Thursday, February 28, 2013

USGS Report Released: Monitoring Storm Tide and Flooding from Hurricane Sandy Along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, October 2012

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report titled Monitoring Storm Tide and Flooding From Hurricane Sandy along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, October 2012 (USGS Open-File Rep. 2013-1043). The 48-page report available here, discusses the following:
[t]he U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) deployed a temporary monitoring network of water-level and barometric pressure sensors at 224 locations along the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Maine to continuously record the timing, areal extent, and magnitude of hurricane storm tide and coastal flooding generated by Hurricane Sandy. These records were greatly supplemented by an extensive post-flood high-water mark (HWM) flagging and surveying campaign from November to December 2012 involving more than 950 HWMs. Both efforts were undertaken as part of a coordinated federal emergency response as outlined by the Stafford Act under a directed mission assignment by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

CRS Report Released: Environmental Regulation and Agriculture

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Environmental Regulation and Agriculture (Feb. 22, 2013). The 51-page report authored by Megan Stubbs discusses the following:


As the U.S. and global economies continue to struggle, some inside and outside of Congress have expressed concern about how environmental regulation may stifle growth and productivity. Much of the criticism has focused on environmental regulations promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some claim that EPA is overreaching its regulatory authority and imposing costly and burdensome requirements on society. In general, the agriculture community, among others, has been vocal in its concerns, contending that EPA appears to be focusing some of its recent regulatory efforts on agriculture. Many public health and environmental advocates, on the other hand, support many of EPA’s overall regulatory efforts and in some cases argue that EPA has not taken adequate action to control the impacts of certain agricultural activities. Where agriculture contributes to environmental impairment, these groups say, it is appropriate to consider ways to minimize or eliminate the adverse impacts.
Growing interest in the impact of regulatory actions on many sectors of the economy is evident in Congress, which continues to examine the role of EPA and other federal agencies in regulating environmental protection. Congress has a number of policy options to address or respond to potential regulatory impacts
Most environmental regulations, in terms of permitting, inspection and enforcement, are implemented by state and local governments, often based on federal EPA regulatory guidance. In some cases, agriculture is the direct or primary focus of the regulatory actions. In other cases, agriculture is one of many affected sectors. Traditionally, farm and ranch operations have been exempt or excluded from many environmental regulations. Given the agricultural sector’s size and its potential to affect its surrounding environment, there is interest in both managing potential impacts of agricultural actions on the environment and also maintaining an economically viable agricultural industry. Of particular interest to agriculture are a number of regulatory actions affecting air, water, energy, and chemicals.
Agricultural production practices from both livestock and crop operations generate a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere, potentially creating health and environmental issues. Recent actions by EPA to regulate emissions and pollutants have drawn criticism, including greenhouse gas emission reporting and permitting requirements, and National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) related to particulate matter (commonly referred to as dust). The agricultural community continues to show particular interest in NAAQS because some farming and livestock practices contribute to particulate matter emissions.
Water quality issues also are of interest to the agricultural industry. Water is an input for production and can also be degraded as a result of production through the potential release of sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and pesticides. The extent and magnitude of water quality degradation from agriculture practices varies greatly, but agriculture is proven to be a significant source of impairment of several U.S. waters. Federal environmental laws largely do not regulate agricultural actors, in many cases giving the regulatory responsibilities to the states. One exception is large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are subject to permitting requirements. Constraints on agricultural production to reduce pollution discharges typically arise at the state level in response to local concerns, and how to manage agricultural sources has been a prominent issue in several large watershed restoration efforts, such as those in the Chesapeake Bay and Florida Everglades.
Changes in energy policy, namely increased bioenergy production, have recently become important to many in the agricultural industry, based on the potential of corn-based biofuel production to contribute to the nation’s energy supply through both the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and the increased percentage of ethanol in gasoline (E15).
Hundreds of chemical products are available to repel or kill “pests” that affect agricultural production. The federal regulation of these chemicals includes registering and restricting their use. The risks associated with agricultural chemical use and possible impacts on human health and the environment also have led to recent federal regulatory reviews of chemical fertilizer and pesticide use.

CRS Report Released: Oil Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline: Background and Selected Environmental Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Oil Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline: Background and Selected Environmental Issues (Feb. 21, 2013). The 56-page report authored by Jonathan L. Ramseur, Richard K. Lattanzio, Linda Luther, Paul W. Parfomak, and Nicole T. Carter discusses the following:


If constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil (e.g., synthetic crude oil or diluted bitumen) derived from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to destinations in the United States. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it requires a Presidential Permit that is issued by the Department of State (DOS). The permit decision rests on a “national interest” determination, a term not defined in the authorizing Executive Orders. DOS states that it has “significant discretion” in the factors it examines in this determination.
Key events related to the Presidential Permit include
  • September 19, 2008: TransCanada submitted an application for a Presidential Permit for its Keystone XL pipeline.
  •  November 10, 2011: DOS announced it needed additional information concerning alternative pipeline routes through the Nebraska Sandhills.
  • January 18, 2012: In response to a legislative mandate in P.L. 112-78, DOS, with the President’s consent, announced its denial of the Keystone XL permit.
  • May 4, 2012: TransCanada submitted a revised permit application to DOS.
  • January 22, 2013: Nebraska Governor approved TransCanada’s new route through Nebraska.
Although some groups have opposed previous oil pipeline permits, opposition to the Keystone XL proposal has generated substantially more interest among environmental stakeholders. Pipeline opponents are not a monolithic group: some raise concerns about potential local impacts, such as oil spills or extraction impacts in Canada; some argue the pipeline would have national energy and climate change policy implications.
A number of key studies indicate that oil sands crude has a higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity than many other forms of crude oil. The primary reason for the higher intensity: oil sands are heavy oils with a high viscosity, requiring more energy- and resourceintensive activities to extract. However, analytical results vary due to different modeling assumptions. Moreover, industry stakeholders point out that many analyses indicate that GHG emissions from oil sands crude oil are comparable to other heavy crudes, some of which are produced and/or consumed in the United States.
Because of oil sands’ increased emissions intensity, further oil sands development runs counter to some stakeholders’ energy and climate change policy objectives. These objectives may vary based on differing views concerning the severity of climate change risk and/or the need for significant mitigation efforts. Opponents worry that oil sands crude oil will account for a greater percentage of U.S. oil consumption over time, making GHG emissions reduction more difficult.
On the other hand, neither issuance of a Presidential Permit nor increased oil sands development would preclude the implementation of energy/climate policies that would support less carbon intensive fuels or energy efficiency improvements.
A primary local/regional environmental concern of any oil pipeline is the risk of a spill. Environmental groups have argued that both the pipeline’s operating parameters and the material being transported imposes an increased risk of spill. Industry stakeholders have been critical of these assertions. To examine the concerns, Congress included provisions in P.L. 112-90 requiring a review of current oil pipeline regulations and a risk analysis of oil sands crude.
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and oil sands development often highlight the environmental impacts that pertain to the region in which the oil sands resources are extracted. Potential impacts include, among others, land disturbance and water resource issues. In general, these local/regional impacts from Canadian oil sands development may not directly affect public health or the environment in the United States. Within the context of a Presidential Permit, the mechanism to consider local Canadian impacts is unclear.

CRS Report Released: National Park System: What Do the Different Park Titles Signify?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report National Park System: What Do the Different Park Titles Signify? (Feb. 20, 2013). The 17-page report authored by Laura B. Comay discusses the following:


Congress names individual units of the National Park System in the enabling legislation for each unit. In so doing, Congress establishes the range of titles used in the park system. The system’s 398 units currently bear a wide range of titles—national park, national monument, national preserve, national historic site, national recreation area, national battlefield, and many others. This report addresses the significance of the different titles and discusses potential advantages and disadvantages of systemwide recommendations to simplify park nomenclature.
Legislators are concerned with park titles in several ways. First, Congress must determine appropriate titles for individual units when parks are established. Although the laws, regulations, and policies governing the National Park System generally apply to all units regardless of title, some meaningful differences nonetheless exist among the designations. Congress has grouped similar units under similar titles and has authorized resource-intensive activities, such as sport hunting or off-road vehicle use, in some types of units more than in others. In particular, Congress has been reluctant to allow such activities in national parks, but has authorized them in national preserves, national recreation areas, and national seashores and lakeshores, among other areas. A few unit titles are further associated with specific statutory authorities that govern their creation or development. National monuments, for example, can be proclaimed by the President under the Antiquities Act of 1906 (whereas other types of units cannot). National scenic trails and wild and scenic rivers are subject to requirements of the National Trails System Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-543) and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-542), respectively, as well as general park authorities.
In addition to naming units when they are established, Congress also considers many proposals to retitle existing park units. Among other things, such proposals may aim to increase visitation at a given unit and thus to boost local and regional economies. For example, studies have suggested that the “national park” title attracts visitors and may bring economic benefits. Partly for this reason, local stakeholders have sometimes advocated for a name change to “national park” in units bearing other titles. Those opposing redesignations may be concerned that unwanted restrictions would be pursued along with a change in title.
An issue for Congress is whether the current wide array of park titles should be consolidated. The House Natural Resources Committee explored this question in 2010 hearings. The National Parks Second Century Commission, and the National Park Service (NPS) itself, have recommended reducing the number of park titles to better “brand” the units and make them more recognizable as part of the park system. Such branding could potentially bring more visitors to underrecognized units and thus help businesses in surrounding communities. On the other hand, the current, more loosely structured system maximizes Congress’s flexibility to title units to reflect their unique features.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spotlight: WebSoilSurvey – Accessible Soils Information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)

By, Yiyi Wong, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School

Environmental practitioners involved in land use, remediation, restoration, and real estate transactions who have trouble locating accurate soils data now have a free tool provided by USDA-NRCS to increase their knowledge of a geographic area or aid in case research.

USDA-NRCS was originally established by Congress in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS).  However, as the SCS became more involved environmental and natural resource conservation, this branch was renamed NRCS.  The purpose of NRCS is to lead conservation for all natural resources, ensure conservation and restoration of private lands, and to work with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that result in stewardship of productive and healthy ecosystems.

WebSoilSurvey (WSS) was developed to provide resources to anyone interested in soils information provided by NRCS' Soil Survey Division.  It is operated by NRCS and provides access to the largest natural resource information system worldwide.  This web based application draws from soils data collected and compiled by the Soil Survey Staff for 95% of the U.S.  In the near future, WSS plans to have 100% coverage of the U.S.  This site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.

WSS is an easy to use interactive website which allows a user to access available NRCS soils data for any environmental legal application.  To generate a map for negotiations or court, one only needs to know the geographic area of interest.  WSS may be searched by keywords, geographic coordinates, and agency collaborators and/or federal landowners e.g. the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  Once the image is created, users are allowed to print or purchase the displayed soils information.  

If a user does not understand any related terms, a fully documented description of soil characteristics and other databases used in the production of the interactive map are available in the left hand column.  Of interest to the user will be the Official Soil Series Description, the Soil Geochemistry Spatial Databases, the Soil Quality and Health website, and the Soil Geography databases.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spotlight: Union of Concerned Scientists

By, John W. Bowie, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a nonprofit organization aimed at placing scientific integrity and discourse at the center of political and environmental debates. UCS offers numerous publications on a wide variety of subjects, including global warming, clean vehicles, clean energy, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and global security, food and agriculture, and scientific integrity. The UCS website offers comprehensive background information on all of these topics directly through its website, which can be navigated through an easily accessible topic menu on the left hand side of the homepage. Each of these topics opens to a summary page with easy to navigate links for more information on specific topics. A practitioner can get an excellent overview of a complicated topic through the website alone.
In addition to substantial background information on this variety of topics, UCS offers links to regional materials on global warming, clean vehicles, and clean energy. These regional resources offer news posts, legislation and analysis of relevant issues for the select region. These regional resources can be accessed through the left-hand sidebar subtopics nested within the overarching topic.
UCS offers robust resources on the nuclear industry, including specific interactive tools relating to the nuclear industry, such as a Nuclear Information Tracker and advanced resources documenting nuclear weapons facilities. In general, the UCS resources provide a useful counterpoint to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's internet resources. An alternate source of information on Nuclear Energy and Weapons Facilities could prove useful to both industry and citizen groups participating in the permit renewal process for local nuclear facilities.
The search function on the UCS site is a custom Google search with no advanced options, which may discourage some users. However, this limitation should not immediately limit use of the resource. UCS topics and filing seem to be very thorough, which means even a basic search provides decent results. These results include articles from back issues of the UCS periodicals, which are available as free online resources.
Finally, the Union of Concerned Scientists offer a large selection of technical reports which deepen into the larger overview topics, accessible through their publications page. These publications are general found through a topic menu, similar to the homepage topic menu. In addition to these topics, the publications page has links to UCS periodicals such as Catalyst magazine, the Earthwise newsletter, the Greentips e-newsletter and other selected publications. A practitioner can find a substantial amount of scientific and policy information through these publications. Most UCS publications are available free online, however, a few must be purchased. As one of the central tenets of the Union of Concerned Scientists is preserving and promoting scientific integrity, the resources available through UCS are typically of high quality and low bias. The Union of Concerned Scientists scored 67 out of 70 on Charity Navigator's independent review of Accountability and Transparency of the organization. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a quality resource of independent scientific reports and tools for legal practitioners, policy makers and engaged citizens.

Spotlight: World Resources Institute

By, Kimberly Pierce Cortes, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global environmental think tank whose mission is “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” WRI focuses its work on four key program areas: 1) climate, energy, and transport, 2) governance and access, 3) markets and enterprise, and 4) people and ecosystems.

WRI is a prolific publisher—ten new publications in December 2012 alone—with data and other relevant information for each of its program areas. This information is accessible via the publications page. The archive dates back to 1984 and includes 608 entries. There is no advanced search feature, but the search engine can be narrowed by topic. Although not especially sophisticated, the search engine does turn up relevant publications as well as relevant excerpts available directly on the website with links to the larger report. For an example, see this excerpt on nuclear energy in the United States, part of a larger report on energy options in the U.S. For publications not available online, WRI will ship print copies for a small fee to cover the cost of printing and shipping.

In addition to publications, WRI provides access to data sets and charts and maps. Data sets include U.S. state level data and global data on greenhouse gas emissions, along with more specific information on ecosystems both globally and for select countries. The charts and maps feature is very similar to the publications search, allowing you to narrow by topic and search across all WRI info-graphics.

Spotlight: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

By Nicole C. Sasaki, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions—C2ES—is “an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to advance strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change.” Although C2ES was launched only in November 2011, it has its roots in the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, an organization recognized nationally and internationally as “an influential and pragmatic voice on climate issues.” The organization’s purpose is to provide "timely, impartial information and analysis on the scientific, economic, technological and policy dimensions of climate and energy challenges." C2ES is primarily sponsored by major energy corporations. The organization lists GE, HP, Entergy, and Shell as strategic partners, and Alcoa Foundation, Bank of America, Duke Energy, The Energy Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund as major contributors. Despite the corporate funding, C2ES maintains its research independence, emphasizing that the organization exercises independent judgment and assumes sole responsibility for its policies, projects, and publications.

Of interest to environmental legal researchers is C2ES’s Publications Library, accessible by clicking the link for “Publications” in the top right-hand corner of any page within the website.

The scope of the C2ES Publications Library is limited to materials dating back only to 1998. Relevant topics include electric vehicles, energy and technology, federal, international, science, and U.S. states and regions. Types of publications include articles, briefs, fact sheets, reports, and papers. This resource would be of value to environmental researchers looking for current and recent resources on climate and energy. In addition, there are publications on international topics. However, researchers should note that these publications sacrifice peer review in exchange for currency.

Before searching the C2ES Publications Library, researchers should click on “Filter by Keywords” and scroll through the keywords listed to see how C2ES categorizes its materials.For example, researchers interested in hydro-fracking will find that C2ES does not use the common terms“hydraulic fracturing,” “hydro-fracking,” or “fracking,” but has instead categorized this subject area as “natural gas.” Search terms can be entered into either of the search boxes, but it should be noted that the search boxes do not recognize Boolean operators. The filters can be modified as to date, topic, author and/or publication type by using each filter’s own comprehensive drop-down menu of options. Entering keywords listed in the dropdown menu into either of the search boxes returns more relevant results than by filtering using the same keywords.Therefore, filtering by keywords is not recommended.Researchers should track their search terms, because once the search has been conducted, the search boxes automatically reset.Search results can be further narrowed by conducting a CTRL-F search, but researchers should be aware that only publication titles, not contents, are searched.

Search results are shown in reverse chronological order, are formatted as either images or PDFs, and are available for free downloading or a free copy can be ordered from C2ES. Search results can be selected by clicking on either the publication name or “Read More.”

This will take the researcher to a new page that summarizes the publication and has a hyperlink for the publication itself.

Outside of the Publications Library, environmental legal researchers may be interested in the Congressional Testimony subtopic within C2ES’s Newsroom, accessible by clicking on the link “Congressional Testimony” in the bottom right-hand corner of any page within the website.

IEA Report Released: Developing a Natural Gas Trading Hub in Asia

Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) "an autonomous organisation which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond," released a new report titled, Developing a Natural Gas Trading Hub in Asia (2013). The 86-page report is available here:
Among the report’s key findings and recommendations are the following:
  • Current market structures discourage gas consumption and impact Asian competitiveness vis-à-vis more flexible markets in the US and even Europe;
  • OECD experience suggests that the single biggest obstacle for an effective gas market is a lack of infrastructure access;
  • The role of governments must change: Instead of focusing on price regulation along the value chain, governments must maintain and supervise competitive market conditions;
  • Credible state commitment to regional gas market competition can instill confidence, encourage new market participants, and promote the use of transparent hubs to balance producer portfolios;
  • Transport and commercial activities should be separated and prices deregulated at the wholesale level;
  • Singapore holds the best initial prospects for gas hub development, with Japan, Korea, and China as likely competitors in the future.

USGS Report Released: Organic Contaminants, Trace and Major Elements, and Nutrients in Water and Sediment Sampled in Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report titled Organic Contaminants, Trace and Major Elements, and Nutrients in Water and Sediment Sampled in Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (USGS Sci. Invstgn Rep. 2012-5228). The 110-page report available here, discusses:
[b]each water and sediment samples were collected along the Gulf of Mexico coast to assess differences in contaminant concentrations before and after landfall of Macondo-1 well oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the sinking of the British Petroleum Corporation's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. Samples were collected at 70 coastal sites between May 7 and July 7, 2010, to document baseline, or "pre-landfall" conditions. A subset of 48 sites was resampled during October 4 to 14, 2010, after oil had made landfall on the Gulf of Mexico coast, called the "post-landfall" sampling period, to determine if actionable concentrations of oil were present along shorelines. Few organic contaminants were detected in water; their detection frequencies generally were low and similar in pre-landfall and post-landfall samples. Only one organic contaminant--toluene--had significantly higher concentrations in post-landfall than pre-landfall water samples. No water samples exceeded any human-health benchmarks, and only one post-landfall water sample exceeded an aquatic-life benchmark--the toxic-unit benchmark for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) mixtures. In sediment, concentrations of 3 parent PAHs and 17 alkylated PAH groups were significantly higher in post-landfall samples than pre-landfall samples. One pre-landfall sample from Texas exceeded the sediment toxic-unit benchmark for PAH mixtures; this site was not sampled during the post-landfall period. Empirical upper screening-value benchmarks for PAHs in sediment were exceeded at 37 percent of post-landfall samples and 22 percent of pre-landfall samples, but there was no significant difference in the proportion of samples exceeding benchmarks between paired pre-landfall and post-landfall samples. Seven sites had the largest concentration differences between post-landfall and pre-landfall samples for 15 alkylated PAHs. Five of these seven sites, located in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, had diagnostic geochemical evidence of Macondo-1 oil in post-landfall sediments and tarballs. For trace and major elements in water, analytical reporting levels for several elements were high and variable. No human-health benchmarks were exceeded, although these were available for only two elements. Aquatic-life benchmarks for trace elements were exceeded in 47 percent of water samples overall. The elements responsible for the most exceedances in post-landfall samples were boron, copper, and manganese. Benchmark exceedances in water could be substantially underestimated because some samples had reporting levels higher than the applicable benchmarks (such as cobalt, copper, lead and zinc) and some elements (such as boron and vanadium) were analyzed in samples from only one sampling period. For trace elements in whole sediment, empirical upper screening-value benchmarks were exceeded in 57 percent of post-landfall samples and 40 percent of pre-landfall samples, but there was no significant difference in the proportion of samples exceeding benchmarks between paired pre-landfall and post-landfall samples. Benchmark exceedance frequencies could be conservatively high because they are based on measurements of total trace-element concentrations in sediment. In the less than 63-micrometer sediment fraction, one or more trace or major elements were anthropogenically enriched relative to national baseline values for U.S. streams for all sediment samples except one. Sixteen percent of sediment samples exceeded upper screening-value benchmarks for, and were enriched in, one or more of the following elements: barium, vanadium, aluminum, manganese, arsenic, chromium, and cobalt. These samples were evenly divided between the sampling periods. Aquatic-life benchmarks were frequently exceeded along the Gulf of Mexico coast by trace elements in both water and sediment and by PAHs in sediment. For the most part, however, significant differences between pre-landfall and post-landfall samples were limited to concentrations of PAHs in sediment. At five sites along the coast, the higher post-landfall concentrations of PAHs were associated with diagnostic geochemical evidence of Deepwater Horizon Macondo-1 oil.

Monday, February 25, 2013

National Academies Book Released: Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty

Recently, the National Academies Press (NAP) released a report produced by the Committee on Decision Making Under Uncertainty; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; and the Institute of Medicine titled, Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty (2013). The 258-page report is available free with a one-time registration. According to the abstract,
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of several federal agencies responsible for protecting Americans against significant risks to human health and the environment. As part of that mission, EPA estimates the nature, magnitude, and likelihood of risks to human health and the environment; identifies the potential regulatory actions that will mitigate those risks and protect public health1 and the environment; and uses that information to decide on appropriate regulatory action. Uncertainties, both qualitative and quantitative, in the data and analyses on which these decisions are based enter into the process at each step. As a result, the informed identification and use of the uncertainties inherent in the process is an essential feature of environmental decision making.
EPA requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convene a committee to provide guidance to its decision makers and their partners in states and localities on approaches to managing risk in different contexts when uncertainty is present. It also sought guidance on how information on uncertainty should be presented to help risk managers make sound decisions and to increase transparency in its communications with the public about those decisions. Given that its charge is not limited to human health risk assessment and includes broad questions about managing risks and decision making, in this report the committee examines the analysis of uncertainty in those other areas in addition to human health risks. Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty explains the statement of task and summarizes the findings of the committee.

CRS Report Released: Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources (Feb. 14, 2013). The 22-page report authored by James E. McCarthy and Brent D. Yacobucci discusses the following:


On October 15, 2012, the Obama Administration took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles when it promulgated GHG emission standards for model year 2017-2025 light duty vehicles. Under the standards, GHG emissions from new cars and light trucks will be reduced about 50% by 2025 compared to 2010, and average fuel economy standards will rise to nearly 50 miles per gallon. EPA had previously set GHG emission standards for MY2012-2016 vehicles as well as for 2014-2018 model year medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
These steps have been taken as the Congress (particularly the House) and the Administration have reached an impasse over climate issues. The Administration has made clear that its preference would be for Congress to address the climate issue through new legislation. Nevertheless, in the wake of a 2007 Supreme Court decision, it has moved forward on several fronts to define how the Clean Air Act will be used and to promulgate regulations.
The key to using the CAA’s authority to control greenhouse gases was for the EPA Administrator to find that GHG emissions are air pollutants that endanger public health or welfare. EPA Administrator Jackson promulgated such an endangerment finding in December 2009. With the endangerment finding finalized, the agency has proceeded to regulate emissions from motor vehicles.
In all, EPA has received 12 petitions asking that it make endangerment findings and proceed to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. Ten of the 12 petitions addressed mobile sources: besides motor vehicles, the petitions cover aircraft, ships, nonroad vehicles and engines, locomotives, and fuels, all of which are covered by Title II of the CAA. This report discusses the full range of EPA’s authority under Title II and provides information regarding other mobile sources that might be regulated under this authority, in addition to describing the car and truck regulations.
Regulation of GHGs from mobile sources has led the agency to establish controls for stationary sources, such as electric power plants, as well. Stationary source options, the authority for which comes from different parts of the CAA, are addressed in CRS Report R41212, EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: Congressional Responses and Options. 

CRS Report Released: Motorized Recreation on National Park Service Lands

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Motorized Recreation on National Park Service Lands (Feb. 8, 2013). The 21-page report authored by Laura B. Comay, Carol Hardy Vincent, and Kristina Alexander discusses the following:


In managing its lands, the National Park Service (NPS) seeks to balance a dual statutory mission of preserving natural resources while providing for their enjoyment by the public. Motorized recreation on NPS lands sometimes brings the two parts of this mission into conflict. Offhighway vehicles (OHVs) have been particularly controversial, with calls for greater recreational access intersecting with concerns about environmental impacts and disturbance of quieter pursuits. NPS’s laws, regulations, and policies generally emphasize the conservation of park resources in conservation/use conflicts, and NPS has fewer lands open to OHV use than do other federal land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. The 113th Congress may address motorized recreation in the National Park System, either through broad measures (such as those concerning recreational access to federal lands) or through specific measures affecting motorized recreation at particular NPS units.
ATVs and Oversand Vehicles. Only 12 of the 398 park units are open to public recreational use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), four-wheel drive vehicles, and/or dune, sand, and swamp buggies. The extent of unauthorized use of such vehicles is in dispute. Several units are developing pilot education and deterrence programs to address unauthorized use. Legislative measures in the 112th Congress sought to regulate OHV use at one NPS site, Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Snowmobiles. Regulatory and judicial actions to allow or restrict snowmobile use have focused primarily on three Yellowstone-area park units. Winter use plans developed by NPS to establish numerical limits on snowmobile and snowcoach entries have been the subject of repeated, and often conflicting, court challenges. Most recently, NPS has issued a draft plan and supplemental environmental impact statement intended to govern snowmobile use at Yellowstone for the 2014- 2015 winter season and beyond. The plan would allow up to 110 “transportation events” per day (defined as the use of either a multipassenger snowcoach or a group of snowmobiles).
Aircraft Overflights. Grand Canyon National Park is at the center of a conflict over whether or how to limit air tours over national park units to reduce noise. NPS and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to work to implement a 1987 law (P.L. 100-91) that sought to reduce noise at Grand Canyon, and a 2000 law (P.L. 106-181) that regulates overflights at other park units. P.L. 112-141, enacted in 2012, contains provisions on air tour management at Grand Canyon, including some less-stringent standards for natural quiet than NPS had recommended in planning efforts. P.L. 112-95 contains provisions to expedite and streamline agency planning actions for commercial air tours over parks generally.
Personal Watercraft (PWC). Since 2003, NPS has completed regulations to open designated PWC areas at 13 units. In July 2010, a federal judge ordered NPS to re-examine environmental assessments justifying PWC use at two of those units but did not overturn existing regulations.
Mountain Bicycles. This mechanized though nonmotorized activity also raises issues of the sufficiency of access to park lands as well as potential resource damage and disturbance of quieter recreational pursuits. Currently, more than 40 NPS units allow mountain biking on dirt trails and/or dirt roads. Mountain biking advocates have worked with NPS to explore opportunities to increase this activity in park units. In July 2012, NPS finalized a rule that eases the process for park superintendents to open trails to bicycles.

GAO Report Released: Pipeline Permitting: Interstate and Intrastate Natural Gas Permitting Processes Include Multiple Steps, and Time Frames Vary

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Pipeline Permitting: Interstate and Intrastate Natural Gas Permitting Processes Include Multiple Steps, and Time Frames Vary GAO-13-221 (Feb. 15, 2013). The details of the 44-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO Did This Study

Recent growth in domestic natural gas production, particularly due to increased production from shale, is resulting in an increase in the pipelines needed to transport that gas. Constructing natural gas pipelines requires clearing and maintaining rights-of-way, which may disturb habitat and historical and cultural resources. These resources are protected under a variety of federal, state, and local regulations implemented by multiple agencies. The laws, regulations and stakeholders involved in the permitting process depend on where the pipeline is constructed. FERC is the lead federal agency in approving interstate pipelines, coordinating with federal, state, and local agencies, but FERC is not involved in the approval of intrastate pipelines.
In response to the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, GAO determined (1) the processes necessary to acquire permits to construct interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines, (2) information available on the time frames associated with the natural gas pipeline permitting process, and (3) stakeholder-identified management practices that may improve the permitting process. GAO reviewed relevant laws and regulations and interviewed federal officials, state officials from a nonprobability sample of 11 states, and representatives from natural gas industry associations and public interest groups.
GAO makes no recommendations in this report. The Departments of Agriculture and Defense generally agreed with the findings, and the other agencies had no comments

GAO Report Released: Water Quality: EPA Faces Challenges in Addressing Damage Caused by Airborne Pollutants

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Water Quality: EPA Faces Challenges in Addressing Damage Caused by Airborne Pollutants GAO-13-39 (Jan. 24, 2013). The details of the 59-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO Did This Study

Atmospheric deposition, a process that transfers pollutants, including NOx, SO2, and mercury, from the air to the earth’s surface, can significantly impair the quality of the nation’s waters. EPA can potentially address atmospheric deposition through the CWA and the CAA, but concerns have been raised about its ability to do so. GAO was asked to examine EPA’s efforts to address atmospheric deposition of pollutants that impair waterbodies. This report examines (1) the extent to which atmospheric deposition of NOx, SO2, and mercury contributes to the impairment of the nation’s waters and identify the key sources of these pollutants; (2) the regulatory tools that EPA uses under the CWA to address the effects of atmospheric deposition, and the challenges, if any, that it faces in doing so; and (3) the regulatory tools that EPA uses under the CAA to address the effects of atmospheric deposition, and the challenges, if any, that it faces in doing so. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed EPA data, reports, and activities and interviewed agency officials and other experts.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA determine whether EPA can obtain in a timely manner the data it needs to establish secondary NAAQS adequate to protect against the effects of acid rain and, if not, identify alternative strategies to do so. EPA agreed with GAO's recommendation.

UNEP Report Released: State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals - 2012

This month, the United Nations Environment Programme released its State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals - 2012. The 289-page document available here, discusses how,
[t]his document presents summary information and key concerns for decision-makers on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from the full report entitled State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals—2012. It is part of the ongoing collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to address concerns about the potential adverse effects of anthropogenic chemicals.

UNEP Report Released: Africa Environment Outlook 3

This month, the United Nations Environment Programme released its Africa Environment Outlook 3 (2013). The 40-page document available here, discusses how,
[t]he Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) is a tool of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) for monitoring environmental management in Africa. It provides a framework for reporting at the national and subregional levels and seeks to enable AMCEN member countries to institute environmental management policies and programmes for the sustainable future of the continent. The AMCEN Secretariat partners with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its Regional Office for Africa (ROA) and the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), in producing periodic series of the report.
The current issue (AEO-3) focuses on the linkages between environment and health, largely because of the recognition that environmental factors contribute about 28 per cent of Africa’s disease burden. This disease burden is dominated by diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria which collectively account for 60 per cent of the known environmental health impacts in Africa. Accordingly, the Ministers of Environment and of Health at their 2008 joint meeting in Libreville, Gabon selected the linkages as the principal focus of joint actions. This focus was reemphasized at their 2010 joint meeting in Luanda, Angola and selected by the technical committee as the theme for AEO-3. It is envisaged that this Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) as well as the AEO-3 main report will provide information for evidence-based decision making and spur AMCEN member countries into strengthening their capacity for policy making and advocacy at the national, regional and global levels.
Prior editions of the AEO are available here.

IUCN Red List Categories & Criteria Released Version 3.1 (2d ed.)

This month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization," released its, Red List Categories and Criteria, version 3.1, second edition (2013). The 38-page publication is available here, as a downloadable pdf. According to the abstract,
[t]he IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are intended to be an easily and widely understood system for classifying species at high risk of global extinction. The general aim of the system is to provide an explicit, objective framework for the classification of the broadest range of species according to their extinction risk.

IUCN Report Released: The Art of Implementation: Gender Strategies Transforming National and Regional Climate Change Decision Making

This month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization," released a report titled, The Art of Implementation: Gender Strategies Transforming National and Regional Climate Change Decision Making (2013). The 124-page report is available here, as a downloadable pdf. According to the abstract,
This publication shares IUCN's experiences in developing the world's first gender-responsive national strategies and roadmaps on climate change. Different sections outline steps and elements of creating a climate change gender action plan (ccGAP) or REDD+ roadmap; present principles behind the strategies and what has worked best; detail case studies highlighting sectors that demonstrate the gender dimensions of climate change in different national contexts; and provide recommendations on how to move forward.

New Library Acquisitions -- Week of February 18th

Pace Law Library
Green Innovation in China : China's wind power industry and the global transition to a low-carbon economy / Joanna I. Lewis
Ecological consequences of climate change : mechanisms, conservation, and management / edited by Erik Alan Beever, Jerrold L. Belant

Japan's dietary transition and its impacts / Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi

Legal aspects of implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety / edited by Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Frederic Perron-Welch, Christine Frison

Wheel of fortune : the battle for oil and power in Russia / Thane Gustafson

Our ecological footprint : reducing human impact on the earth / Mathis Wackernagel and William E. Rees ; illustrated by Phil Testemale

Tar Creek [videorecording] / from Jump the Fence Productions ; in association with 42 Productions ; produced by Tanya Beer, Matt Myers ; written and directed by Matt Myers

Thursday, February 14, 2013

UNEP Global Environmental Alert Released for December: Measuring Progress - Environmental Goals and Gaps

Recently, the United Nations Environment Programme released a new Global Environmental Alert titled, Measuring Progress - Environmental Goals and Gaps (Dec. 2012). According to the 7-page alert,
[o]ver the last few decades, a great number of environmental goals and objectives have been adopted and a few success stories can be told. However, despite the growing body of norms and rules, the overall global environmental situation continues to deteriorate. The international community, having made very uneven progress towards the stated goals, needs to redefine the approach to improve the state of the environment and foster sustainable development.

Prior alerts are available here, dating from Aug. 2010 to the present.

UNEP Global Environmental Alert Released for February: Forecasting and Early Warning of Dust Storms

This month, the United Nations Environment Programme released a new Global Environmental Alert titled, Forecasting and Early Warning of Dust Storms (Feb. 2013). According to the 14-page alert, available here,
[s]oon after a massive dust storm engulfed Sydney, Australia in September 2009, the worst the city had experienced since 1940 (Leys et al., 2011), a call was made for the development of more early warning systems to be able to predict these devastating events in the future (UN, 2009). The city was covered in dust for nine hours and suffered disruption to communications, daily activities, car and air traffic, and reduced visibility to 0.4 km (Leys et al., 2011). Impacts such as these can be quite common during a dust event and can result in great costs. Other impacts can include the deposition of foreign sediments causing cropland to suffer; compromised air quality and human health when dust particles remain suspended in the atmosphere; and reduced efficiency of renewable energy sources when dust interferes with their mechanics. Suspended dust particles can alter the atmospheric radiation balance and contribute to climatic variations (Du et al., 2002) such as alteration of regional monsoon patterns or the acceleration of glacial melt (Gautam et al., 2010). Dust storms can have high interannual, as well as annual and decadal, variability, thus it is important that more research is conducted over longer periods of time to analyze trends and associated storm severity (Ganor et al., 2010; Goudie, 2009). With increased information about long term trends, more accurate forecasts of dust storm movements can be developed, the appropriate efforts to mitigate damage can be put into place and effective early warning can be communicated.

Prior alerts are available here, dating from Aug. 2010 to the present.

CEC Final Draft Report Released: Hazardous Trade? An An Examination of US-generated Spent Lead-acid Battery Exports and Secondary Lead Recycling in Mexico, the United States and Canada

Recently, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a collaboration between Canada, Mexico and the United States pursuant to the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), issued a final draft report titled, Hazardous Trade? An Examination of US-generated Spent Lead-acid Battery Exports and Secondary Lead Recycling in Mexico, the United States and Canada (2012). The 83-page report which was recently discussed in the New York Times, examines the following issues according to the abstract:
The independent report, written under the authority of NAAEC Article 13, was initiated in 2012 in response to concerns that a surge in spent lead-acid battery (SLAB) exports to Mexico in recent years was an effort to avoid the costs of stricter environmental and health protection laws prevalent in the United States. Lead is a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substance and how lead-acid batteries are recycled is an important economic, public health and environmental issue. A draft of the report had been made available by the Secretariat for public comments and benefited as well from the input of key stakeholders.
Key findings of the report include:
  • Between 2004 and 2011, US net exports of SLABs to Mexico increased by 449–525 percent, and 221 per cent to Canada.
  • The regulatory frameworks covering secondary lead smelters in the United States, Canada and Mexico do not provide equivalent levels of environmental and health protection.
  • National cross-border accounts in all three countries do not accord with shipping or receiving volumes of SLABs from either sending or receiving countries.
  • Notwithstanding Mexico’s permitting process, there are important gaps in its overall regulatory framework, as well as with respect to the prevailing environmental and public health standards in the United States and Canada.
The report also presents various recommendations to environmental authorities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, that will enhance the protection of our shared environment, and the health of workers and communities.
Pursuant to Article 13 (3) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the Council will normally make the final report publicly available within 60 days of the submission, unless the Council decides otherwise.