Friday, March 29, 2013

EPA Proposes Major Tier 3 Low Sulfur Air Rules

Mar 29: U.S. EPA released what it called "proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive." EPA said the proposed regulations were based on extensive input from auto manufactures, refiners, and states. Starting in 2017, the new Tier 3 rules would set new vehicle emissions standards and lower the sulfur content of gasoline. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be available for public comment and EPA will hold public hearings to receive further public input.
    Additionally, the Agency said the "cleaner fuels and cars standards" are an important component of the Administration's national program for clean cars and trucks, which also include "historic fuel efficiency standards that are saving new vehicle owners at the gas pump today. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children."

    In a release, EPA said that following a proven systems approach that addresses vehicles and fuels as an integrated system, the 885-page proposed rules will enable the greatest pollution reductions at the lowest cost. The proposal will "slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses," including reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard, and reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero. The proposal will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.

    EPA indicated that the proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance. EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said, "The Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to reinvigorate the auto industry and ensure that the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, more efficient and saving drivers money at the pump and these common-sense cleaner fuels and cars standards are another example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way. Today's proposed standards – which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states.

    By 2030, EPA estimates that the total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually. The program would also reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day. EPA's proposal is estimated to provide up to seven dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards. The proposed sulfur standards will cost refineries less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The proposed vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025. The proposal also includes flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

    The proposed standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent -- down to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. This means that vehicles built prior to the proposed standards will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur gas, providing significant and immediate benefits by reducing emissions from every gas-powered vehicle on the road.

    EPA said the proposed standards will work together with California's clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The proposal is designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA's national program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017. Together, the Federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty and streamlining compliance.
    The proposed fuel sulfur standards include an averaging, banking, and trading (ABT) program that would allow refiners and importers to spread out their investments through an early credit program and rely on ongoing nationwide averaging to meet the sulfur standard. EPA is also proposing flexibilities such as hardship provisions for extenuating circumstances, as well as flexibility provisions for small businesses (small manufacturers of Tier 3 vehicles and small refiners), small volume manufacturers, and small volume refineries.
    In response to proposed new "Tier 3" standards for clean fuels and cars, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers released a statement saying, "Automakers have already reduced vehicle emissions by 99%, and we're working to go further while also delivering high quality, affordable vehicles to our customers. Our goal is a rule that harmonizes with California's Low Emission Vehicle (LEV III) program finalized in 2012. Eliminating differing timelines, regulatory procedures and test methods at the federal and state levels will help reduce emissions and avoid extra costs to consumers. For future progress, our advanced emission-control technologies that are necessary to meet the challenging 2017-2025 greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards will require cleaner, low-sulfur fuels similar to those available today in Europe and Asia." [See WIMS 3/27/13].
    The Alliance represents 77% of all car and light truck sales in the United States, including the BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars North America.
    House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented on the proposal saying, "Increases in gas prices disproportionately hurt the nation's most vulnerable individuals and families -- with $4 dollar a gallon gas the norm in many parts of the country, we cannot afford policies that knowingly raises gas prices. Instead of raising gas prices, the Obama administration should focus on bringing stability and greater supplies to our energy markets by green-lighting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, which will carry approximately one million barrels per day of oil from a close ally to the United States."

    Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee said, "The Obama administration cannot be more out of touch. With hard-pressed families already struggling to afford each fill-up, Congress needs to take a hard look at any new EPA regulation that may raise the price at the pump. We will review this new proposal to make sure that it delivers air quality benefits at the least cost to the driving public while preserving auto and refining industry jobs. This is just another example of an overzealous EPA." Last year, the House passed H.R.4480, the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, which would have deferred the finalization of Tier 3 pending an inter-agency analysis of its impact, along with other pending regulations, on energy prices, jobs, and American competitiveness.

    E&C Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a statement saying, "This proposal makes sense and should be finalized as soon as possible. When we clean up the fuel supply, our air gets cleaner and lives are saved.  This proposal will also allow the automakers to bring innovative technology to market, creating jobs, saving consumers money, and keeping the U.S. on the leading edge of global manufacturing."  

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement saying EPA's proposed Tier 3 fuel regulations "could raise refiners' costs, provide little or no environmental benefit, and actually increase carbon emissions." API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco said, "There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices. EPA's proposed fuel regulations are the latest example. Consumers care about the price of fuel, and our government should not be adding unnecessary regulations that raise manufacturing costs, especially when there are no proven environmental benefits. We should not pile on new regulations when existing regulations are working."

    API indicated in a release that, "EPA's Tier 3 proposal would increase the cost of gasoline production by up to nine cents per gallon, according to
an analysis by energy consulting firm Baker & O'Brien. If EPA adds a vapor pressure reduction requirement in a separate regulation, it would push the cost increase up to 25 cents a gallon, according to Baker & O'Brien. Separately, gasoline costs would also rise 30 percent by 2015 unless changes are made to federal ethanol mandates, according to a newly-released study by NERA Economic Consulting. Greco also cited EPA's upcoming proposal for new ozone standards that could further increase manufacturing costs."
    Greco said, "Implementing the new requirements would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions because of the energy-intensive equipment required to comply. We urge the administration to bring common sense back into the regulatory process. Unnecessary regulations just mean higher costs and lost jobs."
    The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), formerly the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association indicated it was concerned about EPA's proposal to require further reductions in sulfur levels in gasoline. AFPM President Charles Drevna said, "While we haven't had the opportunity to review the report, EPA's decision to move forward with Tier 3's gasoline sulfur reduction program is completely without merit given that the Agency has not previously offered any cost/benefit analysis to justify this onerous rulemaking. The Agency's failure until today to provide any information on the need for this discretionary rule, despite repeated requests from American fuel manufacturers, strongly suggests the lack of a credible case." 
    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the long-awaited proposal of updated standards to reduce soot, smog and other dangerous types of tailpipe pollution from cars and light trucks. EDF's Mark MacLeod said, "The new Tier 3 standards will make our cars cleaner, and that means we'll have cleaner air to breathe. Reducing tailpipe pollution will provide healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans for less than a penny per gallon of gas. That's why updating the standards has such broad support from U.S. auto makers, state health commissioners, and health advocates."  Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "These common-sense standards will save lives, save money and clean up our air -- all at a minimal cost. Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren't worth it. But that's because they care about profits above all else."
    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a statement saying, "The proposal enjoys support from a broad range of industry and advocacy groups while the oil industry alone fights to block these important steps to protect public health. The oil industry stands alone in opposition to the new rules, while a plethora of health, consumer, labor, manufacturer, scientific and environmental groups support these standards." Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles program said, "The path from a car's tailpipe to our lungs is surprisingly short, and more than 1 in 3 Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal limit. Today's proposal is a common-sense step that will protect our health while growing our economy. This is a stellar encore to the fuel efficiency main act. Together, these standards represent the largest step in our nation's history toward reducing harmful emissions from the vehicles we drive every day. The chorus of support for these new standards is as widespread as it is unprecedented. Obviously, oil companies work for their own best interests, but when it comes to Tier 3, it's only a solo act."
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's "Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program" website for complete details including summaries, the complete prepublication Federal Register announcement, regulatory impact analysis, technical support documents and more (click here). Access the statement from the Alliance (click here). Access a release from the House E&C Committee Republicans (click here). Access a release from the House E&C Committee Democrats (click here).Access the API statement with links to the cited studies (click here). Access a release from AFPM (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). [#Air, #Climate, #Energy #Transport]
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Groups Petition For Moratorium & New Pipeline Regs

Mar 27: A coalition of landowners, former and current government officials, environmental, renewable energy and sportsmen's groups filed a petition today with the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. EPA asking the agencies to develop stronger safety standards for tar sands oil pipelines.

    Beth Wallace with the Great Lakes Regional Center said, "Three years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, little has been done to improve pipeline safety. This disaster should have been a wake-up call to industry, regulators and public officials. Instead industry is being allowed to expand pipelines across the region and even under the Great Lakes themselves, which will continue to put communities, wildlife and our economy at risk."   

    The petition effort is spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and includes 29 national, state and local organizations as well as 36 landowners from states across the country impacted by existing and proposed tar sands pipelines. It requests a halt to new or expanded tar sands pipelines until adequate rules are in place.
    Jim Murphy, Senior Council at NWF said, "This petition is an exercise of citizens' rights to request that government live up to its charge to follow the law, and protect us from the harms and risk of a tar sands pipeline spill. Until the right standards are put into place, we shouldn't be exposing more communities and resources to tar sands risks. We expect the government to answer our request and live up to its charge to properly address the unique risks of tar sands transportation."
    According to a release from the groups, current pipeline regulations were issued long before tar sands oil production ramped up and do not cover the unique aspects of tar sands. Tar sands oil poses more acute risks than conventional fuels shipped through pipelines because the oil is a volatile mix of raw bitumen – an asphalt-like substance – diluted with gas condensates. Diluted bitumen is a toxic, viscous, corrosive substance with the consistency of gritty peanut butter that must be moved at much higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil. Strong evidence indicates tar sands oil threatens pipeline integrity.
    Jeff Inkso, writer of the Line 6B citizen blog and landowner impacted by the Enbridge expansion project said, "Even after what happened in Marshall, pipeline companies have continued to run roughshod over the state of Michigan while regulatory agencies and elected officials have stood by idly and allowed it to happen."
    Between 2007 and 2010, pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan -- the main states with a history of tar sands oil pipelines -- spilled almost three times more crude oil per mile of pipeline when compared to the U.S. national average. In a scathing report on the Kalamazoo River spill near Marshall, MI, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed blame at current regulations, calling them "weak" and "inadequate." The petition requests new standards tightening several aspects of oil transport and pipeline safety:
  • Stronger safety requirements than those for conventional crude oil;
  • Industry disclosure of products carried through pipelines and their conveyance schedules;
  • Stronger industry spill response plans;
  • Shut-down requirements upon the first indication of a leak or other pipeline failure;
  • Repair of pipelines as soon as defects are discovered;
  • Transparent pipeline inspection reporting; and
  • Pipeline inspection and monitoring by independent entities unaffiliated with pipeline or energy companies;
  • A moratorium on building new or expanded tar sands pipelines until new regulations are final. 
    Supporters of the petition will be seeking cosigners over the next few months. Under the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, citizens can file a formal petition requesting that a Federal agency take specific actions required by law or change existing regulations. The petition requests a change in existing regulations. Federal agencies are required to respond.
    Access a release from NWF with a complete list of petition signers (click here). Access the complete 54-page petition with links to referenced documents and information (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #GLakes]
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NRDC: Pesticides Are Approved By Flawed EPA Process

Mar 27: A two-year investigation by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has found that the Federal government has potentially threatened the public's health by improperly using a regulatory loophole to approve many untested or under-tested toxic pesticides. NRDC has found that U.S. EPA used this loophole to approve 65 percent of 16,000 pesticides for use in consumer products and agricultural processes. NRDC released its report on the investigation, Superficial Safeguards: Most Pesticides are Approved by Flawed EPA Process, that calls for major reforms in the government's approval process for toxic pesticides.

    The report outlines how the EPA has used what is known as conditional registration -- which Congress intended to be used sparingly -- to grant approval for the majority of pesticides. It also reveals that the EPA cannot easily track the history of conditionally approved pesticides to determine whether required toxicity data was submitted, whether that caused a dangerous use of a pesticide to be cancelled, or whether the uses or restrictions should be modified based in such data. The NRDC report follows an announcement on March 21, of a lawsuit filed by beekeepers, as well as Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, and the Center for Environmental Health that challenges EPA's ongoing handling of pesticides as well as the agency's practice of "conditional registration" and labeling deficiencies [See WIMS 3/22/13].

    Jennifer Sass, NRDC senior health scientist and co-author of the report said, "The American public may think all pesticides receive rigorous health and safety testing before they hit the shelves for sale. But our investigation shows their trust is misplaced. The EPA has casually approved more than 10,000 pesticides for use in consumer products and in agriculture through this loophole. They've done so without transparency or public comment, and, in some cases, without toxicity tests to determine safety guidelines for public use." Co-author Mae Wu, NRDC attorney said, "For the sake of our health, the EPA should cancel conditional pesticide registrations with overdue toxicity tests and those that pose a risk to the public. And EPA needs to clean up its abysmal pesticide database to provide more transparency and accountability, and safeguards for public health."

    NRDC's report, which outlines the EPA's pesticide approval process, highlights two case studies on conditionally approved pesticides. The first one, nanosilver -- which may damage cells in the brain, liver and other organs, and pass from mother to fetus --is widely used as an antimicrobial agent in clothing. The second one, clothianidin -- which is in a family of pesticides connected to widespread deaths of bees in the United States and beyond -- was approved based on a flawed bee field test. Both remain on the market today.

    In 1972, Congress amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to impose more stringent testing requirements to register pesticides. Registrants subsequently struggled to meet the new data requirements by the law's deadlines. To address this problem, in 1978 Congress created the conditional registration procedure. Congress intended for the EPA to use its conditional registration process only under certain circumstances to allow some pesticides onto the market to serve the public interest, or while required data is produced and submitted. But NRDC examined the pesticide registry database and determined the EPA has abused this authority to send onto the marketplace the majority of pesticides.

    NRDC determined that the EPA is not tracking conditional registrations to assess whether toxicity or other required health or environmental impact data is submitted. Nor does the Agency track what submitted data shows regarding a pesticide's potential for harm, or what, if any, changes were made in their recommended use. In fact, conditional registrations can last for as many as 15 years with no trigger to force the EPA to assess their status. Based on those findings, NRDC is calling on EPA to take six corrective actions:

  • Review all previously conditional registrations to ensure they comply with the law.
  • Immediately cancel pesticide registrations with overdue studies or those that pose a risk to the public, including nanosilver and clothianidin.
  • Properly track conditional registrations to provide transparency for the public.
  • Establish a public comment process for conditional pesticide registrations.
  • Make all submitted data accessible to public review.
  • Return to Congressional intent and grant conditional pesticide registrations only in rare cases.

    NRDC said that taking these steps would close the wide loophole that exists today that allows pesticide manufacturers to get many products onto the market before they are thoroughly assessed, and would restore integrity to the government's duty to provide proper oversight of pesticides.

    On March 21, one year after groups formally petitioned the U.S. EPA, four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed the lawsuit mentioned above in Federal District Court against the Agency for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition, represented by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), seeks the suspension of the registrations of insecticides that have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) [See WIMS 4/4/07]. The pesticides involved -- clothianidin and thiamethoxam -- are "neonicotinoids," a newer class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant's vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects.

    Access a release from NRDC and link to an OnEarth Magazine article on the report and a blog posting on the issue (click here). Access an overview and link to the 6-page NRDC Issue Brief (click here). [#Toxics]

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DOE Launches Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative

Mar 26: The Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI), a new Department initiative focused on growing American manufacturing of clean energy products and boosting U.S. competitiveness through major improvements in manufacturing energy productivity. The initiative includes private sector partnerships, new funding from the Department, and enhanced analysis of the clean energy manufacturing supply chain that will guide the Department's future funding decisions.

    Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson said, "We are at a critical moment in the history of energy in our nation. Over just the last seven years, global investment in the clean energy sector has grown nearly five-fold to over $260 billion and these markets will grow into the trillions of dollars in the years to come. Our nation faces a stark choice: the energy technologies of the future can be developed and manufactured in America for export around the world, or we can cede global leadership and import these technologies from other nations.  As part of President Obama's plan to revitalize American manufacturing, the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative will seize this opportunity to ensure U.S. leadership in the clean energy sector and advance the global competitiveness of American manufacturers."

    The announcement was made at the ribbon cutting of the Department's Carbon Fiber Technology Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a new advanced manufacturing facility to reduce the cost of carbon fiber -- a critical material for efficient lightweight vehicles, next generation wind turbines, and a wide array of other consumer and industrial products. Building on its existing manufacturing investments in efforts like the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, DOE said the key elements of the new CEMI initiative include:

  • Increasing funding for clean energy manufacturing research and development that will accelerate U.S.-based manufacturing of cost-competitive clean energy technologies, from wind, solar, and geothermal to batteries and biofuels. DOE said it was awarding over $23 million in innovative manufacturing research and development projects. Additionally, DOE indicated it had also released a $15 million funding opportunity to reduce the manufacturing costs of solar energy technology, including photovoltaics and concentrated solar power, and demonstrate cost-competitive innovative manufacturing technologies that can achieve commercial production in the next few years (closing date 4/26/13). DOE also said that in the coming months it plans to issue another new funding opportunity that supports a new manufacturing innovation institute. This step supports President Obama's call for a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), as discussed in the State of the Union last month [See WIMS 2/13/13].
  • Providing additional energy productivity training and technical assistance for manufacturers that build on current efforts like the Industrial Assessment Centers that offer no-cost energy efficiency assessments for manufacturers and the Better Plants Challenge.
  • Leveraging the capabilities of the DOE National Laboratories to conduct targeted analysis that evaluates the U.S. competitive position in manufacturing and prioritizes strategic investments that strengthen American competitiveness in the global energy market.
  • Hosting a series of regional and national summits to gather input on manufacturing priorities, identify barriers and opportunities for growing clean energy manufacturing competitiveness and showcase national and regional models that address these priorities.
  • Launching new public-private partnerships focused on improving U.S. clean energy manufacturing competitiveness. For example, the U.S. Council on Competitiveness is partnering with the Energy Department to convene a series of dialogues among government, small business, industry, research institutions and labor leaders to help develop and recommend strategies for growing the U.S. clean energy manufacturing sector.
    Access a release from DOE with more information on the  Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (click here). Access the CEMI website for complete information (click here). Access details on the $15 million funding opportunity for Solar Manufacturing Technology (SolarMat) (click here). Access more information on the NNMI (click here). [#Energy/Green]
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Presidential Advisors Issue Report On Climate Change Options

Mar 22: The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a letter report to the President describing six key components the advisory group believes should be central to the Administration's strategy for addressing climate change. The 9-page letter responds to a November request from the President for advice as the Administration prepares new initiatives to tackle the challenges posed by Earth's changing climate. The letter calls for a dual focus on mitigation -- reducing the pace and magnitude of climate-related changes -- and adaptation -- minimizing the unavoidable damage that can be expected to result from climate change.

    The letter states, "Both approaches are essential parts of an integrated strategy for dealing with climate change. Mitigation is needed to avoid a degree of climate change that would be unmanageable despite efforts to adapt. Adaptation is needed because the climate is already changing and some further change is inevitable regardless of what is done to reduce its pace and magnitude." The six key components identified by PCAST are:

  • Focus on national preparedness for climate change, which can help decrease damage from extreme weather events now and speed recovery from future damage;
  • Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, with emphasis on the electricity sector;
  • Level the playing field for clean-energy and energy-efficiency technologies by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies, and providing time-limited subsidies for clean energy when appropriate;
  • Sustain research on next-generation clean-energy technologies and remove obstacles for their eventual deployment;
  • Take additional steps to establish U.S. leadership on climate change internationally; and
  • Conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review.

    On the matter of decarbonizing the economy, PCAST indicates the Administration could:

  • "Support continuing expansion of shale-gas production, ensuring that environmental impacts of production and transport do not curtail the potential of this approach. Continuing substitution of gas for coal (and in some instances for oil) will remain an effective short- and middle-term decarbonization measure and an economic boon only insofar as methane leakage from production and transport is held to low levels and drinking water is not adversely impacted. The Federal Government has an important role to play in both of these respects, through collecting and distributing reliable data and through strengthened regulation where the data indicate this is required.
  • "Continue implementation of Clean Air Act requirements on criteria pollutants (such as SO2 and NOx) and hazardous air pollutants (such as mercury) to include creating new performance standards for CO2 emissions from existing stationary sources, which would follow the performance standards for new plants released in March 2012.
  • "Accelerate efforts to reduce the regulatory obstacles to deployment of CCS, and continue political support for the large CCS projects currently underway. Successful demonstration of CCS will provide a role for coal in a carbon-constrained future. CCS will eventually be necessary for other large, stationary sources of CO2, including natural gas power plants and biofuel refineries. In February 2010, you created the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage, charging it with proposing "a plan to overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon capture and storage within 10 years, with a goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016." The Task Force issued a report in August 2010, recommending reforms including better Federal coordination and several possible approaches to managing long-term liability. We recommend that these findings be the basis for a directive to the relevant officials. There are several commercial CCS projects underway in the United States that have received grants from the Department of Energy (DOE). Continued support for these projects is important not only for the purpose of establishing the technical and regulatory basis for CCS in the United States, but also because U.S. support for and success with this technology will likely be influential in moving other countries such as China and India toward CCS use."
    Access a blog posting announcing the report from Rick Weiss Assistant Director for Strategic Communications and Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (click here). Access the complete letter report (click here). Access more information about PCAST (click here). [#Climate]
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Groups Sue EPA For Failing To Protect Bees From Pesticides

Mar 21: One year after groups formally petitioned the U.S. EPA, four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the Agency for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition, represented by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), seeks suspension of the registrations of insecticides that have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) [See WIMS 4/4/07]. The suit challenges EPA's ongoing handling of the pesticides as well as the agency's practice of "conditional registration" and labeling deficiencies.
        In March 2012, CFS and a coalition of prominent beekeepers, along with Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides filed an Emergency Petition with the EPA asking the agency to suspend the use of clothianidin. Yet, a year later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its Registration Review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018. Plaintiffs include four beekeepers, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL) as well as Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, and the Center for Environmental Health.

    One plaintiff Steve Ellis, a Minnesota and California beekeeper said, "America's beekeepers cannot survive for long with the toxic environment EPA has supported. Bee-toxic pesticides in dozens of widely used products, on top of many other stresses our industry faces, are killing our bees and threatening our livelihoods. Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production. It's time for EPA to recognize the value of bees to our food system and agricultural economy."

    The suit comes on the heels of a challenging season for California's almond farmers, who produce 80% of the world's almonds. Almond growers rely on beekeepers to bring literally billions of bees from across the country to pollinate their orchards. However, many beekeepers are reporting losses of over 50% this year and the shortages have left many California almond growers without enough bees to effectively pollinate their trees. This is a vivid demonstration of why the Plaintiffs are demanding EPA to classify these bee-toxic pesticides as an "imminent hazard" and move swiftly to restrict their use.

    According to a release, the pesticides involved -- clothianidin and thiamethoxam -- are "neonicotinoids," a newer class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant's vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s, at the same time beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses, leaving beekeepers unable to recoup their losses.
    CFS attorney Peter Jenkins said, "Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we've been compelled to sue. EPA's unlawful actions should convince the Court to suspend the approvals for clothianidin and thiamethoxam products until those violations are resolved."

    The case also challenges the use of so-called "conditional registrations" for these pesticides, which expedites commercialization by bypassing meaningful premarket review. Since 2000, over two-thirds of pesticide products, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have been brought to market as conditional registrations. Paul Towers, a spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network said, "
Pesticide manufacturers use conditional registrations to rush bee-toxic products to market, with little public oversight. As new independent research comes to light, the agency has been slow to re-evaluate pesticide products and its process, leaving bees exposed to an ever-growing load of hazardous pesticides."

    In addition, the plaintiffs challenge the inadequacies of existing pesticide labels meant to ensure environmental and health protections. Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides said, "EPA has ignored its responsibility to protect bees by allowing impractical labels and lax enforcement. Despite clear evidence and on-the-ground feedback to the contrary, EPA has failed to ensure that bees, birds and ecosystems are protected."

    Independent scientists have assessed the effects of clothianidin and thiamethoxam on honey bee colony health and development, examining both sub-lethal exposure effects and acute risks. Scientists have also identified massive data gaps that prevent accurate assessments as to their continued safety, not just for honey bees but for ecosystem integrity on the whole. A major new report issued this week by the American Bird Conservancy, The Impact of the Nation's Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds, sounds dire warnings about EPA's failures to assess threats to birds and to the aquatic ecosystems many species depend upon.
    On March 19, 2013, as part of a study on impacts from the world's most widely used class of insecticides, nicotine-like chemicals called neonicotinoids, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) announced that it has called for a ban on their use as seed treatments and for the suspension of all applications pending an independent review of the products' effects on birds, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife. Cynthia Palmer, co-author of the report and Pesticides Program Manager for ABC, one of the nation's leading bird conservation organizations said, "It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains. The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns."
    ABC commissioned world renowned environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct the research. The 100-page report, "The Impact of the Nation's Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds," reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

    Access a release from the groups and beekeepers (click here). Access the 48-page emergency petition filed one year ago (click here). Access a lengthy release from ABC with additional details (click here). Access the ABC report (click here). Access additional WIMS coverage on CCD (click here). [#Toxics, #Wildlife]
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Mar 20: In the U.S. Supreme Court, Case Nos. 11–338 and 11–347. The decision also decides the case of Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) (No. 11-347). Appealed from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit [See WIMS 5/19/11]. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in which Roberts, Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined and Justice Scalia, joined in parts I & II. Justice Roberts filed a concurring opinion, in which Alito joined. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Breyer took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases [See WIMS 11/26/12].
    The three questions at hand are:
  • Is the Silvicultural Rule defining these roads as nonpoint sources a valid interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA)?
  • Did the U.S. EPA exclude logging from the industrial activity category which requires stormwater discharge (NPDES) permits?
  • Does the CWA allow NEDC to file this case in a Federal district court 30 years after the Silvicultural Rule became final?
    According to the majority opinion, these cases present the question whether the Clean Water Act (Act) and its implementing regulations require permits before channeled stormwater runoff from logging roads can be discharged into the navigable waters of the United States. Under the statute and its implementing regulations, a permit is required if the discharges are deemed to be "associated with industrial activity." The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the responsibility to enforce the Act,has issued a regulation defining the term "associated with industrial activity" to cover only discharges "from any conveyance that is used for collecting and conveying stormwater and that is directly related to manufacturing, processing or raw materials storage areas at an industrial plant." 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14) (2006). The EPA interprets its regulation to exclude the type of stormwater discharges from logging roads at issue here. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 24–27. The majority concludes, ". . .the EPA's determination is a reasonable interpretation of its own regulation; and, inconsequence, deference is accorded to the interpretation under Auer v. Robbins, 519 U. S. 452, 461 (1997)."
    It should also be noted that on November 30, 2012, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a Final Rule revising its Phase I stormwater regulations to clarify that stormwater discharges from logging roads do not constitute stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity and that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not required for these stormwater discharges [See WIMS 12/4/12]. When the rule was signed, EPA said it was "taking this action in response to Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown (9th Circuit), in which the court held that stormwater runoff from certain logging roads is a point source discharge of industrial stormwater that requires an NPDES permit. EPA did not intend for logging roads to be regulated as industrial facilities and has revised its stormwater regulations to clarify the Agency's intent."
    Among other arguments, NEDC said elsewhere in the Industrial Stormwater Rule the EPA has required NPDES permits for stormwater discharges associated with other types of outdoor economic activity. See §122.26(b)(14)(iii) (mining); §122.26(b)(14)(v) (landfills receiving industrial waste); §122.26(b)(14)(x) (large construction sites). The Supreme Court majority indicated that, "The EPA reasonably could conclude, however, that these types of activities tend to be more fixed and permanent than timber-harvesting operations are and have a closer connection to traditional industrial sites. In light of the language of the regulation just discussed, moreover, the inclusion of these types of economic activity in the Industrial Stormwater Rule need not be read to mandate that all stormwater discharges related to these activities fall within the rule, just as the inclusion of logging need not be read to extend to all discharges from logging sites. The regulation's reach may be limited by the requirement that the discharges be 'directly related to manufacturing, processing or raw materials storage areas at an industrial plant.' §122.26(b)(14)."
    Finally, the majority ruled, "The preamendment version of the Industrial Stormwater Rule, as permissibly construed by the agency, exempts discharges of channeled stormwater runoff from logging roads from the NPDES permitting scheme. As a result, there is no need to reach petitioners' alternative argument that the conveyances in question are not 'pipe[s], ditch[es], channel[s], tunnel[s], conduit[s],' or any other type of point source within the Act's definition of the term. §1362(14).For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
    In an interesting concurring opinion, Justice Roberts pointed out, "The opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part raises serious questions about the principle set forth in Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 U. S. 410 (1945), and Auer v. Robbins, 519 U. S. 452 (1997). It may be appropriate to reconsider that principle in an appropriate case. But this is not that case." He said both Respondent and Petitioners mentioned the issue in footnotes with no arguments. Also, he said, "Out of 22 amicus briefs, only two -- filed by dueling groups of law professors -- addressed the issue on the merits."
    Justice Roberts concluded, "The issue is a basic one going to the heart of administrative law. Questions of Seminole Rock and Auer deference arise as a matter of course on a regular basis. The bar is now aware that there is some interest in reconsidering those cases, and has available to it a concise statement of the arguments on one side of the issue. I would await a case in which the issue is properly raised and argued. The present cases should be decided as they have been briefed and argued, under existing precedent."
    Justice Scalia expanded on the issue in a lengthy dissent saying, "I join Parts I and II of the Court's opinion; I agree that these cases are not moot and that the District Court had jurisdiction. I do not join Part III. The Court there gives effect to a reading of EPA's regulations that is not the most natural one, simply because EPA says that it believes the unnatural reading is right. It does this, more- over, even though the agency has vividly illustrated that it can write a rule saying precisely what it means—by doing just that while these cases were being briefed. Enough is enough."
    He continued, "For decades, and for no good reason, we have been giving agencies the authority to say what their rules mean, under the harmless-sounding banner of 'defer[ring] to an agency's interpretation of its own regulations.' Talk America, Inc. v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co., 564 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (SCALIA, J., concurring) (slip op., at 1). This is generally called Seminole Rock or Auer deference. See Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 U. S. 410 (1945); Auer v. Robbins, 519 U. S. 452 (1997)." He concludes his dissent saying, "It is time for us to presume (to coin a phrase) that an agency says in a rule what it means, and means in a rule what it says there."
    Access the Supreme Court opinion, and concurring and dissenting opinions (click here). Access the Supreme Court docket (click here). Access links to all of the Merit and Amicus briefs (click here). Access the complete Ninth Circuit opinion (click here). [#Water, #Land, #SupCt, #CA9]
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ASCE Releases 2013 Report Card For America's Infrastructure

Mar 19: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gave the nation's infrastructure an overall grade of D+, showing slight progress from the D in the last Report Card issued in 2009. It's the first time since ASCE started producing Report Cards in 1998 that the grades rose overall and in several sectors. The report provides our nation's political leaders, policymakers, business leaders, infrastructure stakeholders, the media, and the general public with expert advice from the civil engineering community about the condition of infrastructure across the nation. 

    ASCE President Gregory DiLoreto, P.E. said, "As civil engineers, ASCE believes that we are the stewards of infrastructure -- we designed it, we built it, and we actually oversee the operations and maintenance of it in many cases. So as stewards, we have a responsibility with the Report Card to call attention to the state of the nation's infrastructure. We as Americans need to be proactive in monitoring and taking care of our infrastructure so that it will be here not only for us, but for our children and our grandchildren."

    ASCE has produced four previous Report Cards in 1998, 2001, 2005, and 2009 -- as well as the Progress Report for America's Infrastructure, which was released in 2003. These assessments have highlighted the fact that America's critical infrastructure -- principally its roads, bridges, drinking water systems, mass transit systems, schools, and systems for delivering energy -- may soon fail to meet society's needs.

    ASCE's immediate past president, Andrew Herrmann, P.E., member of the present Advisory Council that produced the 2013 Report Card said, "
Since 1998, ASCE felt an obligation to make a report on the state of infrastructure in the U.S. to show that we are not making the necessary investments to improve it and not even making some of the investments that we need to maintain what we have. We as civil engineering professionals feel that it is our obligation to point out to the White House, Congress, and state and local legislators what is happening to the infrastructure in the U.S." 

    DiLoreto added, "The reason why we want to make improvements to our infrastructure is not just simply to improve the grade. Investment in our infrastructure will help grow our economy; it will create jobs and improve our quality of life. It means being able to get to work easier without sitting in traffic all day long; and continuing to enjoy safe, clean and reliable drinking water anywhere in the country; and having an electrical transmission grid with fewer or no blackouts."

    Individual grades were given in the categories of aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit, and wastewater. Final grades were assigned based on capacity to meet future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. ASCE indicated that the methodology with which this Report Card was produced was a very objective piece of work, not a bunch of people using a gut feeling, but real numbers.
    The Report Card concludes that to raise the grades and get our infrastructure at an acceptable level, a total investment of $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 across the entire 16 sectors. Currently, only about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending is projected, leaving an estimated shortfall of approximately $1.6 trillion.
    According to the Report Card, the following grades were assigned in four major categories: Water & Environment: Dams D; Drinking Water D; Hazardous Waste D; Levees D-; Solid Waste B-; and Wastewater D. Transportation: Aviation D; Bridges C+; Inland Waterways D-; Ports C; Rail C+; Roads D; and Transit D. Public Facilities: Public Parks & Recreation C-; Schools D.
Energy: D+.
    This year's Report Card covers 16 infrastructure categories, and it's being released as a digital application (or app) that includes videos, interactive maps, and other multimedia tools. For the first time, the 2013 Report Card provides information for all 50 states, including examples of initiatives and innovations that are making a difference.
    U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV) commented saying his bill, S.387, the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act, would help fill the investment $1.6 trillion funding gap identified by ASCE. He said, "The fact that our transportation infrastructure is still crumbling should surprise none of my colleagues. We have continued to push off the tough choices we need to make. The government can't meet these vast needs alone. We need to look for responsible ways to partner public funds with private investments. My infrastructure fund would encourage private investment by leveraging federal dollars and plug the funding shortfall that exists because our current funding levels are severely inadequate. I will continue working with my colleagues to develop an approach that maximizes the return on our public and private investments."
    Commenting on the report, U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, commented on the ASCE report and renewed calls for Congress to craft a robust surface transportation bill that provides the investments necessary to tackle the well documented backlog of highway, bridge, and transit infrastructure needs. He said, "While Republicans may hope that if they simply say we are going to 'do more with less' enough times it will magically make it so, today's report provides the cold hard truth that America's economic recovery and long-term competitiveness will suffer if we continue to under invest  in our future. The report paints a disturbing picture of how America's small businesses and middle class family incomes will be affected by our Nation's deteriorating surface transportation systems. Slashing investments by one third, as Republicans have proposed to do, will make the economic impact on America's middle class even worse than the grim predictions by the economists in this report." He indicated that the ASCE report found that America's crumbling surface transportation infrastructure will cost the economy more than 877,000 jobs.    
    National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse said, "This report really makes clear that we're at a crossroads. From a manufacturing perspective we have a very clear choice a head of us. We have a choice as a country, which way do we want to go. Other countries are rapidly investing in new infrastructure projects and the U.S. will only continue to fall further behind and our global competitiveness will pay the price. Countries and governments are saying I want what America has. I'm going to make investments to take away their economic leadership."
    Former Pennsylvania Governor and Co-Chair of Building America's Future, Ed Rendell, who spoke at the press conference, indicated that the World Economic Forum's annual Global Competitiveness report which ranked the U.S. in first place in infrastructure in 2005, but by 2012 he said, "we had fallen to 14th in the world. It is a disgrace that in the richest country in the world we have allowed our infrastructure to virtually crumble from lack of investment."   
    Access a release from ASCE (click here). Access the 2013 ASCE Report Card including grades, state information, videos and interactive charts and links to the apps (click here). Access a release from Sen. Rockefeller with more information on S.387 (click here). Access a release from Rep. Rahall (click here). Access a blog post on the press conference from NAM (click here). Access legislative details for S.387 (click here). [#All, #MIAll]
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