Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Role of Coal

Despite Henry Waxman's previous position seeking to ban new coal-fired power plants -- unless they employ CSS technology -- Waxman says that everything about coal is on the table.  E & E reported that  "the California Democrat has been sounding more like a centrist than a fossil-fuel fighter as he prepares to gavel the energy committee's first hearing on the topic today." "Everything is on the table about coal," Waxman said on Capitol Hill yesterday. That statement followed comments last week in which he said he expected coal to "play an important role in our overall sources of energy" in the future. Asked yesterday whether those comments signaled a move to the center, he said he wants to start the chairmanship with a clean slate and "doesn't have a position yet to change."

Coal provides 50 percent of U.S. electricity and a full third of US carbon dioxide emissions. The coal industry suggests that commercialization of CSS technology is more than a decade away -- although the technology is clearly at the pilot plant stage.  Obama is considering tax incentives in the economic stimulus package to develop CCS and restarting FutureGen, a zero-emissions coal plant that was being designed when the Bush administration pulled the financial plug on the project.

Henry Waxman
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

Waxman's first hearing on climate change is industry oriented, which some take as a sign that Waxman will to take a middle-of-the-road approach on global warming, reducing requirements for developing and deploying CCS technology.  Testimony today will come from representatives from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporations and environmental organizations calling for greenhouse gas reductions that includes members such as utility giant Duke Energy and mining company Rio Tinto.  USCAP's Blueprint for Legislative Action calls for a cap-and-trade plan that will raise the cost of new coal-fired power plants.

See Waxman's proposed climate bill

January 15, 2009 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Oh, pity the poor millionaire, who lost so much this fall

Money Unfortunately, I didn't have a million to lose.

January 15, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

US Climate Action Partnership climate change plan launched -- behind the times

The US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of business, environmental and other interests, unveiled its "Blueprint for Legislative Action" climate change program today, which features a cap-and-trade approach to reducing GHG emissions.  USCAP link to 28 page Blueprint   USCAP Executive Overview  The cap-and-trade proposal is, of course, by now mainstream thinking -- and unsurprising given the Environmental Defense economic incentive approach to environmental problems. The USCAP plan is based upon an 80% reduction of 2005 GHG emissions by 2050.  Note that this goal falls far short of more ambitious proposals already made in Congress and is woefully inadequate to meet the 350 ppm, 1 degree C criterion for climate change mitigation policy proferred by James Hanson, et al. to avoid dangerous global warming impacts.

The Blueprint apparently represents two years of work by USCAP members building on their January 2007 Call for Action, which articulated  principles for climate change mitigation efforts and made recommendations urging “prompt enactment of national legislation in the United States to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the shortest time reasonably achievable.”     

The Blueprint responds to requests by federal policymakers for a detailed consensus to help inform climate change legislation. USCAP acknowledges that it does not include all stakeholders and interests.  It characterizes the Blueprint as an "integrated package of policies [providing] a pragmatic pathway to achieve aggressive environmental goals in a responsible and economically sustainable manner." 4 page


Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Individual Fishing Quotas at Work -- west coast groundfish program seeks Commerce approval

In recent years, West Coast groundfish stocks -- including soles and cod as well as deep-water rockfish like colorful canary and thorny heads -- have sharply declined due to decades of overfishing and fisheries management that failed to align the needs of the resource with the long term interests of the fishermen.  In 2000, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared the Pacific groundfish commercial trawl fishery a disaster. In fact, landings for West Coast trawlers have plummeted 70 percent in the last two decades. Since 1998, revenues have dropped from $47.3 million to $22.2 million.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, Environmental Defense Fund and other NGOs and stakeholders have collaborated on creating a catch share program based on individual fishing quotas, which was passed by the Council in November.  Under the plan, the entire fishery will operate under a catch limit and each fisherman will be awarded a guaranteed percentage of the total catch based on fishing history.  Fishermen will no longer be forced to compete for ever-dwindling numbers of fish. Instead, the certainty provided by each fisherman's guaranteed share will foster conservation and cooperation.
Profits may increase by as much as 80% per boat due to increased efficiency and flexibility along with higher prices at the dock.

Studies recently published in the journals Nature and Science show that catch share systems reverse overfishing and even replenish depleted stocks.  Catch shares also decrease wasteful discards and improve safety for fishermen.

To see how a similar program has worked well for Alaska halibut fishermen, view a short video presentation:

The new Secretary of Commerce will be asked to approve the Council's program this spring. 

Recently, Environmental Defense provided some information about the West Coast groundfish ITQ program.  While the program is grounded in sound economic theory, I wonder whether the program continues to rely on trawling that causes long-term damage to the marine ecosystem.  If so, it solves the overfishing problem, without reaching the heart of the matter.  Fortunately, NOAA is now going to be headed by a woman who actually knows the answer to that question!!!

January 14, 2009 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Time to Revisit Maintenence in AK Oil Fields

A AK Department of Environmental Conservation report yesterday on a slightly less than 2000 barrel leak of produced water from a corroded pipeline in an ConocoPhillips Alaskan oil field reminds us that it is not just public infrastructure that needs to be better maintained.   Planet Ark reported that a corroded pipeline ruptured on Christmas Day at ConocoPhillips' Kuparuk oil field in Alaska, causing one of the biggest spills of oil-laced water at the field in years.  The 94,920-gallon spill from a corroded water-injection pipeline did not affect production from North America's second-biggest field, which has a capacity toproduce nearly 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day.  The December 25 incident was similar to the 200,000-gallon crude oil spill at BP Plc's nearby Prudhoe Bay oil field in 2006 -- the worst oil spill on Alaska's North Slope -- which was also caused by corrosion of a pipeline.

January 14, 2009 in Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

EU Pesticide Ban advances through EU parliament

Yesterday, the European Parliament voted to ban highly toxic pesticides unless their effects can be proven to be negligible. If endorsed by 27 EU ministers, countries with similar geography and climate could decide whether farmers may use specific products. This implements an agreement negotiated in December that substantially reduced the number of substances to be banned.  December agreement

The EU will list EU-approved "active substances," excluding 22 ingredients that are classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. The chemical "blacklist" includes eight substances used in the manufacture of herbicides, 11 used in fungicides and three in insecticides, many of them produced by German chemical giants Bayer and BASF -- including Ioxynil, Amitrol and Iprodion.  That list will provide the basis for national EU governments to approve pesticides nationally or, via mutual recognition with 120 days, in the north, center, and south regions of the EU.  Currently, approvals apply only for individual countries and there is no deadline set for mutual recognition approvals. 

Already licensed pesticides remain available until their 10-year authorization expires, avoiding a sudden large-scale withdrawal of pesticides from the market.

EU countries will be allowed to ban a product, because of specific environment or agricultural circumstances.  Also, certain restrictions will be put on pesticide use, including banning most aerial crop-spraying, strict conditions on pesticides use near aquatic environments and drinking water supplies, and buffer zones requirements around water and protected areas along roads and railways.

January 14, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Communicating the Science of Climate Change

For those who teach climate change, this book review from Real Climate makes Bud Ward's new book on communicating on climate change sound worthwhile.  I personally think that the FAQs and graphics in the Working Group I Report of IPCC's 4thAR are also spectacular.

It is perhaps self-evident that those of us here at RealClimate have a keen interest in the topic of science communication. A number of us have written books aimed at communicating the science to the lay public, and have participated in forums devoted to the topic of science communication (see e.g. here, here, and here). We have often written here about the challenges of communicating science to the public in the modern media environment (see e.g. here, here, and here).

It is naturally our pleasure, in this vein, to bring to the attention of our readers a masterful new book on this topic by veteran environmental journalist and journalism educator Bud Ward. The book, entitled Communicating on Climate Change: An Essential Resource for Journalists, Scientists, and Educators, details the lessons learned in a series of Metcalf Institute workshops held over the past few years, funded by the National Science Foundation, and co-organized by Ward and AMS senior science and communications fellow Tony Socci. These workshops have collectively brought together numerous leading members of the environmental journalism and climate science communities in an effort to develop recommendations that might help bridge the cultural divide between these two communities that sometimes impedes accurate and effective science communication.

I had the privilege of participating in a couple of the workshops, including the inaugural workshop in Rhode Island in November 2003. The discussions emerging from these workshops were, at least in part, the inspiration behind "RealClimate". The workshops formed the foundation for this new book, which is an appropriate resource for scientists, journalists, editors, and others interested in science communication and popularization. In addition to instructive chapters such as "Science for Journalism", "Journalism for Scientists" and "What Institutions Can Do", the book is interspersed with a number of insightful essays by leading scientists (e.g. "Mediarology–The Role of Climate Scientists in Debunking Climate Change Myths" by Stephen Schneider) and environmental journalists (e.g. "Hot Words" by Andy Revkin). We hope this book will serve as a standard reference for how to effectively communicate the science of climate change.

January 12, 2009 in Climate Change, Governance/Management, Physical Science | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

States Set for Clean Energy Lobbying on Hill



Media contact:

Larry Kopp/Seth Allen, The T.A.S.C. Group

Ph: 646-723-4344/ cell: 917-282-2357


Clean Energy States Alliance To Hold Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill




CESA Will Propose New Federal/State Partnership for Green Stimulus Investment


Washington, DC, January 9, 2009: Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) will hold a congressional briefing on Tuesday, January 13 on the strategic role of states in supporting clean energy. The event is co-sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and will be held from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. CESA will present policy recommendations for the Obama administration and outline a new federal/state partnership for moving forward with effective clean energy economic stimulus. The key is distributing federal funds for clean energy investment directly through the many existing state clean energy funds and programs.


"For years, the states have been funding clean energy projects and have taken the lead in green collar job creation," said CESA President, Lewis Milford. "The federal government should use the many existing state clean energy funds as vehicles to quickly and efficiently deploy the green stimulus investment."


Speakers for the briefing include: Lewis Milford, President and Founder of Clean Energy States Alliance and Clean Energy Group; Janet Joseph, Director of Clean Energy Research &Market Development, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Tom Plant, Director of Colorado Governor's Energy Office; Rob Sanders, Sustainable Development Fund Manager, The Reinvestment Fund and Peter West, Director of Renewable Energy, Energy Trust of Oregon.


The briefing coincides with a press conference and panel event CESA has scheduled for the morning of January 13 at the National Press Club. The press breakfast will start at 9:30 a.m. and run through 11:00 a.m. At the event, CESA will release a new report which highlights its national database of nearly 50,000 state funded renewable energy projects. The projects in the database have a capacity of 1.7 Gigawatts and generate 5.3 million megawatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power 500,000 homes. As of 2007, 12,000 state renewable energy projects have been completed and state clean energy funds have invested $1.5 billion and leveraged an additional $2.5 billion in private capital.


Much of the innovative and effective activity to advance clean energy has taken place at the state level. By supporting creative finance, policy, and market initiatives, the states have been serving as laboratories where ideas for implementing clean energy can be tested and proven in the real world. In many cases, the states have established special funds to promote renewable energy and other clean energy technologies. CESA will also honor five state clean energy programs with the inaugural "State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards" at the event. Representatives from CESA and the winning programs will be present.


The CESA and EESI briefing is open to press. Anyone interested in attending the event and scheduling interviews with CESA representatives must contact:


Larry Kopp/Seth Allen, Office: (646) 723-4344, Cell: (917) 282-2357,


About Clean Energy States Alliance

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is a national nonprofit organization that works with clean energy funds and state agencies to expand the nation's clean energy infrastructure and advance markets for clean energy technologies. CESA provides information and technical services to its members and shares its knowledge with the federal government and influential policymakers. CESA's member states manage programs that will invest nearly $6 billion in the next ten years to support clean energy. Clean Energy Group (CEG) created CESA in 2002 and now manages it.,

January 11, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FindLaw Environmental Case Summaries




• The Nat'l Cotton Council of Am. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency
• Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Office of Envtl. Health Hazard Assessment

FindLaw's case summaries are copyrighted material and are not intended for republication without prior approval. You may, however, freely redistribute this e-mail in its entirety.
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U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 07, 2009
The Nat'l Cotton Council of Am. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 06-4630
In a suit against the EPA by environmental and industry interest groups challenging the EPA's Final Rule concluding that pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are exempt from the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements, the Final Rule is vacated where the text of the Clean Water Act bars the Final Rule by subjecting dischargers of pesticide pollutants to the NPDES. Read more...

California Appellate Districts, January 07, 2009
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Office of Envtl. Health Hazard Assessment, No. B204987
Agency charged with implementing Proposition 65 did not abuse its discretion in listing di-isodecyl phthalate, which is used as a plasticizer in a wide variety of PVC plastic products, as a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Read more...

January 11, 2009 in Cases | Permalink | TrackBack (0)