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The 90 Day Plan

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 90-Day Plan: DAY 20

DAY 20

With the variety of audio options on the rise, opt to DOWNLOAD music, movies, and other files instead of burning them to a disc.  CD's, DVD's, and their protective jewel cases are made of plastic and last I heard, it wasn't the best thing for our planet.

Challenge:  Who is Pete Seeger?  What has he done for the Hudson River?

For More Information:

Friday, July 9, 2010

EPA Increases Transparency on Chemical Risk Information: Action part of continued comprehensive reform of toxic substance laws

Found this gem while researching today, a little behind the times on this one, but it is good news nonetheless.  Vague chemical naming to protect business interests should never usurp the EPAs efforts to promote public health and safety.!OpenDocument

Release date: 01/21/2010

Contact Information: Dale Kemery,, 202-564-7839, 202-564-4355, Enesta Jones,, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355


WASHINGTON — As part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to strengthen and reform chemical management, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a new policy to increase the public’s access to information on chemicals. Starting today, EPA has announced its intention to reject a certain type of confidentiality claim, known as Confidential Business Information (CBI), on the identity of chemicals. The chemicals that will be affected by this action are those that are submitted to EPA with studies that show a substantial risk to people's health and the environment and have been previously disclosed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Inventory. This action represents another step to use the agency’s authority under the existing TSCA to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform.

“Assuring the safety of chemicals is one of Administrator Jackson's top priorities for EPA's future,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “The American people are entitled to transparent, accessible information on chemicals that may pose a risk to their health or the environment. We will continue taking steps that increase transparency and assure the safety of chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies.”

Under TSCA, companies may claim a range of sensitive, proprietary information as CBI. Under Section 8(e) of TSCA, companies that manufacture, process, or distribute chemicals are required to immediately provide notice to EPA if they learn that a chemical presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. The Section 8(e) reports are made available on EPA’s Web site. However, until today, companies would routinely claim confidentiality for the actual identity of the chemical covered by the Section 8(e) submission, so the public posting of the information would not include the name of the chemical. The new policy announced today ends this practice for chemicals on the public portion of the TSCA Inventory. This new policy will increase the amount of information available by granting the public access to the chemical identification information submitted, along with other health and safety data under Section 8(e).

In the coming months, EPA intends to announce additional steps to further increase transparency of chemical information.

EPA’s new policy on TSCA Section 8(e) submissions is being published in the Federal Register.

More information on the new policy:

More information on EPA’s principles for comprehensive TSCA reform:


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Air Quality Data for Gulf Workers: More Worrisome Findings | Gina Solomon's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Air Quality Data for Gulf Workers: More Worrisome Findings | Gina Solomon's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

The 90-Day Plan: DAY 19

DAY 19

An informed consumer is a better consumer; LEARN YOUR LOGOS & NUMBERS in order to be hip to the Green Lingo.  Choices can be difficult to make if you are not aware of what you are really choosing. 

Challenge:  Why is the economy the ultimate factor in determining what is recycled and what is trashed?

For More Information:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

James Pribram: Surfing Soapbox/A sickening feeling in the Gulf...

With every step I take, I feel as if I'm walking farther from the world I knew. In disbelief, I keep trying to make sense of what it is I am seeing. I still can't.

I have chills just thinking about it. My eyes are watering, and this untamable emotion is running through me.

Visiting Grand Isle yesterday was just like attending my best friend's funeral because the ocean in Grand Isle is dead. It is a ghost town; the beach is empty except for rude and disrespectful BP cleanup crews, who adeptly avoid speaking about the spill.

What causes their hostility toward the common person seeking answers?

In a time when these so-called BP employees should be sincere and compassionate toward the public, for the most part, from my experience, they are anything but. Why have these people not been briefed in civil and everyday manners? These people should be bringing the people of this region affected by the oil spill breakfast in bed and washing their cars – doing anything in their power to make these people feel better.
But instead, BP hides behind marketing scams such as Vessels of Opportunity, which was supposed to put local fishermen back to work looking for oil, but has become a way for anybody with a boat to make extra money.
Imagine a beach devoid of anything good. A beach that for miles and miles is closed, with the only colors that one can see being the two different colors of oil boom that litter the seashore. The smell is sickening, and believe me when I tell you it is worse than anything you can imagine.

It is a scene out of some weird sci-fi movie that just blows me away. I am so crushed at the thought of such flagrant irresponsibility for our oceans and our environment. Does our government really care?
Or does oil just rule the world?


James Pribram

The 90-Day Plan: DAY 18

DAY 18

For today, CUT THE JUNK and SODA.  Other than the obvious health benefits to avoiding junk food and soda, often it comes in plastic packaging.  Didn't we talk about that?  A typical American's daily diet requires close to 2,000 gallons of water to produce.  By limiting your intake of junk food and soda, that amount of water used can be significantly reduced.

Challenge:  Substitute honey for sugar—sugarcane plantations often replace valuable wetlands.  Difficult to beat diseases and the overuse of pesticides are serious and ever-present threats to bee colonies; what would happen if bees were to go extinct?

For More Information:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oil containment effort facing 2 key moments

WASHINGTON — The battle to contain BP's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is approaching two critical junctures in coming days that could affect how the months-long catastrophe ends.

The first will happen for sure: the connection of a third ship to the jury-rigged containment system through which BP has been capturing about 24,000 barrels of oil per day since early June. That may take place as soon as this weekend, depending on how rough the seas are, and it would raise the amount of oil that BP can collect from the well to as much as 53,000 barrels per day. That's 88 percent of the 60,000 barrels per day that the government says is the current best guess of the maximum amount that's gushing from the well.

The second may not happen: replacing the "top hat" component of that containment system with a new cap that would fit more snugly but whose installation would require that the well be uncapped for as long as 10 days, allowing tens of thousands of additional barrels of crude to spew into the Gulf.

The new containment cap was the subject of Cabinet-level meetings in Washington last week, including one with President Barack Obama, and the decision remains uncertain.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Wednesday that he'd had more meetings on the topic with BP officials Tuesday in Houston and that more meetings were scheduled for when he returned to Washington this week.

"We are still reviewing the technical specifications . . . the amount of time . . . and the weather window that it would take" for installation, Allen said. He was unwilling to lay odds on whether the new cap would be approved.

"I wouldn't want to attach a percentage right now," he said.

Adding the third ship, the Helix Producer I, has been planned for weeks and was supposed to have happened by June 30. High seas generated by Hurricane Alex and then by an unnamed storm system near the Mexico's Yucatan peninsula so far have thwarted the final few days of work, however.

Allen said he flew to the Deepwater Horizon site on Wednesday in part to assess weather conditions.

In a conference call from the Discoverer Enterprise, the drilling ship that's taking on oil from the well through the "top hat," Allen said that the waves buffeting the area were 4 to 6 feet tall, still too high to complete the final connections linking the Helix Producer I to the Deepwater Horizon's failed blowout preventer.

Forecasts anticipate calmer seas in the next 48 hours, he said, after which the last of the work hooking up undersea hoses should take three days.

The addition of the Helix Producer I is likely to re-energize the controversy over just how much oil is escaping from the well. A government panel of scientists estimated last month that the well is leaking anywhere from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day.

Once the Helix Producer I is connected, however, the lower end of those estimates could well be proved moot, increasing pressure on the Obama administration and BP to determine the high end of the gusher more precisely.

While the two vessels that currently collecting oil have a combined maximum capacity of just 28,000 barrels per day — below the government's minimum estimates — the three ships together easily could capture 40,000 to 53,000 barrels a day, well in excess of the minimum range.

The Helix Producer I can take 20,000 to 25,000 barrels per day, officials have said. The Discoverer Enterprise has a stated capacity of 18,000 barrels per day, though it's been collecting an average of about 15,000 barrels on most days, and the Q4000 drilling rig, which is burning the oil it collects, can dispose of 10,000 barrels a day, though in recent days it's been averaging something more than 8,000 barrels daily.

Allen acknowledged that people watching the oil well via a video feed on BP's website — a near-constant presence during newscasts from the Gulf on cable television — will still see crude billowing into the water after the Helix Producer I begins operating.

He tried to put the best possible face on that likelihood, however, saying that as long as oil is coming out of the cap, it means that seawater isn't leaking in, something that would risk the formation of icelike crystals known as hydrates, which would render the top hat unusable.

"Oil in the water is never a good thing," he said. "But some oil that comes out around that seal right now is actually the price of being able to produce up to 25,000 barrels a day and maybe up to close to 53,000 when we get the Helix Producer online. . . . We've got to have a little bit of oil coming out, not water coming in, to avoid the hydrate problem."

The new containment cap under consideration would seal off the well completely because it would be bolted directly to the blowout preventer rather than sitting loosely atop a sheared-off pipe.

Officials have said previously that the new containment cap is necessary for BP to reach the 80,000-barrel-per-day capacity that the government has required the oil giant to achieve. Allen didn't say how that requirement would be affected if officials decide that installing the cap is too risky.

Allen also gave a tepid review of a massive oil-skimming vessel from Taiwan that began tests over the weekend in the Gulf. Critics of the Obama administration's oil spill response have charged that the administration's unwillingness to waive legal restrictions on foreign vessels in U.S. waters delayed the deployment of the A Whale. In fact, the ship, an oil tanker, was being reconfigured in Portugal to skim oil and arrived in the Gulf only last week.

Allen said the tests had shown the A Whale to be so large that it needed "large patches of oil to be effective" and "requires a large amount of maneuvering room."

"I don't have the final evaluation from our research and development folks that are on site," he said of the A Whale tests, "but, in a word, I would say inconclusive."

Read more:

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus | Video on

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus | Video on

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus | Video on

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus | Video on

Stephen Palumbi: Following the mercury trail | Video on

Stephen Palumbi: Following the mercury trail Video on

EPA Proposes Requiring the Use of Sufficiently Sensitive Test Methods for NPDES Permit Applications and Reporting


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing minor amendments to its Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations to codify that under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, only "sufficiently sensitive" analytical test methods, i.e., those that are capable of detecting and measuring the pollutants at, or below, the respective water quality criteria or permit limits, can be used when completing an NPDES permit application and when performing sampling and analysis pursuant to monitoring requirements in an NPDES permit.

This proposal is based on requirements in the CWA and existing EPA regulations. It also would codify existing EPA guidance on the use of sufficiently sensitive analytical methods with respect to measurement of mercury and extend the approach outlined in that guidance to the NPDES program more generally. Specifically, EPA is proposing to clarify the existing NPDES application, compliance monitoring, and analytical methods regulations. The amendments in this proposed rulemaking affect only chemical-specific methods; they do not apply to the Whole Effluent Toxicity methods or their use.

EPA and state permitting authorities use data from the permit application to determine whether pollutants are present in an applicant?s discharge and to quantify the levels of all detected pollutants.  These pollutant data enable the director of the permitting authority to make a sound reasonable potential determination and, if necessary, establish appropriate permit limits. It is critical, therefore, that applicants provide data that are measured with a precision and accuracy that will be meaningful to the decision making process.  The same holds true for monitoring and reporting relative to permit limits established for regulated parameters.


The public will have 45 days to comment on the proposed rulemaking after publication in the Federal Register.

For more information:


The 90-Day Plan: DAY 17

DAY 17

Purchasing a product grants the company that made it your approval.  MONEY TALKS so LET it SPEAK for the PLANET.  If the top 100 companies reduced their carbon-dioxide emissions by 5%, it would be the equivalent of taking twenty-five million cars off the road.

Challenge:  What are three direct impacts of your purchasing power can have on the way a company does business?

For More Information:

Gulf Awash In 27,000 Abandoned Oil And Gas Wells

JEFF DONN AND MITCH WEISS | 07/ 7/10 12:49 AM | AP

More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells lurk in the hard rock beneath the Gulf of Mexico, an environmental minefield that has been ignored for decades. No one – not industry, not government – is checking to see if they are leaking, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing.

The AP investigation uncovered particular concern with 3,500 of the neglected wells – those characterized in federal government records as "temporarily abandoned."

Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s – eveb though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.

As a forceful reminder of the potential harm, the well beneath BP's Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it blew April 20, leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation's history. BP alone has abandoned about 600 wells in the Gulf, according to government data.

There's ample reason for worry about all permanently and temporarily abandoned wells – history shows that at least on land, they often leak. Wells are sealed underwater much as they are on land. And wells on land and in water face similar risk of failure. Plus, records reviewed by the AP show that some offshore wells have failed.

Experts say such wells can repressurize, much like a dormant volcano can awaken. And years of exposure to sea water and underground pressure can cause cementing and piping to corrode and weaken.

"You can have changing geological conditions where a well could be repressurized," said Andy Radford, a petroleum engineer for the American Petroleum Institute trade group.

Whether a well is permanently or temporarily abandoned, improperly applied or aging cement can crack or shrink, independent petroleum engineers say. "It ages, just like it does on buildings and highways," said Roger Anderson, a Columbia University petroleum geophysicist who has conducted research on commercial wells.

Despite the likelihood of leaks large and small, though, abandoned wells are typically not inspected by industry or government.

Oil company representatives insist that the seal on a correctly plugged offshore well will last virtually forever.

"It's in everybody's interest to do it right," said Bill Mintz, a spokesman for Apache Corp., which has at least 2,100 abandoned wells in the Gulf, according to government data.

Officials at the U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the agency that regulates federal leases in the Gulf and elsewhere, did not answer repeated questions regarding why there are no inspections of abandoned wells.

State officials estimate that tens of thousands are badly sealed, either because they predate strict regulation or because the operating companies violated rules. Texas alone has plugged more than 21,000 abandoned wells to control pollution, according to the state comptroller's office.

Offshore, but in state waters, California has resealed scores of its abandoned wells since the 1980s.

In deeper federal waters, though – despite the similarities in how such wells are constructed and how sealing procedures can fail – the official policy is out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service – the regulatory agency recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement – relies on rules that have few real teeth. Once an oil company says it will permanently abandon a well, it has one year to complete the job. MMS mandates that work plans be submitted and a report filed afterward.

Unlike California regulators, MMS doesn't typically inspect the job, instead relying on the paperwork.

The fact there are so many wells that have been classified for decades as temporarily abandoned suggests that paperwork can be shuffled at MMS without any real change beneath the water.

With its weak system of enforcement, MMS imposed fines in a relative handful of cases: just $440,000 on seven companies from 2003-2007 for improper plug-and-abandonment work.

Companies permanently abandon wells when they are no longer useful. Afterward, no one looks methodically for leaks, which can't easily be detected from the surface anyway. And no one in government or industry goes underwater to inspect, either.

Government regulators and industry officials say abandoned offshore wells are presumed to be properly plugged and are expected to last indefinitely without leaking. Only when pressed do these officials acknowledge the possibility of leaks.

Despite warnings of leaks, government and industry officials have never bothered to assess the extent of the problem, according to an extensive AP review of records and regulations.

That means no one really knows how many abandoned wells are leaking – and how badly.

The AP documented an extensive history of warnings about environmental dangers related to abandoned wells:

_ The General Accountability Office, which investigates for Congress, warned as early as 1994 that leaks from offshore abandoned wells could cause an "environmental disaster," killing fish, shellfish, mammals and plants. In a lengthy report, GAO pressed for inspections of abandonment jobs, but nothing came of the recommendation.

_ A 2006 Environmental Protection Agency report took notice of the overall issue regarding wells on land: "Historically, well abandonment and plugging have generally not been properly planned, designed and executed." State officials say many leaks come from wells abandoned in recent decades, when rules supposedly dictated plugging procedures. And repairs are so routine that terms have been coined to describe the work: "replugging" or the "re-abandonment."

_ A GAO report in 1989 provided a foreboding prognosis about the health of the country's inland oil and gas wells. The watchdog agency quoted EPA data estimating that up to 17 percent of the nation's wells on land had been improperly plugged. If that percentage applies to offshore wells, there could be 4,600 badly plugged wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone.

_ According to a 2001 study commissioned by MMS, agency officials were "concerned that some abandoned oil wells in the Gulf may be leaking crude oil." But nothing came of that warning either.

The study targeted a well 20 miles off Louisiana that had been reported leaking five years after it was plugged and abandoned. The researchers tried unsuccessfully to use satellite radar images to locate the leak.

But John Amos, the geologist who wrote the study, told AP that MMS withheld critical information that could have helped verify if he had pinpointed the problem. "I kind of suspected that this was a project almost designed to fail," Amos said. He said the agency refused to tell him "how big and widespread a problem" they were dealing with in the Gulf.

Amos is now director of SkyTruth, a nonprofit group that uses satellite imagery to detect environmental problems. He still believes that technology could work on abandoned wells.

MMS, though, hasn't followed up on the work. And Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said agency inspectors would be present for permanent plugging jobs "only when something unusual is expected." She also said inspectors would check later "only if there's a noted leak." But she did not respond to requests for examples.

Companies may be tempted to skimp on sealing jobs, which are expensive and slow offshore. It would cost the industry at least $3 billion to permanently plug the 10,500 now-active wells and the 3,500 temporarily abandoned ones in the Gulf, according to an AP analysis of MMS data.

The AP analysis indicates that more than half of the 50,000 wells ever drilled on federal leases beneath the Gulf have now been abandoned. Some 23,500 are permanently sealed. Another 12,500 wells are plugged on one branch while being allowed to remain active in a different branch.

Government records do not indicate how many temporarily abandoned wells have been returned to service over the years. Federal rules require only an annual review of plans to reuse or permanently seal the 3,500 temporarily abandoned wells, but companies are using this provision to keep the wells in limbo indefinitely.

Petroleum engineers say abandoned offshore wells can fail from faulty work, age and drilling-induced or natural changes below the seabed. Maurice Dusseault, a geologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, says U.S. regulators "assume that once a well is sealed, they're safe – but that's not always the case."

Even fully depleted wells can flow again because of fluid or gas injections to stimulate nearby wells or from pressure exerted by underlying aquifers.

Permanently abandoned wells are corked with cement plugs typically 100-200 feet long. They are placed in targeted zones to block the flow of oil or gas. Heavy drilling fluid is added. Offshore, the piping is cut off 15 feet below the sea floor.

Wells are abandoned temporarily for a variety of reasons. The company may be re-evaluating a well's potential or developing a plan to overcome a drilling problem or damage from a storm. Some owners temporarily abandon wells to await a rise in oil prices.

Since companies may put a temporarily abandoned well back into service, such holes typically will be sealed with fewer plugs, less testing and a metal cap to stop corrosion from sea water.

In the Deepwater Horizon blowout, investigators believe the cement may have failed, perhaps never correctly setting deep within the well. Sometimes gas bubbles form as cement hardens, providing an unwanted path for oil or gas to burst through the well and reach the surface.

The other key part of an abandoned wells – the steel pipe liner known as casing – can also rust through over time.

MMS personnel do sometimes spot smaller oily patches on the Gulf during flyovers. Operators are also supposed to report any oil sheens they encounter. Typically, though, MMS learns of a leak only when someone spots it by chance.

In the end, the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Laboratory handles little more than 200 cases of oil pollution each year.

And manager Wayne Gronlund says it's often impossible to tell leaking wells from natural seeps, where untold thousands of barrels of oil and untold millions of cubic feet of gas escape annually through cracks that permeate the sea floor.


The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate(at)

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