Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House Subcommittee Forums On Clean Air Act Issues

Jul 31: Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, announced bipartisan forums on today (July 31), and on Thursday, August 2, to examine state, local, and Federal cooperation in the Clean Air Act. The forums are intended to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to hear a broad range of perspectives from experts about their experiences in implementing the Clean Air Act.

    Rep. Whitfield said, "During my time as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, we have had numerous hearings on specific rules under the Clean Air Act and we have passed a number of bills relating to those rules. The goal of these forums is not to talk about legislation or focus on any specific rule or provision of the Act, but rather to foster a broad, bipartisan discussion about the law. We will hear from experts who live with this Act every day, about their experience implementing the law and coordinating with the various levels of government that share responsibility for our nation's air quality."

    Today's forum began at 2:00 PM. The participants for today's meeting included representatives from: Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality; Indiana Department of Environmental Management; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control; Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG); Imperial County Air Pollution Control District; Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency; and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Additionally, a brief statement was submitted by a number of environmental groups including: Center for Biological Diversity; Conservation Law Foundation; Earthjustice; League of Conservation Voters; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; and US Climate Action Network. Thursday's forum will also begin at 2:00 PM and includes representative from: AZ, TX, South Coast Air Quality Management District, DE, Dayton Regional Air Pollution Control Agency; OH, and Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

    Participant were requested to respond to a list of 6 questions including:

  • In your agency's experience implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA), what is working well? What is not working well?
  • Do state and local governments have sufficient autonomy and flexibility to address local conditions and needs?
  • Does the current system balance federal, state, and tribal roles to provide timely, accurate permitting for business activities, balancing environment protection and economic growth?
  • Does the CAA support a reasonable and effective mechanism for federal, state, tribal and local cooperation through State Implementation Plans? How could the mechanism be improved?
  • Are cross-state air pollution issues coordinated well under the existing framework?
  • Are there other issues, ideas or concerns relating to the role of federalism under the CAA that you would like to discuss?

    Access the Forum website and link to the today's Participant responses, the environmental group statement, and a video at the conclusion (click here). Access a list of Participants and responses for the August 2 Forum (click here). [#Air, #MIAir]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, July 30, 2012

DOI Announces Alaska Energy Management Decisions

Jul 30: Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) David Hayes announced two new efforts to further strengthen the role of science in resource management decisions regarding both onshore and offshore energy development activities in Alaska. The Administration, through the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, established by Executive Order in July 2011, will begin work to establish a centralized hub of scientific information to help inform decision-makers and the public. The Alaska Working Group will also prepare a framework for building a more integrated approach to evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic. The initiatives are outlined further in a memorandum (see link below).

    Hayes, who serves as chair of the Alaska Interagency Working Group said, "The federal government must take a comprehensive, science-based approach when addressing energy and other development issues in the Arctic -- one that recognizes both the region's enormous resource potential and its irreplaceable natural and cultural resources. Getting it right in the Arctic requires a transparent, disciplined and integrated approach so that we can make sound, long-term planning decisions. Today's efforts are important steps toward strengthening our scientific knowledge-base and opening up the lines of communication between the science community and decision-makers."

    First, according to a release, the Alaska Interagency Working Group will partner with the Arctic Research Commission and other members of the scientific community to develop a centralized and accessible database of scientific information and traditional knowledge relevant to resource management in the Arctic -- with special consideration to ensuring that cultural and traditional knowledge are fully integrated. The initiative will build upon existing data collections, such as the North Slope Science Initiative's Data Catalogue, Arctic ERMA, regional observing systems, private industry and the University of Alaska's Geographic Information Network of Alaska, and it will complement existing interagency efforts like the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, which is developing a five-year plan for Arctic research in FY 2013-2017.

    Fran Ulmer, Chair of the Arctic Research Commission said, "Pulling relevant Arctic science information together in a more accessible and consolidated portal is critical. I look forward to continuing to work with Deputy Secretary Hayes and the mix of scientists and policy-makers involved in the Alaska Interagency Working Group -- including my colleagues Dr. John Holdren, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Dr. Marcia McNutt, Dr. Subra Suresh, and Dr. Alan Thornhill, among others – to make this happen."

    Second, the Alaska Interagency Working Group will prepare an initial report to address key elements of an "Integrated Arctic Management" framework for evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic. Working closely with the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, local communities and the many agencies and stakeholders that have been focusing on specific projects or regions, the framework will pull together Arctic-wide information that is relevant to future decision-making, including: (1) ecologically and culturally important areas, natural resources and processes, and key drivers of environmental changes in the Arctic; (2) trends -- environmental and otherwise -- that affect these resources over time; and (3) commercial, societal, and governmental trends that could lead to future infrastructure related needs in the Arctic.

    As a member of the eight-nation Arctic Council, the United States has embraced the concept of using this type of an "ecosystem-based management" approach to assist in making sound decisions regarding potential future infrastructure development in the Arctic. It recognizes the importance of a comprehensive approach in the Arctic, rather than evaluating activities on a sector-by-sector, project-by-project, or issue-by-issue basis.

    DOI indicated that completion of these initial key steps will lay the foundation for a full dialogue in how best to develop and apply an Integrated Arctic Management approach when making important development decisions in the Arctic. The Alaska Interagency Working Group will engage with a wide variety of governmental entities and stakeholders, including the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, local communities, industry, and conservation groups on these efforts and expects to present a report to President Obama on the initial efforts by December 31, 2012.

    Access a release from DOI (click here). Access the Memo on the initiatives (click here). Access more information on the initiative from a White House blog posting with links to further details (click here). [#Energy, #Lands]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, July 27, 2012

Major DOE Report On Renewable Energy Potential By State

Jul 26: A new study of renewable energy's technical potential, by the Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), finds that every state in the nation has the space and resource to generate clean energy. NREL's study, U.S. RE Technical Potential, looks at available renewable resources in each state. It establishes an upper-boundary estimate of development potential. Economic or market restraints would factor into what projects might actually be deployed. NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

    According to a release, the report is valuable for decision-makers and utility executives because it compares estimates across six renewable energy technologies and unifies assumptions and methods. It shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resource availability -- solar, wind, geothermal availability, etc. -- system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints. The study includes state-level maps and tables containing available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for each technology.

    NREL's Anthony Lopez, a co-author of the study said, "Decision-makers using the study will get a sense of scale regarding the potential for renewables, and which technologies are worth examining. Energy modelers also will find the study valuable." NREL's Donna Heimiller, another co-author added, "This is intended to be a living document. We'll be frequently updating the information as we get more data."

    According to the report, it is unique in unifying assumptions and application of methods employed to generate comparable estimates across technologies, where possible, to allow cross-technology comparison. Technical potential estimates for six different renewable energy technologies were calculated by NREL, and methods and results for several other renewable technologies from previously published reports are also presented.

    The report presents the state-level results of a spatial analysis calculating renewable energy technical potential, reporting available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for six different renewable electricity generation technologies: utility-scale photovoltaics (both urban and rural), concentrating solar power, onshore wind power, offshore wind power, biopower, and enhanced geothermal systems. Each technology's system-specific power density (or equivalent), capacity factor, and land-use constraints were identified using published research, subject matter experts, and analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). System performance estimates rely heavily on NREL's Systems Advisor Model (SAM) and Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS), a multiregional, multi-time period, geographic information system (GIS) and linear programming model. This report also presents technical potential findings for rooftop photovoltaic, hydrothermal, and hydropower in a similar format based solely on previous published reports.

    The report notes, ". . .as a technical potential, rather than economic or market potential, these estimates do not consider availability of transmission infrastructure, costs, reliability or time-of-dispatch, current or future electricity loads, or relevant policies. Further, as this analysis does not allocate land for use by a particular technology, the same land area may be the basis for estimates of multiple technologies (i.e., non-excluded land is assumed to be available to support development of more than one technology)."

    Access a release from NREL with links to related information (click here). Access the complete report (click here). [#Energy/Renewable] 3

Thursday, July 26, 2012

House Approves Expanded 5-Year OCS Plan; Senate Bill Introduced

Jul 25: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand American offshore, Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states. The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012 -- OPEN Act -- is co-sponsored by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA); Mark Warner  (D-VA); Mary Landrieu, (D-LA); John Hoeven (R-ND); and Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The Senate action came on the same day as the House voted, mostly along Republican party-lines to replace the Administration's 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan [See WIMS 6/29/12] with an expanded plan of their own [See WIMS 7/25/12]. The House Republican plan, included in H.R.6082, passed by a vote of 253 - 170. The Administration's plan, included in H.R.6168 failed to pass by a vote of 164 - 261.

    The Senate bill, S.3438, bill provides what Senator Murkowski calls "a common-sense alternative to the President's proposed 2012-2017 offshore plan," which included just 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, one in Alaska's Cook Inlet, and the potential for two sales in Alaska's Arctic. The OPEN Act would add an additional dozen lease sales to that list, and includes multiple area-wide sales in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. 

    Under current law, the President must submit his five-year plan to Congress for a mandatory 60-day review. Senator Murkowski and other critics of the President's proposal point out that the President's plan excludes nearly 90 percent of America's outer continental shelf. When DOI/BOEM introduced the Administration plan on June 28, they indicated, "As is mandated by the OCS Lands Act, the Proposed Final Program has been submitted to Congress. The Secretary may implement the Program in 60 days, however no further action is needed prior to its implementation, and BOEM is on track to hold the first sale under the new program later this year." On July 23, BOEM announced more than 20 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale scheduled to take place in New Orleans on November 28, 2012 [See WIMS 7/24/12].

    Sen. Murkowski said, "The OPEN Act sends a clear message that America is serious about developing its energy resources to fuel an economic recovery. This bill will not only improve our energy security and create jobs, it also ensures that states receive a fair share of the revenue generated off their coastlines." Sen. Landrieu said, "This legislation would replace the administration's shortsighted five-year plan for drilling in the OCS, and instead allow the U.S. to tap into the vast oil and gas potential off our coasts. In addition to creating jobs and giving the U.S. economy a much needed boost through increased energy production revenues, this bill includes revenue sharing for coastal states that produce essential energy resources for our country, something that is lacking in other drilling legislation."

    Sen. Webb, who has repeatedly called for Virginia's inclusion in the administration's five-year oil and gas leasing plan said, "I have long advocated opening up more of the nation's outer continental shelf resources to responsible natural gas and oil exploration. Energy exploration and subsequent production within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf -- if coupled with environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments -- would boost domestic energy supplies, while benefiting the Commonwealth's economy."

    In addition to the sales off Alaska's northern coast, the OPEN Act adds lease sales off the mid-Atlantic coast and allows exploration from existing infrastructure in Southern California. It also provides revenue sharing (37.5 percent) to any state with energy production off its coast. The revenue sharing language is technology neutral, covering all forms of energy production, including offshore wind energy.

    Access a release from Senator Murkowski with more comments from cosponsors (click here). Access legislative details for S.3438 (click here). [#Energy/OCS]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DEMS & GOP Stark Differences In Debate Over OCS Drilling Plan

Jul 23: The Republican-controlled U.S. House is considering legislation related to oil and gas development offshore on the outer continental shelf (OCS). Up or down votes are planned on the Administration's proposal or a much expanded Republican alternative plan. The votes are expected later today (see contacts below) [See WIMS 6/29/12].
    The White House has issued a formal Statement of Administrative Policy on H.R.6082, the Congressional Replacement of the President's Offshore Drilling Plan bill, introduced by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill is currently under consideration on the House Floor. The bill would "officially replace, within the 60-day Congressional review period under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, President Obama's Proposed Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program (2012-2017) with a congressional plan that will conduct additional oil and natural gas lease sales to promote offshore energy development, job creation, and increased domestic energy production to ensure a more secure energy future in the United States, and for other purposes." The Administration's Policy Statement indicates:
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 6082, which would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy that the American people and the States have helped develop over the last three years.
"The Administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas development as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy to increase domestic production and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The Administration's recently announced five-year strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing makes areas containing more than 75 percent of estimated, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in our oceans available for exploration and development -- including all of the highest resource areas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This plan was developed following extensive input from the public, industry, States, Tribes, and others, and incorporates lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"H.R. 6082 would require the Department of the Interior to open a number of new areas on the OCS. This action would be directed without Secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing through balanced consideration of factors such as resource potential, State and local views and concerns, and the maturity of infrastructure needed to support oil and gas development, including in the event of an oil spill. The bill would mandate OCS lease sales along the east and west coast and elsewhere without regard for significant issues such as State and local concerns and impacts on important fishing areas and with inadequate consideration of military use conflicts.
"The bill also would establish unworkable deadlines and substantive and procedural limitations on important environmental review and other analysis that is critical to complying with laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Clean Water Act. Full compliance with these laws is important for the protection of citizens, communities, and the environment and is necessary in order to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation. If the President were presented with H.R. 6082, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
    Chairman Hastings issue a Floor statement saying:

"Under the shadow of the Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare, the Obama Administration on June 28th quietly announced the President's proposed final offshore drilling plan for 2012-2017. Despite claims of being proud of their energy record, the Obama Administration deliberately chose to announce their plan on a day when it would get buried in Obamacare news coverage. This shows that even the Obama Administration is not proud of their plan that would place 85 percent of America's offshore areas off-limits to energy production.

"Under section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act, when any President proposes a new five-year offshore drilling plan it must be submitted to Congress for a mandatory 60-day review before it can become final and take effect. That 60-day clock is ticking. It's now Congress' responsibility to take action -- to reject President Obama's no-new-drilling, no-new-jobs plan and to replace it with a robust, responsible plan to safely develop our offshore energy resources. According to analysis conducted by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the President has proposed fewer lease sales in his plan than any President since the process began. President Obama rates worse than even Jimmy Carter.

"President Obama's proposal doesn't open one new area for leasing and energy production. It would set our nation's energy production back to the days before 2008 when two moratoria prohibited drilling of the vast majority of America's offshore areas. Both moratoria were lifted after the summer of 2008 due to the outrage of the American people over the cost of four-dollar-per-gallon gasoline – and they demanded that the federal government take action. President Obama proposes to effectively re-impose the moratoria.

"From nearly the day he took the oath of office, President Obama has put the brakes on new American energy production and job creation. In the first weeks of the Administration, the Interior Department took a nearly complete new offshore lease plan and put it on hold for six-months, and then tossed that draft plan out entirely and started over. It took them over three and half years to get a new proposed plan in place. Along the way, they delayed and canceled multiple lease sales.

"For example, President Obama canceled the Virginia lease sale scheduled for 2011 and now refuses to include Virginia in his 2012-2017 plan. He is responsible for closing an entire new area to drilling and cheating the Commonwealth out of thousands of jobs. If President Obama has his way, Virginia will be left out in the cold until 2017 at the absolute soonest.

"The bill being considered today, H.R. 6082, is titled the 'Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-limiting Offshore Drilling Plan.' In stark contrast to President Obama's plan, this bill represents a drill-smart plan that includes 29 lease sales and focuses energy production in specific areas containing America's greatest known oil and natural gas resources. The bill would replace the lease sales schedule in the President's proposed plan and safely open new areas that were previously under moratoria -- such as the Mid-Atlantic, Southern Pacific and Arctic. It does this while ensuring that necessary and required environmental reviews are conducted. The Congressional replacement plan would generate $600 million in additional revenue and create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

"Tomorrow there will be a direct up or down vote on the President's proposed plan when we consider H.R. 6168 [also introduced by Rep. Hastings] under suspension of the rules. There will also be a direct up or down vote on this bill to replace it. Members can decide if the President's plan meets the standards expected by the American people or if we should replace it with a real plan to create jobs and grow our economy.

"The House is taking action to replace the President's proposed plan and I call on the Senate to do the same. If the Senate does nothing and lets the 60-day clock run out, that is an endorsement of the President's plan. It's an endorsement of a plan that re-imposes the drilling moratoria, creates no-new jobs and no-new energy. For the Senators of Virginia, it's an endorsement of a plan that forfeits energy production and job creation in the Commonwealth for at least another five years. We can do better than the President's proposed plan, and our Nation deservers better. By passing this bill, we are standing up for American energy and American jobs and moving our country forward."

        Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee issued a release highly critical of the Republican members consideration of "Big Oil" legislation. He indicated that "House Republicans have stalled Congress with nearly 100 hours of debate on oil drilling bills, passing 11 drilling bills out of the Natural Resources Committee and turning them into 6 massive packages of giveaways to Big Oil. Today's Republican 'Oil Above All' monstrosity, the sixth package to be voted on in the House this Congress, opens up America's coasts to drilling without setting any new safety standards."

    He indicated that in response to this agenda, Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee launched a new website called "Big Oil Congress" that keeps a counter of votes cast by House Republicans to benefit oil and gas companies ("139, as of the start of today's bill") and total hours spent debating these special interest favors ("89 hours and counting").

    Rep. Markey said in part, "And all of these bills have suffered the same fate. They were all far too extreme to pass the Senate and not a single one has been signed into law. Well, let me let everyone in on a little secret, this bill is also not becoming law. Like the bills before it, it can't pass the Senate and the Administration has already said that the President would veto it. But that reality hasn't stopped the Republican House from passing giveaways to the oil and gas industry over and over again. When you include bills that have been reported by all Committees, all together, this Republican House has already cast 139 votes on the Floor this Congress to benefit the oil and gas industry. We are going to pass 90 hours of debate on the Floor on oil and gas legislation this Congress. What a streak!"

UPDATE: 2:43 PM. On passage H.R.6082: Passed by recorded vote: 253 - 170 (Roll Call Vote no. 511).
UPDATE: 2:51 PM. On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill H.R.6168; Failed by the
Yeas and Nays:
(2/3 required): 164 - 261 (Roll Call Vote no. 512).

    Access the Administration Policy Statement (click here). Access the House Floor activities website to track today's voting (click here). Access the statement and video from Rep. Hastings (click here). Access the release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the Democrat's website on oil & gas voting (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6168 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6082 (click here). [#Energy/OCS]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GAO Finds Substantial EGU Noncompliance With NSR

Jul 23: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report entitled, Air Pollution: EPA Needs Better Information on New Source Review Permits (GAO-12-590, Jun 22, 2012). The report was requested by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Chairman Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
    In background information GAO indicates that electricity generating units (EGUs) that burn fossil fuels supply most of the nation's electricity and are major sources of air pollution. Under the Clean Air Act, such units are subject to New Source Review (NSR), a permitting process that applies to: (1) units built after August 7, 1977; and (2) existing units that undertake a major modification. Owners of such units must obtain from the appropriate permitting agency a preconstruction permit that sets emission limits and requires the use of certain pollution control technologies. U.S. EPA oversees states' implementation of NSR, including reviewing and commenting on draft permits issued by state and local permitting agencies. GAO was asked to examine: (1) what information EPA maintains on NSR permits issued to fossil fuel electricity generating units; (2) challenges, if any, that EPA, state, and local agencies face in ensuring compliance with requirements to obtain NSR permits; and (3) what available data show about compliance with requirements to obtain NSR permits. GAO reviewed relevant documentation and interviewed EPA, state, and local officials, as well as representatives from industry, research, and environmental groups.
    GAO found that EPA does not maintain complete information on NSR permits issued to fossil fuel electricity generating units. State and local permitting agencies track the NSR permits they issue, but EPA does not maintain complete or centralized information on permits, despite a 2006 recommendation by the National Research Council (NRC) that it do so. EPA maintains several databases that compile data on draft and issued NSR permits, but these sources are incomplete and thus cannot be used to identify all of the NSR permits that have been issued nationwide. In addition, EPA has the opportunity to review and comment on every draft NSR permit issued by state and local permitting agencies, but it does not compile data on whether the permitting agencies address EPA's comments in final permits. The absence of more complete information on NSR permitting makes it difficult to know which units have obtained NSR permits or to assess how state and local permitting agencies vary from EPA in their interpretations of NSR requirements.
    GAO indicates that officials from EPA, state, and local agencies face challenges in ensuring that owners of fossil fuel electricity generating units comply with requirements to obtain NSR permits. Many of these challenges stem from two overarching issues. First (1), in some cases it is difficult to determine whether an NSR permit is required. NSR applicability depends on, among other factors, whether a change to a unit qualifies as routine maintenance, repair, and replacement; and whether the change results in a significant net increase in emissions. The rules governing NSR are complex, however, and applicability is determined on a case-by-case basis. Second (2), it is often difficult to identify noncompliance -- instances where unit owners made a major modification without first obtaining an NSR permit -- partly because owners of generating units determine whether a permit is needed, and in many cases their determinations are not reviewed by permitting agencies or EPA. State permitting agencies generally issue NSR permits, but EPA typically leads enforcement efforts, since identifying instances of noncompliance involves extensive investigations that go beyond the routine inspections conducted by state and local permitting agencies. EPA identifies NSR noncompliance through a lengthy, resource-intensive process that involves reviewing large amounts of information on units' past emissions and construction activities.
    Available data on compliance, although incomplete, suggest that "a substantial number of generating units did not comply with requirements to obtain NSR permits." Complete NSR compliance data do not exist for two main reasons: (1) EPA has not yet investigated all generating units for compliance; and (2) NSR compliance is determined at a point in time, and in some cases Federal courts have disagreed with EPA about the need for an NSR permit. Nonetheless, EPA has investigated most coal-fired generating units at least once, and has alleged noncompliance at more than half of the units it investigated. Specifically, of the 831 units EPA investigated, 467 units were ultimately issued notices of violation, had complaints filed in court, or were included in settlement agreements. In total, EPA reached 22 settlements covering 263 units, which will require affected unit owners to, among other things, install around $12.8 billion in emissions controls. These settlements will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by an estimated 1.8 million tons annually, and nitrogen oxides by an estimated 596,000 tons annually.
    GAO recommends that EPA, among other actions, consider ways to develop a centralized source of data on NSR permits issued to electricity generating units. EPA expressed its commitment to filling gaps in its data systems, but disagreed with the actions GAO recommended. GAO believes that its recommendations would enhance oversight of NSR permitting and enforcement.
    Access the complete 44-page report (click here). [#Air, #Energy/EGUs]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, July 23, 2012

EPA Agrees To Reconsider Some MATS/Utility MACT Rules

Jul 20: Late Friday afternoon, U.S. EPA announced it is reviewing technical information that is focused on pollution limits for new power plants under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS, a.k.a. Utility MACT), based on new information provided by industry stakeholders after the rule was finalized. EPA said the review is not an uncommon step for major standards, and "will have no impact on the sensible, achievable, and cost-effective standards already set for existing power plants, which will protect millions of families and, especially, children from air pollution." EPA said by moving quickly to review the new information, this action will provide greater certainty for five planned future facilities, in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, and Utah, that would be covered by the standards. This review will not change the expected costs or public health benefits of the rule.

    EPA's indicates MACT, which take advantage of existing flexibilities, are the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. By ensuring that existing power plants install widely available pollution control equipment, the standards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America's children grow up healthier -- preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.

    EPA said it will review monitoring issues related to the mercury standards for new power plants and will address other technical issues on the acid gas and particle pollution standards for these plants. The Agency's review will not change the types of state-of-the-art pollution controls new power plants are expected to use to reduce this harmful pollution. EPA reiterated that the review, known as a "reconsideration," is a routine tool that EPA often uses to ensure that its standards incorporate all relevant information, in cases where information only becomes available after a rule is promulgated. The Agency's said its decision to reconsider the standards for new sources "reflects its ongoing commitment to work with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that all of EPA's standards protect public health while being achievable and cost-effective." EPA will follow an expedited, open and transparent process that includes public comment on any proposed changes. The agency will complete the rulemaking by March 2013 and will also use its Clean Air Act authority to stay the final standards for new power plants for three months during this review.

    On December 21, 2011, EPA issued the final MATS [See WIMS 1/3/12]. The Agency estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America's children grow up healthier -- preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. EPA said it estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public will see up to $9 in health benefits. The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $90 billion annually. The highly controversial rules have been under Republican legislative assault and legal challenges from some industry groups and states [See WIMS 2/21/12].

    In a July 20, letter to petitioners, Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy indicated, the agency intended to "grant reconsideration of certain new source issues, including measurement issues related to mercury and the data set to which the variability calculation was applied when establishing the new source standards for particulate matter and hydrochloric acid, that may affect the new source standards." EPA said it plans to issue a Federal Register notice "shortly, initiating notice and comment rulemaking on the new source issues. . ." EPA also said a Federal Register notice will also stay "the effectiveness of the new source emission standards for three months."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the letter to petitioners (click here). Access EPA's website on the MATS rulemaking with complete background information (click here). [#Air, #Toxics]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, July 20, 2012

EPA Denies Petition From Beekeepers To Suspend Clothianidin

Jul 19: The organization Beyond Pesticides reports that U.S. EPA announced it had formally refused to recognize that honey bees face an "imminent hazard" and denied a request by beekeepers to immediately suspend the use of pesticides that pose harm to pollinators. The decision comes in response to a legal petition filed earlier this year by twenty-five beekeepers and environmental organizations, citing significant acute and chronic bee kills across the United States linked to neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly clothianidin. Steve Ellis, a petitioner and owner of Old Mill Honey Co, with operations in California and Minnesota said, "We're disappointed. EPA has signaled a willingness to favor pesticide corporations over bees and beekeepers. This decision puts beekeepers, rural economies and our food system at risk. And the injury we are sustaining this year will be unnecessarily repeated."

    Beyond Pesticides indicates that this spring and summer, beekeepers from New York to Ohio and Minnesota, are reporting extraordinarily large bee die-offs, due, in part, to exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. The die-offs are similar to what beekeepers have reported in the past few weeks in Canada (where EPA has admitted there are 120 bee kill reports, a huge number). On average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that beekeepers have been losing over 30% of their honey bee colonies each year since 2006 -- but some are losing many more times that number.

    Peter Jenkins, attorney at Center for Food Safety and author of the legal petition filed in late March said, "EPA has failed in its statutory responsibility to protect beekeeper livelihoods and the environment from an 'imminent hazard. The agency explicitly refused to consider the massive amount of supplemental information we submitted that came to light after we filed the petition, as bees started dying in large numbers this Spring during the April and May corn planting season."
    The emergency legal petition to EPA was filed on March 21, 2012 and asked the agency to suspend all registrations for pesticides containing clothianidin. The petition, which is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. EPA's partial response is available and the agency has published an electronic docket with the petition, the partial response, and other supporting material available for viewing. Beyond Pesticides indicates that the public can not yet comment on the petition, but the docket will be opened soon for accepting public comments. EPA indicates on its website that it will publish a Federal Register notice the week of July 23-27, 2012, opening a 60-day public comment period that commences with the FR notice publication.
    Access a lengthy release from Beyond Pesticides with multiple links to related information (click here). Access the EPA docket with available information (click here). Access more information from Beyond Pesticides' Pollinator Program website
(click here). Access EPA's website for Clothianidin – Registration Status and Related Information with extensive information (click here). [#Toxics]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, July 19, 2012

GOP & DEMS Square Off On "War On Coal" Report & Hearing

Jul 19: A report, prepared by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee, at the direction of Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), calls into question the benefits to America of allowing "destructive mining practices to continue" if that coal is going to subsequently be shipped to foreign nations like China. The report, Our Pain, Their Gain, provides an analysis of coal mine data and shows that coal exports have exploded from Appalachian operations over the last few years, with some mines exporting 100 percent of their coal abroad.
    The report analyzed data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and included self-reported data from the mines themselves. Some of the top findings of the report include:
  • The number of mountaintop removal, steep slope and surface mines exporting coal from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia increased from 73 mines in 2008 to 97 in 2011.
  • Coal exports from these mines in these four states have grown by 91 percent since 2009 to 13.2 million tons in 2011.
  • 25 of those mines exported more than half of their production in 2011. One Russian company is exporting nearly 83 percent of the coal from three mines in West Virginia, and five mines are shipping 100 percent of their coal abroad.
  • Overall, these 97 mines exported 27 percent of their production in 2011, more than doubling from 13 percent exported in 2008.

    Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee said, "American families are being subjected to coal mine pollution and damage, just so exports to China and other foreign nations can increase. The coal may be shipped to foreign markets, but the diseases, the destroyed mountaintops, and the environmental ruin from these destructive practices are staying right here in America."

    Rep. Markey indicated in a release that, "The report comes as Republicans and the coal industry are attempting to beat back safeguards that would protect communities from coal mining pollution, including a hearing held today [see below] by the Natural Resources Republicans to attack rules that would protect streams and drinking water from mining operation pollution." He also indicated that the export issue is not isolated in the Appalachian region, as coal companies mining in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming are angling to vastly increase coal exports.

    The House Natural Resources Committee received testimony from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Director Joseph Pizarchik at a Committee oversight hearing on the status of the Department of the Interior's (DOI's) rewrite of a 2008 coal regulation which Republicans said "could cost thousands of jobs and economic harm in 22 states, as well as the failure of the Department to respond to Congressional subpoenas for documents on the rewrite."

    Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) said, "The Committee expects answers at this hearing. The Department has largely stonewalled the Committee's investigation into the Administration's highly unorthodox and questionable rulemaking process that could leave thousands of hardworking Americans unemployed. Director Pizarchik should be prepared to fully and completely answer questions regarding the Department's refusal to comply with the two subpoenas for documents, the current status of the rulemaking, and the Department's failure to abide by its voluntary court settlement agreement to complete the rule rewrite by the end of last month."

    In an opening statement, Chairman Hastings said, "Almost immediately after President Obama took office, his Administration tossed aside the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which had taken over five years of thorough environmental and scientific analysis and public comment to complete. The Department then entered into a lawsuit settlement with environmental groups to rewrite the rule by June 29, 2012. The Administration has spent millions of taxpayer dollars working to rewrite this rule including hiring new contractors,. only to dismiss those same contractors once it was publically revealed that the Administration's new proposed regulation could cost 7,000 jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states. . .
    "Today, this Committee expects answers -- open, honest and complete answers. It's inexcusable the way in which the Department has stonewalled this Committee's legitimate oversight efforts. The Obama Administration has made no secret of their desire to reduce or prohibit coal production. Their war on coal is being carried out on multiple fronts -- from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Office of Surface Mining -- all using the same tactic of imposing onerous red tape that will slowly cripple the industry. Never mind the thousands of American families and small businesses that depend on coal for their livelihood. . ."
    OSM's Director Joseph Pizarchik testified that, "Along with responsible oil and gas development and the growth of clean, renewable energy, coal is an important component of our nation's energy portfolio, and the responsible development of this important resource is a key part of America's energy and economic security. . ."
    Pizarchik concluded his testimony saying, "Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to testify on the development of OSM's Stream Protection Rule. The Department recognizes congressional oversight is an important part of our system of government, and we remain hopeful that the Department and the Committee can continue to work together to satisfy the Committee's oversight interests in this matter, while also safeguarding the independence, integrity, and effectiveness of the Department's ongoing efforts to develop a Stream Protection Rule. In that effort, we remain committed to developing a proposal that will more fully carry out the bureau's mission, make use of the best available science and technology, better protect communities and water supplies from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining, and provide greater clarity and certainty to the mining industry and the affected communities. We remain just as committed to providing ample opportunity for the Congress, public, industry, stakeholders and others to provide input on that proposal that will help us develop a balanced and responsible final rule. . ."
    Access a release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the complete 38-page report (click here). Access the Republican hearing website for background, opening statement, testimony and a webcast (click here). [#Energy/Coal]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

API Says EPA's Science Doesn't Justify PM2.5 Proposal

Jul 17: Howard Feldman, Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the American Petroleum Institute (API) delivered a statement at a U.S. EPA hearing in Philadelphia and said the Agency's scientific analysis for its proposal on fine particulate air standards was "inadequate and could not justify tightening them." He said continued implementation of the existing standards would further improve air quality.

    Feldman said, "EPA has not proven a 'cause and effect' between PM 2.5 below the current standards and health effects…. Taken as a whole, the scientific studies cut in different directions…. There is no need to move the goalposts now. I am encouraged by the progress our nation has made in reducing fine particle emissions in our skies. The concentration of PM2.5 in the nation's air has declined by 24 percent between 2001 and 2010. The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has significantly contributed to these improvements by developing and manufacturing ultra-clean fuels that can be used in the new very low emission diesel and gasoline engines. More good news is that the improvements will continue…. When announcing this proposal, EPA stated that it has issued a number of rules already that will continue to make significant strides toward reducing fine particle emissions in the years ahead. These future improvements are independent of whether any action is taken to change these standards."
    On June 15, U.S. EPA announced that in response to a court order, it was proposing updates to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution, including soot (PM2.5) [See WIMS 6/18/12]. A Federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science and EPA said its proposal, met that requirement, and "builds on smart steps already taken by the Agency to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country."
    EPA's said its proposal would strengthen the annual health standard for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5) to a level within a range of 13 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter [See WIMS 9/21/06]. EPA said the proposed changes are consistent with the advice from its independent science advisors, and are 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.
    Mandy Warner, who testified at the hearing for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "Philadelphia is home to 32,000 children at risk from asthma and more than 363,000 people at risk from heart disease. Emission reductions made here in Pennsylvania, along with reductions made in other states whose pollution travels into Pennsylvania, will help improve air quality, ensuring healthier, longer lives. . . The public has been waiting long enough for updated standards based on the latest science. Every year of delay has resulted in thousands of avoidable deaths, numerous heart attacks, asthma attacks, and other health impacts. We look forward to EPA finalizing strong health-protective standards."
    Access a release and link to the complete statement from API (click here). Access a release from EDF with links to the complete statement (click here). Access a list of speakers at the Philadelphia public hearing (click here). Access a release from EPA on the proposal with links to a map showing counties in attainment in 2020 and more information including the proposed rule, fact sheets and support documents (click here). [#Air]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

House Ag Committee Approves Its Version Of Farm Bill

Jul 17: The House Agriculture Committee Chaired by Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) approved the House version of the Farm Bill, H.R.6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM), by a vote of 35-11 on July 11. On June 21, the U.S. Senate approved its version, S.3240, with a final vote of 64-35 [See WIMS 6/21/12]. The current bill expires on September 30, and legislators and agriculture and conservation interests are now concerned that time is running short to get a bill passed the House, reconciled with the Senate bill, and to the President before the expiration deadline.
    The Chair and Ranking Member issued a joint statement. Chairman Lucas said, "Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill. I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved. This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency."
    Ranking Member Peterson said, "I'm pleased today's markup is behind us and we can continue to move the process forward. The current farm bill expires on September 30 and there only 13 legislative days before the August recess. Simply put, the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years. Our nation's farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five year farm bill and they need it before the current farm bill ends."
    On July 17, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) joined anti-hunger, public health, labor, and animal welfare groups at the National Press Club to voice deep concerns on the House version approved by Committee. EWG said, "The budget-busting House farm bill will feed fewer people, help fewer farmers, do less to promote healthy diets and weaken environmental protections – and it will cost far more than expected. This bill is Robin Hood in reverse – it cuts funding for nutrition assistance programs like SNAP to help finance even more lavish subsidies for the largest and most successful farmers.

    "By cutting more than $16 billion from SNAP and more than $6 billion from environmental programs, the House bill will leave more than 2 million people without enough food to eat and contribute to the loss of millions of acres of wetlands and grasslands. What's more, the bill guts rules that protect water quality and wetlands from pesticides, weakens federal reviews of biotech crops, and undermines the ability of states to set consumer safety or environmental standards.

    "Rather than provide a true safety net for all farmers, the House bill will give every big subsidized grower a raise in the form of higher price guarantees for their crops – at a time when large commercial farms have average household incomes of more than $200,000 a year and net farm income has nearly doubled. Instead of placing reasonable limits on crop insurance subsidies, the Lucas-Peterson proposal actually expands them – at a cost of more than $9 billion. Reasonable reforms such as payment limits, means testing and administrative reforms – which are applied to nutrition assistance but not crop insurance – could save taxpayers more than $20 billion."

    On July 3, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Farm Programs: Direct Payments Should Be Reconsidered (GAO-12-640, Jul 3, 2012). GAO recommended that Congress should consider eliminating or reducing direct payments [See WIMS 7/3/12]. 

    The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman issued a statement saying, "As the congressional calendar ticks down, time is of the essence. There are very few days remaining for this bill to be completed, but we need a new farm bill this year. We are committed to working with members of Congress to secure a bill that works for all Americans. For more than a year, we have been advocating farm policy that protects and strengthens risk management programs for all farmers. This legislation maintains proven program features such as the marketing loan provision and strengthens the crop insurance program while setting a clear example of fiscal responsibility with significant but fair reductions in agriculture spending over the next decade

    "Just as with the Senate farm bill, there are provisions we think could be improved – and we will continue working with leadership of both committees as the process moves forward. But at a time when bipartisan compromise is such a challenge in Washington, it is refreshing to see agriculture, through our elected leaders, set a clear example of working together on building a package of reforms in a fiscally responsible manner. We remain hopeful a farm bill can be completed and sent to President Obama before the current programs expire September 30."

    Access the statement from the House Ag Committee and link to more information on the FARRM bill (click here). Access the statement from EWG and link to the full press briefing (click here). Access the statement from AFBF (click here). Access the legislative details for H.R.6083 (click here). Access the legislative details for S.3240 (click here). Access the complete 57-page GAO report (click here). [#Agriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, July 16, 2012

Global Temps Fourth Warmest June Since Records Began In 1880

Jul 16: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center released its State of the Climate Global Analysis report for June 2012. According to the report, the average global temperature across land and oceans during June 2012 was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F) and ranked as the fourth warmest June since records began in 1880. June 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average June temperature was June 1976 and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985. It was the second warmest June in the Northern Hemisphere, behind only the record warmth of 2010. The Southern Hemisphere had its 12th warmest June on record.

    The global land surface temperature for June was 1.07°C (1.93°F) above the 20th century average of 13.3°C (55.9°F), the warmest June on record. This is the second month in a row that the global land temperature was the warmest on record for that month. The Northern Hemisphere average land temperature, where the majority of Earth's land is located, was record warmest for June. This makes three months in a row -- April, May, and June -- in which record-high monthly land temperature records were set. Most areas experienced much higher-than-average monthly temperatures, including most of North America and Eurasia, and northern Africa. Only northern and western Europe, and the northwestern United States were notably cooler than average.

    Across the world's oceans, the June average global sea surface temperature was 0.47°C (0.85°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the 10th warmest June on record. Ocean temperatures were notably below average in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and much higher than average in the northeast Atlantic and in the Labrador Sea near Greenland. The region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean where ENSO (El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation) conditions are measured also trended higher than average in June. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño watch, and stated that there is an increased chance for El Niño beginning in July–September 2012. NOAA listed global highlights of the report as follows:

  • The average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2012 was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F). This is the fourth warmest June since records began in 1880.
  • The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2012 was the all-time warmest June on record, at 1.30°C (2.34°F) above average.
  • The globally-averaged land surface temperature for June 2012 was also the all-time warmest June on record, at 1.07°C (1.93°F) above average.
  • ENSO-neutral conditions continued in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during June 2012 as sea surface temperature anomalies continued to rise. The June worldwide ocean surface temperatures ranked as the 10th warmest June on record.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January–June 2012 was the 11th warmest on record, at 0.52°C (0.94°F) above the 20th century average.

    Access the complete report with charts, graphs, and tables (click here). [#Climate]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, July 13, 2012

No More Solyndras Act Would End DOE Loan Guarantees

Jul 12: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Oversight and Investigations held a joint hearing to discuss a draft of the "No More Solyndras Act." [See WIMS 7/11/12]. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) co-authored the legislation which they say will "ensure taxpayers will never again be left on the hook for the administration's risky bets." The bill would effectively terminate the administration's loan guarantee program under Section 1705, which has awarded over $16 billion in loan guarantees for clean and renewable energy projects.
    Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: David Frantz, Acting Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Program Office; Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE); and representatives from Coalition for Green Capital; The Heritage Foundation; Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; Energy and Campus Development University of New Hampshire; Saint-Gobain Corporation on behalf of Industrial Energy Consumers of America; Schneider Electric on behalf of National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and NEMA's Industrial Energy Efficiency Coalition; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; and Alliance to Save Energy.
    Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said in an opening statement, "What the critics fail to comprehend is that this has never been about the merits of one energy source over another, but rather it is a debate focused on the incompetence and gross mismanagement of the Obama administration. Our aggressive oversight uncovered the problem, and now we must fix it. The Solyndra loan guarantee was a massive failure every way you look at it. Just consider that the California solar panel maker's business model was so flawed that a $535 million dollar government handout was not enough to stop it from going bankrupt. . .
    "Of course, one bad loan does not make a trend, but other recipients of loan guarantees and other stimulus programs have joined Solyndra in bankruptcy, and the ultimate cost to taxpayers could reach into the billions. And even those recipients that remain solvent have achieved few worthwhile advances toward meeting the nation's energy needs. . . I still believe there is a legitimate role for the federal government in funding basic research. But sadly, the Obama administration's gross mismanagement of the loan guarantee program necessitates the phase out of the Title XVII loan guarantee program. With the bankruptcies starting to pile up, our message to American taxpayers is clear: There will be No More Solyndras."
    Full Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) said in an opening statement, "This is a hearing for politics. That's all it is. . . We need to act to reduce carbon pollution, and there are a range of options for doing that. . . House Republicans oppose every potential solution. They say "no" to market-based solutions like cap-and-trade. "No" to cost-effective regulations. "No" to loan guarantees or financial incentives for clean energy – even if they would improve our nation's global competitiveness. They even say "no" to simply understanding the problem. . . I'm sorry Solyndra happened. We lost $500 million dollars. That's a shame, but that's why loan guarantees are provided, because these are risky enterprises and not all of them are going to succeed. But there has been no showing of wrong-doing by anybody in this Administration due to the Solyndra loan loss. . .
    "So what are they proposing? Legislation that would, they say, end this loan guarantee program, but would instead provide billions of dollars still to be used. But they do it in a way that would ignore the best possible technologies. They create a winner's list of about 50 projects that are eligible, and if any new idea comes up in this year or next, it wouldn't even be eligible to seek a loan guarantee. Even the technologies that Republicans claim to support are abandoned. If an application for a small modular nuclear reactor or a next-generation nuclear plant is submitted, DOE is required to reject it. . ." 
    DOE testified that the Loan Programs Office (LPO) administers two federal loan guarantee programs -- Section 1703 and 1705 -- for energy technology projects authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) as amended. It also administers direct loans for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program as authorized under Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). DOE said the "loan programs are a critical part of our nation's commitment to clean energy."
    Section 1703, was established to support the U.S. deployment of new, innovative technology projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the program has $18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority for nuclear power projects, $1.5 billion in authority for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, $8 billion in authority for advanced fossil projects, $4 billion of authority allocated for front-end nuclear projects, and $2 billion of authority that is not allocated to a specific technology sector.
    The Section 1705 program was created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, stimulus act) to jump-start the country's clean energy sector by supporting various renewable energy projects that had difficulty securing financing in a tight credit market. The ATVM Program was established to expand U.S. business opportunities for advanced automotive technologies that contribute to energy independence and security. Section 136 of EISA 2007 authorizes DOE to finance U.S.-based businesses for manufacturing advanced technology vehicles or vehicle components and for engineering integration facilities. The FY 2009 Continuing Resolution provided up to $25 billion in direct loan authority for the ATVM program, with $7.5 billion in appropriated credit subsidy.
    DOE indicated that the LPO has committed or closed $35 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees, which finance nearly three dozen projects, with total project costs greater than $55 billion. When the Section 1705 program ended on September 30, 2011, it included a portfolio of over $16 billion in loan guarantees for 28 renewable energy projects. Collectively, LPO projects are expected to support nearly 60,000 jobs and deploy alternative energy that will save nearly 300 million gallons of gasoline per year. Of LPO's 19 generation projects, six are already complete and nine are sending power to the electricity grid.
    DOE concluded, "Securing America's economic leadership in the future requires that we support innovation and deployment today. The troubles of some segments in the solar manufacturing market should not overshadow the great work that the Department's loan programs have done to date, or the need to continue to find ways to support clean energy deployment in this country. That said, developing a robust clean energy manufacturing sector in the United States is crucial to our long-term national interests, and would help enable American companies and workers to attain the tools needed to succeed in this competitive space. And one of the most important tools -- as our global competitors have learned -- is financing on reasonable terms, wisely targeted and responsibly deployed. The question is whether we are willing to take on this challenge, or whether we will simply cede leadership in clean energy to other nations and watch as tens of thousands of jobs are created overseas. We were once the leaders in this field, and we can be again."
    Access the Republican website for the hearing including statements, testimony, background, draft bills and webcasts (click here). Access the Democratic website for the hearing including statements, testimony and webcasts (click here). Access a Republican release for the hearing (click here). [#Energy/Renewable, #Energy/Clean]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals