Friday, September 28, 2012

Major World Study Says It's Not Too Late For Troubled Fisheries

Sep 27: A study published in Science magazine contains new population assessments for thousands of fisheries around the globe, providing insight on the health of data-poor fisheries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's catch. The research confirms suspicions that these fisheries are in decline, but it also highlights hope for the future: most of these fisheries have not yet collapsed. The new study in Science is embedded in a larger study, Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries, released this week by the consulting firm, California Environmental Associates (CEA). This broader study evaluates the successes and gaps in fishery management and conservation programs around the world. It points to the fact that we know how to bring back dwindling fisheries, but political battles often trump putting these concepts into action. The report, which involved over 100 scientists and conservation professionals, was supported by the Waitt Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Oak Foundation and others. 
    According to a release, "If we act quickly to prevent overfishing and allow depleted stocks to recover to sustainable levels, they could provide more seafood over the long-term. This could increase the amount of fish brought to shore by 8-40 percent on average -- and more than double it in some areas -- compared to yields predicted if we continue current fishing trends." University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) scientist Steve Gaines said, "Until now, our sense of how fisheries are doing has been based on a minute fraction of the world's fisheries -- the large, valuable stocks for which we have lots of data. This represents only a few hundred of over 10,000 fish stocks. It's a tiny slice that can give us a skewed view." Lead author and economist Christopher Costello said, "For most fisheries, we simply didn't know how many fish were out there and whether their populations were trending up or down. Without good information on fish populations, managing sustainably can be a hard thing to do. It's like trying to decide how far you can drive your car without knowing how much gas is in the tank."

    The study provides a new global status report that includes these previously unmeasured fisheries. It brings thousands of what managers call "unassessed" fisheries into focus, using new methods to estimate fish populations. The results show that over half the world's fisheries are in decline. Across the globe, stocks with robust data are doing better than those less-studied, regardless of the country that manages them. University of Washington scientist Ray Hilborn, a co-author of the study said, "If we look at assessed stocks we can be pretty satisfied that fishery management systems are generally working to assure long term sustainability. For unassessed stocks, this doesn't appear to be true."

    The scientists found that for large-scale fisheries, the stocks that we measure and track are at similar levels as those that we have not formally measured. However, under current fishing pressure their futures look very different: the assessed stocks are starting to show signs of recovery, while large, data-poor populations continue to decline. In small scale fisheries, the data-poor or "unassessed" stocks are in far worse shape than their studied counterparts, and many are plummeting at alarming rates. These fisheries are critical to local food security in many parts of the world. Costello said, "Without good population estimates, political pressure tends to dominate decision making, and we end up catching too much. Over time, this can lead a fishery to collapse."

    UCSB ecologist, Sarah Lester said, "The impact on food security is most significant for local-level fisheries in poorer countries, but this isn't just a developing world problem. Small, unassessed fisheries in the U.S. and Europe are often in as bad a shape as those in the developing world." The scientists caution that the new method cannot take the place of formal assessment programs for individual fisheries, but their approach provides accurate global and regional information that they hope will inform fisheries management decisions. Gaines said, "At a regional scale, we can gain up to 80 percent of the insights of traditional assessment approaches with just 1 percent of the cost."

    The closer a fishery is to collapse, the harder and more uncertain its recovery. However, the researchers say that with prompt action the majority of the world's fish populations could still rebound. Gaines said, "Strong management could increase the number of fish in the ocean by over 50 percent. When fish populations are healthy they produce more young. It may seem paradoxical, but we can get more fish on our plates by leaving more in the water." The gains expected from recovery are most pronounced for small scale fisheries, many of which are in countries that face rapid population growth and depend on fish for local food security. Even in North America and Europe, recovery would bring both economic and environmental benefits. Costello said, "The good news here is that it's not too late. These fisheries can rebound. But the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be to bring these fisheries back. In another ten years, the window of opportunity may have closed."

    Report author Matthew Elliott said, "We know what works. Fishery management policies and practices have been tried, tested, and proven." In the U.S., for example, many large fisheries are starting to recover. The report's analysis shows that these gains result from a combination of efforts: relying on strong science to set total allowable fishing levels, closing some areas to allow for rebuilding, and using sustainable seafood markets and policies that help fishermen have secure access to a proportion of catch. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to eliminate overfishing, the report shows that many of the same principles are applied in successful, local management efforts around the world.

    Elliott said, "The key is to use and share these practices more broadly. In many areas of the world, particularly in the tropics and sub-tropics, we see fisheries expanding quickly with little in the way of management. This research fills an important information gap for these fisheries. We hope it will draw more international attention to fisheries management in the many parts of the world that we have historically ignored. Healthy ocean fisheries hold the potential to feed a growing population without destroying the supporting ecosystems to the point where they no longer produce seafood," adds Elliott. "Within our lifetime, we can make sustainable global fisheries the norm rather than the exception."

    Amanda Leland, Vice President of Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF's) Oceans Program issued a statement commenting on the report saying, "This study is a blueprint for recovering the world's ocean fish populations. Giving fishermen a concrete stake in the fishery means that they are invested in protecting it. When overfishing ends, the amount the entire fleet can catch increases, as does fishermen's share of the catch. Economic interest and conservation interest go hand in hand and fishermen lead the way.

    "There are lessons to be learned from U.S. fisheries, which have turned a corner -- U.S. seafood landings have reached a 17-year high, values have increased thanks in part to catch shares which are growing fish populations. Sixty-five percent of all fish that are now caught in US federal waters are caught in fisheries in catch shares or other rights-based management programs. EDF has partnered with fishermen in many countries to transform fisheries management. The key is to empower fishermen, by giving them incentives to recover fish populations. Without making this work for fishermen there will be no way to stop the global decline and conserve fisheries that will be so important to feed a growing global population. This study shows that recovering the world's fisheries is absolutely critical, and, by working with fishermen, completely achievable."

     Andrew Sharpless, CEO of the largest international ocean conservation organization -- Oceana -- issued a statement on report saying, "This study finally lays to rest the question of whether or not the world's fisheries are in crisis -- they are. As the authors report, more than half of the world's fisheries are in decline. And as they point out, worst hit are small scale fisheries which are critical for feeding hungry people all around the world. We believe that this report provides a clear call to action. We need to quickly put in place responsible management measures in the countries that control most of the world's wild seafood. As the study finds, putting in place these measures would allow depleted stocks to recover to sustainable levels and could result in future catches that are up to 40 percent larger than are predicted if current unsustainable fishing practices continue. . .

    We know from past experience all around the world – including in the "assessed fisheries" described by the authors – that putting in place better fisheries management allows fisheries to rebound. And we agree with the authors' prescription for these measures – science based quotas and habitat protection. We do believe that they (and the world's fishery managers) should place a great emphasis on reducing bycatch which is critical to the future of our wild fish stocks. One other critical point not covered in this study is that putting in place these management measures does not take an international treaty. Just 25 countries control 75% of the world's fish catch and can -- through their own legal systems -- put in place the policies that can allow fisheries to recover. The world has a moral obligation to act on the findings of this study as it would enable the sea to feed 400 million hungry people living in major fishing nations and would help offset the projected dramatic increase in demand for protein from a world population that is forecasted to rise to 9 billion people by 2050."

    Access a release on the report from CEA (click here). Access the release from EDF (click here). Access the statement from Oceana (click here). Access the complete report, executive summary, complete appendices and related information (click here). [#Wildlife/Fisheries]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canadian Enviros Sue To Halt Enbridge Northern Gateway Project

Sep 26: A coalition of Canadian environmental groups are taking the Federal government to court over what they call "its continued failure to implement the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and fulfill its legal responsibility to protect endangered wildlife living along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and shipping route." The lawsuit challenges the Canadian government's multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for four species that would be affected by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project -- the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou. The habitat for all four species, which lies along the proposed pipeline and shipping route, would be impacted by the construction and operation of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

    The groups said the recovery strategy for each of these species is at least three years overdue. The Canadian government has delayed completion of recovery strategies for 188 at-risk species; in many cases, these delays stretch years past the mandatory deadlines set out in SARA. Currently, 87 recovery strategies are more than five years overdue. Sean Nixon, staff lawyer with Ecojustice said, "Delay threatens the survival of our endangered wildlife. That's why the deadlines in SARA for producing recovery strategies are mandatory. SARA is a good law that could help endangered species recover. The real problem is that the federal government won't implement it."

    Ecojustice filed the litigation in Canadian Federal Court, acting on behalf of five environmental groups: the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club B.C., Wilderness Committee and Wildsight. The groups said the loss of habitat is the key cause of decline for more than 80 per cent of Canada's species at risk. In order to survive and recover, at-risk animals and plants need protection of their critical habitat. After a species has been listed under SARA, the federal government is required by law to produce a recovery strategy that identifies the species' critical habitat based on the best available scientific information and Aboriginal traditional knowledge.

    The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a massive 1,177 km double pipeline project (36" & 20") to transport 525,000 bbl/day from the Edmonton, Alberta area to Kitimat, British Columbia and Canadian ports to market oil internationally and to the Western U.S. It is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken between the two Canadian provinces. The Project promises economic opportunities to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups across northern British Columbia and Alberta. With an estimated capital cost of $5.5 billion, Northern Gateway is expected to create thousands of job opportunities for regional residents throughout project construction and operations, while providing approximately $36 million of property taxes annually. Enbridge says the "Northern Gateway will be a model of world-class safety and environmental standards." The project is currently in the study and environmental review phase, with actual construction planned for from 2013 to 2016.
    Access the release from Canadian environmental groups with background on the lawsuit (click here). Access the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project website for extensive information on the project (click here). [#Wildlife, #EnergyOilSands]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Model Independent Monitoring Project For Rio Tinto Eagle Mine

Sep 25: A new independent program is being set up to monitor the potential environmental impacts of the controversial Rio Tinto Eagle Mine, northwest of City of Marquette, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The innovative arrangement could prove to be a model for other high profile, controversial projects. The Marquette County Community Foundation (MCCF) and the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) are teaming up to coordinate environmental monitoring, public outreach and community input concerning mining activities. The program will monitor the Eagle mine site, the Humboldt mill and transportation routes. Monitoring will include but not be limited to; air quality, groundwater, surface water, wildlife and plant life. In addition, the program will include numerous opportunities for the public to provide input and suggest additional monitoring needs said Bob Cowell, a board member with the community foundation.   

    Rio Tinto will provide the MCCF with $300,000 annually to fund the Community Environmental Monitoring Program. In addition the MCFF will accept funding from other parties as well. Rio Tinto will deposit funds into an account managed by the Community Foundation independent oversight board. The Community Foundation will select the members of that board; the Community Foundation will be looking for a person with broad community experience, someone with environmental experience and someone with mining experience. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community will also be invited to participate on the oversight board, provide program input and assist with monitoring. Rio Tinto and the Superior Watershed Partnership will have no say in selecting the board. Any differences between Rio Tinto and Superior Watershed Partnership will be resolved by the oversight board, with the board's decision being final.

    Cowell said, "We believe there's a role our organizations can play to help the community stay informed and hold Rio Tinto accountable for keeping our environment, citizens and wildlife healthy and safe." The cooperative initiative is called the Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP). He said, "We believe we can move forward to make a positive, unique and ground breaking program that can be replicated by other communities facing this polarizing issue." He indicated that Superior Watershed Partnership has the expertise, data, and staff necessary to coordinate monitoring and make independent, science-based determinations about the mine's environmental impact.

    The MCCF, which is regarded as one of the Upper Peninsula's most respected community based philanthropic organizations, will establish an independent oversight board to allocate funding while the SWP will coordinate and implement the actual monitoring program working with universities, contractors and EPA approved laboratories.

    Carl Lindquist, SWP executive director said, "Since 1999 the SWP has completed dozens of restoration projects in the Salmon Trout watershed. Early on we submitted a management plan to MDEQ and U.S. EPA that recommended against sulfide based mining but the mine has received their permits and is moving forward. Everyone I've heard from, regardless of whether they are pro or con regarding the mine, feels that independent environmental monitoring will offer the community a trusted way to know what the impacts are. This is a good thing for the community." Lindquist noted that the Lake Superior watershed is one of the most active mining exploration areas in the world right now and that other communities could benefit from this independent monitoring model. He said, "All parties agree that what we're doing is unprecedented. A global corporation has agreed to independent environmental monitoring by community-based organizations to scrutinize their operations."

    All monitoring data obtained from the program will be reported online through the SWP website. The public can also provide monitoring suggestions online or at upcoming community forums. In addition to coordinating the monitoring program the SWP will also coordinate community outreach including community forums to report on monitoring results and invite public input regarding additional monitoring needs. Monitoring data, meetings notices and options for providing public input will also be posted on the website.

    Construction of the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine is well underway and will begin producing nickel and copper in 2014 according to Simon Nish, Director, Communities, Communications and External Relations for Rio Tinto Eagle Mine. He said, "Rio Tinto already has a comprehensive environmental monitoring program in place but some people in the community will have more trust in monitoring if it is done independently. Therefore, we're working with two well-known and trusted community organizations to deliver independent monitoring. Superior Watershed Partnership brings their scientific expertise and proven track record to monitor our environmental performance. The Marquette County Community Foundation ensures that our funding, as well as any additional third party funding, is at arm's length, reinforcing the independence of the community environmental monitoring. With this model, the UP is setting a new benchmark for community oversight of modern mining".

    Access a release on the innovative program with links to the Monitoring Agreement, Funding Agreement Q&A sheet and program diagram  (click here). Access the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine website for more information (click here). Access the SWP website (click here). Access a Google map of the mining project area (click here). Access a recent Marquette Mining Journal article on the company's mine development progress and future plans (click here). [#All]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

House Democratic Leaders Release Report On Climate Extremes

Sep 25: After record-breaking heat, destructive wildfires, droughts and storms punished communities across the United States this year, two House Democrats are asking Congress to "recognize the steep cost of climate change's steroidal effect on extreme weather." Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively; released a report that details the scientific links between climate change and extreme weather. They called on their Congressional colleagues to commit to action to reduce the carbon pollution that is driving more intense and frequent extreme weather events.

    Rep. Markey said, "Crop-baking droughts, home-burning fires and apocalyptic storms will define 2012 as the year we finally saw what global warming really looks like. While the Republican-led House of Representatives refuses to take climate action, carbon pollution is mixing a deadly cocktail of heat and extreme weather that is costing lives and billions of dollars in damages. House Republicans left town without passing a farm bill while farmers continue to suffer, but they had time to pass yet another giveaway to fossil fuel polluters." [See WIMS 9/21/12].

    Rep. Waxman said, "The evidence is overwhelming -- climate change is occurring and it is occurring now. In the last few months, the nation has been ravaged by record-breaking heat waves, drought, and wildfires. But the Republican response is to deny the science and block action. We don't have any more time to waste."

    The report -- Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters -- looks at the impacts of 2012's record breaking heat on agriculture, wildfires, storms, and water levels. The report was prepared by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce Committees. The report finds the links between extreme weather and climate to be "abundant, robust and well documented in peer-reviewed scientific studies." Additional highlights from the report include:

  • Wildfires: This season, wildfires burned more than 8.6 million acres, an area the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
  • Drought: This summer, over half the counties in the United States have been designated disaster zones. The 2012 drought is on par with the worst months from the multi-year droughts of the Dust Bowl era.
  • Record Temperature: August 2012 was the 330th consecutive month with global temperatures above the 20th century average. There has not been a single month cooler than the 20th century global average since February 1985.
  • Sea Ice Melt: Arctic sea ice coverage shrank to a record low 1.32 million square miles, 18 percent below the previous record set in 2007.
  • Damages: Natural disasters in 2011 resulted in the most costly toll in history -- $154 billion worth of worldwide losses from floods, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires and other extreme weather events.

    Access a release from the two Democrats (click here). Access the complete 24-page report (click here). [#Climate]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

Sep 24: During the second day of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting (September 23-25 in NYC), President Bill Clinton announced new commitments made by CGI members this year designed to combat some of the most pressing global challenges. From improving the monitoring and warning of severe weather in Haiti to addressing the problem of under-nutrition in Guatemala, the new CGI commitments unveiled today aim to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

    President Clinton said, "I am inspired by the dedication and generosity of our CGI members whose commitments touch the lives of millions of people around the world. This year's commitments represent not only a deep respect for humanity but also inspire others to transform their ideas and innovation into substantive global action. I extend my sincerest thanks to all of the leaders from the political, business, and civil sectors for their willingness to choose to create a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive world for all people."

    The day's theme, "Designing Our Environments," highlighted the need to produce holistic approaches for built and natural environments in order to provide healthy sustainable settings worldwide. Over the course of the meeting's second day, CGI members heard from an array of global leaders on the importance of fostering prosperous futures for generations to come through investment in ecosystems, urban centers, and social environments.

    Featured speakers included: Laurent Lamothe, Prime Minister of the Republic of Haiti; Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi; Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State U.S. State Department; Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation; Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State and Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group; Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs; John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco; Dr. Paul Farmer, Founder of Partners In Health; Randa Grob-Zakhary, CEO of the LEGO Foundation; Nicholas Kristof, Columnist for the New York Times; Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company; Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International; Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia; and Fareed Zakaria, CNN Anchor.

    Among the commitments announced were the Community-Based Solar Power by Solairedirect. In 2012, Solairedirect committed to develop at least 10 megawatts of distributed solar photovoltaic projects in the southwestern United States over the next three years. Solairedirect will identify target communities seeking access to reliable and affordable electricity and will work in conjunction with local government and community stakeholders to develop these projects. Through this commitment, Solairedirect will demonstrate the financial and operational viability of subsidy free, community-based, for-profit solar power generation in the United States.

    Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, CGI convenes a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, CGI members have made more than 2,100 Commitments to Action, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

    CGI members connect and collaborate year-round within eight broad and cross-cutting Tracks, each representing a topical global challenge or strategic approach. Each Track contains a number of stand-alone opportunities that bring members together to share knowledge, develop new Commitments to Action, and support work that is already underway.
    Of particular interest to WIMS readers the CGI includes: The Built Environment Track which focuses on developing innovative methods for improving the environmental and social efficacy of our infrastructure, shelters, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities through cross-sectoral partnerships and collaboration. CGI members address issues related to the design, sustainability, construction, and management of the built environment, with particular focus on resource consumption, job creation, workforce development, and green schools. Also included: The Energy & Ecosystems Track which explores a wide range of interconnected issues, including the production of sustainable and renewable energy and fuels, the greening of supply chains and production processes, ecosystem services and market-based solutions to environmental management, climate change adaptations, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture.

    Access the 2nd day release and commitments made (click here). Access the CGI website for a list of speakers, agenda, webcast, sponsors, attendees and more (click here). [#All]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, September 24, 2012

UCS Calls On News Corp. To Improve Climate Science Reporting

Sep 21: The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a release calling on News Corporation to improve the representation of climate science on two of its prominent media holdings -- Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal's opinion section -- after an analysis showed "both heavily distort the facts on the issue." In letters to News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes, and Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, UCS board chair and former American Association Advance for Science President Jim McCarthy said "the science on human-induced climate change is clear."

    The letter indicates, "We should all be able to accept these basic facts regardless of whether or not we support or oppose personal, business or societal actions related to climate change. Unfortunately, public and policymaker opinion regarding the reality of human-induced climate change has been for far too long polarized and based on ideology rather than facts." UCS examined representations of climate science from both Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal's opinion section. In its analysis, UCS found:

  • Over a recent six-month period, Fox News Channel representations of climate science were misleading 93 percent of the time (37 out of 40 citations).
  • Over the past year, the Wall Street Journal opinion section's representations of climate science were misleading 81 percent of the time (39 out of 48 citations).

    Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist at UCS said, "It's like they're talking and writing about a parallel universe. Their viewers and readers simply aren't getting an accurate story on climate science." UCS indicated that representations featured "broad dismissals of the reality of human-induced climate change, disparagement of scientists, mockery of climate science as a body of knowledge, and the cherry-picking of facts and studies to cast doubt on established climate science. The analysis further found that both media outlets framed acceptance of climate science in ideological rather than fact-based terms." The analysis did not examine the Wall Street Journal's news section, which is run by a separate set of editors.

    UCS indicated that News Corporation says it is committed to engaging its audiences on sustainability issues through its Global Energy Initiative. UCS said, "Murdoch himself has said he accepts the reality of human-induced climate change, but the misrepresentations revealed in the analysis undercut these claims." The analysis recommends the media giant conduct a review of its climate science content and develop standards and practices for communicating climate science to its audiences. It further suggests that both Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal opinion section could do more to highlight the views of people who accept the reality of human-caused climate change.

    McCarthy along with UCS supporters and staff delivered more than 20,000 postcards from members and supporters to News Corporation's New York offices -- including some more than 1,000 from the organization's scientist members -- calling upon the company to improve the accuracy of its climate science content. UCS indicated that its analysis and recommendations draw upon a growing body of social science research that finds a correlation between viewing Fox News Channel and dismissing the evidence for human-caused climate change. Furthermore, social scientists find that people's beliefs about the role of government can deeply affect how they view the credibility of scientific expertise on a variety of issues, from mandatory vaccinations to nuclear waste and climate change.

    Access a release from UCS (click here). Access the complete 31-page report (click here). [#Climate]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, September 21, 2012

House Passes "Stop The War On Coal Act"; Other Bills Languish

Sep 21: [Editor's Note: Although the U.S. House of Representatives spent two and a half hours this morning passing the "Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012" which has no chance of passage in the Senate and would be vetoed if it reached the President's desk; it could not find time to address the critically needed Farm Bill which has widespread support of Democrats, Republicans, the President, business, farmers and environmental and conservation groups].
    H.R.3409, the Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012, which had the strong support of House Republican leadership, was approved by a vote of 233-175. Nineteen Democrats joined 214 Republicans in passing the measure. On September 20, the White House issued a policy statement indicating that, "If the President is presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill" [See WIMS 9/20/12]. The House action is the last major action until after the Presidential election in the lame-duck session.
    House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement applauding House passage of the bill saying, "President Obama's war on coal claimed another 1,200 jobs this week, adding to the thousands of others that have been wiped out by an administration determined to put an end to coal-fired energy in America and ship the jobs that come with it overseas. 

    "At the same time that President Obama claims to support Republicans' all-of-the-above energy policy, his administration is unleashing a barrage of excessive red tape that is shutting down power producers and mining operations, and devastating the families and communities that depend on them. These regulations mean fewer jobs and higher energy costs for all Americans, who are already paying the price for President Obama's failed energy policies on everything from gas to groceries. 

    "Today, the House again stepped up to stop President Obama's war on coal by passing legislation that reins in the administration's most damaging new energy regulations and holds them accountable for the economic impact of several others.  The Stop the War on Coal Act joins nearly 40 other bipartisan, House-passed energy and jobs bills that Senate Democrats continue blocking. President Obama has an opportunity to lead by calling on Senate Democrats to pass all of these bills to promote American energy, protect jobs, and help our economy get moving again."

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said, "President Obama has spent his entire term waging a regulatory war of red-tape and government mandates on coal miners, coal jobs and the millions of people who rely on low-cost coal-fired electricity. Just one of this Administration's most egregious regulatory attacks on American coal production will destroy thousands of jobs and inflict economic harm on over twenty other states. Without the passage of the Stop the War on Coal Act, those job losses and thousands of others will become reality for hardworking coal miners and their families across the country as a record number of coal plants will be forced to close over the coming years."

    Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) said, "Today, with bipartisan support, the House of Representatives took an important step forward in stopping one of President Obama's most economically destructive policies with the passage of the Stop the War on Coal Act. President Obama's war on coal is real and it is already costing jobs. Just this week, Alpha Natural Resources announced that it is laying off 1,200 workers in three states. These layoffs come just weeks after Murray Energy announced that it would be closing its mine in Brilliant, Ohio putting more hardworking miners in the unemployment lines. Both companies cite excessive government overregulation as the main reason for these layoffs. The Stop the War on Coal Act is common sense legislation that protects coal jobs from these destructive regulations that have put the heavy boot of an out of control federal regulatory bureaucracy on the neck of the coal industry. Protecting America's coal industry and the jobs that go with it is part of the a true 'all of the above' approach to energy production that creates jobs, lowers energy prices, and takes America one step closer to energy independence. Coal is critical to powering America, and I will always fight to END President Obama's assault on hardworking Americans who work in the coal industry and the many businesses that depend upon the reliable, cost effective energy that coal provides."

    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "Today, the House took a stand for jobs, families, and affordable energy. On Tuesday this week, we learned of Alpha Natural Resources will be closing 8 mines and laying off 1200 workers. I met with the Alpha CEO shortly after the announcement, and he lamented the administration's regulatory assault on coal. Sadly, the list of layoffs goes on because of the administration's 'all of the above, but nothing from below,' energy policy. Coal is the cornerstone of our economy -- estimates suggest that every mining job creates an additional 3.5 jobs. We are electricity independent -- and we want to stay that way."

    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said he welcomed the passage the bill. He said, "I applaud the bipartisan House passage of the 'Stop the War on Coal Act.' Over the past four years we have witnessed an unrelenting attack by the Obama administration on American energy production -- one that has resulted in lost jobs, higher energy prices, and lessened energy security. Today's decisive achievement in the House stands in stark contrast to the stalling and inaction of the Senate. Many of my Senate colleagues have talked at length about unleashing American energy production and reining in the Obama-EPA, but when the opportunity arises to do so they hide behind cover votes. As these Senators head home to hit the campaign trail, their record is clear and excuses only go so far: thanks to many of them, the far-left polices of the Obama-EPA remain unchecked and will go forward harming American families with higher energy prices and lost jobs."

    The White House veto warning statement on the bill indicated, "H.R. 3409, for example, would block landmark Clean Air Act public health regulations, such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which would reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, especially the health of children and seniors. . . would block the recently-finalized National Program of fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for Model Year 2017-2025 cars and light trucks. . .  would roll back the provisions of the Clean Water Act that have underpinned 40 years of progress. . ."

    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee issued a lengthy release saying, "Closing out the most unproductive and anti-environmental Congress in modern history, House Republicans today passed one last giveaway to the fossil fuel industries that are flooding money into GOP campaign coffers and election advertisements." He decried "the bill and Republican attacks on the free market, on clean energy, and on our environment."
    Rep. Markey said, "House Republicans now leave town with the worst environmental record in history, and without extending the Production Tax Credit for wind, which will raise taxes on the wind industry by up to $4 billion and eliminate 40,000 American wind jobs. Republicans have been so busy manufacturing fake wars on coal and oil that they've missed the real American energy revolution in natural gas, wind, solar and other cleaner, cheaper forms of energy. Republicans are saying they aren't going to worry about the 44 percent of our electricity that comes from the natural gas, hydropower and clean energy industries, just like their standard-bearer at the top of the ticket won't worry about 47 percent of Americans. This bill doesn't create an American energy strategy, it's just an election strategy for Republicans.
    "The Republican 'Polluterpalooza' bill passed today would: --Let coal companies off the hook to safely dispose and store the coal ash that results from burning coal and dump mining waste in streams and rivers; --Repeal the fuel economy standards that will save oil and money; --Increase the levels of toxic mercury, lead and cancer-causing toxins in our air by gutting the Clean Air Act; and
--Overturn Clean Water Act protections by eliminating EPA's ability to apply minimum federal water quality standards."
    Rep. Markey also indicated that House Republicans rejected several Democratic amendments, including: --An amendment by Rep. Markey to set a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2035; --An amendment by Rep. Markey to protect Americans from additional heart, lung or other diseases resulting from the increase in dangerous pollution from this bill; --An amendment by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to erase language in the GOP bill that denies the fundamental science of climate change; --An amendment by Rep. Markey to protect any efforts [or] any EPA action to reduce American oil dependence, like fuel economy standards.

    Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement saying, "Republicans in the House of Representatives today launched yet another contemptible assault on Americans' health and well-being. In a sweeping, scorched-earth campaign, they are seeking to lay waste to numerous public health protections critical to ensuring that American families have safe air and clean water. This bill is a shameless, reckless and deadly assault on key safeguards Americans count on every day. On their way out the door from one of the least productive sessions of the U.S. House in history, Congressional Republicans proved once and for all that they hold the interests of dirty, outdated fossil fuel companies above those of everyday Americans."

    Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation Marty Hayden said, "Instead of offering legislation that would bolster our economy or create jobs for hard-working Americans, our leaders in Congress are pushing a toxic bill that comes at the cost of public health and our most basic and long-held environmental protections. House leaders seem to think that the only way to put people back to work is to give polluters free rein to poison our water, air and natural resources. Not only does this bill fail to create jobs but it exposes Americans to dangerous pollutants that cause sickness and cancer. This wrongheaded initiative is a recipe for disaster for public health and our economy. The House majority is clearly out-of-touch with the serious concerns Americans have about their health and the economy. It's time for our leaders to drop the political warfare and instead work on making America more competitive and secure by investing in clean energy industries that will define the future."

    House Democratic leaders held a press conference on the Capitol steps and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "As you can see, Democrats are proudly standing on the steps of the Capitol saying we must stay here until we take action to help the American people. We are prepared to stay in session to pass President Obama's jobs bill, which can create more than one million new jobs immediately, pass a five year farm bill -- 16 million agricultural jobs depend on it, extend middle income tax cuts to provide certainty for millions of Americans and help our economy. And to pass a comprehensive and balanced bill to address our fiscal concerns -- to say to the world that we can get the job done, that we can work in a cooperative manner to reduce the deficit, to create growth, to create jobs. We're here standing together to recognize that since August 3rd, when Congress adjourned, and November 14th, when we're being called back into session, we will have been in session only eight days. That's just not right.  Democrats are prepared to stay until we get the job done." Other members also delivered statements (see link below).

    Access the roll call vote (click here). Access the statement from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access a release from Reps. Hastings and Johnson (click here). Access a release from Rep. Upton (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey with further information (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access the statement from Earthjustice (click here). Access the a release from the House Democratic Leaders (click here). Access the Statement of Administration Policy (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3409 (click here). Access a House Democratic summary of the bill (click here). Access a House Republican summary of the bill (click here). [#Energy, #Water, #Air]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professional

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Administration Recommends Veto For "Stop the War On Coal Act"

Sep 19: The White House has issued a formal Statement of Administration Policy for H.R.3409, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Act, sponsored by Representative Johnson (R-OH) and 19 cosponsors [See WIMS 9/17/12]. The bill, a.k.a. the "Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012'' is strongly supported by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL); House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI); and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). The bill is scheduled for a House Floor vote tomorrow (September 21). According to the Administration policy statement:
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3409, which packages together a number of harmful measures that would undermine landmark environmental laws and adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment. The bill would roll back safeguards that protect public health, undercut fuel economy standards that will save Americans money at the pump while decreasing our dependence on oil, and roll back key provisions underpinning Clean Water Act protections.

"H.R. 3409, for example, would block landmark Clean Air Act public health regulations, such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which would reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, especially the health of children and seniors. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that emissions reductions resulting from meeting these standards will prevent as many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks annually. The annual value of the health benefits from these rules alone is estimated to be as much as $90 billion. H.R. 3409 also would block the recently-finalized National Program of fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for Model Year 2017-2025 cars and light trucks. Further, the legislation could create uncertainty around the requirements currently in effect for the Model Year 2012-2016 vehicle standards. The historic National Program for vehicles will deliver dramatic savings for Americans at the pump, significantly cut U.S. oil consumption, and reduce harmful pollution. In addition, the bill would roll back the provisions of the Clean Water Act that have underpinned 40 years of progress in making the Nation's waters fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.

"To be clear, the Administration believes that coal is and will remain an important part of our energy mix for decades to come. For that reason, since 2009, the Administration has committed nearly $6 billion in advanced coal research, development, and deployment and continues to work with industry on important efforts to demonstrate advanced coal technologies.

"As has been noted in previous statements on related legislative proposals contained within H.R. 3409, the Administration strongly rejects the notion that economic growth and protecting the health of our communities and families are mutually exclusive.

"If the President is presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

    The bill incorporates the following bills: H.R.3409, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act; H.R.910, Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011; H.R.2401, Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011; H.R.2273, Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act; H.R.2018, Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011. 

    Access the Statement of Administration Policy (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3409 (click here). Access a House Democratic summary of the bill (click here). Access a House Republican summary of the bill (click here). [#Energy, #Water, #Air]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Report Looks At Hidden Costs Of Electric Power Generation Fuels

Sep 19: A new Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. report -- The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels -- prepared for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicates that huge demands on increasingly scarce water are a major hidden cost of a "business as usual" approach to American electricity generation that needs to be more fully understood by policymakers and the public. Six fuels used to generate electricity --- biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating solar power), and wind (both onshore and offshore) -- are analyzed in the following categories: water impacts, climate change impacts, air pollution impacts, planning and cost risk, subsidies and tax incentives, land impacts, and other impacts. Examples of the water-related findings in the report include the following:
  • Nuclear power has critical cooling requirements that require huge amounts of water. Roughly 62 percent of U.S. nuclear plants have closed-loop cooling systems. Reactors with closed-loop systems withdraw between 700-1,100 gallons of water per megawatt hour (MWh) and lose most of that water to evaporation. Water withdrawals are even higher at open-loop cooled nuclear plants, which need between 25,000-60,000 gallons per MWh. Most of the water is returned, but at a higher temperature and lower quality.
  • In addition to fouling streams and drinking water through mining and coal-ash dump sites, coal-fired power relies heavily on closed-loop cooling systems which withdraw between 500 and 600 gallons of water per MWh and lose most of this via evaporation. Withdrawals for open-looped cooled coal-fired power plants are between 20,000-50,000 gallons per MWh. Most of the water is returned, but at a higher temperature and lower quality.
  • Under a so-called "Clean Energy Standard," biomass would become a much larger source of U.S. electricity generation; however, biomass also requires vast amounts of water. The report notes that a typical 50 megawatt (MW) biomass plant could withdraw roughly 242 million gallons of water per year and lose most of this. Adding 10 of these plants in a region would use 2.42 billion gallons of water per year. For dedicated energy crops, water use for irrigation can be considerable. One study estimates water use for most crops between 40,000 and 100,000 gallons per MWh, with some crops exceeding this range.
  • In 2010, EPA estimated that fracking shale wells can use anywhere from two to 10 million gallons of water per well. The water is often extracted from on-site surface or groundwater supplies. Such huge water withdrawals raise serious concerns about the impacts on ecosystems and drinking water supplies, especially in areas under drought conditions, areas with low seasonal flow, locations with already stressed water supplies, or locations with waters that have sensitive aquatic communities.
  • By contrast, wind and solar photovoltaic power requires little water in the electricity generation process. Concentrating solar power requires water for cooling purposes, but new technologies are placing greater emphasis on dry cooling. Solar power plants with dry cooling use only around 80 gallons per MWh - about a tenth of the low-end estimate for nuclear power and one-sixth of the low end estimate for coal-fired power generation.
    Grant Smith, CSI senior energy analyst said, "The government and energy industries are literally flying blind as they plan for continued reliance on coal, natural gas, nuclear power and industrial biomass to meet our energy needs. Each of these is water intensive and leads to pollution of water, which is increasingly scarce and in competition for other uses such as agriculture and other commercial uses. The drought intensifies the urgency and the imperative that political leaders in both parties hit the pause button on the headlong rush to support nuclear power and fossil fuel use."

    Seth Sheldon PhD, CSI lead water/energy analyst said, "In 2005 the Congress mandated a Federal water/energy roadmap. Nearly eight years later, that roadmap has not been produced and either through bureaucratic inertia or fear of hard political questions, the questions are not even being asked, much less their solutions explored. At a time of significant water scarcity and increasing threats to water quality, we can ill afford to ignore this central question about the future of our energy choices."
    Dusty Horwitt, EWG senior counsel said, "The rush to drill for shale gas is one of the best recent examples of how the costs of water pollution are ignored in the pursuit of supposedly cheap energy. When New York regulators estimate a price tag of $8-10 billion to build a water treatment plant for New York City if shale gas drilling contaminates its upstate water supply, it raises serious questions about whether shale gas really is so cheap and why water costs aren't always considered from the start."

    Geoff Keith, senior associate, Synapse Energy Economics Inc. said, "Too often left out of the equation are a number of important 'hidden' costs, also called 'indirect' or 'externalized' costs, associated with each generation technology. These include costs to society such as depletion of water and other resources, air and water pollution, detrimental impacts on human health and the environment, and contributions to global climate change. While direct costs (the monetary cost to build and operate a generating plant) are important to consumers, so too are these indirect costs, whether or not they can be easily expressed in monetary terms."
    Access a release from the groups with more details and links to informatio on the groups (click here). Access the 9-page summary of the 78+ page report (click here). [Note: The full report should be posted soon]. [#Energy/Alternatives]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Diverse Policy Experts Report To Improve Regulatory Decision-Making

Sep 18: Scientists and policy experts from industry, government, and nonprofit sectors reached consensus on ways to improve the rigor and transparency of regulatory decision-making in a report being released today (September 18, 2012). The Research Integrity Roundtable, a cross-sector working group convened and facilitated by The Keystone Center, an independent public policy organization, is releasing the new report to improve the scientific analysis and independent expert reviews which underpin many important regulatory decisions. The report, Model Practices and Procedures for Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Decision-Making, builds on the work of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in its 2009 report Science for Policy Project: Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Policy.

    Mike Walls, Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), one of the sponsors of the Keystone Roundtable, "Americans need to have confidence in a U.S. regulatory system that encourages rational, science-based decision-making. For this report, a broad spectrum of stakeholders came together to identify and help resolve some of the more troubling inconsistencies and roadblocks at the intersection of science and regulatory policy."

    A release from ACC indicates that controversies surrounding a regulatory decision often arise over the composition and transparency of scientific advisory panels and the scientific analysis used to support such decisions. The Roundtable's report is the product of 18 months of deliberations among experts from advocacy groups, professional associations and industry, as well as liaisons from several key Federal agencies. The report centers on two main public policy challenges that lead to controversy in the regulatory process: appointments of scientific experts, and the conduct of systematic scientific reviews.

    The Roundtable's recommendations aim to improve the selection process for scientists on Federal advisory panels and the scientific analysis used to draw conclusions that inform policy. The report seeks to maximize transparency and objectivity at every step in the regulatory decision-making process by informing the formation of scientific advisory committees and use of systematic reviews. The Roundtable's report offers specific recommendations for improving expert panel selection by better addressing potential conflicts of interest and bias. In addition, the report recommends ways to improve systematic reviews of scientific studies by outlining a step-by-step process, and by calling for clearer criteria to determine the relevance and credibility of studies.

    Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist and Science Policy Fellow for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said, "Conflicted experts and poor scientific assessments threaten the scientific integrity of agency decision making as well as the public's faith in agencies to protect their health and safety. Given the abundance of inflamed partisan dialogue around regulatory issues, it was refreshing to be a part of a rational and respectful roundtable. If adopted by agencies, the changes recommended in the report have the potential to reduce the ability of narrow interests to weaken regulations' power to protect the public good."

    Members of the Roundtable include: Richard Becker, American Chemistry Council; Raymond Garant, American Chemical Society; David Goldston, Natural Resources Defense Council; Francesca Grifo, Union of Concerned Scientists; Michael Holsapple, Battelle Health & Life Sciences Global Business; Janet Mostowy, Bayer Material Science, LLC; J. Craig Rowlands, The Dow Chemical Company; and Robert Rickard, DuPont SHE & Sustainable Growth Cent. Government Liaisons included: Bruce Androphy, National Institutes of Health; Howard Gadlin, National Institutes of Health; Oscar Hernandez, Environmental Protection Agency; Annie Jarabek, Environmental Protection Agency; Dennis Keefe, Food and Drug Administration; and Alan Thornhill, Department of the Interior.

    The Keystone Center and members of the Research Integrity Roundtable welcome additional conversations and dialogue on the matters explored in and recommendations presented in this report. Founded in 1975, The Keystone Center is an independent nonprofit organization that brings together public, private, and civic sector leaders. The Center provides mediation and facilitation services that incorporate innovative decision-making methods. The result: action-oriented, sustainable solutions to complex energy, environmental, and public health issues.

    Access the 51-page report (click here). Access the 2009 BPC report (click here). Access the Keystone Center website for the report with additional information (click here). Access the release Center (click here). [#All]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sen. Stabenow: Why Won't The House Vote On The Farm Bill?

Sep 14: A release from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee reports on the "Farm Bill Now!" rally, where she says Democrats and Republicans came together to urge the House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill. With Congress scheduled to recess on September 21, there very little time left to deal with this major issue [See WIMS 9/10/12].
    In June, the Senate achieved rare bipartisan agreement when it passed Sen. Stabenow's 2012 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act ((S.3240, with a vote of 64-35) [See WIMS 6/21/12]. Her bill has been widely praised from both sides of the aisle for its significant reforms that cut spending by $23 billion, disaster assistance for farmers, and support for job creation in one of the country's largest economic sectors. The House Agriculture Committee has also passed a bipartisan Farm Bill (July 17 (H.R.6083) [See WIMS 7/17/12], but Sen. Stabenow said "the House Republican leadership is currently blocking that bill from being considered in the full House of Representatives."Work cannot continue on the bill until the full House follows the Senate's lead and passes a full Farm Bill. Sen. Stabenow was joined at the rally by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) in calling on the House to take up and pass a full five-year Farm Bill.

    Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said, "Passing a Farm Bill is more important now than it has ever been.... I appreciate the efforts of our Chairperson in the Senate, Senator Stabenow, and my colleague from Kansas, Sen. Roberts. The evidence is there that we can come together as Republicans and Democrats to produce a Farm Bill that provides good things.... We know that when a storm comes and it's time to harvest, our farmers will hook up their tractor and go to work. They will not wait to see what's going to happen...we all know that a storm is coming on Sept. 30th when the Farm Bill expires."

    Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said: "[Farming is] a risky business, and this year with this drought situation we are certainly seeing that... that's why a Farm Bill is so important, that's why we need the certainty that it brings, and that's why we need to get this Farm bill done now.... We need to continue to work together...the best day that I've had here in Washington, D.C. was the day we marked up the Ag. bill in the House Agriculture committee and it was because it was bipartisan.... Let's get some work done and let's get a Farm Bill now."

    Senator Stabenow asks, "Why won't House leadership take up a bill so widely praised by members on both sides of the aisle?" The release includes a number of quotes from senators from both parties at the time the Farm Bill was overwhelmingly passing the Senate.

    On September 13, the National Farmers Union (NFU) sent a letter today urging Congressional representatives to sign a meeting request to discuss scheduling floor time for a vote on the farm bill, which is set to expire on Sept. 30. NFU President Roger Johnson noted in the letter, "The Senate and the House Committee on Agriculture have already passed their own versions of the farm bill and the full House must act soon. As such, I urge you to sign the letter to request a meeting with Leader Cantor in order to move the farm bill process forward."

    American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman emceed the "Farm Bill Now!" rally on Capitol Hill and said, "Perhaps never in the history of farm legislation have so many diverse farmer and rancher voices joined together for such a common call for action on a farm bill. We gather here under a banner adorned with three words. FARM. BILL. NOW. And we are here to raise our voices toward Capitol Hill…for a shared purpose." Stallman indicated that the farm bill isn't just a bill for farmers. The USDA says, 1 in every 12 American jobs is directly related back to the farm.

    On September 13, Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) issued a release saying that after 65 days, and significant pressure from him, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) had finally allowed the House Farm Bill to be reported from Committee.  Immediately, Rep. Braley formally introduced a bipartisan discharge petition and said, "Today, we took a tremendous step forward toward forcing a vote on the Farm Bill. After 65 days of dithering and distraction, Speaker Boehner has finally allowed the bill to be released from Committee. Today, I've filed my bipartisan discharge petition to force this bill to the Floor. I urge my colleagues to sign the petition immediately. Now that we, a group of Democrats and Republicans, have filed this discharge petition, and it's available for signatures, we'll see who really supports the Farm Bill Now."   

    A New York Times (NYT) article on the current situation indicates that House leaders, "are not eager to force their members to take a vote that would be difficult for some of them, nor would they wish to pass a measure largely with Democrats' votes right before an election. . . Some conservatives in each chamber dislike the farm bill generally and would like to see it cut back much further than House or Senate committee members propose. Many Democrats dislike the $16 billion in cuts to nutrition programs in the House bill, and some Southern members who represent rice and peanut growers do not like other proposed changes."

    Access the release from Sen. Stabenow (click here). Access a release from NFU and link to the letter and signers (click here). Access a release from the AFBF (click here). Access a release from Rep. Braley (click here). Access the NYT article with further details (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6083 (click here). Access the legislative details for S.3240 (click here). Access the Farm Bill Now website for more information (click here). [#Agriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, September 14, 2012

House Passes "No More Solyndras Act" 245-161

Sep 14: The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6213, the "No More Solyndras Act" [See WIMS 8/2/12WIMS 7/13/12] sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), by a vote of 245-161. Twenty-two Democrats joined 223 Republicans in passing the measure. In comments on the House Floor, Rep. Upton said:

"I care about America's energy future, and I also care about America's fiscal future.  For these two reasons, I urge all of you to vote yes on the No More Solyndras Act.

"On the energy front, I continue to advocate concrete measures towards achieving North American energy independence. This includes approving Keystone XL, increasing conventional and renewable energy production from federal lands, and eliminating unnecessary EPA red tape on coal and other fossil fuels. These and other pro-energy measures are part of the all-of-the-above agenda that has been championed by my Committee and the full House.

"But support for this agenda also requires us to pull the plug on existing programs that are not working. And the Department of Energy's Title 17 loan guarantee program is simply not advancing the ball on our all-of-the-above goals. The No More Solyndras Act phases out this costly, ineffective, and mismanaged program.

"Our extensive investigation of Solyndra has uncovered a story worse than anyone could have ever imagined. It is amazing to me that the administration gave a half-billion dollar loan guarantee to a company its own experts predicted would fail, a company so dysfunctional that it burned through this giant handout and went bankrupt in just two years. Even worse, when it became clear to the administration that Solyndra was in trouble, it chose to double down on the risky bet, gambling even more taxpayer dollars with a desperate loan restructuring instead of trying to cut its losses and move on. 

"Solyndra is the most visible but far from the only example of Title 17 failures.  In fact, it is hard to point to a single loan guarantee success story under this program. Developing new energy sources and technologies is an important part of our all-of-the-above approach, but it is clear that this loan guarantee program is ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst.

"Further, I am stunned by the cavalier manner in which the administration squandered all these tax dollars yet says that it has no regrets about its handling of the program and continues to declare it an "enormous success." If the administration can't learn anything about irresponsible spending from Solyndra, is it any wonder we are running trillion dollar annual deficits and just saw the national debt eclipse $16 trillion dollars? Burning money is one source of energy that the country doesn't need. That is why this bill prevents any costly repeats of Solyndra by prohibiting any new loan guarantees and subjecting pending ones to very stringent safeguards.   

"What is most disturbing about this unprecedented spending is that it is not necessary to secure a brighter energy future. The private sector is more than willing to step in and provide more energy, if only we would let them. What we need is a Keystone economy, not a Solyndra economy. What we need is privately-funded investment, not taxpayer-funded boondoggles. The goal of North American energy independence is within reach, as well as millions of new jobs that would go with it. But we aren't going to get there through Title 17 DOE loan guarantees. Our investigation uncovered a problem, and now we have a thoughtful bill to fix it. The next step is for the House to pass the No More Solyndras Act."

    Several amendments and a proposal to return the bill to Committee were soundly defeated along party-lines. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee issued a release saying, "House Republicans today passed a bill to end a loan guarantee program, but not before $88.4 billion in loans are handed out to coal and nuclear interests, while voting to allow the bill to go forward even if taxes are raised on the wind industry by up to $4 billion, threatening 40,000 jobs in the next year alone." Rep. Markey decried the bill as a "sham that protects imperiled nuclear projects while revealing House Republicans' true agenda to undercut innovative wind, solar and other clean energy projects."
    Markey said the bill "purports to end a loan guarantee program for energy projects, but will still allow tens of billions of dollars to be ferreted out to projects like the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), which has been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for months, and just received another $100 million in taxpayer money in yesterday's bill to fund the government for the next few months." Rep. Markey offered an amendment that would have prevented the act from staying in effect if a $4 billion tax hike on the wind sector was allowed to occur which was rejected.

    Rep. Markey said, "Republicans say they want no more Solyndras, but what they really want is no more clean energy solutions. They don't want the newest clean energy technologies to compete with coal, nuclear, oil and other fossil fuels. This bill is like saying a concert is sold out, but not before the friends of the band still get the best seats in the house. That's why Republicans are handing out tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to risky nuclear and coal projects, while cutting off funding for innovative wind, solar and other clean energy projects."

    Access the statement and video from Rep. Upton (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the roll call vote on H.R. 6213 (click here). Access the legislative details for H.R.6213 (click here). [#Energy/Renewable]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Senate Hearing On Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety

Sep 12: The Full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and its Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a joint hearing entitled, "Oversight Hearing: NRC's Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century." Witnesses included the newly appointed Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Allison Macfarlane and the remaining four Commissioners. Full Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) both issued opening statements.
    Senator Boxer recounted some of the Committee and issue history saying it was the seventh oversight meeting on the NRC since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Japan in March 2011. She said, "The consequences of the terrible events in Japan have prompted us to rethink how to ensure safety at the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States. Last year, the NRC created a Task Force to review our nation's safety requirements, and that Task Force made 12 recommendations to help prevent a similar disaster at nuclear facilities in the U.S.

    "Earlier this year, the NRC sent three orders to nuclear plants requiring high-priority safety improvements: the acquisition and protection of emergency equipment, better monitoring of spent fuel pools, and improved venting at boiling water reactors to help maintain containment in the case of an emergency. The NRC also directed nuclear plants to take other actions, including reanalyzing earthquake and flooding risks and reassessing their ability to safely operate following such events. In addition, the Commission issued two notices of proposed rulemaking: one concerning steps that plants should take if they lose electric power, and the other on ways to improve nuclear plants' emergency procedures.

    "While on the one hand I am encouraged that the NRC has begun moving forward, I also have concerns that the Commission is allowing some nuclear plants to delay implementing safety improvements beyond the recommended five-year period. Public safety of nuclear facilities must be the NRC's top priority, and I call on this Commission to ensure that the recommended improvements are put in place within the next five years. I intend to continue this Committee's oversight to make certain that these safety upgrades are completed without delay. . ."
    Ranking Member Inhofe said in part, "Ensuring the safe use of nuclear energy is a very serious job. That is why, unlike many other countries, Congress established the NRC, an independent commission, and charged five commissioners with the responsibility to protect public health and safety. We saw what happened at Fukushima and we are all committed to ensuring that a United States nuclear power plant will not experience a similar accident. That is why we have safeguards in place that would have prevented such a disaster here in the United States. For instance, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (formed by the Japanese government) reported that the Japanese plants are not required to consider a possible station blackout scenario - something the NRC instituted in the 1980's. This report concluded that 'the accident may have been preventable' if an order already required by the NRC following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. was instituted by the Japanese.
    "No one, on either side of the aisle, in Congress is willing to accept anything other than the safe operation and regulatory compliance of the country's commercial nuclear power plants. Throughout the NRC's history, we have applied lessons learned from nuclear and non-nuclear events. At the same time, the NRC has the vital responsibility to determine the cumulative effects that its regulations actually have on safety. It is important that regulations provide significant, tangible, and necessary safety benefits that warrant the costs - costs that are ultimately born by consumers.
    "To all of the Commissioners, and the new Chairman, I am pleased to see that debates and the free flow of information seem healthy and respectful again. Combined, your actions are critical to ensure the safe operation of the nuclear power plants across this country. The nation is also counting on you to prevent the imposition of an unpredictable or unnecessary regulatory burden that undermines nuclear energy economically, and avoid the way EPA regulations are driving the premature shutdown of coal-fired power plants. . ."
    Commissioner Macfarlane delivered an 8-page statement on behalf of the entire NRC and said in part regarding the implementation of safety enhancements based on the review of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident that, "With everything that we have assessed to date, the Commission continues to believe that there is no imminent risk from continued operation of existing U.S. nuclear power plants. At the same time, the NRC's assessment of insights from the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi led us to conclude that additional requirements should be imposed on licensees to increase the capability of nuclear power plants to mitigate the effects of beyond-design-basis extreme natural phenomena.

    "The Commission has approved the staff's prioritization of the recommendations of the Near-Term Task Force ("Task Force") into three categories, or tiers. Tier 1 consists of actions to be taken without delay, and these actions are underway. Tier 2 is the next set of actions that can be initiated as soon as staff resources become available and pertinent information is gathered and analyzed. Tier 3 recommendations require that the staff conduct further study or undertake shorter-term actions first."

    She also commented on the recent Waste Confidence ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which found that the NRC had violated the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing its 2010 update to the Waste Confidence Decision and accompanying Temporary Storage Rule [See WIMS 6/8/12]. The court vacated both the Decision and the Rule, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion. She said, "On August 7, 2012, the Commission issued an Order, in response to petitions we received following the court's decision, stating that we will not issue licenses dependent upon the Waste Confidence Decision or the Temporary Storage Rule until the court's remand is appropriately addressed. This determination extends just to final license issuance; all licensing reviews by NRC staff and proceedings will continue to move forward. On September 6, 2012, the Commission directed the NRC staff to develop, within the next 24 months, an environmental impact statement, a revised waste confidence decision, and a rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel. As we assured petitioners in the Order, and in our direction to the NRC staff, the public will be afforded opportunities to comment on these actions. . ."
    Access the hearing website and link to all statements, testimony and a webcast (click here). [#Haz/Nuclear, #Energy/Nuclear]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals