Historical Pollution Responsibility of Acquiring Company

From 1959 to 1969, Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Corp operated a pesticide manufacturing plant in Newark, New Jersey. Among the products was Agent Orange. Among the pollutants was a highly toxic form of dioxin, some of which, along with DDT and other chemicals, polluted stretches of the Passaic River. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection estimates the cost of clean up to be between one and four billion dollars.

In the 1980′s Diamond Shamrock’s facility and operations were acquired by Occidental Chemical Corp. Occidental claimed that it did not acquire responsibility for the contamination.

Last week, Superior Court in New Jersey ruled that Occidental, along with other companies, is responsible for the costs of cleaning up the contamination, which the State claims is one of the most highly contaminated dioxin sites in the world, presenting an imminent and substantial danger to the public and to wildlife.

The State’s press release announcing the court decision is at http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2011/11_0090.htm

Gallon Environment Letter

Subscribers should by now have received the July edition of Gallon Environment Letter, an environmental policy letter covering topics of relevance to business.

In this issue, topics include:

  • Consulting and Sustainability
  • Should Food Waste Go Down the Sink?
  • CCME: Consultation on Biosolids
  • Award: Dr. Saad Jasim, IJC
  • Alberta Funding for Clean Energy Technology
  • Wind Energy Guidelines for Rural Communities in Nova Scotia
  • The Last Rock ‘N Roll Show: Lesson for Environmental Critics
  • The Human Tribe: If Only Climate Change Carried a Stick

and much more!

Information regarding subscriptions to Gallon Environment Letter is available at http://www.cialgroup.ca/subscription.htm

Industry Opposition to Children’s Health Program

One would have thought that industry executives would understand that the health of children is one cause to which opposition would be incredibly stupid if not counter-productive, but apparently this is not the case, according to a just released report from the Inspector General of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The report, entitled EPA’s Voluntary Chemical Evaluation Program Did Not Achieve Children’s Health Protection Goals, documents how and why President Clinton signed an Executive Order in 1997 to address concerns about children’s health issues, and, in part, to address EPA’s limitations in evaluating chemical risks. However, the program, known as VCCEP, did not address the chemicals posing the greatest potential risk to children, missed opportunities to assess chemicals of high concern, failed to adequately explain chemical information to the general public, and did not produce complete or timely results or employ EPA’s regulatory authorities.

EPA had decided to proceed with a voluntary program, foregoing its regulatory powers. The result: ” Programmatic effectiveness was hampered by industry partners who chose not to voluntarily collect and submit information.” In his report, the Inspector General is recommending that the US Environmental Protection Agency design and implement a new mandatory program to assess the safety of chemicals to children. Specifically, he recommends a new design that includes:

a. A chemical selection process that identifies and includes the chemicals with the highest risk potential to children.
b. A workable data collection strategy for applying the TSCA regulatory authorities as appropriate.
c. A communications strategy that interprets results and disseminates information to the public.
d. Specific outcome measures that provide assurance the process will provide valid and timely results.

In other words, if industry will not co-operate voluntarily on children’s health and safety, bring down the hammer of regulations. Even the Tea Party might agree with that!

The Inspector General’s report is available at http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2011/20110721-11-P-0379.pdf

Statistics on a Warming World

We try to avoid reporting on too much of the almost continuous flow of information relating to climate change but the following recent statistics from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seem sufficiently important and from a sufficiently reliable source that business should take them into account in planning for the future:

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2011 was the seventh warmest on record at 16.08°C (60.94°F), which is 0.58°C (1.04°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F).
  • June 2011 was the 316th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20thcentury average. The last month with below-average temperature was February 1985.
  • The June worldwide average land surface temperature was 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th century average of 13.3°C (55.9°F)—the fourth warmest on record.
  • The global average ocean surface temperature was the 10th warmest June on record, at 0.47°C (0.85°F) above average. Neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present during June 2011. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, these ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011.
  • The first half of 2011 (January–June) was the 11th warmest on record for the combined global land and ocean surface temperature. Separately, the worldwide average ocean temperature was also the 11th warmest January–June and the worldwide average land temperature was the 12th warmest such period.

Source: NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for June 2011, published online July 2011, retrieved on July 23, 2011 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/.

Race for largest photovoltaic roof installation

On June 29 of this year the City of Kitchener, Ontario, inaugurated a 68,000 square foot photovoltaic array on the roof of its municipal Operations Facility. The array consists of 2500 panels, each providing 200 watts, for a total of 500kW, enough to power 50 or more homes.  Total cost was $4.1 million, with contributions coming from all three levels of government. The City states that the solar roof is expected to generate more than $363,900 in net revenue for the city each year.

A much bigger roof PV project was announced on July 12 by Solar & Alternative Technology Corporation (S.A.T.),  and the Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. distillery in Windsor, Ontario.  This installation, to be on the roof of the Hiram Walker whisky aging warehouse, will produce 7.9 MW of power, enough to power about 3000 homes.  (If you are wondering why 500kw powers 50 homes and 7900kw powers 3000 homes – lack of standards for measuring such claims is the answer). No word yet on who is providing the investment for the Hiram Walker roof PV facility but S.A.T. does say that it is leasing the roof space from Hiram Walker. That sounds like a good deal for the liquor company and something that any company with large expanses of flat roof might want to investigate. The project is claimed to be one of the world’s largest roof photovoltaic projects, with an area of 24 football fields, which GallonDaily calculates to be about 143,000 square metres.

Information about the Kitchener project is at http://www.kitchener.ca/en/newslist/index.aspx?newsId=mBKgv3NtgW989K2P9U5LigeQuAleQuAl

Information about the Windsor project is at http://www.alternativetechnology.ca/info/updates.html#c1048

Quebec consults on draft Cap and Trade Regulation

The Government of Quebec has posted a draft Cap and Trade regulation for public consultation. Under the regulation, industries and electricity generators whose annual GHG emissions exceed 25 Kt CO2e will be subject to capping and reducing of GHG emissions. The system will come into effect on January 1st 2012 but the first year will be a transition year without binding requirements. Enforcement will begin on January 1st 2013 and the system will be expanded to importers and distributors of fuel on January 1st 2015. The system is based on the Cap and Trade System rules published by the Western Climate Initiative in 2010.

The public consultation is open for comments until September 4th 2011.

Details are available at http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/changements/plan_action/projet-reglement/droits-emission-ges_en.htm

Measuring Power Outages

I suspect that, like your Editor, most readers will have never heard of measures of the reliability of electricity supply. However, after the second worktime power outage in two days, GallonDaily decided to investigate. In our province the Ontario Energy Board is conducting a consultation among all municipal distribution utilities on the best way to measure the frequency and length of power outages. The OEB, in common with most other electricity regulators and jurisdictions around the world, already uses a set of measures known as System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) , System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI), and Consumer Average Interruption Frequency Index (CAIFI). These are international standard ways of measuring the frequency and duration of power outages from The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The problem is that, at least in Ontario and we suspect in many other jurisdictions, they are not used in a very standard way and the indices are not as comparable as they should be between Local Distribution Companies.

GallonDaily believes that business and household users of electricity should also be consulted by the OEB on how power outages should be measured. Our view is based on the philosophy that when problems get measured and the measures get communicated then the problems get fixed. In other words, we are fed up with power outages affecting our office and we are going to raise a little bit of heck to bring attention to the problem.

The Ontario Energy Board publishes SAIDI, SAIFI, and CAIFI for each municipal utility in its Yearbook of Electricity Distributors. The 2010 issue will be out soon. If you are interested in this subject, the Ontario Yearbook of Electricity Distributors for 2009, packed full of facts that you never knew existed about Ontario Local Distribution Companies, is at http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/_Documents/Documents/2009_electricity_yearbook.pdf

Information for the Ontario Electricity System Reliability Standards consultation process (which is actually open to all) is at http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Industry/Regulatory+Proceedings/Policy+Initiatives+and+Consultations/System+Reliability+Standards

If the interpretation of SAIDI, SAIFI, and CAIFI (we prefer to think of them as a mutant form of Veni, Vidi, and Vici) is not clear (and why would it be?) then we refer you to http://mahadiscom.com/emagazine/mar06/what%20are%20saifi.shtm  for a very good explanation. (Yes – that is the magazine of the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd.).

Watch for more information on outages from municipal utilities in an upcoming GallonDaily article.

Carbon Capture on hold at large US utility

American Electric Power, a huge utility with almost 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity (for reference, Ontario Power Generation has 19,000 and TransAlta has 10,000) has put on hold its plans to advance carbon dioxide capture and storage technology (CCS) to commercial operation. As recently as February of this year, AEP was announcing that its first commercial scale CCS would be in operation by 2015 at a power plant in West Virginia. The US Department of Energy had committed to 50% of the project cost up to $334 million. At that time the Chairman and CEO of AEP stated “that commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component of a successful global climate strategy”.

In announcing postponement of the project last week, the Chairman and CEO said “The commercialization of this technology is vital if owners of coal-fueled generation are to comply with potential future climate regulations without prematurely retiring efficient, cost-effective generating capacity. But as a regulated utility, it is impossible to gain regulatory approval to recover our share of the costs for validating and deploying the technology without federal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions already in place. The uncertainty also makes it difficult to attract partners to help fund the industry’s share.”

This problem of regulators using their authority to effectively inhibit regulated utilities from investing to reduce carbon emissions has also raised its head in Canada, even in a jurisdiction where the government for which the regulators work has announced its intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll be reporting on GallonDaily in the near future.

Gallon Environment Letter monthly edition regularly comments on the state of CCS technology.

For the AEP announcement see http://www.aep.com/newsroom/newsreleases/?id=1704

Environmentalists still Critical of Paper Industry

An international coalition of more than 100 environmental groups, some national and some regional or local, last week published a report The State of the Paper Industry 2011: Steps Toward an Environmental Vision. The report, which focuses mostly on the North American industry, suggests that, while progress is being made, the pulp and paper industry still has a significant distance to go to achieve a transformation to environmental responsibility.

The report uses a set of indicators to measure environmental progress in the industry. Even though progress in reducing use of paper is being made, the average North American still uses five times as much paper as the world average. Recycling rates are increasing, yet paper is still one of the largest single components of landfills in the US, comprising over 16% of landfill deposits equaling 26 million tons in 2009, down from 42 million tons in 2005. Good progress is being made in Forest Stewardship Council certification of sustainably managed forests in North America. However, the report states that there has been no improvement in total energy used per ton of product manufactured, with the paper industry being the third largest industrial consumer of energy in the United States. The report also claims that there has been virtually no reduction in water pollution from the pulp and paper industry between 2000 and 2008.

The report is available from http://www.environmentalpaper.org/state-of-the-paper-industry-2011.php

Recycled beverage bottles are great news

PepsiCo has just announced that its 7UP soft drink will soon be sold in Canada in 100% recycled plastic bottles. Loblaw President’s Choice water has been sold in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles since last Fall.

These initiatives are important for two reasons. First, they will help show consumers that products from recycled material can be every bit as safe and functional as products from virgin raw materials. Somewhat surprisingly, many consumers are still confused about this and view recycled products as potentially inferior to products from new materials. This view must be overcome if we are to achieve an objective of making the maximum use of all of the resources that have been extracted from the earth. Maximization of recycling and use of recycled materials is essential if we are to ensure that the world’s growing population is accommodated with any degree of satisfactory lifestyle.

Second, governments and many business leaders need a kick in the pants when it comes to support of recycling industries. Governments are only too ready to support companies that are looking to extract more resources from the earth, especially the oil and gas industry, but usually offer little or no support to industries that seek to make ongoing use of resources that have previously been extracted and processed. In virtually every case (in fact, we are not aware of any case but add the virtually word in case someone comes up with one!), it is economically and environmentally more efficient to recycle materials than to extract new ones from the earth, both renewable and non-renewable materials included. Examples: it is better and cheaper to smelt old computers for their metals than to smelt metal ores obtained from mines; it is better and cheaper to make cardboard from old cardboard than to grow forests and process the trees for cardboard. Hopefully high profile recycling by companies as large as PepsiCo will  help awake governments in Canada to the job creation opportunities of recycling and the green economy.

The PepsiCo announcement is at http://www.pepsico.ca/en/PressRelease/PepsiCo-Beverages-Canada-Unveils-the-7UP-EcoGreen-Bottle-Canadas-First-Soft-Drin07132011.html