Global environmental challenges
This month, Vedanta Resources and subsidiary Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. made headlines for posing a public health risk to the surrounding community in southern India with pollution from a large copper smelter. They share the top spot in this issue of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies recently in the news for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.
Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.
Vedanta Resources, Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
Vedanta Resources faces a new environmental setback in India after a Madras High Court ordered the closure of a large copper smelter at Tuticorin belonging to Vedanta’s Indian subsidiary, Sterlite Industries. Claiming that “the right to have a living atmosphere congenial to human existence is part of the right to life,” the Madras court argued that toxic emissions from the copper smelter, the 9th largest in the world, posed a public health risk to the surrounding community. The Indian Supreme Court granted permission for the facility to continue to operate while Vedanta appeals the verdict.
Murphy Oil Corp.
Murphy Oil recently reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department as a result of violations of the Clean Air Act at its refineries in Meraux, Louisiana and Superior, Wisconsin. The settlement, which resulted from high emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and benzene at the facilities, requires Murphy to pay $1.25 million in a civil penalty, $1.5 million for a supplemental environmental project as well as to spend $142 million for upgraded pollution control equipment at the facilities. The total settlement amount of $144.75 million represents 16 percent of the company’s FY 2010 net profit.
from Commodity Corner:
A U.N. concession to delegates at this week's climate talks in Bonn to take off jackets and ties due to recent high temperatures may be going to some participants' heads.
Breaking the back of negotiations for a new climate pact after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 is proving hard work even though the talks' chair hopes to have a new negotiating text on the table by the end of the week.
– Erin Brockovich is an environmental investigator and activist and Ben Adlin writes social commentary and is a former Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. Any opinions expressed here are their own. —
As the wreckage of the now-infamous wellhead continues to spew oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico, evidence of environmental fallout comes streaming in.
With BP’s spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.
In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed “overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation,” with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority — 54 percent — of respondents said they’d be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.
Greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized nations fell by 2.2 percent in 2008, the steepest fall since 1992 as the world economy slowed, a Reuters compilation shows.
Following are official national greenhouse gas emissions data submitted to the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in recent days.
Newsweek, encroaching on territory usually mined by activist groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, has unveiled its innaugural NEWSWEEK Green Rankings, which ranks the 500 biggest U.S. companies based on their “actual environmental performance, policies, and reputation.”
The magazine pointed out that compiling such a list was a challenge “because comparing environmental performance across industries is a bit like analyzing whether Tiger Woods or LeBron James is the world’s greatest athlete—there’s an inevitable apples-and-oranges element.”
U.S.-based company Doe Run Peru and the government of President Alan Garcia are locked in a dispute over how to balance environmental health with saving thousands of jobs at the company’s La Oroya metals smelter.
La Oroya, high in the Andes east of Lima, has been called one of the most contaminated places in the world by the Blacksmith Institute, but it is a top 10 metals exporter in Peru and the economic engine of the central region of the country.
The smelter has been shut down since June after banks worried about plunging metal prices cut credit lines, strangling not only the plant’s ability to buy mineral concentrates for its refinery, but cutting off its ability to pay back other debts. Workers are restless and environmentalists are worried.
from Shop Talk:
Wrong. According to a new survey sponsored by Molson Coors Brewing Co, water pollution ranked No. 1, followed by fresh water shortages, depletion of natural resources, air pollution and loss of animal and plant species.
The feds are taking on California’s plan to limit tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases and discussing the idea of low carbon fuel, but California has one other major idea to curb vehicle pollution, says the state senator who pushed through the tailpipe emissions law, Fran Pavley. The idea: drive less.
“No matter what we do on the clean car regs, with the gross of the state… and the sprawl out into the suburbs and the rural areas, we are going to be going in the wrong direction. And that’s something the federal government hopefully will eventually look at — land use,” she said by phone, when asked about next steps for vehicle pollution.
The Obama administration’s move to declare climate-warming carbon pollution a danger to human health was quickly hailed by environmental groups and leading liberals as a long-overdue shift from the Bush era and a historic first step toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
In making the announcement, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said that solving the problem would not only clean up the air but also “create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”