Tuesday, June 30, 2009

EPA Proposes Strengthened NO2 Standards

Jun 29: U.S. EPA announced that for the first time in more than 35 years, it is proposing to strengthen the nation’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air quality standard that protects public health. The proposed changes reflect the latest science on the health effects of exposure to NO2, which is formed by emissions from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, and industrial facilities and can lead to respiratory disease.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “We’re updating these standards to build on the latest scientific data and meet changing health protection needs. In addition to limiting annual average concentrations, we’re preventing high NO2 levels for shorter periods of time and adding stronger monitoring in areas near roadways, where the highest levels of NO2 are often found. This will fill gaps in the current standard and provide important additional protections where they are needed most.”

EPA’s proposed revisions apply to the primary NO2 standard and would: establish, for the first time, a one-hour NO2 standard at a level between 80 – 100 parts per billion (ppb); retain the current annual average NO2 standard of 53 ppb; add NO2 monitoring within 50 meters of major roads in cities with at least 350,000 residents; and continue monitoring “area-wide” NO2 concentrations in cities with at least 1 million residents.

EPA said that current scientific evidence links short-term NO2 exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, with increased respiratory effects, especially in people with asthma. These effects can lead to increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations such as children, the elderly, and asthmatics.

EPA first set standards for NO2 in 1971, establishing both a primary standard to protect health and a secondary standard to protect the public welfare at 53 ppb, averaged annually. Annual average NO2 concentrations have decreased by more than 40 percent since 1980. All areas in the United States are well below the current (1971) NO2 standards with annual averages ranging from approximately 10 – 20 ppb. EPA will accept public comments for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

The agency will hold two public hearings in August 2009: one in Los Angeles and one in the Washington, DC area. EPA will provide details on the public hearings in a separate notice issued later this summer. EPA must issue a final decision on the NO2 standard by January 22, 2010.

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access complete information on the new NO2 proposed standards (click here). Access more information on NO2 (click here).

Monday, June 29, 2009

ACES Climate-Energy Bill Passes House By 2 Votes; But. . .?

Jun 26: the House passed the Waxman-Markey, American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES, HR 2454) which the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said will "revitalize our economy by creating millions of new jobs, increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and preserve our planet by reducing the pollution that causes global warming." The bill which needed 218 votes to pass received only 219 votes. 168 Republicans and 44 Democrats -- or 212 -- voted against the bill. Last minute negotiations and deals were necessary to get the 219 votes and many are still trying to figure out the details of what was passed.

In a joint summary statement from the bill sponsors, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, “Today we have taken decisive and historic action to promote America’s energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth. After more than three decades of being held hostage to the influence of foreign energy suppliers, this legislation at long last begins to break our addiction to imported foreign oil and put us on a path to true energy security.” Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) said, “Today the House has passed the most important energy and environment bill in our nation’s history. Scientists say that global warming is a dangerous man-made problem. Today we are saying clean energy will be the American-made solution. This legislation will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions and unleash investment in clean energy by the trillions.”

On the floor, the Speaker said, “No matter how long this Congress wants to talk about it, we cannot hold back the future. And so, in order to move on with the future, I want to yield back my time, submit my statement for the record, and urge my colleagues to vote for this important legislation. And when you do, just remember these four words for what this legislation means: jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs. Let’s vote for jobs.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) staged a mini-filibuster when he randomly flipped through the bill and read isolated passages and questioned the language for over an hour prior to the final vote. Later Boehner called the bill a "pile of s--t" and said, "The legislation is going to raise electricity prices, increase gasoline prices, and ship American jobs overseas to countries like China and India. It also will be a bureaucratic nightmare overseen by a confusing web of government agencies that will take and redistribute trillions of dollars from family budgets and workers’ payrolls."

While many observers are saying the bill does not have a chance in the Senate, President Obama commented on the passage positively saying, "Today, the House of Representatives took historic action with the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. It's a bold and necessary step that holds the promise of creating new industries and millions of new jobs; decreasing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil; and strictly limiting the release of pollutants that threaten the health of families and communities and the planet itself. Now it's up to the Senate to take the next step. And I'm confident that in the coming weeks and months the Senate will demonstrate the same commitment to addressing what is a tremendous challenge and an extraordinary opportunity.

"As always happens when we debate issues of this magnitude we see lines of demarcation. There are those who argue that the status quo is acceptable, those who would have us continue our dependence on foreign oil and our reliance on fossil fuels despite the risks to our security, our economy, and the planet. But the American people know that the nation that leads in building a 21st century clean energy economy is the nation that will lead in creating a 21st century global economy. I want America to be that nation. And with this vote, the House has put America on the path to being that nation.

"The fact is, just weeks ago, few in Washington believed that this day would come to pass. The best bet -- the safe bet -- was that after three decades of failure, we couldn't muster the political will to tackle the energy challenge despite the necessity and urgency of action. But although Washington may not see it yet, there is a spirit of change that's taken hold across this country. As has happened at every critical juncture in our history, the American people are demanding that we abandon the failed policies and politics of the past; we no longer accept inaction; that we face up to the challenges of our time. And today, the House has done exactly that."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a brief statement following passage of the bill in the House and said, “The House has taken a courageous step toward a safer and cleaner energy future that will create good jobs, reduce pollution and decrease our dependence on foreign and unsustainable sources of energy. The bill is not perfect, but it is a good product for the Senate and our Committees to start considering and begins the nation's inevitable movement to clean and abundant renewable energy and away from harmful and inefficient use of fossil fuels. Working with the President and his team, I am hopeful that the Senate will be able to debate and pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) said, "Congratulations to Congressional leaders for passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act. There are very few bills that we pass that trigger so many benefits for the American people -- energy efficiency, new jobs, cleaner air, healthier families, and energy independence. This bill gives us the momentum we need in the Senate, and signals that when we promised change for the better in America, we meant it."

Ranking Member on the Senate EPW Committee, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, "Today's razor thin vote in the House spells doom in the Senate. Despite a large Democratic majority in the House, and the fact that this is one of the President's top priorities, the Democratic leadership was forced to do everything possible to get a bill passed. Their slim victory could come at a high price -- this is the BTU tax all over again. . . The Waxman-Markey bill is just the latest incarnation of cap-and-trade legislation that will destroy American jobs by pushing them overseas, force consumers to shoulder the burden of higher gasoline and electricity prices, and drastically increase the size and scope of the federal government. . ."

Most environmental and conservation groups applauded passage of the bill, while major business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill. As an example, the Chamber said, "The 'American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009' (H.R. 2454), a 1,200-page behemoth consisting of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, a federal renewable electricity mandate, and a suite of new mandatory energy efficiency standards, will impose 397 new federal regulations (which require traditional federal agency rulemakings) and 1060 new mandates on an American public already overwhelmed by extensive federal regulation."

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "While passing the bill through the House took hard work and compromises on many sides, this is strong and vital legislation that Congress needs to deliver to the President's desk this year. This bill will help create new jobs in manufacturing and clean technology. It will increase energy efficiency, help consumers save on energy bills, and protect lower-income families. And it will finally put our country on a course to limit the carbon pollution that causes global warming."

According to a summary of highlights from Waxman and Markey, the bill contains the following key provisions:

  • Requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
  • Invests $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
  • Mandates new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.
  • Reduces carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as investments in preventing tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.
  • Protects consumers from energy price increases. According to recent analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation will cost each household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 (not including energy efficiency savings).

Access details of the roll call vote (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2454 (click here). Access a release from Waxman-Markey (click here). Access a release from the Speaker with links to summaries, full text, videos, her statement and more information on the bill (click here). Access links to several statements from Minority Leader Boehner (click here). Access the statement from President Obama (click here). Access a statement from Senate Majority Leader Reid (click here). Access the statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access the statement from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release and links to additional information from the Chamber (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here).Access links to the Committee report, full text of the bill, amendments submitted and related information on the vote from the House Rules Committee (click here).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Major House Vote On ACES Energy & Climate Change Bill

Update: 26-Jun-2009, 7:17 PM
Recorded vote: 219 - 212 (
Roll no. 477).
Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here).
Access a release from Minority Leader Boehner (click here).

Jun 26: Despite months of drafting, negotiations, hearings, testimony, and debate most observers are predicting a very close vote on H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) legislation. A House Floor vote is expected later today -- sometime after 5:00 PM. There are currently 434 voting members in the House -- 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans. To pass the bill 218 votes are necessary. As a demonstration of how close the vote may be, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday that the bill will get about 218 votes. An analysis by Energy & Environment (E&E) Daily indicates that as of today there are: 184 votes for the bill; 171 against; and 79 "fence sitters."

Recognizing how close the vote may be, President Obama held a special press conference yesterday to encourage support for the bill and urged Representative to vote for what he called the "historic" legislation. The President indicated that one reason the vote was going to be close was because of what he called "misinformation" suggesting that "there's somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and our economic growth."

In his speech at the press conference the President said, "Right now, the House of Representatives is moving towards a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new clean energy economy. For more than three decades, we've talked about our dependence on foreign oil. And for more than three decades, we've seen that dependence grow. We've seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We've seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet. And most of all, we've seen that others countries realize a critical truth: The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.

"Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this, as well. Now is the time for us to lead. The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy. It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy -- everything from wind, solar, and geothermal power to safe nuclear energy and cleaner coal. It will spur new energy savings like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.

"And most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs. Now, make no mistake -- this is a jobs bill. We're already seeing why this is true in the clean energy investments we're making through the Recovery Act. In California, 3,000 people will be employed to build a new solar plant that will create 1,000 jobs. In Michigan, investments in wind turbines and wind technology is expected to create over, 2,600 jobs. In Florida, three new solar projects are expected to employ 1,400 people.

"The list goes on and on, but the point is this: This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

"I've often talked about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth so that we don't return to the endless cycle of bubble and bust that has led us into this deep recession. Clean energy and the jobs it creates will be absolutely critical to that new foundation.

"This legislation has also been written carefully to address the concerns that many have expressed in the past. Instead of increasing the deficit, it's paid for by the polluters who currently emit dangerous carbon emissions. It provides assistance to businesses and families as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies. It gives rural communities and farmers the opportunity to participate in climate solutions and generate new income. And above all, it will protect consumers from the costs of this transition so that in a decade, the price to the average American will be about the same as a postage stamp per day.

"Because this legislation is so balanced and sensible, it's already attracted a remarkable coalition of consumer and environmental groups, labor and business leaders, Democrats and Republicans.

"Now I urge every member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican -- to come together to support this legislation. I can't stress enough the importance of this vote. I know this is going to be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation that's out there that suggests there's somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and our economic growth. But my call to those members of Congress who are still on the fence, as well as to the American people, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future, and we can't be prisoners of the past. We've been talking about this issue for decades, and now is the time to finally act.

"There's no disagreement over whether our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our security; we know it is. There's no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy; it's happening. And there's no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy. The only question is, which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America. And I believe that the American people and the men and women they sent to Congress share that view.

"So let's take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations -- to our constituents, to our children, to God's creation, and to future generations."

Access the statement from the President (click here). Access the Bloomberg article on the upcoming vote (click here). Access the E&E analysis of the voting (click here). Access a Committee Summary of Bill (click here). Access links to the Committee report, full text of the bill, amendments submitted and related information on the vote from the House Rules Committee (click here). Access a 115-page subtitle-by-subtitle, and section-by-section summary of the bill from Congressional Research Service (click here).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

House Dems Push Back On Obama Short-Term Transportation Plan

Jun 24: Following the release of the Committee Print on June 22 [See WIMS 6/23/09], the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit met and marked up and approved by voice vote the Print of the "Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009." The $500 billion bill authorizes the nation's surface transportation programs. The current authorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expires on September 30, 2009. The bill will now go to the full committee for consideration sometime in July.

Full Committee Chair, James Oberstar (D-MN) said on release of the Committee Print that the bill, “lays out a plan to transform our surface transportation system so that it can meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s challenges. It restructures surface transportation programs to a performance-based framework to cut fatalities and injuries on our highways, bring highway, bridge, and public transit systems to a state of good repair, reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and support robust investment in our nation’s infrastructure.” Subcommittee Chair, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said the bill "provides our nation a vision and a path towards a 21st Century transportation system. It will make our highways safer, improve our roads and transit systems, make our businesses more competitive by reducing their costs due to time spent in traffic, and reduce the amount of time the average person spends in gridlock. This is an opportunity to move past broken policies of the past and move toward a more accountable and efficient future.”

The House action on the bill, is contrary to a June 17, request from U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood calling for an immediate, short-term 18-month highway reauthorization to replenish the Highway Trust Fund which may run out of money in late August [
See WIMS 6/18/09]. LaHood said the Administration opposes a gas tax increase "during this challenging, recessionary period." Rather than the comprehensive bill being proposed by Oberstar, LaHood said, "we should not rush legislation. We should work together on a full reauthorization that best meets the demands of the country. The first step is making sure that the Highway Trust Fund is solvent. The next step is addressing our transportation priorities over the long term."

On June 24, the 32 Democratic members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter to President Obama expressing, "our profound disappointment in your Administration's proposal to extend the current surface transportation programs for 18 months. . . Your proposal fails to acknowledge the severity and urgency of the challenges facing the nation's surface transportation system at this critical time. . . The Administration's business-as-usual approach, with multiple extensions passed before enactment of a new multi-year highway, highway safety, and transit authorization act is unacceptable. That is the failed experience of the past. . .a piecemeal approach to fixing our transportation network will not work."

On the Senate side, the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing today (June 25) on the "Impacts of Expected Highway Trust Fund Insolvency." Senator Boxer has agreed with the Administration's short-term extension plan and said today, "I look forward to working with the Administration on this proposal, which would keep the recovery and job creation moving forward and give us the necessary time to pass a more comprehensive and transformational multi-year transportation authorization bill with stable and reliable funding sources." [Note: WIMS will report on the Senate hearing in tomorrow's report].

Access links to the Subcommittee's summary of subject matter and a video of the markup (
click here). Access the June 24 letter to President Obama (click here). Access an announcement from Chairman Oberstar (click here). Access links to the Committee Print, Executive Summary, Federal Surface Transportation Framework, Blueprint for Investment and Reform and more from the T&I website (click here, scroll down to "Issues in the Spotlight").

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

UN Chief Calls For “Unprecedented” Global Climate Summit

Jun 23: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended an invitation to heads of State and government to attend what is being called an “unprecedented” global summit at the United Nations to spur action towards reaching an ambitious climate change pact later this year. At a press conference in New York, he said, “Climate change is the greatest challenge facing this and future generations. Emissions are rising and the clock is ticking.” The plea echoes a similar call that the "clock is ticking" from a new international update report issued on June 18, at the at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels [See WIMS 6/19/09].

According to a release from the UN, the high-level meeting will be held at UN Headquarters on September 22, just over two months before the start of the climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where countries are expected to wrap up negotiations on an agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The Secretary-General called on all world leaders to take part in the event and “make their commitment and give clear instructions to [their] negotiators on climate change.”

Citing the top scientists, he stressed that there are fewer than 10 years left to stop rising emissions in order to avoid “catastrophic” problems. “Now is the time for action,” he said. The UN can raise awareness of the issue of global warming, but ultimately, Ban said, it is the world’s parliaments, presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors who must take bold measures to tackle climate change. Ban said to date, their response has been “less than sufficient.” He said he hopes that cooperation will allow them to “seal the deal” on the new climate pact, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol whose first commitment period ends in 2012.

The Secretary-General said climate change negotiations “should be led by the industrialized countries in view of their historical responsibilities” with developed nations providing financial and technical support to help vulnerable countries cope with the impact of global warming. The announced summit will occur on the eve of the start of the General Assembly’s high-level debate. It will also take place during Climate Week NYC, an initiative to last from September 21-25, which was unveiled at the same press conference by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg said, “Our city will be honored not only to host the General Assembly, but to enthusiastically support the summit on climate change.”

The summit meeting announcement marks another important date on the way to Copenhagen. The UNFCCC (COP 15) meeting in Copenhagen will take place December 7 to 18. The next meeting of UNFCCC informal consultations and work group meetings will take place August 10 to 14 in Bonn, followed by a gathering in Bangkok from September 28 to October 9, and a further gathering from November 2 to 6 in Barcelona. Additionally, outside of the UNFCCC process, but intricately linked, the Major Economies had a work meeting from June 22-23 in Mexico City and a "leaders' meeting" and the G8 Summit in Italy, in July 2009.

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access a transcript of the press conference and questions from reporters (click here).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CBO Says Cap & Trade To Cost $175 Per Household In 2020

Jun 22: At the request of Representative David Camp (R-MI) Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has completed an analysis of the potential effects on households of the cap-and-trade program that would be implemented pursuant to H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), as reported by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on May 21 [See WIMS 5/22/09]. As indicated in a press conference today (June 23), President Obama said the House would take up the legislation this week. Media reports quoting sources from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office indicate that the bill will be considered on the House Floor on Friday, June 26.

In an accompanying letter to Camp, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said, "The attached report summarizes the results of that analysis, indicating both the net overall cost per household nationwide and the net costs or benefits that would be realized by households in various income quintiles. CBO has estimated those amounts for the bill as it would be implemented in 2020 (but shown in 2010 dollars). This analysis does not address other provisions of the bill, nor does it encompass the potential benefits associated with any changes in the climate that would be avoided as a result of the legislation." Copies of the report will also released to Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX).

According to an explanation of the analysis posted on the CBO blog, "Reducing emissions to the level required by the cap would be accomplished mainly by stemming demand for carbon-based energy by increasing its price. Those higher prices would, in turn, reduce households’ purchasing power. At the same time, the distribution of emission allowances would improve households’ financial situation. The net financial impact of the program on households in different income brackets would depend in large part on how many allowances were sold (versus given away), how the free allowances were allocated, and how any proceeds from selling allowances were used. That net impact would reflect both the added costs that households experienced because of higher prices and the share of the allowance value that they received in the form of benefit payments, rebates, tax decreases or credits, wages, and returns on their investments.

"The incidence of the gains and losses associated with the cap-and-trade program in H.R. 2454 would vary from year to year because the distribution of the allowance value would change over the life of the program. In the initial years of the program, the bulk of allowances would be distributed at no cost to various entities that would be affected by the constraint on emissions. Most of those free allocations would be phased out over time, and by 2035, roughly 70 percent of the allowances would be sold by the federal government, with a large share of revenues returned to households on a per capita basis. This analysis focuses on the effect of the legislation in the year 2020, a point at which the cap would have been in effect for eight years (giving the economy time to adjust) and at which the allocation of allowances would be representative of the situation prior to the phase-down of free allowances. The incidence of gains and losses would be considerably different once the free allocation of allowances had mostly ended. Although the analysis examines the effects of the bill as it would apply in 2020, those effects are described in the context of the current economy -- that is, the costs that would result if the policies set for 2020 were in effect in 2010.

"On that basis, CBO estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion -- or about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy and of payments made to foreign entities under the program, but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the associated slowing of climate change. Of the total cost, CBO could not determine the incidence of certain pieces (including both costs and benefits) that represent, on net, about 8 percent of the total.

"For the remaining portion of the net cost, households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020, while households in the highest income quintile would see a net cost of $245. Added costs for households in the second lowest quintile would be about $40 that year; in the middle quintile, about $235; and in the fourth quintile, about $340. Overall net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income."

The House Committee on Rules has indicated that it is expected to meet this week to report a rule that may structure the amendment process for floor consideration of H.R. 2454. The Committee has issued a notice that any Member wishing to offer an amendment to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 must do so by 9:30 AM on Thursday, June 25, 2009, in order for the amendment to be considered by the Rules Committee. The Committee has also posted the text of H.R. 2454 to be introduced (see link below).

Access links to the analysis, data, letter and blog post (click here). Access a Bloomberg's report indicating House scheduling for this week (click here). Access the Rules Committee posting (click here).

Monday, June 22, 2009

EPA's Suspension Of Chemical Management Program (ChAMP)

Jun 19: While a formal announcement from U.S. EPA is apparently pending, several sources are reporting that the Agency's Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) has been suspended. ChAMP was created initially to implement commitments that the United States made at the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) Leaders Summit, in Montebello, Canada, in August 2007. The United States agreed to complete screening-level chemical prioritizations and initiate action as appropriate on an estimated 6,750 chemicals. The chemicals include High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals, which are reported under the Toxic Substances Control Act's (TSCA) 2006 Inventory Update Rule (IUR) as being produced or imported in quantities greater than or equal to 1 million pounds a year, and Medium Volume Production (MPV) chemicals, which are reported under the 2006 IUR as being produced or imported in quantities greater than or equal to 25,000 and less than 1 million pounds per year.

While the ChAMP has been widely supported by the chemical industry, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has criticized the program saying that the mostly voluntary initiatives to identify and manage the risks of thousands of chemicals "will provide far less protection than the more comprehensive approach taken under the European Union’s REACH regulation" [Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) program [
See WIMS 5/2/08].

On EPA's latest decision, EDF said, "It probably goes without saying that EDF welcomes EPA's decision to suspend the development and posting of risk-based prioritizations under its Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP). EDF has been arguing that ChAMP's 'rush to risk' has taken EPA badly off-track. But we have also identified many useful things that EPA's existing chemicals program can and should be doing with the data it obtained through the HPV Challenge (whether called ChAMP or not). We look forward to working with EPA to craft a new approach, grounded in a return to developing scientifically defensible hazard, not risk, characterizations and transparently identifying and addressing data gaps and data quality problems. EDF recently made a number of recommendations on how ChAMP could be used to leverage "green chemistry" and facilitate safer substitution [See WIMS 5/28/09].

In a related matter, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced on June 17 that it was launching an interactive online website featuring news and commentary, as well as a forum for a thought-provoking exchange of ideas on reforming the nation’s federal toxic chemicals policies. EWG said the site will feature analysis and opinion by scientists, lawmakers, industry officials, community activists, policy specialists, journalists and others interested in environmental health issues. A major focus will be the emerging debate over reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EWG indicated that Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) are expected to introduce comprehensive reform legislation known as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act (Kid-Safe) in Congress later this year and EWG said it hopes to stimulate insightful conversation about that bill and other legislative proposals dealing with chemicals policy reform. In an article posted to the new website, Richard Wiles co-founded EWG with Ken Cook said, "Burying ChAMP is a great first step in reforming the nation’s toxic chemical safety system."

An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) indicated that the industry reaction to EPA's action ranged broadly from strong criticism expressed by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, to little concern as expressed by American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said the abandonment of ChAMP means that EPA will refocus its efforts toward implementing a command-and-control approach toward chemicals management policy. They said EPA has "remained silent about its full intentions, contradicting President Obama’s commitment to transparency and support for scientific integrity." In a statement, NPRA President Charles Drevna said, “It is extremely disheartening that the Administration would abandon its priority-setting chemicals management process before it is even given the opportunity to work. We now question how the United States will keep its commitment to our neighbors under [i.e. Canada & Mexico] the Security & Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

Drevna continued, “One cannot help but gain the impression that this is less about science and more about politics. Using complete science to set priorities is fundamental to sound chemicals management. We urge the Administration to reconsider its abandonment of both the scientifically sound ChAMP initiative and the United States’ commitments to Canada and Mexico under the Security & Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

Access EDF's various recent blog postings on ChAMP (click here). Access EPA's ChAMP website with complete information on the program and links to recent activity under the new Administration (click here). Access a release from EWG (click here). Access the EWG new website (click here). Access the article in C&EN (click here). Access the statement from NPRA (click here).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Researchers Update Climate Science: "The Clock Is Ticking”

Jun 18: Following the June 16, release by the Obama Administration of an update report on climate change in the United States [See WIMS 6/16/09] , a new international update report has also been released. A report synthesizing the newest research results relating to climate change and what action can be taken in response to climate change was presented at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels. The report is being released six months (170 days) before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) begins in Copenhagen. The host of the COP15, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars L√łkke Rasmussen, received the report.

The 36-page report is written for the non-specialists and is based on discussions and presentations made at the scientific congress “Climate change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions” held in Copenhagen in March. The synthesis report was written by a team of researchers from around the world and it has been vetted by a long list of researchers and organizations. The effort was coordinated by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU).

Professor Katherine Richardson, Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the congress and Chair of the writing team said, "The newest evidence indicates that society faces serious risks even with a global temperature rise of only about 2 degrees. If society wants to minimize these risks, then action must be taken now. Society has all the tools necessary to respond to climate change. The major ingredient missing is political will. Already many societies are struggling with the effects of climate change. If society wants to avoid even more serious, and in most cases irreversible impacts of climate change, then there is very little time left. The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are already at a level that is predicted to cause warming of around 2 degrees so major emission cuts should be made immediately to retain climate change. The clock is ticking.”

Professor John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and member of the writing team said, "Even if we keep global warming below two degrees, we will still see extreme effects of climate change on our societies, and data collected since the production of the 2007 IPCC Report indicate that several climate indicators (for example, sea-level rise, ocean temperature, glacier-melt, Arctic sea ice melt, ocean acidification) all are changing at the maximum rate projected at the time of the last IPCC report or even faster."

The report indicates that, "The scientific evidence has now become overwhelming that human activities, especially the combustion of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate in ways that threaten the well-being and continued development of human society. If humanity is to learn from history and to limit these threats, the time has come for stronger control of the human activities that are changing the fundamental conditions for life on Earth."

One of the six key messages of the report is that, "Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid 'dangerous climate change' regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of serious impacts, including the crossing of tipping points, and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult and costly. Setting a credible long-term price for carbon and the adoption of policies that promote energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies are central to effective mitigation."

The report predicts a sea-level rise of about a meter or more by 2100. However, it is indicated, "Sea-level rise will not stop in 2100. Changes in ocean heat content will continue to affect sea-level rise for several centuries at least. Melting and dynamic ice loss in Antarctica and Greenland will also continue for centuries into the future. Thus, the changes current generations initiate in the climate will directly influence our descendents long into the future. In fact, global average surface temperature will hardly drop in the first thousand years after greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero."

The report indicates that the IPCC analysis concluded that atmospheric CO2 concentration should not exceed 400 ppm CO2 if the global temperature rise is to be kept within 2.0 – 2.4°C. In a sobering explanation of the challenge ahead, the report indicates, ". . .atmospheric CO2 concentrations are already at levels predicted to lead to global warming of between 2.0 and 2.4°C. If society wants to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at this level, then global emissions should, theoretically, be reduced by 60-80% immediately, the actual amount being dependent upon the amount that will be taken up by oceans and land. Given that such a drastic immediate reduction is impossible, greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise over the next few decades. An overshoot of the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations needed to constrain global warming to 2°C is thus inevitable. To limit the extent of the overshoot, emissions should peak in the near future. Recent studies suggest that if peak greenhouse gas emissions are not reached until after 2020, the emission reduction rates required thereafter to retain a reasonable chance of remaining within the 2°C guardrail will have to exceed 5% per annum. This is a daunting challenge when compared to a long-term average annual increase of 2% in emissions. The conclusion from both the IPCC and later analyses is simple -- immediate and dramatic emission reductions of all greenhouse gases are needed if the 2°C guardrail is to be respected. . ."

The synthesis report has been put together by a writing team of 12 internationally respected scientists from all continents and has gone through an extensive scientific review by the Scientific Steering Committee, scientists from the International Alliance of Research Universities, the session chairs at the congress, and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).

Access a release on the report from IARU (
click here). Access the complete report (click here). Access the IARU website for additional information (click here).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sen. Inhofe Predicts "Demise" Of Clean Water Restoration Act

Jun 18: U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a release following an EPW business meeting which approved an amended version of the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787). Senator Inhofe said the bill "faces certain demise in the Senate." Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) also placed a "hold" on the bill immediately following the meeting.

Senator Inhofe said, “The superficial changes made to this bill don’t change its underlying intention and ultimate effect: to radically expand federal power over farms, ranches, and private property.We heard plenty of talk about a grand compromise to address concerns from rural America. Yet in the end, the revised bill, which passed on a party-line vote, still lacks support from a large swath of rural stakeholders. I am pleased to support Senator Crapo’s hold on the bill. On the very outside chance this bill ever actually reaches the Senate floor, I will work closely with Senator Crapo and others to defeat it and ensure that we protect private property owners, farmers, ranchers, and all those affected by the bill’s regulatory overreach.

“This bill is further proof that Washington doesn’t ’get’ rural America. The Democrats are moving a bill that amounts to the biggest bureaucratic power grab in a generation--and it’s directed right at America's heartland. In fact, this bill is a significant part of a hostile agenda—whether it’s new energy taxes from cap-and-trade or more unfunded mandates from Washington—aimed squarely at rural America.”

The bill is designed to clarify the Clean Water Act (CWA) in light of the Supreme Court decisions in the controversial decisions of, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006. The bill would eliminate the "navigable" water definition and replace it with "waters of the United States."

The hearing included a response from the legal councils for the Democrats and Republicans regarding what water bodies would be covered and not covered by the bill. The original bill was introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) [See WIMS 4/13/09] and the Committee added and approved the so-called Baucus, Klobuchar , Boxer amendment. Republicans argue that the bill represents a "major expansion" of the CWA scope. Democrats argue that the bill only represents a return to the way the law was interpreted before the two Supreme Court decisions.

Access a release from Senator Inhofe (
click here). Access an opening statement at the meeting from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a webcast of the meeting (click here). Access legislative details for S. 787 (click here). Access the hearing website where additional information on the Committee action may be available (click here).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Senate Committee Approves Bipartisan Energy Bill

Jun 17: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) voted 15 to 8 to approve an energy bill that has been in the making for several months. The American Clean Energy Leadership Act is based on six major bills -- all with bipartisan sponsorship -- and five other bills with either Republican or Democratic sponsorship that were introduced in this session of Congress. Key provisions were developed through 39 bipartisan staff briefings, 20 formal hearings and 12 open business meetings. During the process of writing the bill, 100 amendments were considered and adopted, most on a bipartisan basis and many unanimously. The energy bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration and final passage.

Chairman Bingaman said, “Getting America running on clean energy has been a key goal of this mark-up. This bill will help shift our country to cleaner sources of energy, and more secure sources as well. The bipartisan, substantive and forward-looking approaches to energy found in this bill will move America toward the clean jobs and economic growth we need.”

Ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, “Today, this committee reaches the end of a long and sometimes bumpy road toward reporting out energy legislation. Despite an uphill fight against Democrats’ three-vote majority, we were able to include a number of provisions that will lead to more domestic production of the conventional energy we need to drive this country. While I support this bill in its present form, we simply must do more to increase our domestic production and use of nuclear energy. I will continue to press for those provisions on the Senate floor.”

According to a Committee release, the "balanced, comprehensive, bipartisan" bill, in general would: - Accelerate the introduction of new clean energy technologies in the United States, creating new jobs and helping businesses grow through clean energy project financing, a renewable electricity standard and a robust and secure national electricity transmission highway; - Increase energy efficiency in buildings, major equipment and appliances, saving consumers and businesses billions of dollars on their energy bills; - Enhance America’s energy independence by increasing clean energy supplies and energy security, including new access to over 20 trillion cubic feet of clean natural gas resources; - Strengthen America as the world leader in energy innovation, by doubling our national investment in energy research and technology; - Build a new energy workforce for the future; - Protect consumers by making energy markets more transparent and fair, and by providing new tools to fight market manipulation; and -Tackle future energy and climate challenges with smarter, more integrated planning.

More specifically the bill includes a series of reforms to the existing Department of Energy loan guarantee program, including creating a new “Clean Energy Investment Fund.” It includes a renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring electric utilities to provide renewable sources in the following percentages for the following years: 2011-2013 (3%); 2014-2016 (6%); 2017-2018 (9%); 2019-2020 (12%); 2021-2039 (15%). Utilities selling less than 4 million megawatt hours per year would be exempt. Qualifying "Renewables" would include: wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower, hydrokinetic, new hydropower at existing dams with no generation.

Additionally, the bill establishes policy goals for transmission infrastructure; integrates decision-making regarding the interdependence of energy and water; increases the development of renewable energy on our public lands; improves manufacturing , consumer and building energy efficiency; aids in thwarting cybersecurity threats and improves energy security; increases "responsible production" of traditional energy sources (i.e. Eastern Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, Alaska natural gas pipeline, inventory and analysis of marine resources in the Atlantic, Gulf and Alaska regions); provides clear statement of the Federal government’s support for nuclear energy and encourages resolution of the spent nuclear fuel issue; doubles the authorization level of DOE's R&D programs; provides for up to 10 commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration projects; and increases the transparency of our energy markets.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said the bill would open part of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for additional oil and natural gas leasing and clarify ambiguous language in Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which, as originally written, could have precluded Federal agencies from using transportation fuels derived from Canadian oil sands.

In a statement, API President Jack Gerard said, “The committee took a positive step forward by passing this bill which recognizes the importance of additional offshore oil and natural gas development and Canadian oil to our nation’s energy and economic security. The majority of Americans favor greater offshore development, and they recognize this development means more jobs, more government revenues and more domestic energy supplies. As the bill moves forward to the full Senate, we hope a resolution can be found to ensure that coastal states are compensated for hosting development off their shores because that production will benefit all Americans in terms of revenues, additional jobs and greater domestic energy supply.”

Access a release and bill summary from the Committee (
click here). Access an additional Committee summary of highlights (click here). Access a release and summary from Senator Murkowski (click here). Access more information on the various sections of the bill (click here). Access a release from API (click here).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Administration Releases Final U.S. Climate Change Impacts Report

Jun 16: The Obama Administration released a report entitled, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, and a new U.S. Global Change Research Program website. The report compiles years of scientific research and takes into account new data not available during the preparation of previous large national and global assessments. It was produced by a consortium of experts from 13 U.S. government science agencies and from several major universities and research institutes. According to a release, the reports production and review span both Republican and Democratic administrations and it offers "a valuable, objective scientific consensus on how climate change is affecting -- and may further affect -- the United States."

John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said, "This new report integrates the most up-to-date scientific findings into a comprehensive picture of the ongoing as well as expected future impacts of heat-trapping pollution on the climate experienced by Americans, region by region and sector by sector. It tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable."

According to the release, the report, confirms previous evidence that global temperature increases in recent decades have been primarily human-induced; incorporates the latest information on rising temperatures and sea levels; increases in extreme weather events; and other climate-related phenomena. Adding greatly to its practical value in the realm of policy and planning, it is the first such report in almost a decade to break out those impacts by U.S. region and economic sector, and the first to do so in such great detail.

Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, "This report stresses that climate change has immediate and local impacts – it literally affects people in their backyards. In keeping with our goals, the information in it is accessible and useful to everyone from city planners and national legislators to citizens who want to better understand what climate change means to them. This is an issue that clearly affects everyone."

A product of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program, the definitive 190-page report, produced under NOAA’s leadership, is written in plain language to better inform members of the public and policymakers. Commissioned in 2007 and completed this past spring, the science-based report is a consensus product spanning two Presidential administrations and transcends political leanings or biases. It underwent intensive review by scientists inside and outside of government and includes information more recent than that incorporated into the last major report on global climate change released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report indicates that it is not intended to direct policy makers to take any one approach over another to mitigate climate change or adapt to it. But it emphasizes that the choices we make now will determine the severity of climate change impacts in the future. The report states, "Implementing sizable and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible would significantly reduce the pace and the overall amount of climate change and would be more effective than reductions of the same size initiated later."

The study finds that Americans are already being affected by climate change through extreme weather, drought and wildfire trends and details how the nation’s transportation, agriculture, health, water and energy sectors will be affected in the future. The study also finds that the current trend in the emission of greenhouse gas pollution is significantly above the worst-case scenario that this and other reports have considered. Main findings of the report include:

  • Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing threats to human health and quality of life. Extreme heat will also affect transportation and energy systems, and crop and livestock production.
  • Increased heavy downpours will lead to more flooding, waterborne diseases, negative effects on agriculture, and disruptions to energy, water, and transportation systems.
    Reduced summer runoff and increasing water demands will create greater competition for water supplies in some regions, especially in the West.
  • Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification threaten coral reefs and the rich ecosystems they support. These and other climate-related impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems will have major implications for tourism and fisheries.
  • Insect infestations and wildfires are already increasing and are projected to increase further in a warming climate.
  • Local sea-level rise of over three feet on top of storm surges will increasingly threaten homes and other coastal infrastructure. Coastal flooding will become more frequent and severe, and coastal land will increasingly be lost to the rising seas.

Among the concluding comments in the report, "Human-induced climate change is happening now, and impacts are already apparent. Greater impacts are projected, particularly if heat-trapping gas emissions continue unabated. . . Choices about emissions now and in the coming years will have far-reaching consequences for climate change impacts. A consistent finding of this assessment is that the rate and magnitude of future climate change and resulting impacts depend critically on the level of global atmospheric heat-trapping gas concentrations as well as the types and concentrations of atmospheric particles (aerosols). Lower emissions of heat-trapping gases will delay the appearance of climate change impacts and lessen their magnitude. Unless the rate of emissions is substantially reduced, impacts are expected to become increasingly severe for more people and places."

The report provides separate section detailing anticipated impacts for the regions of: Alaska; Coasts; Great Plains; Islands; Midwest; Northeast; Northwest; Southeast; and Southwest. Additionally, climate change impacts are detailed for the following sectors: Water Resources; Energy Supply and Use; Transportation; Agriculture; Ecosystems; and Human Health.

Access a press release on the report (
click here). Access links to various sections of the report (click here). Access a PowerPoint presentation on the report (click here). Access the U.S. Global Change Research Program website for extensive information (click here).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pressure Builds For U.S. Climate Change Commitment

Jan 12: Today's posting includes two related articles focusing on the growing pressure for a firm U.S. commitment on climate change policy. While the Administration and President Obama have expressed the commitment many times there are still doubts being expressed on the international stage regarding the U.S. short-term reduction targets and the ability of the Administration to get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to pass climate change legislation.

EDF Says Pressure Is On Obama To Lead On Climate Treaty

Jun 12: Calling the progress at the latest round of climate change talks in Bonn, Germany [See WIMS 6/12/09], "painstakingly slow," Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said world leaders are waiting to hear a solid commitment from President Obama. Annie Petsonk, EDF International Counsel issued a statement at the close of the June 1-12 meeting attended by more than 4,600 participants including government delegates from 183 countries.

Petsonk said, "Slow progress at the U.N. climate talks in Bonn is proof positive that the world needs to hear U.S. President Barack Obama say he is pursuing a climate pact with a very good chance of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. When President Obama goes to the July G8 meeting in Italy, he'll be on stage with world leaders asking him, 'Are you willing to commit and say we have to limit warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels?'

"He has to be able to stand up and say yes. Because if he wavers, these talks will crumble into 180 government pledges that don't add up to stopping dangerous climate change. The painstakingly slow progress we've seen in Bonn tells us that countries are waiting for Obama to come forward and say what science-based goal he is aiming for. Right now we're just treading water. Because without that basic measure -- without knowing how much warming the world's richest nation is willing to accept -- nobody has any way of knowing how much negotiation and compromise is needed."

Petsonk said many nations were signaling, on the sidelines of the Bonn session, a willingness to move forward if the U.S. President shows he is committed to leadership. She pointed to Wednesday's announcement by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva saying Brazil is open to adopting a greenhouse gas emissions target if rich countries do more to curb climate change.

Briefing On U.S.-China Climate & Energy Issues

Jun 12: Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change with the Department of State held a press briefing to discuss the recent U.S. delegation's June 7-10 trip to China to discuss climate and energy Issues. Stern was joined by John Holdren, the President’s Science Adviser; David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy, as well as colleagues from Treasury and EPA, and a team from State. Stern said he had a particularly in-depth conversations with Xie Zhenhua the vice chairman of the NDRC in China, and their chief climate negotiator.

Stern said, "I wouldn’t characterize my discussions on climate change as producing any breakthroughs, but we talked very openly and candidly and in a lot of detail about what needs to be done on both sides to advance toward a successful outcome in Copenhagen. And by the way, I never had any notion in my mind that we were going to get breakthroughs on this trip. It’s not what the trip was about. . . I was very favorably impressed by actions that China’s already taken, and by – taking, and by China’s commitment to develop a low-carbon path forward and to take potentially far-reaching steps to contain their greenhouse gas emissions. . .

"The stark reality, though, is that the world cannot contain climate change and cannot avoid dangerous levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere without very significant action by China. And we discussed this point, as well as the science behind it, in great detail. Again, as I said, Dr. Holdren was there with us and was very helpful in conversations on the science."

In response to a question regarding the possibility of the Waxman-Markey ACES bill (H.R. 2454) passing the House this summer and perhaps being stalled in the Senate for a lack of 60 votes, Stern responded: "I think that this is a one-step-at-a-time kind of deal. I think that it was a huge, big step under the leadership of Chairman Waxman and Markey to get the bill reported out of Energy and Commerce. My general sense is that there’s a -- there is a kind of commitment and objective to get it through the House this summer. I think that there’s a good chance that that’ll happen, and we’re strongly supportive of that, obviously.

"And I don’t have any -- I am absolutely not prepared at all to say that I don’t think it’s going to get 60 votes in the Senate. I think that this bill is going to become law. I can’t give you a time frame because I don’t know the timeframe yet, but I think that the President is committed to it, the Administration’s committed to having strong, comprehensive energy legislation passed. And I think that there are -- that there will be a lot of support in the Senate, and there’ll be, undoubtedly, a lot more negotiation and debate that’s going to have to happen first. But I am in no way pessimistic about that."

Access a release from EDF (
click here). Access the complete transcript of the press conference (click here). Access a video of the press conference (click here).

Friday, June 12, 2009

More Work On GHG Targets Needed Following Bonn Climate Meeting

Jun 12: The June UN Climate Change Talks in Bonn concluded today (June 12) with progress on draft negotiating texts, reflecting governments’ proposals on how to step up international climate change action [See WIMS 6/1/09]. Delegates from 183 countries meeting in Bonn, discussed key negotiating texts which will serve as the basis for an international climate change deal, to be decided in Copenhagen in December. The Copenhagen agreed outcome is to follow on the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012. The gathering from June 1 to 12 was attended by more than 4,600 participants, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, “A big achievement of this meeting is that governments have made it clearer what they want to see in the Copenhagen agreed outcome. In my view, an ambitious and effective agreed outcome in Copenhagen is in sight -- an outcome that provides a strong and definitive answer to the alarm raised by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC].”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), also pointed to the accelerated pace of negotiations at the Bonn meeting, during which he said many important elements were added to the Convention text. He said, “The next step will be for Parties to refine and streamline the Convention text and to begin drafting at the next session in August, whilst engaging on the specifics of the text." The negotiating text for consideration by the AWG-LCA, which comprises all 192 Parties to the UNFCCC, covers issues of a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, enhanced action on adaptation, mitigation and finance, technology and capacity-building.

Another group, focusing on further commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) considered a proposal for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, including the future emission reduction commitments of 37 industrialized countries for the second phase of the protocol (post-2012). UNFCCC said that good progress was made on options for the treatment of land-use, land-use change and forestry to reduce emissions. But John Ashe, the Chair of the AWG-KP pointed out that this group still needs to decide on the controversial issue of an aggregate emission reduction target for industrialized countries, along with individual targets. He said, “We need to get the list of commitments of developed countries finalized
so that we can fully gauge where we are in terms of emission reductions."

The UN’s top climate change official Yvo de Boer warned that AWG-KP negotiating group was still far away from "the emission reduction range that has been set out by science as a beacon by science to avoid the worst ravages of climate change: a minus 25% to minus 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020." Be Boer said, “Between now and Copenhagen, the level of ambition
needs to be increased. This is still possible if the opportunities for international cooperative action are fully seized."

In addition to the two working groups specifically designed to negotiate the Copenhagen agreed outcome, the “Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the “Subsidiary Body for Implementation”(SBI) also met in Bonn. A release indicated that work was "taken forward" on SBSTA on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Solid progress was made on methodologies that make it possible to monitor and report emissions from deforestation, which accounts for around 20% of all greenhouse gas pollution.

A key focus of SBI's work in Bonn was the development and transfer of technologies. The Expert Group on Technology Transfer produced three reports (on future financing options, on a long-term strategy and on performance indicators). The reports provide important input for what can be written into the Copenhagen deal on technology cooperation.

The UNFCCC gathering in Germany constituted the second in a series of five major UN negotiating sessions this year leading up to the UNFCCC (COP 15) meeting in Copenhagen in December (December 7 to 18). The next meeting, informal consultations comprising the LCA and KP work groups, will take place August 10 to 14 in Bonn, followed by a gathering in Bangkok from September 28 to October 9, and a further gathering from November in Barcelona 2 to 6. Additionally, outside of the UNFCCC process, but intricately linked, the Major Economies have a work meeting scheduled for June 22-23 in Mexico City and a "leaders' meeting" and the G8 Summit in Italy, in July 2009.

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to complete details on the meetings and the negotiating text (click here). Access daily reporting from the Bonn meeting from International Institute for Sustainable Development (click here).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Administration Officials Discuss Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Jun 11: Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Bob Sussman, U.S. EPA Senior Policy Counsel to the Administrator; Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes; and Terrence “Rock” Salt, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works; held a conference call with reporters on mountaintop removal coal mining. The officials announced that they are taking "unprecedented steps" to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining in the six Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia through a coordinated approach between U.S. EPA, Department of the Interior (DOI) and Army Corps of Engineers.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the agency officials, the Administration will implement an Interagency Action Plan on mountaintop coal mining that will: - Minimize the adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining through short-term actions to be completed in 2009; - Undertake longer-term actions to tighten the regulation of mountaintop coal mining; - Ensure coordinated and stringent environmental reviews of permit applications under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1997(SMCRA); - Engage the public through outreach events in the Appalachian region to help inform the development of Federal policy; and - Federal Agencies will work in coordination with appropriate regional, state, and local entities to help diversify and strengthen the Appalachian regional economy and promote the health and welfare of Appalachian communities.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “Mountaintop coal mining cannot be predicated on the assumption of minimal oversight of its environmental impacts, and its permanent degradation of water quality. Stronger reviews and protections will safeguard the health of local waters, and thousands of acres of watersheds in Appalachia. Our announcement today reaffirms EPA's fundamental responsibility for protecting the water quality and environmental integrity of streams, rivers, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Getting this right is important to coalfield communities that count on a livable environment, both during mining and after coal companies move to other sites.”

Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “The steps we are taking today are a firm departure from the previous Administration's approach to mountaintop coal mining, which failed to protect our communities, water, and wildlife in Appalachia. By toughening enforcement standards, by looking for common-sense improvements to our rules and regulations, and by coordinating our efforts with other agencies, we will immediately make progress toward reducing the environmental impacts ofmountaintop coal mining.”

Some of the immediate steps to be taken include: Requiring more stringent environmental reviews for future permit applications for mountaintop coal mining; proposing to modify Nationwide Permit (NWP) 21 to preclude its use to authorize the discharge of fill material into streams for surface coal mining activities in the Appalachian region; Strengthening permit reviews under CWA; Strengthening EPA coordination with states; and Improving stream mitigation projects.

According to a release, if the U.S. District Court vacates the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule, as requested by the Secretary of the Interior on April 27, 2009 [See WIMS 4/29/09], Interior will issue guidance clarifying the application of stream buffer zone provisions in a preexisting 1983 SMCRA regulation to ensure mining activities will occur in a more environmentally protective way in or near Appalachian streams.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers said they are taking steps to enhance coordination in the environmental review of pending Clean Water Act permits for surface coal mining activities in Appalachian States. The Federal agencies said they will also work in coordination with appropriate regional, state, and local entities to help diversify and strengthen the Appalachian regional economy and promote the health and welfare of Appalachian communities.

Access a release with additional details (
click here). Access more information on the Memorandum of Agreement (click here).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Report Outlines A New Vision For U.S. Transportation Policy

Jun 9: Calling its recommendations a "framework for comprehensive reform," the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) released its plan for transforming Federal surface transportation policy. If adopted by the Administration and Congress in this year’s authorization bill, the plan would constitute the first major overhaul of transportation policy in more than 50 years. It proposes restructuring Federal programs, updating the criteria for formulas, and creating a performance-based system that directly ties transportation spending to broader national goals, including economic growth, connectivity, accessibility, safety, energy security and environmental protection. Currently, transportation funding is distributed on a politically-driven basis with little analysis of benefits and no accountability for results.

According to a release, the plan has a strong bipartisan foundation. Under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Senator Slade Gorton, and former Congressman Martin Sabo, the NTPP -- a bipartisan group of 26 diverse members -- produced its plan -- Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy -- as a blueprint for a new national transportation system that is efficient, effective, and accountable for performance.

As Congress is scheduled to take up reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, this year, NTPP is calling for a complete restructuring of the Federal transportation funding system. To date, there is no Federal requirement to optimize returns on public investments, and programs are not structured to reward outcomes, or even to document them. Moreover, existing programs do little to target Federal support for transportation programs to further economic growth or link to jobs and productivity.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), an original co-founding chair of NTPP, attended the release announcement and commended NTPP’s bipartisan report. He especially praised the NTPP for advocating "a bottom-up approach to reform whereby states and metropolitan areas can develop their own solutions to transportation problems." He said, “This idea, called mode-neutrality, enables states like Virginia to make their own decisions about how to spend federal money as long as their investments meet accountability standards and promote national goals.”

NTPP also proposes holding all funding recipients accountable for their contributions to national goals. A new system of metrics would measure project performance in several areas: improved access, a more efficient national network, reduced corridor congestion and petroleum consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and reduced fatalities and injuries. States and regions whose investments performed well against those goals would be entitled to bonus funding; areas that did not would be subject to greater Federal scrutiny in receiving transportation funding.

World Resources Institute (WRI), a member of the NTPP, issued a release on the report saying the recommendations are intended to create a thorough framework within the reauthorization of the transportation bill, which expires September 30. The NTPP calls for U.S. transportation funding to directly serve five clear goals: economic growth, connectivity, metropolitan access, energy and environment, and safety.

Nancy Kete, director of EMBARQ -- The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, and one of the NTPP’s key members focused on the energy and environment goals said, "A transportation system that emits a full third of our greenhouse gases and is almost entirely dependent on oil is not sustainable from an economic, national security, or environmental perspective. I am pleased with how much the members have focused on ensuring that transportation policy is responsive to the 21st century challenges of energy security and climate change. We’re calling for a dramatic change in the way transportation investment decisions are made. A new bill must play a fundamental role in reducing greenhouse gases over the coming decades. Low-carbon fuels and the Obama administration’s decision to improve fuel economy standards will not be enough for us to reach our targets."

She continued saying, "States and localities will need to consider transportation-demand management measures. Congestion pricing, increasing the quality and supply of transit, and improving integrated transportation and land-use planning will help avoid GHG emissions in the future. The proposed new programs under the NTPP recommendations would allow states and localities full flexibility to meet national goals according to their needs and priorities. The accountability measures and incentive provisions will keep everyone on track towards cutting U.S. GHG emissions potentially required under the Waxman-Markey bill.”

Access a lengthy release (
click here). Access the NTPP website for links to an executive summary, the complete report, a video of the launch press conference, project members and more (click here). Access a release and links to further information from WRI (click here).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

CBO Cost Estimate For Waxman-Markey H.R. 2454 Climate Bill

Jun 5: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a cost estimate for the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), which was recently approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce [See WIMS 5/22/09]. CBO indicates that this legislation would make a number of changes in energy and environmental policies largely aimed at reducing emissions of gases that contribute to global warming. The bill would limit (or cap) the quantity of certain greenhouse gases emitted from facilities that generate electricity and from other industrial activities over the 2012-2050 period.

Under the provisions of the bill, U.S. EPA would establish two separate regulatory initiatives known as cap-and-trade programs -- one covering emissions of most types of greenhouse gases and one covering hydrofluorocarbons. Both cap-and-trade programs would set a limit on total emissions for each year and would require regulated entities to hold rights, or allowances, to the emissions permitted under that cap. Some of those allowances would be auctioned by the Federal government, and the remainder would be distributed at no charge.

CBO lists other major provisions of the legislation as: Provide energy tax credits or energy rebates to certain low-income families to offset the impact of higher energy-related prices from the cap-and-trade programs; Require certain retail electricity suppliers to provide a minimum percentage of their electricity sales with electricity generated by facilities that use qualifying renewable fuels or energy sources; Establish a Carbon Storage Research Corporation to support research and development of technologies related to carbon capture and sequestration; Increase, by $25 billion, the aggregate amount of loans Department of Energy is authorized to make to automobile manufacturers and component suppliers under the existing Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program; Establish a Clean Energy Deployment Administration within the Department of Energy, which would be authorized to provide direct loans, loan guarantees, and letters of credit for clean energy projects; Authorize the Department of Transportation to provide individuals with vouchers to acquire new vehicles that achieve greater fuel efficiency than the existing qualifying vehicles owned by the individuals; and Authorize appropriations for various programs.

CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that over the 2010-2019 period enacting this legislation would: Increase federal revenues by about $846 billion; and Increase direct spending by about $821 billion. In total, those changes would reduce budget deficits (or increase future surpluses) by about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period. In addition, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2454 would increase discretionary spending by about $50 billion over the 2010-2019 period. Most of that funding would stem from spending auction proceeds from various funds established under this legislation.

Access the complete 40-page CBO report (
click here). Access a CBO blog posting on the report (click here). Access additional CBO reports relating to climate change (click here).