Wednesday, December 15, 2010

EPA's Public Meeting on Methods and Approaches for Deriving Numeric Criteria for Nitrogen/Phosphorus Pollution in Florida Waters

On December 13 and 14, the Nutrient Criteria Review Panel of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) held a meeting to review EPA's draft technical support document, Methods and Approaches for Deriving Numeric Criteria for Nitrogen/Phosphorus Pollution in Florida's Estuaries, Coastal Waters, and Southern Inland Flowing Waters. The overall goal of the numeric nutrient criteria is to translate Florida’s existing narrative nutrient criterion into numeric values. This public meeting included technical presentations, panel discussions, and public comments on the development of numeric nutrient criteria for Florida's estuarine and coastal waters, and southern canals.

During the opening session held on December 13, various technical aspects and public comments on the draft document were presented and discussed. Ephraim King, Director of the EPA Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology (OST), provided an introduction on the numeric nutrient criteria approach. The presentation included an overview of the EPA’s role in translating Florida’s existing narrative nutrient standard into measureable numeric values, background information on the Water Quality Standards of the Clean Water Act as the basis for the development of the numeric nutrient criteria, and a timeline for the completion of the numeric nutrient criteria rule. Furthermore, Tiffany Crawford, EPA Office of Water (OST), delivered a technical presentation titled “General Approach for Numeric Nutrient Criteria Development in Florida Waters.” The presentation detailed information on the proposed delineation of Florida waters, reviewed the conceptual model developed by EPA to characterize Florida’s narrative nutrient standard and described the general analytical approaches proposed for the numeric nutrient criteria.

Public comments on the draft document were presented by different speakers representing various organizations, agencies and academic institutions. The speakers highlighted key concerns including the oversimplification of estuarine ecosystems, the complexity of developing numeric nutrient values from existing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) models, the need for stakeholder collaboration to develop accurate numeric nutrient values, and the lack of a clear definition from EPA to conclude when a ecosystem is healthy versus imbalanced.

All the meeting materials and agenda can be accessed online.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Biofuels Discussed At Renewable Energy Policy Forum

On December 8 and 9, the American Council on Renewable Energy held the Phase II National Policy Forum on Capitol Hill to engage in open discussion and dialogue about a new, collaborative national renewable energy policy agenda. The two-day event featured a multitude of speakers, including members of Congress, representing various organizations, agencies, and industries. The panelists touched on key issues to explore a new, non-partisan renewable energy policy agenda to communicate to private capital markets the need for a national renewable energy scale-up.

Agriculture’s role in the renewable energy scale-up was discussed in a session entitled “The State of Renewable Energy in America”. Jeff Broin, president of POET, a U.S. biofuel company and world’s largest producer of renewable fuels, spoke about the current state and future of the U.S. ethanol industry. Broin began his remarks by speaking about the growth of the ethanol industry and its major role in the U.S. transportation fuels market. He said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent approval of the E15 blend for vehicles made since 2007 and on, is a step forward as it will allow more of the American car and light truck fleet to use a higher ethanol blend.

Broin emphasized the need for the U.S. to strive for eventual approval and use of 27% ethanol in the U.S. gasoline supply to meet renewable fuel standard (RFS) targets. Broin also made clear that POET will continue to concentrate on developing cellulosic ethanol production with the goal of contributing 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol to the RFS by 2022.

In the discussion following the session, Broin indicated that until the biofuel industry has more infrastructure to compete with oil, an extended tax credit for ethanol blenders to encourage biofuel production will be necessary. If the tax credit is phased out over a period of time, the money saved from the phase-out should be directed towards helping finance the needed infrastructure and new equipment such as blender pumps at gas stations to make higher ethanol blends available to motorists.

Based on the wide variety of key energy issues discussed during the forum and the amount of time dedicated to the dialogue about biofuels, it was evident that agriculture will play a strong role in a national renewable energy scale-up. To learn more about the forum and speakers, visit the forum webpage at:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Senate Hearing on Implementation of NASA Authorization Act

Wednesday, December 1, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, announced the purpose of the hearing—to discuss and explain the implementation of the recently passed NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The Authorization Act invests more in new space programs and already existing programs, including those in the Earth Science Division.

Witnesses who testified at the hearing included John Holdren, the President’s Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Elizabeth Robinson, Chief Financial Officer at NASA, and Cristina Chaplain, Director of acquisition and sourcing management, U.S. Government Accountability Office. In his opening statement, Dr. Holdren stated that the 2010 NASA Authorization Act “represents a critical step toward achieving the President’s goals in this arena (space exploration)”. He also emphasized the role of Earth Science and development of innovations in satellite technology in building U.S. leadership in global climate change research in the future.

The Earth Science Division is focused on understanding the changing climate, how human activities affect the environment, and the changing climate’s interaction with life. The Division’s research programs provide data on solar output, sea level rise, atmospheric and ocean temperature, ozone depletion, air pollution, and observation of human and environment relationships. By using space-based observations with satellite technologies, this research contributes to the fundamental knowledge of the most vital scientific questions about the global integrated Earth system. The satellite technology and land remote sensing observation employed in the Division’s research programs have a critical role in Earth science, climate science, environmental understanding, and mitigating destructive environmental impacts.

Witnesses’ testimonies and webcast of the hearing can be accessed at: