Search This Blog

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk


Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk


Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk New York Times.

Update: Divers look for “breach on the sea floor” near troubled well in Gulf of Mexico


Update: Divers look for “breach on the sea floor” near troubled well in Gulf of Mexico

http://enenews.com/update-divers-check-for-breach-on-the-sea-floor-in-gulf-of-mexico
Enhanced by Zemanta

Radio: Uncontrolled gas flowing from well in Gulf of Mexico — WSJ: Experts trying to stop flow below seafloor


Radio: Uncontrolled gas flowing from well in Gulf of Mexico — WSJ: Experts trying to stop flow below seafloorhttp://enenews.com/radio-uncontrolled-gas-flow-gulf-mexico-wsj-experts-trying-stop-flow-gas-below-seafloor

Friday, February 15, 2013

Environmentalists Win Major Battle in Fracking War

Environmentalists Win Major Battle in Fracking War

A major battle in America’s frack war came to a head in New York this week. Opponents of drilling in the state, which sits on hefty reserves of methane gas locked within the Marcellus Shale formation, mobilized by the thousands to successfully maintain a 2010 moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — a victory that could have wide implications on the fight to curb and ultimately ban the extraction method elsewhere in the country.http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/02/environmentalists-win-major-battle-in-fracking-war/

CRS Report Released: Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues

CRS Report Released: Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues (Jan. 2, 2013). The 18-page report authored by Ronald O'Rourke discusses the following:

Summary

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On January 12, 2009, the George W. Bush Administration released a presidential directive, called National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25 (NSPD 66/HSPD 25), establishing a new U.S. policy for the Arctic region.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.

The five Arctic coastal states—the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (of which Greenland is a territory)—are in the process of preparing Arctic territorial claims for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Russian claim to the enormous underwater Lomonosov Ridge, if accepted, would reportedly grant Russia nearly onehalf of the Arctic area. There are also four other unresolved Arctic territorial disputes. The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes—the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage.

Current international guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters are being updated. Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil, gas, and minerals. Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose challenges to onshore exploration activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters will be more difficult than in other areas, primarily because effective strategies have yet to be developed.

Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic. The United States is currently meeting with other countries regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, 2008. Arctic climate change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous peoples.

Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers—Polar Star and Polar Sea—have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives, and Polar Sea is not operational. The possibility of increased sea traffic through Arctic waters raises an issue concerning Arctic search and rescue capabilities. On May 12, 2011, representatives from the member states of the Arctic Council signed an agreement on cooperation on aeronautical and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic.

The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. Although there is significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is also increasingly being viewed by some observers as a potential emerging security issue. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region.

CRS Report Released: Water Resource Issues in the 113th Congress

CRS Report Released: Water Resource Issues in the 113th Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Water Resource Issues in the 113th Congress (Jan. 31, 2013). The 14-page report authored by Betsy A. Cody, Charles V. Stern, Nicole T. Carter, and Pervaze A, Sheikh discusses the following:

Summary

The 113th Congress may face many issues related to water resource development, management, and protection. Such issues include how to make investment decisions in the context of federal fiscal constraints; how to distribute investments between activities to meet new demands for water supplies and aquatic ecosystem restoration and protection; how to maintain and reinvest in an aging portfolio of federal infrastructure (e.g., locks, dams, and levees); and how to effectively respond to and prepare for flood and drought emergencies. These issues often arise at the regional level, but have a federal nexus. For example, Congress may continue to be faced with issues associated with flooding (e.g., Hurricane Sandy response and recovery), navigation and water supply challenges due to drought-induced low river flows, and balancing water supply needs of farm and urban communities with protection of threatened and endangered species.

The water resource issues of the 113th Congress are in part shaped by the actions of past Congresses, including the 112th Congress. In addition to holding numerous oversight hearings on agency policies and activities, the 112th Congress provided regular annual and supplemental appropriations for major federal water research agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). The 112th Congress did not formally consider an omnibus Corps project authorization and policy bill—typically called a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)—but a draft Senate Environment and Public Works bill was circulated and discussed in the fall of 2012.

The 112th Congress also considered legislation to augment developed water supplies (e.g., water storage, water reuse), settle Indian water rights claims, and facilitate small conduit hydropower development. The 112th Congress considered several bills related to aquatic ecosystem restoration throughout the country (e.g., Everglades, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, Klamath Basin, and Chesapeake Bay). The 112th Congress also considered legislation related to the energy sector’s water use and the water sector’s energy use, as well as water research and development legislation, including research related to climate change, water resource availability, drought indicators and streamflow.

The 113th Congress may consider measures similar to those left pending in the 112th Congress (e.g., a farm bill, a WRDA, hydropower development, and water research legislation), as well as other proposals. Because of current water conditions, disasters, or legal or agency developments, certain basin issues are particularly likely to receive congressional attention (e.g., operation of federal reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins (Central Valley Project), and Missouri River Basin). Other related legislation may include the energy-water nexus and environmental policy.

This report discusses recent congressional activity and possible topics for the 113th Congress. It provides an overview of the federal role in water resources development, management, and protection, including a discussion of the two major federal water resources agencies and related legislation. It also discusses overarching policy issues, such as flood and drought management and response; project funding and authorization priorities; and aquatic ecosystem restoration.

CRS Report Released: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments

CRS Report Released: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments (Jan. 31, 2013). The 15-page report authored by Jonathan L. Ramseur and Curry L. Hagerty discusses the following:

Summary

In the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, the federal government, state governments, and responsible parties faced an unprecedented challenge. An oil discharge continued for 84 days, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. waters—estimated at approximately 206 million gallons (4.9 million barrels).

Response activities, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, continue but have diminished substantially.
  • At the height of operations (summer of 2010), response personnel numbered over 47,000; as of January 2013, that figure has dropped to about 935.
  • As of December 2012, approximately 339 miles of oiled shoreline remain subject to evaluation and/or cleanup operations.
  • As a responsible party, BP has spent over $14 billion in cleanup operations.
To date, BP has paid over $10 billion to the federal government, state and local governments, and private parties for economic claims and other expenses, including response costs, related to the oil spill. BP estimates that a recently approved settlement will lead to an additional $7.8 billion in payments to private parties.

BP and other responsible parties have agreed to civil and/or criminal settlements with the Department of Justice (DOJ). Although some are awaiting court approval, settlements from various parties, to date, total almost $6 billion. BP’s potential civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, which could be considerable, are not yet determined.

The natural resources damage assessment (NRDA) process, conducted by federal, state, and other trustees, is ongoing, now in its restoration planning phase. BP agreed to pay $1 billion to support early restoration projects. Ten such projects have been funded to date, with aggregate estimated costs of approximately $71 million.

The 112th Congress enacted two oil spill-related legislative proposals, including the following:
  • The RESTORE Act: enacted on July 6, 2012, as a subtitle in P.L. 112-141 (MAP-21), it directs 80% of any administrative and civil Clean Water Act Section 311penalty revenue into a newly created trust fund, which supports environmental and economic restoration projects in the Gulf states.
  • The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011: enacted on January 3, 2012 (P.L. 112-90), the act increases civil penalties for pipeline violations and requires a study of leak detection systems, a review of the regulations that apply to pipeline transport of “diluted bitumen” (i.e., oil sands), and an analysis whether such oil presents an increased risk of release.
In 2011, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) redefined the responsibilities previously performed by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and reassigned the functions of the offshore energy program among three separate organizations: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR). These agencies have promulgated several rulemaking changes, some of which are based on issues raised by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

CRS Report Released: Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues

CRS Report Released: Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues (Jan. 24, 2013). The 42-page report authored by Paul W. Parfomak, Robert Pirog, Linda Luther, and Adam Vann discusses the following:

Summary

In May 2012, Canadian pipeline company TransCanada reapplied to the U.S. Department of State for a Presidential Permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would transport crude oil from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, to the existing Keystone Pipeline System in Nebraska. It also could accept U.S. crude from the Bakken oil fields in Montana and North Dakota. A second segment of the Keystone XL pipeline system, the Gulf Coast Project, is proceeding separately to connect existing pipeline facilities in Oklahoma to refineries in Texas. When completed, the entire Keystone XL pipeline system would ultimately have capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day to U.S. market hubs. TransCanada submitted the May 2012 permit application after its 2008 Keystone XL permit application was denied.

The State Department has jurisdiction over the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval because it would cross the U.S. border. Before it can approve such a permit, the department must determine that the project is in the “national interest,” accounting for potential effects on the environment, economy, energy security, and foreign policy, among other factors. Environmental impacts are considered under the National Environmental Policy Act, as documented in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For the 2008 permit application, a final EIS was issued in August 2011, followed by a public review period. Largely in response to public comments and efforts by the state of Nebraska, the State Department determined that it needed to examine alternative pipeline routes that would avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, a sand dune formation with highly porous soil and shallow groundwater that recharges the Ogallala aquifer.

The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-78) required the Secretary of State to approve or deny the original 2008 project application within 60 days. On January 18, 2012, citing insufficient time under this deadline to properly assess the reconfigured project, the State Department denied the Keystone XL permit. Since then, TransCanada has worked with Nebraska officials to identify a pipeline route avoiding the Sand Hills. Its May 2012 permit application reflects that effort. The State Department has begun the NEPA process anew, but will largely supplement the August 2011 final EIS to include analysis of the new route in Nebraska, as well as analysis of any significant environmental issues or information that has become available since August 2011. The department estimates that it will determine whether to approve or deny the new Presidential Permit by early 2013.

The 112th Congress debated numerous legislative options addressing the Keystone XL pipeline. The North American Energy Access Act (H.R. 3548) would have transferred permitting authority for the Keystone XL pipeline project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, requiring issuance of a permit within 30 days of enactment. Several other bills (H.R. 3811, H.R. 4000, H.R. 4301, S. 2041, and S. 2199) would have approved immediately the 2008 permit application filed by TransCanada. A House bill (H.R. 6164), the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (S. 3445), and S.Amdt. 2789 would have eliminated the Presidential Permit requirement for the reconfigured Keystone XL pipeline as proposed in TransCanada’s permit application filed on May 4, 2012. S. 2100 and H.R. 4211 would have suspended sales of petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until issuance of a Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL project. H.R. 3900 sought to ensure that crude oil transported by the Keystone XL pipeline, or resulting refined petroleum products, would be sold only into U.S. markets. To date, no Keystone XL legislation has been proposed in the 113th Congress but the issues surrounding the Presidential Permit remain largely the same.

CRS Report Released: Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Regulatory Issues

CRS Report Released: Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Regulatory Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Regulatory Issues (Jan. 10, 2013). The 43-page report authored by Mary Tiemann and Adam Vann discusses the following:

Summary

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique developed initially to stimulate oil production from wells in declining oil reservoirs. With technological advances, hydraulic fracturing is now widely used to initiate oil and gas production in unconventional (low-permeability) oil and gas formations that were previously inaccessible. This process now is used in more than 90% of new oil and gas wells. Hydraulic fracturing is done after a well is drilled and involves injecting large volumes of water, sand (or other propping agent), and specialized chemicals under enough pressure to fracture the formations holding the oil or gas. The sand or other proppant holds the fractures open to allow the oil or gas to flow freely out of the formation and into a production well. Its application, along with horizontal drilling, for production of natural gas (methane) from tight gas sands, unconventional shale formations, and coal beds, has resulted in the marked expansion of estimated U.S. natural gas reserves in recent years. Similarly, hydraulic fracturing is enabling the development of tight oil resources, such as the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations. The rapid growth in the use of fracturing has raised concerns over its potential impacts on groundwater and drinking water sources, and has led to calls for more state and/or federal oversight of this activity.
Historically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had not regulated the underground injection of fluids for hydraulic fracturing of oil or gas production wells. In 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that fracturing for coalbed methane (CBM) production in Alabama constituted underground injection and must be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This ruling led EPA to study the risk that hydraulic fracturing for CBM production might pose to drinking water sources. In 2004, EPA reported that the risk was small, except where diesel was used, and that national regulation was not needed. However, to address regulatory uncertainty the ruling created, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) revised the SDWA term “underground injection” to explicitly exclude the injection of fluids and propping agents (except diesel fuel) used for hydraulic fracturing purposes. Thus, EPA lacks authority under the SDWA to regulate hydraulic fracturing, except where diesel fuel is used. As the use of the process has grown, some in Congress would like to revisit this statutory exclusion. In EPA’s FY2010 appropriations act, Congress urged the agency to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water quality. In late 2012, EPA issued a research progress report. In May 2012, EPA issued draft permitting guidance for hydraulic fracturing operations using diesel.
Several relevant bills were offered in the 112th Congress, but none was enacted. H.R. 1084/S. 587 proposed repealing the hydraulic fracturing exemption established in EPAct 2005, and amending the term “underground injection” to include the injection of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing operations, thus authorizing EPA to regulate this process under the SDWA. The bills also would have required disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracturing process. In response to rules proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2012, S. 2248/H.R. 4322 proposed that a state would have sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands within state boundaries; H.R. 3973 would have prohibited the rule from having any effect on Indian lands; and H.R. 6235 would have barred a final rule for 10 years, pending an impact study. At the state level, many states have revised laws and rules to address high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
This report reviews past and proposed treatment of hydraulic fracturing under the SDWA, the principal federal statute for regulating the underground injection of fluids to protect groundwater sources of drinking water. It reviews current SDWA provisions for regulating underground injection activities, and discusses some possible implications of the enactment of legislation authorizing EPA to regulate hydraulic fracturing (beyond diesel) under this statute.

California Losing Farmland to Solar

California Losing Farmland to Solar

Amanda Miller, C.E. Authority
Solar developers are swallowing up thousands of acres of productive California farmland to build utility-scale solar installations. That could be a big problem for California's agriculture industry if the development is not more carefully monitored, said Ed Thompson with the American Farmland Trust. There are currently 40,000 acres of California farmland in development or slated for development with solar arrays, Thompson said.http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-energy-news/california-losing-farmland-to-solar-energy-021513

Scientists Confirm: Arctic Sea Ice 'Collapse' at Our Door

Scientists Confirm: Arctic Sea Ice 'Collapse' at Our Door
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/15-6

Businesses balk at dealing with ocean threat

Businesses balk at dealing with ocean threat

They say the first-in-the-nation effort to reduce ocean acidification is premature. Environmental groups want to move forward.

http://crosscut.com/2013/02/14/olympia-2013/112955/businesses-balk-costs-dealing-ocean-threat/

Thursday, February 14, 2013

NASA: Middle East Ground Water Becoming Scant

NASA: Middle East Ground Water Becoming Scant
http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/nasa-middle-east-ground-water-becoming-scant/

An amount of freshwater almost the size of the Dead Sea has been lost in parts
of the Middle East due to poor management, increased demands for groundwater and
the effects of a 2007 drought, according to a NASA study.

The study, to be published Friday in Water Resources Research, a journal of the
American Geophysical [...]

NY Hospitals Warn Thousands of Accidental HIV Exposure

NY Hospitals Warn Thousands of Accidental HIV Exposure
http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/ny-hospitals-warn-thousands-of-accidental-hiv-exposure/

A hospital in New York State has notified 1,915 patients that they may have been
exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C – days after another hospital in
NY admitted making the same mistake - through reusing insulin pens, used by
diabetics.

Completely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Spreads in S. Africa

Completely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Spreads in S. Africa
http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/completely-drug-resistant-tuberculosis-spreads-in-s-africa/

Researchers Warn Global outbreak would be Untreatable

The world is facing outbreaks of “totally drug-resistant” tuberculosis if
explosions of the bacteria in South Africa and other poorer nations are not
addressed, according to a new papers published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
At this point, researchers are working to determine how the bacteria gains its
invincibility, and how [...]

Huge Network of Climate Denial Think-Tanks Funded Secretly


Huge Network of Climate Denial Think-Tanks Funded Secretly
http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/huge-network-of-climate-denial-think-tanks-funded-secretly/

Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups
working to discredit climate change science

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m
(£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate
change, the Guardian has learned.

Midwest Soil Could Take 2 Years to Recover from Drought AgWeb

Midwest Soil Could Take 2 Years to Recover from Drought AgWebhttp://www.agweb.com/article/midwest_soil_could_take_2_years_to_recover_from_drought/

Latest Headlines from ENENews 2/14

Latest Headlines from ENENews



Posted: 13 Feb 2013 09:27 PM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 03:06 PM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 12:54 PM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 10:47 AM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 09:39 AM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 08:07 AM PST
Posted: 13 Feb 2013 07:13 AM PST

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Latest Headlines from ENENews 2/12

Latest Headlines from ENENews



Posted: 11 Feb 2013 10:06 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 08:48 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 04:27 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 02:15 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 12:57 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 12:08 PM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 09:42 AM PST
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 08:29 AM PST

Monday, February 11, 2013

Editor's Note

Dear Readers
I am moving tomorrow, 2/12. Would have moved sooner, but my plans were delayed by
Nemo. I will resume posting late tomorrow evening.
Best regards.
Michele Kearney

Security risks of extreme weather and climate change

Security risks of extreme weather and climate change

A new study, conducted specifically to explore the forces driving extreme weather events and their implications for national security planning over the next decade, finds that the early ramifications of climate extremes resulting from climate change are already upon us and will continue to be felt over the next decade, directly impacting US national security interests.http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130211135015.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission: New Earth observation satellite launched

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission: New Earth observation satellite launched

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) roared into space at 1:02 p.m. EST (10:02 a.m. PST) Monday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). The measurements will be compatible with data from past Landsat satellites, but the LDCM instruments use advanced technology to improve reliability, sensitivity, and data quality.http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130211160855.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

Earth-Observing Satellite Is Launched by NASA at Crucial Moment

Earth-Observing Satellite Is Launched by NASA at Crucial Moment

NASA is expected to launch today its newest Earth-observing satellite, Landsat 8, at a time when previous Landsat satellites have either stopped working or have developed serious technical problems. NASA scientists say the launch of the $855 million satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is vital to the space agency’s mission of monitoring the Earth during a period of unprecedented environmental change — from disappearing glaciers and sea ice, to widespread forest loss, to intensifying destruction from natural disasters. http://e360.yale.edu/digest/earth-observing_satellite__is_launched_by_nasa_at_crucial_moment/3764/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+YaleEnvironment360+%28Yale+Environment+360%29

CRS Report Released: Clean Air Issues in the 112th Congress

CRS Report Released: Clean Air Issues in the 112th Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Clean Air Issues in the 112th Congress (Dec. 31, 2012). The 30-page report authored by James E. McCarthy discusses the following:
 

Summary

Air quality has improved substantially in the United States in the 40 years of EPA’s Clean Air Act regulation, but more needs to be done, according to the agency’s science advisers, to protect public health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. Thus, the agency continues to promulgate regulations addressing air pollution using authority given it by Congress more than 20 years ago. In the 112th Congress, Members from both parties raised questions about the cost-effectiveness of some of these regulations and/or whether the agency has exceeded its regulatory authority in promulgating them. Others in Congress have supported EPA, noting that the Clean Air Act, often affirmed in court decisions, authorized or required the agency’s actions.
 
EPA’s regulatory actions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were one focus of congressional interest. Although the Obama Administration consistently said that it would prefer that Congress pass new legislation to address climate change, such legislation was not considered in the 112th Congress. Instead, EPA developed GHG regulations using its existing Clean Air Act authority. EPA finalized GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks on April 1, 2010, and August 28, 2012, and for larger trucks on August 9, 2011. The implementation of these standards, in turn, triggered permitting and Best Available Control Technology requirements for new major stationary sources of GHGs.
It was the triggering of standards for stationary sources (power plants, manufacturing facilities, etc.) that raised the most concern in the  112th Congress: legislation was considered in both the House and Senate aimed at preventing EPA from implementing these requirements. In the first session of the 112th Congress, the House passed H.R. 1, which contained provisions prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to implement various EPA GHG regulatory activities, and H.R. 910, a bill that would have repealed EPA’s endangerment finding, redefined “air pollutants” to exclude greenhouse gases, and prohibited EPA from promulgating any regulation to address climate change. In the Senate, H.R. 1 was defeated, and an amendment identical to H.R. 910 (S.Amdt. 183) failed on a vote of 50-50.
EPA took action on a number of other air pollutant regulations, generally in response to court actions remanding previous rules. Remanded rules included the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule—rules designed to control the long-range transport of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants through cap-and-trade programs. Other remanded rules included hazardous air pollutant (“MACT”) standards for boilers and cement kilns. EPA addressed the court remands through new regulations that have now been promulgated. Many in Congress viewed the new regulations as overly stringent. The House passed four bills (H.R. 2250, H.R. 2401, H.R. 2681, and H.R. 3409) to delay or revoke the new standards and change the statutory requirements for their replacements.
In addition to the power plant and MACT rules, EPA also reviewed ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone, particulates, and other widespread air pollutants. These standards serve as EPA’s definition of clean air, and drive a range of regulatory controls. The revised NAAQS also faced opposition in the 112th Congress. As passed by the House, H.R. 2401 and H.R. 3409 would have amended the Clean Air Act to require EPA to consider feasibility and cost in setting NAAQS, and H.R. 1633 would have prevented EPA from setting standards for ambient concentrations of rural dust.

CRS Report Released: Is Biopower Carbon Neutral?

CRS Report Released: Is Biopower Carbon Neutral?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Is Biopower Carbon Neutral? (Jan. 2, 2012). The 18-page report authored by Kelso Bracmort discusses the following:

Summary

Congress has expressed interest in biopower—electricity generated from biomass. Biopower, a baseload power source, has the potential to strengthen rural economies, enhance energy security, and improve the environment, proponents say. Biopower could be produced from a large range of biomass feedstocks nationwide (e.g., urban, agricultural, and forestry wastes and residues). One challenge to biopower production is a readily available feedstock supply. At present, biopower requires tax incentives to be competitive with conventional fossil fuels. If Congress considers a renewable electricity standard or other measures (e.g., farm bill energy programs) that include biopower, there may be concerns about the carbon neutrality of biopower. Congressional support for biopower has aimed to promote energy diversity and improve energy security, and has generally assumed that biopower is carbon neutral. An energy production activity is typically classified as carbon neutral if it produces no net increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a life-cycle basis. The premise that biopower is carbon neutral has come under scrutiny as its potential to help meet U.S. energy demands and reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is more closely examined.
Whether biopower is carbon neutral depends on many factors, including the definition of carbon neutrality, the feedstock type, the technology used, and the time frame examined. Carbon flux (emission and sequestration) varies at each phase of the biopower pathway, given site- and operation-specific factors. A life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a common technique to calculate the environmental footprint, including the carbon flux, of a particular biopower pathway. However, past legislation has not required a standardized LCA.
Interest in the carbon classification of biopower is in part due to sustainability and air quality concerns. Where the feedstock supply for biopower originates, if it is managed in a sustainable manner, and whether the associated air quality impacts from biopower generation are tolerable are questions that are part of the biopower carbon-neutrality debate. Congress may decide whether the current carbon-neutral designation for biopower is accurate, or whether additional carbon accounting for biopower is warranted and what impact this accounting might have on renewable energy, agricultural, and environmental legislative goals.
Rulings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have raised questions about the carbon neutrality of biopower. For instance, the 2010 Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule did not exempt emissions from biomass combustion. Some view EPA’s decision as equating biomass emissions with fossil fuel emissions. EPA decided in 2011 to defer for three years GHG permitting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from bioenergy and other biogenic stationary sources in order to conduct a detailed examination of the science associated with these emissions. EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board conducted an independent review of the agency’s biogenic accounting framework and released its findings in September 2012. The board acknowledged the “daunting task” of assessing the greenhouse gas implications of bioenergy, and the “narrow regulatory boundaries” within EPA’s purview that limit the consideration of greenhouse gas flux at various points along the bioenergy pathway.
State perspectives on the tailoring rule are divided. Some states contend that treating biomass combustion the same as fossil fuel combustion will result in excessive permitting requirements and fees that jeopardize renewable energy development. Other states argue that not treating it the same will aggravate climate change over time.

New EPA Rules Over-rely on Food Crop Biofuels

New EPA Rules Over-rely on Food Crop Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released proposed biofuel mandate volumes for 2013. The new requirements used so-called “advanced” food-based biofuels such as biodiesel and sugarcane to make up for a shortfall in cleaner cellulosic biofuels, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The volume requirements were adopted under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which was designed to promote renewable fuels that don’t compete with food supplies.http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/new-epa-rules-use-food-crop-fuel-0357.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ucsusa%2Frss%20%28Union%20of%20Concerned%20Scientists%29

Understanding the historical probability of drought

Understanding the historical probability of drought

Washington DC (SPX) Feb 06, 2013
Droughts can severely limit crop growth, causing yearly losses of around $8 billion in the United States. But it may be possible to minimize those losses if farmers can synchronize the growth of crops with periods of time when drought is less likely to occur. Researchers from Oklahoma State University are working to create a reliable "calendar" of seasonal drought patterns that could help farmerhttp://www.terradaily.com/reports/Understanding_the_historical_probability_of_drought_999.html

Despite Deepwater, Deep Pentagon Pockets for BP

Despite Deepwater, Deep Pentagon Pockets for BP

If you think BP Plc. is faring poorly after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its subsequent suspension from government contracts, consider this: its Pentagon contracts had already doubled since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.According to Bloomberg, BP (NYSE: BP) won $1.04 billion in Pentagon contracts in fiscal year 2010 and $2.51 billion in fiscal year 2011. In November 2012, it was suspended from further government contracts.  Essentially, then the Pentagon felt the coming punishment and in the meantime, ensured a fast-tracking of BP contracts…Read more...http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Despite-Deepwater-Deep-Pentagon-Pockets-for-BP.html

A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World: The Strategic Importance of Keystone XL


A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World: The Strategic Importance of Keystone XL


http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/02/a-presidential-decision-that-could-change-the-world-the-strategic-importance-of-keystone-xl.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NakedCapitalism+%28naked+capitalism%29

Oil and gas lease sale for 38 million Gulf of Mexico acres

Oil and gas lease sale for 38 million Gulf of Mexico acres
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that Central Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 227 will offer 38.6 million acres offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama for oil and gas exploration.
Full Article

Injection well operator’s permits revoked in Ohio

Injection well operator’s permits revoked in Ohio
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has revoked the permits of an injection well operator currently being investigated for alleged improper disposal.
Full Article

"Soybean Farmer Takes Monsanto to Supreme Court" -


"Soybean Farmer Takes Monsanto to Supreme Court" -- A single 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer in rural southwestern Indiana is taking on the multibillion dollar agricultural giant over the issue of who controls the rights to seeds planted in the ground.
http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/soybean_farmer_takes_monsanto_to_supreme_court_20130209/

A Cleaner Way to Use Coal

A technology for generating electricity from coal without pollution achieves a milestone.

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/510736/a-cleaner-way-to-use-coal/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-weekly-energy&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20130211

Sunday, February 10, 2013