Tuesday, March 31, 2009

House Hearing On Kingston Tennessee Coal Ash Spill

The House Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing today on "The Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Ash Slide: Potential Water Quality, Impacts of Coal Combustion Waste Storage." The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony from representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Duke University, and other interested parties. The purpose of this hearing was to investigate the potential causes of the coal ash spill at the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, the response and cleanup, as well as receive information on potential water quality implications from the ash spill.

AAEA President Norris McDonald spoke to Tom Kilgore, President and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, after the hearing about the feasibility of increasing the use of fly ash in the production of concrete. Mr. Kilgore, pictured upper right, said about 40% of the fly ash from TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant is already used to produce concrete.

The Subcommittee is Chaired by Eddie Bernice Johnson, pictured upper left.


Link to video of hearing

January 8, 2009 Senate Hearing on Kingston Coal Ash Spill

EPA vs Army Corp of Engineers on Mountaintop Removal

There appears to be a competition, or conflict, going on between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding mountaintop removal coal mining. ACE approved the expansion of a mountaintop removal project without EPA input just one day after the EPA announced plans to reassert its powers to protect mountain streams from the pollution and rubble produced by of mountaintop coal mining.

Hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams are at stake that could be buried with pollutant-laden debris if pending mining permits are approved. This represents a tough choice for the Obama administration, which is being pressured to deliver environmental protections while not hurting the coal industry. Coal is an important economic product in the Appalachian states, particularly during the current deepening recession. Of course, some environmentalists want to close down the coal industry altogether, even though coal generates more than half the country’s electricity. In fact, America is the Saudi Arabia of coal.

ACE's Louisville district approved a 1.5-square-mile expansion of a mountaintop mine in Southeast Kentucky with no input from the EPA. The expansion of the International Coal Group’s Thunder Ridge mine allows the company to fill four valleys with debris, burying nearly two miles of streams that drain into the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River. That river supplies drinking water to more than 700,000 people — roughly one-sixth of the state’s population. The permit approval, according to many environmentalists, directly contradicts the EPA’s vow to play a larger role in the permit process. Under the Clean Water Act, the Corps handles most permit decisions, but the EPA can step in to delay pending permits — or veto those already approved — if the agency has reason to believe the disposal sites will harm water supplies or ecosystems.

The controversy involves mountaintop mining, a process in which companies blast the tops off of mountains to reach the coal seams, creating moonscapes in old Appalachian Mountains. The process produces large quantities of debris, which is disposed by pushing it into adjacent valleys, some of which contain streams. The technique is used in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky because of its efficiency: Companies can retrieve nearly all of the coal within the seam, and they can rely more on explosives and machines than manual labor.

The issue is turning out to be: coal jobs versus water quality. The issue is timely because hundreds of permits have been backlogged awaiting a court ruling on the Corps’ authority to issue permits without more extensive environmental impact studies. Overturning a lower court’s ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in coal-friendly Virginia, found last month that the Corps does have the power to issue mountaintop permits without broader reviews. (The Washington Independent, 3/30/09)

Monday, March 30, 2009

AAEA Attends Wilderness Bill Signing at The White House

AAEA President Norris McDonald attended the signing of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 at the White House today. The bill signing ceremony was held in the East Room and President Obama gave a speech before sitting down to sign the bill. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar spoke before the bill signing too. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also attended the signing. Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco were also in attendance.

The House approved the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R.146) on a vote of 285 to 140 on March 25, 2009 that includes the largest expansion of the wilderness system in 15 years -- 2 million acres in nine states -- and launched one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts in the West. The bill passed in the Senate on March 19, on a vote of 77-20. (The White House)

The bill was a massive omnibus, incorporating 164 different pieces of legislation. Major Highlights include:- Protecting treasured places like: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, Oregon’s Mount Hood, Idaho’s Omyhee Canyons, the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Zion National Park in Utah, as well as lands in Virginia and New Mexico;- Designating more than 2 million acres of federal lands as wilderness;- Creating the 26 million acre National Landscape Conservation System within the Dept. of Interior;- Protecting more than 1000 miles of rivers by adding them to the National Wild and Scenic System;- Designating thousands of miles of trails for the National Trails System and creating several new National Conservation Areas. (More)

Photos: President Obama in background in upper photo and Norris McDonald with former Maryland State Senator Gloria Lawlah (now Maryland Secretary of Aging) in lower photo.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How About Putting Your Money In A Black-Owned Bank

Some people get upset with 'black' anything. Or African American. Yet even though America elected Barack Obama to be our president, there is still a black community in every major city in the United States. Thus the need for institutions in these communities. Whites rarely go to black communities and many repress the reality of their existence. Yet why not then have black banks, and other black-owned institutions, in black communities?

Enter the National Bankers Association, which was founded in 1927 as the trade association for the nation's 103 minority and women-owned banks (MWOBs). Founded as the Negro Bankers Association, this name was changed to the National Bankers Association in 194. Their members include banks owned by African-Americans, Native-Americans, American-Indians, East-Indians, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Women. MWOB's are located in 29 states and 2 territories spanning 60 cities and the District of Columbia. Their employees number over 15,000.

In the aggregate, MWOBs have assets in excess of 31 billion dollars and service over 3 million depositors. Collectively the individuals who serve on the boards of directors of their member banks represent some of the most influential leaders in minority communities and urban centers across the country. Since 1980 the NBA has formed a successful partnership with Treasury representatives of Fortune 500 corporations. MWOBs, with few exceptions, serve distressed communities plagued by many social and economic problems. Their institutions are deeply committed to providing employment opportunities, entrepreneurial capital and economic revitalization in neighborhoods which often have little or no access to alternative financial services.

Photo: The Penny Savings Bank of Birmingham, Alabama, founded by William R. Pettiford, was the first black-owned banking institution in Alabama. It operated from 1890 to 1915.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's Racist Comment?

Maybe the president of Brazil is trying to get that 54 cent tariff on ethanol from Brazil to the USA lifted. What do you think?

Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, blamed "white people with blue eyes" for the world economic crisis and said it was wrong that developing countries should pay for mistakes made in richer countries. Now the Brazilian president is being accused of being racist. President Lula da Silva has been very critical of the European Union and the US for tariffs on products from developing countries. The specific quote:

"This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who thought they knew everything and now show they know nothing,"

"I am not acquainted with a single black banker."

Doesn't sound racist to us, particularly about the dearth of black bankers. Of course, when it comes to Wall Street and banking, some might counter that Steven O'Neal, formerly of Merrill Lynch and Richard Parsons, Chairman of Citigroup, are notable exceptions. And of course, there IS President Barack Obama. Isn't it refreshing that America has evolved into having blacks in high positions. Now if only the mainstream environmental movement would come into the 21th Century. That community truly is the last bastion of professional level segregation.

Leading industrial and developing nations, including Brazil, will attend the G20 summit Brown hosts in London on April 2. (CNBC.com via AOL.comFinance&Money)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Water Issues Favor Wind & Solar In Generation of Electricity

Unlike natural gas, coal and nuclear power fired power plants, wind farms and solar power islands do not use water to generate electricity. Of course, this apparent disparity could be a distinction without a difference because even though the electric-power industry accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the U.S, all or most of the water used by the power sector eventually is returned to waterways. Even in cases where cooling towers are used instead of 'once-through cooling,' only about 2% to 3% of the water is lost through evaporation. Of coure, with the traditional electricity generators, there are water heating and intake issues related to effects on aquatic fauna that do not apply to wind farms. Unfortunately, bird kills are big concerns at wind farms. And solar power stations take up vast amounts of land. Plus, wind and solar only operate about 30% of the time and have to be backed up by traditional plants, which can operate nonstop. There are no silver bullets. But, water issues could be as important a selling point for the renewables energy industry as reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a utility that provides power to mostly rural areas, says it plans to build a 500,000-solar-panel project in northeast New Mexico in partnership with First Solar Inc because there's no water requirement with solar.

A Department of Energy study concluded that a megawatt hour of electricity produced by a wind turbine can save 200 to 600 gallons of water compared with the amount required by a modern natural gas-fired power plant to make that same amount.

Environmental groups that oppose coal and nuclear power plants are using water as an issue to try to close coal and nuclear power plants. Rebecca Smith of The Wall Street Journal writes:

In 2004, Riverkeeper Inc., an environmental organization in Tarrytown, N.Y., along with six states, sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the use of once-through cooling by as many as 500 older power plants in the U.S. The suit charges that the practice violates the Clean Water Act because it harms aquatic life and fails to utilize the best technology available, a requirement of the federal act. The case, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, stands to test how water-use issues will determine which power plants continue to operate as well as what kind of plants are built.

Nuclear plants face particular scrutiny, since they require more water than any other form of steam generation. Virginia Power, a unit of Dominion Resources, is facing a legal challenge over its right to draw one million gallons of water a minute per reactor from a man-made lake it uses to cool its North Anna nuclear power plant and into which it discharges heated water. The utility built the lake in 1978 exclusively for the plant's cooling purposes.

A group argued that heat is a form of pollution and said the state water board shouldn't have renewed the plant's water permit. Last month, a state court upheld much of the environmental group's case; the utility plans an appeal. Dominion says the man-made lake is a private
body of water and therefore shouldn't fall under the federal Clean Water Act.

AAEA disagrees with the strategy to use water use issues to try to close nuclear power plants because global climate change is the most important environmental issue facing the planet today and these plants do no emit any greenhouse gases. AAEA is awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court decision on this issue. AAEA is also participating in an adjudication of a water permit issue involving a nuclear power plant in New York.

NAACP Opposes Chicken Litter-Burning Power Plant in NC

The North Carolina NAACP opposes a proposed power plant planned to be located in Sampson County that will be fueled by chicken droppings. The NAACP is holding a rally against the plant on Saturday in Clinton, NC. About a year ago, New Hampshire-based Fibrowatt announced it's building three power plants in North Carolina. The first is to be located in the city of Faison in Sampson County near the intersection of Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 403. Faison is 33% Black and 26% Hispanic. Median household income is $29,000. Sampson County is 30% black. (CLR Search)

AAEA opposes this proposed plant at this location.

The NAACP charges that burning chicken droppings will release toxins into the air including arsenic. The facility would be located near a predominately poor and African-American community, which represents a clear environmental injustice issue. The health and well-being of area residents would clearly be adversely and disproportionately affected by the anticipated pollution. Rev. Dr. William Barber is charging that arsenic will be emitted from the facility. Arsenic is a toxic pollutant linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. Rev. Dr. William Barber is President of the NC State Conference of the NAACP, and has submitted a letter opposing the Fibrowatt facility to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners. Barber says building the plantswould expose poor people, particularly African Americans, to unacceptable pollution levels.

Fibrowatt's concept is to burn chicken droppings from North Carolina's large poultry industry to produce electricity. The company calls it "renewable energy from locally abundant agricultural byproducts," and touts the benefits to the environment. It says burning chicken waste cuts down on the dumping of fertilizer laden waste into the environment which can degrade local water sources, release greenhouse gases, and create offensive odors. But burning the litter would create carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, too. Fibrowatt and some local politicians believe the new plant would bring much needed jobs and tax revenue to the county while providing a valuable service to poultry farmers in the area. Sampson County Commissioners voted to rezone Exit 355 as an industrial park to accomodate the Fibrowatt facility. (WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durhan, NC ABC News Channel 11,Goldsboro News Argus, Energy Justice Network, Winston-Salem Journal)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EPA Posts Results of 2009 Acid Rain Allowance Auction

Once a year, EPA auctions a certain number of sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances at the end of March. Utilities, environmental groups, allowance brokers, and anyone else interested in purchasing allowances can participate. Allowances sold at the auctions are sold to the highest bidder until no allowances remain. Successful bidders are notified and are listed on EPA's Web site. AAEA is registered in the EPA Acid Rain Program. AAEA did not purchase or sell any allowances during the 2009 auction.

EPA has posted the results of its annual acid rain auction, held on March 24. The annual auction gives power plants, brokers, and private citizens the opportunity to buy and sell sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances as part of EPA’s successful cap and trade program to reduce emissions contributing to acid rain. The 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) amendments established this program to cap national SO2 emissions at 50 percent of 1980 levels. Each year, EPA issues allowances to existing sources within that cap. In addition, the CAA mandates that a limited number of those allowances are withheld and auctioned. The auctions help ensure that new electric generating plants have a source of allowances beyond those allocated initially to existing units. Proceeds from the auctions are returned to sources in proportion to the allowances withheld.

In addition to allowances offered by EPA, private parties may offer allowances for sale in the auction. The auction includes two “vintages” of allowances. Vintage describes the earliest year an allowance may be applied against SO2 emissions. In addition to year 2009 allowances, the Clean Air Act mandated that EPA auction additional allowances seven years in advance to help provide stability in planning for capital investment. These advance allowances will be usable first in 2016. No offers from private parties to sell their allowances were received. More information on the acid rain auction.

Black-Owned Coal Mines In A Global Warming World?

Could black entrepreneurs get into the underground mining of coal if mountaintop removal is banned? Should blacks get into owning, mining and selling coal?

Mountaintop removal of coal is a cheaper , safer, easier way to get to the coal seam than digging a tunnel in to the mountainside to get to the coal. But it pollutes streams below and the Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to crack down on this practice. Then there is the fly ash issue, which exploded into public awareness after the Tennessee TVA retention pond burst in December. As if that is not enough, Congress is about to consider energy and climate change legislation that has carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired power plants in its crosshairs to be significantly reduced. And EPA is planning to regulate CO2 as a health threat.

While the EPA is examining about 200 coal mine permit applications under reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Mining Association is complaining that even the reviews could threaten 77,500 coal mining jobs and 385 million tons of annual production in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, Ohio and the Illinois Basin. Mainstream environmentalists want somebody to retrain coal miners to build wind mills. Of course local NIMBYs protest wind farm proposals and the high power lines that would be needed to carry the electricity to the cities.

Blacks do not work in coal mines, for the most part, do not own any coal mines, trains that haul it or utilities that burn it. Nor do blacks own the cement and concrete companies that reuse the fly ash from coal-fired power plants. Neither do blacks live in the coal mining communities mostly affected by mine runoff. Blacks will probably not have a role in the CO2 allowance trading market because they are not principals in the industries that will be regulated under a cap-and-trade program. Morever, most environmental justice groups oppose the proposed cap-and-trade program.

Coal prices by the ton fluctuate up and down along with the price of oil by the barrel. It is used to produce 50% of America's electricity. What about the fly ash and CO2 allowance trading markets? AAEA is promoting an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to deal with the 'hot spots' issue related to the proposed cap-and-trade program. Should blacks ignore and avoid black jobs (coal) in favor of strictly adhering to the green jobs (wind & weatherization) arena? We have similar questions about black ownership of wind farm companies to create some of those green jobs. Regardless of what happens with legislation, coal is not going anywhere in terms of being a fuel to produce electricity. (NYT, 3/25/09)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

India's Tata Motors' $2,000 Compact Car

Would black Americans purchase the Nano, right, being sold in India right now? Blacks do not usually buy really small cars and 'style' is a bit more important for this population. For instance, not many blacks purchase the Toyota Prius. But what about manufacturing? The Nano sounds like just what the doctor ordered for many low and middle income blacks (that is if they just want to drive and not 'profile.' Maybe some black entrepreneurs could partner with Tata Motors to produce this car in the United States. Why does it have to be racial you ask? Because blacks do not currently own any automobile manufacturing, or almost any other type of manufacturing, facilities in the United States. Just as blacks do not own any energy production infrastructure. THAT'S WHY.

Tata Motors' $2,000 Nano has no air conditioning, stereo or air bags and a single windshield wiper. But it puts the dream of car ownership within reach for India's middle and working-classes. The Nano's lightweight, two-cylinder engine musters about 35 horsepower. It tops out at just over 60 mph. Today, only eight of every 1,000 adult Indians own a car -- compared with about 770 per 1,000 American adults. According to Tata Motors, the Nano gets about 50 miles per gallon and is 12 percent less polluting than a typical motorcycle. (Wash Post, 3/24/09))

Monday, March 23, 2009

Solar Company to Get First Energy Loan Guarantee

The Department of Energy has issued a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, Inc. to support the company’s construction of a commercial-scale manufacturing plant for its proprietary cylindrical solar photovoltaic panels. The company expects to create thousands of new jobs in the U.S. while deploying its solar panels across the U.S. and around the world. Solyndra’s photovoltaic systems are designed to provide the lowest installed cost and the highest solar electricity output on commercial, industrial and institutional roof tops, which are a vast, underutilized resource for the distributed generation of clean electricity.

Solyndra’s proprietary design transforms glass tubes into high performance photovoltaic panels that are simple and inexpensive to install. By replacing power generated from fossil fuel sources, the electricity produced from the solar panels will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Based in Fremont, CA, Solyndra is currently ramping up production in its initial manufacturing facilities. Once finalized, the DOE loan guarantee will enable the company to build and operate its manufacturing processes at full commercial scale. Solyndra says that construction of this complex will employ approximately 3,000 people, operation will create over 1,000 jobs in the U.S., installation of these panels will create hundreds of additional jobs in the U.S. and commercialization of this technology is expected to then be duplicated in multiple other manufacturing facilities. (Frank Maisano)

Solyndra designs and manufactures photovoltaic systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra employs high volume manufacturing based on proven technologies and processes to meet the needs of the global solar market. Using proprietary cylindrical modules and thin-film technology, Solyndra systems are designed to provide the lowest installed cost per system and the highest solar electrical energy output for typical low slope commercial rooftops. Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Fremont, California, Solyndra operates a state-of-the-art 300,000 square foot fully-automated manufacturing complex.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Unemployment Rate

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the national unemployment rate in February was 8.1%. The national unemployment rate for blacks in February climbed to 13.4%, while the rate for black men reached 16.3%.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

HIV-AIDS in Washington, D.C. Worse Than West Africa

According to a report funded by the CDC and conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services, 3 percent of the population in the District of Columbia has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, a rate not seen since the height of the epidemic in the 1990s in San Francisco. A rate higher than in West Africa. That translates into 2,984 residents per every 100,000 over the age of 12 -- or 15,120 -- according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the District's HIV/AIDS office.

More than 4 percent of blacks in the city are known to have HIV, along with almost 2 percent of Latinos and 1.4 percent of whites. More than three-quarters -- 76 percent -- of the HIV infected are black, 70 percent are men and 70 percent are age 40 and older. Heterosexual sex was the principal mode of transmission for blacks with the disease, 33 percent. Men having sex with men was the chief mode of transmission for white residents, 78 percent; and Latinos, 49 percent. Black women represent more than a quarter of HIV cases in the District, and most, about 58 percent, were infected through heterosexual sex. About a quarter of black women were infected through drug use. (Wash Post, 3/15/09)

Obama Administration Talks & Walks It According to NBCC

From Harry Alford, President, National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC):

This Administration Talks It - “The Executive Branch shall distribute Recovery Act funds in accordance with: All anti-discrimination and equal opportunity statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders that apply to the expenditure of funds under Federal contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, loans, and other forms of Federal assistance. Grant-making agencies shall ensure that their recipients comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and any program-specific statutes with anti-discrimination requirements. Generally applicable civil rights laws also continue to apply, including (but not limited to) the Fair Housing Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Uniform Relocation Act.” This is quoted from the guidelines for the Stimulus Bill, Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget.

And Walks It - “The recent enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009…and the increase in transportation contracting opportunities it will bring has heightened the urgency for Caltrans to reconsider implementing the DBE program requirements…For this fiscal year, Caltrans has only achieved 2.2 percent DBE participation on its construction contracts through December 31, 2008. We cannot afford any further delay by Caltrans in implementing DBE contract goals…Failure to implement this overall goal and contract goals set out in this letter could result in the imposition of sanctions authorized at 23 CFR 1.36, which may include withholding federal funds, withholding approval of projects, or such other action FHWA deems appropriate under the circumstances.” This is a quote from the Federal Highway Administration, US Department of Transportation to California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) about their racist and sexist ways which are about to change. How about that for muscles Gov. Arnold? Change we can believe in.

Michelle DePass Nominated For EPA Internat'l Activities Ofc

Update: Confirmed

President Obama has nominated Michelle DePass, left, to serve as the Assistant Administrator for International Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. DePass currently manages the Ford Foundation's initiative on Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities. She has taught federal environmental law and policy at the City University of New York, and developed a workforce development training program for disadvantaged youth on Superfund waste sites. She also served as executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and co-organized the Northeast Environmental Justice Network.

AAEA supports the nomination.

She previously served as the assistant to the city manager of San Jose, Calif., on environmental policy matters and was an Environmental Compliance Manager for the City of San Jose. She was a William Kunstler Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and later worked as a senior policy adviser to the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (Grist, Wash Post, 3/18/09)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Green Stars Change Movement In Washington, D.C.


WOW. D.C. is full of new green black superstars and that is a very good thing. Such planetary visionaries used to simply visit town about once or twice a year. Now new ones from New Jersey and the midwest to the left coast have taken up residence in our nation's capital. As George Clinton might say: "Gaining on ya." Change has truly come to town.

Bottom line is the traditional environmental groups have no choice but to 'green black up' now. Or be left in the dust of the old Jim Crow green group world. Those elite green groups better consider hiring more than one too. For our issues include but transcend the Negro section. The rules have changed and so have the players. And 'old pieces of meat' like me are still around to play.

One thing for sure, this is all very exciting. What to make of it? Because excitement is one thing, but substantive accomplishments beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are still pending. There is much to be done. Much to CHANGE. From the coal mines of Appalachia and the subways of New York City, to the surplus of Beijing and the electricity of South Africa, we have work to do. Will the old oppose the new? Will the new isolate the old? Will divide and conquer still bamboozle? I guess we will see won't we?

Ron Kirk Confirmed By U.S. Senate As Trade Representative

Former Dallas, Texas Mayor Ron Kirk, left, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this afternoon to be the U.S. Trade Representative by a vote of 92-5.

AAEA supported this nomination.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is an agency of over 200 people. USTR negotiates directly with foreign governments to create trade agreements, resolve disputes and participate in global trade policy organizations. They also meet with governments, business groups, legislators and public interest groups to gather input on trade issues and explain the president’s trade policy positions. The agency was founded in 1962 and has offices in Washington, Geneva and Brussels.

Something Not Adding Up In Obama Cap & Trade Plan

President Obama's cap & trade plan will take money away via higher utility bills to give it back via tax credits. Why not NOT take it in the first place and then it does not need to be given back? That is our question about the 'auction' portion of the administration's cap & trade program. AAEA supports President Obama's cap & trade program, but we oppose auctioning the allowances. The allowances should be allocated free to utilities as they were in the successful Acid Rain Program. This will prevent the rise in utility bills, which are already burdening many ratepayers. In fact, the regulators in Maryland have put a moratorium on utility cut offs in response to already high utility bills.

The White House National Economic Council testified before the Senate Finance Committee that President Obama's proposed cap and trade system could raise "two-to-three times" the administration's existing $646 billion revenue estimate. This could mean the cap and trade system could actually generate between roughly $1.3 trillion and $1.9 trillion between fiscal years 2012 and 2019. The administration's plan is for excess revenues from any cap and trade bill that passes Congress will be used to compensate vulnerable families, communities and businesses. The administration's proposed 'Making Work Pay' tax credit will compensate most working Americans for the likely rise in utility costs they could expect to face after a cap and trade system goes into place. That tax credit is worth $800 per year to a household of two earners with combined annual income below $250,000.

The cap and trade proposal is aimed at lowering carbon emissions into the atmosphere by companies by requiring them to purchase credits for the level of pollution they contribute. The public forecast was based on the carbon-dioxide credits that would be issued through the new system being priced at $20 each. Each credit allows for one ton of carbon dioxide to be emitted.
According to the budget, the administration would use $120 billion of the scheme's revenues to fund clean energy technology. The balance of $525.7 billion would pay for a tax cut targeted to middle class Americans, a centerpiece of the Obama budget. (WJS, 3/18/09)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Critic Says Blacks Deserve No Help For Energy Ownership

We received the email below that is critical of our suggestion to the Congressional Black Caucus to leverage federal legisltion to help with African American ownership of energy companies. We guess he or she was afraid to post it as a public comment. So we are posting it for him or her. We also guess they missed the little bailouts of other institutions.

J O ( mendskyz@yahoo.com )
Sent: Tue 3/17/09 7:17 AM
To: AfricanAmericanEnvironmentalist@msn.com

"You have got to be kidding me you low life scum sucking leach on society. Do you actually think you should be entitled to these perks? I hope to hell that this site is a sarcastic poke at the organization you mention but somehow I think it is not.

This is a perfect example of the Entitlement Mentality that exists in the Negro culture today, and the very reason so many caucasiuns demonstrate so called "racism" toward your race, when this "racism" is actually a hatred for the hands out and palms up culture of "Hey government, what can you give me today" race. I use the term Negro because very few members of the Negro race living in America today have ever stepped foot on the African continent so save me the "African American" lingo. My ancestors came from Europe but I don't call myself a European American.

I find it very comical that every ethnic group except for Negros have been able to come to this country and make something of themselves. Could it be that your constant dependence on the federal government is holding you back? How about turning your hands palm down, and stick them back in your pockets and start looking for ways to bring your culture out of the gutter and into a self sufficient, productive part of society. Could it be that if you actually helped your culture climb out of the gutter that you wouldn't have a job? All of the popular Negro Leaders you see in the media today are vested in keeping racism alive, spending all their time telling American how racist it is when in actuality it is the Negro race that harbors the most racist attitudes of any other race.

Why don't you spend your time finding ways to take your youth, help them understand that there are opportunities in places other than professional sports, music, and drugs and help them actually become self sufficient. Until your race stops looking to the government to solve your problems, and start looking at your own cultural problems like single parent families, government reliance, and entitlement mentality you will continue to be the only race who has come to this country and hasn't been able to better themselves."

Monday, March 16, 2009

EPA Administrator Discusses Environment with Tavis Smiley

Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, appears on Tavis Smiley's PBS program [Full Interview] Tuesday, March 17, in a television interview. Jackson comments on the Obama administration’s plans for a renewed commitment to energy and environmental protection. She will also discuss environmental racism and creating green collar jobs.

Before becoming EPA Administrator, Jackson served as Chief of Staff to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine. Prior to that, she was Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). While Commissioner, Jackson was known for her advocacy for reducing greenhouse gases, aggressively addressing pollution, and having an open and honest dialogue with stakeholders in the public policy process. Jackson’s tenure was also noted for ensuring that underserved communities received fair environmental protection under the law.

About Lisa Jackson: As EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson leads a staff of approximately 18,000 professionals dedicated to protecting the public health and environment of all Americans. Administrator Jackson lists among her priorities reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, managing chemical risks, cleaning up hazardous waste sites, and protecting America’s water. Nominated to lead the Agency by President Barack Obama, Jackson is the first African-American to serve in that position. Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

About TAVIS SMILEY on PBS: TAVIS SMILEY is a smart hybrid of news, issues and entertainment, featuring interviews with newsmakers, politicians, celebrities and everyday people. The late night television talk show is now also airing early on Friday evenings as part of PBS' public affairs programming. Please check local listings. The four-time NAACP Image Award-winning TAVIS SMILEY is produced by The Smiley Group Inc./TS Media Inc. in association with KCET/Los Angeles. Major funding for TAVIS SMILEY is provided by Wal-Mart and PBS. Additional support comes from Nationwide Insurance.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Biden & Chu: $8 Billion For Weatherization Programs

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Chu today detailed an investment of nearly $8 billion in state and local weatherization and energy efficiency efforts as part of the President's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With an investment of about $5 billion through the Weatherization Assistance Program and about $3 billion for the State Energy Program, the Department of Energy will partner with state and local governments to put 87,000 Americans to work and save families hundreds of dollars per year on their energy bills.

To jump-start job creation and weatherization work, the Department of Energy is releasing the first installment of the funding - about $780 million -- in the next few days. The Department will release additional funding over time as states demonstrate that they are using the funding effectively and responsibly to create jobs and cut energy use. The funding will support weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which will pay for itself many times over.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200% of the federal poverty level - or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. [$55,140 for Alaska and $50,720 for Hawaii]

The State Energy Program funding will be available for rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects for clean electricity generation and alternative fuels; promotion of Energy Star products; efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings; and other innovative state efforts to help save families money on their energy bills.

The DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program allows low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient, reducing heating bills by an average of 32% and overall energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year. (DOE)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can Coal Combustion Waste Lead To Green Jobs?

The Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant spill last December was the largest coal fly ash spill in U.S. history, spilling over one billion gallons of coal ash over 300 acres of land, into waterways and contaminating numerous homes. This event created a firestorm for regulators, who are now fast tracking legislation and regulations [see links below] to address the coal combustion waste (CCW) as toxic waste.

Our question: Is it possible to redirect massive amounts of fly ash away from the storage pools and into commercial use as a concrete and cement additive? Fly ash is already used in concrete production, but not at the levels needed to utilize fly as from all of America's coal-fired power plants.

According to Headwaters Resources:
"Because fly ash use displaces cement use, it also reduces the need for cement production – a major energy user and source of “greenhouse gas” emissions. For every ton of cement manufactured, about 6.5 million BTUs of energy are consumed. For every ton of cement manufactured, about one ton of carbon dioxide is released. Replacing that ton of cement with fly ash would save enough electricity to power the average American home for 24 days, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions equal to two months use of an automobile.

Experts estimate that cement production contributes to about 7 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human sources. If all the fly ash generated each year were used in producing concrete, the reduction of carbon dioxide released because of decreased cement production would be equivalent to eliminating 25 percent of the world’s vehicles."

Government incentives would help. For instance, the California Department of Transportation requires that mineral admixtures like fly ash comprise at least 25 percent of the cementitious material in any concrete used in state-funded paving projects. Such incentives could be leverage using the increase highway funding that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Regulatory Status

Background on CCW

Omnibus Appropriations Act Helps Washington, D.C. Area

The $410 billion ‘‘Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (spending bill) (H.R. 1105) that President Barack Obama signed on March 11 to fund government operations through September 30 (FY 2009 was particularly generous to the Washington Metropolitan Area. The spending bill was criticized for containing about 8,500 earmarks, or legislators' pet projects, worth almost $8 billion. When did they stop calling this 'pork or pork barrel?' Whatever you call it, there were some very important funding measures included in the bill for the Washington, D.C region.

There was $10 million to help watermen struggling with the depletion of the blue crab population and $4.6 million to restore oyster habitats in the bay. Maryland and Virginia will split those amounts. There was $14 million for the District's combined sewer overflow control plan.

The spending measure provides millions for roads and public transit in the region. About $29 million is set aside for the long-planned extension of Metro to Dulles International Airport, and $1.9 million will go to improve the Interstate 95/Fairfax County Parkway interchange. It pays off the final $34.7 million owed for 52 new Metro rail cars and puts $13 million toward MARC rail line improvements. Almost $1 million was approved for Metro bicycle lockers and for a bus safety program. There was $2 million for a new entrance and elevators for the Rosslyn Metro station.

Other interesting items include:

-- $950,000 for land for a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge
-- $163.5 million for the Food and Drug Administration's campus in White Oak for a new lab focused on bioterrorism and antidotes to epidemic diseases.
-- $331 million for building the Homeland Security Department headquarters in the District's Ward 8 at the St. Elizabeth's Hospital site.

(Wash Post, 3/12/09)

Maryland Public Service Commission Bars Utility Shut Offs

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has barred (Order # 82509) PEPCO, Constellation Energy Group, the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric and four other utility companies from shutting off gas and electricity to more than 100,000 customers who have fallen behind on their bills. The PSC acted at the request of Governor Martin O'Malley (D), who requested the delay this week in response to complaints to the Commission’s Office of External Relations. Some complaints noted that in January utilty bills increased 300% over January 2007 and 100% over January 2008’s already-elevated levels.

The order states:

"That Utilities subject to this Commission’s jurisdiction shall refrain immediately from terminating any residential customer’s gas or electric service for delinquent payment or outstanding balances, until the Commission directs otherwise...The parties shall appear before the Commission to discuss the results of the Work Group on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 10 a.m. at the Commission."
Normally, customers in arrears are given a grace period during the winter, then face shut-off April 1. The commission's action delays that deadline until further notice. The PSC directed the state's utility companies to submit a plan by April 1 for offering customers payment plans to spread out their debt before they are issued shut-off notices. About 84,000 BGE customers and 43,000 Maryland customers of Pepco had faced shut-offs starting April 1, according to the Public Service Commission. The PSC sent Notices to each utility to submit: data or information addressing arrearage and uncollectible balances; collection and termination practices; the number of complaints the Utility has received about higher than normal utility bills; the steps taken to investigate and respond to the complaints; and the reasons for the spikes in energy bills.

Utility officials are blaming the increases on cold weather, a longer billing cycle, a practice of estimating bills, and higher commodity prices for natural gas and electricity. They also said customers are using more high-tech gadgets. AAEA believes the rate increases that are 'kicking in' to make up for botched deregulation are also responsible for the increased utility bills. It will only get worse as the increases are spread out over three years. This was a very big issue during the last gubernatoral campaign. (Wash Post, 3/12/09)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Green Jobs Visionary Van Jones Joins CEQ

Van Jones, left, has taken a job at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as a special adviser for green jobs. CEQ coordinates President Obama's climate, energy and other environmental policy initiatives with federal agencies. Jones is the author of "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems." He is the co-founder of the Oakland, California-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and founder of Green For All.

Jones is a 1993 Yale Law graduate, a husband and the father of two small boys. (NYTimes, 3/10/09)

New York Times Features Segregation In Green Movement

Mirey Navarro writes in The New York Times:

"But with a black president committed to environmental issues in the White House and a need to achieve broader public support for initiatives like federal legislation to address global warming, many environmentalists say they feel pressure to diversify the movement further, both in membership and at higher levels of leadership."
Now some of the groups have and will rush out to hire 'one black' professional and will assign them to the 'Negro Section' of environmental and energy policy decision-making. These same groups are evidently terrified of being 'found out' by a black president. He's very smart. He will not fall for your 'one black' professional hiring strategy. And the green groups have been making that empty promise to integrate for 40 years. We know that most of them are secretly proud of their elite (segregated) make up.

According to the article, the Green Group invited a couple of minority-led organizations (Nat'l Hispanic Environmental Council and Green For All) to join their ranks - - "soon after the election of the first black president." The green groups surely do not know what to do now that President Obama also appointed a black woman as adminstrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa P. Jackson). We will give the green groups a hint: HIRE BLACK PEOPLE [see Barbara Walters]. It really is not hard in Washington, D.C., a city that is majority African American or in New York and other areas. But after four decades of segregation, it will be more painful for the environmental movement to integrate than it was for public schools in the deep south.

We have an open invitation for many of these green groups to complete our Green Group Diversity Survey, but they arrogantly refuse to do so. We feature the results of the survey, where only five out of 25 green groups bothered to complete it, on our Green Group Diversity Report Card.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Maryland Might Re-Regulate Electricity Per High Costs

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is considering the introduction of legislation to re-regulate electric utilities in response to significant increases in ratepayer bills. His plan would allow the state to regulate future power plants if such a move is determined to be in the best interest of customers.The proposal also would allow the state to decide when new plants are built, usurping that authority from utilities. WOW. Talk about re-regulation. This is scary. It also represents botched deregulation whereby wholesale rates were deregulated but retail rates were not in some states and rates were frozen for about ten years in Maryland. Now Constellation and PEPCO had to raise rates to catch up. Future rate increases will be needed to build new plants and to fight global warming.

AAEA opposes re-regulation because it represents governments reneging on breaking up utility companies (separating generating and distribution) as the price for deregulation. Re-regulation would also represent a failure by utilities because they prevented real competition by blocking outside companies from competing effectively. Yet if designed and implemented properly, deregulation would have worked. But in this current era of anti deregulation, we accept the fact that the utilities will probably be re-regulated.

Now Maryland is 'in a pickle' because higher consumer bills and an electricity supply shortage that could lead to rolling blackouts as soon as 2011. Constellation Energy Group (parent of Baltimore Gas& Electric), continues to support deregulated, competitive energy markets. Constellation also wants its proposed third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs exempted from any re-regulation. The company also opposes more sweeping re-regulation bills introduced earlier in this legislative session. (BaltimoreSun.com) (Image: State of Maryland Flag)

Friday, March 06, 2009

President Obama Should Fund and Finish Yucca Mountain

President Obama's FY 2010 cuts off funding for storing America's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Almost $11 billion has already been spent to get the mountain ready to receive waste and the nuclear utilities have piad $22 billion into an account to build the site.

AAEA supports Yucca Mountain and we recommend that President Obama should reverse his opposition to the project. The Center has been instrumental in getting appropriations for Yucca Mountain in the past and believe funding for the project should be accelerated.

AAEA President Norris McDonald is pictured at left at Yucca Mountain in 2003. [More- (NYT, 3/5/09)]

Senate Energy Committe Republicans Chu Out Yucca


I attended the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday to receive testimony regarding draft legislative proposals on energy research and development. U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu appeared before the committee and stated:

"The Recovery Act will put people to work making our homes and offices more energy efficient. It includes $5 billion to weatherize the homes of low-income families; a $1,500 tax credit to help homeowners invest in efficiency upgrades; $4.5 billion to “green” federal buildings, including reducing their energy consumption; and $6.3 billion to implement state and local efficiency and renewable programs.

The Recovery Act also includes $6 billion for loan guarantees and more than $13 billion in tax credits and financial assistance instruments (grants and cooperative agreements) that may leverage tens of billions in private sector investment in clean energy and job creation. This will help clean energy businesses and projects to get off the ground, even in these difficult economic times. The bill also makes investments in key technologies, such as $2 billion in advanced battery manufacturing, and $4.5 billion to jumpstart our efforts to modernize the electric grid."

Senator John McCain and Senator Lisa Murkowski aggressively questioned Secretary Chu about the administration's plans to close Yucca. They stated that the nuclear power plant building rennaissance rested on waste being sent to Yucca Mountain. Secretary Chu handled the aggressive questioning very well, but he had to defer to administration policy. AAEA supports Yucca Mountain.

I spoke to Secretary Chu after the hearing and made an inquiry about Pebble Bed Modular Reactors.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean is the current Governor General of Canada. She was appointed by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada on August 4, 2005. The Governor General of Canada is the vice-regal or viceroy representative in Canada of the Queen of Canada , who is the head of state. A viceroy is a royal official who governs a country in the name of and as representative of the monarch. Canada is one of sixteen British Commonwealth realms, all of which share the British monarch as their royal leader. The monarch appoints the Governor General on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister, who is the Canadian Head of Government, after which the Governor General maintains direct contact with the British monarch. There is no specific term.

In a speech at the Opening Plenary of the World Youth Congress in the City of Québec, on Tuesday August 12, 2008, she stated:

"Yet it is too early to claim victory. Why? Because our planet is facing an environmental crisis. Sharp rises in the costs of food and energy are destabilizing entire regions of the world."
In addition to his discussions with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Obama also discussed issues of trade, energy, and the environment with Jean. Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean Obama greeted President Obama at the airport after Air Force One touched down in Ottowa, Canada. She escorted the American president past a Royal Canadian Mounted Police honour guard that lined the airport tarmac. The Februarly 19th visit was President Obama's first trip abroad as Commander-In-Chief.

Michaëlle Jean was born September 6, 1957 in Port-au-Prince , Haiti . Jean was a refugee from Haiti, coming to Canada in 1968. Jean married Canadian filmmaker Jean-Daiel Lafond and the couple adopted as their daughter Marie-Éden, an orphaned child from Haiti.

Michaelle Jean and Stephen Harper
(Wiki) (Hat Tip: Betty Chambers)

Support Cap-and-Trade, Oppose Allowance Auction

AAEA supports President Obama's Cap-and-Trade program. We oppose the auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. We also need an international treaty that includes the USA, China and India as a precursor to passage of any domestic global warming legislation. We need a cap on CO2 in order to begin reducing unnecessary CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. A private sector trading program puts the power into the hands of the people, utilities and industries to come up with techniques and technological solutions to the problem. For instance, AAEA promotes an Energy Defense Reservation (EDR) and Carbon Dioxide Reduction Program (CDR) that we believe would have a significant impact in reducing CO2.

President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget plan ($1.7 trillion budget deficit) includes the provision that is projected to raise $646 billion over ten years by auctioning pollution permits (allowances) to industries that generate greenhouse gases. Our question is: why increase utility bills via an auction instead of issuing the allowances for free and allowing companies to invest in solutions themselves? The investments in innovations will be passed on to ratepayers anyway. The Obama administration plans to fund renewables projects and help poor people pay energy bills with the proceeds from the auction. But if you do not increase bills, you do not need to help them with their bills. If the utilities and other companies directly finance renewables projects, there isn't the extra layer and extra expense of the auction.

Critics argue that the auction would increase the cost of electricity, gasoline and other forms of energy for every U.S. consumer. The funds from the auction to finance a permanent tax credit of up to $800 a year for working families would be neutralized by rising energy costs. Critics argue that the 20 cents an hour made under the credit would barely cover the added $1.60 per gallon EPA says gas could cost, let alone the potential for an 80 percent jump in electricity rates. (Wash Post 3/3/09) The EPA Acid Rain Program should be the model for the Obama administration. Allowances were allocated free and the program was a complete success.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama Cap-and-Trade Plan Should Reward Nuclear Power

The George Marshall Climate Change Institute has released a new analysis* that says the cap-and-trade approach is the equivalent of a permanent tax increase for the average American household, which was estimated to be $1,100 in 2008, would rise to $1,437 by 2015, to $1,979 in 2030, and $2,979 in 2050. The study shows that estimates of job losses attributable to cap-and-trade range in the hundreds of thousands. The price for energy paid by the American consumer also will rise. The studies reviewed showed electricity prices jumping 5-15% by 2015, natural gas prices up 12-50% by 2015, and gasoline prices up 9-145% by 2015.

We do not believe the cap-and-trade program has to significantly increase prices or lead to job losses. But President Obama will have to allocate the carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances free to the utilities, as was done in the very successful EPA Acid Rain Program. To get the real reductions President Obama is calling for, the utilites should direct the estimated $700 billion in revenues projected by the administration, into investments in nuclear power. At a cost of roughly $5 billion each, you would get 140 nuclear power plants that would back out hugh quantities of CO2, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, among other gaseous emissions. That would give President Obama the bang for the buck he is looking for . And these plants can operate for up to 100 years. It would also create hundreds of thousands of permanent, high paying jobs.

* from Clemson University Economics professors Bryan Buckley and Sergey Mityakov.

[see also Frank Maisano]