Date: 11-Mar-10
Country: US
Author: Jon Hurdle

Obama Aide Urges Listing Of Gas-Drilling Chemicals Photo: Jon  Hurdle/Files
A worker at EnCana’s Frenchie Draw gas-drilling rig in central Wyoming guides sections of steel pipe into an 11,000-foot well in this September 19, 2009 file photo.
Photo: Jon Hurdle/Files

President Barack Obama’s top environmental adviser urged the natural gas industry on Tuesday to disclose the chemicals it uses in drilling, warning that the development of massive U.S. shale gas reserves could be held back otherwise.

Joseph Aldy, special assistant to the president for energy and the environment, said concerns about water contamination from drilling chemicals could lead to states requiring disclosure and that could deter additional investment.

“You can’t leave this in the status quo if you think we are going to have significant shale gas development in the United States,” Aldy told Reuters after a natural gas conference.

Some energy companies decline to publish lists of toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to extract natural gas from shale beds far underground.

Companies have been under pressure from critics of fracturing and from some lawmakers, who say the technique is damaging the water supplies of people who live near gas rigs.

Aldy said it is unclear whether fracturing chemicals are fouling groundwater but acknowledged the industry is under pressure from those who say the process leads to contamination with chemicals that can cause a range of illnesses.

“I don’t think we have the information to assess that,” he said.

Aldy said the industry could disclose the chemicals voluntarily, as some companies already do, or through regulation.

He declined to say whether the Obama administration supports the “Frack Act,” a Congressional bill that would require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals and give the Environmental Protection Agency oversight over the industry, which is now regulated by the states.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said on Monday she was “very concerned” about the composition of fracturing fluids and that she hoped the agency would conduct a study this year if it obtained funding.

U.S. shale gas reserves are estimated to contain enough of the clean-burning fuel to meet national demand for at least a century. A current boom in development has been made possible by fracturing technology that injects water, sand and a mix of chemicals to fracture the shale at high pressure.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan)


Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental policies.

The Faces of the Grassroots contest is an opportunity to publicly exhibit creativity with environmental justice stories, and connect with others working to raise awareness of the movement.

Videos can focus on any environmental justice activity, issue, or topic. Examples would be a music video about climate change, or a video recording a successful environmental justice project that has made a community a healthier and happier place to live.

Awards will be given to the winning submissions in each category. The videos will also be featured on EPA’s Web site and may be used as public service announcements.

Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 8, 2010. EPA will announce winners in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Categories and prize money:

Public Service Announcements (30 or 60 seconds)
1st Place – $2,500
2nd Place – $1,500
3rd Place – $1,000
Student Winner – $500 (13-18 years old)

Informational Video (3-5 minutes)
1st Place – $2,500
2nd Place – $1,500
3rd Place – $1,000
Student Winner – $500 (13-18 years old)

More information and the promotional video:

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01.21.10

big suv photo
Big ol’ Chevy Tahoe. Image credit:AutoWeek.

The Star-Telegram is reporting that “The health effects of air pollution are a major topic in Texas because the state is one of the most polluted in the country. A recent survey by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth found that 1 in 4 children in North Texas has asthma, which can be both caused and aggravated by air pollution.” This in the context of a recent study which documented Texas kids are “more likely to miss school when certain types of air pollution increase.”

There’s no one source to point the finger of blame at. It’s about a predilection for big smoggy vehicles, refinery and petrochemical emissions, coal-burning power plants, ships and barges, and so on. The point is….

Environmental quality impacts school performance (my inference based on the correlation reported). I’m betting it’s not just in Texas that this potential correlation could be found.

Clearly, many US elected officials do not yet ‘connect the environmental dots’ linking air quality to quality of life and to learning, nor are some powerful corporate constituents wanting them to. For a clear demonstration of the latter effect, look no further than Alaskan Senator Murkowski , who is sponsoring an amendment that prevents USEPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To see who’s got the most horses in that rodeo read Senator Who Hopes to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas Pollution is Top Fundraiser from Utility Companies

Who needs that permafrost anyhow?

Failing to have much trust in the sciences and still stuck on libertarian romanticism, it takes exploding underpants to get attention to the business of ‘dot connecting.’ How long before a Texas congress-critter tacks an amendment onto a Federal budget bill, preventing EPA from regulating smog causing emissions? Not long is my guess.

Who needs that book learnin’ anyhow?

Three more dots.

  • I wonder how many corporations pay big-time health care benefits for employee family asthma treatments while giving money to lobbyists who want to slow down air quality regulation enforcement?
  • China bears some of the responsibility for Texas AQ degradation.
  • As reported in an AFP release on Yahoo News.

Pollution from Asia is boosting levels of ozone in the skies above the western United States, a trend that could hamper US efforts to meet tougher smog standards,…The findings are important, as previous research suggests pollution at the altitude monitored in the study can descend and mix with surface air.If so, a long-standing question may be answered. There has been a rise in ozone levels in parts of the rural western United States, but there is little road traffic or industry in these regions to explain the increase.

The paper says the phenomenon could have repercussions for efforts in the United States to roll back its smog problem with tougher car-exhaust measures and other initiatives.

    Are you still with me on this?

  • Taking a leadership role in climate action enables the USA to add more pressure on China to clean up the emissions of both greenhouse cases and the associated smog causing emissions that float over rural Texas.

Mike’s adjacent post on the Chinese smog effect on Western USA is worth a look:

That’s all the dots I have for now.

More posts about Texas air quality.
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building ‘Alamo of Coal’
Texas PTA Partners With Government for Cleaner School Buses
Texas Board of Ed Neuters Science Textbooks’ Global Warming

being treated for chemical exposure

being treated for chemical exposure

Posted by Colleen Hutchings in Tracking Kid Safe, Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 |

More than 150 representatives of industry, government, academia and the environmental community voiced a broad consensus this week that the time has come for comprehensive reform of the outdated federal law created to ensure that Americans’ health is not threatened by the thousands of chemicals they encounter in daily life. Click here to read the rest of EWG’s wrap-up.

Highlights from The Future of U.S. Chemicals Policy

Conference Multimedia Resources
Click here to watch The Future of U.S. Chemicals Policy in full.
Click to watch all of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s speech.
Click here to see a slide show of this historic conference.

Read reactions from EWG staff
Key stakeholders share ideas about TSCA reform
The morning session of today’s historic conference exploring routes to federal chemical policy reform made clear that there is now a strong consensus among key stakeholders – industry, the EPA and the White House, the environmental health community – on the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Thanks to today’s event, we now have the pleasure of discussing them.Click here to read the rest of the morning wrap-up.

You can help us keep reform moving forward!
Help us keep the pressure on Congress to reform TSCA. Sign our Declaration today to tell your Represenatives that you think children being born prepolluted is morally wrong. Click here to add your voice today.

We know far too little about chemicals coming into the market. Manufacturers have far too little certainty about how chemicals they make are regulated. The EPA needs the tools to do the job that the public expects.
– EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Dear Christian,

October 6 was a historic day. In a first-of-its-kind conference, EWG brought together more than 150 representatives of government, academia, the environmental community and industry (yes, you read that right). The subject was chemicals policy. And everyone had one thought in mind:

The time has come for comprehensive reform of our nation’s outdated system for chemicals regulation. It has failed to ensure that the health of our children — and of all Americans — is no longer threatened by the thousands of chemicals encountered in daily life. As a result, consumers no longer trust that the products they are being sold are safe.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson joined us because she agrees that now is the time for change. Her keynote address signaled that the Administration is ready to take on chemicals policy reform.

Click here for blog updates, photos and video from the conference, including excerpts from Administrator Jackson’s keynote address.

Strange bedfellows
Parents, children, doctors, legislators and, of course, the chemical industry itself, are all stakeholders when it comes to comprehensive chemical reform. One refrain we heard over and over during the conference, from business leaders and environmental health advocates alike, was this: the time for change is NOW. Though we may not agree on every detail, we do agree that the goal of meaningful reform will not be met unless we all come to the table and hammer out our differences.

A special thanks goes to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Rep. Henry Waxman (CA), Rep. Bobby Rush (IL), and you. Unless consumers speak up — with your voices and with your dollars — these dialogues, and the reform on the horizon, will not happen.


Ken Cook
President, Environmental Working Group

Ethanol Industry’s 15% Solution Raises Concerns

(as published this day in the New York Times)ethanol

Published: May 8, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to make an important and far-reaching decision this year that will affect more than 500 million gasoline engines powering everything from large pickups to family cars to lawn mowers: whether to grant the ethanol industry’s request to raise the maximum amount of ethanol that can be added to gasoline.

That request has engine manufacturers and consumer advocates worried about possible damage, service station owners in a tizzy over the financial and legal implications and a leading petroleum industry group saying the move is unwise and premature.

Specifically, ethanol producers are asking that the maximum ethanol content in the most common blend of gasoline be increased from 10 percent — a limit set about three decades ago — to as much as 15 percent. The blend the industry hopes will become common is known as E15, but the E.P.A. could approve a blend between E10 and E15.

Last year, nearly three-quarters of the gasoline sold in the United States contained some ethanol, according to the American Petroleum Institute. E10, which is 10 percent ethanol, is by far the most common fuel, though the E.P.A. has approved the use of ethanol blends up to 85 percent — but only for the limited number of new and late-model cars and trucks certified by manufacturers as “flexible fuel vehicles.” The ethanol industry wants E15 to replace E10 as the standard fuel found at most stations.

The issue came before the E.P.A. in early March when Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, and 54 ethanol manufacturers asked the agency for a waiver of the Clean Air Act so that more ethanol could be added to gasoline.

Although the request went largely unnoticed by the public, it got the attention of anyone who makes or sells gasoline engines, as well as some environmentalists and consumer advocates.

Approving E15 would have a huge impact on consumers, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, and could cause problems including the voiding of car warranties. “There’s a lot to worry about,” he said. “All a consumer has to do is look at the fuels section of the owner’s manual, which says that the use of fuel above 10 percent ethanol may result in denial of warranty claims.”

Nearly 250 million cars and light trucks are registered in the United States, according to Experian Automotive. But the impact would be even broader. Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, a trade group, estimates that a change would affect 300 million engines in everything from chainsaws to weed trimmers.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association says 12 million boat engines would also be affected.

Growth Energy, whose co-chairman is Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and former Democratic presidential candidate, has told the E.P.A. that it has proof from several studies that E15 will not damage engines and will result in cleaner air while reducing the nation’s reliance on oil.

The studies were done by groups including the federal Energy Department, the State of Minnesota, the Renewable Fuels Association, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research and Stockholm University in Sweden.

Michael Harrigan, a former Ford Motor Company fuel-system engineer who is now a consultant to Growth Energy, said automakers had been doing enough testing that there should be no problems using E15.

And Tom Buis, the chief executive of Growth Energy, said, “We are confident in the science we prepared.”

But confident or not, Growth Energy has plenty of opposition from groups that say some of the studies it cites are inconclusive. The critics also say its assertions are unproved and in some cases misleading.

While automakers generally favor wider use of biofuels,
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 11 automakers, said Growth Energy had failed to prove that E15 would not damage vehicles engineered to run on a maximum of 10 percent ethanol. More testing is needed, he said.

“We are not asking for this to be delayed forever,” Mr. Territo said. “We are asking for this to be delayed until the testing is complete.”

Mr. Kiser, of the outdoor power equipment group, said some initial tests already indicated that E15 could cause serious problems — including safety issues — with some small engines.

At Honda, which makes a wide range of engines for products from minivans to power generators, the concern is that the effects of a big increase in an additive like ethanol are unknown, said Edward B. Cohen, vice president for government and industry relations at American Honda. “The impact can be on the emissions system, like the catalytic converter,” he said. “It can be on the various tubes or couplings that are part of the fuel system, and it could affect the performance of the vehicle, particularly cold starting.”

Honda can design engines to run well on new gasoline blends, Mr. Cohen said. The issue is the legacy fleet, whose engines were designed over two decades for varying requirements. There is no single answer, Mr. Cohen said, to the question of how E15 would affect them.The American Petroleum Institute is also concerned, said Robert Greco, the group director of downstream and industry operations. He said more research was needed — probably several years’ worth — before the institute would be convinced that E15 was safe for so many different kinds of engines.

“We think that the current waiver request is premature,” Mr. Greco said. “The science isn’t in yet.”

And Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group based in Cambridge, Mass., said there was simply not enough solid information on which to make a decision that would have such a broad impact.

“We shouldn’t just look at a little data and extrapolate,” he said. “There are rules here, and there are procedures. And there is a proper engineering way to come to this determination. One can guess about the most likely outcomes, but that is not sufficient to put all the fleet at risk.”

Wendy Clark, group manager and principal researcher in the fuels performance group at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said a lot of credible organizations were studying E15. But she said it was too early to know for sure how engines would be affected. One question is how many of the studies will be done before Dec. 1, the date by which the E.P.A. is required by law to make its decision.

Mr. Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said: “What the ethanol people are asking the consumer to do is bear the risk. If only 1 percent of the vehicles on the road today had E15-related problems, that would be about 2.5 million vehicles.”

Among those concerned about the proposed change are service station owners, many of whom fear that their pumps and fiberglass storage tanks would need to be replaced. They also fear legal problems including lawsuits from customers claiming their vehicles were damaged by the fuel.

“It is a horrible thing for our members,” said Carl Boyett, president of the Society of Independent Gas Marketers of America.In their March request to the E.P.A., proponents of the waiver said E15 would provide “increased energy security, enhanced economic development, creation of American jobs, reduced transportation costs and environmental benefits.” The ethanol manufacturers contend that the increase is necessary because of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That act includes a renewable fuels standard that requires a steady increase in the use of biofuels in the United States — to 36 billion gallons in 2022 from 11 billion gallons this year. To meet the goals, refiners must add biofuels to gasoline.

The industry has been meeting the requirements. In 2007 , it was required to use 4.7 billion gallons of ethanol and it actually used 6.85 billion, according to the petroleum institute. Last year, when the requirement was 9 billion gallons, the industry used 9.6 billion.

But Americans are now buying far less gasoline than was expected when the law passed. That decline has the industry worried that as early as 2011 or 2012 it will be impossible to meet the renewable fuels standard with a 10 percent limit, Mr. Greco said.

Mr. Buis of Growth Energy said: “We are up against a blend wall. That cap needs to be raised.”

While adding more ethanol would help refiners meet the law, it would not improve fuel economy. An October 2008 study for the Energy Department tested 16 late-model cars and found, on average, that mileage dropped 5 percent with E15 compared with gasoline that contained no ethanol.

In deciding whether to raise the cap, the E.P.A. says it must consider not just emissions, but also vehicles’ durability and drivability “over their useful lives.” The agency has acknowledged that E15 is a complex issue, given that engines vary widely in their age and sophistication. Some might run fine on E15 while others might be susceptible to problems.

The E.P.A. says one possibility is that it could approve the use of E15 for some vehicles or engines but not for others.

Mr. Martin of the Union of Concerned Scientists says tests may show that vehicles produced starting with 2004 models could run safely on E15. That year, more sophisticated engine controls were required, making it more likely their systems could detect and compensate for fuel variations. About 79 million cars and light trucks have been produced since the 2004 model year, Experian Automotive says.

Mr. Buis of Growth Energy said that the advantages and safety of E15 were clear and that allowing higher ethanol content would help to make the nation less dependent on petroleum. He said there was no reason to delay.

“You know, some people don’t want to do anything — they just want to test, test, test or study, study, study,” Mr. Buis said. “You know, this nation has been stalling for 30-some years from becoming energy independent.”

EPA Proposes Changes To Biofuel Regulationscorn

By Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Obama administration waded deeper into climate regulation yesterday, proposing new standards for alternative motor fuels and setting off a debate among ethanol producers and environmentalists about scientific assumptions that could be worth billions of dollars to industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations are designed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change and to make sure that alternative fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, do not have indirect effects, such as deforestation in other countries, that could inadvertently increase levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But the administration did not take a position on key regulatory issues, instead inviting comment from scientific experts and businesses on how to measure carbon emissions from the full lifecycle of biofuels, from land use to fertilizer to manufacturing process to delivery. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also said that existing corn ethanol distilleries or ones under construction would probably be “grandfathered,” or exempt from the new regulations.

Jackson’s statement blunted criticism, especially from corn-based ethanol producers that have been targeted for competing with food crops and for using substantial amounts of fertilizer in fields and fossil fuels in distilleries.

In a telephone call with reporters yesterday, Jackson said the administration wanted to make sure that its final rule on renewable fuels is “informed by the best science.”

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said his group would “participate aggressively” to shape the final regulations. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty about this,” he said.

Dinneen said the EPA had failed to count the indirect costs of petroleum production, had underestimated improvements in productivity of corn growers, and had overstated the impact of corn ethanol on U.S. food production and thus exaggerated the expansion of new crop planting in forests and savannahs of places such as Brazil.

“We don’t think the theory of indirect land use change will hold up,” said Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group. “It’s unfairly applied only to ethanol.”

Some environmentalists were also concerned about the EPA proposals. The EPA raised the possibility of computing greenhouse gas costs over a 100-year period instead of a 30-year period. The longer time frame would make the benefits of corn-based ethanol seem greater while discounting the initial costs, such as the loss of untilled land, over time. For example, the EPA said corn-based ethanol is 16 percent better than regular gasoline if its costs are calculated over 100 years, but 5 percent worse over 30 years.

“EPA has left open the option that an exception to good science could be made in the case of a favored special interest,” said Frank O’Donnell, who heads Clean Air Watch.

But even as politicians and lobbyists sought to protect traditional biofuels, business experts said the recent corn ethanol boom and subsequent crash had soured many investors on such ventures.

“Since then, the focus has basically been on second-generation biofuels. It’s given people time to think about alternatives,” said Kevin Parker, global head of asset management for Deutsche Bank Group. “It’s become clear to us, in the work that we’ve done, that converting photosynthesis into transport fuel is very inefficient. There’s no sense of rolling back the clock on that one. The world has moved on.”