Monday, October 31, 2011

Clean Air Agencies Call For Lowering Gas Sulfur Content

Oct 31: The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), representing air pollution control agencies in 53 states and territories and over 165 major metropolitan areas across the United States(formerly STAPPA and ALAPCO), released a report on the benefits and costs of implementing the association's recommendations for Tier 3 motor vehicle and gasoline standards as outlined in a June 27, 2011 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. In the report, Cleaner Cars, Cleaner Fuel, Cleaner Air: The Need for and Benefits of Tier 3 Vehicle and Fuel Regulations, NACAA indicates that the amount of air pollution that would be immediately reduced from lowering the sulfur content of gasoline to an average of 10-ppm is equivalent to removing approximately one in eight cars and light trucks from the roads. This result would come at a price of $0.008 – eight-tenths of a cent per gallon. Such cleaner gasoline would also enable improved technologies on cars and light trucks that could yield substantial vehicle emissions reductions at a cost of about $150 per car.
    S. William Becker, NACAA's Executive Director said, "As NACAA's report reveals, reducing sulfur in gasoline would not only enable the use of improved emissions control technology on new cars and light trucks, it would also result in an overnight reduction in emissions from the existing fleet -- on the order of approximately 260,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) -- equivalent to taking 33 million cars off our nation's roads in 2017 when the program begins. I don't know of any other air pollution control strategy out there that can provide emissions reductions as significant and immediate as this."
    NACAA also found that the additional cost to consumers of the cleaner gasoline would be less than a penny a gallon, and the additional cost of a cleaner 'Tier 3' vehicle would be similarly low, at about $150. By 2030, the Tier 3 program recommended by NACAA would cut emissions of NOx, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide by about 29, 38 and 26 percent, respectively. The report is intended to inform the U.S. EPA effort to develop tougher Federal vehicle and fuel standards that will reduce emissions into the air and lead to cleaner, more healthful air.
    In June, NACAA recommended that EPA adopt a Tier 3 program that includes vehicle emissions standards consistent with California's Low-Emission Vehicle III (LEV III) program and an average gasoline sulfur content of 10 parts per million. NACAA indicated that as state and local air agencies face, or prepare to face, the challenge of attaining the health-based standards for ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, and continue to grapple with ubiquitous toxic air pollution, an effective program to tackle emissions from cars and light trucks -- which are key contributors to all of these problems -- is critical. NACAA, therefore, continues to urge that EPA take full advantage of the opportunity to establish a meaningful and effective Tier 3 program to help states and localities meet their clean air obligations. The Agency is expected to propose the so-called "Tier 3" program by the end of this year.
    The report indicates, "Although motor vehicle emissions have improved dramatically since the federal mobile source program was introduced in 1968, they remain a primary source of the volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that result in the formation of ozone. Accordingly, if we are to achieve and sustain healthful air quality across the country, we must further control motor vehicle emissions and fuels. . . Fortunately, additional controls are available at very modest cost. EPA is expected to introduce, later this year, a 'Tier 3' program of tougher light-duty vehicle emissions standards that follow closely the Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) III requirements being pursued by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). A critical piece of this program, and one that will ensure cost-effective implementation of these stricter standards, is further improved gasoline quality, particularly a reduction in average gasoline sulfur levels from approximately 30 parts per million (ppm) today, enacted as part of the 1999 Tier 2 program, to an average of 10 ppm. . . In short, EPA should take full advantage of the opportunity to establish a meaningful and effective Tier 3 program – including vehicle and fuel standards – to ensure that states and localities across the nation, which face increasing air quality challenges, can meet their statutory obligations."
    Access a release from NACAA (click here). Access the complete 32-page report (click here). Access the June 27, letter to EPA (click here). [#Air, #Transport]

Friday, October 28, 2011

EPA Guidance On Wastewater & Stormwater Runoff Releases

Oct 28: U.S. EPA announced a commitment to using an integrated planning process to help local governments dealing with difficult financial conditions identify opportunities to achieve clean water by controlling and managing releases of wastewater and stormwater runoff more efficiently and cost effectively. EPA said the integrated planning process, outlined in a guidance memo to EPA's regional offices from EPA's Office of Water and Office of Enforcement and Compliance, will help municipalities prioritize infrastructure investments to address the most serious water quality issues and provide flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective stormwater and wastewater management solutions. 

    EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe said, "EPA is firmly committed to helping local governments identify opportunities to achieve clean water using a comprehensive integrated planning approach. An integrated approach allows communities to prioritize their investments to address the most serious water issues first and provides flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective storm- and wastewater management solutions – including green infrastructure."

    EPA indicates that aging sewer systems, not designed to handle heavy rain and snowfall in addition to handling the wastewater from growing populations and local industries, can overflow, releasing untreated sewage into waterways, onto city streets or into the basements of homes. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, including paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants. Overflows and stormwater can carry a variety of harmful pollutants, including bacteria, metals and nutrients that threaten communities' water quality and can contribute to disease outbreaks, beach and shellfish bed closings, flooding, and fishing or swimming advisories.

    To better protect water quality, EPA said it will work with local governments to review the Clean Water Act requirements that each municipality must comply with and look for opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of solutions developed to meet those obligations. This integrated approach will identify efficiencies where more than one water quality issue can be addressed by the same solution and where competing requirements may exist, including how to best make capital investments and meet operation and maintenance requirements.

    EPA said that integrated planning approaches can also have other benefits, like leading to the identification of innovative, sustainable solutions that improve water quality and enhance community vitality. Green infrastructure, such as green roofs, rain gardens, planter boxes, and permeable pavement, is an example of an integrated solution that can reduce, capture, and treat stormwater runoff at its source before it can reach the sewer system. Green infrastructure provides a cost effective way to reduce overflows and add green space in communities.
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the EPA Guidance Memo (click here). Access more information on green infrastructure (click here). [#Water]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tensions Build With Hints Of Possible Keystone Decision Delay

Oct 26: Although the State Department and Obama Administration are on record that a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project will be made by the end of the year [See WIMS 9/7/11], a Reuters news report indicates that could change. According to Reuters, an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "the State Department still hoped to make a decision by the end of this year, which has been its target, but that its highest priority was to carry out a thorough, rigorous review."
    As the decision date nears tensions between opposing parties are growing. On October 26, opponents of the project demonstrated outside of the University of Colorado, Denver Campus as the President spoke about his college loan relief plan. On October 24, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman announced that he is calling for a special session of the Nebraska Unicameral to determine if siting legislation can be crafted and passed for pipeline routing in Nebraska [See WIMS 10/25/11]. And, House Republicans reminded that in July they passed H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act calling for a final decision by November 1, which the Obama administration stated was "unnecessary because the Department of State has been working diligently to complete the permit decision process for the Keystone XL pipeline and has publicly committed to reaching a decision before December 31, 2011."
   In Denver, Tom Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Lakota Nation was removed from Obama's speech at the University but posted a plea urging President Obama "to respect our water, which is life -- and to respect our future generations. We ask all indigenous people to join us in our plight to oppose the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. . . Through a unified effort, we will accomplish this task. As our great leader of our ancestral days, Crazy Horse, once said: 'You cannot sell the land your people are buried on.' I believe today he would say: 'You cannot desecrate the land your people are buried on.'" As the President's speech was interrupted by protesters he stopped and said, "All right. Thank you, guys. We're looking at it right now, all right?  No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it."
    House Republicans said, "President Obama has been road-testing a new campaign slogan, saying 'we can't wait' for action on legislation to promote job creation. Republicans agree, which is why the Obama administration's delay of the Keystone XL pipeline project is so baffling." They cited a recent statement from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers saying, "Within days of receiving regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of State, the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. during the construction phase. This includes welders, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators, engineers and many other trades. Investing billions in the economy would also lead to the creation of 118,000 spin-off jobs as local businesses benefit from workers staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and TransCanada buying equipment and supplies." They said, "It's time for the Obama administration to make a decision. We Cant Wait any longer."
    Meanwhile on October 26, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the State Department inspector general to investigate whether conflicts of interest tainted the process for reviewing a proposed crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In a separate letter to President Obama, Sanders, Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and 11 other senators and congressmen cited "serious concerns" about the integrity of the review and asked the White House to withhold any decision on the project until the inspector general's investigation is completed, made public and evaluated. Other Members signing the letter included: Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Chellie Pingree (D-ME); Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); Hank Johnson (D-GA); Michael Honda (D-CA); Dennis Kucinich (D-OH); Tim Ryan (D-OH); and Mike Quigley (D-IL).

    According to a release from Senator Sanders, TransCanada, the company proposing the Keystone XL pipeline project, reportedly was allowed to screen private firms competing to perform an environmental impact study on the pipeline. Cardno Entrix, the politically-connected firm ultimately selected to conduct the environmental impact study, had significant financial ties to TransCanada. The lawmakers wrote to Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel saying, "Given the significant economic, environmental, and public health implications of the proposed pipeline, we believe that it is critical that the State Department conduct thorough, unbiased reviews of the project." 

    Access the Reuters report (click here). Access the release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee (click here). Access the posting from Tom Poor Bear (click here). Access a release from Senator Sanders and link to the letter (click here). Access a DOS announcement and details on the schedule of project meetings (click here). Access a fact sheet and map of the proposed pipeline (click here). Access a 27-page Executive Summary of the final EIS (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/OilSands]


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

House Hearing On The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act

Oct 25: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), held a hearing to discuss legislation to provide "much-needed regulatory certainty to rural America." According to a release from Chairman Whitfield, H.R.1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, will prevent EPA from changing its current standard for coarse particulate matter, commonly referred to as dust, for one year from enactment. The bill also provides flexibility for state, local, or tribal regulation of "nuisance dust," generated from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, and other activities typically conducted in rural areas.
    Witnesses included: Reps Kristi Noem and Robert Hurt; Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation; and representatives from: National Cattlemen's Beef Association; American Farm Bureau Federation; National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association; Holland & Knight (on behalf of: Coarse Particulate Matter Coalition); Columbia University; Brown University; and Natural Resources Defense Council.

    In response to growing concerns on this issue in the agriculture community, on October 14, in a letter to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson indicated she would not recommend any change in the PM10 particulate matter standards of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Former USDA Director under President Bush and now U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) issued a lengthy release applauding the EPA announcement which he said now means that the Agency will not be regulating farm dust. He said he will not continue to pursue his farm dust legislation because the announcement provides clarity to ambiguous and sometimes conflicting comments previously made by the Agency [See WIMS 10/19/11].

    At the hearing, EPA's Gina McCarthy reiterated Administrator Jackson's commitment and said, "This existing standard has been in effect since 1987. I am hopeful that this announcement ends the myth that the Agency has plans to tighten regulation of 'farm dust.' Given the Administrator's announcement, this bill is no longer necessary to produce its stated result -- to prevent the tightening of the coarse particle standard. Additionally, it is crucial for this Committee to note that this bill does far more than prohibit EPA from revising the coarse particle standard, and could roll back basic Clean Air Act protections and adversely affect public health in urban, suburban and rural areas." 

    While EPA's action satisfied some members, other are not convinced. H.R.1633, is co-sponsored by over 100 Republicans and Democrats. Two of the bill's primary sponsors, Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Robert Hurt (R-VA), testified about the need for their legislation to provide "immediate relief to America's farmers and ranchers." Representatives Noem said, "My bill is a bipartisan approach to ending the EPA's regulation of farm dust in rural America, while still maintaining the protections of the Clean Air Act to the public's health and welfare. One of the most overwhelming concerns I hear about from farmers and ranchers back home is the overbearing regulations coming out of EPA, including the regulation of farm dust. Their concern is not unwarranted. We need to put an end to regulation of farm dust and prevent its expansion in the future. Regulation of farm dust is a problem today and will only cause more of an issue as the EPA continues to have opportunities to make more stringent standards in the future."

    Representative Whitfield acknowledged in his release that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently announced plans to propose retaining the current standard for coarse particulate matter, but said "the agricultural community remains concerned that the standard could change during the rulemaking process or as a result of future court challenges. In addition, witnesses noted that without legislation, EPA would retain the authority to modify the standard and increase the costs and burdens of farm dust regulation in the future."

    Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "The last thing our struggling economy needs is new costs and regulatory burdens on farmers and small business in rural America. They already face indirect consequences from EPA's costly regulatory agenda, and now they are rightfully concerned about the threat of direct regulation on their operations. This is a common-sense approach that protects the interests of our vital rural economy, and I commend our colleagues for putting their ideas on the table. If EPA is serious that it does not intend to regulate farm dust, it should embrace this legislation."

    Full Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) said in a statement, "We are going to hear today that we must pass H.R.1633 to stop EPA from regulating farming. This isn't just nonsense. It's pure fantasy. EPA does not regulate farming practices to reduce dust and has expressed no intention of doing so in the future. EPA has set standards for the levels of coarse particulate matter in the ambient air because there is scientific evidence that this pollution causes serious health effects. Coarse particulate matter, or PM10, is produced by uncontrolled burning of coal and oil, construction and demolition activities, mining, and unpaved roads, as well as farm activities. Once EPA sets the standards for ambient levels of air pollution, it is up to the states and localities to determine how to meet them. It is the states and localities, not EPA, that decide which sources must reduce pollution and by how much. EPA set the current PM10 standards in 1987, during the Reagan Administration. . ."

    Access a release from Rep. Whitfield (click here). Access the Republican hearing website for links to all testimony, background, statements (click here). Access the Democratic hearing website for links to all testimony, statements and webcast highlights (click here). [#Air]


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Independent Berkeley Earth Study Confirms "Global Warming Is Real"

Oct 24: "Global warming is real," according to a major study by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, just released on October 20. According to a summary, despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the BEST project finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature. The team finds that "the global land mean temperature has increased by 0.911 ± 0.042 C since the 1950s (95% confidence for statistical and spatial uncertainties). This change is consistent with global land-surface warming results previously reported, but with reduced uncertainty."
    The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, an effort to provide an unbiased and independent analysis of global warming to prove or disprove its existence, has release four scientific papers setting out the main conclusions of the study to date (October 2011). The BEST project was created to make the best possible estimate of global temperature change using as complete a record of measurements as possible and by applying novel methods for the estimation and elimination of systematic biases. It was organized under the auspices of Novim, a non-profit public interest group. The papers have been submitted for peer review and cover the following topics: Statistical Methods; Urban Heat Island; Station Quality; and Decadal Variations. The BEST team is making the preliminary results public, together with the programs and data set in order to invite additional scrutiny as part of the peer review process.
    The team explains that existing data used to show global warming have met with much criticism. The BEST project attempts to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses by making available an open record to enable rapid response to further criticism and suggestions. The results include the best estimate for the global temperature change and the estimates of the uncertainties in the record. The team indicates that "science is nonpartisan and our interest is in getting a clear view of the pace of climate change in order to help policy makers to evaluate and implement an effective response. In choosing team members, we engage people whose primary interests are finding answers to the current issues and addressing the legitimate concerns of the critics on all sides. None of the scientists involved has taken a public political stand on global warming."
    The team indicates that the most important indicator of global warming, by far, is the land and sea surface temperature record. This has been criticized in several ways, including the choice of stations and the methods for correcting systematic errors. The BEST study sets out to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner that addresses this criticism. It uses over 39,000 unique stations, which is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies. The team's aim is to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions.
    The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project has the following objectives: (1) To merge existing surface station temperature data sets into a new comprehensive raw data set with a common format that could be used for weather and climate research; (2) To review existing temperature processing algorithms for averaging, homogenization, and error analysis to understand both their advantages and their limitations; (3) To develop new approaches and alternative statistical methods that may be able to effectively remove some of the limitations present in existing algorithms; (4) To create and publish a new global surface temperature record and associated uncertainty analysis; and (5) To provide an open platform for further analysis by publishing our complete data and software code as well as tools to aid both professional and amateur exploration of the data.
    The project is funded from grants and donations. A complete list of donors and the amounts that they contributed is available on the BEST website. The project has received financial support totaling more than $600,000 from the Folger Fund, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (created by Bill Gates), the Bowes Foundation, the Koch Foundation, and the Getty Foundation. Together, the people who created these organizations span a wide range of political views. Also, the project has received funding from a number of private individuals, totaling $14,500 at this time. All donations were provided as unrestricted educational grants and donors have no influence over the methodology or the published results. The results have now been made public and will be presented with full transparency, and the data are available to those who wish to carry out their own analysis.

    Access a 2-page summary of results (click here). Access the BEST website for complete background, FAQs and related information (click here). Access links to the 4 papers, data sets, summaries, charts, and more (click here). Access the complete list of donors (click here). [#Climate]

Monday, October 24, 2011

UNEP/WRI Report On Options In Reaching Climate Change Goals

Oct 24: A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns that  international efforts to mitigate climate change are insufficient to meet the goal of keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The report is being released just a month in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Durban, South Africa (COP17/CMP7).
    The report -- Building the Climate Change Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches -- outlines a list of options to achieve the target, including more cuts in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from additional sectors, stronger accounting rules both within the UNFCCC and through other multilateral and domestic strategies, sharing mitigation efforts based on countries' capacities or contributions to the problem, and legally binding commitments. The report reviews more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime capable of delivering adequate mitigation. At the upcoming climate meeting in Durban, November 28 to December 9, 2011, countries will have the opportunity to turn these ideas into action and start to bridge the ambition gap needed to truly have an impact [See WIMS 10/19/11].

    The report and warning from is the latest in a long series of UN warnings that world is falling behind in the battle against global warming. Just last month, at a Leaders' Dialogue on Climate Change on the eve of the high-level session of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to show greater commitment. Scientists say that keeping to the 2-degrees Celsius limit over the course of the 21st century is crucial to avert widespread disasters, from the disappearances of low-lying island nations under rising seas and searing droughts, famines, extreme storms and flooding, to the extinction of species.

    UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "The analysis provided in this new report offers many options that can happen either in the formal negotiations or as complementary measures elsewhere, options that can assist the more than 190 United Nations Member States move quickly to harvest the opportunities of a transition to a climate resilient, low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy." The report highlights the need to mobilize a range of public and private sector groups at the international, national and sub-national levels, who can contribute to climate governance, emission reductions and adaptation investment.

    The report stressed that the issue of legally binding commitments is central to debates ahead of Durban and noted that it is possible to build upon existing UNFCCC processes to strengthen the climate regime and raise the overall level of ambition to reach the target. UNEP indicated that "While a number of studies have demonstrated that the level of climate mitigation pledged to date is insufficient to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, this paper clearly demonstrates that there are a range of good ideas and options available that could help correct the course and move toward a safer and more stable climate." The report breaks down proposals into five key issues that have been major points of debate:

  1. Options under the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Within the UNFCCC, new approaches could involve reducing the emissions of additional greenhouse gases, including additional sectors, and strengthening accounting rules for emissions and emission reductions. Utilizing tools within the UNFCCC can be beneficial because they minimize duplication and implementation costs while facilitating trust-building. However, other complementary options should also be considered.
  2. Options outside the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Beyond the UNFCCC process, approaches include multilateral, plurilateral, bilateral and domestic strategies. These approaches offer prospects to mobilize actors around shared interests like development, trade, human rights, energy or food security. While these new strategies can generate greater ambition, one disadvantage of following approaches outside the UNFCCC is a risk of undermining existing processes and creating inefficiencies.
  3. Means for Sharing the Mitigation Effort Under the UNFCCC: Various proposals could be used to allocate responsibility to bridge the gap between the current level of effort and scientific recommendations. Possible approaches include dividing mitigation efforts based on countries' capacity or based on countries' contribution to the problem. Setting a global carbon budget would help ensure that the climate regime meets the adequacy standard, but it could be difficult to implement new allocations for emission obligations.
  4. The Role of Various Actors in Tracking Country Performance on Mitigation: Harmonized global accounting, reporting and verification standards are fundamental to progress. Two options are to use tools within the UNFCCC or outside the UNFCCC. Both options are discussed in detail.
  5. The Legal Form of a Future Climate Agreement: The issue of legally binding commitments is central to the debates ahead of Durban. The paper presents multiple options for climate negotiators: to proceed without new, legally-binding commitments; to commit to achieving new legally-binding commitments immediately; or to strengthen the components of legal character over time to achieve new, legally-binding commitments as soon as possible.
    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a more detailed release from UNEP (click here). Access a release from WRI with links to the complete report, background and related information (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information and details on the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting (click here). [#Climate]

Friday, October 21, 2011

EPA Proposes Options For NPDES CAFO Reporting Rule

Oct 21: U.S. EPA has issued a proposed rule options [76 FR 65431-65458] regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and the Reporting Rule for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). EPA co-proposes two options for obtaining basic information from CAFOs to support EPA in meeting its water quality protection responsibilities under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA indicates that the purpose of the co-proposal is to improve and restore water quality by collecting facility-specific information that would improve EPA's ability to effectively implement the NPDES program and to ensure that CAFOs are complying with the requirements of the CWA.
    Comments on the proposed action must be received on or before December 20, 2011. EPA plans to hold two Webinars in November, 2011 to provide an overview of, and answer questions about, the proposed rule requirements. The webcasts are scheduled for November 9 and 17, 2011, from 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern time. The webcasts are intended open for registration at this time (see link below).
    EPA co-proposes two options by which the Agency may achieve today's rule objectives: Option 1 would apply to all CAFOs; Option 2 would identify focus watersheds where CAFO discharges may be causing water quality concerns and EPA could use its section 308 authority to obtain information from CAFOs in these areas. EPA indicates that it recognizes that there may be other ways to achieve this objective, and the Agency solicits comment on alternative approaches to meet the objectives of the proposed rule. Such alternative approaches may require rulemaking. EPA would consider any such suggested alternative approaches in developing the final rule. EPA describes three such alternative approaches and seeks public comment on those approaches.
    EPA is proposing the rues in response to a settlement agreement with environmental groups that commits EPA to propose, by October 14, 2011, a rule under section 308 of the CWA, to require all owners or operators of CAFOs, whether or not they have NPDES permits, to submit certain information to EPA. EPA committed to take final action on the rule by July 13, 2012.
    In 2008, EPA issued revised regulations in response to the Waterkeeper decision [i.e. February 2005, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision in Waterkeeper Alliance et al. v. EPA, 399 F.3d 486 (2d Cir. 2005)] Among other changes, the revised regulations required only those CAFOs that discharge or propose to discharge to obtain an NPDES permit. Subsequently, environmental groups and industry filed petitions for review of the 2008 rule, which were consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. EPA signed a settlement agreement with the environmental petitioners in which EPA committed to propose a rule, pursuant to CWA section 308, that would require CAFOs to provide certain information to EPA. The settlement agreement provides the context and timeline for this proposed rulemaking.
    On March 15, 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the requirement in EPA's 2008 CAFO rule that CAFOs that "propose" to discharge obtain NPDES permits and held that CAFOs are not liable under the CWA for failing to apply for NPDES permits. Nat'l Pork Producers Council (NPPC) v. EPA, 635 F.3d 738 (5th Cir. 2011). The Fifth Circuit held that there must be an "actual discharge to trigger the CWA requirement to obtain a permit." [See WIMS 3/16/11].
    Access the FR announcement for complete details and commenting instructions (click here). Access registration details for the webinars (click here). Access a fact sheet on the proposal (click here). Access a Q&A document (click here). Access EPA's CAFO Rulemaking website for complete background (click here). Access EPA's docket for this action with additional background and to review and submit comments (click here). [#Water, #Agriculture/CAFO]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

EPA Schedule For WWTP Standards For Natural Gas Wastewater

Oct 20: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a statement saying, "The president has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our energy economy. That is why we are taking steps -- in coordination with our federal partners and informed by the input of industry experts, states and public health organizations -- to make sure the needs of our energy future are met safely and responsibly. We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy. The American people expect and deserve nothing less."

    EPA said in the statement that recent technology and operational improvements in extracting natural gas resources, particularly shale gas, have increased gas drilling activities across the country. Production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades. EPA said, "The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the Administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources safely and responsibly, including understanding any potential impact on water resources."

    Re: Shale Gas Standards - Currently, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways and other waters of the U.S. While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. As a result, some shale gas wastewater is transported to treatment plants (i.e. wastewater treatment plants, WWTP), many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.

    Re: Coalbed Methane Standards - Wastewater associated with coalbed methane extraction is not currently subject to national standards for being directly discharged into waterways and for pre-treatment standards. Its regulation is left to individual states. For coalbed methane, EPA will be considering uniform national standards based on economically achievable technologies.

    Information reviewed by EPA, including state supplied wastewater sampling data, have documented elevated levels of pollutants entering surface waters as a result of inadequate treatment at facilities. To ensure that these wastewaters receive proper treatment and can be properly handled by treatment plants, EPA will gather data, consult with stakeholders, including ongoing consultation with industry, and solicit public comment on a proposed rule for coalbed methane in 2013 and a proposed rule for shale gas in 2014.

    EPA said the schedule for coalbed methane is shorter because EPA has already gathered extensive data and information on coalbed methane. EPA will take the additional time to gather comparable data on shale gas. In particular, EPA will be looking at the potential for cost-effective steps for pretreatment of this wastewater based on practices and technologies that are already available and being deployed or tested by industry to reduce pollutants in these discharges.

    EPA said the announcement is part of the effluent guidelines program, which sets national standards for industrial wastewater discharges based on best available technologies that are economically achievable. EPA is required to publish a biennial outline of all industrial wastewater discharge rulemakings underway. EPA has issued national technology-based regulations for 57 industries since 1972. These regulations have prevented the discharge of more than 1.2 billion pounds of toxic pollutants each year into US waters. EPA publishes an Effluent Guidelines Program Plan (Plan) every other year. The Plan is required by Section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act. EPA last published a Plan in 2008. EPA published a preliminary 2010 Plan for public comment on December 28, 2009, and is now publishing the final "2010 Plan" (October 20, 2011). 

    Access the announcement from EPA (click here). Access extensive background information and document related to the Final 2010 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan, including a prepublication copy of the Federal Register notice, fact sheet, supporting documents and more (click here). [#Water, #Energy/NatGas]


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Global Investors Call For Meaningful Action On Climate Change

Oct 19: Despite the global economic crisis, and increased market volatility, the world's largest investors urged governments and international policy makers to take new and meaningful steps in the fight against climate change. In a joint statement, the group of 285 investors representing more than $20 trillion in assets stressed the urgent need for policy action which stimulates private sector investment into climate change solutions, creates jobs, and is essential for ensuring the long-term sustainability and stability of the world economic system.

    According to a release, investor support for climate action has more than doubled since November 2008, when 150 investors with $9 trillion in assets under management first came together to urge government leaders to act on climate change. Current levels of investments in low-carbon technology and infrastructure are substantially lower than the $500 billion per year deemed necessary by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to hold the increase of global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius -- the target agreed in Cancun last year.

    Coordinated by three leading investor groups on climate change -- the US-based Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR); the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC); and the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand -- alongside the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), and the Advisory Council of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the statement represents the largest ever grouping, by both number of signatories and assets under management, to call for policy action on climate change.

    The statement concludes: "Investment-grade climate change and clean energy policy will provide substantial economic benefits. Those countries that succeed in attracting private capital into low-carbon growth areas such as cleaner and renewable energy, energy efficiency and decarbonization will enjoy multiple benefits, including new jobs, new businesses, new research and technology innovation, more resilient and secure energy systems and, ultimately, more sustainable economies. Private investment can and must play a critical role in addressing the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. However, private sector investment will only flow at the scale and pace necessary if it is supported by clear, credible and long-term domestic and international policy frameworks -- "investment-grade climate change and energy policies" -- that shift the balance in favor of low-carbon investment opportunities."

    The statement is supported by the findings of a report -- Investment-Grade Climate Change Policy: Financing The Transition To The Low-Carbon Economy -- commissioned by the three investor groups and UNEP FI. The report underscores the importance of "investment-grade policy" which will enable institutional investors to allocate capital towards climate change solutions, including appropriate government incentives to compensate for heightened risk and sufficient scale of technology deployment. The report also emphasizes that long-term policy stability is critical and retroactive changes can significantly damage investor confidence. Contained within the report are case studies on the climate policies of six major emitters and further examples of investment-grade policy, which may prove instructive for national governments and negotiators considering future policy initiatives.

    Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commented saying, "Governments have clearly signaled their intention to move towards a low-carbon future. To get there fast enough will require huge new investments in clean energy. This is the only way to guarantee the long-term sustainability and security of the world economic system and the stability of returns from global investment, a major part of which is directly linked to the pensions and life insurance of ordinary people around the world. This global investor group has seen this clearly. The Statement from major private sector investors will help to give governments both the confidence and the knowledge to put the right incentives and mechanisms in place".

    The Investor groups sent the statement and report to the G-20 and other governments in anticipation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting (COP17/CMP7) in Durban, South Africa November 28 to December 9, 2011 [See WIMS 10/11/11]. Investors will engage with policy makers there and call for domestic and international policy action including:

  • The definition by governments of clear short-, medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission objectives and targets and comprehensive, enforceable legal mechanisms and timelines.
  • The creation of lasting financial incentives that shift the risk reward balance in favor of low-carbon assets.
  • The design of lasting and comprehensive policies that accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency, cleaner energy, renewable energy, green buildings, clean vehicles and fuels, among others.

    International policy recommendations include:

  • Continued work towards a binding international climate change treaty that includes all major emitters and sets short-, mid-, and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
  • Support the development of the Green Climate Fund and other comparable funding mechanisms.
  • Accelerate efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD and REDD+).

    Stephanie Pfeifer, Executive Director at the IIGCC said, "Policy risk has a critical influence on investment in low-carbon growth areas such as renewable energy. Attracting capital at the scale required to meet climate change goals will only be possible when low carbon investments are seen as attractive relative to higher carbon investments. Determined leadership on national and international climate and energy policy will be fundamental in shifting this risk/return balance in favor of low carbon investments".

    Frank Pegan, Chair of IGCC Australia/New Zealand said, "Individual nations will be in a stronger position to attract private capital to stimulate their economies by implementing clear and credible climate policies. As and when governments around the world show leadership and reduce policy risk around climate change for investors, the investment flows will follow." Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk said, "The global economy is moving towards a low-carbon future. The governments that act aggressively to enact strong, long-term climate and energy policy will reap the rewards. They will drive the innovation, maintain competitiveness in the 21st century and attract investment."

    Access a release from the organizations (click here). Access the joint statement (click here). Access the 44-page report (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information and details on the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting (click here). [#Climate]


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Enviros Comment On "Bittersweet" Ruling On 4(d) Polar Bear Rule

Oct 17: In response to a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace and Defenders of Wildlife, a Federal judge struck down a Bush administration rule that exempted greenhouse gas emissions from regulation under provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, for the D.C. District, ruled that the Department of the Interior (DOI) violated the environmental review provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued a special rule that excluded from regulation activities occurring outside the range of the polar bear, such as greenhouse gas emissions from polluting facilities like coal plants.

    The groups reported, however, the court also held that DOI had broad discretion when crafting species-specific rules and therefore did not substantively violate the ESA in adopting the exemption for the polar bear. A similar interim rule issued simultaneously with listing of the polar bear as threatened in May 2008 remains in place until Interior complies with NEPA by completing a new environmental impact statement and issues a new final rule. The polar bear was the first species added to the endangered species list solely because of threats to the species from global warming. The groups said the ruling does not limit the applicability of the ESA to greenhouse gas emissions affecting species listed as endangered under the Act or to other threatened species for which Interior has not issued a specific exemption.

    Brendan Cummings at CBD commented, "Today's decision squarely places the fate of the polar bear back in the hands of the Obama administration. Rather than continue to defend an ill-conceived Bush-era rule, the Obama administration should take this opportunity to carefully craft a new rule that meaningfully addresses greenhouse gas emissions, the primary threat to the polar bear." Andrew Wetzler, director of the Lands and Wildlife program for NRDC said, "Now that the Department of the Interior must weigh in for the first time with full environmental analysis, the Obama administration is going to own this issue. It affords the president an opportunity to show he is serious about dealing with climate change and protecting wildlife. The court's ruling means the Obama administration won't be able to hide behind Bush-era policies on an issue the public clearly cares about."

    John Hocevar, oceans director at Greenpeace said, "The court's decision is bittersweet -- it acknowledges the devastating impact of global warming on polar bears and requires further review of the 4(d) rule, but stops short of fully disallowing an exemption for greenhouse gases. We will redouble our efforts to protect the polar bear's Arctic Ocean habitat, and continue to press the Obama administration to use all available tools, including the Endangered Species Act, to address greenhouse emissions and the climate crisis."

    On May 8, 2009, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he would retain the controversial special rule issued in December 2008, under the Bush Administration for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act [See WIMS 5/8/09]. But DOI said it would closely monitor the implementation of the rule to determine if additional measures are necessary to conserve and recover the polar bear and its habitat. Salazar said at the time, "To see the polar bear's habitat melting and an iconic species threatened is an environmental tragedy of the modern age. This administration is fully committed to the protection and recovery of the polar bear. I have reviewed the current rule, received the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the best course of action for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is to wisely implement the current rule, monitor its effectiveness, and evaluate our options for improving the recovery of the species." At the same time, Salazar had received a letter from 53 law professors from around the country urging him to rescind the "special rule" created by the Bush administration which they said sharply limits protections for the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.
    In the case , Judge Sullivan explained, "Plaintiffs claim, first, that the Service's Special Rule violates the ESA because it fails to provide for the conservation of the polar bear. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that the Service cannot effectively provide for the conservation of the polar bear without addressing global greenhouse gas emissions, which the agency itself identified as the cause of increasing Arctic temperatures that are expected to lead to a significant decline of the polar bear's sea ice habitat. Plaintiffs argue that the Service purposely and unlawfully crafted its Special Rule in such a way as to avoid addressing this threat, in contravention of the ESA's conservation mandate. The Court understands plaintiffs' frustration. However, as this Court has previously observed, climate change poses unprecedented challenges of science and policy on a global scale, and this Court must be at its most deferential where the agency is operating at the frontiers of science. . .
    "The question before the Court, then, is whether the Service reasonably concluded that its Special Rule provides for the conservation of the polar bear even if it does not reverse the trend of Arctic sea ice loss. . . the Court is persuaded that the
agency has done so. Accordingly, with respect to plaintiffs' ESA claim, the Court denies plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and grants the federal defendants' and defendant-intervenors' motions for summary judgment. . .
    "In addition to their claims under the ESA, plaintiffs claim that the Service violated NEPA by failing to analyze the potential environmental impacts of its Special Rule, which is generally required for all 'major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.' 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(c). With respect to this claim, the Court agrees with plaintiffs. The Court declines to recognize the broad NEPA exemption that the federal defendants urge. Accordingly. . . the Court finds that the Service was required to conduct at least an initial assessment to determine whether its Special Rule for the polar bear warranted a full 'environmental impact statement' (EIS). Here, the Service conducted no analysis whatsoever; as a result, its Special Rule for the polar bear violates NEPA.
    "Accordingly, with respect to plaintiffs' NEPA claim, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denies the federal defendants' and defendant-intervenors' motions for summary judgment. The Court finds that vacatur of the final Special Rule is the appropriate remedy for the Service's NEPA violation. Upon vacatur of the final Special Rule [i.e. December 16, 2008], the prior May 15, 2008, interim final Special Rule for the polar bear shall remain in effect until further Order of the Court." 
    Access a release from the environmental groups (click here). Access the Doc No. 283 memorandum opinion (click here)Access a 5/2009 release from DOI and link to a Section 4(d) Q&A document (click here). Access the DOI Polar Bear Conservation and Management website (click here). [#Wildlife, #Climate]
Click here for more information on WIMS

Monday, October 17, 2011

GOP & Dems Continue Debate Over Solyndra Loan Guarantee

Oct 14: The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Chaired by Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) held a hearing on "Continuing Developments Regarding the Solyndra Loan Guarantee." [See WIMS 9/14/11]. Despite requests from Democrats for representation from the Department of Energy, the Subcommittee only heard testimony from two witnesses from the Department of Treasury.

    The Treasury Department testified about that Agency's belief that DOE violated the 2005 Energy Policy Act when restructuring the loan to the now-bankrupt Solyndra of a $535 million taxpayer guaranteed loan and, in the restructuring, placed taxpayers at the back of the line so that private investors would be the first to recoup losses on the company. Republican Members indicated that Treasury officials agreed to testify after the White House last Friday (October 7) "unloaded a significant new document production, including alarming emails from Treasury and OMB personnel expressing frustration that DOE had failed to communicate with them regarding the Solyndra loan guarantee or consult with the Department of Justice, as Treasury had advised. Moreover, the Treasury and OMB officials' emails clearly indicate they believe DOE's legal justification for placing taxpayers at the back of the line was inconsistent with their interpretation of the law."
    Republican Members cite a December 15, 2010 email, from senior officials at OMB questioning the legality of DOE's restructuring, writing: "There are some questions at the staff level about how DOE is going about the restructuring for Solyndra. At least one involves the legal question of what 1703(d) (3) means for their plan to make some of the debt 'junior' to the new debt. … I think they have stretched this definition beyond its limits." The Members indicate that the emails refer to a legal analysis prepared by DOE to justify its decision to place private investors ahead of taxpayers in the event of Solyndra's bankruptcy, despite a clear prohibition of such 'subordination' of the taxpayers' obligation in the law. 
    A Senior Treasury lawyer offered additional commentary on DOE's actions, writing in an August 16, 2011, email: "I would bet a quarter that the DOE lawyers have some kind of theory on how whatever restructuring they have done and whatever they are considering doing does not violate these requirements. Cant wait to hear it." Chairman Cliff Stearns said after the hearing, "I have never seen anything like this in all my years in Congress -- here we have one cabinet level agency concerned that another has broken the law, and taxpayers are on the hook for half a billion dollars as a result."

    Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said in part, "What we have seen so far suggests that DOE essentially ignored Treasury after signing off on the $535 million loan guarantee. The documents also reveal a Department of Energy fervently steering more taxpayer cash to Solyndra with complete disregard to the alarm bells coming from Treasury and others within the Obama administration. DOE apparently stonewalled Treasury, failing or refusing to turn over information related to Solyndra's restructuring. . . The Department of Energy has a lot more explaining to do, and we will hear from them again soon. Unfortunately, we also have to ask: how many more Solyndras are there? Were other warning flags ignored, and risky gambles made with the taxpayers' hard-earned money?. . ."

    Full Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, (D-CA) said in an opening statement, "The Committee has received a six-page document from the Department of Energy that explains the Department's legal rationale for subordination. We asked last week if the majority would object if we released this document so the public could understand DOE's rationale. The majority objected. They did not want the public to see DOE's explanation. On Wednesday, the Democratic staff asked the Republican staff if there would be an objection if we included a discussion of the DOE legal memorandum in the background memorandum we provide to Democratic members. Again, the Republicans objected. They asked us to withhold this critical information -- DOE's legal rationale for its actions -- from our own members. And yesterday, the Republicans said they don't believe this memo should be made public at this time. This investigation is beginning to resemble a kangaroo court. . . I don't object to an investigation into Solyndra. Based on the record to date, I don't see evidence of wrongful conduct by government officials, just a bad investment decision. . ."

    According to the DOE legal analysis as contained in the memos referred to by Rep. Waxman, "On the current facts, the Loan Programs Office has determined that the proposed restructuring offers the best prospect of eventual repayment in full of the Borrower's obligations under the Loan Guarantee Agreement, and is demonstrably preferable to a liquidation of the Borrower. In light of that determination, we conclude that the proposed subordination of the Borrower's obligations to DOE is consistent with both the text and the purposes of Title XVII. . ."
    Access a release from Committee Republicans with links to the email, the Solyndra Restructuring Legal Memo and the second version Solyndra Restructuring Legal Memo (click here). Access the Republican website for the hearing with background documents, opening statements, witness testimony and a webcast (click here). Access the Democratic website for the hearing with links to opening statements and the DOE Memos (click here). [#Energy/Solar]


Friday, October 14, 2011

House Approves H.R.2250 To Delay "Boiler MACT" Rules

Oct 13: The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R.2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (i.e. Boiler MACT bill) by a vote of 275-142 -- 234 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted for the bill; and 142 Democrats voted against it. The proposal would direct EPA to develop achievable standards affecting non-utility boilers and incinerators and grants additional time for development of and compliance with the rules. The legislation would stay the boiler and incinerator rules and calls for EPA to repropose the rules within 15 months and extend compliance times from 3 to 5 years [See WIMS 6/22/11]. The bill had been scheduled for passage on October 12, but was delayed [See WIMS 10/12/11].
    The House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans issued a release indicating that, "The Obama administration recently issued a series of multi-billion dollar regulations affecting tens of thousands of manufacturing and industrial facilities nationwide. H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, offers a common-sense alternative approach to these rules, providing America's job creators with much-needed regulatory relief." Republicans said the bill, introduced by Representatives Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), "will preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs currently at risk from EPA's boiler MACT rules. To protect jobs and produce sensible environmental safeguards, this legislation gives EPA time to re-propose and finalize new rules so that standards and timelines for reducing emissions from industrial boilers and incinerators are achievable for real world facilities."

"H.R. 2250 helps lift the burden of excessive regulations on America's job creators," said Rep. Griffith. "Unreasonable regulations – like the currently written Boiler MACT rules – are threatening jobs across the nation and creating uncertainty for businesses. The investments required by these rules are irreversible. For those businesses that decide to stop producing their product at a particular location, the job losses are also irreversible. The good news here is that excessive regulations are reversible and fixable. H.R. 2250 is an opportunity to fix these regulations and keep the focus on protecting valuable American jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take up this bipartisan jobs legislation soon."

    Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) praised passage of both H.R.2250 and H.R.2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act [See WIMS 10/6/11], which passed the House last week and offers similarly sensible regulatory solutions for cement manufacturers. Rep. Whitfield said, "The passage of these two bills is yet another example of the House's leadership in bringing balance to our environment and energy policies. EPA must consider the consequences on jobs and the economy when they implement new regulations and the passage of the Boiler and Cement MACT bills will provide EPA the time it needs and a framework to propose regulations that have achievable and workable timelines and standards without putting jobs at risk.  These bills protect over 230,000 jobs at risk as a result of the Boiler MACT rules, and at least 19,000 at risk because of the Cement MACT rules, while also ensuring that there is a timeline in place for the agency to issue new regulations to protect health and the environment."
    House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement saying H.R.2250 would protect thousands of American jobs from excessive government regulations and is a key part of the Republican jobs plan. He said, "Removing government obstacles to job growth is a key part of the Republican jobs plan. This bipartisan bill protects hundreds of thousands of jobs by stopping excessive new federal regulations on boilers used in factories, colleges, and hospitals across the country. And it forces Washington to go back to the drawing board and develop sensible rules that don't raise prices on families or put thousands of jobs at risk. House leaders have sought common ground with the president on this bipartisan jobs bill, and I hope he'll urge the Senate to quickly pass it and commit to signing it so we can remove yet another government barrier to job growth."
    Speaker Boehner also referenced an October 3, letter from House leaders to President Obama regarding the two bills -- H.R.2250 & H.R.2681. The Members said in part, "The federal government has a responsibility under the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce, and there are reasonable regulations that protect our children and help keep our environment clean. But there are also excessive regulations that unnecessarily increase costs for consumers and small businesses, and make it harder for our economy to create jobs. The rules addressed by the bills the House will consider this week are examples of such harmful government excess. . . It is our hope that in the spirit of putting country before party, you will call on the Senate to follow the House in passing these measures, and commit to signing them into law should they reach your desk."
    John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on H.R. 2250 said in a statement, "We all lose with this legislation. The latest installment of the tea party's unraveling of the Clean Air Act allows dirty incinerators and industrial boilers to pollute our air with more cancer-causing dioxins, arsenic, mercury and lead. This bill, together with the cement bill and TRAIN Act passed earlier, will sacrifice tens of thousands of lives, pollute the air we breathe, and expose our children, families, and communities to toxic air pollutants that cause asthma, other illnesses and even brain damage in children. Polluters might claim victory but in the end, no one wins."

    Steve Cochran, Vice President of Climate and Air at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a statement saying, "Two weeks ago, they voted to let power plants, the nation's largest source of mercury air emissions, off the hook. Now they've decided to let industrial boilers and cement plants, the nation's second and third largest sources of mercury air emissions, off the hook too -- letting them continue to release mercury, arsenic, chromium, lead and dioxins into the air without limit. It's time Congress stopped pretending that increasing air pollution is an economic policy, or that forcing us to breathe dangerous toxins is a job creation plan. No one benefits when Americans suffer more heart attacks, asthma attacks, birth defects and premature deaths."
    American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley issued a statement saying, "By passing this bipartisan bill, House lawmakers have shown their commitment to effective, achievable emission standards for industrial boilers and heaters affecting 200,000 businesses, institutions and municipalities across the country. We urge the U.S. Senate to quickly approve its version (S.1392), which currently has 35 co-sponsors from both parties. Enactment into law will give EPA time to get the rules right, provide certainty about the rules and compliance deadlines, and enhance business confidence to move ahead with investments, expansions and hiring now. In April, ACC and other groups filed a petition asking EPA for an administrative 'stay' of the boiler emission standards pending reconsideration. While EPA granted the stay, its decision is being challenged in two courts, so legislation is essential."

    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse issued a statement saying, "During this critical time in our nation's economic recovery, manufacturers simply cannot afford another costly and burdensome regulation that will put 230,000 jobs at risk, according to the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners. The Boiler MACT rule will cost manufacturers more than $14 billion in valuable capital that could be spent on investments to create jobs. Manufacturers thank the House members who stood up today for jobs and voted in support of this important legislation to rein in the EPA. We will continue to work to stop the EPA's aggressive agenda. Today's vote was another step to protect jobs and competitiveness, and we strongly urge the Senate to act on the EPA Regulatory Relief Act as soon as possible."

    Access a release from the Republican Energy & Commerce Committee (click here). Access the statement from Speaker Boehner and link to the letter to the President and related information (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access the statement from ACC and link to related information (click here). Access the statement from NAM (click here). Access the roll call vote (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2250 including the roll call votes for passage and for all amendments (click here). [#Air] 

House Approves Controversial Coal Ash Regulation Bill
GOP Senators Announce Alternative "Jobs Through Growth Act"
House Dems Want Hearing On Natural Gas Flaring
Air Advisors Consultation On NAAQS For Lead
ACC Launches New Blog "American Chemistry Matters"
Thiebaut vs. Colorado Springs Utilities

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Solar Energy Industries Urge Extension Of Section 1603 Program

Oct 12: The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released a report entitled, "Economic Impact of Extending the Section 1603 Treasury Program," prepared by renowned the global energy analysis firm EuPD Research. The report examines projected job growth and solar deployment associated with a one-year extension of the Section 1603 Treasury Program. According to the report, a one-year extension would result in the solar industry supporting an additional 37,394 jobs in 2012. In addition, a one-year extension would result in nearly 2,000 additional megawatts (MW) of solar installations above baseline by 2016, enough to power 400,000 homes. The report also analyzed scenarios for two and five-year extensions of the program.

    Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA said, "More than 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry, double the number in 2009. Solar is a proven job creator at a time when the unemployment rate for the country remains stubbornly high. The 1603 Treasury Program has been the single most effective policy driving renewable energy growth during the past two years."

    The program was created in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis, which drastically reduced the availability of tax equity financing for energy projects. The Section 1603 Treasury Program allows energy developers to receive a federal grant in lieu of claiming an existing energy tax credit. The program does not create any new incentives, but instead simply accelerates the timing of the existing credit. This solution was designed to provide the liquidity needed for the further development of domestic energy projects during difficult financial times. 

    The state of financial markets and the availability of tax equity are still woefully inadequate to meet demand for renewable energy projects. The program, set to expire on December 31, 2011, was intended to outlast the stagnant markets, which have proven more resilient than anticipated. Resch added, "At a time when President Obama and Congress are looking for solutions for America's jobs crisis, it would be unconscionable to allow this proven job-creating program to expire. Killing the 1603 Program amounts to a tax increase on the thousands of small businesses that are creating jobs in solar. The bottom line is that our capital markets are still in trouble and this program is needed today as much as it was when it was created. Allowing it to lapse would kill jobs and severely restrict the market's ability to leverage private sector capital to finance new domestic energy projects. Congress must extend the 1603 program to help the American economy."

    In a background document released by SEIA, the organization indicated, "In a background document released by SEIA, the organization indicated, "The Solyndra bankruptcy is not indicative of the health of the U.S. solar industry and, as with any competitive and dynamic market, some companies will prosper and others will fail. Despite support from the federal government, Solyndra failed due to an unsustainable business model, as the company faced pressure from cheaper solar panels and simply could not compete in a high-tech, dynamic market. Competition in the solar industry is good for American consumers. It drives down costs, making solar affordable for more and more Americans every day.

    The report indicates that, "The 1603 Treasury Program [TGP] was created to address the shortage of tax equity available to renewable energy projects due to the collapse of the financial markets. The TGP allows developers to receive a cash grant in lieu of the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The TGP has supported more than a thousand solar projects representing over $3 billion in total investment, contributing to a nearly two-fold increase in solar electric capacity in 2010.

    Access a release from SEIA and links to the 43-page full report, executive summary and extensive background information (click here). [#Energy/Solar]