Friday, December 21, 2012
The moon in the nautilus shell : from climate change to species extinction, how life persists in an ever-changing world : discordant harmonies reconsidered / Daniel B. Botkin
Onsite and clustered (decentralized) wastewater treatment systems [electronic resource] : informational materials / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Enforcement Annual Results for Fiscal Year 2012. According to the interactive web portal available here,
EPA enforcement accomplishments in FY 2012, include:
- $251 million in criminal fines and civil penalties assessed to deter pollution
- 6.6 billion pounds of pollution and hazardous waste reduced, eliminated, properly disposed of or treated
- $44 million in additional investments for supplemental environmental projects that benefit communities
- Improving compliance with drinking water regulations by 60%: Sustained and focused enforcement attention on serious violators of clean drinking water standards has resulted in dramatic improvements in compliance.
- Bringing criminal prosecutions where criminal activity threatens public health: EPA is taking criminal enforcement action against companies or individuals who fail to use required pollution control equipment, knowingly violate pollution rules, resulting in death or serious harm, or falsify pollution information. See a case example in Louisiana
- Advancing environmental justice: EPA incorporated fenceline monitoring into settlements, ensuring that local residents have access to critical information about pollution that may be affecting their community. See an oil refinery case example.
Prior results are available here:
National Academies Report Released: Building the U.S. Battery Industry for Electric Drive Vehicles: Summary of a Symposium
Recently, the National Academies Press (NAP) released a report produced by Charles W. Wessner, Rapporteur; the Subcommittee on Electric Drive Battery Research and Development Activities; Committee on Competing in the 21st Century: Best Practice in State and Regional Innovation Initiatives; Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy; Policy and Global Affairs; and the National Research Council titled, Building the U.S. Battery Industry for Electric Drive Vehicles: Summary of a Symposium (2012). The 246-page report is available free with a one-time registration. According to the abstract,
[s]ince 1991, the National Research Council, under the auspices of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy, has undertaken a program of activities to improve policymakers' understandings of the interconnections of science, technology, and economic policy and their importance for the American economy and its international competitive position. The Board's activities have corresponded with increased policy recognition of the importance of knowledge and technology to economic growth. The goal of the this symposium was to conduct two public symposia to review and analyze the potential contributions of public-private partnerships and identify other relevant issues for the Department of Energy, Office of Vehicle Technologies, Energy Storage Team's activities in the energy storage research and development area. The symposia will also identify lessons from these and other domestic and international experiences to help inform DoE as to whether its activities are complete and appropriately focused. Additional topics that emerge in the course of the planning may also be addressed. Building the U.S. Battery Industry for Electric Drive Vehicles: Summary of a Symposium gathers representatives from leading battery manufacturers, automotive firms, university researchers, academic and industry analysts, congressional staff, and federal agency representatives. An individually-authored summary of each symposium will be issued.
The symposium was held in Michigan in order to provide direct access to the policymakers and industrial participants drawn from the concentration of battery manufacturers and automotive firms in the region. The symposium reviewed the current state, needs, and challenges of the U.S. advanced battery manufacturing industry; challenges and opportunities in battery R&D, commercialization, and deployment; collaborations between the automotive industry and battery industry; workforce issues, and supply chain development. It also focused on the impact of DoE's investments and the role of state and federal programs in support of this growing industry. This task of this report is to summarize the presentations and discussions that took place at this symposium. Needless to say, the battery industry has evolved very substantially since the conference was held, and indeed some of the caveats raised by the speakers with regard to overall demand for batteries and the prospects of multiple producers now seem prescient. At the same time, it is important to understand that it is unrealistic to expect that all recipients of local, state, or federal support in a complex and rapidly evolving industry will necessarily succeed. A number of the firms discussed here have been absorbed by competitors, others have gone out of business, and others continue to progress.
Congressional Research Service Report Released: Federal Land Ownership:Current Acquisition and Disposal Authorities
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, just issued the report Federal Land Ownership: Current Acquisition and Disposal Authorities (Dec. 13, 2012). The 14-page report authored by Carol Hardy Vincent, Laura B. Comay, M. Lynne Corn, and Katie Hoover discusses the following:
The federal government owns roughly 635 million acres, heavily concentrated in 12 western states. Four agencies—the National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture—administer about 95% of those lands.
The extent to which these four federal agencies have authority to acquire and dispose of land varies considerably. The BLM has relatively broad authority for both acquisitions and disposals under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. The agency has other authorities for disposing of land, including a law that allows transfers to governmental units and other entities for public purposes. By contrast, the NPS has no general authority to acquire land to create new park units or to dispose of park lands. The FS authority to acquire lands is mostly limited to lands within or contiguous to the boundaries of a national forest. The agency has various authorities to dispose of land, but they are relatively constrained and infrequently used. The FWS has various authorities to acquire lands, but no general authority to dispose of its lands. The agency frequently uses acquisition authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1929, because of the availability of funding through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.
Congress also enacts legislation authorizing and governing the acquisition or disposal of particular lands. In some cases this is to provide authority where no standing authority exists, while in other cases it is to direct or facilitate land transactions.
The nature of the acquisition and disposal authorities of the four federal agencies also varies. In general, the acquisition authorities are designed to allow the four agencies to bring into federal ownership lands that many contend could benefit from federal management. Disposal authorities generally are designed to allow agencies to convey land that is no longer needed for a federal purpose or that might be chiefly valuable for another purpose. Some of the authorities specify particular circumstances where they can be used, such as the conveyance of FS land for educational purposes.
Congress often faces questions on the adequacy of existing acquisition and disposal authorities the nature, extent, and location of their use; and the extent of federal land ownership overall. The current acquisition and disposal authorities form the backdrop for consideration of measures to establish, modify, or eliminate authorities, or to provide for the acquisition or disposal of particular lands. Congress also addresses acquisition and disposal policy in the context of debates on the role and goals of the federal government in owning and managing land generally, and has considered broader measures to dispose of lands or to promote acquisition.
Other issues for Congress pertain to the sources and adequacy of funds for land acquisition. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the primary source of funding for land acquisition. The FWS also has the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, an account with mandatory spending authorities supported by revenue from three sources. The BLM has authority allowing the proceeds from certain land sales to be used for acquisition and other purposes, although a more general authority of this nature has expired. Congress has considered legislation to increase LWCF funding and make it permanent, as well as to decrease federal land holdings to direct funding from land acquisition to facility maintenance.
This month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization," released a three-volume report titled, An Ecosystem Approach to Management of Seamounts in the Southern Indian Ocean (2012). The reports available as a downloadable pdfs are listed below:
- Volume 1: Overview of Seamount Ecosystems and Biodiversity
- Volume 2: Anthropogenic Theats to Seamount Ecosystems and Biodiversity
- Volume 3: Legal and Institutional Gap Analysis
Association of Clean Water Administrators Report Released: State Water Programs: Nutrient Reduction Programs and Methods
Last week, the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), "a national, nonpartisan professional organization . . . [whose] members are the State, Interstate and Territorial officials who are responsible for the implementation of surface water protection programs throughout the nation" issued a report titled, State Water Programs: Nutrient Reduction Programs and Methods (Dec. 2012). The 107-page report is available here (titled Nutrient Reduction Report 12-14-12).
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Congressional Research Service Report Released: Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, just issued the report Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation (Dec, 11, 2012). The 16-page report authored by Megan Stubbs discusses the following:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several permanently authorized programs to help producers recover from natural disasters. Most of these programs offer financial assistance to producers for a loss in the production of crops or livestock. In addition to the production assistance programs, USDA also has several permanent disaster assistance programs that help producers repair damaged crop and forest land following natural disasters. These programs offer financial and technical assistance to producers to repair, restore, and mitigate damage on private land. These emergency agricultural land assistance programs include the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), and the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. In addition to these programs, USDA also has flexibility in administering other programs that allow for support and repair of damaged cropland in the event of an emergency.
Both ECP and EFRP are administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). ECP assists landowners in restoring agricultural production damaged by natural disaster. Participants are paid a percentage of the cost to restore the land to a productive state. ECP is available only on private land and eligibility is determined locally. EFRP was created to assist private forestland owners to address damage caused by a natural disaster on nonindustrial private forest land. The EWP program and the EWP floodplain easement program are administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The EWP program assists sponsors, landowners, and operators in implementing emergency recovery measures for runoff retardation and erosion prevention to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by a natural disaster. In some cases this can include state and federal land. The EWP floodplain easement program is a mitigation program that pays for permanent easements on private land meant to safeguard lives and property from future floods, drought, and the products of erosion.
Most of the emergency agricultural land assistance programs are funded through supplemental appropriations, rather than annual appropriations. As a result, funding for emergency agricultural land assistance varies greatly from year to year. Agricultural land assistance programs do not usually receive the level of attention that triggers a supplemental appropriation. Therefore, funding is typically provided for these land assistance programs as part of a larger supplemental appropriation that funds a number of agencies and programs beyond agriculture. This irregular funding method has left some agricultural land assistance programs without funding during times of high request.
Recent restrictions placed on supplemental appropriations for disaster assistance have changed the way the agricultural land assistance programs allocate funding, potentially assisting fewer natural disasters. Language in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) limits emergency supplemental funding for disaster relief. Specifically, funding used for disaster relief must be used for activities carried out pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act, P.L. 93-288) for FY2012 through FY2021. This means funds appropriated through emergency supplementals for disaster relief for these ten years may only apply to activities with a Stafford Act designation. Since funding for agricultural land disaster assistance programs is appropriated almost exclusively through supplementals, this requirement could limit the way agricultural land assistance programs work in the future, potentially assisting
fewer natural disaster events.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, just issued the report Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (Dec, 11, 2012). The 26-page report authored by Linda-Jo Schierow, Renée Johnson, and M. Lynne Corn discusses the following:
Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States, the value of honey bees only as commercial pollinators in U.S. food production is estimated at about $15 billion to $20 billion annually. The estimated value of other types of insect pollinators, including wild bees, to U.S. food production is not available. Given their importance to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades. In the United States, commercial migratory beekeepers along the East Coast of the United States began reporting sharp declines in 2006 in their honey bee colonies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that overwinter colony losses from 2006 to 2011 averaged more than 32% annually. This issue remained legislatively active in the 110th Congress and resulted in increased funding for pollinator research, among other types of farm program support, as part of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). Congressional interest in the health of honey bees and other pollinators has continued in the 112th Congress (e.g., H.R. 2381, H.R. 6083, and S. 3240) and may extend into the 113th Congress.
- Describes changes in managed and wild bee populations, given readily available data and information. It focuses on managed and wild bees only, and excludes other types of pollinators, including other insects, birds, and bats. Data on managed honey bees are limited, and do not provide a comprehensive view of changes in bee populations. Data for wild bee populations are even more limited.
- Provides a listing of the range of possible factors thought to be negatively affecting managed and wild bee populations. In addition to pesticides, other identified factors include bee pests and diseases, diet and nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and other environmental stressors, and beekeeping management issues, as well as the possibility that bees are being negatively affected by cumulative, multiple exposures and/or the interactive effects of each of these factors.
- Briefly summarizes readily available scientific research and analysis regarding the potential role of pesticides among the factors affecting the health and wellbeing of bees, as well as the statutory authority and related regulatory activities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to pesticide use.
A 2007 report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Status ofPollinators in North America, provides a more detailed scientific context for this report and may be consulted for more in depth understanding about bee health. That study concluded that many factors contribute to pollinator declines in North America, and CRS accedes to that conclusion. Accordingly, the focus of this report on bee exposure to pesticides is not intended to imply that pesticides are any more important in influencing the health and wellness of bees than any of the other identified factors influencing bee health. Pesticides are only one of the many influences on bee health.Because neonicotinoid pesticides have been the focus of concerns in Europe and in the United States, this report briefly describes recent scientific research related to possible effects of exposure to these pesticides on bees. The report concludes with a summary of recent regulatory activity regarding neonicotinoids at EPA, the federal agency charged with assessing risks and regulating U.S. sale and use of pesticides.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, just issued the report Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues (Dec, 11, 2012). The 13-page report authored by Mark Holt discusses the following:
The policy debate over the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix is rooted in the technology’s fundamental characteristics. Nuclear reactors can produce potentially vast amounts of energy with relatively low consumption of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. However, facilities that produce nuclear fuel for civilian power reactors can also produce materials for nuclear weapons. The process of nuclear fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) to generate power also results in the production of radioactive material that must be contained in the reactor and can remain hazardous for thousands of years. How to manage the weapons proliferation and safety risks of nuclear power, or whether nuclear power is worth those risks, are issues that have long been debated in Congress.
The 104 licensed nuclear power reactors at 65 sites in the United States generate about 20% of the nation’s electricity. Five new reactors are currently licensed for construction. About a dozen more are planned, but whether they move forward will depend largely on their economic competitiveness with natural gas and coal plants. Throughout the world, 436 reactors are currently in service, and 62 more are under construction.
The March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan increased attention to nuclear safety throughout the world. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which issues and enforces nuclear safety requirements, established a task force to identify lessons from Fukushima applicable to U.S. reactors. The task force’s report led to NRC’s first Fukushima-related regulatory requirements on March 12, 2012. Several other countries, such as Germany and Japan, eliminated or reduced their planned future reliance on nuclear power after the accident.
Highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel that is regularly removed from nuclear power plants is currently stored at plant sites in the United States. Plans for a permanent underground repository at Yucca Mountain, NV, were abandoned by the Obama Administration, although that decision is being challenged in court. The Obama Administration appointed the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to recommend an alternative nuclear waste policy. The Commission recommended in January 2012 that new candidate sites for nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities be selected through a “consent based” process.
The level of security that must be provided at nuclear power plants has been a high-profile issue since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Since those attacks, NRC issued a series of orders and regulations that substantially increased nuclear plant security requirements, although industry critics contend that those measures are still insufficient.
Encouraging exports of U.S. civilian nuclear products, services, and technology while making sure they are not used for foreign nuclear weapons programs has long been a fundamental goal of U.S. nuclear energy policy. Recent proposals to build nuclear power plants in several countries in the less developed world, including the Middle East, have prompted concerns that international controls may prove inadequate.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Mineral Resources: Mineral Volume, Value, and Revenue GAO-13-45R (Nov. 15, 2012). The details of the 50-page report, available here, are discussed below:
Why GAO Did This Study
The Department of the Interior (Interior) administers minerals found in over 700 million acres of federal lands, 57 million acres on Indian lands, and 1.8 billion acres below offshore waters. Operators who lease these lands and extract these minerals pay billions of dollars annually that are shared among federal, state, and Indian tribal governments and are one of the largest nontax sources of revenue to the federal government. Some of these minerals, such as oil, gas, and coal, are available through leases requiring payments in the form of rents and bonuses, which are required to secure and maintain a lease, and royalties, which are based on the value of the minerals that are extracted. These minerals are generally known as leasable minerals. The Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) is responsible for compiling data on the volume and value of leasable minerals produced from all federal and Indian lands where there is a trust responsibility, and collecting the appropriate payments. In contrast, other minerals, such as gold, silver, and copper, are governed by the General Mining Act of 1872, which makes these minerals available to operators through a federal claim-patent system that provides the right to explore, extract, and develop the federal mineral deposit without having to pay a royalty. These minerals are generally known as hardrock minerals.
Congress asked us to review minerals extracted from federal lands. Our objectives were to provide information on the (1) volume and dollar value of leasable minerals extracted from federal lands and waters in fiscal years 2010 and 2011; (2) amount the federal government collected for leasable minerals in royalties, rents, bonuses, and other revenue and how this amount was calculated; and (3) availability of data on the volume and dollar value of hardrock minerals extracted from federal lands in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
Recently, the U.S. Dept of Interior Bureau of Land Reclamation released a study, titled Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (Dec. 2012). The details of the report, available here, are discussed is the executive summary excerpted below:
Funded by the Reclamation through the Basin Study Program under the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow) Program and the agencies The Study Area is shown in figure 1 and is defined as the hydrologic boundaries of the Basin within the United States, plus the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water. In many adjacent areas, the Colorado River supply is in addition to other water supply sources used to meet water demands representing the Basin States, the Study was conducted by Reclamation’s Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions and the representatives of the Basin States’ agencies. The purpose of the Study was to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water over the next 50 years (through 2060), and to develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.
The Study did not result in a decision as to how future imbalances should or will be addressed. Rather, the Study provides a common technical foundation that frames the range of potential imbalances that may be faced in the future and the range of solutions that may be considered to resolve those imbalances.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
This week, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a bridge agency established in 1979 to "support[ ] the Director of National Intelligence in his role as head of the Intelligence Community," released its annual report titled, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (2012). The 160-page report available here, which discusses issues of food, water, climate change, and energy,
Global Trends 2025
Global Trends 2020
Global Trends 2015
Global Trends 2010
is intended to stimulate thinking about the rapid and vast geopolitical changes characterizing the world today and possible global trajectories over the next 15 years. As with the NIC’s previous Global Trends reports, we do not seek to predict the future—which would be an impossible feat—but instead provide a framework for thinking about possible futures and their implications.
In-depth research, detailed modeling and a variety of analytical tools drawn from public, private and academic sources were employed in the production of Global Trends 2030. NIC leadership engaged with experts in nearly 20 countries—from think tanks, banks, government offices and business groups—to solicit reviews of the report.Prior versions of the report are available here:
Global Trends 2025
Global Trends 2020
Global Trends 2015
Global Trends 2010
This month, the United Nations Environment Programme released a booklet titled, Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions for 2012. The 91-page document available here, "presents 24 case studies from 17 countries on grassroots solutions to the impacts of climate change." According to UNEP,
[t]hese solutions come at a critical time. As never before the world is in a race against time to act on climate change or face cataclysmic natural disasters. Heat waves, droughts and flooding, we have seen them all. While vulnerability to climate change poses risks to all communities, the impacts are likely to be tilted against many of the world's poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional and technical ability to adapt and cope.
Seeds of Knowledge aims to show that grassroots, community-led responses are already playing an essential role in building resilience to climate change across all regions of the world. With the right levels of investment and support, such initiatives can be scaled up and become a central component in reducing climate risks and supporting the transition to an inclusive Green Economy.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Center for Progressive Reform Issue Alert Released: Protecting People and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen Seven New Executive Orders for President Obama’s Second Term
Recently, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), "a nonprofit research and educational organization . . . working to protect health, safety, and the environment through analysis and commentary," published an issue alert titled, Protecting People and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen Seven New Executive Orders for President Obama’s Second Term (2012). According to the press release for the 30-page alert available here, CPR recommends:
seven Executive Orders for the second term of the Obama Administration, all of which are directed at addressing critical public health, safety, and environmental challenges. Each Order directs government agencies to take specific steps to create meaningful new safeguards for people and the environment. Adopting and successfully carrying out these recommendations would help to cement President Obama’s legacy as a strong defender of public health, safety, and the environment.
- Executive Order to Take Action on Climate Change Mitigation. This Order would set a detailed regulatory agenda directing the EPA to fulfill its obligations under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources. The Order would instruct the EPA to finalize its proposed standards for new or modified power plants and oil refineries, and most crucially, to develop standards for a variety of existing sources—all within stated deadlines that would signal the Administration’s commitment to timely, unimpeded progress.
- Executive Order to Prioritize and Coordinate Planning for Climate Change Adaptation. This Order would require agencies to consider how climate change will affect their proposed and ongoing activities and to design their actions in ways that ease, rather than exacerbate, the challenges faced by communities and ecosystems. So, for example, agencies involved in setting policy for coastal development, including federal flood insurance, should develop new rules that discourage building in areas likely to be overcome by sea-level rise. Agencies concerned with ecosystem preservation should consider whether moving species north could protect them as temperatures increase.
- Executive Order to Avoid Dangerous Imports. This Order would create a Cabinet-level Working Group to address the cross-cutting problems posed by imported foods, drugs, and consumer products, focusing primarily on ways to hold importers accountable for verifying the safety of their suppliers’ products and to expand enforcement authority over foreign companies. Under the Order, the Working Group would also study the value and feasibility of other options, such as requiring agencies to pre-approve the equivalence of foreign safety systems, addressing the obstacles to reform presented by trade agreements, and improving coordination among the agencies.
- Executive Order to Protect the Health and Safety of Children and Future Generations. This Order would charge an interagency Task Force with developing and carrying out an affirmative agenda of coordinated regulatory actions to address high priority threats to the health and safety of children and future generations. The agenda setting process would be iterative, and the first iteration would address children’s workplace health and safety, asthma, toxic chemicals, and climate change.
- Executive Order to Protect Contingent Workers. This Order would tailor OSHA’s existing enforcement and voluntary consultation programs to better account for the unique occupational safety and health challenges that contingent workers face. Contingent workers are a growing subset of the labor force, and include, for example, construction and farming day laborers, warehouse laborers hired through staffing agencies, and hotel housekeepers supplied by temp firms. Though “contingent work” is not easily defined, from a worker’s perspective, the most salient characteristic of contingent work is the absence of an express or implied contract for long-term employment. The Order would also establish an affirmative regulatory agenda to protect contingent workers against musculoskeletal injuries and expand OSHA’s cooperation efforts with the foreign consulates for countries that have large numbers of their nationals employed as contingent workers in the United States.
- Executive Order to Reform OIRA’s Role in the Regulatory System. This Order would reorient OIRA’s role in the regulatory system so that it is aimed toward working proactively with agencies to help them achieve their statutory missions of protecting public health, safety, and the environment. This Order would rescind requirements for cost-benefit analysis, eschew review of minor rule makings, improve transparency, and charge OIRA with addressing the problem of regulatory delay.
- Executive Order to Restore the SBA Office of Advocacy’s Focus on Small Businesses. This Order would direct the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy to focus its rulemaking interventions so that they help truly small businesses—those with 20 or fewer employees—and to assist these truly small businesses participate more effectively in the rulemaking process. This Order would also revoke an existing Executive Order that directs the Office of Advocacy to work closely with OIRA.
Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report titled Status and Trends of Land Change in the United States--1973 to 2000 (2012) (USGS Professional Paper: 1794). The 336-page paper available here, "is the first in a four-volume series on the status and trends of the Nation’s land use and land cover, providing an assessment of the rates and causes of land-use and land-cover change in the Western United States between 1973 and 2000. Volumes B, C, and D provide similar analyses for the Great Plains, the Midwest–South Central United States, and the Eastern United States, respectively."
USGS Report Released: Century-scale Perspective on Water Quality in Selected River Basins of the Conterminous United States
Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report titled Century-scale Perspective on Water Quality in Selected River Basins of the Conterminous United States (USGS Sci. Invstgn Rep. 2012-5225). The 120-page report available here, discusses:
[n]utrient pollution in the form of excess nitrogen and phosphorus inputs is a well-known cause of water-quality degradation that has affected water bodies across the Nation throughout the 20th century. The recognition of excess nutrients as pollution developed later than the recognition of other water-quality problems, such as waterborne illness, industrial pollution, and organic wastes. Nevertheless, long-term analysis of nutrient pollution is fundamental to our understanding of the current magnitude of the problem, as well the origins and the effects. This report describes the century-scale changes in water quality across a range streams in order to place current water-quality concerns in historical context and presents this history on a national scale as well as for selected river reaches. The primary focus is on nutrient pollution, but the development and societal responses to other water-quality problems also are considered. Land use and agriculture in the selected river reaches also are analyzed to consider how these factors may relate to nutrient pollution. Finally, the availability of relevant nutrient and inorganic carbon data are presented for the selected river reaches. Sources of these data included Federal agencies, State-level reports, municipal public works facilities, public health surveys, and sanitary surveys. The availability of these data extends back more than a century for most of the selected river reaches and suggests that there is a tremendous opportunity to document the development of nutrient pollution in these river reaches.
Ceres & World Wildlife Fund Report Released: Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy
Yesterday, Ceres an international "advocate for sustainability leadership" and the World Wildlife Fund, a leading conservation organization focused on saving endangered species, issued a report titled, Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy (2012). According to the press release for the 48-page report available here,
Large corporations are increasingly turning to renewable energy to power their operations. Companies are investing in renewable energy because it makes good business sense: renewable energy helps reduce long-term operating costs, diversify energy supply and hedge against market volatility in traditional fuel markets. It also enables companies to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals and demonstrate leadership on broader corporate sustainability and climate commitments.
This report shows that a majority of Fortune 100 companies have set a renewable energy commitment, a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction commitment or both. The trend is even stronger internationally, as more than two-thirds of Fortune’s Global 100 have set the same commitments.
Through two dozen interviews with Fortune and Global 100 executives and analysis of public disclosures, the report finds that clean energy practices are becoming standard procedures for some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world, including AT&T, DuPont, General Motors, HP, Sprint, and Walmart.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Product Safety Laboratories OSHA's Accreditation Process Needs Reexamination GAO-13-88 (Dec. 11, 2012). The details of the 45-page report, available here, are discussed below:
Why GAO did this study
American workers interact with many types of products that could pose risks to their safety. The NRTL program, administered by OSHA, works to support employers and workers by establishing a process for safety-testing certain equipment and other products for use in the U.S. workplace. Under this program, which is supported by user fees, OSHA accredits third-party labs as NRTLs, which then determine whether certain types of products meet safety standards. Because the availability of NRTLs is essential to ensuring that employers have timely access to products that meet safety standards, GAO was asked to examine (1) how long it takes to make accreditation decisions and the key factors that affect timeliness, and (2) the extent to which OSHA has adopted commonly used strategies for improving timeliness. GAO reviewed relevant documents and data from OSHA; interviewed OSHA officials, other NRTL stakeholders, and officials from four federal agencies that administer accreditation programs for other purposes; and reviewed information on strategies for improving timeliness from past GAO reports and other sources.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that Labor review its current structure and procedures for accrediting NRTLs and implement alternatives that would maintain effectiveness while improving timeliness. Labor agreed with the recommendations and described its plans to address them.
Environment Northeast Report Released: RGGI’s Past and Future: Emissions Trends and Potential Reforms
Recently, Environment Northeast, a "a non-profit organization [focused] on efforts to combat global warming and promote clean energy and clean air solutions in New England and Eastern Canada," released a report titled, RGGI’s Past and Future: Emissions Trends and Potential Reforms (2012). The 6-page report available here, found the following:
Summary of Key Findings
- 2012 emissions are projected at 91,017,970 tons or 45% below the RGGI cap.
- Electricity prices across the region have decreased by 10% since RGGI’s launch.
- Electric sector trends responsible for low emissions – increasing natural gas and renewable generation, growing investments in energy efficiency, and decoupling of economic growth and emissions – show no signs of reversing, suggesting that emissions will remain low.
- Of four cap proposals by the states, the highest three would not reduce emissions from current levels, and lowest one would cause emissions to decline slightly. Economic analysis shows net benefits for all of the proposals, with the highest level of benefits from the lowest caps.
- RGGI reforms have implications beyond the region, as federal regulations of greenhouse gas emissions may lead other states to join RGGI.
Accenture Report Released: Water and Shale Gas Development - Leveraging the US Experience in New Shale Developments
Yesterday, Accenture "a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company," released a new report titled, Water and Shale Gas Development - Leveraging the US Experience in New Shale Developments (2012). According to the abstract for the 72-page report available here,
Shale gas development has transformed the US energy landscape and global development of shale gas resources has the potential to expand significantly outside the United States.
However, there continue to be environmental concerns, particularly with respect to water use. There are many lessons that can be taken from the United States’ experience. Accenture’s upcoming study “Water and Shale Gas Development: Leveraging the US experience in new shale developments” focuses on three key aspects of water and shale gas development.
These are water regulation, water management and water movements. The report highlights areas that operators of new shale developments should consider. It also includes an analysis of considerations for Argentina, China, Poland and South Africa. The report concludes with lessons learned for new shale developments and implications for operators.
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), released the Fuel Economy Guide for 2013. According to the EPA press release for the 40-page report available here,
In addition, the DOE's interactive Find-A-Car search "provides [user's with] the most up-to-date fuel economy information for vehicles from model year 1984 to the present, along with environmental and safety data."
the 2013 Fuel Economy Guide, giving consumers clear and easy-to-read information to help them choose the most fuel efficient and low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles that meet their needs. The 2013 models include efficient and low-emission vehicles in a variety of classes and sizes, but notable this year is the growing availability of hybrids and the increasing number of electric vehicles.
This year’s guide gives consumers a broad range of information that they can use to select their next fuel efficient vehicle, whether they want to consider an electric vehicle or one that uses a more conventional fuel. This year, for the first time, EPA and DOE have added a second top ten list of most efficient vehicles -- separating advanced technology vehicles from conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. Electric and plug-in hybrid electric models are the most fuel-efficient and lowest-emission vehicles available today and are becoming more common. At the same time, consumers may still look up the conventional gasoline and diesel models that offer superior fuel efficiency.Prior versions of the Guide are available here.
In addition, the DOE's interactive Find-A-Car search "provides [user's with] the most up-to-date fuel economy information for vehicles from model year 1984 to the present, along with environmental and safety data."
Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World (2012). This 384-page text is authored by Steven Mithen, a Professor of Early Prehistory and Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Reading. The book, a work of environmental history, examines the successes and failures of humanity's last 10,000 years attempts at water management. Recognizing the historic importance of the commodification of water, the author reviews the terraforming and hydraulic engineering feats of ancient civilizations in an effort to provide us with more insight into the water crisis facing our world today.
New Library Acquisitions:
Argentina : environmental, geographical and cultural issues / Angelo E. Rossi and Lola S. Miranda, editors
The sixth extinction : patterns of life and the future of humankind / Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin
Friday, December 7, 2012
This month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an international non-profit environmental advocacy and action group which focuses on the protection of wildlife and habitat issues a report titled, Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States (Dec. 2012). According to the press release for the 36-page report available here, the report
details how the $12.2 billion winter tourism industry spread out across 38 states has experienced an estimated $1 billion loss and up to 27,000 fewer jobs over the last decade due to diminished snow fall patterns and the resulting changes in the outdoor habits of Americans, according to the new study prepared for the nonprofit groups Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Environmental Integrity Project Report: The Clean Water Act and the Chesapeake Enforcement’s Critical Role in Restoring the Bay
Yesterday, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for more effective enforcement of environmental laws" just issued a report titled, The Clean Water Act and the Chesapeake Enforcement’s Critical Role in Restoring the Bay (2012). According to the press release for the 50-page report available here,
[t]here have been some impressive gains in reducing nitrogen pollution of the Chesapeake Bay by municipal and industrial sources, but achieving further reductions will require tougher state permitting and improved oversight of the results, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).
EIP found that nitrogen discharges from industrial and municipal sewage treatment plants to the Chesapeake Bay watershed declined significantly in Maryland and Virginia in 2011, thanks to a big public investment in sewage treatment upgrades in both states. Pennsylvania nitrogen loadings from these point sources actually increased 4 percent in 2011, moving that state further from achieving Bay water quality goals that begin to take effect in 2017.
. . .
The EIP report focuses on industrial and municipal point sources – the public sewage systems and industrial plants that account for about 20 percent of the nitrogen and nearly a quarter of the phosphorus that ends up in the Bay. These pollutants promote algae growth and rob the Bay of the oxygen needed to sustain fish and other aquatic life. The Bay clean-up plan adopted by EPA sets targets for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus from these point sources based on "wasteload allocations" that limit annual discharges from the biggest plants.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Clean Air Act Task Force Report Released: Good News from the Dump: Methane Emissions from Solid Waste: Current Conditions and Future Prospects
Yesterday, the Clean Air Act Task Force (CATF), pro-environmental "nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing atmospheric pollution through research, advocacy, and private sector collaboration," issued a report titled, Good News from the Dump: Methane Emissions from Solid Waste: Current Conditions and Future Prospects (2012). According to the press release for the 96-page report available here,
In a new study of current levels and future trends of global methane emissions from municipal solid waste, Clean Air Task Force has put annual methane emissions at around 10 million metric tonnes, significantly lower than the commonly reported value of 35 million metric tonnes found by other sources that rely on the methodologies of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.
. . .
The study looks at the primary means of solid waste disposal, including landfills, composting, thermal processing (including incineration for energy production), anaerobic digestion (primarily sewage sludge from livestock operations with minimal methane recovery), integrated waste recycling and recovery, and aerobic composting of organic content. In addition, trends in the growth of each of these techniques, with consequent methane emissions, are projected out to the year 2030.