Monday, September 30, 2013

WIMS Environmental News Blogs

WIMS Environmental News Blogs - Sep 30: WIMS is relocating our offices and is taking a temporary leave from all of our publications and blogs. We will return on January 6, 2014.

In the meantime it is a great opportunity to check out our Environmental News Blogs. The blogs are continuously, automatically updated with the latest news and information from various RSS feed sources selected by WIMS.



Friday, September 27, 2013

IPCC Releases Physical Science Basis Climate Report

Sep 27: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Working Group I (WGI) contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) – the first of three major reports that will be released over the next several months. The new assessment by IPCC -- Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis -- was approved today by member governments of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden. The report concludes that the human influence on the climate system is clear. According to a release, it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.
    IPCC indicates that, "Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850." The role of the IPCC is to supply policy-relevant information about climate change to the world's governments. The complete AR5 Report will be considered by negotiators responsible for concluding a new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015.
    Despite the claims of the IPCC and the 259 authors and review editors of the WGI report and the hundreds of contributing authors and expert reviewers, four Republican Senators -- David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) -- are claiming that the Administration is downplaying "the importance of the 15-year hiatus in global temperature increases in the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report." [See WIMS 9/26/13].
    The Senators indicate, "The AP reported that several nations lobbied the IPCC to select a conclusion to their report that might account for, or otherwise hide, the lack of global warming since 1998.  In addition, the AP noted the United States government chose to ignore the potential for flaws in the climate models used by the IPCC, while also lobbying the IPCC on the possibility that oceans had absorbed global warming."
    Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I said, "Observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence. Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased."
    Thomas Stocker, the other Co-Chair of Working Group I said, "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions."
    Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.
Co-Chair Qin Dahe said, "As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years." The report finds with high confidence that ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.
    Co-Chair Thomas Stocker concluded: "As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of CO2, we are committed to climate change, and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 stop."
    Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said, "This Working Group I Summary for Policymakers provides important insights into the scientific basis of climate change. It provides a firm foundation for considerations of the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems and ways to meet the challenge of climate change."
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press statement, "This is yet another wakeup call: Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire. Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.

    "Boil down the IPCC report and here's what you find: Climate change is real, it's happening now, human beings are the cause of this transformation, and only action by human beings can save the world from its worst impacts. This isn't a run of the mill report to be dumped in a filing cabinet. This isn't a political document produced by politicians. It's science.

    "It builds on the most authoritative assessments of knowledge on climate change produced by scientists, who by profession are conservative because they must deal in what is observable, provable and reviewable by their peers. If this isn't an alarm bell, then I don't know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it.

    "What one country does impacts the livelihoods of people elsewhere -- and what we all do to address climate change now will largely determine the kind of planet we leave for our children and grandchildren. With those stakes, the response must be all hands on deck. It's not about one country making a demand of another. It's the science itself, demanding action from all of us. The United States is deeply committed to leading on climate change. We will work with our partners around the world through ambitious actions to reduce emissions, transform our energy economy, and help the most vulnerable cope with the effects of climate change. We do so because this is science, these are facts, and action is our only option.

    World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud commented saying, "Multiple lines of evidence confirm that the extra heat being trapped by greenhouse gases is warming the Earth's surface to record levels, heating the oceans, raising sea levels, melting ice caps and glaciers, and changing weather patterns and extremes. The IPCC report demonstrates that we must greatly reduce global emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It also contains important new scientific knowledge that can be used to produce actionable climate information and services for assisting society to adapt to the impacts of climate change."

    UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Climate change is a long term challenge but one that requires urgent action, not tomorrow but today and right now, given the pace and the scale by which greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and the rising risks of a more than 2 degree C temperature rise. For those who want to focus on the scientific question marks, that is their right do so. But today we need to focus on the fundamentals and on the actions. Otherwise the risks we run will get higher with every year."

    "A universal new UN climate agreement by 2015 is critical, backed by supportive voluntary initiatives such as those managing down short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon. As work under the inclusive Green Economy shows, the benefits of a transition to a low carbon future are multiple from improved public health, food security and job generation to combating climate change now and for future generations."

    Access complete information on the WGI report (click here). Access release from Secretary Kerry (click here). Access a release from UNEP (click here). Access a release from the Senators including the complete letter (click here). Access the IPCC website for additional information (click here). [#Climate]

Thursday, September 26, 2013

State Department Draft 2014 Climate Action Report

Sep 26: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental Scientific Affairs has provided notice [78 FR 59412-59413] of the opportunity to submit comments to the draft 2014 Climate Action Report (CAR) on U.S. climate change actions. This draft CAR consists of two documents, the National Communication and the Biennial Report, that respond to reporting requirements under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The document contains the sixth National Communication, which is provided in accordance with Articles 4.2 and 12 of the UNFCCC and accompanying decisions. The draft CAR also includes the Biennial Report, which summarizes major actions taken to address climate change, covering the period up to 2020, and contains additional reporting information. The United States submitted the first U.S. CAR to the UNFCCC Secretariat in 1994, and subsequent reports in 1997, 2002, 2006, and 2010.
   The documents set out major actions the U.S. government is taking at the Federal level, highlight examples of state and local actions, and outline U.S. efforts to assist other countries in addressing climate change. Each document meets specific UN reporting requirements, resulting in overlap between the documents. The report reflects the
U.S. Government commitment to the UNFCCC to communicate U.S. actions and policies addressing climate change transparently. The agency must receive comments on or before noon, October 24, 2013.
    Table of Contents of the Draft Sixth U.S. CAR includes the following chapters: 1. CAR Foreword; 2. Biennial Report; 3. Executive Summary; 4. National Circumstances; 5. Greenhouse Gas Inventory; 6. Policies & Measures; 7. Projected Greenhouse Gas Emissions; 8. Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures; 9. Financial Resources and Transfer of Technology; 10. Research and Systematic Observation; and 11. Education, Training, and Outreach. Among other things the draft report indicates:
A major contributor to the decline in U.S. GHG emissions has been the displacement of coal with natural gas that is extracted from shale rock formations through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. The production of "shale gas" has grown rapidly in recent years. In 1996, U.S. shale gas wells produced 0.3 trillion cubic feet (8.5 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, representing 1.6 percent of U.S. gas production. By 2011, production of shale gas had increased to 8.5 trillion cubic feet (241 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, 30 percent of U.S. gas production. The extraction and use of shale gas are projected to continue to grow during the next several years.
The U.S. transportation system has evolved to meet the needs of a highly mobile, dispersed population and a large economy. Automobiles and light trucks still dominate the passenger transportation system, and the highway share of passenger miles traveled. In 2013, the most recent year of available data, automobiles and light trucks constituted about 87 percent of the passenger miles traveled, down 2 percentage points from the highway share listed in the 2010 CAR. Air travel accounted for slightly more than 11 percent (up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 CAR), and mass transit and rail travel combined accounted for only about 1 percent of passenger miles traveled. . .
Given implementation of programs and measures in place as of September 2012 and current economic projections, total gross U.S. GHG emissions are projected to be 4.6 percent lower than 2005 levels in 2020. Between 2005 and 2011 total gross U.S. GHG emissions have declined significantly due a combination of factors, including the economic downturn and fuel switching from coal to natural gas (U.S. EPA 2013). Emissions are projected to rise gradually between 2011 and 2020. Emissions are projected to remain below the 2005 level through 2030, despite significant increases in population (26 percent) and GDP (69 percent) during that time period. More rapid improvements in technologies that emit fewer GHGs, new GHG mitigation requirements, or more rapid adoption of voluntary GHG emission reduction programs could result in lower gross GHG emission levels than in the "with measures" projection.

Between 2005 and 2020, CO2 emissions in the "with measures" projection (measures in place as of 2012) are estimated to decline by 7.5 percent. In contrast, in the 2010 CAR, CO2 emissions were expected to increase by 1.5 percent between 2005 and 2020 (U.S. DOS 2010), a change of about 9 percent, and in the 2006 CAR, emissions were expected to increase by 14 percent between 2004 and 2020 (U.S. DOS 2006). During the same period, CH4 and N2O emissions are expected to grow by 3.5 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. The most rapid growth is expected in fluorinated GHGs (HFCs, PFCs, and SF6) which are expected to increase by more than 60 percent between 2005 and 2020, driven by increasing use of HFCs as 6 substitutes for ODS.

    Access the FR announcement (click here). Access links to the individual report chapters and alternative commenting instructions (click here). Access the DOS docket for this action for further details and to submit and review comments (click here). [#Climate]

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

IPCC On Track To Release First Of Three Reports On Friday

Sep 24: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is on track to release the Working Group I (WGI) contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) – the physical science basis of climate change – Summary for Policymakers will be released on September 27, 2013. IPCC will be holding  a press conference at 10.00 AM Stockholm time. (AR5). The full report will be released in an unedited version on September 30, 2013. It will be published online in January 2014 and in book form a few months later.
    The Working Group II (WGII) contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability will be considered in Yokohama, Japan, on March 25-29, 2014. The Working Group III (WGIII) contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report on mitigation of climate change) will be considered in Berlin, Germany, on April 7-11, 2014. Finally, the Synthesis Report (SYR) of the Fifth Assessment Report will be considered in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 27-31, 2014.
    Government representatives and scientists opened a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm, Sweden on Monday to finalize a WGI report assessing the evidence for climate change and its causes. The meeting, the culmination of four years' work by hundreds of experts who have volunteered their time and expertise to produce a comprehensive assessment, will approve the Summary for Policymakers of the first part of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, subjecting it to line-by-line scrutiny. It will also accept the full report, which includes a Technical Summary, 14 chapters and several annexes, including, for the first time, an Atlas of Global and Regional Climate Projections.
    Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I said, "The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change has strengthened year by year, leaving fewer uncertainties about the serious consequences of inaction, despite the fact that there remain knowledge gaps and uncertainties in some areas of climate science." Thomas Stocker, the other WGI Co-Chair said, "Our assessment draws on millions of measurements which permit an unprecedented and unbiased view of the state of the Earth System. Millions of billions of bytes of numerical data form the foundation for estimates of possible futures of our climate. We have produced a Summary for Policymakers that presents the findings in the clearest possible manner, a document with no compromises to scientific accuracy."
    A total of 259 authors and review editors were selected to produce the Working Group I report; they in turn enlisted the help of more than 600 contributing authors. Hundreds of expert reviewers provided comments to earlier drafts of the report, which draws on observations, model runs and cites more than 9,200 scientific publications. For the Fifth Assessment Report as a whole, a total of 831 authors and review editors were selected.

    Access a release from IPCC on the upcoming WGI report (click here). Access more information on the WGI and link to the report and press release as soon as it is posted (click here). Access additional information from the IPCC website (click here). [#Climate]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Medical Groups Urge Action To Reduce Toxic Exposure

Sep 23: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a joint Committee Opinion indicating that "toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous other long-term health problems." The College and ASRM urge ob-gyns to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents. 

    Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, president of The College said, "Lawmakers should require the US Environmental Protection Agency and industry to define and estimate the dangers that aggregate exposure to harmful chemicals pose to pregnant women, infants, and children and act to protect these vulnerable populations. Every pregnant woman in America is exposed to many different chemicals in the environment. Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects." According to a release, many chemicals that pregnant women absorb or ingest from the environment can cross the placenta to the fetus. Exposure to mercury during pregnancy, for instance, is known to harm cognitive development in children.

    The scientific evidence over the last 15 years shows that exposure to toxic environmental agents before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health. Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, president of ASRM said, "For example, pesticide exposure in men is associated with poor semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer. We also know that exposure to pesticides may interfere with puberty, menstruation and ovulation, fertility, and menopause in women."

    The groups indicated that, other reproductive and health problems associated with exposure to toxic environmental agents include: Miscarriage and stillbirth; Impaired fetal growth and low birth weight; Preterm birth; Childhood cancers; Birth defects; Cognitive/intellectual impairment; and Thyroid problems. Approximately 700 new chemicals are introduced into the U.S. market each year, and more than 84,000 chemical substances are being used in manufacturing and processing or are being imported. Dr. Conry said, "The scary fact is that we don't have safety data on most of these chemicals even though they are everywhere -- in the air, water, soil, our food supply, and everyday products. Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor, is a common toxic chemical contained in our food, packaging, and many consumer products. To successfully study the impact of these chemical exposures, we must shift the burden of proof from the individual health care provider and the consumer to the manufacturers before any chemicals are even released into the environment."
    The groups said certain groups of people and communities have higher exposures to harmful environmental chemicals than others. Dr. Conry said, "For example, women exposed to toxic chemicals at work are at higher risk of reproductive health problems than other women. Low-wage immigrants who work on farms have higher exposures to chemicals used on the crops that they harvest." Dr. Giudice said, "As reproductive health care physicians, we are in a unique position to help prevent prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents by educating our patients about how to avoid them at home, in their community, and at work."
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) commented on the medical group concerns saying, "We support efforts to promote the health and well-being of pregnant women, infants and young children. We agree with the underlying premise of the Opinion that pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive should eat a healthy diet and be sensitive about the kinds of things they ingest or are exposed to. "However, we have serious concerns with the Opinion: "We are disappointed that the Opinion takes scientific consensus about highly-regulated substances like mercury or lead, and applies the conclusions about safety to other substances that both science and federal regulators tell us are used safely in consumer products.

    "We are concerned that the Opinion inappropriately draws conclusions based on biomonitoring data that ignores the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that just because a chemical is present in the body, doesn't mean that it will cause effects or disease. And, we are concerned that the Opinion includes references to specific chemicals, which are based on a limited number of flawed studies, and ignores thorough scientific assessments that demonstrate safe use of these substances. For example, bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most tested substances in use today and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly found that the evidence does not show a connection between typical exposure levels and health effects or disease. BPA is used to make the linings in food cans—food that's an important source of nutrition for millions of Americans -- to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses. The FDA has examined this use and scientists at FDA tell us that the trace amounts we are exposed to from materials that keep our food safe, are safe for us.

    "Women rely on their physicians for sound medical advice and access to reliable information. Creating confusion and alarm among expectant mothers will distract from the well-established steps doctors recommend to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Chemicals are regulated by nearly a dozen federal laws today, and any new chemical must be reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to manufacture. We share the group's interest in achieving policy reforms that will modernize and enhance federal chemical regulation. We are actively working with bipartisan leaders in Congress to achieve the first chemical regulatory reforms in decades, even as ACC member companies continuously improve industry product stewardship and safety programs."
    Access a joint release from the groups with further details and multiple links to related information (click here). Access the complete statement from ACC and a video (click here). [#Toxics]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Turning Point In The Corporate Response To Climate Change

Sep 23: Two new studies released at the New York Stock Exchange today by CDP – formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, in conjunction with PwC and Sustainable Insight Capital Management, Inc. (SICM), respectively demonstrate that CDP leaders who incorporate environmental factors into their business strategies are mitigating climate related risks, finding opportunities to strengthen their businesses and delivering higher profitability than their industry peers. The findings of these two complementary reports add significantly to the body of knowledge on the role of environmental factors in corporate performance.

    CDP's President, North America, Tom Carnac said, "The release of today's report findings show the link between climate change management and superior financial performance is building. These two studies validate that relationship by exhibiting how companies incorporating environmental stewardship into their business model and investment decision making process can gain strength and protect their competitive advantage."

    The CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report, by CDP and PwC, provides an annual update on greenhouse gas emissions data and climate change strategies at America's largest public corporations in response to CDP's disclosure request from 722 investors representing $87 trillion. This year, seventy-seven percent of respondents (258 companies) reported an increase in climate change exposure, up from 61 percent in 2012, with extreme weather topping the list of highest-impact. In response, the report showed:

  • S&P 500 companies investing on average over four percent of annual capital expenditure in emissions reductions, representing $50 billion worth of investments on a range of emissions reduction activities and energy-saving processes. The energy sector leads with a reported $27.3 billion invested, followed by utilities with $13.7 billion invested. Greenhouse gas emissions were reported to have been reduced on aggregate by 6.1%.
  • S&P 500 companies reported $4 billion in monetary savings from their investments in emissions reductions, including product design innovations ($1.2 billion), energy efficiency processes ($991 million), and changes to their transportation fleet and use ($709 million).
  • Twenty companies generated 85 percent ($3.5 billion) of the monetary savings reported by all the respondents and twenty companies accounted for nearly 90 percent of the carbon emissions reductions. The seven companies who overlap both of these lists are Ameren Corporation, AT&T, Dell, Exelon Corporation, Northeast Utilities, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Waste Management.
  • Companies from the S&P 500 on the 2013 Climate Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) more than doubled in number from 2012, demonstrating the significance of incorporating climate change risks and opportunities into their overall business strategy.

    PwC Sustainable Business Solutions (SBS) partner Doug Kangos added that the results of the 2013 report indicate a turning point in the corporate response to climate change. He said, "The overarching story is business transformation. Leading companies are innovating to create value on many levels while demonstrating increasing sophistication and confidence in addressing the risks and opportunities associated with climate destabilization."

    The complementary report covering the Global 500, Linking Climate Engagement to Financial Performance: An Investor's Perspective, released at the same event and co-written by CDP and Sustainable Insight Capital Management, shows that superior transparency on climate engagement is associated with higher financial performance.

    The analysis is based on the CDP disclosure scores of 702 companies covered in CDP's Global 500 climate change reports from 2008 to 2012. Using peer to peer comparisons, companies were ranked by industry and split into quintiles by their CDP disclosure score, then examined against various metrics of financial profitability. The analysis shows that industry leaders in the first quintile based on their relative CDP scores, provide a higher return on equity (+5.2%), more stable cash flow generation (+18.1%) and higher dividend growth (+1.6%).

    The analysis leverages CDP's unique data set on corporate engagement on climate change to demonstrate that strategic management of climate change risks and opportunities is reflected in the underlying financial performance of companies. US S&P 500 companies' CDP disclosure and performance scores are listed in full in the CDP S&P 500 Climate Change report.

    Access a lengthy release from CDP additional details with links to both reports (click here). [#Climate]

Friday, September 20, 2013

EPA Proposes CO2 Standards For The Power Sector

Sep 20: On June 25, 2013, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum, as part of his Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13], directing U.S. EPA to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for the power sector using authority under section 111 of the Clean Air Act to issue standards, regulations or guidelines, as appropriate.. The Presidential Memorandum directed EPA to build on state leadership, provide flexibility and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies towards building a cleaner power sector.  For newly built power plants, the plan calls for EPA to issue a new proposal by September, 20, 2013, and to issue a final rule in a timely fashion after considering all public comments, as appropriate.  For existing plants, the plan calls for EPA to issue proposed carbon pollution standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate, for modified and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014 and issue final standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate, by no later than June 1, 2015.

    Today EPA proposed Clean Air Act standards to cut carbon pollution from new power plants in order to combat climate change and improve public health. In addition, EPA has initiated broad-based outreach and direct engagement with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and build on state efforts to move toward a cleaner power sector. The proposal achieves the first milestone outlined in President Obama's June 25 Memorandum to EPA on "Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards," a major part of the President's Climate Action Plan.

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, "Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children. These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy."

    Under EPA's proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (CO2/MWh), while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds CO2/MWh . New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds CO2/MWh, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

    EPA said these proposed standards will ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology to limit carbon pollution, a requirement that is in line with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power industry. Additionally, these standards provide flexibility by allowing sources to phase in the use of some of these technologies, and they ensure that the power plants of the future use cleaner energy technologies -- such as efficient natural gas, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar. In response to recent information and developments in the power sector and more than 2.5 million public comments, including those from the power sector and environmental groups, the proposal sets separate standards for new gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.

    EPA indicates that power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. In addition, more than 25 states have set energy efficiency targets, and more than 35 have set renewable energy targets. While the United States has limits in place for arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. The Agency is seeking comment and information on the proposed rules, including holding a public hearing, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA's comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. In a separate action, EPA is rescinding the April 2012 proposal.

    Separately, EPA has initiated outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders that will help inform the development of emission guidelines for existing power plants. EPA intends to work closely with the states to ensure strategies for reducing carbon pollution from existing sources are flexible, account for regional diversity, and embrace common sense solutions, allowing the United States to continue utilizing every fuel source available. In accordance with the June 25 Presidential Memorandum, EPA will issue proposed standards for existing power plants by June 1, 2014. 

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee said, "Every day across the nation we see the harmful impacts of climate change, and we must reduce carbon pollution to protect public health and safeguard future generations. EPA's proposed standard for new power plants is a critical and appropriate step forward in addressing the biggest source of carbon pollution."

    Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee said, "Today's proposal maintains EPA's pie in the sky standard-setting mentality despite the Agency's admission that unilateral regulations would have no impact on global emissions levels. EPA completely ignores other nations' missteps, and the severe negative impacts from trying to address carbon emissions. Their actions have resulted in economic uncertainty, job loss, and increased electricity prices, yet the Agency continues to barrel on -- full speed ahead."

    House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "EPA is doubling down on its economically destructive plan to essentially end the construction of new coal-fired power plants in America. The proposed standards would require the use of expensive new technologies that are not commercially viable. We are the Saudi Arabia of coal, but this impractical rule restricts access to one of our most abundant, affordable, and dependable energy sources. The consequences will be more job losses and a weaker economy. These stringent standards will actually discourage investment and the development of innovative new technologies that can help us meet the world's future energy and environmental challenges. The right policies should embrace our energy abundance as part of the solution. The committee will soon hold a hearing on this latest regulatory grab as part of our ongoing effort to protect Americans and jobs from unnecessary and costly red tape."

    The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change led by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Ranking Member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee applauded the proposed rules. Rep. Waxman said, "The EPA proposal is a double winner: pro-environment and pro-growth. It sets achievable standards for new power plants that will spur innovation in clean coal technologies like carbon capture and sequestration.  And the proposal will clean up the air and make the U.S. a world leader in advanced pollution-control technology.  The Administration is on track in implementing the President's Climate Action Plan."

    U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten said in part, "It is clear that the EPA is continuing to move forward with a strategy that will write off our huge, secure, affordable coal resources by essentially outlawing the construction of new coal plants. The EPA had the chance to craft a regulation that recognized the value of the 'all of the above' energy strategy endorsed by President Obama, and ensured that standards were achievable and based upon commercially and economically viable technology. Instead, they have released yet another major regulation that will hamper economic growth and job creation, and could lead to higher energy costs for American families and businesses. Furthermore, we continue to believe that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. . ."

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a release saying in part, "Any policy to reduce GHG emissions must be coupled with a comprehensive energy strategy that promotes diversity, efficiency, affordability and reliability so that American manufacturers can expand, innovate and create jobs. While we are pleased that EPA's re-proposed NSPS for new power plants sets separate standards for different fuel types, we are concerned that the emission limit for coal combustion technologies is unachievable and will harm energy diversity by effectively ending construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States. Even new facilities that employ the most state-of-the-art technology in commercial use today -- so-called 'supercritical' plants -- will be unable to meet the standard. . ."

    Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said in part, "We have an obligation to protect future generations from climate change. This is a critical step in that direction. The standard makes clear that tomorrow's power plants won't be built at the expense of our children's future. It signals that we're moving, as a country, to the clean energy solutions we need. And it will help safeguard the most vulnerable among us -- our children and elderly people -- from smog worsened by climate change. . ."
    Fred Krupp President of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "Right now there are no limits at all on the largest source of carbon pollution, so this is a necessary and commonsense step. As communities across our country struggle with terrible floods, droughts, and wildfires, these standards will finally put a limit on the carbon pollution that new power plants emit into our skies. Cleaner power generation will protect our children from dangerous smog, extreme weather, and other serious climate impacts, and ensure that America leads the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies."

     Access a release from EPA with links to related information (click here). Access links to the proposed rule; fact sheet; technical fact sheet; regulatory impact statement and commenting information (click here). Access a release from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a release from Sen. Vitter (click here). Access a release from Rep. Upton (click here). Access a release from the Bicameral Task Force (click here). Access a release from U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). [#Climate, #Air, #Energy/EGU]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

House Hearing On Keystone XL "Red Tape"

Sep 19: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, Chaired by Representative Lee Terry (R-NE), held a hearing on entitled "Keystone's Red Tape Anniversary: Five Years of Bureaucratic Delay and Economic Benefits Denied." Witnesses included: Reps. Steve Daines (R-MT); Ted Poe (R-TX); Rush Holt (D-NJ); Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and representatives from Welspun Tubular LLC; U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Institute for 21st Century Energy; Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce; Laborers Local 1140; Energy Policy Research Foundation; Bold Nebraska; and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) International Program.
    Full Committee chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI) said in an opening statement, "TransCanada first submitted its application to build the Keystone XL pipeline to U.S. the State Department exactly five years ago today. In the fall of 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the department was "inclined" to approve the project. In 2011, in opposing our initial Keystone bill, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy, stating that the bill expediting the pipeline was unnecessary because the State Department was "committed to reaching a decision" before the end of that year. But here we are today, five years after the application was filed, and we still don't have approval. . .
    "Despite the added safety controls, exhaustive studies, and 15,500 pages of State Department analysis, thousands of jobs are still being held hostage to an ever-moving goal line. Our friend and ally Canada is pursuing other options, now considering building a new trans-Canadian pipeline to their eastern seaboard for refining and export. The Keystone pipeline is an important component of our architecture of abundance that is necessary to achieve energy self-sufficiency. In January of 2012, the president resolved to 'do whatever it takes' to create jobs, but here we still are today. It is time for the president to join the broad coalition of job creators, labor unions, Republicans, and Democrats alike, and say 'yes' to this jobs and energy project."
    Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) countered saying, "I oppose this tar sands pipeline because it locks us into decades of higher carbon pollution. It is a big step in the wrong direction on climate change, and that's something we simply cannot afford to do. Yesterday, the Energy and Power Subcommittee of this Committee held its first hearing in years on climate change. . . Yesterday, I posed one question to those who oppose the President's action on climate change: what's your plan? Don't just say no – propose an alternative. We heard nothing. Instead of doing something to address climate change, today we're holding the eleventh hearing since 2011 to push one favored project that would make climate change worse. This single tar sands pipeline would increase America's carbon pollution equivalent to building seven new coal-fired power plants. . .
    Today's hearing is misplaced for another reason. For months we have required the government to work under sequestration, with its ill-conceived and indiscriminate cuts. There are eleven days left before the federal government will shut down, and about 30 days until our country hits its debt ceiling. We should be dealing with these pressing issues, not a tar sands pipeline that will create only a handful of jobs. . . If our goal is creating jobs, Keystone XL is not the answer. Instead, we should be working to ensure broad opportunity for the middle class. We should be fixing America's crumbling roads and bridges. And we should be investing in the clean energy technologies of the future. . ."
    The U.S. Chamber testified, "The failure of the federal government after five years to grant a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline exemplifies perhaps better than anything the challenges of building energy infrastructure in the United States. This failure has not only denied Americans the benefits of the economic shot in the arm this project would provide, it also has tarnished America's image as a "can do" country open to investment, a failure that can be difficult to shake from investors' minds. . . Unfortunately, our energy sector suffers from a lengthy, unpredictable, and needlessly complex regulatory maze that delays, and often halts, the construction of new energy infrastructure. Federal and state siting and permitting reviews and rules are used routinely to block the construction and expansion of needed energy infrastructure. . ."
    NRDC testified, "The Keystone XL tar sands project would pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet through the breadbasket of America to be shipped overseas through the Gulf of Mexico. Financial analysts, industry commentators, and the environmental community agree that Keystone XL is a lynchpin for tar sands expansion and the significant carbon pollution associated with it. TransCanada's reapplied for a Presidential Permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in May 4th, 2012 after its first permit application was rejected. Since the original application, the federal review of Keystone XL has revealed significant major risks associated with the proposed tar sands project and shown that the project's benefits have been overstated. Significant new information that has been uncovered since Keystone XL was proposed. . ."   
    Access the Republican hearing website for background, statements, testimony and video (click here). Access the Democrats hearing website for background, statements, testimony and video (click here). [#Energy/KXL, #Climate]

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

House Hearing On President's Climate Action Plan

Sep 18: U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), on the President's Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13]. Chairman Whitfield sent requests to 13 federal agencies to testify at the hearing, and sent a follow up letter September 4 reiterating his request. Although agencies were given over six weeks notice, the only attendees were DOE Secretary Moniz and EPA Administrator McCarthy. Chairman Whitfileld expressed disappointment that the other agencies chose not to attend. He said, "What does it say about an administration that is largely unwilling to testify on its top policy initiative? More than $77 billion was spent between 2008 and 2013 across the government on climate activities, and yet the 'most transparent administration in history' can only find two people to testify from these agencies that employ tens of thousands of employees and receive significant funding for climate change related activities." In general, Republicans on the Subcommittee expressed extreme concern about the science, cost, and impact of addressing climate change. Democrats generally supported the need to address climate change and supported the President's plan.
    EPA's McCarthy testified, "Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists are convinced that human caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet." She concluded, "The President's Plan provides a roadmap for federal action to meet the pressing challenge of a changing climate -- promoting clean energy solutions that capitalize on American innovation and drive economic growth. EPA looks forward to working with other federal agencies and all stakeholders on these critical efforts."
   DOE's Moniz testified, "The evidence is overwhelming, the science is clear, and the threat from climate change is real and urgent. This is my judgment and it is the almost universal judgment of the scientific community. The basic science behind climate change is simple: greenhouse gases make the earth warmer, and we are emitting more and more of them into the atmosphere." He concluded, "With new technologies, the recent growth in unconventional gas and oil production, the continued decrease in the costs of renewable energy and our reserves of traditional forms of energy, like coal, the United States may be entering into a period of unprecedented energy abundance. We believe in an all-of-the-above approach to ensure that this energy is used wisely and cleanly in a low carbon economy, and we are putting resources behind it: advanced fossil energy, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced transportation.
   "History has shown repeatedly that we can grow the economy while making tremendous strides in reducing pollution, including acid rain, ozone, lead and other hazardous emissions. I have no doubt that transforming our energy economy will be a challenge. And new technology will be key. We will need our smartest scientists, our brightest engineers, and visionary policy makers to get this done. The President has put forth a smart and prudent plan to slow the effects of climate change, to prepare for worsening climate impacts and ensure a safer, healthier future for our children, and I am excited to be a part of it."
    Access the Republican hearing website for background, statements, testimony and video (click here). Access the Democrats hearing website for background, statements, testimony and video (click here). [#Climate]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Disagreement Over Study Of Methane Emissions From Fracking

Sep 16: The first of sixteen methane emissions studies in a comprehensive research initiative organized by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and involving more than 90 partners -- universities, scientists, research facilities, and oil and gas companies -- is now available. The paper, "Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States," was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Led by Dr. David Allen at The University of Texas at Austin (UT), the study took direct measurements of methane emissions associated with unconventional natural gas production -- specifically, shale gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing or fracking. EDF together with many oil and gas companies funded and supported the research effort.

    The UT study, which only deals with the extraction phase of the natural gas supply chain, is the opening chapter in this broader scientific effort designed to advance the current understanding of the climate implications of methane emissions resulting from the U.S. natural gas boom. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas -- 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. The nation's largest single source of methane emissions is the vast network of infrastructure, including wells, pipelines and storage facilities, that supplies U.S. natural gas. Experts agree that methane leaked or vented from natural gas operations is a real concern, yet estimated emission rates vary greatly -- from 1 to 8 percent of total production.

    Fred Krupp, president of EDF said, "We know that immediate methane reductions are critical to slow climate change. But we don't yet have a handle on how much is being emitted. We need better data, and that's what this series of studies will deliver. As we understand the scope of what's happening across the natural gas system, we will be able to address it. We already know enough to get started reducing emissions, and thanks to the first study, we know that new EPA regulations to reduce wellhead emissions are effective. EPA got it right."

    Launched last year, the overall research effort is designed to collect methane emissions data associated with natural gas production, gathering lines and processing facilities, long-distance pipelines and storage, local distribution, and commercial trucks and refueling stations. A variety of scientific methods are being used across the various studies, including approaches that measure emissions directly at the source and those that use airplanes or towers equipped with sensors to measure total emissions in a given area. In some cases, these methods are paired to provide greater insight and certainty. EDF anticipates all of the projects will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

    EDF Chief Scientist Steve Hamburg said, "The scientific talent leading these studies, the partnership with industry and access to their facilities, and the diverse research methods used, gives us the confidence that when the project concludes in late 2014, we'll be able to greatly increase our understanding of the climate impacts of switching to natural gas from other fossil fuels, through this unprecedented collective research effort."

    UT's peer-reviewed study, the first work published in this overall series, reports data from emission sources from natural gas production -- the first part of the supply chain. Study results show that total emissions are in line with EPA estimates from the production of natural gas, yet the distribution of those emissions among activities differ. Methane emissions are lower than estimated by EPA for well completions and higher for valves and equipment used to control routine operations at the well site. All of the data generated in the study are available for public scrutiny. According to Hamburg, UT's low well emissions finding indicates an early phase-in of EPA's New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), which requires all new fractured natural gas wells to either burn-off or use "green completions" (an emissions control method that routes excess gas to sales), is working. Results also suggest that these new regulations, which will be fully implemented in 2015, are having the desired effects. No national survey of how many operators currently use green completions is available, but the data suggest that once this practice is required, emissions from this phase of the production process will decline.

    Hamburg also noted that the higher-than-estimated emissions from valve controllers (also known as pneumatics) and equipment leaks show important opportunities for reducing methane emissions in the future. Considerable opportunities exist under the Clean Air Act to strengthen NSPS, including requiring emissions controls for equipment routinely found at oil and natural gas production sites, such as valves or connectors at the well pad or pressure relief valves on storage tanks, and controls for nearly half a million existing pneumatics at natural gas wells and for the thousands of existing compressors that move gas from the well through the system to the end user. Similarly the NSPS do not contain requirements to reduce well completion emissions from hybrid wells that produce both oil and natural gas, which are becoming much more common as the price of oil remains high. Robust leak detection and repair requirements are also necessary to assure the equipment in the field is operated and maintained properly at all times. Many of the same cost-effective clean air measures that the NSPS deploys can be used to reduce emissions from these potentially significant sources. Additional emissions reduction opportunities should be considered as further data unfolds around liquids unloading.

    EDF indicates in a release that a key element of UT's study, and the other EDF-industry collaborative studies, is the focus on ensuring their scientific integrity. Built into the research process of each of these studies is a Scientific Advisory Panel, experts from academic and other institutions serve as external advisors and review the procedures, results and conclusions. An additional independent review is conducted by the scientific journal to which the study is submitted for publication -- in this case, PNAS -- a key step in all studies within this methane research series. Findings from this effort will help inform policymakers, researchers and industry, providing new insights and data about the sources of methane emissions and illuminating ways to reduce those emissions. The full set of studies is expected to be published by the end of 2014.

    Despite EDF assurance of scientific integrity, the organization, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), has severely criticized the report. PSE said in a release, "This new study of methane leakage appears fatally flawed. This important research bears directly on the powerful GHG/global warming effects of methane and thus the implications for regulation and continued widespread development of shale gas. But it has concluded that methane leakage at well sites, selected in time and location by industry participants, is so low as to be nearly trivial. This is a finding at odds with other researchers' work that shows much higher rates. . . "
    PSE says the study ". . .is based on a small sampling of hydraulically fractured wells which may not adequately represent national oil and gas activity and the variability within and across production basins. Furthermore, the fugitive losses reported by Allen and colleagues are 10 to 20 times lower than those calculated from more complete (field-level) measurements. Allen and colleagues do not address this large discrepancy or even reference these other studies. . ."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Howard Feldman commented on the study saying, "The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment, and these efforts are paying off. This latest study shows that methane emissions are a fraction of estimates from just a few years ago. The industry will continue to make substantial progress to reduce emissions voluntarily and in compliance with EPA's recent emissions standards. Capturing methane is helping operators deliver more natural gas to consumers, creating a built-in incentive to continue reducing these emissions. The oil and natural gas revolution has been one of the few bright spots in our economic recovery, driving unprecedented job growth, providing Americans with affordable energy, and helping to reduce emissions. In fact, safe and responsible development of energy from shale has helped the U.S. cut CO2 emission to near 20-year lows."
    Feldman said that additional regulation on top of existing federal, state and local regulations are not necessary. The study found that the emissions measured at wells during the completion phase are, on average, nearly 50 times lower than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Total emissions are also lower than EPA's latest estimate, which had already been drastically reduced from previous estimates.
    Access a lengthy release with additional details from EDF and links to the paper on PNAS (click here). Access full details on the UT study findings, access to the dataset and an overview of the second phase of data collection, already underway at the UT methane website (click here). Access the 78-page detailed appendix to the study (click here). Access a lengthy release from PSE with detailed criticism of the study (click here). Access the PSE library on unconventional oil and gas development for additional information (click here). Access a blog posting on the study from EcoWatch with multiple links to related information (click here). Access a release from API (click here). [#Energy/Frack, #Climate]

Monday, September 16, 2013

States Raise Concerns About Coal Power & EPA GHG Regs

Sep 13: House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) released a white paper report by the Attorneys General from seventeen states (+Indiana DEQ) and one senior environmental regulator relating to U.S. EPA's planned new regulations for existing electricity power plants fueled by coal. The coalition of Attorneys General express concern about whether in developing and implementing these regulations the EPA will adhere to the limitations of its authority under the Clean Air Act. The states signing on to the white paper include: NE, OK, AK, FL, KS, MT, MI, AL, AZ, GA, KY, ND, OH, SD, WI, SC, WV, & IN.

    Rep. Whitfield  said, "The Obama Administration continues to unilaterally bypass the role of the states, while stifling job creation by eliminating affordable energy through new regulations that will only be another blow to our fragile economy. The most frustrating part is the Administration is doing this with no public debate, and many in the United States Congress and individual states have been expressing deep concern about the impact that this will have on our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace."

    As set forth in the white paper by the Attorneys General sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, "EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act is limited to developing a procedure for states to establish emissions standards for existing sources [such as existing coal-fired power plants]." Rep. Whitfield and the Attorneys General express concern over the impact that overreaching emissions standards on existing plants will have on the economy. They state that, "The elimination of coal as a fuel for new electric generation would have highly concerning implications for electricity prices and for the economy and job-creation in general, as well as the competitiveness of American manufacturing."

    The white paper concludes, "The prospect for EPA adoption of GHG performance standards for new or existing coalbased EGUs raises serious concerns. EPA's aggressive standards for new coal-based EGUs indicate a similarly aggressive approach to existing coal-based EGUs. While EPA is authorized to require States to submit plans containing performance standards, EPA may not dictate what those performance standards shall be. Nor may EPA require States to adopt GHG performance standards that are not based on adequately demonstrated technology or that mandate, in the guise of 'flexible approaches,' the retirement or reduced operation of still-viable coal-based EGUs. These concerns are serious. EPA regulations may harm the nascent economic recovery. Moreover, our federalist system of government, as implicated in the CAA, requires that EPA recognize the rights and prerogatives of States. The extent and form of greenhouse gas regulation is important to the States; it is critical that States be allowed to play their proper roles in making the significant policy judgments that are required in adopting any such regulation."
    On Wednesday, September 18, Rep. Whitfield's subcommittee will hold a hearing on the President's climate change agenda. Although other agencies were invited, only EPA and the Department of Energy will be testifying. The subcommittee is seeking information and testimony regarding the Administration's current and planned climate change activities, including standards for new and existing power plants. Rep. Whitfield said he is also seeking information regarding the impact that the President's climate change agenda will have on states, the economy and job creation. Rep. Whitfield reported that the Department of Labor's Jobs Report for August found that  the Labor Force Participation Rate, which identifies the number of people who are active participants in the labor force (relative to the total population), decreased from 63.4% in July to 63.2% in August. This is the lowest level since August, 1978, during the Carter Administration.

    Access a release from Rep. Whitfield (click here). Access the white paper (click here). Access the upcoming hearing website for a notice and background document (click here). [#Climate, #Energy/Coal, #Air/GHG, #MIClimate]

Thursday, September 12, 2013

House Bipartisan Water Resources Act; H.R.3080

Sep 11: Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced what they called "unprecedented bipartisan water resources reform legislation that cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, promotes fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America's competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth."

    H.R.3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall, II (D-WV), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-NY).

    Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its missions to develop, maintain, and support the Nation's vital port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs.  Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years to provide clear direction to the Administration and the Corps, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007. 

    Chairman Shuster said, "WRRDA 2013 is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades. The bill contains no earmarks and makes major programmatic reforms to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight of federal water resources development activities.  Most importantly, WRRDA is about jobs and improving America's competitiveness.  A strong, effective water transportation network is essential to keeping pace with other nations that are improving their own infrastructure networks and gaining ground in an increasingly competitive global marketplace." Ranking Member Rahall said, "This bill is about jobs. It boosts our ports, strengthens our maritime economy, and allows commodities to move more efficiently along our inland waterways, saving time and money.  When we invest in these corridors of commerce we are investing in a more competitive nation and enabling our water transportation network to support increased economic opportunity." The Members highlighted the following features of the bill:

  • Sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies
  • Consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and requires concurrent reviews 
  • Streamlines environmental reviews
  • Deauthorizes $12 billion of old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to WRDA 2007
  • Fully offsets new authorizations with deauthorizations
  • Sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs
  • Reduces the inventory of properties that are not needed for the missions of the Corps
  • No earmarks
  • Establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities with strong Congressional oversight 
  • Maximizes the ability of non-federal interests to contribute their own funds to move authorized studies and projects forward
  • Expands the ability of non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite the evaluation and processing of permits
  • Establishes a Water Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Program
  • Authorizes needed investments in America's ports
  • Supports underserved, emerging ports
  • Reforms and preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund
  • Authorizes priority water resources infrastructure improvements recommended by the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and commerce and address flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage risk reduction, and environmental restoration needs

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, issued a statement after the House leaders released H.R.3080 and said, "Earlier this year, the Senate overwhelmingly approved critical legislation to invest in the nation's aging water infrastructure. I am pleased that Republican and Democratic leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee worked together to develop a bipartisan bill, and I urge the House to move quickly so that we can reconcile the House and Senate approaches and get a water resources development bill to the President's desk." On May 15, the Senate passed S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 [See WIMS 5/15/13], with strong bipartisan support (83 to 14). S. 601 provides critical flood protection for communities across the country, maintains navigation routes and the flow of commerce, restores vital ecosystems, and sustains up to 500,000 new jobs.

    Access a joint release from the Members with additional comments and links to the bill text, background and a video of the press conference (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3080 (click here). Access legislative details for S.601 (click here). [#Water]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

UN Report Says 1/3 Of All Food Produced Goes To Waste

Sep 11: A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released today indicates that the waste of a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year is not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking significant harm on the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself. The report -- Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources -- is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.
    Among its key findings: Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River  and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere. In addition to its environmental impacts, the direct economic consequences to producers of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually.

    FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, "We all -- farmers and fishers; food processers and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers --must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't. In addition the environmental imperative, there is a moral one: We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste, when 870 million people go hungry every day, "

    As a companion to its new study, FAO has also published "tool-kit" that contains recommendations on how food loss and waste can be reduced at every stage of the food chain. The tool-kit profiles a number of projects around the world that show how national and local governments, farmers, businesses, and individual consumers can take steps to tackle the problem.

    Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director said, "UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss -- food wastage -- as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy. Today's excellent report by the FAO underlines the multiple benefits that can be realized -- in many cases through simple and thoughtful measures by for example households, retailers, restaurants, schools and businesses -- that can contribute to environmental sustainability, economic improvements, food security and the realization of the UN Secretary General's Zero Hunger Challenge.We would urge everyone to adopt the motto of our joint campaign: Think Eat Save-Reduce Your Foodprint!" UNEP and FAO are founding partners of the Think Eat Save-Reduce Your Foodprint campaign that was launched earlier in the year and whose aim is to assist in coordinating world-wide efforts to manage down wastage.

    Fifty-four percent of the world's food wastage occurs "upstream" during production, post-harvest handling and storage, according to the FAO's study. Forty-six percent of it happens "downstream," at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle- and high-income regions -- where it accounts for 31-39 percent of total wastage -- than in low-income regions (4-16 percent). The later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, the FAO's report notes, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. To tackle the problem, FAO's toolkit details three general levels where action is needed:

  • High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.

  • In the event of a food surplus, re-use within the human food chain- finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society- represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.

  • Where re-use is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste, representing a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills. (Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is a large producer of methane, a particularly harmful GHG.
    Access a lengthy release from UNEP with additional details including key facts and figures and links to related information (click here). Access a separate release from FAO (click here). Access the 63-page summary report (click here). Access the Toolkit  (click here). [#Agriculture, #Solid, #P2]