Friday, March 30, 2012

GOP Members Call On OMB To Reject EPA/USACE Water Guidance

Mar 28: Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, joined Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), as well as Representatives John Mica (R-FL), Frank Lucas (OK), and Bob Gibbs (OH) to send a letter to Cass Sunstein Administrator of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking that the document, "Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Air Act," put forth by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) not be finalized. They said, "This guidance document seeks to give the federal government control over virtually every body of water in the United States, no matter how small."
    In their lengthy letter, the Members said in part, "We continue to be concerned that this so-called guidance misconstrues and manipulates the legal standards announced in the SWANCC and Rapanos Supreme Court decisions [i.e. Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U. S. 159 (2001); and Rapanos v. United States, 547 U. S. 715 (2006)], and will not further the goal of clarifying which waters are subject to CWA jurisdiction. We are also concerned that the Administration is seeking, through so-called guidance, to change the scope and meaning of the CWA.
    "If the Administration seeks statutory changes to the Clean Water Act, a proposal must be submitted to Congress for legislative action. If the Administration seeks to make regulatory changes, a notice and comment rulemaking is required, following the proper, transparent rulemaking process that is dictated by the Administrative Procedure Act. We have informed the Agencies of this, and that we expect them to formally withdraw this guidance and undertake a formal rulemaking to address the definition of "waters of the United States" in the context of the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions. However, the Agencies have repeatedly ignored our calls to not finalize the guidance. . .
    "Further, we remain concerned that the Agencies have not fully taken into account the full extent of the changes the guidance would make in expanding the scope of Federal jurisdiction under the CWA. . . the guidance is intended to apply to more jurisdictional interpretations, under other CWA programs, than just those covered by the Army Corps in making §404 determinations.  Specifically, the guidance also would apply to jurisdictional determinations made under §402, which governs National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, §311, covering oil spills and SPCC plans, §303, dealing with water quality standards and total maximum daily loads, and §401, involving State water quality certifications. . .
    "Finally, it was reported recently that there is no clear path forward on when or how the Agencies will proceed with a rulemaking. . . Changes in guidance will only exacerbate the confusion and legal uncertainty that surrounds the CWA and continue to embroil the States and regulated community in unending legal challenges. The scope of those affected by the guidance document is far reaching and it is clear that sufficient review of the impacts has not been considered by the agencies.  We request that the guidance document not be finalized."
    Senator Inhofe said, "The Obama-EPA continues to pursue a water guidance document that sets the stage for the federal government to take over virtually every body of water in the United States from irrigation ditches to puddles of water on the road. Republicans believe that any changes to the Clean Water Act through the Administration should be done through rulemaking, which requires a transparent process that allows for a public comment period.  Instead, the Agencies appear to be skipping these required steps and relying on this guidance document to change the scope and meaning of the Clean Water Act. We will continue fighting this every step of the way." 
    House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas said, "The EPA has ignored repeated requests from Congress to abandon a guideline that creates a foundation to regulate essentially any body of water, such as a farm pond or even a ditch. Through this measure the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would assume broad and expanded authorities under the Clean Water Act to further regulate land use for farmers and ranchers. Similar legislative proposals have already been rejected by Congress, yet this Administration continues down a path of regulatory overreach. The vitality and health of our nation's waterways are important to all of us.  Our disagreement is how we achieve this goal."
    Access a release from the GOP Members including the complete letter and additional comments (click here). [#Water]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, March 29, 2012

51-47 Vote Will Allow Oil Subsidies To Continue

Mar 29: President Obama delivered a statement at the White House at 11:00 AM prior to a vote in the Senate on a motion to invoke cloture on S.2204; a bill to "eliminate unnecessary tax subsidies and promote renewable energy and energy conservation." The bill sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would end taxpayer-funded loopholes to the five largest, most profitable oil companies in the world (i.e. the Big 5, BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips) and use those savings to extend for one year expiring energy tax provisions and reduce the deficit [See WIMS 3/27/12].

    The President said in part, "Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make: They can stand with the big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people. Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits -- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year -- billions a year in taxpayer subsidies -- a subsidy that they've enjoyed year after year for the last century. . .

    "It's not as if these companies can't stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these companies' profits. In fact, one analysis shows that every time gas goes up by a penny, these companies usually pocket another $200 million in quarterly profits. Meanwhile, these companies pay a lower tax rate than most other companies on their investments, partly because we're giving them billions in tax giveaways every year. . .

    "Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising -- investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and energy-efficient homes and buildings. That's the future. That's the only way we're going to break this cycle of high gas prices that happen year after year after year.  As the economy is growing, the only time you start seeing lower gas prices is when the economy is doing badly. That's not the kind of pattern that we want to be in. We want the economy doing well, and people to be able to afford their energy costs. . .

    "We're going to keep investing in clean energy like the wind power and solar power that's already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs. We're going to keep manufacturing more cars and trucks to get more miles to the gallon so that you can fill up once every two weeks instead of every week. We're going to keep building more homes and businesses that waste less energy so that you're in charge of your own energy bills. . . Today, the American people are going to be watching Congress to see if they have that same faith."

    While the President was speaking a majority of the Senate, 51 Senators voted for the bill to end the subsidies; however, under Senate rules 60 votes were required to approve the measure. Thus, the subsidies will continue, as 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against the measure. The four Democrats included Senators Begich (D-AK), Landrieu (D-LA), Nelson (D-NE), and Webb (D-VA). Two Republicans, joined the Democrats and two Independents in supporting the measure -- Senators Collins (R-ME) and Snowe (R-ME). Two Republican Senators did not vote.

    Senator Menendez issued a statement following the vote saying, "Today, we had a very simple choice to make -- stand up for hard working middle class families struggling with sky high gas prices, or stand with Big Oil executives raking in record profits with the help of taxpayer-funded handouts. With their votes, Republicans said loudly and clearly that they're on the side of Big Oil. I will keep fighting for middle class families, for fairness and against these ridiculous, needless subsidies." Sen. Menendez also delivered a lengthy floor speech prior to the vote which is available from the link below.
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), welcomed the defeat and said, "I am pleased that President Obama and the Democrats' latest proposal to raise taxes on American energy producers was rejected today. We all know that when you tax something you decrease supply and when you decrease supply prices go up. Last time they tried this, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Menendez, made the shocking admission, 'Nobody has made the claim that this bill is about reducing gas prices.' He's right, it's not about reducing gas prices, it's about attempting to deflect blame for their policies that continue to make gas prices go up.
    "The Republican plan is about reducing gas prices. It's about increasing supply by taking advantage of the immense resources of oil, gas and coal that our nation possesses so that American families can have affordable electricity and lower prices at the pump. That is why I offered three common sense amendments that would dramatically spur American energy production and stop the overregulation by the Obama- EPA.
    "During the Senate debate this week, Republicans provided a stark contrast to the Democrats' war on affordable energy.  Remember when President Obama said that under his plan of a cap-and-trade system electricity rates would 'necessarily skyrocket'? He went on to explain that this is 'because I'm capping greenhouse gases...they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.' Significantly raising taxes on oil and gas is just part of this same cap-and-trade agenda: those extra costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices at the pump. There was never any way the Senate would pass such a measure, especially at a time when gas prices are already skyrocketing.  Its defeat is a good thing for the American people."
    Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC) said, "The spectacle of the Senate Republican leadership unabashedly preserving corporate welfare for the oil industry -- at a time of skyrocketing industry profits and soaring gas prices -- is mindboggling. Rather than continuing to subsidize the richest companies in the world, we should be supporting policies that encourage more choices for Americans beyond the oil industry's monopoly on our transportation system. We ought to be supporting the clean energy entrepreneurs and American innovators who are developing ways we can reduce our addiction to oil, decrease pollution and improve our national security -- not the giant oil conglomerates who are keeping us stuck in the past."
    Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement saying, "Today's vote is the latest reminder of what we knew all along: big oil companies and their lackeys in Congress will do whatever it takes to squeeze every penny possible out of American families, whether it's shirking taxes or price-gouging at the gas pump. It is obscene that a handful of wealthy oil executives are demanding billions in handouts from the government while ordinary Americans pay their fair share of taxes on top of four-dollar-a-gallon gas. And, it is shameful that a minority of obstructionist Senators are doing big oil's bidding against the will of their constituents -- the majority of whom support ending unfair tax subsidies for big oil. Big oil companies and speculators who are driving up prices at the pump don't need any more of our help. We need our leaders to focus on real solutions to break our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and invest in clean energy solutions to ease Americans' pain at the pump and create jobs. Unfortunately, the Senate missed an opportunity today to take an important step in moving beyond oil."   
    Just prior to the vote, American Petroleum Institute (API)'s Chief Economist John Felmy told reporters that the proposal before the Senate [i.e. S.2204] "to raise taxes on selected oil and natural gas companies ignores what could really work to reduce gasoline prices and help our economy: create jobs and produce at home more of the oil and natural gas we know our nation will be using. He said, "A recent Gallup poll shows the nation has little confidence our government is moving in the right direction on energy. Unfortunately, the discriminatory tax proposal before the Senate today aimed at a handful of oil and natural gas companies isn't going to inspire more. The proposal -- which is expected to fail with bipartisan opposition -- is a political distraction from high gasoline prices and our nation's failed energy policies. 
     "Solving our energy and economic challenges requires a different approach. It requires doing something we know works: producing at home more of the oil and natural gas that our nation will need for decades to come. While the economy has been struggling, our industry has been an engine of job creation and energy production. For example, in 2011, we created 150,000 jobs, almost one in every ten of all created nationwide, according to a study by the World Economic Forum and IHS-CERA. If our companies are permitted to produce more of America's ample oil and natural gas resources, they'll create even more jobs, more government revenue for critical programs, and more energy security. It's time to stop bringing up the same bad proposals again and again and take action that actually helps address the real energy and economic problems Americans are facing." 

Access the complete statement from the President (click here). Access the roll call vote (click here). Access legislative details for S.2204 (click here). Access the statement and floor speech from Sen. Menendez (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from NRDC with links to related information (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). [#Energy/OilNatGas]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reactions To EPA's Proposed CO2 Rule For New Power Plants

Mar 27: Yesterday, WIMS reported on EPA's proposed the first-ever national regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from "new" power plants [See WIMS 3/27/12]. EPA indicated that the proposed regulations under the Clean Air Act follow the 2007 Supreme Court ruling -- i.e. Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 05-1120 [See WIMS 4/2/07]. The New Source Performance (NSP) standard, would limit emissions from new power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. EPA emphasized that the proposed rulemaking "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months." The Agency also said, ""Even without today's action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."
    In the article, WIMS included some preliminary reaction's to the proposal. Subsequently, EPA and others have issued statements and releases reacting to the proposal. In a separate release EPA summarized some of the positive reaction it had received. For example, John Arensmeyer, CEO, Small Business Majority said, "…National opinion polling we released in September found 76 percent of small business owners support the EPA regulating carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Another 87 percent believe improving innovation and energy efficiency are good ways to increase prosperity for small businesses…" Albert A. Rizzo, M.D., Chair, Board of Directors of the American Lung Association said, "…By proposing standards for carbon pollution from new facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is setting the stage for the next generation of America's power plants to be the least toxic and most modern in the world…"
    EPA also received support from: The Clean Energy Group's Clean Air Policy Initiative; Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk; Dick Munson, SVP, Recycled Energy Development; Ralph Izzo, CEO, Public Service Electric and Gas; Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety; Bill Ritter Jr., Former Colorado Governor; Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT; Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member, Committee on Energy and Commerce; Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member, Committee on Natural Resources; and the American Sustainable Business Council, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and Main Street Alliance.
    Reactions from Congressional Republicans and major industry organizations was harsh and severe. Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee leaders expressed "outrage" at EPA's proposal. Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "This rule is part of the Obama administration's aggressive plan to change America's energy portfolio and eliminate coal as a source of affordable, reliable electricity generation. EPA continues to overstep its authority and ram through a series of overreaching regulations in its attack on America's power sector. This rule effectively bans new coal plants and sets the stage for higher electricity prices in many regions of the country, which is precisely what Congress and the American public rejected with the failure of cap-and-trade legislation. President Obama likes to say he is for 'all of the above' American energy, but his policies prove otherwise."
    Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee said, "I am gravely concerned about the proposed regulation's impact on jobs and the economy. President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson are circumventing the will of Congress and the American people by moving forward with a standard today that threatens our most abundant, reliable, and affordable domestic electricity source - coal. President Obama is also putting our economy at risk at a time when it is most vulnerable. Congress has said no to regulating greenhouse gases because of the impact it will have on the economy, and what we are seeing is that EPA's regulations already are having a devastating impact on jobs and supply. We're seeing coal-fired electricity plants close and will likely see electricity rates skyrocket because of other EPA regulations and the greenhouse gas standards will only make matters worse."
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), announced at an EPW hearing his intentions "to put a stop to President Obama's new electricity tax that would have a devastating impact on American consumers at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing." Senator Inhofe said, "It is hard to believe that the Obama-EPA is announcing a massive energy tax today on American families at a time when they are already reeling from skyrocketing gas prices. So much for President Obama's claims to be for an 'all-of-the-above' approach -- these regulations are designed specifically to kill coal in American electricity generation, which will significantly raise energy prices on American families. This plan is the most devastating installment in the Obama administration's war on affordable energy: it achieves their cap-and-trade agenda through regulation instead of legislation. Today, Americans can be certain that the President is going forward to fulfill his campaign promise that under his plan of a cap-and-trade system electricity prices would 'necessarily skyrocket.' 
    "Remember these greenhouse gas regulations are all economic pain for no environmental gain. Their sole purpose is aimed supposedly at stopping global warming, yet even the administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, has admitted these regulations will have no impact on the climate. Why at a time when energy prices are skyrocketing is the administration working to impose tax increases that have no benefit? Today, as the Obama administration rolls out its immense energy tax, I am announcing my intent to kill this proposal by bringing it to a vote before the US Senate through a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). We were successful in stopping their job-killing agenda through legislation when we defeated cap-and-trade, now our fight is to stop them from forcing it on the American people through regulations. An overwhelming number of Senators have insisted they want to rein in the Obama-EPA; the CRA I will introduce will give them the opportunity to decide whether they will stand with President Obama and his destructive war on affordable energy, or their constituents back home, who will suffer the most from hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and the skyrocketing electricity and gas prices this agenda will impose on them."
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten said, "With today's proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, EPA has once again shown that the administration's 'all of the above' energy policy is really 'some of the above.' Today's proposal could lead to higher energy costs that are bad for families and businesses. Having been thoroughly rejected by Congress, EPA is now attempting an end-around designed to place an indefinite ban on the construction of conventional coal-fired power plants in America. Coal is an essential part of a diverse, reliable, and affordable energy mix, supplying nearly 40 percent of our electricity. It remains a cost-effective and secure source of power in a time of soaring energy prices. The proposed rule could also affect natural gas generation, because several types of natural gas-fired generation plants may not meet EPA's prescribed greenhouse gas emissions standards.

    "EPA's proposal is rife with legal and structural deficiencies that could ultimately allow the scope of the rule to expand well beyond the entities EPA seeks to regulate. Even worse, the agency has proposed this dubious new regulation while a legal cloud hangs over the fundamental question of whether it can regulate greenhouse gases at all. Today's announcement is another in a long string of actions this administration has taken that weaken our energy security and raise energy prices. Given recent court decisions finding that EPA overreached—including three in the last week—the Chamber will be evaluating all of its options to overturn this rule if it is ultimately issued."
    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons said, "Today, the EPA proposed yet another regulation that will hurt manufacturers, consumers and jobs. Looking at the broad range of costly EPA regulations, from Boiler MACT, Utility MACT and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, to coal ash and other greenhouse gas regulations, it's evident that the Administration is playing a primary role in the 20 percent cost disadvantage facing manufacturers in the United States. The cumulative impact of these regulations is bad news for our manufacturing economy and will result in less reliable electricity at a higher price.

    "Specifically, this latest proposed regulation would limit the construction of new coal fuel power plants, taking a stable and affordable source of energy off the table and putting the power grid at further risk. The impact will be higher electricity prices on manufacturers and consumers versus lower energy prices that allow manufacturers to continue to lead the economic recovery and create jobs. With this latest action from the EPA to effectively take clean coal off the table, it is clear the agency doesn't understand the benefits of a true 'all of the above' energy strategy that grows jobs and enhances our energy security. Manufacturers and the 12 million people making things in America want a strategy that includes all available domestic sources of energy, including clean coal. Piling on with more costly regulations is not the answer."

    Access a release and supporting statements from EPA (click here). Access a release from House Republican members of the E&C Committee (click here). Access a release and video from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from the Chamber of Commerce (click here). Access the statement from NAM (click here). Access details from EPA (click here). Access the prepublication copy of the proposed rule (click here). Access the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (click here).  [#Climate, #Air]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

EPA Proposes First-Ever CO2 Standards For New Power Plants

Mar 27: U.S. EPA has proposed the first-ever national regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from "new" power plants. EPA issued a release saying that following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, it was proposing the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. The New Source Performance (NSP) standard, would limit emissions from new power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. EPA said the proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants. At the same time, the rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution. EPA emphasized that the proposed rulemaking "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Today we're taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy. Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies -- and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."

    Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. As a direct result of the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling, EPA in 2009 determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.

    EPA indicated that the proposed standard is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA said its proposal is in line with these investments and will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues. The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. EPA said that, "Even without today's action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."
    The proposed requirements, which are strictly limited to new sources, would require new fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs) greater than 25 megawatt electric (MWe) to meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh), based on the performance of widely used natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) technology. Because of the economics of the energy sector, EPA and others project that NGCC will be the predominant choice for new fossil fuel-fired generation even absent this rule. In its base case analysis, the EPA does not project any new coal-fired EGUs without CCS to be built in the absence of this proposal through 2030.
    EPA indicated that new coal-fired or pet coke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS)1 of approximately 50% of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at startup, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period. The 30-year averaging option could also provide flexibility for owners and operators of coal or pet coke units implementing CCS at the outset of the unit's operation that were designed and operated to emit at less than 1,000 lb CO2/MWh to address startup concerns or short term interruptions in their ability to sequester captured carbon dioxide.

    EPA said that prior to developing this standard, it engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The Agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA's comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
    National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn issued a statement saying, "EPA's proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from about half the nation's electric power supply is a poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst. Higher utility bills and fewer jobs are the only certain outcomes from this reckless attempt to override Congress's repeated refusal to enact punitive caps on carbon dioxide emissions. Requiring coal-based power plants to meet an emissions standard based on natural gas technology is a policy overtly calculated to destroy a significant portion of America's electricity supply. This is a movie we have seen before, and the script remains unchanged. Volatile natural gas prices will, once again, expose millions of households to higher utility bills, threaten hundreds of thousands of workers with unemployment and weaken both the competitiveness of basic industries and the reliability of the nation's electricity grid.
    "This proposal is the latest convoy in EPA's regulatory train wreck that is rolling across America, crushing jobs and arresting our economic recovery at every stop. It is not an "all of the above" energy strategy; it does not create jobs; and it does not make it easier for Americans to pay their mortgages. Instead, the proposed New Source Performance Standards would deliberately push America to abandon coal, its most abundant and reliable energy source in favor of costlier fuels -- even though Congress has repeatedly rejected this policy. NMA urges Congress to assert its authority over an agency that disregards the public need for affordable electricity and ignores the overwhelming costs of its regulations."
    Eileen Claussen, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) said, "We welcome EPA's proposal today to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and urge the Administration to quickly move forward with rules for existing plants, which account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Power companies face huge investment decisions as they meet new pollution standards and retire or upgrade outdated plants. They need to know the full picture - including future greenhouse gas requirements - in order to keep our electricity supply as reliable and affordable as possible.

    "While highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants would meet the standard proposed today, new coal-fired power plants not already in the pipeline could likely meet the standard only by capturing and permanently sequestering their greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. The United States, China and India -- the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters -- all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem. With prospects for substantial public investment in CCS unclear, C2ES is now working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide -- an approach that can boost domestic oil production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help lay the groundwork for full-scale carbon capture and storage."

    Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement in response to EPA's proposal saying, "The Sierra Club applauds President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's announcement today to establish new safeguards under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from dangerous carbon pollution. Their action today follows the actions of thousands of families and activists over the last several years to prevent 166 dirty coal plants from polluting their communities, air and water.
    "These first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants mean that business as usual for the nation's biggest sources of carbon pollution, dirty coal-burning utilities, is over.  Cleaning up dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants and modernizing the way we power our nation will help secure Americans' health and future, and prevent against life-threatening air pollutants like dirty soot, toxic mercury and smog. Most of all, these carbon pollution protections mark the end of an era for antiquated, dirty coal plants and continue the momentum behind clean energy to ensure healthier kids, families and workers, as well as much-needed job creation and a more secure climate future."
    Kevin Kennedy, U.S. Climate Director, World Resources Institute (WRI) said, "For the first time, EPA has proposed standards to reduce harmful carbon pollution from power plants. The power sector produces one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and it's critical to reduce these emissions if we're going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. These standards will ensure that any new power plants will be designed to protect people's health and the planet. A quarter of the nation's fossil fuel-based generation capacity is more than 40 years old, and many plants are approaching retirement. Any plants built today would likely be standing in 2050 and beyond, making strong rules for new plants an important part of the picture.

    "We commend EPA for this step to advance the Administration's commitment to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Today's announcement follows the Administration's introduction of historic standards for light-duty vehicles in November 2011. Moving forward, it will be important for EPA to address carbon emissions for existing power plants as well. Existing plants represent a significant opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We can achieve these reductions at low cost while providing power plants flexibility in complying with them."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access details from EPA (click here). Access the prepublication copy of the proposed rule (click here). Access the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (click here). Access a release from NMA (click here). Access a release from C2ES (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from WRI including links to related information (click here). [#Climate, #Air]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, March 26, 2012

President & Republicans Spar Over Keystone XL & Energy Issues

Mar 22: The President delivered energy speeches in four different parts of the country: Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada; Maljamar, New Mexico; Cushing Pipe Yard in Cushing, Oklahoma; and finally at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Perhaps the focal point of the energy tour was the Cushing, OK stop as it is a key link in the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project. While many have proclaimed that the President and his Administration are opposed to the pipeline, with encouragement from the White House, TransCanada, the project developer continues to say that it is, "fully committed to the Keystone XL project and expects to place the pipeline in service by early 2015." Nearly a month ago on February 27, the White House said, "The President welcomes today's news that TransCanada plans to build a pipeline to bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico."
    The Cushing to the Gulf segment represents about a quarter of the total pipeline. The 1,661-mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline that would begin at Hardisty, Alberta and extend southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. It would incorporate a portion of the Keystone Pipeline (Phase II) through Nebraska and Kansas to serve markets at Cushing, before continuing through Oklahoma to a delivery point near existing terminals in Nederland, Texas to serve the Port Arthur, Texas marketplace.
    Also, in February the White House said regarding the Cushing to the Gulf segment, "We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary Federal permits." Additionally, the White House said about the rest of the pipeline, "Separately, TransCanada gave the State Department advance notice of its intention to submit a new application for the cross-border segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, once a route through Nebraska has been identified."
    At the Cushing stop the President said, "I've come to Cushing, an oil town -- because producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That's important to know. Over the last three years, I've directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states.  We're opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We've quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

    "So we are drilling all over the place -- right now. That's not the challenge. That's not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we're actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don't have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go -- both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world.  There's a bottleneck right here because we can't get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they're needed as much as possible.

    "Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.

    "Now, you wouldn't know all this from listening to the television set. This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that's because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America's croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes -- including the Republican governor there -- raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route. 

    "So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn't put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project. Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline -- not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue, decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.

    So what we've said to the company is, we're happy to review future permits. And today, we're making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of it we're making a priority, and we're going to go ahead and get that done. The northern portion of it we're going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected. That's common sense. . ."

    The President went on to discuss the fact that the U.S. uses  20 percent of the world's oil; we only produce 2 percent of the world's oil; and, therefore, drilling alone is not the answer to long term energy problems. He said we must "continually improve the utilization of renewable energy sources, new clean energy sources, and how do we become more efficient in our use of energy. . . After 30 years of not doing anything, we finally increased fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, and Americans are now designing and building cars that will go nearly twice as far on the same gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.  And that's going to save the average family $8,000 over the life of a car. . .

    "We've got to use our innovation. We've got to use our brain power. We've got to use our creativity. We've got to have a vision for the future, not just constantly looking backwards at the past. That's where we need to go. That's the future we can build. . . And that's how we have to think about energy. And if we do, not only are we going to see jobs and growth and success here in Cushing, Oklahoma, we're going to see it all across the country."

    As the President spoke in Cushing, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works (EPW) Committee, James Inhofe (R-OK) grilled the EPA Administrator on the FY 2013 budget and said, "I think President Obama -- the same President who told us that fossil fuels will bring the world to an end -- is in Oklahoma today standing in an oil field touting oil and gas production. The only explanation is that he is running scared from his anti-fossil fuel agenda that he has asked you to implement for the past three years. This agenda is one specifically designed to increase the price of gas at the pump and energy in our homes. Remember, President Obama himself said that under his plan, energy costs would 'necessarily skyrocket.' But this is not a record that gets you reelected. . .

    "But even as President Obama stands in an Oklahoma oil field, pretending to support this pipeline to save his job, he continues full force with his efforts to regulate fossil fuels out of existence, spearheaded in large part by your agency. His EPA is moving forward with an unprecedented barrage of expensive rules, from greenhouse gas regulations, to hydraulic fracturing, to clean water regulations, with the express purpose of eliminating fossil fuels. . ."

    Similarly, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, was joined by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND); Richard Lugar (R-IN); John Cornyn (R-TX); Roy Blunt (R-MO); David Vitter (R-LA); and Representative Lee Terry (R-Nebraska), in criticizing President Obama's visit to Cushing, saying "it highlights his continued obstruction of the Keystone XL pipeline project while the economy languishes and gas prices continue to rise for American consumers."
    Senator Murkowski said, "After rejecting the larger Keystone project, the president is claiming credit for a section that he has no authority over -- and that would proceed with or without his involvement. If you hear a lot of one-hand clapping from us in the wake of the president's speech, it's because there's nothing to actually commend him for. I'm hoping the president realizes that he has to do far more than give speeches if he wants to have an impact on fuel prices. He's embraced our 'all of the above' policy, now he needs to own it. If he followed our plan to produce another 3 million barrels per day – from ANWR, from offshore, and from the Rocky Mountain West -- we could cut out OPEC imports almost entirely, greatly strengthen our economy, and reduce oil market volatility. Think about that. It's within our grasp. It's worth doing. And it's time for the president to work with us to make it happen."
    A staff posting on House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) website called the President's energy tour -- the "tour de farce" and said, "Republicans are questioning his claim of 'expediting' a sliver of the Keystone XL pipeline that doesn't even require his approval while blocking a 1,179-mile stretch that would bring much-needed jobs and energy to the United States." Speaker Boehner sadi, "This is what I'm calling the Obama energy gap. Up here in Canada and in North Dakota, we've got all this oil. And the President is down here in Oklahoma taking credit for the pipeline that's going to go through the normal process; it's already gotten its approval. And this idea that the president is going to expedite this will have no impact on the construction of this pipeline."

Access the President's Cushing speech (click here). Access the President's New Mexico speech (click here). Access the President's Nevada speech (click here). Access the President's Ohio speech (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release and video from Senator Murkowski (click here). Access a posting, statement and video from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access the TransCanada Keystone XL project website for additional information (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/KXL, #Energy/OilSands, #Energy/TarSands]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

GOP Presses Secretary Chu & Chu Challenges Congress

Mar 20: According to a release from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) reports authored by the Republican staff show a pattern of "mismanagement, high-risk lending to green energy firms, and shoddy work performed under Department of Energy (DOE) weatherization programs."

    Chairman Issa said one report documents that "DOE disregarded its own taxpayer protections, ignored lending standards and eligibility requirements, and as a result, amassed an excessively risky loan portfolio -- some $14.5 billion in total loan guarantees were authorized. Oversight investigators also identified instances when DOE faced barriers to completing a loan and simply sought to justify and overcome those regulatory barriers rather than giving the barriers due consideration. In one glaring example, the report shows how DOE appears to have manipulated analysis and strategically modified evaluations in order to issue loans to First Solar that would make the project qualify under the statutory and regulatory guidelines."

    A related Republican Committee report also documents "shortcomings" from a $5 billion federal weatherization improvement program funded through the Department of Energy. According to the report, the program "[R]epresents the kind of failure that materializes when you have an economic stimulus strategy contingent upon asking the federal bureaucracy to absorb billions of dollars when the structural infrastructure to administer, disseminate and manage that influx of new money is not put in place." The release indicates that, "The report documents faulty construction and retrofitting that left consumers with faulty home electrical, ventilation, insulation and other systems. It also includes a series of photographs showing shoddy workmanship in several states."

    Chairman Issa added, "These reports document a Department of Energy seemingly unprepared to deal with the exponential increase in taxpayer funds it received under the stimulus, leading to serious questions of waste and abuse.  Taxpayers are right to expect better from the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration and to seek protections that this type of approach can be avoided in the future."

    In an opening statement at a hearing today to investigate DOE loan and funding programs with Secretary Steven Chu, Chairman Issa said, "Today the price of gasoline is approaching $4.00 per gallon, twice its level in 2009. American consumers understandably ask what the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration have done to address this.  But during the Obama Administration, you might say the DOE has been DOA when it comes to delivering affordable energy to consumers. 
    "A report released today by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform paints a startling picture of mismanagement at the Department of Energy. From the very inception of the Obama Administration's $14.5 billion loan program, warning signs pointed to a likely loss of taxpayer dollars -- these signs were largely ignored by Administration officials seemingly more interested in picking political winners and losers than addressing American consumers' need for abundant and affordable energy. There appears to be a significant amount of evidence indicating that DOE manipulated analyses and strategically modified evaluations in order to get loans out the door. . . By addressing the issues raised at today's hearing, we can help put our country back on the path to achieve these two goals and deliver real benefit to the American people."

    Yesterday (March 19), Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a detailed letter to Chairman Issa asking him "to refrain from making unsubstantiated allegations against Department of Energy employees and to correct the record for multiple claims that have proved inaccurate after further investigation." Rep. Cummings indicated, "Over the past year, Issa has launched 11 investigations into the Department and its employees, sent at least 46 document requests, and received more than 300,000 pages of documents. Many of these investigations, however, have been based on allegations that were made with little or no evidence to support them when they were made. For example, Issa has repeatedly accused Department employees of engaging in illegal criminal conduct, disregarding the law, and basing decisions on partisan politics and corruption -- all claims that turned out to be inaccurate." His letter provides documentation for his concerns.

    Rep. Cummings said, "As a result of our Committee's extremely broad jurisdiction, we have a tremendous opportunity to perform constructive oversight of the Department of Energy and the energy industry to promote the bipartisan goal of energy independence for our nation. Although I fully support aggressive oversight to ensure that government programs work effectively and efficiently, I believe the Committee should refrain from making accusations without evidence to support them and should correct the record when claims turn out to be inaccurate. Only in this way will we be able to uphold the integrity of the Committee and protect the reputations of officials who have dedicated their careers to serving this nation."

    Secretary Chu testified at the hearing, "As part of the Recovery Act, the Energy Department received more than $35 billion to
help jolt the economy and to position the United States to lead in the global clean energy race. By the end of fiscal year 2010, the Department had obligated virtually 100 percent of its Recovery Act contract and grant funds. We are supporting more than 15,000 projects across the country. And since the summer of 2010, we have consistently supported between 40,000 and 50,000 direct jobs each quarter, and likely thousands more throughout the supply chain. . .
    "Oversight of our Recovery Act funds has been a top priority for the Department and me. We have put in place an aggressive monitoring system to ensure that the Department and its grantees spend Recovery Act funds wisely and that taxpayers get the value they deserve. . . He continued to provide an overview the extensive accomplishments of the Recovery Act in advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.
    He concluded saying, "The Department of Energy's Recovery Act efforts are working: they've created jobs and put us in a stronger position to compete in the $260 billion global clean energy economy. Last year -- for the first time since 2008 -- the United States reclaimed the title from China as the world's leader in total clean energy investments. This welcome news comes with a huge caveat, however. Our comeback is due in large part to programs and tax incentives that have expired or are set to expire soon.
    "America has reached a crossroads and members of Congress have a big decision to make: We can play to win in the clean energy race -- investing in America's workers, industries, and innovations -- or we can wave the white flag and cede leadership to other countries that are investing in these industries. Trillions of dollars will be invested in clean energy in the coming decades, and countries around the world are moving aggressively to seize this economic opportunity. I believe the United States can and must win this race. The Recovery Act gave us a strong foundation to build on, but we must move forward with fierce urgency."

    Access the Republican Committee release (click here). Access a release and letter from Rep. Cummings (click here). Access links to the reports and Secretary Chu's testimony (click here). [#Energy/Efficiency, #Energy/Renewable]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, March 19, 2012

GAO Calls For Some Improvements In Federal Electronics Stewardship

Mar 19: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Electronic Waste: Actions Needed to Provide Assurance That Used Federal Electronics Are Disposed of in an Environmentally Responsible Manner (GAO-12-74, February 17, 2012). The report was prepared for the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
    GAO indicates that U.S. EPA estimates that across the Federal government 10,000 computers are discarded each week. Once these used electronics reach the end of their original useful lives, Federal agencies have several options for disposing of them. Agencies generally can donate their reusable electronics to schools; give them to a recycler; exchange them with other Federal, state, or local agencies; or sell them through selected public auctions, including auctions sponsored by the General Services Administration (GSA). As the world's largest purchaser of information technology, the U.S. government, through its disposition practices, has substantial leverage to influence domestic recycling and disposal practices. GAO was asked to examine: (1) key initiatives aimed at improving the management of used Federal electronics; and, (2) improvements resulting from these initiatives and challenges that impede progress, if any. To do this, GAO evaluated Federal guidance and policy, as well as guidance and initiatives at five selected agencies. GAO selected agencies based on, among other things, the amount of electronics purchased.
    GAO found that over the past decade, the executive branch has taken steps to improve the management of used Federal electronics. Notably, in 2003, EPA helped to pilot the Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC) -- a voluntary partnership program that encourages Federal facilities and agencies to purchase environmentally friendly electronic products, reduce the impacts of these products during their use, and manage used electronics in an environmentally safe way. EPA also led an effort and provided initial funding to develop third-party certification so that electronics recyclers could show that they are voluntarily adhering to an adopted set of best practices for environmental protection, worker health and safety, and security practices. In 2006, GSA issued its Personal Property Disposal Guide to assist agencies in understanding the hierarchy for disposing of excess personal property, including used electronic products: reutilization, donation, sale, and abandonment or destruction. In 2007 and 2009, executive orders were issued that, among other things, established improvement goals and directed agencies to develop and implement improvement plans for the management of used electronics. The Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive each play important roles in providing leadership, oversight, and guidance to assist Federal agencies with implementing the requirements of these executive orders. To lay the groundwork for enhancing the Federal government's management of used electronic products, an interagency task force issued the July 2011 National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship [See WIMS 7/20/11]. The strategy, which describes goals, action items, and projects, assigns primary responsibility for overseeing or carrying out most of the projects to either EPA or GSA.
    Federal agencies have made some progress to improve their management of used electronic products, as measured by greater participation in the FEC and an increase in certified electronics recyclers, but opportunities exist to expand their efforts. For instance, agency participation in the FEC represents only about one-third of the Federal workforce. GAO identified challenges with the tracking and reporting on the disposition of Federal electronic equipment. For the five agencies GAO reviewed (Departments of Defense, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), data provided on the disposition of electronic products were inconsistent, which hampered GAO's efforts to accurately assess the extent to which electronic products procured by Federal agencies are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Challenges associated with clarifying agencies' responsibility for used electronics sold through auctions also remain. Currently, neither the agency nor the auction entities are required to determine whether purchasers follow environmentally sound end-of-life practices. Not having controls over the ultimate disposition of electronics sold through these auctions creates opportunities for buyers to purchase Federal electronics and export them to countries with less stringent environmental and health standards. Other challenges that may impede progress toward improving Federal agencies' management of used electronics include defining key terms such as "electronic product" and "environmentally sound practices," as each agency uses its own definition of electronic products to report progress in implementing policies for electronics stewardship.
    GAO recommends, among other things, that the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Management and Budget, and GSA take actions to require consistent tracking and reporting of used electronics and ensure appropriate management of electronics sold at auction. Each agency concurred with GAO's recommendations but, in some instances, proposed alternatives for executing the recommendations.
    Access the complete 43-page GAO report (click here). [#P2, #Haz, #Solid]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, March 16, 2012

Environmental Outlook 2050 & Consequences of Inaction

Mar 15: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has issued its Environmental Outlook to 2050 report which warns that as countries struggle with the immediate challenges of stretched public finances and high unemployment, they must not neglect the longer term. Action needs to be taken now to prevent irreversible damage to the environment. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said, "Greener sources of growth can help governments today as they tackle these pressing challenges. Greening agriculture, water and energy supply and manufacturing will be critical by 2050 to meet the needs of over 9 billion people." said

    The report, OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction, presents the latest projections of socio-economic trends over the next four decades, and their implications for four key areas of concern: climate change, biodiversity, water and the health impacts of environmental pollution. Despite the recent recession, the global economy is projected to nearly quadruple to 2050. Rising living standards will be accompanied by ever growing demands for energy, food and natural resources - and more pollution. The report indicates that, "The costs of inaction could be colossal, both in economic and human terms." Without new policies:

  • World energy demand in 2050 will be 80% higher, with most of the growth to come from emerging economies (for North America about +15%, for OECD Europe +28%, for Japan +2.5, for Mexico +112%) and still 85% reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. This could lead to a 50% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and worsening air pollution.
  • Urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation. The number of premature deaths from exposure to particulate air pollutants leading to respiratory failure could double from current levels to 3.6 million every year globally, with most occurring in China and India. Because of their ageing and urbanized populations, OECD countries are likely to have one of the highest rate of premature death from ground-level ozone in 2050, second only to India.
  • On land, global biodiversity is projected to decline by a further 10%, with significant losses in Asia, Europe and Southern Africa. Areas of mature forests are projected to shrink by 13%. About one-third of biodiversity in rivers and lakes worldwide has already been lost, and further losses are projected to 2050.
  • Global water demand will increase by some 55%, due to growing demand from manufacturing (+400%), thermal power plants (+140%) and domestic use (+130%). These competing demands will put water use by farmers at risk. 2.3 billion more people than today -- over 40% of the global population -- will be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.
    The projections highlight the urgent need for new thinking. Failing that, the erosion of our environmental capital will increase the risk of irreversible changes that could jeopardize two centuries of rising living standards. Gurría said, "We have already witnessed the collapse of some fisheries due to overfishing, with significant impacts on coastal communities, and severe water shortages are a looming threat to agriculture. These enormous environmental challenges cannot be addressed in isolation. They must be managed in the context of other global challenges, such as food and energy security, and poverty alleviation."

    According to a release, well-designed policies to tackle environmental problems can also help to address other environmental challenges, and contribute to growth and development. Tackling local air pollution contributes not only to cutting GHG emissions but also to reducing the economic burden of chronic and costly health problems. Moreover, climate policies help protect biodiversity, for example by reducing emissions from deforestation. 

    To avert the grim future painted by the Environmental Outlook to 2050, the report recommends "a cocktail of policy solutions:" using environmental taxes and emissions trading schemes to make pollution more costly than greener alternatives; valuing and pricing natural assets and ecosystem services like clean air, water and biodiversity for their true worth; removing environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels or wasteful irrigation schemes; and encouraging green innovation by making polluting production and consumption modes more expensive while providing public support for basic R&D.

    Green growth policies are already in place in many countries. OECD cites for example, Mexico's new pilot programme gives direct cash transfers to farmers instead of subsidizing the electricity they use to pump irrigation water, thus removing the price distortion that encouraged over-use of groundwater. The UK government has earmarked 3 billion British Pound (GBP 3 billion) for the new UK Green Investment Bank; this should leverage an additional GBP 15 billion of private investment in green energy and recycling by 2015. The US government has been working to phase out preferential tax provisions worth about USD 4 billion per annum that continue to support the production of fossil energy. Capitalizing on its knowledge-base and environmental technologies, city of Kitakyushu in Japan is working with businesses to enhance its competitiveness as a "green city" for low-carbon growth. Governments, businesses, consumers all have a part to play to move towards greener growth.
    Access a release from OECD and link to related information (click here). Access the complete report, executive summary and related documents (click here). Access the OECD website (click here). [#Sustain]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, March 15, 2012

U.S. Challenges China's Unfair Export Restraints On Rare Earths

Mar 13: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the United States has requested consultations with the People's Republic of China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning China's unfair export restraints on rare earths, as well as tungsten and molybdenum. These materials are key inputs in a multitude of U.S made-products and American manufacturing sectors, including hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, energy-efficient lighting, steel, advanced electronics, automobiles, petroleum, and chemicals.

    Consultations are the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process, and parties are encouraged to agree to a solution at this stage. Under WTO rules, if the matter is not resolved through consultations within 60 days, the United States may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel. The European Union and Japan also requested WTO consultations with China on this matter also.

    Ambassador Kirk said, "America's workers and manufacturers are being hurt in both established and budding industrial sectors by these policies. China continues to make its export restraints more restrictive, resulting in massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains for these materials throughout the global marketplace. The launch of this case against China today, along with the President's creation of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, reflects the Obama Administration's commitment to make all of our trading partners play by the rules. We will continue fighting for a level playing field for American workers and manufacturers in order to grow our economy, and ensure open markets for products made in America."

    The United States recently won a WTO challenge against China's export restraints on nine other industrial inputs. China's export restraint measures on rare earths, tungsten, and molybdenum appear to be part of the same troubling industrial policy aimed at providing substantial competitive advantages for Chinese manufacturers.

    China imposes several different types of unfair export restraints on the materials at issue in the consultations request, including export duties, export quotas, export pricing requirements as well as related export procedures and requirements. Because China is a top global producer for these key inputs, its harmful policies artificially increase prices for the inputs outside of China while lowering prices in China. This price dynamic creates significant advantages for China's producers when competing against U.S. producers – both in China's market and in other markets around the world. The improper export restraints also contribute to creating substantial pressure on U.S. and other non-Chinese downstream producers to move their operations, jobs, and technologies to China.

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) applauded the action and said, "I have been calling for strong action to address China's illegal actions and am glad that action is now being taken. Michigan's economic turnaround depends on innovative businesses being able to manufacture the products of the future. We cannot let China's unfair trade practices stop job growth." She indicated that China is currently hoarding rare earth elements critical to a wide range of industries -- from hi-tech batteries for advanced technology vehicles, to smart phone batteries to important military technologies. She said China now controls production of more than 95% percent of the world's supply -- and has increasingly been using export controls to reduce the amount available on the world market.
    U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took the opportunity to criticize the President and said, "The president wants to sue the Chinese for something that we could -- and should -- be producing for ourselves. Instead of settling for Chinese imports, the president should be taking steps to jumpstart development of our own supplies of rare earth elements and other critical minerals. All he has to do is look north to Alaska, which has already identified roughly 70 rare earth elements sites. We have some of the strictest environmental standards in the world, but the president prefers to import minerals critical to our competitiveness and security from a country that has some of the lowest. If the president wants to address China's dominance in critical minerals production, he should support changes to U.S. federal minerals policy to allow domestic mining."
    Senator Murkowski said, "The United States is 100 percent dependent on foreign sources for 17 critical minerals." She has been calling for reforming Federal minerals policy for the past two years. Murkowski introduced the Critical Minerals Policy Act (S. 1113) last year, with 19 bipartisan cosponsors, to update Federal mining policy, but the legislation has languished in the committee waiting for the Majority to schedule a markup.

    Access a release from the U.S. Trade Representative with additional information and background (click here). Access a release from Sen. Stabenow (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski and link to related information (click here). Access legislative details for S.1113 (click here). [#Land]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals