Monday, August 26, 2013

Subscribers & Readers Notice

Subscribers & Readers Notice:
WIMS is on our late Summer publication break continuing through Labor Day. We will resume publication on Tuesday, September 3, 2013.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Comments Wanted On Microwave Rule & Social Cost Of Carbon

Aug 16: The Department of Energy (DOE) has received a Petition for Reconsideration and Request for Comments [78 FR 49975-49978] involving the controversial issue of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). The notice from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy indicates that the Agency has received a petition from the Landmark Legal Foundation (LLF), requesting that DOE reconsider its final rule of Energy Conservation Standards for Standby Mode and Off Mode for Microwave Ovens, published on June 17, 2013 (i.e. Microwave Final Rule). Comments on the petition must be received by DOE not later than September 16, 2013.

    Specifically, LLF requests that DOE reconsider the Rule because the final rule used a different Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) than the figure used in the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNOPR). LLF indicates that "The final rule uses a new valuation for SCC that is different from -- and dramatically higher than -- that used in the proposed rule during the notice and comment period." DOE is requesting comments on whether to undertake the reconsideration suggested in the petition.

    DOE explains that In developing the Microwave Rule, it issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNOPR) on February 14, 2012 (77 FR 8555). In this SNOPR, as part of its economic analysis of the proposed rule, DOE sought to monetize the cost savings associated with the reduced carbon missions that would result from the expected energy savings of the proposed rule. To do this, DOE used "the most recent values [of SCC] identified by the interagency process," which, at the time, was the SCC calculation developed by the "Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon 2010." The 2010 figure was developed through an interagency process in accordance with Executive Order 12866.
    In May 2013, subsequent to the SNOPR but prior to DOE's issuance of the final Microwave Rule, the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon released revised SCC values. (Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866, Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon, United States Government, 2013) As these were "the most recent (2013) SCC values from the interagency group," DOE included these revised SCC values in the Rule. (78 FR 36316).
    Landmark petitions DOE to reconsider the Rule on the grounds that this change in the values used in estimating the economic benefits of the Rule should have been subject to a prior opportunity for public comment because the 2013 SCC values were not the "logical outgrowth" of the 2010 SCC values. Further, Landmark asserts that without reconsideration of the Rule, DOE might now rely on its prior use of the 2013 SCC values in the Rule when it endeavors to enact new energy conservation standards in the future.
    Specifically, in its petition, Landmark indicates, "Landmark objects to the Department's (and unnamed other agencies) decision to utilize an "Interagency Update" to justify increasing the "social cost" of carbon dioxide without any opportunity for public comment. Finalizing such a far reaching decision without notice and public comment violates the Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) and Executive Order 13563's tenets of transparency, objectivity and fairness in promulgating and finalizing regulations. Landmark submits this document as a Petition for Reconsideration. However, the egregious violations of the APA as documented in this Petition demand rescission of the Rule. Landmark respectfully requests the DOE halt implementation and begin the regulatory process anew. At a minimum, the DOE's action must be reconsidered and presented to the public for proper consideration and comment. . ."
    Landmark notes further that, "The new [SCC] value is important because it serves as a key data factor in all cost-benefit analyses performed involving carbon dioxide. Despite its curious and surreptitious integration into a rule pertaining to microwave ovens, this new estimate appears to apply to all federal agencies engaging in cost-benefit analyses involving carbon dioxide emissions. . . For example, in the proposed rule, the Social Cost of Carbon, under one discount rate is estimated to be $23.80 dollars per metric ton by 2015. 77 FR 8555. That number rises to $38 dollars per metric ton under the new estimates provided in the final rule. 78 FR 36351. . . 
    "Landmark respectfully requests DOE immediately halt implementation and rescind the Rule. In the alternative, Landmark requests DOE adhere to the mandates of the APA, and subject the changes documented in this Petition to a proper notice and comment."
    Access the FR announcement which includes the complete LLF petition, background, and commenting procedures (click here). Access EPA's SCC website for more information (click here). [#Energy/Efficiency, #Climate]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Risk Management & Governance Issues In Shale Gas Development

Aug 15: The National Academy of Sciences(NAS), National Research Council (NRC) established a steering committee and organized two detailed workshops to examine the range of social and decision-making issues in risk characterization and governance related to gas shale development. Central themes include risk governance in the context of: (a) risks that emerge as shale gas development expands; and (b) incomplete or declining regulatory capacity in an era of budgetary stringency.
    The first workshop was held on May 30 & 31 and followed the systematic approach to risk characterization recommended in a 1996 NRC report, Understanding Risk. It engaged experts and practitioners in addressing the concerns of a range of interested and affected parties to identify key issues and discussed the state and limits of scientific knowledge on those issues. The second workshop, currently being held August 15 & 16,  is engaging social scientists from several research traditions to apply a variety of insights about risk management institutions to the shale gas case, while interacting with each other and with practitioners.
    A rapporteur will write a summary of the risk issues raised in the first workshop, the risk management and governance concepts presented at the second workshop, and the discussions at both workshops. The summary may include a selection of signed papers by workshop presenters, after appropriate review. It would note the risk questions posed at the workshops for future analysis and the risk management challenges and opportunities identified, which could be considered in future national discussions about the development and implementation of the technology. It will not offer consensus judgments or recommendations.
    In background material NAS indicates that extraction of gas from shale via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) presents two faces: (1) an attractive path to inexpensive energy for the foreseeable future, and (2) a number of perceived or real potential risks to the environment and communities. To date, risk management has been almost entirely oriented toward the extraction technology -- there has been no systematic effort to characterize the full range of risks that cause citizen concern. It is also not known if the management regime for these risks is adequate, although it is apparent that it is fragmented if not fragmentary across the country.
    NAS indicates, "Risk characterization for shale gas development does not now follow best practices; thus, it may engender mistrust. Moreover, current governmental environmental protection institutions may be unequal to the tasks of risk management. The use of fracking technology appears headed toward a pattern of confrontation that may undermine goals for both energy production and health and environmental protection. Recent efforts by the energy policy community to address the risks, even with the addition of the ongoing EPA drinking water study, seem unlikely to address all the fundamental social and decision-making issues."
    NAS says, "What is needed is a risk-analytic approach aimed at more adequately informing public choices, and governance models that include more than just legislated regulation, that may hold promise for meeting the challenges of environmental protection in an era of declining regulatory capacity. Fundamental social challenges -- not just technological ones -- need to be included in the development of policies and best practices."

    Access links to the two workshops which include the agendas, video archives, PowerPoint presentations, detailed abstracts of presentations with links to references and more (click here). [#Energy/Frack]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Difficulties Mitigating Canadian Tar Sands Expansion

Aug 14: A release from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) indicates that President Obama has made it clear that the central factor in his decision to approve or reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is whether the pipeline project will significantly exacerbate climate pollution [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13].  NRDC says Canada is striving to present itself as a sustainable manager of the tar sands that has the tools to mitigate the substantial carbon emissions and pass President Obama's climate test. NRDC indicates, "Unfortunately, a multi-million dollar PR campaign cannot erase Canada's lackluster climate record or make it any easier to cancel out the emissions from tar sands. There is no credible mitigation plan proposed or even being considered by Canadian provincial or federal governments that would address greenhouse gas pollution from its growing tar sands industry. There are tremendous technological and policy barriers that make mitigation of Canada's tar sands carbon pollution problems highly unlikely. The gap between Canada's rhetoric and its environmental performance raise serious questions regarding the credibility of the federal government's commitments on climate."

    Canadian advocates and experts hosted a press call today to release a new backgrounder from Environmental Defence Canada -- "Mitigating climate impacts of the tar sands: political and policy barriers to greenhouse gas reduction in Canada" -- and discuss the unlikelihood of successful mitigation. Danielle Droitsch, Canada Program Director at NRDC said, "America's shrinking coal emissions are a stark contrast to the rapidly expanding tar sands industry which is dragging down any Canadian hopes of being part of a climate solution. By pushing for a dramatic expansion of tar sands oil development and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to carry it, Canada will never meet its international climate commitments."

    Dr. Mark Jaccard, Professor of Environmental Economics at Simon Frasier University and former chair of British Columbia Utilities Commission said, "Mitigation of Canada's increasing carbon pollution is incompatible with the Harper government's policy of unchecked oil sands expansion, which is driving their push for Keystone XL. The Canadian government has failed to reign in the skyrocketing emissions from this carbon intensive industry and we are now at a point where the only acceptable alternatives for the U.S. government to reject Keystone XL."

    NRDC indicates that the tar sands are Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution, and if they continue to expand as government and industry project, they will cancel out every other effort across the country to mitigate emissions. Emissions from the tar sands are projected to double by 2020, which will send Canada soaring past the 2020 climate change target it shares with the United States. Models show that in order to curb soaring tar sands pollution and meet Canada's shared 2020 climate goal with the United States, regulations on the tar sands would have to establish a price on carbon of at least $100 per tonne. But that level of regulation -- or any meaningful regulation -- is highly unlikely.

    NRDC said the Canadian government is well aware of the mounting pressure to limit carbon emissions. The government has been aggressive in its talking points, but passive in action. While they have made multiple public promises, no Federal regulations on emissions from the oil and gas sector have yet been proposed in Canada. This means that the tar sands sector is currently expanding without any attention given to soaring greenhouse gas pollution. Canada is currently on track to miss its international climate commitments by a wide margin that is greater than all of the carbon produced by the combined emissions of Canada's power plants or the combined emissions of all of Canada's passenger vehicles.

    Dr. Danny Harvey, Climate Scientist at University of Toronto, "It will be very difficult for the Canadian government to achieve its own emissions reduction target for 2020 even without tar sands expansion, and more so if it continues to pursue tar sands expansion. In any case, deep reductions in overall emissions, beyond the 2020 target, will be required in the following decades that will be impossible to achieve if we lock in 40 years of increased tar sands emissions by building more pipelines." Due to political and policy barriers, it is highly unlikely that Canada would be able to mitigate the carbon emissions from the tar sands in order to meet President Obama's climate test for Keystone XL.

    Access a release from NRDC with links to related information and the backgrounder on barriers to mitigating the climate impacts of the tar sands (click here). [#Energy/KXL, #Energy/TarSands, #Climate]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Protecting The Electric Grid From Natural Disasters

Aug 12: The White House Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report that assesses how to best protect the nation's electric grid from power outages that occur during natural disasters. This week marks the tenth anniversary of one of the worst power outages in the United States, during which tens of millions of Americans were affected across parts of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

    The report -- Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages -- finds that grid resilience is increasingly important as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of severe weather and estimates the economic impact of power outages on the nation's economy. The President's Climate Action Plans calls for upgrading the country's electric grid to help make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills, and promote clean energy sources [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13].

    Patricia Hoffman, DOE Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability said, "The U.S. electric grid is a vital component of the nation's infrastructure and delivers, transmits, and distributes electric power to millions of Americans in homes, schools, offices, and factories across the United States. Investment in a 21st century modernized electric grid has been an important focus of President Obama's administration and this report underscores the importance of continued cross-sector investment to make the grid more resilient to the causes of power outages, including severe weather."

    The new report focuses its analysis on the impact of power outages caused by severe weather between 2003 and 2012, finding:

  • Weather-related outages are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion.
  • Roughly 679 power outages, each affecting at least 50,000 customers, occurred due to weather events. The aging nature of the grid -- much of which was constructed over a period of more than one hundred years -- has made Americans more susceptible to outages caused by severe weather.
  • In 2012, the United States suffered eleven billion-dollar weather disasters -- the second-most for any year on record, behind only 2011.
  • Since 1980, the United States has sustained 144 weather disasters whose damage cost reached or exceeded $1 billion and seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012.

    The report calls for increased cross-sector investment in the electric grid and identifies strategies for modernizing the grid to better prevent power outages. These strategies include: conducting exercises to identify and mitigate the potential impacts of hazards to the grid; working with utilities to harden their infrastructure against wind and flood damage; increasing overall system flexibility and robustness of the grid; and supporting implementation of 21st century technologies that can quickly alert utilities when consumers experience a power outage or there is a system disruption and automatically reroute power to avoid further outages.

    These strategies are designed to build on current initiatives, including the President's "Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid,"[See WIMS 6/15/11] which set out a four-pillared strategy for modernizing the grid and directed billions of dollars toward investments in 21st century smart grid technologies, and the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocation of $4.5 billion to the Energy Department for investments in modern grid technology. These investments have begun to increase the resilience and reliability of the grid in the face of severe weather.

    Access a release from DOE (click here). Access the complete 28-page report (click here). Access links to related reports on Grid Resilience To Climate Changes (click here). Access the Smart Grid website for more information (click here). [#Energy/Grid, #Climate]

Monday, August 12, 2013

Science Comm. Leaders Exchange Heated Letters On EPA Subpoena

Aug 8: On August 6, House Science Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) in response to the Committee's recent authorization and issuance of a subpoena to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy for documents related to the Clean Air Act. The subpoena, which was authorized by the Republican controlled Committee over the objections of the Democrats, is designed to force EPA to release the what Chairman Smith said is the "secret science it uses as the basis for costly air regulations." Chairman Smith said, "Over the past two years, the Committee has repeatedly requested the data the agency uses to justify virtually every Clean Air Act regulation proposed and finalized by the Obama administration. This was the first congressional subpoena the Science Committee has issued in 21 years." He said, "The two data sets in question are used to justify major costly new air regulations. As one example, by its own estimates the EPA's proposed limits on ozone will cost taxpayers $90 billion per year, making it the most costly regulation the federal government has ever issued. Some of the data in question is up to 30-years-old."

    Rep. Johnson said, "On August 2, the EPA Administrator was served with a subpoena issued by you pursuant to this authorization (attached). As you know, I strongly opposed the authorization and issuance of this subpoena.  However, as you have determined to proceed despite my strong objections, I have several questions about how this process will be conducted by the Committee.

    "As the Democratic Members of the Committee pointed out during the business meeting to authorize the subpoenas, you had previously indicated that you planned to transmit any research data obtained pursuant to the subpoena to unidentified third parties. Upon repeated questioning by Democratic Members of the Committee, you refused to identify to whom you intended to pass this data. Representative Edwards pointed out that legitimate scientific researchers already had the ability to access the Harvard University and American Cancer Society data sets."

    Rep. Johnson pointed out the problems with the two researchers identified by the Chairman the may review the data. She also pointed out that, "I would note that when the Health Effects Institute conducted a thorough re-analysis of the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society related study, it took a team of 30 researchers three years to complete their work.  It certainly seems unlikely that one statistical researcher, acting on his own, could replicate this task in a useful timeframe." She said, "Mr. Chairman, this is no longer a dispute between the EPA and the Majority.  By your actions, this has become an attack on the personal privacy of hundreds of thousands of Americans, an attack on the scientific process, and an attack on public health. "

    Rep. Johnson concluded, "I implore you again to stop what you are doing. The actions you are taking are wrong. You are abusing Congressional power to harass the EPA Administrator. You are undermining our legitimate scientific research enterprise. You are violating the trust that hundreds of thousands of research volunteers placed in our country's premier research institutions. And for what purpose? To provide human health data to tobacco industry consultants? If you continue on this path, you will cause irreparable harm to our Committee and our country. Please reconsider the path you have chosen."
    Chairman Smith responded on August 8, that, "The request of the Committee, and the more recently issued subpoena, is based on the principle of transparency, which requires that the information used to justify major, costly regulations be open and available to the public. . . I have made clear that any personal health information that may be in the subpoenaed data will be protected and removed before the data are made public. However, I have also made clear that the American taxpayers have a right to see this de-identified information and determine whether the EPA is basing its regulations on sound science. . . Further, if this information cannot be made public in a manner sufficient for validation and re-analysis while protecting confidential information, EPA should not be using it to justify major regulations. I hope and expect that EPA will provide this information in a manner sufficient for independent validation and replication by the deadline included in the subpoena. . .
    "Ensuring public access to taxpayer funded-data that are used in regulations supports good science and good government.  Consistent with this principle, once the Committee receives the data sets, I intend to make them publically available.  Certainly, the principle of an open and transparent government is not supported by policies that allow certain groups access to the information, but prevent access to others. This is precisely what is now occurring and should be corrected."

    Access a release from Chairman Smith and the subpoena (click here). Access the release and letter form Rep. Johnson (click here). Access the release and response from Chairman Smith (click here). [#Air]

Friday, August 09, 2013

Industry Study Says KXL "No Material Impact" On GHG

Aug 8: The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have "no material impact" on U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a brief, 6-page IHS study. The report indicates that in the absence of the pipeline, alternate transportation routes would result in oil sands production growth being more or less unchanged. The study also found that any absence of oil sands on the U.S. Gulf Coast (the destination for Keystone XL) would most likely be replaced by imports of heavy crude oil from Venezuela, which has the same carbon footprint as oil sands.

    IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today's business landscape. IHS indicates that businesses and governments in more than 165 countries around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods. IHS indicates that since 2009, the IHS CERA Oil Sands Dialogue has brought together policymakers, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations -- including environmental groups -- and other related stakeholders to advance the conversation surrounding Canadian oil sands development. The objective is to enhance understanding of critical factors and questions surrounding industry issues and foster a fact-based discussion.

    In a release, IHS indicates that the pipeline's potential impact on GHG emissions has been the subject of increased focus. President Barack Obama's June 25 climate address [
See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13] indicated that the relative emissions related to increased Canadian oil sands processing in U.S. markets resulting from the pipeline are a key criteria for the United States' decision whether to approve the project.

    Following his June 25 address, President Obama, in an interview with the New York Times said, ". . . I meant what I said; I'm going to evaluate this [KXL] based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release. . ."  [See WIMS 7/29/13]. 

    IHS says that its new study agrees with the conclusions of the U.S. State Department's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL that says oil sands production is expected to continue at similar levels regardless of whether Keystone XL goes forward. IHS currently expects oil sands production to grow from 1.9 million barrels per day (mbd) in 2013 to 4.3 mbd in 2030 and does not expect the Keystone XL decision to have a material impact on the production outlook.

    The IHS study points out that 3 mbd of additional oil sands pipeline capacity (not including Keystone XL) is currently proposed. Eighty percent of this proposed alternate capacity travels exclusively through Canada -- connecting the oil sands with Canada's west and east coasts -- and thus would not require U.S. government approval. Even if pipeline capacity were to lag behind oil sands growth, the study says that transportation by rail is expected to play an ongoing role and that greater investment could make rail more economic to a level approaching that of pipelines.

    The study found that with sufficient scale and investment the additional cost of transporting oil sands by rail to the U.S. Gulf Coast rather than by pipeline could be lowered from today. If heavy oil sands producers were to invest in improved rail efficiencies, the economics could be within $6 per barrel compared to pipeline (for each barrel of oil sands produced). This would place rail well within the break even range for most oil sands production. One source of improved economics could come from shipping oil sands bitumen in its pure state. A lack of pipeline capacity would incentivize such added investment.

    The study also found that, were oil sands not to be shipped to the U.S. Gulf Coast, it would result in little to no change in overall GHG emissions. The region -- which contains 50 percent of total U.S. refining -- has a large capacity to process heavy crude. This means that crude oils of similar GHG intensity would continue to be refined in the absence of oil sands.

    Venezuela is currently the largest single supplier of heavy crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast and would be the most likely alternative source of heavy crude supply absent oil sands. IHS research has found Venezuelan heavy crude to have a similar range of life-cycle GHG emissions as oil sands imported into the United States. The study says, "Venezuelan heavy oil -- and Venezuela -- would be the number one beneficiary of a negative decision on Keystone."
    Environmental groups, including Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Oil Change International and others, cite competing arguments from a research report published by Goldman Sachs (GS) Global Investment Research team on June 2, entitled, Getting oil out of Canada: Heavy oil diffs expected to stay wide and volatile. The groups indicate that  the report casts serious doubts on the U.S. State Department's market analysis of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. They say the GS report substantially undermines the State Department draft EIS and indicates that, ". . .not building Keystone XL would likely slow the growth of tar sands extraction by virtue of lowered prices for Canadian oil. In this event, GS found that tar sands projects would likely be deferred or canceled." [See WIMS 6/11/13].
    Access a release from IHS on the report (click here). Access the 6-page IHS report (click here, registration required). Access the IHS CERA Oil Sands Dialogue website for more information (click here). Access the State Department KXL website for more information (click here). Access a blog posting by NRDC (click here). Access the summary of the GS investment report (click here). [#Energy/KXL]

Thursday, August 08, 2013

DOE Approves 3rd LNG Export Facility In Lake Charles, LA

Aug 7: The Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it has conditionally authorized Lake Charles Exports, LLC (Lake Charles) to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States from the Lake Charles Terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lake Charles previously received approval to export LNG from this facility to FTA countries on July 22, 2011. Subject to environmental review and final regulatory approval, the facility is conditionally authorized to export at a rate of up to 2.0 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day (Bcf/d) for a period of 20 years. DOE granted the first authorization to export LNG to non-FTA countries in May 2011 from the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana at a rate of up to 2.2 Bcf/d, and the second authorization in May 2013 from the Freeport LNG Terminal in Quintana Island, Texas at a rate of up to 1.4 Bcf/d.

    On this controversial of LNG exports [See WIMS 3/12/13], DOE indicates that the development of U.S. natural gas resources is having a transformative impact on the U.S. energy landscape, helping to improve our energy security while spurring economic development and job creation around the country. This increase in domestic natural gas production is expected to continue, with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasting a record production rate of 69.96 Bcf/d in 2013. Federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have an FTA with the United States. For countries that do not have an FTA with the United States, the Natural Gas Act directs DOE to grant export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports "will not be consistent with the public interest."

    DOE said it conducted an extensive, careful review of the application to export LNG from the Lake Charles LNG Terminal. Among other factors, the Department considered the economic, energy security, and environmental impacts -- as well as public comments for and against the application and nearly 200,000 public comments related to the associated analysis of the cumulative impacts of increased LNG exports -- and determined that exports from the terminal at a rate of up to 2.0 Bcf/d for a period of 20 years was not inconsistent with the public interest.

    DOE noted that it will continue to process the applications currently pending on a case-by-case basis, in the order of precedence previously detailed. As further information becomes available at the end of 2013, including the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook Report, the Department will assess the impact of any market developments on subsequent public interest determinations. DOE is currently reviewing proposals for some 20 export facilities.

    Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR),Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources (ENR) Committee issued a statement on the approval saying, "While I am pleased to see DOE is continuing to proceed on a case-by-case basis, with each new permit to send natural gas overseas, the Energy Department has a higher bar to prove these exports are in the best interests of American consumers and employers. I will continue  to closely monitor DOE's process going forward." Sen. Wyden noted that DOE has now approved export permits totaling 5.6 billion cubic feet per day. That is just below the 6-8 bcf per day that numerous reports and analysts have projected as the likely range for U.S. LNG exports, without impacts on domestic prices.

    On August 6, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Ranking Member of the ENR Committee, released a white paper outlining the case for LNG exports and urging swift action on permit approvals before "the nation misses a historic opportunity." The paper, entitled The Narrowing Window: America's Opportunity to Join the Global Gas Trade, includes in-depth analysis that leads to a set of pro-growth policy recommendations. She said, "We've carefully examined the issue of natural gas exports, weighing the evidence and listening to all points of view, but the analytical debate is now over. The United States has a historic opportunity to generate enormous geopolitical and economic benefits by expanding its role in the global gas trade."

    In her release, Sen. Murkowski said DOE has received more than 20 applications to export LNG to non-FTA countries. Diplomats from many of these nations, including Japan and India, have urged the Obama administration to approve export licenses as quickly as possible. She indicated that other nations around the world are already building their export capabilities. Qatar, Malaysia, Australia, and many other countries already dominate the LNG trade. Facilities required to liquefy natural gas for transport, however, are expensive, and also require costly infrastructure to import it. She said, "Limits on demand and the availability of financing create a narrowing window for the United States. If we don't move quickly, we may miss that window, and it may be a long time before it opens up again."

    Sen. Murkowski commented on the Lake Charles approval saying, "The approval of the Lake Charles export license is great news for the economy. I'm hopeful that it also shows a willingness by the Department of Energy and Secretary Moniz to make the timely review of applications a priority. We must remember that the window for building out our LNG capacity is not open-ended -- it could close if we don't seize this opportunity to have America's natural gas play a major role in the growing global gas market." She indicated in a separate release that Lake Charles Exports submitted its application 27 months ago, in May 2011. 

    Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign, issued a statement saying, "It's a bad deal all around: for public health, the environment, and America's working people. The economic study the DOE itself commissioned clearly states that LNG export will transfer wealth from wage earners to fossil fuel executives. LNG export is nothing but a giveaway to the dirty fuel industry, at the expense of every day Americans. Exporting LNG to foreign buyers will lock us into decades-long contracts, which in turn will lead to more drilling -- and that means more fracking, more air and water pollution, and more climate fueled weather disasters like record fires, droughts, and superstorms like last year's Sandy.  And all this when we know that the dangers of natural gas will only become more clear as we learn more about its effects on health and the climate. . . The Sierra Club is closely monitoring the FERC proceeding and all permits and approvals that the Lake Charles facility will require, and will take action as necessary." 

    Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute (API) director of upstream and industry operations, called on DOE to move quickly to process a backlog of applications to export LNG to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States. He said the Department approved only the third of 19 applications since 2011. He said, "The Lake Charles permit is a welcome signal that Energy Secretary Moniz recognizes the importance of LNG exports to economic growth, but there are still thousands of jobs and billions in investments waiting on the sidelines for federal approval. America is experiencing an energy revolution thanks to our abundant natural gas resources, and LNG exports are critical to unlocking the benefits for U.S. workers and reducing the trade deficit. The law presumes that all exports are in the public interest, and the DOE has every reason to expedite approvals. LNG exports will grow the economy and help bring back millions of U.S. jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction, and facility operations."

    Access a release from DOE and link to the full conditional authorization (click here). Access a notice from DOE and link to the FR notice of availability; the EIA analysis; the NERA analysis; and a summary of LNG export applications (click here). Access the release from Sen. Wyden (click here). Access the Aug. 6 release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access the 17-page Murkowski white paper on LNG exports (click here). Access the Aug. 7 release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from API with links to related information including a report and list of the pending applications (click here). [#Energy/LNG]

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

AMS Releases 2012 State Of The Climate Report

Aug 6: The American Meteorological Society (AMS) released the 2012 State of the Climate report indicating that worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record. The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries. The report provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky. The report is published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

    Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. said, "Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate -- carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place. This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment."

    Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest "summer minimum" extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent. The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. The indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. Highlights of the report include:

  • Warm temperature trends continue near Earth's surface: Four major independent datasets show 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.
  • La Niña dissipates into neutral conditions:  A weak La Niña dissipated during spring 2012 and, for the first time in several years, neither El Niño nor La Niña, which can dominate regional weather and climate conditions around the globe, prevailed for the majority of the year. 
  • The Arctic continues to warm; sea ice extent reaches record low: The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June each reached new record lows. Arctic sea ice minimum extent (1.32 million square miles, September 16) was the lowest of the satellite era. This is 18 percent lower than the previous record low extent of 1.61 million square miles that occurred in 2007 and 54 percent lower than the record high minimum ice extent of 2.90 million square miles that occurred in 1980. The temperature of permafrost, or permanently frozen land, reached record-high values in northernmost Alaska. A new melt extent record occurred July 11–12 on the Greenland ice sheet when 97 percent of the ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt this time of year.
  • Antarctica sea ice extent reaches record high: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles on September 26. This is 0.5 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.47 million square miles that occurred in 2006 and seven percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986.
  • Sea surface temperatures increase: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2012 was among the 11 warmest on record.  After a 30-year period from 1970 to 1999 of rising global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–2012 exhibited little trend. Part of this difference is linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century, which typically lead to lower global sea surface temperatures.
  • Ocean heat content remains near record levels: Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet, or a little less than one-half mile, of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Overall increases from 2011 to 2012 occurred between depths of 2,300 to 6,600 feet and even in the deep ocean.
  • Sea level reaches record high: Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach record highs in 2012. Globally, sea level has been increasing at an average rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades. Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012. 
  • Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the central tropical North Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the north central Indian Ocean, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.
  • Tropical cyclones near average: Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms, compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity.
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2012. Following a slight decline in manmade emissions associated with the global economic downturn, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached a record high in 2011 of 9.5 ± 0.5 petagrams (1,000,000,000,000,000 grams) of carbon , and a new record of 9.7 ± 0.5 petagrams of carbon  is estimated for 2012. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.1 ppm in 2012, reaching a global average of 392.6 ppm for the year. In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm at several Arctic observational sites.
  • Cool temperature trends continue in Earth's lower stratosphere: The average lower stratospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth's surface, for 2012 was record to near-record cold, depending on the dataset. Increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet near-surface layers.
    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, issued a brief statement on the report saying, "NOAA's 2012 State of the Climate report confirms once again that climate change is happening now and the evidence is all around us. The report includes findings that the U.S. had its warmest year on record, carbon pollution continues to increase, sea levels have reached record highs, and Arctic sea ice is rapidly disappearing. We can't ignore these warnings and must address climate change so that we can protect our people, local communities, and the nation's economy. These findings underscore how correct the President is when he calls for enforcement of the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution."
    Access a release from NOAA with links to related information  (click here). Access links to the complete report and supplemental information (click here). Access highlights from the report (click here). [#Climate]

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

DOE Reports On Record Growth In U.S. Wind Market; But?

Aug 6: The Department of Energy (DOE) released two new reports showcasing record growth across the U.S. wind market -- increasing America's share of clean, renewable energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs nationwide. However, the wind industry indicates that Congressional bickering over the Production Tax Credit (PTC) is hurting the industry and policy stability is necessary going forward for the American wind energy industry to reach its full potential.
    According to the reports, the United States continues to be one of the world's largest and fastest growing wind markets. In 2012, wind energy became the number one source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity for the first time -- representing 43 percent of all new electric additions and accounting for $25 billion in U.S. investment.

    In a release DOE indicated that in the first four years of the Obama Administration, American electricity generation from wind and solar power more than doubled. DOE said, "President Obama's Climate Action Plan makes clear that the growth of clean, renewable wind energy remains a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, diversifies our energy economy and brings innovative technologies on line [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13]. The Obama Administration has committed to another doubling of the renewable electricity generation from energy resources like wind power by 2020."

    DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said, "The tremendous growth in the U.S. wind industry over the past few years underscores the importance of consistent policy that ensures America remains a leader in clean energy innovation. As the fastest growing source of power in the United States, wind is paving the way to a cleaner, more sustainable future that protects our air and water and provides affordable, clean renewable energy to more and more Americans." The growth in the overall U.S. wind industry has led directly to more American jobs throughout a number of sectors and at factories and power plants across the country. According to industry estimates, the wind sector employs over 80,000 American workers, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build wind installations.

    DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released the 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report -- detailing the latest trends in the U.S. wind power market. Last year, over 13 gigawatts (GW) of new wind power capacity were added to the U.S. grid -- nearly double the wind capacity deployed in 2011. This tremendous growth helped America's total wind power capacity surpass 60 GW at the end of 2012 -- representing enough capacity to power more than 15 million homes each year, or as many homes as in California and Washington state combined. The country's cumulative installed wind energy capacity has increased more than 22-fold since 2000.

    At the same time, the proportion of wind turbine components such as towers, blades, and gears made in America has increased dramatically. The report estimates seventy-two percent of the wind turbine equipment installed in the U.S. last year was made by domestic manufacturers, nearly tripling from 25 percent in 2006-2007. The report also finds that nine states now rely on wind power for more than 12 percent of their total annual electricity consumption -- with wind power in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas contributing more than 20 percent. Additionally, Texas added over 1,800 megawatts of wind power last year, more than any other state. On a cumulative basis, Texas remains a clear leader with over 12 GW installed at the end of 2012 -- more than twice as much as California, the next-highest state. 

Also according to the report, technical and design innovation allowing for larger wind turbines with longer, lighter blades has steadily improved wind turbine performance and has expanded wind energy production to less windy areas. Since 1998, the average capacity of wind turbines in the U.S. has increased by 170 percent. At the same time, wind project capital and maintenance costs continue to decline, lowering the cost of wind energy to near-record lows. The price of wind under long-term power purchase contracts signed in 2011 and 2012 averaged 4 cents per kilowatt hour -- making wind competitive with a range of wholesale electricity prices seen in 2012.

    For the first time, DOE and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also issued the 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications -- highlighting strong growth in the U.S. distributed wind energy market. Compared to traditional, centralized power plants, distributed wind energy installations directly supply power to the local grid near homes, farms, businesses and communities -- helping to improve grid reliability and efficiency. Turbines used in these applications can range in size from a few hundred watts to multi-megawatts, and can help power remote, off-grid homes and farms as well as local schools and manufacturing facilities. Over the past ten years, the U.S. distributed wind market has grown more than five-fold.

    The report finds that distributed wind in the U.S. reached a 10-year cumulative installed capacity of more than 812 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2012 -- representing more than 69,000 units across all 50 states. Between 2011 and 2012, U.S. distributed wind capacity grew by 175 MW, with about 80 percent of this growth coming from utility-scale installations. At the state level, Iowa, Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin led the nation in new distributed wind power capacity in 2012. Still, most distributed wind buyers continue to choose small wind turbines, which have a rated capacity of no greater than 100 kilowatts. Last year, domestic sales from U.S. wind suppliers accounted for nearly 90 percent of new small wind generation capacity. Broadly, nine out of the top ten wind turbine models installed last year in U.S. distributed applications were made in America.

    DOE said that the wind sector's growth underscores the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that wind manufacturing and jobs remain in America. The 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report expects 2013 to be a slow year for new capacity additions, due in part to continued policy uncertainty and project development timelines. While the report notes that 2014 is expected to be more robust, as developers commission projects that will begin construction in 2013, it also notes that projections for 2015 and beyond are much less certain. On Thursday, August 8, at 3 PM ET, DOE will be discussing key findings from the reports during a special Google+ Hangout on wind energy in America.

    On July 30, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued the U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2013 Market Report and reported that after coming to a standstill in the first half of 2013 due to Congressional delay in extending the Federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), activity in the U.S. wind industry is ramping back up as a strong wave of utilities sign up for more wind power. AWEA said that throughout 2012, the industry awaited a policy signal from Congress via a PTC extension, but that extension didn't come until New Year's Day of this year. As the industry had previously warned, with wind energy project timelines spanning 18-24 months, the delay had serious consequences, and its impacts have continued to ripple through the industry well into 2013.

    AWEA reports that only 1.6 megawatts (MW) of wind power were commissioned during the first half of the year and none at all during the second quarter, yet activity is now robust in areas that indicate impending project construction -- namely, requests for proposals (RFPs) and power purchase agreements (PPAs). More than 20 RFPs have been issued, and extremely competitive prices for wind energy are spurring utilities to ink contracts for even more megawatts than their initial RFPs requested. Approximately 1,300 MW are now under construction, while more than 3,600 MW in PPAs are secured. In total, utility plans for more wind announced in the first six-plus months of the year total nearly 5,000 MW.

    AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said, "The market pattern playing out in U.S. wind energy right now tracks exactly with warnings sounded by the industry a year ago, and with studies that examined the consequences of not extending the PTC. No industry can contribute what it's capable of giving America without  stable policy, and wind energy is Exhibit A of that reality. The industry is hard at work getting geared up to meet the strong demand for more wind energy, but if it's going to generate more jobs and clean energy for America in the future, it simply must have the same kind of policy certainty under which other industries operate." AWEA indicated that construction is underway across eight states, and 2013 PPAs have been signed for projects in 11. The bulk of recent activity is occurring in the interior region of the U.S. -- from North Dakota down through Texas -- but projects in states including California, Michigan and New York are being supported through strong state policies and competitive prices. Kiernan said, "What we are seeing now is a testament to the willingness of utilities to sign long-term contracts for wind energy offered at competitive prices. But the late PTC extension caused serious harm, and we urgently need policy stability going forward for the American wind energy industry to reach its full potential."

    Access a release from DOE on the two reports (click here). Access the 92-page Technologies Market Report (click here). Access the 78-page Distributed Applications report (click here). Access more information on the Google+ Hangout and how to submit questions (click here). Access a release from AWEA (click here). Access the 2Q13 Market Report from AWEA (click here). [#Energy/Wind, #AskEnergy]

Monday, August 05, 2013

BLM Launches EIS Process For Fracking On CA Public Lands

Aug 2:  As part of a cooperative effort with the State of California and in response to a series of legal challenges, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it will launch a broad science review and a planning review of oil and gas development on public lands managed by the Hollister Field Office in California. The process will evaluate a full range of options, including whether such development is appropriate and if so, where and how it could be carried out safely and responsibly. Information resulting from the planning and science review will further inform future oil and gas leasing decisions.

    The planning review will begin with a scoping period to solicit public input. This is the first phase of a process that may lead to the development of an environmental impact statement to amend one or more BLM resource management plans (RMPs) for field offices that have existing leases and expressions of interest in future leasing. Following publication of a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on August 5 2013 [78 FR 47408-47409], interested parties will have 60 days to submit comments on issues related to oil and gas leasing and development. Public scoping meetings are tentatively scheduled for fall 2013. 

    The science review will be undertaken as part of a third party independent assessment of industry practices and the geology of oil and gas basins in the state. Led by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), the assessment report will consider geology, well completion techniques and the environmental impacts of those techniques. The report, anticipated in early 2014, will be peer-reviewed and published through CCST. BLM California State Director, Jim Kenna said, "The planning process, coupled with the findings of the science assessment, will improve our resource management plans. This approach goes a long way toward bringing the most current scientific information on industry practices to planning and public dialogue about oil and gas leasing and development."

    Over the last 24 months, most oil and gas leasing actions on BLM-managed public lands in California have been litigated, appealed, or protested. In particular, the Hollister Field Office is facing legal challenges that threaten its ability to conduct oil and gas leasing. The scoping period provides the public an opportunity to comment on the full suite of oil and gas leasing and development issues in the geographic area covered by the field office. In addition, the science review and planning effort will allow the BLM to revisit litigated, appealed, and protested lease sales at a later date. Applications for permits to drill on existing leases will continue to be processed during the reviews. Fifteen (15) days prior to the public scoping meetings, BLM will publish a notice of the meetings in the Federal Register, issue news releases and post notices of the dates on multiple BLM California web sites. 

    The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sierra Club said they were pleased with BLM's decision to begin developing a new "environmental impact statement" for fracking in Central California, along with a statewide independent scientific assessment of what they said is "the dangerous oil extraction process." The decision comes in the wake of a legal victory earlier this year in a suit brought by the CBD and Sierra Club, which challenged the BLM's decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. A Federal judge ruled in April that the BLM had violated the law by not considering fracking risks or preparing an impact statement for its lease-sale decision. In mid-April the conservation groups filed a second case, challenging a subsequent and similarly flawed lease sale that covered almost 18,000 acres in the same region.

    Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center, who argued the lawsuit for the plaintiffs said, "We're pleased that federal officials are finally starting the full analysis of fracking pollution's dangers that should have been done before these public lands were auctioned off to oil companies. Fracking these sensitive places threatens California's air, water, wildlife and climate. In an era of dangerous climate change, the government should be protecting our remnant public lands, not leasing them out for fossil fuel development."

Fracking employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique is already being used in hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Oil companies are aggressively trying to frack the Monterey Shale, a large geological formation running beneath these federal leases believed to harbor about 15 billion barrels of oil.

    Nathan Matthews, associate attorney with the Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program said, "The BLM's decision to conduct a full EIS on fracking and drilling in the Monterey shale is a good first step toward understanding how destructive the process can be, and to what extent it pollutes our air and water. The study will shed further light on the risks inherent in fracking and drilling for oil and gas. We should not be drilling for oil and gas unless those risks are understood and can be fully mitigated. Ultimately, for a stable climate and for public health, we need to keep oil, gas and other fossil fuels in the ground, while moving as quickly as possible to clean energy like wind and solar." 

    The groups indicated in a release that, "Fracking has been tied to water and air pollution in other states, and the process can release huge quantities of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. Increased fracking threatens to unlock vast reserves of previously inaccessible fossil fuel deposits that would contribute to global warming and bring us closer to climate disaster. Fracking also routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene and trimenthylbenzene." They cited a recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that fracking contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells, while also putting them at higher risk of cancer. They also cited two recent studies in the journal Science found that injection wells, commonly used to dispose of contaminated fracking wastewater, can raise the risk of dangerous earthquakes.

    The Bureau's impact study will address the impacts of fracking in the region managed by the agency's Hollister field office, which encompasses 280,000 acres of public lands and 440,000 acres of split-estate lands in Central California, including areas subject to leasing in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. The independent scientific review will analyze the scope and impacts of fracking Statewide. Completion of the environmental impact statement and scientific review are likely to take more than a year. It is unlikely that further oil leasing and development activities can occur in the areas covered by the impact statement until its completion. A court hearing originally scheduled for next week has been continued to allow the parties to discuss settlement of the two cases.

    Access a release from BLM (click here). Access more information on the scoping schedule (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club & CBD (click here). Access the FR notice (click here). Access the CCST website for more information as it becomes available (click here). [#Energy/Frack]

Friday, August 02, 2013

Former EPA Administrators Support Obama's Climate Plan

Aug 2:  Former Administrators of U.S. EPA -- William D. Ruckelshaus, from its founding in 1970 to 1973, and again from 1983 to 1985; Lee M. Thomas, from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, from 1989 to 1993; and Christine Todd Whitman, from 2001 to 2003 -- authored an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, "A Republican Case for Climate Action." The Administrators come out in support of President Obama's Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13].
    The former Administrators said, "We served Republican presidents, but we have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally. There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth's atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.

    "The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes 'locked in.' A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington. Dealing with this political reality, President Obama's June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver real progress. . .

    "Rather than argue against his proposals, our leaders in Congress should endorse them and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to achieve them — domestically and internationally. . . Mr. Obama's plan is just a start. More will be required. But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste."

    Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted a response saying in part, "Like mayors, military leaders, business executives, and health professionals from across the country, these EPA administrators recognize that the damage done by climate change does not observe party lines. It threatens all Americans with extreme weather and economic burden. From heat waves to drought, damaged property to lost business, we all pay a price no matter where we live or how we vote: The government spent nearly $100 billion to respond to extreme weather events last year. That's more than $1,100 per average US taxpayer. . .

    "Many states have already started moving down this path. Nine Northeastern states -- including some under the guidance of Republican governors -- have established a regional carbon limit that has cut power-plant carbon by 30 percent and resulted in measures that will save consumers $1.3 billion on energy bills. Nearly 30 states -- including both red and blue -- have created renewable energy standards that helped wind power account for nearly half of all new installed energy capacity and created more than 200,000 jobs in the wind and solar industries.  

    "It is time for America to build on this progress and tackle climate change as a nation. Without this common cause, our children and grandchildren would be left to cope with the devastating consequences of unchecked climate change. We can't pass this burden on to them, especially when we can already see what climate disruption can do to people's lives. We must rise above political differences to face this challenge together. And we must act now. . ."

    Access the NYT Op-Ed (click here). Access the response from NRDC (click here). [#Climate]

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Executive Order On Safety & Security Of Chemical Facilities

Aug 1: President Obama signed an Executive Order to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to workers and communities. Chemicals and the facilities that manufacture, store, distribute and use them are essential to our economy.  However, incidents such as the devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April are tragic reminders that the handling and storage of chemicals present serious risks that must be addressed.  While the cause of the Texas explosion is under investigation, we can take some common sense steps now to improve safety and security and build on Federal agencies' ongoing work to reduce the risks associated with hazardous chemicals. 
    According to a White House fact sheet, the Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security directs the Federal Government to: improve operational coordination with state and local partners; enhance Federal agency coordination and information sharing; modernize policies, regulations and standards; and work with stakeholders to identify best practices. 

Improving Operational Coordination with State and Local Partners: Federal, state, local, and tribal governments have different responsibilities in addressing risks associated with chemical facilities, including response planning for potential emergencies.  To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of risk management and response measures, the Executive Order charges Federal agencies with improving coordination and information sharing with state and local governments.  For example, the Executive Order requires Federal agencies to develop a plan within 90 days that identifies ways to ensure State homeland security advisors, State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs), State regulators, and first responders have ready access to key information in a useful format to prevent, prepare for, and respond to chemical incidents.

Enhancing Federal Coordination and Information Sharing: Programs designed to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities through regulations, information reporting requirements, site inspections, and voluntary partnerships are managed by multiple Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Labor (DOL), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).  To improve the collective performance of these Federal programs, the Executive Order calls upon Federal agencies to initiate innovative approaches for working together on a broad range of activities, such as identification of high-risk facilities, inspections, enforcement, and incident investigation and follow up.  For example, the Executive Order requires that the Federal agencies deploy a regional pilot program that will validate best practices and test innovative new methods for Federal interagency collaboration on chemical facility safety and security.  Additionally, Federal agencies are specifically directed to modernize the collection and sharing of chemical facility information to maximize the effectiveness of risk reduction efforts and reduce duplicative efforts.

Modernizing Policies, Regulations and Standards: The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to work with stakeholders to improve chemical safety and security through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Federal guidance, standards, and regulations.  For example, to reduce risks associated with ammonium nitrate, agencies will examine new options to address the safe and secure storage, handling, and sale of this explosive chemical.  Agencies will also determine if additional chemicals should be covered by existing Federal regulatory programs, such as EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP), DHS's Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATs), and DOL's Process Safety Management Standards (PSM).  In addition, agencies will consider whether to pursue an independent, high-level assessment of the U.S. approach to chemical facility risk management to identify additional recommendations for all levels of government and industry to reduce the risk of catastrophic chemical incidents in the future.

Working with Stakeholders to Identify Best Practices: Many chemical facilities have taken steps to create safer work environments and reduce risks of chemical incidents to nearby communities. The Executive Order directs key Federal agencies to convene a wide range of interested stakeholders, including representatives from industry, state, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and the first responder community, to identify and share successes to date and best practices to reduce safety and security risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals, including through the use of safer alternatives, adoption of best practices, and potential public-private partnerships.

    The fact sheet also includes a background summary of the various Federal Programs for Chemical Facility Safety and Security including: EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP; EPA's Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA; OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM); OSHA's Chemical Plant National Emphasis Program (NEP); Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS); U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA); and the Department of Justice/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (DOJ/ATF) federal explosives laws. The Federal government also has a number of regulatory programs related to the safe and secure transportation of chemicals across all modes of transportation, including highway, rail, aviation, maritime, and pipeline. This fact sheet and Executive Order is focused on chemical safety and security at fixed facilities and does not address the programs focused on the transportation of hazardous materials.

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) responded saying, "Knowing the President's deep commitment to the people of West, Texas after the tragic explosion of ammonium nitrate, I informed him last week of specific ideas that emanated from a hearing I chaired at the Environment and Public Works Committee. I couldn't be more gratified to learn today that he is taking executive action to follow through on the very solutions that were discussed and that I promised to pursue. As I told the President, the EPA has not updated its alert since 1997, and the best practices recommended by other federal agencies such as OSHA are not being uniformly followed. This progress shows that when we use our mandated oversight role to solve serious problems facing the American people -- and the President agrees with our solutions -- we can move forward without changing laws to protect our families and communities."

    Access the White House fact sheet (click here). Access the Executive Order (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). [#Haz, #Toxics]