Environmental Policy

Delaware River Basin natural gas drilling vote postponed
November 19, 2011 09:14 AM - Edward McAllister, Reuters, NEW YORK

A key vote to lift a ban on drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin has been postponed, prompting claims of victory from environmentalists concerned about water contamination. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates water use across the 14,000-square-mile (36,260-square-km), gas-rich basin, suspended a vote scheduled for Monday amid speculation that its five members lacked the three votes needed to allow drilling. "There are still some open issues that the commissioners have to work through," said DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert, who had no new date for the vote. Earlier this month, the DRBC proposed ending the drilling moratorium in the basin that stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and sits atop the United States' biggest natural gas deposit: the Marcellus Shale. Under proposed new regulations, the DRBC said it will provide water for no more than 300 natural gas wells over 18 months, at which point they will reassess the rules. The delay has frustrated drillers and the governor of industry-friendly Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, who is keen to develop the state's slice of the basin.

Uranium Mining — The Virginia Battleground — Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests
November 18, 2011 03:36 PM - Rose Ellen O'Connor, DC Bureau

The Virginia General Assembly is expected to vote next year on whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in the state. The issue has prompted an expensive lobbying campaign by the company that wants to mine a huge deposit known as Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County and an intense fight by environmentalists who want to stop it. The battle has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the county, in south central Virginia, an area known as Southside.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: EPA to propose utility carbon rules next year
November 18, 2011 06:49 AM - Timothy Gardner, Dale Hudson, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The top U.S. environmental regulator will propose early next year twice-delayed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, she told the energyNOW television show. "I can't tell you what the regulations say right now, but what we are planning to do is release them early next calendar year," Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told the program in a segment seen by Reuters that is to be broadcast over the weekend. The EPA in June delayed the proposed rules on power plants, which are the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, saying it needed more time after talking with businesses, states and green groups. It delayed them again in September. Republicans in the House of Representatives have waged a war on EPA clean-air regulations, saying such rules will kill jobs and add costs to businesses suffering in a battered economy. In September, President Barack Obama directed the EPA to delay a major rule on smog-forming pollutants until 2013, forcing Jackson to embrace a George W. Bush-era smog rule she previously described as legally indefensible. The move led some environmentalists and health groups to worry the administration would subject other clean-air rules to long delays.

U.S. proposes to double auto fuel economy by 2025
November 17, 2011 06:01 AM - John Crawley, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Obama administration proposed on Wednesday doubling auto fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a White House energy priority that has come under scrutiny in Congress. The plan grew out of an uneasy agreement between the administration, automakers and environmental groups to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and cut tailpipe emissions. Regulators hope to finalize the proposal by summer following a 60-day public comment period. The administration wants to give industry five years to develop fuel-saving technologies further and plan products before the rule would start taking effect in 2017. "We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Current standards require automakers to raise efficiency from 27 mpg today to 35.4 mpg by 2016. Targets beginning in 2017 would require a 5 percent annual efficiency gain for cars and 3.5 to 5 percent for light trucks, which include SUVs, pickups and vans.

Chevrolet's Carbon Initiative Program, Part Two
November 16, 2011 04:05 PM - R Greenway, ENN

In the U.S., the best wind resources are in the Northern Plains — but it’s virtually impossible for a single individual to build a multi-million dollar turbine. But if a group of individuals come together, they can work with an enterprising electric company to create a community- supported wind farm. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Crow Lake Wind Project, a 108 turbine, 162 MW wind project owned by the Basin Electric Cooperative, a public power entity serving rural cooperative power customers principally in the north central plains states. The project was built utilizing a first-of-its-kind community wind investment partnership. In addition, this is the largest project currently operational in South Dakota. The first 100 turbines, owned by Basin Electric Cooperative, enabled the two smaller projects to be developed. Seven turbines are owned by a group of around one hundred local community investors (farmers, ranchers, local businesses). The last turbine is owned by the Mitchell Technical Institute, a school providing vocational education to local students — including training in construction, operations and maintenance of wind farms. Fully operational since February 2011, the Crow Lake Wind Project introduces wind energy into a system heavily dependent on conventional coal combustion, diversifying the resource base. It also supplies and supports rural consumer-owned electric cooperatives and creates community jobs in construction and operations.

Alaska considers aerial wolf kills in tourist area
November 12, 2011 07:51 AM - Yereth Rosen, Reuters, ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Alaska state officials on Friday were considering a controversial plan to shoot wolves in an effort to boost moose populations in one of the state's top tourist and recreation areas. An estimated 90 to 135 wolves range across the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, where under the proposal hunters would shoot the animals from aircraft. Officials have not settled on the number of wolves they might kill under the plan, which was on the agenda for discussion at a meeting on Friday of the Alaska Board of Game. By decreasing attacks on moose from a major predator, the proposal would allow for a rebound in the moose population, which now stands at about 5,000 and is well below targets, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Ted Spraker, an Alaska Board of Game member from the region, said on a statewide public radio program recently that the public is "disgusted" with the low number of moose. "They want the board to start doing something," he added.

U.S. postpones Keystone XL pipeline decision past 2012 election
November 11, 2011 06:50 AM - Arshad Mohammed and Timothy Gardner, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The U.S. government on Thursday delayed approval of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline until after the 2012 U.S. election, bowing to pressure from environmentalists and sparing President Barack Obama a damaging split with liberal voters he may need to win reelection. The decision to explore a new route for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline to avoid fragile territory in the Sand Hills of Nebraska dismayed the Canadian government, which had lobbied assiduously for the $7 billion project. It also drew a harsh reaction from the oil industry and from Republicans in Congress who accused Obama of sacrificing jobs for the sake of his reelection. The State Department suggested that looking at new routes for the pipeline within the state of Nebraska would take until at least the first quarter of 2013, well beyond the November 6, 2012 U.S. election. The department had previously said it hoped to make a final decision by the end of this year.

Thai PM pledges flood relief as fight for Bangkok goes on
November 9, 2011 07:04 AM - Alan Raybould and Prapan Chankaew, Reuters, BANGKOK

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged more than $4 billion on Wednesday to help Thailand recover from the worst floods in half a century, as workers slowed the flow of water threatening the commercial heart of the capital, Bangkok. Evacuation orders have spread to a third of Bangkok's districts, mostly in the north of the densely populated city of 12 million people, since late October, as floodwater strewn with trash slowly seeps in from northern and northeastern provinces. Yingluck, a political novice elected this year, said about 120 billion baht($3.9 billion) had been set aside for a flood recovery effort, a figure that rises to 130 billion baht ($4.2 billion) when local government funds are added. On the streets of Bangkok, few see an end to the slow-moving disaster that began after tropical storm Nock-ten battered Southeast Asia in late July. Since then, at least 529 people have been killed, many electrocuted or drowned, in floods that have affected 63 of Thailand's 77 provinces.

International Sustainability Standards: Pros and Cons
November 8, 2011 05:07 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Sustainability is an economic, social, and ecological concept. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire globe. With that said how do you specifically define what is sustainable? Economic needs are fairly easy to figure out; ultimately it is do you make a profit or not. Social needs will depend on the society involved and every society is different. There is a difference between urban and rural needs for example much less North Africa, China, and the US. Ecological standards will also vary because it is far from clear how much resilience that an ecosystem has and as a result there will be constant and shifting debate on those standards. Over the past two decades a growing number of voluntary sustainability initiatives and other multi-stakeholder alliances have emerged to improve the livelihoods of the millions of commodity-dependent producers and manufacturers around the world. The growth of such initiatives represents an important opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the greening of global supply chains and improvement of producer livelihoods. The multiplication of these initiatives makes it increasingly challenging for all stakeholders to stay abreast of the latest developments and best practices across the voluntary sector. Moreover, it is exceedingly difficult to assess their utility and performance, let alone the steps required to mainstream best practice.

Australia passes $23.78 a ton carbon tax, trading, and permits
November 8, 2011 06:41 AM - James Grubel, Reuters, CANBERRA

Australia passed landmark laws on Tuesday to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade and injecting new impetus into December's global climate talks in South Africa. Tuesday's vote in the upper house Senate made Australia the second major economy behind the European Union to pass carbon-limiting legislation. Tiny New Zealand has a similar scheme. Its impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners and liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to airlines and steel makers, and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation toward gas and renewables. The vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her political future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe, despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition. "Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division," Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

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