MAC: Mines and Communities

US update

Published by MAC on 2007-04-13

US update

13th April 2007

Oregon has legislated to ensure that electric utilities use "renewable" energy for at least a quarter of the state's needs. Paul Wolfowitz has also declared, at a World Bank meeting in Washington DC, that "clean and renewable energy projects" may become the World Bank's key focus in a few years.

However, the Oregon formula isn't scheduled for full implementation for almost another twenty years. And we mightl ask how much faith to place in Wolfowitz's latest statement, since the Bank continues refusing to accept the recommendations of its Extractive Industries Review (now four years old) which urged abandoning financing of coal and phasing out investment in oil and gas.

More emphatic is the decision taken by the six New England states and New York to cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 90-95% - starting now.

Oregon State Senators Okay Renewable Energy Bill

PlanetArk US

13th April 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - Oregon state senators passed a bill on Tuesday to require electric utilities to make renewable energies such as wind, solar and wave power at least 25 percent of their power supplies by 2025.

The bill, passed on a 20-to-10 vote, now goes to an energy and environment committee in Oregon's House of Representatives.

It calls for utilities to add renewable energy in stages, beginning with 5 percent by 2011 and rising to 15 percent by 2015, 20 percent by 2020, and to the 25 percent standard five years later.

Smaller consumer-owned utilities would have to meet a 5 percent renewable supply target by 2025.

Renewable energy added after 1995, including hydroelectricity projects, would count toward Oregon's goal.

Oregon's neighboring states have adopted renewable energy laws, with California targeting 20 percent of supplies by 2010, Nevada 20 percent by 2015, and Washington state 15 percent in 2020. About half of the 50 states have set "renewable portfolio standards" that, depending on the state, are either guidelines or rules for the share of renewable power generation delivered to customers.


New England States Take Aim at Power Plant Mercury Emissions

LOWELL, Massachusetts, (ENS)

13th April 2007

For the first time, a group of states is imposing a limit on mercury in regional waters.

In collaboration with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the six New England states and New York have joined together to set Clean Water Act standards that force a 90 percent reduction in out-of-state mercury pollution from sources including the Midwest's coal-fired power plants.

On Wednesday, the states released their mercury pollution reduction plan under the Clean Water Act through a draft total maximum daily load, TMDL.

The TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet its water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant's sources.

This TMDL calls for 90 to 95 percent reductions in mercury emissions in Midwest power plants through existing reduction control technology.

The TMDL concludes that implementation of such controls is achievable and cost-effective and should commence immediately.

The states pointed to elevated levels of mercury in fish throughout the region. According to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, 10,175 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, 46,207 river miles, and an additional 25 river segments are listed as impaired, primarily due to atmospheric deposition of mercury.

Each of the New England states and New York has implemented an aggressive mercury reduction program to deal with the severe, widespread mercury pollution in the region.

After public hearings are held in the region, the states will submit the mercury TMDL to Environmental Protect Agency for approval.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has 30 days to approve or disapprove the TMDL.

The Conservation Law Foundation, CLF, which has been pressing for the tough, new mercury reductions standards, applauded the move.

"The Bush administration has failed to hold Midwest power plants accountable for the damage they have done to our air, water and soil," said Christopher Kilian, director of CLF's Clean Water and Healthy Forests Program. "Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that is directly impacting the health of New England's people and environment."

Many of the involved states, along with CLF, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's Clean Air Mercury Rule on the grounds that it allows continued excessive emissions of mercury from power plants in the Midwest.

"It's clear that the federal government's mercury reduction plan won't clean up our waters and make our fish safe to eat," said Melissa Hoffer, vice president and director of CLF's New Hampshire Advocacy Center. "Now the New England states and New York are using their legal authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our health and safety from this dangerous, toxic pollution."

World Bank Chief Says Clean Energy a Vital Issue

PlanetArk US

13th April 2007

WASHINGTON - Clean energy, renewable energy and climate change may well become the World Bank's main focus in years to come despite the issue's absence from the lender's formal agenda at its meeting this weekend, President Paul Wolfowitz said on Thursday.

"We had clean energy on the formal agenda in the fall. It will come up again this coming fall. It's a major focus of the bank's work and it might well be the principal focus of the bank in a few years from now," Wolfowitz told reporters.

World Bank spring meetings start in earnest at the weekend, and member countries' development ministers plan to discuss clean energy and energy efficiency informally over lunch on Sunday.

An official from an industrialized country familiar with preparations for the World Bank's weekend agenda said policy positions are evolving and it was decided that an informal discussion of climate change and energy was the most promising means to perhaps reach a consensus among the 185 members.

A World Bank report last year found that current financing from multilateral lenders like the Washington-based bank as well as governments and the private sector "cannot lead to a meaningful transition to a low-carbon economy."

Public concerns have mounted as unusual weather patterns have been reported around the globe from unseasonably warm and cold weather to drought and well-above-average rainfall.

"It's a big subject. It's not lack of interest. It's not lack of consensus. Everyone agrees it's important. I think the discussion at lunch (on Sunday) should help us go forward with a clear understanding of what the ministers feel are the outstanding issues," Wolfowitz said.

The World Bank said it committed US$871 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the year that ended last June.

It estimates that for every dollar it invests in a project another US$5 is drawn from the private sector, government and others and that developing nations need to invest US$300 billion a year for the next 25 years to meet their energy needs, largely in electric power generation and distribution.

"The poorer countries who are our principal customers are frankly ultimately the ones most affected by climate change, partly because many of them are tropically located but also because if you're living on the edge already a global disturbance pushes you over the edge," Wolfowitz said.

"Maybe the major way that this is going to happen is for investments to come from the developed countries to help poor countries reduce carbon emissions either through reducing deforestation or reducing their dependence on fossil fuels or increasing the efficiency with which they use fossil fuels."

His opening news conference was dominated by questions of conflict of interest in his reassignment of a World Bank staff member Wolfowitz is dating. (Additional reporting by Francesca Landini)

Story by Gilbert Le Gras


Schwarzenegger in Washington: Make Environment Sexy

PlanetArk US

13th April 2007

WASHINGTON - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told environmentalists on Wednesday they needed to stop nagging and make their cause sexy, likening it to bodybuilding's evolution from a weird pursuit to mainstream.

"Bodybuilding used to have a very sketchy image," the former bodybuilding champion told an environmental forum at Georgetown University. "... It had fanatics and it had weird people. ...But we changed that. ... It became sexy, attractive."

"Like bodybuilders, environmentalists were thought of as kind of weird and fanatics also, you know, the serious tree huggers," Schwarzenegger said.

He said those pushing for limits on greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution were not on the fringe but in the center of the debate on global warming, adding that the environmental movement needs to get to the point where it "is no longer seen as a nag or as a scold."

"We have to make it mainstream, we have to make it sexy, we have to make it attractive so that everyone wants to participate," Schwarzenegger said.

In Washington to meet with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, the Republican governor said politicians who oppose acting to curb greenhouse gas emissions will endanger themselves.


"Your political base will melt away as surely as the polar ice caps," he said. "... You will become a political penguin on a smaller and smaller ice floe that is drifting out to sea. Goodbye, my little friend! That's what's going to happen."

The Bush administration has been slow to act to curb emissions that spur global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday it was still evaluating a Supreme Court ruling that gives the agency the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Before his speech, Schwarzenegger talked with the agency's chief, Stephen Johnson, about California's request for federal permission to enforce tough state limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson said on Tuesday California may not proceed until its request is evaluated; he said that process would begin "shortly."

Schwarzenegger noted California's moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and to cut the carbon content in transportation fuels by 10 percent, acknowledging that these moves and others by his state would not turn the tide on global warming.

However, he said what happens in California has impact around the globe, and among states and Canadian provinces that have become California's environmental partners.

"We're going to change the dynamic of greenhouse gas and carbon emissions ourselves," Schwarzenegger said. "We are not waiting for anyone, we are not waiting for the federal government or Washington."

Story by Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent



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