Friday, April 30, 2010

BP Gulf Oil Spill May Be Environmental & Economic Disaster

Apr 30: At a press conference on the current economic conditions, President Obama delivered an update on the worsening conditions at what may develop to be the largest U.S oil spill ever [See WIMS 4/26/10]. The Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, leaking 5,000 barrels of oils per day, is beginning to come ashore in Louisiana and is nearing the coast of Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. Winds blowing from south to north, which are expected to last all weekend, are making the situation worse.
    President Obama said, "I have dispatched the Secretaries of Interior and Homeland Security, as well as the Administrator of the EPA, my Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Policy, and the NOAA Administrator to the Gulf Coast to ensure that we continue to do everything necessary to respond to this event. And I expect their reports from the ground today.

    "As I said yesterday, BP is ultimately responsible under the law for paying the costs of response and cleanup operations, but we are fully prepared to meet our responsibilities to any and all affected communities. And that's why we've been working closely with state and local authorities since the day of the explosion. There are now five staging areas to protect sensitive shorelines; approximately 1,900 federal response personnel are in the area; and more than 300 response vessels and aircraft on the scene 24/7. We've also laid approximately 217,000 feet of protective boom, and there are more on the way.

    "I've order Secretary Salazar to conduct a thorough review of this incident and report back to me in 30 days on what, if any, additional precautions and technologies should be required to prevent accidents like this from happening again. And we're going to make sure that any leases going forward have those safeguards. We've also dispatched teams to the Gulf to inspect all deepwater rigs and platforms to address safety concerns.

    "So, let me be clear. I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security, but I've always said it must be done responsibly, for the safety of our workers and our environment. The local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake. And we're going to continue to update the American people on the situation in the Gulf going forward."

    According to an April 30, update from the unified command a comprehensive oil well intervention and spill-response plan continues following the April 22 sinking of the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig 130 miles southeast of New Orleans. Nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the response effort with additional resources being mobilized as needed. The Federal government has been fully engaged in the response since the incident occurred April 20. The Minerals Management Service remains in contact with all oil and gas operators in the sheen area. Currently, no production has been curtailed as a result of the response effort.
    Incident Facts include: More than 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) has been assigned to contain the spill.  An additional 305,760 feet is available; To date, the oil spill response team has recovered 20,313 barrels (853,146 gallons) of an oil-water mix and are continuing recovery operations; 75 response vessels are being used including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels; 139,459 gallons of dispersant have been deployed and an additional 51,000 gallons are available; Five staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines -- BiloxiMS, PensacolaFL, Venice, LA, PascagoulaMS, and TheodoreAL; A sixth staging area is being set up in Port Sulphur, LA; Weather conditions for April 30 - Winds from the southeast at 20 knots, 5 - 7 seas with slight chance of Friday afternoon showers; 126 people were on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig when the incident occurred; 11 remain unaccounted for; 17 were injured, 3 of them critically; 1 injured person remains in the hospital.
    In further Congressional developments, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) sent a formal notice to the heads of America's top five oil companies requesting them to appear soon before his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The exact date and time of the hearing will be announced soon. Representative Markey said, "From the health of our economy to the health of our environment, it's time for the American public to hear from the oil companies. Their opinions and answers on the issues of energy policy are vital given the push in Congress to construct a comprehensive energy independence strategy for our nation."
    Markey indicated in a release that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which is now leaking at a rate of 5,000 barrels of oil per day, could by next week exceed the size of the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. This accident follows the release of thousands of miles of coastline by the Obama administration for potential new offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Markey indicated that gas and oil prices have continued to rise, even as American families and businesses are beginning to recover from a recession. The average price of gasoline has now crept towards three dollars, averaging nearly $2.90 per gallon, an increase of about 85 cents compared to this time last year.
    Markey said, "Four dollar gasoline helped break our economy's back. And now, just as we are starting a recovery, the price of gas is creeping back towards three dollars, threatening the budgets of families and small businesses across the nation. We need to craft a comprehensive strategy that protects consumers, and our nation's oil companies must join us in that effort."
    Markey also indicated that oil profits are also up for the top five oil companies -- Exxon Mobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Chevron. Exxon Mobil reported a quarterly profit increase of 38 percent, or $6.3 billion. BP, which owns the sunken rig, reported a first quarter net profit of $6.08 billion, an increase of 137 percent. ConocoPhillips reported increased earnings of $2.1 billion for the first quarter. Shell announced profits of $4.8 billion, rising by 60 percent. Chevron will announce its earnings report April 30.
    On April 28, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent letters to BP America and Transocean Ltd., the two companies involved in the explosion and oil spill. The Committee is investigating the adequacy of the companies' risk management and emergency response plans for accidental oil and gas releases at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and other offshore deep water or ultra-deep water drilling facilities. The Committee has requested that the companies provide a number of documents and plans by May 14, 2010, and to advise the Committee by May 4, as to whether they will comply with the request on a voluntary basis [See WIMS 4/28/10].
    In an April 29 letter to President Obama, Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said, ". . .if the spill continues for a month it may be nearly as large as the Exxon Valdez. If the crude leaking from the well starts washing ashore in the coming days, it may be an environmental and economic disaster that wreaks havoc for commercial fishing and tourism along the Gulf of Mexico coast. . . I'm asking that you also call for an immediate halt to test wells and all other exploratory operations in coastal waters. Such a pause should remain in effect pending the outcome of federal investigations into the cause of this incident and the identification of ways to prevent something similar fro happening again. . ."
    Nelson's letter indicates that the Interior Department (DOI) in 2000 issued an alert calling for "reliable backup systems" in the event of a rig blowout. He said a decision was made in 2003 not to call for the "additional line of defense" and he has requested the DOI Inspector General to investigate the matter.
    The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which has jurisdiction over offshore energy development, will hold a hearing May 6 to review current issues related to offshore oil and natural gas development, including the Department of the Interior's recent five-year planning announcements and the accident in the Gulf of Mexico. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will testify.
    Access the President's statement (click here). Access further updates on a joint companies and government unified command website (click here). Access official updates on Twitter (click here). Access official updates on Facebook (click here). Access a release from Markey (click here). Access links to the letter from Waxman and Stupak (click here). Access the letter from Senator Nelson (click here). Access extensive links to additional information on Senator Nelson actions related to offshore drilling (click here). Access the Presidential press briefing on 4/29 with statements from various agency heads and Q&A (click here).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cape Wind Project Reaction Demonstrates Wind Energy Dichotomy

Apr 28: Reaction to the Department of Interior Cape Wind project approval in Nantucket Sound [See WIMS 4/28/10] is an indication of the dichotomy of opinion that exists regarding wind energy that has fractured environmental, business and political interest groups. On the one hand, imagine an issue that can garner the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Greenpeace, while at the same time split the opinions Congressional members; and cause a wide ranging coalition of stakeholder groups to say they will immediately file suit opposing the project approval.
    Senator John Kerry (D-MA) released a statement saying, "This day was a long time in coming, but I believe the future of wind power in the Massachusetts and the United States will be stronger knowing that the process was exhaustive, and that it was allowed to work and wind its way through the vetting at all levels with public input. I have always advocated wind energy in Massachusetts and I accept and support Secretary Salazar's judgment today that Cape Wind should go forward. This is jobs and clean energy for Massachusetts."
     Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) released a statement saying, "I am strongly opposed to the administration's misguided decision to move forward with Cape Wind. While I support the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy, Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization. With unemployment hovering near ten percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape's economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area. I am also skeptical about the cost-savings and job number predictions we have heard from proponents of the project."
    Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA), representing the Cape Code, Nantucket Sound area, issued a statement saying, "Cape Wind is the first offshore wind farm to be built in the wrong place, in the wrong way, stimulating the wrong economies. Offshore wind energy has great potential, but we have missed an opportunity here to do it right. It is simply bad public policy to give 'no bid' leases to developers and their Wall Street investors for over 24 square miles of public waters and access to hundreds of millions in public subsidies each year. This will be the most expensive and most heavily subsidized offshore wind farm in the country at over $2.5 billion, with power costs to the region that will be at least double. Cape Wind will also be the first industrial scale wind power plant in the middle of an ocean sanctuary, in the middle of a candidate National Marine Sanctuary site, in a site eligible for listing on the National Register, in a Native American 'sacred' site, and in a federally designated critical fisheries habitat. It's the first wind farm in the Atlantic flyway; a major pathway for migratory birds and an important seabird habitat. . . The Interior Department decision will now lead to a new chapter of legal battles and potential setbacks to an important industry that holds great promise for our country."
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) hailed the approval and said, "With this historic decision, the answer to America's energy future is blowing in the wind. The same winds that delivered the Mayflower to Massachusetts and created the Perfect Storm will now deliver a clean energy future to Massachusetts and create new jobs. America's energy future can now ride the winds of change out of our dirty energy doldrums. I commend Secretary Salazar's wisdom and his commitment to the environmental review process. On the same day that a massive oil slick is growing in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastline, the Obama administration's Cape Wind decision shows that our country has a choice in how we capture the energy found in our oceans. The Obama administration is moving forward with a comprehensive offshore energy plan that will enable America to finally move beyond oil and look to the winds, the waves, the tides, and the sun to create an American-led clean energy future."

    Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound (APNS) said, "While the Obama Administration today dealt a blow to all of us who care deeply about preserving our most precious natural treasures -- this fight is not over. Litigation remains the option of last resort. However, when the federal government is intent on trampling the rights of Native Americans and the people of Cape Cod, we must act. We will not stand by and allow our treasured public lands to be marred forever by a corporate giveaway to private industrial energy developers." Lawsuits will be filed on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups -- including the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Three Bays Preservation, Animal Welfare Institute, Industrial Wind Action Group, Californians for Renewable Energy, Oceans Public Trust Initiative (a project of the International Marine Mammal Project of the Earth Land Institute), Lower Laguna Madre Foundation -- against the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and Minerals Management Service for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

    Bill Kovacs, senior vice president of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement commending the Department of Interior on its decision and said, "As America's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind reflects the true spirit of American enterprise and a significant step forward toward achieving a more secure, diverse, and prosperous energy future. This project will serve as a model of innovation as others look at developing coastal wind resources and other clean energy projects across the country. Cape Wind is perhaps the nation's most infamous example of the horrors of Not in My Backyard (NIMBY). Over the coming decades, the U.S. will need many more similar wind projects. The Chamber looks forward to working with Secretary Salazar in providing the same decisive leadership on other energy initiatives."
    Kert Davies, Research Director at Greenpeace issued a statement saying, "Today's announcement that Cape Wind is moving forward is an enormous step forward toward America's clean energy future and the fight to solve global warming.  It is a shot of welcome good news in the face of climate and energy policy confusion in Washington and an oil spill of epic proportions in the Gulf.  Greenpeace has been campaigning to get the Cape Wind project built for nearly a decade, and today's victory is worth celebrating. It long overdue. There could be no clearer direction for America's energy future and global warming leadership. . . Cape Wind is the keystone project that we hope kickstarts America's clean energy future. . . Instead of pursuing expansion of dangerous offshore oil drilling that will do nothing to solve our oil addiction, America should be investing our time and money in renewable energy and global warming solutions.  In fact, Cape Wind will make obsolete an old dirty oil-burning power plant with 420 megawatts of new clean electricity. . ."
    Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "Cape Wind represents a significant clean energy first for America. It shows us we can repower our country, we can do it the right way, and we can start today. Renewable energy projects like these not only help fight climate change, they can create jobs and play a central role in our economic recovery. The United States can be a world leader on clean energy, and offshore wind power has enormous potential to help us get there. This is a major victory for America's clean energy future -- and will help ramp up the U.S. offshore wind industry."
    Access a statement from Senator Kerry (click here). Access a release from Senator Brown (click here). Access a release from Rep. Delahunt (click here). Access a release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access a release from APNS (click here). Access the APNS website for additional information (click here). Access a release from the U.S. Chamber with links to additional information on NIMBY (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace (click here). Access a release from NRDC(click here).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Interior Approves Cape Wind Energy Project In Nantucket Sound

Apr 28: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the long awaited approval of the Cape Wind renewable energy project on Federal submerged lands in Nantucket Sound. The approval will require Cape Wind Associates, LLC (CWA), the developer of the $1 billion wind farm, to agree to additional binding measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility. The controversial Cape Wind energy project would be located 4.7 miles offshore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.
    The project, originally proposed in 2001, would consist of 130, 3.6 megawatt wind turbine generators covering 24 square miles in Federal waters offshore Massachusetts with the capacity to produce a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts. The average expected production from the proposed wind farm could provide about 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts.
    Salazar made the announcement at the State House in Boston and said, "After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favor of approving the Cape Wind project at the Horseshoe Shoal location. With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our Nation's energy future, ushering in America's first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region." The Cape Wind project would be the first wind farm on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
    A number of similar projects have been proposed for other northeast coastal states, positioning the region to tap 1 million megawatts of offshore Atlantic wind energy potential, which could create thousands of manufacturing, construction and operations jobs and displace older, inefficient fossil-fueled generating plants, helping significantly to combat climate change. Salazar emphasized that the Department had taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind's potential impacts on traditional cultural resources and historic properties, including government-to-government consultations with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and that he was "mindful of our unique relationship with the Tribes and carefully considered their views and concerns."

    Because of concerns expressed during the consultations, Interior has required the developer to change the design and configuration of the wind turbine farm to diminish the visual effects of the project and to conduct additional seabed surveys to ensure that any submerged archaeological resources are protected prior to bottom disturbing activities. Under the revisions, the number of turbines has been reduced from 170 to 130, eliminating turbines to reduce the visual impacts from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; reconfiguring the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and reducing its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District.

    Salazar said, "After almost a decade of exhaustive study and analyses, I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area. Impacts to the historic properties can and will be minimized and mitigated and we will ensure that cultural resources will not be harmed or destroyed during the construction, maintenance, and decommissioning of the project."

    He pointed out that Nantucket Sound and its environs are a working landscape with many historical and modern uses and changing technologies. He said a number of tall structures, including broadcast towers, cellular base station towers, local public safety communications towers and towers for industrial and business uses are located around the area. Three submarine transmission cable systems already traverse the seabed to connect mainland energy sources to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island. Visual and physical impacts associated with Nantucket Sound and its associated shorelines abound; it is not an untouched landscape.

    Salazar disagreed with the Advisory Council's conclusion that visual impacts from the proposed wind farm, which will be situated between and at substantial distance from Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard, provide a rationale for rejecting the siting of the project. The viewshed effects are not direct or destructive to onshore traditional cultural properties. In no case does the turbine array dominate the viewshed. The project site is about 5.2 miles from the mainland shoreline, 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and 9 miles from Martha's Vineyard.

    The Secretary also disagreed that it is not possible to mitigate the impacts associated with installation of piers for wind turbines in the seabed, noting that piers for bridges, transmission lines and other purposes are routinely built in relatively shallow waters consistent with those found in Horseshoe Shoals. A number of marine archaeological studies have indicated that there is low probability that the project area contains submerged archaeological resources. Most of the area has been extensively reworked and disturbed by marine activities and geological processes. The Advisory Council's regulations provide that the Interior Department must take into account the Council's comments on particular projects. The Department, as the decision-making authority, is required to consider the Council's comments but is not legally bound to follow its recommendations or conclusions.
    The Cape Wind Associates, LLC facility would occupy a 25-square-mile section of Nantucket Sound and generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts. Horseshoe Shoals lies outside shipping channels, ferry routes and flight paths but is adjacent to power-consuming coastal communities. One-fifth of the offshore wind energy potential of the East Coast is located off the New England coast and Nantucket Sound receives strong, steady Atlantic winds year round. The project includes a 66.5-mile buried submarine transmission cable system, an electric service platform and two 115-kilovolt lines connecting to the mainland power grid. 

    Access a release from DOI with links to a
Fact Sheet, Project Site Map, the Secretary's Response to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and additional information on the project (click here). Access the MMS website for the project for complete background information and extensive documents (click here).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Groups React To K-G-L Climate-Energy Bill Setback

Apr 27: Following the abrupt announcement by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that he would be "unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time," [See WIMS 4/26/10] a number of groups and organizations have expressed their opinions on the latest developments. After months in the development, Senator Graham made his announcement just two days before Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Graham were scheduled to reveal their tripartisan American Power Act (K-G-L). Graham said he was upset that the Senate and Administration might make immigration reform a priority over energy and climate legislation. 

    On April 26, major environmental organizations including: Alliance for Climate Protection; Blue Green Alliance; Environment America; Environmental Defense Fund; League of Conservation Voters; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; and Union of Concerned Scientists issued a brief joint statement. The groups said, "Everyday the Senate fails to pass clean energy and climate legislation we put our economy, our national security and our environment at greater risk. Americans are demanding the millions of jobs, energy independence, and clean air and water comprehensive legislation can deliver. Inaction is too costly, and the challenge is too urgent. The tireless work of Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman is proof positive that bipartisan success is well within reach. The House has passed historic legislation; now it is time for the Senate and the White House to stay focused and finish the job. The moment is ours. Now is the time for our leaders to act."

    Subsequently, on April 27 an expanded group of 31 organizations issued a joint letter to the U.S. Senate. The groups included: 1Sky, Alliance for Climate Protection, American Rivers, Blue Green Alliance, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Water Action, Climate Solutions, Conservation Law Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Green For All, Interfaith Power and Light, Izaak Walton League of America, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Tribal Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Native American Rights Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pew Environment Group, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund.

    In their letter the groups said, "Special interests have fought energy reform for decades. They've kept America dependent on foreign oil and protected corporations that pollute the air our children breathe and the water they drink. It is long past time to end our reliance on old technology and dirty energy sources and put America back in control of its energy future. Every day that goes by without a comprehensive clean energy and climate policy helps our enemies, hurts our economy and puts our security at risk.

    "Without a bipartisan, comprehensive national clean energy and climate policy, America's businesses are hamstrung and cannot make the investments that will create millions of jobs in the new clean energy sector. Without a comprehensive policy, we cannot achieve the reductions in carbon pollution that are necessary to protect the planet. Without a comprehensive policy, we cannot end the practice of exporting $1 billion a day for foreign oil and will remain at the whim of hostile regimes.

    "The United States Senate stands at a moment in history in which decisions made today will have a lasting impact on generations of Americans to come. The Senate faces a choice between leading America forward in a new clean energy economy or holding America back by preserving the failed energy policies of the past. The Senate has a profound responsibility to future generations to enact policies that enhance our economic, environmental and national security. Now is the time to pass a strong comprehensive clean energy and climate bill. It is up to you to ensure that it happens this year."

    The American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE), an organization representing 3,000 businesses that support the passage of clean energy and climate legislation, issued a statement on the delay in the introduction of K-G-L energy legislation and said, "The American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE) strongly urge the U.S. Senate to continue its efforts to move forward with a comprehensive climate and energy bill as soon as possible. American businesses, large and small, are urging Congress to act in order to make the United States a world leader in clean energy technology, reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and create millions of new jobs. Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have been working diligently to craft a bill that will have bipartisan support. This is a critical moment in the legislative debate. Now, is the time for Senate leadership and its members to act."

    Access the joint release from environmental organizations (click here). Access the release-letter from 31 groups (click here). Access a release from ABCE (click here).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sen. Graham Pulls Out Of Tripartisan Energy & Climate Deal

Apr 24: After months of backroom negotiations on the highly anticipated rollout of the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (K-G-L) climate and energy bill scheduled for today (April 26, 2010), the Republican leg of the tripartisan effort has pulled out. In a remarkable display of political gamesmanship in the middle of a highly charged political environment in the nation's Capitol, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced Saturday that he would be "unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time." Senator Graham's political maneuvering is apparently based on his belief that the Senate and Administration are no longer interested in energy and climate legislation and instead are more interested in immigration reform and that Congress and the Administration are not capable of dealing with more than one issue at a time.
    Senator Graham's announcement comes amidst an incredibly volatile and politically charged atmosphere in Washington, DC with the recent passage of the controversial health care reform legislation, an upcoming Supreme Court appointee, and major issues on the table including: Wall Street financial reform, dangerous immigration reform unrest in Arizona, and an urgency to address energy reform and climate change legislation -- all in advance of highly contentious mid-term elections in just six months.

    In a letter Graham said in part, "I want to bring to your attention what appears to be a decision by the Obama Administration and Senate Democratic leadership to move immigration instead of energy. Unless their plan substantially changes this weekend, I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time. I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success. Recent press reports indicating that immigration -- not energy -- is their priority have not been repudiated. This has destroyed my confidence that there will be a serious commitment and focus to move energy legislation this year. All of the key players, particularly the Senate leadership, have to want this debate as much as we do. This is clearly not the case. . ."

    Graham continued, "Moving forward on immigration -- in this hurried, panicked manner -- is nothing more than a cynical political ploy. I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress. . . Let's be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future. Again, I truly appreciate the tremendous amount of time you have committed to the effort to make our nation more energy independent. I look forward to continuing to work with you so that when the U.S. Senate finally decides to address this issue we will be prepared for battle and confident of a successful outcome in the effort to make our nation energy independent once and for all."

    Senator John Kerry (D-MA) released a statement saying, "For more than six months, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, and I have been meeting for hours each day to find a bi-partisan path forward and build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year. We all believe that this year is our best and perhaps last chance for Congress to pass a comprehensive approach. We believe that we had reached such an agreement and were excited to announce it on Monday, but regrettably external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily.  

    "I remain deeply committed to this effort which I have worked on for more than twenty years. We have no choice but to act this year. The American people deserve better than for the Senate to defer this debate or settle for an energy-only bill that won't get the job done. Senator Graham came forward and has made a significant contribution to both the process and the product. Joe and I deeply regret that he feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended. But we have to press forward. Lindsey has helped to build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders from the environmental community and the industry who have been prepared to stand together behind a proposal. That can't change. We can't allow this moment to pass us by.
    "Joe and I will continue to work together and are hopeful that Lindsey will rejoin us once the politics of immigration are resolved. We will continue to work and we will do everything necessary to be ready when the moment presents itself. The White House and Senate Leadership have told us from the start that this is the year for action, and until they tell us otherwise we're pressing forward."

    Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) issued a statement saying, "I want to thank Senator Graham for his contribution to writing the American Power Act and I regret that allegations of partisan politics will prevent us from introducing the bill on Monday [4/26/10] as planned. I know from all of our work over the past year that Senator Graham shares our commitment to this bill that will create American jobs, move us closer to energy independence, and reduce pollution.  I look forward to Senator Graham rejoining our efforts after we work through the concerns that are preventing us from advancing a cause the three of us believe in so deeply. I remain committed to the American Power Act and am excited about what passage of the bill will do to promote energy security and invigorate our economy.  I will not give up and will continue to work with Senator Kerry, Senator Graham, and the broad coalition of industry and environmental support this bill has generated to pass the American Power Act this year."

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement indicating his desire to pass both immigration and energy reform this year. Senator Reid said, "Immigration and energy reform are equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long. As I have said, I am committed to trying to enact comprehensive clean energy legislation this session of Congress. Doing so will require strong bipartisan support and energy could be next if it's ready. I have also said we will try to pass comprehensive immigration reform. This too will require bipartisan support and significant committee work that has not yet begun.

    "I appreciate the work of Senator Graham on both of these issues and understand the tremendous pressure he is under from members of his own party not to work with us on either measure. But I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other."

    Access the complete letter from Senator Graham included within an informative article from the National Journal (click here). Access the statement from Senator Kerry (click here). Access the statement from Senator Lieberman (click here). Access the statement from Senator Reid (click here).

Friday, April 23, 2010

NAS Report Says Ocean Acidification Is A Growing Problem

Apr 22: The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) released a Congressionally requested study -- Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean -- that indicates the changing chemistry of the world's oceans is a growing global problem and unless man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are substantially curbed, or atmospheric CO2 is controlled by some other means, the ocean will continue to become more acidic. The long-term consequences of ocean acidification on marine life are unknown, but many ecosystem changes are expected to result. The study Committee said the Federal government's National Ocean Acidification Program, currently in development, is a positive move toward coordinating efforts to understand and respond to the problem.


    According to a summary, the ocean absorbs approximately a third of man-made CO2 emissions, including those from fossil-fuel use, cement production, and deforestation. The CO2 taken up by the ocean decreases the pH of the water and leads to a combination of chemical changes collectively known as ocean acidification. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the average pH of ocean surface waters has decreased approximately 0.1 unit -- from about 8.2 to 8.1 -- making them more acidic.  Models project an additional 0.2 to 0.3 drop by the end of the century. This rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred in hundreds of thousands of years.  The ocean will become more acidic on average as surface waters continue to absorb atmospheric CO2. 


    The committee said it found that studies on a number of marine organisms have shown that lowering seawater pH with CO2 affects biological processes, such as photosynthesis, nutrient acquisition, growth, reproduction, and individual survival depending upon the amount of acidification and the species tested.  For example, some of the strongest evidence of the potential effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems comes from experiments on organisms with calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.  The results showed decreases in shell and skeletal growth in a range of marine organisms, including reef-building corals, commercially important mollusks such as oysters and mussels, and several types of plankton at the base of marine food webs. 


    The Committee said, "The ability of various marine organisms to acclimate or adapt to ocean acidification is unknown, but existing data suggest that there will be ecological winners and losers, leading to shifts in the composition and functioning of many marine ecosystems. Such ecosystem changes could threaten coral reefs, fisheries, protected species, and other natural resources."


    The Committee indicated that although changes in ocean chemistry caused by increasing atmospheric CO2 can be determined, not enough information exists to assess the social or economic effects of ocean acidification, much less develop plans to mitigate or adapt to them. The Federal government has taken initial steps to respond to the nation's long-term needs with the development of the National Ocean Acidification Program. The committee found that legislation has laid the foundation for a program that will advance our understanding and improve our response to ocean acidification. 


    The Committee recommended six key elements of a successful National Ocean Acidification Program: (1) an integrated ocean acidification observation network that includes the development of new tools, methods, and techniques to improve measurements; (2) research in eight broad areas to fulfill critical information gaps; (3) assessments to identify stakeholder concerns and a process to provide relevant information for decision support; (4) a data management office that would ensure data quality, access, and archiving, plus an information exchange that would provide research results, syntheses, and assessments to managers, policymakers, and the general public; (5)  facilities to support high-quality research and training of ocean acidification researchers; (6) an effective 10-year strategic plan for the program that will identify key goals, set priorities, and allow for community input, in addition to a detailed implementation plan.


    Access a release from NAS (click here). Access links to a report brief and summary (click here). Access summary information and link to the complete report (click here).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Report Probes Health Effects Of Climate Change

New Report Probes Health Effects Of Climate Change - Apr 22: The vulnerability of people to the health effects of climate change is the focus of a report released by a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-led Federal interagency group that includes NOAA. The report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, calls for coordinating Federal research to better understand climate's impact on human health and identifying how these impacts can be most effectively addressed. The report was published by Environmental Health Perspectives and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). 

    The report indicates what is known and the significant knowledge gaps in understanding of the consequences of climate change on 11 major illness categories, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, asthma and other respiratory disorders, food-borne diseases and nutrition, weather and heat-related fatalities, and water and vector-borne infectious diseases. Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator said, "To mitigate and adapt to the health effects of climate change, we must first understand them. This report is a vital new roadmap for doing that. There is an urgent need to get started, and I am pleased that we can bring NOAA climate science and NOAA capabilities in linking ocean and human health and a range of other monitoring and prediction tools to the table."

    Health experts from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and NIH Fogarty International Center, NOAA, U.S. EPA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy contributed to the report.

    Research recommendations include examining how diseases in marine mammals might be linked to human health; investigating how climate change might contaminate seafood, beaches and drinking water; and understanding the impact of atmospheric changes on heat waves and air-borne diseases. There are questions about the effects of increased rainfall and extreme weather events on sewage discharges and run-off and what this will mean to human health. Integrating human, terrestrial and aquatic animal health surveillance with environmental monitoring is recommended to better understand emerging health risks like Lyme disease, West Nile virus, malaria, and toxins from marine algae.  

    To address disaster planning and management, the report encourages research aimed at strengthening healthcare and emergency services, especially when events such as floods, drought and wildfires can affect human health both during and after an event. The report also identifies the need for more effective early warning systems providing, for example, an alert to those with cardiovascular disease on extreme heat days or when air pollution is high. Other issues include susceptible and displaced populations; public health and health care infrastructure; essential capacities and skills, particularly for modeling and prediction; the integration of climate observation networks with health impact and surveillance tools, and communication and education.

    Access a release from NOAA (click here). Access the complete 78-page report (click here).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bipartisan America's Commitment To Clean Water Act

Apr 21: Representative James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I), introduced legislation which he said would reaffirm the ability of the Clean Water Act to protect the nation's waters, including wetlands. H.R. 5088, "America's Commitment to Clean Water Act," will restore bedrock protections from water polluters who place families and communities nationwide at risk. Representatives John Dingell (D-MI.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI.), who joined Oberstar at a press conference, are original cosponsors of the bill.

    According to a release In 2001 and 2006, two decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court "threw the nation's clean water programs into turmoil, creating confusion and uncertainty for communities, developers, and agricultural interests, and placed at risk the nation's ability to restore, protect, and maintain water quality and the water-related environment. The Supreme Court overruled 30 years of regulatory policy and limited the scope of the waters protected by the Clean Water Act." [Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006]. Oberstar said his bill restores the Clean Water Act to its pre-2001 status.

    The release indicates that on February 28, the New York Times reported that as a result of the two Supreme Court decisions, companies have spilled oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers and other waters without being prosecuted. According to the article, EPA regulators working on those cases estimate that more than 1,500 major pollution investigations have been discontinued or shelved in the last four years. Further, data from 2008, the most recent year available, show there were over 20,000 beach closings and advisories that year due to pollution, and studies in the Great Lakes show that as many as 10 percent of beachgoers report getting sick after swimming in beach waters open for swimming.

    Representative Oberstar said, "Turmoil, confusion, and uncertainty are no way to run a program. That is why I developed legislation to restore the common understanding of the scope of the Clean Water Act based on decades-old interpretations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. By restoring the common understanding and practice as existed in 2001 of the extent to which the nation's waters and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act, we can provide much-needed certainty to the regulated community, and avoid costly litigation over responsibility for protecting clean water."

    Representative Oberstar continued saying, "Opponents of the Clean Water Act argue that the Federal government should not require a permit for everything you do that might affect a wet area. I agree. The Clean Water Act never required such permits, and I do not offer legislation that would do so. Simply put, if it was not regulated before 2001, it will not be regulated with the enactment of my legislation. However, some people have opposed the Clean Water Act for decades, and it should not come as a surprise that these same groups are using recent Supreme Court decisions as justification to roll back protections under the Clean Water Act. On this, I strongly disagree."

    "Clean, safe water is a basic right for all Americans. Yet, unless we act, the Clean Water Act cannot ensure that right," said Oberstar. "Since the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, Americans have overwhelmingly expressed their support for protecting our nation's waters and keeping them safe from polluters. H.R. 5088 will restore the nation's commitment to clean water and protect the health and safety of all Americans."

    The release indicates that two years ago, the T&I Committee conducted a thorough, day-long hearing that heard from two dozen witnesses on five panels who both supported and opposed prior legislation introduced by Oberstar. He invited suggestions from any and all interested parties. Oberstar said, "The bill that I introduce today is a new bill that responds to comments I heard from witnesses at our hearing and other stakeholders. It more clearly and specifically targets its one objective -- addressing two Supreme Court decisions that I believe were wrongly decided. This bill includes multiple changes to emphasize that it will reaffirm and restore the original scope of the Clean Water Act, and not expand its geographic scope."

    Oberstar's original Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) was introduced on May 22, 2007, also with Representatives John Dingell and Vernon Ehlers supporting, and with 150 co-sponsors and endorsements from 300 organizations representing the conservation community, family farmers, fishers, boaters, labor unions and civic associations [See WIMS 5/22/07].

    The substance of the new bill strikes the term "navigable waters" and replaces it with "waters of the United States." And, the bill defines "waters of the United States" to include the current regulatory definition excluding waste treatment systems including treatment ponds or lagoons, and excluding prior converted croplands. Both "waste treatment system" and " prior converted cropland" are also defined.

    Access a release from Representative Oberstar (click here). Access the 11-page H.R. 5088 (click here). Access a fact sheet "What the Bill Actually Does and Does Not"(click here). Access a table comparing the bill to prior legislation (click here). Access a section by section summary (click here). Access a video of the press briefing including statements from supporters (click here). Access the WIMS Special Report on Rapanos and related activities (click here). Access multiple WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posting on the Supreme Court decisions and CWA (click here).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

State Department Summary Of Major Economies Forum Meeting

Apr 19: State Department representatives U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman issued a brief summary of the April 18-19 meeting -- the sixth Meeting at the Leaders' representative level of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) that took place in Washington, DC [See WIMS 4/19/10]. It was attended by officials from the seventeen major economies, as well as the United Nations, with Colombia, Denmark, Grenada, and Yemen also participating in the session. The MEF includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The previous MEF meeting took place in London last October [See WIMS 10/19/09].

    According to the summary, participants agreed that smaller, informal discussions such as the Major Economies Forum contributed to success in Copenhagen and can facilitate and enrich the discussions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the multilateral forum for negotiating climate change. Parties also highlighted the importance of discussions being representative and transparent. Participants generally felt that Copenhagen Accord represented an important step forward, and that it provided important political consensus that should be reflected regarding the key issues in the negotiations leading up to the UNFCCC Cancun meeting scheduled for November 29 to December 10,  2010.

    Participants discussed goals for Cancun and beyond. There was a discussion of the role of the Kyoto Protocol and the form of a legal outcome. There was also a discussion of the key issues that need to be addressed to have a successful outcome in Cancun, noting the importance of setting realistic expectations for Cancun. Recognizing the urgency of moving forward, participants felt that "in Cancun countries should at a minimum agree on a balanced set of decisions informed by the Copenhagen Accord."

    Participants discussed what work needs to be done in the year ahead, including "the need to elaborate the measurement, reporting, and verification and other transparency provisions of the Accord." In this regard, participants welcomed India's presentation on practical approaches to Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and international consultations and analysis. Various participants also spoke to equity, the role of markets, engaging smaller countries in the mitigation effort, how to ensure that the approach going forward reflects the dictates of science, domestic actions already underway to implement mitigation commitments under the Accord, and actions to reduce deforestation. Participants supported the Mexican Presidency's efforts to prepare the 16 meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP16).

    Many countries noted the importance of moving forward promptly with the Accord's "Fast Start financing provisions" in a transparent fashion. Several countries presented information on the actions they were already undertaking in response to their fast start financing commitment under the Copenhagen Accord. The participants were briefed on the Clean Energy Ministerial to be held July 19-20, 2010 in Washington DC that aims to advance key activities in the Technology Action Plans of the Global Partnership launched by Leaders in L'Aquila July 2009 [See WIMS 7/13/09].

    The U.S. also released a 2-page document on the "fast start" efforts. The document states in part that, "The United States is committed to the full implementation of the Copenhagen Accord. As part of this commitment, we are working together with our partners to provide 'fast start' climate finance approaching $30 billion during the period 2010-2012 to help meet adaptation and mitigation needs of developing countries. Climate-related appropriations for 2010 total $1.3 billion, and the Administration has requested $1.9 billion in appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. These funds include support for the Administration's pledge to provide $1 billion for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). In addition to these appropriations, U.S. development finance and export credit agencies are on track to provide more than $700 million in 2010, and nearly $900 million in 2011, in financial instruments that help American firms and investors wit their foreign partners, deploy clean energy technologies in develop countries."

    A release from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) indicates that the next ministerial meetings will be convened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Petersburg, Germany from May 2-4 and by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo, Norway on May 27. High-level talks among Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) concluded last week in Brasilia, Brazil. The UN Climate Treaty Parties are expected to conduct a ministerial meeting shortly after their next round of talks in Bonn, Germany, in June.

    EDF's International Counsel Annie Petsonk said, "Having the climate talks proceed in May in several international forums presents challenges, but it also creates opportunities for coalitions to emerge among nations that move swiftly to embrace carbon regulation and position themselves for clean economic growth. That competition presents an even greater imperative for the Obama Administration to make a serious push now for a balanced energy-climate bill in the U.S. Senate."

    Access the State Department meeting summary (click here). Access the U.S. fast track document (click here). Access a release from EDF with links to additional information (click here). Access the State Department MEF website (click here). Access the MEF website for information on past meetings (click here). Access various media reports on the meeting (click here). Access links to a number of documents posted by OECD on the issue of MRV (click here).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Virginia & Alabama Challenge Data Basis For EPA CO2 Regs

Apr 16: Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, II, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, filed a motion to attempt to compel the U.S. EPA to open hearings so that evidence can be presented that may show the data the Agency relied on to enact carbon dioxide regulations is faulty. A release from the Attorney General indicates that the motion is part of the existing lawsuit Virginia has against the EPA over its finding that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is a danger to public health and welfare (i.e. the "endangerment finding).  Cuccinelli filed the motion jointly with the State of Alabama in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

    In February, Cuccinelli filed a motion with EPA, asking the Agency to reopen its hearings to consider new climate change data in light of the "Climate-gate scandal," emphasizing that the scandal broke after the Agency closed its hearings on "greenhouse gas" regulation in August 2009. A release from Cuccinelli indicates that earlier this month, EPA seemed to indicate that it does not intend to reopen hearings when it announced its intention to issue new emissions standards on cars and light duty trucks based on the same discredited data. As a result, the attorney general is now asking the court to compel the EPA to reopen hearings to allow for the full development of an accurate record.

    The release indicates that, "In the wake of the Climate-gate scandal, where emails were leaked from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia in Great Britain, several of the world's prominent climatologists admitted that they manipulated data to overstate the effects of carbon dioxide emissions on the environment.  Based on the EPA's initial hearings and on the faulty global warming data on which it relied, the agency concluded that carbon dioxide and other 'greenhouse gases' are dangerous pollutants.  The endangerment finding allows the EPA to strictly regulate carbon dioxide and these other gases."

    The release says that, "EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide could end up costing businesses and every Virginian household hundreds of millions of dollars in potentially unnecessary fees and increased energy costs, and could price industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, energy, and others out of business, destroying the jobs they provide to Virginians. Costs to Virginia households to heat homes, buy groceries, and power appliances are projected to increase by thousands of dollars a year under the likely regulations." Cuccinelli said, "Whatever the final decision is by the EPA, we want it to be based on sound scientific data, not data that has been sifted through a political filter."

    The motion was filed Thursday, April 15, because that was the deadline to do so. Cuccinelli indicated that, "Section 307 of the Clean Air Act permits the court to remand when it is clear that newly available evidence should be considered by the agency. To proceed only on the evidence currently in the record could be a waste of time and resources, given the likelihood that an appeal of the suit would prevail, and the new evidence would likely be included eventually."

    Access a release from the VA Attorney General and link to the Joint Motion to Remand and further information about the initial February challenge to the EPA (click here). Access various WIMS postings on climategate (click here).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Basel Action Network Launches Electronics Recycling Program

Apr 15: The Basel Action Network (BAN), the group that first documented the dumping of toxic electronic waste in China and Africa, announced the official launch of the world's first global e-waste recycler certification and the first such program backed by environmental organizations and major corporations alike. The accredited, third-party audited certification program has not only been endorsed by Greenpeace USA, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and 68 other environmental organizations but has also drawn the support of major corporate "e-Stewards Enterprises" including: Apollo Group, Inc.; Bank of America; Capitol One Financial Corp.; Ind. Distributors of Electronics Assoc.; Nemours Foundation; Premier, Inc.; Premier Farnell; Resource Media; Samsung; Sprout Creation; Stokes Lawrence; and Wells Fargo.
    The program should not be confused with a competing program from U.S. EPA and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI). On March 25, ISRI announced that 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 said the Board's decision reinforces environmental, health and worker safety standards that closely track the EPA's Responsible Recycling (R2) program [See WIMS 3/25/10].
    On March 10, 2010, WIMS reported that a release from U.S. EPA regarding its sponsored R2 electronic recycling certification program did 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 EPA release indicated that through "a brand new electronics recycling certification program," the Agency "is taking steps to ensure that electronics recyclers adhere to highly protective standards for workers and the environment in processing pre-owned electronics. This new certification process also means that recycled materials will not be shipped overseas without the consent of the designated country." EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin said, "This new e-cycling certification program will take the guesswork out of choosing a responsible recycler." However, the two competing programs, that are just now getting underway, are certain to cause confusion for the public, recyclers, and manufacturers.
    The "e-Stewards Standard," created by BAN with the advice of industry leaders and health and environmental specialists is the major feature of the program. It calls for recyclers to eliminate exports of hazardous e-wastes to developing countries; to halt the dumping of such wastes in municipal landfills or incinerators, and to cease the use of captive prison populations to manage toxic e-wastes. It also calls for strict protection of customer's private data and occupational health safeguards to ensure that workers in recycling plants are not exposed to toxic dusts and fumes.
    As an indication of the conflicts between the BAN program and the EPA R2 program, currently there are about 50 e-Stewards Recyclers, each of which has passed a rigorous internal review by BAN as a preliminary step to full certification. All are regarded as responsible recyclers, and each has committed to becoming fully certified by September 2011. BAN announced the names of its first fully certified companies which have passed additional, independent audits conducted by accredited certifying bodies. The first BAN Certified e-Stewards Recyclers are: Newport Computer Services, Inc. (one US location); Redemtech (all 4 US locations)
WeRecycle! (one US location). However, under the EPA R2 program only three companies nationwide have received its new "Responsible Recycling Practices Certification" designation  and include: E-structors, Inc. of Elkridge, MD; TechTurn of Austin, TX; and Waste Management of Minnesota.
    Additionally the BAN program recognizes three accredited certifying bodies including: AQA International LLC, Orion Registrar Inc., and SAI Global; while under the EPA program recyclers must apply for certification to either SGS or Perry Johnson Registrars.
    BAN reports that there are an additional twelve companies that are next in line, having contracted with certifying bodies to begin the process. The next-in-line companies are: A greenSpan Computer Recycling; California Electronic Asset Recovery (CEAR); CloudBlue; Creative Recycling Solutions; eGreen IT Solutions; Glezco (Mexico); Materials Processing Corporation; Metech; Nextend; Regency Technologies; Surplus Exchange; and Universal Recycling Technologies.
    Access a release from BAN (click here). Access the e-Stewards website for complete details on certification and related information (click here). Access a March 10 release from EPA with links to related program information (click here). Access ISRI's Electronics Recycling website for additional details (click here).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senate & House Release TSCA Overhaul Legislation

Apr 15: U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced legislation designed to overhaul the "Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976" (TSCA), which he called "an antiquated law that in its current state, leaves Americans at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals." Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, introduced the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" to protect the health of families and the environment.

    Senator Lautenberg said, "America's system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken. Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children's bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My 'Safe Chemicals Act' will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals. Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a common-sense issue and I look forward to building bipartisan support for this measure."

    According to a release from Senator Lautenberg, the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" requires safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and puts the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe in order stay on the market. Under current policy, the EPA can only call for safety testing after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. The new legislation will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

    Over the last several months, Senator Lautenberg has chaired a series of hearings to help craft the "Safe Chemicals Act" with dozens of witnesses including business leaders, public officials, scientists, doctors, academics, and non-profit organizations [See WIMS 3/9/10, WIMS 2/4/10]. . Through the hearings, public health groups, environmentalists, industry representatives and the EPA have expressed support for reforms to our nation's toxic substance laws. The "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" comports with the reform principles laid out by the Obama Administration, the American Chemistry Council and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition.
    According to a summary provided by Senator Lautenberg, some highlights of the Safe Chemicals Act are that it:
  • Provides EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical's safety. Requires manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce, while also preventing duplicative or unnecessary testing. EPA will have full authority to request additional information needed to determine the safety of a chemical.
  • Prioritizes chemicals based on risk. Calls on the EPA to categorize chemicals based on risk, and focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm.
  • Ensures safety threshold is met for all chemicals on the market. Places the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals. All uses must be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.
  • Takes fast action to address highest risk chemicals. Requires EPA to take fast action to reduce risk from chemicals that have already been proven dangerous. In addition, the EPA Administrator is given authority to act quickly if any chemical poses an imminent hazard.
  • Creates open access to reliable chemical information. Establishes a public database to catalog the information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA's safety determinations. The EPA will impose requirements to ensure the information collected is reliable.
  • Promotes innovation and development of green chemistry. Establishes grant programs and research centers to foster the development of safe chemical alternatives, and brings some new chemicals onto the market using an expedited review process.
    In addition to the Lautenberg bill, Representatives Bobby Rush, (D-IL) and Henry Waxman, (D-CA), introduced a parallel proposal, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, "discussion draft" of chemical protection reform legislation in the House. Rush and Waxman said their draft legislation reflects reasoned consideration of stakeholder and EPA priorities and recommendations. Representative Rush said, "Through the open stakeholder process that we are commencing today, I am optimistic that the discussion draft of my bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act will lead to a number of constructive improvements." Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Waxman said, "For decades, Congress has been told that the Toxic Substances Control Act is failing its mission and is in desperate need of reform. In order to protect all Americans from toxic exposures and the adverse effects they cause, Congress must strengthen this failing law."
    Daniel Rosenberg, Senior Attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Health and Environment Program said, "Changing the existing law would make a significant difference in peoples' lives by reducing daily exposure to toxic chemicals. These bills provide an excellent starting place to strengthen EPA's authority to protect the public. If this legislation fulfills its promise, we can hope to see a decline in cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, infertility and other disease associated with exposure to these chemicals. Reducing such health problems will improve and lengthen lives as well as reduce the costs of healthcare. Many people assume the protections these bills create already exist, but they don't and they are long overdue. Both bills will need some strengthening to ensure that the promise of meaningful reform is fulfilled and we will work with lawmakers to make that happen."
    American Chemistry Council (ACC) president and CEO Cal Dooley issued a statement saying, "Safety must be the primary goal of chemical regulatory reform, as it is the top priority of our industry. This is a complex issue and we compliment Senator Lautenberg, and Congressmen Waxman and Rush, for bringing focus to the need for modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). While TSCA has been protective of public health and the environment in the past, we should harness the scientific and technological advances made since its passage to assess the safety of chemicals while fostering innovation and preserving hundreds of thousands of American jobs. 

    "We are encouraged that the Safe Chemicals Act (SCA) reflects some aspects of the principles that ACC released last year, which are mirrored by EPA's principles. These include the need to prioritize chemicals for evaluation, a risk-based approach to EPA safety reviews, and a reduction in animal testing. However, we are concerned that the bill's proposed decision-making standard may be legally and technically impossible to meet. The proposed changes to the new chemicals program could hamper innovation in new products, processes and technologies. In addition, the bill undermines business certainty by allowing states to adopt their own regulations and create a lack of regulatory uniformity for chemicals and the products that use them."

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a release indicating, "Lautenberg, Waxman and other members of Congress sponsored a toxic chemicals policy reform proposal known as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act in 2005 and again in 2008, but these measures did not have the broad support that has coalesced behind the current initiative. Today, the search for environmental causes of disease is a front-burner issue for scientists, medical professionals, policy-makers and health advocates. President Obama, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, key members of both houses of Congress, the environmental and health communities, countless citizens and the chemical industry itself agree that a new national policy must be crafted to fit the complex realities of the 21st century."

    Access a release from Senator Lautenberg (click here). Access the full text of the "Safe Chemicals Act (click here). Access a full summary of the bill (click here). Access a release from Waxman-Rush with links to the discussion draft, a section-by-section summary, and a discussion draft summary (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from ACC and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from EWG (click here).