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Sierre Leone Bans Imports of Ozone-Depleting Products

Sierra Leone plans to prohibit imported goods known to damage the ozone layer, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.

Kolleh Bangura, director of the West African nation’s EPA, told AFP that a new measure would ban products containing substances known to deplete the ozone, such as old refrigerators. The ban will go into effect April 1.

“A recent workshop has sensitised customs and marine officials as well as other stakeholders including fire-fighters on the harmful effect of ozone-depleting substances,” Bangura said, according to AFP.

“Sierra Leone has made progress in the issue of ozone depletion between 1990 to 2000 introducing environmental policies, strategies and regulations but practical control and management have been severely affected by lack of funding,” Bangura added.

The attempt to ban ozone-damaging products and substances dates back to 2008, when the law was first passed by the nation’s parliament. A lack of funding prevented the ban from going into effect until now.

Posted in Laws & Regulations, Ozone0 Comments

Hosni Mubarak Supporters Gather in Cairo

Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gathered today in Cairo to counter the past week’s anti-government protests.

On an upscale boulevard in the nation’s capital, thousands of Mubarak defenders – including government workers, men in designer sunglasses and women with expensive hairdos – congregated to peacefully voice their support of the autocratic leader, AP reported Wednesday. A few dozen government-employed nurses chanted, “We love you Mubarak!”

Things were less subdued in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, where opposition protesters had been keeping a vigil for days. The two sides clashed violently there today, AP reported, hitting each other with sticks and leaving many injured.

After 30 years in power, Mubarak has buckled to pressure from the protests and promised to stand down at the country’s next election in September. But demonstrators continue to demand that the 82-year-old relinquish his authority immediately.
The Egyptian military also called for Mubarak to step down immediately.

“Your message has arrived, your demands became known … you are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt,” a military spokesman said, according to AP.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Military0 Comments

$46M Spent on Calif. Climate Change Prop

Over $46 million was spent on a California ballot measure aimed at postponing the state’s landmark global warming law, according to fundraising and spending reports filed Monday.

Proposition 23, which failed to pass on the November ballot, would have temporarily suspended the state’s 2006 greenhouse gas regulations until the unemployment rate, now at 12.5 percent, remained at 5.5 percent for a year.

Opponents pumped more than $36 million into the campaign against the measure, while supporters headed by out-of-state oil companies spent about $10.5 million.

The ballot measure, which failed by a margin of 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent, sought to freeze the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, a law that will curb heat-trapping industrial emissions beginning in 2012 and start reducing dependency on fossil fuels in 2020.

Oil companies championed the proposition, claiming that the law would do further damage to California’s already-crippled economy by driving businesses out of the state. They said it should be postponed until the state regained financial security.

Steve Mavilglio, a spokesman for the opponents to Proposition 23, said the measure was defeated because of state and national groups that believe green jobs will help California’s economy rebound.

“California’s business community rallied to save the fastest-growing business sector in the state,” Maviglio told AP. “It also became a flashpoint nationally for the future of clean energy.”

The state’s unemployment rate has held at 5.5 percent for a year just three times in three decades, AP reports.

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Republican Senators Pledge to Strip Obama Climate Power

A group of Republican U.S. senators Monday announced plans to strip the Obama administration of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and 10 other conservative senators introduced sweeping legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating heat-trapping emissions from power stations and industrial plants without permission from Congress.

The bill would also bar all federal agencies from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions when implementing existing laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

“My bill will shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy,” said Barrasso, an outspoken skeptic of climate change.

“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap-and-trade policies in any form.”

Environmental groups and Democratic senators fired back immediately, with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry charging that Barrasso’s bill “puts the public health at risk and encourages the outsourcing of American jobs.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the legislation threatens bipartisan efforts to serve the public by protecting the environment.

“Since president Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have worked together to protect American families from dangerous pollution,” Boxer said in a statement. “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused the Republican senators of seeking to please industrial emitters, saying: “The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters.”

While the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House can block the effort to curb powers on emissions, the proposed bill demonstrates that it will be impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on climate change. Obama’s “cap-and-trade” bill to force emissions standards halted in Congress last year.

Posted in Global Warming, Global Warming & Climate Change, Laws & Regulations, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

Davos Conference Wraps Up

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland drew to a close Sunday after a week’s worth of debate on global debt, climate change, food shortages, and a host of other international issues.

Prominent politicians spoke to the world’s most powerful business leaders at the upscale snowbound resort in the Swiss mountains during the annual event, aimed at strengthening a globalized economy.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pushed hard for the development of an energy-efficient economy, urging the United States and Europe to lead the rest of the world in combatting climate change.

“Let me highlight the one resource that is scarcest of all: time,” Ban said, according to AFP.

Other issues that took precedence at the gathering included the ongoing anti-government revolts in North Africa, Chinese asset-price inflation, rising food prices, and Europe’s debt crisis.

The first day of the conference was rocked by news of a Moscow airport bombing, which took place shortly before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due in Davos. The violence delayed his arrival, and the forum paused for a minute of silence prior to his opening day speech.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

Tunis: President Dismisses Gov’t Amid Riots

After thousands of demonstrators marched through the Tunisian capital of Tunis to demand the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Friday, the autocratic leader has decided to dismiss his government.

The iron-fisted president, who has been in power for 23 years, also said he would call early legislative elections in six months, The Associated Press reports.

The people of Tunisia have enjoyed relative prosperity since Ben Ali came to power in a bloodless coup in 1987: Tunis, the North African city on the Mediterranean known for its beaches and ancient ruins, is a thriving tourist attraction. Until recently, Tunisians have tolerated the autocratic government in exchange for political stability and peace.

But simmering frustrations over high unemployment and reports of government corruption have erupted in violence in recent weeks. 23 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which began in mid-December – and that’s just the official death toll, opposition figures say. It’s likely that dozens more have been killed.

In an attempt to placate demonstrators, Ben Ali went on television Thursday, promising freedom of the press and political transparency. He also said he would resign when his term ends in 2014, and ordered price cuts on foodstuffs.

After his speech, thousands held a rally in support of the ruler on the main drag of Avenue Bourguiba, chanting, “Long live Ben Ali!”, AP reports. Some say the event was staged by the powerful ruling RCD party.

Regardless, the speech did not seem to appease the majority of demonstrators, who turned out for a massive riot Friday. Ben Ali’s regime fired rounds of tear gas at thousands of protesters in the center of the capital.

Ben Ali has declared a state of emergency as violence continues to escalate, AP said.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Military0 Comments

Cuomo Nominates Joe Martens for DEC Commissioner

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Joe Martens to serve as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Martens, who has served as president of the non-profit group the Open Space Institute since 1998, has played a key role in acquiring land for conservation, sustainable development and sustainable farming in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.

He will replace Peter Iwanowitz, who has held the post since late October after Gov. David Paterson dismissed Alexander B. Grannis.

Grannis was fired over a leaked memo condemning the agency’s layoffs. He has since been hired as first deputy comptroller in the office of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Martens, who will need to wait for Senate approval to begin his work, previously served as deputy state secretary of energy and the environment from 1992-94 under Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council have praised Cuomo’s choice to appoint Martens. “Joe Martens’ experience, judgment, and temperament make him the right person at the right time to meet the challenges that DEC faces,” said Ashok Gupta of the NRDC, according to the New York Times. “He has the support and key relationships with the business and environmental community that will allow him to hit the ground running.”

Martens will take over as the DEC works to complete an analysis of the environmental impact of the controversial “hydro-fracking” process in New York State’s Marcellus Shale region.

Posted in Laws & Regulations, Natural Gas, Policies, Politics & Politicians, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

EPA Takes Over Texas Carbon Emission Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced its plans to take over carbon dioxide permitting of any new power plants and refineries in Texas, citing the state’s refusal to comply with emissions regulations going into effect Jan. 2.

Texas industries have openly opposed the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act, a program designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They claim that the cuts will threaten productivity, and that the economy, in turn, will take a hit.

The EPA said Thursday that it was reassuming the state’s Clean Air Act Permits because “officials in Texas have made clear . . . they have no intention of implementing this portion of the federal air permitting program,” The Associated Press reported.

“EPA prefers that the state of Texas and all states remain the permitting authority for (greenhouse gas) sources,” the agency said in a statement. “In the same way that EPA has worked with other states and local agencies, the agency stands ready to do the same with (Texas).”

The EPA constructed a framework for carbon emissions regulations in seven other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Wyoming.

The agency also devised a timetable for establishing the cuts for all U.S. facilities and power plants. It plans to propose performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions beginning in July for powerplants and for oil refineries by December. The standards will be finalized in May 2012 for powerplants and November 2012 for refineries.

Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman spoke out against the EPA’s decision to directly issue air permits in Texas.

“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Cesinger said, according to the San Antonio Express.

An estimated 167 new or expanding projects would be subject to the EPA takeover. Texas lays claim to more oil refineries, chemical plants, and coal-fired power plants than any other state and produces the most greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollution in the country, AP reports.

The new carbon emissions standards were adopted after a 2007 Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases should be classified as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA research in 2009 revealed that the gases have a harmful effect on human health.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Coal, Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Energy Industry, Global Warming, Laws & Regulations, Oil & Petroleum, Ozone, Policies, Pollution Prevention0 Comments

START Treaty Passes in 71-26 Vote

The U.S. Senate cleared the New START treaty Wednesday in a 71-to-26 vote.

The U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty, one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities for the lame-duck Congress, will reduce the number of U.S. and Russian missiles by a third and implement on-site inspections of nuclear weapons facilities after a one-year suspension.

The agreement was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 last spring.

Vice President Joe Biden acted as Senate president during the final vote on the treaty, which will last 10 years.

“This is one of those rare times in the United States Senate where we have it within our power to safeguard or endanger humankind,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, Foreign Relations Committee chairman and one of the floor debate managers, said prior to the ratification vote.

56 Democratic senators and two independents voted in support of the treaty.

13 Republicans also joined in voting to approve the treaty, including: Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Robert Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, George Voinovich of Ohio, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

President Obama said Wednesday that the arms control agreement will help the U.S. stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

The international community has also praised the Senate’s ruling. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the treaty “a firm and clear message in support of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation,” AP reported.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Policies, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

Ethanol Fuel Additive Law Brings Automakers to Appeals Court

U.S. carmakers and engine manufacturers have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to allow the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol.

The EPA ruled on Oct. 13th that filling stations could start selling gasoline containing more of the corn-based additive for vehicles built in 2007 or later. The current blend contains 10 percent ethanol.

The various organizations Monday asked a federal appeals court in Washington to review the October decision. They claim the approval of the E15 blend violates the Clean Air Act, and that the fuel could damage engines.

“We want to be sure that any new fuel will not increase air pollution, harm engines or endanger consumer safety,” Michael J. Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, said in a joint statement with the other members of the Engine Products Group, according to BusinessWeek.

The Renewable Fuels Association,  an ethanol trade group, said the EPA should have allowed E15 for more models.

“The only way to meet the nation’s energy, economic and environmental goals as put forth in the Renewable Fuels Standard is to increase ethanol consumption,” the group said in a statement.

The suit, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 10-1414, was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Drilling for Oil, Energy Industry, Laws & Regulations, Oil & Petroleum, Policies0 Comments

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