Saturday, August 31, 2013

Speculation on Pending New Carbon Pollution Regulations

For Existing Power Plants

President Obama's CO2 reduction plan for power plants probably envisions a market-based approach that will have lower costs than alternative methods. The directive does not state a CO2 reduction target or compliance deadline, but in his June 25 speech, Obama recalled his stated goal of a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.

The suggested timeline to issue proposed regulations for existing plants is June 1, 2014, final regulations by June 1, 2015, and State Implementation plans by June 30, 2016. Delays are almost certain. It took 22 years from passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments to the 2012 final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

EPA will probably propose a cap and trade system to regulate existing plants with performance standards under CAA §111. This approach has been successfully implemented in the past for other pollutants and is the basis for the current Acid Rain and NOx Budget Trading Programs. A similar market-based approach was also proposed for both the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The EPA could also use the experience of regional markets such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

There are several issues the EPA needs to resolve before their regulatory proposal in June 2014:
  • Setting the initial compliance deadline and the emissions reduction schedule, which may include a declining cap
  • The basis for allocating allowances to existing units, as well as for future new units
  • Possible restrictions on allowance trading and banking of allowances for future use
  • Baseline year for the emission allocation budgets.
  • Ensuring our electricity supply reliability, e.g., "safety valves"
  • Treatment of oil-fired plants
The exact regulatory structure, carbon reduction target and budget, and if applicable, the price of carbon allowances are unknown and could range from being a minor to a major factor. The required State Implementation Plans also represent a significant source of uncertainty. (Power Engineering, August 2013)

California Inmates Fight The Rim Wildfire

Approximately 673 of the wildland firefighters battling the ferocious blaze around Yosemite National Park have a prison identification number.  They are part of California's Conservation Camp Program (CCCP), which takes convicts out of jail cells and puts them on the front lines of wildfires, where they earn $1 an hour cutting containment lines that keep flames from spreading.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CCCP has sent 621 men and 52 women to tackle the so-called Rim Fire, which has engulfed nearly 300 square miles of land in 12 days. More have been deployed to 20 other fires across the state.  They work 24-hour shifts, sleep in tents at base camp and work side-by-side with other firefighters. They risk their lives.

Other states have inmate firefighters, but California's program — with 42 minimum-security camps and more than 4,100 volunteers — is the biggest and oldest, dating to 1946.  The inmates get some time shaved off their sentences.

Applicants undergo two weeks of punishing fitness training: grueling hikes, 9-minute mile-long runs and a regime of military-style calisthenics. Then they get two weeks of job training by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  They hike straight up mountains with 45 pounds on their backs, carrying tools and water and other necessities.

Conservation camps are open to inmates serving between 12 months and 7.5 years who have not been convicted of arson, murder, kidnapping or a sexual offense. Violent crimes like robbery and carjacking are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The camps are not fenced in but CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said there are "very few" walkaways. The inmates are given dangerous tools, like saws to cut down trees and Pulaski axes to dig up roots.  All of them are volunteers.  They can't just force them out there like a chain-gang.

The benefits include decent pay by prison standards: $1 an hour while fighting fires and $2 a day in the off-season, when inmates do other conservation work.  Prisoners say being in the great outdoors and the community is humanizing and an antidote to the monotony of lockup. If they behave, they can request a camp closer to their family, and they can cut their sentence by half in some cases.

The program has the lowest recidivism rate in the system, though it's still a depressing 55 percent.  The state estimates it saves taxpayers more than $80 million a year with the cheap labor, and it's been recruiting volunteers from county lockups because of a court-ordered realignment keeping non-violent felons out of overcrowded state prisons.
They do very laborious work and it frees up firefighters to extinguish the fires using hoses and water.

When the convicts are paroled, they leave with skills that, as the Rim Fire shows, are always in demand. Officials could not provide figures but said CalFire does hire ex-prisoners from the program.  (U.S. News, 8/30/2013)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Howard University Professor Says Renew Indian Point License

By Emmanuel Glakpe

Emmanuel Glakpe
Entire Text


"Nuclear power is safe, reliable and clean. As a source of zero-carbon energy, it has no equal. And in our increasingly digital world, it delivers electricity precisely and dependably.

It is therefore to be hoped that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will renew the operating license of the Indian Point nuclear plant in the lower Hudson Valley, so that it can continue to generate electricity for another 20 years, providing power to millions of people and businesses in the New York City area and beyond.

The license for Unit 2 at Indian Point expires at the end of September, though the NRC has automatically extended the license while the review process continues. Unit 3’s license expires in 2015.

Indian Point supplies 25 percent of the New York City region’s electricity. Replacing its 2,000 megawatts of energy with natural gas plants would almost certainly lead to significantly higher rates for residential and commercial electricity users."
(Poughkeeepsie Journal, 8/28/2013)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sheila Johnson's Salamander Hotel, Resort & Spa

Black Entertainment Television (BET) cofounder Sheila Johnson is opening her 168-room $130 mllion Salamander Hotel, Resort and Spa on August 29th.  It is opening after more than a decade of planning, debate and delays in a community of less than 700 people.  Johnson purchased the 340-acre property in 2002 and announced her plans to build a five-star inn and spa.  The Middleburg community was split between those who questioned the project and those who welcomed it: Would the development forever alter a cherished way of life in the historic, close-knit town? Or would it offer a needed economic boon?

But not everyone in Middleburg was on board with the project when Johnson first proposed it. At public hearings, some residents and environmental activists vehemently protested, claiming the hotel would transform the atmosphere of the historic village and open the area to further development. There were worries about the impact of traffic and transient visitors, a corporate presence in a town long defined by small, family-run businesses.

AAEA President Norris McDonald testified (Statement) in support of the hotel/resort/spa complex at the public hearing before the Loudoun County Virginia Board of Zoning Appeals.  McDonald stated:
AAEA is disgusted by the negative racial overtones surrounding this project. We take particular offense to the bumper stickers stating, “Don’t BET Middleburg.” We take these signs to mean, do not allow black developers in Middleburg. At worst, the stickers could be interpreted to mean no blacks in Middleburg. The bumper stickers are a racist slap in the face to one of America’s premier African American entrepreneurs.
But local officials were persuaded by the economic benefits, and they ultimately approved the project. The resort is projected to provide about $1 million in annual funding to the town. Johnson’s company also agreed to foot the bill for a new wastewater treatment plant and water treatment facility, large enough to meet the needs of the resort.

Johnson’s initial vision of a small inn was soon replaced by a plan for a sprawling, ultra-posh resort with world-class amenities, including an equestrian center, a top-of-the-line spa, hiking trails, tennis courts, swimming pools, private cabanas, luxurious guest rooms with panoramic views, fine dining, a wine bar, a culinary studio, corporate meeting spaces and the largest ballroom in Virginia horse country.

The community has a multifaceted culture, he says. There are descendants of old-money Southern families and descendants of those who worked as domestic help for old-money families. There are multimillion-dollar second homes and affordable housing developments where working-class families raise their kids.

The spacious guest rooms — starting at $475 per night during peak season and $275 in the offseason — have large flat-screen TVs, stone balconies and pedestal bathtubs. In the spa downstairs, a 14-foot ceramic steam room will feature delicate aromas that will change with the seasons. (Wash Post, 8/20/2013)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Urban Americans Outdoors

What Is The Forest Service?

UAOTV host Wayne Hubbard goes on an adventure to Missoula, Montana to discover what is the Forest Service.

Congressional Black Caucus Institute Tunica Conference

By Norris McDonald

This was the 14th CBC Institute policy conference and I was a panelist on the energy panel moderated by House Energy and Commerce Committee member G.K. Butterfield (D-NC).  Other presenters included, Colette D. Honorable, Chairman, Arkansas Public Service Commission, Lonnie L. Johnson, Senior Director, Federal Relations, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Napoleon Johnson, Vice President, Customer Operations, Entergy Mississippi, and Beverly L. Perry, Senior Vice President, Pepco Holdings, Inc.  Special member guests included Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Representative Marc Veasey (D-TX).  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) also participated in the seminar. the theme of the seminar was, "Energy's Future Impact on the America Consumer."

I flew into Memphis, Tennessee (Tunica is about a 40 minute ride away) and I stayed at Harrah's Veranda Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi. After registering I went on the reception cruise on the Tunica Queen Riverboat on the Mississippi River.  Afterwards I went to the CBC Institute opening presentation, dinner and concert featuring Bobby Rush at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel.

I played in the James E. Clyburn Golf Tournament at the Cottonwoods Golf Club on
Friday morning and participated on the energy panel later that afternoon.  All seminars were held at Harrah's Mid-South Convention Center.  Later I went to the concert featuring Musiq Soulchild at the Millennium Theatre at the Gold Strike Casino & Resort Hotel.

I played golf again Saturday morning at Tunica National Golf & Tennis club.  I attended a special forum sponsored by Congressman Benny Thompson on HUD programs in Mississippi. and the Congressional Member's Forum: Legislative Issues Impacting Our Communities.

Later I attended the closing ceremony and dinner at Harrah's Event Center.  Entertainment included Comedian Sister Lucille and Comedian George Wallace. 

On Sunday, I visited the Lorraine Motel, Graceland and the Stax Records Museum.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Urban Conservation Corp is Saving Lives in San Bernadino

San Bernadino is home to the Southern California Mountains Foundations Urban Conservation Corps.  The Corps provides job training to young adults who have fallen through the cracks.  Bobby Vega, Executive Director of the Urban Conservation Corps and Corps teacher Ricardo Maldonado are proud of the young people who participate in their outdoors programs.  This pride is expressed in the video below.

Nestle Waters has supported the California Mountain Foundation for more than 20 years. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Zimbabwe to Seize Mines While Compensating Banks

Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe’s government plans to seize control of foreign-owned mines without paying for them as part of a program to accumulate $7 billion of assets following his July 31 election victory.  The government will compensate bank owners as it takes control of their companies.
Indiginization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, the minister in charge of the program to compel foreign companies to cede 51 percent of their assets to black investors or the government, believes that,
“When it comes to natural resources, Zimbabwe will not pay for her resources.  If they don’t want to follow the law that’s their problem. Non-compliant mine owners risk losing their licenses."
Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS),

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP),

Barclays Plc (BARC) and

Standard Chartered Plc (STAN)

are among companies that operate in the country. Other industries may have to yield smaller stakes to black owners. Metals and minerals, including platinum and gold, accounted for 71 percent, or $719.9 million, in exports in the first four months of this year. Anglo American Platinum is the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

The government and black Zimbabweans will take half of the value of assets it has identified in the economy. The state empowerment fund has so far acquired about $1 billion in assets.

The government will open a new stock exchange to trade the black-owned stakes in the companies. Trading at the Harare Stock Exchange, which would rival the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, may start within 100 days of the new government taking office and will only be open to black Zimbabwean. Investments in Zimbabwe will be protected by the government as long as companies do not seek to exploit the country without its people benefiting.  (Bloomberg, 8/6/2013)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Export-Import Bank Sued Over Coal Export

Above the harbor in Baltimore’s industrial Curtis Hill district you can see the piles of coal. That coal is the subject of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a coalition of environmental groups against the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The groups are challenging the federal agency’s financing of fossil fuel exports from ports in Baltimore and Hampton Roads.  The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

CONSOL Energy's Baltimore terminal
 has capacity to ship more than 13 million tons of coal.
The suit, filed in a federal court in California, targets a $90 million loan guarantee that the Ex-Im Bank made last year to Xcoal Energy & Resources, a Pennsylvania coal broker, to sell coal from Appalachian mines to customers in Asia and Italy. The plaintiffs claim that the bank failed to conduct a required environmental review before providing the guarantee. They want to block a portion of the $90 million that hasn’t yet been disbursed through Xcoal’s intermediary, PNC Bank.

The Ex-Im Bank makes loans and loan guarantees to private companies to encourage the export of U.S. products by assuming the financial risks involved in international trade. The bank has been increasing its support for domestic and foreign fossil-fuel projects.

In a speech on climate change last month, Obama announced that the bank would no longer support the construction of new coal-fired power plants overseas. Fumes from coal combustion are particularly heavy in carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the financing ban should also apply to domestic coal exporters.

The Ex-Im Bank declined to comment on the lawsuit, noting in a statement that it is trying to balance “the need to protect the environment” with its mission of “supporting U.S. exports and American export-related jobs.”

The United Mine Workers of America believes the union has “thousands of members whose jobs depends on that coal, at least in some part, being exported. Their families depend on that, their communities depend on that, their school districts depend on that.”

Coal exports have increased rapidly in recent years for several reasons, including high
demand in China and Europe and a glut of cheap natural gas from domestic shale, which utilities have been substituting for coal. Traffic at the Hampton Roads ports, which are the country’s busiest coal export terminals, has nearly doubled in volume since 2009. Exports from Baltimore have tripled in the same period.

Environmentalists say that the increase is harmful not only to the global climate, but also to residents who live near shipping facilities and railroads. Coal dust, which can contain mercury and arsenic, is everywhere in Curtis Point. Some residents have to wash their windows every few days, he said, and the dust is so fine that it accumulates inside cars.

Xcoal plans to use the loan to move $1 billion in coking or metallurgical coal, which is used to manufacture steel. If the suit succeeds, the company would still be able to seek commercial funding for its venture, though a loan at the market rate would presumably be more expensive than borrowing from the federal government. (Wash Post, 7/31/2013)