Philippines set to have first ocean energy plant by 2018

July 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Ocean Energy

Comments Off on Philippines set to have first ocean energy plant by 2018

The Department of Energy (DoE) expects the Philippines’ first ocean energy facility to start commercial operations by 2018.

Data from the National Renewable Energy Plan book showed that the first project to go into operation will be the 10-megawatt Cabangan ocean energy thermal conversion (Otec) project in Zambales.

The Cabangan project is one of 20 indicative power projects, which are expected to require a combined P11 billion in investments.

“While the country is endowed with vast ocean resource potential, there have been very limited activities in this sector. This is primarily because of the high investment cost for its exploitation,” the DoE said.

A study conducted by the Mindanao State University indicated that the country, being an archipelago, has a theoretical capacity of 170,000 megawatts over a 1,000 square kilometer ocean resource area.—Amy R. Remo

Fate of bill to limit Clean Water Act being watched

July 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Rich Keller, Editor   |
Updated: July 5, 2011

With all the state’s rights political rhetoric being thrown around in political campaigns and the calls for pushing back the reach of federal agency oversight, many agricultural organizations and their members are interested in new congressional legislation to limit enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

It appears to be a certainty that a bill sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) will make it to the House floor for a vote this summer. The bill is H.R. 2018.

Stripped to a main basic, the bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from reversing/overruling state water quality limits, permitting authority, dredging and waterway activities and rulings related to wetlands.

New water nutrient content oversight in Florida by the EPA is what put Rep. Mica up front with this proposed legislation. Rep. Rahall’s concern appears to come from mining interests such as the EPA stopping mountaintop removal.

The EPA has gone on a publicity/education campaign to try and make legislators understand the ramifications of the proposed law. The EPA issued a report saying the measure “would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”

The main defense of federal EPA involvement is that water flows from one state to the next. The EPA contends its ability would be limited in keeping an upstream polluter, because of lax state control, having its polluted water go downstream into another state.

Of course, environmental groups oppose the legislation strongly.

The groups supporting the bill are diverse. Some opposing the EPA in the debate are state’s rights proponents who suggest the EPA is insulting the ability and quality of oversight that state agencies and governments provide. Others against the EPA position, such as agricultural groups, see the Clean Water Act being expanded into areas not intended when the legislation passed in 1972 and the EPA judging clean water and pollution beyond the normal scientific community definitions.

The bill’s sponsors are trying to “fast track” the legislation to a floor debate.

Yellowstone River Damaged by Exxon Pipeline Oil Spill – Exxon’s History in …

July 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills

Oil in Montana's Yellowstone River  Photo by NWF's Alexis Bonogofsky

While everyone is holding their collective breath, hoping that future developments do not worsen regarding the news that an Exxon pipeline carrying oil crude broke in the middle of the Yellowstone River outside of Billings Montana releasing thousands of gallons of crude into the river, industry’s record for safeguarding oil and gas pipelines in the state of Montana – and Exxon specifically – is dismal.

While we cannot predict what will happen in the near future, if other Big Oil disasters are any evidence, we can probably foresee in the next few hours and days that Exxon will pull out an all too familiar public relations playbook to avoid further scrutiny of their actions in order to avoid full culpability:

One, Exxon will claim that the immediate disaster is over and the natural resource damage and impacts to human health are minimal. They will also likely underreport, or deemphasize the amount of oil actually spilled. A day into the disaster, Exxon has already begun to do this.  Exxon spokesman have said that the spill has been fairly well contained and that there is “very little soiling” of stream banks beyond 10-miles.  Given that no one has been able to actually inspect the ruptured pipeline, since its submerged at the bottom of a raging free-flowing river that is two-feet above flood stage, one wonders how Exxon can claim so soon that everything is now abated and the damage is negligible.

Two, Exxon will pledge that they will fully clean and repair the damaged resources. Again, Exxon is saying as much in a statement today, “We will stay with the cleanup until it is complete…” Even if this is the case and Exxon is fully committed to cleanup, we know that their version of what is cleaned is not the same as others – see Prince William Sound.  Exposure to oil, especially to aquatic life, is devastating and long-lasting (see NRDC’s Matthew Skoglund and his recent posting on the importance of the Yellowstone River’s fishery for the region and beyond).

Three, Exxon will claim that safety is their number one priority. Predictably, Exxon has said as much in the last 24-hours, that the pipeline was inspected six months ago and met “all regulatory requirements.” Given their emphasis on oversized profits, I would go back to the previous exhibit, which speaks to Exxon’s thought process leading it to site an oil pipeline in one the most scenic, ecologically critical, and longest undammed river in the contiguous United States.

Four, Exxon will probably maintain that this was a freak accident and could not have been foretold or prevented. A full airing of Exxon’s record will show that this is simply not the case.  One only has to look at how it has maintained (or not) their Yellowstone Pipeline.  The Yellowstone Pipeline is a 550-mile pipeline that originates from the refineries in Billings, MT, makings its way westward to deliver petroleum products to Idaho and the state of Washington (the Yellowstone Pipeline and the Silvertip crude pipeline that failed this week, are nominally part of a larger system that Exxon oversees).  The pipeline was sited in some of the most rugged country to be found in this nation.  But rather than respecting the fact that the Yellowstone Pipeline was situated in such a harsh environment, Exxon and Conoco who co-managed the pipeline, failed often to maintain it satisfactorily.  In its 55-plus year history, it has leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum into Montana’s rivers and lands.

Most famously, Exxon and Conoco in the mid 1990’s realized that a right-of-way for the Yellowstone Pipeline that went through the middle of the sovereign Flathead Indian Reservation, was soon to expire and had to be renewed with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes who controlled the lease. Problem was the pipeline had spilled at least 71 times on the 1.2 million acre reservation, contaminating tribal fishing and hunting grounds.  When it came time to renew, the tribal members had only recently witnessed a spill with the pipeline that resulted in a whopping 163,000 gallons leaking into a reservation creek.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, were to say the least, reticent to renew the lease given the damage that Exxon and company had caused.  In this milieu, the Yellowstone Pipeline management went to the extraordinary measures to apologize to tribal members by posting a full-page advertisement in the tribal newspaper saying, “We’ve done serious damage to the land’ ‘For this we are truly sorry ‘ We’re asking for a chance to do things right.”  And while Exxon and Conoco approved the ad, they did not notice the howling coyote that was seemingly inserted by the paper’s staff within the oil company’s advertisement.  As High Country News reported at the time, “Tribal members must have noticed: Coyote is known as a trickster in many tribal legends, one who can’t always be trusted.”  With that, the tribal members rejected the renewal of the lease, and turned away from millions of dollars from Exxon; possibly realizing that millions in dollars cannot compensate for the loss of irreplaceable natural resources.

Which brings me back to Claim #4 in trying to pawn this accident as a freak occurence, Exxon can commit all they want to cleaning up the damage – as they should – but we should question the accidental nature of these incidents.  As history has shown, Exxon has often chosen a path that allows for spills, and the environment and human health are often the losers.  The Yellowstone spill might actually be a rare accident – if and when all the facts come to light – but this only proves that stronger enforcement and accountability for current pipelines are an absolute must.

Note: this is not the only insult to Montana’s environment that is happening under Exxon’s watch.  Exxon also plans to turn the scenic highways of Montana into an industrial superhighway to serve tar sands extraction in Canada by sending hundreds of “megaload” shipments through the state’s scenic highways.   For more information see: Exxon Solves Their Megaload Problem – By Cutting the Trees to Shreds

Testing The Waters – NRDC

July 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Click the following to find your local beach:   NRDC Ratings for a Selection of U. S. Popular Beaches.

Testing the Waters 2011

En Español

NRDC’s annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that the number of beach closings and advisories in 2010 reached 24,091 — the second-highest level since NRDC began tracking these events 21 years ago, confirming that our nation’s beaches continue to suffer from bacterial pollution that puts swimmers at risk.

Testing the Waters focuses primarily on bacteria-related beach water quality concerns. This year and last year, the report also highlighted closures, advisories, and notices issued at beaches impacted by last summer’s BP oil disaster. From the beginning of the spill until June 15, 2011 there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories and closures at Gulf Coast beaches due to the spill.

Nearly three-quarters of the 2010 beach closings and advisories were issued because water quality monitoring revealed bacteria levels exceeding health and safety standards. Across the country, aging and poorly designed sewage treatment systems and contaminated stormwater are often to blame for beachwater pollution.

Promising developments could improve protection of public health at U.S. beaches. Most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency has embarked upon a major overhaul of its Clean Water Act regulations that apply to urban and suburban runoff pollution. These changes have the potential to broadly ensure that impervious areas that generate runoff pollution will be designed in a way to retain a significant amount of stormwater on site.

In addition, as a result of legal pressure from NRDC, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to update its decades-old beachwater quality standards by 2012. The legal settlement requires EPA to:

  • Conduct new health studies and swimmer surveys.
  • Approve a water-testing method that will produce same-day results.
  • Protect beachgoers from a broader range of waterborne illnesses.

The illnesses associated with polluted beachwater include conditions such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, meningitis and hepatitis. By contrast, current standards focus on gastrointestinal illnesses such as the stomach flu. Current water quality tests also take 24 hours or more to produce results, so beaches are not closed or placed under advisory until after beachgoers have spent a day swimming in water that did not meet water quality standards. The EPA’s changes represent much-needed progress toward promoting safer and healthier beaches along U.S. coastlines.

Keeping Water Safe by Cleaning Up Pollution

Despite these steps forward, the agreement doesn’t actually require local beach officials to use the rapid-testing methods developed by EPA. That’s one big reason that NRDC has supported the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act when it has been considered previously in Congress. This bill would push states to begin using rapid-water tests within one year of EPA validation. The measure would also authorize funding for studies that identify the sources of beachwater pollution, which is the first step towards preventing this pollution from reaching the beach. In 2010, the source of contaminated beachwater was reported as unknown more than half the time.

EPA’s reform of its regulations will be a major opportunity to advance communities’ use of green infrastructure. In addition, leaders in Congress have introduced bills to promote green infrastructure, require stormwater retention by highway development projects, and fund community infrastructure improvements.

People can also help prevent beach pollution by taking simple steps, such as picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, putting swim diapers with plastic covers on babies, and keeping trash off the beach.

Beach Ratings: How Clean Is Your Beach?

In 2011, NRDC rated 200 popular beaches based on the cleanliness of the water and their monitoring and public notification practices. How clean is your beach? Check the ratings here.