Friday, February 27, 2009

NAS Report On Restructuring Federal Climate Research Program

Feb 26: A new report from the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) indicates that the Federal government's climate change research program should broaden its focus to include research that would "support actions needed to cope with climate change-related problems that will impact society, while building on its successful research to improve understanding of the causes and processes of climate change."

The report -- Restructuring Federal Climate Research To Meet The Challenges Of Climate Change -- says as the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) looks to the future, it should establish a U.S. climate observing system; develop new modeling capabilities for regional- and decadal-scale forecasts; strengthen research on adaptation, mitigation, and vulnerability; initiate a periodic national assessment of climate impacts and responses; and routinely provide policymakers with crucial scientific information, tools, and forecasts.

The NAS report comes just one day after leading medical experts, health and environmental groups advised that the CCSP must make public health a strong focus as it undergoes an internal reorganization under the Obama administration. A memorandum signed by 22 medical experts and 10 groups recommended that CCSP correct the program’s historic “relative under-emphasis…on human health and human dimensions in general” and instead address “the important and growing gaps in knowledge and practice.” [See WIMS 2/25/09].

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, University of California, San Diego and chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "CCSP has created a robust infrastructure for observations and modeling, which has enabled scientists to document trends in critical climate parameters and identify the human impacts on climate change. Now we need to know how to respond to climate change, while working closely with policymakers on mitigation and adaptation strategies." In 2007, the committee issued its first report, which evaluated the program's progress at the request of CCSP's former director [
See WIMS 2/23/07]. For this second report, the Research Council was asked to identify future priorities and lay out a framework to guide the evolution of the program.

The committee found that the "program is hindered by its limited research into the social sciences -- such as research on the role of human actions and behavior in changing climate and how societies can mitigate and adapt to the impacts -- and the separation of natural and social sciences research. Spending on human-dimensions research has never exceeded 3 percent of the CCSP research budget. As a result, research, data collection, and modeling of how people interact with or affect their environments have lagged behind corresponding activities on the physical climate system. The program should make transformational changes to adopt a holistic approach that connects research across disciplines, as well as engages policymakers and other stakeholders."

The report indicates that, ". . . targeted research in the natural sciences could help meet various community needs for climate information and services, such as drought forecasts for a particular region. These research initiatives would help address societal concerns of direct relevance to the program and provide a concrete focus for collecting human-dimensions data, the committee noted. The committee also said another priority should be to help establish a U.S. climate observing system that includes physical, biological, and social observations to ensure that data needed to address climate change are collected or continued.

They said, "Even if people significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, further climate change is inevitable. Therefore, CCSP needs to have the capacity to explain what is happening to climate and why. It should work with federal, state, and international agencies to establish and maintain the system, as well as determine the agencies' different roles and responsibilities for making the observations, archiving, and distributing data.

While CCSP is mandated to carry out a national assessment every four years, the last one involving a broad range of stakeholders was a decade ago. The committee said, "The collection of 21 synthesis and assessment reports published from 2006 to 2008 -- although useful -- did not add up to a comprehensive national assessment."

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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

FY10 Budget Focus On Energy, Climate, & Environment

Feb 26: In the President's FY10 Budget remarks he had the following to say about energy and climate change, "Because our future depends on our ability to break free from oil that's controlled by foreign dictators, we need to make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. That's why we'll be working with Congress on legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy. And to support this effort, we'll invest $15 billion a year for 10 years to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, and to build more efficient cars and trucks right here in America. It's an investment that will put people back to work, make our nation more secure, and help us meet our obligation as good stewards of the Earth we all inhabit." More funding is included within EPA's budget for activities on a related GHG emission inventory (see below).

The President's formal budget message included within the budget document states, "The time has come to usher in a new era -- a new era of responsibility in which we act not only to save and create new jobs, but also to lay a new foundation of growth upon which we can renew the promise of America. This Budget is a first step in that journey. It lays out for the American people the extent of the crisis we inherited, the steps we will take to jumpstart our economy to create new jobs, and our plans to transform our economy for the 21st Century to give our children and grandchildren the fruits of many years of economic growth. . .

"To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will make the investments in the next three years to double our Nation’s renewable energy capacity. We will modernize Federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of millions of American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new
jobs that pay well -- jobs installing solar panels and wind turbines; constructing energy efficient buildings; manufacturing fuel efficient vehicles; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs and more savings, putting us on the path toward energy independence for our Nation and a cleaner, safer planet in the process."

In a comment on the FY10 Budget for the Department of Energy (DOE), the President says, "The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America -- in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce. As we face this challenge, we can seize boundless opportunities for our people. We can create millions of jobs. We can spark the dynamism of our economy through long term investments in renewable energy that will give life to new businesses and industries, with good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We will make public buildings more efficient, modernize our electric grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect and preserve our natural resources."

The FY10 DOE Budget provides $26.3 billion (down from $33.9 billion) for the Department of Energy. In accordance with the President’s priorities, the Budget supports the Office of Electricity Delivery Discretionary and Energy Reliability in modernizing the electricity grid, and increases support for the Office of Science as a step towards doubling Federal investment in the basic sciences. Several Budget initiatives promote a clean energy agenda, including support for loan guarantees to help deploy innovative, clean technologies; advancement of Carbon Capture Storage (CSS) technology; and other efforts to develop and deploy an array of energy alternatives. Addressing both environmental and safety concerns, the Budget increases efforts to secure, manage, and dispose of nuclear material and invests in technology to detect and deter nuclear smuggling and the development of weapons of mass destruction programs. Additionally, the Recovery Act includes $39 billion in support for energy programs.

Budget information for DOE indicates, "The Yucca Mountain program will be scaled back to those costs necessary to answer inquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal." On the subject of coal, the information states that the budget, "Advances the development of low-carbon coal technologies. Supports CCS technology and along with the $3.4 billion provided in the Recovery Act for low-carbon emission power demonstrations, these funds will help allow the use of our extensive domestic coal resource while reducing the impacts on climate change."

On the FY10 Budget for U.S. EPA, the President says, "…the call to save our planet has never been more urgent. In recent years, we’ve seen the harm that more severe weather events can do. We’ve seen it in the droughts that have swept the South, the hurricanes that threaten our shores with increasing ferocity, and the rising sea levels that could one day submerge our cities. This is a challenge unlike any the world has ever faced, and America must lead the world to meet it."

According to a fact sheet, with $10.5 billion in funding for the EPA, the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget is 34 percent higher than 2009 likely enacted funding (up $2.7 billion). To preserve water resources, the President’s Budget accelerates the restoration of the Great Lakes, and includes an historic increase in funding for clean water through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Additional measures to secure our water supply include fully funding the Water Security Initiative (WSI) pilot cooperative agreements and the activities of the Water Alliance for Threat Reduction. This Budget will yield more than $1 billion to clean up the most contaminated sites in the Superfund program.

The EPA budget accelerates the restoration of the Great Lakes and supports $475 million for a new inter-agency initiative to address regional issues that affect the Great Lakes, such as invasive species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment. The budget also lays the groundwork for economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction. The Budget funds a $19 million increase for work and related activities on a GHG emission inventory and for work with affected industry sectors to report high-quality GHG emission data. The data will aid in developing a comprehensive climate change plan to invest in clean energy, and instituting a broad national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions about 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and about 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

Access the President's remarks on presenting the FY10 Budget (
click here). Access the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2010 (click here). Access more information on the DOE budget (click here). Access more details on the EPA budget (click here). Access the Budget Fact Sheets, for various agencies and departments for Fiscal Year 2010 (click here). Access commentary on the budget from OMB Director Peter Orszag (click here). [*All]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama: "It begins with energy. . ."

Feb 24: A major recurring theme of President Obama in his first address to a joint session of Congress and the American people was -- energy, health care, and education. He said the cost of health care is "crushing" and causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. On education he said, "the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." On energy he said, ''We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. . ." The President also clearly addressed climate change legislation; and called for investments in a "re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry."

In the beginning of his remarks, the President focused on the struggling economy and said, ". . .while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

On all these critical issues he said the, "day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here. Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight."

He said, "It begins with energy. We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

"Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders -- and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again. Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history -- an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology. We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

"But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

"As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it. . ."

The President concluded with a plea for bipartisanship and said, "I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

"And if we do -- if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, 'something worthy to be remembered.'"

Access the complete speech (
click here). Access a video of the President's address (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

States & Groups Hail Supreme Court Refusal Of CAMR Case

Feb 23: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal filed last year by a coalition of utilities, in the case of New Jersey v. EPA, that sought reversal of a Federal Appeals court decision vacating the federal government’s controversial cap-and-trade approach to regulating mercury emissions from power plants -- the so-called “Clean Air Mercury Rule” (CAMR) [See WIMS 2/8/08]. Environmental groups said the High Court's decision "invalidates the Bush rule and sets a new course that will help protect America’s waterways from toxic mercury pollution." New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram lauded the Supreme Court’s denial and said it, "represents another victory for the people of New Jersey, and for our environment. As of today, the protracted legal battle that has delayed proper regulation of mercury emissions from power plants is over, and the practice of allowing those plants to spew harmful quantities of a dangerous neurotoxin into our air in violation of federal law is at an end.”

The court’s denial of an appeal petition from the Utility Air Regulatory Group follows a motion earlier this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its own appeal [See WIMS 2/9/09], and ends a long legal fight by New Jersey and other states to compel the federal government to issue tough new standards for mercury and other toxic air emissions from power plants. New Jersey, 16 other states, dozens of Native American tribes, public health and environmental groups, and organizations representing registered nurses and physicians were involved in the case charging the Federal government failed to impose strict limits on mercury emissions from power plants and, instead, implemented a cap-and-trade approach whereby power plants could buy emissions credits from other plants that had already cut emissions below targeted levels. The states maintained that cap-and-trade contributed to “hot spots” for mercury, a neurotoxin linked to birth defects, learning disabilities and neurological problems.

In February 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with the states and agreed that EPA could no longer avoid its legal duty to impose strict limits on mercury emissions from all power plants -- and do so expeditiously.
EPA subsequently filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. However earlier this month, in one of the first actions taken by newly-appointed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Federal government moved to dismiss its appeal petition and pledged to move swiftly in developing tough new mercury standards for power plants. The Supreme Court also granted EPA’s request that its own appeal petition be dismissed.

In the wake of EPA’s action, the Utility Air Regulatory Group -- the group is an association of individual electric-generating companies and national trade organizations -- refused to withdraw its appeal petition before the Supreme Court. Instead, it filed a reply brief restating its argument that the cap-and-trade approach was a legal means of regulating toxic emissions from power plants under a less rigid section of the federal Clean Air Act than that cited by the states. A release from the New Jersey Attorney General indicates that, "Today’s Supreme Court denial amounts to a rejection of that argument, and clears the way for EPA to require power plants to install 'maximum available control technologies' for mercury, an action New Jersey and other states have long advocated.

New Jersey says the original lawsuit that resulted in the February 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the states maintained that EPA illegally removed coal and oil-fired power plants from the list of regulated source categories under a section of the Clean Air Act that requires strict regulation of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury. By removing power plants without meeting the Clean Air Act’s stringent criteria for doing so, EPA under its prior leadership sought to avoid requiring power plants to regulate their mercury emissions by using the “maximum achievable control technology.” Instead, EPA sought to allow power plants to trade mercury emissions to meet a national “cap.”

New Jersey and the other states maintained that a strict mercury emissions standard based on “maximum achievable control technology” -- as required by the Clean Air Act -- could reduce mercury emissions to levels approximately three times lower than the cap established under EPA’s cap-and-trade system, and could do so more quickly. The states contended that EPA’s cap-and-trade approach promised little in the way of immediate mercury emission reductions from the current 48 tons per year nationwide, and would delay even modest reductions by more than a decade.

John Walke, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “Today’s good news is due in no small part to the leadership of the Obama administration, in renouncing the harmful Bush administration actions and embracing EPA’s responsibilities to protect the American people against mercury and other toxic pollution. Administrator Jackson has a special opportunity to clean up harmful air pollution from power plants once and for all, and her leadership so far bodes well for the future.”

Ann Weeks, attorney for Clean Air Task Force said, “The Supreme Court has now confirmed that EPA must follow the law as it is written. We are looking forward to working on rules that reflect the most stringent controls achievable for this industry, as the Clean Air Act requires. That’s what is needed now, if we are ever to alleviate the problem of mercury contamination in fish and wildlife.” The Clean Air Task Force includes U.S. PIRG, Ohio Environmental Council, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Conservation Law Foundation. Among the groups involved in last year’s successful court challenge was Earthjustice, who argued the case before the lower court on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club.

Access a release from the NJ Attorney General (
click here). Access a release from the NRDC and various environmental groups (click here). Access the Supreme Court docket (click here); and (click here). [*Air, *Toxics]

Monday, February 23, 2009

State Department Clarifies U.S. Position On Mercury

Feb 20: The announcement that some 140 countries have unanimously decided to launch negotiations on an international mercury treaty to deal with worldwide emissions and discharges of the toxic pollutant was largely due to new leadership in the United States. The announcement was made by environment ministers at the end of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to a release from UNEP, the landmark decision, sets the stage for the lifting of a major health threat from the lives of hundreds of millions of people [See WIMS 2/20/09]. The UNEP Governing Council will now develop a legally binding treaty to be enacted by 2013. The treaty will include actions to reduce global mercury pollution and human exposure to the chemical, by reducing intentional use of mercury in industrial processes and products and reducing emissions from coal plants and smelters. It will also address the problems posed by mercury waste sites.

It should be noted that the two major mercury traders, the European Union and the United States, had already agreed to ban future mercury exports before the treaty announcement. The E.U. plans to phase-out its mercury trade starting in 2011. The U.S. ban will be effective in 2013, according to legislation that President Obama sponsored as a U.S. senator.

On February 16, Daniel Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs spoke to the Committee of the Whole at the 25th Governing Council UNEP meeting. Reifsnyder said, "I believe it is valuable to recall how the Governing Council has arrived at this point in the discussion. In 2001, the international environmental community began to focus on mercury when it launched the global mercury assessment to understand better the significance and sources of mercury as a global pollutant. The report from that assessment clearly set out the threat that mercury poses to human health and the environment, and the nature of mercury as a global pollutant. In 2003 and 2005, the Governing Council began substantively to address concerns over mercury, first by establishing a Mercury Program in UNEP, and second by launching a mercury partnership program. The United States has been a strong supporter of both of these developments and has contributed over $5 million to the Partnership. We are pleased with the significant work done by UNEP and the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership. . ."

In clarifying the U.S. position on mercury, Reifsnyder said, "We have now arrived at a point where there is a call to come together to launch an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international agreement on mercury; The United States now joins that call. We are prepared, Mr. Chairman, to help lead in developing a global legally binding instrument for mercury. We believe that: Now is the time for governments to launch an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC); The first negotiating session should begin this year with the goal of completing negotiations prior to the 2012 Governing Council (GC)/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF); The mandate of the INC should be devoted exclusively to mercury; It should be comprehensive, addressing all significant sources of mercury emissions, with particular attention to sectors that have the greatest global impact such as coal-fired power plants and other sources of unintentional air emissions; Financial resources for implementation should focus on priority issues of greatest global concern; and Governments should support the UNEP Mercury Program and Global Mercury Partnership to continue their work concurrent with the negotiations."

He went on to say, "The United States does not support adding additional substances to an agreement on mercury, or diverting valuable time and attention to other issues by debating criteria and parameters for an adding mechanism. We urge delegates to focus on those issues where we can find agreement. . . We should seek to ensure broad participation among governments in a mercury agreement by including flexibility such as transition periods and phased implementation. We should apply tailored approaches that address the sector-specific nature of mercury emissions and the technologies and methods used to reduce emissions. We need to be creative and flexible in our approaches, while at the same time ensuring that we make significant progress. The United States supports further action by UNEP in the near term to assess options for reducing emissions from coal combustion and other significant sectors, and comparing the relative costs of different options. . ."

Scientists and policy experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "This agreement was propelled by the United States’ reversal in policy, which also influenced policy reversals of other countries, including China and India. The announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against mercury pollution." Susan Egan Keane, policy analyst for NRDC said, “This is great news for reducing mercury pollution around the world, and shows a commitment from the Obama Administration to international environmental issues. The United States has taken a leadership role that will chart a new course on mercury protections around the world. We have set a strong example that is already influencing others to do the same. Today we have won a momentous human health victory that will reduce illness and save lives both here and abroad. This globally coordinated plan will substantially reduce mercury contamination in fish, prevent the contamination of our water, and shield our children from a dangerous chemical.”

On February 10, prior to the Governing Council meeting, twenty groups from around the world co-released a new Mercury Policy Project (MPP) report calling attention to the global human health hazards caused by mercury in fish and fish-eating marine mammals. The study, released by the international Zero Mercury Working Group, indicates that the health impacts of methylmercury in fish and fish-eating marine mammals are substantial, and demand an effective response from governments and the United Nations.

Access the complete statement of Deputy Assistant Reifsnyder (
click here). Access the UNEP draft decision on the management of chemicals including mercury (click here). Access the UNEP mercury program website for complete information and background (click here). Access decisions and information on the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Programme (click here). Access more information on the Tenth Session of the Global Civil Society Forum held prior to the 25th UNEP Governing Council meeting (click here). Access the release from NRDC (click here). Access more information including the study from the Mercury Policy Project (click here). Access the Zero Mercury Working Group website for more information (click here). Access EPA's International Mercury Activities website for more information (click here). Access additional information from the Worldwatch Institute (click here). [*Toxics]

Friday, February 20, 2009

EPA Appeals Board Remands Another Coal-Fired Permit

Feb 18: U.S. EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) has remanded certain issues raised in a petition by Sierra Club for further review and denied review of other issues for the Clean Air Act permit for Northern Michigan University's (NMU's) fluidized bed boiler at the Ripley Heating Plant at its campus in Marquette, Michigan. On May 12, 2008, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a Federal prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permit to authorize the construction of the facility which was to function as a cogeneration unit providing both electrical power and heat to NMU’s facilities through the burning of wood, coal, and natural gas.

Importantly, the EAB directed the MDEQ to be guided by its recent decision in In re Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, PSD Appeal No. 07-03 (EAB Nov. 13, 2008) [
See WIMS 11/14/08]. In the Deseret Power decision re: the Bonanza Power Plant, near Bonanza, Utah, which was also the result of a Sierra Club petition, the EAB ruled that EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cause global warming. That decision, precipitated the controversial memo by former EPA Administrator Johnson rebuffing the Deseret decision [See WIMS 12/23/08] which the new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson just agreed to reconsider on February 17 [See WIMS 2/18/09].

In the Michigan case, on June 13, 2008, Sierra Club filed its petition for review of this PSD permit challenging a number of MDEQ’s decisions and responses to comments. EAB found that MDEQ "clearly erred in selecting BACT limits for the proposed boiler’s emissions of SO2"; "remands the permit for MDEQ to analyze whether CO2 and N2O emissions from the CFB boiler should be limited pursuant to BACT"; "remands the permit for MDEQ to reevaluate and clarify its analysis of PSD increment consumption/expansion in the area affected by proposed CFB boiler emissions"; "remands the permit so that MDEQ can ensure that the source impact modeling analyses for SO2, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide are conducted on the basis of the maximum, “worst-case” emissions rates of those pollutants"; and, "remands the permit for MDEQ to reevaluate the issue of preconstruction monitoring and explain. . . [compliance with] applicable provisions of the statute and regulations and reflect Agency guidance.

Michigan Sierra Club issued a release saying, “This is a yet another clear signal that pollution from coal plants, especially global warming pollution, can no longer be ignored. The increased costs that will come from impending carbon regulations will make coal much more expensive than cleaner energy alternatives, like wind and efficiency. The writing is on the wall; Michigan needs to start moving away from coal if we want to be a player in the 21st century clean energy economy.”

Sierra Club said NMU’s proposal was the first of an "overwhelming" eight proposed coal plants in the State and the first coal plant to receive an air permit from Michigan regulators in more than 20 years. Permits for other coal plants -- many of them containing the same air quality flaws as the NMU permit -- have been put on hold as a result of Governor Granholm’s clean energy executive directive [No. 2009-2] released earlier this month [See WIMS 2/4/09]. The directive requires MDEQ to evaluate, in consultation with our Public Service Commission, "both the need for additional electricity generation and all feasible and prudent alternatives before approving new coal-fired power plants in Michigan."

Lee Sprague, Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Campaign Manager said, “This decision makes it clear that following business-as-usual approaches like new coal plants is no longer an option. Thanks to Governor Granholm’s actions our state is already poised to move beyond dirty coal to newer, cleaner, more efficient energy technologies that can help both our economy and our climate recover.”

Access the complete 69-page decision document (
click here). Access a release from MI Sierra Club (click here). Access Governor Granholm's Executive Directive 2009-2 (click here). [*Air, *Energy, *Climate]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Final Rule On Aircraft Impacts For Nuclear Power Reactors

Feb 17: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a final rule that requires applicants for new power reactors to assess the ability of their reactor designs to avoid or mitigate the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact. NRC Chairman Dale Klein, said, “This is a common sense approach to address an issue raised by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. I am quite confident that this rule will be an important element in the regulatory framework for new reactor applications that will result in a margin of safety far beyond that required to achieve reasonable assurance of public health and safety.” [emphasis in original]

NRC said in a release that nuclear power plants are designed under very stringent requirements to assure they can safely shut down following “design-basis events” such as large fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as improbable equipment malfunctions including pipe breaks. These requirements include having two redundant systems to accomplish each safety function. The rule treats large commercial aircraft crashes as "a beyond-design-basis events." Under the rule, any design feature or functional capability adopted solely to comply with the rule will meet high quality standards but is exempt from NRC design-basis regulations, such as regulations for redundancy. The design features and functional capabilities must address core cooling capability, containment integrity, spent fuel cooling capability, and spent fuel pool integrity following an aircraft impact.

The release indicates, "The agency does not believe nuclear power plant operators should be required to prevent the impact of large commercial aircraft; that responsibility rests with the federal government. The NRC works closely with other federal agencies such as NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration and the intelligence community to provide layered protection against such a threat. The agency expects these efforts would effectively preclude an aircraft attack from occurring. Should such an unlikely event take place at a new plant designed in accordance with the new rule, the NRC expects the plant would be better able to withstand such a crash than the same design without changes resulting from the rule."

Access a release from NRC (
click here). Access an October 15, 2008 draft of the final rule with a information on the purpose, summary, background, discussion, commitments, recommendations and resources (click here). Access the February 17, 2009, NRC final action on the rule, with comments and edits (click here). Access a 4-page issue brief from the Union of Concerned Scientists on New Reactor Designs for Aircraft Threats (click here).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

EPA Says It Will Reconsider Johnson's Memo On CO2 Regulation

Feb 17: U.S. EPA announced that it has granted a petition for reconsideration of a Bush Administration memo regarding the scope of the Clean Air Act. The interpretive memo, put forward by then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in December 2008, addresses when the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program applies to carbon dioxide, a chief greenhouse gas. Concerns were soon raised about the memo’s potential impact on American communities and neighborhoods. The Sierra Club and other parties in early January petitioned EPA to reconsider the Johnson memorandum.

When Johnson issued the memo, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, was outraged and issued a statement saying the EPA Administrator "has run amok and will waste taxpayer dollars in his most recent action to avoid controlling global warming pollution in Clean Air Act permits." [
See WIMS 12/23/08]. Johnson's December 18 memo to Regional Administrators outlined his policy calling for no regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under the Clean Air Act. At the time he was clarifying the EPA Environmental Appeals Board ruling that concluded EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cause global warming [See WIMS 11/14/08].

President Obama's newly appointed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “I am granting this petition because we must learn more about how this memo affects all relevant stakeholders impacted by its provisions. This will be a fair, impartial and open process that will allow the American public and key stakeholders to review this memorandum and to comment on its potential effects on communities across the country. EPA’s fundamental mission is to protect human health and the environment and we intend to do just that.” She said EPA will vigorously review the Johnson memo to ensure that it is consistent with the Obama Administration’s climate change strategy and interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the Agency will abide by the three core principles of: overwhelming transparency, adherence to the rule of law, and science-based policies and regulations.

To facilitate a transparent, impartial and fair review, EPA will seek comment from the general public on this memo and its potential impact on American communities. The public comment period is consistent with the recommendations of the Environmental Appeals Board and allows for a measured, inclusive approach to reviewing this memo. The EAB last year held that EPA had not adequately articulated why its interpretation of the PSD program did not apply to carbon dioxide.

Although Sierra Club had requested that the Agency "stay" the effectiveness of the Johnson memo during the reconsideration, EPA said it was not taking that action at this time. EPA will publish a notice of the reconsideration and commenting instructions in the Federal Register in the "near future."

Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit against the Bush administration to overturn the Johnson Memo. The groups indicated that that litigation will now be put on hold as a result of EPA'S announcement. Sierra Club issued a statement saying, "Today's victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular. This decision stops the Bush Administration's final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming. . . With coal-fired power plants emitting more than 30 percent of our global warming pollution, regulating their carbon dioxide is essential to making real progress in the fight against global warming. . . Today's announcement should cast significant further doubt on the approximately 100 coal-fired power plants that the industry is trying to rush through the permitting process without any limits on carbon dioxide."

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the EPA letter to Sierra Club granting the reconsideration (click here). Access Johnson's December 18, 2008 memo (click here). Access the EPA Environmental Appeals Board ruling from the WIMS link above. Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a statement from NRDC (click here). [*Energy, *Air, *Climate]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Signs American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Feb 17: In record time, President Obama and House and Senate Democrats have passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) [See WIMS 2/12/09] -- a $787 billion package. The package was able to obtain only three Republican votes on the Senate side that were critical to meeting the 60 vote requirement for passage in the Senate. While Republicans in Washington, DC have nearly unanimously rejected the package of stimulus funding, many Republican governors throughout the country and major business and manufacturing, mining and transportation associations supported the bills passage.

President Obama signed the bill this afternoon (February 17, 2009) at a signing ceremony in Colorado and called the action a "major milestone on our road to recovery," while still emphasizing that we have many miles yet to go. The President said, "Congress has passed my economic recovery plan -- an ambitious plan at a time we badly need it. It will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, ignite spending by business and consumers alike, and lay a new foundation for our lasting economic growth and prosperity." The President acknowledged that some people are skeptical about the plan given how Washington has performed in the past, which is why he's encouraging people to check back at -- the site where, once the plan is in action, you'll be able to track the funds. He said, "Utlimately, this is your money, and you deserve to know where it's going and how it's spent."

The following is a summary of some of the details for energy, science, infrastructure, water resources and environmental cleanup included in the funding package. [Note: The links below provide even more details.]

Clean, Efficient, American Energy: Over $30 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology. $5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes.

Further details for this category include: Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion; Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $6 billion; GSA Federal Buildings: $4.5 billion; Local Government Energy Efficiency Grants: $6.3 billion; Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $250 million; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2.5 billion; Advanced Battery Grants: $2 billion; Home Weatherization: $5 billion; Smart Appliances: $300 million; GSA Federal Fleet: $300 million; Electric Transportation: $400 million; Cleaning Fossil Energy (carbon capture and sequestration): $3.4 billion; Department of Defense Research: $300 million; Alternative Buses and Trucks: $300 million; Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million; and Training for Green Jobs: $500 million.

Transform our Economy with Science and Technology: $15 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation. $7.2 billion to expand broadband internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.

Further details for this category include: Wireless and Broadband Grants: $7.2 billion; National Science Foundation: $3 billion; National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $8.7 billion; University Research Facilities: $1.3 billion; Department of Energy: $2 billion; NASA: $1 billion; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $600 million; National Institute of Standards and Technology: $360 million; NOAA Operations, Research and Facilities: $230 million; U.S. Geological Survey: $140 million; Small Business Administration: $720 million; Rural Business-Cooperative Service: $150 million; Economic Development Assistance: $150 million; Community Development Financial Institutions: $100 million; Digital TV Conversion Coupons: $650 million.

Modernize Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways: $27.5 billion for highway construction; $16.5 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure with investments that lead to long term energy cost savings; $18.8 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments; $17.7 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption.

Further details for this category include: $27.5 billion for highway and bridge construction projects and $1.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for transportation investment. Transit New Construction: $750 million; Transit Upgrades and Repair: $750 million; Transit Capital Assistance: $6.9 billion; Amtrak: $1.3 billion; High Speed Rail and Intercity Passenger Rail Grants: $8 billion; Airport Improvement Grants: $1.1 billion; Transportation Security Administration Explosive Detection Systems: $1 billion; Border and Ports of Entry: $720 million; and Coast Guard: $240 million.

More details for Clean Water, Environmental Cleanup: Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $4 billion; Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $2 billion; Rural Water and Waste Disposal: $1.38 billion; Corps of Engineers: $4.6 billion; Bureau of Reclamation: $1 billion; Watershed Infrastructure: $340 million; International Boundary and Water Commission: $220 million; Superfund Hazardous Waste Cleanup: $600 million; Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: $200 million; Nuclear Waste Cleanup: $6 billion; NOAA Operations, Research and Facilities: $230 million; Brownfields: $100 million; Construction on Public Lands: $2.5 billion; Reducing Wildfires Threats: $515 million; Bureau of Indian Affairs: $500 million.

In addition to the overall funding, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has developed an interactive U.S. map that provides state-by-state allocations of approximately 69 percent of the total cost of the act where CAP could establish the money distribution of amounts greater than $1 billion and where funding formulas were available. The map compares the amount that each state will get relative to the size of its economy, measured using each state’s 2007 gross state product (GSP).

The state and local funds include, among other provisions, direct tax cuts for working families and those with children; increased unemployment insurance and food stamps to help those most in need; new funding to equip the education system for the 21st century; additional funds for clean energy programs; state-level infrastructure projects; and assistance that is necessary to protect vital services such as Medicaid. CAP notes that many of the other programs in the recovery plan will be distributed through competitive grants to states and localities, or through funding formulas where it is not possible to make estimates at this stage. The remainder is for programs that are distributed at the federal level [See link below for the CAP map].

Access the President's comments (
click here); and here (click here). Access a 4-page summary (click here). Access a detailed 12-page summary (click here). Access Text of the Conference Report - Division A (click here). Access Text of the Conference Report - Division B (click here). Access Joint Explanatory Statement - Division A (click here). Access Joint Explanatory Statement - Division B (click here). Access a detailed, line-by-line summary by major category from the Wall Street Journal (click here). Access the CAP map and links to explanatory information and an Excel spreadsheet (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 1 (click here). [*All]

Friday, February 13, 2009

Senate Hearing On EPAct05 Loan Guarantee Program

Subscribers Note: WIMS will not be publishing on Monday, February, 16, 2009, in observance of President's Day/Washington’s Birthday.

Feb 12: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) held a hearing is to receive testimony on the current state of the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program, authorized under Title 17 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05), and how the delivery of services to support the deployment of clean energy technologies might be improved. EPAct05 authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to issue loan guarantees to eligible projects that "avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases" and "employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued."

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included David Frantz, Director of Loan Guarantee Program, Department of Energy and representatives of the Council on Competitiveness; Friedman Billings Ramsey & Company, Inc.; and Barclays Capital. Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both delivered opening statements.
Chairman Bingaman said, “As I’ve noted before on this topic, the challenges we face in reorienting our energy systems from our current path are significant. Even as many of us realize the dangers to our health, security, and welfare that continuation of the status quo presents, the size of the challenge can be daunting. Putting a price on CO2 will help, and I believe policies such as a Renewable Electricity Standard will also be a part of the solution, but to achieve the speed and scale required, we can’t limit ourselves to one or even a few policy tools. We should explore every possible option and be ready to adapt when policies don’t seem to get the job done. . .

"The loan guarantee program in the 2005 energy bill was aimed squarely at that problem [developing and implementing new technologies], but somewhere along the line it seems the guiding principles of speed and scale were lost. I believe the President and Secretary Chu are bringing the necessary will and sense of urgency to this problem, but we should still ask ourselves if the structure of the program is sufficient to allow them to succeed. Can the Department take the necessary risks -- risks the private sector is unwilling to take or unable to effectively price – to enable these technologies to get over the initial hurdles to commercialization? Will they be able to act at a sufficient scale to reduce the deployment costs that keep these technologies from effectively competing with entrenched current technologies?"

Ranking Member Murkowski said, "Some opponents of this vital program dismiss it as merely a Loan Guarantee Program for the nuclear industry. That is simply not the case. The Title XVII program provides support for a broad portfolio of clean energy technologies - everything from energy efficiency and renewable energy systems; to pollution control and vehicle technology; to advanced nuclear and carbon capture projects.

"The Loan Guarantee Program we established four years ago can now assist us as we seek to rebuild our battered economy. The program supports projects that promise stable, high paying energy sector jobs and will help rebuild a core infrastructure upon which the future prosperity of our country depends.

"We are not risking taxpayer dollars with this program. Instead, fees paid by loan guarantee recipients are designed to cover the costs of potential project defaults.The energy sector obviously needs the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program as evidenced by the voluminous number of requests submitted to the Department of Energy. Despite the current limit of $42 billion for the program, DOE has received more than $120 billion dollars in applications. . .

". . .there is an urgent need for these services -- particularly in this credit crisis -- and we should ensure that the current program proceeds as expeditiously as possible. Where there are roadblocks, they should be removed. Where rules are ambiguous, clarification should be provided. If there is a desire to broaden the current program to provide additional services or achieve different policy objectives, then it should be done in such a way as to not cause delays in the disposition of current applications. Second, we must ensure equitable treatment of the entire portfolio of clean energy technologies. Now is not the time to be picking technology “winners and losers.”

DOE testified, "This program is an urgent priority for Secretary Chu as we face an unprecedented economic crisis that demands action. Secretary Chu is personally reviewing the program, and has committed to giving this program the attention, departmental resources and oversight it needs to succeed while ensuring that taxpayer interests are protected. . . One immediate priority for Secretary Chu is automating, simplifying and streamlining the existing application and evaluation systems."

DOE summarized the current proposal status including: The 2006 mixed technologies solicitation closed in November 2008 -- 11 projects for $4.0 billion in loan authority; The front-end nuclear power facilities solicitation closed in December 2008 -- two proposals for $2 billion in loan authority; The first nuclear power facilities solicitation also closed in December 2008 -- 15 proposals for $18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority; The fossil energy advanced technologies solicitation Part I applications were due on December 22, 2008 -- eight projects for $8 billion in loan guarantee authority; The advanced renewables solicitation currently has $10B in loan guarantee authority and is scheduled to close in February 2009, with the exception of the large scale renewable projects which will close in April 2009.

Access the hearing website and link to testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access a statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access a statement from Senator Murkowski (click here). Access the DOE Loan Guarantee Program website for complete background information (click here). [*Energy]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stimulus Bill Approved By Conference Committee

Feb 11: Amidst some confusion between House and Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that an agreement had been reached on the economic stimulus bill by House & Senate conferees. The compromise deal on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) [See WIMS 2/10/09] is for a $789.5 billion package and resolves the differences between the House version of $819 billion, and the Senate version of $838 billion. Insiders say the Senate announcement was made prior to final approval by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). House and Senate Republicans (with the exception of the three Republican Senators necessary for final approval) remain staunchly opposed to the final bill which now must be reapproved, without changes, by both Chambers before it goes to the President's desk.

President Obama issued a statement saying, "I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise that will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track. Just today, the CEO of Caterpillar said that if this American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is passed, his company would be able to rehire some of the employees they’ve been forced to lay off. It’s also a plan that will provide immediate tax relief to families and businesses, while investing in priorities like health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more. I’m grateful to the House Democrats for starting this process, and for members in the House and Senate for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands."

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), one of the three Senate Republicans supporting the package (along with Senators Specter, PA, and Collins, ME) issued a statement indicating that she was "directly involved in the Senate-House conference committee process, and was engaged in meetings with Majority Leader Reid last night and this morning that produced the compromise" that was revealed.

She said, "Given the gravity of our economic circumstances, I am pleased that our bipartisan negotiations have yielded a consensus solution that will create jobs, assist the displaced, and invest in our economy. As I’ve said from the outset of this process, it is not a matter of labeling something as spending or as tax relief -- it’s finding and including in this package the vital provisions necessary for jump-starting our economy. This $789 billion compromise will create or retain more 3.5 million jobs and provide tax relief for 95 percent of hard-working American families. We will be vigilant to ensure that every dollar is spent efficiently and effectively and for the sole purpose of turning this economy around and creating a brighter future for our fellow Americans. The time has come to bring everyone together and ensure this measure is swiftly enacted into law."

Senator Specter issued a statement saying, "This is obviously a very difficult vote in view of the large deficit and national debt which we have. But I believe it is indispensible that strong action be taken because the serious economic condition - with millions of jobs lost and millions of people being foreclosed from their houses -- poses a threat that cannot be ignored. The economists are virtually uniform in their prediction that if we do not act we face the potential consequence of a catastrophe and depression the likes of 1929. . . I believe the position of the United States Chamber of Commerce is a solid position from a very conservative organization and a Republican group very concerned with fiscal restraint. They have endorsed this legislation enthusiastically because of the seriousness of the economic situation and because of what it will mean on highways and bridges and dams and putting so many people to work. . ."

February 13, 2009, UPDATE: Here are the links to the actual Conference Committee report that will be voted on and explanatory statements.

Text of the Conference Report - Division A
Text of the Conference Report - Division B
Joint Explanatory Statement - Division A
Joint Explanatory Statement - Division B
H. Res. 168: Rule and Committee Report

Access a video of the February 11, House-Senate Conference Committee meeting (
click here). Access the statement from President Obama (click here). Access the statement from Senator Snowe (click here). Access the statement from Senator Specter (click here). Access the WSJ comparison between the House and Senate versions (click here). Access a summary from the Associated Press and USA TODAY research on how some of the differences between the House and Senate bills were resolved (click here). Access a 4-page House Appropriations Summary of the Conference Committee Report (click here). Access a WSJ interactive 1/27/09 map of approximate state distributions of funding (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 1 (click here). [*All]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

DOI Secretary Salazar Details Strategy For Offshore OCS Energy

Feb 10: Saying he needed to restore order to a broken process, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced his strategy for developing an offshore energy plan that includes both conventional and renewable resources. His strategy calls for extending the public comment period on a proposed 5-year plan for oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) by 180 days; assembling a detailed report from Interior agencies on conventional and renewable offshore energy resources; holding four regional conferences to review the findings; and expediting renewable energy rulemaking for the Outer Continental Shelf. Salazar said, “To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside the Bush Administration’s midnight timetable for its OCS drilling plan and create our own timeline."

In a news release, DOI indicated that on Friday, January 16, its last business day in office, the Bush Administration proposed a new five year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing. The proposal was actually published in the Federal Register on January 21, the day after the new Administration took office. The deadline for public comment that the Bush Administration established does not provide enough time for public review or for wise decisions on behalf of taxpayers. At the time of the Bush Administration proposal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the Minerals Management Service (MMS) proposal to lease newly-available areas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for oil and gas exploration and development from 2010 to 2015 [See WIMS 1/21/09]. The MMS, under the Department of Interior published its notice on January 21, 2009 in the Federal Register [74 FR 3631-3635]. The Draft Proposed 5-year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2010-2015 (DPP) was originally proposed for comments extending through March 23, 2009. DOI indicated that by adding the 180 day extension to the original 60-day period, interested parties will have had a total of 240 days (8 months) to comment on the proposed plan.

Salazar said, “The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas. The additional time will allow us to restore an orderly process to our offshore energy planning.” He said the evaluation of the proposed plan also needed better information about what resources may be available in the offshore areas. He indicated, “In the biggest area that the Bush Administration’s draft OCS plan proposes for oil and gas drilling -- the Atlantic seaboard, from Maine to Florida -- our data on available resources is very thin, and what little we have is twenty to thirty years old. We shouldn’t make decisions to sell off taxpayer resources based on old information.”

Salazar directed the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the MMS, and other departmental scientists to assemble all the information available about the offshore resources -- conventional and renewable -- along with information about potential impacts. The report is due in 45 days. Based on that report, the Department will then determine what areas need more information and create a plan for gathering that information. The Department of the Interior oversees more than 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf -- an area roughly three fourths of the size of the entire United States.

The strategy will also build a framework for offshore renewable energy development, so that the Department can incorporate the significant potential for wind, wave, and ocean current. He said, “The Bush Administration was so intent on opening new areas for oil and gas offshore that it torpedoed offshore renewable energy efforts. I intend to issue a final rulemaking for offshore renewables in the coming months, so that potential developers know the rules of the road. This rulemaking will allow us to move from the ‘oil and gas only’ approach of the previous Administration to the comprehensive energy plan that we need.”

Last September, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that did not include language extending the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Offshore Drilling Ban [See WIMS 9/24/08 & 9/29/08]. The previous ban expired on September 30, 2008. At the time Democrats indicated that the actions did not necessarily reflect a major shift in the Democratic position on offshore drilling, but they said it was a short-term concession to President Bush to keep the government running until a new President and Congress began work this year.

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said, “Secretary Salazar’s strategy for developing offshore energy is both thoughtful and balanced. Public opinion on offshore development varies from region to region, so his plan to hold regional conferences makes a good deal of sense. I appreciate the Secretary’s initiative in taking on this issue and look forward to working with him on it.”

American Petroleum Institute (API) President Jack Gerard commented on Salazar's plan and said, "Congress made the American people wait nearly 30 years to address our immediate energy challenges. Secretary Salazar today told the American people they must continue to wait -- even though more than two-thirds of them want to tap our vast domestic resources for the benefit of all Americans. . . The draft plan already received a record 120,000 comments from states, environmental groups, industry, labor groups and members of the public – with 87,000 of those comments supporting expanded and expeditious development. Secretary Salazar’s announcement means that development of our offshore resources could be stalled indefinitely. That would delay Americans’ access to nearly 160,000 new, well-paying jobs, $1.7 trillion in revenues to federal, state and local governments and greater energy security."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commented saying, "With America's continued reliance on imported oil, we urge the Obama Administration to not let bureaucratic processes slow down the path to energy security. Expanding domestic production will reduce America's dependence on imported oil and significantly reduce the billions of dollars we send abroad each year for energy. Producing American energy on and off our shores has the potential to be an engine of economic growth creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and generating more than $1 trillion in royalty revenue to the government."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) President & CEO Cal Dooley commented saying, "ACC applauds Secretary Salazar for making the development of a comprehensive energy policy a top priority. . . “We are encouraged by the bipartisan support in Congress last year for lifting the moratoria on offshore domestic energy development. Clearly, consensus has developed around the need for OCS energy to be part of America’s energy equation. We cannot begin soon enough to reshape U.S. energy policy in a way that drives demand for American goods and services, including chemistry; maintains and expands America’s job base; adds leasing revenues to the Treasury; helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and advances our security."

Sierra Club issued a statement saying, "Energy independence and jobs will be won by investing in clean energy, not by handing over our coasts to the oil industry. The Obama administration clearly understands that. President Bush's last-minute offshore drilling plan could have been written by oil industry executives. It was not based on science, was not subject to public review, did not consider the best interest of coastal communities, and ignored clean energy options. Revising this drilling plan is an important first step in getting our new energy economy on track."

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "There’s a new way of doing business at the Department of Interior under Secretary Salazar. By committing to a thorough review, Salazar is demonstrating bold leadership that will offer America a new energy future that provides clean domestic energy and cuts our dependence on foreign oil. . . New offshore drilling would risk oil spills from Florida to Maine, and all along the Pacific Coast. This would not only cause tremendous economic damage to fishing and tourism communities, but it would destroy habitat for wildlife, and hurt all of us who live, work and vacation in these places."

Access a release from DOI (
click here). Access the statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access a release from API and link to a fact sheet (click here). Access a release from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access the ACC statement (click here). Access a statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access a statement from NRDC (click here). [*Energy/OCS, *Water]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

37 Senate Republicans Stand Strong Against Stimulus

Feb 10: Despite the fact that the President, Senate Democrats, business groups, environmental groups and government groups strongly support the stimulus package that passed the Senate today [See WIMS 2/9/09], 37 Republican Senators continue their strong opposition. In his first, prime time press conference, President Obama announced his support for the stimulus package that now must be finalized in a House-Senate Conference Committee.

In his press conference, President Obama said, "It is absolutely true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do. . .

"But as we learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone cannot solve all our economic problems – especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it has only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now. That is why we have come together around a plan that combines hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the middle-class with direct investments in areas like health care, energy, education, and infrastructure – investments that will save jobs, create new jobs and new businesses, and help our economy grow again – now and in the future."

Announcing its support, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, "With the U.S. economy continuing to deteriorate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls on the Senate to approve without delay H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The legislation is not perfect -- parts of the bill should be modified or eliminated. However, the Chamber urges the Senate to approve H.R. 1, and encourages Congress and the Administration to work on a conference report that provides timely, targeted, and temporary economic stimulus. The Chamber supports pro-growth tax initiatives in the bill. In particular, the Chamber strongly supports provisions that would: extend the net operating loss (NOL) carryback period; provide for bonus depreciation and allow a refundable alternative minimum tax (AMT) credit in lieu of bonus depreciation; extend small business expensing; extend AMT relief; and provide a housing credit. The Chamber also supports provisions to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

"In addition, the Chamber strongly supports the Reid-Conrad-Ensign proposal on cancellation of indebtedness (COI). The Chamber applauds the inclusion of tax relief for companies that purchase their own or related party debt at a discount by providing relief from the current COI rules. This important provision applies to all restructurings, including debt-for debt, equity-for-debt, cash-for- debt, and similar exchanges. This provision helps preserve jobs, facilitates the deleveraging of the U.S. economy, and strengthens financial institutions’ balance sheets. Moreover, many of the spending-side provisions of the legislation will also provide stimulus and get Americans back to work. Of note, the Chamber strongly supports provisions to increase infrastructure spending. . ."

According to a CNN U.S. National Poll on February 7-8, the President's job approval comes in at 76% Approve, 23% Disapprove; Congressional Job Approval results in 29% Approve, 71% Disapprove. On the specific stimulus question, i.e. "do you favor or oppose the bill that the Senate is expected to vote on?"; the results indicate: 54% Favor and 45% Oppose.

Despite the widespread support for the stimulus, most Republican's in the House and Senate remain opposed. On the Passage of the Bill (H.R. 1 as Amended by the Collins-Nelson (NE) Amendment conducted today, February 10, 37 Republicans voted against the measure, and Senator Gregg (R-NH) who was recently appointed by President Obama to head the Department of Commerce removed himself from the vote. 56 Democrats, 2 Independents and 3 Republicans (Collins, ME; Snowe, ME, and Specter, PA) voted for the measure to obtain 61 votes necessary for passage.

Today, February 10, in opening remarks Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "The American people were ready to support an economic plan that would work and that wouldn't spend money we don't have on things we don't need. So were Republicans in Congress. What many of us did not expect, however, was that President Obama wouldn't be the author of that plan. In an odd turn of events, the bold economic plan that President Obama called for, ended up being written by some of the longest-serving Democrats in the House of Representatives, and it showed. Yesterday, the Democratic majority in the House postponed a leftover appropriations bill from last year that would bring 2009 spending to more than $1 trillion for the first time in the history of our country. It may seem overwhelming to do all of this at the same time, but in my view, we need to lay all of this spending on the table at once rather than trickle it out in an effort to hide the true cost. We need to be straight with the American people."

Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) said, "The stimulus bill considered by the Senate is a sprawling affair, with massive spending for a wide variety of projects, some of which are completely unrelated to the immediate economic challenges before us. Further, the bill contains provisions that threaten to undermine the very economic growth it purports to stimulate, placing American businesses and their workers in danger of trade-based retaliations and escalating financial protectionism. . ."

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, ". . .we will be voting on a $1.2 trillion mistake. The American people are tired of these expensive mistakes, but this would not be the first one. Now at the end of the Senate’s consideration of HR 1, we are voting tonight to end debate on what is being called a compromise proposal. It is being called a bipartisan proposal. Let me tell the American people that a vote tonight on a proposal supported by all the Democrats and 3 Republicans is not a bipartisan proposal nor is it any kind of compromise. . ."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a brief statement saying, "There is no time to delay. The American people need action on the economy now. Despite the worsening economic crisis, Republican leaders in Congress keep saying ‘No’ to legislation designed to help speed relief to America’s families, workers and small businesses." Pelosi included a listing of the House Republican leadership and their recent votes on major legislative proposals.

Access the President's press conference statement and link to the video of the press conference (
click here). Access the complete statement from the U.S Chamber (click here). Access the complete statement in opposition from Senator McConnell (click here). Access links to the Senate Republican statements and additional Republican view points (click here). Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a statement from the National Association of Manufacturers (click here). Access a statement from the National Governor's Association (click here). Access a support letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (click here). Access a release and letter from the National League of Cities (click here). Access the CNN poll results (click here). Access the roll call vote for the February 10, final passage (click here). [Note: Yesterday's report, linked above, included links to the full text and summaries of the Senate substitute bill]. Access the Read The Stimulus blog for additional information (click here). Access the Stimulus Watch blog for additional information (click here). [*All]

Monday, February 09, 2009

Senate Stimulus Bill Slated For Narrow Passage

Feb 9: Partisan politics and the same old Congressional gridlock were never so obvious over the weekend Friday night and Saturday during the Senate debate on the Senate substitute for the House-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1). After an extensive behind the scenes negotiations led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and including several other Democrats and Republicans, a paired down version of the Senate bill emerged that apparently will be supported by Senate Democrats and three Senate Republicans -- Senator Collins; Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). The so-called Collins-Nelson amendment, plus various floor amendments previously approved now constitute the current Senate version of the bill which totals some $827 billion. The House-passed its $819 billion version on January 28, 2009 [See WIMS 1/29/09] with no Republican support.

A test procedure vote is expected on the Floor of the Senate this evening and a final vote on passage is scheduled for Tuesday. The House and Senate differences must then be resolved by a Conference Committee and then the resulting bill will need to be approved by both the House and Senate again before going to the President for his signature. The process is supposed to be complete on or before President's Day on February 16.

While the President and Democrats apparently will gain a narrow passage of the stimulus bill, all House Republicans and more than 35 Senate Republicans appear united in their opposition to the current stimulus bill. On Friday, February 6, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement saying, “From the very first moment of this debate, there’s been strong bipartisan agreement on one thing: the original version of this bill was too big, too unfocused to work. The President, Senate Democrats, and just about every Senate Republican agreed this bill needed a massive overhaul. . . Virtually everyone agreed this bill lacked focus, didn’t create enough jobs, had too much permanent government expansion, and was just way too expensive with the national debt already reaching frightening new dimensions. . . The more the American people learn about this bill, the less they like it. Americans realize that a bill which was meant to be timely, targeted, and temporary has instead become a Trojan horse for pet projects and expanded government. . . Republicans are ready to support a stimulus bill. But we will not support an aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus. . . But putting another $1 trillion on the nation’s credit card isn’t something we should do lightly."

Access the complete 778-page Collins-Nelson amendment for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (
click here). Access a 14-page summary of the Appropriations provisions of the bill (including Nelson-Collins amendment and other floor amendments as of February 6) (click here). Access an 11-page summary of Finance provisions as Amended on the Floor through 2/7, Plus Expected Elements of the Collins-Nelson Amendment (click here). Access a release from Senator Collins (click here). Access a statement from Senator Snowe (click here). Access comments from Senator Specter (click here). Access a statement from Senator McConnell (click here). [*All]