Wednesday, March 31, 2010

President Announces Offshore Energy Proposals; Reactions Mixed

Mar 31: As part of the Administration's comprehensive energy strategy President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced more details of the Obama Administration's efforts to strengthen our energy security. President Obama and Secretary Salazar announced that the Administration will expand oil and gas development and exploration on specified sections of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) which they say will "enhance the nation's energy independence while protecting fisheries, tourism, and places off U.S. coasts that are not appropriate for development." Also included in the announcement were landmark car and truck fuel standards, key efforts being carried out by the Department of Defense to enhance energy security, and an effort to green the Federal vehicle fleet. 
    President Obama said, "We're here to talk about America's energy security, an issue that's been a priority for my administration since the day I took office.  Already, we've made the largest investment in clean energy in our nation's history.  It's an investment that's expected to create or save more than 700,000 jobs across America -- jobs manufacturing advanced batteries for more efficient vehicles; upgrading the power grid so that it's smarter and it's stronger; doubling our nation's capacity to generate renewable electricity from sources like the wind and the sun.

    "And just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labor unions, environmental advocates, and public officials from California and across the country to reach a historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks.  And tomorrow, after decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be finalized, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump. So my administration is upholding its end of the deal, and we expect all parties to do the same. And I'd also point out this rule that we're going to be announcing about increased mileage standards will save 1.8 billion -- billion barrels of oil overall -- 1.8 billion barrels of oil. And that's like taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year. . .

    "We need to make continued investments in clean coal technologies and advanced biofuels.  A few weeks ago, I announced loan guarantees to break ground on America's first new nuclear facility in three decades, a project that will create thousands of jobs. And in the short term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we've still got to make some tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development in ways that protect communities and protect coastlines. This is not a decision that I've made lightly. It's one that Ken and I -- as well as Carol Browner, my energy advisor, and others in my administration -- looked at closely for more than a year. But the bottom line is this: Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy. . .

    "That's why my administration will consider potential areas for development in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, while studying and protecting sensitive areas in the Arctic.  That's why we'll continue to support development of leased areas off the North Slope of Alaska, while protecting Alaska's Bristol Bay. . . I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. . . drilling alone can't come close to meeting our long-term energy needs.  And for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.

    "So the answer is not drilling everywhere all the time.  But the answer is not, also, for us to ignore the fact that we are going to need vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security.  Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place.  Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again. . .

    "So I'm open to proposals from my Democratic friends and my Republican friends. I think that we can break out of the broken politics of the past when it comes to our energy policy. I know that we can come together to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that's going to foster new energy -- new industries, create millions of new jobs, protect our planet, and help us become more energy independent.  That's what we can do. That is what we must do. And I'm confident that is what we will do."   

    The Administration's strategy calls for developing oil and gas resources in new areas, such as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico; increasing oil and gas exploration in frontier areas, such as parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans; and protecting ocean areas that are simply too special to drill, such as Alaska's Bristol Bay. The strategy will guide the current 2007-2012 offshore oil and gas leasing program, as well as the new 2012-2017 program that this administration will propose. 

    In addition the White House announced that On April 1st, EPA and DOT will sign a joint final rule establishing greenhouse gas emission standards and corporate average fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles for model years 2012-2016 [See WIMS 5/19/09]; doubling the Federal hybrid vehicle fleet and purchase the first 100 plug-in electric vehicles by the end of the year; and reducing the military's heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement praising the parts of the Obama proposal that did not deal with offshore drilling; and regarding drilling said, "The Obama Administration's initiative regarding drilling on public lands must ensure that any offshore and onshore plan proceeds in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner. Taxpayers who own these resources have been historically shortchanged from the huge profits received from drilling on public lands, and must receive a fair return in the future.   
    U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement saying, "Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, but a small one that leaves enormous amounts of American energy off limits. And the proof of the administration's announcement will be in the implementation: will the administration actually take concrete steps to finish the studies, approve the necessary permits, and open these areas for production? Will they stand by as their allies act to delay the implementation in the courts? The American people believe that to strengthen our national and energy security we should rely more on America's energy resources, and less on those of the Middle East. It's time to put America's energy to work for the American people, without the threat of a new national energy tax." 
    House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement criticizing the Obama Administration. Boehner said, "The Obama Administration continues to defy the will of the American people who strongly supported the bipartisan decision of Congress in 2008 to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling not just off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, but off the Pacific Coast and Alaskan shores as well. Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking 'Where are the jobs?'

    "It's long past time for this Administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores and start listening to the American people who want an "all of the above" strategy to produce more American energy and create more jobs. Republicans are listening to the American people and have proposed a better solution -- the American Energy Act -- which will lower gas prices, increase American energy production, promote new clean and renewable sources of energy, and encourage greater efficiency and conservation. At the same time the White House makes today's announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is plotting a new massive job-killer that the American people can't afford: a cascade of new EPA regulations that will punish every American who dares to flip on a light switch, drive a car, or buy an American product. Americans simply don't want this backdoor national energy tax that will drive up energy and manufacturing costs and destroy jobs in our states and local communities."
    Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee said, "I commend Secretary Salazar for proposing a plan that makes available for leasing much of the potential offshore oil and gas resources that the Federal government owns. I also commend him for indicating that additional studies will be undertaken before making a final decision on leasing in areas that might be environmentally sensitive. Secretary Salazar's proposed plan is generally consistent with the legislative proposals regarding our offshore national oil and gas resources that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported last summer [See WIMS 6/17/09]. I hope that the Senate will address these legislative proposals in the coming weeks."
    Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) released a joint statement. Sen. Murkowski said, "I appreciate the department's decision to allow valid existing rights to explore Alaska's huge offshore oil and gas reserves to go ahead. I will work with the administration on proceeding with important future lease sales off Alaska's coast, as well as along the Atlantic coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico." Sen. Begich said, "Alaska's energy companies should be pleased with the green light from the Obama administration to proceed toward oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas under the current lease schedule. As the site of the world's largest salmon fishery, the President's proposal to curtail oil and gas development in Bristol Bay makes sense. I commend the Obama administration, and especially Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, for reaching out to Alaskans and incorporating our recommendations in today's decision."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement on the Interior Department's Five-Year Plan and said, "The announcement by President Obama and Secretary Salazar is a positive development. We look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal, and we stand ready to work with them to make this a reality. We appreciate the administration's recognition of the importance of developing our nation's oil and natural gas resources to create jobs, generate revenues and fuel our nation's economy. Exploring for and developing our nation's offshore resources could help generate more than a trillion dollars in revenues and create thousands of jobs to add to the already 9.2 million jobs supported by today's oil and natural gas industry.
    "As we move forward, we hope that consideration can be given to other resource-rich regions, such as the Destin Dome area of the Eastern Gulf and areas off the Pacific Coast and Alaska. We also need to ensure that the permitting processes are handled in an expeditious way. The oil and natural gas industry has a proven track record of safe oil and natural gas development and the majority of the American people recognize this by supporting greater offshore development for the benefit of their communities, their states and their nation."
    Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued a statement saying, "We're very disappointed to see important areas like the Arctic coast and the Mid and South Atlantic stay open to oil drilling. What we need is bold, decisive steps towards clean energy, like the new clean cars regulations announced this week -- not more dirty, expensive offshore drilling. The oil industry already has access to drilling on millions of acres of America's public lands and water. We don't need to hand over our last protected pristine coastal areas just so oil companies can break more profit records. Drilling areas like the Arctic threatens marine life like whales and polar bears. Where there is offshore drilling, there is a constant danger of oil spills. One oil spill is all it takes to destroy a coastal tourism economy and the jobs that depend on it. Drilling our coasts will doing nothing to lower gas prices or create energy independence. It will only jeopardize beaches, marine life, and coastal tourist economies, all so the oil industry can make a short-term profit. . ."
    Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, "Today's announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama -- promises of change, a year of 'deliberation,' and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own. Rather than bring about the change we need, this plan will further our national addiction to oil and contribute to global warming, while at the same time directly despoiling the habitat of polar bears, endangered whales, and other imperiled wildlife." CBD said, "Oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, home to all of America's polar bears, is strongly opposed by conservation groups as no technologies exist to clean up oil spills in icy waters. Oil development in the Beaufort Sea would likely also be visible from the shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today's plan would allow existing leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to move forward while the remainder of these areas would be subject to additional leasing following further environmental studies."
    Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "We need comprehensive solutions for America's clean energy future -- and more offshore drilling in our oceans does not fit in that picture. Offshore drilling carries significant environmental risks without truly increasing our energy independence. There are many areas that are just too sensitive for offshore drilling, which threatens our oceans, sea life and coastal communities; including economic interests in these areas. America has better solutions than to drill in our pristine waters -- which needs more research and investigation -- and we should be pursuing these options. . . "In order to fully achieve a clean energy future, we need the administration and Congress to enact truly comprehensive energy and climate policies that will cut our dependence on oil, limit carbon pollution and create jobs. We now look to the Senate to advance comprehensive legislation -- that is being crafted by Senators Kerry, Graham, Lieberman and others -- to make our country stronger, safer and more secure."
    Access a release from the White House (click here). Access the full text of the President's speech (click here). Access more specific details on the offshore drilling plan (click here). Access more information on DoD's energy initiatives (click here).
Access the statement from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access the statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access the statement from Representative Boehner (click here). Access a statement from Sen. Bingaman (click here). Access a statement from Sens. Murkowski & Begich (click here). Access the API statement (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access the statement from CBD (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). [*Energy/OCS]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Conference Probes Climate Intervention Technologies & Geoengineering

Mar 29: A week-long International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies held in Pacific Grove, CA concluded a week (March 22-26) of conversations and discussions on climate intervention and guidelines for research and experimentation. The conference was developed by Dr. Margaret Leinen of the Climate Response Fund, a non-profit based in Alexandria, VA in partnership with Guttman Initiatives. The scientific program was organized by an international scientific committee chaired by Dr. Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute, based in Washington, DC
    According to a release, the conference marked the first broadly attended meeting by leaders in a variety of fields convened to discuss the critical issues surrounding climate intervention and remediation research. More than one hundred and fifty renowned scientists and researchers from the world's leading academic institutions joined environmental groups, philosophers, ethicists, and specialists in economics, risk, governance, business and policy to identify the risks and social implications of research into climate intervention and remediation, sometimes called geoengineering.

    Climate intervention and remediation is a new field of research, including physical and natural sciences as well as social science and humanities, born in response to the imminent threat of human-induced climate change. It involves research into the purposeful management of the global climate should societal efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions ultimately fail or come too late. The presentations, plenary sessions, and small group discussions filled 12-hour days, covering a range of subjects including approaches for potentially counter-balancing at least some aspects of human-induced climate change, the legal and societal issues raised by research needed to verify the approaches, and public perception of climate change.

    In addition, there were constructive specific discussions on how to counter-balance warming, changes in precipitation, and other consequences of the ongoing emission of greenhouse gases and on the variety of approaches for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to sequester or store it in the ocean or the land. Participants aired doubts and fears about how research could be governed and proceed and emphasized the need for transparency and consideration of all issues from local to global perspectives. Robert Socolow, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University said, "What will happen when we get an unambiguous signal of a climate emergency? We are not ready." He urged the group to start with "the best traditions of the scientific method," and then to push beyond to ensure that all climate intervention or remediation research be considered, measured and iterative, including discussion with those outside of the research community.

    Such sentiments inspired Paul Craig, a member of the Sierra Club's National Energy Committee and Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the University of California at Davis, to observe, "I came here expecting to see a bunch of engineering types proposing to engineer the planet. But instead I saw a different conversation in which the word 'humility' actually appeared in slides. I'm leaving with a very different view of the way that these attendees are thinking about geoengineering."

    After hearing input on its first draft, the Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC) issued a Statement summarizing its conclusions and invited other participants to join them in supporting it. Many conference participants have expressed interest in signing onto the SOC statement; their names will be added and dated as they come in. The Committee also intends to develop a document on principles for climate intervention/remediation research that will also be circulated to participants for their input and, eventually, their signature. The conference's Scientific Organizing Committee will produce a report on the proceedings, slated for release in early summer.

    The SOC Statement indicates in part, "The fact that humanity's efforts to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases (mitigation) have been limited to date is a cause of deep concern. Additionally, uncertainties in the response of the climate system to increased greenhouse gases leave open the possibility of very large future changes. It is thus important to initiate further
research in all relevant disciplines to better understand and communicate whether additional strategies to moderate future climate change are, or are not, viable, appropriate and ethical. Such strategies, which could be employed in addition to the primary strategy of mitigation, include climate intervention methods (solar radiation management) and climate remediation methods (carbon dioxide removal).
   "We do not yet have sufficient knowledge of the risks associated with using methods for climate intervention and remediation, their intended and unintended impacts, and their efficacy in reducing the rate of climatic change to assess whether they should or should not be implemented. Thus, further research is essential.
    "Recognizing that governments collectively have ultimate responsibility for decisions concerning climate intervention and remediation research and possible implementation, this conference represented a step in facilitating a process involving broader public participation. This process should ensure that research on this issue progresses in a timely, safe, ethical and transparent manner, addressing social, humanitarian and environmental issues."
    Access a lengthy release and links to additional information (click here). Access the SOC Statement and preliminary list of signers (click here). Access the Climate Response Fund (click here). Access the Guttman Initiatives (click here). Access the Climate Institute (click here).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Options For Selling Cap-and-Trade Emissions Allowances

Mar 26: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report entitled, Climate Change: Observations on Options for Selling Emissions Allowances in a Cap-and-Trade Program (GAO-10-377, February 24, 2010). The report was prepared at the request of Senator Max Baucus Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.
    GAO indicates that Congress is considering proposals for market-based programs to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Many proposals involve creating a cap-and-trade program, in which an overall emissions cap is set and entities covered by the program must hold tradable permits -- or "allowances" -- to cover their emissions. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the value of these allowances could total $300 billion annually by 2020. The government could either sell the allowances, give them away for free, or some combination of the two.
    Some existing cap-and-trade programs have experience selling allowances. For example, member states participating in the European Union's (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) have sold up to about 9 percent of their allowances, and the amount of auctioning is expected to increase significantly starting in 2013. In the United States, the 10 northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have auctioned about 87 percent of their allowances. The report is part of GAO's response to a request to review climate change policy options. The report describes the implications of different methods for selling allowances, given available information and the experiences of selected programs. GAO reviewed relevant literature and interviewed program officials from the EU and RGGI, economists, and other researchers.
    GAO indicates that the method of selling emissions allowances can have significant implications for a cap-and-trade program's outcomes, and therefore, it is important that the method be chosen based on well-defined goals. Goals often cited by program officials and economists include: maintaining simplicity and transparency, maximizing participation, promoting economic efficiency, generating a price that reflects the marginal cost of reducing emissions, avoiding market manipulation, raising revenues, and minimizing administrative costs. According to program officials, it is important to identify goals prior to choosing a sales method, as tradeoffs may exist. Some goals may also be interrelated -- for example, a simple and transparent design may boost participation and reduce the risk of market manipulation.
    Once goals are identified, policymakers face a number of choices regarding the design of a sales mechanism. Existing programs have used different mechanisms to sell allowances, including direct sales through exchanges and auctions. EU officials described exchange-based sales as effective and easy to implement, although they and other economists questioned whether this approach would be suitable for selling a high volume of allowances. Program officials also reported that auctions, the more commonly used sales mechanism in the EU and RGGI, effectively distributed allowances to program participants. However, some economists noted that auctions are not "one size fits all," and should be designed to take into account market characteristics, such as the number of potential buyers.
    Using auctions to sell allowances would entail a number of other design choices. For example, policymakers could decide to utilize existing auction infrastructure, such as that used in exchanges or government auctions, or develop a new platform. Choices must also be made regarding the auction format and other design elements. The auction format determines, among other things, the price that winning bidders pay for allowances and the number of bidding rounds. To date, ETS and RGGI auctions have used a single round format in which each participant that bids above a certain price receives allowances at that price. Apart from the auction format, other elements may affect outcomes, including: participation requirements, the frequency and timing of auctions, measures that establish lower or upper limits on allowance prices, and rules governing auction monitoring and the reporting of results.
    Access the complete 41-page report from GAO (click here).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Major Breakthrough From IMO To Control "Floating Smokestacks"

Mar 26: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) officially accepted the proposal to designate waters off the North American coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA) -- a move that U.S. EPA said will result in cleaner air for millions of Americans. Large ships that operate in ECAs must use dramatically cleaner fuel and technology, leading to major air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland. The ECA was proposed in March 2009 and the IMO adopted it in the fastest possible timetable.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This is a change that will benefit millions of people and set in motion new innovations for the shipping industry. We're gratified by the IMO's decision to help keep our air clean and our communities healthy. The sulfur, particulate emissions and other harmful pollutants from large ships reach from our ports to communities hundreds of miles inland -- bringing with them health, environmental and economic burdens. Cleaning up our shipping lanes will be a boon to communities across North America."
    Environmental Defense Fund Senior Scientist Ramon Alvarez said, "By making the case to clean up these big ships, the United States charted a course for cleaner air and healthier communities. The dangerous air pollution from these floating smokestacks is a serious health threat to tens of millions of Americans who live and work in port cities."

    The large commercial ships that visit the nation's ports, such as oil tankers, cruise ships and container ships, currently use fuel with very high sulfur content which, when burned, emits harmful levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide that can travel hundreds of miles inland, causing severe respiratory symptoms in children and adults. These ships, most flying the flags of other countries, make more than 57,000 calls at more than 100 U.S. ports annually. More than 30 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards. In total, nearly 127 million people currently live in areas that fail to meet U.S. air quality standards.

    Enforcing the stringent ECA standards will reduce sulfur content in fuel by 98 percent -- slashing particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80 percent. To achieve these reductions, tougher sulfur standards will phase in starting in 2012, ultimately reaching no more than 1,000 parts per million by 2015. Also, new ships must use advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016 which will help reduce NOx emissions. As a result of the cleaner air, nearly five million people will experience relief from acute respiratory symptoms in 2020 and as many as 14,000 lives will be saved each year.

    Canada and France joined the U.S. in this North American ECA, implementing a coordinated geographic emissions control program. In developing the U.S. proposal, EPA joined with federal partners at the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Transportation, and Commerce, among others. This is the first ECA adopted under amendments to an IMO treaty in 2008 that strengthened and expanded both the ECA emissions standards and the approval criteria. The North American ECA is a key part of a comprehensive EPA program to address harmful emissions from large ships. Other elements include voluntary partnerships under EPA's Clean Ports USA program [See WIMS 3/30/09] and implementation of a Clean Air Act rulemaking [See WIMS 7/2/09] that EPA finalized last December [See WIMS 1/6/10].
    Access a release from EPA with links to additional information (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access EPA's Oceangoing Vessels website for extensive information (click here). Access the IMO website for additional information (click here).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scrap Recycling Industries Board Approves E-Waste R2 Program

Mar 25: According to a release from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) its board laid out a roadmap addressing the growing problem of the improper export of end-of-life electronic scrap. The Board voted unanimously to approve what they called "a new, aggressive policy to protect health, the environment and worker safety" which they signaled that ISRI members are behind efforts to stem possible health and environmental hazards that occur when e-scrap is not exported responsibly. 
    ISRI President Robin Wiener said, "The ISRI Board voted today to adopt an aggressive, forward-looking policy that puts forth a safe, responsible and legal framework for electronics recycling both at home and abroad. Among other provisions, the policy bans the export of electronic equipment and components for land-filling or incineration for disposal and requires that facilities outside the U.S. that recycle or refurbish electronics have a documented, verifiable environmental, health and worker safety system in place."  ISRI said the Board's decision reinforces environmental, health and worker safety standards that closely track the EPA's Responsible Recycling (R2) program.
    EPA's innovative R2 program was finalized in 2008 to create and adopt safe and effective policies for electronics recycling in the US and abroad. Career professionals at the EPA, several state governments (including Minnesota and Washington), OEMs,   electronic recyclers and trade associations including ISRI and ITIC sat down in 2006 to begin work on these standards. Additionally, the standards were tested in the field to ensure that companies who were awarded the certification had to meet tough benchmarks. The guidelines are used by accrediting organizations like the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) to certify that companies are complying with health, worker safety and environmental laws.
    Wiener said, "ISRI has always been a staunch supporter of recycling electronics in compliance with domestic and international legal requirements. This is emphasized in the new policy, which requires that facilities outside the United States that recycle or refurbish electronics have a documented environmental, health and worker safety system that can be verified; requires a business record-keeping system to document compliance with all legal requirements; requires that any facility must be capable of handling hazardous waste; and ensures that US exporters can confirm a facility they export to is in compliance with the law."

    ISRI Director of Government and International Affairs Eric Harris noted that the newly adopted policy includes provisions that will address actual problems in recycling facilities throughout the world rather than requiring a total trade ban on the export of electronic scrap as the only viable way to deal with irresponsible recycling outside of the United StatesHarris pointed to a newly released study in the March 22, 2010, issue of the journal, Environmental Science and Technology.


    In the report, author Eric Williams of Arizona State University writes, "Trade bans will become increasingly irrelevant in solving the problem" and argues that a complete ban on export of used and end-of-life electronics to developing counties fails to solve the problem because the developing world will generate more used and end-of-life electronics than developed countries as early as 2017. Additionally, by 2025, the developing world will generate twice the amount of electronic scrap as what will come from developed nations. Williams is an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability.


    ISRI's Wiener added, "The policy adopted today by the ISRI Board of Directors embodies the most environmentally sustainable and realistic approach to electronic scrap recycling. This is a responsible, safe and legal approach to electronics recycling that protects worker health and safety, as well as ensuring environmentally sustainable practices that can actually deal with this global issue."


    On March 10, 2010, WIMS reported that a release from U.S. EPA regarding its sponsored R2 electronic recycling certification program does not mention what some consider to be a more restrictive and competing international certification program from the Basel Action Network (BAN) [See WIMS 3/10/10]. The two competing programs are just now getting underway and are certain to cause confusion for the public, recyclers, and manufacturers.


    The competing, new e-Stewards Certification and Standard from the Basel Action Network (BAN) is a certification program for electronics recycling created jointly by the environmental community and business leaders. In February, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced its endorsement of the e-Stewards program which it called "the first-ever certification program for electronics recycling." The e-Steward Certification is a fully accredited certification that relies on independent, third-party auditors to verify safe and ethical e-waste disposal. It is awarded to companies that recycle electronics without using practices that far too many in U.S. electronics recycling industry rely upon -- the use of municipal landfills and incinerators, the export to developing countries, or U.S. prison labor for disposing of toxic old electronics.

    Access a release from ISRI (click here). Access ISRI's Electronics Recycling website for additional details (click here). Access EPA's Responsible Recycling website (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the e-Stewards website for complete information on certification and related information (click here).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chu Says Price On Carbon Is Key To New Nuclear Options

Mar 23: The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an op-ed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on small modular nuclear reactors entitled, "America's New Nuclear Option; Small modular reactors will expand the ways we use atomic power."

    Secretary Chu said, "America is on the cusp of reviving its nuclear power industry. Last month President Obama pledged more than $8 billion in conditional loan guarantees for what will be the first U.S. nuclear power plant to break ground in nearly three decades. And with the new authority granted by the president's 2011 budget request, the Department of Energy will be able to support between six and nine new reactors. What does all of this mean for the country? This investment will provide enough clean energy to power more than six million American homes. It will also create tens of thousands of jobs in the years ahead.

    "Perhaps most importantly, investing in nuclear energy will position America to lead in a growing industry. World-wide electricity generation is projected to rise 77% by 2030. If we are serious about cutting carbon pollution then nuclear power must be part of the solution. Countries such as China, South Korea and India have recognized this and are making investments in nuclear power that are driving demand for nuclear technologies. Our choice is clear: Develop these technologies today or import them tomorrow. . .

    "Small modular reactors [SMRs] would be less than one-third the size of current plants. They have compact designs and could be made in factories and transported to sites by truck or rail. SMRs would be ready to "plug and play" upon arrival. If commercially successful, SMRs would significantly expand the options for nuclear power and its applications. Their small size makes them suitable to small electric grids so they are a good option for locations that cannot accommodate large-scale plants. The modular construction process would make them more affordable by reducing capital costs and construction times.

    Their size would also increase flexibility for utilities since they could add units as demand changes, or use them for on-site replacement of aging fossil fuel plants. Some of the designs for SMRs use little or no water for cooling, which would reduce their environmental impact. Finally, some advanced concepts could potentially burn used fuel or nuclear waste, eliminating the plutonium that critics say could be used for nuclear weapons. In his 2011 budget request, President Obama requested $39 million for a new program specifically for small modular reactors. Although the Department of Energy has supported advanced reactor technologies for years, this is the first time funding has been requested to help get SMR designs licensed for widespread commercial use. . . These SMRs are based on proven light-water reactor technologies and could be deployed in about 10 years.

    "We are also accelerating our R&D efforts into other innovative reactor technologies. This includes developing high-temperature gas reactors that can provide carbon-free heat for industrial applications, as well as advanced reactor designs that will harness much more of the energy from uranium.

    "These efforts are restarting the nuclear power industry in the U.S. But to truly promote nuclear power and other forms of carbon-free electricity, we need long-term incentives. The single most effective step we could take is to put a price on carbon by passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation. Requiring a gradual reduction in carbon emissions will make clean energy profitable-and will fuel investment in nuclear power."

    Access the complete op-ed in a release from DOE (click here).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

EPA Proposes More Sources For Mandatory GHG Reporting

Mar 23: U.S. EPA is proposing to include additional emissions sources in its first-ever national mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting system. EPA said the data from the additional sectors will provide a better understanding of where GHGs are coming from and will help EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce emissions. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future. It's especially important to track potent gases like methane, which traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon [i.e. CO2] and accelerates climate change. Once we know where we must act, American innovators and entrepreneurs can develop new technologies to protect our atmosphere and fight climate change."

    EPA finalized the first-ever mandatory greenhouse gas reporting requirement in October of 2009 [See WIMS 9/22/09]. That rule required 31 industry sectors, covering 85 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, to track and report their emissions. The regulations called for subject facilities to begin monitoring their GHG emissions on January 1, 2010, and file their first annual reports by March 31, 2011.

    In addition to those 31 industries, the Agency is now proposing to collect emissions data from the oil and natural gas sector, industries that emit fluorinated gases, and from facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide (CO2) underground for the purposes of geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery. EPA indicates that methane is the primary GHG emitted from oil and natural gas systems and is more than 20 times as potent as CO2 at warming the atmosphere, while fluorinated gases are even stronger and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Data collected from facilities that inject CO2 underground would enable EPA to track the amount of CO2 that is injected and in some cases require a monitoring strategy for detecting potential emissions to the atmosphere.

    EPA said the data will also allow businesses to track their own emissions, compare them to similar facilities, and identify cost effective ways to reduce their emissions in the future. EPA is also proposing to require all facilities in the reporting system, including the newly proposed sectors, to provide information on their corporate ownership. Under the proposals, newly covered sources would begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011 with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012. The proposals will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register soon. The Agency will also hold public hearings on the proposals on April 19, 2010 in Arlington, VA and April 20, 2010 in Washington, DC.

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access more information on these proposals and the hearings (click here).

Monday, March 22, 2010

NAS Report On Measuring & Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mar 19: A report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) indicates that countries can inventory their carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel use accurately enough to support monitoring of an international climate change treaty, but currently there is no sufficiently accurate way to verify countries' self-reported estimates using independent data, such as atmospheric measurements. The NRC Committee that wrote the report -- Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Methods to Support International Climate Agreements -- said strategic investments could be made that within five years would both improve self-reporting and yield a useful way to verify the estimates, reducing uncertainties about carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel use and deforestation to less than 10 percent. 
    A release from NAS explains that agreements to limit emissions of greenhouse gases are currently the focus of international negotiations, and with such accords will come the need to accurately estimate these emissions and monitor their changes over time. Stephen Pacala, chair of the committee that wrote the report from Princeton University said, "For any international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it would be essential for each country to monitor its own emissions and to provide a transparent capability for any nation to check the values reported by another. This would give nations confidence that their neighbors are living up to their commitments."
    Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries are currently required to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions by identifying human activities that cause emissions, and then multiplying each activity by its rate of emissions. The level of uncertainty in these self-reported estimates depends on each country's institutional and technical capabilities. The committee focused on carbon dioxide because it is the largest single contributor to global climate change and is thus the focus of many mitigation efforts.  Estimates of emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide are likely to remain relatively uncertain, the report says.
    The report indicates that because UNFCCC procedures have broad international support and can estimate carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels with reasonable accuracy, they will likely continue to be the primary way to monitor emissions under any new climate treaty. "But the reporting system has shortcomings. Developing countries do not provide regular, detailed emissions reports, for example, and independent data to check self-reported emissions is limited. In addition, there are large uncertainties in estimates of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into or removed from the atmosphere because of changes in land use, such as deforestation or reforestation." 
    The report recommends ways to overcome these weaknesses and indentifies methods that could improve both self-reported estimates and other nations' ability to verify them. The Committee said, "Regular, rigorous reporting and review should be extended to all countries. And the most stringent and accurate methods for calculating greenhouse gas emissions should be used for the largest emissions sources in each country, which in some cases may be deforestation and agriculture rather than fossil-fuel use." They said that financial and technical assistance will be required for developing countries to build an ongoing capacity to collect, analyze, and report emissions information regularly. The Committee indicates that significant improvements in the accuracy of the inventories from 10 of the highest-emitting developing countries, such as China and India, could be achieved for approximately $11 million over five years. 
    The report says that enabling independent verification of countries' self-reported estimates will require additional atmospheric measurements and improved models to predict the movement of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It recommends that new monitoring stations be established near cities and other large local emissions sources. In addition, NASA should build and launch a replacement for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which failed at launch in February 2009. Such an observatory could monitor carbon dioxide emissions from cities and power plants and attribute them to individual countries; no other satellite has its critical combination of abilities, including high precision, a small footprint, and an ability to sense carbon dioxide near Earth's surface. 
    Using improved methods, fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions could be estimated by each country and checked using independent information with less than 10 percent uncertainty. The same is true for satellite-based estimates of deforestation, which is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions next to fossil-fuel use, and for growth of new forests, which is an important "sink" for reducing carbon dioxide. The report recommends that to aid efforts to understand how greenhouse gases are affected by land use, a working group should be established to produce publicly available global maps of land use and land cover change at least every two years, using Landsat and high-resolution satellite imagery. In addition, an interagency group with broad participation from the research community should design a program to improve ways to estimate how agriculture, forestry, and other land uses affect emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. 
    The report also recommends that the isotope carbon-14 should be measured in the carbon dioxide already collected at atmospheric sampling stations. Carbon-14 is present in living organisms but not in fossil fuels, so it provides a way to discern whether carbon dioxide is generated from fossil-fuel or non-fossil-fuel sources. These measurements could be made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a national laboratory, or a university at a cost of approximately $5 million to $10 million per year.
    Access a release from NAS (click here). Access the complete report and a summary (click here).

Friday, March 19, 2010

EPA Announces Hydraulic Fracturing Investigation Strategy

Mar 18: U.S.EPA issued a Federal Register notice [75 FR 13125] announcing that it will conduct a comprehensive research study to investigate the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health. The process has come under scrutiny by environmental groups and is also being investigated by the House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Environment and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) [See WIMS 2/19/10].
    Hydraulic fracturing is a process that drills vertical and horizontal cracks underground that help withdraw gas, or oil, from coalbeds, shale and other geological formations. While each site is unique, in general, the process involves vertical and horizontal drilling, taking water from the ground, injecting fracturing fluids and sands into the formation, and withdrawing gas and separating and managing the leftover waters. According to a report by Environmental Working Group (EWG) entitled, Drilling Around the Law, the fracturing fluids include distillates including kerosene, mineral spirits and a number of other petroleum products that often contain high levels of benzene. 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."
    In a release, EPA indicates that natural gas plays a key role in our nation's clean energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing [a.k.a. fracking] is one way of accessing that vital resource. There are concerns that hydraulic fracturing may impact ground water and surface water quality in ways that threaten human health and the environment. To address these concerns and strengthen our clean energy future and in response to language inserted into the fiscal year 2010 Appropriations Act, EPA is re-allocating $1.9 million for this comprehensive, peer-reviewed study for FY10 and requesting funding for FY11 in the president's budget proposal.

    Dr. Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development said, "Our research will be designed to answer questions about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on human health and the environment. The study will be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process, with significant stakeholder input." EPA is in the very early stages of designing a hydraulic fracturing research program. The Agency is proposing the process begin with: (1) defining research questions and identifying data gaps; (2) conducting a robust process for stakeholder input and research prioritization; (3) with this input, developing a detailed study design that will undergo external peer-review, leading to (4) implementing the planned research studies.

    To support this initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, the Agency is seeking suggestions and comments from the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) -- an independent, external Federal advisory committee. The Agency has requested that the Environmental Engineering Committee (EEC) of the SAB evaluate and provide advice on EPA's proposed approach. The Agency will use this advice and extensive stakeholder input to guide the design of the study. 
The Federal Register notice announces the first meeting of the SAB review committee which consists of the SAB Environmental Engineering Committee (EEC) augmented with other SAB members. The meeting, April 7-8, in Washington, DC will evaluate and comment on EPA's proposed approach to studying the potential public health and environmental protection issues that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing.
    Regina Hopper, President and CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) issued a brief statement saying, "The natural gas community looks forward to working with the EPA to reaffirm the safety of this longstanding practice. Hydraulic fracturing has been refined and improved over the past 60 years and has been used safely on more than 1 million U.S. wells. With the extraordinary opportunity presented by our nation's natural gas abundance comes the responsibility to be good stewards of the land. Our members take this responsibility seriously, and we look forward to sharing with the EPA the extensive work done at every step of the natural gas extraction process. We are confident that a scientific and data-driven examination will provide policymakers and the public with even greater reassurance of the safety of this practice."
    The organization, EnergyInDepth, representing independent oil and natural gas producers says it "separates fact from fiction about our nation's natural gas and oil industry -- especially on emerging policy issues such as the environment and taxes." EnergyInDepth issued a statement saying, "We are hopeful and it is our expectation that this study -- if based on objective, scientific analysis -- will serve as an opportunity to highlight the host of steps taken at every wellsite that make certain groundwater is properly protected. The energy industry, as well as state regulatory agencies, are eager to work with EPA throughout this fact-based examination. Further, efforts underway in Congress to give EPA outright authority to regulate fracturing -- which could hamper domestic energy production and job growth -- should come to a standstill until this study is completed. . . Fracturing has a long and clear record of safely leveraging otherwise unreachable homegrown, clean-burning, job-creating energy reserves. . ."
    On March 17, the EnergyInDepth blog, commented on or "debunked" as they said, the premier showing in Washington, DC of what they call the "anti-American natural gas film GasLand." GasLand is a documentary on natural gas drilling and the fracking process. EnergyInDepth said, "Despite claims, this critical technology has never contaminated groundwater -- a fact confirmed by Steve Heare, director of EPA's Drinking Water Protection Division just weeks ago." They said, "The movie -- which is supported by a host of mainstream organizations (sarcasm people) such as the Damascus Citizens, Earth Justice, Environmental Working Group, National Resources Defense Council, Oil and Gas Accountability Project. . ."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement saying, "We expect the study to confirm what 60 years of experience and investigation have already demonstrated: that hydraulic fracturing is a safe and well understood technology for producing oil and natural gas. We hope the agency will provide ample opportunity for stakeholder comment and participation during the course of its study. . . While the technology has been used for more than a half century, its continued use is crucial. It is enabling access to massive new supplies of natural gas trapped in shale formations across the United States. These new finds have multiplied the nation's natural gas resources and will help generate electricity, heat homes and power vehicles for generations of Americans to come. . ."
    Earthjustice Legislative Associate Jessica Ennis said, "We commend EPA for investigating this controversial gas drilling technique. From Wyoming to Pennsylvania, people are worried about what this untested process is doing to their drinking water. . . As important as the study is, we know that what's really needed are federal protections. Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, so oil and gas companies are only required to comply with a patchwork of state regulations. Also thanks to this exemption, known as the Halliburton Loophole, we have no idea what chemicals drillers are pumping underground. . . Bills pending before Congress would remove the Halliburton Loophole and require companies to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Congress needs to pass this legislation and quickly."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the FR announcement (click here). Access more information on hydraulic fracturing from EPA (click here). Access more information on the SAB hydraulic fracturing review committee and the supporting documents (click here). Access the statement from ANGA (click here). Access a release from EnergyInDepth (click here). Access the EnergyInDepth blog post on GasLand (click here). Access a release from AIP (click here). Access an executive summary and link to the complete 24-page report from EWG (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access the GasLand website for more information on the film (click here).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Senate Hearing On Protecting Children From Environmental Threats

Mar 17: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Environmental Health: High-level Strategy and Leadership Needed to Continue Progress toward Protecting Children from Environmental Threats (GAO-10-205, January 28, 2010). The report was requested by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA),Chairman Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Children's Health. GAO also delivered testimony at a hearing of the EPW Committee that was devoted to the GAO Investigation of EPA's Efforts to Protect Children's Health.
    Witnesses testifying at the hearing in addition to GAO included: U.S. EPA and the Center for Occupational & Environmental Health, University of California at Berkeley; the Children's Environmental Health Network and the Science and Environmental Health Network. Additionally, Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) delivered opening remarks.
    Chairman Boxer opened the hearing saying, "Children are more vulnerable to toxic pollution than adults. Their bodies are developing rapidly -- including their brains, hearts and lungs, their nervous and immune systems – so exposures to toxic chemicals at critical times in their development can have life-long impacts. That's why I wrote the law that ensures that the EPA takes children and other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and the elderly, into account when setting drinking water standards, not just healthy adult men. And that is why I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the EPA's role in protecting children's health and to give me a report card on how the federal government is doing in keeping our children safe from environmental dangers."
    Senator Inhofe said the GAO report indicated that, "the Agency has not fully used the Office of Children's Health Protection and has not prioritized children's health considerations in light of advisory recommendations. However, what the report does not fully address is the fact that EPA must always balance recommendations on children's health with objective scientific standards, legal requirements, and practical realities. . . But, in contrast to what some of the witnesses will say today, I do not believe that EPA needs additional congressional authority to specifically protect children's health. . ."
    Senator Nelson testified to bring attention to the community in Palm Beach Florida called the Acreage where the town of about 50,000 has been shaken by what he called "fears of a cancer cluster." He said, "In February, a study by the state health department found higher than normal incidences of brain and central nervous system cancer in girls and young women. Some residents have lost a loved one; others aren't sure if their homes are safe to live in; and if they try to leave, they worry they won't even be able to sell their homes. Despite a year-long investigation, we still don't know what's causing these cancers and people cannot get their lives back to normal until they have answers. . ."
    GAO indicated in their report that exposure to toxic chemicals or environmental pollutants may harm the health of the nation's 74 million children and contribute to increases in asthma and developmental impairments. In 2007, 66 percent of children lived in counties exceeding allowable levels for at least one of the six principal air pollutants that cause or aggravate asthma, contributing to medical costs of $3.2 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    In 1997, Executive Order 13045 mandated that agencies place a high priority on children's risks and required that policies, programs, activities, and standards address those risks. In response, U.S. EPA created the Office of Children's Health Protection and convened the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee. GAO's report assesses the extent to which EPA has institutionalized consideration of children's health through: (1) strategies and priorities; (2) key offices and other child-focused resources; and (3) participation in interagency efforts.
    GAO indicated that they found EPA has developed policies and guidance to consider children, but "it has not maintained attention to children through agency strategies and priorities." In 1996, EPA created a national agenda on children's health, and its 1997 and 2000 strategic plans highlighted children's health as a key cross-agency program. As a result, the agency's research advanced the understanding of children's vulnerabilities. However, "EPA has not updated the agenda since 1996, and the focus on children is absent from the 2003, 2006, and September 2009 draft strategic plans."
    GAO also indicates in its report that EPA has not fully used the Office of Children's Health Protection and other child-focused resources. "The active involvement of managers from the office and experts from the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee has been lacking, as has the involvement of key staff throughout EPA. Although EPA now has a new Director of Children's Health, the office had not had consistent leadership since 2002, hampering its ability to support and facilitate agencywide efforts and elevate matters of importance with senior officials. For example, a previous director established workgroups to bring together officials from the program offices and the children's health office, but a subsequent acting director eliminated these groups, effectively halting work on a key set of children's health recommendations. In addition, the regional children's health coordinators -- who provide outreach and coordination for EPA -- have no national strategy or dedicated resources. Finally, the advisory committee has provided hundreds of recommendations, but EPA has requested advice on draft regulations only three times in the last decade."
    GAO said while EPA leadership is key to national efforts to protect children from environmental threats, EPA's efforts have been hampered by the expiration in 2005 of certain provisions in the executive order. For example, the Task Force on Children's Environmental Health provided EPA with a forum for interagency leadership on important federal efforts, such as the National Children's Study. It also provided biennial reports that helped establish federal research priorities.
    EPA testified that, "Children's health is a driving force behind Administrator Jackson's priorities. In a February 2010 memo to EPA senior managers, she reaffirmed EPA's commitment to considering the health of pregnant women, infants and children in all human health related activities and to the use of EPA's 1995 Policy on Evaluating Health Risks to Children and the best available research and data to guide our children's health protection efforts. In the memo, Administrator Jackson describes EPA's Children's Health Agenda and identifies the Office of Children's Health Protection as having the lead in ensuring that the Agency is successful in its efforts to protect children's health."
    Peter Grevatt Ph.D., Director, Office of Children's Health Protection and Environmental Education at EPA said it's important to focus on children because, "Children eat, drink and breathe more per pound than adults. When food, water, or air is polluted, children are exposed to more of the pollution than adults. For example, an average infant less than 6 months old consumes 2.5 times more water than an adult on a per pound basis. Children can have greater exposure to chemicals through behaviors that are unique to childhood, such as crawling, putting objects in their mouths, and eating nonfood items. Children also have unique exposures, for example, through the umbilical cord and through breast milk. Their bodies are rapidly developing. Exposure to toxic chemicals during critical windows of development can lead to disease or other serious effects on organ systems. . ."
    Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, the opening statements, the GAO report and a video (click here).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

White House Task Force Interim Report On Climate Change Adaptation

Mar 16: The White House Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which includes representatives from more than 20 Federal Agencies, released an Interim Progress Report which outlines the Task Force's progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. These six components include: Integration of Science into Adaptation Decisions and Policy; Communications and Capacity-building; Coordination and Collaboration; Prioritization; A Flexible Framework for Agencies; and Evaluation.
    The brief 7-page report explains that the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 established the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) "to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change" and the White House Task Force was formed to work in parallel and in coordination with USGCRP, to begin to develop Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts both domestically and internationally. President Obama placed special emphasis on adaptation when he ordered, on October 5, 2009 [Executive Order 13514], the establishment of an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government. Part of the order referenced the work of the Task Force and called on it to report to him within a year on Agency actions in support of developing the domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change. The Interim Progress Report is now available for 60 days of public comment and the Final Report will be presented to the President in October 2010.
    The final report will detail the development of domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change, agency actions in support of that strategy development process, and recommendations for any further measures to advance towards a national strategy. The Task Force indicates that it "will not, however, deliver a complete U.S. adaptation strategy to the President." Five workgroups (on science inputs to adaptation, agency process, water resource management, insurance, and international assistance) are currently reviewing existing policies, operations, procedures, and other tools that affect the Federal government's ability to respond to and prepare for climate impacts. The workgroups will suggest options for improving the government's adaptive capacity as climate change continues. To date, the workgroups have reviewed relevant literature, analyzed existing agency adaptation activities, and conducted listening sessions with external groups and experts on managing climate impacts and adaptation efforts. Case studies, legislative proposals, and comparisons of other governments' approaches are also being reviewed and considered.
    According to the interim report, the Task Force has found that, "climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, nearly every aspect of our society and the environment. Some of the impacts are increased severity of floods, droughts, and heat waves, increased wildfires, and sea level rise. Climate change impacts are pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others. Climate change already is affecting the ability of Federal agencies to fulfill their missions."
    And, while there already is "substantial U.S. government and non-government activity towards adapting and building resilience to climate change risks. . . there still are significant gaps in the U.S. government's approach to climate change adaptation and building resilience." The Task For says the gaps include: Coherent research programs to identify and describe regional impacts associated with near-term, long-term, and abrupt global climate change Relevant climate change and impact information that is accessible and usable by decision-makers and practitioners; A unified strategic vision and approach; Understanding of the challenges at all levels of government; Comprehensive and localized risk and vulnerability assessments; Organized and coordinated efforts across local, State and Federal agencies; Strong links between, and support and participation of, Tribal, regional, State, and local partners; A strategy to link resources, both financial and intellectual, to critical needs; and A robust approach to evaluating and applying lessons learned.
    The report indicates that a national strategy for climate change adaptation and resilience would help address the gaps. It says, "The strategy should emphasize two major changes in the way the U.S. government operates. First, agency climate change adaptation and resilience requires a flexible, forward thinking approach. This represents a shift away from using past conditions as indicators of the future, and a requirement for on-going investigation, revision and adaptive management. Second, responses to climate change challenges and opportunities should be integrated into current plans, processes and approaches of the U.S. government. This integration will allow adaptation and building resilience to become part of existing activities, and to be considered within the context of the broader system of stresses, risks and opportunities."
    The report indicates that over the next seven months, the Task Force may refine recommendations around structural issues such as improving and integrating science results in developing policy and a framework for Federal agency adaptation, as well as cross-cutting topics, including water resources management and international adaptation. The Task Force also may establish additional workgroups, in cooperation with USGCRP, including those to inform the development of a national strategy in the areas of communications and capacity-building, coordination and collaboration across government and with partners, evaluation and learning, and other priority issues. Through a series of regional outreach meetings and pilot activities, the Task Force will continue moving towards recommendations on the development of a national strategy on climate change adaptation.
    Access the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force website for an overview and background information (click here). Access the interim report (click here).