MAC: Mines and Communities

US Update

Published by MAC on 2007-03-09

US update

9th March 2007

A year-old report, suppressed by the Bush regime, estimates that the country's global grenhouse gas emissions will "sky rocket" over the next thirteen years. Despite this - and increasing pressure from NGOs and some investors - it's doubtful whether the US will learn to cut back signficantly on coal in time to make a real difference. A court in Ohio has even just allowed coal mining to proceed under an historic "old growth" forest.

You've got fifteen thousand tonnes of toxic radioactive nickel wastes - so, what to do with them? Apparently , if you're the US Department of Energy, you try to sell them to private buyers.

States that already have a programme to reduce mercury contamination in their waterways are to be allowed to defer adhering to maximum limits of the deadly metal, and encouraged to follow new voluntary guidelines.

Bush Climate Report Shows U.S. Greenhouse Gases Skyrocketing


5th March 2007

The United States will emit about 20 percent more greenhouse gases by 2020 than it did in 2000, according to a draft report that the Bush administration was scheduled to submit to the United Nations a year ago.

The internal administration report, which was obtained by the Associated Press, estimates that U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas will rise from 7.7 billion tons in 2000 to 9.2 billion tons in 2020 - an increase of 19.5 percent.

The growth in emissions was expected, but highlights how out of touch the Bush administration is with world opinion and the efforts of other countries to curb climate change.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, CEQ, which is responsible for the draft report, says that how much the administration can do to cut emissions beyond merely slowing the rate of increase will become clear "as the science justifies."

The report forecasts increasing droughts and "a distinct reduction" in the spring snowpack covering the northwestern states, which supplies most of the region's drinking water.

The United States currently is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases - responsible for about one-quarter of the world's emisssions.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, one of his first acts was to repudiate the Kyoto Protocol signed by President Bill Clinton, and it has never been sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

The protocol, an amendment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, requires most industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the end of 2012.

The latest projections from pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15) show that greenhouse gas emissions could be brought down to eight percent below 1990 levels by 2010. An October report by the European Environment Agency, EEA, shows that "if all existing and planned domestic policy measures are implemented and Kyoto mechanisms as well as carbon sinks are used, the EU-15 will reach its Kyoto Protocol target."

The next 10 new EU member states also are on track to achieve their individual Kyoto targets, despite rising emissions, largely due to economic restructuring in the 1990s, says the EEA. The two most recent EU member states were not part of the block last October when the report was produced.

President Bush has said that abiding by the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the U.S. economy. He has argued that voluntary emissions reductions and better technology such as clean coal, nuclear power, and energy efficiency would do the job of limiting global warming.

U.S. scientists, businesses and environmental groups say that if irreversible global warming is to be avoided, binding targets even more stringent than those of the Kyoto Protocol should be set.

On April 14 campaigners will be demonstrating in cities across the United States to call for 80 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The CEQ says its final version of the report will "show that the president's portfolio of actions and his financial commitment to addressing climate change are working."

The draft U.S. report comes one month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, issued their strongest warning to date - finding that global warming is occurring, that humans are "very likely" responsible, and that warming is expected to continue for centuries, even if greenhouse gas emissions are curbed at once.

Average global temperatures could rise by over six degree Celsius (11 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, the panel said.

The IPCC report was endorsed by 113 governments, including the United States.

The U.S. states are taking the initiative from the federal government with four regional programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions. California has led the field by aiming to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to meet the target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

A variety of bipartisan legislation establishing controls on greenhouse gas emissions and cap-and-trade plans for the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are making their way through the Democrat-controlled Congress.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has said the administration stands firm on its belief that regulating carbon emissions would undermine the U.S. economy.

"We still have very strong reservations about an overarching, one-size-fits-all mandate about carbon," he said in November. Connaughton said most bills in Congress aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide probably would raise energy prices.

A CEQ spokesperson blamed the delay in submitting the report to the United Nations on an "extensive interagency review process."

The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warned at its annual meeting in February that, "Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be," the scientists said.

FEATURE - US Coal-Fired Power Plant Plans up in Smoke?

PlanetArk US

5th March 2007

NEW YORK - The future of coal-fired power plants is seen so tied up by legal challenges from green groups, that it could slow, or even thwart, plans to use America's abundant coal supplies to generate its growing electricity needs.

The recent decision by Texas utility TXU Corp. to scrap eight of 11 planned coal-fired plants to gain environmental support for its leveraged buyout, has thrown the growth prospects of the coal-mining industry into doubt.

In a country where approximately half the electricity consumed is generated by coal, TXU's move adds fuel to the debate over whether environmental concerns about coal's contribution to global warning should trump economic necessity.

"Litigation is continuing and it's going to be tough to get new coal-fired plants out of the gate," said Richard Price, who follows the coal industry for Westminster Securities.

"Retrofits of existing plants to reduce emissions will probably get done. But new plants? I am beginning to be skeptical," said Price. Ian Synnott, an analyst with Natexis Bleichroeder, said TXU's decision pushes back some near-term plans. "There are still a number proposed, but they would have to scale back.

"If you were a coal company looking at TXU plants coming on, with 30 million tons, you may slow down your growth, but it is not a death blow by any means."

Another analyst, who declined to be identified, said: "Environmental regulations on carbon emissions I believe will slow down the construction of new coal-fired plants."


Price said Peabody Energy Corp has been unable to build two coal-fired plants for several years, as opposition by environmental groups has tied up the plans in courts.

North Carolina just approved one of two planned 800-megawatt coal-fired power units Duke Energy wants to build, but only four U.S. plants have come on line since 2000, even though 155 were built between 1980 and 1999.

"The Sierra Club and other groups are litigating every step of the way," said Price. "It's an arduous process and no matter who wins, someone will appeal."

Getting plants approved takes 12-24 months, he said, followed by 2-3 years for construction. "I don't see any favorable impact for coal in that time frame."

There are 160-170 new U.S. power plants on the drawing board. Coal-based plants account for 50 percent of U.S. electric power and are predicted to increase their share to about 57 percent by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration. That would bring U.S. coal production to 1.78 billion tons by 2030 from 1.1 billion tons in 2004.

"Environmentalists are pushing really aggressively and I was surprised how strong it was in Texas and it caught the market by surprise," said Synnott. "It raises question marks about the long-term outlook for coal. But I don't see it changing the outlook for coal as a low-cost alternative."

The key, many analysts say, is how quickly "clean-coal", carbon-capturing technology is developed for the new generation of power plants. Also coal gasification and coal-to-liquid technology is still a few years off.

"Until new technology makes coal-burning cleaner in 3-5 years, it's gonna be real tough to get new plants built," said Price.


NASA climate scientist James Hansen recently called for a halt to building all coal-fired power plants until technology allows for the capture of emissions from burning coal.

"There should be a moratorium," Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the National Press Club, "Until we have that clean coal power plant, we should not be building them." The mining industry acknowledges not all plants currently planned will get built. "We encourage conservation and a diverse mix of energy sources," said Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, which represents America's mining companies.

While the industry is working to promote public policies for cleaner air, "we still believe coal will be required for at least half of our electricity needs," Raulston told Reuters.

And with electricity demand growing by about 1 percent per year, analysts believe the country will have to accept more coal-fired plants. Synnott noted that some under construction and due for completion in 2010 to 2012 will add 11,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity. Current U.S. capacity is about 1 million MW.

"There are still opportunities to build new coal-fired plants, which are less expensive than natural gas," he said. "(But) We will need to see carbon control through regulations and a significant incentive to develop carbon capturing technology.

"You will probably still see the potential for long-term demand from new coal-fired plants. It just gets pushed out a bit," said Synnott.

Story by Steve James


Ohio: Coal mining below forest to go on

Business Week, YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio

7th March 2007

A state appeals court has let stand a decision by state regulators to allow coal mining beneath one of Ohio's last old-growth forests.

The 7th Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled that the Ohio Reclamation Commission was within its authority to give Ohio Valley Coal Co. a permit to mine under 400-year-old trees in Dysart Woods in Belmont County, about 80 miles east of Columbus.

The company wants to use room and pillar mining, which will leave pillars of coal to help prevent cave-ins. The company will carve a path under 14 acres of the forest to get to 2,400 acres of coal.

Environmental groups have argued that the mining would damage the trees and an underground spring that provides water for the area.

The company has maintained the mining will not harm the trees or any plant growth.

"Our mining plan and mining rights have been finally vindicated and millions of dollars of scientific research by independent university consultants has been upheld," Robert Murray, director of Ohio Valley and chairman, president and chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., said in a statement.

Brandi Whetstone, executive director of the Buckeye Forest Council, said there are scientific flaws in the company's case.

"I'm really disappointed and saddened by the court's decision," she said.

She said mining leaves to chance whether the woods will be harmed.

Uses Sought for Tons of Radioactive Nickel Scrap


9th March 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, is seeking input from industry representatives on the safe disposition of about 15,300 tons of radioactive nickel scrap recovered from uranium enrichment process equipment at the Department’s Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Paducah, Kentucky, facilities.

The Expression of Interest, released today, will assist in DOE’s evaluation of restricted uses of its nickel material for controlled radiological applications.

These restricted uses could include use in commercial nuclear power plants, DOE nuclear facilities, or by the U.S. Navy. The Department will solicit input through May 8, 2007.

All interested parties will be required to demonstrate their ability to obtain all required authorizations, licenses, personnel, and equipment to accept and declassify any classified nickel scrap at a DOE approved facility.

These parties must demonstrate their ability to transport, store, and process radioactively-contaminated nickel at a licensed radioactive materials facility.

To apply, parties must demonstrate their ability to dispose the unclassified and decontaminated nickel scrap into products suitable for use only in controlled government and/or commercial radiological applications; and finally to handle the disposition all byproducts and residual wastes.

DOE says it will determine its future acquisition plans, if any, consistent with the outcome of the appropriate environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

An information meeting in Oak Ridge is tentatively scheduled for April 3, 2007, for registered participants. An information meeting in Paducah is scheduled for April 5, 2007, and includes a short tour to view the inventory.

For more information, visit:

EPA Issues Clean Water Mercury Listing Guidance


9th March 2007

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is providing information on a voluntary approach for listing waters impaired by mercury from atmospheric sources under the Clean Water Act. States are required to list impaired waters at least every two years.

Under the new guidance issued Thursday, states that have in place a comprehensive mercury reduction program may put their waters impaired by mercury from air sources in a subcategory "5m" of their Clean Water Act Section 303(d) lists and defer development of Total Maximum Daily Loads, TMDLs.

"We believe that the 5m approach will help foster state mercury reduction programs that, together with our efforts at the national and international levels, will ultimately restore mercury-impaired waters," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water.

The EPA, the states, and other stakeholders have been working to determine how best to address waters impaired by mercury, particularly where the primary source of the mercury is atmospheric deposition.

To date, over 8,500 water bodies in 43 states and Puerto Rico are listed under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act as impaired due to mercury.

State water programs have tools for addressing mercury discharges from water sources under the Clean Water Act, but they need to work closely with their air, waste, and toxics programs to address other sources of mercury.

U.S. mercury deposition results from domestic man-made sources and global sources, including natural, re-emitted, and man-made.

EPA has estimated that, on average, 83 percent of the mercury deposited in the U.S. originates from international sources, with the remaining 17 percent coming from U.S. and Canadian sources.

The mix of long-distance and local sources makes it difficult in some waterbodies to achieve water quality standards for mercury.

A number of states have developed or are in the process of developing Total Maximum Daily Loads, and there are currently approved mercury TMDLs for over 300 waterbodies in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition, a number of states are moving ahead to address mercury sources within their control through comprehensive mercury reduction programs.

For more information on the new mercury guidance, visit:


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