Friday, January 29, 2010

DOE Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Jan 29: As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to restarting America’s nuclear industry, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The Commission is being co-chaired by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

DOE indicated that in light of the Administration’s decision not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, President Obama has directed Secretary Chu to establish the Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The Commission will provide advice and make recommendations on issues including alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

In his State of the Union address on January 27, the President said, ". . .to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America." [See WIMS 1/28/10].

Secretary Chu said, “Nuclear energy provides clean, safe, reliable power and has an important role to play as we build a low-carbon future. The Administration is committed to promoting nuclear power in the United States and developing a safe, long-term solution for the management of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The work of the Blue Ribbon Commission will be invaluable to this process. I want to thank Congressman Hamilton and General Scowcroft for leading the Commission and I look forward to receiving their recommendations." Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change said, “As the world moves to tackle climate change and diversify our national energy portfolio, nuclear energy will play a vital role. Today, the Obama Administration has taken an important step. With the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission, we are bringing together leading experts from around the country to ensure a safe and sustainable nuclear energy future.”

During a recent hearing before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Republican members questioned Chu extensively on the need for a more ambitious role of nuclear energy in the mix of technologies to address climate and energy issues. Chu said he and the Administration agree that nuclear energy must be an important part of the energy solution [See WIMS 1/21/10].

Congressman Hamilton said, "Finding an acceptable long-term solution to our used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste storage needs is vital to the economic, environmental and security interests of the United States. This will be a thorough, comprehensive review based on the best available science. I'm looking forward to working with the many distinguished experts on this panel to achieve a consensus on the best path forward." General Scowcroft said, "As the United States responds to climate change and moves forward with a long overdue expansion of nuclear energy, we also need to work together to find a responsible, long-term strategy to deal with the leftover fuel and nuclear waste. I'm pleased to be part of that effort along with Congressman Hamilton and such an impressive group of scientific and industry experts."

The Commission is made up of 15 members who have a range of expertise and experience in nuclear issues, including scientists, industry representatives, and respected former elected officials. The Commission’s co-chairs have a record of tackling tough challenges in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner and building consensus among an array of interests. The Commission is charged with producing an interim report within 18 months and a final report within 24 months.

Other members of the Commission include: Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Vicky Bailey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Former IN PUC Commissioner; Former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs; Albert Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor, UCLA; Pete V. Domenici, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; former U.S. Senator (R-NM); Susan Eisenhower, President, Eisenhower Group, Inc.; Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator (R-NE); Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute; Allison Macfarlane, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University; Richard A. Meserve, President, Carnegie Institution for Science, and former Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Ernie Moniz, Professor of Physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Per Peterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California - Berkeley; John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation; and Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future.

Access a release from DOE (click here). Access the Presidential Memo directing the establishment of the Commission (click here). Access DOE's Nuclear Energy website for additional information (click here).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

President SOTU: Gridlock; Jobs; Energy, Infrastructure & Climate

President Jan 27: In President Obama's first State of the Union (SOTU) address, he said the public is asking, "why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. . . And what the American people hope -- what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics."

He began his speech calling 2009, "one of the most difficult years in our history." But, he concluded the address saying, "The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more."

He analyzed the political roadblocks that have held back progress on some major issues and said, "Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is. Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation. . . So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope -– what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics."

He continued his criticism of Washington politics and said, ". what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of -- (applause) -- I'm speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it's sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government."

He said "jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight." He called for taking $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and using it to help community banks give small businesses credit. Then he linked his call for jobs to infrastructure and energy development.

He said, ". . .we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products. . . We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities -- and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. . ."

He said, "I've been told that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for a while. For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America."

He said, ". . .we need to encourage American innovation. . . You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy. . . But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

"I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -- because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement on the State of the State and said, "The President is always welcome at the Capitol, especially at a time when there is so much important work to be done on behalf of the American people. The President talked about jobs tonight. This is a welcome change in focus after the President and his administration spent nearly an entire year pursuing a partisan health care plan that would have spent trillions of dollars we don't have rather than on a plan for getting Americans back to work. I'm hopeful the administration's new focus on the economy will lead it to say no to more spending and debt, more bailouts, and more government.

“The President's words about the importance of deficit reduction are timely. . . The administration could address this concern right away by directing unspent Stimulus and TARP funds to pay down the federal deficit, and it could implement a true spending freeze. It could also assure families and small businesses that their taxes will not go up at the end of the year, as currently planned. . . Americans are concerned about government spending, debt, jobs, and keeping the homeland safe. They expect us to focus on these core issues until we get them right. In the year ahead, there is much work to be done, and the task before us is clear. We need to get Americans back to work and remain focused on keeping America secure and putting our nation back on the road to prosperity. Republicans look forward to working with the President on these shared goals.”

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement saying, "We had hoped to hear a new commitment to keep his promises to govern from the center, change the tone in Washington, and work with both parties in a bipartisan way to help small businesses create jobs and get our economy moving again. Unfortunately, the President and the Democrats in charge of Congress still aren’t listening to the American people. The American people were looking for President Obama to change course tonight, and they got more of the same job-killing policies instead. . . That includes a trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ that isn’t working, a fiscally-irresponsible budget that doubles our debt in five years and triples it in 10, a costly government takeover of health care, and a massive national energy tax. The President’s message isn’t the problem, it’s his job-killing policies."

Access the complete State of the Union address (
click here). Access the video of the address (click here). Access the statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Boehner (click here). Access a video of the official Republican response to the State of the Union (click here).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

API Critical Of Lack Of Focus On Oil & Natural Gas Jobs

Jan 26: In advance of the President's State of the Union message, the American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard opened a media conference call with a statement calling for the Obama Administration to begin focusing on jobs from producing more American oil and natural gas -- not just "so-called green energy." Gerard also said the some of the Administration's policies will actually make the nation more dependent on imported energy and seem to be aimed at stifling the job creation potential of domestic oil and natural gas development.

He said, "The American oil and natural gas industry clearly has a role to play in putting Americans back to work. The U.S. oil and natural gas industry already supports more than 9 million American jobs and can create many more. The industry created more than two million additional American jobs in the years 2004 to 2007 alone. We are also a leading creator of green jobs. Between 2000 and 2008, the oil and natural gas industry invested more than $58 billion on these and other carbon mitigation technologies, more than either the federal government or the rest of private industry combined. Using Center for American Progress economic assumptions, we have created 1.2 million green jobs and there is more potential."

He also said, "A key talking point for this Administration and Congress is lessening our dependence on imported energy. Yet the very policies it is pursuing will actually make our nation more, not less, dependent on imported energy. Some of the policies advanced recently seem aimed at stifling the job creation potential of domestic oil and natural gas development. Tax proposals in the budget are anti-jobs, anti-consumer and anti-energy. Other initiatives would adversely affect leasing and development on federal lands and U.S. waters and drive up the costs of doing business."

Gerard concluding saying, "The nexus between more energy development of all kinds and more jobs is strong. We hope the Administration comes to recognize that. With the Administration and all Americans, we share a common goal: more jobs. And we're ready to work with everyone to attain it. We need to move beyond political sloganeering and work together to create common sense energy and economic policy that is non-partisan, a policy that will get Americans working again, put the economy firmly back on its feet and bolster our energy security." [Emphasis in original]

The Department of Interior (DOI) immediately issued a point-by-point response -- or what it called a "Rhetoric" v. "Reality" response. Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said, “Mr. Gerard needs to check his facts before making statements that are so far off the mark. Oil and gas production on federal lands and waters is up -- not down -- from 2008, and under Secretary Salazar’s leadership the Department has offered more than 56 million additional acres for development. Interior’s agencies will continue to promote oil and gas development in the right ways, in the right places, and with a fair return for the American taxpayer, regardless of the political spears Mr. Gerard may throw on any given day.” The DOI release continues to detail facts and figures in response to the API statement.

API issued a counter response saying, "Mr. Gerard stands by his facts. Interior doesn’t rebut one -- and can’t. The bottom line is that Interior is not moving forward with leasing to provide for America’s energy future, which would also create thousands of jobs for Americans and generate billions of dollars in government revenue. Interior’s attack on the veracity of Mr. Gerard’s comments is pure dissimulation. It fails to address Mr. Gerard’s point that leased acreage plunged in 2009 and concedes that lease revenues collapsed by more than 90 percent during the first year of this Interior Department."

Access the complete statement from API (
click here). Access the Rhetoric v. Reality response from DOI (click here). Access the counter response from API (click here).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

States Seek To Join Endangerment Finding Lawsuit

Jan 22: Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced that it was leading a coalition of 16 states and New York City, in filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by industry groups last fall to challenge U.S. EPA's Endangerment Finding. The Endangerment Finding, announced December 7 [See WIMS 12/7/09 & Multiple Articles], is the Agency's formal determination that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cause climate change and as a result may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. EPA published the Endangerment Finding in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The finding is the first step towards regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The filing signals the states’ intention to join with the EPA in defending EPA’s decision. The motion was filed in the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, DC.

Joining Massachusetts in the motion to intervene were the states of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the City of New York. Attorney General Coakley, who recently lost her run for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to [
See WIMS 1/20/10] Republican Scott Brown said, “The Endangerment Finding marked the end of an era in which the federal government refused to acknowledge that anything could or should be done about global climate change. We are confident that the court will uphold the EPA’s action and that the EPA will press forward with its plan to begin regulation of greenhouse gases. While we continue to hope that Congress will enact effective and comprehensive legislation to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we firmly believe that the EPA has an important role to play whether or not Congress acts and we cannot afford to wait.”

On December 23, 2009, industry groups from various sectors (e.g., Massey Energy Co., National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Alpha Natural Resources Inc., etc.) filed a single petition for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Petitioners have not yet identified the specific issues they intend to raise, but Attorney General Coakley’s Office intends to argue that the legal and scientific basis for the EPA’s Endangerment Finding is sound and should be upheld. Assistant Attorney General Carol Iancu, and Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett, both of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division are handling the case.

In announcing its participation in the industry groups' lawsuit in December, Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said, “EPA’s finding is not based on a rigorous scientific analysis; yet it would trigger a cascade of future greenhouse gas regulations with sweeping impacts across the entire U.S. economy. Why the Administration decided to move forward on this type of rule when there’s so much uncertainty surrounding humans’ contribution to climate change is perplexing.”

NCBA cited the so-called "Climategate" issue saying, "'Climategate' revealed that the data on which the EPA relied to make this finding is questionable and may have been manipulated to tell a story that global warming alarmists wanted to tell. The fact that the EPA is ignoring this scandal is not going to make it go away.” NCBA also said that as was evident in Copenhagen, "other countries around the world like China and India are unwilling to tie the hands of their economic engines and impose these kinds of costs on their citizens.”

Access a release from the MA AG (
click here). Access a release from NCBA with links to additional information (click here).

Monday, January 25, 2010

President's Continued Outrage With Supreme Court Decision

Jan 23: In his weekly Saturday radio address President Obama continued his high level criticism of the January 21, 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Case No. 08-205) [See WIMS 1/22/10]. The decision has been described as removing restrictions and allowing corporations to spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress.

President Obama, reacted immediately to the decision when it was released and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics." He called it a "major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests." He continued his outrage in his weekly address saying, "In my first year in office, we pushed back on that power by implementing historic reforms to get rid of the influence of those special interests. . . We’ve been making steady progress. But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists – and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. By a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned more than a century of law -- including a bipartisan campaign finance law written by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections by running advertisements for or against candidates in the crucial closing weeks.

"This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act. I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.

"All of us, regardless of party, should be worried that it will be that much harder to get fair, common-sense financial reforms, or close unwarranted tax loopholes that reward corporations from sheltering their income or shipping American jobs off-shore. It will make it more difficult to pass commonsense laws to promote energy independence because even foreign entities would be allowed to mix in our elections.

"It would give the health insurance industry even more leverage to fend off reforms that would protect patients. We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans. And we don’t intend to. When this ruling came down, I instructed my administration to get to work immediately with Members of Congress willing to fight for the American people to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to this decision. We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.

"A hundred years ago, one of the great Republican Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, fought to limit special interest spending and influence over American political campaigns and warned of the impact of unbridled, corporate spending. His message rings as true as ever today, in this age of mass communications, when the decks are too often stacked against ordinary Americans. And as long as I’m your President, I’ll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you."

The organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), issued a statement on the decision. Executive Director Melanie Sloan said, “The Supreme Court has placed the rights of corporations ahead of the rights of American voters by willfully ignoring the outsize role of money in politics and the fact that corporations have vast sums available to spend. Money buys elections and the biggest corporations with the most money will own our politicians. We are moving to an age where we won’t have the senator from Arkansas or the congressman from North Carolina, but the senator from Wal-Mart and the congressman from Bank of America.”

David Bossie, President of Citizens United said, “Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Citizens United to air its documentary films and advertisements is a tremendous victory, not only for Citizens United but for every American who desires to participate in the political process. As our case amply demonstrates, campaign finance legislation over the last two decades has imposed, as Justice Kennedy put it, a 'censorship . . . vast in its reach.' By overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and striking down McCain-Feingold’s ban on so-called electioneering communications, the Supreme Court has made possible the participation in our political process that is the right of every American citizen – a right that had been severely curtailed under McCain-Feingold. This is a victory for Citizens United, but even more so for the First Amendment rights of all Americans. The fault line on this issue does not split liberals and conservatives or Republicans and Democrats. Instead, it pits entrenched establishment politicians against the very people whom they are elected to serve. . ."

Citizens United also posted comments from major Republican leaders and others on their website. Some of the comments included were: Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Republican Leader who said, “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day.” Representative John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Leader said, “I think the Supreme Court decisions today are a big win for the First Amendment and a step in the right direction.”

Michael Steele, Republican National Committee Chairman said the decision, “. . .serves as an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment. Free speech strengthens our democracy. While the Court’s recognition that organizations have the freedom to speak on public issues and have their views protected from censorship is fundamental, the Court has now left an imbalance that disadvantages national parties in their ability to support their candidates. We need to encourage a vibrant debate on the issues, and not restrict the free exchange of ideas. Though there is still more work to be done, we are pleased with today’s ruling.” Robin Conrad, U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “Today’s ruling protects the First Amendment rights of organizations across the political spectrum, and is a positive for the political process and free enterprise.”

Access a video and link to the full text of the President's address (
click here). Access a article about the decision with links to related information (click here). Access the statement from CREW (click here). Access the Citizens United statement (click here). Access the Citizens United comments from others (click here).

Friday, January 22, 2010

3 Dems Support Murkowski Resolution To Block EPA GHG Regs

Jan 21: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced a bipartisan disapproval resolution to stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski’s resolution -- co-sponsored by 35 Republicans and three Democrats -- comes in the wake of the EPA’s recent endangerment finding, which will result in damaging new regulations that endanger America’s economy. Murkowski announced her intention to file the disapproval resolution on December 14, 2009 [See WIMS 12/15/10], in the wake of the EPA's endangerment finding which was officially published in the Federal Register [74 FR 66495-66546, 12/15/09]. The endangerment finding was announced by EPA on December 7 [See WIMS 12/8/09]. On the actual introduction, she said, “As the EPA moves closer and closer to issuing these regulations, I continue to believe that this command-and-control approach is our worst option for reducing the emissions blamed for climate change.”

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a strong proponent of moving the nation toward a cleaner energy future, said the disapproval resolution is necessary to avoid the “economic train wreck” that would result from the EPA regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. She said, “Our bipartisan resolution deals with an incredibly important question: whether or not members of this body are comfortable with the actions EPA will take under its current interpretation of the Clean Air Act. I’m not comfortable with those actions, and neither are the senators who have already agreed to add their names to this effort. The Clean Air Act was written by Congress to regulate criteria pollutants, not greenhouse gases, and its implementation remains subject to oversight and guidance from elected representatives. We should continue our work to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation, but in the meantime, we cannot turn a blind eye to the EPA’s efforts to impose back-door climate regulations with no input from Congress.”

Murkowski said EPA regulation could force businesses being to cut jobs or close their doors for good; severely restrict domestic energy production, increasing our dependence on foreign suppliers and threatening our national security; make Housing less affordable; and consumer goods more expensive. Murkowski commented saying, “If you truly believe that EPA climate regulations are good for the country, then vote to oppose our resolution. But if you share our concerns, and believe that climate policy should be debated in Congress, then vote with us to support it.”

Murkowski filed her disapproval resolution pursuant to the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Upon introduction, a disapproval resolution is referred to the committee of jurisdiction, which in this case will be the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). If the committee does not favorably report the resolution, it may be discharged upon petition by 30 Senators. Once a disapproval resolution is placed on the Senate calendar, it is then subject to expedited consideration on the Senate floor, and not subject to filibuster and only needs a majority to pass. However, the resolution would have to be approved in the House which is unlikely.

On January 11, 2010, all of the Members of the Democratic Caucus on the EPW Committee announced they had joined together to oppose the proposal by Senator Murkowski to overturn U.S. EPA's global warming endangerment finding. They issued a "Dear Colleague" letter urging Members to oppose the proposal [See WIMS 1/12/10]. However, Senator Murkowski has enough Senate votes to discharge the resolution from the EPW Committee. Complicating the issue for Democrats in the Senate, is the fact that three of their own ranks have cosponsored the resolutions -- i.e. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

On the House side, Democratic Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota announced the introduction of H.R. 4396, the Save Our Energy Jobs Act, which he said would prohibit U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases [See WIMS 1/11/10]. In a release he indicated, "This action, if not prevented, could dramatically increase energy rates as well as end up costing North Dakota jobs."

Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access the 7-page, full text of the Sen. Murkowski's floor speech on the disapproval resolution (click here). Access legislative details for S. Joint Resolution 26 (click here).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

House Hearing On ExxonMobil-XTO Merger

Jan 20: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing regarding, "The ExxonMobil-XTO Merger: Impacts on U.S. Energy Market." Chairman Markey commented in his opening statement that, "Last month, ExxonMobil announced a $41 billion merger with XTO Energy, one of the country’s largest natural gas producers and a pioneer in the production of natural gas trapped in shale rock formations and other unconventional sources. The combined entity will be, by far, the country’s largest natural gas producer and largest holder of natural gas reserves.”

Markey said, ". . .when America’s biggest company [worth $328 billion with $45 billion in annual profits] makes a big move in the energy sector, policy makers need to listen and understand what it means. That is why I have called today’s hearing. This merger heralds a fundamental long-term shift in U.S. energy markets, and one that deserves our close attention.” Markey pointed out that, “Over the last decade, a small group of companies that most Americans have never heard of has been developing huge deposits of natural gas in deep shale formations across America. Long believed uneconomic to produce, these reserves are now being tapped thanks to a revolution in technology. Using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, companies are now able to extract the natural gas that is locked within shales and other rock formations deep under the Earth’s surface. This involves drilling into these formations and breaking them up by injecting a high-pressure stream of fluid, composed mostly of water and sand, making extraction of the gas easier. Horizontal drilling also plays a key role in making these reserves economical to produce. . .

"The brightening outlook for domestic natural gas supplies changes the backdrop against which we consider energy policy here in Congress. Natural gas will play a critical role as a “bridge fuel” – a lower-carbon alternative to coal and oil that helps America transition from a high-carbon past to a clean energy future. An abundant domestic supply of natural gas – together with robust investment in efficiency and renewables -- can help make crossing that bridge faster and less costly. Natural gas can only play this role if it is produced in a safe and sustainable way. Congress recently urged EPA to study the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water sources. The results of that study will help to guide policy to ensure adequate protection of public health and the environment.”

At the hearing, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil Corporation commented on hydraulic fracturing in his testimony and referred to it as, "time-tested." He said, "With recent advances in extended reach horizontal drilling, combined with the time-tested technology of hydraulic fracturing -- a process in use for more than 60 years -- we can now find and produce unconventional natural gas supplies miles below the surface in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner."

The American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement following the discussion during the hearing where there was discussion about the need for federal regulation of the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Gerard said, “As Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said just last week, hydraulic fracturing is safe and lawmakers should be cautious in their efforts to restrict it. Hydraulic fracturing is a proven technology that has been used safely in this country for 60 years. It is crucial in the development of clean-burning natural gas needed to heat and cool homes, generate electricity, and create basic materials for fertilizers and plastics. More than one million wells have been completed in the United States using this technology, helping to produce more than 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Unnecessary additional regulation of this practice would only kill jobs, threaten our economy and hamper our nation’s energy security. Studies estimate up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.”

As previously reported [See WIMS 1/20/10], on January 20, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a highly critical report on hydraulic fracturing and the process, known as “fracking.” In their report entitled, Drilling Around the Law, EWG charges that companies drilling for natural gas and oil are "skirting federal law and injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells, threatening drinking water supplies from New York to Wyoming." EWG said, "the petroleum distillates used in a single well could contain enough benzene to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels. . ."

Access the hearing website for links to the testimony and a webcast (click here). Access the statement from Chairman Markey (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). Access an executive summary and link to the complete 24-page EWG report (click here).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UNFCCC Press Briefing On Future Climate Negotiations

Jan 20: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer provided a press briefing discussing the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen [See WIMS 1/5/10] and outlining the way forward for the UN climate change process in 2010. De Boer opened the briefing saying, "It is fair to say that Copenhagen did not produce the full agreement the world needs to address the collective climate challenge. That only makes the task more urgent. The window of opportunity to come grips with the issue is closing at the same rate as before."

He indicated that although COP15 wasn't a full success, it produced three key outcomes: First, it raised climate change to the highest level of government, which ultimately is the only level at which it can be resolved; Second, the Copenhagen Accord reflects a political consensus on the long-term, global response to climate change; and Third, negotiations away from the cameras brought an almost full set of decisions to implement rapid climate action near to completion. He said, "Governments need time to digest what happened but cool heads already see these outcomes as a way forward to grasp a bigger, collective goal. You can say that although Copenhagen didn't produce the final cake, it left countries with the right ingredients to bake a new one in Mexico."

He said the Copenhagen Accord was crafted by a group of countries, including "the biggest, smallest, richest and poorest." He said it represents a political letter of intent that offers to reduce national emissions and sets a global temperature rise limit of two degrees centigrade. It defines amounts of short and long-term finance to implement climate change action in developing nations. And it sets a 2015 review year to check if global action by then needs to be more urgent to meet the challenge. He said, "The Accord language is anchored in the Framework Climate Change Convention and many countries are telling me it should be used now to reinvigorate the formal climate change negotiations under the UN and make further progress."

De Boer said, "A great success before Copenhagen was that many countries pledged mid-term reductions in emissions and the world can expect them to honor those pledges. Now, they have the opportunity to record those pledges in the Accord. Also at Copenhagen, negotiators came close to decisions on a set of measures which would make a long-term global response to climate change operational. We're now in a cooling off period that gives useful and needed time for countries to resume their discussions with each other.

"Copenhagen set out to deliver an agreement on four essential areas: medium-term emission cuts by industrialized countries; action by developing countries to limit the growth of their emissions; finance to implement action; and an equitable governance of the climate regime. Those issues remain as relevant as they were before Copenhagen. If countries follow up Copenhagen's outcomes calmly, with eyes firmly fixed on the advantage of collective action, they have every chance of completing the job."

On January 18, UNFCCC issued a notice to the parties regarding the submission of specific technical information following as generally agreed to in the Copenhagen Accord. The notice indicates, "I would invite those Parties that wish to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord to transmit this information to the secretariat by 31 January 2010. . .Additionally the secretariat will maintain and update on its website a list of Parties that have communicated their intention to associate themselves with the Accord. . ." Included among the information is the information on "quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 in the format given in Appendix I of the Accord" and "mitigation actions in the format given in Appendix II."

Access the speaking notes from press briefing (
click here). Access a webcast of the press briefing (click here). Access the notice to parties regarding submitting information (click here). Access all decisions adopted by the Conference, as well as the Copenhagen Accord (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information (click here).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

75 Groups Call For Ban On Antimicrobial Pesticide Triclosan

Jan 15: Over 75 environmental and health groups, lead by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch, petitioned U.S. EPA to ban the use of the widely used antimicrobial pesticide triclosan. Triclosan is linked to endocrine disruption, cancer and antibiotic resistance and found in 75% of people tested in government biomonitoring studies. The groups requested that EPA must act to stop the use of a chemical now commonly found in soaps, toothpaste, deodorants, cosmetics, clothing, and plastic, with a nearly $1 billion market and growing. In their petition, the groups cite numerous statutes under which they believe the government must act to stop non-medical uses of triclosan, including laws regulating pesticide registration, use and residues, clean and safe drinking water, and endangered species.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides said, “Given its widespread environmental contamination and public health risk, EPA has a responsibility to ban household triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria." Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch said, “Scientific studies indicate that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems. EPA needs to ban its use in non-medical settings and stop allowing companies that market triclosan to exploit consumer fears regarding bacterial-borne illnesses.”

Regulated by both EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), triclosan is commonly found in hand soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, facial tissues, antiseptics, fabrics, toys, and medical devices. The petition to EPA seeks expedited action by the agency to ban household triclosan use, challenging serious deficiencies in EPA’s September 2008 reregistration of triclosan and its failure to comply with environmental statutes.

Access a lengthy release from Beyond Pesticides with links to additional information (
click here). Access the petition to EPA (click here). Access the Environmental Working Group website on Triclosan (click here).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Major Shift In DHHS & FDA Advice On Bisphenol A (BPA)

Jan 15: In a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook questions why FDA has remained silent when other Federal public health and environmental agencies have targeted the plastics ingredient bisphenol A (BPA) as a chemical of concern to human health [See WIMS 6/10/08].

Cook wrote, “Other federal agencies have singled out BPA as a major focus of research and potential regulation. In December, the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences launched a $14 million research initiative in hopes of filling in the research gaps about the human health risk of BPA. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified BPA as a possible human health threat and priority for risk assessment. Yet the FDA has remained silent. How much more does the FDA need to know to be convinced it must protect the national food supply from further contamination? We urge you to act now to prohibit the use of BPA in food and food containers.”

In a release, EWG notes that Cook’s letter to Hamburg came only days after British scientists reported finding that Americans with high concentrations of BPA in their urine were more likely to report having heart disease or diabetes than people with lower BPA measurements. EWG indicates that authoritative studies by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly all Americans test positive for traces of BPA. An EWG study released late last year detected BPA in the umbilical cord blood of 9 of 10 infants born in 2007 and 2008. Cook wrote to Hamburg, “We cannot quantify the cost to our society, in terms of medical bills, lost productivity and troubled lives. But we are sure of this: the price, whatever it is, is too high, and it is unnecessary.”

In major breaking news the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and FDA announced today (January 15) that it has "some concern" about BPA and will undertake new research. In a posting entitled, "Bisphenol A (BPA) Information for Parents" on the DHHS website it was indicated, ". . .recent studies have reported subtle effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals. While BPA is not proven to harm children or adults, these newer studies have led federal health officials to express some concern about the safety of BPA. It is clear that the government and scientists and doctors need more research to better understand the potential human health effects of exposure to BPA, especially when it comes to the impact of BPA exposure on young children.

"The Department of Health and Human Services -- through its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- is investing in important new health studies in both animals and humans to better determine and evaluate the potential health effects of BPA exposure, including $30 million in studies at NIH. We expect to have the results of this scientific research in approximately 18 to 24 months. While we learn more, the Food and Drug Administration is supporting current efforts by industry to stop the manufacture of infant bottles and feeding cups made with BPA from the U.S. market. The FDA is also seeking to strengthen its oversight of BPA so the agency can respond quickly, if necessary, when more scientific evidence becomes available."

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, issued a brief statement saying, "The announcement today by the Obama Administration regarding BPA is a very positive step that sets us back on a path of science-based decision-making. I am pleased that the Administration is taking the steps necessary to ensure that the public health is protected. We need to do a more effective job of preventing harmful chemicals from entering the marketplace, and for this reason, I look forward to considering reforms of the Toxic Substances Control Act in the coming months."

Environmental Health News (EHN) reported that, "FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that her agency has embraced the conclusion of the National Toxicology Program, which announced two years ago after a review of the science that there is “some concern” about developmental and reproductive problems in children exposed to BPA." EHN said the announcement is "a major shift for the agency because two years ago it concluded that BPA was safe. The FDA at that time agreed with the plastics industry, which maintained that the animal studies were flawed and that there was no evidence that human babies were in danger."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a statement in reaction to the Health and Human Services (HHS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement on BPA and said, “The HHS statement today confirms that exposure to BPA in food contact products has not been proven harmful to children or adults. However, the agency suggests that more research needs to be done and provided guidance on how parents can choose to limit infant exposures. . .

“ACC and our members are committed to the safety of our products, and we will continue to support laws and regulations that protect consumer safety. While ACC recognizes that HHS and FDA are attempting to address public confusion about BPA, we are disappointed that some of the recommendations are likely to worry consumers and are not well-founded. Plastics made with BPA contribute safety and convenience to our daily lives because of their durability, clarity and shatter-resistance. Can liners and food-storage containers made with BPA are essential components to helping protect the safety of packaged foods and preserving products from spoilage and contamination. ACC remains committed to consumer safety, and will continue to review new scientific studies concerning the safety of BPA.”

Access a release from EWG including the complete letter and an attachment with further details (click here). Access the posting from DHHS with links to additional information (click here). Access the FDA website on BPA research and today's update (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Waxman (click here). Access the article from Environmental Health News (click here). Access the statement and links to more information from ACC (click here).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CBD Petitions To Regulate Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Jan 11: The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the U.S. EPA to establish water-quality criteria for numerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals under the Clean Water Act. CBD said this is "the first step in regulating and eliminating persistent and widespread chemicals that damage reproductive functions in wildlife and humans." Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with CBD said, “Our drinking water and aquatic habitat for wildlife is being increasingly and unnecessarily contaminated by endocrine disruptors such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals. We should be very concerned when we see chemically castrated frogs and frankenfish resulting from these chemicals -- it’s time to get these poisons out of our waterways and ecosystems.”

CBD indicated that endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter the structure or function of the body’s endocrine system, which uses hormones to regulate growth, metabolism, and tissue function. Endocrine disruptors can mimic naturally occurring hormones like estrogens and androgens, causing overstimulation, and can interfere with natural hormone functions, thereby compromising normal reproduction, development, and growth. They have been shown to damage reproductive functions and offspring, and cause developmental, neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans.

Miller said, “As we start looking at this problem, we’re seeing disturbing hormonal responses in fish and wildlife from pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and personal-care products that are contaminating aquatic ecosystems,” said Miller. “The impacts of endocrine disruptors on aquatic wildlife are our canary in the coal mine, since these contaminated waters are often our drinking-water supply. The implications for human health are not good.”

A wide variety of substances, including pharmaceuticals, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, solvents, and plasticizers can cause endocrine disruption. Pesticides have long been present in our environment, and now additional endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in cosmetics, detergents, deodorants, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, veterinary and illicit drugs, analgesics, sunscreen, insect repellant, synthetic musks, disinfectants, surfactants, plasticides, and caffeine are being introduced to ecosystems and waterways.

CBD notes that U.S. EPA currently regulates some, but not all, of the endocrine disruptors in the petition. They said for those it does regulate, standards are not stringent enough to protect against endocrine-disrupting harm. It is now known that infinitesimally small levels of exposure may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, and current regulatory levels are insufficient to protect against water quality impairment. Miller said, “There is currently a regulatory void for controlling endocrine disruptors, and our petition aims to start the process of protecting human health and wildlife from these dangerous chemicals. We call on the Environmental Protection Agency and states to adopt sensible criteria for endocrine disruptors that will completely eliminate or dramatically reduce the ‘acceptable’ levels of these pollutants in waterways.”

On December 3, 2009, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate by Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to explore linkages between endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the environment and everyday goods and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders. The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 [H.R. 4190, S. 2828] would facilitate the research necessary to determine whether these chemicals are affecting human health. Specifically, the act would authorize an ambitious new research program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to identify EDCs and establish an independent panel of scientists to oversee research and develop a prioritized list of chemicals for investigation. If the panel determined that a chemical presented even a minimal level of concern, it would compel the federal agencies with established regulatory authority to report to Congress and propose next steps within six months.

Access a release from CBD and links to the petition and background information (click here). Access a release from Representative Moran and Senator Kerry (click here). Access additional information from the organization Beyond Pesticides (click here). Access legislative details for S. 2828 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 4190 (click here).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

EPA Administrator Reviews 1st Year; Outlines Key Themes

Jan 12: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has released a memo to EPA employees assessing her first year as Administrator and the Agency's progress on key issues. She said the first year had been "a deeply fulfilling 12 months and a wonderful homecoming for me." She said the Agency has made "enormous strides" on all five major issues she outlined a year ago. She said, "we have strengthened our focus and expanded the list of priorities." The memo provides a listing of seven key themes to focus the work of the Agency. The following is verbatim listing.

Taking Action on Climate Change: 2009 saw historic progress in the fight against climate change, with a range of greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. We must continue this critical effort and ensure compliance with the law. We will continue to support the President and Congress in enacting clean energy and climate legislation. Using the Clean Air Act, we will finalize our mobile source rules and provide a framework for continued improvements in that sector. We will build on the success of Energy Star to expand cost-saving energy conservation and efficiency programs. And, we will continue to develop common-sense solutions for reducing GHG emissions from large stationary sources like power plants. In all of this, we must also recognize that climate change will affect other parts of our core mission, such as protecting air and water quality, and we must include those considerations in our future plans.

Improving Air Quality: American communities face serious health and environmental challenges from air pollution. We have already proposed stronger ambient air quality standards for ozone, which will help millions of American breathe easier and live healthier. Building on that, EPA will develop a comprehensive strategy for a cleaner and more efficient power sector, with strong but achievable emission reduction goals for SO2, NOx, mercury and other air toxics. We will strengthen our ambient air quality standards for pollutants such as PM, SO2 and NO2 and will achieve additional reductions in air toxics from a range of industrial facilities. Improved monitoring, permitting and enforcement will be critical building blocks for air quality improvement.

Assuring the Safety of Chemicals: One of my highest priorities is to make significant and long overdue progress in assuring the safety of chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies. Last year I announced principles for modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act. Separately, we are shifting EPA’s focus to address high-concern chemicals and filling data gaps on widely produced chemicals in commerce. At the end of 2009, we released our first-ever chemical management plans for four groups of substances, and more plans are in the pipeline for 2010. Using our streamlined Integrated Risk Information System, we will continue strong progress toward rigorous, peer-reviewed health assessments on dioxins, arsenic, formaldehyde, TCE and other substances of concern.

Cleaning Up Our Communities: In 2009 EPA made strong cleanup progress by accelerating our Superfund program and confronting significant local environmental challenges like the asbestos Public Health Emergency in Libby, Montana and the coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. Using all the tools at our disposal, including enforcement and compliance efforts, we will continue to focus on making safer, healthier communities. I am committed to maximizing the potential of our brownfields program, particularly to spur environmental cleanup and job creation in disadvantaged communities. We are also developing enhanced strategies for risk reduction in our Superfund program, with stronger partnerships with stakeholders affected by our cleanups.

Protecting America’s Waters: America’s waterbodies are imperiled as never before. Water quality and enforcement programs face complex challenges, from nutrient loadings and stormwater runoff, to invasive species and drinking water contaminants. These challenges demand both traditional and innovative strategies. We will continue comprehensive watershed protection programs for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes. We will initiate measures to address post-construction runoff, water quality impairment from surface mining, and stronger drinking water protection. Recovery Act funding will expand construction of water infrastructure, and we will work with states to develop nutrient limits and launch an Urban Waters initiative. We will also revamp enforcement strategies to achieve greater compliance across the board.

Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice: We have begun a new era of outreach and protection for communities historically underrepresented in EPA decision-making. We are building strong working relationships with tribes, communities of color, economically distressed cities and towns, young people and others, but this is just a start. We must include environmental justice principles in all of our decisions. This is an area that calls for innovation and bold thinking, and I am challenging all of our employees to bring vision and creativity to our programs. The protection of vulnerable subpopulations is a top priority, especially with regard to children. Our revitalized Children’s Health Office is bringing a new energy to safeguarding children through all of our enforcement efforts. We will ensure that children’s health protection continues to guide the path forward.

Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships: States and tribal nations bear important responsibilities for the day-to-day mission of environmental protection, but declining tax revenues and fiscal challenges are pressuring state agencies and tribal governments to do more with fewer resources. Strong partnerships and accountability are more important than ever. EPA must do its part to support state and tribal capacity and, through strengthened oversight, ensure that programs are consistently delivered nationwide. Where appropriate, we will use our own expertise and capacity to bolster state and tribal efforts.

Access the complete memo and links to several audio clips on various topics (click here).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EPW Dems United In Opposition To Murkowski Amendment

Jan 11: All of the Members of the Democratic Caucus on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee have joined together to oppose a proposal by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to overturn U.S. EPA's global warming endangerment finding. A January 11, 2009 "Dear Colleague" letter urging Members to oppose the proposal was signed by all twelve of the Majority Members of the Committee: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA).

The letter indicates, "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health and public welfare. In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gas emissions were covered under the Clean Air Act and the EPA had a duty to determine whether the endangerment finding was warranted by the science. A "Resolution of Disapproval" using expedited procedures under the Congressional Review Act or other similar amendment is expected to be introduced in the Senate to overturn EPA's global warming endangerment finding.

"Debating policy choices regarding the appropriate response to unchecked climate change is fair, and the Senate will continue to evaluate the best tools for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, but repealing an endangerment finding based upon years of work by America's scientists and public health experts is not appropriate. The independent work of scientists and public health experts from both the Bush and Obama administrations should stand on its own. We strongly urge you to vote "no" when a Resolution of Disapproval or a similar amendment comes before the Senate."

On December 14, 2009 Senator Murkowski announced her intention to file a "disapproval resolution" to stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act [
See WIMS 12/15/09]. Murkowski’s resolution comes in the wake of the agency’s recent endangerment finding, which she said will result in "damaging new regulations that endanger America’s economy." The Senator's announced disapproval came one day before EPA's endangerment finding was officially published in the Federal Register [74 FR 66495-66546, 12/15/09]. The endangerment finding was announced by EPA on December 7 [See WIMS 12/8/09].

A Washington Post (WP), January 11 article reported that Senator Murkowski "is likely to postpone offering an amendment next week that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. . ." The issue was scheduled to be considered in the Senate on January 20. The WP article discusses the activities of two industrial lobbyist who worked with Murkowski's staff in drafting an amendment. The legislative maneuvering is complicated by the disapproval resolution procedures of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which allow the resolution to be placed on the Senate calendar, where it is given expedited consideration on the Senate floor, and not subject to filibuster.

Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director issued a statement commenting on the WP article and said, "We now have proof that lobbyists for Big Oil, dirty coal and other special interests are directly involved in recent attempts to bail out big polluters and gut the Clean Air Act. What's more, these big polluter lobbyists are the same former Bush administration officials who completely disregarded the Clean Air Act and even disobeyed the Supreme Court for years. While Big Oil, dirty coal, and other polluters were busy trying to craft backroom deals with their allies in Congress, last month more than 400,000 Americans voiced their support for President Obama's plans to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming. Instead of bailing out big polluters, it's time for Congress to get serious about passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy and climate legislation can deliver less pollution, more jobs, and greater security."

On January 6, the nonprofit organization, 1Sky issued a statement announcing a national call-in day to Senators' home offices on January 12, to oppose the amendment being proposed by Senator Murkowski [See WIMS 1/6/10].

Access an announcement and the letter from EPW Democrats (
click here). Access the WP article with further details and links to the Murkowski amendment (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access a 1Sky blog posting on the momentum for climate change legislation with links to related information (click here).

Monday, January 11, 2010

North Dakota Democrat Introduces Bill To Prevent EPA GHG Regs

Jan 8: Signaling additional controversy and complications for the Obama Administration in attempting to deal with climate change, regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implement the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in (Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 05-1120), Democratic Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota announced the introduction of H.R. 4396, the Save Our Energy Jobs Act, which he said would prohibit U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. He said the legislation has been introduced in response to a recent EPA announcement that it was moving forward on new rules to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. In a release he indicated, "This action, if not prevented, could dramatically increase energy rates as well as end up costing North Dakota jobs." The Administration already faces nearly unanimous opposition from House and Senate Republicans on the issue and the Senate will soon consider a "disapproval resolution" proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act [See WIMS 12/15/09 & 1/6/10].

Representative Pomeroy said, "Regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the current provisions of the Clean Air Act is irresponsible and just plain wrong. That is why I introduced the Save Our Energy Jobs Act which would stop the EPA from moving forward with its proposal. I am not about to let some Washington bureaucrat dictate new public policy that will raise our electricity rates and put at risk the thousands of coal-related jobs in our state." There were no cosponsors to the bill which was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chaired by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA).

On April 2, 2007, the United States Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should they find these emissions to be harmful to public health and welfare. Subsequent to this new authority, on December 7, 2009, the EPA released a final endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions do endanger both public health and welfare [
See WIMS 12/8/09]. Making this determination was necessary to finalizing the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, which have been proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration. Once this EPA rule becomes final, greenhouse gases will officially be regulated pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Representative Pomeroy indicated, "This action would then subject stationary sources which emit greenhouse gas emissions, such as power plants and factories like those managed by North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperatives, Basin Electric and Minnkota Power, to regulation under the Clean Air Act."

In anticipation of this outcome, EPA has announced a proposed rule requiring large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions [
See WIMS 10/1/09]. Representative Pomeroy indicated, "These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and would cover all of North Dakota’s seven coal fired power plants, the Tesoro oil refinery in Mandan and other industries across the state. However, current control technologies and measures are either unproven or incredibly expensive and could in effect, make new coal facilities impossible to build."

Included in the Representative's release was a comment from the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives Executive Vice President and General Manager Dennis Hill who said, "Rep. Pomeroy’s bill supports our position that Congress should be in charge of setting the policy on climate change legislation. We’ve been working with our Congressional delegation to adopt provisions in a comprehensive climate change bill that achieve carbon reductions at a pace that’s fair, affordable and achievable. We believe any climate legislation should make clear that Congress, not the EPA, sets the policy on carbon." Representative Pomeroy indicated, "This action could result in significantly raising local energy prices and endanger the 28,000 direct and indirect jobs that are connected to North Dakota’s coal industry, not to mention thousands of jobs connected to our manufacturing and expanding oil and gas industries."

Access a release from Representative Pomeroy (
click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 4396 (click here).

Friday, January 08, 2010

RFA Charges "Orchestrated Campaign" Against Biofuels

Jan 6: The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the national trade association for the U.S. ethanol industry, issued a press release on a recent “policy paper” from Houston-based Rice University and sponsored by Chevron which they say seeks to continue the "orchestrated campaign to limit, and ultimately eliminate, the use of biofuels to displace foreign oil." RFA said that in its commentary, researchers from Rice "rely upon out-of-date information and questionable assumptions to denigrate Congress, farmers, and ethanol producers for their support of domestically-based renewable fuels."

The Paper issued by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy says, "The United States needs to fundamentally rethink its policy of promoting ethanol to diversify its energy sources and increase energy security." The paper, Fundamentals of a Sustainable U.S. Biofuels Policy, "questions the economic, environmental and logistical basis for the billions of dollars in federal subsidies and protectionist tariffs that go to domestic ethanol producers every year." Amy Myers Jaffe, one of the report's authors and associate director of the Rice Energy Program said, "We need to set realistic targets for ethanol in the United States instead of just throwing taxpayer money out the window."

As an example of the unintended economic consequences of U.S. biofuels policy, the Rice report notes that in 2008 "the U.S. government spent $4 billion in biofuels subsidies to replace roughly 2 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. The average cost to the taxpayer of those 'substituted' barrels of gasoline was roughly $82 a barrel, or $1.95 per gallon on top of the retail gasoline price (i.e., what consumers pay at the pump)." The report questions whether mandated volumes for biofuels can be met and whether biofuels are improving the environment or energy security.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that mandated production targets for "renewable fuels," mainly biodiesel and ethanol. The bill mandated production targets of 9 billion gallons of biofuels a year in 2008 and rising to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022. Corn ethanol is capped at 15 billion gallons a year in the law, but the study indicates "even that level will be difficult to reach given logistical and commercial barriers." The EISA also calls for 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, produced from sources like switchgrass, corn stover and algae, to be used in the nation’s fuel supply by 2022. But the report determines, "existing mandated targets for advanced biofuels are not currently achievable -- scientifically or commercially -- and should be revisited."

RFA Director of Public Affairs Matt Hartwig said, “Not surprisingly, this oil industry-sponsored analysis relies on myths, generalities, half-truths to dismiss ethanol while providing no comparison to our increasingly dangerous and costly addiction to oil. A debate about the appropriate role of biofuels is valid and should occur, but not without proper context and based upon last century’s assumptions.”

RFA indicates that the Rice paper makes a number of misleading statements and assumptions, including: (1) The paper assumes 44% of the 2007 corn crop will be needed to meet the 15 billion gallons of ethanol called for in the Renewable Fuels Standard. It does not account for the 1/3 of each bushel that is returned to the feed market in the form of distillers’ grains, nor does it give credence to increased yields. Despite difficult planting and harvesting conditions, American farmers achieved record yields in 2009.

(2) The paper states, “The preponderance of evidence shows that existing biofuels offer no improvement over gasoline…” when it comes to carbon emissions. Every credible lifecycle analysis directly comparing ethanol to gasoline shows a carbon benefit to ethanol use, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment of a 61% benefit. Only when the unproven and controversial notion of international indirect land use change (ILUC) is applied to ethanol and not to gasoline do the carbon benefits of ethanol suffer.

(3) The paper assumes additional land, including marginal acres, will be needed to fulfill the RFS mandates. This is not necessarily true. Based upon yield trends, corn production on roughly the same amount of acres being cultivated will be sufficient to meet the corn-based ethanol demands of the RFS. New feedstocks, such as crop residues, wood waste, and grasses, will also be used and will require no additional acres.

(4) The paper criticizes the secondary tariff on imports of ethanol, but provides no context. The secondary tariff exists to offset the tax credit available to imports of ethanol. The tariff does not restrict trade, as evidenced by the import of ethanol when needed, but rather protects American taxpayers. Moreover, no discussion is given to the 25% tariff Brazil places on imported ethanol. Given the poor sugar crop in Brazil, it is likely U.S. ethanol could be exported and face the 25% tariff.

(5) The paper generalizes that irrigated corn used for ethanol production will be in the same proportion as all irrigated corn (~18% of the total crop). Analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that 96% of all corn used in ethanol production is non-irrigated.

Access a release from Rice University’s Baker Institute (click here). Access links to the complete study and related information (click here). Access a release from the RFA (click here). Access the RFA website for additional information (click here).

Thursday, January 07, 2010

EPA Proposes Strengthened Ozone Standards

Jan 7: U.S. EPA proposed the strictest health standards to date for ground-level ozone or smog. EPA said ground-level ozone, is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can even harm healthy people who work and play outdoors. The Agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health [See WIMS 3/13/08]. EPA is proposing a rule to set the “primary” standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The current primary 8-hour standard is 0.075 ppm. EPA said it will issue final standards by August 31, 2010.

EPA said that children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are most likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults are also sensitive to ozone. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face. Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease. It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country. Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.”

EPA is also proposing to set a separate “secondary” standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees. This seasonal standard is designed to protect plants and trees from damage occurring from repeated ozone exposure, which can reduce tree growth, damage leaves, and increase susceptibility to disease. EPA is proposing to set the level of the secondary standard
within the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. The current secondary standard is the same as the primary standard -- 0.075 ppm. EPA said the new secondary standard should be a cumulative, seasonal standard expressed as an annual index of the sum of weighted hourly concentrations, cumulated over 12 hours per day (8:00 am to 8:00 pm) during the consecutive 3-month period within the O3 season with the maximum index value, set at a level within the range of 7 to 15 ppm-hours.

In September 2009 Administrator Jackson announced that EPA would reconsider the existing ozone standards, set at 0.075 ppm in March 2008 [See WIMS 9/16/09]. As part of its reconsideration, EPA conducted a review of the science that guided the 2008 decision, including more than 1,700 scientific studies and public comments from the 2008 rulemaking process. EPA also reviewed the findings of the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommended standards in the ranges that EPA has proposed.

EPA said that depending on the level of the final standard, the proposal would yield health benefits between $13 billion and $100 billion. This proposal would help reduce premature deaths, aggravated asthma, bronchitis cases, hospital and emergency room visits and days when people miss work or school because of ozone-related symptoms. Estimated costs of implementing this proposal range from $19 billion to $90 billion. Ground-level ozone forms when emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, landfills and motor vehicles react in the sun. EPA will take public comment for 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. The Agency will hold three public hearings on the proposal: Feb. 2, 2010 in Arlington, VA and in Houston; and Feb. 4, 2010 in Sacramento.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement on EPA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the 2008 ozone standard saying, “The action lacks scientific justification. EPA acknowledges the newer studies on ozone ‘do not materially change any of the broad scientific conclusions regarding the health effects of exposure’. Given that conclusion, there is absolutely no basis for EPA to propose changing the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA Administrator in 2008. To do so is an obvious politicization of the air quality standard setting process that could mean unnecessary energy cost increases, job losses and less domestic oil and natural gas development and energy security."

Cal Baier-Anderson, Ph.D., a toxicologist with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "EPA's proposed standards promise clean air protections that reach from the nation's urban neighborhoods and communities to our rural forests and croplands. Children are especially vulnerable to ozone air pollution. For millions of children, high pollution days make it difficult to attend school, to play outside and to simply breathe." EDF said the Agency's new action reverses a 2008 decision under the Bush EPA and follows the recommendations of expert scientists.

The new proposal from EPA is consistent with recommendations of EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) which unanimously advised the previous EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson that the nation's health standard should be between 0.060 to 0.070 parts per million. Additionally, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) which represents the state and local air quality agencies in 53 states and territories and over 165 metropolitan areas across the country supported the CASAC’s recommendation and had also advocated a distinct, cumulative seasonal secondary standard."

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access links to extensive background information including a fact sheet and the prepublication copy of the proposed rule (click here). Access the API statement (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here).