Environment: Trump Announces Sweeping Changes To NEPA

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday sweeping changes to an environmental law that critics said guts oversight requirements in the construction of highways, airports and pipelines and allows the government to ignore their impact on climate change.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, all major infrastructure projects must be subject to environmental impact assessment by federal agencies.

NEPA was the US’s first major environmental law and designed “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” It has proved an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to accelerate fossil fuel extraction.

The Environment Protection Agency raised an objection to the Keystone XL pipeline, planned to bring oil from Canada to the US, during a NEPA review under the Obama administration, with the former president canceling the project as a result — only for it to be revived under Trump.

The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change the act of Congress, but, as it has previously done for the Endangered Species Act, it can change rules about how it is applied — and it was these proposed changes that were announced Thursday.

Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” adding he would not stop until “gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again.”

– Raises threshold for assessment –

The proposals, which are subject to a 60-day review period for public comments before taking effect at a later date, would raise the threshold for what types of projects require an environmental impact assessment.

It would exclude projects financed in whole or in large part by the private sector, as is the case for a number of oil pipelines.

And federal agencies will be asked to complete their analyses in two years, compared to the four and a half years they are currently given, said Mary Neumayr, who heads the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time consuming for federal agencies, state, local, and tribal agencies, project applicants, and average Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government,” she said.

She added that the assessments for highway projects are taking more than seven years, and some studies stretch to longer than a decade.

– Legal challenges expected –

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the “cumulative” impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change — even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA analyses, said Neumayr.

The definition of environmental impacts would be reduced to those that are “reasonably foreseeable” and have a “reasonably close causal relationship,” while any changes must be “technically and economically feasible.”

Environmental groups slammed the move and vowed to respond with legal challenges.

“Today’s action is nothing more than an attempt to write Donald Trump’s climate denial into official government policy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends.”

Electricity Workers Suspend Nationwide Strike

 

The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has suspended its nationwide strike.

General Secretary of the Union, Joe Ajaero, said the action was called off in the early hours of Thursday following a tripartite meeting between the leaders of the union, BPE and the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo.

The union had earlier commenced the industrial action on Wednesday after a 21-day ultimatum issued to the Minister of Power Saleh Mamman.

READ ALSO: Reps Summon Labour, Power Ministers Over Planned Electricity Workers’ Strike

Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDP) in a tweet on Thursday said following the suspension of the strike by NUEE, they are back to business. They also thanked their customers for their patience while the strike lasted.

“Dear customer, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has suspended its strike. Our offices & payment channels are open for business. Thank you for your patience & understanding,” the tweet read.

 

Part of the demands of the electricity workers is the call for the settlement of unresolved workers claims after the privatization of the power sector by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

Other unresolved issues are illegal transfer of union properties to power investors and the alleged refusal by some distribution companies (discos) to remit deducted contributory pension of their members of staff to pension managers.

Cross River Govt. Assures Communities Of Electricity Distribution

ben-ayadeThe Cross River State Government has assured all the communities across the state yet to be connected with electricity will soon have transformers installed in their communities.

He also stated that the state will enjoy uninterrupted power before the end of the present administration.

The Director General of the State Electrification Agency, Hon. Jake-Otu Enyia disclosed this to Journalists in Calabar, the Cross River state capital.

Speaking on the Ayade’s Zero tolerance to darkness, Enyia said, Governor Ayade is passionate about rural electrification knowing that, power supply is fundamental to rural development and economic emancipation.

“Since the present administration came on board, the state government has invested hugely in the electrification sector through the supplies of transformers, installations and ensuring that the state is lighted.

“For those yet to be captured, the governor has mandated SEA to intervene in such communities for them to also benefit from the gesture”, Enyia said.

Rainstorm Destroys High Tension Poles In Port Harcourt

Falling power poleAbout 96 high tension poles belonging to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) were destroyed by heavy wind, during the downpour that occurred on Tuesday evening in Port Harcourt.

As a result of the damaged poles with other associated materials such as 150mm aluminum conductor spanning over 32,000 metres, several cross arms, among others were also destroyed.

A cross section of Port Harcourt metropolis has been thrown into darkness.

In the wake of the loss, five 33kv and four 11kv feeders namely; Borikiri 33kv, Rainbow 33kv, Choba 33kv, Rumuolumeni 33kv and UST 33kv were affected.

Others affected are 11kv in Rumuomoi, Federal, Wokoma and Water lines.

The Chief Executive officer of PHED, Mr Jay McCoskey, reacting to the natural disaster that culminated to the loss of supply to the affected areas, appealed to the residents to exercise patience while the damaged poles are being replaced.

rainstrom-in-port-harcourt
One person was killed in earlier storm on Monday

He assured the residents that the management would do everything possible to ensure early restoration of power supply.

“It is regrettable that PHED is facing such a loss at this moment due to natural disaster, but I can guarantee that supply will be restored to the affected areas because we have started sourcing for the materials to replace the damaged poles and other accessories,”  McCoskey said.

Thunderstorm Kills One In Port Harcourt

The rainstorm came a day after a heavy rain with thunderstorm in Port-Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State,  brought down at least two masts, destroying bill boards and some roofs in Ikoku Mile 1 community.

A 16-year-old girl, who was said to be with her mother, was killed.

While two others, including the coach of the Community Football team were left with broken skulls and are currently battling for survival at the hospital.

Senate To Investigate Management Of Power Funds

Bukola-Saraki-Senate-president-president-in-NigeriaThe Senate is to begin investigating the management of funds appropriated to the Power Sector since 1999 and the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria.

Federal lawmakers in the Upper Chamber also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Transmission Company‎ of Nigeria to reconnect Maiduguri back to the National Grid.

The Senate reached these resolutions after the Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, in a motion drew the attention of the Senate to‎ the disconnection of Maiduguri from the National Grid and the General Power Degeneration across the country.

Senator Ndume said Nigerians had thought that the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria would translate to improved electricity supply in the country but that had not been the case.

NERC Extends Planned Increase In Electricity Tariffs For Residential Consumers

ElectricityThe Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has extended the planned increase in tariffs for residential consumers to June this year while charges for other classes of consumers have taken effect from January first.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the chairman of the NERC, Dr Sam Amadi, said that the freeze in charges for residential consumers, who constitute about 80 per cent of the electricity consumers, was aimed at promoting the interest of consumers as well as stimulate operators to serve consumers better.

Dr Amadi expressed worries over the rate of meter deployment by electricity distribution companies in-spite of the credited advancement payment initiatives.

Since private companies took over ownership of some unbundled government stake in the power sector, new owners have said they needed to increase tariff in order to meet the needed increase in generating capacity of the plants.

Rilwanu Lukman, Former Petroleum Minister Dies at 75

images (1)Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr Rilwanu Lukman died in the early hours of Monday July 21, at his residence in Vienna, Austria after a brief illness.

The late Lukmam was born on August 26 1938 in Zaria, Kaduna State and left behind a wife and 3 children.

He attended the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology; Zaria from 1956-58 and later proceeded to the prestigious Imperial College London where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering in 1962.

He was appointed Minister of Mines, Power and Steel between 1984-85 and later Minister of Petroleum Resources from 1986-1989. As Petroleum Minister, he served as President of the Organisation for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Conference for several consecutive terms from 1985-1989.

From the petroleum ministry, he moved to foreign affairs ministry where he served as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (1989-90) – all during the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) from 1993-94. Furthermore, Dr. Lukman was elected as Secretary General of OPEC from 1995–2000.

It was from his position as Secretary-General at the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, Austria that, in 2000 he was formally invited by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and appointed as Presidential Adviser on Petroleum and Energy Matters to the Federal Government of Nigeria and Chairman of the NNPC, until in November 2003, when he voluntarily retired from public service.

He was later brought out from retirement in active public service by the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua administration to serve again as Minister of Petroleum Resources from 2008-2010.

Hike In Electricity Tariff, Issues And Challenges

Biz MorningThe Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has assured Nigerians that better days are just around the corner as all hands are on deck to improve power supply in the country.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr Sam Amadi, gave the assurance on Business Morning on Friday, where he defended the implementation of a new electricity tariff in the multi-year tariff order (MYTO).

Meanwhile, an entrepreneur, Mr Christian Tom-West and a consultant in the power sector, Mr Daniel Mueller, argued that they cannot be paying more when they are not getting value for their money.

They urged the regulator to make these charges affordable for consumers and ensure that they get value for their money.

Technical And Economic Regulation Of Nigeria’s Power Sector

NERC Sam AmadiWith the ongoing reforms in Nigeria’s power sector, particularly the privatisation of generation and distribution companies, there are expectations of a truly liberalized market in which consumers will mostly pay for services that they enjoy, while service providers will strive for quality operations.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, was set up to undertake technical and economic regulation of this industry.

The commission is to license operators, determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations and set tariffs.

NERC Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, is our guest on this edition of ‘View From The Top’.

Nigerians Can Now Sue Power Sector Investors – Lawyer

A legal Practitioner, Emmanuel Umoren, on Friday warned the new private investors and owners of Nigeria’s power sector of breaching their contract with the people, insisting that consumers now have the power to sue them to court.

“Every transaction is a contract and if there’s any breach whatsoever they can be sued,” he said.

Mr Umoren who was a guest on Sunrise Daily, commended the government’s decision to privatise the power sector, making it a business which is liable to be sued if consumers discover a breach in the contract.

“It is business now. It’s no more government money. Let these DISCOs know that (now) we can take them to court. That’s a very important part. We can now take them to court because they are business men,” he said.

He highlighted some circumstances in which consumers can sue the power companies, including power surge (which leads to damages). On cases of in availability of electricity, Umoren said “it is going to be very difficult to sue them for not providing you light,” but added that the position may change as time goes on and with the intellectual improvement in the judiciary system.

On complains of power shortage in some areas, Umoren said “my major problem is that we do not think these things through because you are creating monopolies in areas.” He explained that the issue of metering lies with the distribution companies (DISCOs) and added that efforts are being made by investors to check cases of power theft by citizens as such usages are unaccounted for.

He however complained about the unavailability of options for end users leading to monopoly which does not benefit Nigerians. He said there should be options in case consumers are not satisfied with the services of a certain distribution company and added that consumers should be able to switch to any DISCO of choice as such is obtainable in other climes.

On the increase in service charge(s) raised twice within the last year, Umoren questioned the activities of the new investors. “How did we arrive at the first price, if you did not do a thorough analysis of doing the business?” he asked.

On nationwide complains regarding fixed service charge of N750 which may be increased as well as payment of meter maintenance without getting the required maintenance services, Umoren warned the private investors that they are liable to court charges by citizens.

He also faulted the dominance of political cases at the Supreme Court which does not allow for the prominence of other issues, including business, which affect the citizens.

“The decisions that come from the Supreme Court and Appeal Court(s) are mostly political issues because they (politicians) have the money,” Umoren said.

FG To Boost Power With 4,700 Megawatts In 2014 – Igali

On the background of the privatization of the power sector and the recent handing over of the physical assets to the co-investors, ‘View From The Top’ on Channels Television takes a look at the privatisation journey in Nigeria since the birth of the idea in 1999.

The programme on this edition plays host to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali.

The focus is on the Nigerian power sector and the question is what is next after the handing over to investors?

With successive governments having failed to deliver on their promises of providing Nigerians with constant power supply, pessimistic views are still being expressed by many Nigerians on the possibility of a change in fortune.

Igali blamed the situation on the poor maintenance of public infrastructure and budget limitations. While also admitting that government is not the best manger of assets, he stressed that underinvestment in the sector has been the major factor behind the constant failure.

He said: “Government is not formed to manage business. Power sector is a business, and government’s role should be that of providing leadership, direction, regulation and allow the businessmen to do business.”

He credited the latest successful handover to the proactive efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan. According to him, he “energized and reactivated the process” which fast tracked the public competitive bidding processes.

Ambassador Igali also spoke in details about the efforts being made by the Federal Government to sustain the privatisation structure and the infrastructural development plans.

He also encouraged Nigerians to have faith in the system.

I Sympathise With Power Sector Pessimists – Dikki

The Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Dikki, has expressed confidence that the handover of Nigeria’s power sector to investors will yield desired results, but extended his sympathy to those who do not believe so.

“I sympathise with those who are pessimistic. All I can tell them is: just wait and see what’s going to happen.”

Mr Dikki who was speaking on Sunrise Daily, from our Abuja studio described the handover as “a historic process.”

Making an example of the privatised Telecoms sector, he stated that the progress witnessed in that sector will pave way for Nigerians to appreciate the handover of PHCN to private investors.

“We have to look at what has happened via the reform of the telecom sector for us to appreciate the magnitude of what is happening and what will happen in the power sector,” he said, “once you hand over a sector to the private sector and create an enabling environment, you would see a revolution in that sector.”

“We are looking out for a revolution in the power sector,” he said.

Speaking about the defunct PHCN, Mr Dikki explained that the separation of power generation from power distribution would correct the inconsistencies which marred the former system, that amounted to loss of revenue and power.

The power generating companies will sell to the distribution companies who will in turn sell to the end users.

“This has introduced transparency in the power value chain. Revenues that are expected to be collected will be collected because this is now business” and those who invested, expect to make returns, Mr Dikki stated.

The handover will also unburden the Federal Government of any financial obligations as the private investors are expected to pump in funds in order to meet up with the demand for electricity.

“Government is now being free from the responsibility of financing and budgeting for the 14 companies handed over to private investors.”

He countered arguments that the total privatization of the power sector would pose security issues stating that similar things were said when the telecoms sector was to be privatized.

However, he assured that “government is not going to go out of power immediately” and the “proceeds from the NIPP plant (National Independent Power Project) will be ploughed back into other sources of energy: hydro, renewable energy and solar.”

An independent regulatory agency, Nigerian Electricity regulatory Commission (NERC) which he described as the ‘policeman of the sector’ will ensure that the investors follow the laid down guidelines and tariff structure.