Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nebraska Opts to Follow Federal CAMR Standards - Sierra Club and Others Take Exception

The Nebraska Environmental Quality Council opted not to tighten mercury emission limits beyond the Federal standard and now catch heat from environmentalists for that decision. Nebraska is not alone 28 States or so are also going that route, but 13 States along with several groups are challenging the Federal CAMR in court.

This from the Omaha World Herald;

The new rules adopted by the Environmental Quality Council are based on recently written federal regulations that are being challenged in federal court.
The federal mercury regulations are intended to slowly reduce power plant mercury emissions nationwide by almost 70 percent. The rules have been controversial, in part, because they allow utilities to buy the right to continue polluting if it turns out that installing pollution equipment is not economical.

Nebraska utilities have not decided whether they'll cut back emissions or purchase allowances because they don't yet have enough information to make that decision.

And this from the Southwest Nebraska News;

August 20, 2007 Statement by Camellia Watkins, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer:

“In 2006 the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) held a series of Stakeholder meetings to determine how to address the Federal mandate to adopt mercury regulations. The purpose of the meetings were to bring together utilities and community representatives in hopes of getting to a consensus on mercury regulations that would protect public health by reasonably reducing mercury emissions from coal fired power plants. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that when absorbed into the blood stream of children under 6, pregnant women or women of childbearing age can cause various neurological diseases. Currently in the United States it is estimated that 1 in 6 women have high enough levels of toxic mercury in their blood that it could affect their unborn children. That means at least 630,000 infants a year are at risk for mercury poisoning. The NDEQ has classified over twenty lakes and streams in Nebraska as having unsafe levels of mercury contaminated fish.”

Camellia has a lot more to say on the subject and the full text of her statement can be read here.

While I Vacationed on the Golf Course, BP May Have Come To It's Senses

I have been away tearing up the golf courses of Northern Michigan and Central Ohio. I did take a few divots and hit some greens hard in regulation but always replaced my divots and fixed my ball marks, keeping my green image intact. It appears BP is trying to replace a few divots taken from its green image in this Indiana refinery fiasco.

From the Chicago Tribune;

Responding to a groundswell of protests from politicians and the public, BP and Indiana regulators agreed Wednesday to reconsider a permit that allows the Midwest's largest oil refinery to significantly increase the amount of toxic waste dumped into Lake Michigan.
"This isn't a trivial controversy," Stephen Elbert, vice chairman of BP America, told a panel of politicians, regulators and advocates. "People want this fixed yesterday. We've got 5,000 BP employees that are concerned, not only about the contamination but about this smack on the company."

And this from the Gary Post Tribune;

Elected officials and environmentalists blasted BP Whiting's controversial wastewater permit at a meeting in Chicago on Wednesday, urging the company to go "beyond compliance."

BP America Vice President Steve Elbert defended the permit, but said in response to mounting public pressure that the company will consider ways to reduce its proposed discharges of ammonia, suspended solids and mercury.

"We have heard, loud and clear, folks believe that's not enough -- meeting the law that protects the environment," Elbert said.

I said in my earlier posts on the subject that BP had hurt their reputation already, regardless if they come clean and do the right thing now. I hope they do go beyond compliance as a 'green' company should.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

ERCO Worldwide Finally Decides To Go Mercury Free

In a move long. long overdue the Port Edwards based ERCO Worldwide plant is going mercury free. Oceana has targeted these chemical plants for decades and has pressured most of them to convert long ago. ERCO tried unsuccessfully last year to get the Wisconsin Public Utility Board to grant them a special rate to facilitate this conversion, but now after more Oceana press they are going forward without the rate break.


In a statement, Paul Timmons, President of ERCO Worldwide, said the membrane technology “provides significant environmental benefits over the existing mercury based technology.

“This conversion significantly extends facility life, increases capacity of the facility by approximately 30 percent, reduces operating costs through enhanced efficiency of electrical energy and maintains flexibility in facility operations.”

I commend the change over, what I don't understand is, if it makes all that sense why did it take so long to happen? But better late than never.

BP: Big Problem, Bad Publicity, Beyond Pollution

The headlines lately splash BP's name on a daily basis in the Chicago newspapers and throughout the Great Lakes, almost as much as BP splashes pollution into Lake Michigan. It is beyond me to understand how a company that portrays itself as the "Green" choice within its industry can have such a poorly conceived public relations snafu on its hands.

Hg-ATME follows mercury pollution regulations and trends and caters to a fairly small group of concerned citizens and lawmakers keeping abreast of what is going on nationally in this regard. Rarely do we have the opportunity to talk about headlines attracting attention of the masses. BP and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have given us that opportunity now.

The decision by IDEM to give BP an extension allowing toxic emissions into the lake so BP can expand its refinery in Whiting, IN and create a handful of full time jobs and increase its taxes paid to the State, is by far one of the most ill-conceived decisions a State environmental agency has ever made. It is guaranteed to backfire on both IDEM and BP to the extent that simply doing the right thing and requiring BP to install abatement equipment to prevent the problem in the first place will prove to be the wiser decision for all parties involved.

I don't know how many thousands or millions of dollars BP saves with its sweetheart deal with IDEM but it will lose more, lots more, in the long run as consumers are becoming environmentally aware and using their spending habits to prove it. BP has spent millions of dollars creating an image and could have afforded to do the right thing to maintain it, but in true big business fashion it let short term profits get in the way of long-term goals and set back its environmental movement decades, at least in the eyes of the mid-westerners who live around the Great Lakes.

What a fiasco! BP mismanaged this situation so profoundly that they now cannot win for losing. Even if they come clean and do the right thing, the fact they tried to go the sleazy route will not be forgotten, and if they persist in seeking the permit exception they will muddy their "green" image greater. How can IDEM regain the trust of its constituents? The people it is supposed to protect have lost faith in its ability to look out for their best interests. The perception that big business has gotten the inside track will have political fallout down the road and some IDEM employees will be looking for new jobs in the future. And the rest of the Great Lake States will not forget this selfish little fiasco.

I simply cannot imagine how it came to this. What were they thinking?