Friday, October 29, 2010

Unstable Cement From Halliburton May Be Cause Of BP Blowout

Oct 28: In a letter to the National Commission on the BP Oil Spill, Fred Bartlit, Chief Counsel to the Commission and responsible for investigating the root causes of the explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig wrote to report the results of cement testing recently conducted and several conclusions that have been reached based on that testing and documents provided by Halliburton. The bipartisan Commission was established by President Obama by an executive order on May 21, and is led by co-chairs including former two-term Florida Governor and former Senator Bob Graham and former Administrator of U.S. EPA William Reilly [See WIMS 10/7/10].

    Bartlit said, "We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner. That cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well. For a variety of technical reasons that we will explain at the upcoming hearing, BP cemented the well with a nitrogen foam cement recommended and supplied by Halliburton."

    Chevron agreed as a public service to test the cement slurry on behalf of the Commission. Chevron employs some of the industry's most respected cement experts, and it maintains a state-of-the art cement testing facility in Houston, Texas. Halliburton agreed that the Chevron lab was highly qualified for this work. Bartlit writes, "Chevron's report states, among other things, that its lab personnel were unable to generate stable foam cement in the laboratory using the materials provided by Halliburton and available design information regarding the slurry used at the Macondo well. Although laboratory foam stability tests cannot replicate field conditions perfectly, these data strongly suggest that the foam cement used at Macondo was unstable. This may have contributed to the blowout."

    Further, Bartlit indicates, ". . .documents provided to us by Halliburton show, among other things, that its personnel conducted at least four foam stability tests relevant to the Macondo cement slurry. The first two tests were conducted in February 2010 using different well design parameters and a slightly different slurry recipe than was finally used. Both tests indicated that this foam slurry design was unstable [emphasis added]. . . on or about April 13, seven days before the blowout. Lab personnel used slightly different lab protocols than they had used in February. Although there are some indications that lab personnel may have conducted this test improperly, it once again indicated that the foam slurry design was unstable [emphasis added]. . .

    "Halliburton personnel began a second April foam stability test shortly after receiving the unfavorable results from the first April test. Halliburton personnel again modified the testing procedure, and this time – for the first time – the data indicated the foam slurry design would be stable [emphasis added].

    Based on the testing and documents, Bartlit's legal team concludes:

  • (1) Only one of the four tests discussed above that Halliburton ran on the various slurry designs for the final cement job at the Macondo well indicated that the slurry design would be stable;
  • (2) Halliburton may not have had—and BP did not have—the results of that test before the evening of April 19, meaning that the cement job may have been pumped without any lab results indicating that the foam cement slurry would be stable;
  • (3) Halliburton and BP both had results in March showing that a very similar foam slurry design to the one actually pumped at the Macondo well would be unstable, but neither acted upon that data; and
  • (4) Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry before pumping it at the Macondo well.

    The team says, "Finally, we want to emphasize that even if our concerns regarding the foam slurry design at Macondo are well founded, the story of the blowout does not turn solely on the quality of the Macondo cement job. Cementing wells is a complex endeavor and industry experts inform us that cementing failures are not uncommon even in the best of circumstances. Because it may be anticipated that a particular cement job may be faulty, the oil industry has developed tests, such as the negative pressure test and cement evaluation logs, to identify cementing failures. It has also developed methods to remedy deficient cement jobs. BP and/or Transocean personnel misinterpreted or chose not to conduct such tests at the Macondo well."

    The Oil Spill Commission and Bartlit have announced they will hold a two-day hearing on November 8-9, on preliminary findings regarding BP's Macondo well blowout. The primary focus of the hearing will be on the causes of the rig explosion. The Commissioners will hear from Chief Counsel Bartlit, representatives from companies involved in the incident, industry executives, technical experts, regulators and others regarding the rig explosion. The hearing will be held at the Grand Hyatt Washington, 1000 H St. NW, Washington, DC.

    Access the complete letter from Bartlit (click here). Access the complete report from Chevron (click here). Access the Commission website for complete background and documents (click here).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prison Industries E-waste Recycling Program Gets Failing Grade

Oct 27: The Council of Prison Locals (CPL) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) responded to a massive October 21 report from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) entitled, A Review of Federal Prison Industries' Electronic-Waste Recycling Program. The main report is 433-pages and includes a 1008-page Appendix. The OIG report found that staff and inmates at several Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities, have been exposed to toxic metals including cadmium and lead. The exposure occurred in the electronic waste recycling program run by the Federal Prison Industries -- also known as UNICOR, a government corporation within (BOP). The report concluded that the UNICOR recycling program did not value worker safety and environmental protection.
    As of June 2010, UNICOR had 103 factories at 73 prison locations, employing approximately 17,000 inmates or 11 percent of the inmate population. The factories produce a variety of consumer products and services, office furniture and clothing, and industrial products, such as security fencing and vehicle tags. Starting in 1997, UNICOR began to accept computers, monitors, printers, and other types of e-waste for recycling at Federal prisons. UNICOR sold these e-waste items to its customers, sometimes following refurbishment, or disassembled the items into their component parts and sold the parts to recyclers for further processing.
    Specifically, the OIG said, "Our investigation found that prior to 2009 UNICOR's management of the e-waste recycling program resulted in numerous violations of health, safety, and environmental laws, regulations, and BOP policies. We concluded that UNICOR's Headquarters staff poorly managed UNICOR's e-waste program prior to 2009.6 UNICOR staff members often failed to perform hazard assessments on new e-waste operations or did so incorrectly, and important health and safety information was not shared with BOP executives and safety staff that could have prevented the violations from occurring. We also found that managers in UNICOR's Recycling Business Group, primarily General Manager Lawrence Novicky and his assistant, Bruce Ginther, concealed warnings about hazards related to toxic metals from UNICOR and BOP staff and from inmates. . . Overall, we found a culture at UNICOR that did not sufficiently value worker safety and environmental protection. We determined that the flawed organization and poor communication between UNICOR and the BOP made compliance difficult to achieve even with the best-intentioned employees. . ."
    CPL President Bryan Lowry said, "The inspector general's findings are in line with what we've been saying for years. Our staff members were exposed to dangerous levels of toxic metals, which BOP knew about and allowed to continue. The inspector general must hold BOP and UNICOR managers accountable for their actions and put appropriate safety measures in place to protect our staff." CPL indicated that it has been an advocate of the UNICOR work program, which provides inmates an opportunity to earn money, learn marketable skills, and become productive members of society once their incarceration ends. The program also keeps inmates occupied and out of trouble, which leads to a more safe and secure prison environment.
    Several BOP facilities had UNICOR e-waste operations, including the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Elkton, Ohio, where air quality was not monitored and staff and inmates were not provided protective equipment while breaking down computer monitors. AFGE Local 607 Vice President Bill Meek, who represents workers at FCI – Elkton, "The truth about these toxic exposures is finally coming out. Our primary concern has always been the safety of our staff, and we'll continue to fight for that."
    OIG summarized its major conclusions and said, "In conclusion, our investigation identified serious deficiencies with UNICOR's e-waste recycling program, especially prior to 2003. In recent years, UNICOR has made substantial progress to improve the safety of its e-waste operations. However, we believe that the success of these efforts in the future could be hindered by lingering, systemic problems such as the lack of technical resources, inadequate oversight, and a Health Services Division at BOP Headquarters that lacks authority to manage the delivery of quality safety services throughout the BOP and UNICOR. We believe our 12 recommendations can help ensure that BOP and UNICOR conduct its operations, including its e-waste recycling program, in compliance with federal regulations and BOP policies, and with the necessary concern for the health and safety of BOP staff and inmates."  

 Access the OIG report (click here); and Appendix (click here). Access a release from CPL (click here).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Impacts On Bulk-Power System From EPA Air Regulations

Oct 26: The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a special assessment -- – Potential Resource Adequacy Impacts of U.S. Environmental Regulations -- examining the possible impacts of four potential U.S. EPA regulationsNERC is the electric reliability organization (ERO) certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish and enforce reliability standards for the bulk-power system.
    According to NERC's assessment, several regulations currently being proposed by the EPA directly affect the electric utility industry. The assessment scenario was designed to evaluate the potential impacts of the four potential EPA regulations on Planning Reserve Margins to identify the need for additional resources to maintain bulk power system reliability. To accommodate the studied scenarios, industry may need more resources, beyond those identified in existing plans, in order to maintain bulk power system reliability. Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of NERC said, "The results of this assessment show a significant potential impact to reliability should the four EPA rules be implemented as proposed. To ensure bulk power system reliability, the proposed rules should provide sufficient time to acquire replacement resources, offsetting the reductions in capacity from unit retirements and deratings from environmental control retrofits."
    NERC's assessment reviews four EPA proposed rulemaking proceedings that could result in unit retirements or forced retrofits between 2015 and 2018. Specifically, the rules included in NERC's assessment under development were: • Clean Water Act – Section 316(b), Cooling Water Intake Structures; • Title I of the Clean Air Act – National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for the electric power industry (referred to as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Standard); • Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR); and • Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Disposal Regulations.
    The assessment evaluates the potential impacts on Planning Reserve Margins, assuming that there would be no industry actions in the near term to address compliance issues or market response, and identifies the need for additional resources that may arise in light of industry responses to each of these environmental regulations individually and in the aggregate. Mark Lauby, director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis at NERC said, "The combination of the proposed rules shows Planning Reserve Margins may be significantly impacted with deteriorating resource adequacy in a majority of the NERC regions/subregions. Additionally, considerable operational challenges to manage, coordinate and schedule the resulting industry-wide environmental control retrofit effort will occur if all these rules are enacted as currently proposed."
    Some findings from the NERC assessment are: • EPA's proposed regulations may have significant impacts on Planning Reserve Margins; • Capacity impacts will vary by region; • Section 316 (b) cooling water intake structures rule has the greatest potential for impact on Planning Reserve Margins; • The MACT, CATR and CCR rules also contribute to reductions in generating capacity; and • If implemented as proposed, the EPA regulations create a need for prompt industry response and action; 
    The Clean Air Task Force (CATF)a nonprofit organization with staff including senior engineers, MBAs, scientists, attorneys, and communications specialists issued a release commenting on the NERC assessment. CAFT said the "industry-funded group charged with keeping the lights on" released "a long-awaited and much anticipated report on the impact of a number of potential EPA regulations for the power sector. 'And guess what?' 'It's good news -- the lights will stay on. Moreover, the proposed regulations ensure that the lights will remain on with minimal disruption to the grid and to consumer electric bills, and will also improve the nation's air quality and protect public health.'"
    CATF said the NERC report analyzes four sets of potential regulations -- only two of which have even been proposed, and none finalized -- which will control emissions of toxic air pollutants, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), coal ash disposal and cooling water intake. CATF said, "Since the content of most of these rules is still unknown, NERC had to estimate what they would cover and how stringent they would be. The coal industry and segments of the utility industry have been claiming for some time that the expected Clean Air Act regulations will cause a regulatory 'train wreck' that will strain electric system reliability. However, NERC found that even the strictest possible formulation of these air regulations will not materially erode reserve margins.
    Conrad Schneider, CATF Advocacy Director said, "Congress should take note that even the analysis of the power industry's own reliability organization undercuts claims that clean air regulations will turn off the lights." Schneider indicated that of the four potential regulations, NERC finds that only the cooling water intake rule has the potential to impact generation reserve margins. CATF said ironically, EPA has the most discretion in both timing and implementation of the cooling water intake rule. NERC however assumed that EPA would not use any of its discretion or authorities to reduce cost and decrease the regulatory burden.
    Schneider said, "It's disappointing that NERC's analysis assumes a static regulatory system incapable of system response, something the power sector has proved wrong time and time again simply by complying with regulations. So if EPA is again poised to issue intelligent regulations that will provide cleaner air and water and that leave the lights on, that sounds like a win-win to me."
    Access a release from NERC and link to the complete assessment (click here). Access an Executive Summary of the NERC assessment (click here). Access the release from CATF (click here).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

GAO On Climate Change Geoengineering Strategy & Governance

Oct 26: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report entitled, Climate Change: A Coordinated Strategy Could Focus Federal Geoengineering Research and Inform Governance Efforts (GAO-10-903, September 23, 2010). The report was prepared for the Chairman, of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN).
    GAO indicates that policymakers have raised questions about geoengineering -- large-scale deliberate interventions in the earth's climate system to diminish climate change or its impacts -- and its role in a broader strategy of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Most geoengineering proposals fall into two categories: carbon dioxide removal (CDR), which would remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and solar radiation management (SRM), which would offset temperature increases by reflecting sunlight back into space.

    GAO was asked to examine (1) the state of geoengineering science, (2) Federal involvement in geoengineering, and (3) the views of experts and Federal officials about the extent to which Federal laws and international agreements apply to geoengineering, and any governance challenges. GAO examined relevant scientific and policy studies, relevant domestic laws and international agreements, analyzed agency data describing relevant research for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, and interviewed Federal officials and selected recognized experts in the field.

    GAO found that few geoengineering experiments or modeling studies have been conducted, and major uncertainties remain on the efficacy and potential consequences of geoengineering approaches. GAO's review of relevant studies and discussions with selected experts indicated that relatively more laboratory and field research relevant to certain CDR approaches exists, although most of this research was not designed to apply to geoengineering. In contrast, few modeling studies or field experiments have focused on SRM approaches, according to experts and recent studies. Experts identified only one SRM field experiment with published results -- a 2009 Russian experiment that injected aerosols into the middle troposphere to measure their reflectivity. Experts, as well as relevant studies, identified several major uncertainties in need of further investigation for CDR and SRM.
    Federal agencies identified 52 research activities, totaling about $100.9 million, relevant to geoengineering during fiscal years 2009 and 2010. GAO's analysis found that 43 activities, totaling about $99 million, focused either on mitigation strategies or basic science. Most of the research focused on mitigation efforts, such as geological sequestration of CO2, which were identified as relevant to CDR approaches but not designed to address them directly. GAO found that nine activities, totaling about $1.9 million, directly investigated SRM or less conventional CDR approaches. Officials from interagency bodies coordinating Federal responses to climate change indicated that their offices have not developed a coordinated strategy, and believe that, due to limited federal investment, it is premature to coordinate geoengineering activities. However, Federal officials also noted that a large share of existing federal climate science research could be relevant to geoengineering. Agencies requested roughly $2 billion for such activities in fiscal year 2010. Without a coordinated federal strategy for geoengineering, it is difficult for agencies to determine the extent of relevant research, and policymakers may lack key information to inform subsequent decisions on geoengineering and existing climate science efforts.
    According to legal experts and Federal officials, the extent to which Federal laws and international agreements apply to geoengineering is unclear. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to regulate one CDR approach and has determined that it has sufficient authority to regulate two other approaches. EPA officials said EPA has not assessed the applicability of other laws because geoengineering research is in its initial stages. Similarly, legal experts and Department of State officials said that, except for three instances, parties to international agreements have not addressed their agreements' applicability to geoengineering, largely due to limited geoengineering activity and awareness of the issue. Legal experts' and officials' views differed on the best approach for international governance, but generally agreed that the Federal government should take a coordinated, interagency approach on domestic regulation. Experts and officials also identified governance challenges, such as the need to address liability.
    GAO recommended that within the Executive Office of the President, the appropriate entities, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), establish a clear strategy for geoengineering research in the context of the Federal response to climate change to ensure a coordinated Federal approach. GAO said that OSTP neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but provided technical comments.
     In a related matter on March 2010, a week-long International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies was held in Pacific Grove, CA (March 22-26). The conference included 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 [See WIMS 3/30/10].
    Access the complete 70-page report (click here). Access a November 5, 2009 House Science Committee hearing on Geoengineering including links to testimony, Chairman's statement, background document and a webcast (click here). Access numerous House Science Committee links to Geoengineering (click here).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Administration Proposes First-Ever GHG & Efficiency Rules For Trucks

Oct 25: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood jointly announced the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution-reduction standards for medium and heavy trucks which includes long-haul tractor trailers, city buses, delivery vehicles and work trucks. Medium and heavy trucks consume 20 percent of the oil used in the transportation sector and emit about 20 percent of transportation sector's pollution yet represent only 4 percent of the vehicles on the roads. Trucking in the United States has increased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s and today the nation depends on trucking for 70 percent of its shipping needs. The proposal is projected to reduce GHG emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program's first five years.

    Administrator Jackson said, "These new standards are another step in our work to develop a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient American vehicles that will improve our environment and strengthen our economy. In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution, greater fuel economy will shrink fuel costs for small businesses that depend on pickups and heavy duty vehicles, shipping companies and cities and towns with fleets of these vehicles. Those savings can be invested in new jobs at home, rather than heading overseas and increasing our dependence on foreign oil." Secretary LaHood said, "Through new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses, we will not only reduce transportation's environmental impact, we'll reduce the cost of transporting freight. This is a win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer."

    EPA and DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new standards for three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles. The categories were established to address specific challenges for manufacturers in each area. For combination tractors, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by 2018 model year.

    For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards, which phase in starting in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by 2018 model year (12 and 17 percent respectively if accounting for air conditioning leakage). Lastly, for vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year which would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 2018 model year.

    Overall, NHTSA and EPA estimate that the heavy-duty national program would provide $41 billion in net benefits over the lifetime of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles. With the potential for significant fuel efficiency gains, ranging from seven to 20 percent, drivers and operators could expect to net significant savings over the long-term. For example, it is estimated an operator of a semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year, and save as much as $74,000 over the truck's useful life. Vehicles with lower annual miles would typically experience longer payback periods, up to four or five years, but would still reap cost-savings.

    The agencies said the innovative technologies fostered by the program would also yield economic benefits, enhance energy security, and improve air quality. New technologies include widespread use of aerodynamic improvements and tire rolling resistance, as well as engine and transmission upgrades.

    As part of the process of developing the proposed rulemaking, NHTSA prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed fuel efficiency standards. The draft EIS compares the environmental impacts of the Agency's proposal with those of a number of regulatory alternatives. Comments may be submitted on the Draft EIS through January 3, 2011. EPA and NHTSA are providing a 60-day comment period that begins when the proposal is published in the Federal Register.
    Luke Tonachel, clean vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "Heavy trucks and buses are the energy hogs of America's roadways -- but they don't have to be. With more efficient engines, aerodynamic bodies and cleaner fuels, our nation's truck fleets can run cleaner and cheaper. These new standards will save truck owners and consumers money, while creating jobs and reducing pollution in the process. Every time the price of oil increases it sends shockwaves through the economy, with truck owners having to pay more for fuel, leading them to pass on higher shipping costs to the consumer. Using less fuel will make those shockwaves less damaging to everyone's wallet."

    NRDC supported the standards, but said the "proposal should be strengthened further to maximize the environmental, security and economic benefits. The National Academies have shown that cost-effective, clean-vehicle technologies exist that can go beyond the EPA and DOT proposal and more than double the pollution and fuel savings."

    On October 22, The American Trucking Associations (ATA) issued a release indicating that the organization adopted a carbon emissions control policy supporting a national fuel economy standard for trucks, rather than government actions to increase fuel prices or alternative fuel mandates. The policy states that "carbon emission reductions achieved through national truck fuel economy standards are preferable to government actions that increase fuel prices in an effort to discourage petroleum-based diesel fuel consumption or mandate the use of alternative fuels." ATA said, "While any federally mandated carbon control program applied to transportation fuels likely will increase the cost of fossil fuels, discussions of carbon control programs should be premised on fundamental principles designed to minimize disruptions to the transportation of goods and to protect the viability of the trucking industry."

    ATA's new energy policy outlines a framework for evaluating carbon control initiatives and specifies that an effective carbon control program for the trucking industry must address the following provisions: Produce cost-effective, verifiable carbon reductions; Ensure that revenue generated from motor carriers and other highway transportation consumers benefits highway users; Ensure that any increased costs are reasonable, predictable and do not increase the volatility of fuel prices; Avoid diesel fuel supply disruptions and ensure that only on-road diesel fuel that meets the ASTM standard for which trucks were designed to run on is sold in the marketplace; Maintain a level playing field among freight transportation modes; and Provides incentives for improved fuel efficiency and availability of alternative technologies.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its virtual tractor-trailer design, called the Convoy, which illustrates how various technologies could improve tractor-trailer fuel efficiency. In a release, UCS indicated that current average fuel economy for long-haul tractor-trailers, which often travel more than 100,000 miles annually, is only about 6.5 miles per gallon. Clean technology could boost it to 10 miles per gallon by 2017. A suite of technologies -- including more efficient engines, more aerodynamic designs for the tractor and trailer, and idle-off capability -- could reduce the average long-haul tractor-trailer's fuel consumption by 7,000 gallons annually, saving truck operators $24,500 in reduced fuel costs assuming diesel prices of $3.50 a gallon.

    Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the non-profit Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) issued a statement and said, "More than 95 percent of all heavy duty trucks are diesel-powered as are a majority of medium duty trucks. Diesel power is the driving force today of goods movement by truck in our economy. This proposal clearly envisions clean diesel power as the centerpiece of freight transportation in the clean energy economy of tomorrow. Diesel engines offer an unmatched combination of energy-efficiency, work capability, reliability and now near-zero emissions environmental performance making them the technology of choice for commercial trucks today and into the foreseeable future. For all parties, the challenge of increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining or improving environmental, safety and productivity of commercial vehicles is as important as it is complex. It is fitting that a key solution for solving this challenge lies in the diesel engine. . ."

    Access a release from the agencies (click here). Access the complete proposal and information about how to submit comments from EPA (click here); and NHTSA (click here). Access a release from NRDC and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from ATA and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from UCS and link to the virtual tractor-trailer design and related information (click here). Access the statement from the DTF (click here).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Arctic Continues To Heat Up According To Annual Report Card

Oct 21: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual Arctic Report Card, a yearly assessment of Arctic conditions developed by a team of 69 international scientists. According to the report, the Arctic region, also called the "planet's refrigerator," continues to heat up, affecting local populations and ecosystems as well as weather patterns in the most populated parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

    Among the 2010 highlights: Greenland is experiencing record-setting high temperatures, ice melt and glacier area loss; Summer sea ice continues to decline -- the 2009-2010 summer sea ice cover extent was the third lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and sea ice thickness continues to thin. The 2010 minimum is the third lowest recorded since 1979, surpassed only by 2008 and the record low of 2007; and Arctic snow cover duration was at a record minimum since record-keeping began in 1966.

    NOAA indicates that there is also evidence that the effect of higher air temperatures in the Arctic atmosphere in fall is contributing to changes in the atmospheric circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes. Winter 2009-2010 showed a link between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic, related to a phase of the Arctic Oscillation.

    Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator said, "To quote one of my NOAA colleagues, 'whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world happens first, and to the greatest extent, in the Arctic'. Beyond affecting the humans and wildlife that call the area home, the Arctic's warmer temperatures and decreases in permafrost, snow cover, glaciers and sea ice also have wide-ranging consequences for the physical and biological systems in other parts of the world. The Arctic is an important driver of climate and weather around the world and serves as a critical feeding and breeding ground that supports globally significant populations of birds, mammals and fish."

    In 2006, NOAA's Climate Program Office introduced the annual Arctic Report Card, which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century to monitor the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. Using a color-coded system of "red" to indicate consistent evidence of warming and "yellow" to show that warming impacts are occurring in many climate indicators and species, the Report Card is updated annually in October and tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land and changes in Greenland.

    Access a release from NOAA and links to a video and the Report Card (click here).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Justice Department Announces Cleanups Settlement With "Old GM"

Oct 20: The U.S. Department of Justice announced that the United States, 14 states and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have entered into a settlement agreement with Chapter 11 debtor Motors Liquidation Company (Old GM), formerly known as General Motors Corporation, to settle certain environmental liabilities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and state environmental laws. A settlement agreement among the United States, the states and Old GM was filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court in the morning on October 20. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe was expected to join shortly. Before being considered by the bankruptcy court for approval, the settlement agreement will be lodged with the bankruptcy court for a period of 30 days to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the settlement.

    The announcement was made by Gary G. Grindler, Acting Deputy Attorney General; Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Lisa Jackson, Administrator U.S. EPA; and Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, as co-chair of the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers. In Michigan, the MDNRE announced the settlement and its implications for the State [See WIMS 10/20/10].

    Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler said, "This settlement holds accountable those responsible for contaminating certain properties and ensures they help transform these communities by supporting the necessary cleanup. The agreement marks a new beginning by responsibly addressing hazardous waste contamination in impacted communities, and at the same time creates jobs to help clean up and return these sites to beneficial uses. It also shows how the federal government can work successfully in concert with states and tribes to resolve environmental legacy issues in their communities." Administrator Jackson said, "We're happy to have a path forward that addresses the needs of former auto communities. This trust -- the largest environmental trust in our history -- provides support for aggressive environmental cleanups at these sites, which will create jobs today and benefit the environment and human health over the long-term."

    Under the terms of the agreement, Old GM will pay approximately $641.4 million and will contribute additional non-cash assets (with an estimated value of $120 million) for the cleanup and administration of 89 properties and sites, 59 of which are known to have been contaminated with hazardous substances or waste. In addition, Old GM has spent approximately $11.5 million towards the cleanup of the properties with known contamination during the pendency of the bankruptcy proceeding. The funding provided under the settlement agreement, along with the properties that are currently owned by Old GM and certain other non-cash assets, will be placed in an environmental response bankruptcy trust to fund the cleanup and administration of the properties and their return to beneficial use.

    More than half of the cleanup funds to be paid to the environmental response trust will be provided for the environmental remediation of sites in New York and Michigan. In New York, the General Motors-Central Foundry Division Superfund Site – aka Massena – in Saint Lawrence County, will receive approximately $120.8 million in dedicated cleanup funds. The United States alleged in bankruptcy filings that Old GM operated an aluminum die-casting plant on the Massena property from 1959 to 2009, and that Old GM disposed of hazardous substances including polychlorinated biphenyls (also known as PCBs) at the property. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, whose lands are affected by the contamination emanating from the Massena property, is also a party to the settlement. In Michigan, which will have the largest number of properties in the trust, approximately $160 million is allocated to the cleanup of 36 properties containing hazardous wastes or other hazardous substances.

    In June 2009, Old GM -- then the second-largest automotive manufacturer in the world -- and three wholly-owned subsidiaries filed Chapter 11 petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The same day it filed for bankruptcy, Old GM also filed a motion to sell substantially all of its assets to a newly formed corporation, now known as General Motors Company (New GM), which was approved by the bankruptcy court in July 2009. The 89 properties at issue in the settlement agreement were excluded from the sale of assets to New GM and continued to be owned and managed by Old GM.

    In June and July 2009, in order to ensure, among other things, the orderly winding down of Old GM's affairs in the bankruptcy proceeding, the Treasury Department and Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada's export credit agency, collectively lent Old GM $1.175 billion. In October 2009, two additional wholly-owned subsidiaries of Old GM, which are a part of this settlement, filed their own Chapter 11 petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. These petitions are jointly administered with Old GM's previously filed petitions by the bankruptcy court.

    In October 2009 and April 2010, the United States filed proofs of claim against Old GM and its affiliated debtors to recover, among other things, past and future environmental cleanup costs for sites owned or operated by Old GM and its affiliated debtors, or where Old GM and its affiliated debtors had disposed of hazardous wastes. Similarly, several states filed proofs of claim against Old GM for environmental liabilities at properties and sites located across the country. The settlement addresses Old GM's environmental liabilities under CERCLA, RCRA and state environmental laws at the 89 properties still owned by Old GM in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Under the settlement, an environmental response bankruptcy trust will be established to take ownership and possession of the 89 properties and the funding provided to clean the properties up, administer them and return them to beneficial use.

    Old GM will pay approximately $499 million of the funding provided by the Treasury Department and EDC to the environmental response trust for environmental cleanup at the properties. Of this amount, more than $431 million will be placed in site-specific accounts for each of the 59 properties known to have been contaminated with hazardous substances or waste, and approximately $68 million will be placed in a pooled account for environmental cleanup that may arise in the future at any of the 89 properties transferred to the trust on account of unforeseen conditions. In addition, Old GM will place at least $142 million of the funding provided by the Treasury Department and EDC and certain non-cash assets in the trust to cover the administrative costs of the trust and the return of the properties to beneficial use.

    The number of properties and approximate funding specifically allocated by state are: 1) $11.7 million for a property in Delaware that has already been sold but for which the trust retains cleanup obligations; 2) $5.3 million for a property in Illinois; 3) $25 million for eight properties in Indiana; 4) $4.8 million for two properties in Kansas; 5) a property in Louisiana with no known cleanup costs; 6) $2.3 million for a property and associated site located in Massachusetts; 7) $159 million for 57 properties in Michigan; 8) $1.7 million for two properties in Missouri; 9) $24.7 million for two properties in New Jersey; 10) $154 million for four properties and an associated site located in New York; 11) $39.4 million for eight properties in Ohio; 12) $3.3 million for a property in Pennsylvania; 13) $26,000 for a property in Virginia; and 14) $211,000 for a property in Wisconsin. Additional financing for environmental remediation from the $68 million in unallocated cleanup funding will be available to all of 89 properties and sites placed in the trust upon meeting certain requirements.

    Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox issued a statement and said, "Today's settlement means that 57 former GM properties in Michigan will be cleaned-up and readied for new uses. This is a big boost for communities across Michigan as we work toward the rebirth of our economy." He indicated that Michigan is the location of the largest number of sites involved, with 57 of the 89 total properties. Of those 57, 36 properties involve contamination of some kind, and approximately $160 million of the trust monies will be allocated for their rehabilitation. Sites in Michigan include: Willow Run (Ypsilanti), Buick City (Flint), Pontiac North, Saginaw Nodular Iron, Delphi (Livonia), GMNA 2 & 3 (Lansing), Stamping (Grand Rapids), and GMPT (Bay City), among others.

    Access a release from DOJ (click here). Access a link to the settlement agreement (click here, posted soon). Access a release from the MI AG (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on the settlement (click here).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Republican Agenda: "Declaring War On The Regulatory State"

U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) who indicates he could be the next Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans take over the House in upcoming mid-term election, authored a lengthy op-ed in the Washington Times entitled, "Declaring War on the Regulatory State." If selected, Upton would replace the current Chair Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). Representative Upton says:
    "Our nation is confronted with serious problems that require a fundamental reassessment of the size and role of government. With unemployment near 15 percent in many parts of the country, an unsustainable debt and unbridled federal spending, people fear the actions of a federal government that has grown too large and hinders rather than encourages economic growth. Folks desire a government that is responsive to their concerns and responsible with the resources they provide it. They want government returned to its proper, more limited role in their lives. They want a government that fosters the right conditions for job creation and economic growth. . .

    "Should Republicans recapture the House in November, we will have a fundamentally different approach. Over the past four years, the priorities of Congress have fallen out of sync with those of the American people. For instance, one of Nancy Pelosi's first acts as House speaker was to create a new Select Committee on Climate Change. To date, this new select committee has needlessly spent nearly $8 million in taxpayer money. . . We must terminate this wasteful committee. . .

    "If the EPA continues unabated, jobs will be shipped to China and India as energy costs skyrocket. Most of the media attention has focused on the EPA's efforts to regulate climate-change emissions, but that is just the beginning. The EPA is working on a regulatory train wreck that includes the following job-killing regulations:

  • Cooling water intake systems for power plants: Costs would range from $300 million per coal plant (413 facilities impacted) to $1 billion for nuclear (59 units impacted). As a result, many plants would be shuttered and energy prices will rise significantly.
  • Coal ash: Under current regulations, coal byproducts are widely recycled, creating jobs and protecting the environment. New EPA regulations could cost more than $20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs.
  • Industrial and commercial boilers: New EPA regulations put nearly 800,000 jobs at risk.
  • Revised ozone: Created without any new scientific evidence, this new rule would have a crushing impact on jobs (in the neighborhood of 7 million jobs lost) and business expansion nationwide with an estimated cost approaching $1 trillion annually. . .

    "No significant regulation should take effect until Congress has voted to approve it and the president has had an opportunity to approve or veto congressional action. Right now, these regulations are free to hide in the shadows of the Federal Register. By shedding additional light on the regulatory beast, we can keep government limited and accountable. . . If the gavel is taken out of Mrs. Pelosi's grasp, we will fight for economic growth and jobs and restore the American public's faith and pride in their government."

    Access the complete op-ed (click here).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Concerns About Formaldehyde & Brazilian Blowout Hair Product

Oct 18: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its product information website regarding "Complaints Associated With the Use of Brazilian Blowout." FDA indicates that it has recently received a number of inquiries from consumers and salon professionals concerning the safety of "Brazilian Blowout" and similar "professional use only" hair care products. FDA says it will continue to monitor this problem and will report on any new developments.
    FDA indicates that it has been notified by some state and local organizations of reports from salons about problems associated with the use of Brazilian Blowout, a product used to straighten hair. Complaints include eye irritation, breathing problems, and headaches. State and local organizations with authority over the operation of salons are currently investigating these reports. FDA has recently received some adverse event reports on Brazilian Blowout from salon personnel or consumers. These reports included symptoms similar to those in the reports received by state and local organizations, as well as symptoms such as rashes and fainting.."
    FDA said it "is working with state and local organizations, as well as OSHA, to determine whether the products or ingredients would be likely to cause health problems under the intended conditions of use. The composition of the products and the labeling, including use instructions and any warning statements, will be factors in this determination. One safety issue we'll be evaluating is whether formaldehyde may be released into the air after the product is applied to the hair and heated."
    The American Chemistry Council's (ACC's) Senior Director, Ann Mason issued a statement saying, "As the manufacturers of formaldehyde, our members take their role as product stewards very seriously. We believe that the producers and users of formaldehyde and other chemicals should follow federal and state regulations, which set limits for the safe and appropriate use of chemicals. Media reports indicate that there are high levels of formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout. We encourage the company that makes the Brazilian Blowout to cooperate fully with government officials to ensure that the product meets federal and state standards for formaldehyde use. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), a national scientific organization that is sanctioned by the FDA to review and assess the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics, classifies formaldehyde in beauty products as 'safe' as long as the substance is no greater than 0.2 percent as free formaldehyde, kept to a minimum, and is not aerosolized. CIR's standards should inform any effort to measure the safety of the Brazilian Blowout and related products."
    The Brazilian Blowout website indicates it is, "The ONLY Professional Smoothing Treatment that improves the health of the hair. No Damage! and No harsh chemicals! CONTAINS NO FORMALDEHYDE!!" However, NPR reports that the Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology tested samples of Brazilian Blowout from a Portland salon and found formaldehyde levels between 8.85 percent and 10.6 percent -- far higher than the 0.2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel.
    Access the FDA website (click here). Access the ACC release and link to additional information (click here). Access a report and links on the NPR website (click here). Access the Brazilian Blowout website (click here).

Monday, October 18, 2010

U.S. Investigates China Re: Green Technologies Trade & Investment

Oct 15: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the United States has initiated an investigation under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act with respect to acts, policies and practices of the Government of China affecting trade and investment in green technologies. The investigation has been initiated in response to a petition filed by the United Steelworkers (USW) on September 9, 2010.

    The 5,800-page USW submission alleges that China employs a wide range of World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent policies that protect and unfairly support its domestic producers of wind and solar energy products, advanced batteries and energy-efficient vehicles, among other products, as China seeks to become the dominant global supplier of these products. According to the petition, these policies include export restraints, prohibited subsidies, discrimination against foreign companies and imported goods, technology transfer requirements, and domestic subsidies causing serious prejudice to U.S. interests. The petition further alleges that China's policies have caused the annual U.S. trade deficit in green-technology goods with China to increase substantially since China joined the WTO, making China the top contributor to the U.S. global trade deficit in the sector.

    Ambassador Kirk said, "The USW has raised issues covering a wide array of Chinese government policies affecting trade and investment in green technologies. This is a vitally important sector for the United States. Green technology will be an engine for the jobs of the future, and this Administration is committed to ensuring a level playing field for American workers, businesses and green technology entrepreneurs. We take the USW's claims very seriously, and we are vigorously investigating them. In light of the large number of allegations and the extensive documentation accompanying them, I have asked my staff to utilize the 90-day period allowed by statute to thoroughly examine and verify the USW's claims. For those allegations that are supported by sufficient evidence and that can effectively be addressed through WTO dispute settlement, we will vigorously pursue the enforcement of our rights through WTO litigation."

    The investigation will consider whether acts, policies, and practices of the Chinese government deny U.S. rights or benefits under the GATT 1994, under the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement (SCM Agreement), and under China's Protocol of Accession to the WTO. Because the issues covered in the China-Green Technology investigation involve U.S. rights under the WTO Agreement, any consultation request will be made under the WTO Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU), and unless consultations result in a mutually acceptable resolution, the U.S. Trade Representative will request the establishment of a WTO panel under the DSU.

    USW released a statement from International President Leo Gerard indicating, "President Obama showed again today that fighting for U.S. workers and their jobs is his top priority.  He's backed up his commitment to a clean energy future by making it crystal clear that future is going to benefit all Americans. By accepting the petition the Steelworkers filed against China's predatory and protectionist policies, it sends the message that America is not going to stand by while our jobs get outsourced.  China and all of our trading partners need to understand that we want fair trade and that we're not going to allow unfair and illegal trade practices to deny our farmers, workers and businesses of the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. . ."
    The USW 301 petition addressed five specific areas:
  • Restrictions on access to critical materials:  Many green technologies depend on critical rare earth elements and other minerals, and China produces 90 percent of the world's supply of these essential inputs.  China denies U.S. producers free access to these inputs (and gives its own producers privileged access to them) through a combination of export quotas, export taxes, and export licenses that violate WTO rules.
  • Performance requirements for investors:  The Chinese government has the power to approve or disapprove of foreign investment agreements in its territory; in practice, joint venture agreements in the green technology sector routinely require U.S. investors to license key technologies to their Chinese counterparts.  Such requirements, if imposed as a condition of investment approval, violate China's WTO commitments. 
  • Discrimination against foreign firms and goods:  China requires that the level of domestic content be considered in approving wind farm concessions, and reportedly required it's first approved solar power plant to use 80 percent Chinese goods.  These and other discriminatory requirements violate WTO rules.
  • Prohibited export subsidies and prohibited domestic content subsidies:  China requires recipients of certain green technology subsidies to use Chinese over imported components or to export a minimum level of production, contrary to WTO rules.  In addition, China outspends the U.S. by 5 to 1 in export credits and insurance, and refuses to conform these subsidies for green technology exports to WTO rules.
  • Trade distorting domestic subsidies:  China's massive subsidies for domestic producers of green technology have propelled its producers over U.S. firms, shut the U.S. out of China's wind market, seized market share from the U.S. in Europe's wind and solar markets, driven down world prices, and caused lost sales in the U.S. market.  The harm these subsidies are causing makes them actionable at the WTO.

    Access Trade Representative blog posting (click here). Access a release from USW on the petition filing and link to a 4-page executive summary (click here). Access a release from USW on the Administration's action (click here).

Friday, October 15, 2010

White House Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Report

Oct 14: The Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released its interagency report -- the Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force -- outlining recommendations to President Obama for how Federal Agency policies and programs can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change. The report recommends that the Federal Government implement actions to expand and strengthen the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change.  The recommended actions include:
  • Make adaptation a standard part of Agency planning to ensure that resources are invested wisely and services and operations remain effective in a changing climate.
  • Ensure scientific information about the impacts of climate change is easily accessible so public and private sector decision-makers can build adaptive capacity into their plans and activities.
  • Align Federal efforts to respond to climate impacts that cut across jurisdictions and missions, such as those that threaten water resources, public health, oceans and coasts, and communities. 
  • Develop a U.S. strategy to support international adaptation that leverages resources across the Federal Government to help developing countries reduce their vulnerability to climate change through programs that are consistent with the core principles and objectives of the President's new Global Development Policy.
  • Build strong partnerships to support local, state, and tribal decision makers in improving management of places and infrastructure most likely to be affected by climate change. 

    The Task Force was guided by a "strategic vision of a resilient, healthy, and prosperous Nation in the face of a changing climate." To achieve the vision, the Task Force identified a set of guiding principles that public and private decision-makers should consider in designing and implementing adaptation strategies. The principles include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adopt Integrated Approaches:  Adaptation should be incorporated into core policies, planning, practices, and programs whenever possible.
  • Prioritize the Most Vulnerable:  Adaptation strategies should help people, places, and infrastructure that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and be designed and implemented with meaningful involvement from all parts of society.
  • Use Best-Available Science:  Adaptation should be grounded in the best-available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts, and vulnerabilities. 
  • Apply Risk-Management Methods and Tools:  Adaptation planning should incorporate risk-management methods and tools to help identify, assess, and prioritize options to reduce vulnerability to potential environmental, social, and economic implications of climate change.
  • Apply Ecosystem-based Approaches:  Adaptation should, where appropriate, take into account strategies to increase ecosystem resilience and protect critical ecosystem services on which humans depend, to reduce vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change.

    The Task Force will continue to meet over the next year as an interagency forum for discussing the Federal Government's adaptation approach and to support and monitor the implementation of recommended actions in the Progress Report. It will prepare another report in October 2011 that documents progress toward implementing its recommendations and provides additional recommendations for refining the Federal approach to adaptation, as appropriate. 

    House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) issued a release from the Committee and said, "The idea of adaptation was once controversial but as the effects of climate change have become clearer, many realize the need to prepare for climate change now, while working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Some worry that exploring options beyond mitigation such as adaptation or climate engineering would decrease our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I believe we need a diverse set of tools in our toolbox to effectively and efficiently respond and adapt to our changing climate. We have to face the facts that emissions may not decrease fast enough to avoid the impacts. I'm glad we have multiple agencies engaged in finding solutions to adapt to the growing threat of climate change. At every level of government we must integrate good science into all adaptation decisions and policies."

    A number of environmental organizations including Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, Outdoor Alliance, American Rivers, National Parks Conservation Association and the Wildlife Conservation Society; issued a joint release on the report. Among the comments on the report, Rebecca Judd, legislative counsel at Earthjustice said, "Because climate change is already here, we urge the Obama Administration to swiftly take the next step and issue more specific direction to its land management agencies in order to help wildlife and natural places better adapt to a rapidly changing environment. When it comes to natural resources and climate change, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The clock is ticking and we need immediate, on-the-ground conservation measures, such as the reduction of human stressors like logging and overgrazing, the establishment of climate refugia and wildlife corridors, and the protection of intact watersheds."

    Access a release from the CEQ (click here). Access a CEQ summary (click here). Access the 72-page report (click here). Access a release from the House Science Committee (click here). Access a release from the environmental organizations (click here). 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Expectations Lowered For Cancun Climate Change Meeting

Oct 13: On October 9, Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations climate change official said on the final day of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Tianjin, China [See WIMS 10/4/10], that countries had made progress over the course of the week in defining what could be achieved at the negotiations upcoming major meeting in Cancún, Mexico, scheduled for November 29 to December 10. She said, "This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancún. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancún, and what may have to be left to later." The meetings drew around 2,500 participants from more than 176 countries

    She said that governments had discussed each element of a package of decisions that they will need to finalize when they meet in Cancún. These include a long-term shared vision, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key operational elements of climate finance and capacity building, along with the future of the Kyoto Protocol. She reminded that under the Protocol, which has been ratified by 191 of the 194 parties to the Convention, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

    The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. Figueres noted that action on climate change that could be agreed in Cancún and beyond was about turning "small climate keys to unlock very big doors" into a new level of climate action among rich and poor, business and consumers, governments and citizens. She said, "If climate financing and technology transfer make it possible to give thousands of villages efficient solar cookers and lights, not only do a nation's entire carbon emissions drop, but children grow healthier, women work easier and families can talk, read and write into the evening. In the end, this is about real people being given the opportunity to take control of their future stability, security and sustainability."

    While Executive Secretary Figueres attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting many observers cited significant differences between the U.S. and China, the two largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. International Institute for Sustainable Development  (IISD) reported in its summary, "Under the AWG-KP [Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol], there appeared to be limited progress on the issue of the base year and length of commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period. . . The AWG-LCA [Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention] made mixed progress, according to many. For technology and REDD+, where substantial progress had been previously reported, many lamented that some parties had begun throwing up roadblocks and backtracking on previous agreements. As one REDD+ negotiator put it, 'this issue was almost ready for adoption in Copenhagen, but it appears now that some are trying to undo what we've achieved to date.'"

    IISD indicates that, "In terms of what this all means for Cancun, expectations have moved from achieving a legally-binding instrument, which was what most had hoped would come out of Copenhagen. Although the form of the final outcome is still unclear, many hope Cancun will at least provide a signal that the AWG-LCA is still working towards a legally-binding outcome. . . For many, this translates into a simple set of decisions outlining the contours of what will be further elaborated in 2011 and, possibly, beyond."

    On October 13, United Nations officials called on industrialized countries to live up to their multi-billion dollar pledges to help the developing world adapt to climate change at a week-long meeting of several hundred African experts at the Seventh African Development Forum. Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Abdoulie Janneh told the Forum, "At Copenhagen, the centrality of financing to underpin effective adaptation and mitigation action was recognized. Industrialized countries then pledged fast track funding of up to $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 and agreed to reach the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 for developing countries to implement balanced climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. It is therefore imperative that decisive actions are made to deliver commitments promised at Copenhagen. Such actions will send a strong signal that the industrialized countries are committed to implementing balanced adaptation and mitigation programs by Africa and other developing countries and to cultivating a strong spirit of trust, compromise and enhanced collective action."

    Access a UN release on Figueres closing comments (click here). Access a webcast of the closing comments and press Q&A (click here). Access an on-demand webcast from the Tianjin Climate Change Conference (click here). Access the detailed documents of the AWG-KP including draft proposal to be discussed in Cancun (click here). Access the detailed documents of the AWG-LCA draft proposal to be discussed in Cancun  (click here). Access an 18-page summary of the meeting from IISD (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to the upcoming Cancun meeting information (click here). Access a release on the ECA Forum (click here).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EPA Grants E15 Ethanol Waiver For 2007 And Newer Vehicles

Oct 13: U.S. EPA waived a limitation on selling fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15 percent ethanol -- known as E15 -- and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. EPA said this represents the first of a number of actions that are needed from Federal, state and industry towards commercialization of E15 gasoline blends. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) extensive testing and other available data on E15's impact on engine durability and emissions. Jackson said, "Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

    A decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after EPA receives the results of additional DOE testing, which is expected to be completed in November. However, EPA said no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks -- or in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines -- because currently there is not testing data to support such a waiver. Since 1979, up to 10 percent ethanol or E10 has been used for all conventional cars and light trucks, and non-road vehicles. Additionally, EPA said several steps are being taken to help consumers easily identify the correct fuel for their vehicles and equipment. First, EPA is proposing E15 pump labeling requirements, including a requirement that the fuel industry specify the ethanol content of gasoline sold to retailers. There would also be a quarterly survey of retail stations to help ensure their gas pumps are properly labeled.
    EPA said this "partial waiver" will allow fuel and fuel additive manufacturers to introduce into commerce gasoline that contains greater than 10 volume percent (vol%) ethanol and up to 15 vol% ethanol (E15) for use in certain motor vehicles once certain other conditions are fulfilled. EPA said, "It is important to remember that there are a number of additional steps that must be completed – some of which are not under EPA control – to allow the sale and distribution of E-15. These include but are not limited to submission of a complete E15 fuels registration application by industry, and changes to some states' laws to allow for the use of E15."

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated an increase in the overall volume of renewable fuels into the marketplace reaching a 36 billion gallon total in 2022. Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel because it is produced from plant products or wastes and not from fossil fuels. Ethanol is blended with gasoline for use in most areas across the country.

    The E15 petition was submitted to EPA by Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers in March 2009. In April 2009, EPA sought public comment on the petition and received about 78,000 comments. The petition was submitted under a Clean Air Act provision that allows EPA to waive the act's prohibition against the sale of a significantly altered fuel if the petitioner shows that the new fuel will not cause or contribute to the failure of the engine parts that ensure compliance with the act's emissions limits.
    On July 29, a bipartisan group of House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Ranking Members Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) urged EPA to reject the use of E15 . The legislators action reinforced an effort by environmental and industry groups, calling on Congress to require thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline [See WIMS 7/22/10].

    Also, on September 28, a diverse group of 23 environmental, consumer, food, auto and other industry organizations asked U.S. EPA to deny a request by ethanol manufacturers seeking authorization for the sale of gasoline containing 12 percent ethanol (E12). The groups include, among many others, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Consumers League, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Grocery Manufacturers Association [See WIMS 9/29/10].
    The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) issued a release today (October 13) advising outdoor power equipment users to be aware of new fuel coming on the market with higher levels of ethanol that could harm equipment sitting in their garages, tool sheds and maintenance buildings. Over two hundred million pieces of outdoor power equipment could be at risk of product failure or voided warranty, including chainsaws, lawnmowers, utility vehicles, generators, snow throwers, trimmers, edgers, pruners, chippers, shredders and blowers. OPEI said, "Consumers need to be aware that until today, the maximum allowable limit of ethanol in gasoline was E10 or 10%. That means, all engine products in use today, with the exception of 'flex-fuel' automobiles, were designed, built and warranted to run on gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol. Use of E15 or higher ethanol blended fuels in any engine product, with the exception of a 'flex-fuel' automobile, could cause performance issues, damage engines, and void the manufacturer's warranty."
    On October 6, the Say NO to Untested E15 campaign announced that more than 22,000 Americans had e-mailed President Obama urging him to stop EPA from approving the 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline "until comprehensive, independent and objective scientific testing can show that higher ethanol levels will not increase air pollution, harm engines or raise consumer safety issues." The group said, "EPA, which has been pressured by some in the ethanol industry to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). . ." They said, ". . .ethanol burns hotter than pure gasoline, corrodes soft metals, and damages plastics and rubber. As a result, more ethanol in gasoline could have serious effects on engine performance and raises potential safety concerns."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) Director of Downstream Operations, Bob Greco, issued a statement saying, "It is disappointing that the EPA did not wait until the testing process was complete to determine if higher levels of ethanol are safe. From data already gathered, use of higher ethanol in gasoline has revealed several areas of concern. EPA needs to make sure that a new fuel is safe for consumers. Rushing through this new fuel standard without complete research may be good politics but is bad public policy. The large majority of today's vehicle warranties only cover gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol.  More ethanol in gasoline could result in the voiding of customer warranties. The EPA also seems to believe that a label on the pump will keep consumers safe from misfueling, but the impacts of misfueling are unknown until the necessary research is completed. . ."
    The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) issued a release saying that "EPA is missing an opportunity to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunity by limiting its decision on E15 (15% ethanol/85% gasoline) to only model year (MY) 2007 and newer vehicles." RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, "EPA's scientifically unjustified bifurcation of the U.S. car market will do little to move the needle and expand ethanol use today. Limiting E15 use to 2007 and newer vehicles only creates confusion for retailers and consumers alike. America's ethanol producers are hitting an artificial blend wall today. The goals of Congress to reduce our addiction to oil captured in the Renewable Fuels Standard cannot be met with this decision."
    Dinneen also pointed out what he called the "apparent legal and scientific disconnect" inherent in EPA's outright denial for MY2000 and older vehicles. He said, "EPA is providing no scientific justification for its decision to bifurcate the market. It's almost as though they pulled the number out of a hat. As test after test has demonstrated, E15 is safe and effective in all light duty vehicles. . . on January 1, 2011, vehicles MY2000 and older will all be out of warranty coverage and beyond their useful lives, thus putting them beyond the regulation of EPA. EPA's overreach to deny E15 for use in vehicles over which they no longer have jurisdiction is beyond puzzling."
    On September 15, RFA released a new "comprehensive engineering analysis" prepared for the association (RFA) and performed by Ricardo, Inc, an internationally recognized engineering firm indicating that, "moving from 10 percent ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent will mean little, if any, change on the performance of older cars and light trucks, those manufactured between 1994 and 2000." [See WIMS 9/16/10].
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access extensive information on the E15 waiver from EPA (click here). Access a release from OPEI with links to more information (click here). Access more information on the campaign -- called "Say NO to Untested E15" -- (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). Access a lengthy release from RFA (click here). Access a release from RFA and link to its complete September 15 report (click here).