Thursday, December 27, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: WIMS... Thursday, December 27, 2012

Breaking News Alert
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Announces Resignation
Dec 27: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a brief statement announcing her departure. She said:
"I want to thank President Obama for the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years ago this month when he announced my nomination as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time I spoke about the need to address climate change, but also said: 'There is much more on the agenda: air pollution, toxic chemicals and children's health issues, redevelopment and waste-site cleanup issues, and justice for the communities who bear disproportionate risk.' As the President said earlier this year when he addressed EPA's employees, 'You help make sure the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are safe. You help protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving toward energy independence…We have made historic progress on all these fronts.' So, I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference."
    Access the complete announcement (click here).
WIMS is on Christmas/New Year's break. We will return with regular postings on January 7, 2013.
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32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals


Friday, December 21, 2012

EPA Finalizes Boiler MACT, Cement & NHSM Rules

Dec 21: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed the final changes to Clean Air Act standards for major and area source boilers (i.e. Boiler MACT) and commercial/industrial solid waste incinerators. EPA indicated in a release that the finalized changes to the standards for boilers and certain incinerators will achieve extensive public health protections by slashing toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution, while at the same addressing feedback provided by industry and labor groups, increasing the rule's flexibility and dramatically reducing costs. As a result, 99 percent (99%) of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. are not covered or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups.

    According to a release, the final adjustments to the standards are based on an extensive analysis of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. As a result of information gathered through this review, including significant dialogue and meetings with public health groups, industry, and the public, the final rule dramatically cuts the cost of implementation by individual boilers that EPA proposed in 2010. At the same time, these rules will continue to deliver significant public health benefits. EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce these pollutants, the public will see $13 to $29 in health benefits, including fewer instances of asthma, heart attacks, as well as premature deaths.

    The rules set numerical emission limits for less than one percent of boilers -- those that emit the majority of pollution from this sector. For these high emitting boilers and incinerators, typically operating at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities, EPA is establishing more targeted emissions limits that protect public health and provide industry with practical, cost-effective options to meet the standards.

    EPA also finalized revisions to the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials (NHSM) Rule to provide clarity on what types of secondary materials are considered non-waste fuels and provide greater flexibility in rule implementation. This final rule classifies a number of secondary materials as categorical non-wastes when used as a fuel and allows for operators to request that EPA identify specific materials through rulemaking as a categorical non-waste fuel.

    Particle pollution and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to adverse health effects including cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death. In addition, toxic pollutants such as mercury and lead that will be reduced by this rule are linked to developmental disabilities in children. These standards will avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.

    In yet another, separate EPA action, to meet a court deadline, the Agency issued final amendments to the 2010 clean air standards for the cement manufacturing industry. EPA said the final amendments maintain the significant emission reductions from the 2010 standards, while providing industry additional time to implement the revised rules.
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, was one of the first to react to EPA announcement. He praised EPA's action on industrial boilers used in major manufacturing facilities and elsewhere and said the new standards will reduce many types of pollution, including toxic mercury and weather-changing carbon pollution. Rep. Markey said, "Cutting mercury pollution from these industrial facilities will protect our children and cutting carbon pollution from these boilers will help heal the climate. From cars and trucks to power plants and now industrial boilers, the Obama administration is showing it is committed to cutting pollution. Republicans in Congress tried to block these pollution standards, and they failed. In this next Congress, Congressional Republicans should move to a real Plan B on pollution, where they support stronger standards for new power plants and other sources that are damaging our children's lungs and causing more extreme weather."
    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons issued a statement on the final Boiler MACT regulation saying:

"For the second straight week, the EPA has finalized another costly and crippling regulation at a time when our economy is on the brink. Boiler MACT will not create jobs, and studies indicate it could cost manufacturers as much as $14 billion. Manufacturers are understandably growing more pessimistic about the direction of the economy. The end-of-year regulatory assault on businesses, combined with the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff, makes for one of the worst business environments in living memory.

"The NAM has weighed in with the EPA throughout this entire process to ensure the agency completely understood the damaging economic consequences of this regulation. We appreciate the EPA's efforts to engage with us and to modify the rule to make it more achievable. Unfortunately, this regulation remains far from being realistic. Currently, it is 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in the United States compared to our major trading partners, and Boiler MACT will only drive that differential higher. An improved version of a bad regulation is still a bad regulation.

"The EPA is taking the season of giving too far, as it has now issued three separate multibillion-dollar regulations in just the past seven days. The onslaught of regulations from the EPA means manufacturers will continue to see rising energy prices and skyrocketing compliance costs, which translate into few opportunities for growth and even fewer jobs. Any confidence manufacturers had that the EPA's next four years will be different is quickly eroding. We need a sensible approach to regulations and need the EPA to work with manufacturers to reduce the economic damage of overly aggressive regulations."

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a brief statement on the EPA actions saying, "We appreciate EPA's thoughtful consideration of these rules and willingness to make sensible changes. While we need to review the rules for technical details, it appears that a number of improvements have been made. These include creating additional subcategories for boilers and more flexible compliance options for meeting emission limits, revising emission limits, allowing the use of work practice standards for certain pollutants, and providing more flexibility for units burning clean gases."
    John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Clean Air Program said, "These standards are a mixed bag. Americans will breathe cleaner air thanks to the EPA reducing dangerous pollution from thousands of local boilers in communities across the country. This will save more than 8,000 lives every year, an important public health achievement and better than previous standards had promised. The agency, however, eased standards in their final rules for cement manufacturers, which is troubling and deserves further explanation."
    James Bradbury, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute (WRI) issued a statement saying, "Just in time for the holidays, this is a welcome gift for people and the planet. These new environmental standards will help spur greater efficiency across a range of U.S. industrial and commercial energy users. The EPA has taken steps to ensure that the rule will promote energy efficiency by improving environmental performance while increasing flexibility for affected facilities. This is good news for the manufacturing workforce, for public health, and for the climate."
    Access a release from EPA on the three actions (click here). Access more detailed information on the final standards for boilers and incinerators (click here). Access more on the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials Rule (click here). Access a release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from NAM (click here). Access the statement from ACC (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from WRI (click here). [#Air]
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

DOI Releases Final Plan For National Petroleum Reserve In Alaska

Dec 19: The Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced the availability of the Integrated Activity Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final IAP/EIS) for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The preferred alternative identified in the EIS would allow for the development of 72 percent of the estimated economically recoverable oil in the Reserve while protecting the vital subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations. Secretary Salazar also issued a memo to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirming that the preferred alternative will allow for the potential construction of pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the NPR-A.

    After receiving more than 400,000 public comments and following two days of meetings and visits with North Slope leaders, Salazar first announced the key elements of the Preferred Alternative (Alternative B-2) for the IAP/EIS in August. Release of the Final IAP/EIS now paves the way for the Secretary to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) that adopts the final management plan in the first quarter of 2013. He said, "As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above strategy to continue to expand domestic energy production, this comprehensive plan will guide the transition from leasing and exploration to responsible production and transport of the Reserve's substantial oil and gas resources. A balanced approach will allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we've done over the last three years, while protecting significant caribou herds, migratory bird habitat and sensitive coastal resources that are critically important to the culture and subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives and our nation's conservation heritage."

    In the memo, Secretary Salazar also requested that the BLM engage in additional outreach to North Slope communities in the coming weeks, with an eye toward establishing a stakeholder group that will provide ongoing input on the management of protected areas and other NPR-A implementation issues. The Notice of Availability of the Final IAP/EIS, which will be published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2012, will start a minimum review period of 30 days prior to the issuance of a final decision by the Secretary. The Final IAP/EIS is the first management plan that covers the entire Reserve, including 9.2 million acres in the southwest area. Previous plans covered the northeast and northwest planning areas only. The comprehensive blueprint will allow for access to oil and gas resources on 11.8 million acres, which are estimated to hold 549 million barrels of economically recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of economically recoverable natural gas.

    DOI indicated in a release that domestic oil and gas production has grown each year the President has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in nearly a decade and natural gas production at its highest level ever. Foreign oil imports now account for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America -- the lowest level since 1995. In fiscal year 2012, DOI paid out $12.15 billion in revenue generated from energy production on public lands and offshore areas -- a $1 billion increase over the previous year.

    Following President Obama's direction in May, 2011 that annual oil and gas lease sales be conducted in the NPR-A, BLM offered three million acres last December that generated 17 winning bids covering more than 120,000 acres. Another lease sale on November 7, 2012, offered 4.5 million acres and received 14 winning bids on 160,088 total acres. There are now 177 authorized oil and gas leases in the NPR-A, encompassing 1.4 million acres. To date, only exploratory drilling has occurred, but last year, with the assistance of the President's Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, the Corps of Engineers issued permits to ConocoPhillips to allow for the first commercial oil and gas production in the Reserve.

    U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued a statement on the DOI Final IAP/EIS saying, "I continue to be concerned that the management plan chosen by the administration greatly restricts access to our nation's oil and natural gas resources, especially in the eastern portion of the petroleum reserve. I recognize Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's effort in the memorandum to clarify that pipelines may be constructed across the petroleum reserve, I remain concerned, however, that the plan sets up roadblocks to an economically feasible project. It's incumbent on the secretary to be clear in the record of decision that any future NEPA review of potential pipeline routes and infrastructure not prohibit construction of an economic project. As written, the absence of clear direction in the EIS jeopardizes future oil and gas production development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

    "It's hard to have confidence in the plan given the discrepancies contained in the initial announcement. The administration's announcement indicates that it makes 72 percent of the oil in the reserve open to development, including allowing for recovery of an estimated 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. What the announcement doesn't say is that the plan locks up 83.5 percent of the likely natural gas in the reserve. That is totally unacceptable to the nation and to future economy of Alaska."

    She noted that just last year the Department of the Interior placed the mean estimate of natural gas available for recovery from the petroleum reserve at 52.8 trillion cubic feet. She said her position is that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska's "legal purpose" is to provide petroleum to the United States to ensure the nation's energy security.
    Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued a statement indicating that the DOI plan would protect nearly 11 million acres of important wildlife habitat. He said, "Today's announcement is great news for conservation in America's Arctic. The final plan makes it clear that a balanced approach for using and protecting the western Arctic is possible and beneficial. For the first time it recognizes the importance of the Reserve for wildlife and Native communities, not just for fossil fuel development.

    "The Reserve supports the calving grounds of our nation's largest caribou herd, the highest concentration of grizzly bears and wolverines in the Arctic, and provides critical habitat for millions of shorebirds and waterfowl. The areas most important wildlife -- areas like Tshekpuk Lake and the Utukok Uplands -- must be kept off-limits to drilling and mining. This plan reflects the widespread desire voiced by Alaska Natives, businesses, scientists, and hundreds of thousands of Americans for protection of these irreplaceable special places in the western Arctic. We look forward to seeing these areas thrive as the plan is implemented. We look forward to continuing to work with the Obama Administration to fight climate disruption and to protect the special places in America's Arctic. The best solution is to move our country beyond oil. We should be investing in ways to make our cars cleaner and more efficient and expanding our transportation choices, not opening up our Arctic wonders to drilling and mining."

    Access a release from DOI and link to related information (click here). Access the NPR-A Final IAP/EIS documents from the BLM-Alaska website (click here). Access Secretary Salazar's memo to the Bureau of Land Management (click here). Access a map of the NPR-A final plan delineation and additional information (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). [#Energy/OilGas, #Wildlife, #Land]

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32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dems Call For Climate Change Hearings; Cite Recent Reports

Dec 19: Several Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, citing recent assessments by the U.S. government of climate threats against America's natural resources, called on committee Republicans to immediately hold hearings on climate change and America's natural heritage. The Members said, "We believe that the Committee should hold a comprehensive series of oversight hearings to examine the impact of climate change and related extreme weather events on our water resources, our forests, our wildlife and our fisheries and oceans in the new Congress. We strongly urge you to convene such hearings and we look forward to working with you in planning such hearings in the New Year."
    According to a release, a ten year assessment released by the Forest Service (see below) on the conditions of America's Federal forests found that climate change will decrease the amount of drinking water available from our forests, and an increase in wildfire. And a recent report by the Department of Interior found that the Colorado River Basin would experience huge deficiencies in supply of water for farmers and families, in large part because of climate change.

    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the committee, was joined in the letter to Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands, Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water and Power, and Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs.

    The Democrats said in their letter, "We believe that the Committee should hold a comprehensive series of oversight hearings to examine the impact of climate change and related extreme weather events on our water resources, our forests, our wildlife and our fisheries and oceans in the new Congress." The action mirrors similar, multiple requests from Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and various Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for that committee to hold hearings related to climate change and its impacts.

    The letter cites the "almost apocalyptic" weather that affected the United States this year as one reason for concern. The Democrats focus on several recent studies, however, that point to troubling issues for America's natural resources, which are overseen by the committee.

    The Forest Service report notes that while America's National Forests are the single largest source of drinking water in the Nation, supplying water to over 66 million Americans, "The result of the combination of increasing water demand and declining water yields is an increase in vulnerability of the U.S. water supply to shortage, especially in the larger Southwest and Great Plains." According to a release from the Forest Service, the study shows the potential for significant loss of privately-owned forests to development and fragmentation, which could substantially reduce benefits from forests that the public now enjoys including clean water, wildlife habitat, forest products and others. Agriculture Under Secretary Harris Sherman said, "We should all be concerned by the projected decline in our nation's forests and the corresponding loss of the many critical services they provide such as clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, wood products and outdoor recreation. Today's report offers a sobering perspective on what is at stake and the need to maintain our commitment to conserve these critical assets."

    The Forest Service assessment's projections are influenced by a set of scenarios with varying assumptions about U.S. population and economic growth, global population and economic growth, global wood energy consumption and U.S. land use change from 2010 to 2060. Using those scenarios, the report forecasts key trends including: Forest areas will decline as a result of development, particularly in the South, where population is projected to grow the most; Timber prices are expected to remain relatively flat; Rangeland area is expected to continue its slow decline but rangeland productivity is stable with forage sufficient to meet expected livestock grazing demands; Biodiversity may continue to erode because projected loss of forestland will impact the variety of forest species; and Recreation use is expected to trend upward.

    The Colorado River Basin study cited by the Democrats says that there will be a reduction of 9 percent in flow of the Colorado River over the next 50 years compared to the last 100 years, and that droughts will be more intense. The number of people who could be affected by shortages due to drought and demand could double to 76.5 million people by 2060, according to the report.

    According to a release from the Department of Interior (DOI) Bureau of Reclamation, the average imbalance in future supply and demand is projected to be greater than 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060. One acre-foot of water is approximately the amount of water used by a single household in a year. The study projects that the largest increase in demand will come from municipal and industrial users, owing to population growth. The Colorado River Basin currently provides water to some 40 million people, and the study estimates that this number could nearly double to approximately 76.5 million people by 2060, under a rapid growth scenario.

    DOI Secretary Ken Salazar said, "There's no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years -- rather, it's going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions. Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. While not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions."

    The Democrats did not mention another very relevant study released yesterday (December 18), prepared by  the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Arizona State University in Tempe [See WIMS 12/18/12]. The technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment indicates that plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events -- such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating -- at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago. The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks.

    Access a release from the House Democrats and link to the letter (click here). Access a release from the Forest Service and link to the complete report (click here). Access a release from DOI/BLM and link to the complete report (click here). [#Climate, #Land, #Agriculture]

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32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Climate Change Impacts On Biodiversity & Ecosystems

Dec 18: A technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment indicates that plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events -- such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating -- at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago. The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. More than 60 Federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Arizona State University in Tempe, authored the assessment.

    Nancy Grimm, a scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report said, "These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven't previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources." Grimm explained that such mismatches in the availability and timing of natural resources can influence species' survival; for example, if insects emerge well before the arrival of migrating birds that rely on them for food, it can adversely affect bird populations. Earlier thaw and shorter winters can extend growing seasons for insect pests such as bark beetles, having devastating consequences for the way ecosystems are structured and function. This can substantially alter the benefits people derive from ecosystems, such as clean water, wood products and food.

    Amanda Staudt, a NWF climate scientist and a lead author on the report said, "The impact of climate change on ecosystems has important implications for people and communities. Shifting climate conditions are affecting valuable ecosystem services, such as the role that coastal habitats play in dampening storm surge or the ability of our forests to provide timber and help filter our drinking water."

    Another key finding is the mounting evidence that population declines and increased extinction risks for some plant and animal species can be directly attributed to climate change. The most vulnerable species are those already degraded by other human-caused stressors such as pollution or exploitation, unable to shift their geographic range or timing of key life events, or that have narrow environmental or ecological tolerance. For example, species that must live at high altitudes or live in cold water with a narrow temperature range, such as salmon, face an even greater risk due to climate change.

    Michelle Staudinger, a lead author of the report and a USGS and University of Missouri scientist said, "The report clearly indicates that as climate change continues to impact ecological systems, a net loss of global species' diversity, as well as major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services, are quite likely." For example, she added, climate change is already causing shifts in the abundance and geographic range of economically important marine fish. "These changes will almost certainly continue, resulting in some local fisheries declining or disappearing while others may grow and become more valuable if fishing communities can find socially and economically viable ways to adapt to these changes."

    Natural resource managers are already contending with what climate change means for the way they approach conservation. For example, the report indicates that land managers are now more focused on the connectivity of protected habitats, which can improve a species' ability to shift its geographic range to follow optimal conditions for survival. Bruce Stein, a lead author of the report and director of climate adaptation at NWF said, "The conservation community is grappling with how we manage our natural resources in the face of climate change, so that we can help our ecosystems to continue meeting the needs of both people and wildlife." Other key findings of the report include:

  • Changes in precipitation and extreme weather events can overwhelm the ability of natural systems to reduce or prevent harm to people from these events. For example, more frequent heavy rainfall events increase the movement of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, likely resulting not only in ecosystem change, but also in adverse changes in the quality of drinking water and a greater risk of waterborne-disease outbreaks.  
  • Changes in winter have big and surprising effects on ecosystems and their services. Changes in soil freezing, snow cover and air temperature affect the ability of ecosystems to store carbon, which, in turn, influences agricultural and forest production. Seasonally snow-covered regions are especially susceptible to climate change because small precipitation or temperature shifts can cause large ecosystem changes. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters are already increasing the likelihood of pest outbreaks, leading to tree mortality and more intense, extensive fires. Decreased or unreliable snowfall for winter sports and recreation will likely cause high future economic losses.
  • The ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and more severe storms. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are most vulnerable to the loss of coastal protection services provided by wetlands and coral reefs. Along the Pacific coast, long-term dune erosion caused by increasing wave heights is projected to cause problems for communities and for recreational beach activities. However, other kinds of recreation will probably improve due to better weather, with the net effect being that visitors and tourism dollars will shift away from some communities in favor of others.  
  • Climate change adaptation strategies are vital for the conservation of diverse species and effective natural resource policy and management. As more adaptive management approaches are developed, resource managers can enhance the country's ability to respond to the impacts of climate change through forward-looking and climate science-informed goals and actions.
  • Ecological monitoring needs to be improved and better coordinated among federal and state agencies to ensure the impacts of climate change are adequately monitored and to support ecological research, management, assessment and policy. Existing tracking networks in the United States will need to improve coverage through time and in geographic area to detect and track climate-induced shifts in ecosystems and species.

    Federal law requires that the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) submit an assessment of climate change and its impacts to the President and the Congress once every four years. Technical reports, articles and books -- such as this report --underpin the corresponding chapters of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, due out in 2013. This technical report is available at the USGCRP website, as are other completed technical reports.

    Access a release from USGS (click here). Access the complete 296-page report (click here). [#Climate, #Wildlife]

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32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, December 17, 2012

Possible Energy Independence In 10-20 Years With Shale Gas

Dec 10: The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) recently released a report indicating that the world of 2030 will be "radically transformed from our world today." The quadrennial report by the Intelligence Community's top analysts, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, projects that by 2030 the U.S. most likely will remain "first among equals" among the other great powers, due to the legacy of its leadership role in the world and the dominant role it has played in international politics across the board in both hard and soft power. The replacement of the U.S. by another global power and construction of a new international order is an unlikely outcome in this time period.

    Nevertheless, the report says that with the rapid rise of other countries, the "unipolar moment" is over and no country -- whether the U.S., China, or any other country -- "will be a hegemonic power." In terms of the indices of overall power -- GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment -- Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined.

    The empowerment of individuals, the diffusion of power among states, and from states to informal networks, will have a dramatic impact bringing a growing democratization, at both the international and domestic level. Additionally, it is reported that two other "megatrends" will shape the world out to 2030: Demographic patterns especially rapid aging and growing demands on resources such as food and water, which might lead to scarcities. These trends, which exist today, are projected to gain momentum over the coming 15-20 years.

    The report identifies six "tectonic shifts" -- critical changes to key features of the global environment -- underpinning the megatrends that will affect how the world works. One positive "shift" sees energy independence for the U.S. in as short a period as 10 to 20 years due to abundant quantities of shale gas. This is the second report in recent weeks to discuss U.S. energy independence [See WIMS 11/13/12]. On November 12, the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) and sais 
the global energy map is changing in dramatic fashion. That Agency's flagship publication, released in London, said the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States will mean "a sea-change in global energy flows." WEO's central scenario, the United States could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020, and "almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035."
    The ODNI report indicates a more sinister "shift" could be the wider access to lethal and disruptive technologies such as bioterror weapons and cyber instruments, which could offer a means for individuals and small groups to inflict large-scale violence and disruption. The report also outlines six key "game-changers" -- questions regarding the global economy, governance, conflict, regional instability, technology and the role of the U.S. -- which will largely determine what kind of transformed world will be inhabited in 2030. The game-changers include: The Crisis-Prone Global Economy; The Governance Gap; Potential for Increased Conflict; Wider Scope of Regional Instability; The Impact of New Technologies; and The Role of the United States.

    Following the precedent in earlier editions of Global Trends, the current edition sketches out future models for the world out to 2030: "Stalled Engines," "Fusion," "Gini Out-of-the-Bottle," and "Nonstate World." As with previous editions, none of these alternative worlds are inevitable and in reality, the future will probably consist of elements from all the scenarios.  
    One of the "Megatrends" analyzed includes the Growing food, water,and energy nexus. The report indicates: "The increasing nexus among food, water, and energy -- in combination with climate change -- will have far-reaching effects on global development over the next 15-20 years. In a tectonic shift, demand for these resources will grow substantially owing to an increase in the global population from 7.1 billion today to 8.3 billion by 2030. As we have discussed, an expanding middle class and swelling urban populations will increase pressures on critical resources -- particularly food and water -- but new technologies -- such as 'vertical' farming in high-rise structures which also reduce transportation costs -- could help expand needed resources. Food and water security is being aggravated by changing weather conditions outside of expected norms. We are not necessarily headed into a world of scarcities, but policymakers and their private sector partners will need to be proactive to avoid scarcities in the future. . ."

    The NIC publishes a new edition of Global Trends every four years, in a presidential election year, to assist the next -- in this case the returning -- administration in its strategic review. This is the fifth edition of Global Trends beginning with "Global Trends 2010." As with previous reports, it does not seek to predict the future, but instead provides a framework for thinking about possible futures -- assessing key trends and their implications.  

    Global Trends 2030 has been the largest collaborative effort of all the editions relying on a diversity of perspectives to enrich the work. The NIC held many meetings with government officials, businesses, universities and think tanks and reached out to experts in 20 countries. One benefit has been growing interest elsewhere in global trends: Several governments and organizations now prepare similar reports, helping to inform the NIC's work.

    Access a release from NIC (click here). Access the complete 160-page report (click here). Access an overview and link to the report in various formats and previous issues (click here). [#Energy, #Water]
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32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, December 14, 2012

EPA Finalizes New PM2.5 Standard At 12 µg/m3

Dec 14: In response to a court order, the U.S. EPA finalized an update to its national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). By 2020, ninety-nine percent (99%) of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions. EPA's original proposal suggested a level within the range of 12 to 13 μg/m3. The current annual standard, 15 μg/m3, has been in place since 1997. The announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles (35 μg/m3) or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources), both of which remain unchanged.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air."

    A release from EPA indicates that fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A Federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. EPA said today's announcement, "meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the standard without any additional action."

    EPA indicated that it is expected that fewer than 10 counties, out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rest can rely on air quality improvements from Federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard. A map released by EPA indicates that "
7 counties are projected not to meet 12.0 μg/m3 in 2020" -- all located in southern California.

    The standard, which was proposed in June [See WIMS 6/18/12] and is consistent with the advice from the agency's independent science advisors, is based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. It also follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the public, health organizations, and industry, and after considering more than 230,000 public comments.

    By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness. Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the PM2.5 standards announced have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, with estimated costs of implementation ranging from $53 million to $350 million. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011.

    The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its air quality standards every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. The law requires the agency to ensure the standards are "requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety" and "requisite to protect the public welfare." A Federal court required EPA to issue final standard by December 14, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards. 
    Yesterday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) indicated [See WIMS 12/13/12], "We support keeping the standards where they are, not only because there is no compelling evidence for changing them, but because our current emission control programs implementing the existing standards are working and continue to reduce pollution levels. . . The collective impacts of all of these and other potential new regulations at a time when 12 million Americans are still unemployed would be a blow to our economy as it struggles to recover and put Americans back to work. These rules could significantly slow business development and job creation. It makes no sense to risk this when the necessity of many of these regulations is ambiguous at best."
    Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association (ALA) said, "We know clearly that particle pollution is harmful at levels well below those previously deemed to be safe. Particle pollution causes premature deaths and illness, threatening the millions of Americans who breathe high levels of it. By setting a more protective standard, the EPA is stating that we as a nation must protect the health of the public by cleaning up even more of this lethal pollutant. Reducing particle pollution will prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and will keep children out of the emergency room and hospitals. It will save lives."
    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised EPA for the move and President Fred Krupp said, "EPA's new health standards to protect Americans from soot pollution are a perfect holiday gift. This is a big step towards cleaner, healthier air for all of us. Elena Craft, Health Scientist for EDF said, "Almost half of all Americans -- our mothers, our brothers, our uncles, our kids -- are considered to be especially vulnerable to the harmful impacts of soot. EPA's new standards will help protect them, and all of us. Now Americans must work together to put in place the smart solutions that will reduce soot levels in our air." 
    The American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association represented by Earthjustice took the legal steps against the EPA to get the review completed as required by the Clean Air Act. The decision announced today completed that review. The decision also addressed the Lung Association's legal victory against EPA's decision in 2008 to retain the annual standard set in 1997, a lawsuit joined by the Environmental Defense Fund and also represented by Earthjustice.
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the outgoing Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, commented on the EPA standard saying, "And so it begins -- EPA's PM NAAQS, finalized today, is the first in an onslaught of post-election rulemakings that will place considerable burdens on our struggling economy and eventually push us over the 'regulatory cliff.'. . . Going forward as a senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I will continue aggressive oversight of the Obama-EPA's barrage of forthcoming rules, and do everything in my power to prevent President Obama from pushing us over the regulatory cliff." Sen. Inhofe also provided a link to a Senate Republican Report: A Look Ahead to EPA Regulations for 2013: Numerous Obama EPA Rules Placed On Hold until after the Election Spell Doom for Jobs and Economic Growth.

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access more information (click here). Access a video from the EPA Administrator (click here). Access the map released by EPA (click here). Access a release from API and link to the full text of the briefing (click here). Access a release from ALA (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access the release from Sen. Inhofe (click here). [#Air]
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wind Industry Proposes Solution To Wind Tax Credit Expiration

Dec 12: The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a plan to address the current controversy over the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) which is scheduled to expire at the end of they year. Conservative organizations are urging Congressional members to let the credit expire saying it has "far outlived its usefulness." [See WIMS 12/12/12 and WIMS 9/7/12]. 
    AWEA, the national trade association of America's wind industry, with 2,000 member companies, described what a future phase-out of the PTC could look like, saying "we're already showing we're a leader in innovation. Now we're showing we're a leader in addressing the country's fiscal issues." Denise Bode, AWEA's CEO stressed that, "At the same time, our number one priority right now is not putting the wind industry over its own fiscal cliff."
    She said, "Congress must extend the wind energy Production Tax Credit for projects that start next year, to save an entire U.S. manufacturing sector and 37,000 jobs that we'll otherwise lose by early 2013. Specifically we urge Congress to extend the wind tax credit for all projects that commence construction in 2013, as adopted by the Senate Finance Committee on Aug. 2, on a bipartisan 19-5 vote."
    The PTC, a policy with long-standing bi-partisan support, has succeeded in incentivizing an average of $15.5 billion a year in private investment in U.S. wind farms over the past five years. It works by providing a tax credit of 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour once the electricity is generated, for the first 10 years that a U.S. wind farm is in operation. AWEA said, led by Members of Congress who worked to help build a domestic wind industry, to the benefit of local economies and energy customers, the PTC has become an American manufacturing and innovation success story.
    The result of AWEA's analysis specifies that the tax credit would start at 100% of the current 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour for projects started in 2013, and be phased down to 90% of that value for projects placed in service in 2014; 80% in 2015; 70% in 2016; and 60% in both 2017 and 2018, ending after that. Bode said the analysis indicates that would allow wind energy to establish a stable base market in the U.S. that the industry can build on, with further market and technology innovation. The process of developing it started last spring, included detailed economic analyses and high-level discussions with industry leaders, and culminated in approval by the AWEA Board of Directors.
    She said, "We began this process in order to be a part of the solution on our nation's fiscal challenges, while creating needed stability for wind industry development, both of which are concerns for our industry. We wanted to take this head-on, as part of our patriotic duty as well as our duty to the industry. We completed the analysis, and this is what it identified as necessary for at least a minimally viable industry."
    The resulting proposal is described in a letter that AWEA sent to leaders on Capitol Hill. It is addressed to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking Republican on that committee; Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; and Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), ranking Democrat on that committee. Copied are House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-CA); and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). 
    The letter says in part, "The wind industry recognizes that our country is facing significant fiscal challenges and is supportive of all energy technology incentives being reviewed and even phased down when Congress considers tax reform. However, the PTC has supported the wind industry in its efforts to significantly reduce the cost of producing electricity, and its continued availability for a reasonable period of time will allow the industry to invest in the cost-saving technologies required to finish the job. . . With the policy certainty that accompanies a stable extension, the industry believes it can achieve the greater economies of scale and technology improvements that it needs to become cost-competitive without the PTC." Bode said that the letter addresses separate parallel conversations that have been going on between the industry and Capitol Hill, about extending the PTC in the short term, and the vision for the long-term future of the PTC.
    Access a release from AWEA (click here). Access the complete letter (click here). [#Energy/Wind]
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GAO Report On U.S. Mineral Volume, Value, & Revenue

Dec 122: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Mineral Resources: Mineral Volume, Value, and Revenue (GAO-13-45R, Nov 15, 2012). The report was requested by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Ranking Member Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Committee on Natural Resources and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
    GAO indicates that The Department of the Interior (DOI) administers minerals found in over 700 million acres of Federal lands, 57 million acres on Indian lands, and 1.8 billion acres below offshore waters. Operators who lease these lands and extract these minerals pay billions of dollars annually that are shared among Federal, state, and Indian tribal governments and are one of the largest nontax sources of revenue to the Federal government. Some of these minerals, such as oil, gas, and coal, are available through leases requiring payments in the form of rents and bonuses, which are required to secure and maintain a lease, and royalties, which are based on the value of the minerals that are extracted. These minerals are generally known as leasable minerals. The Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) is responsible for compiling data on the volume and value of leasable minerals produced from all Federal and Indian lands where there is a trust responsibility, and collecting the appropriate payments. In contrast, other minerals, such as gold, silver, and copper, are governed by the General Mining Act of 1872, which makes these minerals available to operators through a Federal claim-patent system that provides the right to explore, extract, and develop the federal mineral deposit without having to pay a royalty. These minerals are generally known as hardrock minerals.

    Congress asked us to review minerals extracted from Federal lands. Our objectives were to provide information on the: (1) volume and dollar value of leasable minerals extracted from Federal lands and waters in fiscal years 2010 and 2011; (2) amount the Federal government collected for leasable minerals in royalties, rents, bonuses, and other revenue and how this amount was calculated; and (3) availability of data on the volume and dollar value of hardrock minerals extracted from federal lands in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

    GAO found that in summary, there were nearly 70 different types of leasable minerals extracted from Federal lands and waters in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, but their volume cannot be aggregated because they use different units of measure. For example, the volumes of the four most valuable of these minerals -- oil, gas, natural gas liquids, and coal -- are measured in barrels, million cubic feet (mcf), gallons, and tons, respectively. According to ONRR data, the total value of all leasable minerals extracted from Federal and Indian land and sold in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 was $92.3 billion and $98.6 billion, respectively.

    The resulting revenue to the Federal government from mineral leasing activity on Federal and Indian land in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 was $11.3 billion and $11.4 billion, respectively. Of this amount, oil, gas, and natural gas liquids accounted for the majority of the revenue -- $10.1 billion in each fiscal year. The bulk of this revenue comes from royalties, which accounted for 92.8 percent of total revenue in 2011.

    The mechanisms used to calculate the three types of leasable mineral revenue -- bonus bids, rents, and royalties -- vary widely. For example, for oil and gas leases, bonus bids -- up-front payments to obtain a lease -- are determined by a competitive bidding process, with leases going to the highest bidder. Prior to the competitive bidding, Interior sets a minimum acceptable bonus bid for each offshore parcel and a minimum per acre bid amount for each onshore parcel offered for lease. Rent is charged annually for a lease until production begins or the lease is terminated or relinquished. Royalty rates depend on the mineral and are generally calculated based on a proportion of sales value, less allowable deductions, such as transportation and processing allowances.

    Regarding the availability of data on hardrock minerals, GAO found that Federal agencies generally do not collect data from hardrock mine operators on the amount and value of hardrock minerals extracted from Federal lands because there is no Federal royalty that would necessitate doing so. Furthermore, while many western states collect data on the hardrock minerals produced in their state for purposes of assessing a state royalty, they generally do not collect data on the volume of those minerals extracted from Federal land within those states. The Department of the Interior is now working to implement an international initiative to promote openness and accountability in the oil, gas, and mining sectors called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [See WIMS 10/11/12]. This initiative is currently in the beginning stages of implementation -- consequently it is unclear what affect, if any, it will have on reporting requirements for operators of hardrock mines on Federal lands. Interior officials told us that they expect to finish implementing this initiative in about 4 years.

    Senator Udall commented saying, "This report confirms what we've been saying all along -- that we need to reform the mining law of 1872. Hardrock minerals are natural resources that belong to the American people, and we need to make sure we are getting the best return on what should be an investment -- not a giveaway." Representative Grijalva said, "We've been hearing from conservatives that we need fewer hours at national parks, less reclamation of valuable lands, fewer services for park visitors and a whole gamut of supposedly necessary cutbacks. Well, now we know we've been leaving a huge pot of money on the table that could change all that. There's no reason to keep these extraction and royalty laws out of date. At the very least we need disclosure so American taxpayers know what is being taken from their lands. Keeping the public and Congress in the dark any longer about what's going on with Federal property doesn't serve any public purpose, and it should end."

    Grijalva added, "There's a simple legislative fix for this big hole in the Federal government's revenue stream, and it's only fair that companies benefiting from access to public lands pay their fair share. The Department of Interior should continue to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Congress should make sure disclosure [is] a priority, and then we can talk about how to make sure the American people financially benefit from the sale of public minerals the way they should have been all along."

    Grijalva is a cosponsor of H.R.3446, formally known as the Fair Payment for Energy and Mineral Production on Public Lands Act, which would set a 12.5 percent royalty rate on hardrock minerals. He has said he looks forward to supporting and strengthening an updated version in the upcoming Congress. Senator Undall added, "I hope this report can be a catalyst for discussion about reform, but at a minimum it shows we need better disclosure on extraction of our natural resources. Both parties want to solve our economic challenges and make government more efficient for the taxpayers - here's an opportunity to do both. We should be able come together on this issue, and I look forward to making that case to my colleagues in the next Congress."

    Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued a statement saying, "This report provides an answer to anyone wondering why big polluters are so eager to get their hands on our public lands: big oil and mining companies get bargain basement deals to destroy the mountains, valleys, and rivers owned by everyone else while raking in billions in profits. These big companies are the worst possible tenants American taxpayers could have, devastating the property they have been trusted with by sacrificing our lands and poisoning our water – and then getting rewarded for it. . . it's time for Congress to act to not just ensure taxpayers get a square deal, but to protect the lands that belong to all of us from exploitation at the hands of just a few companies who deserve to be evicted."

    Access the complete 50-page report from GAO (click here). Access the release from the Members (click here). Access the Sierra Club statement (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3446 (click here). [#Land, #Energy]

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Agencies Collaborate On Potential Impacts Of Nanomaterials

Dec 11: U.S. EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are collaborating in a worldwide research effort to assess any potential impacts of nanomaterials on people's health and the environment. Nanomaterials appear in many household products ranging from clothing to building materials. For example, one ongoing study evaluates the potential human and environmental effects from exposure to copper nanomaterials, an ingredient in wood treatment products used on wood for building decks and fences.

    The emerging field of nanotechnology has led to substantial advances in energy, medicine, electronics, and clean technologies. The field relies on using materials at the nanoscale level, these nanomaterials are made up of very small particles, which are about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Because of the unique properties of these materials, it is important to conduct research to identify methods that will allow manufacturers and other stakeholders to ensure that products containing these materials do not harm people or the environment. This research is a part of the U.S. government's efforts to assess the potential risks of nanomaterials. These efforts are coordinated by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). NNI is a collaborative project comprised of 25 agencies, including EPA and CPSC.

    Dr. Tina Bahadori, national program director for EPA's Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research said, "Nanotechnology and nanomaterials used in the development of these products improve our everyday lives, but it is important that we understand how humans are exposed to nanomaterials and to assess the risks they may pose to people's health and the environment. This innovative research greatly improves what is known about nanomaterials and will inform the future design of more sustainable, effective nanomaterials." 

    Dr. Treye Thomas, program manager for the CPSC Nanotechnology program said, "These tiny nanomaterials are widely used in products ranging from clothing to sunscreen, but the need for additional research and knowledge on how they affect consumers is great. The CPSC staff is working diligently to meet the challenges involved in regulating this emerging technology and is pleased to be collaborating with staff at EPA to develop test methods and exposure data to adequately address health and safety concerns."

    EPA's collaborative research with CPSC is part of a larger international effort that focuses on:
  • Identifying, characterizing and quantifying the origins of nanomaterials
  • Studying biological processes affected by nanomaterials that could influence risk
  • Determining how nanomaterials interact with complex systems in the human body and the environment
  • Involving industry to develop sustainable manufacturing processes
  • Sharing knowledge through innovative online applications that allow for rapid feedback and accelerated research progress
    CPSC, in working with other Federal agencies, ensures that common public health concerns are met and will use research findings to inform:
    • Protocol development to assess the potential release of nanomaterials from consumer products
    • Credible rules for consumer product testing to evaluate exposure
    • Determination of the potential public health impacts of nanomaterial used in consumer products
        In a related matters, on November 30, the Danish Consumer Council and the Danish Ecological Council has, in cooperation with DTU Environment, announced the development of a database that can help consumers identify more than 1,200 products that may contain nanomaterials. In the U.S. the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts, also has a database, which they say is not comprehensive, but gives the public the best available look at the 1,000+ manufacturer-identified nanotechnology-based consumer products currently on the market.
        Access a release from the agencies and link to EPA, CPSC and NNI (click here). Access a release on the Danish database and link to more information and the database (click here). Access information on the PEN database (click here). [#Toxics]
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    Monday, December 10, 2012

    UN Puts Positive Spin On "Doha Deal"; But Others Doubt

    Dec 8: Amid last minute, through the night negotiations and confusion, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is saying that the Countries have successfully launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol; agreed to a firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015; and agreed a path to raise necessary ambition to respond to climate change. They also endorsed the completion of new institutions and agreed ways and means to deliver scaled-up climate finance and technology to developing countries.
        Despite the positive spin from UNFCCC, they fail to mention the some major parties like Russia, Canada and Japan have withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol which will further weaken the international climate change agreement. Some 35 industrialized nations including Australia, the European Union nations, Ukraine, Switzerland and Norway are under the agreement to cut their emissions. The United States has never ratified the agreement and the major emitters of China and India are developing countries and not part of the agreement to cut emissions. Many environmental organizations like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are describing the COP18/CMP8, "Doha Deal" with words like "modest," "minimal," and "the best we can hope for." Others, like Greenpeace were much more negative and "condemned politicians. . . following the failure of the UN Climate talks in Doha. While they agreed to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, it was judged so full of loopholes as to have little or no effect on carbon emissions." Also, in the U.S. with media outlets consumed with coverage of the "fiscal cliff" issue, there was hardly any recognition that the Doha climate change conference was taking place.
        The COP President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah of Qatar said, "Doha has opened up a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action -- the Doha Climate Gateway. Qatar is proud to have been able to bring governments here to achieve this historic task. I thank all governments and ministers for their work to achieve this success. Now governments must move quickly through the Doha Climate Gateway to push forward with the solutions to climate change."

        The UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, called on countries to swiftly implement what has been agreed in Doha so that the world can stay below the internationally agreed maximum two degrees Celsius temperature rise. She said, "I congratulate the Qatar Presidency for managing a complex and challenging conference. Now, there is much work to do. Doha is another step in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead. The door to stay below two degrees remains barely open. The science shows it, the data proves it. The UN Climate Change negotiations must now focus on the concrete ways and means to accelerate action and ambition. The world has the money and technology to stay below two degrees. After Doha, it is a matter of scale, speed, determination and sticking to the timetable." 

        UNFCCC said that in Doha, governments also successfully concluded work under the Convention that began in Bali in 2007 and ensured that remaining elements of this work will be continued under the UN Climate Change process. The next major UN Climate Change Conference -- COP19/ CMP9 -- will take place in Warsaw, Poland, at the end of 2013. UNFCCC itemized four major accomplishments from the COP18/CMP8 meeting as follows:

    • (1) Amendment & Continuation of the Kyoto Protocol: The Kyoto Protocol, as the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries commit to cutting greenhouse gases, has been amended so that it will continue as of January 1, 2013; the length of the second commitment period will be 8 years; legal requirements will allow a smooth continuation of the Protocol; valuable accounting rules of the protocol have been preserved; countries that are taking on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol have agreed to review their emission reduction commitments at the latest by 2014; the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and International Emissions Trading (IET) will continue; and Australia, the EU, Japan, Lichtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland have declared that they will not carry over any surplus emissions trading credits (Assigned Amounts) into the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
    • (2) Time table for the 2015 global Agreement: Governments have agreed to speedily work toward a universal climate change agreement covering all countries from 2020, to be adopted by 2015, and to find ways to scale up efforts before 2020 beyond the existing pledges to curb emissions so that the world can stay below the agreed maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Governments have agreed to submit to the UN Climate Change Secretariat, by March 1, 2013, information, views and proposals on actions, initiatives and options to enhance ambition. Elements of a negotiating text are to be available no later than the end of 2014. World leaders will be convened in 2014 to mobilize the political will to help ensure the 2015 deadline is met.
    • (3) Completion of New Infrastructure: Governments significantly advanced the completion of new infrastructure to channel technology and finance to developing nations and move toward the full implementation of this infrastructure and support. Most importantly, they have: endorsed the selection of the Republic of Korea as the location of the Green Climate Fund and the work plan of the Standing Committee on Finance. The Green Climate Fund is expected to start its work in Sondgo in the second half of 2013, which means that it can launch activities in 2014. Governments also confirmed a UNEP-led consortium as host of the Climate Technology Center (CTC), for an initial term of five years. The CTC, along with its associated Network, is the implementing arm of the UNFCCCs Technology Mechanism. Governments have also agreed the constitution of the CTC advisory board.
    • 4) Long-term Climate Finance: Developed countries have reiterated their commitment to deliver on promises to continue long- term climate finance support to developing nations, with a view to mobilizing $100 billion USD both for adaptation and mitigation by 2020. The agreement also encourages developed countries to increase efforts to provide finance between 2013-15 at least to the average annual level with which they provided funds during the 2010-2012 fast-start finance period. This is to ensure there is no gap in continued finance support while efforts are otherwise scaled up. Germany, the UK, France, Denmark, Sweden and the EU Commission announced concrete finance pledges in Doha for the period up to 2015, totaling approximately $6 billion USD.
        Other key outcomes identified by UNFCCC include: a review the long-term temperature goal; identify adaptive capacities, institutional arrangements and ways to implement National Adaptation Plans for least developed countries; support of developing country action; further elaborate the new market-based mechanism; measurement of deforestation and fighting deforestation; integrate Carbon Capture and Storage into Clean Development Mechanism; development and transfer of technologies that can help developing countries adapt and curb their emissions; and avoiding potentially negative consequences of climate action (e.g.negative economic or social consequences).
        Access a lengthy release from UNFCCC with further details (click here). Access a release and link to further information from Greenpeace (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release and link to more information from NRDC (click here). Access the Negotiations Update website (click here). Access the UNFCCC COP18 website for complete information including agenda, documents, statements, and much more (click here). Access on-demand webcasts including briefings and statements from individual countries and organizations (click here). Access daily reporting from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State COP18 website (click here). [#Climate]
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