Coal ash a key source of tap-water toxin — report (subs req’d)
With U.S. EPA’s chief preparing to testify today before a Senate panel on toxics in drinking water, a new report from environmental and health groups identified the waste from coal-burning power plants as a key source of one of the chemicals coming under the microscope.
EPA took swift action last month to prod utilities to tighten drinking water screening for hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, after a nonprofit group sounded alarms over tests that found significant amounts of the chemical in the tap water of 25 U.S. cities (E&ENews PM, Jan. 11).
A new report released yesterday draws a link between hexavalent chromium and coal ash, identifying the ash landfills as potential contributors to the groundwater pollution. Jackson is scheduled to testify on hexavalent chromium today at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (E&E Daily, Jan. 31).
Although EPA has moved to regulate coal ash, the groups behind the report — Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Environmental Integrity Project — say the agency ignored the cancer risk associated with the presence of hexavalent chromium in groundwater.
The groups called on EPA to treat coal ash as a hazardous waste — the tougher of two likely regulatory options.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) will unveil draft legislation Wednesday that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, a GOP aide on the House panel said.
“The bill is a narrowly drawn, targeted solution that prevents the Clean Air Act from being transformed into a regulatory vehicle to impose a cap-and-trade energy tax,” the Republican Energy and Commerce Committee aide said.
“The Obama administration will not be allowed to regulate what it has been unable to legislate,” adds the aide.
The comments reflect the widespread view among Republicans and many fossil fuel industry groups that regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the air law will harm the economy and eventually impose burdensome requirements on scores of facilities.
A number of India’s key crops are experiencing the effects of climate change, experts say.
H Pathak, an investigator with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s Climate Change Challenge Program, said global warming isn’t limited to a rise in average temperatures.
“It’s a little more complicated than that. There is for example also a rise in carbon dioxide and a change in rainfall patterns, which could affect India very severely because much of our agriculture is still rain-fed,” Pathak told The Times of India…
While some regions of India are getting too much rain, other regions aren’t getting enough, affecting crops ranging from coffee and tea to grapes and rice.
In the south, erratic rain patterns are causing the coffee crop to fruit twice and sometimes three times, resulting in inferior beans. The Coffee Board of India has instituted an insurance program to help coffee growers in Karnataka deal with the declining yields.
In the Kuttanad region of Kerala in the southwest, considered the state’s Rice Bowl, heavy rains delayed the normal sowing season, which begins in October, until December, which triggered an onslaught of pests.
The country’s top offshore-energy regulator said Tuesday that the Obama administration is working to streamline the leasing process for offshore wind.
Offshore wind development in the United States has suffered significant delays, most notably the case of the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, which has been trying to secure the necessary permits for almost a decade.
The comments also come as the oil and gas industry is criticizing the Obama administration for imposing new safety regulations in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill that have caused uncertainty in the industry and resulted in drilling delays.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich said Tuesday that the administration is making offshore renewable energy a “top priority.” Bromwich said he is working to encourage offshore wind development by putting new focus on its Renewable Energy Program.
BP, the largest oil and natural-gas producer in the U.S., today said it plans to sell refineries in Texas City, Texas, and Carson, California, to focus on plants that can process heavy crude and raise diesel output. The company is also selling retail assets in southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
“These are not average refineries, these are some of the most highly upgraded in the world,” Iain Conn, BP’s head of refining and marketing, told reporters in London. “We would expect to get a value above the benchmarks.”
Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley is making the company “more agile” following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP has so far sold $22 billion in assets as part of a plan to divest $30 billion to help pay for the damage.
Conn estimated that U.S. refining assets have in the past 10 years been sold at an average of about $6,000 per unit of capacity, valuing the plants at about $4.4 billion. The company will sell distribution terminals, power generators and infrastructure, potentially raising the value of the deal.
The company expects to complete the sale of the refineries along with marketing assets by the end of 2012, BP said. The Texas City refinery can handle 475,000 barrels of oil daily while Carson has a daily processing capacity of 266,000 barrels, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
France’s solar-panel imports surged last year as developers relied mostly on foreign manufacturers to supply a boom in renewable-energy projects, Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.
French customs figures show the deficit in favor of solar panel imports widened to 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in 2010 compared with 800 million euros the previous year, she said at a conference in Paris.
“We can’t be satisfied with this,” Kosciusko-Morizet said. “Our new regulatory framework must be to the benefit of French industry.”
France in December suspended solar-energy projects for three months to study potential subsidy cuts and measures to limit growth in the industry after a boom in installations, supplied mostly from China. The halt applied to projects with a capacity of more than 3 kilowatts, about enough to run a home.
A report on development of solar energy will be submitted to the government Feb. 11 and new rules are to be announced after that, French Industry Minister Eric Besson said today. The regulations will be “stable and lasting,” he said.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced the halt to quell what he called a “veritable speculative bubble” in the photovoltaic energy industry and allow the government time to enact a new regulations.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will meet with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a proposal to significantly expand U.S. low-carbon power generation.
Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, called on lawmakers to pass legislation requiring that 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from low-carbon sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas and coal with carbon-capture technology. Obama has not yet offered specific detail on how his “clean energy standard” would be structured.
The White House has reached out to Bingaman to help flesh out the details of the proposal. Bingaman, for his part, has been a strong proponent of a renewable electricity standard, which focuses on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar without including low-carbon sources like nuclear and natural gas.
Obama and Bingaman will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss energy policy broadly. But Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker said much of the conversation will focus on the clean energy standard.
I’m in Rio de Janeiro to find out more about Petrobras, the world’s third-largest oil company by market capitalisation and a giant of Brazilian technology. First stop, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro’s Institute for Graduate Studies in Engineering (COPPE), where research is focused on extracting Brazil’s “sub-salt” oil””huge reserves recently discovered 200-300km off the coast, and lying 7,000 metres below the surface, under a layer of salt around two kilometres thick. “There are logistical challenges,” says Segen Estefen, the institute’s director for technology and innovation. “How to transport personnel? Should there be intermediate bases?” Getting this oil to the surface will require innovative submarine equipment, which means developing robotics and new materials that can survive the great pressures and corrosive action of the sub-salt oil. And bringing it to the surface will require underwater energy grids that must not get blocked and can be maintained at extreme depths.
Petrobras has paid for a laboratory dedicated to non-destructive testing, corrosion and welding. The pressure at the sub-salt deposits is 400-600 bars””double that of a conventional oil field. New kinds of materials are required to operate at this depth, mainly to withstand the highly corrosive conditions. Since cracks propagate faster at higher pressure, even slight corrosion can quickly become catastrophic.
Pride of place in the institute goes to the world’s deepest pool used to simulate conditions for offshore drilling. At 15 metres, plus a well in the middle that adds another ten, it easily surpasses rivals in China, the Netherlands and Norway, which do not exceed ten metres. A wave generator is already in action, and a pump-and-pipe system that will be able to simulate currents is under construction. It can make waves up to half a metre high””which doesn’t sound like much, until you remember that it’s used on scaled models, which means it can simulate even the most colossal tempests. A motion platform, like the rigs underneath flight simulators that are used to make them bounce around, is used to study the “sloshing problem”"”what goes on inside a partially filled oil container, like a tanker, when the sea is rough. Waves get generated inside too, and these can exert a very large force on the vessel, to add to the bashing it’s getting from outside.