Nine Refineries Spew 1/3 of Oil Industry Carcinogens
WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - Nine oil refineries in the United States account for only 15 percent of the nation's refining capacity, but a third of total cancer-causing emissions reported by the oil industry, according to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, EIP.
The carcinogens emitted by U.S. refineries include benzene, ethylbenzene, butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, naphthalene, formaldehyde, and metals such as nickel and lead.
Announcing the study today, the EIP said inconsistencies in the carcinogen emission data the group analyzed raise serious questions about the accuracy and completeness of oil industry reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, about such pollution.
Entitled "Refined Hazard: Carcinogenic Air Pollution from America's Oil Refineries," the EIP report identifies the top 10 refinery sources of air emissions of carcinogens in 2004 as:
Meg Healy, research director, Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, GHASP, said, "We in Houston have known for years that emissions inventories, including the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, TRI, are notoriously inaccurate. And nowhere is it more important to get the emissions inventories right than in Houston."
National Refinery Campaign Coordinator Denny Larson said, "This shocking new report should result in serious investigation and hearings by both the Congressional Environmental and Government Oversight Committees due to the hazardous chemicals thousands are exposed to. The worst part is the unnecessary toxic pollution that people have to breathe in gasoline production sacrifice zones. There is a cleaner and greener way to operate refineries."
"This report should serve as a wake up call," said Suzie Canales, with Citizens for Environmental Justice in Corpus Christi, Texas. "The perception locally by the ‘powers that be' is that our air is clean because we're in attainment, barely. But that only looks at six criteria air pollutants."
"Our air is not clean. We are on the worst-refinery list twice in the top 10 in the country for emitting carcinogens. It does a huge disservice to the low-income people of color - who are living by these facilities and being blasted with some of the highest levels of carcinogens - to mislead them by telling them their air is clean."
The report uses data from the EPA Toxics Release Inventory, TRI, to catalogue refinery air emissions of certain pollutants that are known or believed to cause cancer.
The TRI is a database that contains information on toxic chemical releases reported annually by certain covered industries, including petroleum refineries.
The data shows that the BP Texas City refinery was by far the largest refinery source of carcinogen emissions in 2004, due mostly to its reported release of nearly two million pounds of formaldehyde in that year.
BP has claimed that the formaldehyde release resulted from a change in its emission calculations, raising questions as to whether other refineries are reporting accurately.
La Gloria, a small refinery in Tyler, Texas, is the largest refinery source of air emissions of benzene, a known carcinogen, the EIP report shows.
House Passes Biofuels Bill
WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - Today, U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill designed to make biofuels more affordable and accessible to retailers and consumers.
H.R. 547, the Advanced Fuels Infrastructure Research and Development Act, passed overwhelmingly. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology, authored the bipartisan bill - the first energy legislation cleared by the House during this Congress, now controlled by Democrats.
"It is clear that relying solely on conventional fuels like gasoline could threaten our economic well-being and environmental health," said Gordon. "The public wants and deserves clean and reliable fuel choices. Passing this biofuels bill will help get us there."
The bill authorizes $10 million to initiate a research and development program to make biofuels more compatible with present-day infrastructure.
Currently, biofuels like E85 ethanol and some biodiesel blends have different physical and chemical properties, often making them incompatible with existing petroleum-based infrastructure. Tank and pipeline corrosion, sediment buildup and in or clogged filters are among the issues that can arise as a result.
This bill works to save fuel distributors and retailers from bearing the high cost of replacing or building new infrastructure.
It directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in consultation with the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to research and develop new technologies that would allow retailers to use alternative fuels in existing infrastructure.
Technologies might include fuel additives, different blends, or easier tank reconditioning methods.
The bill also directs the federal agencies to develop low-cost, portable methods to accurately test sulfur content of diesel fuels, ensuring that ultra-low sulfur diesel does not exceed mandated sulfur levels.
Standards for biofuels would be developed like those that already exist for petroleum fuels.
H.R. 547 has been endorsed by the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers Association, National Association of Convenient Stores, Renewable Fuels Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the Coalition of E85 Retailers, the American Petroleum Institute, and NATSO, which represents travel plaza and truckstop owners and operators.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Nuclear Regulator Vows to Streamline Industry RenaissanceWASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein said today the NRC hopes "not be to an impediment" to the licensing of new reactors that utilities want to build in the coming decade.
"I am a regulator and I cannot promote nuclear energy," Klein said at the third Annual Platts Nuclear Energy Conference in Washington, "but let me indulge in a bit of optimism. I do not believe the NRC to be a bottleneck in the process."
Describing his vision of standard applications and a strong regulatory authority with set requirements, Klein said that the NRC will strive to provide "the regulatory stability needed in the uncertain first days of a rapidly expanding, technologically complex and capital-intensive industrial sector."
He also said he hopes to reduce the time necessary to process new reactor applications. "We're still looking at ways to reduce the review time required for early site permits and combined operating licenses," he said, "with no compromise on safety."
He predicted that the "pinch points" in the licensing process are finding high quality components, hiring sufficient qualified personnel and connecting substantial numbers of new plants to the nation's electrical grid.
He said the NRC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are working together to address issues associated with adding plants to the nation's electrical grid to meet increasing demand for electricity.
Klein said the agency will make certain its rigorous inspection program will "ensure the quality and authenticity" of the components that go into new nuclear plants in the United States.
Praising the work of Congress in keeping funding flowing to the agency, Klein said the current proposed fiscal '08 budget will allow the agency to keep dealing with industry growth.
He said through the end of fiscal '08 the agency will hire about 600 more people to deal with "the graying workforce" at the agency.
He advised the nuclear industry to work at encouraging young Americans to join the industry through financial incentives to students.
New York Extends Public Comment Time for Global Warming RuleALBANY, New York, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - The New York Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC is providing the public additional time for New Yorkers to offer their comments on a preliminary global warming rule that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants - a major contributor to global warming.
The New York draft rule reflects the provisions that the DEC agreed to propose as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI, model rule, issued August 15, 2006. It also includes a number of New York specific provisions.
Principal among the New York-specific provisions is the proposed 100 percent auction allocation method for emissions allowances. The auction method was chosen instead of the traditional allowance giveaway to covered sources.
The Department is seeking comment on all parts of the draft pre-proposal, but invites special attention to the New York-specific provisions that were not part of the model rule issued in August 2006.
A preliminary draft regulatory proposal for New York was released by DEC on December 5, 2006.
View the New York draft rule online at: http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dar/preproposal.html
The new deadline for comments is March 13, 2007. The additional comment period will allow more New Yorkers to offer their views on this critical issue.
Under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, seven Northeast states originally agreed to implement a cap-and-trade program that will be the first such mandatory program for greenhouse gas pollution in U.S. history.
Massachusetts joined the Initiative in January, and Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri said in his State of the State address that Rhode Island will be joining the Initiative shortly.
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is fully committed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and in his 2007 State of the State address said, "New York should also build on its existing regional compact to address climate change. I have already started speaking with other governors about the need to link and expand our climate change initiatives. This is something that can and must be achieved."
Confronting the issue of global climate change becomes more urgent as evidence indicating that Earth's climate is warming continues to accumulate. Scientists at the National Climatic Data Center have reported that average annual temperature readings for the contiguous United States during 2006 indicate that it was the warmest year on record.
Public comments should be submitted to: NYRGGI@gw.dec.state.ny.us or can be mailed to: Department of Environmental Conservation, Climate Change Office, 14th Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.
Bald Eagle Delisting Decision Postponed Four MonthsWASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - The final decision on whether to remove the bald eagle from the federal list of threatened and endangered species will be postponed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today.
The Service has reached a court approved agreement allowing the agency to make a final determination on the eagle's status no later than June 29, 2007.
The Service had been under a court ordered deadline of February 16, 2007, to make a final decision on the eagle's status.
The four month extension will give the Service time to complete additional analyses related to the final rule and put in place management guidelines and procedures that will make it easier for the public to understand ongoing Bald and Golden Eagle Act protections.
In January, the Service approached the plaintiff in that case to request an extension of the deadline. With the agreement of the plaintiff, the Service requested and the court approved the extension until June 29, 2007.
Edmund Contoski, the plaintiff in Contoski v. Scarlett, owns property abutting the shore of Sullivan Lake in Morrison County, Minnesota. Contoski proposed a residential subdivision on his property, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources notified him of an active bald eagle's nest on his property in a letter "recommending that there be no development within a 330 feet radius of the nest to ensure compliance with the ESA [Endangered Species Act] and the Eagle Protection Act."
Contoski filed suit against Lynn Scarlett, acting secretary of the Department of the Interior, and Dale Hall, in his official capacity as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on October 31, 2005. He alleged that defendants violated the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to perform a non-discretionary duty - issuing a final determination on the delisting of the bald eagle.
District Judge John Tunheim ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that the Endangered Species Act requires that a final determination be made within one year of publication of a rule proposing to determine whether a species is an endangered or threatened species.
Service spokeswoman Valerie Fellows said, "The agency is working to remove the bald eagle from the list of endangered species, but it wants to ensure the bird will be adequately protected by states and federal laws before doing so."
During the extension, the Service expects to develop a proposed rule that would authorize incidental take of bald eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The Service also intends to finalize voluntary Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and a regulatory definition of "disturb" under the same law.
The Service reported fewer than 500 mating pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states in the 1960s after use of pesticides thinned the shells of eagle eggs to the point where most did not hatch. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.
The bald eagle was first declared an endangered species in 1967, under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the precursor to today's law.
By 1999, there were 5,748 nesting pairs, and experts estimate there are more than 7,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States today.
EPA Library Closures Prompt Unfair Labor Practices ComplaintWASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is refusing to consult with its own employees about the effects of past or schedule of future library closures, according to an unfair labor practices complaint released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The complaint was filed on Monday by the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EPA Locals, Council 238 before the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
The complaint centers on the closure of the EPA Regional Library in Chicago and charges that the EPA has refused to bargain on the impacts this action has on scientists and other specialists.
The complaint asks for intervention to force the EPA to enter binding arbitration on the subject.
"EPA touts its outreach efforts but has refused to consult with its own professionals or anyone else prior to hacking apart its library system," said PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg.
"It is ridiculous that our nation's top environmental professionals have to wage legal battle just to keep access to information," she said.
This Tuesday, in an oversight hearing before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson testified that only five libraries in the 26 library network had been closed.
But additional libraries have been shut, including, most recently the EPA Regional Library in Atlanta serving eight southeastern states. Virtually all services have been transferred to Cincinnati.
When confronted by committee chair Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, Johnson said he knew nothing about this shuttering of the Atlanta facility.
The rationale for EPA's library shutdowns was originally to save funds, but agency studies show that its libraries produce cost savings several times their budgets by eliminating staff time that would otherwise be spent on tracking down documents.
In addition, PEER says the agency's plan to digitize tens of thousands of documents will cost far more than the $1.5 million of estimated savings.
Now, EPA claims that it wants to modernize its information system, even as its budget is being cut - the FY 08 proposed budget would cut EPA's budget by 6.6 percent. The agency has not described how the new system will ultimately function. Nor is it known if this still-developing new system will perform any better than the present system.
"EPA is forcing its entire staff to become their own librarians, wasting countless hours and sacrificing access to mountains of information formerly available," Goldberg said. "These shuttered libraries handled tens of thousands of information requests each year, not the handful that EPA is now implying."