Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Duke Energy To Spend $93 on Clean Air Act Violations

Emissions to be slashed more than 35,000 tons of sulfur dioxide & nitrogen oxides annually

Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the nation, will spend approximately $85 million to significantly reduce harmful air pollution at an Indiana power plant and pay a $1.75 million civil penalty, under a settlement to resolve violations of federal clean air laws, the Justice Department (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. The settlement also requires Duke to spend $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Indianapolis, resolves violations of the Clean Air Act’s new source review requirements found at the company’s Gallagher coal-fired power plant in New Albany, Ind., located directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.

The settlement is anticipated to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at the Gallagher Plant by almost 35,000 tons per year, an 86 percent reduction when compared to 2008 emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions from 500,000 heavy duty semi trucks, which is more than all of the trucks registered in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio combined. Sulfur dioxide harms the environment and human health.

Duke is required to spend $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects, including $250,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to address acid rain in downwind national forests, $5 million for one or more additional projects such as conversion to hydro generation or hybrid vehicle fleets, and $1 million for environmental mitigation projects to be allocated among the states that joined the settlement.

As a result of a lawsuit filed 1999, Duke went to trial in May 2009 for related violations. At that time, an Indianapolis jury found that Duke violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain required permits and pollution controls before making modifications to Gallagher Units 1 and 3 that caused significant increases in sulfur dioxide. The trial to determine the appropriate remedy for the violations resolved by the settlement had been scheduled to begin on January 25, 2010.

The settlement requires Duke to either repower Units 1 and 3 at Gallagher with natural gas or shut them down to remove all sulfur dioxide pollution. This natural gas repowering will also reduce other air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, mercury, and carbon dioxide. The combined nitrogen oxide emissions from Units 1 and 3 are expected to decrease by about 2,198 tons per year as compared to 2008 emissions. By using natural gas rather than coal, Duke will eliminate emissions of particulate matter and mercury from the units. The switch from coal to natural gas will also decrease these units’ carbon dioxide emissions by roughly half per unit of electricity.

The settlement also requires that Duke install new pollution controls for sulfur dioxide at the other two units at the plant, Units 2 and 4. The work and projects that are required by the settlement will, when fully implemented, result in substantial improvements to the air quality for the communities that are the most heavily impacted by the Gallagher Plant’s emissions.

This is the 17th settlement secured by EPA and DOJ as part of a national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed nearly 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can cause severe harm to human health and the environment. After being emitted from power plants, these pollutants are converted to fine particles of particulate matter that can lodge deep in the lungs, causing a variety of health impacts including premature death. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are also significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze, which impair visibility in national parks. Air pollution from power plants can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

The states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Ohio Environmental Council joined the federal government in today’s settlement.

Duke Energy, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., supplies and delivers energy to approximately 4 million customers in the Midwest and the Carolinas.

The proposed settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

More information

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Administrator Jackson Visits Raleigh, Announces $200 Million Investment to Develop Smart Electric Grid in Carolinas, Florida

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson visited Raleigh today to announce a $200 million grant for a smarter, stronger and more efficient electric system in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. The funding, announced at a press conference with Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, is part of President Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday of the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history - $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant Awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will be matched by industry for a total investment worth more than $8 billion.

An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030. That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country, and $500 million for North Carolina alone – or $51 in utility savings for every man, woman and child in North Carolina.

The $200 million grant, which Progress Energy will match with $300 million of its own funding, will fund system and equipment upgrades that will make their grid more efficient, saving consumers money in the Carolinas and in Florida. Progress Energy will also use its funding to install 160,000 smart meters and other technology that will cut energy costs for its customers.

North Carolina companies, serving five states, will receive $403 million total in recovery act funding for smart grid development, which will be matched by nearly $975 million in private funds for a total investment of $1.3 billion. Duke Energy will receive a similar $200 million grant.
More information on EPA and the Recovery Act

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Is Your Hotel Room Always Set To Freezing?

For hotel engineers, there are three "T's" that are often the source of guest complaints: televisions, temperatures, and toilets. So then why is your hotel room always set to "freezing"?

Odor Control

The fact is it's very difficult for hoteliers to control what occurs inside a guestroom once it has been rented. Since guests bring with them various lifestyles and habits, it's safe to assume that rented hotel rooms will continue to be exposed to a wide range of smells and odors. Everything from pet smells, body odor, cologne, perfume, residual smells from smokers and even the occasional stench of in-room cooking smells tend to find their way into hotel rooms.

Bacteria Control

Hotel guests leave behind more than just socks and old paperbacks: A new study found viruses on TV remotes, light switches and even hotel pens after cold sufferers checked out.
The germ testing was done before the rooms were cleaned, so it likely overstates the risks that most travelers would face. Nevertheless, it shows the potential hazards if a hotel’s turnaround amounts to little more than changing the sheets and wiping out the tub.

“You sure hope the cleaning people were good,” said Dr. Owen Hendley, the University of Virginia pediatrician who presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. “We know that viruses can survive on surfaces for a long time — more than four days,” said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the university who led the study. Its aim was to test the survival of rhinoviruses, which cause about half of all colds in children.

Researchers had 15 people with lab-confirmed rhinovirus colds spend a night in individual rooms at a nearby hotel and, after they checked out, tested 10 items they said they had touched. About one-third of the objects were contaminated with rhinovirus. "We were surprised to find so many,” Winther said.

Viruses were found on 7 out of 14 door handles and 6 of 14 pens. Six out of 15 light switches, TV remotes and faucets tested positive, as did 5 of 15 phones. Shower curtains, coffee makers and alarm clocks also harbored viruses. Surprisingly, virus turned up on only one of the 10 toilet handles tested. Experts did not test items like bedspreads because cloth dries out germs, making them far less likely to survive than they do on smooth or moist surfaces.

Some in the hotel industry say they have strict policies on how to disinfect rooms between guests. “We do wipe everything down, from the remote control to the telephone,” said Michelle Pike, corporate director of housekeeping for Hilton brand hotels, which has 1,900 hotels around the world. Most of them are independently operated but the chain does have rules for disinfection, she said. Hilton, like many hotels, has taken steps to make common items easier to clean, like encasing phone books in plastic and replacing bedspreads with duvet covers than can be washed between each guest, she said.

Ultimately, it comes back to temperature, something the hotels can steadily control. Setting lower room temperatures also ensure that that prevailing bacteria are not given the opportunity to flourish, as they would were temperatures lower.

Varying Sensitivities

Especially during summer months, some guests are far more temperature sensitive than others. To ensure optimal comfort, hotels prefer rooms be colder rather than moderately set or set at an inadequate level. The last thing a hotel wants is the bad PR, as was suffered by Choice Inn when a hotel guest died of an in-room heat stroke.

What to do if Your Hotel Room has Limited Cooling

If you know you'll be staying in a place that has less than desirable cooling, you may want to consider bringing a compact mobile room air conditioner with you. This option is particularly advisable if you'll be staying in an area with intense heat or if you'll have an extended stay for any number of reasons. You can even request your hotel manager purchase one and have it available in the lobby for use or rentals. If they refuse, at this point it may be a good idea to inform them of the recent untimely departure of the Choice Inn guest or the studies held by Dr. Hendley.

Shireen Shah is a writer with http://www.air-purifier-home.com/.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writers: How to Break into the Green Industry

By Shireen Qudosi

The green industry is one of the hottest industries to work in these days. But contrary to the antiquated perception of green, working in the industry doesn't really mean working in the fields. The concept that green businesses literally toil away is hilarious, but it’s a very real misconception of the past.

It wasn't until Hollywood emphasized green living, that eco-consciousness really took off. Fortunately, with that many industries also realized the importance of going green. Realizing it would save them money and serve as great PR, today's green business are some of the most competitive businesses that offer some of the best products or services.

Just about any profession can find their niche in the green workforce. However, some of us have it tougher than others. For writers, the first thing you have to do is educate yourself on your subject. Give yourself enough time to check out all the different resources there are for green living. This includes green blogs, green businesses, green ideas, green policies...the wealth of resources are unlimited. With there being so much out there, it's important to have an idea about what type of green writing you want to do? Do you want to focus more on urban living, home ideas, businesses, etc? Once you have a clearer idea, you can streamline your search.

Whatever specific subcategory you choose to focus on, make sure you become an expert in the field. Go to events and conferences, borrow or purchase some books on the subject. The more you know about your subject, the better you can write about it.

What You Can't Do

Just as with any other job, you can't just waltz into a company, whether figuratively or literally, and demand a writing job. You have to show you have experience in the field; you have to demonstrate a skill. Writers have it toughest in this regard. While other careers translate well across the board, writers tend to work in a very specific niche and usually adapt to a very specific style of writing. So while you may be a great writer in one area, you may not necessarily translate well to a green industry. Writing for this industry can be different from writing for other industry, and to survive in the green business you've got to start learning to adapt your voice and writing style.

Here again we go back to the subcategory you want to work in. If you want to be a part policy changes, or business services, your writing has to be more technical. If anything else, is has to be more conversational and friendly, yet informative. This is why it's best to do the research and test out the field.

The Perks

A career in environmental conservation writing has a great number of perks. One of the biggest perks is that it can be done from anymore. Many writers are able to telecommute, a trend that’s been made even more popular with the recent events. The recession has made it cheaper for many employers to contact writers and have them work from home, which allows them to save on administrative overhead. Additionally, the decline of print media has finally gotten publishers to pay attention to the vast resource of internet media. With these trends, there no longer a need to drive to work, clock in and clock out. These days, your corner coffee shop is as effective an office as the corner desk.

There's also a great deal of flexibility with a green writing career. As mentioned there are a number of different sub categories. Your expertise in one specific green area can be expanded up and used in another area. If one editor is slow for a week or so, you can start networking with other business and publications. With a green writing career, there's always something to learn - and someone to writer for.

How You Can Get Started

Find a pitch - whether it's green energy, air quality trends, anything in health, technology, or latest green news. Once you start looking into the specific subjects, you'll see how much coverage there is for eco-friendly lifestyles in both the personal and business sector.

No matter what you choose to write about, be sure to always cite your sources, use only stock free, approved, or public images, and link to higher quality publications such as .edu and .gov, which tend to have higher rankings. If writing for online content, be sure to brush up on SEO keywords. And remember, the average piece shouldn't be more than 900 words, and your pitch to me should be 50-200 words max.

Most publications will be happy to feature well-written quality content, out of which you get a piece for your portfolio, and a byline. But before you clickety-click away, send me a quick pitch and let's see if we can guide you in the right direction.

However, if you choose to go on it your own, then take in the advice here and give it your best shot.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home. A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling.

Duke and French Company Plan Nuke Plant in Ohio

Duke Energy and French nuclear reactor manufacturer Areva are studying whether to build a reactor in southern Ohio at a uranium enrichment plant. The Portsmouth plant, in Piketon, Ohio is owned by the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), which is trying to develop a new kind of centrifuge to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power plants.

The plant would be built as a regulated generator, not a merchant generator, and state approvals could allow the company to begin collecting money before it is finished. The plant would provide 4,000 to 5,000 construction jobs and 500 to 700 permanent jobs. The reactor would be one of a series of plants planned by Unistar, a joint venture to build Areva plants, formed by Constellation Energy and Electricite de France. (NYT-Green,Inc, 6/18/09, Photo: AP)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sixty Percent of NC's Electricity Is Generated Using Coal

In parts of eastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky strip mining of coal via mountaintop removal blows off the tops of mountains with massive ammonium nitrate and fuel-oil blasts. In the past thirty years, an estimated 500 mountains have been destroyed by this mining technique; more than 1,200 miles of streams have been filled with mining waste and fill.

With nearly 60 percent of its electricity generated by coal-fired plants, North Carolina consumes over 15 million tons of coal stripped from mountaintop removal operations in central Appalachia. It ranks as the second-largest consumer of mountaintop removal-mined coal in the nation.

In 2007, state Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro took a historic step in introducing the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act, which would prohibit the importation of mountaintop-removal coal into North Carolina. This was the first bill of its kind in the nation. (The News Observer, 4/18/09)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Nuclear Power Plants For North & South Carolina?

Duke Energy is considering the construction of the Lee nuclear plant near Gaffney, South Carolina. Duke has made no final decision to build the, which could cost up to $11 billion. One thing is very clear though, Duke needs to build more power plants to keep up with growing electricity demand. Due to the high cost of the Lee facility, Duke prefers to build it with partners to spread costs. Absent buidling a nuclear plant to meet future electricity needs, Duke could expand its Cliffside coal-fired plant.

Utilities commissions in both Carolinas have given Duke permission to spend millions in project development costs for Lee. Last year the South Carolina Public Service commission approved $230 million in expenses through 2009. North Carolina's Utilities Commission approved spending up to $160 million.

Raleigh-based Progress Energy is also considering the construction of a nuclear power plant.

The Center supports construction of the Duke and Progress Energy nuclear power plants. (CharlotteObserver.com, April 7, 2009)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cut vs. Herbicide For High Power Line Vegetation Management

The Center believes manual and mechanical cutting of trees and other vegetation underneath high power line rights of way (ROW) are superior to herbicide use because cutting creates green jobs. Moreover, although we have a deep appreciation for the effectiveness of a combined cut and herbicide regimen, the fewer amounts of chemicals used in nature, the better. A panel of 23 experts from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is crafting a best management practice (BMP) for integrated vegetation managment (IVM) to servce as a field guide for front-line supervision, as well as an aid for managers to help facilitate planning.

Managers have a variety of control methods from which to choose, including manual, mechanical, herbicide and tree-growth regulators, biological and cultural options. Manual methods employ workers with hand-carried tools, including chain saws, handsaws, pruning shears and other devices to control incompatible vegetation. The advantage of manual techniques is that they are selective and can be used where others may not be. However, manual techniques can be inefficient and expensive compared to other methods. Mechanical controls are done with machines. Although mechanical control methods are efficient and cost effective — particularly for clearing dense vegetation during initial establishment or reclaiming neglected or overgrown ROW — they can be nonselective and disturb sensitive sites.

Many utilities believe tree-growth regulators and herbicides are essential for effective vegetation management. Tree-growth regulators are designed to reduce growth rates by interfering with natural plant processes. They can be helpful by reducing the growth rates of some fast-growing species where removals are prohibited or impractical. Herbicides control plants by interfering with specific botanical biochemical pathways. Herbicide use can control individual plants that are prone to resprout or sucker after removal. When trees that resprout or sucker are removed without herbicide treatment, dense thickets develop, impeding access, swelling workloads, increasing costs, blocking lines of site and deteriorating wildlife habitat. Treating suckering plants allows early successional, compatible species to dominate the ROW and out-compete incompatible species, ultimately reducing work. (Transmission & Distribution World, July 2007)

Friday, March 6, 2009

$1 Billion Resurrects FutureGen Project in Mattoon, Illinois

The stimulus package inclueded $1 billion for "fossil energy research and development," which is really an earmark for the FutureGen project--clean coal project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project was abruptly killed lin 2008 by the Bush administration. The FutureGen plant will be a commercial-size power plant in Mattoon, Illinois, a town of 17,000 people. It would produce 275 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 150,000 homes. Mattoon has the right geology with a natural sandstone formation underneath that could serve as an ideal trap to keep carbon dioxide emissions stored underground.

Instead of releasing the resulting carbon dioxide emissions into the air as pollution, the plant would pump them into deep geologic formations thousands of feet below Earth's surface. The project's goal is to test and develop affordable technology, on a commercial scale, that can remove 90 percent of emissions produced by coal plants. The plant would be built with a group of private coal and utility companies known as the FutureGen Alliance. The FutureGen plant is expected to create jobs as many as 11,000 workers. The alliance must compete for the stimulus funds. (Wash Post)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Report Shows Solid Foundation for Emerging Carbon Market

A report issued today by the ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) shows that the competitive process is working as intended in the secondary market for carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances. The report concludes that there is no evidence of anticompetitive conduct amongst participants, such as electric utility companies, commodity brokers, and financial speculators.

The "Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances," which addresses the period from August 2008 to January 2009, was prepared by Potomac Economics, RGGI, Inc.'s independent market monitor. Potomac's other key findings include:

• Although trading volumes remain light compared to the number of allowances sold in auctions, the average volume of allowance futures trading grew from 155,000 allowances per day in September 2008 to 330,000 per day in January 2009.

• Despite continued fluctuations in market price, overall market volatility has declined over the period of study.

• A substantial number of firms (at least 25) have participated in the trading of standard futures and options contracts on public exchanges, which is a positive sign for the competitiveness of the secondary market at this early stage. Potomac's conclusions were based on the analysis of data reported to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange and other data.The complete Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances. Contact: Emilee Pierce - 212-417-3179


About the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in RGGI have designed the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The states have committed to cap and then reduce the amount of CO2 that power plants in their region are allowed to emit, limiting the region's total contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Under the RGGI process, the 10 participating states will stabilize power sector CO2 emissions at the capped level through 2014. The cap will then be reduced by 2.5 percent in each of the four years 2015 through 2018, for a total reduction of 10 percent.

The 10 states participating in RGGI are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. RGGI, Inc. was created in September 2007 to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

EPA Seeks Comment on U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

EPA is seeking public comment on the annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007 draft report. This report will be open for public comment for 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published. The draft report shows that overall emissions during 2007 increased by 1.4 percent from the previous year. This trend was due primarily to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption.

The total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were about 7,125 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Overall, emissions have grown by 17.1 percent from 1990 to 2007. The inventory tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2007 at the national level. The gases covered by this inventory include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation, and soils. This annual report is prepared by EPA in collaboration with experts from multiple federal agencies. After responding to public comments, the U.S. government will submit the final inventory report to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The report will fulfill the annual requirement of the UNFCCC international treaty, ratified by the United States in 1992, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. Information on the draft report and how to submit public comments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Contact: Roxanne Smith, 202-564-4355.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Duke Energy CEO Seeks Free Allowances & We Agree

Duke Energy Corporation CEO James Rogers, left, believes President Obama's auction component in the proposed cap-and-trade program will significantly increase electricity bills. Although Rogers supports the cap-and-trade program, which would set a mandatory limit on global warming pollution and let companies trade emissions allowances on an open market, he opposes an auction of the allowances. He is right. We believe the allowances should be allocated free to utilities to prevent the automatic and immediate increase in utility bills. The Center recommends that President Obama should use the successful example of the Acid Rain Program, which reduced sulfur dioxide emissions in a cap-and-trade program that did not significantly increase electricity prices.

Although Rogers supports an auction of as many as 20 percent of the trading permits, with the revenue going toward research and development of low-carbon technologies, we believe that the ceiling for auctioning permits should be no higher than 5 percent. It is half that percentage in the Acid Rain Program. (Bloomberg.com)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Center-NC To Initiate CO2 Reduction Program

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) has established a Carbon Dioxide Reduction (CDR) Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by recruiting companies and individuals to participate in a flexible work schedule that will primarily include telecommuting, but could also utilize other practices and technologies. Total emissions of carbon dioxide in the United States and its territories were 5,795.6 million metric tons in 2002, according to the Energy Information Administration . Carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector, at 1,849.7 million metric tons, accounted for 32.3 percent of total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2002. (Energy Information Administration)

The Carbon Dioxide Reduction Program is designed to reduce emissions of the primary greenhouse gas from vehicles by promoting the use of broadband telecommuting to take vehicles off of the road, thus eliminating the CO2 that would have otherwise been emitted during the drive to and from work. The Center will work with other companies, institutions and organizations to recruit participants for the program. The Center will partner with primary partner companies that are promoting a broadband-based climate change program to serve as a verification entity for our participant recruiting.

Center North Carolina Branch Opened

We are proud to announce that the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) has opened in North Carolina and will be based in Charlotte thanks to Deon Bradley, who will serve as director of the branch.