Archive for September, 2011

This Week in Environmental Disclosure

As we’ve posted in the past, public companies must generally disclose environmental legal proceedings in their annual, quarterly, and current reports to the SEC, and whether or not those proceedings have a material effect on the company’s financial position.

This week, however, rather than focusing on violations or enforcement proceedings, most of the disclosures were limited to concerns about the effects of EPA regulation. Read on to learn more.

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EPA RCRA Initiative. In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance announced that it would be targeting facilities in mineral processing industries, including phosphoric acid producers, for a thorough review under the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and related state laws. Mining and processing of phosphates generate residual materials that must be managed both during the operation of a facility and upon a facility’s closure. Certain solid wastes generated by our phosphate operations may be subject to regulation under RCRA and related state laws. The EPA rules exempt “extraction” and “beneficiation” wastes, as well as 20 specified “mineral processing” wastes, from the hazardous waste management requirements of RCRA. Accordingly, certain of the residual materials which our phosphate operations generate, as well as process wastewater from phosphoric acid production, are exempt from RCRA regulation. However, the generation and management of other solid wastes from phosphate operations may be subject to hazardous waste regulation if the waste is deemed to exhibit a “hazardous waste characteristic.” As part of its initiative, EPA has inspected all or nearly all facilities in the U.S. phosphoric acid production sector to ensure compliance with applicable RCRA regulations and to address any “imminent and substantial endangerment” found by the EPA under RCRA. We have provided the EPA with substantial amounts of information regarding the process water recycling practices and the hazardous waste handling practices at our phosphate production facilities in Florida and Louisiana, and the EPA has inspected all of our currently operating processing facilities in the U.S. In addition to the EPA’s inspections, our Riverview, Bartow and Green Bay, Florida facilities and our Uncle Sam and Faustina, Louisiana facilities have entered into consent orders to perform analyses of existing environmental data, to perform further environmental sampling as may be necessary, and to assess whether the facilities pose a risk of harm to human health or the surrounding environment. We are finalizing similar orders for our New Wales and South Pierce, Florida facilities.

Scrutiny of hydraulic fracturing activities continues in other ways, with the EPA having commenced a study of the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, the results of which are anticipated to be available by late 2012. Last year, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives commenced investigations into hydraulic fracturing practices. The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that it will consider regulations relating to the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques on public lands and disclosure of fracturing fluid constituents. In addition, some states and localities have adopted, and others are considering adopting, regulations or ordinances that could restrict hydraulic fracturing in certain circumstances, or that would impose higher taxes, fees or royalties on natural gas production. Our current operations have been concentrated largely in Louisiana, and we do not currently have operations on federal lands or in the states where the most stringent proposals have been advanced. However, if new federal or state laws or regulations that significantly restrict hydraulic fracturing are adopted, or if we acquire oil and gas properties in areas subject to those regulations, such legal requirements could result in delays, eliminate certain drilling and injection activities, make it more difficult or costly for us to perform fracturing and increase our costs of compliance and doing business. It is also possible that our drilling and injection operations could adversely affect the environment, which could result in a requirement to perform investigations or clean-ups or in the incurrence of other unexpected material costs or liabilities.

  • NEWFIELD EXPLORATION CO /DE/ | Form 8-K | 9/27/2011

In addition, changes to existing regulations or the adoption of new regulations may unfavorably impact us, our suppliers or our customers. For example, governments around the world have become increasingly focused on climate change matters. In December 2009, the EPA issued a final rule that the current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, and that certain greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This finding allowed the EPA to proceed with the rulemaking process to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has adopted two sets of rules regulating GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act, one of which requires a reduction in emissions of GHGs from motor vehicles and the other of which regulates emissions of GHGs from certain large stationary sources, effective January 2, 2011, which could require greenhouse emission controls for those sources. The EPA has also adopted rules requiring the reporting of GHG emissions from specified large GHG emission sources in the United States on an annual basis, beginning in 2011 for emissions occurring after January 1, 2010, as well as from certain onshore oil and natural gas production, processing, transmission, storage and distribution facilities on an annual basis, beginning in 2012 for emissions occurring in 2011. The new regulations could impact certain facilities in which we have interests (legal, equitable, operated or non-operated) by increasing the regulatory reporting requirements.

Regulating the Deadly Cantaloupe

Photo by News21-usa. Some rights reserved.

This is not cantaloupe’s best year.

Cantaloupe has been linked to outbreaks of both salmonella and the less-well-known Listeria since March of 2011, in what is sure to turn most folks off from the usually harmless (and healthful!) fruit for a bit.

But it’s not cantaloupe in general that deserves the bad rap: once an illness has been traced back to a specific product (or produce), the investigation usually continues to work backwards until it can identify a specific farm of a specific company, and it’s then the FDA’s job to get those affected products off the market quickly. In the meantime, ideally, the company will identify the conditions that caused the contamination and clean up the mess.

While the FDA cannot technically compel a company to recall an item (“Recall is a voluntary action that takes place because manufacturers and distributors carry out their responsibility to protect the public health and well-being from products that present a risk of injury or gross deception or are otherwise defective.” 21 CFR 7.40), if a company does not voluntarily initiate a recall, the FDA may request one. And if a company refuses? The FDA has the authority to initiate court action to remove the products from shelves.

In the case of the Salmonella outbreak, the guilty party, Del Monte, reluctantly agreed to a recall, but when the FDA took further action to prevent imports of the fruit from Guatemala, the company got pissy. Last week the New York Times published a piece detailing Del Monte’s choice to sue the FDA (see complaint) for “harmful restrictions” “based upon an erroneous speculative assumption” and “unsupported by evidence.” Del Monte has since dropped the suit against the FDA, but presumably the ill will remains.

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The proper steps of a recall are laid out in 21 CFR 7.42. Further industry guidance on recall protocol from the FDA is available here.

Congress’ Dance with Solyndra

Photo by Dominic. Some rights reserved.

As many are no doubt aware, bi-partisan squabbles over the amount of federal funding given to FEMA for disaster relief nearly de-railed Congress from passing a one-week spending measure that would fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year (which ends Friday), resulting in the second close breeze in the last two months with a government shutdown. Fortunately, FEMA rose to the occasion, stating that they had enough money to coast by for the next year, and allowing Democrats and Republicans alike to table the issue of FEMA funding and just pass the bill already!

What a majority of folks may not know, however, is that another large factor in the Congressional crossfire was a Department of Energy program approved by the Obama White House that bestowed $535 million in “conditional loans” to a Fremont, CA based solar power company called Solyndra. Language in the original Senate spending bill reserved $100 million to go to Solyndra, while language in the House-approved bill rescinded that money, something that became a key factor in getting the spending bill passed through the House with 71 votes. Once FEMA had stated that it had enough money to make it through the fiscal year, the money set aside for Solyndra began to seem less crucial to both sides of Congress.

This was a moot point in either case, however, because Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 31, laying off 1100 employees abruptly and shutting down all operations and manufacturing. Shortly after the company closed its doors, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) requested an outside investigation of the $535 million loan guarantee, accusing Obama’s support of the program as “the kind of taxpayer-funded cronyism this White House said it would eliminate” (Aside: Never mind that there are several Republican lawmakers in Congress who have requested similar funding for subsidizing equally costly energy programs in their home states, as reported in this very worthwhile NY Times article). Then, a separate FBI investigation of Solyndra and its finances was launched on September 8th, much to the surprise of the company’s former management.

So, suffice it to say that no more federal money will be routed in Solyndra’s direction, and the company, once the Obama Administration’s go-to example for efficient green energy, has much bigger worries on its plate then whether or not it will receive a measly $100 million in funds anyways. Whatever comes out of Solyndra’s numerous investigations and the GOP’s allegations of cronyism, this whole issue has proven to be a fascinating look into two heated partisan approaches to energy policy and funding.

Loch NPOESS Monster: The Environmental Satellite Rarely Spotted

Image from unukorno. Some rights reserved.

On Friday, the GAO released written testimony before the Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Energy and Environment, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on the topic of polar satellites. The testimony reviewed and summarized work that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been doing to develop individual environmental satellite programs that are replacing the recently disbanded joint-agency National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The main area of concern? Whether agency slowness could lead to gaps in weather and climate data coverage.

But first, let’s step back a few years.

NPOESS was planned to be a “next generation” environment-monitoring satellite system – circling the earth once every 100 minutes – that would have replaced some clunkier existing satellite systems. The data it would have collected was considered critical for long-term weather and climate forecasting. A contract for the project was awarded in 2002.

In February of 2010, however, the President cut the plug – before the first demonstration satellite was even launched. The program had been plagued with problems. The cost estimates for NPOESSie, our proverbial beast, grew more than 100% (from $6.5B in 2002 to $13.9B at the time of its demise). The program had also suffered significant delays (the planned launch date for a the test satellite was pushed back by over 5 years), as well as technical and management “challenges,” as a White House Fact Sheet put it bluntly.

More accurately, the program was “restructured.” The joint agency project was re-worked as separate satellite programs to be established by NOAA and DOD. A few months after the restructuring was announced, GAO published an initial report assessing the agencies’ efforts, and – surprise, surprise! – found a few areas of concern relating to delays (“the two agencies are scrambling to develop plans for their respective programs”), loss of staff, and insufficient oversight of new program management. The report included recommendations for both agencies to address the key risks.

Last week’s testimony checked back in on NOAA and DOD. According to the GAO, in the year since their first report on the satellite systems, both agencies have made progress in developing their programs and implementing GAO’s recommendations, though not everything has been addressed. The key concern here is that failure to get things up and running quickly – in other words, launching new satellites before the old ones fail – could lead to gaps in satellite data. (There are several figures in both the GAO testimony and report that detail potential gaps.)

And what exactly is the problem with gaps in satellite data? The GAO testimony says it best:

 “According to NOAA, a data gap would lead to less accurate and timely weather prediction models used to support weather forecasting, and advanced warning of extreme events—such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods—would be diminished. The agency reported that this could place lives, property, and critical infrastructure in danger. In addition, NOAA estimated that the time it takes to respond to emergency search and rescue beacons could double.”

Let’s hope we get a glimpse of NPOESSie (or her spawn) soon.

Crouching NOA, Hidden EIS: Last Week In Environmental Impact Statements

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

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EIS No. 20110315, Final EIS, USFS, MN, South Fowl Lake Snowmobile Access Project, Proposing a Replacement Snowmobile Trail between McFarland Lake and South Fowl Lake, Gunflint Ranger District, Superior National Forest, Eastern Region, Cook County, MN, Review Period Ends: 10/24/2011, Contact: Peter Taylor 218–626–4368.

EIS No. 20110316, Draft EIS (scroll down and click on “Pier S Marine Terminal and Backchannel Improvement Project”), USACE, CA, Pier S Marine Terminal Development and Back Channel Navigational Safety Improvements, Construction and Operation, U.S. Army COE Section 10 and 404 Permit and Section 103 of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act, Los Angeles County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 11/07/2011, Contact: John W. Markham 805–585–2150.

EIS No. 20110317, Draft EIS, USFS, MT, Lonesome Wood Vegetation Management 2 Project Areas, Proposed Forest Thinning, Prescribed Burning and Associated Activities, Habgen Lake Ranger District, Gallatin National Forest, Gallatin County, MT, Comment Period Ends: 11/07/2011, Contact: Teri Seth 406–522–2539.

EIS No. 20110318, Final EIS, BLM, AZ, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Resource Management Plan, Implementation, Tucson Field Office, AZ, Review Period Ends: 10/24/2011, Contact: Laura Olais 520–258–7242.

EIS No. 20110319, Draft Supplement, NOAA, CA, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), Demolition, Soil Stabilization and Seismic Improvement in La Jolla, CA, Comment Period Ends: 11/07/2011, Contact: William F. Broglie 206–526–4837.

EIS No. 20110320, Final EIS, NOAA, CA, ADOPTION—Bair Island Restoration and Management Plan, Tidal Action Restoration, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Bair Island State Ecological Reserve, South San Francisco Bay, San Mateo County, CA, Review Period Ends: 10/24/2011, Contact: Patricia A. Montanio 301–427–8618. U.S. DOC has adopted the DOI, SFW’S FEIS #20060314, filed 07/24/2006. DOC was not a Cooperating Agency for the above FEIS; recirculation of the document is necessary under 40 CFR 1506.3(b).

EIS No. 20110321, Draft EIS, BLM, CA, South Coast Resource Management Plan Revision, Implementation, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles Counties, CA, Comment Period Ends: 12/21/2011, Contact: Greg Hill 760–833–7140.

EIS No. 20110322, Draft EIS, USACE, NC, NC–1409 (Military Cutoff Road) Extension and Proposed US 17 Hampstead Bypass, New Hanover and Pender Counties, NC, Comment Period Ends: 11/15/2011, Contact: Brad Shaver 910–251–4611.

EIS No. 20110323, Draft Supplement, USFS, MI, Huron-Manistee National Forests, Supplement the 2006 FEIS Analysis and to Correct the Deficiencies that the Meister Panel Identified, Land and Resource Management Plan, Implementation, Several Counties, MI, Comment Period Ends: 12/21/2011, Contact: Ken Abrogate 231–775–2421.

EIS No. 20110324, Final EIS, FHWA, 00, Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing Project, Bridge, Transit, and Highway Improvements, from State Route 500 in Vancouver, WA to Columbia Boulevard in Portland, OR, Funding, U.S. COE Section 10 & 404 Permits, NPDES Permit, Review Period Ends: 10/24/2011, Contact: James Saxon 206–220–4311.


Amended Notices

EIS No. 20110257, Draft EIS, FRA, CA, California High-Speed Train (HST): Merced to Fresno Section High-Speed Train, Propose to Construct, Operate, and Maintain an Electric-Powered High-Speed Train (HST), Merced, Madera and Fresno Counties, CA, Comment Period Ends: 10/13/2011, Contact: David Valenstein 202–493–6868. Revision to FR Notice Published: Extending Comment Period from 09/28/2011 to 10/13/2011.

Recently in Environmental Risk Disclosure

Various environmental disclosures may be mandated by Item 503(c) of Regulation S-K, which requires a registrant of securities to provide where appropriate, under the heading “Risk Factors,” a discussion of the most significant factors that make an investment in the registrant speculative or risky. These can range from financial costs due to compliance with more stringent environmental laws to the risk of headquarters being blown away by severe storms triggered by climate change. Here are some of the various environmental risks disclosed by public companies in SEC EDGAR filings in the past week.

Want more? Check out knowledgemosaic’s Risk Factors search page.

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  • Ceres, Inc.  |  S-1/A  |  9/16/2011

Risk Factor Summary: We may suffer liabilities relating soil and/or groundwater contamination at current and former properties and at third-party sites to which we sent hazardous wastes for disposal.

Risk Factor Text

We are exposed to environmental risks associated with the ownership and operation of real property and the disposal of hazardous wastes. Environmental laws can require current owners and operators of real property to remediate soil and groundwater contamination even if such contamination was caused by another party, such as a former owner or operator. These laws can also require companies to clean up real property that they formerly owned or operated if releases of hazardous materials or wastes occurred during the period of their ownership or operation. Moreover, in certain circumstances these laws require companies to clean up third-party sites to which hazardous wastes were sent for disposal, notwithstanding that the original disposal activity accorded with all regulatory requirements. The discovery of previously unknown contamination at our current or former facilities, or at third-party sites to which we sent hazardous wastes for disposal, could require us to conduct or fund expensive cleanup efforts, which could materially and adversely affect our operating results.

  • Homex Development Corp.  |  20-F/A  |  9/16/2011

Risk Factor Summary: Changes to Environmental Laws and Regulations to Which We are Subject Could Cause Delays in Construction and Result in Increased Costs

Risk Factor Text

Our operations are subject to Mexican federal, state and municipal environmental laws and regulations. Changes to environmental laws and regulations, or stricter interpretation or enforcement of existing laws or regulations, could cause delays in construction and result in increased costs.

  • Rose Rock Midstream, L.P.  |  S-1/A  |  9/16/2011

Risk Factor Summary: We may incur significant costs and liabilities in the future resulting from a failure to comply with new or existing environmental laws or regulations or an accidental release of hazardous substances, crude oil or wastes into the environment.

Risk Factor Text

Our operations are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations governing the discharge of materials into the environment or otherwise relating to environmental protection. These laws include, for example: – federal and comparable state laws that impose obligations related to air emissions; – federal and comparable state laws that impose requirements for the handling, storage, treatment or disposal of solid and hazardous waste from our facilities; – federal and comparable state laws that regulate the cleanup of hazardous substances that may have been released at properties currently or previously owned or operated by us or at locations to which our hazardous substances have been transported for disposal; and – federal and comparable state laws that regulate discharges of wastewater from our facilities, require spill protection planning and preparation and set requirements for other actions for protection of waters. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations, or newly adopted laws or regulations, may trigger a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including the assessment of monetary penalties, the imposition of remedial requirements and the issuance of orders enjoining future operations or imposing additional compliance requirements on such operations. Claims pursued under certain environmental laws impose strict, joint and several liability for costs required to clean up and restore sites where hazardous substances or petroleum products have been disposed or otherwise released. Provisions also exist that may require remediation or other compensation to pay for damages to natural resources. Moreover, it is not uncommon for individuals to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the release of hazardous substances, crude oil or waste products in the environment.

  • Port Neches Fuels, LLC  |  S-4/A  |  9/15/2011

Risk Factor Summary: New regulations concerning the production, transportation, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals and the security of chemical manufacturing facilities could result in higher operating costs.

Risk Factor Text

Some of the raw materials we use and products we generate are considered hazardous materials or substances. For example, butadiene has been identified as a carcinogen in laboratory animals at high doses and is being studied for its potential adverse health effects on humans. Effective February 1997, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration substantially lowered the permissible employee exposure limit for butadiene. Future studies on the health effects of butadiene may result in additional regulations that further restrict the use of, and exposure to, butadiene. Additional regulation of butadiene or other products or materials used in or generated by our operations could require us to change our operations, and these changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In addition, targets such as chemical manufacturing facilities may be at greater risk of terrorist attacks than other targets in the United States. The chemical industry responded to the issues surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 through initiatives relating to the security of chemicals industry facilities and the transportation of hazardous chemicals in the United States. In addition, local, state and federal governmental authorities have instituted various regulatory processes that could lead to new regulations impacting the security of chemical plant locations and the transportation of hazardous chemicals. Any substantial increase in costs attributable to complying with such new regulations could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

  • RIO TINTO FINANCE USA LTD  |  424B5  |  9/15/2011

Risk Factor Summary: The Group’s operations are vulnerable to natural disasters, operating difficulties, health, safety or environmental incidents and infrastructure constraints, not all of which are covered by insurance, which could have an impact on its productivity and reputation

Risk Factor Text

Mining, smelting and refining operations are vulnerable to natural events, including earthquakes, drought, floods, fire, storms and the possible effects of climate change. Operating difficulties could be experienced such as unexpected geological variations that could result in significant ground or containment failure. The Group”s operations involve chemicals and other substances under high temperature and pressure, with the potential for fire, explosion or other loss of control of the process, leading to a release of hazardous materials. This could occur by accident or a breach of operating standards, and could result in a significant incident. Any of these events could affect the Group”s reputation, and the costs and viability of its operations for indeterminate periods. The Group has extensive health, safety, environment and community policies and standards in place. Despite these, it remains possible that a health, safety, environment or community incident could occur that may adversely impact the Group”s reputation, earnings or cash flows. The Group requires reliable roads, rail networks, ports, power sources and power transmission facilities, water supplies and information technology systems to access and conduct its operations. The availability and cost of infrastructure affects capital and operating costs, and the maintenance of planned levels of production and sales. In particular, the Group transports a large proportion of its products by sea. Limitations, or interruptions in, rail or shipping capacity at any port, including as a result of third parties gaining access to the Group”s integrated infrastructure, could impede the Group”s ability to deliver its products on time. This could have an adverse effect on the Group”s business and results of operations. The Group uses an extensive information technology system and infrastructure. A significant failure of major parts of the system or malicious actions could result in significant interruption that could affect the Group”s reputation and operating results. The Group”s insurance does not cover every potential risk associated with its operations. Adequate coverage at reasonable rates is not always obtainable. In addition, the Group”s insurance may not fully cover its liability or the consequences of any business interruptions such as weather events, equipment failure or labor dispute. The occurrence of a significant event not fully covered by insurance could have an adverse effect on the Group”s business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

Walmart’s Million Dollar Baby

Photo by OrganicNation. Some rights reserved.

Why did the former NBA forward decide to start a farm in urban Milwaukee? Sounds a little like the start of a really dull joke, right? Founded in 1993, Growing Power was conceived by former Miami Hurricane Will Allen, conceived as an urban farm that would employ African American farmers in an otherwise low-income, low-employment area of Milwaukee, with a focus on hiring at-risk youth. The goal was to foster a system of sustainable food growth (both produce and livestock), and to better the surrounding community through the creation of several local gardens and education-centered events. In the time since its inception, Growing Power has received several words of praise for its positive contributions to its community, and has received several vital grants for funding: In 2005, Growing Power was awarded $100,000 from the Ford Foundation, Allen earned a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2008 (which comes with $500,000 in funds), and in 2009, received $400,000 from the Kellogg Foundation. Allen has used the funding to bolster educational programming and to hire on new employees, and has started a second Growing Power in Chicago with his daughter.

Outside Funding for Growing Power, then, is essential to keeping it operational and allowing it to expand as an organization. In a 2009 NY Times magazine article on Allen, author Elizabeth Royte writes that:

“…it’s not clear yet whether Growing Power’s model can work elsewhere. ‘I know how to make money growing food,’ Allen asserts. But he’s also got between 30 and 50 employees to pay, which makes those foundation grants — and a grant-writer — essential. Growing Power also relies on large numbers of volunteers. All of which perhaps explains why other urban farmers have not yet replicated Growing Power’s scale or its unique social achievements.”

All that could change soon, as last week, chain-store leviathan Walmart made a $1.01 million donation to the organization, intended to provide the organization with (to quote a Walmart press release) “structural support, staff training, community education and strategies for success.” Though Allen has received support from some corporate entities in the past, this donation from Walmart has some environmentalists question the company’s motives. Andy Fisher at Civil Eats takes a considered look at both sides, but argues that “the broader interests of these two parties are in direct opposition to each other,” while Michele Simon at describes the move as “philanthropy to win over potential critics.” Another Grist blogger, Tom Laskawy, points out that Walmart has plans to build 15 stores in the southern Wisconsin area:

The math (from Walmart’s perspective) is simple: It’s spending $1 million for community goodwill that will, it hopes, defuse the kinds of grassroots hostility that can arise in communities when a multinational chain moves in and all but decimates the small businesses in the area.

And of course, considering Walmart’s somewhat shaky corporate track record, skepticism in this matter would probably not be misplaced. But of course, Allen and Growing Power need the funding, and as he writes on the Growing Power blog, “we can no longer refuse to invite big corporations to the table of the Good Food Revolution.” And considering that Walmart just this year launched an initiative to provide healthier private-label foods, in partnership with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. The gesture towards healthier living was also met with some cynicism, but as Corby Kummer at the Atlantic sums up at the end of a lengthy article examining the possibly nefarious angles that could be at play in such a deal:

Whatever you think about Walmart, it looks to be using its clout to help people who don’t have the time, money, or opportunity to eat better.

So perhaps, then, the fuss over Walmart’s million dollar donation to Growing Power may be a little sensational. The organization could use the money to try and start more branches in other poverty-stricken cities, or for any number of equally worthy endeavors. Only time will tell, of course, and of course there is a PR upswing for Walmart in this kind of highly-publicized corporate do-gooding, but maybe-just-maybe there are a few good intentions mixed in there too.

Crouching NOA, Hidden EIS: Last Week In Environmental Impact Statements

As discussed a few weeks ago, many of you are familiar with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to prepare detailed reports known as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). These reports attempt to compel federal agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed federal actions and any viable alternatives.

Federal agencies are required to prepare EISs in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9. Though the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA (available here). You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

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EIS No. 20110306, Draft EIS, USFS, CA, Johnny O’Neil Late Successional Reserve Habitat Restoration and Fuel Reduction Project, Proposal to Retain and Promote the Development of Late Successional Habitat and Reduce the Risk of Large, High Severity Wildfire, Happy Camp and Oak Knoll Ranger District, Klamath National Forest, Siskiyou County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 10/31/2011, Contact: Timothy Burnett 530–493–1767.

 EIS No. 20110307, Draft EIS, BLM, CO, Colorado River Valley (formerly known as Glenwood Springs) Resource Management Plan, Implementation, Colorado River Valley Field Office, Portions of Eagle, Garfield, Mesa, Ritkin, and Routt Counties, CO, Comment Period Ends: 12/14/2011, Contact: John Russell 970–876–9025.

 EIS No. 20110308, Final EIS, USFS, WY, Livestock Grazing and Vegetation Management on Five Project Area, Proposes to Continue to Authorize Livestock Grazing, Tongue, Medicine Wheel/Paintrock, and Power River Districts of the Bighorn National Forest, Johnson, Sheridan, Big Horn and Washakie Counties, WY, Review Period Ends: 10/17/2011, Contact: Laurie Walters-Clark 307–674–2627.

 EIS No. 20110309, Draft EIS, BLM, CO, Kremmling Resource Management Plan, To Provide a Framework of Multiple-Use and Sustained Yield Management, in North-Central, CO, Comment Period Ends: 12/14/2011, Contact: Angela Glenn 303–239–3936.

 EIS No. 20110310, Final EIS, FERC, WA, Boundary Hydroelectric Project, Application for Hydroelectric License, FERC Project No. 2144–038 and  Sullivan Creek Project, Application for Surrender of Hydropower FERC Project No. 2225–015, Pend Oreille County, WA, Review Period Ends: 10/17/2011, Contact: Leonard Tao 1–866–208–3372.

 EIS No. 20110311, Draft EIS, FERC, 00, New Jersey-New York Expansion Project, Propose to Modify and Expand their Existing Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Systems in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, Comment Period Ends: 10/31/2011, Contact: Leonard Tao 1–866–208–3372.

EIS No. 20110312, Draft EIS, NOAA, IL, Illinois Coastal Management Program, To Preserve, Protect, Restore, and Where Possible, Enhance Coastal Resources in Illinois, Comment Period Ends: 10/31/2011, Contact: Diana K. Olinger 301–563–1149.

 EIS No. 20110313, Draft EIS, BR, CA, Joint Operations Center (JOC) Relocation Project, Propose to Construct and Operate the Permanent JOC as a Replacement Facility for their Current Operations on EL Camino Avenue, Sacramento County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 11/07/2011, Contact: Doug Kleinsmith 916–978–5034.

 EIS No. 20110314, Draft EIS, DHS, 00, PROGRAMMATIC—Northern Border Activities Program, Propose to Enhance its Program of Security along the United States’ Northern Border with Canada, from Maine to Washington, Comment Period Ends: 10/31/2011, Contact: Jennifer Hass 202–344–1929.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20110214, Draft Supplement, USFS, ND, North Billings County Allotment Management Plan Revisions, Updated Information, Proposes to Continue to Permit Livestock Grazing on 43 Allotments, Medora Ranger District, Dakota Prairie Grasslands, Billings County, ND, Comment Period Ends: 09/21/2011, Contact: Nickole Dahl 701–227–7800.

 EIS No. 20110240, Draft EIS, NPS, AK, Denali Park Road and Preserve, Draft Vehicle Management Plan, Implementation, AK, Comment Period Ends: 10/31/2011, Contact: Miriam Valentine 907–733–9102. Revision to FR Notice Published 07/29/2011: Extending Comment Period from 09/30/2011 to 10/31/2011.

EIS No. 20110303, Final EIS, FTA, CA, Crenshaw Transit Corridor Project, Proposes to Improve Transit Services, Funding, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), Los Angeles County, CA, Review Period Ends: 10/11/2011, Contact: Ray Tellis 213–202–3956. The above FTA EIS should have appeared in the 09/09/2011 Federal Register. The 30-Day Review Period is Calculated from 09/09/2011.

The Bamboom: A Fast-Growing Grass Has Investors Seeing Green

Bamboo is renowned for being the fastest growing plant in the world.  Its status as an environmentally friendly raw material – a more sustainable alternative to wood, pulp, and traditional textiles – is growing almost as quickly.  Bamboo’s ascendancy is even reflected in the IPO market: we can find five initial public offering registrations by companies for whom bamboo is an important if not central product.  All five have been filed since the middle of 2010.  The newest came in earlier today, in the form of an F-1 filed by Dragon Bright Mintai Botanical Technology (Cayman) Ltd.  The extravagantly named Hong Kong-based startup seeks to get into the business of bamboo “forestry” to meet the rising world demand for this woody grass.

Photo by Joi. Some rights reserved.

Dragon Bright does not go out of its way to market itself as an ecologically conscious company.  But on that score it is the exception among its fellow bamboo-focused registrants.  A recent case in point is Sugarmade, Inc. (S-1, 8/4/2011), a distributor of non-wood paper products.  Wearing its eco-passion on its (green) sleeve, the company declares that its use of such “earth friendly sources” as sugar cane and bamboo instead of wood “significantly reduces its manufacturing carbon footprint, energy consumption, and attendant water pollution . . . .”   Similar rhetoric is found in the filings of Biopower Operations Corp. (S-1, 2/9/2011; closed in August), which aims to use bamboo pulp as a biomass energy source; Artison Investments, Ltd. (S-1, 9/10/2010) , developing a composite building material made from bamboo; and Asia Green Agriculture (S-1, 9/20/2010; closed in July), cultivating organic bamboo shoots for the dinner table.

Perhaps even more illuminating is how other already-public companies have reinvented themselves to jump on the bamboo bandwagon.  In some cases, these transformations run a predictable course: for example, a company called Hemptown Clothing Inc. changed its name to Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc. and began supplementing its hemp-based textile offerings with other eco-friendly fibers like bamboo.  But in many other cases, the switch to bamboo seems to come out of left field.  Ivany Nguyen, Inc. (which grows bamboo for paper pulp) and Clenergy Inc. (bamboo for biomass energy generation) both began their corporate lives as mining companies.  And then there is One BIO Corp., whose business now includes the production of bamboo-based organic food products and fertilizers.  Long before it became focused on the growth of this versatile member of the grass family, back when it was still called Contracted Services, Inc., the company was invested in keeping grass short.  It offered commercial lawn mowing services.

Tetrachloroethylene: Harder to Clean Up Than It Is to Say

Photo by Simon Law. Some rights reseved.

If you thought your clothes were filthy before you took them to the dry cleaner, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to let you in on a dirty little secret: the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, also known by the slightly pithier moniker perchloroethylene, has been considered by the EPA to be a possible or probable human carcinogen since the mid-1980s. Its toxicity at low levels, mobility in groundwater, and sufficient density for it to sink below the water table have proven it to be somewhat more difficult to clean up after than oil spills. But boy, does it get the stains out.

And the EPA is trying to do something about it: the agency announced this week that it has awarded $69,000 in grant money to the New York State Pollution Prevention Institution at the Rochester Institute of Technology, which will work to promote alternative cleaning methods, including “wet cleaning,” which employs water-based biodegradable detergents. The Institute will advise and provide assistance to two cleaners as they convert to wet cleaning, and will them disseminate information to similar businesses. The grant was facilitated by EPA Region 2’s Pollution Prevention Program, which is hosting the “Unleashing Green Chemistry and Engineering in Service of a Sustainable Future” conference later this month.

And way out west, the EPA has  awarded $313,ooo to the town of Loveland, Colorado in the form of a Brownfields Grant,  intended for the cleanup and restoration of the now-derelict property that was once the home of “Leslie the Cleaner”: an assessment carried out by the City of Loveland in 2009 found soil and groundwater contamination from toxic dry cleaning chemicals. The grant will be provided through the EPA-supported Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund of Colorado, with brownfields referring to industrial facilities defined as abandoned or idle, “where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.” The EPA estimates that there are 450,000 or so such sites in the US at this time; Brownfields investments have, since the program’s inception, leveraged more than $16.3 billion in revitalization and redevelopment funds and created 70,000 new jobs, primarily in economically disadvantaged areas. You can learn more about the Brownfields Program here, and read what we’ve had to say about it in Green Mien here and here.

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