Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UN Secretary Urges G-20 Investments In Clean Energy & Jobs

Mar 31: On April 2, 2009 world leaders will gather in London for the G-20 summit to address the global financial crisis. The meeting marks President Obama's first trip to Europe since being elected and his first international meeting with world leaders. The G-20 consists of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and also the European Union who is represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank. The G-20 represents more than 85 percent of the global economy.

At the summit countries will attempt to come together to enhance global coordination in order to help restore global economic growth. They will focus on three commitments: First, to take whatever action is necessary to stabilize financial markets and enable families and businesses to get through the recession; Second, to reform and strengthen the global financial and economic system to restore confidence and trust; and Third, to put the global economy on track for sustainable growth. While not a major focus of the meeting, energy and climate change issues will be a part of many discussions.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who will be in attendance at the meeting said in a release that he believes G20 leaders must address true global stimulus, protectionism, green growth and rethinking the Bretton Woods institutions. He warned that the economics crisis had the potential to turn into a political crisis. He said, "There’s a thin line between failed banks and failed states. And this can affect us all." Ban said he wanted to see a "substantial and truly global, stimulus package" that meets the needs of developing countries. He said existing commitments to increase aid must be fully met, delivery must be accelerated and the delivery organizations – such as the UN and the World Bank, must be fully funded.

Warning against protectionism, which ‘slows down recovery, the UN Secretary General spoke of the need for sustainable growth, based on new, large scale investments in energy efficiently, clean energy and green jobs. He said, "Green growth can and must be a major component of any global stimulus plan. It has the greatest potential to create jobs." He said, "It is at the core of the climate change threat, an important challenge that we cannot ignore." He indicated he will ask leaders at the London Summit to commit to "sealing a deal" at the climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.

According to information from the Summit website the G-20 have agreed previously "that we must not allow the financial turmoil to distract us from meeting our wider objectives to meet the challenges of climate change and development. It is possible leaders will want to consider the link between economic recovery and moving to a low carbon growth path, as well as climate aspects of international financial institutions reform to ensure we can ensure a green recovery." The information indicates, "The G-20 Finance Ministers will stick to their agreed work plan to consider climate financing issues, with the intention of feeding in this work to the broader UNFCCC process which will conclude in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. The aim is to support and complement the United Nations process and we look forward to discussing a range of mechanisms including, in particular, further development of carbon markets."

The agenda for the Summit includes the formal Summit meeting held at the ExCel Centre in London on April 2, preceded on April 1, by an evening reception and a working dinner. On April 2, there will be a number of meetings including a working lunch. All of these discussions will be held in private. The Summit will be followed by a briefing for the press.

According to a White House briefing, President Obama will spend the bulk of Wednesday and Thursday at the G-20 summit. According to the briefing, "The President, at the summit, has two main objectives, and that is ensuring that there is concerted action around the globe to jumpstart economic growth, and that we are advancing a regulatory reform agenda to ensure that this crisis never happens again and prevent anything like that in the future. Secondly, and just broadly, the United States is committed to ensuring that both of those messages are heard throughout the summit." From the G-20 meeting the President will continue his European visit with stops in Strasbourg, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; and in Turkey.

In a related matter, at a March 31, press conference in London, 52 companies announced they have joined forces with 34 experts and organizations to create an unprecedented Low-Carbon Prosperity Task Force. The groups said they were responding to an invitation made at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos by Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The Task Force said it will work with government and UN officials to develop a set of practical projects and policy proposals around the world, which will significantly stimulate the low-carbon economy from 2010 onward. An open letter was sent to Prime Minister Brown, setting out the Task Force's suggested agenda for the coming months.

Richard Samans, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum said, "We believe 2009 is a crucial year for two reasons. The international community faces the twin challenges of dealing with the most serious global economic crisis since the 1930s and negotiating an ambitious agreement on climate change. We suggest that the two agendas can and should be designed to be mutually reinforcing. Global economic growth and the prospects for achievement of a UN climate agreement in Copenhagen later this year can both be strengthened by placing low-carbon growth strategies at the heart of economic stimulus measures now being implemented in many countries."

The main focus for the Task Force is to identify exactly how to create millions of green jobs in the short run and deflect economic growth onto a more sustainable, low-carbon path for the longer term. They said by working with organizations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation and others, a key element of the Task Force's work is to develop practical ideas on how to get significant flows of green technology and investment into developing countries fast.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP said, "The G-20 governments can, politically and practically, signal their determination to transform the current economic crisis into an opportunity by committing a serious part of the multi-trillion dollar stimulus packages to low-carbon investments. In doing so, they will be setting the stage for sealing the deal in Copenhagen, and setting the stage for a resource efficient, innovation-led 21st century green economy. That is what business needs to know and that is what the low-carbon prosperity initiative is calling for."

Access the G-20 London Summit Meeting website for complete information (
click here). Access the overall G-20 website for additional information (click here). Access a release and video of the UN's Secretary General comments (click here). Access the G-20 information relating to climate change (click here). Access the White House G-20 briefing (click here). Access a release from UNEP on the Task Force and links to a 29-page UNEP Global Green New Deal Policy Brief and related information (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Monday, March 30, 2009

U.S. Climate Change Posture Changes On International Stage

Mar 29: The first round of United Nations-backed negotiations designed to culminate in an ambitious new international climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December got underway on March 29, in Bonn, Germany, for the first of a series of three sessions aimed at producing a draft document to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period to reducing greenhouse gas emissions ends in 2012. More than 2,000 delegates from government, business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions were expected to attend the nine-day meeting. The meetings are officially known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) Under the Convention.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, “This first negotiating session this year is critical for moving the world closer to a political solution to climate change. The clock is ticking down and countries still have much work to cover." Discussions on greenhouse gas emissions reductions to be achieved by industrialized countries after 2012 will center on issues relating to the scale of the reductions, improvements to emissions trading and the Kyoto Protocol's carbon offset mechanisms, as well as concerns relating to land-use change and forestry.

Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State, Special Envoy for Climate Change addressed the delegates and said, "As the President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, I want to say on behalf of President Obama and his entire team that we are very glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us. . . You will not hear anyone on my team cast doubt upon or downplay the threat of global climate change. The science is clear, and the threat is real. The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenarios. The costs of inaction -- or inadequate actions -- are unacceptable.

"But along with this challenge comes a great opportunity. By transforming to a low-carbon economy, we can stimulate global economic growth and put ourselves on a path of sustainable development for the 21st century. I would go so far as to say that those who hang back and cling to a high-carbon path will be economic losers in the end because with the scientific facts of global warming getting worse and worse, high-carbon products and production methods will not be viable for long. My central belief is this: that to succeed in containing climate change we must be guided by both science and pragmatism.

"Only if we are flexible and pragmatic, respecting each others’ different circumstances and concerns, will we be able to make strong and decisive progress. Too much time has been lost over the years locked in sterile debates. Now, as we face a gathering danger, let us focus on finding the common ground that can lead to agreement, rather than holding our ground on fixed positions. None of us has a monopoly on truth."

Stern suggested five building blocks for a foundation to "a strong agreement in Copenhagen" including: (1) a long-range vision that is guided by science; (2) America itself cannot provide the solution, but there is no solution without America; (3) there must be a global response, with truly significant actions by all major economies; (4) to establish a structure to ensure that significant funds flow to developing countries; (5) an agreement that is supported not simply by negotiators, but by the people we serve so it will enter into force with all countries participating.

He said, "Let me speak frankly here: it is in no one’s interest to repeat the experience of Kyoto by delivering an agreement that won’t gain sufficient support at home in all of our countries, including my own. . . too often when we start negotiating, we find heads being pulled back into their shells like turtles and an atmosphere that is more contentious than collaborative. I think that our challenge as negotiators is to try to capitalize on the creative energy and dynamism we see at the national level and that gets those heads popping back out of their shells. What matters after all is that we get on a viable, ambitious path to mid-century so we can solve the problem. And that we start now. Stalemate is not an option."

Stern indicated in his remarks that President Obama is working actively with key members of Congress to implement a nationwide cap and trade program that would cut emissions by more than 15% from current levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. He said, "Our Environmental Protection Agency is paving the way for more stringent standards for auto emissions and other regulatory measures. And the President is pursuing a ten year, $150 billion investment program for clean energy research, development, and deployment to speed key technologies to market and make the mitigation effort easier for all countries in the coming decades. This overall effort, especially the centerpiece cap and trade program, will largely set the level of the mid-term target and the longer-term pathway that the United States will take for reducing carbon emissions."

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access the complete opening statement from Stern (click here). Access the State Department website for Climate Change for more information (click here). Access links to detailed information, documents and webcasts of the meetings of the Working Groups (click here). Access a UNFCCC release on the meeting (click here). Access the complete opening statement of Yvo de Boer (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Labor & Enviro Groups Seek Climate Change Act In 2009

Mar 27: Four labor unions and two environmental organizations announced their support for comprehensive cap-and-trade climate change legislation in 2009. The Blue Green Alliance, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said this legislation is an effective way to rapidly put millions of Americans back to work building a clean energy economy and to reduce global warming emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Frances Beinecke, NRDC President said, “This agreement is one more sign of the growing consensus around the urgency of action on climate change. Environmentalists and labor groups are working together, standing side-by-side, and presenting a path forward for strong action on global warming that will repower our economy and protect our planet’s future.” Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers said, “We believe that climate change legislation is a critical step to jumpstarting the U.S. economy. And we agree that the U.S. must significantly reduce our emissions, something we can accomplish by retaining and creating millions of family-sustaining green jobs in the clean energy economy.”

The Blue Green Alliance supports a reduction of U.S. emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and supports a renewed U.S. effort to forge a global treaty to reduce worldwide emissions by 50 percent by that same date. To meet these goals, domestic climate change legislation should reduce U.S. emissions significantly below 2005 levels by 2020, with individual partners advocating targets ranging from 14 to 25 percent.

The labor-environmental partnership also said climate change legislation must address several critical issues. Job loss from international competition can be avoided with allowance allocations to energy-intensive industries and border-adjustment mechanisms. Rising energy costs to low- and moderate-income Americans and adversely-impacted regions can be offset with rebates or tax credits. The Alliance also supports complementary regulation, including standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency resources and fuel and appliance efficiency. In addition, they said climate change legislation should include investments in a wide range of technologies -- including carbon, capture and sequestration technology -- and federal financing for the transition to a clean energy economy.

The consensus reached by the Blue Green Alliance partners also said that allowances should be auctioned or used for public purposes and that the legislation should link its solutions to a broad agenda for economic opportunities that engages high-unemployment communities first and funds training and transition needs. Finally, BGA partners said that climate change legislation should help to fund a clean energy economic development model for developing and emerging economies and fund adaptation measures that provide solutions to those immediately impacted by global warming both domestically and internationally.

Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We share the common goal that climate change legislation is necessary to confront our greatest economic and environmental challenges. Standing together to advocate legislation that aggressively reduces U.S. emissions while creating good jobs is essential to building a broad consensus in this country around a clean energy economy.” David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance said, “The significance of this statement cannot be overstated. For the first time, a substantial number of unions representing workers across a broad section of the American economy have endorsed the principle that the way out of our current economic turmoil is through major investments in solving global warming. The labor and environmental movements have truly embraced a common vision for the future.”

The joint policy statement indicates that an "Economy-wide Architecture" is needed and says, "Although different sectors of the economy face different regional and international challenges, we believe that our economy is best served by an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. This architecture will best drive the innovation and investment necessary to transform our energy production and consumption systems. For an economy-wide system to work, however, both regional disparities and international competitiveness issues must be addressed. Otherwise, regions of our country most heavily dependent on fossil fuels will be unfairly penalized, and trade-exposed energy-intensive industries will be driven to less regulated countries."

The statement also says, "Climate change impacts and higher energy costs that may accompany a policy that puts a price on greenhouse gases will affect different sectors of our population and regions of our country unequally. Climate change legislation must provide a variety of mechanisms that offset rising energy costs to low- and moderate-income Americans and adversely impacted regions of the country. Such mechanisms might include energy efficiency programs, energy rebates and dividends, and tax credits and fiscal incentives for investment in the new energy economy."

The ambitious goal of legislation within 2009, will present a heavy challenge for Congress and the White House as it now appears likely that cap and trade legislation will be handled outside of the budget reconciliation process and thus will require near unanimous Democratic support and at least some Republican votes to achieve the necessary 60 votes for passage in the Senate [
See WIMS 3/26/09]. The group of Moderate Democrats (14 Democrats & 1 Independent), led by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), will likely exert significant influence over the crafting of the legislation [See WIMS 3/19/09].

Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the policy statement (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is The White House Backing Away From Cap And Trade?

Mar 25: Amid financial jitters in Congress amplified by projections of significant declining revenues and increasing deficits, a careful reading of Obama Administration comments, comments from Congressional budget leaders, and statements from the Moderate Democrats coalition (now being referred to as "ConservaDems") [See WIMS 3/19/09], seems to imply the Administration is likely to put cap and trade off for future consideration outside of the budget process. Even the President's own comments at his primetime press conference were unclear on how cap and trade would be handled [See WIMS 3/25/09].

In a revealing interview on "Hardball" with Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) one of the leaders of the Moderate Democrats coalition, which has the political power to control Senate passage of controversial parts of the President's budget proposal, Bayh talks of being careful to do cap and trade "the right way" and also points out a little discussed fact, that if such things as health care reform and cap and trade are pushed through Congress under the budget reconciliation process (with only 50 votes as opposed to 60) that they will have to be reauthorized in five years. He points out, these are long term programs that need stability. Bayh's interview was conducted after President Obama met with the Moderate Democrats coalition earlier in the day.

Bayh indicated that you're going to need the Democrats from the adversely affected states to do it the "right way." He said, "The President is wise enough and smart enough to know that it needs to be cooperative, and if he continues in that spirit I think we can get a whole lot of what he wants done, and in a way that middle America will embrace and it will work in a practical way." He said on cap and trade, "you're probably going to need 60 votes because it affects so many states economically that if you don't do it in the right kind of way you're taking money from carbon intensive states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and redistributing it to California, New York. That's just a very hard sell to our people when they're hurting. And you're also running the risk of taking jobs away and not actually solving global warming."

OMB Director Peter Orszag said in a Teleconference "we are very pleased that the House and Senate Budget Committees are taking up resolutions that are fully in line with the President's key priorities for the budget. Not only do they embody the four key principles that the President has put forward for the budget, but they are 98 percent the same as the budget proposal the President sent up in February. With regard to the four principles, as the President said last night and as we have emphasized since the budget was sent up, we want to make sure that the budget reflects key investments in health care, in energy, in education and cuts the deficit in half. And both the House and Senate Chairmen's marks do precisely that. First, with regard to cutting the deficit in half, the House Budget Committee's resolution hits $586 billion in 2013; the Senate Budget Committee's resolution hits $570 billion in 2013. Both of those meet the standard of cutting the deficit in half. . .

"Another thing that has been noted is that we had tied the extension of Making Work Pay to revenue from cap and trade. The House and Senate budget resolutions do adopt a different approach. I would note with regard to Making Work Pay that we have already in the Recovery Act gotten two years of that tax credit. So we have two years to figure this out." In response to questions relating to cap and trade, Orszag commented as follows:

Question: "I agree with you that the budget resolution is a dollar amount, but it's also sort of a first go-round on the politics of these underlying budget and tax decisions. And isn't it fair to say that on cap and trade, the charity tax change you proposed, and the tax credit, all three of those are in a higher degree of jeopardy than they were when you proposed the budget, and what is the administration going to do to change that?"

OMB Orszag: ". . .And on the budget, I guess what I would say is, again, everyone is -- you know, you all are looking for small differences between what the President sent up and what the House and Senate are considering -- 98 percent the same, and in the four key areas that the President identified, exactly and fully in line. . ."

Question: "But having covered the campaign, Peter, the tax credit and cap and trade are central features of the President's --"

OMB Orszag: ". . .With regard to climate change, there's already legislation that is being considered on the House side. The Senate is also active. The fact that it's not treated in the budget resolution the same way that we proposed in no way means that the House and Senate can't take the legislation up. And in fact, I think some may argue that the political economy of getting climate change done this year may actually be better outside of the -- outside of the budget resolution than inside of it."

Later in the day, at the daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had an exchange that also addressed the cap and trade issue. That exchange went as follows:

Question: ". . .it does seem to me that the most important part of your program that's got a real political challenge in terms of its prospects for passing is cap and trade. What is your assessment of the viability of that program specifically? And if you can't pass it, what are alternatives that might achieve the President's goals?

Press Secretary Gibbs: Well, as you know, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on cap and trade legislation. There are ideas that are bouncing around in the Senate and have for some time about -- about ways to institute a cap and trade program that the President and the administration are looking at and are encouraged by.

"I think, though, that the President believes, whether it's - - whether it's funding in the recovery or moving forward with more comprehensive energy -- legislation on energy independence, that there are steps outside of a cap and trade program that he talked about during the campaign and has talked about as President that can put our country on a greater path towards energy independence -- whether that's increased domestic production, whether that's something like the stop he did last week on battery technology, alternative fuels, investments in tax credits for wind and solar power generation -- that all of those things, be it in the budget, in the recovery plan, or in separate energy legislation, the President believes we have the opportunity to do what hasn't been done in quite some time."

The House and Senate Budget Committees are now considering their budget resolutions to implement the Obama Administration proposed budget and the proposed revenues to be generated from a cap and trade program are highly controversial. Even though the White House is indicating the resolutions are 98% consistent with the President's core proposals, many details are omitted.

The Senate Budget Committee released its Chairman’s Mark for FY 2010 Senate Budget Resolution. According to information from Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), "The Chairman’s Mark for the Fiscal Year 2010 Senate Budget Resolution is a fiscally responsible budget plan that addresses the fiscal and economic crises inherited by the Obama Administration and lays the foundation for long-term economic security. It preserves the major priorities in President Obama’s budget: reducing our dependence on foreign energy; striving for excellence in education; and reforming our health care system. It provides significant middle-class tax relief, directed at families with incomes under $250,000. And it cuts the deficit in half by 2012 and by two-thirds by 2014."

A summary indicates that the Congressional Budget Office’s re-estimate of the President’s budget shows the 10-year deficits will be $2.3 trillion more than originally projected by the Administration. The Chairman’s Mark responds to this worsening situation by making "adjustments in the President’s budget proposal, while maintaining the President’s core priorities."

One of the major "adjustments" is explained as, "It has never been more clear that our nation’s economic and national security are directly linked to our energy policy. We must address our dangerous addiction to foreign oil and confront the challenges of global climate change. In the process, we can create new “green collar” jobs that will help our nation’s economic recovery. To meet these challenges, the Chairman’s Mark builds on the energy initiatives in the economic recovery package with continued investments in alternative and clean energy technology, energy efficiency, and modernization of our energy infrastructure. It includes a deficit-neutral reserve fund that could accommodate initiatives to invest in clean energy or address global climate change, such as that proposed by the President." The so-called, "deficit-neutral reserve fund" is essentially a placeholder, but would require the programs to be paid for by known revenues. Thus, the budget resolution does not include what Republican's are calling a $646 billion "energy tax" raised by projected revenues from a cap and trade program.

Access the Orszag teleconference transcript (click here). Access the Gibbs press briefing transcript (click here). Access the "Hardball" interview with Senator Evan Bayh (click here). Access a Summary of Chairman’s Mark for FY 2010 Senate Budget Resolution (click here). Access the Chairman's Mark for FY 2010 Senate Budget Resolution (click here). Access House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt statement on the House FY 2010 Budget Resolution (click here). Access a 10-page Senate Budget Committee summary of the Administration budget (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Did President Obama Say On Cap-And-Trade?

Mar 24: At the President's primetime press conference he was asked directly about the inclusion of the controversial cap-and-trade provisions within his proposed budget. No reporter asked the question about whether or not the budget reconciliation process, requiring only 50 votes, would be used to bypass the necessity for 60 votes in the Senate. The President answered the question; however, just exactly what he meant is not clear from the response. Here is the transcript of the questions and answers.

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Right now on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are writing a budget, and according to press accounts and their own statements, they're not including the middle-class tax cut that you include in the stimulus. They're talking about phasing that out. They're not including the cap-and-trade that you have in your budget, and they're not including other measures. I know when you outlined your four priorities over the weekend, a number of these things were not in there. Will you sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap-and- trade?

President Obama: Well, I've emphasized repeatedly what I expect out of this budget. I expect that there's serious efforts at health care reform, and that we are driving down costs for families and businesses, and ultimately for the federal and state governments that are going to be broke if we continue on the current path.

I've said that we've got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We've got to invest in education, K through 12 and beyond, to upgrade the skills of the American worker so we can compete in -- in the international economy. And I've said that we've got to start driving our deficit numbers down.

Now, we never expected, when we printed out our budget, that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. I have not yet seen the final product coming out of the Senate or the House, and we're in constant conversations with them. I am confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place.

When it comes to the middle-class tax cut, we already had that in the recovery. We know that that's going to be in place for at least the next two years. We had identified a specific way to pay for it. If Congress has better ideas in terms of how to pay for it, then we're happy to listen.

When it comes to cap-and-trade, the broader principle is that we've got to move to a new energy era. And that means moving away from polluting energy sources towards cleaner energy sources.

That is a potential engine for economic growth.

I think cap-and-trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains, because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that's being sent into the atmosphere.

The way it's structured, it has to take into account regional differences. It has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices. So there are a -- a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through.

Our point in the budget is, let's get started now. We can't wait. And my expectation is that the energy committees, or other relevant committees in both the House and the Senate, are going to be moving forward a strong energy package. It'll be authorized. We'll get it done. And I will sign it. Okay?

Question: So is that a yes, sir? You're willing to sign a budget that doesn't have those two provisions?

President Obama: No; I -- what I said was -- is I haven't seen yet what provisions are in there. The bottom line is -- is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit.

And there are going to be a lot of details that are still being worked out. But I have confidence that we're going to be able to get a budget done that's reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows. Okay?

Access the complete transcript of the President's press conference (
click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

EPA Expresses Concern To Corps Re: Mountaintop Mining

Mar 24: U.S. EPA has sent two letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressing serious concerns about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality caused by certain types of coal mining practices, such as mountaintop mining. The letters specifically addressed two new surface coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky. EPA also intends to review other requests for mining permits. Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “The two letters reflect EPA’s considerable concern regarding the environmental impact these projects would have on fragile habitats and streams. I have directed the agency to review other mining permit requests. EPA will use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment.”

EPA’s letters, sent to the Corps office in Huntington, WV, stated that the coal mines would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate. EPA has recommended specific actions be taken to further avoid and reduce these harmful impacts and to improve mitigation. The letters were sent to the Corps by EPA senior officials in the agency’s Atlanta and Philadelphia offices. Permit applications for such projects are required by the Clean Water Act.

EPA also requested the opportunity to meet with the Corps and the mining companies seeking the new permits to discuss alternatives that would better protect streams, wetlands and rivers. The Corps is responsible for issuing Clean Water Act permits for proposed surface coal mining operations that impact streams, wetlands, and other waters. EPA is required by the act to review proposed permits and provides comments to the Corps where necessary to ensure that proposed permits fully protect water quality.

Because of active litigation in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the issuance of Corps permits for coal mining, the Corps has been issuing far fewer permits in West Virginia since the litigation began in 2007. As a result, there is a significant backlog of permits under review by the Corps. EPA said it expects to be actively involved in the review of these permits following issuance of the 4th Circuit decision last month [
See WIMS 2/17/09]. EPA said it is coordinating its action with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and with other agencies including the Corps.

At the time of the 4th Circuit decision, Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing several of the environmental organizations in the case issued a release saying, "The ruling will permit mining companies to conduct devastating mountaintop removal coal mining operations without acting to minimize stream destruction or conducting adequate environmental reviews. As a result, Appalachia could now be facing up to 90 new mountaintop removal coal mining operations, which would destroy huge swaths of the Appalachian Mountains. We believe the decision is wrong on the law and the science. This fight is not over until mountaintop removal mining is over. We will continue to litigate, and in addition, the new administration must take immediate steps to curb the terrible practice of mountaintop removal mining and undo the mistakes of the past."

According to the letters from EPA to the Corps, one project may be "a suitable candidate for receiving an individual permit from the District"; while on another project EPA finds "extensive cumulative and other impacts" and says it is a "high potential as a candidate for a 404(c) action" granting EPA the authority to prohibit the issuance of a permit.

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access the comment letter from Region 3 (click here). Access the comment letter from Region 4 (click here). Access EPA's Mountaintop Mining website for background (click here). [*Water]

Monday, March 23, 2009

House Hearing On Avoiding Job Losses With Climate Change Bills

Mar 18: The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing titled, “Competitiveness and Climate Policy: Avoiding Job Losses and Global Warming Progress in International Business Competition.” The hearing addressed potential domestic legislative provisions to prevent the loss of jobs and carbon emission reductions from the United States to countries that do not take similar action to curb heat-trapping carbon pollution.

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representatives from the: Energy Intensive Manufacturers Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Regulation; American Electric Power; Pew Center on Global Climate Change; Resources for the Future; Industrial Energy Consumers of America; and American Council for Capital Formation.

In an opening statement Chairman Markey said, "Global warming does not recognize national borders. CO2 emitted in California has the same warming effect as CO2 emitted in China, Europe, or India. Rising sea levels threaten millions of people across the globe, in places as far apart as Bangladesh, Boston and Shanghai. Global warming highlights that we are, in fact, 'one world.' And just as we are connected environmentally, so too are we connected economically. The actions we take in the United States to curb global warming pollution and create jobs cannot stand alone."

Markey said, "Once you drill down on the facts it's clear that a relatively small number of industry sectors are highly energy-intensive and directly vulnerable to international competitive effects brought about by carbon limits. Those industry sectors include iron and steel, aluminum, cement, glass, paper and pulp, and basic chemicals. . . These important industrial sectors interestingly constituted a little more than 3 percent of America's gross domestic output in 2005 and accounted for less than 2 percent of our jobs."

To avoid shipping jobs or emissions overseas, one suggestion is requiring that energy intensive products imported into the United States be accompanied by some kind of fee or surcharge, unless the product comes from a country with carbon pollution limits. Thus, putting imported, carbon-intensive products on the same footing as American made goods and thus "level the playing field." American Electric Power testified on the tariff/allowance proposal the company co-authored with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Another way of dealing with potential competitive effects is to take some of the allowance values from the carbon market and give them to the "trade exposed" industry sectors to aid in their transition to a low-carbon economy. The Energy Intensive Manufacturers Working Group testified in support of such an approach. Markey said, "Finally, we should remember that in order to stop global warming, it will be necessary for virtually all countries, particularly industrialized countries, to limit their emissions of carbon pollution."

Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) submitted a letter from former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab which indicated, “we have serious concerns… particularly the enthusiasm for using import provisions that might be perceived as unilateral trade restrictions directed against other countries to push them to move rapidly to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses. This approach… will take us down a dangerous path and adversely affect US manufacturing, farmers, and consumers… and even [cause] an all-out trade war where no one wins and everyone loses.”

Upton said, "What happens to our National Security when we don’t manufacture anything? What happens when we need to order all of our steel and aluminum from China? If we take the wrong legislative path dealing with climate change; we run the real risk of permanently destroying our manufacturing and defense supply chains. In times of crisis, we will be helpless, at the mercy of others. . . By design, a cap and trade scheme works by adding to the cost of energy and through that an increase in production costs for energy intensive industries and manufacturing. There are cost containment mechanisms that will be discussed this morning that may help mitigate some of the increases, but at the end of the day, they won’t be enough to save these jobs. And when factories move overseas, the environment is worse for it. . ." Upton said that American steelmakers emit 1.2 tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) per ton of steel compared to Chinese steel emissions estimated to be in the neighborhood of 4 to 5 tons of GHG per ton of steel.

He continued further stating that, "To reach the lofty goal of 80% [GHG] reduction, emissions from the entire transportation sector would have to drop to zero; emissions from all electricity generation would have to drop to zero; and then we’d need to reduce the remainder by 50%. Think about the industries and jobs we’d have to lose to meet those goals. Can America remain a power on the world stage if we shed these industries? Can our economy recover without those jobs?"

The Markey Energy and Environment Subcommittee has also held additional hearings in recent weeks on various aspects of climate change legislation including: The Role of Offsets in Climate Legislation (March 5); The Future of Coal Under Climate Legislation (March 10); and Consumer Protection Provisions in Climate Legislation (March 12).

Access the hearing website and link to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access an overveiw and opening statement from Representative Markey (click here). Access the opening statement from Representative Upton (click here). Access links to the recent Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearings (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, March 20, 2009

Senate Hearing On Nuclear Energy Development

Mar 18: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) held a hearing to receive testimony on nuclear energy development. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Dale E. Klein - Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI); and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both delivered statements.

Chairman Bingaman provided some background and indicated that 104 nuclear power plants now operating in the U.S. supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity. He said, "They do so reliably, cost-effectively, and without emitting greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is an essential part of our energy mix, and must remain so for the foreseeable future." He noted that the current generation of nuclear power plants was mostly built in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. For nearly 30 years, utilities did not order a single new nuclear power plant, but in the last two years, 17 companies or groups of companies have ordered 26 new reactors.

The hearing focused on two main themes -- the licensing process and the financial challenges and other obstacles facing new nuclear power plant development. Bingaman indicated that, “The original licensing process was often blamed for the construction delays and cost overruns experienced in the past, but the Commission and Congress replaced that process with a new, streamlined, one-step process, which is now in place but has yet to be fully demonstrated." He said, "The high capital cost of building a new nuclear power plant is a serious obstacle to developing new nuclear power plants. We have previously tried to address the financial challenges through loan guarantees, delay and accident insurance, and production tax credits."

Finally, he indicated that, “What to do with the spent fuel nuclear power plants is, of course, one of the biggest unsolved problems facing the nuclear industry. But nuclear waste is not the subject of today's hearing. I hope to schedule a separate hearing on nuclear waste in the weeks ahead. Nonetheless, I recognize the keen interest that Senators have in the problem, and in the Administration's decision to stop work on the Yucca Mountain repository, and I expect we will have questions for the panel on the waste problem as well.”

Senator Murkowski called on the Obama Administration "to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost domestic power generation by supporting nuclear energy projects." She said, “There’s not just one solution to the energy challenges we face -- there are many. Nuclear energy is one of the few solutions that’s already commercially viable, tested and proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’re seeing a lot of license applications for new reactors. Assuming they’re all approved, we need to be prepared to take the next step and support construction. Our ultimate goal is to develop a robust and self-sustaining nuclear energy industry.”

She said the Administration’s recent removal of support for Nevada’s Yucca Mountain repository for spent nuclear fuel, "despite the Administration’s oft stated support for the industry" sends the wrong signal to potential investors and suggests the Administration is not serious about expanding domestic nuclear power. I’m concerned about the future of nuclear energy if we don’t take substantive steps to address the disposal of nuclear waste until the Administration has an alternative, we need to fund and support the Yucca Mountain license review.”

Marvin Fertel, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) testified on behalf of members that include all companies licensed to operate commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S., nuclear plant designers, major architect/engineering firms, fuel fabrication facilities, materials licensees, and other organizations and individuals involved in the nuclear energy industry. His testimony focused on five major areas including: Current status of the U.S. nuclear energy industry; The need for new nuclear generating capacity; Progress toward new nuclear power plant construction; Financial challenges facing the electric power sector; and Policy actions necessary to address the challenges facing new nuclear plant development.

He testified that the NRC is reviewing construction and operating license applications from 17 companies or groups of companies for 26 new reactors totaling 34,200 MW. The new plants will be built at a measured pace over the next 10-15 years. NEI estimates a new nuclear power plant could cost $6 billion to $8 billion, including financing costs.

Under policy actions, Fertel said NEI is encouraged by Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s intent, expressed before this committee during his confirmation hearing and at other times, to address the difficulties that have arisen during implementation of the Title XVII loan guarantee program. He said many of these problems can be corrected through rulemaking, and NEI understands that DOE is developing revised rules to address defects in the current rule and to implement the new loan guarantee program authorized in the economic stimulus legislation.

On the subject to management of used nuclear fuel Fertel said it "is managed safely and securely at nuclear plant sites today, and can be managed safely and securely for an extended period of time. For this reason, used nuclear fuel does not represent an impediment to new nuclear plant development in the near term. It is, however, an issue that must be addressed for the long-term." He indicated that the Obama Administration has made it clear that Yucca Mountain “is not an option.”

He said, the nuclear industry’s position on used fuel management is clear: " The Nuclear Waste Policy Act establishes an unequivocal federal legal obligation to manage used nuclear fuel, and remains the law of the land. Until that law is changed, the nuclear industry believes the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain license application should continue. If the administration unilaterally decides to abandon the Yucca Mountain project without enacting new legislation to modify or replace existing law, it should expect a new wave of lawsuits seeking further damage payments and refunds of at least $22 billion in the Nuclear Waste Fund already collected from consumers that has not been spent on the program.Given the uncertainties associated with the Yucca Mountain project, DOE should reduce the fee paid by consumers to cover only costs incurred by DOE, NRC and local Nevada government units that provide oversight of the program. . ."

Dr. Thomas Cochran, Senior Scientist for the NRDC Nuclear Program testified and said that NRDC's testimony focused on three issues: a) whether additional federal loan guarantees should be provided to construct new nuclear power plants; b) whether the United States should engage in reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel; and c) whether Congress should intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's proposed rulemakings on temporary storage of spent fuel and so-called "waste confidence," that is, "whether sufficient confidence exists today in the long-term ability to isolate spent fuel from the biosphere that we can responsibly license new reactors that will add to the nuclear waste burden."

On Spent Fuel Reprocessing, NRDC said, "The federal government should not encourage or support commercial spent fuel processing. Putting aside for the moment the serious proliferation and security concerns in any future global shift toward reprocessing, it's clear that combating climate change is an urgent task that requires near term investments yielding huge decarbonization dividends on a 5 to 20 year timescale. . .Congress and the new Administration should terminate funding for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and its associated efforts to close the nuclear fuel cycle and introduce fast burner reactors in the United States [See WIMS 5/23/08]."

On Nuclear Waste Disposal, NRDC said, "As the political sun sets on the proposed Yucca Mountain project, the federal government needs to begin identifying alternative geological disposal sites for the country's nuclear waste. Congress should initiate a search for a new geologic repository site for the disposal of spent fuel, and insure that adequate federal funding is available to retain the technical community associated with the Yucca Mountain project, so that this expertise will be available to assess and develop new proposed geological waste disposal sites. The Congress should not interfere in the NRC's ongoing Waste Confidence and Temporary Storage rulemakings, and let this regulatory body attempt to fulfill its independent regulatory mandate."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access the statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access the statement from Senator Murkowski (click here). [*Energy/Nuclear]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sen. "Moderates" Will Influence Environmental & Energy Legislation

Mar 18: The major announcement that 15 Senators -- 14 "moderate" Democrats and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- were forming a coalition to help shape public policy may have a huge impact on pending proposals for environmental, energy and climate change legislation. In a release, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced the diverse Group of 15 Senators will meet regularly to shape public policy. He said the group’s goal is to work with the Senate leadership and the new administration to craft "common-sense solutions to urgent national problems."

The Group of 15, including some strong supporters of President Obama is lead by: Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper (D-DE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR); and also includes Mark Udall (D-CO); Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK); Kay Hagan (D-NC); Herb Kohl (D-WI); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Ben Nelson (D-NE); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); and Mark Warner (D-VA).

With the delicate balance of power in the Senate requiring near unanimous Democratic support, plus a handful Republicans to achieve the "magic" 60 number to avoid a filibuster; the group immediately becomes a force to be reckoned with. Even if the widely discussed "reconciliation" process, requiring only 50 votes is utilized, the new group's support will be essential. The three group leaders are all honorary co-chairs of Third Way, a progressive Democratic policy group, and Senators Bayh and Carper have led the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

While much of the media coverage on the Group of 15 was buried in the mass of coverage of the AIG bonuses issue, most reporting dealt with the groups influence and concerns with the Obama budget proposal. It is important to note that the group has defined its mission to help "shape public policy" in general. Major environmental issues on the table including climate change, cap-and-trade v. carbon tax, the California waiver, renewable energy standards, the future of coal, nuclear waste management, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and other public lands; Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and more; will obviously be high on the group's agenda.

With the Obama Administration already calling for bipartisan solutions to major issues, ending "earmarks as we know them," and making coal and nuclear power part of the energy mix, the new coalition may provide an interesting twist on finding more "middle of the road" solutions and buffering the opposition from the extreme ends of the Republican and Democratic parties. Early attempts at bipartisan solutions, as demonstrated by the narrow passage of the stimulus bill in the Senate, have proven difficult and will likely get worse with other major issues including controversial energy and environmental issues.

Senator Bayh indicated that the "Moderate Dems Working Group" will meet every other Tuesday before the Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss legislative strategies and ideas. The Moderate Dems held their second meeting Tuesday to focus on the upcoming budget negotiations and the importance of passing a fiscally responsible spending plan in the Senate. At the working group meeting, Senator Bayh acknowledged that such a large group was unlikely to agree on all major issues before the Senate. Yet he said, "the Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change."

Bayh said, “We have a wonderful opportunity to break gridlock in Washington and accomplish big things for the American people, but we also have a responsibility to pursue sensible solutions that will work. Our group seeks to work collaboratively with the Obama administration and Senate leadership to make sure legislation is crafted in a practical way that will solve people’s problems. It’s going to take all of us working together in the Senate to get the 60 votes necessary to deliver the change the American people deserve.”

Senator Carper said, “The number of moderate Democrats has grown substantially in the past two Congresses -- and in America. We can play a constructive role in helping our leadership and the Obama administration get things done in this new Congress. Now, more than ever, the Senate needs to put ideology aside, to find common ground on legislation, and to deliver results for the American people.”

Senator Lincoln said, “Arkansans are pragmatic and expect results from their leaders in Congress. I’m proud to play a constructive role as we work with the administration and Senate leadership to help reach consensus on important issues and serve as a voice for fiscal responsibility.”

Senator Bayh's release included a comment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) saying, “If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work. Established organizations like Third Way and new ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done, and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing.”

Access a release from Senator Bayh (
click here). [*All]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Climate Change To Seriously Impact Public Health; Research Lacking

Mar 18: According to a release from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a report published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "Climate change will seriously impact public health, but the United States is failing to support the research needed to prepare for it." The report, "U.S. Funding is Insufficient to Address the Human Health Impacts of and Public Health Responses to Climate Variability and Change" warns, "The lack of attention from the Federal government on the health risks of climate change to U.S. populations is needlessly putting multitudes at risk."

The report is co-authored by the same authors who wrote the Climate Change and Human Health chapter in the July 2008 U.S. EPA report [See WIMS 7/17/08] entitled, "Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems," including Environmental Defense Fund's Chief Health Scientist Dr. John Balbus. Dr. Balbus is also a member of the National Academy of Science Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research and Medicine, and the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The release indicates that global warming is expected to worsen many health problems, including heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases, and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and allergens from the air. Health effects are also likely to result from altered air, water, agriculture, and ecosystems processes. Despite these facts, Federal funding of health research related to climate change is estimated to be less than $3 million per year. The report concludes that more than $200 million is needed annually to sponsor "robust intra- and extramural programs" in federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. EPA.

The report indicates that funding research in climate change and health research "that is directly linked to protective action at the local level is a wise investment, consistent with the goals of restoring economic stability, justice and environmental quality, and reducing health care costs." The inadequate level of U.S. funding, the report states, "appears to be due to the low priority placed on identifying and managing the health risks of climate change by Congress and the Federal government." The report also concludes that reporting of the research funding needs more transparency and clarity.

Access a release from EDF (
click here). Access the complete 31-page report (click here). Access an abstract (click here). Access an overview, background documents and link to the complete 283-page EPA report referenced above (click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

University Study Reveals Seven Myths About Green Jobs

Mar 16: According to a release from the University of Illinois College of Law, academics and researchers from four U.S. universities released a joint study, Seven Myths About Green Jobs, that analyzes the assumptions, findings and methodologies of green jobs projections and benefits put forth in reports issued by several special interest groups, industry associations and international organizations which have subsequently been widely referenced by government officials, policymakers and the media.

While acknowledging the importance of energy conservation and ongoing research and investment into new technologies, the authors set out to evaluate the fundamental soundness of green job claims. In aggregate, the academic team's study concludes that "a lack of sound research methods, erroneous economic assumptions and technological omissions have routinely been utilized to lend support, rather than provide legitimate analysis, to major public policies and government spending initiatives."
The report authors also indicate that the reports that were reviewed have been issued without the benefit of peer-reviewed analysis or transparency of their models and calculations. Reports analyzed by the academic team include those from the following organizations: The American Solar Energy Society (ASES); The Center for American Progress; The U.S. Conference of Mayors; and The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

Professor Andrew Morriss, H. Ross & Helen Workman Professor of Law and Business and Professor at the University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs said, "When the claim of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of green jobs are used as the basis for billions in new government spending, we ought to insist that those claims be backed by transparent documentation and sound methodology, not implausible assumptions and inconsistent definitions."

The release indicates that, "Key findings of the study show that no definition for green jobs exists causing great discrepancy in how numbers are counted; that green job estimates often include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic and administrative positions that do not produce goods or services for consumption; and that problematic assumptions are made about economic predictions, prices and technology advancements leading some to ultimately favor mandates over free market realities. These serious flaws, as well as the failure to include technical data, render the prevailing green job estimates virtually unreliable."

Dr. Roger Meiners, Goolsby Distinguished Professor of Economic and Law at the University of Texas-Arlington and a study co-author said, "It is not our intention to debate the energy proposals these jobs estimates seek to justify. We simply believe that if the government is going to establish a new policy paradigm and spend huge sums of money to do so, it should be based on verifiable data and peer-reviewed research."

Much of the study examines the methodology used by various special interest groups to calculate how many green jobs new energy policies would create. The authors indicate that, "Starting with simple fundamentals, these studies do not define new job creation in an economically sound manner failing to account for employment productivity or efficient use of labor. These basic flaws make comparison of job claims almost impossible and thus fail to create a statistical consensus."

Dr. William Bogart, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Economics at York College of Pennsylvania, another study author said, "Economic analysis is not a matter of justifying policy goals by making optimistic assumptions and ignoring those realities that fail to support your objectives. Our work here clearly shows that the foundations of these 'green' jobs claims do not measure up to the kind of research standards we should demand when evaluating change in direction for our economy."

The study notes that one of the major flaws in existing research is "its failure to acknowledge that mandating a move to new 'green' sectors of the economy and away from fossil fuel-based sectors will shift jobs rather than create new jobs and thus overall economic growth." The study concludes that "significant opportunities abound to develop new energy sources, new industries, and new eco-friendly jobs in the future but that a market-based process will do a far better job than could a series of government mandates based on flawed data."

Access a release on the study and an executive summary (
click here). Access a 20-page article reviewing the issues (click here); and a 100-page, in-depth analysis (click here). [Note: click on "Download" at the top of the page and then click on the SSRN logo to begin download.] Access the Twitter RSS feed for "Myths About Green Jobs" for updates on reactions to this report (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Formaldehyde & 1,4-Dioxane In Popular Baby Bath Products

Mar 12: Despite marketing claims like “gentle” and “pure,” dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to the March 2009 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) report entitled, "No More Toxic Tub." This study is the first to document the widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in bath products for children, including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions. Many products tested contained both chemicals.

The founding members of the CSC include: Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth.

The CSC commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. The lab found that: 17 out of 28 products tested -- 61 percent -- contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. 23 out of 28 products -- 82 percent -- contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm). 32 out of 48 products -- 67 percent -- contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm. Products tested included top-selling Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, and Baby Magic.

Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at Environmental Working Group (EWG) and creator of the Skin Deep cosmetic safety database said, “Products made in the U.S. and marketed for children should not contain chemicals linked to cancer or any other health problem,” said Congress urgently needs to reform federal policy to protect the most vulnerable members of our society by ensuring that the personal care products we use every day are free from harmful chemicals.”

According to a release from EWG, formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known to cause cancer in animals and are listed as probable human carcinogens by U.S. EPA. Formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Sharon Jacob, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego and contact dermatitis specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital said, “Given the recent data showing that formaldehyde and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative, quaternium-15, are significant sensitizers and causal agents of contact dermatitis in children, it would be prudent to have these removed from children’s products." The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that “the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern.”

According to the announcement from CSC, "While a single product might not be cause for concern, the reality is that babies may be exposed to several products at bath time, several times a week, in addition to other chemical exposures in the home and environment. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease." EWG indicates that, "Contrary to industry statements, there are no regulatory standards that limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane or most other toxic chemicals in personal care products sold in the United States. Other nations have stricter standards. Formaldehyde is banned from personal care products in Japan and Sweden. The European Union bans 1,4-dioxane from personal care products and has recalled products found to contain the chemical."

CSC reported that Congressional concerns are picking up. The cited the following Congressional leaders expressing concerns. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said, “When products for babies are labeled ‘gentle’ and ‘pure,’ parents expect that they are just that. To think that cancer-causing chemicals are contaminating baby shampoos and lotions is horrifying. I intend to soon introduce legislation requiring greater oversight of our cosmetics industry. We need to ensure that the chemicals that are used in our everyday products are safe.” Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “The fact that we are bathing our kids in products contaminated with carcinogens shows how woefully out of date our cosmetics laws are and how urgently they need to be updated. The science has moved forward, now the FDA needs to catch up and be given the authority to protect the health of Americans.” Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) commented that, “Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are better suited for the chem lab, not a child's bathtub. This important report shows that 'No More Tears' can trigger toxic fears, and it provides another reason why these and other cosmetic products must be further regulated. ”

Access an announcement from CSC (
click here). Access the complete 32-page report (click here). Access a release from CSC with links to more information (click here). Access the EWG Cosmetics database (click here). [*Toxics]

Friday, March 13, 2009

NAS Report Warns Climate Change Alters Design Assumptions

Mar 12: A report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) warns that many state and local officials and private organizations are basing decisions -- such as how to build bridges, manage water supplies, implementing zoning rules, using private motor vehicles -- on the assumption that current climate conditions will continue, but that assumption is no longer valid. The report recommends that to produce the climate information these decision makers need and to deliver it to them effectively, Federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. EPA should expand their activities in these areas.

The report -- Informing Decisions In A Changing Climate -- recommends six principles that all agencies should follow in supporting decision makers who are facing the effects of climate change. The report says, "agencies' efforts should be driven by the needs of end users in the field, not by scientific research priorities. And agencies should create close ties between the scientists who produce climate change information and the practitioners who use it." The committee that wrote the report also urged an expansion of Federal research to generate the information regional and local decision makers need -- for example, studies on which locations are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and on ways to mitigate or adapt to these effects. Studies should also assess the best ways to collect and disseminate such information.

In addition, the report calls for a new Federal initiative to identify and serve decision makers, such as county planners, who may not already be served by particular agencies. This new initiative should not be centralized in a single agency; instead, it should involve and coordinate all agencies that either serve constituencies affected by climate change or collect the information that these decision makers need. This broad initiative will need strong leadership from the Executive Office of the President, including the President's science adviser and the new coordinator of energy and climate policy.

According to the report, "As a result of human activity, the average temperature of Earth will soon leave the less-than-1 degree Celsius range that it has maintained for more than 10,000 years. Moreover, despite 15 years of intense international climate negotiations, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been growing 33 percent faster during the last 8 years than they did in the 1990s.

"Climate change will create a novel and dynamic decision environment. The parameters of the new climate regime cannot be envisioned from past experience. Moreover, climatic changes will be superimposed on social and economic changes that are altering the climate vulnerability of different regions and sectors of society, as well as their ability to cope. Decision makers will need new kinds of information and new ways of thinking and learning to function effectively in a changing climate. Many decision makers are experiencing or anticipating a new climate regime and are asking questions about climate change and potential responses to it that federal agencies are unprepared to answer. . .

"Our study found that climate change poses challenges not only for the many decision makers it will affect, but also for federal agencies and for the scientific community. The end of climate stationarity requires that organizations and individuals alter their standard practices and decision routines to account for climate change."

Among the many recommendations contained in the report, the first recommendations is: "Government agencies at all levels and other organizations, including in the scientific community, should organize their decision support efforts around six principles of effective decision support: (1) begin with users’ needs; (2) give priority to process over products; (3) link information producers and users; (4) build connections across disciplines and organizations; (5) seek institutional stability; and (6) design processes for learning."

Access a release on the report from NAS (click here). Access links to the complete report and an executive summary (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

House Science Subcommittee Examines "Advance Coal Programs"

Mar 11: The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Chaired by Brian Baird (D-WA), held a hearing to examine FutureGen and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) advanced coal programs. Subcommittee Members heard testimony on near-term and long-term strategies to accelerate research, development and demonstration of advanced technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

At the hearing Members discussed a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report comparing the DOE’s past efforts to where they are now to determine the best path to take moving forward. According to a Committee release, it is well understood that the burning of fossil fuels significantly contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Approximately 50 percent of the electricity generated in the United States comes from coal and 41 percent of the electricity produced worldwide comes from coal. China is the world’s largest coal user, accounting for 63 percent of the country’s total primary energy supply.

Subcommittee Chairman Baird, said, “We burn a lot of coal in this country and around the world. The United States is one of the largest consumers of coal and this is one of the major reasons we are one of the largest emitters of gases that lead to lethal warming and acidification of our oceans. But we are not the only country with strong dependence on coal. China and India have both expanded their coal use, and in 2007 China surpassed us to become the largest contributor to global CO2 emissions. I do not say this to point fingers, but to point out that climate change truly is a global problem, and we must work with other developed nations and developing economies to find solutions to this staggering problem.”

It was noted that the DOE manages several programs -- such as the Clean Coal Power Initiative, FutureGen, Innovations from Existing Plants Programs, Advanced Turbines Program, Advanced Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Program, Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnership -- designed to research and develop new technologies to help reduce GHG emissions from our nation’s coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources while also maximizing performances and minimizing costs.

In 2003, the DOE’s FutureGen initiative was announced by the Bush Administration as the first zero-emissions, coal-fired electricity-generating plant that would also test advanced coal technologies. Under the FutureGen program, DOE would oversee a consortium of industrial interests and international partners that would manage the construction of a $1 billion next-generation integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant to produce electricity and hydrogen. In January of 2008, the DOE announced a major restructuring of the FutureGen program which eliminated the hydrogen production and the living laboratory of components of the original program and left our international partners unsure of their involvement with the initiative. Since the announcement of the restructuring of FutureGen, the DOE has received many proposals to review. Recently, Secretary Steven Chu testified that he would support the original FutureGen plant with “some modifications.”

In February 2008, the Science Committee asked GAO to investigate the Bush Administration’s decision to pull their support for FutureGen -- a project intended to demonstrate the next generation of coal-fired power production and once the centerpiece of the Department of Energy’s(DOE) program on clean coal technology [See WIMS 2/19/08]. At the hearing, GAO released a 53-page report entitled, Clean Coal: DOE's Decision to Restructure FutureGen Should Be Based on a Comprehensive Analysis of Costs, Benefits, and Risks (GAO-09-248, February 13, 2009). GAO also released a 9-page testimony delivered to the Subcommittee entitled, Clean Coal: DOE Should Prepare a Comprehensive Analysis of the Relative Costs, Benefits, and Risks of a Range of Options for FutureGen (GAO-09-465T, March 11, 2009.

GAO testified that the original FutureGen plant was to capture and store underground about 90 percent of its CO2 emissions. DOE’s cost share was to be 74 percent, and industry partners agreed to fund the rest. Concerned about escalating costs, DOE announced in January 2008 that it had decided to restructure FutureGen. In October 2008, DOE received a small number of applications for the restructured FutureGen; however, some of these applications were for proposals outside the restructured FutureGen’s scope. DOE is currently assessing proposals received and stated it expected to announce a selection of projects by December 2008; however, as of the beginning of March 2009, it had made no decision.

DOE requested supplemental information from restructured FutureGen applicants, which will be reviewed before any selection decision. GAO indicated, "As you know, the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the stimulus law, provides DOE an additional $3.4 billion for 'Fossil Energy Research and Development'. Such a substantial amount of funding could significantly impact DOE’s decisions about how to move forward with programs such as FutureGen."

GAO concluded, "Given the magnitude of the current fiscal and economic challenges facing our nation, along with the urgent need to secure an adequate and sustainable energy supply that does not contribute to climate change, much rides on the success of clean coal programs, such as FutureGen. To ensure the best uses of billions of federal dollars, informed and thoughtful approaches should be taken when making decisions about these programs, including the restructuring of FutureGen." GAO indicated that its February 2009 report recommended that DOE conduct a comprehensive analysis of different options.

In its February report, GAO concludes, ". . .in its decision, DOE [the Bush DOE] compared two cost estimates for the original FutureGen that were not comparable because DOE’s $950 million estimate was in constant 2004 dollars and the $1.8 billion estimate of DOE’s industry partners was inflated through 2017. As its restructuring decision did not consider a comprehensive analysis of costs, benefits, and risks, DOE has no assurance that the restructured FutureGen is the best option to advance CCS."

Senior Committee Member Jerry Costello (D-IL), where the original FutureGen project was to be located said, “These reports make clear the decision by President Bush and Secretary Bodman was not supported by the facts. The result is we lost at least a year and a half and perhaps more time to develop carbon capture and sequestration technologies. President Bush took what could have been a tremendous bipartisan achievement with real impact on global climate change and made it yet another poor decision.”

Full Committee Chair, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, "It is extremely unfortunate that the previous Administration used ‘bad math’ to restructure a major climate-change initiative. The end result has been lost time to develop carbon capture storage (CCS) technologies and increased skepticism from around the globe about our commitment to demonstrate CCS."

Representative Baird said, “I think the United States should take the lead in reducing energy consumption and particularly consumption of fossil fuels. We have a variety of tools at our disposal to accomplish that goal. We can develop and deploy advanced, green technologies, adopt better conservation practices and energy efficiency policies, and as individuals, behave more responsibly. Without bold policies and public and personal commitment, we run the risk of serious damage to our environment and our society. That outcome is simply unacceptable. It is my sincere hope and expectation that we can devise a strategy forward that achieves remarkable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.”

Access the Committee release on the hearing (click here). Access the hearing website with links to testimony, the GAO report, a staff report, the hearing charter, and extensive background information (click here).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

DOE Testimony On Budget; Climate; Coal; Nuclear Power; Yucca

Mar 11: Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu testified before the Senate Budget Committee, Chaired by Senator Ken Conrad (D-ND), with Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH), to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget for DOE. Chu said, "The President’s Budget recognizes the enormous challenges and threats we face because of the ways we use energy. Today, we import roughly 60 percent of our oil, draining resources from our economy and leaving it vulnerable to supply disruptions. Much of that oil is controlled by regimes that do not share our values, weakening our security. Additionally, if we continue our current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, the consequences for our climate could be disastrous."

He said, ". . .we must decrease our dependence on oil, use energy in the most efficient ways possible, and lower our carbon emissions. Meeting these challenges will require both swift action in the near-term and a sustained commitment for the long-term to build a new economy, powered by clean, reliable, affordable, and secure energy."

He began with an overview of provisions contained within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, the "stimulus bill"). It includes $5 billion to weatherize the homes of low-income families; a $1,500 tax credit to help homeowners invest in efficiency upgrades; $4.5 billion to “green” federal buildings, including reducing their energy consumption; and $6.3 billion for state and local efficiency and renewable efforts. It also includes: $6 billion for loan guarantees and more than $13 billion in estimated tax credits and financial assistance instruments (grants and cooperative agreements) that may leverage tens of billions in private sector investment in clean energy and job creation. Additionally, it includes investments in key technologies, such as $2 billion in advanced battery manufacturing; $3.4 billion for fossil energy research and development in support of clean coal efforts; and $4.5 billion to modernize the electric grid.

He said the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget "will continue this transformation to a clean energy economy, while returning to fiscal responsibility." The FY 2010 Budget provides $26.3 billion for the Department of Energy, with investments in basic science and in clean energy technologies, while securing and properly managing our nation’s nuclear materials. He indicated that the budget is coordinated with the ARRA and complements those investments. The line-by-line details of the FY 2010 budget are not final yet.

Chu highlighted the priorities within the FY 2010 Budget including: Investing in Science; Clean Energy Technology; Smart Electricity Infrastructure; Increased Nuclear Security; and a Cap-and-Trade System. On the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository he said, "the Budget begins to eliminate funding for Yucca Mountain as a repository for our nation’s nuclear waste. Both the President and I have made clear that Yucca Mountain is not a workable option and that we will begin a thoughtful dialogue on a better solution for our nuclear waste storage needs."

On the Cap-and-Trade system he said, "For the longer term, the President has pledged to work with Congress to design a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such legislation will place a market-based cap on carbon emissions and drive the production of more renewable energy in America. It will provide the framework for transforming our energy system to make our economy less carbon-intensive, and less dependent on oil."

In response to questions from Senator Conrad he said, "we have to develop clean coal technology" and carbon sequestration. Senator Gregg asked, "Is the Administration going to support licensing new nuclear power plants?" Chu responded that nuclear power must be part of the overall energy mix and he doesn't think that nuclear licensing should be put on hold. He said he would support more funding to encourage the nuclear power industry to grow. In response to a question -- Shouldn't we be drilling more aggressively for natural gas? He said developing more natural gas should be part of our overall energy plan.

In closing comments Senator Conrad commented on climate change and said, "I think it is very important for the administration to understand what I am hearing. You know, I reported yesterday some of what I had been hearing, and I know it discomforts some in the administration to hear that the budget as is, in my judgment, just as it has been written, probably can’t pass here. I say that because I have colleagues coming to me every day saying to me, 'If this is in, don’t count on my vote.'”

In a release on the hearing, Senator Gregg commented, "I’m also concerned about climate change and I think we should try to move away from carbon-based production of energy and that’s why I’ve been a strong supporter of nuclear power. And I’m genuinely concerned about this Administration’s approach to nuclear power. If you look at the recent stimulus bill that was passed, stripped from that bill was approximately $50 billion of potential loan guarantees, which would have helped us fund an expansion of nuclear power."

Access the complete testimony of Secretary Chu (
click here). Access charts used at the hearing (click here). Access a link to a flash player webcast of the hearing (click here, scroll down to "Wednesday, March 11"). Access the statement from Senator Conrad (click here). Access a release from Senator Gregg (click here). [*Energy]