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- New Electricity Pricing Can Save Californians Money, Support More Clean EnergyRead more »July 3, 2015Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 3, 2015 - 7:17 pm
- Cuba’s plan for shark conservation
Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation. This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.
Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.
Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year.
The NPOA-Sharks is a voluntary instrument defined by the United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organization–which encourages all member states to develop and implement. The goal of a NPOA-Sharks is to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and related species and their long-term sustainable use. Once finalized, Cuba will join 20 other countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, in creating this national framework for shark conservation. Cuba is home to dozens of species of sharks from the largest fish in the world, the whale shark, to the globally threatened, oceanic whitetip shark. Much is still unknown about Cuba’s sharks but scientists and managers have been working hard to change that and have enlisted the help of fishers to find out which sharks are more vulnerable to fishing and need greater protections.
Cuba started the process of developing the NPOA-Sharks in November 2013, and has taken proactive steps along the way to collect better information and put critical regulations in place. In January of this year, fisheries officials passed new rules to prohibit finning, and required that all sharks caught be landed whole with fins attached. This is an important step to protect sharks. Although finning isn’t currently a problem in Cuba, these regulations will ensure this doesn’t change, and will also make it easier to collect shark data in order to determine future conservation measures.
Now, after the shark identification workshops, fishers are starting to report shark catch by species. This has the potential to transform shark research and conservation because species-specific data can lead to better regulations and involving fishers in the process is key for better management long-term.
At the workshop earlier this year, some fishers were less confident than others. One pulled out their shark guide and raised concern that he still mixes up a couple sharks after trying to report his catch by species over the last year. Thankfully, shark experts from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. were in the room to help ease his concerns. There are always some sharks that are hard to identify even with lots of training but, by working together, scientists, fishers and regulators can collect better data and find ways to ensure that sharks are around for the future.
Once implemented, the NPOA-Sharks will provide a foundation for a continual nation-wide effort to collaborate on research and conservation. NPOAs are different for each country that develops one and depends among other things on the level of information available and unique priorities and needs. In the end, developing an NPOA isn’t the hardest part, it’s ensuring that the actions outlined by the conservation plan are fulfilled and that shark populations benefit. Cuba is committed to just that and EDF and our partners are stepping up to help.
Cuban NPOA-Sharks Working Group:
- Dirección de Regulaciones Pesqueras y Ciencias, Ministerio de la Industria Alimentaria (DRPC-MINAL)
- Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, Universidad de La Habana (CIM-UH)
- Centro de Investigaciones de Ecosistemas Costeros, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CIEC-CITMA)
- Instituto de Oceanología, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (IdO-CITMA)
- Centro de Investigaciones Pesqueras, Ministerio de la Industria Alimentaria (CIP-MINAL)
- Centro Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CNAP-CITMA)
- Acuario Nacional de Cuba, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (ANC-CITMA)
- Grupo Empresarial de la Industria Alimentaria, Ministerio de la Industria Alimentaria (GEIA-MINAL)
- Ministerio del Turismo (MINTUR)
- Centro de Inspección y Control Ambiental, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CICA-CITMA)
- Tropas Guarda Fronteras, Ministerio del Interior (TGF-MININT)
- Empresa Nacional para la protección de la Flora y la Fauna, Ministerio de la Agricultura (ENPFF-MINAG)
Other key partners:
Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 6:37 pm
- Bob Hueter, Mote Marine Laboratory
- Fernando Márquez, Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (UAS)
- Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI)
- Texas Wind Energy Infrastructure Lives On (For Now)
Summer is in full swing and this weekend we celebrate the 4th of July. As we watch fireworks explode in the night sky above us on Saturday, we can be thankful the 2015 Texas Legislative session is over. We can also celebrate a small victory for Texas wind: the death of Senator Troy Fraser’s Senate Bill (SB) 931.
Since 2011, 40 percent of all new energy generating capacity installed in Texas has come from wind, and the state installed more than a third of the nation’s new wind capacity last year. Texas also leads the nation with 17,000 wind industry jobs. Of the 12,700 megawatts (MW) under construction across the country, approximately 7,000 MW are in Texas. Moreover, Texas receives more than 10% of its electricity from wind, and that number keeps rising.
Despite these impressive figures, Sen. Fraser sponsored SB 931 to repeal Texas' leadership-creating Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which helped the Lone Star State become the number one wind state in the country. The RPS is an economic tool to drive renewables growth that has helped Texas secure $28 billion in private capital investment since 2008.
Back in April, I wrote about the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) new report on the state of wind in the U.S., just as the Texas Senate passed Fraser's bill. At the time, it seemed like an unfortunate slam dunk that the bill would pass the House and make its way to Governor Abbott's desk for his guaranteed signature. But alas, a glimmer of hope. Many environmental and renewable energy groups, including EDF, stood up to this politically-motivated assault, creating negative noise and drawing attention from the media.
And it worked! SB 931 died on the vine in the House.
Texas wind energy infrastructure lives on (for now) #txwind
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What damage have we avoided?
While Texas blowing through its RPS goal twice inspired Fraser to claim "mission accomplished," there was more sneakiness (see ALEC involvement) in SB 931 than met they eye. This was a symbolic fight.
Here are some of the ways the death of this bill is good news for Texas’ wind economy:
- Renewable Energy Credits (REC): Under the RPS, if utilities do not produce enough energy from renewable sources, they have the option to buy RECs. If Fraser's bill had become law, the $40 million market for RECs in Texas would have disappeared.
- Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ): Furthering the damage to the entire investment chain, the bill also attacked the CREZ transmission projects that are yet to be completed. Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas in 2008, the CREZ lines are a 3,600 mile network of transmission lines that connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities – enough energy to power 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes – and increase the available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent. Texas’ record level of wind plant construction is driven largely by the completion of the state’s CREZ project – previously, clean Texas wind energy was literally wasted when traffic jams on the grid prevented its use. Natural gas has also greatly benefitted from the CREZ infrastructure.
- False Claims: Senator Fraser claims he was pushing for repealing the RPS because he wants to end subsidies, but the biggest subsidy for wind is at the federal level not the state. And furthermore, why doesn’t Fraser fight to repeal the massive subsidies Texas currently gives to the fossil fuel industry, which dwarf support for wind and solar? According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas incentives for wind are only $12 million to $40 million annually, while the natural gas industry received $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies in one year. In fact, fossil fuels account for an “estimated 99.6 percent of all state subsidies, mostly as tax exemptions,” so the RPS does not even level the playing field, much less give wind an advantage.
Along with our allies, EDF added a lot of pressure to Fraser and others this legislative session and we lost some very important battles for the environment and the people who call Texas home (particularly related to contested case hearings and local oil and gas ordinances). But the failure of SB 931 is a small victory and Texas wind remains to fight another day.
Let's hold on to our place as a wind leader, especially as other states are hot on our trails. With Senator Fraser not seeking reelection, hopefully, by next legislative session we will be welcoming a new group of clean energy leaders to represent us in Austin and we won't have to keep wasting energy on these silly fights.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 6:14 pm
- The Mercury Standards, Post-Supreme Court – Still in Effect, Still Protecting Americans
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards back in 2011, at a news conference at Children’s Hospital with cheering children and families surrounding the speakers.
They were cheering because the Mercury Standards were the single most important clean air measure of our generation – designed to protect Americans from some of the worst, most dangerous types of air pollution.
They still are.
This week’s disappointing Supreme Court decision, remanding the standards back to the D.C. Circuit Court for further analysis, has distracted from that fact.
But the fact remains – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are a suite of life-saving protections against some of the most health-harming substances emitted by coal and oil-fired power plants, including mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals, and acid gases.
Here’s What Happened
Coal- and oil-fired power plants are by far the largest emitters of these pollutants, which are dangerous to human health even in small doses. Mercury causes brain damage in children, metal toxics like chromium and nickel cause cancer, and acid gases cause respiratory problems.
This week, the Supreme Court held that EPA should have considered the costs of regulation when it made a threshold determination under section 112 of the Clean Air Act that it is “appropriate and necessary” to move forward with the first-ever national limits for these noxious emissions. It is now up to EPA to determine the best way to respond to the decision.
What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for the Mercury Air Toxics Standards?
Here are three important things you should know.
First — there is every reason to believe EPA can quickly amend its “appropriate and necessary” finding to address the Supreme Court’s decision, without affecting the substance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards themselves.
Importantly, the Court left it up to EPA to determine how to evaluate costs and how to weigh those costs against the benefits of regulation. As the Court’s opinion acknowledged, EPA has already conducted an extensive review of both the costs and benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as part of the regulatory analyses most agencies carry out under Executive Order 12866. That analysis contains overwhelming evidence showing that the benefits of MATS far outweigh its costs.
According to EPA, the monetized benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics are expected to be up to $90 billion per year.
That amount reflects the enormous health benefits Americans will get from the standards. EPA estimates that they will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, up to 4,700 heart attacks, and up to 130,000 asthma attacks each year.
There are substantial and additional non-monetized benefits associated with reduced exposure to mercury and other harmful pollutants regulated by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
Moreover, in spite of the power industry’s claims, reducing these emissions has proven much less expensive than initially projected. Major power companies such as AEP, NRG, and FirstEnergy have been reporting to their investors that the costs of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are as much as 70 percent lower than they first estimated.
The bottom line is that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are an extraordinarily beneficial public health measure and are providing healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans at a fraction of the costs predicted.
Second — the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards can and should continue to be implemented while EPA amends its “appropriate and necessary finding.”
The Supreme Court’s opinion did not prohibit the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – and in the past, the appellate courts have often allowed Clean Air Act regulations to remain in place while EPA amends them to address technical or legal issues.
In this case, a large majority of American power plants are already in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — in many instances because they have been upgrading pollution controls to comply with state emission standards or other Clean Air Act requirements. M.J. Bradley & Associates recently estimated that about 70 percent of the U.S. coal fleet had installed pollution controls to comply with the standards by the April 2015 deadline. In addition, a substantial number of plants have received one-year extensions to this compliance deadline and are now working to install pollution controls by April 2016.
Given the importance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to public health, and the overwhelming likelihood that EPA will be able to quickly address the Court’s decision, there is no reason that power plants should be allowed to delay installing pollution controls or cease operating already-installed pollution controls.
Third – the Supreme Court decision has no adverse implications for EPA’s Clean Power Plan – despite the wild claims being made by some opponents of these vital limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Clean Power Plan are based on entirely separate Clean Air Act authorities that reside in separate parts of the statute. The authority EPA is acting on to develop the Clean Power Plan expressly provides for the consideration of costs, and EPA has carefully taken costs into account in the Clean Power Plan in the manner required by the statute. Thus, claims that the ruling on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards should somehow cast doubt on the legality of the Clean Power Plan are severely misguided.
Summing It Up
Marian Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, summed it up perfectly back in 2011, when the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were first proposed:
Dirty air makes children sick … If you think it's an expensive process to put a scrubber on a smokestack, you should see how much it costs over a lifetime to treat a child with a preventable birth defect.
That’s why hundreds of thousands of Americans sent comments to EPA in support of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
It’s why EDF and so many other health, environmental, and social justice groups will go back to the D.C. Circuit Court to defend the standards.
We’ll keep fighting to make sure the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are fully implemented so we can realize the promise of the Clean Air Act — and make sure all Americans have safe, healthy air to breathe.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 4:00 pm
- Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back GulfRead more »July 2, 2015Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 3:59 pm
- Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, email@example.com
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, email@example.com
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, email@example.com
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, email@example.com
Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf
Region’s economy and well-being are based on strong, resilient ecosystem
(New Orleans, LA – July 2, 2015) National and local organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement of an agreement in principle between the Gulf states, federal government and BP for its role in the largest U.S. offshore oil disaster in history. Although the settlement will not be finalized for several weeks, the agreement will dedicate billions of dollars to restore damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“In sharp contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, federal and state leaders have wasted no time in closing this case. Their swift work means meaningful restoration efforts are imminent. Their leadership, at this moment, is invaluable.
While we await key details, one thing is clear: As soon as the settlement is final, it will be time to put that money to work.
We need our leaders to make sure that every dime of this settlement is used as it is intended: to address oil spill impacts and repair long-standing ecosystem damage. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The Gulf ecosystem is the backbone of the local economy and our primary defense from storms during hurricane season.
This settlement, which promises to be the largest environmental settlement in American history, is an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate and expand the response to the devastating harm caused by the spill, and to build lasting resilience into the essential ecosystems of the Gulf.
We are especially encouraged that the settlement will put special emphasis on restoring health to the Mississippi River Delta and its coastal wetlands. We also urge leaders in NOAA and other agencies to leverage resources from this settlement to restore marine resources.”
A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:
- A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.
- A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.
- Recent studies estimate an unprecedented number of birds (upwards of 1 million) died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.
- A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.
- A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.
###Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 3:04 pm
- BP Oil Disaster Settlement Brings a Measure of Justice to the Gulf CoastRead more »July 2, 2015Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 2, 2015 - 2:18 pm
- California Utilities Unveil Plans to Pave the Way for Clean, Distributed EnergyRead more »July 1, 2015Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 1, 2015 - 11:07 pm
- Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs Need Better Management and ReportingRead more »July 1, 2015Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 1, 2015 - 9:11 pm
- IEA: Reducing Oil & Gas Methane Key to Curbing Climate Change
By Drew Nelson
Last Friday, the incoming head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Faith Birol, provided a briefing to U.S. stakeholders about IEA’s new special report on climate change, which found that global emissions could peak by the end of this decade without reducing economic growth. The report outlines five key pillars for turning the emissions corner by 2020, and importantly, one of the pillars is reducing methane from the oil and gas sector. The report‘s finding that the scale of potential reductions from oil and gas methane is about the same as the reductions from renewable energy underscores the impact that action on methane can have.
IEA’s report is the latest in a stream of recent analyses illustrating the enormous potential for methane reductions to slow climate change. This is because methane has such a powerful short-term impact on the climate, with 84 times more warming power than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline. And, the report also highlights the significant opportunity that exists in implementing cost-effective, commonsense measures to cut these emissions, which many governments and companies have not yet taken advantage of.
A recent report conducted by the Rhodium Group, commissioned by EDF, shows the global scale of methane leaks is staggering. In 2012, the amount of oil and gas methane leaked was equivalent to the gas production of Norway, the world’s seventh largest gas producer, representing over $30 billion of revenue that literally vanished into thin air. But this is more than just an economic and energy security issue — because of methane’s potency, that lost gas had the same short term climate impact as 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from coal combustion.
But the good news is that reducing this overlooked source of warming can be quite cheap. A recent study looking at U.S. oil and gas operations found that methane emissions can be reduced by 40 percent for only one penny per MCF of gas using technology that is already available. In the briefing, IEA also noted that the additional investment needed by the oil and gas industry to nullify oil and gas methane emissions is less than 1 percent of current investment.
This combination of cost-effective actions that have a significant positive impact on the climate is what led IEA to include reducing oil and gas methane as one of the most important and pressing actions we can take to make a dent in climate impacts.
While we have seen some recent actions from governments and companies, much more is needed to help emissions peak. In the lead-up to Paris and beyond, policymakers and industry leaders should take note of these findings and ensure that addressing oil and gas methane emissions is included in national actions. While it is laudable that Canada, Mexico and the U.S. specifically included these emissions in their climate pledges (INDCs), each country should also issue strong regulations to ensure that they achieve these reductions as soon as possible. Doing so will provide a powerful signal to the international community regarding North America’s leadership and commitment to this important issue.
For the U.S., the administration’s recently announced goal to reduce methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025 is a critical step toward cutting potent methane emissions from the country’s oil and gas industry. However, that target must be supported by effective regulation of methane emissions from both new and existing oil and gas operations. Proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management due later this summer are expected to be a first step in this direction.
Additionally, companies in the oil and gas sector shouldn’t wait for regulations to force them to act; they should lead on containing methane emissions. Some companies are already taking action: BG Group, ENI, PEMEX, PTT, Southwestern, Statoil and Total have joined the United Nations’ Climate and Clean Air Coalition Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP), which aims to have companies report and reduce their methane emissions. There's a broad need and opportunity for all operators to measure, report, and reduce their emissions. Other leading companies like Shell and BP should also join the OGMP and add their knowledge and experience to this effort.
Research by EDF and others has provided a deeper understanding of both the methane problem and its possible solutions, so it’s gratifying to see the IEA elevate methane as a key issue for Paris. Now it’s time for countries and companies to develop actions to address emissions.
Image Source: International Energy AgencyRead more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: July 1, 2015 - 5:07 pm