The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (Commission) will meet January 6-7, 2011 in Augusta, GA with the agenda including a tour of the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, S.C.—a facility where approximately 36 million gallons of high level liquid radioactive waste remains from Cold War era production of nuclear weapons. The Commission will hear presentations and statements from various stakeholder groups in order to obtain additional information for Commission consideration.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("U.S. EPA") has signed a "statement of intent" with the European Chemicals Agency ("ECHA") which is intended to provided U.S. EPA with access to data collected under the European Union's Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals ("REACH") law. According to U.S. EPA, the statement of intent "puts in place a process for working together on a range of mutual interests, including toxicity testing, the hazard and risk assessment of chemicals, risk management tools, scientific collaboration and information exchange." The two agencies also will share criteria for managing confidential business information with the goal being to increase the availability of chemical information to the public. This partnership between U.S. EPA and ECHA is viewed by some as a first step in the process in the United States to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA") to be more like the European Union's REACH law. REACH is based on the precautionary principle and chemical manufacturers in the European Union are required to generate data demonstrating conclusively that their products are safe before they can be marketed. TSCA, on the other hand, currently takes more of a risk-based approach to regulating chemical substances. TSCA currently provides U.S. EPA with the authority to ban or regulate chemical substances upon a showing that the chemical presents or will present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.
The United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), formed in 2000 as an entity within the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is the lead agency for the UN-Water initiative. The WWAP monitors freshwater issues around the world in order to provide recommendations, develop case studies, enhance assessment capacity and inform the UN decision-making process on these matters. One of WWAP's key efforts is the creation and update of the World Water Development Report (Report)—a periodic, comprehensive evaluation of the state of the world's freshwater resources. WWAP now is working on the fourth edition of this report.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued its first guidance on indoor air quality concerns. The new report titled WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality-Selected Pollutants evaluates exposure risks and other considerations for nine chemicals commonly found in indoor air. The nine chemicals addressed in the report are benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, naphthalene, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radon, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene.
U.S. EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance released its FY10 enforcement results which showed a drop in criminal cases opened and fines collected compared to FY09. In FY10, U.S.EPA had 387 cases opened as compared to 346 in FY09 and collected $41 million in fines and restitution compared with $96 million in FY09. Despite the drop in numbers of opened cases and fines and restitution collected, there has been an increase in the overall value of injunctive relief obtained, going from $5.3 billion in injunctive relief and 580 million pounds of pollution reduced in FY09 to $12.1 billion in injunctive relief and 1.5 billion pounds of pollution reduced in FY10. Click here to go to OECA's Press Release.
On December 6, 2010, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will grant certiorari in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, a case involving allegations by several states and environmental groups that greenhouse gas emissions from several large power generating companies are causing irreparable environmental harm. In 2009, the Second Circuit ruled that the lawsuit could proceed after concluding that the plaintiffs had standing and that the case did not present a non-justiciable political question. One unique aspect of this case will revolve around whether any (or how many) of the justices will recuse themselves. Justice Sotomayor was on the Second Circuit panel that originally decided the case. Justice Kagan was the solicitor general and served in that position until she was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in August 2010. The solicitor general's office submitted a brief on behalf of one of the defendants in the case shortly thereafter. We will continue to monitor this case as it progresses at the Supreme Court.
The UN announced yesterday the launch of a website to help developing countries make sense of the multiple funds available to finance climate change-related needs. It estimates that developing countries will require as much as $100B a year for adaptation to climate change and $175M for mitigation by 2030.
Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, opened the conference saying "You are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools." Referring to the need to curb global warming, Ms. Figueres told delegates "Looking at what you have achieved over the past months, I am convinced that you can compromise to find a way to a concrete outcome in Cancun, and that outcome needs to be both firm and dependable and have a dedicated follow-on process for future work."