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Boston Office
617-406-1821

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Washington, DC Office
202-572-3357

 

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Latest Press Releases

  • New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Barnett Shale Region

    By: Steve Hamburg, Chief Scientist

    Methane emissions from vast oil and gas operations in the densely populated Barnett Shale region of Texas are 50 percent higher than estimates based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas inventory, according to a series of 11 new papers published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

    The majority of these emissions are from a small but widespread number of sources across the region’s oil and gas supply chain. These emissions come from the sort of leaks and equipment malfunctions that are relatively easy to prevent with proper and frequent monitoring and repair practices.

    The sprawling Barnett region, fanning out westward from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, contains about 30,000 oil and gas wells, 275 compressor stations, and 40 processing plants. It is one of the country’s largest production areas, responsible for 7 percent of total U.S. natural gas output.

    Unpredictable, Widespread Sources Dominate

    A finding from the research shows that at any given time, roughly 75 percent of the methane emissions from production sites in the Barnett Shale tend to come from a set of elusive and dispersed sources. Higher emissions from these sites are often a result of avoidable operating conditions such as equipment leaks and tank venting that are relatively easy to prevent with frequent monitoring and repair practices.


    New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Barnett Shale Region
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    The studies were coordinated by EDF as part of a larger effort to better understand where oil and gas methane emissions are coming from and how best to reduce them. The new findings are consistent with previous scientific work that indicates industry has a significant methane pollution problem driven by widespread, often unpredictable emission sources.

    To better classify these emitters, researchers offer a new definition, calling them “functional super-emitters,” or those sites with the highest proportional loss rates (site-specific methane emissions relative to its production/volume of gas handled).

    Simple Solutions for Reducing the Leaks

    Routine leak monitoring is essential because these sources are difficult to anticipate – the leaks can emerge from a diversity of locations, at any point in time, jumping from site to site.

    The good news is that there are many cost-effective ways to find and fix high-emitting sources. In fact, a 2014 report by ICF International found that by adopting already available technologies and operating practices, industry could cut methane emissions by 40 percent over five years for just one penny per thousand cubic feet of produced gas.

    The bad news is, as easy and affordable as these solutions are, many companies simply are not using them. As long as they remain optional, it’s likely to stay that way.

    Some states, like Colorado, have already begun directly regulating methane emissions from oil and gas operations and requiring comprehensive, frequent leak detection and repair. And in January, the White House announced plans to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years.

    Details of the new plan are still in the works. In the coming weeks, EPA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are both expected to propose rules to help meet the White House’s reduction goal. Based on the latest scientific research, including the papers released today, it’s important that these policies require both thorough and routine monitoring and maintenance to find and fix methane leaks.

    Frequency is critical — the ICF report, for example, found that monthly inspections resulted in reducing emissions by 80 percent, while annual inspections reduced emissions by less than half.

    Getting the Full Picture

    The series of 11 papers represent the first findings of one of the largest and most comprehensive research campaigns on methane emissions in the oil and gas supply chain and will be followed by a paper fully synthesizing all of the researchers’ findings.

    The work included 12 research teams from 20 universities and private research firms, including Colorado State University, Duke University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado-Boulder, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, University of California-Davis and Scientific Aviation, University of California-Irvine, University of Cincinnati, University of Houston, University of Michigan, University of Texas-Dallas, Washington State University, West Virginia University, Aerodyne Research, Carbon Now Cast, Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, Picarro and Sander Geophysics.

    The results of these papers tell us that we have a problem, but we already know there are cost-effective technologies and practices available to reduce emissions and make a big dent in waste and pollution.

    Photo source: Environmental Science and Technology

    This post originally appeared on our Energy Exchange blog.

    Read more »
  • Latest Mississippi River Delta News: July 7, 2015

    Chat with law experts at noon Tuesday about BP oil spill settlement
    By Jennifer Larino, The Times-Picayune. July 6, 2015
    "Who will benefit more from the $18.7 billion Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement: BP or the Gulf Coast? Chat at noon Tuesday (July 7) with law experts Ed Sherman and David A. Logan about the settlement, how and when the court will approve it, and which side could benefit more.(Read More)

    Environmentalists welcome oil spill settlement
    *features Simone Maloz, ROR & Fred Krupp, EDF
    By Jacob Batte, Houma Courier. July 6, 2015
    "We are particularly heartened to see a significant commitment to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and its wetlands. Louisiana's coast was ground zero for the oil disaster,” Krupp said. “This settlement recognizes the critical importance of that area to the nation and to the overall health of the entire Gulf ecosystem.(Read More)

    Restoring LA’s coast likely to challenge next governor
    WWL. July 6, 2015
    "Working to enact the coastal restoration master plan will be a major challenge in the coming years, even with the recently-announced settlement with BP. Four of the major gubernatorial candidates recently spoke about how they would meet that challenge, if elected.(Read More)

    St. Tammany Parish accepts $16.8 million settlement with BP
    By Robert Thoden, The Times-Picayune. July 7, 2015
    "St. Tammany Parish has agreed to accept a $16.8 million settlement from BP for the parish's economic losses stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.The money will come in a lump sum, possibly as quickly as a month or so, Council Administrator Donald Henderson Jr. said. (Read More)

    Water and subsidence: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”
    By Bob Marshall, The Lens. July 7, 2015
    "Perched on the edge of the Mississippi River delta in the heart of Hurricane Alley, New Orleans leaders believed for 300 years that the city’s safety lay in draining the soggy mud sponge it was built on. But as that sponge drained, it also shrank, steadily pulling most of the city below sea level, a process that continues today. The result has been increasing flood risk from rain and hurricanes, and billions in ongoing repairs to sunken homes and crumbling streets.(Read More)

    Read more »
  • Houston as a Hydrogen Haven?

    By Christina Wolfe

    The prototype trucks will have a range of 200 miles, with a top speed of 60 mph.

    The prototype trucks will have a range of 200 miles, with a top speed of 60 mph.

    What comes to mind when you think of Houston? Perhaps a vision of a large city built around the petro-chemical industry and one of the largest ports in the country?

    Here’s another vision for you to consider when it comes to Houston – a leader in zero-emission cargo transport technologies. While Houston is not there yet, this is what EDF envisions Houston could be, and we’re not alone.

    EDF is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), U.S. Hybrid, Richardson Trucking, and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics in a three-year demonstration project at the Port of Houston to show goods movement can be clean, efficient, and cost-effective by using zero-emission fuel cell technology.


    Houston as a Hydrogen Haven?
    Click To Tweet


    Could drayage trucks one day no longer be the dirtiest in the city?

    Seaports like the Port of Houston are major hubs for the import and export of goods, and moving freight requires lots of heavy-duty equipment and vehicles. Traditionally, this equipment is powered by diesel engines that emit dangerous pollutants during their decades in service.

    The worst of the worst for spewing toxic diesel emissions is typically the heavy-duty onroad trucks that are used in local drayage (the moving of goods across short distances). They are high horsepower, may idle for extended periods, and are generally older models that do not meet current engine standards with more stringent pollution controls. At the Port of Houston, for example, approximately 3,000 trucks are used in local drayage, accounting for 35 percent of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 12 percent of the particulate pollution from port operations.

    A new type of truck

    But there are alternatives to these high-polluting trucks. Our project will outfit three drayage trucks with zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell technology to show alternatives to diesel engines are available and work well. The heavy-duty, Class 8 trucks will be configured with a fuel cell – electric hybrid power system with a 320kW electric motor. Hydrogen will be generated and dispensed on-site to fuel the trucks, further reducing the emissions footprint of the project.

    The tremendous benefit of this technology is the absence of harmful emissions. These fuel cells emit only water vapor. That’s possible because fuel cells work by an electro-chemical process, rather than the traditional mechanical process used in engine combustion. And since there’s no combustion, there is almost no engine noise. Instead of using a petroleum fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, fuel cells are powered with hydrogen that can be provided from various sources.

    Fuel cells have been successfully deployed in passenger vehicles and forklifts, but not widely for applications requiring heavier load capacity (e.g., vehicles that weigh more than 60,000 lbs.). For a company like Richardson Trucking, the fleet partner on the project, it is critical the trucks perform well in the rugged, real-world applications of drayage, where a job may occur on unpaved and paved roads, on steep grades, such as the Sidney Sherman bridge that crosses the Houston Ship Channel, in areas with limited maneuverability, such as port terminals and railyards, and in and out of traffic.

    With U.S. Hybrid and GTI leading the efforts on developing the truck technology and providing hydrogen fuel over the course of the three-year project, project data will be collected and analyzed by the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics. Richardson Trucking will participate as the fleet partner to demonstrate the trucks in real-world operations. DOE and H-GAC are responsible for funding and sponsoring the project, respectively. EDF’s role will be to provide outreach and complete a case study of the effort; we also helped H-GAC prepare the original proposal that was selected for $3.4 million of funding. In addition to federal funding, project partners are committing over $3 million in cost-share to implement this project.

    Our collective goal for the project is to show that clean technologies can transform goods movement, improving the quality of the air we all breathe without compromising freight efficiency at the Port of Houston.

    Accelerating the commercialization of clean technologies

    Demonstration projects with real-world applications are critical for fast-tracking the development of new technologies, and effective demonstrations help reduce some of the risks associated with getting them to market. Another advantage is they provide opportunities for improvements – both technological and operational – by enabling those who work with a technology day-in and day-out to be a part of the innovation process. EDF is looking forward to helping highlight new, cleaner paths forward for freight transportation.

    Read more »
  • New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Texas’ Barnett Shale Region

    By Steven Hamburg

    Methane emissions from vast oil and gas operations in the densely populated Barnett Shale region of Texas are 50 percent higher than estimates based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas inventory, according to a series of 11 new papers published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

    The majority of these emissions are from a small but widespread number of sources across the region’s oil and gas supply chain. These emissions come from the sort of leaks and equipment malfunctions that are relatively easy to prevent with proper and frequent monitoring and repair practices.

    The sprawling Barnett region, fanning out westward from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, contains about 30,000 oil and gas wells, 275 compressor stations, and 40 processing plants. It is one of the country’s largest production areas, responsible for 7 percent of total U.S. natural gas output.

    Unpredictable, Widespread Sources Dominate

    A finding from the research shows that at any given time, roughly 75 percent of the methane emissions from production sites in the Barnett Shale tend to come from a set of elusive and dispersed sources. Higher emissions from these sites are often a result of avoidable operating conditions such as equipment leaks and tank venting that are relatively easy to prevent with frequent monitoring and repair practices.

    The studies were coordinated by EDF as part of a larger effort to better understand where oil and gas methane emissions are coming from and how best to reduce them. The new findings are consistent with previous scientific work that indicates industry has a significant methane pollution problem driven by widespread, often unpredictable emission sources.

    To better classify these emitters, researchers offer a new definition, calling them “functional super-emitters,” or those sites with the highest proportional loss rates (site-specific methane emissions relative to its production/volume of gas handled).

    Simple Solutions for Reducing the Leaks

    Routine leak monitoring is essential because these sources are difficult to anticipate – the leaks can emerge from a diversity of locations, at any point in time, jumping from site to site.

    The good news is that there are many cost-effective ways to find and fix high-emitting sources. In fact, a 2014 report by ICF International found that by adopting already available technologies and operating practices, industry could cut methane emissions by 40 percent over five years for just one penny per thousand cubic feet of produced gas.

    The bad news is, as easy and affordable as these solutions are, many companies simply are not using them. As long as they remain optional, it’s likely to stay that way.

    Some states, like Colorado, have already begun directly regulating methane emissions from oil and gas operations and requiring comprehensive, frequent leak detection and repair. And in January, the White House announced plans to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years.

    Details of the new plan are still in the works. In the coming weeks, EPA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are both expected to propose rules to help meet the White House’s reduction goal. Based on the latest scientific research, including the papers released today, it’s important that these policies require both thorough and routine monitoring and maintenance to find and fix methane leaks.

    Frequency is critical — the ICF report, for example, found that monthly inspections resulted in reducing emissions by 80 percent, while annual inspections reduced emissions by less than half.

    Getting the Full Picture

    The series of 11 papers represent the first findings of one of the largest and most comprehensive research campaigns on methane emissions in the oil and gas supply chain and will be followed by a paper fully synthesizing all of the researchers’ findings.

    The work included 12 research teams from 20 universities and private research firms, including Colorado State University, Duke University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado-Boulder, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, University of California-Davis and Scientific Aviation, University of California-Irvine, University of Cincinnati, University of Houston, University of Michigan, University of Texas-Dallas, Washington State University, West Virginia University, Aerodyne Research, Carbon Now Cast, Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, Picarro and Sander Geophysics.

    The results of these papers tell us that we have a problem, but we already know there are cost-effective technologies and practices available to reduce emissions and make a big dent in waste and pollution.

    Photo source: Environmental Science and Technology

    Read more »
  • What Does the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling Mean for Texas?

    By Tomas Carbonell

    Supreme Court of the United States

    Supreme Court of the United States

    The following introduction from Senior Health Scientist Elena Craft deals specifically with the implications of the Supreme Court’s recent Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling on Texas. Below, an examination of the broader implications of the ruling follows.

    “While this ruling does not mean current clean air protections will be revoked in Texas (or any other state), it does mean we will see another series of legal steps in the fight for clean air.

    As one of the biggest contributors of emissions of mercury in the nation with over 40 coal-fired power plants, Texas facilities are now required to install pollution reducing controls to limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, and acid gases coming from electric generating units. But in truth, most of the plants in Texas and across the country have already installed or have plans to install pollution controls.


    What Does the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling Mean for Texas?
    Click To Tweet


    Despite the fact the rules have little to no impact on most Texas plants, Texas challenged the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling (MATS) standards in an attempt to obstruct these clean air protections. While Texas’ argument focused on the costs of complying with the standards, industry (even industry based in Texas!) has demonstrated compliance costs are a fraction of those projected. Nationally, the MATS rule in place is helping to prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths per year, up to 4,700 heart attacks each year, and up to 130,000 asthma attacks each year, resulting in health benefits totaling $37 billion to $90 billion annually.”

    – Elena Craft

     

    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.

    Last 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.

    (The case was Michigan v. EPA. EDF was a party to the case. You can read the decision and the sharp dissent here.)

    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 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 EPA will be able to quickly address the Court’s decision, there is no reason 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 »
  • Latest Mississippi River Delta News: July 6, 2015

    With BP cash, Louisiana could jump start coastal restoration: Editorial
    *features MRD statement
    The Times-Picayune. July 5, 2015
    "Voters will choose the next governor and the new Legislature this fall. The candidates for those posts must commit to putting all these resources toward strengthening the coast. That must be the mission of all of our political leaders. The future of coastal Louisiana and everyone who lives and works here depends on spending this money the right way.(Read More)

    Coastal restoration efforts get big boost from BP settlement
    *features MRD statement, Simone Maloz, ROR, & David Muth, NWF
    By Amy Wold, The Advocate. July 4, 2015
    "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,” the group’s statement said. “We’re especially encouraged that the settlement will put special emphasis on restoring health to the Mississippi River Delta and its coastal wetlands.(Read More)

    BP global settlement could bring $8.7 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration
    *features MRD statement
    By Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune. July 2, 2015
    "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," said a joint statement released by the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. "Their swift work means meaningful restoration efforts are imminent. Their leadership, at this moment, is invaluable.(Read More)

    Environmental groups welcome early BP pay out (audio)
    *features Doug Meffert, NAS
    Radio New Zealand National. July 3, 2015
    "Environmental groups say the 18-billion-US-dollar settlement reached for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 will go some way to pay for the cleanup but they need the money to come through quickly.(Read More)

    BP Agrees to Pay Largest Environment Settlement in U.S. History for Gulf Oil Spill
    *features Steve Cochran, EDF
    By Reynard Loki, Alternet. July 2, 2015
    "No amount of money can ever undo the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon disaster," said Steve Cochran, director of the Mississippi River Delta Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, in an email. But he also noted that because of the settlement, "we're finally able to take steps to truly help the Gulf finally heal.(Read More)

    BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement in Gulf spill
    *features Collin O’Mara, NWF
    By Elana Schor & Josh Gerstein, Politico. July 2, 2015
    "National Wildlife Foundation President Collin O’Mara sounded a similar note, saying in a statement that “it is essential the Gulf states and federal government ensure that every dollar in penalties and damages be used to restore this incomparable ecological treasure and economic powerhouse.(Read More)

    BP set to pay largest environmental fine in US history for Gulf oil spill
    *features Fred Krupp, EDF
    By Dominic Rushe, The Guardian. July 2, 2015
    "No monetary award can ever undo the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But, while we look forward to additional details, today’s agreement, the largest environmental settlement in American history, represents a significant step toward justice for the Gulf Coast ecosystems, economies and communities that were damaged by the disaster,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. “More than five years later, this agreement between the five Gulf states, BP and the department of justice brings real hope for the future of the Gulf Coast.(Read More)

    BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement over deadly 2010 spill
    *features David Yarnold, NAS
    By Terry Wade, Reuters. July 2, 2015
    "Now Gulf Coast restoration can begin in earnest. It's time to heal the wounds that BP tore in Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities," said David Yarnold, CEO of the National Audubon Society.(Read More)
     
    BP agrees to pay a record $18.7b for its damage to the Gulf
    *features Doug Meffert, NAS
    By Laurie Wiegler, Examiner. July 2, 2015
    "We really need to start accelerating our investments in coastal restoration because of [the need for] storm surge protection," he said. "The more we have, the fewer flood walls we need. These are multiple lines of defense," Meffert explained.(Read More)

    Chat with coastal exec Kyle Graham at noon about how Louisiana will use BP settlement money
    By Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune. July 6, 2015
    "Chat at noon Monday (July 6) with Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Executive Director Kyle Graham about how the state plans to use money from the BP settlement to pay for coastal restoration projects.(Read More)

    Macaluso: Settlement is just the beginning
    The Advocate. July 5, 2015
    "We must be vigilant: It’s mandatory to elect governors and legislators who will have enough backbone to stand up to the extant greed in our state. We must make sure to give the right folks among us the power to use this money wisely, and to limit the corruption we’ve seen when there has been much less money around than these billions of dollars.(Read More)

    Our Views: Let’s not squander BP settlement funds, which are much needed to help Louisiana coast
    The Advocate. July 6, 2015
    "Now that the spending of this money is in view, we hope that Graves and others will be among the watchdogs of the state’s financial commitment. The estimated $50 billion in long-term coastal restoration projects will need future federal support. We cannot realistically expect Congress to pay unless at the state level we are committed to proper use of the BP settlement money.(Read More)

    BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
    By Campbell Robertson, John Schwartz and Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times. July 2, 2015
    "Much of the settlement money in Louisiana will go to environmental protection and restoration along the state’s ravaged and rapidly disappearing coast. The state has spent years developing a master plan for addressing environmental damage and the wetlands loss that long preceded the BP spill.(Read More)

    A milestone for the environment in the Deepwater Horizon disaster
    By Editorial Board, The Washington Post. July 2, 2015
    "From here, the challenge will be ensuring that federal, state and local authorities spend their money well, concentrating on the most pressing environmental problems facing the gulf.(Read More)

    The BP Oil Spill Settlement: What It Means for Louisiana (audio)
    By Jesse Hardman, WWNO. July 2, 2015
    "The announcement of a settlement over BP oil spill claims means that billions of dollars could come to the state of Louisiana over the next decade. Much of that money will help fund restoration projects as part of the state’s coastal master plan. WWNO’s Jesse Hardman sat down with Bethany Carl Kraft, the Director of the Gulf Restoration Program for the Ocean Conservancy to discuss the news.(Read More)

    Read more »
  • New Electricity Pricing Can Save Californians Money, Support More Clean Energy
    July 3, 2015
    Read more »
  • Cuba’s plan for shark conservation

    By Valerie Miller

    A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba.

    A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez

    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.

    sharkworkshop

    Alejandra Briones Bell-lloch from the Office of Science and Fishing Regulations of MINAL answers fishermen’s questions using the shark identification guide.

    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:

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  • Texas Wind Energy Infrastructure Lives On (For Now)

    By Marita Mirzatuny

    fraser rps newSummer 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.

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  • The Mercury Standards, Post-Supreme Court – Still in Effect, Still Protecting Americans

    By Tomas Carbonell

    rp_640px-Oblique_facade_2_US_Supreme_Court.jpg

    Supreme Court of the United States

    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.

    (The case was Michigan v. EPA. EDF was a party to the case. You can read the decision and the sharp dissent here.)

    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.

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