Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Past, Present, Future: U.S. Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Oct 31: Philip Wallach with the Brookings Institution has released a 15-page paper entitled, "U.S. Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions." The paper provides a concise look back at how the U.S. policy to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has evolved, how it has developed over the last several years including the political and legal entanglements; and, importantly, where it might be headed under different leadership scenarios in the Executive office and Congress. Also, of great importance the paper provides extensive links to referenced documents and information and thus becomes an important reference.
    In the introductory overview, Wallach indicates, "Where does U.S. climate change policy stand today? Most politically attentive Americans probably know just two salient facts: President Obama and Democrats failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation back when they controlled Congress, and the issue has received very little attention on the 2012 campaign trail. Nevertheless, regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate climate change are real and growing in importance at state, regional, and national level. Without the benefit of new legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized rules under the Clean Air Act affecting motor vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions from power plants. Recently, the D.C. Circuit rejected a number of legal challenges to these rules, ensuring that they will remain in place and grow in importance in coming years. This research note surveys the development of climate change policy in the program without new legislation, and assesses where GHG regulation can and should go from here."

    In the concluding section of the paper, Wallach looks ahead and says, ". . .without straining our imaginations, suppose that our current state of gridlocked divided government persists into 2013 and beyond, with at least one of the House, Senate, or White House unwilling to allow either comprehensive climate change legislation or simple removal of EPA's authority over GHGs. In this case, state and regional efforts will probably grow in importance, even as they suffer from periodic attrition. Federal regulations will have a major impact, reducing GHGs far less efficiently than a cap and trade system or a carbon tax. EPA will probably do its best to keep the scope of its rules fairly narrow, "tailoring" the CAA in many ways to prevent regulation from engulfing all small businesses. This continuation of the status quo is legally troubling, economically sub-optimal, and of dubious efficacy -- but it probably doesn't portend the economic disaster Republicans sometimes warn of. On the other hand, if environmentalist litigation successfully forces the EPA to create NAAQS for GHGs and thereafter to require states to tackle global carbon levels in their SIPs, the whole machinery of the CAA could be gummed up with little compensating benefit. . .
    "In the meantime, the status quo poses a dilemma for the policy-minded. If our first priority is to ensure that regulations' benefits exceed their costs, what should we make of the current set of GHG policies under the CAA? On the one hand, we might think that when it comes to climate change, something is better than nothing and the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. On the other hand, there is a real danger of settling for mediocre and wasteful policies simply because 'doing nothing' feels wrong. Arguably, the most important effect of adopting sensible American climate change policy would be to put the United States in a position of global leadership on the issue. But the current CAA policies, which are bitterly contested by half of our political class, are incapable of fulfilling this role. Indeed, they pose a danger of undermining the case for acting against climate change; when critics say that our GHG emission controls are wasteful, poorly designed, and imposed by 'fiat,' they will be more than a little correct. Executing a legislative tradeoff enacting efficient carbon pricing and ending the strange interpretive odyssey under the Clean Air Act should be a priority for believers in sensible policy."
    Access the complete paper from the Brookings Institution (click here). [#Climate]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Superstorm Sandy" Consistent With Climate Change Warnings

Oct 30: Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee issued a release indicating that "Superstorm Sandy" is the latest example of climate change contributing to extreme weather. He said it underscores the need for the United States and the world to take urgent action to reduce the pollution that is causing climate change and intensifying extreme weather events. He pointed to the latest studies on climate change, and the real-world events that have occurred just in the last two years, as "all the evidence needed to enact strong limits on the pollution that is destabilizing our climate" [See WIMS 10/22/12]. 

    Rep. Markey said, "For this superstorm to occur so late in the storm season, reach such fury, and have the kinds of flooding impacts that we are seeing, is fully consistent with what scientists have told us we should expect due to global warming. It's time to admit the obvious fact that climate change is here. Warmer water in the Atlantic is fueling stronger storms, the seas are higher, and the dramatic changes in the Arctic are potentially altering the path of storms hundreds of miles away. Climate change is no longer some far off issue; it's at our doorstep. We must consider how to address the underlying factors that are fueling these extreme weather events. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those killed and impacted by this superstorm. The federal government and all United States citizens stand at the ready to help those in need."
    Rep. Markey released a
report last week on climate change effects in New England. In September, Reps. Markey and Henry  Waxman (D-CA) released a report on extreme weather and climate change, which summarized the recent extreme weather events and science in the United States. Reps. Markey and Waxman are the co-authors of the only climate change bill to pass a chamber of Congress, in 2009. Rep. Markey said, "If we don't cut carbon pollution, the oceans will get warmer, the seas will get higher, and the storms will get stronger. We still have time to heed these extreme weather warnings."
    The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to advance strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change, issued a fact sheet on "Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy" indicating, "Hurricane Sandy is a stark reminder of the rising risks of climate change. A number of warming-related factors may well have intensified the storm's impact. Higher ocean temperatures contributed to heavier rainfall. Higher sea levels produced stronger storm surges. New research suggests that Arctic melting may be increasing the risk of the kind of atmospheric traffic jam that drove Sandy inland. While no single weather event can be said to have been directly caused by climate change, our weather now is the product of our changing climate, as increased warming raises the probability of extreme weather events. In highlighting our vulnerabilities to extreme weather, Hurricane Sandy underscores two imperatives: We need to reduce the risks of climate change by reducing our carbon emissions, and we must strengthen our defenses against future impacts that it may be too late to avoid." 
    Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a statement saying, "All of us at Environmental Defense Fund send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of this humbling and unprecedented storm. A number of factors converged to make Sandy one of the most ferocious weather disasters in our recorded history, and the best science tells us that we are one of those factors. As a consequence of global climate change caused by human activities, sea levels are higher, the Atlantic waters are warmer, and there's more moisture in the atmosphere – three of the reasons this storm packed such destructive force. Sandy is not just a weather disaster but also a climate disaster. Today, as we rush to ensure the safety of our loved ones and communities, we should remember that unless we finally get serious about climate solutions there can be no lasting protection from the ferocity of our warming world."
    Access a release from Rep. Markey with additional information and links to the referenced reports (click here). Access the complete fact sheet from C2ES (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access 258 images of Hurricane Sandy devastation from the Weather Channel (click here). [#Climate]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, October 29, 2012

Massive Hurricane Sandy Shuts Down News & Information

Oct 29: Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist, The Weather Channel has posted a commentary on the historical extreme weather event being played out on the east coast of the United States. As WIMS reported last week, a new study by Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurance companies, shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades [See WIMS 10/22/12]. The publication -- Severe weather in North America: Perils · Risks · Insurance -- analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. The latest development with Hurricane Sandy will certainly add to the insurance and reinsurance concerns with massive damages expected. Landfall is expected early this evening along with high tides.
    Ostro notes that, "History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States. . . Early Monday morning, aircraft reconnaissance found a central pressure of 946 millibars, one of the lowest on record for a hurricane near that location, and maximum sustained winds which have increased to 85 mph.

    "A meteorologically mind-boggling combination of ingredients is coming together: one of the largest expanses of tropical storm (gale) force winds on record with a tropical or subtropical cyclone in the Atlantic or for that matter anywhere else in the world; a track of the center making a sharp left turn in direction of movement toward New Jersey in a way that is unprecedented in the historical database, as it gets blocked from moving out to sea by a pattern that includes an exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure aloft near Greenland; a 'warm-core' tropical cyclone embedded within a larger, nor'easter-like circulation; and moisture from the tropics and cold air from the Arctic combining to produce very heavy snow in interior high elevations. This is an extraordinary situation, and I am not prone to hyperbole."

    Subscribers Note: During the next few days WIMS will continue to publish, however, considering the devastating conditions from Hurricane Sandy combined with the nearness to the Presidential election, the availability of quality environmental and energy news and information is extremely limited. WIMS will continue to search for relevant news, but we expect it will be sparse.

    Access the complete commentary from Ostro (click here). Access maps and satellite imagery, watches, tracks, threats, radar, etc.(click here). Access NASA images and commentary on Hurricane Sandy (click here). Access the National Hurricane Center website for extensive information (click here). [#Climate]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, October 26, 2012

U.S. Can Nearly Meet Copenhagen 17% GHG Reduction Pledge

Oct 25: Resources for the Future (RFF) released a new discussion paper entitled, US Status on Climate Change Mitigation. The abstract of the report indicates that in 2009, President Obama pledged that, by 2020, the United States would achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 17 percent from 2005 levels. With the failure of Congress to adopt comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, the feasibility of the pledge was put in doubt. However, RFF finds that the United States is near to reaching this goal; currently, the country is on course to achieve reductions of 16.3 percent from 2005 levels in 2020. Three factors contribute to the outcome: (1) greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act; (2) secular trends including changes in relative fuel prices and energy efficiency; and (3) subnational efforts. Perhaps even more surprising, domestic emissions are probably less than would have occurred if the Waxman–Markey cap-and-trade proposal had become law in 2010. However, at this point the United States is expected to fail to meet its financing commitments under the Copenhagen Accord for 2020.
    On the issue of the U.S. financial commitments, RFF indicates that the United States joined other developed countries in committing to support emissions mitigation and adaptation in developing countries through financing that would grow to $100 billion per year from public and private sources by 2020 [See WIMS 10/18/12]. However, the United States has not put a plan in place to achieve its share of this commitment. The public contribution to the financing goals in future years appears to be insufficient. The contribution of private capital, including payments for international offsets, was expected to fulfill the lion's share of the US financing commitment but international offsets play no role in meeting regulations under the Clean Air Act. Private investment capital in energy resource development already substantially exceeds the $100 billion target, but this cannot be seen as an additional source of funding, as implied by the Copenhagen Accord.
    On the subject of U.S. EPA regulations and in particular those that have not yet been fully implemented the paper indicates EPA has already finalized fuel efficiency standards for mobile sources and rules for preconstruction permitting under the Act. The most important regulation from EPA will be the expected operating performance standards for new and existing stationary sources, and the design and stringency of these standards is the most important source of uncertainty in the RFF estimate.
    RFF indicates that the first proposed standards, issued in April 2012 for new fossil-steam power plants, require these plants to achieve a carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rate of 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour; this is based on the performance of a new natural gas combined-cycle plant. A new coal-fired plant would be required to install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) to achieve this emissions rate. However, the standard includes a provision that allows a coal plant to operate for up to 10 years without CCS if it then installs CCS so that it achieves a 30-year average emissions rate that meets the standard of 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. Similar new source performance standards for other source categories -- including refineries, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and other emitting sources -- are expected to roll out over time.
    RFF says, "Regulations governing the operation of stationary sources are in development, although at a slow pace. Taken together, these initiatives are expected to achieve emissions reductions of 10.5 percent by 2020 compared to a 2005 baseline. It is uncertain whether these reductions will be fully realized, but the legal and institutional dominoes are in place for this to occur."
    Regarding the secular trends and subnational policies, RFF indicates that secular trends in the economy, including changing relative fuel prices and the expanded influence of energy efficiency, will lead to additional reductions in the electricity sector that measure to be 3.3 percent, compared to 2005 levels. The subnational policies are increasingly important. California's goal, embedded in State law; cap and trade in the Northeast (RGGI); and state renewable electricity and energy efficiency programs should contribute additional emissions reductions. These subnational policies alone, without the effects of secular trends in the electricity sector or any new regulations under the Clean Air Act, put the United States on target to have emissions 2.5 percent below 2005 levels. The RFF paper concludes:
"In sum, we estimate that the United States is on track to achieve emissions reductions of 16.3 percent by 2020 relative to 2005 levels.

"Important uncertainties are associated with the current path of US emissions reduction efforts that would have been lessened with the passage of comprehensive climate legislation. To forecast what will happen next in the United States, one must consider two key touchstones. One is the California program. If the first planned auction happens in November 2012, then the program will almost certainly begin in January 2013, with big implications for the nation. It is likely to face various legal challenges, but for the most part it is expected to survive intact.

"Second is the finalization of the new source performance standard for electric steam boilers, which is expected early next year, and EPA's posture in the development of existing source standards. The existing source standards may be more stringent than the technical documents have identified. That is because it is a state-driven process in which states develop implementation plans for EPA's approval. Many states view this as an opportunity to strengthen and broaden the regional trading programs. The uncertainty about the issuance of these standards is a concern, but the legal requirements of the Clean Air Act are clear. A new administration could -- slow walk -- the regulatory development and delay it for years, but is unlikely to stop it altogether.

"Another possibility is the reversal of the Clean Air Act, or at least the removal of authority for enforcing the GHG rules. This seems far-fetched because it would require an unbalanced legislature and administration. However, a less extreme outcome could be for a new legislature and administration to defund the activities of EPA in developing these rules. This would delay the rules indefinitely.

"If the eventualities play out as they currently are aligned, we find that not only is President Obama's pledge in Copenhagen within reach, but emissions reductions within the domestic economy could actually be greater than would have occurred under comprehensive climate policy with cap and trade, as proposed by Waxman–Markey. The reason is that a large portion of the emissions reductions that were expected under cap and trade would have been offsets, whereas many of the factors driving emissions reductions under the current Clean Air Act regime would have been effectively or explicitly preempted under cap and trade. . .

"In the short run, to the surprise of many, the United States appears able to meet its mitigation obligations under the Copenhagen agreement. In contrast, however, the United States seems off-course with respect to meeting its financing obligations under the agreement. Cap and trade provided a vehicle and incentive to direct private capital toward investment in developing countries through the purchase of emissions offsets. It also provided a source of funds for the federal government that could have supported the public fund contribution to the financing obligation. In contrast, under a regulatory approach, these avenues are not available. In particular, international offsets appear to be unavailable as a legal compliance instrument by which to meet GHG reduction standards under the Clean Air Act. The subnational cap-and-trade policies allow for international offsets, but their supply in those programs is limited. Private financing of energy development internationally is already extensive but generally could not be seen as an additional contribution to the outcome of US climate policy. In the absence of cap-and-trade policies in general, and an active offset market in particular, the United States is likely to have difficulty meeting its commitment to finance international investments."

    Access the complete 23-page RFF discussion paper (click here). Access links to several media articles based on the RFF paper  (click here). [#Climate, #Air]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Californians To Vote On GMO Labeling Of Food Products

Oct 25: A highly controversial ballot initiative in California will allow voters to decide whether mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food should be required. If the measure is approved it will certainly be considered in other states and in future legislation. California's Proposition 37, if approved, would require: 
  • Require labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
  • Prohibit labeling or advertising such food as "natural."
  • Exempt from this requirement foods that are "certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages."
    The initiative is highly opposed by large chemical and pesticide companies like Monsanto, E.I. Dupont, DOW Agrisciences, Bayer Cropscience, BASF Plant Science, Syngenta Corporation, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Conagra Foods who have all donated over $1 million to defeat the proposal. In all, opposition companies have contributed $35.6 million to defeat Proposition 37. Industry argues that the proposal is deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that would add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs, create new frivolous lawsuits, and increase food costs by billions -- without providing any health or safety benefits; is full of special interest exemptions; and authorizes shakedown lawsuits.
    Supporters of the initiative -- Organic Consumers Fund, Mercola Health Resources, Kent Whealy and others -- have raised some $7.7 million in support of the initiative. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), that supports the proposal indicates in a release that, "Americans eat their weight yearly in genetically engineered food, much of it created by large chemical and pesticide companies funding an expensive ad campaign to defeat the common-sense Proposition 37 to label genetically engineered foods in California."
    Ken Cook, EWG president and a resident of California said, "If genetically engineered ingredients are good for you, why do these companies want to keep you in the dark? Americans have a right to know what's in their food so we can make an informed decision for ourselves."
    EWG indicated in a release, "Anti-Proposition 37 ads are urging consumers to trust corporate giants like Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont, which have long records of releasing toxic pollution into communities' water and air and now claim that genetically engineered ingredients hidden in food are safe. In fact, neither the government nor independent research institutions have conducted health testing or long-term monitoring of the health dangers of genetically modified foods. The only studies that exist have been performed by seed companies that make so-called genetically engineered organisms [GMO]."
    Access complete information for and against Proposition 37 from the BallotPedia website (click here). Access a release from EWG (click here). [#Toxics]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NRC Scoping Meetings For New Waste Confidence Directorate EIS

Oct 24: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Waste Confidence Directorate announced it will hold two public meetings November 14 at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., to discuss the scope of the Agency's review of the environmental impacts of extended interim storage of spent nuclear fuel, including impacts associated with never building a permanent spent fuel repository and risks from spent fuel pool leaks and fires. The public scoping meetings are the initial step in developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) to support a revised "waste confidence" decision and rule. The Agency's plan for public outreach to solicit comments on the scope of the EIS includes the November 14 meetings and webinars scheduled for December 5 and 6.

    The waste confidence EIS and rulemaking stem from a game-changing, June 8 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down the NRC's 2010 waste confidence decision and rule [See WIMS 6/8/12]. On August 7, the Commission issued an Order saying the NRC will not issue licenses dependent on the waste confidence rule -- such as new reactors and early site permits, renewal of existing reactor operating licenses, and renewal of certain spent fuel storage facility licenses -- until the Court's remand is appropriately addressed. On September 6, the Commission directed the staff to develop the environmental study and the revised rule within 24 months [See WIMS 9/6/12].

    Among other things, the Appeals Court ruled, "We recognize that the Commission is in a difficult position given the political problems concerning the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Nonetheless, the Commission's obligations under NEPA require a more thorough analysis than provided for in the WCD [Waste Confidence Decision] Update. We note that the Commission is currently conducting an EIS regarding the environmental impacts of SNF [spent nuclear fuel] storage beyond the sixty-year post-license period at issue in this case, and some or all of the problems here may be addressed in such a rulemaking. In any event, we grant the petitions for review, vacate the WCD Update and TSR [Temporary Storage Rule], and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

    To facilitate public outreach, the Waste Confidence Directorate has established its own page on the NRC website (see link below). The website will be updated regularly with new public documents and information regarding the waste confidence EIS and rule. NRC's Office of Public Affairs will also provide updates on the waste confidence project through social media. Keith McConnell, director of the Waste Confidence Directorate in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards said, "In order to meet our 24-month deadline for this important project, we will work diligently to ensure the public is fully informed and has a chance to provide feedback. We are committed to giving the public meaningful opportunities to participate in this process."

    The November 14 meetings will take place in the Commission Hearing Room in the One White Flint North building of NRC headquarters, at 11555 Rockville Pike. The first will be held from 1-4 PM, and will be webcast with a moderated teleconference line to accommodate interested members of the public unable to attend in person. The second meeting will be held from 9 PM to midnight (6-9 PM Pacific Time) to accommodate people in other time zones. The evening meeting will be by webcast and moderated teleconference only (with no members of the public in attendance in Rockville), and will cover the same material as the earlier meeting. The meetings will be transcribed and the webcasts archived on the NRC website. In addition to the public meetings, the NRC staff will conduct webinars on December 5 from 1-4 PM and December 6 from 9 PM to midnight (both Eastern Time), to explain the staff's progress in developing the scope of the EIS and to accept public comments.

    More information about the scoping process, public meetings and webinars will be included in a Federal Register notice to be published tomorrow and subsequent updates to the waste confidence website. Public comments on the scope of the environmental review will be accepted through January 2. Comments may be submitted through the Federal government's rulemaking website or by mail.

    Access a release from NRC (click here). Access the Waste Confidence website for more information (click here). Access the COMSECY-12-0016 Memo (click here). Access the September 6, 2012 Staff Directive Memo (click here). Access the NRC votes and individual Commissioner comments (click here). Access the complete Appeals Court opinion (click here). [#Haz/Nuclear, #Energy/Nuclear]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Industry Study Touts Major Benefits From Shale Energy Development

Oct 23: A comprehensive new study co-sponsored by the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy demonstrates that shale energy will create millions of jobs and trillions in investments over the coming decades. The Chamber partnered with the American Petroleum Institute, American Chemistry Council and Natural Gas Supply Association to sponsor the study. According to a release, the report was produced by IHS CERA, a leading independent global energy research firm. The study, America's New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil and Gas Revolution and the U.S. Economy, is the first-ever to examine the impact of shale energy development across the country and provide concrete numbers to help Americans understand how beneficial the impacts of shale could be.

    Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Energy Institute said, "We've known for some time that shale energy is truly a game-changer for America -- and now we can prove it. This new, comprehensive study demonstrates that shale energy is already contributing over $200 billion to our economy, with much more to come, if policymakers at all levels of government don't stand in the way." The study indicates that shale energy development has created 1.75 million jobs over the past few years alone. By 2015, shale and unconventional energy will be responsible for 2.5 million jobs; by 2020, 3 million, and by 2035, 3.5 million.

    Daniel Yergin, IHS vice chairman and author of The Quest said, "The growth of unconventional oil and gas production is creating a new energy reality for the United States. That growth has not only contributed to U.S. energy security but is a significant source of new jobs and economic activity at a time when the economy is a top priority." In 2012, shale energy is responsible for $62 billion in tax revenue according to the study. Between now and 2035, shale energy development is expected to contribute more than $2.5 trillion in total tax revenue -- more than half of which will go to states and localities.  Overall, between now and 2035, the energy industry will invest more than $5.1 trillion in energy development.

    In addition to the benefit to our economy, there is a tangible benefit to America's energy security from shale. Shale oil production has helped increase domestic production of oil by more than 25 percent over the last four years. By 2015, oil production is expected to increase by 46 percent over 2008, and by 2020, there will be a 68 percent increase -- predominantly because of shale. Harbert said, "Shale energy not only creates jobs, it will also strengthen our energy security. Thanks largely to shale, America now has enough natural gas to supply our nation for over 100 years. In addition, shale also will reduce the need for oil imports. In fact, our study shows that by 2020, net oil imports will decrease by 60 percent, and America will spend $200 billion less on imported oil."

    The IHS CERA study released today is the first in a three-part series designed to shed light on the impact of shale. Part one of the study focuses exclusively on the impact of operations surrounding the extraction of oil and gas (referred to as "upstream" operations.)  A second study will be released that will quantify the impacts of shale by state. The final installment will examine the entire economic impact of shale, including components like manufacturing and chemicals (known as "downstream" operations).

    ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley said, "This study delivers plenty of good news for the chemical industry and other American manufacturers. Abundant and affordable supplies of natural gas are revitalizing the chemical industry and providing a competitive edge for manufacturers in the global marketplace. This study confirms that these benefits from natural gas liquids are not a short-term phenomenon but an ongoing trend expected to last for decades."

    API President and CEO Jack Gerard said, "The study highlights the extraordinary opportunities we have right here at home to develop our unconventional oil and gas resources and return our economy to a pro-growth engine. Polls show Americans' top priority is job creation and the oil and natural gas industry will be a driver for those new jobs, with nearly three quarters of a million new jobs added over just the next three years."

     R. Skip Horvath, president and CEO of NGSA said, "The main take-away from this study is that 94 percent of the jobs accrue to our customers, with just 6 percent of the jobs accounted for by producers. That's why people are justified in calling unconventional gas a renaissance for the entire U.S. economy."

    Access a release from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). Access a release from API (click here). Access a release from NGSA (click here). Access the report website and link to the complete 184-page report, a video, summary information and more (click here). [#Energy/Shale]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, October 22, 2012

Major Report Links Human Climate Change & Severe Weather

Oct 17: A new study by Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurance companies, shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. The publication -- Severe weather in North America: Perils · Risks · Insurance -- analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. It reports and shows that the continent has experienced the largest increases in weather-related loss events.  For the period concerned -- 1980 to 2011 -- the overall loss burden from weather catastrophes was US$ 1,060bn (in 2011 values). The insured losses amounted to US$ 510bn, and some 30,000 people lost their lives due to weather catastrophes in North America during this time frame. With US$ 62.2bn insured losses and overall losses of US$ 125bn (in original values) Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest event ever recorded in the US. Katrina was also the deadliest single storm event, claiming 1,322 lives.

    The study was prepared in order to support underwriters and clients in North America, the world's largest insurance and reinsurance market. Using its NatCatSERVICE -- with more than 30,000 records the most comprehensive loss data base for natural catastrophes -- Munich Re analyzes the frequency and loss trends of different perils from an insurance perspective. The North American continent is exposed to every type of hazardous weather peril -- tropical cyclone, thunderstorm, winter storm, tornado, wildfire, drought and flood. One reason for this is that there is no mountain range running east to west that separates hot from cold air.

    According to a release, nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways. Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity. The view that weather extremes are becoming more frequent and intense in various regions due to global warming is in keeping with current scientific findings, as set out in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as in the special report on weather extremes and disasters (SREX). Up to now, however, the increasing losses caused by weather related natural catastrophes have been primarily driven by socio-economic factors, such as population growth, urban sprawl and increasing wealth.

    Among many other risk insights the study now provides new evidence for the emerging impact of climate change. For thunderstorm-related losses the analysis reveals increasing volatility and a significant long-term upward trend in the normalized figures over the last 40 years. These figures have been adjusted to account for factors such as increasing values, population growth and inflation. A detailed analysis of the time series indicates that the observed changes closely match the pattern of change in meteorological conditions necessary for the formation of large thunderstorm cells. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers. The climatic changes detected are in line with the modeled changes due to human-made climate change.

    The Head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research unit, Prof. Peter Höppe said, "In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing." Höppe continued that even without changing hazard conditions, increases in population, built-up areas and increasing values, particularly in hazard-prone regions, need to be on Munich Re's risk radar. All stakeholders should collaborate and close ranks to support improved adaptation. In addition, climate change mitigation measures should be supported to limit global warming in the long term to a still manageable level. He said, "As North America is particularly exposed to all kinds of weather risks, it especially would benefit from this." 

    Peter Röder, Board member with responsibility for the US market said, "Climate change-related increases in hazards -- unlike increases in exposure -- are not automatically reflected in the premiums. In order to realize a sustainable model of insurance, it is crucially important for us as risk managers to learn about this risk of change and find improved solutions for adaptation, but also mitigation. We should prepare for the weather risk changes that lie ahead, and nowhere more so than in North America."

    Tony Kuczinski, CEO of Munich Reinsurance America said, "This publication represents another contribution to the global dialogue concerning weather-related activities and their causes. What is clearly evident when the longterm data is reviewed is that losses from weather events are trending upward. To simply say that this trend is a statistical anomaly or part of a long-term cycle of activity misses the point of these efforts -- we must set aside our biases and continue a meaningful dialogue in search of answers to mitigate the losses that we are experiencing."

    Access a lengthy release from Munich Re with further details (click here). Access a 12-page executive summary (click here). Access more details, table of contents and information on obtaining the complete 274 page report (click here, registration required). Access the Munich Re Climate Change website for more information (click here). [#Climate]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Friday, October 19, 2012

NWF Report Details Major Pipeline Threat to Great Lakes

Oct 18: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) released a report warning of a pipeline hazard located beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Just west of the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge, below the water's surface, lie two 20-inch pipelines, called Line 5, that carry a total of 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids each day from Superior, Wisconsin east through the Upper Peninsula to the bridge, then south through to Michigan and another Great Lakes crossing at Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipelines were placed in the Straits of Mackinac in 1953. The aging pipelines are operated by Enbridge Energy -- the Canadian company responsible for the worst inland oil disaster in U.S. history. NWF said the report comes as Enbridge faces increasing scrutiny for safety lapses both in the U.S. and Canada.

    The report, Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac, an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes, documents how an oil spill from the pipeline -- commonly referred to as Line 5 -- would have devastating consequences for people, fish, wildlife and the economy. Andy Buchsbaum, director of the NWF Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor said, "This is a recipe for disaster. This toxic oil pipeline is 60 years old, runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, and is operated by a company with a terrible record of spills and ruptures. Now they want to increase pressure and temperature in the line by pumping an additional 50,000 barrels -- 2.1 million gallons -- per day. This is a BP oil spill scale catastrophe waiting to happen."

    Enbridge Energy, according to the report, has been responsible for more than 800 pipeline spills in the United States and Canada from 1999-2010, including the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history, in which more than 1 million gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River. NWF indicated, "Despite its shoddy safety record, Enbridge Energy is now trying to expand Line 5. This project is part of a system wide expansion that will have massive impacts throughout the entire Great Lakes region as Enbridge gears up to push incredible amounts of toxic tar sands oil through our waters to refineries that dot the lakes. In addition, that oil is not likely to stay here. Enbridge is also expanding their pipeline network east of Michigan to push tar sands oil to New England and possibly out for export through the Portland-Montreal pipeline.

    Beth Wallace with NWF said, "We are extremely concerned about all of Enbridge's plans to expand and what this will mean for the Great Lakes, but we are especially concerned about Enbridge getting approvals to expand pumping through Line 5. It would be a serious mistake for federal officials to rubber stamp this project based on Enbridge's track record of devastating oil spills that have harmed our communities, economy and environment. There is very little known about the integrity of Line 5 because Enbridge, and agencies charged with pipeline oversight, refuse to provide the pubic maintenance records or inspection history. What we do know is that Enbridge's emergency response plans for this location are abysmal. The overall line is nearly 60 years old and has had its fair share of spills. And there is no margin for error when it comes to preventing oil spills in the Great Lakes: the Lakes provide drinking water for 30 million people in the U.S. and Canada, support a $7 billion fishery, a $16 billion recreational boating economy and are the backbone of one of the world's largest regional economies."

    The report makes the following recommendations to address the sunken hazard of Enbridge's Line 5:

  • PHMSA [U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] should deny the proposed 50,000 barrels per day expansion of the Enbridge pumping rate. PHMSA has authority under a federal corrective action agreement to regulate Enbridge activities anywhere along the Lakehead system, which includes Line 5. The higher pressures, and possibly temperatures, in a 60-year old line are too great a risk to the Straits, one of the jewels of Michigan and the Great Lakes.
  • Enbridge should be required to install additional response centers on either side of the Straits to speed their response to any spills or ruptures.
  • The 60-year old pipeline should be replaced, but only to its current size. Michigan should not have even more oil running through the Great Lakes.
  • The federal agency, PHMSA, should declare a moratorium on any new or expanded pipelines that transport a highly toxic form of crude -- tar sands derived oil that contains diluted bitumen -- until after the National Academy of Sciences completes an ongoing study on this type of crude and new regulations are promulgated.
  • Passage of the proposed ballot measure to increase clean energy from utilities, Proposal 3, would reduce the diesel gasoline used to transport coal into the state and promote the type of technological innovation that increases fuel economy in vehicles and decreases the demand for gasoline.
    Access a release from NWF (click here). Access the complete 17-page report (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #GLakes]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celebration Of The Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary

Oct 18: Environmental organizations, conservationist and legislators are reminding and celebrating that forty years ago, in a show of bipartisan support, Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972. Hunters and anglers have supported strong Clean Water Act (CWA) protections, understanding that clean water and healthy wetlands and streams are essential to healthy fish and wildlife. This year, they remind "we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the historic results this keystone legislation has achieved: healthier water to drink; cleaner streams, rivers, and lakes in which to swim, fish, and play; and dramatically lower rates of natural wetland loss." They said, "As the Clean Water Act turns 40, America must get back on the path to clean, healthy waters and wetlands. The administration must follow through on its comprehensive efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to wetlands, lakes, and streams in a science-based manner."

    Representative John Dingell, who represents the 15th district of Michigan said, "On October 18, we mark the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. My home state of Michigan is blessed with a vast and marvelous natural resource -- the Great Lakes -- and I am proud to have played an integral role in passing this landmark legislation. As a steadfast conservationist and outdoorsman, I firmly believe that we owe it to future generations to restore and protect national treasures like the Great Lakes and the waterways we recreate in. As my dear Dad taught me, we borrow the resources of today from our citizens of tomorrow."

    A September 2012 poll of hunters and anglers found that regardless of political affiliation, 79% of hunters and anglers favor restoring Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and waterways, including small creeks and streams. Recent polls in Colorado, Ohio, and Wisconsin found similar results on this issue. In this fractious election year, it is worth noting that poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans support strong federal Clean Water Act protections in order to ensure clean water for all. The groups remind, "The Clean Water Act has cleaned up millions of miles of streams, small and large. Families, communities, farmers, and businesses depend on clean, healthy waters for their health, jobs, and prosperity." 

    Jan Goldman-Carter, National Wildlife Federation's senior manager said, "The Clean Water Act is essential to keeping our drinking water safe; providing millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat across the country; ensuring abundant clean water for irrigating crops; and bolstering the robust fishery, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries. Wetlands and Water Resources. "Clean water is a public right and fundamental in protecting our livelihoods, wildlife, communities, and economy."

    Scott Kovarovics, acting executive director of Izaak Walton League of America said, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported that tens of millions of Americans spend $145 billion annually on hunting, angling, and wildlife watching. These dollars are spent in local restaurants, on guides and outfitters, and on everything from shotguns to fishing rods and boats and decoys. Millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, as well as our hunting and angling traditions, all benefit from Clean Water Act protections for streams, lakes and wetlands."

    Steve Moyer, Vice President of Trout Unlimited said, "America's anglers have seen first hand that the Clean Water Act has been a tremendous boon for their sporting tradition. From the most dedicated anglers to those who might only fish once per year, sportsmen everywhere can thank clean water protections for more miles of fishable water and higher quality fishing trips."

    Steve Kline, director of Center for Agriculture and Private Lands at Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said, "The aims of the Clean Water Act – to ensure drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters across the country – have largely not been realized. With millions of acres of wetlands and headwaters lost and still more threatened, it is time to recommit ourselves to the original goals of the legislation, which are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago."

    The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution. Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to sweeping amendments in 1972. As amended in 1972, the law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The 1972 amendments:

  • Established the basic structure for regulating pollutants discharges into the waters of the United States.
  • Gave EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.
  • Maintained existing requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.
  • Made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions.
  • Funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program.
  • Recognized the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by nonpoint source pollution.

    Access a release from the organizations with links to related information and a fact sheet (click here). Access U.S. EPA's CWA 40th Anniversary website (click here). Access the Clean Water Network website for more information (click here). [#Water, #MIWater]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Energy Becomes Key Point In 2nd Presidential Debate

Oct 16: An intense back and forth between President Obama and Governor Romney on energy issues was a significant part of the second Presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The following are excerpts related to energy issues.
President Obama:
". . .we've got to control our own energy. Now, not only oil and natural gas, which we've been investing in; but also, we've got to make sure we're building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but ten years from now, 20 years from now. That's why we've invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars.

"The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I've also said is we can't just produce traditional source of energy. We've also got to look to the future. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That's why we doubled clean -- clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.

"And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We've got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas. And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we've also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that's how we're going to reduce demand and that's what's going to keep gas prices lower.

"Now, Governor Romney will say he's got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he's got the oil and gas part, but he doesn't have the clean energy part. And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we're not going to control our own economic future. Because China, Germany, they're making these investments. And I'm not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States."

". . .there's no doubt that world [oil & gas] demand's gone up, but our production is going up, and we're using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my -- the previous president was an oil man. And natural gas isn't just appearing magically. We're encouraging it and working with the industry.

"And when I hear Governor Romney say he's a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when -- Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, 'This plant kills,' and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you're a big champion of coal. So what I've tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we're producing more coal, we're producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.

"And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we're also starting to build cars that are more efficient. And that's creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, 'cause that's the demand around the world, and it also means that it'll save money in your pocketbook. That's the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do in the next four years. . . "

"And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we've -- we've built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once. So, I'm all for pipelines. I'm all for oil production. What I'm not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says "these are imaginary jobs." When you've got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that -- in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I'm opposed. I'd get rid of it. That's not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States. . ."

Governor Romney:
". . .the president's right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land [See link to analysis of this statement below], and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters. So where'd the increase come from? Well a lot of it came from the Bakken Range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cost? 20 or 25 birds were killed and brought out a migratory bird act to go after them on a criminal basis.
"Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities; ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don't need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, "Please save my job." The head of the EPA said, "You can't build a coal plant. You'll virtually -- it's virtually impossible given our regulations." When the president ran for office, he said if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you'll go bankrupt. That's not the right course for America.
"Let's take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I'm planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North America energy independence within eight years, you're going to see manufacturing jobs come back. Because our energy is low cost, that are already beginning to come back because of our abundant energy. I'll get America and North America energy independent. I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We're going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline? I will never know. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that's what I'm going to do. . ."
"In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half. . . [significant back and forth with the President about this point] . . . Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent [major disagreement from the President] . . .It's absolutely true. Look, there's no question but the people recognize that we have not produced more (inaudible) on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up. I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don't think anyone really believes that you're a person who's going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. . .
"I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas. And the proof, the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump. If you're paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you're paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4.00 a gallon. The price of electricity is up.

"If the president's energy policies are working, you're going to see the cost of energy come down. I will fight to create more energy in this country, to get America energy secure. And part of that is bringing in a pipeline of oil from Canada, taking advantage of the oil and coal we have here, drilling offshore in Alaska, drilling offshore in Virginia where the people want it. Those things will get us the energy we need. . .

"I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country. I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I'm going to make sure -- we're taking advantage of our energy resources. We'll bring back manufacturing to America. We're going to get through a very aggressive energy policy, 31/2 million more jobs in this country. It's critical to our future. . ."
    Access the complete transcript of the October 16, 2012 Presidential debate (click here). Access more information on this debate and all other from the Commission on Presidential Debate website (click here). Access the analysis of the oil production statement (click here). [#Energy]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GAO Reports On Stimulus Funding For DOE Site Cleanups

Oct 15: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Recovery Act: Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened (GAO-13-23, Oct 15, 2012). The report was prepared for bipartisan members of a number of Congressional committees.
    In background information, GAO indicates that The Recovery Act (i.e. the Stimulus funding) aimed to stimulate the economy and create jobs. DOE received $6 billion in Recovery Act funds that it is using to clean up 17 sites contaminated by radioactive and hazardous wastes from decades of nuclear research and weapons production. The cleanup is primarily carried out by contractors. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 requires GAO to periodically report on DOE's Recovery Act-funded EM cleanup projects. In response to this mandate, GAO examined: (1) the number of Recovery Act-funded FTEs [full time equivalent jobs) by quarter; (2) the status and performance of cleanup projects; and (3) project management issues, if any, that arose during project implementation and any lessons learned.
    In addition, the Recovery Act requires GAO to comment and report quarterly on estimates of jobs funded and counted as measured by the number of FTEs and to conduct bimonthly reviews on the use of the act's funds. GAO examined Recovery Act FTEs, spending, project performance data, and lessons learned from Recovery Act projects; and interviewed DOE and contractor officials.
    GAO found that from October 2009 through March 2012, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) and working on Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) cleanup projects peaked at about 11,000 FTEs in the quarter ending September 2010, according to data on the Federal government's Recovery Act website. By the second quarter of fiscal year 2012, as projects were completed, FTEs had decreased to about 1,400 FTEs; 12 of 17 sites reported no Recovery Act FTEs; and about $5.6 billion of a total $6 billion in Recovery Act funds had been spent. According to EM data, as of April 30, 2012, 78 of the 112 Recovery Act-funded cleanup projects were complete, and 72 of the 78 projects met DOE's performance standard of completing project work scope without exceeding the cost target by more than 10 percent.

    According to EM officials, the completed Recovery Act projects have helped accelerate the cleanup at the sites. GAO, however, found several inconsistencies in how EM set and documented projects' scope, cost, and schedule targets. Without clear scope, cost, or schedule targets in performance baselines, it becomes difficult to assess project performance. For example, in some cases, EM set scope targets differently in different documents and claimed project success even if key performance parameters were not achieved. Current guidance on setting performance baselines is more comprehensive for capital asset projects, such as building or demolishing facilities or constructing remediation systems, than for projects known as operation activity projects, such as operating a groundwater treatment plant. In addition, capital asset projects costing under $10 million are classified as operation activity projects.

    Some of EM's long-standing project management problems occurred during its implementation of several Recovery Act projects, primarily insufficient early planning before setting performance baselines. For example, a project to remove wastes from a landfill at one site exceeded its $111 million cost target by $20 million because, after beginning the project, officials determined that the site would need to be excavated to a depth of almost double that planned. In addition, EM's new initiative to reclassify projects as either capital asset or operation activity projects raised concerns about how projects were reclassified. EM does not have a clear policy that sets out under what conditions and how EM should break a capital asset project into smaller, discrete operation activity projects. Project classification is important, however, because some requirements apply only to capital asset projects. EM's guidance for projects classified as operation activity projects under this initiative states that certain approval and reporting requirements will not be applied, and others will be applied as appropriate. Some DOE and other officials expressed concern that projects could be broken into smaller projects to avoid the requirements. For example, a $30 million project, partially funded with Recovery Act funds, was divided into 18 smaller projects, each below the $10 million threshold. The cost for one of these smaller projects eventually doubled -- from $8 million to $16 million -- but was not reclassified as a capital asset project. EM has been gathering information on lessons learned from Recovery Act projects, some of which could be applied as corrective measures to other EM cleanup work.

    GAO recommends, among other things, that DOE: (1) clarify guidance on developing and documenting project performance baselines; and (2) issue a policy that sets out the criteria with greater specificity for reclassifying capital asset projects over $10 million into smaller operation activity projects under $10 million. DOE agreed with GAO's recommendations.
    Access the complete 56-page report (click here). [#Remed, #Haz/Nuclear]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Urban Land Expansion Will Impact Biodiversity & Ecosystems

Oct 15: A new assessment by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).Global indicates that "urbanization will have significant implications for biodiversity and ecosystems if current trends continue, with knock-on effects for human health and development." The assessment -- Cities and Biodiversity Outlook -- which draws on contributions from more than 123 scientists worldwide, states that over 60 percent of the land projected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built. This presents a major opportunity to greatly improve global sustainability by promoting low-carbon, resource-efficient urban development that can reduce adverse effects on biodiversity and improve quality of life, it says. 
    The report is the world's first global analysis of how projected patterns of urban land expansion will impact biodiversity and crucial ecosystems. The world's total urban area is expected to triple between 2000 and 2030, with urban populations set to double to around 4.9 billion in the same period. This urban expansion will draw heavily on water and other natural resources and will consume prime agricultural land.
    Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the CBD said, "The way our cities are designed, the way people live in them and the policy decisions of local authorities will define, to a large extent, future global sustainability. The innovation lies not so much in developing new infrastructural technologies and approaches but to work with what we already have. The results often require fewer economic resources and are more sustainable."
    The report states that urban expansion is occurring fast in areas close to biodiversity 'hotspots' and coastal zones. In rapidly urbanizing regions, such as large and mid-size settlements in sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, resources to implement sustainable urban planning are often lacking. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said, "More than half the global population already resides in cities. This number is projected to increase, with 60 percent of the population living in urban areas by 2030. This report makes a strong argument for greater attention to be paid by urban planners and managers to the nature-based assets within city boundaries. Sustainable urban development that supports valuable ecosystems presents a major opportunity for improving lives and livelihoods, and accelerating the transition to an inclusive green economy."
    Cities are also increasingly recognized for their role in supporting plant and animal species and diverse ecosystems. For example, over 50 percent of Belgium's floral species can be found in Brussels, while 65 percent of Poland's bird species occur in Warsaw. Urban green spaces perform important ecosystem services, such as filtering dust, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and improving air quality. Data from the United Kingdom shows that a 10 percent increase in tree canopy cover in cities may result in a 3-4°C decrease in ambient temperature, thus reducing energy used in air conditioning.
    Urban biodiversity also delivers important health benefits. Studies have shown that proximity to trees can reduce the prevalence of childhood asthma and allergies. Sustainable urban planning, which addresses biodiversity issues along with other priorities such as poverty alleviation, employment, and housing, can bring positive effects for health and the environment. Professor Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Scientific Editor of the report said, "Cities need to learn how to better protect and enhance biodiversity, because rich biodiversity can exist in cities and is extremely critical to people's health and well-being."
    The report highlights a wide range of successful initiatives by cities, local authorities and sub-national governments in both developed and developing countries. In Bogotá, Colombia, measures such as closing roads on weekends, improving the bus transit system and creating bicycle paths resulted in increased physical activity among residents, and a reduction in greenhouse gases emissions. 
    The report also provides detailed analyses of regional urbanization trends and their impact on biodiversity and ecosystems. It also demonstrates how urban areas can play a central role in achieving 20 key biodiversity goals (known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets) which were agreed upon in 2010 by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. For example, the restoration or 'greening' of ex-industrial sites or brownfield land by city authorities can support efforts to achieve Aichi Target 15, whereby 15 percent of degraded ecosystems are restored by 2020. Cities can also help prevent extinction of known species (Aichi Target 12) through research and investment by zoos, aquaria and museums, many of which are managed by city authorities.
    The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook was produced by the Secretariat of the CBD in partnership with the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity operates under the UNEP.
    Access a release from UNEP with additional information and links to related items (click here). Access the report website for links to the complete report, a launch video and extensive related information and resources (click here). [#Land, #Sustain]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals