Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GOP Senators' Bill Would Force Decision On Keystone XL In 60 Days

Nov 30: U.S. Senators introduced legislation to force the Obama Administration to issue a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline in 60 days. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), the lead sponsor of the bill said, "Jobs will be created right away and billions of dollars in investment will be unleashed through legislation introduced to permit the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, the largest infrastructure project ready in the United States, to commence construction. This is no time for delay." Additional lead cosponsors are John Hoeven (R-ND) and David Vitter (R-LA) and 34 other Senate Republicans are cosponsoring the bill
    Senator Lugar continued, "Building the TransCanada Keystone pipeline NOW is a dramatic opportunity to change that energy and national security equation. At the same time, we have a dramatic opportunity to create American jobs NOW! Job creation is the number one issue in our nation. The Keystone XL pipeline is the largest infrastructure project ready, NOW, for construction in the United States. President Obama has the opportunity of creating 20,000 new jobs NOW. Incredibly, he has delayed a decision until after the 2012 election apparently in fear of offending a part of his political base and even risking the ire of construction unions who support the pipeline." [emphasis in original]
    According to a release, the North American Energy Security Act [no bill number yet] would: Create 20,000 direct jobs in building the pipeline and manufacturing; Reduce need for foreign oil from volatile regions by increasing secure trade with Canada and encouraging production in the U.S. Bakken area; and Boost more than 1,400 U.S. companies that directly sell their products and services for oil sands production and transport.
    Additionally, the $7 billion pipeline cost to be paid by the Keystone XL consortium will fund nearly half a billion dollars in salaries and purchase $6.5 billion worth of materials, services, and other local economic activity. Over time, strengthening U.S.-Canada oil sands energy cooperation can create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. Trade with Canada will accelerate America's independence from overseas oil and will maximize benefits to complement increased U.S. domestic oil production, usage of more alternative fuels, and vehicle innovation to save fuel and dollars at the gas pump.
    The legislation being referred to as the "Lugar-Hoeven-Vitter KXL" bill: Establishes Congressional affirmation that Keystone XL is good for job creation, economic growth, and national security; Requires the Secretary of State to issue a permit within 60 days to allow the Keystone XL project to move ahead, unless the President publicly determines that it is not in the national interest; Requires the permit for Keystone XL to contain strong and specific environmental protections and protect states' rights;
Requires the Federal permit to recognize an alternative route approved by Nebraska, protecting their ability to shift the route of the pipeline to avoid the Sand Hills while not holding up construction elsewhere; and Concludes more than three years of Federal review by deeming the Final Environmental Impact Statement to be adequate.
    On November 10, the State Department announced that it had determined it was necessary to delay the project, which could extend well into 2013, while it examines in-depth alternative routes that would avoid the Sand Hills area of Nebraska. The State Department noted that the Sand Hills area includes a high concentration of wetlands of special concern, a sensitive ecosystem, and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater. The final decision had originally been scheduled for the end of this year. The President issued a statement in support of the State Department decision [See WIMS 11/14/11 & WIMS 11/11/11].
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) expressed immediate support for the North American Energy Security Act. Marty Durbin API executive vice president issued a statement saying, "Delaying Keystone XL is denying thousands of Americans good paying jobs. We need to do what we can to address high unemployment and strengthen our nation's energy security. Keystone XL is capable of doing both. The project will immediately create 20,000 American jobs and enhance our energy security because we will be getting more oil from our number one supplier of imported oil, Canada. We applaud Senator Lugar's efforts to move forward a job creating project that has already undergone an extensive environmental review. . . President Obama should approve it and make it part of his jobs program because, as he has said, 'we can't wait'."
    Access a lengthy release from Sen. Lugar with extensive comments from cosponsoring Senators and background (click here). Access the full text of the bill, a summary, a video of today's press conference and additional information (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). Access a release from API (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/OilSands]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reports On EPA Rules Impact On Electric System Reliability

Nov 28: On November 21, M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC (MJB&A) and the Analysis Group issued a 24-page, Fall 2011 update to an earlier analysis, Ensuring a Clean, Modern Electric Generating Fleet while Maintaining Electric System Reliability, published in August 2010. The report is the third installment in a series of reports focusing on the reliability implications of two U.S. EPA clean air rules affecting the electric power sector: (1) the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (Transport Rule or CSAPR); and (2) the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units (Utility Toxics Rule or Utility MACT). The report was prepared on behalf of several utility companies including: Calpine Corporation; Constellation Energy; Exelon Corporation; NextEra Energy; National Grid; and Public Service Enterprise Group.
    The first report, published in August 2010, concluded that the electric industry is well-positioned to comply with EPA's proposed air regulations without threatening electric system reliability. The Summer 2011 update, published in August, supplemented the original analysis in light of new information and reaffirmed the prior report's major conclusion that the electric industry can comply with EPA's air pollution rules without threatening electric system reliability. The August report noted that proper planning and implementation can secure important public health benefits, reliable electric service, and efficient market outcomes.

    The "Fall 2011 Update" focuses on the many tools that are available for ensuring electric reliability as companies comply with the EPA rules by installing modern pollution control systems, utilizing allowances or retiring portions of the fleet that are uneconomic to retrofit. Federal and state regulators agree that the industry has the tools to maintain electric system reliability even in the face of coal plant retirements.

    On November 28, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's (NERC), whose mission it is to ensure the reliability of the North American bulk power system and which is the electric reliability organization (ERO) certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to establish and enforce reliability standards for the bulk-power system, issued another report -- NERC 2011 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. That report indicates, "A decrease in projected generation resources leads to declining planning reserve margins in some areas; however, a majority of areas appear to have adequate resource plans to meet projected peak demands over the next ten years." Regarding environmental regulations, the NERC report indicates, "While more flexibility is provided in some proposed rules, the cumulative effect from environmental regulations may reduce reserve margins in ways that could affect bulk power system reliability, depending on the scope and timing of final regulation implementation."

    The NERC report also provides a section that updates NERC's 2010 Special Reliability Assessment: Resource Adequacy Impacts of Potential U.S. Environmental Regulations. The update indicates, "In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of promulgating four regulations: the proposed Coal Combustion Residuals rule, the proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Utilities, the proposed Cooling Water Intake Structures rule -316(b), and the final Cross-State Air Pollution rule.
    "While not all of these four regulations are final, and their affects cannot be completely measured, material changes have occurred to these regulations since NERC's 2010 assessment. While many factors affect an owner's decision to retire or retrofit a facility, NERC's analysis of the integrated impact of these regulations on planning decisions shows 36 GW in the 2018 moderate case of projected accelerated retirements and derates. Though this amount appears lower than the 2010 assessment projected, 25 GW of retirements have been announced since then and are no longer included in the projected retirement numbers. More importantly, industry information continues to show that significant retrofits will be needed over the next four years in order to comply with proposed utility air toxics regulations."
    Gerry Cauley, president and chief executive officer at NERC said, "With MACT as the primary driver, the industry faces considerable operational challenges to complete, coordinate and schedule the necessary environmental retrofits. To ensure bulk power system reliability, sufficient time and certainty to schedule retrofits of more than 500 units, as well as acquire replacement resources or prepare system reinforcements is needed."
    Also on November 28, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Democratic Staff released a 3-page fact sheet on both the NERC and the MJB&A updated studies and said, the "EPA air rules do not threaten electric reliability." The fact sheet indicates, "These assessments are still based in large part on proposed, rather than final rules. Nevertheless, they provide substantial assurance that the nation can achieve significant air quality improvements from cleaning up old polluting power plants without threatening the reliability of electricity supplies."
    On the NERC assessment, the Democrats said, "Small though they are, NERC's estimated effects of the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule are likely overstated because they are based on assumptions that are unrealistically stringent. For example, instead of assuming that, under the final rule, utilities will select the least costly option to comply with the rule among a range of options permitted by the rule, NERC assumed that every plant without controls would be forced to install more expensive options (wet scrubbers and baghouses). When the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service examined this assumption from NERC's 2010 report, it found: 'NERC assumed requirements that appear to be substantially more stringent than what EPA proposed.'"
    On the MJB&A study, the Democrats comment, "One reason M.J. Bradley predicts no impact on reliability is that '[c]ompanies representing half of the nation's coal-fired generating capacity -- eleven out of the top 15 largest coal fleet owners in the U.S -- have indicated that they are well positioned to comply with EPA's clean air rules because of early investments in their generating fleets.' The report also finds that EPA and the states have legal authority to address potential reliability concerns if necessary."

    Access a announcement of the MJB&A report (click here). Access the complete MJB&A report (click here). Access a release on the NERC assessment (click here). Access the 559-page NERC 2011 assessment (click here). Access the 2010 99-page NERC EPA assessment (click here). Access the Democratic Staff fact sheet (click here). [#Energy/Grid, #Air]


Monday, November 28, 2011

UNFCCC COP17/CMP7 Kicks Off In Durban, South Africa

Nov 28: A press release from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) indicates that against a background of record greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, but also growing momentum for action to fight climate change, the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa  kicked off today. The conference runs from November 28 to December 9, 2011. At the start of the conference, South African President Jacob Zuma pointed to the climate impacts in Africa as a reason for all governments to take action. He said, "We have experienced unusual and severe flooding in coastal areas in recent times, impacting on people directly as they lose their homes, jobs and livelihoods. Given the urgency, governments need to strive to find solutions here in Durban. Change and solutions are always possible, and Durban must take us many steps forward towards a solution that saves tomorrow today."
    The newly elected President of the conference, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, stressed that Durban would be a decisive moment for the future of the multilateral rules-based regime. She said, "In Durban, we need to show the world that we are ready to tackle and solve our very real problems in a practical manner.
    The UN's top climate change official, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said governments can take two major, decisive steps in Durban. The first step relates to completing the most comprehensive package ever to help developing countries adapt to climate change and to limit the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions, which was decided at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun last year. She said, "The Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee agreed in Cancun can be completed here in Durban so that they can begin benefitting people in 2012. And in Durban, the first phase of the design of the Green Climate Fund can be approved, as a major step on the road towards better supported climate action." Governments can also ramp up funding towards the $100 billion USD of long-term climate finance they have already agreed to provide by 2020 and need to work out the 'what' and the 'how' for a review agreed in Cancun that will assess the adequacy of a below 2 degrees Celsius temperature limit, including in relation to 1.5 degrees Celcius."
    The second decisive step that can be made in Durban relates to how governments will work together to achieve their common goal of limiting the global temperature rise to a level which will prevent the worst ravages of climate change. She said, "This means, as a central task for Durban, answering the very important question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, governments will need to agree on how they want to pursue a broader framework to reduce greenhouse gases under the Climate Change Convention."
    Figueres also drew attention to the fact that action on climate change is presently building nationally, regionally and at all levels of society, and that this positive momentum can feed into the UN climate change process. She said, "These negations are about securing a better future and improving the quality of life of people. The momentum for change is building, not least in developing countries. More can be achieved if governments and the private sector work in partnerships." 
    Together with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and South African President Jacob Zuma, the UN Climate Change secretariat will in Durban launch a "Momentum for Change" initiative on December 6, designed to demonstrate how the public and private sectors are already working together to fight climate change.
    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading U.S. environmental group, said in a release, "Although the ideal outcome of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathering is for countries to extend the Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement – significant parts of which will expire next year – and to set the course for a comprehensive binding agreement in the near future, those goals do not appear to be achievable." Jennifer Haverkamp, EDF's international climate program director said, "Given the current global political and economic situations, renewal of the Kyoto Protocol is highly unlikely. But that is no excuse for the world to sit back and do nothing. We need to build on the efforts of individual countries and regions so that every nation does their part to reduce the emissions that are harming our way of life." 
    EDF has prepared a report on recommendations and expectations for the Durban climate conference and is urging the climate conference to move forward in four key areas: A negotiating work plan with concrete goals for the next two years and a clear path toward a comprehensive, binding agreement; Agreements on financing arrangements for the Green Climate Fund, which will be dedicated to helping developing countries address and adapt to climate change; Positive signals to the carbon market that there's life after Durban, encouraging more countries to follow Europe, New Zealand, and most recently Australia's lead in setting a domestic carbon price; and Accounting rules for measuring emissions from land-use change and forestry that accurately determine whether countries have reduced their emissions and met their obligations.  
    On November 25, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) announced that Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) recently met with Representatives of CFACT and invited CFACT to co-sponsor a press conference at COP17, tentatively scheduled for Monday, December 5. CFACT said, "Senator Inhofe has for years questioned the direction of U.S. and world global warming policy in the Senate and has consistently led efforts to balance the climate debate. Senator Inhofe has a long-standing relationship with Marc Morano who publishes CFACT's award-winning Climate Depot website.  Morano previously served on Senator Inhofe's staff. Morano will feature his report "From A-Z" which details a full gamut of failures in the argument for global warming."
    Access the UNFCCC release (click here). Access the opening address of Christiana Figueres (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information and details on the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting (click here). Access the host country website for additional information (click here). Access Earth Negotiations Bulletin daily coverage in Durban (click here). Access a release from EDF and link to their report (click here). Access a release from CFACT (click here). [#Climate] 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UN Releases Guidelines To Meet GHG Emissions Targets By 2020

Note: WIMS will not be publishing on Thursday and Friday during the Thanksgiving Day holiday break. We will resume publication on Monday, November 28, 2011. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day and be safe.
Nov 23: A new United Nations study released today (November 23, 2011) provides policy-makers with technical and economically feasible guidelines on how to cut down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so governments can meet their environmental targets by 2020. The study, Bridging the Emissions Gap, released by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), argues that the world already has the solutions to avert damaging climate change, and gives specific recommendations to put these into action, highlighting the need for changes in the energy system and examining various economic sectors such as electricity production, transport, aviation, forestry and agriculture to consider for emissions reductions in the next 10 years.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "The annual UNEP Gap Report is a vital contribution to the global effort to address dangerous climate change. It shows that we have much to do, both in terms of ambition and policy, but it also shows that the gap can still be closed if we act now. This is a message of hope and an important call to action." The report also examines research on the gap between the pledges made by countries to cut their GHG emissions and what measures will be needed to keep the global temperature rise below the two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) target by 2020.

    Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director said, "This report puts into the hands of governments and policy-makers vital information about their options if the world is to meet the climate change challenge." In particular, the report cites aviation and shipping as important sectors to focus on as they account for five percent of carbon dioxide emissions. However, these sectors fall outside the Kyoto Protocol, the emissions reduction treaty, whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012. The report indicates that options for reducing emissions from both sectors include improving fuel efficiency and using low-carbon fuels. For the shipping sector, another promising and simple option is to reduce ship speeds.

    Some of the report's recommendations for policy-makers include agreeing to implement their emissions reduction pledges with stricter rules, deciding to target their energy systems using more non-fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, and putting in place long-term, specific-sector policies to achieve the full emissions potential of the different economic sectors. The report includes the financial costs of these measures, addressing a key concern for policy-makers. According to UNEP, global average marginal costs range from $25-$54 per ton of removed carbon dioxide, with a median value of $34 per ton. The report also presents far more pessimistic scenarios, warning of what could happen if countries do not fully realize their commitments.

    The provision of the guidelines, which involved 55 scientists and experts from 28 scientific groups across 15 countries, comes just a few days before the start of the UN Climate Change Convention in Durban, South Africa (November 28 to December 9), and seven months before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, "Time is short, so we need to optimize the tools at hand. In Durban, governments need to resolve the immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol, define the longer path towards a global, binding climate agreement, launch the agreed institutional network to support developing countries in their response to the climate challenge, and set out a path to deliver the long-term funding that will pay for that."

    On October 24, 2011, UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI) released another similar report warning 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 [See WIMS 10/24/11]. That 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 reviewed more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime capable of delivering adequate mitigation.

    Specifically, the study reviewed 13 scenarios from nine different scientific groups. The scenarios were all able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2-degree target by 2020 by using a combination of the following:

  • Improving energy efficiency: primary energy production would need to drop up to 11 percent from business-as-usual models in 2020, and the amount of energy used per unit of GDP would need to fall 1.1-2.3 percent each year from 2005 to 2020.
  • Up to 28 percent of total primary energy would need to come from non-fossil sources in 2020 (up from 18.5 percent in 2005).
  • Up to 17 percent of total primary energy in 2020 would come from biomass (up from about 10.5 percent in 2005).
  • Up to 9 percent of total primary energy in 2020 would come from non-biomass renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectricity and the like).
  • Non-CO2 emissions would fall by up to 19 percent relative to business as usual by 2020.

    The study also examined research on various economic sectors to consider technical potential for emissions reductions by 2020. It found the following potential:

  • Electricity production: 2.2 to 3.9 GtCO2e [gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent] per year through more efficient power plants, and by introducing renewable energy sources, carbon capture and storage and fuel shifting.
  • Industry: 1.5 to 4.6 GtCO2e per year through improved energy efficiency, fuel switching, power recovery, materials efficiency and other measures.
  • Transport (excluding aviation and shipping sectors): 1.4 to 2.0 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency, adoption of electric drive vehicles, shifting to public transit and use of low-carbon fuels.
  • Aviation and shipping: 0.3-0.5 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency and low-carbon fuels, and other measures.
  • Buildings: 1.4 to 2.9 GtCO2e per year by improving the efficiency of heating, cooling, lighting and appliances, and other measures.
  • Forestry: 1.3 to 4.2 GtCO2e per year by reducing deforestation and making changes in forest management that increases above and below ground carbon stocks.
  • Agriculture: 1.1 to 4.3 GtCO2e per year through changes in cropland and livestock management practices that reduce non-CO2 emissions and enhance soil carbon.
  • Waste: about 0.8 GtCO2e per year by improving wastewater treatment, waste gas recovery from landfills, and other measures.

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a more detailed release from UNEP (click here). Access the Bridging the Emissions Gap report, executive summary and related information (click here). Access a release from WRI on the UNEP/WRI report 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]


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Super Committee Fizzles; Obama Says "No" To Altering Cuts

Nov 21: After three months and much expectation, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC, a.k.a. "Super Committee") created under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (i.e. debt ceiling legislation of last August) has announced it has failed to reach agreement on anything. The JSC was charged with devising a long-term approach to reducing the nation's deficit by at least another $1.2 trillion before this Thanksgiving. The Super Committee includes the following 12 members. Senate Democrats: Patty Murray (D-WA, Co-Chair), Max Baucus (D-MT), and John Kerry (D-MA). Senate Republicans: Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Rob Portman (R-OH). House Republicans: Jeb Hensarling (R-TX, Co-Chair); Dave Camp (R-MI); and Fred Upton (R-MI). House Democrats: James Clyburn (D-SC); Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
    The Co-Chairs of the Super Committee, Representative Jeb Hensarling and Senator Patty Murray, released a brief statement saying:
"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline. Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve.  We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee's work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.

"We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.

"We would also like to thank our committee staff, in particular Staff Director Mark Prater and Deputy Staff Director Sarah Kuehl, as well as each committee member's staff for the tremendous work they contributed to this effort. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and Mr. Thomas Barthold and their teams at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, respectively, for the technical support they provided to the committee and its members."

    President Obama issued a statement in response to the Committee's failure saying:

"As you all know, last summer I signed a law that will cut nearly $1 trillion of spending over the next 10 years.  Part of that law also required Congress to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion by the end of this year. In September, I sent them a detailed plan that would have gone above and beyond that goal. It's a plan that would reduce the deficit by an additional $3 trillion, by cutting spending, slowing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. . .

"But despite the broad agreement that exists for such an approach, there's still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington.  They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research. Even if it means deep cuts in Medicare. So at this point, at least, they simply will not budge from that negotiating position. And so far, that refusal continues to be the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce our deficit.

"Now, we are not in the same situation that we were -- that we were in in August. There is no imminent threat to us defaulting on the debt that we owe.  There are already $1 trillion worth of spending cuts that are locked in.  And part of the law that I signed this summer stated that if Congress could not reach an agreement on the deficit, there would be another $1.2 trillion of automatic cuts in 2013 -– divided equally between domestic spending and defense spending. One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. . .

Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise -- not turn off the pressure. . . The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. . .

Now, in the meantime, we've got a lot of work left to do this year. Before Congress leaves next month, we have to work together to cut taxes for workers and small business owners all across America. If we don't act, taxes will go up for every single American, starting next year. And I'm not about to let that happen. Middle-class Americans can't afford to lose $1,000 next year because Congress won't act. And I can only hope that members of Congress who've been fighting so hard to protect tax breaks for the wealthy will fight just as hard to protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle-class families. We still need to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We still need to put our teachers back in the classroom educating our kids. . ."   

    National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons issued a statement saying, "The Committee's failure to reach an agreement on deficit reduction is at best a missed opportunity to put our fiscal house in order and represents a serious step back from the goal of creating a pro-growth environment that fosters job creation and investment. Manufacturers continue to be negatively affected by the rising debt crisis and its accompanying uncertainty and shaken consumer confidence. We are extremely disappointed that the Committee did not take advantage of the opportunity to restore confidence and stability to our economy by reforming entitlement programs and creating a tax code that promotes investment, growth and jobs.

    "Moving forward, it is imperative that Congress act to stop the automatic, significant cuts to defense spending. Cuts in defense spending will have a massive ripple effect throughout the entire manufacturing economy, affecting large defense contractors, tens of thousands of small and medium-sized manufacturers in the defense supply chains and over 1 million workers -- a result we can ill-afford in a struggling economy and a period of such global unrest." The NAM's Defense Manufacturing Working Group issued a report on the true impact of defense cuts and job losses.

    Access the statement from the Super Committee (click here). Access the President's complete statement (click here). Access the statement from NAM from (click here). Access the NAM report on defense cuts and job losses (click here). [#All]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Senate Hearing On "Safe Chemicals Act" (S.847)

Nov 17: The Full Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) and the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health held a joint hearing on the "Safe Chemicals Act" (S.847) designed to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representatives from: Department of Ecology, State of Washington; BlueGreen Alliance; American Chemistry Council; McKenna Long & Aldridge; and Environmental Defense Fund. Full Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), and Subcommittee Chair Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) all delivered opening statements.
    Senator Boxer indicated, ". . .a closer look at TSCA reveals that adjustments to the law are necessary if we are to ensure that people are safe from dangerous chemicals.  Improvements are needed, because the law's effectiveness has been severely weakened over the years. In particular, a 1991 court decision that partially overturned EPA's ban of asbestos -- a deadly substance known to cause cancer -- put a heavy burden on EPA to prove that a toxic chemical presents an 'unreasonable risk' before the agency can restrict the use of a chemical. Public health and environmental groups point to other weaknesses in TSCA -- for example, the law does not include specific protections for pregnant women, infants, children, and others who are far more vulnerable to many chemicals than the general population. The time to reform our approach to regulating toxic chemicals is overdue. Europe has recently reformed its toxic chemical controls laws by creating a program, called 'REACH' [Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals]. This program requires companies to develop information on chemicals' impacts, and it puts the burden to show that its chemicals are safe where it should be -- on the chemical industry."
    Senator Inhofe said, "It is vital - given an unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent and numerous costly new regulations coming from this administration - that we make sure any TSCA reforms help to not only protect human health, but jobs and the economy. My interest in TSCA modernization - which I have said before - is in large part due to TSCA's broad reach over chemical manufacturing and its potential, and real, impacts on the economy. TSCA regulates the manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal of chemicals-authority that covers thousands of transactions and decisions by thousands of people every day. I have consistently said that TSCA modernization must be accomplished with a broad base of support, including industry up and down the value chain. It also must take into account the small and medium size businesses that could be affected the most if the law is updated improperly. . . My principles for reform remain the same: any modernization of TSCA should be based on the best available science; use a risk-based standard for chemical reviews; include cost-benefit considerations; protect proprietary information; and must prioritize reviews for existing chemicals."
    Senator Lautenberg reviewed the history of the Committee consideration over the past two years and five hearings and said, "Our hearings revealed that the status quo does not work for the chemical industry, either. In a hearing last February, executives from Dow and DuPont, two major chemical companies, testified in support of reform, in part because of the difficulties their companies face operating under different rules in different states. We heard similar messages earlier this year from the chemical maker, BASF, and S.C. Johnson, the global consumer product company. And we heard from colleagues on both sides of the aisle who agreed TSCA must be revised to work better for businesses and the health of our citizens. . . "Earlier this year, Senator Inhofe and I met about trying to make this bill bipartisan, and he suggested a process for getting more ideas from industry and others on the table. Throughout the summer, our staffs held 10 meetings with representatives from industry, labor, and environmental groups on different sections of the Safe Chemicals Act. . ."
    He  concluded saying, "The bottom line is this: this legislation establishes a strong, but practical system for guaranteeing the safety of chemicals, many of which end up in our bodies and the bodies of our children. And we remain open to other ways of achieving our shared goal of a system that improves safety and encourages continued innovation and growth in the chemical industry. But we must act on this issue soon. I plan to call for a vote in this committee in the near future. I hope we will be able to address any concerns raised today so we can approve a bipartisan bill that encourages the use of chemicals that help, and protects our children from the chemicals that harm." 

    American Chemistry Council (ACC) testified that, "Unfortunately. . . today we are discussing a bill that remains very similar to the bill introduced in 2010, which we consider unworkable." In his testimony Dooley outlined several fundamental flaws with the bill, including an unachievable safety standard, data requirements that would undermine the success of the current program to evaluate new chemicals, the creation of an overly burdensome and unnecessary minimum date set for all chemicals, and the lack of an effective prioritization process. He said, "We also believe that S.847 would compromise the protection of confidential business information, inappropriately expand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority into the jurisdiction of other federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), further complicate issues surrounding national uniformity of standards, and fail to adequately consider animal welfare."      

    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on behalf of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of over 300 organizations that speak for more than 11 million Americans. The coalition includes groups representing health professionals and health-affected populations and communities, environmental justice organizations, leading businesses, and state and national environmental groups -- all of whom came together to urge Congress to fundamentally reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. After outlining a series of problems with TSCA, EDF said, "All of these problems would be largely or entirely ameliorated by adoption of legislation introduced this year, S.847, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. It provides the framework for a comprehensive, systematic solution to a set of problems that until now have only been addressed -- if at all -- through reactive, piecemeal actions.

    EDF said, "We have ongoing dialogues with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) and more than a dozen of their member companies; these have involved many days of substantive meetings on key issues in TSCA reform over the past six months. . . While confidentiality agreements preclude me from discussing details, let me say that in our dialogue with CSPA we are on the cusp of agreement on recommendations to consider in the legislation that would address two key needs in TSCA reform: balancing public access to chemical information with the need to protect legitimate confidential business information; and designing a system to provide EPA with more robust information on how chemicals are used for purposes of both prioritizing and assessing the safety of chemicals. I have come away from my deep involvement in these dialogues with the belief that there is not a single major issue in TSCA reform for which, working together, we cannot find a solution. . ."
    Access the hearing website and link to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access more information on the REACH program (click here). [#Toxics]

Friday, November 18, 2011

IPCC SREX Report On Climate Change Risks & Adaptation

Nov 18: The member governments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, approved the release of The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The event was held in Kampala, the largest city and capital of Uganda. The full report is scheduled to be available in February 2012. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said today, "This summary for policymakers provides insights into how disaster risk management and adaptation may assist vulnerable communities to better cope with a changing climate in a world of inequalities. It also underlines the complexity and the diversity of factors that are shaping human vulnerability to extremes -- why for some communities and countries these can become disasters whereas for others they can be less severe."
    Qin Dahe, Co-chair of IPCC Working Group I, which together with Working Group II was responsible for the development and preparation of the report, said, "There is high confidence that both maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased on a global scale due to the increase of greenhouse gases. Changes in other extremes, such as more intense and longer droughts are observed in some regions, but the assessment assigns medium confidence due to a lack of direct observations and a lack of agreement in the available scientific studies. Confidence in any long-term trend in tropical cyclone intensity, frequency or duration is assessed to be low."
    Regarding the future, the assessment concludes that it is virtually certain that on a global scale hot days become even hotter and occur more often. Thomas Stocker the other Co-chair of Working Group I said, "For the high emissions scenario, it is likely that the frequency of hot days will increase by a factor of 10 in most regions of the world. Likewise, heavy precipitation will occur more often, and the wind speed of tropical cyclones will increase while their number will likely remain constant or decrease.
    Other members of the Work Groups indicated that, "Nevertheless, there are many options for decreasing risk. Some of these have been implemented, but many have not. The best options can provide benefits across a wide range of possible levels of
climate change." They said they hoped the report can be "a scientific foundation for sound decisions on infrastructure, urban development, public health, and insurance, as well as for planning -- from community organizations to international disaster risk management."
    Back in the U.S. Representative Ed. Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming issued a statement on the report saying, "The problem isn't just the extreme weather devastating communities in America and abroad, it's also the extreme ideology of Republicans leaders in Washington who continue to deny the existence of global warming. Congress needs to act on energy policies that put limits on the carbon pollution warming our planet and making these disasters worse. The human and broader economic costs of climate impacts will only grow in significance if we wait to act."
    Representative Markey indicated that the extreme weather events of 2011 have brought the costly impact of climate change into sharp focus. The latest insurance analysis finds that the United States has experienced 15 weather disasters causing at least a billion dollars in damage thus far in 2011, more billion-dollar events than any other year. He said, "This huge potential price tag should be all the reason we need, especially in this economy, for taking steps now to reduce global warming pollution. Knowing the great risk extreme weather poses to our economy and citizens -- why wouldn't we act? Rather than being distracted by debunked attacks on climate science, Congress should be debating the steps we need to take to reduce pollution, create jobs and reclaim our lead in the clean energy race."
    Earlier in the week, Representative
s Markey and Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, held a Congressional briefing entitled, "End of Climate Change Skepticism" with several prominent scientists, including Dr. Richard Muller, a scientist who was previously skeptical about many aspects of climate science, but the two-year study he led at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project has validated the fact that the world is warming [See WIMS 10/25/11].
    The IPCC report also comes one day after President Obama speaking to the Australian Parliament in Canberra said, ". . .we need growth that is sustainable. This includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change, which cannot be denied. We see it in the stronger fires, the devastating floods, the Pacific islands confronting rising seas." [See WIMS 11/17/11]. And, just three days ago the Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force issued a report entitled, Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security, which warned that "Changes in climate patterns and their impact on the physical environment can create profound effects on populations in parts of the world and present new challenges to global security and stability." [See WIMS 11/14/11].
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and a critic of the science of global warming commented on the IPCC report saying, "The discredited United Nations IPCC is back with another global warming report, only this time it faces an increasingly skeptical public," Senator Inhofe said. "The lack of attention on this latest report is a symptom of the crisis of confidence in the IPCC, which is ongoing. For years I warned that the IPCC would lose its credibility entirely and eventually be ignored if it did not make significant reforms. . .
    "Of course, in the aftermath of the Climategate scandal, when over one hundred errors in the IPCC science were revealed, I was proven right, so much so that even the mainstream media began to call for reform at the IPCC. Today, the consequences are clear: as the discredited IPCC releases its latest report, very few people have even noticed. Look for many in the liberal media to use the IPCC report to link weather events of today with global warming, as several have already done, but a closer look reveals this is not exactly the case. As for these attempts by the left, I simply say 'nice try.' This effort will fail as miserably as all their previous endeavors to promote fear and scare the public into action. . ."
    Access a release from the IPCC (click here). Access the report website for links to the Summary, a video and presentation (click here). Access the 29-page Summary for Policymakers of the SREX (click here). Access a release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the Markey-Waxman briefing with links to testimony (click here). Access the complete 175-page DSB report (click here). Access a statement from Sen. Inhofe (click here). [#Climate]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Down Under President Says "Climate Change Cannot Be Denied"

Nov 17: As part of his Asia-Pacific tour, President Obama, in a speech to the Australian Parliament in Canberra, Australia, said, ". . .we need growth that is sustainable. This includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change, which cannot be denied. We see it in the stronger fires, the devastating floods, the Pacific islands confronting rising seas. And as countries with large carbon footprints, the United States and Australia have a special responsibility to lead. Every nation will contribute to the solution in its own way -- and I know this issue is not without controversy, in both our countries. But what we can do -- and what we are doing -- is to work together to make unprecedented investments in clean energy, to increase energy efficiency, and to meet the commitments we made at Copenhagen and Cancun. We can do this, and we will."
    On November 16, at a press conference with Prime Minister Gillard of Australia, President Obama responded to a question regarding U.S. efforts on energy and climate change. He said, "With respect to carbon emissions, I share the view of your Prime Minister and most scientists in the world that climate change is a real problem and that human activity is contributing to it, and that we all have a responsibility to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions. Each country is trying to figure out how to do that most effectively. Here in Australia, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, you've moved forward with a bold strategy. In the United States, although we haven't passed what we call a cap-and-trade system, an exchange, what we have done is, for example, taken steps to double fuel efficiency standard on cars, which will have an enormous impact on removing carbon from the atmosphere.

    "We've invested heavily in clean energy research. We believe very strongly that we've improved efficiencies and a whole step range of steps that we can meet and the commitments that we made in Copenhagen and Cancun. And as we move forward over the next several years, my hope is, is that the United States, as one of several countries with a big carbon footprint, can find further ways to reduce our carbon emissions. I think that's good for the world. I actually think, over the long term, it's good for our economies as well, because it's my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers -- we're all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon.

    "Now, another belief that I think the Prime Minister and I share is that the advanced economies can't do this alone. So part of our insistence when we are in multilateral forum -- and I will continue to insist on this when we go to Durban -- is that if we are taking a series of step, then it's important that emerging economies like China and India are also part of the bargain. That doesn't mean that they have to do exactly what we do. We understand that in terms of per capita carbon emissions, they've got a long way to go before they catch up to us. But it does mean that they've got to take seriously their responsibilities as well. And so, ultimately, what we want is a mechanism whereby all countries are making an effort. And it's going to be a tough slog, particularly at a time when the economies are -- a lot of economies are still struggling. But I think it's actually one that, over the long term, can be beneficial."

    Access the Australian Parliament speech (click here). Access the President's press conference remarks (click here). Access a fact sheet on the U.S. and Australia Bilateral Meeting including a Statement on Energy (click here). [#Energy, #Climate]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EPA & DOT Release New CAFE Proposed Rules

Nov 16: U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) formally unveiled their joint proposal to set stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and light trucks [See WIMS 7/29/11]. Cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks are currently responsible for nearly 60 percent of U.S. transportation-related petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On September 27, the agencies announced they were delaying the issuance of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which was scheduled for the end of September 2011. At that time the said they expected to have a proposal by mid-November [See WIMS 9/28/11].

    A release from the agencies indicated that the announcement is "the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can't wait for Congressional Republicans to act." EPA said that when combined with other historic steps the administration has taken to increase energy efficiency, this proposal will save Americans over $1.7 trillion at the pump, nearly $8,000 per vehicle by 2025. These combined actions also will reduce America's dependence on oil by an estimated 12 billion barrels, and, by 2025, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day -- enough to offset almost a quarter of the current level of our foreign oil imports. Taken together, the actions will also slash 6 billion metric tons in GHG emissions over the life of the programs. The proposed standards alone will slash oil consumption by 4 billion barrels and cut 2 billion metric tons of GHG pollution over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in those years. 

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "These unprecedented standards are a remarkable leap forward in improving fuel efficiency, strengthening national security by reducing our dependence on oil, and protecting our climate for generations to come. We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions that create jobs and invest in the future. We are pleased that we've been able to work with the auto industry, the states, and leaders in the environmental and labor communities to move toward even tougher standards for the second phase of the president's national program to improve fuel economy and reduce pollution."

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "By setting a course for steady improvements in fuel economy over the long term, the Obama Administration is ensuring that American car buyers have their choice of the most efficient vehicles ever produced in our country. That will save them money, reduce our nation's oil consumption and cut harmful emissions in the air we breathe. This is an important addition to the landmark clean cars program that President Obama initiated to establish fuel economy standards more than two years ago. The progress we made with the help of the auto industry, the environmental community, consumer groups and others will be expanded upon in the years to come -- benefitting the health, the environment and the economy for the American people."

    The proposed program for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and trucks is expected to require increases in fuel efficiency equivalent to 54.5 mpg if all reductions were made through fuel economy improvements. These improvements would save consumers an average of up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a model year 2025 vehicle for a net lifetime savings of $4,400 after factoring in related increases in vehicle cost. Overall, the net benefit to society from this rule would total more than $420 billion over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in model year 2017-2025.

    Today's action builds on the success of the first phase of the Obama Administration's national program(2012-2016), which will raise fuel efficiency equivalent to 35.5 mpg by 2016 and result in an average light vehicle tailpipe CO2 level of 250 grams per mile. These standards are already in effect and saving consumers money at the pump now. Combined with 2011 fuel economy standards and the standards in effect for 2012-2016, today's proposal represents the most significant Federal action ever taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy. Taken together, these actions would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half and result in model year 2025 light-duty vehicles with nearly double the fuel economy of model year 2010 vehicles.

    The national policy on fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions created by DOT and EPA provides regulatory certainty and flexibility that reduces the cost of compliance for auto manufacturers while reducing oil consumption and harmful air pollution. By continuing the national program developed for model year 2012-2016 vehicles, EPA and DOT have designed a proposal that allows manufacturers to keep producing a single, national fleet of passenger cars and light trucks that satisfies all federal and California standards. It also ensures that consumers will continue to enjoy a full range of vehicle choices with performance, utility and safety features that meet their individual needs.

    The standards will rely on innovative technologies that are expected to spur economic growth and create high-quality jobs across the country. Major auto manufacturers are already heavily invested in developing advanced technologies that can significantly reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing model year 2012-2016 standards. In addition, a wide range of technologies are currently available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems. The standards should also spur manufacturers to increasingly explore electric technologies such as start/stop, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. The model year 2017-2025 proposal includes a number of incentive programs to encourage early adoption and introduction of "game changing" advanced technologies, such as hybridization for pickup trucks.

    The proposal released today follows President Obama's announcement in July that the administration and 13 major automakers representing more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. have agreed to build on the first phase of the national vehicle program. EPA and DOT worked closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop the proposal -- including manufacturers, the United Auto Workers, the State of California, and consumer and environmental groups.

    There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. In addition, DOT and EPA plan to hold several public hearings around the country to allow further public input. California plans to issue its proposal for model year 2017-2025 vehicle greenhouse gas standards on December 7 and will finalize its standards in January.
    The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) issued a statement saying, "America's auto dealers support continuous improvement in the fuel economy of the fleet of vehicles that drive on the nation's roads. To this end, we are concerned that adding about $3,000 to the average cost of a car will price millions of Americans out of the market, which could reduce fleet turnover and delay environmental gains. This regulation gambles that millions of consumers will be able to afford thousands more for generally smaller, more expensive vehicles that may not meet their needs. This policy is contrary to what most consumers are actually buying today, despite the wide availability of more fuel efficient models. We need fuel economy policies that encourage the sales of fuel efficient vehicles, instead of risky mandates that frustrate consumer demand and depress fleet turnover.  The number one question that must be asked is: How many people will no longer be able to afford a new vehicle if the government raises the price of a new car by about $3,000? We will analyze the rule with this principal question in mind. We urge Congress to do the same."
    President and CEO Michael Stanton of the Association of Global Automakers, representing international motor vehicle manufacturers, issued a statement saying, "Global Automakers and its members have always endorsed a comprehensive and harmonized national approach to reducing GHG emissions and improve fuel economy. We have been working diligently with the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and the California Air Resources Board to create a program that meets our national environmental and energy objectives while providing manufacturers the needed flexibility and lead-time to design and build advanced technology vehicles so they can continue to provide consumers with a full range of vehicle choices. Though we need time to review the details of the proposed rule, we are pleased that the agencies have aligned their processes to eliminate redundancies and coordinate schedules to create one harmonized national program."
    Mitch Bainwol, President of the Auto Alliance, representing both U.S. and foreign manufacturers said, "This proposal continues the approach of establishing a single national program for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, which is the right overall direction. The proposed regulations present aggressive targets, and the Administration must consider that technology break-throughs will be required and consumers will need to buy our most energy-efficient technologies in very large numbers to meet the goals."
    Michelle Robinson, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Clean Vehicles Program said, "If you love going to the gas station, you are going to hate these standards. President Obama continues to take the burden of America's oil addiction seriously. The benefits we'll see show how essential the Clean Air Act is for protecting American's health. Seven years ago, California used its Clean Air Act authority to set the nation's first vehicle global warming pollution standards. Now, President Obama has used his combined authority on fuel efficiency and auto pollution to pave the way for cleaner cars through 2025."
    Derek Walker, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Director of Strategic Climate Initiatives said, "Fortunately, when it comes to climate and energy policies, what happens in California doesn't stay in California. The Golden State's leadership charting the path to cleaner cars that will make our nation more prosperous and secure have led to one of President Obama's greatest energy and environmental successes. Consumers and businesses are rightly concerned about our dependence on imported oil and rising energy prices. These standards will address those concerns, save them money and create a healthier environment."
    EDF notes that California and 13 other states -- Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington -- adopted state clean car standards that provided the foundation for the national emission standards.

    Access a release from EPA & DOT (click here). Access the NHTSA and EPA's notice of proposed rulemaking (click here). Access more information from EPA (click here). Access more information from NHTSA (click here). Access a release from NADA (click here). Access a release from Global Automakers (click here). Access a statement from the Auto Alliance (click here, posted soon). Access a lengthy release from UCS with more information (click here). Access a release from EDF with more information (click here).  [#Energy/CAFE, #Climate, #Air]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Report Says Power Plants Are Stressing Freshwater Resources

Nov 15: A new report by the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative, a three-year research collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of more than a dozen scientists indicates that power plants are stressing freshwater resources around the country. The report, Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity's Thirst for a Precious Resource, is the first systematic assessment of how power-plant cooling affects freshwater resources across the United States and of the quality of the data available on power plant water usage.

    Lead researcher Kristen Averyt, who is deputy director of the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder said, "Our research found that power plants can be very important in terms of the pressure put on the freshwater resources we depend on -- rivers, streams, lakes, and aquifers -- even in unexpected places. Some of the watersheds our analysis identified -- in places like Texas -- should come as no surprise. But unlike in arid regions, where many power plants have already minimized their water use, we found indicators of potential problems in seemingly water-rich regions like the Southeast. Here our analysis uncovered some surprises, such as the Seneca River in South Carolina and the Upper Dan in North Carolina. It's important for the public to know that because many power plants depend so heavily on water, there's a real risk that they'll have to cut back electricity production at times when they can't get enough cooling water. Just ask power companies in Texas."

    To gauge water-supply stress, the analysis examined the balance of local water supply and demand in each major watershed or "sub-basin" in the United States, then factored in the amount of water that power plants are using. The analysis then focused on areas where power plant demands were the largest contributor to water body stress based on the methodology. Because of the need for good information to perform these types of analyses, the study also assessed the U.S. Department of Energy's reporting system used to track power plant water usage. The analysis looked at what power plants reported as their water usage in 2008 – the most recent data then available.

    John Rogers, the report's co-author and senior analyst at UCS said, "Uncovering power plants' water use was not an easy task because the data reported by plant operators and compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration -- the most comprehensive set of information on power plant water use and cooling technologies -- was full of holes and errors. We had to piece together a lot of information to get a better handle on how much water power plants were really using. If we had used the Department of Energy data, we would have gotten a different picture of water stress from what we see in our results. Where our analysis found water-supply stress to be driven mainly by power plants, several did not show up when we used the available data from the Energy Department."

    The report also showed that power plants are stressing water bodies by discharging water at temperatures harmful to fish and other wildlife. In 2008, 350 power plants across the country reported discharging water at temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and some at temperatures over 110 degrees.

"It's unsafe for people to sit in a Jacuzzi at 105 degrees, let alone live in it," said Rob Jackson, director of the Center on Global Environmental Change at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a member of the report's scientific advisory committee. "Fish and other species can't climb out of the hot tub." The report indicates that in recent years, a number of power plants have had to cut back power production because they were unable to stay within water temperature discharge limits. And, concludes, "Without water-smart energy choices, energy-water collisions may worsen as the population and the corresponding demand for energy and freshwater supplies grows, and as the climate changes. Water-smart technologies include wind and solar photovoltaics, which use essentially no water, and produce no carbon emissions."

    Access a release from UCS (click here). Access links to the complete 62-page report, appendices, executive summary and related information (click here). [#Energy/Electric, #Water]


Monday, November 14, 2011

More Mixed Reactions To State Department Project XL Decision

Nov 10: House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican leaders expressed deep disappointment in response to the Administration's announced delay of the Keystone XL pipeline decision [See WIMS 11/11/11]. On November 10, the State Department announced that it had determined it is necessary delay the project which could extend well into 2013 while it examines in-depth alternative routes that would avoid the Sand Hills area of Nebraska. The State Department noted that the Sand Hills area includes a high concentration of wetlands of special concern, a sensitive ecosystem, and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater. The final decision had originally been scheduled for the end of this year. The President issued a statement in support of the State Department decision.
    In a release, the Republican members including Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) said, "Instead of approving the pipeline, and allowing this construction project to move forward and create a massive infusion of American jobs, the President refused to issue a decision on the Presidential Permit and continued to delay the project by directing the State Department to come up with an alternate route."

    The Republican Members said further, "The Keystone XL pipeline gives the President the unique opportunity to create thousands of jobs and advance our nation's energy security. All he has to do is say 'yes' and the jobs will come. Unfortunately, his plan to re-route the pipeline would delay a final decision until 2013. This is conveniently past election day, but far too long to make workers wait. Today's announcement doesn't get us any closer to a solution and does nothing to increase our nation's energy security or create needed jobs. All it does is kick the can down the road at a time we can least afford such inaction.

    "With a sluggish economy and stubbornly high unemployment, more delays are simply unacceptable. The Keystone XL pipeline is a shovel-ready jobs stimulus that won't cost taxpayers a dime. Construction of the pipeline will directly employ 20,000 Americans and create more than 100,000 spin-off jobs. Manufacturers and labor unions are begging the President to approve the pipeline so they can get blue-collar Americans back to work. Each day the President delays the project is another day an American worker remains unemployed.

    "This project has undergone more than three years of study since the application was submitted in September 2008, and about a year ago, Secretary Clinton said she was inclined to approve the pipeline. The President says we can't wait for jobs, but his decision to delay this project is jeopardizing the entire project and harming our energy and economic security in the process. Several analysts believe a delay of this magnitude could effectively kill the pipeline. If we don't import Canada's oil, China gladly will. The President's window of opportunity is quickly closing, and by refusing to make a decision, he is all but painting it shut. Bipartisan legislation sailed through the House once this year already, and we won't hesitate to act again to do whatever we can to move this job-creating project forward."

    The Democratic Ranking Member of the Committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a very brief statement on the project saying, "The State Department recognized today that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threatens our health and security. We can act to avoid catastrophic climate change or we can lock in a 100-year dependence on tar sands -- the dirtiest, most carbon-polluting oil available -- but we cannot choose both. As the State Department further evaluates this misguided proposal, it must thoroughly and impartially address how the pipeline would exacerbate climate change, as well as other concerns."

    TransCanada Corporation, the project developer issued a lengthy release indicating that it has spoken with the State Department (DOS) and will have conversations with the DOS in the coming days to discuss next steps. The company said it has been informed that further analysis of route options for the Keystone XL pipeline need to be investigated, with a specific focus on the Sandhills in Nebraska.
    Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer said, "We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved. This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed." But Girling acknowledges while Keystone XL remains the best option for American and Canadian producers to get their oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the announcement by the DOS "could have potential negative ramifications, especially where shippers and U.S. refiners are concerned." He said, "Supplies of heavy crude from Venezuela and Mexico to U.S. refineries will soon end. If Keystone XL is continually delayed, these refiners may have to look for other ways of getting the oil they need.  Oil sands producers face the same dilemma -- how to get their crude oil to the Gulf Coast. If Keystone XL dies, Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations, without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long term energy security. That would be a tragedy."
    On November 10, Nebraska's Republican Governor Dave Heineman issued a statement regarding pipeline siting legislation being developed in the State. He said, "Yesterday the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee made a very important decision when it advanced pipeline siting legislation to the full Legislature for debate. I appreciate the extensive discussion that went into making this decision. The issue of pipeline siting legislation deserves a thoughtful and thorough debate by the full Legislature. Senator Langemeier's bill, LB 4, is a good starting point for the discussion. I want to commend Nebraskans for sharing their thoughts and concerns at the Legislature's committee hearings this week. Their comments were serious and sincere." Governor Heineman did not comment specifically on the State Department decision.
    Nebraska's Democratic Senator Ben Nelson issued a statement saying, "For more than a year, Nebraskans have voiced concerns about the proposed route of the pipeline. I have been in regular communication with the Department of State urging them to extend the comment period to allow Nebraska state agencies to comment, and to conduct hearings in Nebraska to hear firsthand from Nebraskans. The State department has responded to those concerns. Today's decision now allows the State of Nebraska another opportunity to exercise its authority and take action on behalf of Nebraskans, rather than waiting until it's too late. The State Department noted today that state laws govern routes of interstate pipelines, but Nebraska currently has no such law or process in place. It is my hope that the State of Nebraska will use the State Department's decision today to protect the interests of Nebraska citizens by exercising its authority to determine the appropriate pipeline route in Nebraska, and that the State Department will support Nebraska's decision. As I've said before, this is a fundamental states' rights issue."
    Nebraska's Republican Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) sent a brief letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the State Department's announcement on the decision to delay saying, "If the announcement is a sincere effort to identify a better route within my state, I applaud the decision. I am concerned, however, that the Department's move today may serve only to delay the final decision until after the Presidential election. . . Considering your agency has studied the proposed route for several years, keeping it under consideration makes no sense given today's announcement. Please therefore consider this letter a formal request that the Department of State immediately acknowledge that the current route is no longer being considered." Senator Johanns said, ". . .while I oppose neither the development of the oil that will flow in the pipeline, nor the pipeline itself, I am convinced that the propose rout is the wrong route and should be rejected."

    Note: For additional reactions from other interests see the WIMS posting [See WIMS 11/11/11].

    Access the statement from the Republican Committee Members (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Waxman (click here). Access the release from TransCanada (click here). Access the TransCanada Keystone XL project website (click here). Access the statement from Gov. Heineman (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Nelson (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Johanns (click here). Access the State Department announcement (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/OilSands]