Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Radical Right and the Environment

Chad Tolman's recent op-ed in the News Journal takes note of dangerous measures being pushed by anti-environmental interests:

'Reckless' best label for tea party behavior

Written by Chad Tolman

The radical right is doing things that are contrary to the best interests of the United States and Delaware.

H.R. 2584, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012, is the most shameless assault on the environment and on the health and welfare of the American people that I have ever seen.

Under the guise of reducing regulatory burdens it:

• Cuts funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $1.8 billion (17 percent), while restoring $55 million in oil and gas subsidies.

• Cuts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife budget by 30 percent.

• Reduces the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget by 18 percent from the President's 2012 budget and wholly eliminates funding for NOAA's climate service.

• Cuts the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 80 percent -- its lowest level in the program's history.

• Eliminates funding to list new endangered species.

There are also a number of specific provisions that prevent the protection of public health. I was particularly struck by Section 434 on coal combustion ash, which is known to contain a number of toxic and heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, thallium, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and nickel (See Coal Ash -- The toxic threat to our health and environment at:

"None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act [...] or otherwise makes fossil fuel combustion waste subject to regulation ..."

Then there is Section 453 on mobile source emissions, even though U.S. auto manufacturers are now ready to greatly improve gasoline mileage, since the Supreme Court gave EPA authority under the Clean Air Act:

"None of the funds made available under this Act shall be used --

(1) to prepare, propose, promulgate, finalize, implement, or enforce any regulation pursuant to section 202 of the Clean Air Act [...] regarding the regulation of any greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines that are manufactured after model year 2016 to address climate change."

Fortunately, Delaware U.S. Rep. John Carney is opposing the many bad features of this bill.

If it does pass the House (and the tea party probably has the votes to do it), it can still be stopped in the Senate. Please contact Rep. Carney and Sens. Coons and Carper to thank them for their support of responsible legislative action to address the deficit without endangering the health and welfare of our citizens.

Not to be outdone, the tea party in Delaware is actively pursuing its radical agenda to oppose any action at the state level that would interfere with record-breaking profits by fossil fuel industries.

It supported HB 86 in the Delaware legislature, which would have required the state to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) -- a regional effort by 10 Northeastern states from Maryland to Maine, including Delaware, to begin reducing carbon emissions from large power plants.

Though RGGI costs most homeowners less than a dollar a month, it has produced some significant funding for the Sustainable Energy Utility, for improving energy efficiency, and for developing solar power.

The tea party has also opposed the work of the state's Renewable Energy Task Force, which promotes renewable energy development in the state, and the state's Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, which is developing an adaptation plan to deal with the threat of sea level rise, which could reach 5 feet or more by 2100 and threaten homes, communities, businesses, roads, bridges, waste water treatment plants and emergency evacuation routes.

In the future the tea party will no doubt try to tear down our Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that Delaware get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2019, with a 2 percent carve out for solar power.

Consistent with its dedication to burning fossil fuels, the tea party people refuse to believe the scientific consensus on climate change. They remind me of those in the 16th century who refused to believe that the earth rotates around the sun.

Chad Tolman is energy chair of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Toxic-free products a civil right for every Delaware family

The News Journal has published this op-ed by Sarah Bucic and Darlene Battle on protecting families from toxic chemicals:
Toxic-free products a civil right for every Delaware family
Sarah Bucic and Darlene Battle

Protecting the health of our families is a priority we can all agree on. We do the best we can: buy the healthiest food, baby-proof the house when we have a baby, and find the safest car seats. The Delaware Legislature has been reflecting those values and has taken several steps to protect our families from toxic chemicals this session. A bill that unanimously passed the Senate and House last month will help limit children's exposure to the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles, sippy cups and other children's cups.

It's not every day that the Delaware General Assembly can find full bipartisan agreements, but there was a welcome relief with this vote. Another step to protect our families came when 38 members of the Delaware Legislature signed a letter in support of protecting American families from toxic chemicals.

The letter was sent to Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney, urging them to support reform of an out-of-date law, the Toxic Substances Control Act. This law has done little to protect our health from toxic chemicals and is in dire need of reform.

Most people assume that the chemicals used to make everyday consumer products are tested for safety before they enter our homes and environment. Unfortunately, under federal law that isn't the case. Chemical manufacturers are not required to prove a chemical is safe before it ends up on the market and many toxic chemicals are ending up in our cleaning products, plastic water bottles, children's toys, building materials and more.

The problem is that chemicals leach out of the consumer products and are ending up in our bodies. A recent study based on data from the Centers for Disease Control found that most pregnant women in America contain toxic chemicals in their bodies. Most of these chemicals are linked to serious health problems like learning disabilities, infertility and cancer.

Many Delaware communities are at high risk for exposure to toxic chemicals based on where they live. Many "hot spot" communities, prominently low-income communities of color, have disproportionate impacts of toxic chemicals. Not only are they exposed to chemicals in consumer products and their homes, the water they drink is contaminated by legacy pollution sites, many live at the fence-line or downstream of chemical plants.

Delaware has the highest rate in the country of several cancers, a statistic we know carries many stories of families who have lost loved ones. There are eight cancer clusters throughout our little state. Lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancers account for 53 percent of new cancer cases in Delaware.

So what would happen if we prevented cancer in the first place? What would happen if we ensured that the chemicals we're exposed to in our neighborhoods, products and drinking water were safe? That is the spirit of the letter signed by many members of the Delaware Legislature. By reforming federal law, we can protect American and Delaware families from unnecessary toxic chemical exposure.

We believe in an America where safe products, a healthy family, and well-paying jobs can all be achieved. In fact, a recent study shows that TSCA reform would create jobs by promoting research and development of newer, safer chemicals. In addition, other countries have higher standards for chemical safety; by reforming federal law, we can ensure our companies remain competitive in a global market.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 was recently introduced in Congress and would go a long way to protect our families. It would ensure that chemicals were proved safe before entering the market, address community "hot spots," protect the most vulnerable like children and pregnant women, and support innovation for new, safer chemicals. Sen. Carper sits on the Environment and Public Works committee, which will vote on this bill and will be an integral part of ensuring our health is protected.

Along with the 38 state legislators, we urge Sens. Carper and Coons to co-sponsor this legislation. We hope to see our federal delegation take a leadership role and protect our families from toxic chemicals. We don't need to choose between a strong economy and a healthy family. The Safe Chemicals Act strikes the right balance and needs your support.

Sarah Bucic, MSN, RN, Delaware Nurses Association; Darlene Battle, Executive Director, Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Energy Bills Before the General Assembly

Here is a list of the energy bills before the General Assembly:

House Bill 27
Primary Sponsor: Scott

CoSponsors: Rep. Kowalko, Reps. Atkins, Bennett, Briggs King, Carson, Hocker, Hudson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Lavelle, Lee, Longhurst, Mitchell, Outten, Peterman, Ramone, Schwartzkopf, B. Short, D. Short, D.E. Williams, Wilson; Sens. Bonini, Booth, Bunting, Bushweller, Ennis, Lawson, Simpson

Introduced on : 1/25/2011


Synopsis: This Act will permit municipal electric companies and rural electric cooperatives that elect to develop and implement a program comparable to the State’s renewable energy portfolio standards (“RPS”) to utilize conservation, energy efficiency and demand-side management programs, in addition to renewable energy resources, to achieve RPS compliance.

Conservation, efficiency and demand-side management programs meet or exceed many of the positive attributes associated with renewable energy resources.

Such measures are non-polluting, non-invasive to the environment, cost efficient, economically sustainable and mitigate the need for new power plant construction.

Current Status: House Energy Committee 1/25/2011

Comment: The bill, which would effectively give the Co-op and municipal energy companies a break on the RPS, remains tabled in the committee at the request of the sponsor.

House Bill 86
Primary Sponsor: Peterman

CoSponsors: Rep. Hudson & Sen. Bunting, Reps. Lavelle, Hocker, Blakey, Briggs King, Kenton, Lee, Manolakos, Miro, Outten, Ramone, D. Short, Willis, Wilson; Sens. Bonini, Booth, Lawson, Venables

Introduced on : 4/6/2011


Synopsis: This bill terminates Delaware’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and will save money for every electricity user in Delaware.

Current Status: House Energy Committee 4/6/2011

Comment: The bill did not muster the votes needed to be released from committee.

House Bill 129
Primary Sponsor: Gilligan

CoSponsors: Rep. Schwartzkopf & Rep. Longhurst & Sen. DeLuca Reps. Atkins Barbieri Bennett Bolden Brady Carson George Heffernan Hocker Hudson Jaques J. Johnson Q. Johnson Keeley Kenton Kowalko Lee Manolakos Mitchell Miro Mulrooney Outten Osienski Ramone Schooley Scott D. Short B. Short Viola Walker D.E. Williams D.P. Williams Wilson Sens. Blevins Bonini Booth Bushweller Hall-Long Henry Katz Lawson Simpson Sokola Sorenson

Introduced on : 5/13/2011


Synopsis: This Act reduces the general public utility tax rate on electricity and gas from 5.00% to 4.25%.

The Act also reduces the rate on electricity and gas distributed to manufacturers, food processors and other agribusinesses from 2.35% to 2.00%.

The Act also transfers the first $5 million in proceeds generated by the public utility tax to the new Energy Efficiency Investment Fund, which will be used to finance energy efficiency projects that will reduce overall energy use and create jobs.

Current Status: Senate, Out of Committee 6/16/2011

Comment: Rates were raised two years ago to help balance the budget. This bill would cut some of that increase. It would also more than offset the estimated impact of RGGI on electricity rates.

Senate Bill 40
Primary Sponsor: Marshall

CoSponsors: Rep. Gilligan & Rep. B. Short, Sens. Blevins, Bushweller, Henry, McDowell; Reps. Barbieri, Bennett, Blakey, Brady, Briggs King, George, Hocker, Hudson, Q. Johnson, Lavelle, Manolakos, Miro, Peterman, Ramone, D. Short, Willis

Introduced on : 3/29/2011


Synopsis: This Act improves and updates the State’s primary economic development tax incentive program.

Specifically, the Act:

1) makes the program permanent by eliminating a sunset provision;

2) better delineates eligibility for tax relief by establishing a three-year application deadline;

3) boosts the program’s effectiveness by increasing the amount of the corporate or personal income tax credits; and

4) modernizes the program’s scope by including provisions specifically designed to attract manufacturers of advanced clean energy technology power generating devices and systems.

Current Status: House Passed 6/7/2011

Comment: This bill would broaden the state's job tax credit program to include clean energy technologies.

Senate Bill 124
Primary Sponsor: DeLuca

CoSponsors: Rep. Gilligan, Sens. Blevins, Bushweller, Ennis, Hall-Long, Peterson, Simpson, Sokola, Sorenson, Venables; Reps. Barbieri, Bennett, Bolden, Carson, George, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Keeley, Kowalko, Lavelle, Lee, Longhurst, Miro, Mulrooney, Outten, Ramone, Schooley, Schwartzkopf, Scott, B. Short, Viola, Walker, D.E. Williams, D.P. Williams, Mitchell

Introduced on : 6/14/2011


Synopsis: This Bill allows the energy output from fuel cells manufactured in Delaware that can run on renewable fuels to be an eligible resource to fulfill a portion of the requirements for a Commission-regulated utility under the Renewable Portfolio Standards Act.

In addition, this Bill makes Delmarva Power & Light responsible for the RPS obligations of all its customers, and creates a process to assure that any supplier contracts in place are grandfathered through the transition.

Finally, this Bill creates a regulatory framework by which the Delaware Public Service Commission will review a Tariff to be filed by Delmarva deploying Delaware-manufactured fuel cells as part of a 30MW project.

In determining whether to approve or deny the Tariff, the Commission shall among other factors, consider the incremental cost of the fuel cell project to customers, taking into consideration whether the project utilizes innovative baseload technologies, offers environmental benefits to the state relative to conventional baseload generation, enhances economic development in the State, and promotes price stability over the project term.

Current Status: House, Energy 6/16/2011 (Committee hearing June 22)

Comment: The use of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to help bring Bloom Energy to Delaware is controversial. Fuel cells consume natural gas and emit CO2.

The bill would cap the allotment for fuel cells under the RPS at 1,152 megawatt hours per day, which would be 3.58 percent of Delaware’s total electricity sales in 2009, out of the eventual RPS of 25 percent.

To the extent that these fuel cells replace coal generation (which provides about one half of our electricity) they will contribute to reductions in air emissions.

Senate Bill 125
Primary Sponsor: McDowell

CoSponsors: Rep. Brady, Sens. Bushweller, Ennis, Hall-Long, Simpson & Sorenson, Reps. Heffernan, D.P. Williams & D.E. Williams

Introduced on : 6/14/2011


Synopsis: This Act establishes a State income tax exemption for interest earned on bonds and notes issued by the Sustainable Energy Utility.

Current Status: Senate Passed 6/16/2011 (Now on the House agenda)

Comment: This would allow the SEU to issue tax exempt bonds to finance clean energy projects.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Silverside Green Energy Fair

The Silverside Green Energy Fair is being held this Saturday from 10 to 4 at Silverside Church at 2800 Silverside Boulevard north of Wilmington.

The fair will feature some great demonstrations and discussions on renewable energy, including home energy audits, solar and wind power, and a talk on finding a green job. Step outside and you can get a close up look at the electric Tesla Roadster, a converted electric pickup truck and a Mercedes that runs on vegetable oil.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

House Bill 86 Fails Committee Vote

House Bill 86, which would have pulled Delaware out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), failed to make it out of committee today. After nearly two hours of spirited and sometimes heated debate, the House Energy Committee voted 4 to 3 against moving the bill to the House floor.

Thanks to everyone who showed up and spoke up today. We demonstrated we had the facts and the organizing skill to beat this, which people in Legislative Hall noticed. Lots of numbers were thrown around, but one number that everyone understood was that RGGI currently costs residential customers an average of 38 cents a month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Call for Action on HB 86

House Bill 86, which would pull Delaware out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), will be taken up at a hearing of the House Energy Committee on Wednesday, May 11 at 4:00 PM. Supporters of renewable energy need to contact their representatives in the General Assembly to urge them vote no on HB 86.

Between now and May 11, we need to focus on the members of the House Energy Committee, listed below with links:

Chairman:John A. Kowalko
Vice-Chairman:Dennis E. Williams
Members:Debra J. Heffernan
S. Quinton Johnson
Harvey R. Kenton
Nick T. Manolakos
Michael P. Mulrooney
William R. "Bobby" Outten

Representative Jack Peterman has introduced HB 86, which would end Delaware’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). He is supported in this by the Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI), the 9-12 Delaware Patriots and other forces seeking to turn back the clock on clean energy and environmental protection in Delaware. This effort also involves out of state organizations like the State Policy Network (which provides funding to the CRI) and the American Tradition Institute, which is financing lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of renewable energy laws across the country.

RGGI is not just about climate change, although Delaware is uniquely vulnerable to even a modest amount of sea level rise. RGGI funds programs that support energy efficiency and renewable energy that have immediate and tangible benefits right here in Delaware.

The projected economic benefits of shifting from coal power to renewable energy are enormous: $1.8 billion to $4.3 billion in reduced health and mortality costs over the next ten years. That’s roughly $2,000 to $4,750 for every Delaware resident. These projected benefits represent 12 percent to 30 percent of Delaware’s 2008 retail electricity sales—far more than RGGI and Delaware’s other renewable policies and programs. And these benefits do not include the development of green industry in Delaware.

These figures come from Delmarva Power, which is required to submit an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to the Public Service Commission (PSC) every two years. The draft IRP estimates the environmental impact of Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the planned Bluewater Wind project, other renewable energy sources coming on line, and a sharp reduction in emissions from coal burning power plants in Delaware.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Energy Issues in Delaware

The Renewable Energy Task Force yesterday reviewed a study estimating the number jobs being created or sustained by the solar component of the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS. By nurturing steady growth in the industry, Delaware should reap $304 million to $681 million in total economic output in the next ten years.

The Caesar Rodney Institute has engaged the American Tradition Institute to conduct a study of the economic costs of Delaware's RPS. I don't expect the study to offer a favorable view of the policy; the American Tradition Institute maintains that renewable energy standards violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

House Bill 27 would dilute the RPS for the Delaware Electrical Coop and the municipal energy companies by allowing them to count progress on the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard towards the RPS. Delmarva Power would still have to meet both standards separately. A House Energy Committee hearing on HB 27 was cancelled after the sponsor agreed to table the measure for the time being.

HB 86, introduced earlier this week, would pull Delaware out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI. Yesterday the News Journal published an op-ed by the bill's sponsor, Representative Jack Peterman, which opens with the observation that support for cap-and-trade cost Mike Castle a Senate seat. HB 86 wil likely be taken up by the House Energy Committee when legislators return from their two week break.

The most significant finding on the costs and benefits of renewable energy is found in Delmarva Power's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), now being reviewed by the Public Service Commission. According to the IRP, the benefits of current plans to shift from coal to renewable energy are estimated to be $1.8 billion to $4.3 billion over the next ten years. That's $2,000 to $4,750 for every Delaware resident, and 12 percent to 30 percent of retail electricity sales in Delaware. The PSC has extended public comment period on the IRP to May 31, and will likely hold hearings on the plan afterwards.