Thursday, April 18, 2013

CRS Report Released: International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF) (Apr. 16, 2013). The 16-page report authored by Richard K. Lattanzio, discusses the following:


Over the past several decades, the United States has delivered financial and technical assistance for climate change activities in the developing world through a variety of bilateral and multilateral programs. The United States and other industrialized countries committed to such assistance through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, Treaty Number: 102-38, 1992), the Copenhagen Accord (2009), and the UNFCCC Cancun Agreements (2010), wherein the higher-income countries pledged jointly up to $30 billion of “fast start” climate financing for lower-income countries for the period 2010-2012, and a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020. The Cancun Agreements also proposed that the pledged funds are to be new, additional to previous flows, adequate, predictable, and sustained, and are to come from a wide variety of sources, both public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.

One potential mechanism for mobilizing a share of the proposed international climate financing is the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund (GCF), proposed in the Cancun Agreements and accepted by Parties during the December 2011 conference in Durban, South Africa. The fund aims to assist developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change through the provision of grants and other concessional financing for mitigation and adaptation projects, programs, policies, and activities. The GCF is to be capitalized by contributions from donor countries and other sources, including both innovative mechanisms and the private sector. Currently, the GCF complements many of the existing multilateral climate change funds (e.g., the Global Environment Facility, the Climate Investment Funds, and the Adaptation Fund); however, as the official financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, some Parties believe that it may eventually replace or subsume the other funds. While many Parties expect capitalization and operation of the GCF to begin shortly after the November 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, many issues remain to be clarified, and some involve long-standing and contentious debate. They include what role the CGF would play in providing sustained finance at scale, how it would fit into the existing development assistance and climate financing architecture, how it would be capitalized, and how it would allocate and deliver assistance efficiently and effectively to developing countries.

The U.S. Congress—through its role in authorizations, appropriations, and oversight—would have significant input on U.S. participation in the GCF. Congress regularly determines and gives guidance to the allocation of foreign aid between bilateral and multilateral assistance as well as among the variety of multilateral mechanisms. In the past, Congress has raised concerns regarding the cost, purpose, direction, efficiency, and effectiveness of the UNFCCC and existing international institutions of climate financing. Potential authorizations and appropriations for the GCF would rest with several committees, including the U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Foreign Affairs (various subcommittees); Financial Services (Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade); and Appropriations (Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs); and the U.S. Senate Committees on Foreign Relations (Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection); and Appropriations (Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs). As of April 2013, the U.S. Administration—through its State,

Foreign Operations, and Related Programs 150 account—has made no specific budget request for appropriated funds to be contributed to the GCF.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

GAO Report Released: Energy: Federal Support for Renewable and Advanced Energy Technologies

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Energy: Federal Support for Renewable and Advanced Energy Technologies GAO-13-514T (Apr. 16, 2013). The details of the 15-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony discusses federal support for renewable and advanced energy technologies. Americans' daily lives, as well as the economic productivity of the United States, depend on the availability of energy, the majority of which comes from fossil fuels. However, faced with concerns over the nation's reliance on imported oil, volatile energy costs, and greenhouse gas emissions, federal policymakers have increased support for deployment of renewable and advanced energy technologies to help meet our nation's energy needs. Federal agencies including the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Energy (DOE), and the Treasury, among others, provide support for these technologies through tax expenditures, grants, loans, and loan guarantees. This support helps finance production of electricity from wind and solar farms, manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles, and construction of advanced nuclear power plants, among other things. Energy produced from nonfossil fuel sources has increased over the last several decades, growing to about 22 percent of total U.S. energy production in 2012, according to projections by DOE's Energy Information Administration, an independent statistical and analytical agency. At the same time, the increase in federal support for renewable and advanced energy technologies and the involvement of multiple agencies in supporting such technologies have raised questions about the effectiveness of this support. In the current fiscally constrained environment, it is especially important to allocate scarce government resources where they can be most effective. GAO has issued a number of reports related to federal support of renewable and advanced energy technologies including, most recently, the following two reports:

(1) a broad review of federal initiatives that promote wind energy, including the extent to which initiatives may provide duplicative support and the extent to which agencies assess applicant need for the initiatives' support, and

(2) a review of the status of DOE's efforts to use its loan and loan guarantee authorities and remaining credit subsidy appropriations to support projects under its Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program (LGP), which guarantees loans for projects that, among other things, use new or significantly improved technologies, and Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, which provides loans for projects to produce more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles and their components.

This statement presents highlights from these two reports.

Monday, April 15, 2013

USGS Environmental Sciences Strategies Released for 2012

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a series of scientific strategies for various areas relating to environmental law.  For more information on these reports see below:

National Academies Report Released: A Review of the Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment

Recently, the National Academies Press (NAP) released a report produced by the Panel to Review the National Climate Assessment; Board on Atmospheric Studies and Climate; Division of Earth and Life Studies; Board on Environmental Change and Society; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; and the National Research Council titled, A Review of the Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment. The 132-page report is available free with a one-time registration.

New Library Acquisitions -- Week of April 8th

Pace Law Library

Observations on the effects of the Corn laws [electronic resource] : and of a rise or fall in the price of corn on the agriculture and general wealth of the country / by T.R. Malthus

Law and the question of the animal : a critical jurisprudence / edited by Yoriko Otomo and Ed Mussawir

The emerging politics of Antarctica / edited by Anne-Marie Brady

The ethics of species : an introduction / Ronald L. Sandler

Living factories : biotechnology and the unique nature of capitalism / Kenneth Fish

Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction : issues and challenges / edited by Rajib Shaw, Juan M. Pulhin, Joy Jacqueline Pereira

Is it safe? : BPA and the struggle to define the safety of chemicals / Sarah A. Vogel

Extreme environment : how environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies / Ivo Vegter

Routledge international handbook of green criminology / edited by Nigel South and Avi Brisman

International trade in indigenous cultural heritage : legal and policy issues / edited by Christoph B. Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica C. Lai, Members of i-call, the research centre for communication and art law, University of Lucerne, Switzerland

Macroeconomics and the environment : essays on green accounting / Salah El Serafy

One more dead fish [videorecording] / Interpositive Media presents ; a Lonach Films production ; produced by Peripheral Visions, Inc. ; directed by Allan Forbes, Stefan Forbes

Managing food safety and hygiene : governance and regulation as risk management / Bridget M. Hutter, with research assistance from Clive Jones

FAO forestry papers / FAO

ASEAN environmental law, policy, and governance : selected documents / compiled and edited by Koh Kheng-Lian

Rome, pollution, and propriety : dirt, disease, and hygiene in the eternal city from antiquity to modernity / edited by Mark Bradley with Kenneth Stow

Thunder on the mountain : death at Massey and the dirty secrets behind big coal / Peter A. Galuszka

Occupational safety and health law handbook / authors, Melissa A. Bailey ... [et. al.]

The WTO and the environment : development of competence beyond trade / James K.R. Watson

OECD factbook [electronic resource]

Smart grid : integrating renewable, distributed & efficient energy / edited by Fereidoon P. Sioshansi

Threatened island nations : legal implications of rising seas and a changing climate / edited by Michael B. Gerrard, Gregory E. Wannier

Sustainable business : theory and practice of business under sustainability principles / edited by Geoffrey Wells

Governance, democracy and sustainable development : moving beyond the impasse / Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle, Audun Ruud

Changing lanes : visions and histories of urban freeways / Joseph F. C. DiMento and Cliff Ellis

The city natural : Garden and forest magazine and the rise of American environmentalism / Shen Hou ; foreword by Donald Worster

Milestones in water reuse : the best success stories / Valentina Lazarova ... [et al.]

Toms River : a story of science and salvation / Dan Fagin
Yellowstone's wildlife in transition / edited by P.J. White, Robert A. Garrott, Glenn E. Plumb

Friday, April 12, 2013

National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Partnership Releases Strategy for 2012

Recently, the The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Partnership, an inter-governmental working group comprised of federal, state, and tribal agency representatives including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and New York's Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, released its National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (2013).  According to the 120-page report available here, "[t]he purpose of the Strategy is to inspire and enable natural resource professionals and other decision makers to take action to conserve the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystem functions, as well as the human uses and values these natural systems provide, in a changing climate."

NIDIS Releases Drought Taskforce Report: An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought

Recently, National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), a collaboration between NOAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center released a Drought Taskforce Report titled An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought (2013).  According to the 50-page report, available here, and the summary report, the following issues are discussed:
Precipitation deficits for the period May through August 2012 were the most severe since official measurements began in 1895, eclipsing the driest summers of 1934 and 1936 that occurred during the height of the Dust Bowl. This prolonged period of precipitation deficits, along with above normal temperatures, resulted in the largest area of the contiguous United States in drought since the U.S. Drought Monitor began in January 2000. By early September, over three-quarters of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing at least abnormally dry conditions with nearly half of the region (the Central Plains in particular) experiencing unprecedented severe drought.
For a longer-term perspective, the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for August 2012 is compared to a long-term PDSI average spanning from 1895 to 2000 (left) and identifies the core region of the drought to be the central Plains region, with the most extreme moisture deficits occurring over the western Plains (consistent with the Drought Monitor map). A central U.S. epicenter for the drought is also affirmed by the May-August standardized rainfall deficits (middle) with -2 standardized departures from the 1981 to 2010 long-term average being widespread from Colorado to Missouri. Much of the dry region also experienced hot temperatures (right). The combination of low rainfall and high temperatures is typically seen during summertime droughts over the central U.S.

The central Great Plains drought during May-August of 2012 resulted mostly from natural variations in weather.
  • Moist Gulf of Mexico air failed to stream northward in late spring as cyclone and frontal activity were shunted unusually northward.
  • Summertime thunderstorms were infrequent and when they did occur produced little rainfall.
  • Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.

WRI Working Paper Released: Striking the Balance: Ownership and Accountability in Social and Environmental Safeguards

Recently, the World Resources Institute, 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,” released a report authored by Gaia Larsen and Athena Ballesteros titled, Striking the Balance: Ownership and Accountability in Social and Environmental Safeguards (2013). The 28-page report available here discusses the following:
[m]any governments around the world have put in place systems to help ensure that investments in changes such as infrastructure projects, government programs or new national laws do not bring undue harm to their citizens or environment. The effectiveness of these systems in successfully preventing negative impacts varies widely. Developing countries tend to have a particularly difficult time ensuring that investments within their borders meet minimum social and environmental standards. As a result, many financial institutions have established their own policies to help ensure that their investments do not result in harm to vulnerable communities or ecosystems. These policies are generally known as “safeguards.” Although safeguard policies provide vital protection against risks to people and the environment, properly designing and implementing these policies means navigating complex relationships between financial institutions, governments, and the citizens of recipient countries.

IUCN Report Released: Grauer’s Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Recently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization," released its, Grauer’s Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Kahuzi-Biega, Maiko, Tayna and Itombwe Landscape): Conservation Action Plan 2012-2022 (2013). The 74-page publication is available here, as a downloadable pdf. According to the abstract,
[i]n 2011, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) convened conservation partners to develop a conservation action plan for great apes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with financial support from the Arcus Foundation. The main goal of this initiative was to identify critical threats to gorillas, chimpanzees and their habitats in the landscape, and to develop conservation strategies to address these threats. Emphasis was placed on activities at a systemic and strategic level that could add value to the large-scale planning effort vis-à-vis site-level efforts.

IUCN Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National levels: version 4.0 Released

Recently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization," released its, Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National levels: version 4.0 (2013). The 46-page publication is available here, as a downloadable pdf. According to the abstract,
[o]ver the last decade there has been growing interest in countries using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria for national Red List assessments. In response to this interest, IUCN developed guidelines on how to apply the IUCN Red List Criteria appropriately for sub-global level assessments. Since the first version of the Guidelines for Application of the IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional Levels was published in 2003, these guidelines have been reviewed and the presentation of the guidelines has been made clearer.

DOE Audit Report Released: The Department of Energy's Use of the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility at the Oak Ridge Reservation

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General released an audit report titled, The Department of Energy's Use of the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility at the Oak Ridge Reservation (2013) (IG-0883). The 14-page report available here, discusses the following:
[t]he Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF) is an above-ground waste disposal facility designed to meet the requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) manages the Department of Energy's (Department) contract with URS | CH2M Oak Ridge, LLC (UCOR), which has operated EMWMF since August 2011. We found that OREM had not maximized its use of available capacity at EMWMF, and as a consequence, may incur more than $14 million in unnecessary disposal costs. Specifically, OREM permitted its contractors to send minimally contaminated waste to EMWMF that may have otherwise been acceptable for disposal in the sanitary landfill at a much lower cost per unit. For example, contractor officials told us that from fiscal years 2002 through 2011, they had disposed of 140,000 cubic yards of material (minimally contaminated waste plus required fill) at EMWMF that likely could have been disposed of in the sanitary landfill at a much lower cost per unit. The Department of Energy (Department) had not established site-specific surface authorized limits for determining when certain types of minimally contaminated waste could be disposed of in sanitary landfills rather than in EMWMF. In the absence of such site-specific authorized limits, certain surface­contaminated wastes have been disposed of at EMWMF that potentially could have been safely disposed at sanitary landfills. Maintaining this approach could ultimately and unnecessarily utilize 11 percent of EMWMF's waste disposal capacity. During the course of our audit, UCOR recognized the issues we discovered and implemented procedures compliant with Department and landfill permit requirements to allow more waste to be disposed in the sanitary landfill; however, we believe that additional action is necessary to improve efficiency of waste disposal operations and conserve EMWMF capacity. Environmental Management generally concurred with the report and its comments were responsive to our recommendations.

GAO Report Released: Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel: Observations on the Key Attributes and Challenges of Storage and Disposal Options

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel: Observations on the Key Attributes and Challenges of Storage and Disposal Options GAO-13-532T (Apr. 11, 2013). The details of the 17-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO Did This Study

Spent nuclear fuel, the used fuel removed from commercial nuclear power reactors, is one of the most hazardous substances created by humans. Commercial reactors have generated nearly 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel, which is currently stored at 75 reactor sites in 33 states, and this inventory is expected to more than double by 2055. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, directs DOE to investigate the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada--100 miles northwest of Las Vegas--to determine if the site is suitable for a permanent repository for this and other nuclear waste. DOE submitted a license application for the Yucca Mountain site to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2008, but in 2010 DOE suspended its licensing efforts and instead established a blue ribbon commission to study other options. The commission issued a report in January 2012 recommending a new strategy for managing nuclear waste, and DOE issued a new nuclear waste disposal strategy in 2013.

This testimony is primarily based on prior work GAO issued from November 2009 to August 2012 and updated with information from DOE. It discusses the key attributes and challenges of options that have been considered for storage or disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

GAO is making no new recommendations at this time.

USGS Report Released: Forecasting the Impact of Storm Waves and Sea-level rise on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report titled Forecasting the Impact of Storm Waves and Sea-level Rise on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—A Comparison of Passive Versus Dynamic Inundation Models (USGS Open File Rep. 2013-1069). The 86-page report available here, authored by Curt D. Storlazzi et al. discusses the following:
Two inundation events in 2011 underscored the potential for elevated water levels to damage infrastructure and affect terrestrial ecosystems on the low-lying Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The goal of this study was to compare passive "bathtub" inundation models based on geographic information systems (GIS) to those that include dynamic water levels caused by wave-induced set-up and run-up for two end-member island morphologies: Midway, a classic atoll with islands on the shallow (2-8 m) atoll rim and a deep, central lagoon; and Laysan, which is characterized by a deep (20-30 m) atoll rim and an island at the center of the atoll. Vulnerability to elevated water levels was assessed using hindcast wind and wave data to drive coupled physics-based numerical wave, current, and water-level models for the atolls. The resulting model data were then used to compute run-up elevations using a parametric run-up equation under both present conditions and future sea-level-rise scenarios. In both geomorphologies, wave heights and wavelengths adjacent to the island shorelines increased more than three times and four times, respectively, with increasing values of sea-level rise, as more deep-water wave energy could propagate over the atoll rim and larger wind-driven waves could develop on the atoll. Although these increases in water depth resulted in decreased set-up along the islands’ shorelines, the larger wave heights and longer wavelengths due to sea-level rise increased the resulting wave-induced run-up. Run-up values were spatially heterogeneous and dependent on the direction of incident wave direction, bathymetry, and island configuration. Island inundation was modeled to increase substantially when wave-driven effects were included, suggesting that inundation and impacts to infrastructure and terrestrial habitats will occur at lower values of predicted sea-level rise, and thus sooner in the 21st century, than suggested by passive GIS-based "bathtub" inundation models. Lastly, observations and the modeling results suggest that classic atolls with islands on a shallow atoll rim are more susceptible to the combined effects of sea-level rise and wave-driven inundation than atolls characterized by a deep atoll rim.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

EPA Releases FY 2014 Budget Proposal

Today, the EPA released its Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Proposal.  According to the agency's press release,
the Obama Administration proposed a Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014) budget of $8.153 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This request is $296 million below the EPA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012.
“EPA’s FY 2014 budget reflects our firm commitment to keeping American communities across our country healthy and clean, while also taking into consideration the difficult fiscal situation and the declining resources of state, local and tribal programs,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “Our request takes a balanced approach to funding the agency, including increased investments in more efficient technologies as well as necessary program eliminations or reductions.”
EPA’s FY 2014 request will allow EPA to continue its progress in addressing climate change; protecting the nation’s air, waters, and lands; supporting sustainable water infrastructure; and assuring the safety of chemicals. EPA will continue to lay the groundwork to transform the way it does business, ensuring the best use of human and financial resources, while continuing to achieve the agency’s mission effectively and efficiently.
FY 2014 EPA Budget in Brief

USGS Map Released: Map of Assessed Shale Gas in the United States, 2012

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a map titled Map of Assessed Shale Gas in the United States, 2012 (USGS Data Series: 69-Z). The 22-page document available here, compiled by Laura H.R. Biewick illustrates the following:
[t]he U.S. Geological Survey has compiled a map of shale-gas assessments in the United States that were completed by 2012 as part of the National Assessment of Oil and Gas Project. Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey quantitatively estimated potential volumes of undiscovered gas within shale-gas assessment units. These shale-gas assessment units are mapped, and square-mile cells are shown to represent proprietary shale-gas wells. The square-mile cells include gas-producing wells from shale intervals. In some cases, shale-gas formations contain gas in deeper parts of a basin and oil at shallower depths (for example, the Woodford Shale and the Eagle Ford Shale). Because a discussion of shale oil is beyond the scope of this report, only shale-gas assessment units and cells are shown. The map can be printed as a hardcopy map or downloaded for interactive analysis in a Geographic Information System data package using the ArcGIS map document (file extension MXD) and published map file (file extension PMF). Also available is a publications access table with hyperlinks to current U.S. Geological Survey shale gas assessment publications and web pages. Assessment results and geologic reports are available as completed at the U.S. Geological Survey Energy Resources Program Web Site, A historical perspective of shale gas activity in the United States is documented and presented in a video clip included as a PowerPoint slideshow.

GAO Report Released: Emergency Preparedness: NRC Needs to Better Understand Likely Public Response to Radiological Incidents at Nuclear Power Plants

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Emergency Preparedness: NRC Needs to Better Understand Likely Public Response to Radiological Incidents at Nuclear Power Plants GAO-13-243 (Mar. 11, 2013). The details of the 37-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO Did This Study

On March 11, 2011, a tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan and led to the largest release of radiation since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Japanese authorities evacuated citizens within 19 miles of the plant. GAO was asked to examine issues related to emergency preparedness at nuclear power plants. This report examines (1) federal, licensees’, and local and state authorities’ responsibilities in radiological emergency preparedness, (2) the activities NRC and FEMA take to oversee licensee and local and state radiological emergency preparedness, and (3) NRC and FEMA requirements for informing the public on preparedness and NRC’s understanding of public awareness. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, and guidance; examined emergency plans from licensees and local and state authorities; visited four nuclear power plants; and interviewed federal, local and state, and industry officials.

What GAO Recommends

To better inform radiological emergency preparedness efforts, GAO recommends that NRC obtain information on public awareness and likely public response outside the 10- mile zone, and incorporate insights into guidance, as appropriate. NRC generally disagreed with GAO's finding, stating that its research shows public response outside the zone would generally have no significant impact on evacuations. GAO continues to believe that its recommendation could improve radiological emergency preparedness efforts and is consistent with NRC guidance.

CRS Report Released: U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities, Uncertain Outcomes

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities, Uncertain Outcomes (Apr. 8, 2013). The 30-page report authored by Michael Ratner et al., discusses the following:


As estimates for the amount of U.S. natural gas resources have grown, so have the prospects of rising U.S. natural gas exports. The United States is expected to go from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter by 2020. Projects to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tanker ship have been proposed—cumulatively accounting for about 12.5% of current U.S. natural gas production—and are at varying stages of regulatory approval. Projects require federal approval under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. §717b), with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission being the lead authorizing agencies. Pipeline exports, which accounted for 94% of all exports of U.S. produced natural gas in 2010, are also likely to rise.
What effect exporting natural gas will have on U.S. prices is the central question in the debate over whether to export. A significant rise in U.S. natural gas exports would likely put upwards pressure on domestic prices, but the magnitude of any rise is currently unclear. There are numerous factors that will affect prices: export volumes, economic growth, differences in local markets, and government regulations, among others. With today’s natural gas prices relatively low compared to global prices and historically low for the United States, producers are looking for new markets for their natural gas. Producers contend that increased exports will not raise prices significantly as there is ample supply to meet domestic demand, and there will be the added benefits of increased revenues, trade, and jobs, and less flaring. Consumers of natural gas, who are being helped by the low prices, fear prices will rise if natural gas is exported.
Electric power generation represents potentially the greatest increase in natural gas consumption in the U.S. economy, primarily for environmental reasons. Natural gas emits much less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than coal when combusted. Other types of consumption are not likely to increase natural gas demand domestically for a long time. Use in the transportation sector to displace oil is likely to be small because expensive new infrastructure and technologies would be required. There is discussion of a possible revival of the U.S. petrochemicals sector, but the potential extent of a change is unclear.
Getting natural gas to markets where it can be consumed, whether domestically or internationally, may be the industry’s biggest challenge. Infrastructure constraints, environmental regulations, and other factors will influence how the market adjusts to balance supply and demand.
Environmental groups are split regarding natural gas use, with some favoring increased use to curb emissions of certain pollutants, while others oppose expanded use of natural gas because it is not as clean as renewable forms of energy, such as wind or solar. The use of hydraulic fracturing to produce shale gas has also raised concerns among environmental groups particularly concerned with its possible impacts on water quality.
The possibility of a significant increase in U.S. natural gas exports will factor into ongoing debates on the economy, energy independence, climate change, and energy security. As the proposed projects continue to develop, policymakers are likely to receive more inquiries about these projects. Proposals to expedite and expand LNG exports have already been raised in the 113th Congress, including in S. 192 and H.R. 580. Two other bills, H.R. 1189 and H.R. 1191, would reform the DOE’s process for determining the public interest regarding LNG exports and prohibit exports of natural gas produced on federal lands.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

U.K. House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report Released: Pollinators and Pesticides

Recently, the U.K. Parliment's  House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, issued a report, titled, Pollinators and Pesticides (2013).  According to the 306-page report, available here, the following was discussed:
[t]he Government must introduce a precautionary moratorium on three pesticides linked to the decline of pollinators - imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX – that suspends their use on flowering crops attractive to pollinators, Parliament’s cross-party green watchdog has said.
The Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley MP, commented:
“Defra seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy.
“If farmers had to pollinate fruit and vegetables without the help of insects it would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and we would all be stung by rising food prices.
“Defra Ministers have refused to back EU efforts to protect pollinators and can’t even come up with a convincing plan to encourage bee-friendly farming in the UK.”

ELI Seminar: Meet & Greet: Matthew Tejada, Incoming Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice

Meet & Greet: Matthew Tejada, 
Incoming Director of EPA’s Office of
Environmental Justice
An ELI Research Seminar
As Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston, Matthew Tejada, Ph.D., advocated on behalf of communities to reduce air pollution in Houston. He worked with local organizations, government agencies, and businesses to find ways to reduce pollution in overburdened communities. In January 2013, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that Mr. Tejada would be the new Director of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ).
With this meet-and-greet session, ELI presents an opportunity to hear about Director Tejada’s priorities for OEJ and to ask questions of the incoming director. Please join us for an informative conversation.
The session will be available in person at the Environmental Law Institute or via teleconference. All participants must RSVP.

Matthew Tejada, Director, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice

April 30, 2013
12:15 PM to 1:15 PM ET
Environmental Law Institute
2000 L Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Also available via teleconference
To attend, please visit
Teleconference information will be emailed one business day prior to the event.


EPA Releases U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program 2012 Annual Report

According to a recent EPA Press Release
EPA is releasing its U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program 2012 Annual Report. The report highlights Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 accomplishments and the program's environmental, public health and economic benefits to the U.S. The border program provides access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, often for the first time, to underserved communities along the U.S.-Mexico Border. In FY 2012, the program provided 5,185 border homes with safe drinking water and 31,092 homes with adequate wastewater services. Currently the program has 24 projects under construction and supports 26 communities in the planning and development of projects for future construction. EPA's investments boost the regional and national economy through increased productivity, avoided health care and economic losses, direct and indirect job creation, enhanced ecological values, and by attracting trade opportunities and additional private investments. More information:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spotlight: New York State Bar Association Environmental Law Section Website

By, Glen Ahlers, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School


The New York State Bar Association’s Environmental Law section is sponsored by the New York Bar Association, and is an excellent resource for pointing a practitioner in the right direction.  The environmental section provides members with contact to a larger community of experienced practitioners and information.  Opening on the left of the homepage, is an easily negotiated navigation box including a “for attorney’s” tab.  The tab leads to an interior page containing nineteen hyperlinks to useful tools for the practitioner, along with brief descriptions for each.
Using the “sections” tab from the same homepage brings you to relevant environmental sources, including
The site also contains the section’s position on various New York state legislative and regulatory policies as well as its reports on climate change and climate change impact on New York ( .
The Environmental section’s internal site also contains links to relevant sections of the larger Bar Association website, including links to the unofficial New York State statutes, Loislaw, and other inexpensive or free resources for the thrifty practitioner.  Though these sites lack the frills of Westlaw and LexisNexis, they contain much of the same essential information and are equally useful to a practitioner willing to spend the little additional time required to master them.
The “blog” tab on the left opens an internal list of blogs maintained by the various sections of the New York State Bar Association, including the Committee on Animals and the Law Blog (, and the “Envirosphere” blog by the Environmental Law Section ( which is updated with some regularity and contains essential information to the goings on in the practice of Environmental Law in New York.


Wildlife Conservation Society Report Released: Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Breeding Birds in Arctic Alaska

Recently, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a New York based, global conservation organization committed to preserving biodiversity and which manages approximately 500 conservation projects in more than 60 countries including the Bronx Zoo, released a report titled, Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Breeding Birds in Arctic Alaska (2013). The 170-page document available here (see latest publications on right-side navigation bar), discusses the following:
[t]he report, Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Breeding Birds in Arctic Alaska, co-authored by WCS Scientists Joe Liebezeit, Erika Rowland, Molly Cross and Steve Zack, details in-depth vulnerability assessments conducted on 54 species to help guide climate-informed wildlife management in the region. The project was aided by the participation of more than 80 scientists who are experts on the assessed species.

Results showed that along with the highly vulnerable gyrfalcon and common eider, seven other species were moderately vulnerable, including: brandt, Steller’s eider, pomerine jaeger, yellow-billed loon, buff-breasted sandpiper, red phalarope and ruddy turnstone. Five species, including the savannah sparrow, Lapland longspur, white-crowned sparrow, American tree-sparrow and common redpoll are likely to increase in number, according to the assessments.

The authors note that the assessments calculated vulnerabilities looking exclusively at the impacts of climate change experienced by breeding birds in Arctic Alaska, and not in other parts of their range.