Environment and Energy Security: Monthly Update
Photo by Shaun Dakin unsplash.com
Monthly Updates from Our Washington Correspondent, Elaine Emling
It’s summer and Congress went on its break in early August. For all who are active, choose a major national newspaper, your local paper, and review the past columns written by Your Correspondent for the many resources to help keep you up-to-date on the issue, or issues that interest you and to check for breaking news. You have been given many resources with which to consult, guidance as to the issues of concern here at home, and tools to use in your PAN-EES work, both through this column and the PAN website in general.
Best of luck. Your Correspondent is retiring and will now go domestic with her energies and efforts. This does not mean you cannot contact me for information or assistance. I would be tickled pink to hear from you.
movers & shakers
The “I’m Stuck” app for mobile devices, to let your lawmakers know what transportation repairs need to be done, came out in early August. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, now co-chair of the transportation infrastructure advocacy group, Building America’s Future http://www.bafuture.org/ reports a positive reception to this feature even by tea party Republicans when speaking to a recent House transportation committee. (Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, July 30, 2013, p. A5) Check BAF’s website for more on connecting with this app! Urge US-based friends and family to get this app NOW!
oops! we’re in trouble, again!
What’s melting now?! We read about what’s happening in the north and south poles. Now scientists have a third ice sample to study, those many glaciers on the plateau of Tibet and surrounding mountains such as the Himalayas, Karakoram and Pamirs, sometimes referred to as ‘The Third Pole’. If you check a map, you will see that some very great rivers begin in this area and flow south, west and east to affect the lives of millions of people; about 1.5 billion people in 12 countries live in the basins of those rivers according to The Economist, May 11, 2013, ‘Pole-land’, pp. 84-85. An international program to study what is happening with the many glaciers in this area has begun, The Third Pole Environment. There are many links when you google this topic; here is one http://www.thethirdpole.net/third-pole-environment-tpe/
lobbyin’ ‘n’ politikin’
What is happening with the transportation bill is an example of the sequester wrecking havoc on the conduct of the business of the federal government; not the only one, but a relevant example for those of us interested in energy and environmental sustainability.
This is pointed out by Ruth Marcus in her August 2, 2013 op ed piece (p. A13) in The Washington Post. To mitigate the effects of the sequester on national security programs, Republicans are doing some re-arranging of the finances of several domestic agencies, transportation being one. House proposed cuts were in “…Amtrack, infrastructure grants for cities and low-income housing.” Not stated, but implied, such cuts were too much for moderates of the conservative persuasion and the proposed cuts did not pass. In the Senate, the bi-partisan work of Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) won the support of six Republicans in the Appropriations Committee. By the time the bill was up for a cloture vote, Marcus reports that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems to have whisked away those supporting votes. This seems a good time to give McConnell lots of grief over how he behaves in the Senate. He’s up for re-election.
Steve Mufson, Keystone XL: Down the Line, an e-book from The Washington Post, https://account.washingtonpost.com/actmgmt/help/washington-post-e-books
There’s an app for that: the president’s budget: http://www.gpo.gov/mobile/popups/budget_popup.html You can access other information at the GPO main website http://www.gpo.gov/
Your one-stop shop repository for congressional information is available at FDsys Federal Digital System http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ A search box enables you to access government publications.
NASA, “Earth from Space”, a NOVA production with PBS: “…a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences…” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/earth-from-space.html
I found this a fascinating program that gives background to the forces shaping the PAN-EES topic of environment, energy and sustainability. A transcript of the program is also on this webpage. Or, you can purchase the program from PBS in DVD format for $24.99, or Blu-ray for $29.99.
Silver Spring, MD
The State Department is preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on TransCanada’s application for the Keystone XL. However, it is believed that personal pressure on the president is what will make the difference. Keep abreast of developments with the Sierra Club’s website http://www.sierraclub.org/ and the NRDC http://www.nrdc.org/ . And do your bit to lobby on this issue.
movers & shakers
Watch these people for their influence on energy and environmental sustainability [the concept] and rules-laws [where the rubber hits the road].
Idle No More is a campaign by the indigenous peoples of
Another Canadian activist group is the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign of the Polaris Institute http://polarisinstitute.org/frontpage
Since time is running out for President Obama to make a decision on whether the pipeline can go through, it is helpful to keep track of what these two groups are doing and saying, in addition to the
oops! we’re in trouble, again.
In May, the Washington Post reported that for decades fish and other sea life are moving closer to the poles seeking cooler waters (May 16, 2013, Lenny Bernstein, p. A1), documented in a study published in the journal Nature http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html . Your correspondent notes that animals and plants are important indicators of what is happening in the environment. When living in the
The Russians have exited the
lobbyin’ ‘n’ politikin’
Whenever you see a state mentioned, and it is yours, get on the website of the relevant House member and both Senators. Ask questions, demand answers, find out what that elected official’s position is on the issue and what knowledge s/he has.
It would be helpful for readers to report back to this correspondent any important issues, by state, that could be shared with the reading community. If we could get more people involved, that would increase the effectiveness of any lobbying effort.
Your correspondent has no particular resources for you this time. Can you send any to her that you feel are particularly useful, or interesting?
Are you keeping an eye on this? Check the resources provided in the past, plus your hometown newspaper.
movers & shakers
Watch these people for their influence on energy and environmental sustainability [the concept] and rules-laws [where the rubber hits the road].
Jonathan Pershing, who has been the No. 2 climate negotiator for the US, is leaving the State Department for a position as deputy assistant secretary for climate policy in the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy and International Affairs (Politico, January 19-21, 2013, p. 8).
Warren Buffett, known perhaps better for his investments in solar power, wind farms and a Chinese electric car company. But, watch how silent he seems on climate change and on the role coal plays in the operation of his Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) Railroad Company and hopes for its future in hauling coal from a proposed Otter Creek mine in Powder River County, Montana. . See this Sierra Club report.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In the October 14, 2012, issue of The Washington Post, page G1, Steve Pearlstein wrote an article about Washington dysfunction, pointing out one of the causes of gridlock as being in the regulatory system, citing this court “where a new breed of activist judges are waging a determined and largely successful war on federal regulatory agencies.” Remember the proposed regulatory rule requiring states to control their pollution that would cross state lines? Well, rules first ordered in 1970 by Congress were scuppered in this court before Labor Day last year. They were thrown out! Keep an eye on the cases coming before this court and the rulings that ensue.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown, in the same court as Judge Kavanaugh, and of the same political slant.
oops! we’re in trouble, again.
This is about the entire nation, not one state or company. Our infrastructure report:
Some of the biggest problem areas: aviation, roads and transit (Washington Post, March 20, 2013, p. A17, Ashley Halsey III). This article reports that Maryland received a C-, low for stormwater flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, best for ‘restoration of bridges.’ Virginia scored D+ with better grades for aviation. The District of Columbia did not receive a grade but it was noted that over 99% of its street were judged ‘poor or mediocre’. As far as nation-wide systems go: aviation ‘D’, transit systems ‘D’, roadways ‘D’. You can imagine the effects this has on consumption of energy fuels.
Time to get lobbyin’ with your state officials in the Congress!
lobbyin’ ‘n’ politikin’
Whenever you see a state mentioned, and it is yours, get on the website of the relevant House member and both Senators. Ask questions, demand answers, find out what that elected official’s position is on the issue and what knowledge s/he has.
Regarding the DC Circuit Court mentioned above, there are three vacant seats to be filled by President Obama’s nominees but all have been successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans. Does your state have a Republican Senator? Perhaps you could write her/him and ask about filling vacancies for all the President’s court nominees?
Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance is an organization calling itself the ‘foremost activist group assisting local people opposing the pipeline.’ Its website on May 10th reported TransCanada efforts to legally restrain action against the development of the Keystone XL. There is a definite corporate campaign to stifle protests using the legal system. Check the website for its 10-minute video “Lockdown”, about a tar sands site blockade and the results. Reminds me of anti-war protests.
Coal Train Facts is just that and is rich with information about what is happening with coal. On the left of its website page is a summary of ‘Coal Export Terminals and Proposals in the Pacific Northwest. Terminals listed (go to the website for the links to the terminals and proposals details) are:
Gateway Pacific Terminal (Cherry Point, WA)
Westshore (Vancouver, BC)
Millennium Bulk Terminals (Longview, WA)
Ridley Island Terminal (Prince Rupert, BC)
Neptune Bulk Terminals (North Vancouver, BC)
Franser Surrey Docks (Surrey, BC)
There is a very good section on community involvement illustrating the broad coalition of stakeholders on this issue.
At the Keystone XL demonstration in Washington in mid-February, I was handed a map that showed ‘Coal Export in the Northwest’, the routes of coal trains going from the Powder River Basin in Montana-Wyoming, westward across Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The routes ended in proposed coal terminals at Bellingham and Longview, Washington, and in Boardman, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Oregon. The group distributing this was not clearly identified, but I tell you what I see and you can follow it up from there.
Northern Plains Resource Council organizes Montana citizens on environmental issues.
Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports is campaigning for 4 proposed coal export terminals in Washington State (north of Bellingham) and Oregon.
None this time.
Elaine Emling May, 2012, Silver Spring, MD
OK, let’s try something a bit different, to see if it sparks any replies. Your correspondent finds so much of interest and importance every month that it becomes a rather daunting task to sort and put together a coherent EES article for readers. This is an experiment with a new format. Feedback, please.
@ The Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting has been won by the web-only, investigative reporting group InsideClimate News for its 2010 coverage of the Enbridge pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Titled “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of”, it covered the rupture of a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen from the Canadian oil sands. Check out this group for energy and climate issues.
@ On April 18 and 19, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, the companies behind the Pebble Mine proposal held their annual shareholders’ conference in London. Both companies have new CEOs. Did you notice what came out of the meeting? Can you find out and post a summary on the PAN-EES?
@ April 8 a federal judge ruled that federal leasing of 2,700 acres of public land in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil and gas drillers broke the law because environmental impacts were not taken into consideration. The Sierra Club posits that this might be a recognition that it is a very different mining method than what has gone before, thus the legal ruling.
@ “Keystone XL: Down the Line: A Journey Along the Controversial Pipeline and Into America’s Energy Frontier” by Steven Mufson of The Washington Post. Remember a few months ago your correspondent alerted you to his articles in the newspaper; this is the result. It is available in these formats: TED Books ,iBookstore, Amazon, or Barnes & Nobles Alas, your correspondent can use none of these, alas! Not technically up-to-date!
movers & shakers
Keep an eye on these people for their influence on energy and environmental sustainability [the concept] and rules-laws [when the rubber hits the road].
James E. Hansen. He stepped down in early April from his position as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to become a full-time climate activist. Points to remember: In 1988 he told Congress about greenhouse gases and heating the planet. He argues for a carbon tax rather than cap-and-trade to deal with climate change. The Washington Post, April 3, 2013, p. B4 ‘Wonkblog’ by Brad Plumer.
Jim Anderson, Harvard University. He was featured in the December 2012 issue of Smithsonian, themed ‘The Innovators Who Are Rocking the World”. In an article by Sharon Begley, ‘Solar Flair’, we learn that Anderson persisted on a discovery of his in 2001, when studying the effects of powerful thunderstorms. He found unusually high concentrations of water molecules in the stratosphere. This is important because through chemical reactions, water can destroy ozone. The article is quite technical but your correspondent takes away this final message: we need to be concerned with the connection between climate change and thunderstorms as their interaction is played out in the stratosphere.
Dr. Samuel Lee Hancock, President and Executive Director of Emerald Planet, a 501 (c) (3) organization using a variety of media to link climate experts to others in an educational effort to expand knowledge of climate change and to develop alternative energy sources.
Elliot Roosevelt, Jr. (FDR’s grandson) a Texas oilman who believes he can extract 1.8 billion barrels of petroleum in an area of west Texas by injecting carbon dioxide into the limestone where the oil lies, The Washington Post, April 7, 2013, p. G3, a Bloomberg Markets article by John Lippert, Jim Efstathiou Jr, and Mike Lee. This ‘method’ is called ‘carbon-dioxide-enhanced oil recovery (CO2 EOR).
oops! we’re in trouble, again.
Mayflower, Arkansas, March 29, 20013: oil spill of ‘a few thousand’ barrels of Canadian heavy crude. This is the Exxon Mobile Pegasus pipeline that starts in Patoka, Illinois and carries crude to the Texas Gulf Coast.
In case you didn’t catch it, Royal Dutch Shell still has problems with taming the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea, as the NRDC reports in its Spring 2013 ‘Nature’s Voice’. In 2012: New Year’s Eve, a drill rig ran aground near Kodiak Island; July, drill ships ran aground in these seas; August, a spill-response barge failed to be certified by the Coast Guard as seaworthy. Is there something wrong with our regulations, or with their implementation?
lobbyin’ ‘n’ politikin’
Whenever you see a state mentioned, and it is yours, get on the website of the relevant House member and both Senators. Ask questions, demand answers, find out what that elected official’s position is on the issue and what knowledge s/he has. For example, those of you from Alaska or Arkansas or California or Michigan now have some information about what is going on there. Send me via the PAN-EES any environmental and energy news you would like posted here, or looked into more.
Here are some more states:
New York State: In February, the NRDC and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy filed a lawsuit to allow free speech in Broome County as reported in the NRDC’s ‘Switchboard’. Apparently there is a difference of opinion between citizens and elected officials over the introduction of fracking into the area, and stifling speech is the way the officials want to take care of the matter.
Legislatures (14) in a number of states that now require electric utilities to buy renewable energy are preparing legislation to roll back that requirement, which exists in 29 states, Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2013, Ryan Tracy. Mr. Tracy specifically notes the states of Texas, Montana, Missouri, and Kansas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency provides details on what resources states have to keep these mandates, not eliminate them.
For those of you from Maryland, check out the accomplishments of this year’s legislative term, just ended: $1.5 million in funding secured for the study of fracking; legislation to authorize the state’s first off-shore wind program; legislation to require transparency in pesticide use (which, if you are a gardener in England and the EU, you will know they are keen on this issue), among other energy and environment bills.
Sorry, none this time. Tune in later.
April 17, 2012
Silver Spring, MD
~~HAPPY NEW YEAR to all POLITICAL ACTIVISTS~~
So, how did we do? Courtesy of the League of Conservation Voters, here are their winners in the House, four of whom beat The Flat Earth Five; REMEMBER, all of them are up for re-election in less than two years! Check the LCV website to see expenditure and vote totals to get an idea of the challenges for 2014.
CA-07 Dr. Ami Bera + (+= defeated a LCV ‘Dirty Dozen’ candidate)
CA-26 Julia Brownley
IL-08 Tammy Duckworth +
TX-23 Pete Gallego +
NY-24 Dan Maffei +
PA-17 Matt Cartwright
And here are the winners for the Senate. They have six years to work on environmental issues, but check now to see if either of your senators is up for re-election, or is retiring in 2014. There is work to do on Senate campaigns, too!
Montana John Tester +
New Mexico Martin Heinrich +
Michigan Tammy Baldwin
Ohio Sherrod Brown +
Virginia Tim Kane +
Connecticut Chris Murphy +
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren +
Maine Angus King
CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES TO WATCH
Check their websites for member composition, jurisdiction, and legislation. Often the opposition party will have a separate website. The first entry below is the main committee and EES-relevant subcommittees are listed below that. The chair for each committee is identified by name and state, so you can lobby!!
HOUSE Natural Resources Committee, Doc. Hastings (WA-04). Hastings is anticipating President Obama using his power to designate ‘national monuments’ where resource development can be prohibited. Note that only the Congress can designate ‘wilderness areas’. The jurisdiction of this committee and its subcommittees is extremely relevant to EES issues, and it is Republican-controlled. Note carefully the members on the committees referenced. There is a separate Democratic website here.
Its Subcommittee on Public Lands & Environmental Regulation, Ron Bishop (UT-01), a new entity [no website, as yet] established by Rep. Hastings, will include jurisdiction over the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and over all public lands. Take note.
Its Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources, Doug Lamborn (CO-05). Jurisdiction includes energy production and mining on federal lands.
HOUSE Energy & Commerce Committee, Fred Upton (MI-06). This is an authorizing committee with very broad jurisdiction that includes commerce, transportation and the EPA.
Its Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, Tim Murphy (PA-18) may take a close interest in the fracking issue because of his home state, one currently much concerned with this mode of extraction of natural gas. It investigates government waste and fraud.
Its Subcommittee on Environment & the Economy, John Shimkus, (IL-19). Jurisdiction includes ‘oversight of key environmental laws and programs’;…..and focuses on ‘the intersection of regulations and jobs’.
Its Subcommittee on Energy & Power, Ed Whitfield (KY-01) wants to embrace a ‘true all-of-the-above strategy’ and eliminate government barriers to such.
HOUSE Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Bill Shuster (PA-09). Jurisdiction includes aviation; highways and transit; and railroads.
Its Subcommittee on Highways & Transit [chair to be announced]. Jurisdiction includes development of the national surface transportation policy; reauthorization of Federal surface transportation programs. [NB: Most recent activity was MAP 21, good until 9/30/2014; see your correspondent’s previous articles.]
Its Subcommittee on Aviation [chair tba] Jurisdiction includes air traffic management; air traffic control modernization; use of navigable space. Note these all affect amount of fuel consumed.
Its Subcommittee on Railroad, Pipelines & Hazardous Materials [chair tba]. Jurisdiction includes oversight of efforts to increase efficiency & accountability of Amtrack operations; rail development programs, e.g. high-speed rail R&D. Also an influence on fuel consumed.
SENATE Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR). Jurisdiction includes energy resources and development; public lands and their renewable resources; surface mining; Federal Coal, oil and gas, and other mineral leasing; and water resources.
Its Subcommittee on Energy, Maria Cantwell ((D-WA) has extensive jurisdiction over EES issues including fuels research and development; global climate change; coal conversion; involvement in Alaska Arctic research and energy development.
Its Subcommittee on Public Lands & Forests, Ron Wyden (D-OR). Jurisdiction includes mining and minerals policy and law; Federal mineral and Outer Continental Shelf leasing; Naval oil shale reserves; National Petroleum reserve; deep seabed mining.
SENATE Environment & Public Works Committee, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman. Jurisdiction includes climate change, transportation, and public infrastructure.
Its Subcommittee on Transportation & Infrastructure, Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman. Jurisdiction includes transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and the Mississippi River Commission.
SENATE Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Jurisdiction includes highway safety; transportation; interstate commerce; regulation of interstate common carriers; inland waterways; and oceans, weather & atmospheric activities.
Its Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety & Security, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) jurisdiction includes oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Its Subcommittee on Surface Transportation & Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety & Security, Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Jurisdiction includes matters relating to interstate transportation policy issues; Pipelines & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; and independent transportation regulatory boards.
This is a sector that consumes much of our oil and natural gas, so keeping an eye on the next transportation bill, both at the federal and your state levels, is a must. Note what is being discussed such as, the gas tax; new ways to manage air traffic control; water levels on major shipping routes. Maryland and Virginia legislatures have convened and are wrestling with the gas tax issue and their congested transportation systems.
Costs of mining this resource are going up, reported Steven Mufson in The Washington Post last October (October 26, 2012, p. A17). Regulations from both the EPA and the Labor Department contribute; but so does the fact that heavily-mined coal areas such as central Appalachia are more expensive to mine. Costs are rising more slowly in the Powder River (mostly in Wyoming) and Illinois basins and Consol Energy plans to re-open the Buchanan mine in Virginia. Keep in mind that development of new technology, such as ‘fracking’ which gave the push to developing natural gas reserves, can also work for coal.
It is not clear how costs factor into current efforts by Frasure Creek Mining (a subsidiary of Trinity Coal, owned by the Indian conglomerate Essar Group) to expand its mountain-top-removal mine west of Fayetteville, West Virginia as reported by Jesse Wood in the magazine Sierra in September/October 2012 The Fayetteville area has become an outdoor sports activities mecca after earlier resource extraction, but it is now experiencing water, air and noise pollution due to recent resource extraction activity. The most mountaintop removal in West Virginia is in congressional district WV-03 and in Kentucky in KY-05. Furthermore, the magazine article says these two ‘…rank dead last in physical and emotional well-being among the 435 districts nationwide.’
Please note: ‘Thomas’ is going to change. Congress.gov, the Library of Congress’ legislative information system that’s getting ready to replace 18-year-old Thomas, is being configured for the era of bulk data access, and this week summaries of every House session started being made available for bulk downloading. (CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, January 11, 2013).
Michael T. Klare, The Race for What’s Left: the Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (Metropolitan Books: 2012). Makes good reading if you want to know what the present and future hold as far as the energy resources we have been talking about.
The month of August was so silly that your correspondent’s contribution was lost in cyber-space for a few weeks. So, a late posting was deemed sufficient to cover both August and September. During that time much information has been collected and we will now try to make some sense of it and pique your Energy and Environmental Sustainability bones enough to get you through the last weeks of the campaign.
Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act
This is a marvellous development by Green America (GA). HR 6275 was introduced by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and has thirteen co-sponsors. .
Co-sponsors come from Missouri, Indiana, Rhode Island, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Maine, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and California. The bill has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. If passed the bill would allow investing in Treasury Bonds for a minimum of $25 each “..to fund clean-energy programs to support wind, solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle deployment in the US… [and] extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC)…..that supports utility-scale wind power and is set to expire at the end of this year.” You can follow the progress of this bill with GA’s publication, Green American (see September/October 2012 issue).
HEAT & WATER
Your summer may have been a bit soggy and cool, but, generally speaking, ours in the US was hot and in many places, notably the center of the country, terribly dry. The dry continues and is affecting the winter wheat crop.
What the heat and dry did for some of the country is, for the PAN-EES, most striking in their effects on energy production. The hydroelectric grid has less water these days. Quite a bit less. While we might welcome the consequent reduction of power and a lower water supply and how those factors impinge on the ability of coal-fired power plants and nuclear power plants to function, plus making it difficult for coal barges to navigate the Mississippi River, we must keep in mind that the nation requires energy to function. In a column written September 10, 2012, Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post (page A5) stated, “Producing electricity accounts for at least 40 percent of water use in the United States.” Besides the Hoover Dam which forms Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona, Eilperin also notes that the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Connecticut and a twin-unit nuclear plant in Braidwood, Illinois also had water issues this summer.
In addition to the energy-producers, water is needed for other uses, and for people. To check out how water-ready or not is your home state and selected large urban areas and then take action with your Representative and Senators, use the Natural Resources Defense Council’s handy reference map. The site helpfully provides further information regarding action you can take on the issue.
Additional water resources information can be found on the US Bureau of Reclamation website. This is the agency that helped settle the west so you might find it compelling reading to see what they are doing now.
CARBON CAPTURE & STORAGE (CCS)
You have certainly heard of this strategy for getting our carbon pollution under control. While US efforts in this area appear to be in the preliminary stages, a number of projects elsewhere have been mentioned in The Washington Post and The Economist. You can check out one project right there in Britain. Jeremy Kahn(article printed originally in ‘Bloomberg Markets’) reported that 2Co Energy plans its Don Valley Power Project on a site next to the village of Stainforth (former Hatfield Colliery) in northeast England (Washington Post, July 15, 2012, P. G3). This coal-fired station will begin operating in 2016 and will be structured to capture carbon on an ‘industrial scale.’
Also in Europe, there is the Mongstad oil refinery, Norway, an experimental facility designed to explore ways to make the CCS process more efficient and thus less expensive (The Economist, May 12, 2012, p. 84). At the moment, CCS is extremely expensive. The article in The Economist goes on to report that the International Energy Agency. which works with its member countries to ‘ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy’, feels CSS would be the cheapest way to manage about one-fifth of the reduction required to reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050.
Royal Dutch Shell plans its first carbon capture and storage plant in Canada (WP, September 9, 2012, p. G2), very thoughtfully to tuck away emissions from mining oil sands. It will work with Chevron and Marathon Oil on the project to be located north of Edmonton, Province of Alberta.
If you have projects or particular states you would like more information on, please let me know on the PAN-EES Facebook page and I do some research.
There is a great deal going on environmentally in the US. Your correspondent has endeavoured to highlight what she feels are the main threads of the environmental struggles and to guide you to resources that enable you to further your interests and activism.
Here are some more notes that might inspire you to contact your elected officials in Congress or to delve into your university/college research programs during the Silly Month, or shortly thereafter.
Oh! And BTW, if you read this, would you please sign up for the PAN-EES Facebook page and post some reactions to what is written? That will keep your correspondent from feeling as if these efforts are disappearing into a void! This monthly piece could be improved, undoubtedly, with feedback from its readers!
We’ll give this topic a miss this month.
OIL & NATURAL GAS
Keystone Pipeline: The Washington Post’s Keystone Pipeline blog can be viewed here. Reporter Steve Mufson and photographer Michael S. Williamson are travelling south down the proposed route, producing both this blog and periodic longer articles in the newspaper.
The final permit for the southern section of the Keystone—Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX—a 485-mile section of 36-inch pipe, was approved July 27. Cushing is a major storage terminal.
Did you attend the DAUK Film Committee screening of ‘Gasland’, the movie by Josh Fox? Check out his website where you can see the film again.
New York State activists are on the case with Gov. Cuomo regarding efforts to frack for gas in that state.
Others providing information and action tips about fracking:
The world’s largest pipeline company, Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Canada, is an interesting case regarding problems of leaking from oil pipelines (The Washington Post, July 30, 2012, p. A4, B. O’Brien). On July 27, 2012 a major pipeline (Line 14) leaked into a field, spilling 1,000 barrels of oil. This is a 24-inch-diameter pipe, installed in 1998. On July 25, 2010 a spill from Line 6B near Marshall, Michigan, the Kalamazoo River dumped 20,000 barrels of crude from Canada’s oil sands into the Kalamazoo River in an incident that drew sharp criticism from the National Transportation Safety Board for Enbridge’s neglect of warning signs in cracked pipes. A third pipeline leak in Alberta, Canada, in June of this year.
From what I see compiling this information, there are plenty of states needing Democrats Abroad to be electronic activists on this and many other energy and environmental sustainability issues.
Is this our environmental President? A pattern seems to be developing with the White House in regard to actions by the EPA on emissions. As reported by J. Eilperin in The Washington Post, July 18th, the latest WH action regards soot emissions wherein the OMB directed the EPA to make the diameter limit between 12 and 13 micrograms/cubic meter of air instead of the EPA proposed more restrictive 12 micrograms (mcg), down from the current 15 mcg. Last year the WH pulled the EPA proposal for stricter limits on ozone and is now defending the Bush administration standard in court. It seems a confusing picture to Your Correspondent and any clarifications you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Meanwhile, the Administration is taking action on cruise ships. If you are taking a cruise off the coast of the USA, please note that the large cruise ships burn “….a heavy fuel with 2,000 times or more the amount of sulphur as the diesel fuel used by trucks, locomotives, construction equipment and small marine vessels.” (The Washington Post, July 23, 2012, p. A4, J. Eilperin). The new rule calls for a reduction of the fuel sulphur content of ships navigating within 200 miles of the coasts of the US and Canada from a current average of 2.7 percent to 1.0 percent in August this year and to 0.1 percent by 2015. It is a complex issue with variables such as the availability of sufficient supplies of the required fuel and coping with the additional costs per unit of product shipped (e.g. cars, people, containers) to be considered.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (just a sample taken from one Sunday listing of federal events in The Washington Post; these are committees to watch via their websites which are full of information)
Natural Resources Committee [Rep. Hastings, WA-04, Chair] hearing on offshore drilling 7/18. The minority [Democrats, Rep. Markey, MA-07, Ranking Member] has its own website and is currently highlighting climate-doubters in the House, tar sands, and Big Oil and the GOP.
Energy & Natural Resources Committee [Sen. Bingaman, NM, Chair] hearing on the electric grid 7/17. Check the website here for August hearings. There does not seem to be a minority website for this committee [Sen. Murkowshi, AK, Ranking Member].
OTHER news in July
The League of Conservation Voters at the end of July announced its $1.5 campaign to unseat five House Republicans who are climate change deniers. To start, the LCV chose Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-24) and Rep. Dan Benishek (MI-1). More targets will be named in subsequent months, with Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-3) just named in August. Join the campaign to Defeat the Flat Earth Five here.
Greenland’s Peterman Glacier lost a chunk twice the size of Manhattan along its northwest coast, reported in the July 18, 2012 Washington Post, p. A5, by J. Eilperin and J. Samenow. It’s the second calving in three years, but the good news is that it is only about half the size (46 sq. miles) of the 2010 calving. Scientists at The National Snow and Ice Data Center http://nsidc.org/ and The Canadian Ice Service and others are studying the implications of these events and the roles played by air-warming and ocean-warming. Also involved in this observation are scientists A. Muenchow, University of Delaware, and J. Box, Ohio State University.
Greenland’s surface ice cover was also in the news in July with its biggest thaw in 40 years, according to a July 25th article by J. Eilperin in the Washington Post, p. A5. This event was independently detected by NASA Goddard scientists D. Hall and L. Koenig and university scientist K. Keegan, Dartmouth College. Typically about half the surface of the ice sheets melts in a summer, but this time 97% ‘experienced some thawing’ according to the WP article. Stay tuned.
Well, the Congress did manage to pass a two-year transportation bill (this is not an ‘extension’) at the last moment in June (House vote, 373 to 52; Senate, 74 to 19). It is also referred to as an omnibus bill as it included action on student loan interest rates and the government flood insurance program. The two-year timeline—the first ‘long-term’ plan since 2005-- means that states will be able to do some long-range (but not too long) planning for their transportation projects. Pressure from major transportation groups and 50 local chambers of commerce (Washington Post, June 6, 2012, p. A17), plus whatever constituents and others laid on, seems to have had some effect.
However, as with all things, there is good news and bad news, sort of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ situation as they say in the UK. First, the ‘good’ news, as distilled from D. Lovaas at the Natural Resources Defense Council (other individuals and groups may have different emphases) here.
- The ratio of highway to transit funding stays the same at 1/5 to mass transit;
- 60 programs are consolidated to a core of 4;
- The size of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) program is greatly increased (see ‘Resources’ for a link to this program);
- There is more funding for rural transportation; and
- Charging tolls can be an option as a funding source. Plus,
- Some of the negative aspects of the House bill were dropped: XL pipeline approval; preventing the EPA from issuing strong rules on coal ash emissions; and oil expansion in the Arctic and off-shore as a source of funding.
And the bad news,
- The percentage of funds dedicated for maintenance is reduced;
- The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program is undermined: instead of giving funds directly to areas where air-quality is sub-standard, it is given to state transportation agencies, which are more distant from needy areas;
- NEPA (see FYC-May) is weakened because it excludes certain projects from community and public review and imposes stiff fines on agencies for missing project review deadlines, which could cause hasty, wrong-headed review;
- It undermines support for developing other modes of transporting people and goods such as rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects;
- Transport-linked funding sources (e.g. raise the gas tax; impose tolls) are not considered, but the bill again borrows from the Treasury and taps other one-time only sources of funding. Hardly sustainable.
DA-UK members’ action point It is worth noting that the House bill that was derailed earlier this year failed because GOP members who had urban constituencies broke with their party and voted to defend mass transit along with the Democrats. So, letters to, and other pressure on, these folks could be useful as implementation of this bill unfolds.
To keep an eye on and follow developments in transit, use the Reconnecting America website. New rules are being crafted for their “New Starts and Small Starts” transit program, rules that will change evaluation criteria for grant applications from those existing during the last administration.
For a summary of the FY2013 report and to find if your special city-place is on the list of projects, check here.
Are there still skeptics out there in the US who doubt we are going through climate change? Here in the Washington, DC region we have been going through a very tough heat-wave with over a week of temperatures of 90F and above (topping 104F on Saturday afternoon the 7th) on top of massive power outages in this region. Yes, I know these phenomena exist in other parts of the country, and I wonder if people there are beginning to see and hear comments and analyses as to whether maybe there is something to this global warming and climate change thing.
The Washington Post recently published (June 19, 2012, p. E2) an Associated Press release regarding the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Globally the figure stands at 395ppm. The levels are coming in from reporting stations at 400 ppm and more over the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and Mongolia. It has been about 800,000 years since levels were this high.
Seemingly contrary to what I reported to you in FYC-June, the EPA is scheduling two public hearings on proposed revisions to the NAAQS standards for particle/particulate pollution. If you know of someone who would like to speak at either, use the link to find out how to do that.
July 17, 2012, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
William Green Federal Building, 600 Arch Street, Philadelphia 19106. Phone 215 8132583.
July 19, 2012, Sacramento, California:
California Air Resources Board
1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Remember, you can use the PAN-EES Facebook page to send your correspondent questions, suggestions, criticism or praise, or just say hello and let me know that someone is reading these pieces. All comments will be gratefully received.
For those living in the Los Angeles area, here is a group working on transport. For those living elsewhere who are interested in what federal funding might do for their home states, check out the Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) website.
One Rail Coalition: How the passenger and freight rail system in the US function.
Try out and see if this helps you follow the candidates; it appears to bundle news by state:
Last month your correspondent proposed to tackle an article on the emissions resulting from the use of the natural resources that run our machines and from the extraction and processing of these resources. Subsequently, research shows that this is a complex topic. Your correspondent is only an amateur who aims to hit the highlights for readers and activists to enable them to move on to further research and action. For that further work, use the EPA’s websites, such as the section on air quality. An attempt is made here to outline and sketch for the realm of air quality the EPA’s six common pollutants and current action by the agency on each.
Ozone This is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Some of the major sources are emissions from industry and electric utilities; motor vehicle exhaust; gas vapors; and chemical solvents.
• In April this year the EPA created Ozone Advance, a joint program with states, tribes and local governments to facilitate reduction in ozone emissions.
• Earlier, last September you may remember that the President asked the EPA to withdraw draft ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) because there is currently underway a review of the updated science on ozone. (NAAQS, a provision in the Clean Air Act, as amended in 1990, whereby standards are set for six air pollutants) Completion of the review is anticipated in 2013. After that, a new rule could be written using information from the review.
• In early May the EPA announced that states can start to phase out the capture of harmful gas vapors at the pump because this is increasingly done in modern vehicles. A sign of progress we believe.
Particulate Matter This consists of a mixture of very small particles (in two sizes, ‘fine’ and ‘coarse’) and liquid droplets: acids (nitrates & sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil and dust particles.
Action: At present, the EPA Administrator is proposing to maintain the current standards for both sizes of PM.
Carbon Monoxide A result of the combustion process with most emissions coming from mobile sources. It is known to be most pernicious for reducing oxygen delivery to body organs and tissues. Nationally, CO has declined considerably over the years.
Action: In August 2011, the EPA decided to retain the existing NAAQSs for this pollutant, but made revisions to monitoring requirements for CO.
Nitrogen Oxides refers to a group of “reactive gases” of which nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) is of greatest interest and an indicator for the other gases. It contributes to forming ozone and PM.
Action: In March 2012, existing secondary (protect public welfare) NAAQS for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and oxides of sulfur (SOx) were retained. The action appears to be primarily concerned with the effects of these oxides on plants, animals and water.
Sulfur Dioxide is one of a group of “reactive gasses” known as ‘oxides of sulfur.’ Sources are primarily from fossil fuel combustion at power plants (73%) and other industrial facilities (20%).
• The rule was updated to change the way the health impact of SO2 is measured and it came into effect June 2, 2010 with some of its requirements to be rolled out up to 2017.
• From May 30 to June 1, 2012, the EPA held meetings with stakeholders (citizen groups, industry, states and tribes) to discuss implementation of the SO2 standard.
Lead This pollutant in the past was a major source of emissions from fuels and industrial sources. With past EPA regulation of lead, these emissions have declined dramatically. These days the highest levels are around lead smelters, and emissions come from ore and other metal processing facilities, and piston-engine aircraft that use leaded gas.
• The most recent rule was enacted in January 2011and pertained to monitoring requirements by state and local agencies.
• In April 2012 a State Implementation Plan (SIP) toolkit was issued supplementary to the rule to aid states in the implementation of the lead standard. Now, all this is admittedly pretty dry stuff, but the intent is that you may find it useful to refer back to this outline when considering other activity in the area of energy and environmental sustainability. You will now know what the EPA considers the six main air pollutants. The agency has other regulatory topics including water.This section of the EPA website addresses such issues as groundwater and storm water, both victims of polluting emissions from vehicles and the many kinds of liquids needed to operate them; and hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop mining which have pollution consequences as they ‘harvest’ those resources needed to run vehicles and machines of industry.
Update: In March the EPA proposed a Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants. There were two public hearings on May 24 and public written comments will be accepted until June 26. Look for a rule to be written subsequently.
Update: The week of June 4th is shaping up as crucial for the transportation bill. The House is in recess the following week which makes it very tight for getting progress in the conference committee before the end of June when the current transportation bill expires. The rigidity of the House conferees on what they want makes any resolution of this impasse problematic even though the bi-partisan working relationship between conference committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) should, in normal times, contribute to a resolution. Sen. Inhofe wants to get a transportation bill done and is working on House Republicans to see merit in a long-term resolution to the transportation bill.
Update: There are more repercussions from the tar sands exploitation in the province of Alberta, Canada. The growing presence of oil companies in this area is stressing the caribou population. Seemingly as a deflection tactic, the federal ministry in charge of a recovery plan is putting the blame on wolves and has proposed extermination of thousands of the animals.
A seemingly related development is the recent action by the Canadian government to rewrite its “environmental laws to speed the extraction and export of oil, minerals and other materials to a global market….” reported in the June 4, 2012 edition of the Washington Post . Also included in an omnibus budget bill are provisions for closer scrutiny of the political activities of nonprofit groups. (WP, J. Eilperin, p. A5)
That’s it for this month.
Your correspondent would welcome comments on the usefulness of this column and solicits suggestions for topics-campaigns-legislation you would like to see covered. No promises, but ideas are appreciated.
POLITICO Pro, a subscription service providing highly detailed, rapid-fire reporting on the politics of energy, technology, transportation and health care.
Cornell Global Labor Institute: Challenges estimates of new jobs from the Keystone XL project.
As anticipated, at the last moment before congressional recess, the House on Thursday, March 29th, approved a 90-day extension of transportation funding. This enabled continuation of the funding level set in the last long-term transportation bill of 2005. Upon return from their recess, Speaker Boehner began the process of pushing in the House for an extension of that extension. Yes, you read that correctly. Conferees from the leadership and committees with jurisdiction over the bill have been appointed now by both houses to work out a final version of the transportation bill, hopefully one that can be passed by both houses of Congress.
The House version of the bill that has gone to conference (H.R. 7) contains, as predicted, some things that are anathema to Democrats. Keep an eye on what happens to the rider calling for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and the rider that ‘eviscerates’ the regulation of toxic coal ash; neither rider is transport-related.
A third rider, which does relate to transport, is an attempt to weaken the application of NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) which requires projects receiving federal funds to submit an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project and to provide citizens and other interested parties the opportunity to comment on the project design and suggest changes. Remember, an EIS and public review are often cited as the reasons for costly project delays. In reality, they most likely improve a project.
While we are waiting for further developments on transportation, what about those natural resources that help run the machines that get us around town? Keep an eye on where and when the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline development proposal pops up. House Republicans like to attach legislation to approve Keystone XL to bills totally unrelated to energy. Production of this oil, most of which would be exported from the US, produces three times the amount of global warming pollution as does production of conventional oil, so you might ask why we are producing it here. The answer usually involves the word ‘jobs’ and the phrase ‘business growth.’
The Senate version of the transportation bill, passed with bi-partisan support in March (S. 1813, also referred to as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) appears to have many of the features that a serious conference committee could work with to produce a compromise transportation bill with real teeth. Though the version reported on by D. Lovaas of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last November was probably amended before passage in March 2012, it is worth noting what the bill contained at that time.
You can make something of a comparison to the version passed in March by searching for S. 1813 in ‘Thomas’
The House version of the Senate bill is H.R. 14.
Another energy resource to keep close track of is natural gas, these days claiming notoriety through the hydraulic fracking process. Recent reports say demand for natural gas is down and storage facilities are about full. So, why the push to expand hydraulic drilling for this resource, despite numerous incidences of its possible, and sometimes proven, deleterious effects? Again, it just might be linked to jobs, and business growth, major talking points in the presidential campaign. The NRDC reports the role of Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chesapeake Energy in the process and highlights locations where destructive consequences seem linked to fracking, plus provides an excellent map that shows the location of shale oil and gas plays. Basically, ‘plays’ are areas where oil or gas can be economically developed, according to The Eagle Ford Shale Blog. Check your home state for the location of any of the 75,000 fracked wells drilled across 30 states in the past five years.
In Philadelphia, The Inquirer on April 27 published an op-ed piece on why Congress should pass the Senate version of the transportation bill and pointedly asked its area Representatives to adopt H.R 14. Letters to the editor of your local paper are a good way to get out the facts on this issue and stir up some action to get area Representatives to move in a constructive manner on the transportation bill.
States provide a variety of responses to fracking. Maryland, where I live, is adopting a go-slow process and for two legislative sessions has been working to pass a bill (HB 1204 and SB798) that would require companies that want to engage in shale gas drilling to fund the costs of the state assessment of the impacts of fracking (correspondence, ‘Legislative Summary of the 2012 General Assembly Session,’ Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, 20th Legislative District, ). By contrast, New York State is proceeding with plans to allow fracking on private lands in the Catskill Park (source of New York City’s drinking water). However, in New York and other states citizen activity is bringing attention to the fracking process and its effects on the land and its people.
Texas, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and North Dakota are just some of the other states affected by fracking.
In summary, the transportation system and the natural gas and oil it uses are facets of this energy and environmental sustainability network picture. Next time we’ll try to sort out the emissions resulting from all this and the regulations aimed to control them.
Useful Resource: ‘The US Congress Votes Database’ from The Washington Post
Election year events and the dysfunction on Capitol Hill have rather slowed down legislative action on the environment and energy, but there is plenty for activists to track and organize around, nonetheless. While action on the federal level should be tracked, there is also important action at the state and local level. Your correspondent aims to provide monthly clues as to what is going on and to suggest some ways of organizing ones thoughts and research should you take up the environmental cudgels in the area of environment and energy security.
Currently, at the federal level, the House will not support a bipartisan, 2-year transportation bill approved in the Senate,S. 1813*, and sent to the House, H.R. 14*. In turn, the bill crafted in committee in the House, H.R. 7, did not garner sufficient Democrat support, either at the 90-day or the 60-day level. This is understandable since it ended dedicated funding for mass transit, cycling and pedestrian programs. Democrats roundly chastised the Republicans for not supporting the Senate bill that would give some longer-term assurance to states and localities on funding for their transport plans and projects. If no bill is passed by the March 29th adjournment for Easter break, the 18.4 cent per gallon of gas federal tax can no longer be collected because the current transportation funding bill will expire. The tax pays for much of transport funding.
Stay tuned for the continuing saga, which you can follow through the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, the Washington Post or the New York Times in addition to Congressional websites, and The Library of Congress’ search tool, ‘Thomas’.
Also at the federal level, but using a different approach, has been the issuing by the EPA of rules to control the various types of emissions from power plants. Consider the most recent rule affecting coal-fired plants. When viewed from the perspective of the impact on current and proposed coal-fired plants, along with the effect citizen action has already had on closing these plants, some progress is being made on reducing the use of this major polluter. Coal generates approximately 40% of U.S. electricity. The power sector of the economy accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. produces a lot of coal and if consumption is declining here, that coal will be marketed elsewhere.
The last week of March the EPA published a proposed rule (carbon pollution standard) that affects new power plants: carbon dioxide emissions must be limited to no more than 1,000 pounds per megawatt of electricity produced. In The Washington Post Juliet Eilperin reported on March 27, “…The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.” . The same article reports that utility companies plan to shut down 300 boilers that produce coal-fired electricity rather than upgrade them.
When this rule is criticised as stifling jobs and coal-power plant production, one should remember that the rule applies only to new plants, many of which will be designed with pollution-controls and thus meet the rule; plants currently in the permit pipeline and that will be constructed within a year are not subject to the rule; and existing plants are not subject to the rule. The comment period for this rule is 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
* You can find details of these Bills by putting S. 1813 or H.R. 14 - - into the Library of Congress Thomas search facility.