Group will develop recommendations to the Governor involving opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a recommended timetable for implementation. Other issues to be examined by this group include a study of the impact electrical production has on community economic development and the opportunities to diversify Kansas’ energy portfolio.
She said the process will be facilitated by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). Their work is supported by the Energy Foundation and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, which includes the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. CCS has developed climate action plans in: Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont. State plans are underway in South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, Maryland, and Alaska.
Access a release from Governor Sebelius with further details (click here). Access the Executive Order (click here). Access links to extensive information and background on the KDHE decision (click here). Access links to various media reports on the Governor's action (click here). Access various blog posts on the Governor's action (click here). [*Air, *Energy, *Climate]
Friday, March 21, 2008
The participating states have agreed to participate in uniform regional auctions with the initial auction planned for September 10, 2008, and a second auction scheduled for December 17, 2008. In conducting regional auctions, the participating states have come to agreement on the following design elements: Auction Structure and Format; Allowance Sale Schedule; Participation; Reserve Price; Unsold Allowances; Notice of Auctions; Monitoring; and Auction Results.
Pete Grannis, the Chair of RGGI, Inc. and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said, “Climate change is the most significant environmental problem of our generation. Absent federal leadership, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states of RGGI are taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce their impact on the environment. Our CO2 auction will be the first in the nation and it is one that should be replicated at the federal level.”
To support the implementation of the RGGI program by the participating states, RGGI, Inc., through a competitive selection process, has selected several companies that will each deliver critically important services. World Energy Solutions, Inc. was selected to provide services related to the design and implementation of a regional allowance auction. Perrin Quarles Associates, Inc. (PQA) was selected to provide services related to the development and implementation of an emissions and allowance tracking system. ICF International was selected to provide services to support the implementation of the emissions offset component of the RGGI program, including the development of model application and submittal documents and model guidance documents. Greenhouse Gas Management Institute was selected to provide services related to the development of an accreditation process for independent verifiers of offset projects. The selections are tentative pending the outcome of a contract negotiation process and final agreement of contract terms and conditions.
Access a release from RGGI (click here). Access the RGGI Summary of Design Elements (click here). Access the RGGI website for complete information (click here). Access a summary of "What's Being Done...In the States" from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (click here). [*Climate]
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership -- a research collaboration among the U.S. Department of Energy, the Detroit Three automakers, and five major energy companies -- seeks to develop technology that will allow U.S. automakers to decide by 2015 whether hydrogen-powered vehicles could be manufactured on a large scale. To achieve this goal, the program's partners are seeking safe, cost-efficient methods to produce hydrogen from traditional and renewable energy sources, as well as ways to deliver, dispense, and store hydrogen for vehicles. The program also sponsors research to reduce the size, weight, and cost of vehicle components to increase fuel efficiency. While pursuing these goals, the program is exploring technology that, in the short term, will provide more efficient and less polluting combustion engines, as well as electric batteries that could be used in hybrid-electric or all-electric vehicles.
Craig Marks, chair of the committee that wrote the report and retired vice president for technology and productivity, AlliedSignal Inc., Bloomfield Hills, MI, said, "Since the Research Council's first review two years ago, the program has made great strides, and its managers have been generally thorough and receptive to the previous report's recommendations. The barriers the program faces are challenging, and require inventive solutions that are technically feasible and economically viable in the automotive and fuel supply markets. For the industry to transition to a hydrogen-based vehicle used on a broad scale, the program will have to continue to be well-planned and managed with foresight."
In light of progress and shifts in the automotive market, such as the successful introduction of biofuels, the committee recommended the partnership review its activities strategically to ensure their continuing relevancy. A reassessment of the goals in each technical area will also provide a better basis for judging future funding levels for each part of the program. The report committee concluded that the development of fuel cells and a supporting hydrogen infrastructure would provide the most efficient and least polluting means to power personal transportation vehicles. However, the early systems now being tested still need significant improvements in durability and cost to enable the mass production and sale of vehicles. Such improvements are being pursued through promising new materials and designs for fuel-cell membranes and membrane electrode assemblies. The committee recommended the partnership reassess the current allocation of funding within the fuel-cell program and reallocate as appropriate, in order to prioritize and emphasize research and development that addresses the most critical barriers.
In addition, advances over the last two years have been made toward meeting FreedomCAR's battery goals, which are critical to achieving widespread support for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries can satisfy the program's goals; however, the cost to produce batteries remains high, approximately two times the target. While lower cost materials and manufacturing methods are being researched, , the report recommends that the partnership should conduct an in-depth review of production and market forces behind lithium-ion batteries and intensify its efforts to develop other high-energy batteries. The success of this battery research will largely determine the viability of batteries in mass-produced vehicles.
During the first review of the program, the Research Council determined that the most difficult, long-term challenge was solving the problem of hydrogen storage in vehicles. Hydrogen, whether in the form of a gas or liquid, takes up more space than gasoline, requiring large, heavy tanks and frequent refueling. In the latest report, the committee found that storing enough hydrogen in the vehicle to provide a 300-mile driving range while simultaneously meeting weight, volume, and cost targets continues to be challenging, and it is still too early to have confidence in ultimate success. Both domestic and foreign automakers are putting demo fuel-cell vehicles on the road with high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks. However, meeting the program's goals will probably rely on a storage technology that is yet undiscovered. Nevertheless, progress has been made with the establishment of three centers of excellence, each with different approaches to finding ways to reduce the size and mass of hydrogen storage devices. The report recommends that the program continue to support and conduct basic research in this field to help foster possible breakthroughs.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner responded to the report saying, “I am pleased that the National Academies recognizes the progress achieved by the U.S. Department of Energy’s FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, as well as its sound management. We agree this effort will help move the needle and transform how this nation powers its cars and trucks. This public-partnership demonstrates that significant results can be achieved when working in tandem and maximizing shared resources."
A release from USCAR, the umbrella organization for collaborative research among Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, provides additional reactions to the NRC report. Don Walkowicz, executive director of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC said, “The NRC report confirms that our collaborative government/industry R&D is yielding results. The partnership is advancing the research and development needed to provide sustainable transportation solutions that reduce our dependence on imported oil while minimizing emissions.” Each year, the Partnership publishes its prior year technical accomplishment highlights in an annual report. This year’s report highlights 40 accomplishments from among hundreds. The full report may be viewed on the USCAR website below.
Access a release from the NRC (click here). Access links to the complete report and a 29-page summary (click here). Access the statement from DOE (click here). Access DOE's FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership website for complete information on the program (click here). Access the USCAR release (click here). Access the 2007 technical accomplishment report (click here). [*Energy]
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
In his speech to the conference, Johnson said, "we are delivering impressive results with a number of our key chemical-related stewardship programs. They include the High Production Volume Challenge program, the PFOA Stewardship program, Design for the Environment, Green Chemistry, and the Green Suppliers Network. . ." On the subject of nanotechnology, Johnson said, "it is an area that demands all of us -- EPA, and our federal and industry partners -- to take the necessary steps to assure nanotechnology is developed and used in responsible ways. The public expects our oversight of nanoscale materials be based on a firm scientific foundation, protective of their health and the environment. . . While the potential benefits of nanotechnology are limitless, we need to better understand the potential risks, and so I encourage the early and active industry participation in the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program [See WIMS 1/28/08] to strengthen our scientific understanding in this exciting new arena."
Johnson spent a significant amount of time discussing the European REACH program and related U.S. and North American counterparts -- the SPP, ChAMP, TSCA and TRI. Johnson said, "the most telling effort highlighting the international nature of the chemical industry was the passage of REACH by the European Union [Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH), See WIMS 12/13/06, See EcoBizPort REACH]. As you know, REACH -- which came into effect last June -- calls for the registration of all chemicals manufactured and imported into the European Union market at one ton or more per year. Registration will take place over a period of 11 years and will involve an estimated 30,000 existing chemical substances.
"While EPA supports the health and environmental protection goals of REACH, we believe that effective protection can be obtained through a more targeted and strategic approach to chemical assessment and management. In that vein, this past August, the countries of North America came together to announce a strategic approach under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP. At the SPP Leaders' Summit in Quebec, President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon committed our three countries to work together to accelerate and strengthen the management of chemicals in North America. I believe this approach can provide a more focused, productive and workable scheme than the REACH framework. . .
"I will say that for its part, the United States has made a commitment to complete initial assessments and take needed actions on the thousands of chemicals produced above 25,000 pounds-per-year in the U.S. by 2012. This commitment, which is now known as the Chemical Assessment and Management Program, or ChAMP, includes both high-production and moderate volume chemicals. ChAMP also builds on the U.S. HPV Challenge program and Canada’s work on chemical categorization … and our two countries have agreed to share scientific information, technical understanding, research strategies and best practices, and to collaborate when possible on risk management efforts.
"I believe this agreement to share information on thousands of high and moderate production volume chemicals will enable us to act more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively on a greater number of chemicals. Therefore, our efforts under ChAMP will result in greater public health and environmental protection in the U.S. It will also help ensure a more consistent and better integrated approach to chemicals assessment and management throughout North America.
"In order to meet our SPP and ChAMP commitments, EPA is developing risk-based prioritizations for HPV chemicals, based on hazard, exposure and risk screening characterizations, and considering other relevant information such as biomonitoring. We have posted hazard characterizations on 200 chemicals and have just posted an initial set of the risk-based prioritizations. We look forward to your comments on this first set of risk-based prioritizations as we work to refine our approach over the course of the year.
"EPA’s collaborative efforts don’t end with our North American partners. We have already begun to engage with other countries on the SPP commitments. For instance, along with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts, we have initiated consultations with European Commission officials dealing with REACH, and with OECD countries, including France, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Korea. . ."
Johnson also discussed what he called an effort to "reset" the TSCA Inventory. He said, "the TSCA Inventory now lists more than 83,000 chemicals -- a significant number of which are likely no longer being produced or imported. Therefore, I believe it is time to consider options for making the Inventory a more meaningful resource. By resetting the Inventory, we can more effectively manage those chemicals actually in use, and thereby avoid debate focused on chemicals that are only theoretically in commerce." He said he hoped the Agency could begin implementing approaches for the TSCA Inventory reset by the end of the summer.
Access Johnson's speech (click here). Access complete information on the SPP (click here). Access complete information on ChAMP (click here). Access more information on GlobalChem (click here). [*Toxics]
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Together they say solving climate change is an opportunity to jumpstart the U.S. economy, and that America can own the energy technologies that will power the 21st Century if Congress acts quickly. Amid a heated national debate over job losses, the business leaders point to the job-creating power of a national cap on global warming pollution.
Sandy Cutler, chairman and chief executive officer of Eaton, a Cleveland, Ohio-based diversified industrial manufacturer with 70,000 employees worldwide said, "We joined this effort because green is not only good for the environment, it's also good business. This ad tells the real story about climate change: American companies can lead the way and win the race for new technologies and the jobs that come with them if Congress acts now."
Frank Knapp Jr., of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce said, "Small business entrepreneurs are ready to be turned loose on developing new energy technologies and conservation efforts. We're just waiting for the federal government to open the gate. It's not just about creating a new industry and jobs, it's also about protecting our existing businesses and employees from the negative impact of global warming."
The ad campaign launches as Congress approaches a critical juncture in the climate change debate: the Senate is expected to vote on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191), which would substantially reduce U.S. emissions through an emissions cap and trade system. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee favorably reported the bill on December 5, 2007 [See WIMS 12/6/08]. On March 14, 2008, U.S. EPA released a preliminary analysis of the Climate Security Act which Senator Lieberman said, ". . . indicates that the U.S. can curb global warming without sacrificing economic prosperity." The House is expected to begin debating a similar plan next month, increasing the odds that Congress will enact a cap this year [See WIMS 2/26/08].
David Yarnold, president of Environmental Defense Action Fund said, “When corporate leaders openly ask Congress to pass a major environmental law, you know it’s critical to our economic future. These companies want Congress to act now for the economy’s sake. The environmental imperative is clear, and the CEOs in this ad know the economic reality better than anyone. Congress has a common-sense plan that works for both, and an opportunity to get it done in 2008. There is no time for delay.” The ad begins running today in dozens of key congressional districts across the country and in Washington, DC.
Access a release from EDF (click here). Access the ad spot online (click here). [*Climate]
Monday, March 17, 2008
The ADAGE (Applied Dynamic Analysis of the Global Economy) computer model used by EPA projects the economic impacts of government policies that are designed to speed advanced energy technologies to market. The Climate Security Act is such a policy. ADAGE contains detailed treatment of new technology deployment in the power sector and explicitly models the global economy. Senators Lieberman notes that EPA has not yet updated the ADAGE model to reflect the provisions of the energy bill enacted last year [See WIMS 12/14/08]. In order to approximate the underlying impact of those provisions, however, EPA selected a "high technology reference scenario" when running the Climate Security Act through the ADAGE model. EPA said it plans an updated analysis of S. 2191, but it will not be available until May or June 2008.
According to a summary from Senator Lieberman the preliminary modeling run found:
- The Climate Security Act's cut in cumulative US greenhouse-gas emissions is deeper than one found earlier by EPA to be consistent with keeping global CO2 concentrations below 500 parts per million in 2100. The finding assumes that other developed countries reduce their emissions by less than the US, and that the developing countries do not start making similar reductions until 2025. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, keeping the global concentration below 500 ppm greatly decreases the risk of severe global warming impacts in the US and elsewhere.
- Under the conservative assumptions described above concerning action by other nations, the Climate Security Act does not shift US greenhouse-gas emissions abroad. In EPA's words, "no international emissions leakage occurs."
-Under the same conservative assumptions, the Climate Security Act causes US exports of energy-intensive products (e.g., steel, cement) to developing nations to increase and causes US imports of energy-intensive products from developing nations to decrease.
- Under the Climate Security Act, US gross domestic product grows by 80% from 2010 to 2030. That is just one percentage point less than the growth in the absence of the bill.
- Under the Climate Security Act, average annual per-household consumption in the US grows by 81% from 2010 to 2030. That is just two percentage points less than the growth in the absence of the bill.
- EPA notes, "The economic benefits of reducing emissions were not determined for this analysis," and "While the models do not represent benefits, it can be said that as the abatement of GHG emissions increases over time, so do the benefits of the abatement."
-The Climate Security Act's allowance price and financial support for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) make that technology a commercial reality in the US by 2015 -- several years earlier than in the absence of the bill.
-One of the effects of the accelerated CCS deployment is to drive natural gas out of the electricity sector, to the benefit of manufacturers who use natural gas.
- Under the Climate Security Act, the price of an emission allowance is $22 in 2015 and $46 in 2030. This is significantly lower than allowance price predictions made by models which ignore the recent Energy Independence and Security Act, artificially limit technology deployment, and ignore technology incentives and cost-saving provisions of the bill.
-Under the Climate Security Act, increases in average US electricity prices materialize slowly and gradually. Even forty years after enactment, those prices reach a level only 18% higher than the 2005 level. Over that period, the bill directs more than $1 trillion to lowering and offsetting US consumers' actual energy costs. According to the release, the analysis also includes, at the request of critics of climate legislation, other modeled scenarios that make highly pessimistic assumptions about constraints on technology deployment, the formation of natural gas cartels, and the like. In responding to the same request last October, the Energy Information Administration concluded that an analysis would be realistic without these pessimistic assumptions.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said: "When you look at the all the scenarios the EPA analyzed, the one that most closely reflects the Lieberman Warner bill's technology driving policies shows that this bill is a winner for the environment, a winner for our economy, and a winner for the planet. Coming on the heels of White House interference in setting the ozone pollution standard, the Bush Administration appears to be continuing to pull strings to try to block global warming legislation. Despite that, even they could not stop the truth from coming out about the benefits of action."
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, issued a statement saying, "The EPA economic analysis released today is consistent with multiple studies that expose that the Lieberman-Warner for what it is: a job killer. If Democrats have their way, Americans will pay significantly more at the pump, in their homes, and in many cases, with their jobs. No matter how anyone attempts to spin the economic impacts, this bill is wrong for America. Even using optimistic assumptions of increased nuclear plant generation and deployment of carbon capture and storage, Lieberman-Warner would still cost up to $983 billion in 2030 with a 44% increase in electricity prices. Further, Democrats made clear this week their refusal to do anything to help alleviate the economic pain of this bill. With liberal special interest groups at her side, Senator Boxer announced that Democrats would not allow any amendments during the bill's floor debate to lessen the devastating economic impacts. As a result, this bill now appears to be headed for a cameo appearance on the Senate floor before being tabled for a future Congress."
Jeremy Symons, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF's) global warming campaign issued a release saying, "The Bush administration quietly released today's economic analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, but the results speak loudly that we can grow America's economy and tackle global warming. EPA analyzed the bipartisan global warming bill that is headed for a Senate debate in the coming months and is opposed by the White House. According to EPA's analysis, the U.S. economy would grow by 80 percent through the year 2030 after enactment of the Climate Security Act. That is less than one-half of one percent difference from projected growth without a bill.
"It's not surprising that the Bush administration took steps to disguise the fundamental conclusion that the Lieberman-Warner climate plan is doable and protects our economy. It's important to note that even these modest results don't tell the whole story. The analysis fails to measure the important economic boom expected from the bill's aggressive investment in clean energy jobs. In 2006, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries generated 8 million jobs in America and nearly one trillion dollars in revenue. That's a good start, but it is time for America to unleash the full economic power of a clean energy future."
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying the EPA analysis "hides the key conclusions of its own experts." Dan Lashof, PhD, the science director of NRDC's Climate Center said, "The only case EPA analyzed that makes reasonable assumptions reflecting current economic conditions and technological realities shows that achieving the goals of the Climate Security Act is readily achievable and affordable, but this conclusion is buried beneath multiple other cases in the report. Once again, political forces in the Bush administration are distorting the work of EPA's own economic and scientific staff."
Nathaniel Keohane, PhD, director of economic policy and analysis at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "EPA's results for the scenario that most resembles the bill confirm what we have seen in every reputable analysis. We can grow our economy and tackle global warming at the same time. The up-front costs EPA identifies are a sound investment for a strong economy down the road. For clean air, less imported oil, and avoiding the damage of climate change, they are a bargain." EDF says according to EPA's analysis, economic modeling with confident high-technology assumptions shows the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growing 81 percent between 2010 and 2030 without a national emissions cap -- and virtually the same amount, 80 percent, with the bill's limit on greenhouse gases. Keohane said, "The high technology scenario is a map to the pot of gold, and frankly the most realistic path, but the Bush Administration and Senator Inhofe have forced EPA to run other scenarios that are extremely unlikely -- just to frighten the public about doing what's necessary."
Access the release from Senators Lieberman and Warner (click here). Access a release from Senator Boxer (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). Access links to EPA's complete 189-page analysis, a 4-page summary letter to Senators Lieberman and Warner and related information (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). [*Climate]
Friday, March 14, 2008
In the hearing, Johnson did not claim executive privilege, but instead relied on what Representative Markey said is "an inapplicable argument that only applies to outside parties seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act. Congress has a right to documents without any FOIA request, and has a right to these documents." Markey said, "Administrator Johnson specifically did not claim executive privilege as a basis for refusing to turn over the documents, because he knows that it doesn't apply. Consequently, his stonewalling this committee cannot be accepted."
Markey continued, “The EPA is interfering with the work of my committee to understand why this administration is refusing to decide whether the planet is endangered. If the EPA does not make the documents available by the time the House returns, then this committee will use the full extent of its authority to make sure the public understands who in the Bush administration is blocking the professional scientists from concluding what the world already knows: that the planet is in danger because of global warming.”
On April 2, 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic case about global warming (Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 05-1120), and ruled that EPA has existing authority under the Federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles [See WIMS 4/2/07]. The Supreme Court decision directed EPA to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
If EPA makes this so-called “endangerment finding,” the Supreme Court said, then it must regulate these emissions from motor vehicles. In its response to the Supreme Court decision, EPA spent about six months conducting intensive analysis and, according to EPA staff disclosures to Congress, Johnson signed off on the Agency’s positive endangerment finding. The endangerment finding, as well as a completed proposal to regulate emissions from motor vehicles (to levels that correspond to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2018), were forwarded to other White House and federal agencies for review in December.
According to numerous statements made by Johnson and other Bush administration officials, the proposals were to be released publicly by the end of 2007 and finalized by the end of 2008. That has not occurred. Instead, reports have indicated that EPA has ceased all work in this area and, at the hearing, Johnson would not even commit to a firm date on which these documents would be released.
Markey said, “The Bush administration’s approach to global warming policy has been to deny the science, delay the regulation, and dismiss its critics, and Administrator Johnson’s refusal to move forward with this critical first step to limit greenhouse gas emissions is right out of that playbook. This EPA may be the last environmental ministry in the developed world to concede what the world’s scientists and governments already know: global warming emissions are dangerous, and must be controlled."
Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Administrator Johnson; the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; a Kansas House Member; Lisa Heinzerling, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club; and Peter Glaser, Partner with Troutman Sanders.
Access a release from Representative Markey (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and an audio file of the hearing (click here). [*Climate]
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The new primary 8-hour standard is 0.075 parts per million (ppm) and the new secondary standard is set at a form and level identical to the primary standard. The previous primary and secondary standards were identical 8-hour standards, set at 0.08 ppm. Because ozone is measured out to three decimal places, the standard effectively became 0.084 ppm: areas with ozone levels as high as 0.084 ppm were considered as meeting the 0.08 ppm standard, because of rounding.
Earthjustice, on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and other conservation groups filed suit against the EPA in 2003 for the Agency's failure to set smog standards as required by law. The new standard announced is in response to the court-ordered deadline in that lawsuit.
Johnson also used the opportunity to announce that he will be sending Congress "four principles" to guide legislative changes to the Clean Air Act. He said, "The Clean Air Act is not a relic to be displayed in the Smithsonian, but a living document that must be modernized to continue realizing results. So while the standards I signed today may be strict, we have a responsibility to overhaul and enhance the Clean Air Act to ensure it translates from paper promises into cleaner air."
The four principles outlined by the Administrator recommend that the Clean Air Act and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS): (1) must protect the public health and improve the overall well-being of our citizens; (2) should allow decision-makers to consider benefits, costs, risk tradeoffs, and feasibility in making decisions about how to clean the air; (3) should provide greater accountability and effective enforcement to ensure not only paper requirements but also air quality requirements are met, especially in areas with the furthest to go in meeting our standards; (4) should allow the schedule for addressing NAAQS standards to be driven by the available science and the prioritization of health and environmental concerns, taking into account the multi-pollutant nature of air pollution.
EPA estimates that the final standards will yield health benefits valued between $2 billion and $19 billion. Those benefits include preventing cases of bronchitis, aggravated asthma, hospital and emergency room visits, nonfatal heart attacks and premature death, among others. EPA's Regulatory Impact analysis shows that benefits are likely greater than the cost of implementing the standards. Cost estimates range from $7.6 billion to $8.5 billion. As part of today's action, EPA also has updated the Air Quality Index (AQI) for ozone to reflect the change in the health standard. The AQI is EPA's color-coded tool for communicating daily air quality to the public.
EPA said it selected the levels for the final standards after reviewing more than 1,700 peer-reviewed scientific studies about the effects of ozone on public health and welfare, and after considering advice from the agency's external scientific advisors and staff, along with public comment. EPA held five public hearings and received nearly 90,000 written comments.
On June 21, 2007, U.S. EPA announced its proposal to strengthen the nation's air quality standards for ground-level ozone, revising the standards for the first time since 1997 [See WIMS 6/21/07]. The proposal recommends an ozone standard within a range of 0.070 to 0.075 parts per million (ppm). EPA also is taking comments on alternative standards within a range from 0.060 ppm up to the level of the current 8-hour ozone standard, which is 0.08 ppm.
On October 25, 2006, U.S. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Panel issued new recommendations for limiting ozone. The 23-member scientific advisory panel unanimously presented their view that there was no scientific justification for retention of the current 8-hour ozone standard of 0.08 parts per million (ppm) [i.e. 0.084]; and recommended instead that a substantially stronger standard in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm be adopted [See WIMS 10/25/08]. The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, Chaired by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), held a major hearing on EPA’s Proposed Revision to the Ozone NAAQS on July 11, 2007 [See WIMS 7/12/08].
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) it supports a NAAQS for ozone that is protective of public health and based on sound scientific information. ACC said it believes the existing 1997 ozone standard meets that test even as the level of ozone and other criteria pollutant emissions continue to drop. They said the available science is largely unchanged since the 1997 standard was issued and demonstrates that there is no clear and substantial basis for making the standard stricter at this time. ACC said EPA's decision, "unnecessarily will impose significant new burdens on states and others even as they continue to try and comply with the 1997 standard."
The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), a private sector research organization promoting private alternatives to government regulation and control said EPA rule, "sets an unreasonable standard for ozone air pollution and is unnecessary." They said the standard "will put most regions of the country in violation. Cities and counties could well bankrupt themselves trying to meet it with little or no improvement in human health. . . Under the current standard, levels of ozone and pollutants thatcombine to form ozone are already so low as to have no effect on human health." NCPA said "EPA estimates that attempts to meet the lower standard will cost $10 billion to $22 billion per year, making it among the most expensive federal regulations ever."
The American Public Health Association (APHA) said the new standards were "a much needed improvement and a step in the right direction," but, "the allowed levels of ozone pollution still fall far short of the requirements of the Clean Air Act. . . by failing to lower the standard to the levels recommended unanimously by the EPA’s own expert scientific advisors, the EPA ignored an opportunity to set a truly protective standard that would better safeguard the public from respiratory illness and increased symptoms from allergies, asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases."
The American Lung Association (ALA) said, "Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that the smog standard must be much stronger to protect public health from serious harm." ALA urged EPA to adopt an ozone standard of 0.060 parts per million (60 parts per billion).
The national organization, Environmental Defense said, "The White House today took the unprecedented step of overruling the chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in determining the nation’s ambient air quality standard for ground-level ozone . . . The design of control strategies can and must take economics into account, but standards must be science-based. Any doubt on this issue was ended by a unanimous 2001 decision by Justice Antonin Scalia, in which the Supreme Court held that national air quality standards are to be based on science alone, consistent with 30 years of successful implementation of the Clean Air Act. Today, this time-tested framework for protecting health and the environment from air pollution were cast aside." Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund and a former attorney for the EPA General Counsel’s office said, “For generations, a time-tested commitment to science and law has protected America’s health and environment. The White House today cast aside science and law to impose its will upon EPA, leaving America’s health and environment behind.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “It is cynical and deeply irresponsible for the EPA administrator to suggest that defining air that is safe to breathe should be poisoned by economics and cost considerations. The American people have a right to healthy air being defined truthfully based on science and medicine -- not presented dishonestly based on economics and what big polluters are willing to pay. . . The administrator’s call to weaken the law to avoid health-protective standards – coupled with his adoption of unprotective standards today – also raises the very disturbing question whether EPA has short-circuited the law and acted based on unspoken, illegal cost considerations. Science cannot explain or justify the Administrator’s decision, so the public deserves to know whether the Administrator’s fervor for a weaker law in the future drove him to break the law today.”
Earthjustice said, "The science is clear: we need much stronger protection from smog than EPA gave us today. EPA's refusal to follow the recommendations of its science advisors and the uniform recommendations of the medical and public health community means that polluted areas like Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley will not see the aggressive action from air pollution agencies that is necessary to address the ongoing public health crises in these areas."
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty said, "I am disappointed the EPA administrator ignored the advice of his own scientific advisory committee in setting the new ozone level that is intended to protect people's health. Sound science must be used in setting public policy, and that has not happened in this case. Unfortunately, this action is in keeping with the EPA's track record of ignoring science and making decisions based on politics."
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) issued a statement saying, "Once again the EPA has rejected the recommendations of its scientific advisors and failed to protect our communities from dangerous air pollution. Smog kills, and scientific studies say that thousands of lives could have been saved if the standard had been set in the more protective range, between 60 and 70 parts per billion unanimously recommended by EPA's scientific experts. Today, EPA missed the mark, establishing a standard at 75 parts per billion. I support the standard of 60 parts per billion, the level endorsed by public health advocates like the American Lung Association."
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) issued a statement saying, "Today’s announcement by EPA will have a severe economic impact on Oklahoma and the nation for too little environmental gain. Despite the fact that air pollution levels across the United States are at an all time low and our nation’s air quality continues to improve, EPA decided to further tighten the standard. The consequence of the Rule means that hundreds of counties across the country – which have worked long and hard to come into compliance with the current standard – will once again face potential stiff federal penalties, lose highway dollars, and become unattractive places to locate new businesses.
The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) which represents the state and local air quality agencies in 53 states and territories and over 165 metropolitan areas across the country commented that it "had supported CASAC’s recommendation that the standard be set in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 [ppm], and had also advocated a distinct, cumulative seasonal secondary standard." The said, Administrator Johnson's announced intent to "overhaul" the Act by allowing costs to be considered in the standard-setting process, "sharply depart[ed] from the statutory mandate of the current Clean Air Act. NACAA said, "In the context of the current ozone NAAQS revisions, and in the 2006 PM NAAQS revisions, NACAA has consistently opposed mixing implementation issues, such as costs, into rules setting the health-based standard."
Access an EPA release (click here). Access links to the 312-page prepublication copy of the final rule, fact sheets, technical documents and extensive background information (click here). Access EPA's AQI (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). Access a release from NCPA (click here). Access a release from APHA (click here). Access a release from ALA (click here); and (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access a release from PA DEP (click here). Access a release from Senator Boxer (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access the comments from NACAA (click here). [*Air]
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Amory Lovins, Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute; Sharon Squassoni, Senior Associate in the Nonproliferation Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists; and Adam Flint, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Nuclear Energy Institute.
Lovins titled his presentation, "Why expanding nuclear power would reduce and retard climate protection and energy security… but can’t survive free-market capitalism." He said, "I’ll summarize why nuclear power isn’t needed for any civilian purpose; how and why it’s being dramatically outcompeted in the global marketplace by no- and low-carbon electrical resources that deliver far more climate solution per dollar, far faster; and why nuclear expansion would inhibit climate protection, energy security, and reliably powering prosperity. Even if nuclear power could attract private risk capital, it could not in principle deliver its claimed climate and security benefits. But because it’s uneconomic and unnecessary, we needn’t inquire into its other attributes. Far from undergoing a renaissance, nuclear power is conspicuously failing in the marketplace, for the same forgotten reason it failed previously: it costs too much and it bears too much financial risk to attract private risk capital, despite federal subsidies now approaching or exceeding its total cost. . ." He concluded saying, "The capital markets are now injecting a welcome realism long absent from Federal policy. The straightest path to American energy security and to a richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is to let all ways to save or produce energy compete fairly, at honest prices, regardless of their type, technology, size, location, and ownership. That’s pretty much the opposite of the Federal energy policy we have."
Sharon Squassoni, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace testified that the recent increase in Administration support for nuclear power (i.e. subsidies, presidential and official statements, the 2005 Energy Policy Act, etc.) have created "a confused debate that paints nuclear energy 'clean and green,' advocates nuclear energy for all, even though some states with nuclear reactors could pose significant safety and proliferation concerns, and suggests that nuclear energy is a path to energy security, while insisting that some states rely on market mechanisms for fuel supplies instead of developing their own indigenous resources and capabilities. Yet, this approach obscures important policy considerations as the United States and other countries consider nuclear investments on the order of several hundred billion dollars. A first order question is the extent to which nuclear energy can really make a difference in terms of global climate change."
Her analysis, based on a 2004 “wedge analysis” indicates that, "For nuclear energy to “solve” just one-seventh of the problem – lowering emissions by 1 billion tons per year – an additional 700 GWe of capacity would have to be built, assuming the reactors replaced 700 GWe of modern coal-electric plants.4 Because virtually all operating reactors will have to be retired in that time, this means building approximately 1070 reactors in 42 years [i.e. by 2050], or about 25 reactors per year. Current global reactor capacity is 373 GWe or 439 reactors worldwide. In short, one “nuclear wedge” would require almost tripling current capacity."
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) testified that it recently re-examined nuclear power’s role in combating global warming. He said, "We concluded that an expansion of nuclear power could help curb global warming because nuclear power plants do not emit global warming gases during operation and the emissions during the nuclear fuel cycle and plant construction are relatively modest. Unfortunately, history has repeatedly shown that the safety and security risks of this nuclear curb are both significant and sustained. . ." UCS concludes, "If the NRC is not reformed, even existing reactors may not operate long into the future and new reactors are unlikely to make a meaningful contribution to global warming. Thus, if the NRC is not reformed, UCS believes that nuclear power will be more of an illusion than a solution." UCS testimony includes an attachment of the Executive summary from UCS’s December 2007 report Nuclear Power in a Warming World [See WIMS 12/12/07]. The complete report is available from the link below.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) indicated that it is responsible for developing policy for the U.S. nuclear industry on generic technical, regulatory, business and other matters of industry-wide importance. More than 300 corporate and other members of NEI represent a broad spectrum of interests, including every U.S. electric utility that operates a nuclear power plant. NEI said that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts global electricity demand to nearly double between 2004 and 2030 from 16.4 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2004 to 30.4 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2030.
NEI said, "It is extraordinarily challenging to imagine credible scenarios by which electricity production can double in the coming decades while reducing significantly the emission of greenhouse gases from electricity generation. To do so will take the successful implementation of a wide range of solutions, as Princeton Professors Stephen Pacala and David Socolow made clear in their wedge analysis. A credible program will require a portfolio of technologies and approaches, including the widespread use of nuclear energy, renewables, conservation, efficiency, and carbon sequestration from the use of fossil fuels. The magnitude of this challenge should not be underestimated.
"That conclusion is shared by leaders and governments around the world including Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who, in July 2007 said he had never seen a credible scenario for reducing emissions that did not include nuclear energy. Similar conclusions have been reached by the G-8 in its declaration on “Growth and Responsibility in the World Economy” issued after the June 2007 G-8 summit. . .
"There are 34 nuclear units under construction worldwide including seven in Russian, six in India, and five in China. In the United States, we have one, the 5-year, $2.5 billion completion of TVA’s Watts Bar 2 underway. In the United States, 17 companies or groups of companies are preparing license applications for as many as 31 new reactors. . .
"In closing, nuclear energy is the single largest source of non-carbon emitting generation. It is a mature technology, operated at high standards by an experienced industry that is committed to safety. It is the only energy option available today that can provide large-scale electricity 24/7 at a competitive cost without emitting greenhouse gases."
Access the hearing website for links to all testimony (click here). Access an overview and link to the complete 74-page UCS report (click here). [*Energy/Nuclear, *Haz/Nuclear]
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The U.S. transportation system was designed and built for local weather and climate conditions, predicated on historical temperature and precipitation data. The report finds that climate predictions used by transportation planners and engineers may no longer be reliable, however, in the face of new weather and climate extremes. Infrastructure pushed beyond the range for which it was designed can become stressed and fail, as seen with loss of the U.S. 90 Bridge in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Henry Schwartz Jr., past president and chairman of Sverdrup/Jacobs Civil Inc., and chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change, and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems. It is now possible to project climate changes for large subcontinental regions, such as the Eastern United States, a scale better suited for considering regional and local transportation infrastructure."
The committee identified five climate changes of particular importance to U.S. transportation; 1) increases in very hot days and heat waves; 2) increases in Arctic temperatures; 3) rising sea levels; 4) increases in intense precipitation events; and 5) increases in hurricane intensity. In addition to climate changes, there are a number of contributing factors that will likely lead to vulnerabilities in coastal-area transportation systems. Population is projected to grow in coastal areas, which will boost demand for transportation infrastructure and increase the number of people and businesses potentially in harm's way; erosion and loss of wetlands have removed crucial buffer zones that once protected infrastructure; and an estimated 60,000 miles of coastal highways are already exposed to periodic storm flooding.
Schwartz said, "Rising temperatures may trigger weather extremes and surprises, such as more rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice than projected. The highways that currently serve as evacuation routes and endure periodic flooding could be compromised with strong hurricanes and more intense precipitation, making some of these routes impassable." Transportation providers will need to focus on evacuation planning and work more closely with weather forecasters and emergency planners.
Infrastructure vulnerabilities will extend beyond coastal areas as the climate continues to change. In the Midwest, for instance, increased intense precipitation could augment the severity of flooding, as occurred in 1993 when farmland, towns, and transportation routes were severely damaged from flooding along 500 miles of the Mississippi and Missouri river systems. On the other hand, drier conditions are likely to prevail in the watersheds supplying the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes as well as the Upper Midwest river system. Lower water levels would reduce vessel shipping capacity, seriously impairing freight movements in the region, such as occurred during the drought of 1988, which stranded barge traffic on the Mississippi River. And in California, heat waves may increase wildfires that can destroy transportation infrastructure.
Not all climate changes will be negative, however. Marine transportation could benefit from more open seas in the Arctic, creating new and shorter shipping routes and reducing transport time and costs. In cold regions, rising temperatures could reduce the costs of snow and ice control and would make travel conditions safer for passenger vehicles and freight.
Preparing for projected climate changes will be costly. Transportation decision makers continually make short- and long-term investment decisions that affect how the infrastructure will respond to climate change. Response measures range from rehabilitating and retrofitting infrastructure to making major additions to constructing entirely new infrastructure. The committee noted the need for "a more strategic, risk-based approach to investment decisions that trades off the costs of making the infrastructure more robust against the economic costs of failure." In the future, climate changes in some areas may necessitate permanent alterations. For example, roads, rail lines, and airport runways in low-lying coastal areas may become casualties of sea-level rise, requiring relocations or expensive protective measures, such as sea walls and levees.
The report calls for the federal government to have a strong role in implementing many of its recommendations that require broad-based action or regulation, such as the creation of a clearinghouse for information on transportation and climate change; the establishment of a research program to re-evaluate existing design standards and develop new standards for addressing climate change; creation of an interagency working group on adaptation; changes in federal regulations regarding long-range planning guidelines and infrastructure rehabilitation requirements; and re-evaluation of the National Flood Insurance Program and updating flood insurance rate maps with climate change in mind.
The NRC report follows another major report on transportation issues -- the recent Transportation for Tomorrow report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission released on January 15, 2008. That 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]. GAO testified at a hearing on the report saying 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 [See WIMS 2/6/08].
The NRC report was a collaborative effort between the Transportation Research Board and the Division on Earth and Life Studies of NRC. The sponsors of the report are the Transportation Research Board, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, U.S. Department of Transportation, Transit Cooperative Research Program, U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Access a release (click here). Access a report summary (click here). Access the complete 234-page report (click here). Access various Commissioned Papers for the NRC report (click here). [*Transport, *Climate]