Friday, October 31, 2008

DOE Awards $2.5 Billion For Yucca Mountain Project M&O

Oct 30: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $2.5 billion management and operating (M&O) contract to USA Repository Services (USA-RS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the URS Corporation. USA-RS will be supported by principal subcontractors: Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc., and AREVA Federal Services, Inc. USA-RS will provide mission support to the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) for the Yucca Mountain Project. As awarded, the contract has a five-year period of performance with a potential five-year option period. If fully exercised, this contract will continue through March 31, 2019.

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said, “If we are to meet growing energy demand and slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power must be a larger part of our energy mix; it is a mature technology with significant potential to supply large amounts of safe, reliable, emissions-free base load power. In order to ensure that such an expansion can occur, the United States must have a permanent repository for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. This contract will enable our national repository program to move forward by securing the necessary management and operations expertise needed as we begin the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceedings.”

The subject of Yucca Mountain is one where the presidential candidates have distinct differences. John McCain has supported the administration's plan of licensing and developing the Yucca Mountain repository. McCain says he wants to construct 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 [
See WIMS 10/20/08]. He indicates that, "Nuclear power is a proven, zero-emission source of energy, and it is time we recommit to advancing our use of nuclear power." However, at a speech in May of this year he said, "I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada."

Barack Obama says, "It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation. . . " He said he will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti-terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, [Obama & Biden] do not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. They said they will "lead Federal efforts to look for safe, long-term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, they will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry-cask storage technology available." [See WIMS 10/21/08].

Access a release from DOE (
click here). Access additional information from the DOE OCRWM (click here). Access the McCain May speech on nuclear security (click here). [*Haz/Nuclear]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

House Republican Report On Energy & Climate Change

Oct 28: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Tom Davis (R-VA) and Domestic Policy Subcommittee Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) released a report -- Energy: A Matter of National, Economic, and Environmental Security -- examining challenges and opportunities for the United States amidst changing realities in the global energy economy and debate over climate change. The report affirms that any effective energy solution must take an “all-of-the-above” approach to different methods of achieving energy independence and also warns that energy security and global environmental challenges cannot be effectively addressed separately.

According to an announcement, viewing the energy debate as a choice “between promoting increased domestic oil production vs. encouraging conversation and increasing renewable and alternative fuels” is “flat out wrong” concludes the report. “An energy policy that does not address all facets of energy production is a failure and threatens our economy, our national security, and the environment."

Representative Davis said, "We no longer can ignore the fact that energy policy is intertwined with security policy. We can’t keep pumping money into the economies of countries dedicated to opposing our interests. For that matter, we can’t keep sending billions of dollars overseas every year when we have the means, the technology and the raw materials to alleviate much of our dependence on foreign energy right here at home.” Representative Issa said, “We cannot address the root of many national security concerns, economic troubles, or environmental threats without an effective energy strategy. These issues have all become deeply intertwined -- an effective energy policy cannot address just the cost of energy today.”

According to some of the facts and findings in the report [verbatim with omissions noted]: (1) Whatever one thinks of the science of climate change, with the adoption of the Bali Roadmap, the reality is that all Americans will be adjusting to a carbon constrained world. Energy policy should acknowledge and plan for this reality. (2) Countries hostile to the United States are increasingly using energy as a strategic tool against U.S. interests. (3) Manufacturing processes in China emit at least 300 percent more CO2 than similar processes in the U.S. . . (4) An energy and environment policy that fails to account for competitiveness concerns will cause the U.S. manufacturing base to shift more American jobs overseas and could actually increase carbon emissions. Any meaningful international agreement to reduce carbon emissions must include the developing world since it is an essential part of the problem and the solution.

(5) Nuclear energy and coal must play a role in meeting our nation's future energy needs. Nuclear energy is an emission-free source of electricity. It also provides a roadmap to the hydrogen economy, which could reduce automobile emissions dramatically, if used to power the transportation network. Clean coal technology is critical for electricity generation and for the production of coal-to-liquid fuel. Coal presently accounts for more than half of electricity generation and cannot be replaced in the short or medium term. (6) Conservation and demand-side management should be included in a sensible energy policy. The development of renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal must be pursued, but the reality is that it may take years before any substantial impact is felt. Biofuels, such as ethanol, hold limited promise and cellulosic ethanol, which is yet to be produced commercially, may have negative environmental consequences.

(7) For private business to invest the massive amounts of money necessary to bring more energy to market, government must foster a predictable and hospitable investment environment. Government can foster investment by sharing some of the risk, constructing a sensible regulatory scheme and minimizing litigation risk. The investment decisions made today will affect both our emissions profile and energy independence in the future. (8) Even as the developing world is increasing energy consumption levels, the United States remains one of the most energy-efficient nations. It consumes 25 percent of the world's energy and produces 32.6 percent of the world's GDP.

The report was distributed to Republican Members. According to a cover letter to Members, "This report shows the current state of world energy consumption patterns, as well as likely future scenarios, to bring into focus the challenges we face as we seek to reduce our carbon footprint and wean our nation off fossil fuels. This report also briefly presents the current state of technology for alternative fuel sources -- including biofuels, coal-to-liquid, wind, solar, and geothermal energy -- in order to assess its present and future ability to displace fossil fuel consumption. While the thrust of this report is on securing adequate sources of energy, there is also a discussion of important policies that should be pursued to decrease our national demand for energy."

Access the report announcement from Representative Davis and Issa (
click here). Access the complete 43-page report (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guidelines For CO2 Carbon, Capture, Transport & Storage

Oct 28: On the heels of a major report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), calling for $20 billion to prove large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology [See WIMS 10/22/08], another major report by World Resources Institute (WRI) says sufficient technical knowledge exists to begin large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstrations in the United States. WRI and a coalition of business, environmental, academic and government groups released their Guidelines for CO2 Carbon, Capture, Transport and Storage, developed by WRI in conjunction with CCS experts from 88 organizations.

The product of more than two years of research is directed at policymakers and players in the emerging U.S. CCS industry. The guidelines are intended to guide full-scale demonstration, and provide recommendations for ensuring that projects are conducted responsibly. Jonathan Pershing, director of WRI’s Climate and Energy Program said, “We have known for a long time that renewable energy and energy efficiency are critical to solving the climate crisis. The question has been what role can CCS play? Today’s report offers Congress and regulators a strong technical roadmap to help answer that question.”

WRI convened expert stakeholders for more than two years to develop the guidelines, soliciting expert input from Federal and state government, business and civil society organizations ranging from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Resources Defense Council and the American Petroleum Institute. Dr. S. Julio Friedmann of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, a contributing author to the guidelines said, “This group is a brain trust of CCS experts from all sectors, and their perspectives helped make the guidelines as comprehensive, detailed, and thorough as any work to date."

According to a release from WRI, "For the budding U.S. CCS industry, the guidelines are a significant development. They can help developers, insurers and financers determine that investments can be made with a much higher level of certainty. For a public with questions about storing carbon underground, they provide a set of rules to ensure that CCS projects are safe and effective. For government policymakers and agencies like the EPA, they confirm that large demonstrations can begin, and that regulatory and investment frameworks can move to facilitate deployment of the technology into the U.S. economy."

The guidelines address concerns about CCS projects like: How to handle the environmental impacts of capturing carbon dioxide from a power plant or industrial facility; How to ensure a carbon dioxide pipeline infrastructure meets operational standards and environmental requirements; How to select a site; conduct a CO2 injection operation; and measure, monitor and verify that the storage of carbon dioxide underground is safe, and that questions about long-term stewardship are addressed. The authors of the guidelines identify areas where additional research should be pursued, but conclude that large-scale demonstrations of CCS, as part of an assessment of moving to commercial operations, should begin as soon as possible.

Access a release from WRI (click here). Access an overview and links to related information (click here). Access the complete 148-page Guidelines document (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FWS Reopens Northern Rocky Gray Wolf Delisting Rule

Oct 28: On February 8, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), published a proposed rule to establish a distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States and to remove the gray wolf in the NRM DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (72 FR 6106). On February 27, 2008, FWS issued a final rule establishing and delisting the NRM gray wolf DPS (73 FR 10514).

Several parties filed a lawsuit challenging the final rule and asking to have it enjoined. On July 18, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana enjoined the FWS from implementing the final delisting rule, after concluding that Plaintiffs were likely to prevail on merits of their claims. In light of the decision, FWS asked the court to vacate the final rule and remand it back to FWS. On October 14, 2008, the court issued an order vacating the February 27, 2008, final rule (73 FR 10514) and remanding it back to the Service for further consideration.

FWS has now issued a new Federal Register notice [73 FR 63926-63932, 10/28/08] indicating that it intends to reconsider the 2007 proposed rule and issue a new listing determination. FWS said it is seeking information, data, and comments from the public regarding the 2007 proposal with an emphasis on new information relevant to this action; the issues raised by the Montana District Court; and the issues raised by the September 29, 2008, ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with respect to the Western Great Lakes gray wolf DPS [See WIMS 9/30/08].

FWS notes that if parties have previously submitted comments, they do not need to resubmit them because they have already incorporated them in the public record and will fully consider them in the final decision. New comments on the proposal must be submitted by the close of business on November 28, 2008. The area affected by includes all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming and the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and parts of north-central Utah.

Louisa Willcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a brief statement saying, "This new proposal does little to address the fundamental problem of removing Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the Northern Rockies -- there simply aren't enough wolves yet. It’s frustrating to be so close to a sustainable population in the region and then to have the Bush Administration push a slipshod proposal undoing this great conservation success story in the 11th hour."

Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, issued a release saying, “It is shocking -- although not entirely surprising -- that the FWS is still trying to push a failed delisting rule out the door before the Bush administration turns out the lights. This hasty action undermines the serious work, consideration and cooperation among all stakeholders that is necessary before proposing any new rule. Rushing to ram this flawed and repackaged rule does not give the Fish and Wildlife Service time to address the flaws underscored by the court when it rebuked the agency earlier this year. . . "

Access the latest FR announcement (
click here). Access a news release from FWS (click here). Access the docket for this rulemaking to review and submit comments and access documents (click here). Access the FWS NRM Gray Wolf website for extensive information (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Defenders (click here). [*Wildlife]

Monday, October 27, 2008

10 Day Comment Period On Controversial ESA EA

Oct 24: The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, Services) previously proposed to amend regulations governing interagency cooperation under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act) (73 FR 47868-47875; August 15, 2008). The Services indicate that it "proposed these regulatory changes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the section 7(a)(2) consultation process.

The Services have now issued a Federal Register notice [73 FR 63667-63668] providing notice of a Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that assesses the potential environmental effects of the proposed regulatory changes currently under consideration. The services are requesting comments be submitted by November 6, 2008.

John Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said of the original August 15th proposal, “I have been working on the Endangered Species Act for 15 years and have never seen such a sneaky attack. To suggest that our nation's most important wildlife law could be gutted after a mere 60 day written comment period is the height of arrogance and disrespect for wildlife science. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, “The proposed regulations are an absolute disaster for the nation’s endangered species." [
See WIMS 8/12/08].

On October 23, in response to reports that the Services were attempting to review 300,000 public comments on the ESA changes in just four days, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, sent a letter to the director of the FWS asking him to stop the “reckless” process. Markey said in a release that, "The proposed rule changes would undermine the Section 7 consultation requirements in the Act and exclude global warming emissions as a consideration for listing animals like polar bears under ESA, even though global warming has been recognized by the Bush administration as a main cause for listing the bear as threatened under ESA earlier this year."

Markey said, "Predictably, the Bush administration is trying to ram through anti-environmental laws in its final days in office, and this is yet another example of their agenda. Attempting to read hundreds of thousands of public comments in a matter of hours is odd given that the Bush administration budget has never contained any money for speed reading classes. After taking years to make a decision on the polar bear and other Endangered Species Act listings, the Bush administration is now taking hours to completely roll back key protections in this cornerstone of our environmental laws.”

Access the latest 10/24/08 Draft EA announcement (
click here). Access the DOI website on this action with links to the Draft EA, two appendices and related information (click here). Access the docket for the rulemaking to review and submit comments and access documents (click here). Access the release and letter to FWS from Representative Markey (click here). [*Wildlife]

Friday, October 24, 2008

EDF Will Sue To Upgrade Landfill Gas Emission Standards

Oct 23: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed a notice of intent to sue U.S. EPA for its failure to update emission standards for hundreds of landfills nationwide. EDF says that landfills are the nation’s second largest source of manmade methane pollution. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and a contributor to the smog air pollution that is associated with respiratory illnesses affecting millions of Americans. EDF cites a September report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program issued declaring measures to reduce methane emissions a “clear win-win” solution. Vickie Patton, EDF Deputy General Counsel said, “Capturing the waste gas leaking from the nation’s landfills and converting it to a local source of energy is a trifecta for the nation’s economy, environment and energy security. Converting methane pollution to a homegrown energy source is a common sense solution to address global warming and protect our kids’ health while boosting our economy.”

EDF said in a release, "EPA has failed to update the emission standards for landfills for a dozen years, violating its duty under the nation’s clean air laws to modernize the emission standards at least every eight years." According to statistics cited by EDF, methane is a potent global warming gas -- about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2). Municipal solid waste landfills are the second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 23 percent (125 Tg CO2 eq.) of emissions in 2006. These emissions are comparable to nearly three times the total carbon dioxide emissions released from all of the nation’s cement manufacturing. And the U.S. is responsible for about 18% of global methane emissions from landfills – equal to the landfill emissions of Canada, Mexico, China and Russia combined.

EDF indicates that a number of landfills around the country are already utilizing this energy from methane. The 16.6 million tons-in-place Lopez Canyon landfill, run by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, produces 7.1 megawatts of energy, enough to power 4,500 homes. And the Coffin Butte Landfill in Oregon produces enough methane to generate 5.66 MW and power 4,000 homes. While many landfills are realizing the economic benefits of capturing and utilizing the energy from methane, there are still hundreds of landfills across the nation missing this critical opportunity.

As WIMS previously reported on October 1, 2008, Waste Management, Inc. announced its plans to use its expertise as the nation's largest developer of landfill gas to energy (LFGTE) projects to partner with private and municipal landfill owners to develop the country's untapped landfill gas resources. The company said it is the first in the waste management industry to launch such a program [See WIMS 10/3/08]. Last year the company set an ambitious goal to develop up to 60 LFGTE projects at its landfills by 2012. To date the company has completed or launched the development of over a dozen projects across North America.

Waste Management reported that there are currently 445 LFGTE sites in operation across the country, but U.S. EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) has identified 535 additional sites (out of 1,700 total operating landfills) as promising candidates for LFGTE facilities. Fully developed, LMOP estimates these additional landfills could produce over 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

In its notice of intent to commence legal action, EDF calls upon U.S. EPA, "to review and revise its New Source Performance Standards [NSPS] and Emissions Guidelines for emissions of air pollution from new and existing solid waste disposal sites, and hereby provides notice pursuant to Section 304 of the Clean Air Act of its intent to sue the agency for failure to satisfy its statutory obligations to review and revise these standards and guidelines in light of current information concerning the environmental harms associated with these emissions." EPA established the current NSPS for new MSW landfills and emission guidelines for existing landfills in 1996. At that time EPA determined that a gas collection and control system which relied on the use of flares constituted BDT [Best Demonstrated Technology] for new and existing sources subject to the standard and guidelines.

EDF indicates in its notice, "Technological developments and changes in energy markets, including the price of natural gas, since 1996 have significantly altered the feasibility and economics of landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) projects. As EPA itself has recognized, LFGTE is demonstrably feasible even for smaller landfills." EDF notes, under the CAA, EPA must consider reductions achieved in practice when revising the NSPS for a particular source category whenever emissions reductions “beyond those required by the standards…are achieved in practice.” 42 U.S.C. § 7411(b)(1)(B). EDF says, ". . .numerous gas capture and reuse technologies are available today that produce significantly greater methane emission reductions than produced by flaring and are economical for a larger number of landfill operators. Accordingly, the NSPS no longer reflects BDT."

Access a release from EDF and link to a FOIA response and the cited CCSP report (
click here). Access the 14-page notice of intent to sue (click here). Access a 10/1/08 release from Waste Management with further details (click here). [*Solid, *Air, *Climate]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Interior Launches Geothermal Energy Initiative With 190 Million Acres

Oct 22: Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced a plan to make more than 190 million acres of Federal land in 12 western states available for development of geothermal energy resources, an initiative that could increase electric generation capacity from geothermal resources ten times over. Kempthorne said, “Geothermal energy will play a key role in powering America’s energy future and 90 percent of our nation’s geothermal resources are found on Federal lands. Facilitating their leasing and development under environmentally sound regulations is crucial to supplying the secure, clean energy American homes and businesses need.”

Under the development scenario outlined in the plan -- known as the Final Geothermal Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) -- the initiative could produce 5,540 megawatts of new electric generation capacity from geothermal resources by 2015. That’s enough to meet the power needs of 5.5 million homes. The plan also estimates an additional 6,600 megawatts by 2025 for a total of 12,100 megawatts -- enough to power more than 12 million homes. When put into action by a Record of Decision (ROD), the plan would identify about 118 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed public lands and 79 million acres of National Forest System lands for future geothermal leasing. It would provide a list of appropriate stipulations to be applied to leases and amend 122 BLM land use plans to allow for geothermal development.

Kempthorne noted the strong interest states, local communities, industry and environmental groups took in the development of this plan. He said, “This process has benefited greatly from the involvement of both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and from the clear direction Congress gave in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. It’s really a model for working together to make decisions about our energy future.” The U.S. is already the world leader in generating electricity using geothermal energy, with about 16,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity generated in 2005. Almost half of this production and 90 percent of U.S. geothermal resources occur on Federal lands.

Geothermal leasing revenues and royalties are shared with the States and counties where the leases are located, with 50 percent going to the State; 25 percent to the county and the remaining 25 percent to the Geothermal Royalty Fund of BLM for investing in further geothermal planning and development. Under Interior’s plan, future geothermal leasing will be subject to all existing laws, regulations and orders, as well as stipulations and terms and conditions. To protect special resource values, the plan identifies a comprehensive list of stipulations, conditions of approval and best management practices required for approval of future leases.

Lands withdrawn from, or administratively closed to geothermal leasing will remain so. For example, lands within a unit of the National Park System, such as Yellowstone National Park, will continue to be unavailable for leasing. The PEIS also excludes wilderness areas and wilderness study areas from analysis. It will allow discretionary closure of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern where the BLM determines that this is appropriate. The BLM may also implement discretionary closures of units of the National Landscape Conservation System.

In addition to laying the foundation for environmental analysis of future geothermal leasing, the plan also provides site-specific environmental analysis of 19 pending geothermal lease applications in seven geographic locations. These leases were filed before Jan. 1, 2005 for specific lands in Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington managed by the Forest Service or BLM. Decisions on the issuance of these 19 leases could proceed as soon as the Record of Decision is signed which is planned for December 2008. BLM and the U.S. Forest Service will publish the final version of a plan in the Federal Register on Friday, October 24, 2008.

The governors of the 12 states in the plan’s project area (AK, NV, UT, AZ, WY, ID, NM, MT, CO, WA, OR, & CA) will each have the opportunity to review the final document to ensure consistency with state plans, programs, and policies. BLM will wait until the end of the Governor’s consistency review period before signing and issuing the Record of Decision approving the land use plan amendments. Any inconsistencies will be resolved before a Record of Decision is issued. A total of 29 geothermal power plants currently operate on BLM lands in California, Nevada and Utah, with a total generating capacity of 1,250 megawatts.

Access a release from DOI (click here). Access the Geothermal PEIS website for complete information and link to the final PEIS (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

IEA Report Calls For $20 Billion To Prove CCS Technology

Oct 20: A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris warns that carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technology is necessary to deal with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emissions; but, many unknowns remain. IEA says CCS is one of the most promising technological solutions to GHG emissions and "to salvage our climate. Still, many questions remain." In the report, Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: A Key Carbon Abatement Option, the IEA points out that to date, only four full-scale CCS projects exist in the world; and none of these projects captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant. Nobuo Tanaka, IEA Executive Director said, "The window of opportunity is closing for the global community to cost-effectively address climate change. CCS technologies must play a key role, but first they must be proven in the next decade.”

The new IEA study demonstrates that CCS can deliver cost-effective emissions reductions, but governments and industry must come forward to finance large-scale CCS demonstrations and to work together more widely. Tanaka said, “The IEA can help with this collaboration. If we do not successfully demonstrate CCS soon, it will raise costs significantly for other climate mitigation options”.

In a release, IEA indicated that "under current energy policies, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to grow rapidly, with a major contribution coming from fossil fuel combustion in power plants and industry. The IEA, in its 2008 Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) study, projects that energy-related CO2 emissions would grow by 130% until 2050 in the absence of new policies. This increase would largely be a result of increased fossil fuel usage. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report indicates that such a rise in emissions could lead to a temperature increase in the range of 4-7oC, with major impacts on the environment and human activity. There is a large consensus that a halving of energy-related CO2 emissions is needed by 2050 to limit the expected temperature increase to less than 3 degrees. Meeting this formidable challenge will take an energy technology revolution. The massive changes will involve enhanced energy efficiency, increased renewable energies and nuclear power, and the decarbonization of power generation from fossil fuels."

The IEA report finds that current CCS spending and activity levels are "nowhere near enough to achieve the G8 goals. CCS technology demonstration has been challenged by a global increase in costs and a lack of suitable financial mechanisms to support it. Foremost, the IEA believes that up to USD 20 billion is needed for near-term demonstrations, in addition to the plants base costs. It is also important to integrate CCS into greenhouse gas (GHG) regulatory and incentive schemes."

IEA notes that, "While progress is underway in some countries, no country has yet developed the comprehensive, detailed legal and regulatory framework that is necessary to govern effectively the use of CCS. Also, CCS is poorly understood by the general public with the result that there is a wide-spread lack of public support for this technology as compared to several other GHG mitigation options." On July 15, U.S. EPA announced its proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) geologic sequestration to prevent industrial emissions the greenhouse gas (GHG) [
See WIMS 7/15/08].

Access a release from IEA (
click here). Access a 5-page executive summary of the report (click here). Access links to various illustrations and information on obtaining the complete report (click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Senator Obama On Energy, Environment & Climate

Oct 21: With the Presidential election just two weeks away, WIMS is focusing on the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates position on energy, environment and climate change. Yesterday, we outlined Senator John McCain's positions [See WIMS 10/20/08]. Today we will outline Senator Barack Obama's plans.

The centerpiece of Senator Obama's energy and environmental proposals is his "New Energy for America Plan." According to his website, "Senator Obama has been a leader in the Senate in pushing for a comprehensive national energy policy and has introduced a number of bills to get us closer to the goal of energy independence. By putting aside partisan battles, he has found common ground on CAFE, renewable fuels, and clean coal." Overall his plan calls for 5 Million "Green Collar Jobs" and "a bold new national goal on energy efficiency and American energy."

Senator Obama says his New Energy for America Plan will: "Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump; Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future; Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined; Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America; Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025; and Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050."

In further detail, to implement the above goals, Senator Obama proposes to (1) Provide Short-term Relief by proposing to: Enact a Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families; Crack Down on Excessive Energy Speculation; and Swap Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Cut Prices. (2) Eliminate Our Current Imports from the Middle East and Venezuela by proposing to: Increase Fuel Economy Standards; Get 1 Million Plug-In Hybrid Cars on the Road by 2015; Create a New $7,000 Tax Credit for Purchasing Advanced Vehicles; Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard; Establish a “Use it or Lose It” Approach to Existing Oil and Gas Leases; and Promote the Responsible Domestic Production of Oil and Natural Gas.

(3) Create Millions of New Green Jobs by proposing to: Ensure 10 percent of Our Electricity Comes from Renewable Sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025; Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source -- Energy Efficiency; Weatherize One Million Homes Annually; Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology; and Prioritize the Construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. (4) Reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions by proposing to: Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050; and Make the U.S. a Leader on Climate Change.

Under eliminating Mideast and Venezuelan imports, the Plan says: "An Obama-Biden administration will establish a process for early identification of any infrastructure obstacles/shortages or possible federal permitting process delays to drilling in the Bakken Shale formation, the Barnett shale formation, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska." In addition to other items, the Plan also says, "Obama and Biden will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per year while providing $4 billion for domestic automakers to retool their manufacturing facilities in America to produce these vehicles."

Under his plan to create millions of new "green jobs", the Plan says, "Obama’s Department of Energy will enter into public private partnerships to develop five “first-of-a-kind” commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology." In addition, Obama says he will work with stakeholders to facilitate construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. He says, "Not only is this pipeline critical to our energy security, it will create thousands of new jobs."

On the climate change issue, the Plan says, "The Obama-Biden cap-and-trade policy will require all pollution credits to be auctioned (generating $15 billion per year), and proceeds will go to investments in a clean energy future, habitat protections, and rebates and other transition relief for families." Also, "Obama and Biden will re-engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem. They will also create a Global Energy Forum of the world’s largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues."

On the subject of nuclear power, the Obama Plan says, "Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our non-carbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation. . . As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti-terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, [Obama & Biden] do not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. They will lead federal efforts to look for safe, long-term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, they will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry-cask storage technology available."

In a separate, but somewhat overlapping "Environmental Plan," Obama promises to: restore the force of the Clean Air Act; listen to his scientific advisers on air quality standards; support full funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund; improve the quality of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and drinking water; strictly monitor and regulate pollution from large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs); develop the best strategies for protecting and expanding wetlands; push for the passage of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act; support federal water conservation policies, particularly for Western states; support brownfield redevelopment, and tools for communities to eat healthy foods and expand livable, walkable neighborhoods.

In addition Obama says he will restore the strength of the Superfund program by requiring polluters to pay for the cleanup of contaminated sites they created; make environmental justice policies a priority within U.S. EPA; expand research on toxins and provide the resources to clean up blighted communities; provide funding and emphasize the protection and restoration of our National Forests; provide increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; increase funding for the Conservation Security Program and the Conservation Reserve Program.

Additional programs and proposals are included in the Environmental Plan. Also, Obama-Biden have a separate plan to crack down on excessive energy speculation; and a Wildfire Prevention Plan.

Access the overview of the New Energy for America Plan (
click here). Access the details of the Obama Energy Plan (click here). Access the details of the Obama Environmental Plan (click here). Access the Energy Speculation plan (click here). Access the Wildfire Prevention Plan (click here).

Monday, October 20, 2008

John McCain On Energy, Environment, & Climate

Oct 20: As the election draws near, WIMS is focusing on the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates position on energy, environment and climate change. Today we outline Senator John McCain's positions. Tomorrow we will outline Senator Obama's plan.

Senator McCain terms his energy plan -- "The Lexington Project; an all of the above energy solution." According to the plan detailed on the McCain website, "John McCain has made the necessary choices - producing more power, pushing technology to help free our transportation sector from its use of foreign oil, cleaning up our air and addressing climate change, and ensuring that Americans have dependable energy sources. John McCain will lead the effort to develop advanced transportation technologies and alternative fuels to promote energy independence and cut off the flow of oil wealth to repressive dictatorships like Iran."

A highlight of the plan is to Expanding Domestic Oil Exploration. McCain says, "There is no easier or more direct way to prove to the world that we will no longer be subject to the whims of others than to expand our production capabilities. We have trillions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. at a time we are exporting hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas to buy energy. . . John McCain proposes to cooperate with the states and the Department of Defense in the decisions to develop these resources."

McCain's plan also focuses on the following: Promoting And Expanding The Use Of Our Domestic Supplies Of Natural Gas; Change How We Power Our Transportation Sector; A $300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology; Supports Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs); Alcohol-Based Fuels Hold Great Promise As Both An Alternative To Gasoline; Eliminate Isolationist Tariffs And Wasteful Special Interest Subsidies; Enforce Existing CAFE Standards; Become A Leader In A New International Green Economy; Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies; Construct 45 New Nuclear Power Plants By 2030; A Permanent Tax Credit Equal To 10 Percent Of Wages Spent On R&D; Encourage The Market For Alternative, Low Carbon Fuels Such As Wind, Hydro And Solar Power; Greening The Federal Government Through Energy Efficiency; Upgrade The Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy; Understand The Role Speculation Is Playing In Our Soaring Energy Prices; and Oppose A Windfall Profits Tax.

In further details, Senator McCain says, "We need to level the playing field and eliminate mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that focus exclusively on corn-based ethanol and prevent the development of market-based solutions which would provide us with better options for our fuel needs." He also says that he has long supported Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards; however he indicates, "Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars." He believes the penalties for not following these standards "must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles."

On the 10% R&D wages tax credit, McCain says, "This reform will simplify the tax code, reward activity in the U.S., and make us more competitive with other countries. A permanent credit will provide an incentive to innovate and remove uncertainty. At a time when our companies need to be more competitive, we need to provide a permanent incentive to innovate, and remove the uncertainty now hanging over businesses as they make R&D investment decisions."

On tax credits for to provide incentives for alternative clean energy development, McCain says, "To develop these and other sources of renewable energy will require that we rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits that provide commercial feasibility. . . an even-handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until the market transforms sufficiently to the point where renewable energy no longer merits the taxpayers' dollars."

On the nuclear power issue, McCain indicates that, "Nuclear power is a proven, zero-emission source of energy, and it is time we recommit to advancing our use of nuclear power. Currently, nuclear power produces 20% of our power, but the U.S. has not started construction on a new nuclear power plant in over 30 years. China, India and Russia have goals of building a combined total of over 100 new plants and we should be able to do the same. It is also critical that the U.S. be able to build the components for these plants and reactors within our country so that we are not dependent on foreign suppliers with long wait times to move forward with our nuclear plans."

Senator McCain generally integrates his environmental and climate change positions into his overall energy strategy. Senator McCain calls for A Cap-And-Trade System That Would Set Limits On Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions While Encouraging The Development Of Low-Cost Compliance Options. His Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets And Timetables are defined as follows: 2012: Return Emissions To 2005 Levels (18 Percent Above 1990 Levels); 2020: Return Emissions To 1990 Levels (15 Percent Below 2005 Levels); 2030: 22 Percent Below 1990 Levels (34 Percent Below 2005 Levels); and 2050: 60 Percent Below 1990 Levels (66 Percent Below 2005 Levels).

Under the McCain plan, the cap-and-trade system would encompass electric power, transportation fuels, commercial business, and industrial business - sectors responsible for just under 90 percent of all emissions. Small businesses would be exempt. Initially, participants would be allowed to either make their own GHG reductions or purchase "offsets." The fraction of GHG emission reductions permitted via offsets would decline over time.

On basic environmental issues Senator McCain indicates, "we face immense environmental challenges that will impact the quality of life we leave our children and future generations. A McCain White House will reflect the guiding principles of Theodore Roosevelt, America's foremost conservation president." He faults Congress for failing "to devote the proper resources towards operations and maintenance has caused many park units to fall into disrepair," He says, "These irreplaceable landscapes deserve our renewed attention." He calls for promoting "collaborative public-private partnership initiatives such as the North America Waterfowl Management Plan" and reversing "the declining access to quality hunting and angling opportunities vital to the sportsmen tradition."

He calls for protecting "delicate wetlands" and "employing long-term science-based strategies that properly manage strained freshwater resources, like the Great Lakes watershed, and promote polices that will preserve sensitive areas like the Everglades and the Louisiana coastal marshes." He calls for , promoting "responsible growth and encourage state and local officials to implement open space initiatives and establish green corridors within our communities." and "strengthening federal tools like Land and Water Conservation Fund."

Access the McCain Energy plan with links to related information (click here). Access further details on the McCain Climate Change plan (click here). Access further details on environmental positions (click here).

Friday, October 17, 2008

EU Chemical Agency Identifies 15 REACH Chemicals

Oct 9: The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has agreed on the first group of 15 "very high concern" chemicals to the chemical regulation -- Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH). At its meeting in Helsinki, Finland on October 7-8, 2008, the ECHA Member State Committee unanimously agreed on the identification of 14 "Substances of Very High Concern" (SVHC) that may become subject to authorization. One additional substance was already identified as SVHC without Member State Committee involvement as no comments were provided during the public consultation.

The 15 substances will be included in the ‘Candidate List’ which will be published on the ECHA website later in October. Executive Director of ECHA Geert Dancet stressed that, “these 15 are only the first substances of very high concern identified through the formal process. The EU Member States and ECHA are preparing new proposals and the Candidate List will thus be updated.”

Proposals for 16 substances to be included in the ‘Candidate’ list were submitted in the form of Annex XV dossiers by seven Member States in June 2008. The proposals were published for public consultation (July-August 2008). The Member State Committee (MSC) debated on 15 substances and found unanimous agreement on the identification of 14 substances as SVHCs that may become subject to authorization, taking into account the comments received from various stakeholders and Member States. On one proposal, Cyclododecane, the MSC unanimously agreed that there was no sufficient scientific data to justify identification under Art. 57. The 16th substance, triethyl arsenate, was already identified as a SVHC without MSC involvement, as no comments had been received during the consultation process.

Once the candidate list is officially published, companies will be obliged to inform consumers within 45 days whether such chemicals are present in the products on sale in the EU common market. A release from Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) indicates that, "Faced with this requirement and impending regulation, it is in companies’ own interests that they start replacing them with safer alternatives. Importantly, a brominated flame retardant commonly found in house dust, in wildlife and the wider environment, as well as being detectable in human blood (HBCDD), and three plastic softeners (the phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP) are among the chemicals listed."

The 15 chemicals include: Diarsenic pentaoxide; Diarsenic trioxide; Sodium dichromate; 5-tert-butyl-2,4,6-trinitro-m-xylene (musk xylene); Bis (2-ethyl(hexyl)phthalate) (DEHP); Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) and all major diastereoisomers identified (α – HBCDD, β-HBCDD, γ-HBCDD);Alkanes, C10-13, chloro (Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins); Bis(tributyltin)oxide; Lead hydrogen arsenate; Benzyl butyl phthalate; and Triethyl arsenate.

Access a release from ECHA with links to additional information (
click here). Access the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) website (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace/WWF (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH Program links (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog posts on REACH issues (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

EPA Finalizes New NAAQS For Lead At 0.15 ug/m3 (10 Times Lower)

Oct 15: U.S. EPA announced it would "dramatically strengthened the nation's air quality standards for lead," which it said would improve public health protection, especially for children [See WIMS 5/1/08]. The new national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) will tighten the allowable lead level 10 times to 0.15 micrograms of lead (Pb) per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, "America's air is cleaner than a generation ago. With these stronger standards a new generation of Americans are being protected from harmful lead emissions."

The decision marks the first time the lead standards have changed in 30 years. EPA said it strengthened the standards after a thorough review of the science on lead, advice from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and consideration of public comments. The previous standards, set in 1978, were 1.5 ug/m3. EPA's action sets two standards: a primary standard at 0.15 ug/m3 to protect health; and a secondary standard at the same level to protect the public welfare, including the environment.

EPA noted that the existing monitoring network for lead is not sufficient to determine whether many areas of the country would meet the revised standards. As a result, EPA is redesigning the nation's lead monitoring network, which is necessary for the Agency to assess compliance with the new standard. No later than October 2011, EPA will designate areas that must take additional steps to reduce lead air emissions. States will have five years to meet the new standards after designations take effect.

EPA also said it is retaining the current indicator of Pb in total suspended particles (Pb-TSP). EPA is revising the averaging time to a rolling 3-month period with a maximum (not-to-be-exceeded) form, evaluated over a 3-year period. EPA is also revising data handling procedures, including allowance for the use of Pb-PM10 data in certain circumstances, and the treatment of exceptional events, and ambient air monitoring and reporting requirements for Pb, including those related to sampling and analysis methods, network design, sampling schedule, and data reporting. Finally, EPA is revising emissions inventory reporting requirements and providing guidance on its approach for implementing the revised primary and secondary standards for Pb.

EPA said that more than 6,000 studies since 1990 have examined the effects of lead on health and the environment. Some studies have linked exposure to low levels of lead with damage to children's development, including IQ loss. Lead can be inhaled or can be ingested after settling out of the air. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Once in the body, lead is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect many organ systems including children's developing nervous systems.

Lead emissions have dropped nearly 97 percent nationwide since 1980, largely the result of the Agency's phase-out of lead in gasoline. Average levels of lead in the air today are far below the 1978 standards. Lead in the air comes from a variety of sources, including smelters, iron and steel foundries, and general aviation gasoline. More than 1,300 tons of lead are emitted to the air each year, according to EPA's most recent estimates.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a release saying, "While EPA’s own analysis justifies an even lower lead standard, this tenfold reduction will go a long way to protecting children most at risk from airborne lead. It’s refreshing to see the agency follow the science and the advice of its experts in making this decision.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "We commend EPA for taking a giant step in the right direction, but they need to greatly expand the lead monitoring network if they hope to enforce this new standard. The EPA has followed the advice of its own advisers and public health advocates to set a more stringent standard for airborne lead." However, NRDC said EPA's "plan for only 236 new or relocated monitors is not adequate to detect problems" and it was "disappointed that EPA will allow averaging of lead exposures over a three-month period."

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the prepublication copy of the 413-page final rule (click here). Access EPA Lead In Air website for links to extensive information (click here). Access the docket for this rulemaking for complete information (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). [*Air, *Toxics]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

EWG Releases Major Research On Bottled Water Quality

Oct 14: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a comprehensive testing report on bottled water that they say indicates "a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed, including toxic byproducts of chlorination in Walmart’s Sam’s Choice and Giant Supermarket's Acadia brands, at levels no different than routinely found in tap water." EWG said that several Sam's Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. They also said that cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia "substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry."

EWG argues that unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, they said, "the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,900 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose."

EWG says, "To the contrary, our tests strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted. Given the industry's refusal to make available data to support their claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified."

Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country’s leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water. In the Sam's Choice and Acadia brands levels of some chemicals exceeded legal limits in California as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said the report "contains false claims and exaggerations about bottled water products." IBWA President Joe Doss said, “The testing results show that only two bottled water brands didn’t meet a California state standard for one regulated substance. There are many hundreds of brands sold in the United States that are not involved in this study. IBWA indicated that the report provides results from of a "market basket testing program" that the EWG conducted on ten brands of bottled water in nine states and the District of Columbia.

Doss said, “This is certainly not a representative sample of bottled water products, which the report acknowledges. . . In general, the report is based on the faulty premise that if any substance is present in a bottled water product, even if it does not exceed the established regulatory limit or no standard has been set, then it’s a health concern.”

Heidi Paul, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Nestle Waters North America (NWNA) issued a statement in reaction to claims made in the EWG report. She said, "As the country's largest producer of bottled water, Nestle Waters North America adheres to the most rigorous quality standards for all of our 15 brands of bottled water which range from Poland Spring to S. Pellegrino. Similar to the International Bottled Water Association, and other reputable water experts, we express our strong disagreement with the many erroneous claims made in today's Environmental Working Group's (EWG) report. Their allegations are false and misleading and seek to undermine the integrity of bottled water. As industry leader, it is our obligation to accurately describe the facts on the ground and in the marketplace.

"Protecting and ensuring water quality is at the very heart of our business. It stems from our commitment to the tens of millions of people who regularly consume bottled water. At last count, 70% of all Americans drink bottled water at least once a week. We sell over 20 billion bottles of water a year to health conscious consumers who value the quality, safety and convenience that our products provide and we conduct over 25,000 quality control tests every day. While tap water is generally adequate andsafe, from a quality and other perspectives, bottled water is better on every score.

"Water quality depends on three things: the quality of the source, the specialization of the treatment and the distribution system. Bottled water has the advantage in all 3 aspects. . . Although no product is always perfect, the rigorous process above is crucial in helping to ensure that quality standards are upheld. We are a proud supplier to Sam's Club and Wal-Mart, and we quickly determined that none of the water in question has been supplied by Nestle Waters North America or any of our brands."

Access the complete EWG report (
click here). Access the statement from IBWA (click here). Access the statement from Nestle (click here). [*Water]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

USDA's Proposed Genetically Engineered (GE) Organisms Rule

On October 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and its Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS), which is responsible for regulating the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms, published its proposed rule revisions to its existing biotechnology regulations. APHIS indicated that the changes are being proposed in light of advances in science and technology, and are based on prior public input and BRS’ extensive experience in implementing the current regulations. Cindy Smith, administrator of APHIS said, "This is the most comprehensive review and revision of our biotechnology regulations since they were first developed in 1987. Revising these regulations now will allow us to ensure effective oversight for years to come.”

According to the FR announcement APHIS proposes to revise the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms in order to bring the regulations into alignment with provisions of the Plant Protection Act (PPA) of 2000. The revisions would also update the regulations in response to advances in genetic science and technology and our accumulated experience in implementing the current regulations. APHIS indicates that this is the first comprehensive review and revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987. The rule would affect persons involved in the importation, interstate movement, or release into the environment of genetically engineered plants and certain other genetically engineered organisms. APHIS will consider all comments received on or before November 24, 2008, and is holding three public forums to be held in Davis, CA; Kansas City, MO; and Riverdale, MD.

APHIS is also proposing to expand its regulatory oversight to include the regulation of GE biological control macroorganisms, such as insects genetically engineered to control plant pests or noxious weeds. APHIS is not proposing, however, to regulate biological control microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which are already regulated by U.S. EPA. In addition, APHIS is proposing to include nonviable GE plant material originating from field tests to the Agency’s oversight. Currently, nonviable materials, like plant stems and leaves that cannot propagate, are not regulated by APHIS.

The Center for Food Safety responded to the proposal with a lengthy release indicating that while it believes that stricter regulation of growing and field testing GE crops is needed, the USDA's proposal "fails to fully protect the public's safety or the environment." The Center contends that the proposed regulations "may set in motion a process that would put many GE crops completely beyond the bounds of regulation, and outside the safety net designed to protect the American public." Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety said, "The USDA has missed a golden opportunity to improve its oversight of genetically engineered crops. This USDA proposal has the same gaping holes as the policy it is replacing, and creates a few new ones, as well."

According to the Center, the biggest concern is that the proposed rules "remove established criteria vital in determining the very scope of regulation. Previously, regulation of GE crops was based on the presence of genetic elements from a list of 'plant pests' codified under Section 340.2. This fairly comprehensive list covered almost all of the genetic elements companies used to engineer crops. However, under the new policy, the USDA proposes 'deleting the list of organisms which are or contain plant pests,' effectively removing triggers to regulation and leaving the decision to the discretion of the USDA or even biotech companies themselves.

Freese said, "Whether a GE crop falls within the scope of regulation or not will now be much more open to interpretation. We can expect the range of GE organisms subject to oversight to decrease over time, allowing for future food safety regulatory failures." The Center also indicates that USDA also "failed to address the epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds associated with ubiquitous herbicide-tolerant GE crops. Resistant weeds have led to increased use of chemical weed killers, rising production costs for growers, and in some cases accelerated soil erosion caused by the additional mechanical tillage required to remove resistant weeds."

Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president, food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued a statement in response to the USDA proposal saying, “Rigorous science-based regulations provide the best environment for the development of valuable agricultural biotechnology products. Revision of these rules in a timely and transparent manner will enable ag biotech companies to continue to provide solutions to a number of challenges facing both farmers and consumers.

“Biotech plant products are safe, and the existing regulatory process for regulating, permitting and approving these products is effective. But it's essential to ensure that the regulatory system reflects the latest technological advances within the biotechnology industry as well as the wealth of scientific knowledge gained over the years about the safe development and use of agricultural biotech products. We look forward to reviewing the proposed rule with this in mind and providing our input.

"The original regulations for plant biotechnology were promulgated by USDA-APHIS in 1987, and the rules underwent minor revisions in 1993 and 1997. In late 2003, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directed USDA-APHIS to undertake a major revision of its rules governing biotechnology, and the department announced its intent to revise the regulations after completion of a programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS). It is anticipated that the final EIS will be published together with a final rule.

“Since the release of the EIS in July of last year, plant biotechnology has continued to advance, biotech industries have grown to become a major force in the U.S. economy, and hundreds of scientific studies have been published, documenting both the safety of the current technologies and the promise of technologies under development. BIO and its member companies are reviewing the agency’s proposed revisions and will submit comments. Science-based regulations, implemented in a timely and transparent manner with adequate input from stakeholders, will help farmers use agriculture biotechnology to produce high quality crops to provide solutions for the world’s growing population.”

Access the USDA-APHIS release (click here). Access an APHIS Q&A document on the proposed rules (click here). Access USDA's Biotechnology website for additional information (click here). Access a release from the Center (click here). Access the Center's GE Food website (click here). Access a release from BIO (click here). Access the BIO website for additional information (click here). Access the docket for this rulemaking to submit comments and link to background information, the proposed rule and submitted comments (click here). [*Toxics, *Agriculture]

Friday, October 10, 2008

U.S. Ratifies & New International Ship Pollution Regs Adopted

Oct 10: According to a release from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United States of America has become the 53rd state to ratify Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), with the deposition of an instrument of ratification with IMO. Annex VI, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in May 2005, regulates the discharge of atmospheric pollutants from ships. Among other things, it set, for the first time, limits on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships' exhausts; prohibited deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances and put a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil. The U.S. ratification, brings to 81.88 the percentage of gross world merchant shipping tonnage covered by the aforementioned regulations and comes as a detailed review of the provisions of Annex VI is reaching a conclusion.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, is known universally as MARPOL. MARPOL has six separate annexes, which set out regulations dealing with pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; by sewage, by garbage; and with the prevention of air pollution from ships.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of IMP is meeting at its Headquarters in London in its 58th session from October 6-10, and has adopted the proposed amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships. The Committee is also continue its work on developing a mandatory regime to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping. The Committee's agenda also includes the consideration of the draft ship recycling convention and issues relating to the implementation of the 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention.

The main changes to Annex VI would see progressive substantial reductions in sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships. The revised Annex VI will allow for the designation of Emission Control Areas, for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, in which more stringent controls would apply. According to IMO, the main changes to MARPOL Annex VI will see a progressive reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships, with the global sulphur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

The limits applicable in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) will be reduced to 1.00%, beginning on 1 July 2010 (from the current 1.50 %); being further reduced to 0.10 %, effective from 1 January 2015. Progressive reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from marine engines were also agreed, with the most stringent controls on so-called "Tier III" engines, i.e. those installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016, operating in Emission Control Areas.

U.S. EPA said it can now move forward with a domestic rulemaking action under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and "when fully implemented, this will help reduce harmful emissions by 80 percent or more from large diesel ships, including those that are foreign-flagged operating in U.S. waters." Margo Oge, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality said, "Massive reductions in air pollution from these large ships will help 87 million Americans living in areas around ports that don't meet air quality standards breathe cleaner air. Pollution emitted by ships along the U.S. coastlines and waterways can move inland where it worsens air quality."

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the member nations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for adopting what they called "strong new emissions standards to limit the lethal particulate and smog-forming pollution from ocean-going vessels." These new standards will apply to ocean-going ships such as container ships and tankers that operate around the world. Janea Scott, a senior attorney in the Los Angeles office of EDF said, “Nearly 90% of ships that call on U.S. ports are foreign-flagged ships, so the progress we made at the international level today is especially important to people living in communities near U.S. ports and along our nation’s coastlines. This newly adopted international regulation will ensure that all ships, both domestic and foreign, are held to the same rigorous emissions standards.”

Access a release from IMO on the U.S. ratification (
click here). Access a release on the new regulations adopted (click here). Access a release on the MEPC meeting (click here). Access detailed information on MARPOL (click here). Access the IMO website for extensive information (click here). Access a release from EPA with links to related information (click here). Access a lengthy release from EDF with links to additional information (click here). [*Air, *Water, *Transport]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

DOE Details New Clean Energy Tax Incentives

Oct 8: The Department of Energy (DOE) has posted information on the clean energy tax incentives contained in the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424, now Public Law No: 110-343), signed by the President on October 3, 2008 [See WIMS 10/3/08]. The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, which was attached to H.R. 1424, provides a one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy, keeping the credit in effect through 2009. The bill also provides a two-year PTC extension, through 2010, for electricity produced from geothermal, biomass, and solar energy facilities, as well as trash-to-energy facilities, small hydropower facilities using irrigation water, capacity additions to existing hydropower plants, and hydropower facilities added to existing dams. In addition, the bill creates a new PTC for electricity produced by marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy systems (also called advanced water power systems) with a rated capacity of at least 150 kilowatts and placed in service by 2011. To help on the financing end, the bill authorizes $800 million in new Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for all of the above technologies.

According to the DOE release, Solar energy gained an 8-year extension (through 2016) of the 30% tax credit for residential and commercial solar installations, as well as the elimination of the $2,000 tax credit cap for residential solar electric installations. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expects the creation of more than 440,000 jobs and the generation of at least $325 billion in private investment due to those changes, which should yield more than 28 gigawatts of solar power. The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) also sees huge potential growth in a measure that allows electric utilities to take advantage of these tax credits.

In addition, small wind power gained a 30% tax credit, up to $4,000 for wind turbines with capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, which is also good through 2016. The tax credits for fuel cells and microturbines are also extended by 8 years, and the fuel cell tax credit limit is tripled, to $1,500 for each 0.5 kilowatts of capacity. The act also creates a new 10% tax credit for certain combined heat and power systems and for geothermal heat pumps (up to $2,000). In addition, the bill also provides accelerated depreciation for utilities installing smart meters and smart grid systems.

In terms of energy efficiency and alternative fuels, the act extends and revives a number of energy efficiency tax incentives for buildings, creates new tax credits for efficient vehicles, and extends and modifies tax credits for biofuels. The release details numerous provisions in this section including a new tax credit of up to $7,500 for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are expected to go on sale in 2010; a new $300 tax credit for energy-efficient biomass fuel stoves; an extension of energy efficiency tax deductions for commercial buildings through 2013; and more. The release also includes links to related press release from the Solar Electric Power Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and National Biodiesel Board.

Access the DOE release and links to related information (
click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 1424 with links to the roll call votes (click here). Access a 7-page Senate Finance Committee staff detailed summary of the Energy-related provisions of the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008 (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reactions To Dingell-Boucher Draft Climate Change Bill

Oct 8: Yesterday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Chaired by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) and the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Rick Boucher (D-VA) released their long-awaited "discussion draft" of climate change legislation. The draft is the culmination of nearly two years of intensive work on climate change by the Committee and according to the Chairmen, "marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to address this increasingly serious problem." WIMS reported on the release of the draft yesterday [See WIMS 10/7/08] and included an early reaction from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The following are excerpts from additional reactions and links to the complete statements are included.

Statement by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: "I am pleased that Chairman Dingell and Chairman Boucher have decided to write a comprehensive global warming bill. I am not going to comment on the details of the draft plan today, except to say that it is a very good sign of the commitment in the House to tackle global warming legislation in the next Congress."

Statement of Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming: "This draft recognizes that, to combat global warming and unleash a clean energy revolution, America needs to set long-term targets, protect consumers, and invest in energy efficiency and clean technologies. The draft legislation lays out a range of options for structuring a cap and trade system that are likely to trigger a vigorous and healthy debate about how best to reduce global warming pollution. In the next year, I look forward to working with Chairmen Dingell and Boucher, our Energy and Commerce colleagues, and a new, climate-friendly administration as we put the American economy on a green road to recovery and finally solve the greatest challenge the planet has ever faced.”

Statement by David Hawkins, Director of Climate Programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): "There are many positive features to the discussion draft, such as the inclusion of a strong reduction target for 2050 and thoughtful approaches to the details of the structure of a comprehensive program. However, there are also many important respects in which the draft legislation must be improved. Most notably, the near- and mid-term emission reduction targets must be substantially strengthened in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. We are also very concerned about provisions that would eliminate existing authority to regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act and alter the rights and ability of states to combat global warming on their own. We believe the final legislation must preserve existing Clean Air Act authority and the ability of states to operate as innovation laboratories. . ."

Statement of Duke Energy Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers: "Duke Energy strongly supports the proposal that grants allocations to local electric distribution companies (LDCs) based on the historic emissions of their electric supply in order to protect consumers from significant price increases at the start of the program. Allocating allowances, whose value went back to the customer, worked very well in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment and subsequent federal air quality regulations to address acid rain and smog, and it can work again to address climate change. . . We appreciate the inclusive process the committee has used in preparation of this discussion draft and their sincere desire to receive input from all those who will be impacted by this legislation. . . "

Statement of Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett: ". . . we would be remiss not to point out that it still falls far short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic global warming. . . The draft legislation contains numerous shortcomings that would prevent the United States from doing its part to stop global warming: First, the emission targets set by the plan fall short of what is needed to confront the problem. It calls for 6 percent emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 when science says we must reduce domestic emissions at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. . ."

Access the statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access the statement from Representative Markey (click here). Access the complete NRDC statement (click here). Access the complete Duke Energy statement (click here). Access the complete Statement from Greenpeace (click here). [*Climate]