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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
"Above all, this funding bill reflects our ongoing commitment to creating a better environment for job growth. It stops several excessive government regulations on job creators. And it includes provisions that will help speed up the development of new American energy. I want to thank Chairman Rogers and his team for all the great work they've done sometimes under difficult circumstances. This is a bipartisan bill put together in a bipartisan way and I expect it to pass with bipartisan support."
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement on the spending bill which she said has been "agreed to by congressional and White House negotiators" and should avert a government shutdown. She said, "Thanks to President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, dozens of anti-environment 'riders' sought by the radical Tea Party and the House Republican leadership have been kept out of the omnibus spending bill. That's a victory for the American people. We've stopped the extremists from blocking restrictions on air pollution, fouling our waters, threatening endangered species and despoiling our public lands.
"Unfortunately, the bill still contains some damaging riders, including one that will weaken air pollution controls in the Arctic and another that will block funding to enforce new light bulb efficiency standards that were signed into law by George W. Bush. Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing on the payroll tax-cut extension bill, to which Republican leaders have attached two major anti-environmental assaults, one short-circuiting review of the Keystone XL pipeline and the other blocking mercury limits on industrial boilers. So the fight is not over. And all this was so unnecessary. If Republican leaders had just let Congress do its job of writing spending and tax bills, lawmakers could have completed their work weeks ago -- without having put the country through another manufactured crisis."
Regarding the payroll tax-cut extension bill, Speaker Boehner's office release a statement saying that "bipartisan support for the Keystone energy project has only continued to grow in the week since President Obama said he would 'reject' legislation supporting the job-creating pipeline. " The statement indicated that, "Yesterday, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told reporters that Keystone 'has the backing of several Democrats.' 'It's always had more Democratic support than people thought,' she said. All told, as many as 14 Senate Democrats are reportedly supportive of Keystone. That's in addition to the 47 House Democrats who voted earlier this year to require the administration to act quickly act on the project. " The statement includes a number of supporting quotes from Senate and House Democrats.
Regarding the light bulb standards rider, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) issued a statement saying, "This decision may have little practical consequence on which incandescent light bulbs are available in stores because, starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to produce or import the inefficient, wasteful bulbs in the United States. The five major bulb manufacturers have already switched to making and selling the better bulbs. If America is to have a rational energy policy, we need to make progress in efficiency. Blocking funds to enforce minimum standards works against our nation getting the full benefits of energy efficiency."
Yesterday evening, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that the final fiscal year 2012 Appropriations legislation "will move forward with the approval of House and Senate conferees." He said, "The House and Senate have reached a final agreement to move forward on the final fiscal year 2012 Appropriations legislation. I am hopeful that the House and Senate can pass this bill tomorrow to prevent a government shutdown, fund critical programs and services for the American people, and cut spending to help put the nation's finances on a more sustainable path. In spite of many unnecessary obstacles, it is good to see that responsible leadership and good governance can triumph." The appropriations bill is, H.R.2055, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (MilCon VA Omnibus).
Today on the House Floor, Chairman Rogers presented the final Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations legislation, which includes the Conference report for the remaining nine Appropriations bills, as well as two other bills that provide funding for disaster recovery and assistance. He said the package cuts federal government spending "to the tune of some $95 billion." He thanked Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA), the Ranking Member and said, "I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan effort to reduce federal spending, responsibly fund our troops and government programs, and provide crucial disaster aid funding."
Media reports indicate that the House is expected to adjourn Friday and return next week to finish the payroll tax legislation. The Senate is expected to work over the weekend on the appropriations bill.
Access the release from Speaker Boehner on the funding bill (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from the Speaker's office on the Keystone XL pipeline (click here). Access the statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access yesterday's statement from Rep. Rogers (click here); and today's Floor statement (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2055 (click here). Access the Conference Report (click here). Access a report from The Hill on the latest activities (click here). [#HR2055, #KeystoneXL, #budget #GOP #DEMS, #taxcut]
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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The report says the lack of effective safety management among the companies involved in the Macondo Well-Deepwater Horizon disaster is evident in the "multiple flawed decisions that led to the blowout and explosion," which killed 11 workers and produced the biggest accidental oil spill in
Donald Winter, former secretary of the Navy, professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan, and chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "The need to maintain domestic sources of oil is great, but so is the need to protect the lives of those who work in the offshore drilling industry as well as protect the viability of the Gulf of Mexico region. Industry and regulators need to include a factual assessment of all the risks in deepwater drilling operations in their decisions and make the overall safety of the many complex systems involved a top priority."
The report indicates that despite challenging geological conditions, alternative techniques and processes were available that could have been used to prepare the exploratory Macondo well safely for "temporary abandonment" -- sealing it until the necessary infrastructure could be installed to support hydrocarbon production. In addition, several signs of an impending blowout were missed by management and crew, resulting in a failure to take action in a timely manner. And despite numerous past warnings of potential failures of blowout preventer (BOP) systems, both industry and regulators had a "misplaced trust" in the ability of these systems to act as fail-safe mechanisms in the event of a well blowout.
The report indicates that BOP systems commonly in use -- including the system used by the Deepwater Horizon -- are neither designed nor tested to operate in the dynamic conditions that occurred during the accident. BOP systems should be redesigned, rigorously tested, and maintained to operate reliably. Proper training in the use of these systems in the event of an emergency is also essential. And while BOP systems are being improved, industry should ensure timely access to demonstrated capping and containment systems that can be rapidly deployed during a future blowout.
The report says that operating companies should have ultimate responsibility and accountability for well integrity because only they possess the ability to view all aspects of well design and operation. The drilling contractor should be held responsible and accountable for the operation and safety of the offshore equipment. Both industry and regulators should significantly expand the formal education and training of personnel engaged in offshore drilling to ensure that they can properly implement system safety. Guidelines should be established so that well designs incorporate protection against the various credible risks associated with the drilling and abandonment process. In addition, cemented and mechanical barriers designed to contain the flow of hydrocarbons in wells should be tested to make sure they are effective, and those tests should be subject to independent, near real-time review by a competent authority.
According to the report, the U.S. Department of the Interior's recent establishment of a Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) program -- which requires companies to demonstrate procedures for meeting explicit goals related to health, safety, and environmental protection -- is a "good first step" toward an enhanced regulatory approach. Regulators should identify and enforce safety-critical points that warrant explicit regulatory review and approval before operations can proceed. Offshore drilling operations are currently governed by a number of agencies, sometimes with overlapping authorities. The
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
"The issue that is of most concern is the question of a chilled working environment at the agency, including the possibility of staff intimidation and harassment, at a time when the senior management and staff are working on critical licensing activities and post-Fukushima safety recommendations. The industry takes safety culture issues seriously and we expect the same priority treatment of these issues by our regulator. The NRC functions best when it has a full complement of five capable commissioners to provide guidance and direction to the NRC staff. Safety is maximized when NRC and industry resources are focused on those matters that are most important to safety. It is important that the dynamics that exist within the commission be resolved professionally and expeditiously so that the important work of the agency can continue without interruption or distraction. The American people expect and deserve nothing less.
"The industry's commitment to nuclear power plant safety is unwavering and we will not be distracted from this mission by events at the NRC. Of the top 20 performing plants in the world, 16 of them are American reactors. The industry exceeds federal safety standards and it is critical that our entire industry keep a sharp focus on safety. Furthermore, the industry is taking steps to make safe nuclear energy facilities even safer by applying the lessons learned from the accident in Japan at America's nuclear power plants."
According to the release Markey's office reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including emails, correspondence, meeting minutes and voting records, and found "a concerted effort by Commissioners William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and George Apostolakis to undermine the efforts of the Fukushima Task Force with request for endless additional study in an effort to delay the release and implementation of the task force's final recommendations. Documents also show open hostility on the part of the four Commissioners toward efforts of NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko to fully and quickly implement the recommendations of the Task Force, despite efforts on the part of the Chairman to keep the other four NRC Commissioners fully informed regarding the Japanese emergency."
Representative Markey said, "The actions of these four Commissioners since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused a regulatory meltdown that has left America's nuclear fleet and the general public at risk. Instead of doing what they have been sworn to do, these four Commissioners have attempted a coup on the Chairman and have abdicated their responsibility to the American public to assure the safety of America's nuclear industry. I call on these four Commissioners to stop the obstruction, do their jobs and quickly move to fully implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster."
Monday, December 12, 2011
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC said, "I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose - a long-term solution to climate change. I sincerely thank the South African Presidency who steered through a long and intense conference to a historic agreement that has met all major issues." In a Reuters media report of various reactions, Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change indicated, "In the end, it ended up quite well. The (Durban platform) is the piece that was the matching piece with the Kyoto Protocol. We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements that we were looking for."
The UNFCCC release indicates that in Durban, governments decided to "adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015." Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the "Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action." Governments, including 35 industrialized countries, "agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013." To achieve rapid clarity, "Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May 1, 2012." Figueres said, "This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol's accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements."
UNFCCC indicates that a significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed to, taking into consideration the "common but differentiated responsibilities" of different countries. In addition to charting the way forward on reducing greenhouse gases in the global context, governments meeting in South Africa agreed the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico. Figueres said, "This means that urgent support for the developing world, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, will also be launched on time." The package includes the Green Climate Fund, an Adaptation Committee designed to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale, and a Technology Mechanism, which are to become fully operational in 2012.
While pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. They therefore decided that the UN Climate Change process shall increase ambition to act and will be led by the climate science in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report and the global Review from 2013-2015. Figueres said, "While it is clear that these deadlines must be met, countries, citizens and businesses who have been behind the rising global wave of climate action can now push ahead confidently, knowing that Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future." The next major UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, COP 18/ CMP 8, is to take place November 26 to December 7, 2012 in Qatar, in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea. UNFCCC summarized the COP17 decisions as follows:
Green Climate Fund
- Countries have already started to pledge to contribute to start-up costs of the fund, meaning it can be made ready in 2012, and at the same time can help developing countries get ready to access the fund, boosting their efforts to establish their own clean energy futures and adapt to existing climate change.
- A Standing Committee is to keep an overview of climate finance in the context of the UNFCCC and to assist the Conference of the Parties. It will comprise 20 members, represented equally between the developed and developing world.
- A focused work program on long-term finance was agreed, which will contribute to the scaling up of climate change finance going forward and will analyze options for the mobilization of resources from a variety of sources.
- The Adaptation Committee, composed of 16 members, will report to the COP on its efforts to improve the coordination of adaptation actions at a global scale.
- The adaptive capacities above all of the poorest and most vulnerable countries are to be strengthened. National Adaptation Plans will allow developing countries to assess and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
- The most vulnerable are to receive better protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events related to climate change.
- The Technology Mechanism will become fully operational in 2012.
- The full terms of reference for the operational arm of the Mechanism - the Climate Technology Centre and Network - are agreed, along with a clear procedure to select the host. The UNFCCC secretariat will issue a call for proposals for hosts on January 16, 2012.
- Governments agreed a registry to record developing country mitigation actions that seek financial support and to match these with support. The registry will be a flexible, dynamic, web-based platform.
- A forum and work program on unintended consequences of climate change actions and policies were established.
- Under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, governments adopted procedures to allow carbon-capture and storage projects. These guidelines will be reviewed every five years to ensure environmental integrity.
- Governments agreed to develop a new market-based mechanism to assist developed countries in meeting part of their targets or commitments under the Convention. Details of this will be taken forward in 2012.
Friday, December 09, 2011
"We are in the international context going to be, hopefully, and I believe that this will be the case, rapidly setting up the Green Fund, rapidly setting up the Climate Technology Center and Network, setting up the Adaptation Committee, among other things. We will also be working hard to ramp up the funding that is supposed to reach a 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. There's a ton of work to be done in the years. We have been doing a lot of work on this, this year, and we will be continuing to do that as are many other countries. And all at the same time, if we get the kind of roadmap that countries have called for -- the EU has called for, that the U.S. supports -- for preparing for and negotiating a future regime, whether it ends up being legally binding or not, we don't know yet, but we are strongly committed to a promptly starting process to move forward on that.
"Take all of those things together; it's nonsense to suggest that what we are doing is proposing a kind of hiatus in dealing with climate change until after 2020. So, I just wanted to make that clear because, after I heard it about the fourth or fifth time in the last few days, and again I've heard this from everywhere from ministers to press reports to the very sincere and passionate young woman who was in the hall when I was giving my remarks. I just wanted to be on the record as saying that, that's just a mistake. It is not true."
"So, I think again that that's a misconception plus, and I won't repeat everything that I just said a second ago about all of the various actions that are going to be taken promptly including the negotiation -- first the preparatory work and then the negotiation of a new regime which, you know, the EU has called for roadmap. We support that and we've -- I talked with the EU at length. I have also talked with my friends in -- from the BASIC countries and others. I mean, if there is a misconception, then it would be a good idea for the word to get out that it is just not accurate.
"Now, it is also not accurate to say, to describe the U.S. as blocking a legally binding agreement. What we are saying -- we, in the first months after I came into this job, we made a proposal. You can look it up if you'd like in -- to the secretariat, to the COP -- for a full, legally binding agreement. We've got the whole thing in the record, which calls for a legally binding agreement that would actually apply to all the major countries and cover the emissions that need to be covered if we are going to have a chance to solve this problem. That is what we proposed. That is exactly where these negotiations ought to be going. That is exactly where the international climate effort ought to be going. I mean, you can run around and pretend that behind this firewall, you are going to take 30 or 35 percent of global emissions and fix the problem. But you know what? You're not. So what the U.S. has been doing over the last two years, with all due respect, has been showing the leadership necessary to try to drag this process into the 21st century."
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
The study, The Economic and Employment Contributions of Shale Gas in the United States, is reportedly the most definitive study to date tracking the long-term economic impact of U.S. shale gas production. It presents the economic contributions of shale gas in terms of jobs, economic value and government revenues through 2035, as well as the broader macroeconomic impacts on households and businesses. The report is the first of three on the economic effects of unconventional gas and oil development in North America. IHS Vice President John Larson, the lead author of the study said, "The rapid growth in shale gas production -- currently 34 percent of total U.S. production -- is one of the most significant energy developments in recent decades and is having a significant impact on the nation's economy in terms of stimulating job creation and economic growth. This study further informs the discussion with a greater understanding of the economic potential from this vast American energy source." Among the study's key findings:
- Shale gas had grown to 27 percent of U.S. natural gas production by 2010; it is currently 34 percent and will reach 43 percent in 2015 and more than double by 2035 to 60 percent
- In 2010, the shale gas industry supported more than 600,000 jobs; by 2015 the total will likely grow to nearly 870,000 and to more than 1.6 million by 2035
- Nearly $1.9 trillion in cumulative capital investments are expected to be made between 2010 and 2035
- Annual capital expenditures, especially strong in the early years, will grow to $48.1 billion in 2015
- The shale gas contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was more than $76.9 billion in 2010; in 2015 it will be $118.2 billion and will triple to $231.1 billion in 2035
- Over the next 25 years, the shale gas industry will generate more than $933 billion in tax revenues for local, state and the federal governments
- Savings from lower gas prices, as well as the associated lower prices for other consumer purchases, equate to an annual average addition of $926 in disposable income per household between 2012 and 2015, and increase to more than $2,000 per household in 2035 on an annual basis
According to a release, the report's findings reflect the dramatic impact of shale gas production in the United States. As recently as 2007, it was believed that the country would soon need to import large volumes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for domestic consumption. Instead, shale gas production has more than doubled the size of the discovered natural gas resource in North America -- enough to satisfy more than 100 years of consumption at current rates. A key reason for the shale gas industry's profound economic impact is its high "employment multiplier" -- the indirect and induced jobs created to support an industry. For every direct job created in the shale gas sector, more than three indirect and induced jobs are created, a rate higher than the financial and construction industries.
The study also found that shale gas and related jobs pay higher wages on average -- currently $23.16 per hour -- than those paid to workers in manufacturing, transportation and education. The IHS Global Insight study measured the broader impact of lower natural gas prices, finding that over the 2010-2035 period prices on average would be at least two times higher absent shale gas production. This impact is even greater now and over the next few years when prices would have been two-and-a-half to three times higher. The lower natural gas prices have resulted in a 10 percent reduction in electricity costs nationally and that flows through the economy to lead to lower prices for many other consumer purchases.
Lower gas prices also boost the international competitiveness of domestic manufacturers, resulting in 2.9 percent higher industrial production by 2017 and 4.7 percent higher production by 2035. Larson said, "Absent the added supply from shale gas production, large volumes of LNG imports would be required and U.S. consumers would be paying European or even Asian prices which are two to three times what they are today here in the U.S. The benefits of that savings reverberate through the wider economy."
In measuring the economic contribution of shale gas, the study fully "sized" the economic influence of the industry by capturing all the supply chain and income effects associated with shale gas activity in the U.S. The results of the production and capital expenditure profile analysis were integrated into a customized modeling approach developed by IHS Global Insight. This approach links Input-Output modeling techniques similar to those used by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Congressional Budget Office with the dynamic modeling capabilities of proprietary IHS models to capture the industry's comprehensive contribution and impact on the economy. ... indicated that, "The results represent a conservative estimate."
Speaking at the "West Virginia: Energy Powering Economic Development" summit called by WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, on December 6, American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley reinforced the economic and employment opportunities from shale gas development. Dooley said, "While many experts have focused on the jobs and revenues that could come from exploration and production of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, the manufacturing story is just beginning to be told. Shale gas could generate thousands of new jobs in the chemical industry and its supply chain. It's one of the most promising developments for new manufacturing jobs in at least a decade."
He said, "Affordable, abundant shale gas is creating a global competitive advantage for the domestic petrochemical industry. After years of high, volatile natural gas prices that helped lead to the loss of 140,000 chemical jobs, the industry is expanding once again. Chemical manufacturers make a key product, ethylene, from the ethane found in shale gas, giving U.S. companies a significant edge over Western European competitors using a more expensive, oil-based feedstock. New chemical business can spur growth in supplier sectors, help produce more materials for export, and create jobs." Dooley noted. A recent ACC study found that the $3.2 billion investment in a major ethylene production complex in West Virginia would generate 12,000 jobs in chemical and supplier industries, $729 million in wages and $95 million in state tax revenue. Nationally, a 25 percent increase in ethane production would result in nearly 400,000 new jobs. He said, "Shale gas is a game changer."
Access a release from IHS Global Insight (click here). Access a required registration form to download the complete report (click here). Access the ANGA website for additional information (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). [#Energy/NatGas]
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011
"So, in order for there to be a legally binding agreement that makes sense, all the major players are going to have to be in with obligations, with commitments that have the same legal force. It doesn't mean they have to be exactly the same thing, but they have to apply with the same legal effect to all parties. And that means there's no conditionality, they're not conditional on receiving technology or financing, there's no trap doors, there's no Swiss cheese in that kind of an agreement. So that's imperative, and there are many parties who talk about a legally binding agreement, which would be kind of consistent with the structure that they see in the Bali Roadmap under which developed countries have legally, mandatory obligations, and developing countries have what are called in the somewhat arcane lexicon of this business, NAMAs -- Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions -- which are understood to be voluntary actions. So a legally binding agreement that is premised on that kind of division would not make any sense.
"China has not been willing to do the kind of legally binding agreement that I'm talking about. It would also incidentally -- any future legally binding agreement -- could not be premised on a 1992 division of countries. It just doesn't make any sense. The world has changed dramatically since 1992, so to the extent that there is any division of countries in an agreement going forward, it would have to evolve dynamically to reflect the changes in economic and emissions growth over the years."
On December 6, Stern held another briefing. In response to a question regarding the future of the Kyoto Protocol he said, ". . .it is very kind of normal in this climate change world from the perspective of press, observers, and sort of everybody who is involved to think about the legal-bindingness as the kind of sole indicator of what is important or significant. And we don't agree with that.
"It is an element and, in the right circumstances, it might be a good element. But it is certainly not the only element. And you know, as I have said on many occasions, when you look at Cancun, you look at Kyoto right now, let's assume, as I said that Kyoto goes forward in some fashion in Durban, it is likely to cover somewhere in the vicinity of 15 percent of global emissions.
"Cancun includes submissions, either targets or actions from developed and developing countries. I have lost track of the exact number of countries, but it is upwards of 80 or more countries, who made submissions and more than 80 percent of global emissions being covered. And these weren't kind of casual, you know, we'll think about doing X, Y or Z. These were, it was first of all made under the, in the context of a decision of the COP last year. Made under a legally binding treatythe Framework Conventionand they are serious submissions that I think all the countries who made them intend to carry them out. . ."
Access the complete December 5 transcript of the press briefing and the Q&A's (click here). Access the complete December 6 transcript of the press briefing and the Q&A's (click here). Access a complete index of day-by-day briefing session webcasts on-demand including Todd Stern's December 5 & 6 briefing (click here). Access the U.S. State Department COP17 website for details on the U.S. activities (click here). Access links to complete information from the UNFCCC website (click here). Access the CO.NX digital diplomacy team website with the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) at the U.S. Department of State for a back-stage pass to COP17 (click here). [#Climate]
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