Saturday, April 29, 2006

Carbon Dioxide Politics: Blue States Sue Again

New York, California and eight other states are suing EPA again over refusing to regulate carbon dixode emissions from power plants. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is the lead plaintiff in this new litigation as he was in the old litigation that was dismissed last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Of course, Congress has refused to pass carbon dioxide legislation and EPA refuses to list it with the other six criteria pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oside, ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and lead). Mercury was recently added to the list for the first time under the Bush administration.

The new litigation revisits the question of whether EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, which is the leading greenhouse gas. The other litigants include: New York City, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and three environmental groups. (photo just for show. Carbon dioxide is colorless)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Bush Proposes Auto Fuel Economy Standards Reform

AAEA supports President Bush's April 27th proposal for Congress to give the U.S. Department of Transportation the authority to reform the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards program. Under the current system, passenger car fuel standards are set in law at 27.5 miles per gallon. Innovative as ever, President Bush wants CAFE credits to be tradable, as they are in a similar market-based system that works effectively for power plants and many other regulated industries. Manufacturers should be able to trade fuel economy credits to ensure fuel savings are achieved at the lowest possible cost to consumers and automakers. If a manufacturer surpasses its CAFE standard, that company should receive credits they can sell to other manufacturers that find it more expensive to meet the standards.

Some lawmakers have proposed setting a standard of at least 33 miles per gallon. The administration will not accept an arbitrary statutory increase. So Congress may grant DOT authority to revise the CAFE standards but not mandate a particular miles per gallon standard.

DOT used innovative reforms to address these problems in its recent light truck rule, but does not have the legal authority to apply those reforms to passenger cars. President has asked Congress for the authority to reform car CAFE standards consistent with the approach taken with the light truck rule issued March 29.

CAFE is the average fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon, of a manufacturer's fleet of passenger cars or light trucks made in America. The 'Energy Policy Conservation Act,' enacted into law by Congress in 1975 and creating CAFE, was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo More Information On CAFE: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/cafe/overview.htm

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Darfur: Human-Generated Environmental Catastrophe

The insanity of black-on-black murder in the U.S. is dwarfed by the genocide in Sudan. Former Congressman Walter Fauntroy and activist/radio personality Joe Madison have been in the vanguard of highlighting these Muslim-on-Muslim abuses. The conflict fueling the genocide is mainly between the Janjaweed, a militia recruited from local Arab tribes (lighter skin) and the non-Arab black Sudanese (darker skin). The Sudanese government works with the Janjaweed in a systematic extermination of non-Arab Sudanese. Black-on-Black murder is the most serious environmental issue in Sudan just as it is in America. President

A Rally To Stop Genocide is being organized for April 30, 2006 in Washington, D.C. by the Save Darfur Coalition. George Clooney recently visited Darfur with his father, appeared on Oprah Winfrey, participated in a press conference at the National Press Club and is speaking at the rally. Under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), President Bush has issued an Executive Order blocking the property of certain persons in connection with the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region is not strong enough and has called on NATO to take on a larger role there.

Ethanol: Drinking & Driving Might Finally Go Together

You can put it in your gas tank or mix it with some orange juice and drink it. Ethanol is the new mobile energy 'chic.' The petroleum-based Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) has been banned because it contaminates groundwater, and although the Energy Policy Act of 2005 eliminated the requirements for such oxygenates, car and truck engines still need an additive to run better. So President Bush calling for temporarily lifting the oxygen content requirement in the Reformulated Gasoline Standard isn't that controversial because Congress (including Hillary Clinton) already gave him authority to do so under the EPAct.

Of course, as usual, some big boys will happily maximize profits in our wonderful capitalist system. Andersons, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and Pacific Ethanol will build the appropriate liquor stills to produce the ethanol from corn. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the U.S. to use 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012. About half that capacity is currently available. President Bush recently talked about gasoline prices at the Renewable Fuels Association.

Litigation Win Will Not Clean Congressional River

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Friends of the Earth and others won another lawsuit that will not result in any improvements in the Anacostia River, which runs within view of the House of Representatives. The court victory hinged upon the meaning of the word 'daily.' EPA wanted seasonal aggregation of daily measurements of pollutants and the litigating enviro groups wanted daily to be daily measurements. EPA runs the Clean Water Act mandated Total Maximum Daily Loads Program (fact sheet), which monitors the daily dumping loads in an effort to protect rivers from too much pollution. The problem is that billions of dollars would be needed in the form of grants to states and DC to appropriately retrofit stormwater and wastewater effluents. And then there are farms and other nonpoint sources of nitrogen and poison runoff that would need to be adequately managed.

The symbolic win in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did provide another opportunity for the anti-Bush media to smear the President's EPA with headlines such as, "More Lawlessness at EPA." AAEA hates this litigation dance, whether it involves clean air or water regulations. Such litigation is an industry inside the Beltway but never seems to lead to cleaner water or air. Massive retrofits and huge public works projects and not litigation will clean up the 'other river.'

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Yes On Constellation Merger With Florida Power & Light

AAEA supports the proposed merger of Constellation Energy Group with Florida Power & Light because we beleive it will give financial strength to Constellation, which can be beneficial to Maryland ratepayers and provide a larger pool of capital for environmental retrofits. We clearly understand the resentment generated by the proposed rate increases, but we lay most of the blame for that on the flawed rate freeze that was included in the 1999 utility deregulation legislation. Freezing rates was contrary to the free market approach that deregulation was supposed to accomplish. At least Governor Ehrlich has evidently negotiated a reasonable option to spread the increase out over time. Politics is preventing deregulation from working in many states.

CONSTELLATION CEO SPEAKS UP

AAEA is impressed that Constellation is pursuing a nuclear power future by proposing to build new capacity at the current Calvert Cliffs location. They also purchased two nuclear power plants in upstate New York. If the planned merger is completed, Constellation will become the nation's third-largest nuclear operator. We like this business model because it is going in the direction of utilizing technology to directly reduce carbon dioxide, smog, acid rain and mercury emissions. The Maryland Public Service Commission should approve the merger request. (Constellation Energy Group is Baltimore Gas & Electric's parent company).

Chinese President Hu Jintao Is On The Move

President Hu Jintao has recently visited the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other African countries. China is growing at a rapid pace and the visits to the big oil countries probably included serious discussions about increasing trade. Published reports put Chinese exports to Africa at around $14 billion and imports from Africa at about $16 billion. China also has very serious environmental pollution problems and hopefully they will adopt aggressive strategies that will include building nuclear power plants and plug-in fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles to avoid becoming dependent on imported oil and to curb air pollution.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

President Bush Confronts High Gasoline Prices

President Bush discussed his four part plan to confront high gas prices today at the Renewable Fuels Association. The President's plan includes:
1) making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly,
2) promoting greater fuel efficiency,
3) boosting our oil and gasoline supplies, and
4) investing aggressively in alternatives to gasoline.
President Bush called for investigating possible price gouging, ordered a temporary halt to deposits in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and directed the Environmental Protection Agency to grant temporary waivers of local clean-fuel requirements to relieve gasoline shortages in some parts of the country. President Bush opposes a windfall profits tax on oil companies and so does AAEA. President Bush also called for using more ethanol.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gov Ehrlich Wins With Utilities & Ratepayers

Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. succeeded in negotiating a package with Constellation/BGE for Maryland's ratepayers to spread electric rate increases out over a period of years starting with a 19 percent increase instead of a one time 72 percent increase. Rates were frozen by the Maryland legislature in 1999 for utility deregulation and now the utility is attempting to recoup its losses.

Wash Post Article - Energy Deregulation Comes Home To Roost

The framework for rate relief for Marylanders includes:

1) No interest for consumers who choose to participate in the program; 2) Initial rate cap of 19 percent on July 1, 2006; 3) 25 percent rate cap on June 1, 2007, and a transition to market rates by Jan 2008; 4) 85 percent increase over FY 05 of State and federal assistance for low-income families; 5) Opt-in, which will allow customers to affirmatively choose to be in the program.

Consumers may opt to participate in the phase-in or begin paying the 72 percent increase immediately in July. A monthly $15 charge for the deferred payment will be added for two years to the bills of the utility's 1.2 million customers who participate in the plan. Consumers opting for the phase-in would pay about $49 more on the average bill by June 2007 and $63 more a month by January 2008. The average bill will increase from $92 to about $110 in July. It will increase another $4 in January and another $21 in June 2007. It will rise about $10 more in January 2008 to reach market prices.

Customers who opt out of the phase-in program would pay the full 72 percent increase beginning July 1, which would be about $48 more on the average bill. Rates could increase more if market prices continue to rise during the phase-in period.

The Ehrlich administration also made a deal to reduce electricity-rate increases of 39 percent by Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) and 35 percent by Delmarva Power. Those rates will be phased in over a year, with a 15 percent increase in June and a 15.7 percent increase in March. The administration's agreements with BGE, Pepco and Delmarva must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New Environmental Movement Features Nuclear Power

If global warming and climate change are the most important environmental issues facing us today, then nuclear power has to be one of the leading solutions to these problems. This view was expressed on June 28, 2005 at a pronuclear rally held on the Capitol steps in Jackson, Mississippi and represents a practical environmental movement . Blacks, whites, greens, government, and industry praised nuclear power and endorsed building a new nuclear facility at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Click below for the rally.

Pronuclear Rally
Video sent by NorrisMcDonald
Speakers Included

Jim Reinsch, American Nuclear Society

Amelda Arnold, Mayor, Port Gibson, Mississippi

Norris McDonald, AAEA President (Complete Speech Below)

Michael Stuart, Young Generation in Nuclear

James Miller, Claiborne County Administrator

Scott Peterson, Nuclear Energy Institute

George Williams, VP Grand Gulf Nuclear Station


Norris McDonald at Pronuclear Rally
Video sent by NorrisMcDonald

Monday, April 17, 2006

AAEA President Talks Global Warming On NPR

AAEA president Norris McDonald, left, and Bill Chameides, chief scientist with Environmental Defense discussed the current state of global warming on National Public Radio today. Mr. Chameides described Environmental Defense's ad campaign and Mr. McDonald promoted nuclear power and electric vehicles as frontline technologies that could significantly reduce or reverse global warming. Listen.

Greenpeace Founder Patrick Moore Is Pro Nuclear


Most people do not know that Greenpeace was actually established in Canada. Canadian Patrick Moore is one of the original founders of the international organization. Although he originally opposed nuclear power, he now supports the technology because of its potential to reduce or help eliminate global warming. Dr. Moore now heads a group based in Canada called Greenspirit.

In 2001, AAEA was the first national environmental group to publicly support nuclear power in the United States. We are gratified and feel vindicated in our orignal support for nuclear power now that other prominent environmentalists are publicly expressing their support, including:

James Lovelock, British scientist, father of the Gaia theory

Stewart Brand, founder of the "Whole Earth Catalog"

The late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, a founder of Friends of
the Earth

Although no other national environmental organizations in the U.S. have come out in support of nuclear power to date, AAEA hopes other groups will see the light and join in supporting nuclear power as a safe and reliable power source. Washington Post article. Wash Post On-Line Chat New York Times article

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Katie Mae Best - A Real Environmentalist

Katie Mae Best, left, was my grandmother and a tenant farmer in Mt. Olive, North Carolina. She taught me the real meaning of environmentalism by living it. During my summer visits I was exposed to farming and sustainable development practices. Although tobacco was the big cash crop and most activity centered around it, at varying times, I picked about everything that could be picked: cotton, huckleberries, cucumbers, watermelons, peppers, and strawberries. And that was the tenant stuff. Grandma, called 'Kate' by the locals, also had her own garden with peas, corn, beans, ocra, letttuce, cabbage, carrots, beets, tomatoes, onions, collard greens, and more. We would chop weeds in the garden with our hoes and she would apply just enough boric acid on some plants to control pests. Grandma also had a yard full of flowers and a walnut tree in the front yard. We would go fishing down at the nearby creek to catch all the perch we could eat. We played cards and shucked peas on the front porch and burned rags in a bucket to keep the mosquitos away. Her grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee Indian.

A pump at the back of the house provided the best tasting groundwater in the world and the outhouse was not too far away. We weren't above walking the seven miles into town and a two mile round trip walk to the local store was a treat. I remember the excitement I alway felt when we left the paved road to get on the dirt road to my grandma's house. My brother and I would announce ouselves because grandma kept a small arsenal next to her bed and under her pillow. I did my first hunting there and skinned and ate the kills. Riding tractors, hanging tobacco in barns, and running around barefooted are all great memories. Watching hogs get shot in the head, their throats slit and hung upside down to bleed out provided a more realistic picture of how we get meat to eat. And the most interesting thrill was to see a chicken get its head wrung off by hand and watch it hop around for about 5 minutes. Our relatives probably got as much entertainment from our fascination (we were considered 'city slickers') as we got from watching the chicken hop around without its head. The process of learning how to boil the chicken to make it easier to get the feathers off was a true education. There were chicken coops for eggs and lye soap was made for washing. There were cows for milk and my grandmother would can enough beans, fruit, and provisions to make it through the winter. She also dried peppers and kept the hog meat in a freezer.

Yes my grandmother was a real environmentalist. It wasn't about policy or research or lobbying. It was about living off of the land and putting in a good long hard day of physical work. Happy Earth Day grandma. And thank you for the lessons in true environmentalism. Posted by AAEA President Norris McDonald.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Earth Day and African Americans

Although 21st Century African Americans put a very high premium on being urbane, they are just two or three generations removed from tenant farming. Even though these sophisticated blacks act like they are lost in the woods and pretend they've never been in an outhouse, we all know there is an environmentalist in there just screaming to get out. Earth Day (April 22) usually slips by unnoticed in the black community, except for news reports of some white environmental activists visiting local rivers, possibly in the black community, to pick up some litter. But Earth Day has lost much of its luster in the white community and blacks had more pressing issues on its agendy in 1970 during the first Earth Day. Much has gotten better since then, but many things have also gotten worse.

Black-on-black murder and global warming are the two most important environmental issues in the black community today. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X would have never anticipated the carnage currently devastating black communities all over the country. Environmental justice Godfather Dick Gregory and environmental movement initiator Walter Fauntroy are also clearly challenged in addressing these twin environmental evils. We at AAEA believe that some good old fashioned family values might not get us 'back to the garden,' but sure couldn't hurt in strengthening the family unit, which would benefit the black community. Nuclear power plants and plug-in fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles would prevent smog and global warming. They could also provide new large-scale entrepreneurial opportunites. Familiar family techniques combined with old and new technologies could revitalize Earth Day. Elimination of black-on-black murder and global warming would make everyday Earth Day.

Act Locally and Think Globally With Nuclear Power

Nuclear power plants were built in rural areas in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Proposed new plants will be add-ons at these locations or in other rural areas. Small towns can be revitalized because billion dollar-plus commercial nuke plants create about 1,500 construction jobs and roughly 1,000 permanent jobs. And tax revenues from these facilities significantly increase local municipal budgets.

Port Gibson, Mississippi hopes to get Entergy to build a new facility there and Gaffney, South Carolina hopes Duke Power will revitalize their town. Other small towns across America would love to have a new commercial nuke. Mother Earth's atmosphere has high hopes too. Considering that electricity demand is expected to grow by at least 50% by 2025, such local development will not only stimulate local economies but will also prevent global warming and will not produce any mercury particles or smog forming gases.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Eagle-On-Eagle Crime: Martha Attacked, George Alone With Offspring While Martha Recovers At Veterinary Hospital

Eagles are comfortable in the suburbs and near large construction sites and two of them have become famous in the Washington, DC area: George & Martha, left. Unfortunately, Martha, left, was brazenly attacked by another female eagle. Martha was rescured by Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction workers who observed the attack and she was taken to a veterinary hospital for treatment of beak damage and other puncture wounds. The Potomac River bridge is part of the Capital Beltway and is in the process of being replaced. One 6-lane span is complete and construction will begin soon on the other span.

George was left as a single eagle-dad to care for two bald eagle eggs about to hatch. The construction workers are assisting George by catching fish so he can spend more time at the nest. Setphanie Spears is an environmental specialist working on the bridge project and assisting Martha and George. The eagles have received extensive media coverage.

Who Is Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would fit right in that nest.

Update: May 25, 2006 - - The press is reporting that Martha is back in the
nest with George. Then what happened to the hussy home wrecking eagle that
attacked Martha and was keeping George's nest warm during Martha's
recuperation? We think government officials, probably from the Fish &
Wildlife Service, probably intervened and kicked the hussy out and placed
Martha back in.

Update: May 8, 2006 - - Martha is healed and was released in
Middletown, Delaware. We guess the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made this decision to protect Martha from the home wrecking hussy eagle that attacked her and then took up residence with George. AAEA is concerned about this decision and might notify the Maryland Department of Natural Resources about the possibility of evicting the hussy and restoring Martha to her rightful place.
Update: The female eagle that attacked Martha is now courting
George. They could couple soon. George could not handle being a single Dad warming the nest and hunting for food alone for himself and the brood and during a cold spell the eaglet hatchlings expired. Humans will probably attempt to intervene in Mother Nature's cruel and ironic reality to somehow reunite Martha with George when she gets out of the hospital.
Update: Oct 3, 2006 It is being reported that Martha has now injured
her wing. She has again been shipped off for treatment, leaving George
alone. No word on the home wrecking hussy eagle that replaced Marth after
attacking her.

U.S Fish & Wildlife Service Coverage (Martha Recovers)

Bald Eagles To Be Removed From Endangered Species Act List

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Friday, April 07, 2006

Maryland Legislature Passes Healthy Air Act

The Healthy Air Act ( HB 189 / SB 154) requires that emissions of four main pollutants 1) mercury, 2) carbon, 3) nitrogen, and 4) sulfur be reduced at the seven dirtiest coal-burning plants in Maryland. Nitrogen oxide will be capped at 20,216 tons a year by 2009. Sulfur dioxide levels will be limited to 48,618 tons a year by 2010. And mercury emissions are to be reduced 80 percent by 2010. AAEA president Norris McDonald, right, provided testimony in support of the legislation before Maryland House & Senate Committees. (4P Bill House 4P Bill Senate)
Gov Ehrlich, above, signed the bill into law on April 6, 2006.

The Healthy Air Act requires carbon dioxide reductions by having Maryland join a multistate program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI sets goals for states to reduce carbon dioxide. Companies will be able to sell or trade their carbon dioxide allowances. Maryland is an "observer" of RGGI, participating in policy discussions, but not agreeing to make reductions. The law allows the state to withdraw from the regional consortium after January 1, 2009 if reliability and cost issues become a problem.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

AAEA Supports Civilian Nuclear Power in India

AAEA president Norris McDonald, right, met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, on Capitol Hill briefly for the first time just before she testified before the House International Relations Committee on President Bush's proposal to provide India with uranium for their civilian nuclear power program. AAEA supports this initiative and the Bush Administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) because they are crucial to reducing global warming while serving as structures to limit proliferation of nuclear weapons. McDonald also attended the White House South Lawn Arrival Ceremony of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India on July 18, 2005 where Singh and President Bush signed a nuclear accord.

Although it is generally agreed that this is a good program, it is controversial because it would require Congress to amend the 1954 Atomic Energy Act to permit the sale of uranium to India. India is potentially a $100 billion nuclear reactor market. India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is a requirement for receiving nuclear power plant materials and technical assistance from the U.S. India wanted to be designated as a nuclear power under the NPT without signing the treaty. It was refused. Only the U.S., Russia, China, France and Great Britain are official nuclear weapons states. All other nuclear states except Pakistan, India and Israel signed the agreement. The administration will not seek approval from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) until congress approves the sale. The NSG is a 45-nation consortium that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear related exports.

NPT states reject developing nuclear weapons in exchange for civilian nuclear technology. India already has almost 50 nuclear bombs and has or is building 22 nuclear power plants. And 14 of India's 22 nuclear plants would be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The eight other reactors and any future reactors are off limits and could be used for producing fissile materials for military purposes. Secretary Rice was on Capitol Hill to defend the proposal, which is controversial because the announcement was made before Congress was briefed. Secretary Rice was aggressively challenged on this point while presenting testimony before the Senate Foreign Relationss Committee. Additional Information: NRC & the Atomic Energy Act. DOE & the Atomic Energy Act. EPA & the Atomic Energy Act.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Two EPA Nominations Pending In U.S. Senate

President Bush has nomimated Jim Gulliford to be Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances and William Ludwig Wehrum, Jr. to be an Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. AAEA supports both nominations.

Wehrum got heat at the Senate Environment & Pulbics Committee Hearing (3-5-06) over mercury, the Clear Skies Initiative and complaints from 7 of 10 EPA regional offices over a regulatory proposal. AAEA supported the Clear Skies Initiative, the Bush Administration is the first to regulate mercury and the regional office criticism is healthy feedback and should not derail the nomination.
Wehrum has served as Counsel to the Assistant Administrator and earlier in his career served as an environmental attorney at Latham & Watkins as well as at Swidler & Berlin. Mr. Wehrum received his bachelor's degree from Purdue University and his JD from Widener University.
Update: April 26, 2006 - - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
approved William L. Wehrum’s nomination as assistant EPA administrator
for air and radiation on a vote of 10-8 along party lines.
Jim Gulliford has been the Region 7 administrator for the EPA since 2001. He had 25 years of rofessional experience administering environmental programs in the agricultural and mining areas and was named director of the Division of Soil Conservation when the Department of Soil Conservation merged into the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Climate Change Conference

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's chairman and ranking member, invited twenty-nine panelists to submit comments as part of a day-long conference and the committee's bipartisan effort to address the challenge of how Congress might go about creating a mandatory trading program to control U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The senators issued a "white paper" in February that included four basic questions about design elements of a mandatory market-based greenhouse gas regulatory system.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Florida Power & Constellation Merger Gets Political

Florida Power and Light has agreed to acquire the Constellation Energy Group for $11 billion but Maryland lawmakers are working to delay or reject the merger proposal because they want to protect ratepayers from Constellation's Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s proposed 72% rate increase (about $700 annually per customer) when rate caps expire later in 2006. The measure would require the General Assembly, not just the utility-regulating Public Service Commission, to sign off on a utility merger. BGE has offered to phase in about half of the increase over 15 months -- 13 percent in the first six months, 15 percent starting in January and another 15 percent in June 2007. The rate increase comes from 1999 deregulation legislation that capped rates at artifically low levels for six years.

The new company will be called Constellation Energy and maintain headquarters in Juno Beach, Fla., and Baltimore. The merger would create a company with operations all along the U.S. East Coast with more than 30,000 megawatts of power generation and give FPL access to Constellation's merchant energy plants. The deal would expand FPL’s nuclear and coal power assets because about half of the electricity at Constellation's plants is generated by nuclear and about a third by coal. The deal would also broaden FPL's geographic reach because, in addition to its base in Maryland, Constellation controls power plants in New York, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The utility companies will probably sue if the legislature intervenes to prevent the merger. Critics of the legislature's plan describe it as 'ex post facto' regulation, laws that are applied retroactively and penalize action that was legal when originally taken. The merger was initiated under existing law.

Duke Energy Buys Cinergy In $9 Billion Acquisition

Duke Energy Corp of Charlotte, NC acquired Cinergy Corp of Cincinnati, OH for $9 billion this week creating one of the nation’s largest utilities with 5.4 million customers and $70 billion in assets. Federal authorities and state regulators in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and South Carolina along with North Carolina also approved the deal. Duke Power in the Carolinas, Cincinnati Gas & Electric in Ohio, Union Light, Heat and Power in Kentucky, and PSI Energy in Indiana are now known as Duke Energy. The N.C.Utilities Commission placed more than 70 conditions on the company, including a requirement that Charlotte-based Duke Energy give North Carolina customers a $117.5 million across-the-board cut in their electricity bills for one year.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Clean Drinking Water vs. Health, Technology & Economics

EPA plans to modify regulations for small drinking water systems (less than 10,000 people) to make it affordable to comply with current contaminant (arsenic, radon, lead, etc) limits. The dilemma is whether to fine small systems into bankruptcy or establish economic and technologically achievable standards for these rural systems. The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 requires costs to be taken into account for small rural towns in meeting federal drinking water standards. AAEA has worked directly with small rural systems in providing affordable health protection and it is a tough problem to solve. Maybe the mainstream environmental movement should donate some of its $6 billion annual budget to this problem. Or maybe Congress should approve direct grants instead of loans.

President Bill Clinton imposed a 10 parts per billion standard for arsenic at the 11th hour on his way out the door and a brouhaha erupted when President Bush suspended the standard. Congress voted to keep the new standard and the compliance deadline was January 2006. The new proposal permits drinking water to have arsenic levels of 30 parts per billion. The current law says improvements cannot cost water systems more than 2.5 percent of the median U.S. household income (about $1,000 per household) while the new EPA proposal would cost no more than $300 per household. EPA does not regulate drinking water wells that supply water to fewer than 25 people. Private well owners are own their own.