Monday, February 28, 2011

Review Of Low-Carbon Development In China 2010

Feb 25: A study by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) -- Review of Low-Carbon Development in China 2010 -- found that through 2009, China was on track to meet the 20% energy intensity reduction target in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP 2006-2010), reversing the trend of increasing energy intensity from 2002 to 2005. Carbon intensity fell as a result of decreasing energy intensity, demonstrating the importance of energy efficiency in the transition to a low-carbon economy; with additional carbon-specific policies, China could expect carbon intensity to fall faster than energy intensity in the future. CPI's initial analysis also found that many of the measures implemented in the 11th Five Year Plan were top-down administrative measures that used significant resources, and that some policies, such as plant closures, will be more expensive to implement moving forward. According to CPI, the key findings of the study included:
Through 2009, China was on track to meeting its energy intensity targets.  These targets called for a reversal of the trend of increasing energy intensity experienced between 2002 and 2005.  
Through 2009, China was on track to meeting its energy intensity targets.  These targets called for a reversal of the trend of increasing energy intensity experienced between 2002 and 2005.  
Through 2009, China was on track to meeting its energy intensity targets.  These targets called for a reversal of the trend of increasing energy intensity experienced between 2002 and 20 Through 2009, China was on track to meet its energy intensity targets.  These targets called for a reversal of the trend of increasing energy intensity experienced between 2002 and 2005.  
  1. Through 2009, China was on track to meet its energy intensity targets. These targets called for a reversal of the trend of increasing energy intensity experienced between 2002 and 2005.
  2. China's carbon emissions intensity fell largely as a result of reduced energy intensity, demonstrating the important role of energy efficiency in the transition to a low-carbon economy. With additional carbon-specific policies, China could expect carbon intensity to fall faster than energy intensity in the future. 
  3. Our initial analysis indicates that many of the policies implemented to meet the 11th FYP target are top-down administrative measures. These required significant financial and human resources and may not be the most cost-effective way to achieve future targets.
  4. Much of the low-hanging fruit for reducing energy intensity has been picked, for example, replacing old power plants with new, more energy-efficient plants. Further reductions in energy intensity during the 12th FYP period could impose higher costs on the economy.
  5. In the power sector, CO2 emission increased 28% during the first three years of the 11th FYP period, but primary energy use per kWh decreased as the efficiency of China's coal-fired generation capacity improved an average of 5%, primarily due to the closure of old plants and replacement by newer, more efficient plants.  CO2 per kWh decreased 6.5% for the power sector as a whole due to this increased efficiency and the addition of low-carbon generation.
  6. In the industrial sector, carbon emissions and energy use per unit of industrial value added were, respectively, 14.8% and 13.3% lower in 2008 than 2005, reflecting slower growth in energy-intensive heavy industry relative to other subsectors, a shift to higher value added products, and significant efficiency improvements in several subsectors. 
  7. In the building sector, energy use grew by 28% and carbon emissions by 25% from 2005 to 2008, primarily due to higher living standards and increased urbanization. At the national level, energy use per square meter of building stock increased, although this trend slowed in 2008. Policies targeting district heating in northern China delivered significant reductions in energy consumption per square meter. 
  8. Energy consumption in the transport sector grew 25% between 2005 and 2008.  While the energy intensity for most transport modes remained stable or improved slightly, the share of energy intensive transport modes such as road and air transport increased.
  9. Agriculture is the only sector in which direct energy-related emissions declined during the 11th FYP period.  Non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions were stable, however, CO2 emissions embedded in fertilizer production grew, leading to a small net increase in overall agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.  China's forestry development, especially the large scale of afforestation, contributed significantly to the building of carbon sinks, adding 420MtCO2 per year on average to the current stock, an amount nearly four times of CO2 emission from direct fossil fuel combustion in agriculture and forestry.
    According to an Executive Summary, in 2006, China began its 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) with the explicit goal of reducing the energy intensity of the Chinese economy by 20%. The goal was set, in part, to address the disturbing reversal in 2002-2005 of the long-term decline in energy intensity, but it also addressed other trends, which increased the energy efficiency imperative: the acceleration of GDP growth and the accompanying expansion of energy-intensive heavy industry; rapidly increasing energy and commodity prices; rapid expansion of the coal industry, leading to infrastructure strains; and China's emergence as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

    Chapter 22 of the 11th FYP set the following strategies to meet the 20% energy intensity reduction goal: "The government shall strengthen policies that induce energy conservation and energy efficiency increase. Energy conservation can be achieved through structural changes (optimizing industrial structure and reducing the share of energy-intensive industries), technology improvement (developing and disseminating energy conservation technologies) and better management practices (institutional development and more effective regulation of energy production, transmission and consumption). Industries with priority for energy conservation are iron and steel, non-ferrous metal, coal, electricity, chemistry, building material and other energy-intensive industries. The implementation of vehicle fuel economy policies shall be enhanced and the inefficient old vehicles shall be phased out. Standards for alternative liquid fuels shall be developed to support the alternative fuel industry. The production and consumption of highly energy efficient products shall be encouraged."    

    Climate Policy Initiative is a policy effectiveness research and advisory service whose mission is to assess, diagnose, and support nations' efforts to achieve low-carbon growth.  An independent, not-for-profit research organization with long-term support from George Soros, CPI has headquarters offices in San Francisco and regional offices in Berlin, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Venice.

    Access a release from CPI (click here). Access the 50-page Executive Summary (click here). Access the summary of key findings (click here). 

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Ceres Report On Improving Climate Risk & Opportunity Disclosure

Feb 25: Amid growing evidence that climate change is impacting the global environment and the global economy, the Ceres investor coalition announced a new report aimed at improving corporate disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities they face. The Ceres report, developed with input from its 90-plus member Investor Network on Climate Risk, outlines generally weak climate disclosure to date by businesses and steps for improving such disclosure, especially in annual 10-K financial filings that are next due from companies by March 31, 2011. It comes just a week after the consulting firm Mercer issued a new study warning that climate change could increase investment portfolio risk by 10 percent over the next 20 years. On February 15, Mercer's Responsible Investment (RI) team released, Climate Change Scenarios - Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation.

    Ceres president Mindy Lubber said, "Adjusting to a world profoundly shaped by climate change is a key challenge for all leading companies. Ensuring that investors are getting timely, material information on climate-related impacts, including regulatory and physical impacts, is essential. This report sets the bar on what investors expect on climate disclosure so that they better understand which companies are well positioned for the future and which are not." Anne Stausboll, chief executive officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest public pension fund, which provided input on the report said, "As a long-term investor, we need a clear account of the environmental challenges and opportunities facing the companies we choose to invest in. The roadmap offered by this report will guide all of us -- investors and business alike -- as we incorporate climate risk into our due diligence and our overall investment strategy."

    The Ceres report -- Disclosing Climate Risk & Opportunities In SEC Filings, A Guide For Corporate Executives, Attorneys & Directors -- comes one year after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued formal interpretive guidance for companies on climate-related information they should be disclosing to investors in their 10-Ks or 20-Fs, as well as quarterly filings [See WIMS 1/28/10]. The guidance, issued last February, capped a multi-year effort by leading investors, state law enforcement officials and others to boost corporate attention to the quality of their climate-related disclosure. According to a release, the report makes clear that while many more companies are disclosing climate-related information in voluntary reports -- such as annual reports, sustainability reports and Carbon Disclosure Project responses -- the quality of overall disclosure is still less than satisfactory.

    The report concludes that, "Assessments of corporate disclosure practices on climate change show significant improvements in recent years, particularly in voluntary disclosures. However, overall disclosure continues to be highly inconsistent and often inadequate, particularly in mandatory filings, and frequently fails to meet the needs of investors." Still, the report includes a half-dozen concrete examples of "good quality disclosure" in financial filings by companies such as Chiquita Brands International, Siemens, Rio Tinto, AES and Xcel Energy. It also lists examples of "poor" and "weak" disclosure.

    The report also includes an 11-point checklist to help companies to improve the quality of their disclosure and position themselves to respond more effectively. Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management. Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management said, "This document will be an important catalyst in the major shift in attitudes towards climate change that is now taking place in the investment industry. Institutional investors everywhere are recognizing that climate change is a risk they must take full account of in their overall portfolios. As DB Climate Change Advisors demonstrated in its own recent report on this issue, Investing in Climate Change 2011, greater  transparency and better information from companies is essential to enable them to assess the risk effectively. Ceres' report is critical in defining what investors need to know in setting the standard of information companies must aim at."

    Access a release from Ceres with more information and link to the complete report and the Mercer report (click here). Access last year's SEC's interpretive guidance (click here). Access the SEC website for more information (click here).

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Reaction To EPA's Final "Boiler MACT" Rules

Feb 23: The following represents additional reaction to U.S. EPA's issuance of the final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators -- the so-called "Boiler MACT" rules [See WIMS 2/23/11]. EPA said the standards will achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year. EPA indicates that mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. EPA said the standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014. Yesterday WIMS reported on the details of the rules and the early reactions of National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Earthjustice and Sierra Club.
    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) indicated that they were reiterating their concerns about efforts by EPA to finalize boiler and incinerator rules "despite the agency's own acknowledgement of a flawed rulemaking process and product." In mid-January, a Federal district court denied the EPA's request for a 15-month extension on the final emissions standards for boilers and incinerators -- rules that will affect thousands of manufacturing and industrial facilities, small businesses, educational institutions, hospitals, and local agencies. They said they continue to believe the new rules have the potential to impose significant economic harm and underscore the dangers of the agency's flawed regulatory tactics.
    In a joint statement the two said, "How can anyone have confidence in rules that the EPA was admittedly unprepared to issue just weeks ago? However, we are not the only ones lacking confidence. It is extraordinary that EPA itself announced that it will be filing for reconsideration of the rules on the very same day they were released. This is not how the rulemaking process is supposed to work. If the rules needs to be reconsidered, then let's take the time to get this done right to protect public health and jobs.

    "At a time when we are enduring 21 consecutive months of 9 percent or higher unemployment, we cannot afford to rush sweeping regulations that have the potential to do more harm than good. For example, the proposed rules were estimated to put more than 300,000 jobs at risk. The EPA was operating under court order to meet this week's deadline, but we continue to believe sound policymaking should trump arbitrary timelines. If congressional intervention is needed to provide EPA the time it needs to provide careful, defensible rules that will not invite additional judicial challenge, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is prepared to act. The American public deserves a thoughtful, deliberative ruling that it can have faith in."

    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee issued a statement saying, "The regulations released today provide another example of how EPA can both curb toxic air pollution and save lives cost-effectively, using industry input and sound science. EPA's action stands in stark contrast to the campaign that House Republicans launched on the House floor last week to prevent limits on toxic pollution that endangers the health of children, pregnant women and the elderly. I'm not holding my breath that industry-friendly Republicans will support the EPA's new anti-pollution rules, but the public's health and well-being depend on putting these standards in place as soon as possible."

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it welcomed the EPA changes in the standards; however, it believes further improvements are needed.  Cal Dooley, President and CEO of ACC said, "We commend EPA for its commitment to improving the Boiler MACT standards. The final rules show progress, but because the courts denied EPA's request for more time, more must be done to ensure important adjustments are made. We strongly support a reconsideration of the rules. By listening to stakeholders, seeking new data and revisiting early conclusions, we believe EPA had begun to lay the groundwork for more effective, less costly regulations that can help avoid the loss of U.S. business investment and jobs. Now EPA deserves the time to finish the job. Major industries, small businesses, municipalities and institutions across the country will be affected by the outcome."

    ACC listed what it considered "improvements" EPA made to the final rules as: More realistic emission limits based on its revised methodology; Work practice standards for Gas 2 fired boilers using clean burning fuels; Adjustments to emissions limits based on fuel variability; Work practices for periods of start-up and shut-down; and An acknowledgement that solid fuel boilers can burn a variety of fuels. However, ACC said it will continue to make additional changes including: The use of alternative health-based emissions limits; The use of a pollutant-by-pollutant approach to set limits; and Work practices for periods of malfunction.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Clean Air Project Director John Walke issued a statement saying, "EPA could have done more, but these standards accomplish long overdue, needed cuts in mercury, benzene, heavy metal and acid gas pollution from industrial plants. While the final biomass standards are notably relaxed in response to industry complaints, overall the safeguards still will save up to 6,500 lives, avoid 4,000 heart attacks, and prevent more than 46,000 cases of aggravated asthma and bronchitis every year. Americans deserve these tremendous health benefits without political interference by Congress."

    The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) issued a release indicating that EPA's actions would "preserve scrap tire markets and ensure the continued success of scrap tire management." RMA said the rule allows annually generated scrap tires that are removed from vehicles to be used as fuel by an industrial facility. Cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and electric utilities are the major users of tire derived fuel (TDF).

    RMA said in its proposed rule, EPA recommended that annually generated tires be processed to remove the metal before being considered a fuel under the Clean Air Act. However, "that provision would have merely increased the energy consumption, air emissions and costs associated with delivering tire derived fuels to industrial customers without any environmental benefit." RMA said it recognizes that "EPA is still requiring processing of whole tires removed from historical scrap tire stockpiles. RMA continues to encourage EPA to consider a more expansive definition of processing to allow these whole tires to be combusted as tire derived fuel." RMA said it continues to evaluate the final rule for additional insights and impacts on the tire industry.

    Charles Cannon, RMA president and CEO said, "EPA clearly listened to the arguments advocated by RMA and other key stakeholders to deliver a rule that ensures continued improvement in scrap tire management efforts in the U.S. While we are still analyzing several aspects of this final rule, the big picture is that this is a victory for the environment and for RMA's scrap tire advocacy efforts."

    Access a release from Representatives Upton & Whitfield (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access a release from ACC with link to more information (click here). Access a statement from NRDC (click here). Access the complete release from RMA (click here).

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EPA Issues Revised, Less Costly, Final "Boiler MACT" Rules

Feb 23: In response to Federal court orders in Sierra Club v. EPA requiring the issuance of final standards [See WIMS 1/21/11], U.S. EPA issued final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators -- the so-called "Boiler MACT" rules -- that EPA says will achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year. EPA indicates that mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. These standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014.
    Industry and Congressional members have said the originally proposed rules would cost billions and are "unachievable" for manufacturers, universities, and municipalities that use boilers to power their facilities; and put thousands of jobs at risk and could force many manufacturing plants to close their doors. A group of Senators told EPA last week that "Congress stands ready to assist the agency to produce a rule that lowers emissions without putting jobs and manufacturing plants across the country at risk." [See WIMS 2/22/11]. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) indicated that it has estimated that the so-called, "Boiler MACT" rules "would jeopardize some 60,000 jobs and impose capital costs on the order of $3.8 billion in the chemical industry alone."

    In response to a September 2009 court order, EPA issued the proposed rules in April 2010, prompting significant public input. The proposed rules followed a period that began in 2007, when a Federal court vacated a set of industry specific standards proposed during the Bush Administration. Based on the public input received following the April 2010 proposal, EPA made extensive revisions, and in December 2010 requested additional time for review to ensure the public's input was fully addressed. EPA was seeking in its motion to the court an extension to finalize the rules by April 13, 2012.
Instead, the court granted EPA 30 days, resulting in today's announcement.

    Based on input from key stakeholders including the public, industry and the public health communities, EPA said its latest announcement represents "a dramatic cut in the cost of implementation, while maintaining maximum public health benefits." As a result, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will see between $10 to $24 in health benefits, including fewer premature deaths.

    The Agency received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities across the country in response to the proposed rules. Public input included a significant amount of information that industry had not provided prior to the proposal. Based on this feedback, and in keeping with President Obama's executive order on regulatory review [See WIMS 1/18/11], EPA revised the draft standards based on the requested input to provide additional flexibility and cost effective techniques -- achieving significant pollution reduction and important health benefits, while lowering the cost of pollution control installation and maintenance by about 50 percent, or $1.8 billion.

    Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation said, "The Clean Air Act standards we are issuing today are based on the best available science and have benefitted from significant public input. As a result, they put in place important public health safeguards to cut harmful toxic air emissions that affect children's development, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks at costs substantially lower than we had estimated under our original proposal."

    Because the final standards significantly differ from the previous proposals, EPA believes further public review is required. Therefore, EPA will reconsider the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows the Agency to seek additional public review and comment to ensure full transparency. EPA's reconsideration will cover the emissions standards for large and small boilers and for solid waste incinerators. EPA will release additional details on the reconsideration process in the near future to ensure the public, industry and stakeholders have an opportunity to participate.

    EPA says about 200,000 boilers are located at small and large sources of air toxic emissions across the country. The final standards require many types of boilers to follow practical, cost-effective work practice standards to reduce emissions. To ensure smooth implementation, EPA is working with the departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) to provide the diverse set of facilities impacted by the standards with technical assistance that will help boilers burn cleaner and more efficiently. DOE will work with large coal and oil-burning sources to help them identify clean energy strategies that will reduce harmful emissions and make boilers run more efficiently and cost-effectively. In addition, USDA will reach out to small sources to help owners and operators understand the standards and their cost and energy saving features.

    The types of boilers and incinerators covered by these updated standards include:
  • Boilers at large sources of air toxics emissions: There are about 13,800 boilers located at large sources of air pollutants, including refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities. These standards will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, organic air toxics and dioxins at some of the largest pollution sources. EPA estimates that the costs of implementation have been reduced by $1.5 billion from the proposed standard. Health benefits to children and the public associated with reduced exposure to fine particles and ozone from these large source boilers are estimated to be $22 billion to $54 billion in 2014.
  • Boilers located at small sources of air toxics emissions: There are about 187,000 boilers located at small sources of air pollutants, including universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings that may be covered by these standards. Due to the small amount of emissions these sources are responsible for, EPA has limited the impact of the final rule making on small entities. The original standards for these have been dramatically refined and updated to ensure maximum flexibility for these sources, including for some sources, revising the requirement from maximum achievable control technology to generally available control technology. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $209 million.
  • Solid waste incinerators: There are 88 solid waste incinerators that burn waste at a commercial or an industrial facility, including cement manufacturing facilities. These standards, which facilities will need to meet by 2016 at the latest, will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $12 million.
    In separate but related actions, EPA announced it is finalizing emission standards for sewage sludge incinerators. While there are more than 200 sewage sludge incinerators across the country, EPA expects that over 150 are already in compliance. These standards will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, and hydrogen chloride from the remaining 50 that may need to leverage existing technologies to meet the new standards.

    EPA said it has also identified which non-hazardous secondary materials are considered solid waste when burned in combustion units. This distinction determines which Clean Air Act standard is applied when the material is burned. The non-hazardous secondary materials that can be burned as non-waste fuel include scrap tires managed under established tire collection programs. This step simplifies the rules and provides additional clarity and direction for facilities. To determine that materials are non-hazardous secondary materials when burned under the new rule, materials must not have been discarded and must be legitimately used as a fuel. EPA said it "recognizes that secondary materials are widely used today as raw materials, as products, and as fuels in industrial processes. [and] believes that the final rule helps set protective emissions standards under the Clean Air Act." The emissions standards for sewage sludge incinerators and the definition of solid waste are not part of today's reconsideration.
    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse reacted quickly to the EPA announcement and said, "The new Boiler MACT rule will have an immediate, negative impact on manufacturers' bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs. This is a harsh, inflexible rule that will cost jobs, hurt global competiveness and may discourage projects that could otherwise lead to environmental improvements. This is the latest example of the EPA's aggressive, overreaching agenda. We urge the EPA to undertake a common-sense approach that encourages economic growth, job creation and thoughtful regulatory policy."
    The public interest law firm that represented Sierra Club in the lawsuit, Earthjustice, issued a release saying, "This commonsense air toxics safeguard, often called the "Boiler MACT (Maximum Available Control Technology)," will save thousands of lives, and prevent thousands of cases of asthma attacks, heart attacks and hospital visits." Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said, "Corporate polluters are literally making us sick, and these long overdue protections from EPA will save lives and improve the health of millions of Americans. Though the announcement today is modest by comparison to the proposals put forth by the EPA last June, we urge Administrator Lisa Jackson to forge ahead to protect our children and families' health." James Pew, staff attorney at Earthjustice said, "If the corporate lobbyists succeed in killing these health protections, Americans will pay the price with the lives and health of their family members. Controlling the toxic pollution from industrial boilers will save lives, prevent billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, and put thousands of Americans to work."
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access links to the final rules, fact sheets, and regulatory impact analyses for each of EPA's regulatory actions (click here). Access more information from EPA's Emissions Standards for Boilers and Process Heaters and Commercial / Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators website (click here). Access a release from NAM (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice including the Sierra Club comments (click here).
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Monumental Accomplishment For Taxpayers" Is "Dead On Arrival"

Feb 22: At about 4:40 AM, Saturday morning (Feb. 19) the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) providing funding for the Federal Government for the remaining part of Fiscal Year 2011 (ending September 30), by a vote of 235-189 entirely along party lines. No Democrats voted for the bill and 3 Republicans voted with Democrats against the bill.
    Republicans and Democrats obviously had strikingly different views on the bill and its passage. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the passage was a "Monumental Accomplishment for American Taxpayers"; while the Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) said the bill was "encumbered with an array of ideologically-driven provisions that will surely render it dead on arrival in the other body and virtually impossible for the President to sign it into law."
    The deadline to pass a new CR is March 4, 2011, to avoid a government-wide shutdown. To make matters worse, the U.S. Senate, where the bill now resides, is on recess for the remainder of the week and does not return until February 28, leaving four days to pass and sign a bill. However, efforts are already underway to extend the timelines (see below).
    Chairman Rogers said, "This bill is a monumental accomplishment for each and every American who believes that their government is spending too much. It dramatically scales back the size and scope of domestic government programs, eliminates $100 billion in spending compared to what the President asked for last year, and will mark the beginning of a new trend of reductions that will take place throughout the next year. We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed. While these choices were difficult to make, we strived to spread the sacrifice fairly, weeding out waste and excess, with a razor-sharp focus on making the most out of every taxdollar. . .
    "In addition to spending cuts, the legislation also contains multiple provisions to stop harmful regulations or programs that would hurt the nation's economy and inhibit the ability of American businesses to create jobs, such as onerous EPA 'greenhouse gas' regulations, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility application process, and the Obama Administration's health care reform act. The hand of government has reached too far into Americans' everyday lives, hindering our freedoms and impairing our economic recovery. This legislation will help stop harmful regulations, misguided laws, and over-reaching bureaucracies to allow our businesses to create jobs and our economy to thrive." 
    Ranking Member Dicks said, ". . . I believed the Republican approach to deficit reduction was too narrow and too focused on non-security discretionary spending – the smallest segment of spending in the budget.  Those spending levels would undoubtedly have been detrimental to our task of creating jobs and assuring our economic recovery. And I expressed my view that this specious concept of "cut and grow" had no basis in sound economic theory. . . the most conservative members of the Republican caucus objected and demanded that their leaders impose an additional $26 billion in budget cuts simply in order to adhere to an arbitrary $100 billion level that was pulled out of thin air and inserted into a campaign press release last fall. . .
    "While the debate has been a healthy debate, exposing the clear divisions in this body between our two parties over what we believe should be our budget priorities, the resulting product does not in any way represent a consensus view of this body and I believe it represents a prescription for further harm to our fragile economy and it imposes unfair cuts that will disproportionately affect many of our citizens who are least able to afford them. . . The Republican leadership knows that there is zero chance for this legislation to pass in the other body, and most likely we will see a completely different bill return to the House shortly before March 4th, presenting the prospect of a government shutdown if a compromise version cannot be achieved by then. While I believe it would be a serious mistake for the Republican leadership to let that happen, I worry that we are headed inexorably in that direction. . ."
    The CR was considered in an historic and unprecedented open process on the House floor that included more than 580 amendments offered by both parties and a grueling 60-plus hours of public debate. Of these amendments, 67 were accepted or passed, changing the underlying legislation and according to Chairman Rogers, "reflecting the fair representation of the American people. In all, the successful amendments included more than $620 million in additional spending cuts."
    In addition to the major cuts contained in H.R. 1, including for example nearly a 30% cut in U.S. EPA's budget, some of the environmental and energy related amendments in the final bill included:
  • An amendment by Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) to eliminate $8.4 million from the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Registry, a program that collects data on industrial greenhouse gas emissions, returning its funding to 2008 levels.
  • An amendment from Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) to eliminate $1.5 million for the "Greening of the Capitol" initiative from the Legislative Branch section of the CR.
  • An amendment from Rep. McClintock (R-CA) that eliminates $20 million for tropical forest debt reduction, affecting the Department of the Treasury, Debt Restructuring portion of the CR.
  • An amendment from Rep. Scalise (R-LA) that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay the salaries and expenses of the following "czars," or special presidential advisers who are not required to go through the Senate confirmation process: Obama Care Czar, Climate Change Czar, Global Warming Czar, Green Jobs Czar, Car Czar, Guantanamo Bay Closure Czar, Pay Czar and Fairness Doctrine Czar.
  • An amendment from Rep. Carter (R-TX) that prohibits the use of funds to implement, administer or enforce the rule entitled "National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants," published by the Environmental Protection Agency on September 9, 2010, which limits the levels of mercury in cement.
  • An amendment from Rep. Lummis (R-WY) to put a moratorium, for the duration of the CR, on the payment of legal fees to citizens and groups who sue the government, in order to study abuses in the system.
  • An amendment from Rep. Young (R-AK) to prohibit funds from being used by the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board to consider, review, reject remand or other invalidate any permit issued for Outer Continental Shelf sources located offshore of the States along the Arctic Coast.
  • An amendment from Reps. Poe (R-TX), Barton (R-TX) and Carter (R-TX) that defines specifically what greenhouse gases are and prohibits the EPA from imposing regulations on those gasses emitted by a stationary source for seven months.
  • An amendment from Rep. McClintock (R-CA) that prohibits funds from being used to implement the Klamath (California) Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study, conducted by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • An amendment by Rep. Herger (R-CA) that prohibits the use of funds to implement or enforce the Travel Management Rule, which would close roads and trails on National Forest System land.
  • An amendment from Rep. Johnson (R-OH) to prohibit the use of funds for the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) from moving forward with a proposed rule that would effectively eliminate the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, a rule that presently allows surface mining operations with qualified permits to work within 100 feet of a stream.
  • An amendment from Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) that would prohibit EPA funding for enforcement of total maximum daily loads in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • An amendment from Rep. Rooney (R-FL) that prohibits funding for the EPA to impose and enforce federally mandated numeric Florida water quality standards.
  • An amendment from Rep. Flake (R-AZ) that prohibits funds from being used to construct ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.
  • An amendment from Rep. Hall (R-TX) prohibiting funds to implement a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Service, part of the President's fiscal year 2012 budget request.
  • An amendment from Rep. Griffith (R-VA) prohibiting the EPA, Corps of Engineers and the Office of Surface Mining from implementing coordination procedures that have served to extend and delay the review of coal mining permits.
  • An amendment from Rep. Jones (R-NC) that prohibits the use of funds from being used to develop or approve a new limited access privilege program – "catch-shares" – for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
  • An amendment from Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) that prohibits the use of funds for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • An amendment from Rep. Sullivan (R-OK) that blocks funds for the EPA to implement a waiver to increase the ethanol content in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.
  • An amendment from Rep. McKinley (R-WV) that prohibits funding for the EPA to deny proposed and active mining permits under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, specifically to revoke retroactively a permit for the Spruce Mine in West Virginia.
  • An amendment from Rep. McKinley (R-WV) that prohibits funding for the EPA to implement regulations to designate coal ash reside as hazardous waste.
  • An amendment from Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) that prohibits funds for a government sponsored "consumer products complaints database."
  • An amendment from Rep. Noem (R-SD) to prohibit funding for EPA to modify the national primary ambient air quality standards applicable to coarse particulate matter (dust).
     Needless to say there will be a battle in the Senate when the CR is considered there when the Senate returns. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) released a statement and analysis of the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) prior to the latest round of amendments. In his statement Senator Inouye said, "The impact of H.R. 1 on the ability of the federal government to perform even some of its most basic functions is, in many instances, severe. The Constitution requires of the government that it '…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...'. The House Republican proposal would undermine our ability to live up to these ideals, and do little to address the long-term fiscal challenges facing our nation. . .
    ". . .many of the reductions proposed by the House were made not because programs were ineffective or wasteful, but out of desire to meet an arbitrary dollar figure cited during a political campaign. Many of the recommendations in this bill resulted from a "meat cleaver" approach to budget cuts, when we should be using a scalpel -- responsibly identifying specific programs that are wasteful or unneeded. . . We cannot win the future by gutting the very programs that make America competitive in the first place. . ."
    On February 22, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced his plans to introduce a clean, short-term Continuing Resolution that will give Democrats and Republicans time to negotiate a plan to responsibly cut government spending. Senator Reid said, "Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing. It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.
    "To avoid a shutdown and give us time to negotiate a responsible path forward, I have asked Sen. Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to prepare a clean Continuing Resolution that I can bring to the floor next week. Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it. This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution. I have asked my chief of staff, David Krone, to begin negotiations with Speaker Boehner's chief of staff, Barry Jackson, to craft a long-term continuing resolution that cuts waste and excess, while protecting the initiatives that keep us safe, put Americans back to work and keep our economy on the right track. It is time to drop the threats and ultimatums, and work together on a path forward. I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution."
    Access a lengthy release from Chairman Rogers with a summaries of key provisions (click here). Access a release from Ranking Member Dicks (click here). Access complete legislative details with links to amendments and votes on individual amendments (click here). Access the House Appropriations website for links to a table of program cuts, CR summary and  CR savings (click here). Access a release and analysis from Sen. Inouye (click here). Access a release from Sen. Reid (click here). Access a fact sheet from Senate Democrats on the House-passed CR (click here).
- Environmental Groups React To House CR Passage
- UNEP Releases Major Green Economy Report
- Release Of Chief Counsel's Investigation Of BP Oil Spill
- Senators Seek Bipartisan Legislative Solution To "Boiler MACT" Rule
- Next Steps In Gulf Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process
- EPA Recognizes 74 Leading Energy Star Organizations  

Friday, February 18, 2011

MWCC Announces Initial Deepwater Oil Spill Containment System

Subscribers Note: We will not be publishing on Monday, February 21, 2011,
in observance of the Washington's Birthday/President's Day Federal holiday.
Feb 17: The Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) announced the completion and availability of an initial well containment response system that will provide rapid containment response capabilities in the event of a potential future underwater well control incident in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. MWCC is a not-for-profit, independent organization committed to improving capabilities for containing a potential underwater well control incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. ExxonMobil is leading the construction of the billion-dollar system in partnership with Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell. MWCC will own, operate, deploy and maintain the system.
    The initial response system includes a subsea capping stack with the ability to shut in oil flow or to flow the oil via flexible pipes and risers to surface vessels. The system also includes subsea dispersant injection equipment, manifolds and, through mutual aid among members, capture vessels to provide surface processing and storage. The company has consulted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to ensure the system is designed to meet the government's requirements as outlined in NTL No. 2010-N10.
    According to a release from MWCC, ExxonMobil, in partnership with Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, continues to lead the
development of additional system components to expand the initial system's capabilities, with completion of the expanded system set for 2012. Marty Massey, chief executive officer said, "The Marine Well Containment Company has successfully developed a solution for rapid well containment response. This milestone fulfills a commitment set forth by the four sponsor companies to deliver a rapid containment response capability within the first six months of launching the marine well containment project."
    The interim system can operate in water depths up to 8,000 feet and has storage and processing capacity for up to 60,000 barrels per day of liquids. The capping stack has a maximum operating pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch. The equipment is located on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Membership in MWCC is open to all companies operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Members will have access to the initial well containment response system, as well as the expanded system upon completion of its construction. Non-members will also have access to the systems through a service agreement and fee.
    U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) reacted quickly to the MWCC announcement and said he "welcomed the opportunity for increased American energy production in response to news that a well containment system is now operational in the Gulf." He said, "Development of an underwater oil containment system was a key condition for reinstatement of Gulf oil production after last year's catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill." Upton also praised a ruling by Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana that ordered the Department of Interior to act on five outstanding deep-water drilling permits within 30 days.

    Rep. Upton said, "Completion of the well containment response system is welcome news for the families in the Gulf region who rely on energy production for their livelihoods, but who have remained sidelined since the spill. And ultimately, this is good news for all Americans. The more energy we can produce safely here at home, the more secure and energy-independent our nation will be." 

    U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) also welcomed the news that oil and gas operators had successfully tested a new rapid response containment system that can trap as much as 60,000 barrels of oil per day from a leaking deepwater well and stop a spill within weeks. She said, "This means that instead of developing a containment system during the spill, as we saw happen with the Macondo well in the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the equipment is already built, tested and ready to be deployed as necessary.  This should give BOEMRE and the American public complete confidence that oil will not spew into the environment for days on end.  This test provides assurance that the industry can contain a spill, if necessary."

    Senator Landrieu also issued a release commenting On Judge Feldman's order. She said in part, "Sen. Landrieu said, "Once again, BOEMRE's delay tactics to avoid issuing new drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico have drawn federal court intervention.  Just two weeks ago, Judge Feldman found Secretary Salazar in contempt for his failure to comply with an earlier order to lift the moratorium on permits.  Now, Judge Feldman is giving BOEMRE a deadline to do its job. . . What's the matter with this agency?  Do they think they are above the law?  Their foot-dragging is squeezing Louisiana's economy.  Rigs are leaving the Gulf for other parts of the world, taking thousands of jobs with them.  Just last week, one company, Seahawk Drilling, filed for bankruptcy because it can't get a drilling permit. . ."
    Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. also announced on January 21, 2011, that it has executed agreements for its Helix Fast Response System (HFRS) to be named as a spill response resource for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in response plans submitted by oil and gas producers with state and Federal authorities. The HFRS centers on two vessels, the Helix Producer I and the Q4000, both of which played a key role in the BP Macondo spill response and are presently operating in the GOM. Helix signed an agreement with Clean Gulf Associates (CGA), a non-profit industry group, making the HFRS available for a two year term to CGA participants in the event of a GOM well blow out incident in exchange for a retainer fee. In addition to the agreement with CGA, Helix also has signed separate utilization agreements with 19 CGA participant member companies to date specifying the day rates to be charged should the solution be deployed. Owen Kratz, CEO of Helix said, "We are pleased to have reached agreements with a key group of industry players to provide the Gulf of Mexico's first proven spill containment system. We firmly believe that our proven, industry-led solution is critical to establishing confidence in the industry's ability to respond to potential blow out incidents in the region."

    Access a release from MWCC (click here). Access the MWCC website for more information including pictures of the interim system capping stack (click here). Access a release from Rep. Upton (click here). Access a release from Senator Landrieu on MWCC (click here). Access a release from Senator Landrieu on the Feldman order (click here). Access a release from Helix Energy on the HFRS system and link to more information (click here).
- EPA Wants Public Comment On Plan to Review Regulations
- Comments Wanted On Tools & Guidance For Agriculture GHG Footprint
- Upton Questions $535 Million Loan Guarantee To Solyndra, Inc.
- EPA Administrator Travels To Kenya & Ethiopia
- USDA Online Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America
- EPA Awards $5.5 Million For Nanotechnology Research
- Klamath
Irrigation District v. U.S.
(Click here for details)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

President Announces Plans For America's Great Outdoors Initiative

Feb 16: President Barack Obama announced the Administration's action plan, under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power our nation's economy, shape our culture, and build our outdoor traditions. The initiative seeks to reinvigorate the country's approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together. Recognizing that many of these places and resources are under intense pressure, the President established the America's Great Outdoors Initiative last April to work with the American people in developing a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.

    The new report released -- The America's Great Outdoors Report -- outlines ways in which the Federal government will help empower local communities "to accomplish their conservation and recreation priorities by recognizing that the best ideas come from outside of Washington." Last summer, senior administration officials held 51 listening sessions across the country to gather input from Americans about the outdoor places and activities that they value most. These sessions drew more than 10,000 participants and more than 105,000 written comments, shaping an action plan that, based on local initiatives and support, when implemented will result in:
  • Accessible parks or green spaces for our children.
  • A new generation of great urban parks and community green spaces.
  • Newly-restored river restorations and recreational "blueways" that power economic revitalization in communities.
  • Stronger support for farmers, ranchers, and private landowners that help protect rural landscapes and provide access for recreation.
  • The reinvestment of revenues from oil and gas extraction into the permanent protection of parks, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and access for recreational activities.
  • A 21st century conservation ethic that builds on local ideas and solutions for environmental stewardship and connects to our historic, cultural, and natural heritage.
    In a speech at the White House, the President said in part, "To help set aside land for conservation and to promote recreation, we're proposing to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for only the third time in our history.  (Applause.)  And we're intending to pay for it with existing oil and gas revenues, because our attitude is if you take something out of the Earth, you have a responsibility to give a little bit back to the Earth.  

    "So these are the right steps to take for our environment.  But they're also the right steps to take for our country.  They help spur the economy.  They create jobs by putting more Americans back to work in tourism and recreation.  They help inspire a new generation of scientists to learn how the world works. They help Americans stay healthier by making it easier to spend time outside.  And they'll help carry forth our legacy as a people who don't just make decisions based on short-term gains of any one group but on what's best for the entire nation in the long run. So working together to protect the environment we share, lifting up the best ideas wherever we find them, preserving the great outdoors for our children and for their children -- that's our responsibility."
    Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said, "With children spending half as much time outside as their parents did, and with many Americans living in urban areas without safe access to green space, connecting to the outdoors is more important than ever for the economic and physical health of our communities. Through the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, this administration will work together with communities to ensure clean and accessible lands and waters, thriving outdoor cultures and economies, and healthy and active youth." 

    Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, "The America's Great Outdoors Initiative is born out of a conversation with the American people about what matters most to them about the places where they live, work, and play. It's about practical, common-sense ideas from the American people on how our natural, cultural, and historic resources can help us be a more competitive, stronger, and healthier nation. Together, we are adapting our conservation strategies to meet the challenges of today and empowering communities to protect and preserve our working lands and natural landscapes for generations to come."

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "America's farmlands and woodlands help fuel our economy and create jobs across the rural areas of our country. This plan seeks to work in partnership with landowners, conservation groups, states and others to conserve our working lands and our public lands and to reconnect Americans – especially our nation's youth – with opportunities to stay active. This blueprint was developed with input from the over 100,000 Americans in all corners of our country who joined our national listening sessions and who contributed their ideas online."

    U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This initiative is an effort to reconnect Americans with the valuable resources all around them and shape a 21st century plan for protecting our great outdoors. It is important that our waters, lands and greenspaces are brought back into our daily lives. President Obama's initiative will help make these critical resources a national focus once again, and involve people of every background in conservation of the places that we hold dear."

    Specifically, the report calls for fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, establishing a 21st century Conservation Service Corps to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration, and extending the deduction for conservation easement donations on private lands beyond 2011, among other measures.
    Access a release on the Initiative (click here). Access the complete speech by the President (click here). Access a video of the President's speech (click here). Access the America's Great Outdoors Initiative website for the complete report and background (click here).
- Enviros Outline "Crippling" Provisions In FY 2011 Spending Bill
- Groups Report On Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks
- EWG Says Even More Dramatic Reduction In Fluoride Needed
- DOE Task Force On Asset Revitalization
- $5 Million Opportunity For Graduate Automotive Technology Education
- 15 Groups Seek To Bar EPA Funding For E15

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Major Budget Battle Looms With Massive Differences

Feb 15: President Obama held a press conference and discussed the Fiscal Year 2012 budget (ending September 30, 2012) which he released on February 14 [See WIMS 2/14/11] and other major issues. The President explained how his budget addresses the Administrations plans to reduce funding and yet maintain priority programs and the policy direction for the country. Following the President's address Republican leaders commented on the briefing. The results indicate that their are massive differences in funding levels, priority programs and policy direction between Republicans and Democrats and no clear path for resolution. One immediate deadline is the March 4 end of the Fiscal Year 2011 (ending September 30, 2011) Continuing Resolution (CR) that has provided a short-term extension of last year's funding levels through March 4. The House is currently considering its  H.R. 1 FY 11 funding bill and considering some 400 amendments. Senate action and approval will be necessary, possible reapprovals by the House and Senate if changes are made and then to the President for his signature. It remains to be seen if an approvable bill can make it to the President's desk with such major issue differences between the parties.
    At the press conference, President Obama said, "When I took office, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term.  Our budget meets that pledge and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. As a start, it freezes domestic discretionary spending over the next five years, which would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower. . .

    "Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will also require us to make some tough choices.  It will mean freezing the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years.  It will mean cutting things I care about deeply, like community action programs for low-income communities.  And we have some conservation programs that are going to be scaled back.  These are all programs that I wouldn't be cutting if we were in a better fiscal situation.  But we're not. We also know that cutting annual domestic spending alone won't be enough to meet our long-term fiscal challenges.  That's what the bipartisan fiscal commission concluded; that's what I've concluded.  And that's why I'm eager to tackle excessive spending wherever we find it -– in domestic spending, but also in defense spending, health care spending, and spending that is embedded in the tax code. . . All of these steps are going to be difficult. And that's why all of them will require Democrats, independents, and Republicans to work together. . .

    "So I believe we can find this common ground, but we're going to have to work.  And we owe the American people a government that lives within its means while still investing in our future  -- in areas like education, innovation, and infrastructure that will help us attract new jobs and businesses to our shores.  That's the principle that should drive this debate in the coming months.  I believe that's how America will win the future in the coming years." The President went on to answer tough questions regarding the budget and the long-term deficit including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, accumulated debt and defense spending.

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement after President Obama's press conference and said:

    "The American people are ready to get serious about tackling our fiscal challenges, but President Obama's budget fails to lead. The President's budget punts on entitlement reform and actually makes matters worse by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much -- stifling job growth today and threatening our economic future.  

    "The President says that he wants to win the future, but we can't win the future by repeating the mistakes of the past or putting off our responsibilities in the present. Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity. Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing. By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement. We hope the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will demonstrate leadership and join us in working toward responsible solutions to confront the fiscal and economic challenges before us."
    U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered following remarks on the Senate floor today (February 16) regarding a freeze in government spending. He said, "As the debate over government spending comes into focus this week, I think it's worth noting once again how this debate has shifted in recent weeks. After two years of bailouts and Stimulus bills, we're finally talking about how much government should cut instead of how much it should spend. Obviously, the details matter. And we'll be working those out in the weeks ahead. But the fact that this debate has shifted is a testament to the millions of Americans who insisted that their voices be heard on this issue. They've made a difference. It's important we acknowledge that.

    "Now the question shifts to whether those in power will actually follow through in any serious way. Will Democrat leaders in Washington really do something to rein in a government we can no longer afford, or will they just pretend to, and hope the American people focus on their words instead of their actions. Unfortunately, the early signs are discouraging. The President's response to the growing national alarm about spending and debt was a proposal to freeze government spending at the already-irresponsible levels that he himself has set over the past two years — levels that, if maintained, will only intensify the current crisis by putting us deeper and deeper in debt. The consensus on the President's proposal is that it's both unserious and irresponsible, and that, despite what the President may say, he's not in fact treating this crisis with the seriousness it demands. . ."

    Access the full text of the President's press conference including questions and responses (click here). Access a video of the President's press conference (click here). Access the statement from House Republican leaders (click here). Access the complete statement and video from Senator McConnell (click here).

- Senate Hearing On Energy FY 12 Budget & Priorities
- U.S. GHG Emissions Have Grown 7.4 Percent From 1990
- DOI/BLM To Review Of Commercial Oil Shale Rules & Plans
- EPA Intercepts Illegal E-Waste Shipment Bound For Vietnam
- Corps Seeks Comments On Nationwide Permits Proposals
- DOE $343 Million Loan Guarantee For Nevada ON Line Project
- San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

OIG Finds Significant Problems With EPA Brownfields AAI Reviews

Feb 14: The U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled, EPA Must Implement Controls to Ensure Proper Investigations Are Conducted at Brownfields Sites (No. 11-P-0107, February 14, 2011). OIG conducted the review to evaluate how EPA is ensuring that Brownfields Assessment grantees adhere to "all appropriate inquiries" (AAI) requirements. Grantees awarded EPA Brownfields Assessment grants must meet AAI requirements. AAI is the process of evaluating a property for potential environmental contamination and assessing potential liability for contamination. To ensure a proper investigation, grantees must conduct AAI in compliance with Federal regulations put into effect by EPA on November 1, 2006, and issue a report on findings.
    OIG found that EPA does not review AAI reports submitted by grantees to assure that they comply with Federal requirements. Rather, EPA has relied on the environmental professional conducting the AAI to self-certify that requirements are met. OIG said, "Of the 35 AAI reports we reviewed, from three EPA regions, none contained all the required documentation elements. This occurred because the Agency does not have management controls requiring EPA project officers to conduct oversight of AAI reports. Management controls regarding EPA oversight of Brownfields grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) are also missing. EPA has issued specific guidance and management controls for ARRA grant activities. However, the guidance and controls do not address oversight of AAI reports. "
    OIG indicated that because of EPA's lack of oversight and reliance on environmental professionals' self-certifications, AAI investigations not meeting Federal requirements may go undetected by Agency staff. OIG found instances of noncompliance that were not detected by Agency staff. Improper AAI investigations introduce risk that the environmental conditions of a property have not been properly or adequately assessed, which may lead to improper decisions about appropriate uses of brownfields properties. Ultimately, threats to human health and the environment could go unrecognized. Noncompliant AAI investigations may result in future grant denials and possible government reimbursement. The AAI reports the OIG reviewed were generated from $2.14 million in grant awards. If conditions merit, EPA is authorized to take back funds from noncompliant grantees. OIG said it "questions the value of the reports we reviewed."
    OIG recommended that "EPA establish accountability for compliant AAI reports, to include those conducted under ARRA Brownfields grants; develop a plan to review AAI reports to determine the reports' compliance with AAI documentation requirements; and establish criteria to determine whether noncompliant grantees should return Federal grant money." OIG said the Agency did not clearly agree or disagree with OIG recommendations. In its final response to the report, the Agency needs to agree or disagree with recommendations and, as appropriate, provide a corrective action plan to address the recommendations.
    OIG conducted the review in EPA headquarters, Regions 1 and 5, and two U.S. territories located in EPA Region 2 (Puerto Rico) and Region 9 (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI). OIG selected Regions 1 and 5 because of the high dollar value of grants awarded to these regions from fiscal years 2002 through 2008.
    Access the complete OIG report (click here).
- House Hearing On Environmental Regulations, Economy, & Jobs
- Shell Report "Signals & Signposts" On Energy & Environmental Issues
- Comparison Of Defendant Briefs In AEP v. Connecticut
- UN Program To Assess Agriculture GHG Emissions
- House Hearing On Improving Highway Project Efficiency
- Senate Hearing On Green Jobs & Trade
- Circle Of Blue Begins 12-Part Series "Choke Point: China" 
- First New York State Fracking Contamination Lawsuit