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Policy News Update

September 07, 2007

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

- No Child Left Inside Act

- Higher Education Sustainability Act

1) No Child Left Inside (NCLI) - Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD) recently introduced the “No Child Left Inside Act ” (HR 3036), and Senator Reed also introduced a companion bill (S 1981). The act would:

2) Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ehlers (R-MI) are planning to reintroduce the Higher Education Sustainability Act (HESA) in September (which failed to pass in Committee by 3 votes in 2005). HESA authorizes $50 million in funding to:

EVERGLADES : SUGAR PRODUCER SELECTED TO HOST FIRST FLORIDA BIOFUELS REFINERY

The University of Florida has selected a site in the heart of the Everglades Agricultural Area for the state's first cellulosic ethanol refinery. The plant, which would produce up to 2 million gallons of fuel annually from sugarcane waste, wood chips and other biomass, will be built next to Florida Crystals Corp.'s Okeelanta sugar mill and power plant, about five miles south of Lake Okeechobee.

Microbiology professor Lonnie Ingram, who served on the site-selection committee, said the Okeelanta complex has the advantage of a ready supply of electricity and biofuel feedstock from Florida Crystals' power plant, whose boilers burn about 1.75 million tons of bagasse and urban wood waste annually. Bagasse is the fiber that remains after sugar juice is drawn from sugarcane. The proposed refinery would employ acid and enzymes to convert the cellulosic residue into fuel.

December McSherry, an Alachua County farmer who serves as chairwoman of the Sierra Club's state agriculture committee, said she is wary of the prospect of a biorefinery in the heart of the historic Everglades watershed. A commercial-scale facility could undermine the $10.9 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, she explained, to improve the quality and quantity of water that flows into Everglades National Park at the state's southern tip.

McSherry contends that potential biomass feedstocks for the plant, such as yard and forestry trimmings, should be returned to the soil instead of trucked into the Everglades Agricultural Area -- a fuel-intensive endeavor itself.

CLIMATE: THINK TANK CRITICIZES BINGAMAN CAP - AND -TRADE PLAN

A liberal think tank says Senate climate legislation that includes a highly-touted provision that would encourage the capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) at new coal-fired power plants would allow electric utilities to avoid making pollution cuts at older plants.

The Center for American Progress' study questions legislation by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that would give "bonus allowances" to power companies if they use new climate-friendly technology.

Bingaman says his bill, S. 1766, would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2030.

To spur the development of new technology, Bingaman's bill would give power plant developers extra credits in the cap-and-trade program for each ton of CO 2 sequestered during the first 10 years of a plant's operation. The measure would allow 8 percent of the overall program's cap-and-trade allowances to be set aside each year for the sequestration incentives.

But the Center's report -- written by former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator Robert Sussman and Ken Berlin -- argues that bonus allowances could cancel the extra costs required for building carbon capture and sequestration into a new coal plant, giving utilities a windfall profit that they could use to avoid making emission cuts at their existing plants.

The report's authors published their own emissions proposal in May that urged the mandatory capture and storage of CO 2 emissions for all new coal plants built starting next year. The plants would have to capture their CO 2 by 2013 and sequester it by 2016.

Bingaman introduced his bill in July with support from Duke Energy Corporation, Exelon Corporation, American Electric Power, and the Edison Electric Institute.

CHEMICALS: GREEN CHEMISTRY BILL SAILS THROUGH HOUSE

The House of Representatives approved legislation on September 4 that would direct federal agencies to develop "environmentally friendly" chemicals and chemical processes.

H.R. 2850 would authorize an interagency research and development program with participation from the Energy Department (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), would also provide grant funding for private sector and academic projects, plus administrative and communications support.

H.R. 2850 would authorize a total of $165 million to be divided among four federal agencies over three years: $63 million for the NSF, $27 million for the NIST, $42 million for the DOE, and $33 million for EPA. The House passed earlier versions of the Gingrey bill in the 109th and 108th sessions of Congress.

DAMS: FEDS ARGUE IN FAVOR OF HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLAN FOR COLUMBIA RIVER

The federal government tried one last time September 6 to convince federal Judge James Redden that it is able to keep producing hydroelectric power from Columbia River dams while protecting and restoring the river's salmon population.

Redden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon threw out the previous two federal plans for the dams saying they did not provide adequate safeguards for salmon.

Redden expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the latest plan as well, which was released in draft form in May and in final form September 6.

Federal fish biologists must decide by October 31 whether the blueprint puts the salmon in harm's way.

The government argues that it does not, saying the plan contains nearly $1 billion in additional funding to protect the fish and restore salmon.

But environmentalists were quick to criticize the government's measures. They say the plan ignores the impact of the hydropower systems on the Columbia and Upper Snake rivers.

"This is the same plan with a new ribbon on it," said Nicole Cordan of Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Government and industry officials defended the blueprint.


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily and Greenwire

Send questions or comments to Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, Nadine@esa.org; Colleen Fahey, Policy Analyst, Colleen@esa.org

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