Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mitt Romney Releases Energy Independence Plan

Aug 23: Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney released his 23-page detailed plan for "Energy Independence." According to the plan introduction, "A crucial component of Mitt Romney's Plan for a Stronger Middle Class is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020. While President Obama has described his own energy policy as a 'hodgepodge,' sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline as not in 'the national interest,' and sought repeatedly to stall development of America's domestic resources, Romney's path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century." The key points of the Romney energy agenda are:

  • Empower states to control onshore energy development;
  • Open offshore areas for energy development;
  • Pursue a North American Energy Partnership;
  • Ensure accurate assessment of energy resources;
  • Restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation; and
  • Facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.
  Empower States: States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits; State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law; Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is most appropriate; and The federal government will encourage the formation of a State Energy Development Council, where states can work together along with existing organizations such as STRONGER and the IOGCC to share expertise and best management practices.
    Open Offshore: Establish a new five-year offshore leasing plan that aggressively opens new areas for development beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas; Set minimum production targets for each five-year leasing plan, requiring annual reports to Congress on progress in reaching goals and implementation of new policies to compensate for any shortfall; and
Guarantee that state-of-the-art processes and safeguards for offshore drilling are implemented in a manner designed to support rather than block exploration and production.
    Energy Partnership: Approve the Keystone XL pipeline; Establish a regional agreement to facilitate cross-border energy investment, infrastructure, and sales; Promote and expand regulatory cooperation between governments to encourage responsible energy production, including the creation of a forum for sharing best practices and technologies; and Institute fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross-border pipelines and other infrastructure.
    Accurate Assessment: Approve permits for seismic surveys and exploration offshore to immediately update decades-old information; Require the sharing of onshore geological and geophysical information with the Department of the Interior; Undertake new seismic analysis in offshore areas not included in the new lease plan; and Collaborate with Canada and Mexico to ensure accurate inventory of their resources and sharing of data.
    Restore Transparency: Implement measured reforms of environmental statutes and regulations to strengthen environmental protection without destroying jobs, paralyzing industry, or barring the use of resources like coal; Improve the environmental review process by setting clear deadlines and statutes of limitations, requiring better coordination between federal agencies, and allowing state reviews to satisfy federal requirements; Prevent agencies from using 'sue-and-settle' techniques behind closed doors to circumvent the public rulemaking process, impose onerous regulations, and tie the hands of future administrations; and Disclose federal funds spent reimbursing groups for lawsuits against the government.
    Private-Sector-Led Development: Focus government investment on research across the full spectrum of energy-related technologies, not on picking winners in the market; Support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources by maintaining the RFS and eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, or vehicle fleet;
Ensure that policies for expanding energy development apply broadly to energy sources, from oil and gas exploration, to coal mining, to the siting of wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other renewable energy facilities; and Revitalize nuclear power by equipping the NRC to approve new designs and to license approved reactor designs on approved sites within two years.
    Each key point is followed by a short explanation and then a number of short quotes from various news and information sources. As an example, the "Private-Sector-Led Development" point explanation states, "The federal government has a role to play in facilitating innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to investments in basic research that have produced breakthroughs to benefit entire industries. Unfortunately, President Obama's poor understanding of the private sector has spilled directly into his energy policy, as he sought to have government play venture capitalist and spend billions of dollars subsidizing his chosen companies and technologies. Meanwhile, as companies like Solyndra were going bankrupt and the wind industry was shedding 10,000 jobs, revolutionary innovation in the private sector was paving the way for energy independence and an economic resurgence.
    "Instead of distorting the playing field, the government should be ensuring that it remains level. The same policies that will open access to land for oil, gas, and coal development can also open access for the construction of wind, solar, and hydropower facilities. Strengthening and streamlining regulations and permitting processes will benefit the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources, and encourage the use of a diverse range of fuels including natural gas in transportation. Instead of defining success as providing enough subsidies for an uncompetitive technology to survive in the market, success should be defined as eliminating any barriers that might prevent the best technologies from succeeding on their own." The explanation is followed by several quotes including in part:

  • The Obama Administration Has Provided $34.7 Billion In Taxpayer Loan Guarantees To Companies Like Solyndra Over The Past Four Years. ("Our Projects," Loan Programs Office, DOE, Accessed 8/20/12)
  • But It Has Allocated Only $11.9 Billion To Energy R&D. ("Table 9.8—Composition of Outlays for the Conduct of Research and Development: 1949–2013," Historical Tables, Office Of Management And Budget, The White House, Accessed 8/20/12)
  • Environmentalists Block Wind And Solar Projects Just As They Do Fossil Fuel Projects… "Renewable-energy development, which the Obama administration has made a priority, is posing conflicts between economic interests and environmental concerns, not entirely unlike the way offshore oil and gas development pits economics against environment." (Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, "Renewable Energy's Environmental Paradox," The Washington Post, 4/16/09)
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement on the Romney energy plan saying, "The energy agenda unveiled by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would hand over America's lands and coasts to oil companies and preserve more than $4 billion in tax subsidies every year, even as it cuts key incentives to produce more American-made wind energy. Mitt Romney would waste no time handing over our taxpayer lands and America's coasts to oil companies, but won't even lift a finger when it comes to supporting America's wind energy industry right now. Just two years after the end of the BP oil spill, Mitt Romney would truncate or eliminate important reviews for new drilling, even as he would allow oil companies to expand their operations off our coasts. This isn't a serious energy plan, it's a serious threat to our coastal economies and to America's competitive role in the world's energy future."
    Access the complete 21-page plan(click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access a House Democratic analysis of the Romney plan released by Rep. Markey (click here). [#Energy]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Initial Reactions To Appeals Court Vacating EPA's Air Transport Rule

Aug 21: Many organizations and individuals are still reviewing yesterday's game-changing ruling from the D.C. Appeals Court that vacated U.S. EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that was finalized in July, 2011, and required 28 states in the East, Midwest, and South to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from downwind states [See WIMS 8/21/12]. EPA posted a brief note on its website saying, "EPA is reviewing the court decision. CAIR remains in place."
    As the Federal Regulations Advisory blog points out, "In 2008, the court found EPA's analysis deficient and remanded EPA's 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) without vacatur, because EPA had both improperly calculated the costs applicable to individual states and required the States to share each other's burdens, neither of which was authorized. The court left CAIR in place "until it is replaced by a rule consistent with our opinion."  The 2011 Transport Rule was EPA's attempt to respond to the court's 2008 decision.  Even while the current litigation was pending, the court stayed the 2011 rule and permitted EPA to continue to administer the defective 2008 rule."
    Below are reactions from Republicans and Democrats and industry and environmental organizations. In general, Republicans and industry organizations applauded the decision which they said curbed and "out of control" U.S. EPA. Democrats and environmental organizations were very disappointed in the decision and urged the Administration to pursue and appeal or reconsideration.
Republican Reactions:
Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee welcomed the decision. Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "Today's decision striking down EPA's costly and unworkable Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is welcome news. This is a win for American families who, because of this rule, faced the threat of higher power bills, less reliable electricity, and job losses. CSAPR is just one of several new EPA rules targeting America's power sector that together will cost our economy tens of billions of dollars and put thousands of jobs at risk. The court ruled today that EPA's transport rule 'exceeds the agency's statutory authority,' offering another reminder to the American people that President Obama's EPA is an agency run out of control."
    Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) said, "I am pleased to see the court stand up to EPA's dangerous regulatory overreach. The courts have signaled that EPA has gone too far. EPA attempted to override states' rights, but the court ruled 'EPA has transgressed statutory boundaries.' EPA has been acting without authority and without consideration of the cumulative costs of its various rules that impact the power sector, which will ultimately cause electricity rates to increase for consumers. It is time for a more commonsense approach to regulation that does not inflict undue harm on our economy. The House-passed TRAIN Act offers a permanent solution to address the EPA's transport rule and other power sector regulations by ensuring we know the costs and consequences for consumers of these regulations before they are implemented."
    Committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX) said, "I'm pleased the court has ruled against this unfair and unworkable regulation. Under EPA's proposal, Texas and other states would be forced to shoulder a disproportionate percentage of the country's emissions reductions, threatening thousands of jobs and electric reliability across the state. This decision comes on the heels of last week's court ruling vacating EPA's disapproval of the Texas Flexible Permit Program. With these decisions, the courts have reaffirmed states' authority and slowed EPA's aggressive regulatory expansion."
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said, "As today's court ruling on the Cross State Air Pollution Rule exemplifies, the Obama-EPA continues to exceed its authority and is living up to its 'reputation for abuse,' -- I am pleased that the courts have reined in EPA on this illegal, flawed rule. With CSAPR, EPA moved too far too fast, setting unrealistic deadlines for states to meet its stringent requirements; the agency also pushed ahead without any regard for the fact that states were intended to play the primary role in reducing emissions. As the court's CSAPR ruling rightly explains, EPA's plan rests on 'rickety statutory logic.' This is not the first time EPA has used a dubious foundation to justify its extremist agenda. Today's ruling follows three significant court rulings which found that EPA overreached to the point that the judge in one case said EPA was using 'magical thinking' and aggregating 'a stunning power' to itself. Now given EPA's track record, it will not be surprising if the courts also rein in EPA's Utility MACT rule, which suffers from similar flawed data assumptions and unrealistic time frames. . ."
Democrats Reaction:
    House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, "I deplore this 2-1 decision, which vacates clean air protections that would have avoided up to 34,000 premature deaths each year. Congress adopted the Clean Air Act 'good neighbor' provisions to ensure that Americans in downwind states would have effective recourse against upwind polluters. But these activist judges have flouted congressional intent, the language of the Clean Air Act, and prior D.C. Circuit opinions to impose their own policy preferences and eviscerate EPA's authority to protect downwind states and their citizens. I urge the administration to appeal this decision."
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee said, "Implementation of the Transport Rule would save lives and money in Massachusetts and across the country. Cutting down on dangerous pollution traveling across state lines means cleaner air, clearer lungs and healthier lives for families across the Bay State and nationwide. I urge the Obama administration to appeal this misguided decision by the courts so that Massachusetts and other states impacted by harmful emissions from old, polluting coal plants can clean up their air."
Industry Organizations:
    National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons said, "Costly and excessive regulations are harming manufacturers' ability to compete. Today the federal court agreed that the EPA had overstepped its reach with the CSAPR regulation. The CSAPR and Utility MACT regulations would cost an estimated 1.44 million jobs by 2020 and drive up energy prices nationwide by 11.5 percent. In fact, we have already begun to see the impact of CSAPR in plant closings and job losses. As users of one-third of our nation's energy, manufacturers simply cannot afford these burdensome regulations while facing an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. As noted in a new study by MAPI today [see separate article below], manufacturers are facing more than 2,000 regulations, which have been imposed over the past three decades. EPA regulations lead the way, not only in number, but also in cost. If manufacturers are to be the engine that drives our economy and creates jobs, we need action to reduce this regulatory burden and stop the EPA's overreach."
    Karen Harbert, president and CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Institute for 21st Century Energy said, "Today's decision is good news for consumers and for the reliability of our electricity grid. It is notable that for the second time in two weeks, federal circuit courts have affirmed the primary responsibility of states -- not the EPA -- in determining how to meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. It has always been the contention of the Chamber that EPA regulations should be supported by sound science and accurate analysis. The EPA has habitually inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations. Vacating this rule relieves utilities from unrealistic timelines and unjustified standards for compliance, at least from this particular rule. However, utilities still must comply with unreasonable timelines on the Utility MACT rule, which is also undergoing judicial review. A recent Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regional electricity auction saw capacity prices increase by eight-times as much as today for 2016, the first year that utilities must comply with Utility-MACT. With today's ruling, we call on the Obama Administration to heed these judicial rulings and re-craft sensible regulations that don't jeopardize economic growth or electricity reliability."
   Environmental Organizations:
    Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign said, "The Sierra Club is disappointed with the court's decision today. Americans have been waiting for the clean air they deserve for decades and the court's ruling today further delays the Clean Air Act's promise of safe, breathable air for our children. The EPA's long overdue and much-needed rule would have helped communities clean up their air and save lives by curbing millions of tons of air pollution that travel downwind and across state lines each year. Once implemented, the rule would have prevented as many as 34,000 premature deaths annually, avoided 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits, and improved the lives of millions. We urge the Environmental Protection Agency to petition for rehearing and strive to preserve the public health benefits that the rule promises. As Judge Rogers of the DC Circuit has explained [in the dissenting opinion], by ruling against EPA, 'the court disregards limits Congress placed on [the DC Circuit's] jurisdiction, the plain text of the Clean Air Act (CAA), and this court's settled precedent interpreting the same statutory provisions at issue today.' EPA can and must seek a rehearing of this critical life saving rule.
    John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "This decision allows harmful power plant air pollution to continue to aggravate major health problems and foul up our air. This is a loss for all of us, but especially for those living downwind from major polluters. This rule would have prevented thousands of premature deaths and saved tens of billions of dollars a year in health costs, but two judges blocked that from happening and forced EPA to further delay long overdue health safeguards for Americans. The EPA can -- and should -- immediately appeal this decision. The dissenting judge correctly follows the Clean Air Act and prior rulings by this court. The majority opinion is an outlier at odds with the court's own rulings as well as the Clean Air Act." NRDC notes that absent this decision being overturned, "it will take years for EPA to adopt replacement health safeguards that all three judges recognize to be necessary and required by law."
    Access the analysis from the Federal Regulations Advisory blog (click here). Access the statements from the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican members (click here). Access the complete statement of Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Waxman (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from NAM (click here). Access the statement from the Chamber (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from NRDC with more analysis and links to additional information (click here). Access EPA's CSAPR website (click here). [#Air]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GAO Finds Weakness In EPA Information Security Controls

Aug 20: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Information Security: Environmental Protection Agency Needs to Resolve Weaknesses (GAO-12-696, Jul 19, 2012). The report was requested by a bipartisan group of Chairman and Ranking members from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittees.
    In background information, GAO indicates that U.S. EPA is responsible for protecting human health and the environment by implementing and enforcing the laws and regulations intended to improve the quality of the nation's air, water, and lands. The Agency's policies and programs affect virtually all segments of the economy, society, and government. In addition, it relies extensively on networked computer systems to collect a wealth of environmental data and to disseminate much of this information while also protecting other forms of sensitive or confidential information.
    Because of the importance of the security of EPA's information systems, GAO was asked to determine whether the Agency has effectively implemented appropriate information security controls to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information and systems that support its mission. To do this, GAO tested security controls over EPA's key networks and systems; reviewed policies, plans, and reports; and interviewed officials at EPA headquarters and two field offices.
    GAO found that although EPA has taken steps to safeguard the information and systems that support its mission, security control weaknesses pervaded its systems and networks, thereby jeopardizing the Agency's ability to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its information and systems. The Agency did not fully implement access controls, which are designed to prevent, limit, and detect unauthorized access to computing resources, programs, information, and facilities.
    Specifically, the agency did not always: (1) enforce strong policies for identifying and authenticating users by, for example, requiring the use of complex (i.e., not easily guessed) passwords; (2) limit users' access to systems to what was required for them to perform their official duties; (3) ensure that sensitive information, such as passwords for system administration, was encrypted so as not to be easily readable by unauthorized individuals; (4) keep logs of network activity or monitor key parts of its networks for possible security incidents; and (5) control physical access to its systems and information, such as controlling visitor access to computing equipment.
    In addition to weaknesses in access controls, EPA had mixed results in implementing other security controls. For example, EPA conducted appropriate background investigations for employees and contractors to ensure sufficient clearance requirements had been met before permitting access to information and information systems. However,
  • EPA had not always securely configured network devices and updated operating system and database software with patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • EPA had not always ensured equipment used for sanitization and disposal of media was tested to verify correct performance.

    GAO indicated that an underlying reason for the control weaknesses is that EPA has not fully implemented a comprehensive information security program. Although EPA has established a framework for its security program, the Agency has not yet fully implemented all elements of its program. Specifically, it did not always finalize policies and procedures to guide staff in effectively implementing controls; ensure that all personnel were given relevant security training to understand their roles and responsibilities; update system security plans to reflect current agency security control requirements; assess management, operational, and technical controls for agency systems at least annually and based on risk; and implement a corrective action process to track and manage all weaknesses when remedial actions were necessary. Sustained management oversight and monitoring are necessary for EPA to implement these key information security practices and controls. Until EPA fully implements a comprehensive security program, it will have limited assurance that its information and information systems are adequately protected against unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, disruption, or loss.

    GAO made 12 recommendations to the Administrator of EPA to fully implement elements of EPA's comprehensive information security program. In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA's Assistant Administrator generally agreed with GAO's recommendations. Two of GAO's recommendations were revised to incorporate EPA's comments. In a separate report with limited distribution, GAO also made 94 recommendations to EPA to enhance access and other information security controls over its systems.

    Energy and Commerce  Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented on the report saying, "Our oversight has shed much-needed light on the vulnerability of confidential information at federal agencies. This report raises serious questions about EPA's dedication to ensuring robust information protection and underscores the urgency for the agency to address security weaknesses. We will continue our oversight with a review of EPA's implementation of GAO's recommendations in the coming months."

    Access the complete 45-page GAO report (click here). Access the release from the House Energy and Commerce  Committee (click here). [#All]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Reaction To Appeals Court Decision On E15 Ethanol Waiver

Aug 17: Mixed reaction, mostly negative, continues regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit opinion in the controversial E15 (15 ethanol mix with gasoline) split decision in Grocery Manufacturers Assoc. v. U.S. EPA [See WIMS 8/17/12]. The majority Appeals Court held that no petitioner had standing to bring this action and thus dismissed all petitions for lack of jurisdiction. The decision upholds U.S. EPA's granted waivers for the use of E15. In our initial report we indicated that both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued strong statements disagreeing with Court's ruling. Additional reactions are included below.
    The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA)  issued a release applauding the decision and indicated the approval for model year 2001 and newer light duty vehicles and all flex fuel vehicles represents nearly two-thirds of all vehicles on the road and almost 75% of vehicle miles driven. RFA indicated that since the initial waiver filing in March 2009, vehicles were tested using E15 for a combined six million miles, health effects data on E15 was collected and approved, and a first of its kind misfueling mitigation plan was required and approved in order for retailer[s] to offer E15. Today, at least one station in Lawrence, KS, is selling E15 under the conditions set by the partial waiver.
    RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, "Today's decision is an important step forward in the nation's quest to diversify our nation's fuel supply. Adding an E15 option along side E10 and higher ethanol blends allows consumers to make the fuel decisions that work best for them and their vehicle. Ethanol has a thirty year track record of safe and effective use in the market place and that record will continue. Allowing for additional ethanol use will help lower prices at the pump, create domestic jobs, and accelerate the commercialization of new biofuel technologies."
    House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) released a statement on the ruling on E15 ethanol ruling saying, "I am disappointed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today, on purely jurisdictional grounds, dismissed a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's partial Clean Air Act waivers for mid-level ethanol blends. The ruling occurred despite the fact that two of the three judges found the petitioners had standing under Article III of the Constitution, and despite the Agency's failure to argue against standing in its own arguments. The majority opinion appears to ignore the near-universal agreement among automakers and engine manufacturers that these waivers will result in damaged engines and voided warranties. I agree with the dissenting opinion of Judge Kavanaugh, which concluded that 'EPA's E15 waiver is flatly contrary to the plain text of the statute.'"

    Chairman Hall indicated further in his release, "EPA's decision to grant a waiver to allow E15 in the marketplace was based on limited scientific analysis and testing. H.R.3199, bipartisan legislation endorsed by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology earlier this year, would have required a more robust assessment of the state of the science on mid-level ethanol blends, a process that should have been undertaken by the waiver applicants and EPA prior to the Agency's issuance of waivers for E15. Instead, the Agency relied on a single test program conducted by the Department of Energy. More recent evidence suggests serious and legitimate concerns about E15's impacts on engine durability, and even EPA has flagged the risk of widespread misfueling for hundreds of millions of vehicles and engines currently in use. In light of elevated food prices amidst widespread drought conditions, the continued pursuit of greater volumes of corn ethanol in our fuel supply should be re-examined closely. "

    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, commented on the ruling saying, "The federal court's decision to uphold EPA's plan to permit higher-level blends of ethanol is a huge loss for Oklahomans and consumers nationwide. My constituents in Oklahoma want to be able to use fuel compatible with their vehicles, without having to worry about what kind of damage higher blends of ethanol will do to their engines. This ruling just enables EPA to continue pushing too much corn ethanol too fast through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a program that has had negative impacts on the safety of those operating vehicles and other equipment as well as food prices.

    "I voted against the 2007 Energy Bill because I knew that dramatically and rapidly increasing the mandated volumes was a bad idea. As this ruling demonstrates, Congress needs to step in with a legislative fix -- that's why I've introduced S.1085, the Fuel Feedstock Freedom Act, which would help mitigate some of the negative impacts of this policy by giving states the option not to participate in the corn ethanol portion of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Today's court ruling should be a wake-up call for the United States Senate to do its job, hold hearings on RFS2, and address the adverse impacts of this unrealistic program."

    The Global Automakers, represents international motor vehicle manufacturers, said it was disappointed with the decision. The Automakers said, "We disagree with the court's finding that automobile manufacturers do not have standing to challenge an agency action that permits the use of a fuel, such as E15, in automobiles not designed or warranted for such use. However, we are pleased that the dissent found that we would have won on the merits of the case and view the majority's ruling as a temporary legal setback." 

    In a related matter, a few days before the ruling the International Energy Agency's (IEA's) latest Oil Market Report (OMR) indicated that the production of fuel ethanol -- produced from fermenting sugar or starch bearing crops such as corn -- has dropped to around 800 thousand barrels per day (kb/d) in the U.S., the lowest level in two years. IEA indicated that this fall in the output of ethanol, which is blended with unleaded gasoline blend stock, follows the worst drought in 55 years in the U.S., which is severely affecting its key corn growing regions. The continued absence of rain in combination with very low U.S. corn stocks have driven up corn prices to record highs during the last weeks.

    The high corn prices, in combination with falling ethanol prices (reflecting in part a combination of a weak economy and automobile efficiency improvements), have slashed ethanol producers profit margins. This has led to a number of ethanol plants reducing or temporarily halting production, which has in turn prompted the two year low in ethanol output. The OMR noted, "Given the current situation, we see U.S. ethanol production at an average around 850 kb/d in 2012, 60 kb/d lower than in 2011."

    Access a release from RFA with links to more information (click here). Access a release from Rep. Hall (click here). Access a release from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the release from Global Automakers (click here). Access the complete release from IEA with links to related information (click here). Access the complete opinion and dissents (click here). Access EPA's E15 website for more information and background (click here). [#Energy/Ethanol]

Friday, August 17, 2012

GAO Confirms Research For More Restrictive Coal Dust Standard

Aug 17: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a performance audit and released a report entitled, Mine Safety: Reports and Key Studies Support the Scientific Conclusions Underlying the Proposed Exposure Limit for Respirable Coal Mine Dust (GAO-12-832R, Aug 17, 2012).
    GAO indicates in background information that coal mine dust is one of the most serious occupational hazards in the coal mining industry, and overexposure can cause coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) and a number of other lung diseases, collectively referred to as black lung disease. CWP has been the underlying or contributing cause of death for more than 75,000 coal miners since 1968, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Federal agency responsible for conducting research on work-related diseases and injuries and recommending occupational safety and health standards. Since 1970, the Department of Labor (Labor) has paid over $44 billion in benefits to miners totally disabled by respiratory diseases (or their survivors), including CWP, through the Black Lung Benefits Program.

    In October 2010, Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) -- the Federal agency responsible for setting and enforcing mine safety and health standards -- proposed revising the existing standard for coal mine dust to lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 2.0 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) to 1.0 mg/m3. Several coal mining companies and others have questioned the evidence and analytical methods used to support the proposed PEL. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Congress required that GAO review and report on the data collection, sampling methods, and analyses MSHA used to support its proposal. Although MSHA's proposed rule includes other provisions, this review focuses on MSHA's proposal to lower the PEL for coal mine dust from 2.0 mg/m3 to 1.0 mg/m3. To respond to this requirement, GAO addressed the following question: What are the strengths and limitations of the data and analytical methods MSHA used to support its proposal to lower the PEL for coal mine dust?

    GAO's evaluation of the reports MSHA used to support its proposal and the key scientific studies on which the reports were based shows that they support the conclusion that lowering the PEL from 2.0 mg/m3 to 1.0 mg/m3 would reduce miners' risk of disease. The reports and key studies concluded that miners' cumulative exposure to coal mine dust at the current PEL over their working lives places them at an increased risk of developing CWP, progressive massive fibrosis, and decreased lung function, among other adverse health outcomes. To mitigate the limitations and biases in the data, the researchers took reasonable steps, such as using multiple x-ray specialists to reduce the risk of misclassifying disease and making adjustments to coal mine dust samples where bias was suspected. In addition to addressing the limitations and biases in the data, researchers used appropriate analytical methods to conclude that lowering the existing PEL would decrease miners' risk of developing black lung disease.

    For example, GAO said that in addition to taking steps to precisely estimate a miner's cumulative exposure, the researchers accounted for several factors in their analyses -- such as the age of the miners, the carbon content of the coal (coal rank), and other factors known to be associated with the disease -- to better estimate the effect of cumulative exposure to coal mine dust. Further, the other studies GAO identified generally supported the conclusion that reducing the PEL would reduce miners' risk of disease.

    Access the complete 24-page letter report (click here). [#Air, #Energy/Coal]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, August 16, 2012

GAO Looks At EPA Power Plant Regulations & Reliability Concerns

Aug 16: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, EPA Regulations and Electricity: Better Monitoring by Agencies Could Strengthen Efforts to Address Potential Challenges (GAO-12-635, Jul 17, 2012). The report was requested by Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
    In background information GAO indicates that, U.S. EPA recently proposed or finalized four regulations affecting coal-fueled electricity generating units (EGU), which provide almost half of the electricity in the United States: (1) the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; (2) the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; (3) the proposed Cooling Water Intake Structures regulation; and (4) the proposed Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals regulation.
    Power companies may retrofit or retire some units in response to the regulations. EPA estimated two of the regulations would prevent thousands of premature deaths and generate $160-$405 billion in annual benefits. Some stakeholders have expressed concerns that these regulations could increase electricity prices and compromise reliability -- the ability to meet consumers' demand. FERC and others have oversight over electricity prices and reliability. DOE can order a generating unit to run in certain emergencies.
    GAO was asked to examine: (1) actions power companies may take in response to these regulations; (2) their potential electricity market and reliability implications; and (3) the extent to which these implications can be mitigated. GAO reviewed agency documents, selected studies, and interviewed stakeholders.
    GAO found that it is uncertain how power companies may respond to four key EPA regulations, but available information suggests companies may retrofit most coal-fueled generating units with controls to reduce pollution, and that 2 to 12 percent of coal-fueled capacity may be retired. Some regions may see more significant levels of retirements. For example, one study examined 11 states in the Midwest and projected that 18 percent of coal-fueled capacity in that region could retire. EPA and some stakeholders GAO interviewed stated that some such retirements could occur as a result of other factors such as lower natural gas prices, regardless of the regulations. Power companies may also build new generating units, upgrade transmission systems to maintain reliability, and increasingly use natural gas to produce electricity as coal units retire and remaining coal units become somewhat more expensive to operate.
    GAO indicates that available information suggests these actions would likely increase electricity prices in some regions. Furthermore, while these actions may not cause widespread reliability concerns, they may contribute to reliability challenges in some regions. Regarding prices, the studies GAO reviewed estimated that increases could vary across the country, with one study projecting a range of increases from 0.1 percent in the Northwest to an increase of 13.5 percent in parts of the South more dependent on electricity generated from coal. According to EPA officials, the agency's estimates of price increases would be within the historical range of price fluctuations, and projected future prices may be below historic prices.
    Regarding reliability, these actions are not expected to pose widespread concerns but may contribute to challenges in some regions. EPA and some stakeholders GAO interviewed indicated that these actions should not affect reliability given existing tools. Some other stakeholders GAO interviewed identified potential reliability challenges. Among other things, it may be difficult to schedule and complete all retrofits to install controls and to resolve all potential reliability concerns associated with retirements within compliance deadlines.
    GAO also finds that existing tools could help mitigate many, though not all, of the potential adverse implications associated with the four EPA regulations, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy (DOE), and EPA do not have a joint, formal process to monitor industry's progress in responding to the regulations. Some tools, such as state regulatory reviews to evaluate the prudence of power company investments, may address some potential price increases. Furthermore, tools available to industry and regulators, as well as certain regulatory provisions, may address many potential reliability challenges.
    However, because of certain limitations, these tools may not fully address all challenges where generating units needed for reliability are not in compliance by the deadlines. FERC, DOE, and EPA have responsibilities concerning the electricity industry, and they have taken important first steps to understand these potential challenges by, for example, informally coordinating with power companies and others about industry's actions to respond to the regulations. However, they have not established a formal, documented process for jointly and routinely monitoring industry's progress and, absent such a process, the complexity and extent of potential reliability challenges may not be clear to these agencies. This may make it more difficult to assess whether existing tools are adequate or whether additional tools are needed.
    GAO recommends, among other things, that FERC, DOE, and EPA take additional steps to monitor industry's progress in responding to the regulations. DOE and EPA agreed with this recommendation, and FERC disagreed with this and another
recommendation. GAO said it continues to believe that it is important for FERC to take the recommended actions.
    Access the complete 105-page report (click here). [#Energy/EGU]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Field Hearing On Controversial Hydropower Development & Jobs Act

Aug 15: On August 1, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) introduced H.R.6247, the Saving Our Dams and New Hydropower Development and Jobs Act. According to a release from Chairman Hastings, the bill "protects and promotes hydropower resources by ending practices that diminish existing hydropower, cutting regulatory red-tape, generating new non-federal funding for new projects and improving transparency." He indicated that hydropower is a clean, renewable form of energy that accounts for 70 percent of electricity in Washington State, seven percent of electricity generated in the U.S. and prevents 200 million annual metric tons of carbon emissions.

    Chairman Doc Hastings said, "This bill represents a clear vision and common sense reforms for how our Nation can protect existing hydropower and jumpstart new hydropower in order to produce more of this emissions-free and low-cost renewable energy. This bill would officially recognize hydropower as renewable energy and help eliminate government roadblocks and frivolous litigation that stifle development. Hydropower is an essential part of an all-of-the-above energy plan, and its expansion would create thousands of new American jobs, grow our economy and protect the environment."

    Today (August 15), Chairman Hastings held a legislative field hearing on the bill in Pasco, Washington. According to the announcement, the bill is designed to "protect the Federal Columbia River Power System, Power Marketing Administration customers, and Bureau of Reclamation dams and other facilities and to promote new Federal and other hydropower generation."The invited witnesses included representatives from: Grant County Public Utility District; Washington Association of Wheat Growers; United Power Trades Organization; Benton County Public Utility District; The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; Idaho Council Member & Chairman of the Power Committee; Northwest Power & Conservation Council; and the Washington Potato Commission.
    The organization American Rivers, which was not invited to testify, issued a release saying the bill is "designed to muzzle critics of unsafe and environmentally destructive dams, while protecting lavish subsidies to irrigators and agribusinesses that derive their profits from those dams." Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers said, "This extreme proposal would jeopardize jobs, public safety, and the outdoor recreation industry that fuels the economic engines of so many communities across America."

    He said, "American Rivers strongly opposes this bill. It articulates a radical anti-environmental agenda. It caters to a few extremist water and power users that have received outlandish taxpayer support for decades and are unwilling to stop feeding at the public trough, no matter how much harm they inflict on rivers and the human and natural communities that depend on those rivers."

    In an opening statement at the hearing, Chairman Hastings said, "There is no disagreement about the importance of salmon recovery, but it must be clearly stated that dams are helping recovery. With significant improvements to Columbia and Snake River dams, more fish are in the river than before the dams were built-and fish survival past the dams are much higher than ever before-up to 98 percent in some cases. While some insist the choice is 'dams or fish', it's been proven we can have 'fish and dams.' . . .

    "Our current Northwest dam infrastructure cleanly powers our industries, businesses, jobs and families - and at low cost. But we must not be satisfied with the status quo. With ongoing threats to these dams and future development of hydropower as a renewable resource, we simply cannot take the status quo for granted. This is the purpose of the legislation that I've proposed and this hearing: to protect and promote our valuable hydropower assets."
    Among other provisions the bill would block imposition of the so called, "Chu Memo", ordered by the Secretary of Energy, that which Chairman Hastings said "could force power rate increases by BPA and other power marketing administrations (PMA's). The bill would also prohibit groups filing lawsuits against the government from collecting federal funds and grants. The Chairman said, "Why should taxpayers fund both defendants and plaintiffs?"
    The Chairman recounted that, "Back in 2000, the campaign to tear out the Snake River dams was waged as a full public debate, but the dam removal extremists lost that battle. They lost because the people of the Pacific Northwest know that removal of these dams would be an extreme action that would cost jobs, increase power rates, and harm the region's economy. And they lost because the science doesn't even show removal will actually recover fish. This defeat didn't end the single-minded agenda of the dam removal extremists. Over the past decade, they changed their tactics from the overt to the more covert - but they are as committed and well-funded as ever. They've poured their money into lawyers and lawsuits aimed at pressuring federal agencies and seeking to advance their agenda in the courts, and particularly in the courtroom of a Portland judge who's now admitted his anti-dam bias. . ."
    American Rivers highlighted a provision which they said would provide "An expensive new subsidy would give blanket permission to private water users to build new dams, whether or not they are in the public interest. Taxpayers would then be required to reimburse the full cost of the private parties' investment." Additionally, they called the provision denying federal funds to groups that initiate lawsuits, "a shameful and unprecedented attack on American constitutional protections of free speech, the right to seek redress from our government, equal access to justice, and due process of law."

    Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, statements, announcements and a video (click here). Access a release and summary information from American Rivers (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6247 (click here). [#Energy/Hydro]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wind Energy Layoffs, PTC Action, & Presidential Politics

Aug 9: A release from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) indicates that layoffs are increasing in the U.S. wind industry manufacturing sector in the absence of a policy signal only Congress can provide: extension of the Production Tax Credit that has been the basis for rapid growth of U.S. jobs and manufacturing since 2005 [See WIMS 8/1/12]. On August 2, the Senate Finance Committee, Chaired by Max Baucus (D-MT), with Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), approved the bipartisan Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012 by a vote of 19 to 5. The legislation includes many tax cuts for small businesses, working families, research and development and renewable energy, including the controversial Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy projects. Congress is now on break until after Labor Day.
    AWEA reports that layoffs announced last week include: In Tulsa, OK, DMI Industries announced 167 workers will be unemployed by November; In West Fargo, ND, DMI Industries said 216 jobs stand at risk; In Little Rock, AR, LM Wind Power announced job reductions that will impact 94 full-time employees and 140 temporary workers and contractors; In Dallas, TX, Trinity Structural Towers said it will shift reposition resources away from wind turbine tower manufacturing.
    AWEA indicates that the recent layoffs add to a longer list that have already happened this year. Those include: Wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa furloughed 165 of its Pennsylvania-based workers (July 5, Bloomberg); Wind measurement technology manufacturer NRG Systems laid off 18 Vermont-based employees in May, and an additional 12 in July– the first time in 30 years the firm has had to make any layoffs (May 22, Windpower Monthly and July 18, Burlington Free Press); Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas laid off 182 employees (January 12, Huffington Post); Wind project developer Iberdrola Renewables laid off 50 U.S. employees, about half of whom were based in Oregon (January 25, North American Windpower); and Wind pattern analysis company Windlogics cut 10 of their Minnesota-based employees (July 2, Minnesota Public Radio)
    AWEA CEO Denise Bode said the four companies, all major wind component manufacturers, laying off employees last week "represent what is happening and will continue to happen across the country in the U.S. wind industry if these businesses are not provided the policy certainty they need to continue to invest in America and its workers. I'm deeply distressed that our wind industry colleagues are facing furloughs and layoffs due to lack of stable tax policy. Unfortunately the industry has begun letting workers go up and down our American manufacturing supply chain, which the industry has so proudly built up in support of the U.S. economy and made-in-the-USA manufacturing. Congress must act now to give wind energy a stable business environment to keep building this new industry and save 37,000 American jobs by the first quarter of next year."
    As WIMS has previously reported, an extension of the PTC enjoys widespread, bipartisan support from groups as diverse as the National Governors Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Edison Electric Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, environmentalists, labor unions, and others. Members of the House and Senate from both parties have indicated their agreement that the PTC should be renewed.

    Despite the widespread support for the PTC extension, President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have sharply different views. President Obama and most Democrats support the extension; however, candidate Romney's campaign has indicated its desire to let the PTC expire at the end of the year [See WIMS 8/1/12]. The Romney campaign website indicates, "The 'green' technologies are typically far too expensive to compete in the marketplace, and studies have shown that for every 'green' job created there are actually more jobs destroyed. Unsurprisingly, this costly government investment has failed to create an economic boom."

    On August 13, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman released a Memo on Paul Ryan's Budget Cuts to Clean Energy, detailing cuts to key energy programs in the House Republican budget, which he authored and now the nominee for vice president on the Republican presidential ticket. The Ryan budget, which passed the House earlier this year with no Democratic support, would cut billions of dollars in funding for development of clean energy and eliminate programs that have helped support over 60,000 jobs. Rep. Waxman said, "The Ryan budget would reverse progress we have made to advance clean energy technologies. By cutting clean energy initiatives and jobs, while continuing to give billions of dollars in subsidies to oil and gas companies, the Ryan proposal would undermine American innovation and surrender the clean energy market to China.  That is not what the American people need."

    The Waxman memo highlights five areas in which the Ryan budget would have a significant impact on clean energy programs:  (1) it reduces support for energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives; (2) it halts the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program; (3) it removes funding for loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects; (4) it eliminates support for green transmission projects; and (5) it maintains nearly $40 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

    The Romney for President website, under its energy plan, indicates, "To begin with, wind and solar power, two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative fuel, remain sharply uncompetitive on their own with conventional resources such as oil and natural gas in most applications. Indeed, at current prices, these technologies make little sense for the consuming public but great sense only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies. . . As for job creation, studies show that "green" jobs might actually hurt employment more than they help it. Green energy is capital-intensive and tends to displace labor. Indeed, the track record in Europe shows that new "green" jobs came at a steep cost. . . The price tag in subsidies was exorbitant, rising to nearly $1.5 million per job in the wind industry. . . The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example."

    Yesterday (August 13), at a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa, President Obama said, "My opponent and I disagree when it comes to homegrown energy like wind. Wind power is creating new jobs all across Iowa. But Governor Romney says he wants to end the tax credit for wind energy producers. Now, America generates more than twice as much electricity from wind than when I took office. That's right. The wind industry supports about 7,000 jobs right here in Iowa. Without these wind energy tax credits, those jobs are at risk -- 37,000 jobs across the country would be at risk. So my attitude is let's stop giving taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that don't need them, and let's invest in clean energy that will put people back to work right here in Iowa. That's a choice in this election."

    Today (August 14) the Department of Energy (DOE) released a 93-page report -- 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report -- highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011, increasing the United States' share of clean energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the manufacturing and jobs associated with this booming global industry remain in America. According to the report, the United States remained one of the world's largest and fastest growing wind markets in 2011, with wind power representing a remarkable 32% of all new electric capacity additions in the United States last year and accounting for $14 billion in new investment. According the report, the percentage of wind equipment made in America also increased dramatically. Nearly seventy percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year -- including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators -- is now from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35% in 2005.
    The report finds that in 2011, roughly 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid, a 31% increase from 2010 installations. The United States' wind power capacity reached 47,000 MW by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 MW, enough electricity to power 13 million homes annually or as many as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. The country's cumulative installed wind energy capacity grew 16% from 2010, and has increased more than 18-fold since 2000. The report also finds that six states now meet more than 10% of their total electricity needs with wind power.
    Access a release with further details and links to related information from AWEA (click here). Access a release and link to the Memo from Rep. Waxman (click here). Access the Romney Energy Policy (click here). Access the President's Boone, IA speech (click here). Access a release from DOE and link to the wind energy market report (click here). Access an interactive map of U.S. wind manufacturing facilities(click here). [#Energy/Wind]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, August 13, 2012

CBO Estimates Revenues From Opening All Fed Lands To Drilling

Aug 9: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued a report analyzing a proposal requested by the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and now Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential running mate, Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- to immediately open most Federal lands to oil and gas leasing. CBO indicates that the proposal would open two categories of property now unavailable for development: (1) lands where leasing is statutorily prohibited, notably, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); and (2) onshore and offshore areas that are closed to leasing under current administrative policies, including sections of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and certain onshore areas in which oil and gas leasing is either restricted or temporarily prohibited. CBO estimates that about 70 percent of undiscovered oil and gas resources on federal lands are available for leasing under current laws and administrative policies.

CBO expects that opening ANWR to development would:

  • Yield about $5 billion in additional receipts over the next 10 years, primarily in the form of bonus payments made by private firms for the opportunity to explore for and develop resources in particular areas.
  • Increase royalties by roughly $2 billion to $4 billion a year during the 2023–2035 period if oil and natural gas eventually were produced from those lands. Those estimates are quite uncertain.
  • Provide the state of Alaska between 50 percent and 90 percent of those federal receipts if the specifications in the authorizing legislation were similar to those in recent legislation.

    CBO anticipates that new legislation directing the Department of the Interior to immediately offer most other federal lands for oil and gas leasing without any restrictions would accelerate the collection of around $2 billion of future leasing receipts into the next decade. Most of that revenue would come from OCS leases, and a portion of the proceeds would be shared with state governments. CBO expects that state and local policies toward resource development, particularly in California, will play a major role in determining whether or when those resources are developed.

    CBO also estimates that under current laws and policies, the government's gross proceeds from all federal oil and gas leases on public lands will total about $150 billion over the next decade, 2012–2022. Neither Representative Ryan, or Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) responded to the report. An LA Times article on the report indicated that the CBO estimate of opening ANWR, parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida coasts together would yield $7 billion over the next decade -- "less than 5% of the $150 billion the federal budget already stands to get over that period from oil and gas leases on federal land already open to drilling."   
    Access a summary from CBO (click here). Access the complete 9-page CBO analysis (click here). Access the LA Times article(click here). [#Energy/OilGas]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, August 10, 2012

UN Launches Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Aug 9: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new independent global network of research centers, universities and technical institutions to help find solutions for some of the world's most pressing environmental, social and economic problems. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network will work with stakeholders including business, civil society, UN agencies and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development. 

    According to a release from the UN, this initiative is part of the work undertaken in response to the mandate on post-2015 and the outcome of UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which took place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in June. The Solutions Network will be directed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to Secretary-General Ban on the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will operate in close coordination with the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.   

    Secretary-General Ban said, "The post-2015 objectives will help the world to focus on the vital challenges of sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network will be an innovative way to draw upon worldwide expertise in the campuses, universities, scientific research centers and business technology divisions around the world."

    The High-level Panel will advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the MDGs, and it will hold its first meeting at the end of September, in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. It is expected to submit its findings to the Secretary-General in the first half of 2013, and those findings will inform his report to Member States. The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a 'Global Partnership for Development.'

    According to the news release, given that politics around the world too often focuses on short-term issues while governments often lack the timely information needed for long-term sustainable-development strategies, it is essential that scientists and technology experts outside of government support the development of long-term analyses, demonstration programs and development pathways. The SDSN is expected to provide an independent global, open and inclusive process to support and scale up problem-solving at local, national and global levels.

    Sachs said, "In the 20 years since the first Rio Earth Summit, the world has largely failed to address some of the most serious environmental and social problems pressing in on us. We can't afford business as usual. We need to engage the academic and scientific community, and tap into worldwide technological know-how in the private sector and civil society, in order to develop and implement practical solutions." Substantial emphasis will be placed on collaboration across countries to analyze common problems and learn from each other's experiences. The network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated "systems" approaches to addressing the complex economic, social and environmental challenges confronting governments.

    Ted Turner, global business leader, philanthropist and founder of CNN and the United Nations Foundation, will work together with other leaders in sustainable development to help guide and advise the network. Turner said, "We need development solutions based in science, and we need them now. The future of the planet and its people is at stake. The new Sustainable Development Solutions Network aims to promote smart and effective action ‐‐ before it's too late." said Turner.
    The SDSN website, which is scheduled to officially launch on September 1, notes that, "The scale of the global sustainable development challenge is unprecedented. The fight against extreme poverty has made great progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but more than 1 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Inequality and social exclusion are widening within most countries. With the world at 7 billion people and current annual GDP of US$70 trillion, human impacts on the environment have already reached dangerous levels. As the world population is estimated to rise to 9 billion by 2050 and global GDP to more than US$200 trillion, the world urgently needs a framework for sustainable development that addresses the challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining the planet."
    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access the SDSN website for complete information (click here). Access a second release from the UN with additional information (click here). [#Sustain]