Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Most of the green team confirmed today: Jackson, Sutley, and Clinton remain

E & E News reported:

The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama's Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality...In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's nominee to be secretary of the State Department.... The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks....Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn't sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley's confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Visitors from Mozambique and Inaugural Awe

Today I had the pleasure as Director of our law school's Certificate Program in Law and Government to host two visitors from Mozambique through the International Leadership Visitor Program funded by the State Department.  This program focuses on bringing emerging leaders from developing countries concerned with good governance to the United States, to expose them first-hand to various aspects of American governance.  Last year, we hosted 16 visitors from more than a dozen African countries.  Today's session was more informal and a bit more manageable.

Our visitors were the Governor of a northern province and the second in command of a major department within the national government.  They were interested in learning how the United States trains its graduate or advanced students in law and government.  We were able to share some aspects of our program, including attending and speaking with my first year Lawmaking Process class.  They were also fascinated by how the United States is evolving with its election of President Obama. 

The treat, of course, for me was to learn first-hand something about Mozambique, its politics and policy, and role in Africa.  Certainly, its thorough integration of woman into the power structure and into all aspects of administration is a lesson for Americans as well as other Africans.  This is beginning to happen here, witness Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, the corps of talented Governors through the US and the league of women joining the Obama administration.  But, until a woman stands where President Obama stood today, we still lag behind virtually every developed country in the world -- and many, such as Mozambique, in the developed world.  Women took their place in the struggle for independence in Mozambique -- even on the battlefield.  They have continued to serve in Parliament and throughout government, with stature and an assured equality that American woman still lack.

Their challenge is to solidify their independence and their emerging democracy -- and to solve the problem of poverty.  There, President Obama gave them reason to hope: "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.  And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our boders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect.  For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

As you who read this blog regularly no doubt realize, these words, especially about providing clean water and reducing our consumption of resources, were music to my ears.  And perhaps to yours.

We have a President who in the midst of the raging storms of the failure of our economy and two wars, understands that "each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."  That the work to be done includes the promise that "[w]e will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."  That "we will work tirelessly...to roll back the specter of a warming planet."

As my new friends from Mozambique realize, President Obama has not become just an American president, but he is today the most important leader of the whole world.  Not just by virtue of our relative prosperity and military power, but by virtue of our willingness to turn the page of history and to pledge to live up to our responsibilities to people seeking peace and justice and equality and means to enjoy their full measure of happiness throughout the world.

Today, my friends, let us celebrate with all of our new friends...and pledge ourselves to making this vision become a reality, in law, in policy, and in how we conduct our obscure, everyday lives.

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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

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)

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, seth@thetascgroup.com


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.


www.cleanenergystates.org, www.cleanegroup.org

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

Thursday, January 8, 2009

EU study shows that aerosol pollutants have been underestimated


According to a recent study by Hoyle and colleagues, funded in part by the EU, levels of global secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in the Earth's atmosphere have increased by 60 per cent since pre-industrial times, suggesting that the effects of SOA have been previously underestimated. Since aerosols cool the atmosphere, this and similar studies suggest that the warming effect of CO2 and other greenhouse gases may be underestimated by current atmospheric models, including that used by the 4th Assessment Report of the International Panell on Climate Change.


SOA is made up of fine particles and droplets suspended in the atmosphere and is the product of many complex photo-chemical processes. It affects the climate by increasing the reflection of the sun's rays and so cools the Earth's surface. It also contributes to atmospheric haze, as well as having an impact on human health.


There has been a considerable change to the composition and magnitude of emissions from human activities since pre-industrial times. This study, partly conducted under the EU-funded EUCAARI project1, investigates changes affecting the distribution and global burden of organic aerosols since 1750. The increase is believed to be due to rises in industrial or fossil fuel emissions rather than increases in biomass burning.


The researchers processed meteorological data from 2004 using a computer model. They modelled SOA formation from the by-products of mainly biogenically emitted (produced by plants and animals) substances such as monoterpenes, isoprene, benzene, toluene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds.


The experiments also compared data from 1750 and 2004 to assess the effects of increases in ammonium sulphate aerosol. The present day global warming effects of SOA were calculated including the radiative effects of aerosols, clouds, light scattering and absorption by gases, at 40 levels of the lower to middle atmosphere.


Among the results were:

  • The production of SOA increased from about 43 teragrams (1 Tg = 1012 grams) a year to 69 Tg a year since pre-industrial times, leading to an increase in the global annual mean SOA burden from 0.44 Tg to 0.70 Tg, or about 60 per cent.
  • Emissions from fossil and biofuel burning contribute twice as much to the SOA increase as biomass burning emissions.
  • The increases are greatest over industrialised areas, as well as over regions with high emissions of precursor gases that will cause the formation of SOA.
  • The increase is mainly caused by emissions of primary organic aerosols (POA) from fossil fuel and biofuel burning.
  • The largest distribution increases in SOA at surface levels are in the biomass burning regions of South America, Southern Africa and South East Asia, as well as industrialised areas such as Europe and the East Coast of America.
  • Increases higher in the atmosphere were seen in the northern Hemisphere, where significant increases were found at polar latitudes, while very small increases were found at high southern latitudes.
  • Radiative forcing was much stronger over industrialised areas, in eastern Europe and on the east coast of the US. Radiative forcing (measured in watts per square meter) provides a simplified means of comparing the various factors that are believed to influence climate change.

As yet, very few radiative forcing estimates of SOA exist and no radiative forcing estimates were provided for SOA in the latest IPCC report. The authors believe that the radiative forcing of SOA was previously underestimated and these results may improve estimates of future climate change.


  1. EUCAARI (European Integrated project on Aerosol Cloud Climate and Air Quality Interactions) is supported by the European Commission under the Sixth Framework Programme. See: www.atm.helsinki.fi/eucaari/

Source: Hoyle, C.R., Myhre, G. , Berntsen, T.K. and Isaksen, I.S.A. (2008). Anthropogenic influence on SOA and the resulting radiative forcing. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. 8: 18911-18936.                                                 

                                                    Contact: c.r.hoyle@geo.uio.no                                                 

January 8, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, EU, Physical Science | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Biofuels too

A new study by Stanford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Mark Jacobson entitled “Review of Solutions to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security” Jacobson study link comprehensively analyzes various energy solutions, addressing associated impacts on water supply, land use, wildlife, resources, and pollution.  Ultimately, the study finds that “In sum, the use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, solar, wave, and hydroelectric to provide electricity for BEVs [battery-electric vehicles] and HFCVs [hydrogen fuel cell vehicles] result in the most benefit and least impact among the options considered. Coal-CCS and nuclear provide less benefit with greater negative impacts. The biofuel options provide no certain benefit and result in significant negative impacts.”


January 4, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Biofuel Soars on Air New Zealand

Due to the poor EO/EI ratio of biofuel and its competition with food crops, most of us are skeptical about widespread use of biofuel to meet transportation needs.  However, air transportation is one of the few sectors where finding alternative energy sources is difficult.  So, the recent and forthcoming tests of various biofuels in the air transportation sector are noteworthy, especially when strict conditions are placed on biofuel production.  In one recent test, Air New Zealand set three requirements for sustainable biofuel:

(1) the fuel source must be environmentally sustainable and not compete with existing food resources;

(2) the fuel must be a drop-in replacement for traditional jet fuel and technically be at least as good as the product used today; and

(3)the fuel must be cost competitive with existing fuel supplies and be readily available.

Environmental News Service reported in more detail:

A passenger jet with one of its four engines running on a biofuel blend today completed the world's first commercial aviation test flight to test a biofuel made from jatropha.  The test flight was a joint initiative with partners Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP. The two hour Air New Zealand test flight was powered by a second-generation biofuel made from the seeds of the jatropha plant that could reduce emissions and cut costs. The flight was the first to use jatropha jatropha seed oil as part of a biofuel mix [50% jatropha, 50% jet fuel]....

Air New Zealand test plane (Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)
Jatropha seed pods (Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)

Jatropha is a plant that produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil that is used to produce the fuel. Each seed produces 30-40 percent of its mass in oil and jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, leaving prime areas available for food crops....

The jatropha used on Tuesday's flight was grown in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the airline said. The criteria for sourcing the jatropha oil required that the land was neither forest land nor virgin grassland within the previous two decades.


Jatropha grows on poor soil and in arid climates not suitable for most food crops. The jatropha farms that grew the seeds for this test flight are rain-fed and not mechanically irrigated.

The test flight partners engaged Terasol Energy, a leader in sustainable jatropha development projects, to independently source and certify that the jatropha-based fuel for the flight met all sustainability criteria. Once received from Terasol Energy, the jatropha oil was refined through a collaborative effort between Air New Zealand, Boeing and refining technology developer UOP. The process utilized UOP technology to produce jet fuel that can serve as a direct replacement for traditional petroleum jet fuel.

Air New Zealand aims to meet 10 percent of its fuel needs through sustainable biofuel by 2013. In February, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to test a commercial aircraft on a biofuel blend, using a 20 percent mixture of coconut oil and babassu oils in one of its four engines. In January, two more airlines will test their biofuel blends. Continental Airlines on January 7 will conduct a test flight powered by a blend involving algae and jatropha. The flight will be the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source, the first using a two-engine aircraft, and the first biofuel demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner.  On January 30, Japan Airlines is planning a test flight from Tokyo using a fuel based on the camelina oilseed as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

January 4, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More on Ocean Acidification

OCEAN SCIENCE: Winter Carbonate Collapse

H. Jesse Smith

Anthropogenic fossil-fuel burning is increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing more CO2 to dissolve in the ocean, thereby lowering the water's pH. Such ocean acidification in turn decreases the concentration of carbonate ion (CO3)2-, which makes it more difficult for calcifying organisms such as foraminifera, pteropods, and corals to build their skeletons. So far, most of the attention paid to this process has focused on the time-averaged chemistry of the ocean, but organisms actually experience seasonal carbonate and pH variations. McNeil and Matear examine these variations and show that anthropogenic CO2 uptake is likely to induce winter aragonite undersaturation in some regions of the ocean when atmospheric CO2 levels reach 450 parts per million. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the seasonal dynamics of marine carbonate chemistry, as natural variability could hasten the deleterious impacts of future ocean acidification. -- HJS Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 18860 (2008).

January 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Rate of Calcification of Coral Reefs Declining

Science reports on a new study showing that both rising ocean water temperatures and ocean acidification are causing a reduced rate of calcification of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.  Coral reefs are threatened by from rising sea-surface temperatures, ocean acidification (the declining pH of surface seawater layers caused by the absorption of increasing amounts of atmospheric CO2), pollution, and overexploitation. Other studies have demonstrated  declines in the coverage and numbers of live coral reefs, as well as reduced coral diversity, but few examined how rates of coral calcification have been affected. The study by De'ath et al. examined growth patterns of 328 massive Porites corals from the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and found that their rates of calcification have declined by nearly 15% since 1990, to values lower than any seen for the past 400 years. The main causes of this continuing decline appear to be increasing water temperatures and ocean acidification.Science today link

January 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Sustainability, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recent Study Shows Utilities Exploited Free Allowances in EU-ETS

An ECN study analyzing the impact of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on electricity prices, in particular on wholesale power markets across the EU, found that a significant part of the costs of freely allocated CO2 emission allowances are passed through to power prices, resulting in higher electricity prices for consumers and additional (‘windfall’) profits for power producers. The study discusses some policy implications of the pass-through of these costs, concluding that the pass-through of CO2 costs to electricity prices is a rational, carbon-efficient policy, while the issue of windfall profits can be addressed by either taxing these profits or auctioning - rather than free allocations - of the emission allowances.  What the study didn't consider is the political impact of artificially high electricity prices to meet the modest Kyoto protocol goals in terms of the longer term political will to achieve the far deeper emission cuts necessary to prevent the impacts of global warming from being catastrophic.EU electricity price study

December 26, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CAIR Reinstated Pending EPA Revision of Rule

The D.C. Circuit decided today 12/23 decision to temporarily reinstate the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR),EPA CAIR webpage  but the program to reduce power-plant emissions of NOx and SOx will need to be revised due to the court's finding of "fundamental flaws" in the CAIR cap-and-trade provisions.  The court on rehearing decided against vacatur, striking down the rule altogether, as its July decision had done.  July CAIR decision   The industry petitioners, the government, and environmentalists had agreed in their responses to the court that vacatur was not a desirable remedy.  The CAIR rule, which takes effect at the beginning of the year, is reinstated until EPA crafts a new program consistent with the court's determination that allowing utilities to freely trade SO2 emissions credits, banking early credits and using them in later years, violates the Title IV acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act.  Whether through legislative action or rulemaking, the process of revising the rule is likely to require at least two or three  years. The SO2 emissions market reportedly rallied today after the court decision, trading up from yesterday's close of $148 to more than $200 per allowance,

December 23, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Here are some of the picks of Change.gov


The “green dream team”


President-elect Obama's picks for key members of his energy and environment team have not just drawn praise -- they've set off a wave of optimism that the time for serious action on climate change has arrived.

"This is a team with a keen interest in addressing climate change, and the talent and skills to get the job done," Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in a statement. "With Steven Chu, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley at the helm, President-Elect Obama's Administration will be well-equipped to tackle the challenge of building a new clean energy future that preserves the climate while revitalizing our economy."

"These selections form a green dream team that will help President-elect Obama’s vision for solving our economic and global warming challenges through clean energy become reality," Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, was quoted as saying by Congressional Quarterly's Politics blog.

In the press conference yesterday introducing the new team, President-elect Obama said of Energy Secretary-desginate and Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu, "His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action."

That signal has been heard loud and clear.

"Obama has chosen about the most qualified scientist one can imagine to make the case for putting the E back into DOE," Science Insider, a blog run by the same organization that publishes the influential journal Science, wrote of President-elect Obama's choice to lead the Department of Energy.

Under the headline "Science Born Again in the White House, and Not a Moment Too Soon," Wired magazine's Science blog wrote that Secretary-designate Chu "recognizes the need to invest in science, from grade schools to universities to industry. He sees the imperative for the government to think in new and big ways about the energy problem. He understands we have to face up to climate change. And, most importantly, he has ideas about how to get it all done and the character to make them happen."

Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, praised the creation of a new White House post to coordinate energy and climate policy, and the choice of Carol Browner to fill it.

"The President-elect's decision...to integrate policy on the intersection of energy, environment and climate change is both visionary and overdue," he said in a statement. "All the agencies of government must be involved, and his selection of Carol Browner to lead the Council signals the importance he attaches to an effective inter-agency process."

The National Journal has more responses on its Energy and Environment blog.


December 23, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More reaction on Obama's green team

Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on President-Elect Obama's New Energy and Environment Appointments

December 11, 2008

This is a team with a keen interest in addressing climate change, and the talent and skills to get the job done.  With Steven Chu, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley at the helm, President-Elect Obama's Administration will be well-equipped to tackle the challenge of building a new clean energy future that preserves the climate while revitalizing our economy.   We look forward to working with the new Administration to achieve these goals.


December 23, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Know your source: American Council for Capital Formation contends that CO2 controls will conflict with job creation and economic stimulus plans

E & E:

Can President-elect Barack Obama successfully stimulate the economy, create jobs and reduce emissions? What are some of the pitfalls of pursuing a "green" stimulus? During today's OnPoint, Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist at the American Council for Capital Formation, gives her take on why some of the incoming administration's aggressive climate and economic goals may conflict with each other. Thorning assesses Obama's energy and environment Cabinet picks and explains how she believes the chairmanship shift in the House Energy and Commerce Committee will affect the push for cap-and-trade legislation.

ACCP has been an ExxonMobil-funded, conservative think tank with a climate skeptic slant.  For example, in March 2003, Dr. Thorning had this take on the minor cuts required by the Kyoto Protocol:

Given the severe macroeconomic impacts the Kyoto Protocol would impose on the United States, including reducing U.S. GDP by 1-4 percent, slowing wage growth significantly, worsening the distribution of income, and reducing growth in living standards, Dr. Thorning called for a new approach. Voluntary measures to reduce CO2 emissions should include modifications to U.S. tax policy that reduce the cost of capital for energy-efficient investments

ExxonSecrets.org reported that American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research has received $1,619,523 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006.  The 2007 report indicates that ExxonMobil still supports ACCF-CPR, again providing a $15,000 additional contribution.


December 22, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Social Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

UNGA Adopts Climate Change-Related Resolutions

UN General Assembly (UNGA)

Last week, among 34 development-related actions put forward by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a number of resolutions including consideration of the economic ramifications of climate change. 

Among the climate change-related resolutions, the UN General Assembly:

  • supported international efforts and funding to prevent and manage natural disasters, as well as extreme weather patterns;
  • stressed the need to further advance and implement the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-Building (document A/63/414/Add.7);
  • called for urgent global action to address climate change for the benefit of present and future generations, and urged parties to the UNFCCC to continue using the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their work (document A/63/414/Add.4);
  • urged all governments, relevant organizations, UN bodies and the Global Environment Facility to take timely action to effectively follow-up and implement the Strategy and the Mauritius Declaration, and called upon the international community to help Small Island Developing States adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change (document A/63/414/Add.2);
  • encouraged governments to promote sustainable urbanization to improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations, including slum-dwellers and the urban poor, and to help mitigate climate change (UN-Habitat document A/63/415); and
  • reaffirmed its partnership with the Pacific Island Forum through the lens of the serious threats posed to vulnerable island States by climate change and the global economic recession (document A/63/L.56).

[UN Press Release]

December 22, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

EPA Overreaches Again on "Interpreting" the Clean Air Act

EPA lost again in the D.C. Circuit on its interpretation of the Clean Air Act in Sierra Club v. EPA, challenging EPA's exemption of facilities from MACT standards during startup, shutdown, or malfunction (SSM).  Opinion  The damage done in cases such as these where the Bush administration overreached will not be limited unfortunately just to the Bush administration.  When the D.C. Circuit gets in the habit of looking at EPA decisions closely and with suspicion, and not crediting the assertions made in DOJ briefs because the arguments that DOJ is pushed to make are simply not credible, the ability of EPA to utilize its expertise to shape coherent regulatory systems out of sometimes less than coherent legislation and the ability of DOJ to command the judiciary's respect suffers.  Both EPA and DOJ will need to rediscover that there are legal arguments that should not be made.  The bar for the government is and should be higher than that for private parties.

In Sierra Club, the court agreed that, by stripping the protections of an enforceable SSM plan out of the 1994 exemption during recent rule-making, EPA constructively reopened the 1994 SSM exemption so that Sierra Club and others could challenge the legality of the 1994 exemption. Then, on the merits, the D.C. Circuit determined that the SSM exemption is inconsistent with section 112's requirement of continuous compliance with MACT standards and that the general duty not to endanger public health and the environment through emissions of hazardous pollutants does not satisfy the CAA's requirement:

Section 112(d) provides that “[e]missions standards” promulgated thereunder must require MACT standards. 42 U.S.C. § 7412(d)(2). Section 302(k) defines “emission standard” as “a requirement established by the State or the Administrator which limits the quantity, rate, or concentration of emissions of air pollutants on a continuous basis, including any requirement relating to the operation or maintenance of a source to assure continuous emission reduction, and any design,equipment, work practice or operational standard promulgated under this chapter.” Id. § 7602(k). Petitioners contend that,contrary to the plain text of this definition, “EPA’s SSM exemption automatically excuses sources from compliance with emission standards whenever they start up, shut down, or malfunction, and thus allows sources to comply with emission standards on a basis that is not ‘continuous.’” Petrs. Br. at 23.

EPA responds that the general duty that applies during SSM events “along with the limitations that apply during normal operating conditions, together form an uninterrupted, i.e., continuous, limitation because there is no period of time duringwhich one or the other standard does not apply,” Respt.’s Br. at 31. “Although Chevron step one analysis begins with the statute’s text,” the court must examine the meaning of certain words or phrases in context and also “exhaust the traditional tools of statutory construction, including examining the statute’s legislative history to shed new light on congressional intent, notwithstanding statutory language that appears superficially clear.” Am. Bankers Ass’n v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 271 F.3d 262, 267 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

EPA suggests that the general duty is “part of the operation and maintenance requirements with which all sources subject to a section 112(d) standard must comply,” Respt.’s Br. at 33, pointing to section 302(k)’s statement that an “emission standard” includes “any requirement relating to the operation or maintenance of a source to assure continuous emission reduction,” 42 U.S.C. § 7602(k). Section 302(k)’s inclusion of this broad phrase in the definition of “emission standard” suggests that emissions reduction requirements “assure continuous emission reduction” without necessarily continuously applying a single standard. Indeed, this reading is supported by the legislative history of section 302(k):

By defining the terms ‘emission limitation,’ ‘emission standard,’ and ‘standard of performance,’ the committee has made clear that constant or continuous means of reducing emissions must be used to meet these requirements. By the same token, intermittent or supplemental controls or other temporary, periodic, or limited systems of control would not be permitted as a final means of compliance.  H.R. Rep. 95-294, at 92 (1977), as reprinted in 1977 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1077, 1170.

“Congress’s primary purpose behind requiring regulation on a continuous basis” appears, as one circuit has suggested, to have been “to exclude intermittent control technologies from the definition of emission limitations,” Kamp v. Hernandez, 752 F.2d 1444, 1452 (9th Cir. 1985).

When sections 112 and 302(k) are read together, then, Congress has required that there must be continuous section 112-compliant standards. The general duty is not a section 112- compliant standard. Admitting as much, EPA states in its brief that the general duty is neither “a separate and independent standard under CAA section 112(d),” nor “a free-standing emission limitation that must independently be in compliance” with section 112(d), nor an alternate standard under section 112(h). Respt.’s Br. 32-34. Because the general duty is the only standard that applies during SSM events – and accordingly no section 112 standard governs these events – the SSM exemption violates the CAA’s requirement that some section 112 standard apply continuously. EPA has not purported to act under section 112(h), providing that a standard may be relaxed “if it is not feasible in the judgment of the Administrator to prescribe or enforce an emission standard for control of a [HAP],” id. § 7412(h)(1), based on either a (1) design or (2) source specific basis, id. § 7412(h)(2)(A), (B).

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December 21, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Not the last word on PSD

According to Trish McCubbin (HT comments on Envlawprofessors), EPA Administrator Steve Johnson issued a memo Thursday finding that CO2 is not a "regulated" pollutant for purposes of the PSD program, meaning that new or modified power plants do not have to install control technology for CO2 emissions. McCubbin points out that the memo responds to a decision last month by the Environmental Appeals Board in the Deseret Power matter that raised the issue -- without deciding -- whether CO2 is a "regulated" pollutant because power plants are required to monitor CO2 emissions under the 1990 Amendments.  Johnson determined that mere monitoring requirements do not make a pollutant "regulated" for PSD purposes: he concluded that the PSD BACT and other requirement s are only applicable to pollutants subject to emission limits under other provisions of the Act.  Johnson's memo is on EPA's website: Johnson memo re: applicability of PSD to CO2 .  EPA's conclusion may be legally correct, but only because EPA has acted so irresponsibly with respect to regulating CO2. However, there are state programs that do regulate CO2 and thus the Johnson memo is not necessarily the last word on PSD applicability.  Remember when state NSR and the national NSR programs parted ways in the mid-1990s.  EPA at that time said that a state program with more stringent NSR requirements provided the  NSR requirements for purposes of  CAA enforcement.

December 21, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Forecast: Cloudy and Rainy

The art and science of climate modeling has improved enormously over the years with both an increasing sophisticated understanding of climatic feedback effects and the empirical knowledge that can set the parameters or values used in the models.  A 2005 study by Wentz indicated that global rainfall is increasing about 1.5% per decade, about five times (500%) faster than the value used in the 4th IPCC Assessment Report. A new study by Aumann and his colleagues presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union found a strong correlation between the frequency of very high clouds and seasonal variations in the average sea surface temperature of the tropical oceans. For every degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average ocean surface temperature, the team observed a 45-percent increase in the frequency of the very high clouds. At the present rate of global warming of 0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, the team inferred the frequency of these
storms can be expected to increase by six percent per decade.  These two studies will help improve climate models since clouds and rain have been "the weakest link in climate prediction," according to Aumann.

December 21, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haiti's Resurrection

Dear Readers and Friends:

It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place.  It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth.  But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion.  Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed.  And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.

[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent.  MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.

Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.

Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.

We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in  Haiti?  Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?

It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around  $100 in  May.  In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?

And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of     Haiti.

At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of    Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.


Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700 


December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)