[Senate Hearing 110-522]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
S. Hrg. 110-522
CLIMATE CHANGE IN COASTAL REGIONS
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
EXAMINE THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE RELIABILITY, SECURITY,
ECONOMICS, AND DESIGN OF CRITICAL ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE IN COASTAL
MAY 13, 2008
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Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
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COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
JEFF BINGAMAN, New Mexico, Chairman
DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii PETE V. DOMENICI, New Mexico
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota LARRY E. CRAIG, Idaho
RON WYDEN, Oregon LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
TIM JOHNSON, South Dakota RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
MARY L. LANDRIEU, Louisiana JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington BOB CORKER, Tennessee
KEN SALAZAR, Colorado JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey JEFF SESSIONS, Alabama
BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, Arkansas GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon
BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont JIM BUNNING, Kentucky
JON TESTER, Montana MEL MARTINEZ, Florida
Robert M. Simon, Staff Director
Sam E. Fowler, Chief Counsel
Frank Macchiarola, Republican Staff Director
Judith K. Pensabene, Republican Chief Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Bingaman, Hon. Jeff, U.S. Senator From New Mexico................ 1
Burkett, Virginia, Chief Scientist for Global Change Research,
Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.................. 9
Corker, Hon. Bob, U.S. Senator From Tennessee.................... 3
Craig, Hon. Larry E., U.S. Senator From Idaho.................... 2
Drevna, Charles T., President, National Petrochemical & Refiners
Edgar, Lisa Polak, Commissioner, Florida Public Service
Commission, Tallahassee, FL.................................... 3
Falgout, Ted, Port Director, Port Fourchon, LA................... 21
Landrieu, Hon. Mary L., U.S. Senator From Louisiana.............. 21
Martinez, Hon. Mel, U.S. Senator From Florida.................... 4
Wallace, Terry, Principal Associate Director For Science,
Technology and Engineering, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los
Alamos, NM..................................................... 16
Wilbanks, Thomas J., Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 5
Responses to additional questions................................ 51
CLIMATE CHANGE IN COASTAL REGIONS
TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2008
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:47 a.m. in room
SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Jeff Bingaman,
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JEFF BINGAMAN, U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW
The Chairman. I'd like to go ahead with the hearing at this
point, welcome everyone here today, and thank the witnesses who
are testifying before the committee.
This is an oversight hearing on climate-change impacts on
our energy infrastructure.
Over the last 4 years, the world has witnessed, through
numerous tragedies, the vulnerability of low-lying coastal
regions to natural hazards, including, of course, the tragedy
that happened in Burma last week. It's expected that within the
next 50 years, we will see accelerated sea-level rise,
increased storm intensity, and significant coastal erosion. The
consequences of these events should not be underestimated.
As a Nation, we've begun to consider mitigation efforts
aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as it's now
generally accepted that some level of climate change is
occurring. While much of our attention has been focused on how
our current mix of energy resources and technologies
contributes to climate change, there has been little focus so
far on how changes in climate will affect our current and
future energy needs. I'm concerned that in many communities
facilities are being developed without adequate consideration
of the potential cost of protecting or relocating them from
sea-level-rise-related erosion and flooding and storm damage.
Much of our energy infrastructure has been built based on our
knowledge of historical climate conditions, but since our
climate is changing, energy infrastructures which are optimal
today may not be, in the future.
The longevity of our infrastructure argues for us to look
long-term in the planning and design of new systems. Decisions
made today for the creation of new infrastructure need to occur
in ways that ensure that such infrastructure is robust enough
to cope with or adapt to changing climate conditions.
In the latest report that it issued, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change states that it's very likely that we
will see stronger, more destructive hurricanes and typhoons,
accelerated sea-level rise, and changing weather patterns in
coming years. A significant portion of our Nation's critical
energy infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas that are
vulnerable to natural hazards and changes in climate. This
infrastructure forms the heart of a nationally and globally
interdependent energy system.
Our own experience with the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005
demonstrated the vulnerability of our energy systems and the
magnified nationwide effects that a localized disruption can
create. Nearly a third of our Nation's refining capacity was
closed. That was in 2005. There was a significant loss of
natural-gas supplies in the Gulf of Mexico. The disruptions
increased United States energy prices and threatened to create
significant shortages of fuel for home heating and electric
power generation in New England. There's currently a need to
consider how to incorporate future changes in environmental
conditions as new infrastructure expansion plans are developed
and implemented. Today, we'll hear testimony on what's needed
to create a more resilient and adaptable infrastructure in
response to the inevitable impacts and challenges that climate
change will present.
Let me just see if Senator Craig wished to make an opening
statement before we go to the witnesses.
[The prepared statement of Senator Domenici follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Pete V. Domenici, U.S. Senator From
Good morning, I want to thank Chairman Bingaman for holding this
hearing and I thank the witnesses for being here today.
There is no question that we must strengthen our infrastructure and
expand our ability to produce energy. Whether it is climate change,
population growth, global economic growth, or a combination of those
factors, the need to invest significantly in our future energy security
is apparent. It is clear that the coastal States can and should play a
significant role in this effort--many of them already are.
We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I believe we have
taken several steps in the right direction on this front. That having
been said, we must do more. I remain unconvinced that cap-and-trade is
the right policy option to achieve our goals, however.
Consistently, every single analysis done of legislation to cap
carbon dioxide emissions concludes that it will increase the cost of
energy for Americans. At a time when Americans are suffering daily from
the consequences of high energy bills, policies that add to this burden
are exactly the type we must avoid.
There are alternative approaches, and some of them have been signed
into law--including the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the 2007 Energy
Independence and Security Act. Those bills created first-of-a-kind
incentives for nuclear power, renewable sources of electricity, and
strengthened our efficient use of everything from automobiles to
We can do more, and it is for that reason that I have introduced
legislation to create the Clean Energy Investment Bank of the United
States. I am hopeful that we can continue to move forward on proposals
that achieve our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions without
harming the American economy. This effort is of paramount importance,
not only to our coastal states, but to the entire country.
I thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing and I
look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY E. CRAIG, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Craig. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Most
importantly, thank you for doing the kind of oversight on this
issue that is so very, very necessary.
You've said it well. Today, our energy is delivered on an
energy system that was built between 1947 and 1975, after World
War II. Increasing growth in energy demand will just put more
pressure on our old, badly deteriorated, and, in some
instances, obsolete infrastructure. The Energy Information
Agency forecasts that total energy consumption will increase by
19 percent over 2030--or, by 2030. We consistently have
blackouts. Recent blackouts in the Northeast and in California
highlight how fragile our Nation's existing power grid is.
Generation capacity has been added, mainly by natural gas, but
there has been little expansion in the transmission network.
Here, they tell us the average age of power transformers in
service is 40 years. This aging transmission infrastructure is
also of some concern, as its vulnerability relates to terrorist
attacks. I know we're going to hear from some of our lab people
today. New Mexico and a lab in Idaho are working with DOE and
Homeland Security to identify and fix these vulnerabilities.
Limited domestic refinery capacity is impacting gasoline
prices. It goes on and on, at a time when our country isn't in
the business of needing less energy, it is in the business of
needing more energy, not only to sustain our lifestyles, but to
sustain our growth and now to sustain an ever-growing desire to
have a cleaner environment. All of that requires energy in
somewhat different forms than what's currently being produced
today, and all of that infrastructure services those needs as
it relates to greenhouse gas emissions, climate-change
concerns, and a cleaner environment.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Before I introduce the panel, let me call
on--Senator Corker would like to introduce one of the
witnesses, and Senator Martinez, as well, and Senator Landrieu,
when she arrives.
So, Senator Corker, why don't you go ahead.
STATEMENT OF HON. BOB CORKER, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Corker. Mr. Chairman, thank you. Thanks for your
leadership on this committee.
It is my pleasure to introduce the distinguished witness
from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who's here to testify. I
know all of us have some great talent in our States. He's one
of the best. He is a corporate research fellow and scientist,
Dr. Tom Wilbanks. Tom leads the lab's Global Change and
Developing-Country Programs. Tom shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace
Prize as a coordinating lead author in the Working Group, too,
of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a project I'm
sure that many of you have heard a lot about. Tom is a past
president of the Association of American Geographers, one of
only three non-academics in the last 100 years. I don't know
what that says about the organization or you, Tom, but we're
certainly glad that you led it. He's been awarded a number of
honors in that field.
Tom, we thank you for being here today and representing,
not just our State, but our country, in this world the way you
Thank you very much.
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
Senator Craig. Mr. Chairman, before you got to Mel, let me
apologize. I mentioned New Mexico, Los Alamos, Idaho, the INL,
and I failed to recognize that Tom, with the phenomenal lab at
Oak Ridge, was here. Welcome.
The Chairman. Senator Martinez.
STATEMENT OF HON. MEL MARTINEZ, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Martinez. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. This
is a timely and important topic, and I appreciate you holding
I'm very pleased today to introduce Lisa Edgar, from the
wonderful State of Florida. She is with the Florida Public
Service Commission. Ms. Edgar is a former chairman of the PSC,
and she's currently serving on the Governor's Action Team on
Energy and Climate Change, where our Governor has taken a very
forward-leaning position, and obviously Florida is leading the
way. Unfortunately, Florida has had a long history of dealing
with natural disasters, but our State also has been a leader on
emergency preparedness and prevention efforts. Just yesterday,
we had terrible wildfires that seem to have taken a number of
homes in Brevard County and coastal area on the Atlantic Coast
of Florida. Terrible situation. But, the PSC has taken a strong
multifaceted approach through requiring utilities across the
State to submit hurricane- season preparedness briefings,
perform regular inspections on infrastructure, and implement a
ten-point storm preparedness initiative.
We've been blessed in Florida to have talented people and
public servants like Ms. Edgar leading our regulatory agencies.
She's held numerous other positions throughout the State, in
State government, before joining the Public Service Commission,
and she also served as deputy secretary of the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection.
On a really side and personal note, of great importance to
me is the fact that she is a graduate of Florida State
University, as an undergraduate and law grad, where we happened
to have been walking on similar hallways. So, we're delighted
that you would have the good judgment to bring up a Seminole to
testify up here.
So, Lisa, we're glad to have you and welcome you to the
Ms. Edgar. Thank you.
The Chairman. All right. Let me just introduce the rest of
the panel, and then we'll hear from the witnesses.
Virginia Burkett is here, and she's the chief scientist of
the Global Change Programs with the United States Geological
Survey. Thank you for coming.
Terry Wallace, from--who's a regular witness here at our
committee, and a good friend, and does a great job at Los
Alamos National Laboratory as the principal associate director
for science, technology, and engineering at Los Alamos National
Ted Falgout--and Ted is the executive director with Port
Fourchon in Galliano, Louisiana.
Charles Drevna is here, the president of the National
Petrochemical and Refiners Association in Washington, DC.
You've been a witness before us before, and thank you for being
Lisa, you were already introduced, as were you, Dr.
So, why don't we start with Dr. Wilbanks and just go across
the table with each of you giving us 5 or 6 minutes of the
highlights of your testimony. We'll include your full statement
in the record.
We do have 4 votes that begin at 11 o'clock, and so, if you
folks could summarize your testimony, and then we will
hopefully have some time for at least a few questions before we
have to conclude the hearing and do those four votes.
Dr. Wilbanks, thanks for being here.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS J. WILBANKS, OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY,
OAK RIDGE, TN
Mr. Wilbanks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Corker--my
Senator--distinguished members of the committee.
As you know very well, we've heard a lot over the past
decade and a half about the energy sector as a reason for the
large share of the carbon emissions that are a cause of climate
change, but we've heard very little about how the energy sector
might be impacted by climate change when those impacts could be
A couple of years ago, the Interagency Climate Change
Science Program commissioned the first comprehensive assessment
of these climate-change risks and vulnerabilities for the
energy sector in the United States I'm going to summarize what
this assessment found out about implications of climate change
for critical energy infrastructures in coastal regions. But,
let me first update the context for thinking about these kinds
of risks and vulnerabilities.
In the past several years, scientists observing what's
happening with global climate change have noticed two things.
Number one, physical impacts of climate change are emerging
faster than was projected even 7 or 8 years ago. Number two,
greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are increasing faster than
what had been assumed in any climate-change scenario we've ever
taken seriously. When we put these two observations together,
our conclusion is that risks of relatively severe climate
change are greater than we've been projecting. These two facts
suggest that the kinds of implications I'm going to mention
could, by the mid to longer terms at least, become pretty
Okay, the main impact concerns, aside from Alaska, are two.
First, severe storms, along with some sea-level rise, and
second, water availability. But, the big issues differ
according to the coastal region. For the Gulf Coast, Florida
and the rest of the Coastal Southeast, the main concern is with
the intensification of severe weather events, along with
severe--with sea-level rise, which threaten the reliability and
security of critical oil, gas, and electricity infrastructures,
both onshore and offshore.
Other important concerns for this region are significantly
higher demands for electricity for cooling as temperatures
rise, and possibly some seasonal water shortages for cooling of
power plants inland to supply electricity for coastal areas.
For the Coastal Northeast, the main concern is with coastal
flooding from severe weather events, along with increased
demands for air conditioning and electricity for cooling.
For the West Coast, the main concern is with decreasing
freshwater availability from spring and summer snowmelts in the
western mountains, increasing competition for scarce water
between energy and other uses, possibly affecting electricity
availability for coastal development, the energy-water nexus
that this committee knows a lot about.
For Alaska, the main effects, not all necessarily negative,
depending on one's point of view, include effects on energy
infrastructures of the thawing permafrost, which are already
being observed, effects on oil and gas exploration and
production, which might get easier in some ways, and effects of
ice-cap melting on energy transport along the North Slope,
which could be interesting.
These very brief comments just touch on the high points of
what we think we know, but I hope they're a useful start for
the rest of the hearing.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wilbanks follows:]
Prepared Statement of Thomas J. Wilbanks, Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Committee, I thank you
for your interest in the issues being discussed at this hearing, and I
appreciate the invitation to join you this morning.
As you know very well, we have heard a lot over the past decade and
a half about the energy sector as a driver of climate change: the
reason for a large share of the carbon emissions that are a cause of
climate change. But we have heard very little about the energy sector
as a target of impacts of climate change. The fact is that energy
production and use in the United States and the world are going to be
affected by climate change, and our objectives of assuring the
reliability, affordability, and security of energy services for the
American population depend partly on recognizing possible risks and
vulnerabilities and taking actions to reduce those risks and
In the summer of 2005, as one element of producing 21 summaries of
what we know and don't know about issues for climate change science,
the nation's Climate Change Science Program (or CCSP) commissioned the
first comprehensive assessment of these climate change risks for the
energy sector in the U.S. I had the honor of leading the team that
prepared it, under the auspices of DOE's Office of Science, along with
serving as Coordinating Lead Author for the chapter of the recent IPCC
Fourth Assessment report that dealt with energy sector impact issues,
also supported by DOE. The CCSP report was completed last fall (see
http://www.climatescience.gov/), and I briefed the Senate and House
staffs about its conclusions last October.
What I would like to do, to serve as a foundation for the other
testimony to come, is to summarize what this assessment found out about
effects of climate change on energy production and use in the United
States, including but not limited to energy infrastructures in
vulnerable coastal regions. Before I move on to that, let me observe
that our knowledge about impacts of climate change on energy production
and use is limited by the fact that this topic has not been the focus
of very much research to date, beyond a few issues such as effects of
warming on energy use in buildings; so what I will say is only a
beginning. But I think it does point us toward some issues that need
further attention as a basis for our risk management strategies.
The CCSP energy sector impact assessment has been labeled Synthesis
and Assessment Product (SAP) 4.5; it was charged with answering three
questions as best we could with currently available knowledge:
How might climate change affect energy consumption in the
How might climate change affect energy production and supply
in the United States?
How might climate change have other effects that indirectly
shape energy production and use in the United States?
Here is a summary of the answers to those questions, paying
particular attention to issues for coastal infrastructures:
effects on energy consumption and use
About effects on energy consumption and use, it is clear that
warming will reduce total U.S. heating requirements and increase U.S.
cooling requirements for buildings. The research done so far indicates
that the demand for cooling will rise 5 to 20% for each one degree
Centigrade of average warming. The demand for warming will drop 3 to
15% for each degree of warming. The ranges reflect different
assumptions about such things as the rate of market penetration of
improved energy-use technologies.
Overall, because we use more energy for heating than for cooling in
the U.S., the two effects roughly cancel each other out in terms of
total energy requirements at a national scale, but this hides an
important effect. Because nearly all of our cooling is supplied by
electricity, while our warming comes from a combination of natural gas,
fuel oil, and electricity, the warming associated with climate change
will increase demands for electricity, especially in areas with a lot
of demand for cooling and areas which have not historically done a lot
of space cooling.
Other effects of climate change on energy consumption, for instance
for water pumping or for fuel in vehicles doing more interior cooling,
are less clear, because that research has not yet been done.
Obviously, in coastal areas of the U.S. Southeast, the projected
increase in needs for electricity is an infrastructure issue. Recall
that the first U.S. national assessment of climate change impacts,
published in 2001 and based on relatively modest estimates of possible
climate change, projected an increase in the July heat index in the
Southeast by the year 2100 of between 8 and more than 20 degrees
Fahrenheit. The increase in coastal areas would be less than the
regional average, because of the moderating effect of the seas; but
energy costs for comfortable living can be expected to increase and,
combined with such other factors as greater discomfort in summer
outdoor activities, higher risks of severe storms, and higher costs for
private property insurance, could add stress to coastal economies and
effects on energy production and supply
About effects of climate change on energy production and supply,
the knowledge base is more limited, and--except for Alaska, where
impacts are already being observed--our conclusions are based mainly on
extrapolations from recent experience with climate variability,
combined with relatively high-confidence projections of temperature and
precipitation associated with climate change.
Aside from Alaska, the main concerns are with:
(1) increased exposure to severe weather events, especially
in storm-prone coastal areas, along with possible long-term
effects of sea-level rise that could have consequences for
facility siting, and
(2) reduced water supplies for hydroelectric power and/or
thermal power plant cooling in regions that become drier or
that depend on diminished mountain snowfall for surface water
Another effect of some concern is that, with warmer air and water
temperatures, the overall efficiencies of thermoelectric power plants
(fossil and nuclear) will be reduced. Although the percentage change
for a particular power plant might be small, the aggregate impact could
be significant: note that a one percent reduction in power generation
nationally would mean a need to supply 25 billion kWh of additional
electricity each year.
Electricity transmission and distribution systems may also be
affected by climate change, both in terms of the total demands for
power movement (see above) and effects of weather on their reliability.
The most familiar example is effects of severe weather events on power
lines (e.g., from ice storms or tornadoes as well as hurricanes), but
in the summer heat wave of 2006 electric power transformers failed in
several areas, such as St. Louis and Queens, NY, due to high
temperatures, causing interruptions of electric power supply.
Finally, climate change could have effects on renewable energy
alternatives other than hydropower, such as biomass energy, windpower,
and solar energy. Currently available research does not tell us enough
to draw firm conclusions about this topic, but it is important for us
to improve the information available for energy decision-making in this
indirect effects on energy production and use
The issue of possible indirect effects on energy production and use
is an interesting one. It includes both impacts of climate change on
other systems and infrastructures that in turn relate to energy
demands, such as transportation and agriculture, and also impacts of
climate change policy responses on energy systems and infrastructures.
As you are acutely aware, some of these connections--such as possible
effects on energy institutions, energy prices, and regional comparative
advantage--are both politically charged and lacking in objective
research; and SAP 4.5 does little more than note the questions. But the
possibility of impacts, especially of climate change policies, is an
issue that we need to keep in mind. Certainly, some of our energy
institutions think that impacts on them of climate change policies
could well be greater than impacts of climate change itself.
Based on the knowledge available to us when we put SAP 4.5
together, we came up with four main conclusions about effects of
climate change on energy production and use in the United States:
First, there is a range of impact concerns, which vary by energy
source and region, but the general picture at this point is one of
caution rather than alarm. Aside from Alaska, the main risks and
vulnerabilities have to do with severe storms, especially in the
Southeastern US, and water availability, an issue in most parts of the
country but most directly for parts of the West that depend on winter
snowfall in the mountains for spring and summer surface water supply.
Second, with climate change effects likely to emerge over a period
of some decades, we have time to consider strategies for adaptation to
reduce risks of negative effects and take advantage of possible
positive effects. The energy sector in this country is accustomed to
change, including attention to weather variables, and it has both the
fiscal resources and the management skills to incorporate climate
change as an aspect of uncertainty in its longer-term strategic
planning and investment. Potentials for adaptation are considerable.
Third, we need to pay particular attention to regional implications
of energy sector impacts, and I will conclude with a summary of
implications for the coastal regions of the U.S.
Finally, we simply need to know more abut these kinds of things
than we know now, working through a rich collaboration among
government, industry, NGOs, and academia. As with most other areas of
interest in climate change impacts and adaptation potentials, we know
too little at present to do more than sketch out a general picture of
risks and vulnerabilities, when investment behavior needs better
information than that. For example, we need to know more about
potentials for power plant cooling approaches that are less water-
dependent, on technology improvements for affordable space cooling, and
approaches for increasing the resilience of coastal and offshore oil
and gas production systems to extreme weather events.
summary of implications for critical energy infrastructures in coastal
regions of the united states
Regarding what SAP 4.5 has to say about projected impacts of
climate change on critical energy infrastructures in coastal regions in
the United States, here is a very brief summary:
Coastal Southeast.--intensification of severe weather events,
threatening the reliability and security of critical oil, gas, and
electricity infrastructures both onshore and offshore; significantly
increased demands for electricity for cooling; possibly occasional
seasonal water shortages for power plant cooling for facilities using
freshwater systems inland.
Coastal Northeast.--vulnerabilities to flooding from severe weather
events, northeasters as well as hurricanes; increased demands for
electricity for cooling, along with space heating savings; increased
demands for air-conditioning.
West Coast.--decreased freshwater availability from spring and
summer snowmelt, increasing competition for scarce water between energy
and other uses, possibly affecting electricity availability for coastal
Alaska.--effects on energy infrastructures of thawing permafrost;
effects on oil and gas exploration and production (possibly positive);
effects of polar ice cap melting on energy transport, especially from
North Slope development.
This concludes my testimony this morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF VIRGINIA BURKETT, CHIEF SCIENTIST FOR GLOBAL
CHANGE RESEARCH, GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Ms. Burkett. Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman and members, thank you
for inviting me to present highlights from our recent report
about Climate Change Impacts on Transportation in the Central
Gulf Coast Region. This work was led by the United States
Department of Transportation as--and is one of the 21 synthesis
products of the United States Climate Change Science Program.
The other co-leads for the project, Mike Savonis, behind me,
from DOT, and Joanne Potter, as well, from Cambridge
Systematics, are here with me today.
The region between Mobile, Alabama, and Galveston, Texas,
contains the largest concentrations--concentration of United
States ports and thousands of miles of pipelines and onshore
infrastructure, like tank batteries and processing plants, that
receive and transport two-thirds of the United States oil
imports and more than 90 percent of our Outer Continental Shelf
oil and gas. These facilities, plus 17,000 miles of highways
and 61 airports, are all vulnerable in some way to climate
change that is anticipated during the next 50 to 100 years. The
four primary drivers are: accelerated sea-level rise, increased
air and water temperature, an increase in the intensity of
tropical storms, and changes in rainfall patterns.
An acceleration of sea-level rise is due to thermal
expansion of heating of the water and the melting of glaciers
and ice sheets as one of the most certain and most costly
consequences of global warming. This region has very little
topographic relief and is highly vulnerable to permanent
flooding due to subsidence and/or accelerated sea-level rise,
and, in fact, both of these are occurring--sea-level rise and
subsidence--from Mobile all the way over to Galveston. This is
As the temperature of the sea surface increases tropical
storms are likely to intensify. This coastline is vulnerable to
flooding, erosion, and wetland loss during tropical storms. As
barrier islands and mainland shorelines erode, human
communities and onshore infrastructure and low-lying coastal
areas become more susceptible to inundation and destruction.
Climate models indicate an increase in average temperature
of the region and extreme high temperatures. Rainfall is
expected to come more in the form of heavy downpours, with an
increase in the spacing between rainfall events.
All of these changes in the physical climate can directly
affect transportation infrastructure and the physical stability
of the coast upon which the infrastructure sits. Warmer
temperatures may require changes in materials, maintenance, and
operation of transportation systems. Some pavements deteriorate
more quickly. Rail lines will buckle. Higher temperatures
affect the length of runways and aircraft performance. More
intense rainfall would increase the short-term flooding of
roads, which is already a problem in the region.
We learned, from Hurricane Katrina, that prolonged flooding
can damage pavement infrastructure. With a storm surge of 23
feet--and we had 30 feet in the area during Katrina--but, with
23 feet, 64 percent of the interstates, half of the rail, 29
airports, and all of the present port facilities are subject to
flooding. Even if storms do not increase in intensity, existing
infrastructure will be more likely to flood as sea level rises.
While protective structures, like levees and sea walls, can
protect some facilities, flooding of even small segments of a
road can make the entire system unusable, which is important,
in terms of hurricane evacuation.
Thank you, sir, and we have experts from transportation
that can help answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Burkett follows:]
Prepared Statement of Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Global
Change Research, Geological Survey, Department of the Interior
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, as a Lead Author and
Editor of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program assessment of climate
change and its impacts on Gulf Coast transportation, I am pleased to
present a summary of our findings about trends in the physical
environment and the climate variables that have implications for the
transportation sector. I would like to acknowledge the other editors
and co-authors of the report, with whom I have collaborated over the
past four years to develop this broad regional assessment upon which my
testimony is based (CCSP 2008):
Editors: Michael J. Savonis (FHWA) and Joanne R. Potter (Cambridge
Lead Authors.--Michael J. Savonis, Joanne R. Potter, Robert C.
Hyman (Cambridge Systematics), Barry D. Keim (Louisiana State
University), Thomas W. Doyle (USGS), Robert S. Kafalenos (FHWA),
Kenneth J. Leonard (Cambridge Systematics), Ron Hagelman (Texas State
University), Stephen B. Hartley (USGS), Matthew Sheppard (IBM), John H.
Suhrbier (Cambridge Systematics), Eric Lindquist (Texas A&M
Univerisity), and Jessica E. Tump (Cambridget Systematics)
Contributing authors.--Claudia Tebaldi (National Center for
Atmospheric Research), Daniel M. Beagan (Cambridge Systematics), Alan
Meyers (Cambridge Systematics), Michael F. Wehner (Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory), Tamara G. Houston (NOAA), David T. Hunt
(Cambridge Systematics), Michael K. Maynard (Wilbur Smith Associates),
Barbara Fritsche (Wilbur Smith Associates), Russell H. Henk (Texas
Transportation Institute), Edward J. Seymour (Texas Transportation
Institute), Leslie E. Olson (Texas Transportation Institute) , Wesley
R. Dean (Texas A&M University), Ivor Van Heerden (Louisiana State
University), S. Ahmet Binselam (Louisiana State University), and Nanda
N. Srinivasan (Cambridge Systematics)
These authors collectively represent three Federal agencies, five
universities and research institutions, and two transportation planning
and engineering firms. In addition to the contributions from these co-
authors, the study was guided by a 16-member advisory committee
formally chartered by the Secretary of Transportation under the Federal
Advisory Committee Act of 1972. This committee included transportation
experts representing the various modes (e.g., rail, ports, highways)
and several additional physical scientists and risk assessment experts.
The Gulf Coast project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of
Transportation (DOT) in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS) under the auspices of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program
(CCSP). The study, Synthesis and Assessment Product (SAP) 4.7 titled
``Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems
and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase I'' is one of 21
``synthesis and assessment'' products planned and sponsored by the CCSP
with the Department of Transportation as the lead agency. This SAP was
completed by the CCSP in March 2008. This project demonstrates how our
understanding of climate change and other physical processes can be
integrated with knowledge of transportation engineering and planning to
produce an assessment of risks and vulnerability that is relevant to
this important sector of the U.S. economy.
The ultimate goal of this 3-phased research project is to provide
knowledge and tools that will enable transportation planners and
managers to better understand climate change and associated risks,
adaptation strategies, and tradeoffs involved in planning, investment,
design, and operational decisions. The objective of Phase I of this
project, which we have now completed, was to conduct a preliminary
assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities of transportation in the
region, after collecting and integrating the range of data needed to
characterize the region--its physiography and hydrology, land use and
land cover, past and projected climate, current population and trends,
and transportation infrastructure. Subsequent phases will involve a
more detailed analysis. Phase II will involve an in-depth assessment of
risks to transportation in a selected location, reporting on
implications for long-range plans and impacts on safety, operations,
and maintenance. This phase will also develop a risk assessment
methodology and identify techniques to incorporate environmental and
climate data in transportation decisions. Phase III will identify and
analyze adaptation and response strategies and develop tools to assess
these strategies, while enumerating future research needs.
My comments this morning will focus on the major drivers of change
in the central Gulf Coast, considering the natural physical setting as
well as the historical and projected changes in climate. The Lead
Author of the study from the DOT, Mike Savonis, is with me to answer
any questions that you might have about potential impacts on the wide
range of transportation modes within the regions, such as pipelines,
highways and ports.
The Gulf Coast study area (Figure 1)* includes 48 contiguous
coastal counties in four States, from Houston/Galveston, Texas, to
Mobile, Alabama. This region is home to nearly 10 million people living
in a range of urban and rural settings and contains critical
transportation infrastructure that provides vital service to its
constituent States and the Nation as a whole. It is also highly
vulnerable to sea level rise and storm impacts. A variety of physical
datasets were compiled for review and use by the project research team.
Most of the spatial data was organized in geographic information system
(GIS) formats or ``layers'' that can be used to assess the
vulnerability and risks of the transportation infrastructure in the
study area and inform the development of adaptation strategies. In
cooperation with DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics we developed
a GIS that allows us to overlay elevation, storm surge, census data,
and other attributes of the study area with transportation
* Figures 1-9 and tables 1-3 have been retained in committee files.
The Central Gulf Coast region is a low-lying sedimentary coast with
low topographic relief; the great majority of the study area lies below
30 m (100 ft) in elevation (Figure 2). Much of the central Gulf Coast
region is prone to flooding during heavy rainfall events, hurricanes,
and lesser tropical storms. Land subsidence is a major factor in the
region, particularly in the Galveston region and the Mississippi River
deltaic plain. Subsidence is influenced by both landform
characteristics of specific locations as well as by human activities,
such as ground-water withdrawals. Most of the coastline is also highly
vulnerable to erosion and wetland loss, particularly in association
with tropical storms and passing storm fronts. It is estimated that
56,000 ha (217 mi2) of land were lost in Louisiana during
Hurricane Katrina. Further, many Gulf Coast barrier islands are
retreating and diminishing in size. The Chandeleur Islands, which serve
as a first line of defense for the New Orleans region, lost roughly 85
percent of their surface area during Hurricane Katrina. As barrier
islands and mainland shorelines erode and submerge, human communities
and onshore infrastructure in low-lying coastal areas become more
susceptible to inundation and destruction.
The central Gulf Coast study area's transportation infrastructure
is a robust network of multiple modes--critical both to the movement of
passengers and goods within the region and to national and
international transport with:
27,000 km (17,000 mi) of major highways--about 2 percent of
the Nation's major highways--that carry 83.5 billion vehicle
miles of travel annually.
Pipelines, bulk terminals, and other infrastructure that
receive and transport two-thirds of all U.S. oil imports.
Pipelines traversing the region transport over 90 percent of
domestic Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas. Approximately
one-half of all the natural gas used in the United States
passes through or by the Henry Hub gas distribution point in
The largest concentration of public and private freight
handling ports in the United States, measured on a tonnage
basis, which handle around 40 percent of the Nation's
waterborne tonnage. Four of the top five tonnage ports in the
United States are located in the region.
The center of U.S. transcontinental trucking and rail routes
with one of only four major points in the United States where
railcars are exchanged between the dominant eastern and western
The Nation's leading and third-leading inland waterway
systems (the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal
Waterway) based on tonnage and providing 20 States with access
to the Gulf of Mexico.
61 publicly owned, public-use airports, including 11
commercial service facilities.
All of these transportation modes are vulnerable in some way to the
changes in climate that are anticipated in this region during the next
50 to 100 years. The relative vulnerability of facilities is dependent,
in large part, on elevation and distance from the coastline.
The Gulf Coast, like much of the world, has experienced significant
changes in climate over the past century and is expected to change even
more rapidly during the next century (IPCC, 2007). The four key climate
drivers in the Central Gulf Coast region--rising temperatures, changing
precipitation patterns, rising relative sea levels, and increasing
storm intensity--present clear risks to existing infrastructure. These
factors can be incorporated into decisions that enable communities to
prepare for and adapt to changing climatic conditions. The research
team's assessment of historical and potential future changes in these
four variables draws on publications, analyses of instrumental records,
and models that simulate how climate may change in the future.
Our assessment of the present climate and 20th century trends was
built around climatic data from the United States Climate Division
Datasets (CDD) and the United States Historical Climate Network
(USHCN). Empirical trends and variability were analyzed for temperature
and precipitation at the CDD level for the climate divisions along the
Gulf Coast from Galveston, Texas, to Mobile, Alabama, including Texas
Climate Division 8, Louisiana Divisions 6-9, Mississippi Division 10,
and Alabama Division 8 (Figure 3).
Results from our analysis of temperature variability during 1905 to
2003 indicate that the 1920s or 1930s was generally the warmest decade
for the various Gulf Coast climate divisions (Figure 3). After a step
down in the temperature in the late 1950s, the coolest period occurs in
the 1960s, while a warming trend is evident for all seven climate
divisions beginning in the 1970s and extending through 2003. Of the
seven climate divisions, LA6, LA8, and MS10 have slight but significant
cooling trends over the 98-year period of record. Precipitation
variability shows that the 1940s and 1990s were the wettest decades,
while the 1950s was generally the driest (Figure 4). Although all of
the climate divisions at least suggest long-term patterns of increasing
rainfall, only MS10 and AL8 have significant trends.
A water balance model developed for the region suggests a long-term
trend of increasing annual runoff (Figure 5). Over the entire record
since 1919, there was an increase in rainfall that, combined with
relatively cool temperatures, led to an estimated 36 percent increase
in runoff. Modeled future water balance, however, suggests that runoff
is expected to either decline slightly or remain relatively unchanged,
depending upon the balance of precipitation and evaporation. Moisture
deficits and drought appear likely to increase across the study area,
though model results are mixed. These findings are consistent with the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), which concludes
that it is very likely that heat waves, heat extremes, and heavy
precipitation events over land will increase during this century and
that the number of dry days (or spacing between rainfall events) will
increase. Even in mid-latitude regions where mean precipitation is
expected to decrease, precipitation intensity is expected to increase
Sea level has risen more than 120 m (395 ft) since the peak of the
last ice age (about 20,000 B.P.) and over the 20th century by 1-2 mm/
year (0.04-0.08 in/year). The rate of global sea level rise since 1963
is estimated at 1.8 mm/year (0.07 in/year) (IPCC, 2007). More recent
analysis of satellite altimetry data for the period from 1993 to 2003
shows a global average rate of sea level rise of about 3.1 (2.4-3.8) mm
per year (0.12 in/year). Whether the faster rate since 1993 reflects
decadal variability or a long-term acceleration over the 20th century
rate is unclear. There is high confidence, however, that the rate of
observed sea level rise was greater in the 20th century compared to the
19th century (IPCC, 2007).
Changes in mean water level at a given coastal location are
affected by a combination of changes in sea level in an ocean basin and
by local factors such as land subsidence. Gulf Coastal Plain
environments, particularly in the central and western parts of the Gulf
Coast study area, are prone to high rates of land surface subsidence
attributed to soil decomposition and compaction, deep fluid extraction,
and the lack of sediment deposition. For example, the Mississippi River
delta region demonstrates relative sea level rates of 10 mm/year (0.40
in/year), five-fold greater than the 20th century rate of global sea
level rise. Subsidence rates for several Gulf Coast sites by previous
investigators range from a low of 0.27 cm/year (0.11 in/year) in the
Big Bend region of northwest Florida up to 2.39 cm/year (0.94 in/year)
for coastal Louisiana.
The scenarios of future climate referenced in our report were
generated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a
research center lead by a consortium of universities and international
organizations, by using an ensemble of 21 different atmosphere-ocean
coupled general circulation models (GCM) for the Gulf Coast region.
Model results, climatic trends during the past century, and climate
theory all suggest that extrapolation of the 20th century temperature
record would likely underestimate the range of change that could occur
in the next few decades. While there is still considerable uncertainty
about the rates of change that can be expected (Karl and Trenberth,
2003), there is a fairly strong consensus regarding the direction of
change for most of the climate variables that affect transportation in
the Gulf Coast region.
Climate models currently lack the detail needed to make confident
projections or forecasts for a number of variables, especially on small
scales, so plausible ``scenarios'' are often used to provide input to
decision making (Parson et al., 2007). Output from an ensemble of 21
GCMs run with the three emissions scenarios indicate a wide range of
possible changes in temperature and precipitation out to the year 2050.
The models agree to a warmer Gulf Coast region of about 1.5 C 1 C
(2.7 F 1.8 F), with the greatest increase in temperature occurring
in the summer. Based on historical trends and model projections, we
conclude that it is very likely that in the future the number of very
hot days will substantially increase across the study area. Modeled
outputs of potential temperature increase scenarios for August are
presented in Table 1. Extreme high temperatures could be about 1C (1.8
F) greater than the change in the average temperature simulated by the
Scenarios of future precipitation are more convoluted, with
indications of increases or decreases by the various models, but the
models lean slightly toward a decrease in annual rainfall across the
Gulf Coast. However, by compounding changing seasonal precipitation
with increasing temperatures, average runoff is likely to remain the
same or decrease, while deficits (or droughts) are more likely to
become more severe. Each of the climate model and emissions scenarios
analyzed in our report represents plausible future regional conditions.
Increased tropical storm intensity is likely to accompany global
warming as a function of higher sea surface temperatures, which have
been observed globally (Webster et al., 2005; IPCC 2007). The kinetic
energy of tropical storms and hurricanes is fueled from heat exchange
over warm tropical waters. An increase in sea surface temperature (SST)
from global climate change is likely to increase the probability of
higher sustained winds per tropical storm circulation (Emanuel, 1987;
Holland, 1997; Knutson et al., 1998). Sea surface temperature has
increased significantly in the main hurricane development region of the
North Atlantic during the past century (Bell et al., 2007) (Figure 6)
as well as in the Gulf of Mexico (Smith and Reynolds, 2004) (Figure 7).
Recent empirical evidence suggests a trend towards more intense
hurricanes formed in the North Atlantic Basin, and this trend is likely
to intensify during the next century (IPCC, 2007). In the Gulf region,
there is presently no compelling evidence to suggest that the number or
paths of tropical storms have changed or are likely to change in the
Change in the rate of sea level rise is dependent on a host of
interacting factors that are best evaluated on decadal to centennial
time scales. Two complementary modeling approaches were applied in this
study to assess the potential rise in sea level and coastal submergence
over the next century. Both models were used to estimate relative sea
level rise (RSLR) by 2050 and 2100 under a range of greenhouse gas
emissions scenarios. Both models account for global sea level change as
estimated by the global climate models and also incorporate values for
land subsidence in the region based on the historical record. One
model, CoastClim, produces results that are closer to a simple measure
of future sea level change under the scenarios of future climate. A
similar model, SLRRP, also incorporates values for high and low tidal
variation attributed to astronomical and meteorological causes, which
are pulled from the historical record. The SLRRP model is rectified to
the NAVD88 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988) that is commonly
used by surveyors to calculate the elevations of roads, bridges,
levees, and other infrastructure. The tide data used in the SLRRP model
is based on a monthly average of the mean high tide (called mean high
water) for each day of the month (Table 2). The SLRRP results capture
seasonal variability and interannual trends in relative sea level
change, while the CoastClim results do not.
The three long-term tide gauge locations analyzed in this study
represent three subregions of the study area: Galveston, Texas (the
chenier plain); Grand Isle, Louisiana (the Mississippi River deltaic
plain); and Pensacola, Florida (Mississippi/Alabama Sound) (Figure 8).
For each of these gauges, we examined potential range of relative sea
level rise through 2050 and 2100 using the SRES B1, A1B, A2, and A1FI
emissions scenarios based on the combined output of 7 GCMs. Results for
the year 2100 generated with CoastClim range from 24 cm (0.8 ft) in
Pensacola to 167 cm (5.5 ft) in Grand Isle. Results for the year 2100
from SLRRP (Table 3), which as noted above accounts for historical
tidal variation, indicate relative sea level rise in the range of 70 cm
(2.3 ft, NAVD88) in Pensacola to 199 cm (6.5 ft, NAVD88) in Grand Isle.
Storm surge simulations accomplished basin-specific surge height
predictions for a combination of storm categories, track speeds, and
angled approach on landfall that can be summarized by worst-case
conditions to exceed 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 ft) along the central Gulf
Coast. Storm attributes and meteorological conditions at the time of
actual landfall of any storm or hurricane will dictate actual surge
heights. Transportation officials and planners within the defined study
area can expect that transportation facilities and infrastructure at or
below 9 m (30 ft) of elevation along the coast are subject to direct
and indirect surge impacts. Sea level rise of 1 to 2 m (3 to 6 ft)
along this coast could effectively raise the cautionary height of these
surge predictions to 10 m (33 ft) or more by the end of the next
Changes in climate can have widespread effects on physical and
biological systems of low-lying, sedimentary coasts. However, the large
and growing pressures of development are responsible for most of the
current stresses on Gulf Coast natural resources, which include: water
quality and sediment pollution, increased flooding, loss of barrier
islands and wetlands, and other factors that are altering the
resilience of coastal ecosystems (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
1999). Human alterations to freshwater inflows through upstream dams
and impoundments, dredging of natural rivers and engineered waterways,
and flood-control levees also have affected the amount of sediment
delivered to the Gulf coastal zone. Roughly 80 percent of U.S. coastal
wetland losses have occurred in the Gulf Coast region since 1940, and
predictions of future population growth portend increasing pressure on
Gulf Coast communities and their environment. Sea level rise will
generally increase marine transgression on coastal shorelines and the
frequency of barrier island overwash during storms, with effects most
severe in coastal systems that already are stressed and deteriorating.
An increase in tropical storm intensity or a decrease in fresh water
and sediment delivery to the coast would tend to amplify the effects of
sea level rise on Gulf Coast landforms.
The global near-surface air temperature increase of the past 100
years is approaching levels not observed in the past several hundred
years (IPCC, 2001). Regional ``surprises'' are increasingly possible in
the complex, nonlinear Earth climate system (Groisman et al., 2004),
which is characterized by thresholds in physical processes that are not
completely understood or incorporated into climate model simulations;
e.g., interactive chemistry, interactive land and ocean carbon
emissions, etc. While there is still considerable uncertainty about the
rates of change that can be expected (Karl and Trenberth, 2003), there
is a fairly strong consensus regarding the direction of change for most
of the climate variables that affect transportation in the Gulf Coast
region. Key findings from our analysis and other published studies for
the study region concerning future climate include:
Warming temperatures--All GCMs available from the IPCC (via
the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 3) used in this study
indicate an increase in average annual Gulf Coast temperature
through the end of this century. Based on GCM runs under three
different emission scenarios developed by the IPCC Special
Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) (the low-emissions B1, the
high-emissions A2, and the mid-range A1B scenarios), the
average temperature in the Gulf Coast region appears likely to
increase by at least 1.5C 1C (2.7F 1.8F) during the
next 50 years. Extreme high temperatures are also expected to
increase--with the number of days above 32.2C (90F) very
likely to increase significantly across the study area. Within
50 years the probability of experiencing 21 days a year with
temperatures of 37.8C (100F) or above is greater than 50
percent (Figure 9).
Changes in precipitation patterns--Some analyses, including
the GCM results from this study, indicate that average
precipitation will increase in this region while others
indicate a decline of average precipitation during the next 50
to 100 years. In either case, it is expected that average soil
moisture could decline, due to increasing temperatures and
resulting higher evapotranspiration rates. While average annual
rainfall may increase or decrease slightly, the intensity of
individual rainfall events is likely to increase during the
Rising Sea Levels--Relative sea level is likely to rise
between 1 and 6 ft by the end of the 21st century, depending
upon model assumption and geographic location. The highest rate
of relative sea level rise will very likely be in the central
and western parts of the study area (Louisiana and East Texas)
where subsidence rates are highest (Table 3). Relative sea
level rise (RSLR) is the combined effect of the projected
increase in the volume of the world's oceans (eustatic sea
level change), which results from increases in temperature and
melting of ice, and the projected changes in land surface
elevation at a given location due to subsidence of the land
surface. The highest rate of relative sea level rise will very
likely be in the central and western parts of the study area
(Louisiana and East Texas), where subsidence rates are highest
(Table 3). The analysis of a ``middle range'' of potential sea
level rise of 0.6 to 1.2 meters (2 to 4 feet) indicates that a
vast portion of the Gulf Coast from Houston to Mobile may be
inundated over the next 50 to 100 years. The projected rate of
relative sea level rise for the region is consistent with
historical trends, other published region-specific analyses,
and the IPCC 4th Assessment Report findings, which assumes no
major changes in ice sheet dynamics.
Storm Activity--The destructive potential of hurricanes is
likely to increase as the sea surface temperature of the
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico continue to rise. Rising relative
sea level will exacerbate exposure to storm surge and flooding.
Depending on the trajectory and scale of individual storms,
facilities at or below 9 m (30 ft) could be subject to direct
storm surge impacts. Rising relative sea level will exacerbate
exposure to storm surge and flooding.
In the near term, the direction and scale of these modeled outcomes
are consistent regardless of the assumptions used for level of
greenhouse gas emissions. Model outputs are relatively similar across a
range of IPCC SRES emission scenarios for the next four decades.
However, long-range projections (modeled to 100 years) do vary
depending upon emission scenario, with the magnitude of impacts
indicated being more severe under higher-emission assumptions.
Based on findings from the USGS-led research team about the
physical setting and climatic trends, a regional-scale characterization
of impacts on transportation systems and infrastructure was led by the
DOT. The following summary of potential impacts is presented in the
Executive Summary of the report:
Warming temperatures may require changes in materials, maintenance,
and operations. The combined effects of an increase in mean and extreme
high temperatures across the study region are likely to affect the
construction, maintenance, and operations of transportation
infrastructure and vehicles. Higher temperatures may also suggest areas
for materials and technology innovation to develop new, more heat-
tolerant materials. Some types of infrastructure deteriorate more
quickly at temperatures above 32.2C (90F). As the number of very hot
days increases, different materials may be required. Further,
restrictions on work crews may lengthen construction times. Rail lines
may be affected by more frequent rail buckling due to an increase in
daily high temperatures. Ports, maintenance facilities, and terminals
are expected to require increased refrigeration and cooling. Finally,
higher temperatures affect aircraft performance and the runway lengths
that are required. However, advances in aircraft technology are
expected to offset the potential effects of the temperature increases
analyzed in this report, so that current runway lengths are likely to
be sufficient. The effects of increases in average temperatures and in
the number of very hot days will have to be addressed in designing and
planning for vehicles, facilities, and operations.
Changes in precipitation patterns may increase short-term flooding.
The analysis of future annual precipitation change based on results of
climate model runs is inconclusive: some models indicate an increase in
average precipitation and some indicate a decrease. In either case, the
hotter climate may reduce soil moisture and average run-off, possibly
necessitating changes in right-of-way land management. The potential of
changes in heavy rainfall may have more significant consequences for
transportation; more frequent extreme precipitation events may result
in more frequent flooding, stressing the capacity of existing drainage
systems. The potential of extreme rainfall events and more frequent and
prolonged flooding may disrupt traffic management, increase highway
incidents, and impact airline schedules--putting additional strain on a
heavily used and increasingly congested system. Further, prolonged
flooding--inundation in excess of one week--can damage pavement
Relative sea level rise may inundate existing infrastructure. To
assess the impact of relative sea level rise (RSLR), the implications
of rises equal to 61 cm and 122 cm (2 and 4 ft) were examined. As
discussed above, actual RSLR may be higher or somewhat lower than these
levels. Under these scenarios, substantial portions of the
transportation infrastructure in the region are at risk: 27 percent of
the major roads, 9 percent of the rail lines, and 72 percent of the
ports are at or below 122 cm (4 ft) in elevation, although portions of
the infrastructure are guarded by protective structures such as levees
and dikes. While protective structures will continue to be an important
strategy in the area, rising sea levels significantly increase the
challenge to transportation managers in ensuring reliable
transportation services. Inundation of even small segments of the
intermodal system can render much larger portions impassable,
disrupting connectivity and access to the wider transportation network.
Increased storm intensity may lead to greater service disruption
and infrastructure damage. This study examined the potential for
flooding and damage associated with storm surge levels of 5.5 m and 7.0
m (18 ft and 23 ft). These modeled outputs are comparable to potential
surge levels during severe storms in the region: Simulated storm surge
from model runs across the central Gulf Coast demonstrated a 6.7-to
7.3-m (22-to 24-ft) potential surge for major hurricanes. These levels
may be conservative; surge levels during Hurricane Katrina (rated a
Category 3 at landfall) exceeded these heights in some locations. The
specific location and strength of storm surges are of course determined
by the scale and trajectory of individual tropical storms, which are
difficult to predict. However, substantial portions of the region's
infrastructure are located at elevations below the thresholds examined,
and recent storms have demonstrated that major hurricanes can produce
flooding miles inland from the location of initial landfall. With storm
surge at 7 m (23 ft), more than half of the area's major highways (64
percent of Interstates; 57 percent of arterials), almost half of the
rail miles, 29 airports, and virtually all of the ports are subject to
Other damage due to severe storms is likely, as evidenced by the
damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Damage from the
force of storm surge, high winds, debris, and other effects of
hurricanes can be catastrophic, depending on where a specific hurricane
strikes. This studyI did not examine in detail these effects; the
cumulative direct and indirect impacts of major storms need to be
further analyzed. However, given the expectation of increasing
intensity of hurricanes in the region, consideration should be given to
designing new or replacement infrastructure to withstand more energy-
intensive, high-category storms.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the findings
of Phase I of the Gulf Coast study. I will be happy to answer any
questions that you and other Members of the Committee may have.
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
Dr. Wallace, please.
STATEMENT OF TERRY WALLACE, PRINCIPAL ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERING, LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL
LABORATORY, LOS ALAMOS, NM
Mr. Wallace. Good morning, Chairman Bingaman and
distinguished members of the committee. It is an honor to be
able to appear before you today to discuss the national energy
infrastructure and its vulnerability to extreme weather events
and climate change.
The United States energy infrastructure is extraordinary,
both in the scale and complexity, and this vital network is
susceptible to climate change through two phenomena which have
already been outlined by other panelists; that is, the
vulnerability to storms and the long-term climatic conditions.
I'd like to focus on a couple of specific examples to
illustrate this. Carrying on the theme of Senator Craig, we do
have an infrastructure which is quite aged. If we look at some
of that infrastructure and the challenges that it will face,
particularly with climate change, we have some decisions which
need to be made.
The National Laboratories developed infrastructure models
to assess the vulnerabilities to domestic infrastructures, and
these models are already in wide use within the Federal
Government to improve our ability to prepare for and respond to
natural disasters. But, let's look at the specific examples,
maybe away from the coast, where some of the other panelist
members will concentrate their testimony.
I'd like to take an example of California. Using climate
science to predict the temperature rise in coastal California,
we can evaluate the cascading effects on the electric grid and
water availability. The midpoint prediction for a rising
temperature in California by the year 2030 is on the order of 2
degrees Fahrenheit. Although this seems like a small number, it
will have a dramatic impact. For example, the length of the
season for what we call ``heat-wave days'' grows by about 30
percent, and, further, the demand for electricity will create
rolling blackouts. If we put those together, we see that this
will increase, by approximately 11 gigawatts, new power
capacity that's required just to deal with the climatic
changes. This is above and beyond the nearly 60 gigawatts that
will be needed for projected growth to California's State
Beyond these power needs, there is a connection to water.
Meeting the increased power needs, if it's--for example, use
coal--will require an additional 280 billion gallons of water
per year. So, in this California scenario, even a slight
temperature change will require maybe a 20-percent increase in
new electrical energy capacity, have a dramatic impact on water
resources, and together this will have a consequence on the
California GDP on the order of $20 billion--or $200 billion by
the year 2030.
A second example I'd like to show, which are illustrated
over here, is, if we--the consequences of shifting to
renewables; in particular, wind. There's a new wind study
that's out today from EERE. Wind provides a clean, but
intermittent, source of energy. If we consider an energy
scenario where we want to see wind to grow to be 25 percent of
the portfolio in the Western United States region, we can look
at the consequence. Wind-generation capacity must be installed
in geographic areas that are--where we have sustained wind
resources. On this chart, you can see, those are concentrated
in the Western United States, on the eastern slope of the
Rockies. Getting to a goal of 25-percent wind generation
requires an--adding something like 20,000 square miles of wind
generation. However, this wind generation is far from the
existing grid, and it will dramatically overload the existing
grid as it carries power to our population centers. This is
illustrated here. The dark blue lines show you where we will
have transmission overloads. So, simply increasing the wind
power is not sufficient to talk about what the climatic changes
These scenarios illustrate that there are significant
tradeoffs in the different choices we need to make when we look
at a growing energy portfolio. Climate change provides a set of
future constraints with measurable economic impacts. They
nearly have as much impact on our energy choices as will our
growing population over the next 30 years.
So, in conclusion, I just wanted to give a few of these
examples where the National Laboratories are applying science
to understanding important vulnerabilities and trying to
provide choices or scenarios that public policymakers make when
they choices for energy.
So, I thank you for this opportune for testifying, and I'm
pleased to answer any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wallace follows:]
Prepared Statement of Terry Wallace, Principal Associate Director for
Science, Technology and Engineering, Los Alamos National Laboratory,
Los Alamos, NM
Good morning Chairman Bingaman, Ranking Member Domenici, and
distinguished members of the Committee. It is an honor to appear before
you today to discuss the national energy infrastructure and its
vulnerability to extreme weather events and climate change. I will also
discuss some of the tools in development at the Department of Energy's
national laboratories to guide policymakers on these issues.
I am Terry Wallace, the Principal Associate Director for Science,
Technology and Engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Los
Alamos' mission is to develop and apply science and technology to
ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear
deterrent; reduce global threats; and solve other emerging national
security challenges. No emerging challenge is greater than that of
Energy is the cornerstone of our nation's prosperity and the global
demand is extraordinary. If the rest of the world's population enjoyed
the U.S. standard of living today, it would require an immediate six-
fold increase in energy production. Within a generation, energy demand
will more than double.\1\ The speed of this growth, and its global
scale, are unlike anything we have experienced. While energy use in the
US will grow more modestly over this period, we are interconnected to
global demand through our infrastructure. Our national security
vulnerabilities are intimately tied to this infrastructure. In this
testimony, I will focus on how we are using today's best science to
create tools to understand and mitigate vulnerabilities to our energy
infrastructure from increased energy demand and climate change.
\1\ Projections from the Energy Information Agency indicate a
growth of 57% worldwide by 2030, or doubling in approximately 40 years.
Scenario planning from LBL takes this as a lower limit, with an upper
limit of 2.8% per year, or tripling in 40 years.
the nation's energy infrastructure
The United States' energy infrastructure starts with the generation
and delivery systems for our primary energy sources: electricity
(dominated by coal and nuclear), liquid fuels (dominated by petroleum),
and natural gas. There are 160,000 miles of electrical transmission
lines connecting over 600 coal-fired plants and 65 nuclear plants, over
600 major sources of hydropower, and many smaller plants using
renewable resources. The electrical backbone delivers power to
consumers through 35,000 substations that ultimately reach 140,000,000
individual, commercial and industrial users. For petroleum, there are
180,000 miles of pipelines for oil and 300,000 miles for natural gas,
supplying end users through a network of 150 refineries of liquid fuel,
and through 1,900,000 miles of natural gas lines to consumers.\2\
However, the infrastructure is much more complex than just this
backbone, and I will explore some of the ways that different elements
are linked together and interdependent. Beyond the backbone, the energy
infrastructure links directly to telecommunications, the banking
system, public health, transportation, food, and manufacturing.
Understanding the links helps us make better policy choices.
For example, electric power and water are linked. A 500 MWe coal-
fired generating plant typically consumes 1.8 billion gallons of water
per year. The use of this water impacts regional choices for farming,
industrial, and residential use. The CO2 emissions from such
a plant will accelerate climate change, with both regional and global
impacts on temperature. The availability of water will increasingly
constrain economic growth. Changes in climate will affect where human
populations grow or migrate. The changes in population create shifting
demands, in turn, for energy and water, and these demands should guide
the investments we are making today in our infrastructure. It is
particularly urgent that we develop science-based tools now to inform
these investments. While the timescale for climate change is long,
today's energy choices will also be felt long into the future, because
the lifetime of our capital investments in the energy backbone is more
than 50 years.
Global climate change models have been developed with support by
the DOE Office of Science, and several national laboratories play a
strong role in this science, including Los Alamos. Climate change can
lead to specific threats to our energy infrastructure, for example
through flooding in coastal areas, and water shortages triggered by
temperature rise and regional drought. These effects will be felt most
acutely on our coasts, both because most of our population lives near
the coast, and because many climate change impacts are concentrated at
the coasts. This is illustrated in Fig. 1,* which shows the proximity
of electrical lines and substations to flood-prone areas in Baltimore,
and the network of electrical generation and transmission facilities
near California, which rely directly on water (hydropower and coal).
* Figures 1-4 have been retained in committee files.
fragility and storm vulnerability
The national laboratories have developed infrastructure models to
assess vulnerabilities in domestic infrastructures (to sudden events
such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters). These models include
best-in-class infrastructure data on US critical infrastructure
sectors. They are already in wide-use by the federal government (such
as the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure
Simulation and Analysis Center [NISAC],\3\) to improve our ability to
prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The models allow
predictions of where resources should be targeted to make the backbone
more robust. They allow us to run scenarios that help train our
emergency responders, and they help the government position disaster
response resources at the locations where they can make the biggest
For example, less than a month after Hurricane Katrina,
infrastructure modeling was used to position emergency responders,
telecommunications and power repair crews, and supplies in Florida
prior to Hurricane Rita. This intensive modeling effort by NISAC from
several national labs (including Los Alamos and Sandia), incorporated
lessons learned from Katrina, and helped the nation bring back the
critical energy and communications infrastructure in Florida within two
weeks, with a dramatic benefit to the regional population and economy.
Similarly, these scientific models today inform a wide range of
national security simulations to help us prepare both homeland security
professionals and our soldiers. This powerful set of tools for decision
makers has been validated using detailed data for our infrastructure
today, in all its complexity, and shown to have strong predictive value
for natural disasters. The nation can benefit by extending these tools
to more broadly inform our national energy policymakers.
energy demand and climate change
Los Alamos researchers recently applied similar models in
California and the 14-state western region to highlight the connections
between power, water, and infrastructure planning. Using the best
global climate science to bracket predictions of temperature rise in
coastal California, we evaluated the cascading effects on the electric
grid and water availability. The results were dramatic, and illustrated
the need for state politicians to begin making changes in their near-
term capital investment planning as a response.
The midpoint prediction for rising temperature in California in the
year 2030 is between 2 degrees F (winter) and 4 degrees F using today's
best climate models.\4\ Although this may seem like a small number,
looking at its impact on electricity demand, several key predictors of
system failure for the electrical grid change dramatically in these
scenarios. First, the length of the season for heat-wave days grows
from roughly 110 days to 140 days. Heat-wave days generate the largest
short-term demand for air conditioning. Second, the need for rolling
blackouts is triggered when average demand across a region crosses a
threshold near the peak delivering capacity of the existing grid. The
infrastructure models predict that by the year 2020, there will be 100
hours of rolling blackouts across more than 20 days, triggered
primarily by overtaxed capacity in the Bay area, but with effects
across the state (Fig. 2). The effects of climate change will trigger a
need for approximately 11 GW of new power capacity, in addition to the
57 GW that will be needed from projected growth to the state economy
based on current trends. Beyond the increased power needs, the
connection to water will be acutely felt in the southwest through both
reservoirs in the Sierras and through the Colorado river system. The
climate impacts will result in decreases in Sierra snowpack of about
35%, and decreases of total reservoir inflow of about 10%. On the
demand side, meeting the increased power need from coal sources would
require an additional 280 billion gallons of water per year.
\4\ Hayhoe et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci 101, 12422-27 (2004).
In other words, even modest climate change (2-4 degrees F) is
expected to trigger a 20% change in the projected need for new
electrical energy capacity, and a dramatic effect on water resources.
Together, these effects point to a potential cost to the cumulative
California gross state product (the value of all goods and services) of
more than $200 billion by 2030. Because these effects will be felt
within two decades, the planning for this increased capacity has
already started. Luckily, the modeling identifies key failure points
(such as those transmission lines in the San Jose-East Bay corridor),
and also allows us to test different mitigation strategies, compared to
the cost of taking no action. Most importantly, these tools allow
policymakers to compare the inter-related impacts of simultaneous
adoption of policies across the spectrum of conservation, new
infrastructure construction by region and by technology, and the
interplay of resources such as water and power. This provides a
science-based framework for informing tradeoffs that must happen
between different interests in policy discussions at state, regional,
and national levels.
impacts of a push for wind
One of the strongest policy responses being adopted to address this
need for new energy sources because of growth and climate change is to
require the rapid scale-up of renewable resources such as wind energy.
Actions are being taken at the state, regional, and national level to
provide both financial incentives and regulatory requirements for
utilities to increase wind energy. Wind provides a clean (but
intermittent) source of energy, and in the West the water savings for
implementing wind energy provide a substantial additional benefit. As
one mitigation strategy, this infrastructure modeling approach was used
to model the growth of wind energy to 25% of the western regional
total. Because the wind generation capacity must be installed in
geographic areas where there are sustained wind resources, this has
substantial implications for today's electrical grid. Figure 3 shows
the intensity of wind in the western region, which is concentrated
across four Rocky Mountain states, plus California. Getting to the goal
of 25% wind power requires wind generation across about 20,000 square
miles (unlike solar panels, the land around wind farms can continue to
be used for farming, ranching and resource exploration).
However, this generation capacity occurs far from the existing
grid, and the resulting load in getting this power to where it is
needed by the growing population centers across the West will result in
transmission line overloads across a major portion of the western
network (Fig. 4). Interestingly, if conventional power plants continue
to be built near existing load requirements, there is much less impact
on transmission lines.
Of course, where people live, especially in concentrated population
centers such as Phoenix, has a profound influence on regional energy
and water use. There is a large body of evidence documenting the
effects of urban heat islands (such as Phoenix) in raising the average
temperature, especially the nighttime low temperatures, over the entire
geographical area of the city. In the case of Phoenix, the average
daily low temperature is more than 10 degrees F higher, over an 800
square mile area, than the surrounding undeveloped areas. This has
accelerated the use of energy for air conditioning, as well as water.
According to a recent estimate, a rise of 5 degrees in the low
nighttime temperature led to a 9% increase in residential water usage.
This equates to more than 500 million gallons per month just from the
effects of the urban heat island in Phoenix.\5\ Similar effects are now
occurring for Las Vegas and many other cities across the southern U.S.
In this way, population growth not only concentrates the use of energy
and water, it accelerates the pace of regional climate change in a way
that provides positive feedback, or more rapid growth of consumption.
\5\ Guhathakurta & Gober, J. Am. Planning Assoc. 73, 317-29 (2007).
As these scenarios illustrate, there are tradeoffs involved in the
different choices we might make to meet a growing energy need. Climate
change provides a set of future constraints with quantitative economic
impacts that can be bracketed with high confidence, even though there
is substantial uncertainty in the range of outcomes. If we choose
primarily coal-based power, we can quantify the impacts on water
resources; if we choose renewable resources such as wind, we can
quantify requirements for improvements in the transmission network.
Growth of population centers couples strongly to both intensity of
water and energy use, and the need for future infrastructure. Using
today's predictive science modeling tools, we can give a balanced view
of these tradeoffs to policymakers at a state, national, and global
scale. Tomorrow's tools can be targeted to ask the right questions to
strengthen our future infrastructure.
In summary, I have given just a small number of examples of how our
national laboratories are working to apply science to understanding
important vulnerabilities in our national infrastructure, and the
interdependencies that impact public policy choices. These science-
based modeling tools could, and should be much more widely applied in
energy security, as we move rapidly into a future where our national
security, economy, and lifestyle depend on how we prioritize
investments to meet global climate and energy challenges.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. I would be pleased to
answer any questions you may have.
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
Senator Landrieu, when Mr. Falgout sat down, I went ahead
and introduced him. Would you like to make any additional
STATEMENT OF HON. MARY L. LANDRIEU, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Landrieu. I would just like to welcome Ted, who's
been, just, a tremendous advocate for not only the expansion of
Port Fourchon and energy infrastructure to bring to this Nation
the oil and gas resources that we need to keep this Congress
moving, but I think he's been a great advocate for the
restoration of the coast.
I thank you, Ted, and look forward to your testimony.
I also want to say to Dr. Burkett, it's wonderful to see
you, Virginia. She's served our State so well in the capacity
of secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries, and is now serving the
Nation in a broader capacity.
So, I want to welcome both witnesses with Louisiana roots.
The Chairman. Right.
Mr. Falgout, go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF TED FALGOUT, PORT DIRECTOR, PORT FOURCHON, LA
Mr. Falgout. Thank you, Senator Landrieu, Chairman
Bingaman, committee members, for the opportunity to testify.
I'm going to focus my testimony on a former distributary of
the Mississippi, the Bayou LaFourche Corridor, its uniqueness,
its vulnerability, and why this rapidly eroding piece of real
estate should be of great concern to all of us.
The Gulf's key energy support infrastructure is not widely
distributed throughout the Gulf. Eighty percent of the oil and
87 percent of the natural gas comes from offshore Louisiana.
Port Fourchon has evolved into the most significant energy
support facility on the Gulf of Mexico. It services over 90
percent of the deepwater activity in the Gulf, 45 percent of
the Shelf, and is the support base for LOOP, the Louisiana
Offshore Oil Port, which handles 13 percent of the Nation's
foreign oil. The pipeline infrastructure that connects the 50
percent of the United States refining capacity runs through our
port. At the end of the day, this remote piece of real estate
plays some key role in furnishing this country with 15 to 18
percent of its total oil supply, both foreign and domestic, as
well as a significant part of its seafood production.
The LaFourche Corridor, as a result of being one of the
most recent Mississippi River Delta lobes, less than 7,000
years old, is experiencing one of the highest rates of
subsidence in the world; therefore, our relative sea-level rise
is more than twice what other coastal areas are.
With much of the southern reach of this critical corridor
barely above sea level today, the need for action is immediate
if not addressed. The vulnerability of this Nation's energy
security will increase greatly.
Unreliability plays a big part in today's record gas
prices. A recent study determined that in 2006 over $63 billion
worth of oil and gas was tied to this port. That was at $66-a-
barrel oil. This year, it will exceed $100 billion. It's
conservatively estimated that a 3-week loss in services from
Port Fourchon would lead to a loss of almost $10 billion in
sales, $2.9 billion in household earnings, 77,440 jobs
nationwide, just a 3-week disruption. By the way, it would also
include an additional 21.6-cents-per-gallon increase in
gasoline prices nationwide. Without increased levee protection
and infrastructure upgrades, we will simply be unable to
sustain ourselves and what we provide to this Nation.
Our greatest vulnerability exists in the 17-mile stretch of
Louisiana Highway 1, which connects the port to the hurricane-
protection levee system inland. Only by elevating this highway
will there be a reduction in the vulnerability of this critical
piece of energy infrastructure. The good news is that we've not
stood idly by complaining, we have amassed over $300 million,
and are in construction. The bad news is, this is only enough
money for half of the distance. So, in essence, we have half a
bridge to energy security.
There are some very real, very critical components of our
energy infrastructure that are at huge risk today. Every day we
wait to address them, our vulnerabilities not only continue,
but increase, as our coasts and our communities wash away.
Thanks for this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Falgout follows:]
Prepared Statement of Ted Falgout, Port Director,
Port Fourchon, LA
I am Ted Falgout, Port Director of Port Fourchon, Louisiana's
southern-most Port sitting on the Gulf of Mexico.
I am going to focus my testimony on a former distributary of the
Mississippi River, the Bayou Lafourche Corridor, its uniqueness,
vulnerability and why this rapidly eroding piece of real estate should
be of great concern to all of us.
As significant as the GOM is to this country's energy supply, one
would think its energy support infrastructure would be distributed
rather widely across the Gulf Coast. This is simply not so. 80% of the
oil and 87% of the natural gas comes from offshore Louisiana. And due
to the expansive wetlands and uniqueness of the Mississippi River delta
building process, there are only 3 corridors in all of Louisiana that
allow you highway access to the Gulf.
Port Fourchon has evolved into the most significant energy support
facility on the GOM. It services over 90% of the deepwater activity in
the Gulf, 45% of the shelf activity and is the support base for LOOP,
the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port which handles 13% of the nation's
foreign oil. The pipeline infrastructure that connects to 50% of the US
refining capacity runs through our Port.
At the end of the day, this remote piece of real estate plays some
key role in furnishing this country with 15-18% of its total oil
supply, both foreign and domestic as well as a significant part of its
I hope I have impressed you with the significance of this corridor,
now let me get to the true purpose of this hearing, Impact of Climate
Change on this obvious piece of critical energy infrastructure.
The Lafourche Corridor, as a result of being one of the most recent
Miss. River delta lobes (less than 7,000 years old) is experiencing one
of the highest rates of subsidence in the world. Therefore our relative
sea level rise is more than twice that of most other coastal areas.
With much of the southern reach of this critical corridor barely above
sea level today, the need for action is immediate and if not addressed,
the vulnerability of this nation's energy security will increase
exponentially. A price already being factored in today's record gas
A recent study by renowned economist Dr. Loren Scott, determined
that in 2006, over $63 Billion worth of oil and gas was tied to this
port. That was at $66 barrel oil! This year it will exceed $100 barrel
of oil. He conservatively estimated a 3-week loss in services from Port
Fourchon would lead to:
A loss of almost $10 billion in sales at US firms
A loss of $2.9 billion in household earnings
A loss of 77,440 jobs in the nation
Just a 3 week disruption!!!
By the way, it would include an estimated 21.6 cents per gallon
increase in gasoline prices nationwide.
Again, the chance of disruption is increasing daily as coastal land
loss occurs. Without increased levee protection and infrastructure
upgrades, we will simply be unable to sustain ourselves. Our greatest
vulnerability exists in a 17 mile stretch of LA Highway 1 which
connects the Port to the hurricane protection levee system inland. Only
by elevating this highway, will there be a reduction in the
vulnerability of this critical piece of energy infrastructure. The good
news is that we have not stood idly by complaining. By agreeing to make
this a toll road, selling 137 million in bonds, borrowing $66 million
from the federal government, and with local, state and federal
contributions, we have amassed over $300 million and are in
construction. The bad news is, this is only enough money for half of
the distance, so in essence we have half a bridge to energy security.
I hope in this testimony that I have been able to point out that
there are some very real, very critical components of our energy
infrastructure that are at huge risk today and every day we wait to
address them, our vulnerabilities not only continue, but increase as
our coast and communities wash away.
The Chairman. Thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. Drevna, go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES T. DREVNA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL
PETROCHEMICAL & REFINERS ASSOCIATION
Mr. Drevna. Thank you, Chairman Bingaman and members of the
committee. It's a pleasure to be back in front of you again
The safety and security of our employees, and our
facilities, importantly--most importantly, our host
communities, is paramount in our operations. We recognize, even
more in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the
importance of this issue, and we appreciate the opportunity to
discuss what the oil and gas community has done to further
address the concerns over the past several years.
As Mr. Falgout has already said, if I may summarize what he
said, the Gulf Coast is America's energy heartland. The region
is vital to America's ability to receive energy imports and
refine oil domestically.
Meteorologists have questioned the relationship between the
storm intensity and climate change, but, in this context, it's
absolutely appropriate to discuss our efforts to protect
infrastructure from the elements.
Katrina and Rita severely damaged the region's
infrastructure and economy, to say nothing of the tragic loss
of life and displacement of residents. The refining industry
was not spared the effects, yet we responded quickly and
effectively to the dangers and challenges posed by these
Katrina damaged offshore energy production facilities that
were critically important to receiving imported oil supplies;
refineries and pipelines that served as the major providers of
refined and crude products to large parts of the country,
effectively removing, temporarily, 10-plus percent of our
Nation's gasoline supply. In spite of this serious damage, no
signature long-lived transportation fuel shortage occurred
during this period.
The rapid return to service of major portions of the fuels
industry may be attributed to two critical factors: quick
action by the Federal Government to temporarily wave regulatory
requirements, and release of crude oil from the SPR, as it is
intended to be used; and, in addition, the effects of the
dedicated employees of the oil and gas community, as well as
the employers, who managed to return significant assets to
service in a short timeframe. They deserve a lot of credit.
Many facilities sheltered employees during the recovery process
and provided supplemental housing allowances and loans to
employees and their families.
Refiners have significantly enhanced their storm
preparation procedures in the wake of Katrina and Rita. Gulf
Coast refineries have performed process analyses of the time it
takes to enact a full facility shutdown procedure, telling them
how long it takes to drain the tanks of inventory to prevent
leakage, or fill them with water to ensure buoyance, and thus,
minimize damage to the tanks and its surroundings.
During the hurricane season, facilities monitor the
projected path of the storms--the storm arc, so to speak--and
react accordingly. Besides projected storm paths--because
projected storm paths narrow as the storm moves closer to
shore, facilities have different levels of reaction, depending
upon how far the storm is out to sea. The process is based on
the idea of a trip wire.
In 2006, NPRA published a valuable crisis planning and
response guide, titled ``Hurricane Security Operations'' for
security at refineries and petrochemical facilities, to
synthesize and share experiences and insights of personnel in
order to inform and approve our preparations for hurricane
season. The paper addresses pre-hurricane planning and recovery
operations, and will be updated periodically as we draw from
the lessons of the past and improve upon our already impressive
ability to get facilities back online and operating safely.
The refining community continues to evolve, and we will
strive to face these complex challenges, but we need Congress's
help to do so. By implementing sensible strategic policies,
Congress can help guarantee America a secure, reliable,
predictable, and, just as importantly, geographically diverse
supply of energy.
Necessary and prudent actions include the following:
unlocking known reserves of domestic oil and gas resources,
resisting the political temptation to manipulate market forces
by imposing a harmful windfall profits tax or instituting price
controls to address unsubstantiated price-gouging allegations,
or repealing LIFO or eliminating foreign tax provisions. Please
repeal the renewable fuels mandate, suspend the tariff on
imported ethanol, and expedite permitting procedures for new
refinery construction and facility refinery capacity additions.
In light of the concerns we've heard today with regard to
the concentration of energy-producing complexes in the Gulf
Coast, and by following the example of Louisiana, we could
clearly diversity our energy resources. By doing so, we have
steady access to our own domestic natural resources and also
reduce our dependence on foreign imports.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify. I look
forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Drevna follows:]
Prepared Statement of Charles T. Drevna, President, National
Petrochemical & Refiners Association
Chairman Bingaman, Ranking Member Domenici, and members of the
Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding
critical energy infrastructure in coastal regions.
NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, is a
national trade association with nearly 500 members, including those who
own and operate virtually all U.S. refining capacity and most U.S.
petrochemical manufacturers. In addition to producing refined petroleum
products such as gasoline, jet fuel, and home heating oil, our member
companies provide consumers with a wide variety of products and
services used daily in their homes and businesses--products used in
making everything from plastics to clothing to medicine to computers.
Our member companies help keep our economy strong through the
critical products they provide to American consumers, but also by
providing tens of thousands of jobs across the country. The domestic
refining industry currently employs more than 65,000 people\1\ while
supplying our nation with over 350 million gallons of motor gasoline
per day, in addition to many other petroleum products.
\1\ U.S. Department of Energy--Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy. Industrial Technologies Program--Petroleum Refining Industry of
the Future http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/petroleum--refining/
There are currently 149 refineries operating in the United States.
The total number of refineries has decreased by 50 percent over the
past 25 years as smaller, less efficient refineries were closed for
economic reasons. During that same time period, total refinery output
has increased by more than 25 percent. In order to meet the growth in
demand for our products, we have added the aggregate equivalent of one
new world-class refinery per year for each of the last 15 years through
expansion of existing facilities. Petroleum refining is the America's
single largest source of energy products, supplying 39% of total U.S.
energy demand and 97% of transportation fuels.\2\
Refining industry investments and reinvestments are also
significant, and the domestic oil and natural gas sector's investments
have actually exceeded earnings in recent years. During the period of
1992--2006, the oil and gas community invested $1.25 trillion dollars,
compared with net income of $900 billion.\3\ Many of these investments
were made to expand refining capacity, and also to make our products
and processes even safer, more efficient, and more environmentally
friendly than they already are.
\3\ ``Investment and Other Uses of Cash Flow By The Oil Industry,
1992--2006,'' prepared by Ernst & Young LLP for the American Petroleum
the significance of the gulf coast
The Gulf Coast is America's energy heartland. According to the U.S.
Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Gulf of Mexico, in 2005,
produced 1.582 million barrels per day (mmb/d) of federal crude
production, about 28.5 percent of the U.S. total crude production, and
produced 10.4 billion cubic feet (bcf/d) of natural gas per day, 19.2
percent of the nation's total natural gas production. In addition to
production, the Gulf Coast is also vital to America's ability to
receive energy imports and refine oil domestically. In 2005, 60.4
percent of America's crude oil imports came through the Gulf Coast
(more than 10 percent alone came in through the Louisiana Offshore Oil
Port.) The region also contained 8.068 million barrels per day of
refining capacity, 47.4 percent of the nation's total refining
hurricanes katrina and rita in 2005
On August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast
with tremendous impact. More than 1,800 people lost their lives,
hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes, and
almost three million people lost access to electricity. Katrina was
followed by Hurricane Rita on September 24, which also resulted in mass
evacuations and significant damage. Both hurricanes severely damaged
the region's infrastructure and economy. The refining industry was not
spared the effects of these hurricanes, yet we responded quickly and
effectively to the dangers and challenges posed by these storms.
According to the U.S. Mineral Management Service (MMS) report of
September 2, 2005, 88.53 percent of Gulf crude oil production and 72.48
percent of its natural gas production was ``shut-in'' or temporarily
offline. Hurricane Katrina damaged offshore energy production,
facilities that were critically important to receiving imported oil
supplies, refineries in the affected states and beyond, and pipelines
that served as major providers of refined and crude products to large
parts of the country. This damage effectively temporarily removed 10
percent of the nation's gasoline supply by its impact on refining
Ten refineries constituting 12 percent of America's total refining
capacity (producing 2 mm/b/d) were directly affected by Hurricane
Katrina and forced to temporarily suspend operations. Many other
refineries, while not as badly damaged, were forced to reduce their
operations as well.
The effects of Katrina were not limited to the Gulf Coast. Indeed,
the widespread electricity outages caused by storm damage affected
industry operations through the country. The most serious of these
impacts was the temporary closure of three major pipelines:
1. The Colonial Pipeline, 5,500 miles of pipeline originating
in Houston and ending in New York Harbor, which carries a daily
average of 100 million gallons of gasoline, diesel and other
petroleum products from refineries in the Gulf to customers in
the Southeast and Eastern United States.
2. The Plantation Pipe Line, 3,100 miles of pipeline, which
performs a similar function along a slightly different route,
delivering a total of 620,000 barrels (26 million gallons) of
refined petroleum products per day to Birmingham, Alabama;
Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Washington,
D.C., among other cities.
3. The Capline Pipeline, which carries 1.1 million b/d of
crude oil to refineries in the Midwest where it is refined to
produce gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products for
distribution primarily in the Midwest. The effect of the
closure of this pipeline was particularly dramatic, as much of
the Midwest's refineries, responsible for 16 percent of
America's refining capacity, were unable to secure crude oil
supplies and thus unable to function at full capacity.
All three of these pipelines were completely or partially out of
service due to the disruption of electricity supplies by Hurricane
Katrina. As a result, the major supply lines of refined products to the
Southern and Eastern states were unavailable for shipment in whole or
in part during the initial period after the storm.
In spite of the serious damage these storms inflicted on the
domestic refining industry, no significant, long-lived transportation
fuel shortage occurred during this period. The rapid return to service
of significant portions of the transportation fuels industry may be
attributed to two critical factors: quick action by the federal
government to temporarily waive regulatory requirements and release
crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and the efforts of the
dedicated employees of the oil and gas community, as well as their
employers, who managed to return significant assets to service in a
Federal authorities took several decisive actions to help relieve
the many energy-related problems left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The Administration released 9 million barrels of crude oil
from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to assist refiners
who were short crude supplies as a result of hurricane damage.
The recipients used this crude to manufacture more gasoline,
diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil to supply consumers
across the nation. This is precisely the type of event meant to
trigger SPR release and demonstrated the importance of careful
Waivers to Increase Fuel Flexibility
EPA provided temporary fuel waivers that made it easier to
provide motor fuels to affected areas. This action pertained to
both gasoline summer volatility and diesel sulfur
specifications, and helped alleviate some of the supply
problems in these areas by increasing the available supply of
both domestic production and imports.
Jones Act Waiver
The Department of Transportation temporarily lifted Jones
Act requirements to allow non-U.S. flag vessels to transport
much needed refined products from one U.S port to another.
IEA (International Energy Agency) Exchange
IEA made available 60 million barrels of petroleum. This
provided relief in the form of refined products (gasoline,
diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil) which were much needed due
to disrupted supplies from several refineries.
The refining industry also took several steps to recover from the
shock of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The safety of employees and their employees' families was the first
priority. Many plants sheltered employees during the recovery process
and provided supplemental housing allowances and loans to employees and
their families. Indeed, many plants that were ``shut-in'' had employees
live on-site for several weeks. The Valero Port Arthur plant housed
over 1,000 of its workers while the plant was brought back online.\4\
\4\ Herrick, Thaddeus. ``Restarting A Refinery Requires It To House
Hundreds of Workers.'' Wall Street Journal. 11 October 2005.
The refining industry also temporarily expanded its workforce at
affected plants, bringing in employees from unaffected plants as well
as contractors. Restarting a plant is more complex and potentially
dangerous than normal operations because it involves increased heat and
pressure. Consequently, restarting a refinery requires additional
workers to monitor and perform necessary procedures.\5\ The restart
process was particularly challenging for several plants because
flooding ruined the electric pumps that sent crude oil throughout the
refinery complex, and therefore had to be rebuilt before the plant
could be restarted safely.\6\
\6\ Gold, Russell and Thaddeus Herrick. ``Damage to Oil and Gas
Facility Pushes US Closer To Energy Crisis.'' Wall Street Journal. 2
In addition to bringing damaged plants on-line as soon as possible,
the refining industry also worked to increase the output of its non-
damaged plants in order to meet demand. For many plants, this meant
delaying planned maintenance in order to continue production.
Refineries typically perform scheduled maintenance throughout the year
in order to maintain and repair their equipment, but in the wake of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita many refining plants delayed this planned
maintenance so they could supplement reduced refining capacity.\7\
\7\ Herrick, Thaddeus. ``Refiners' Tough Call: Do Fall Maintenance
Or Pump Flat-Out?'' Wall Street Journal. 28 September 2005.
hurricane security operations
There were numerous lessons learned by those in the industry
directly or indirectly affected by the hurricanes. As one security
manager said, ``We hoped we were as prepared as possible, but as with
any emergency, there are always going to be areas for improvement.''
Indeed, after Hurricane Katrina, many companies reported being better
prepared for Hurricane Rita.
Following the 2005 hurricane season, NPRA published a white paper
titled ``Hurricane Security Operations'' to synthesize and share the
experiences and insights of security personnel in order to inform us
and improve our preparations for the hurricane seasons to come. The
paper is divided into two sections: pre-hurricane planning (which
constitutes the major focus of the paper) and recovery operations.
The paper serves as a valuable crisis planning and response guide
for security at refineries and petrochemical facilities in the event of
a major hurricane or other natural or man-made disaster. It will be
updated periodically as industry continues to learn the lessons of past
crises and improve upon its already impressive ability to get
facilities back on-line and operating safely.
NPRA is pleased to have made this paper available on line and free
to the public on our website at http://www.npra.org/publications/
continued safety improvements at u.s. refineries
U.S. refineries have made several changes in their storm
preparation procedures in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Almost every refinery in the Gulf Coast has performed process analyses
of the time it takes the facility to enact a full shutdown procedure,
which tells them how long it takes to drain the tanks of inventory (to
prevent leakage) or fill them with water (to ensure buoyancy and
minimize damage to the tanks and surrounding equipment.) During
hurricane season, the facilities monitor the projected path of the
storm, the ``storm arc'' and react accordingly. Because projected storm
paths narrow as the storm moves closer to shore, facilities have
different levels of reaction depending on how far the storm is out to
sea. The process is based on the idea of a trip wire--if it takes a
plant 36 hours to empty its tanks of inventory and fill them with
water, and if the plant is in the storm arc 36.5 hours out, shutdown
procedures are enacted.
The safety record of American refineries continues to improve. The
overall trend is for reduced recordable incidents and greater employee
safety. NPRA's compilation of industry statistics shows that the rate
of total recordable incidents has declined dramatically in the last two
decades, and reached an all-time low last year.\8\
\8\ NPRA Report Of Occupational Injuries And Illnesses For The Year
2007. Total recordable incidence rate is determined by Total Recordable
Cases x 200,000 (base number of hours worked for 100 full time
The refining industry's safety record compares favorably to other
industries. According to the Department of Labor, private workplace
total recordable incidents in 2006 averaged a rate of 4.4 total
incidents, compared to the refining industry's 1.1 rate.\9\
\9\ Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace
Injuries and Illnesses in 2006. October 16, 2007. http://www.bls.gov/
Two important factors must be kept in mind when examining the price
of refined products: the cost of crude oil and competition.
The cost of crude is the single greatest driver of the petroleum
product prices. In June of 2005, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
released a landmark study entitled: ``Gasoline Price Changes: The
Dynamic of Supply, Demand and Competition.'' This study determined that
``worldwide supply, demand, and competition for crude oil are the most
important factors in the national average price of gasoline in the U.S.
and the ``the world price of crude oil is the most important factor in
the price of gasoline. Over the last 20 years, changes in crude oil
prices have explained 85 percent of the changes in the price of
gasoline in the U.S.'' Further, according to March 2008 EIA data, crude
oil constitutes 72% of the price of a gallon of gasoline, taxes 13%,
followed by refining and distribution and marketing, which both account
for 8% respectively.\10\
\10\ EIA's ``Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update,'' March 2008, http://
Despite assertions that mergers have reduced competitiveness and
led to an increase in fuel prices, the reality is that is that the U.S.
refining industry is highly competitive. Fifty-four refining companies,
hundreds of wholesale and marketing companies, and more than 165,000
retail outlets compete in the U.S. market. The largest U.S. refiner
accounts for just 12% of America's refining capacity. No one company,
or group of companies, sets gasoline prices. Rather, in the U.S.
refining industry, the laws of supply and demand drive competitive
behavior and determine pricing.
NPRA and its members understand public and congressional concern
regarding high gasoline prices. This is especially the case because
refiners must purchase crude and therefore are the first to feel the
pinch of high oil prices. Simply put, high crude prices translate into
higher costs for refiners and the American consumer.
Policymakers, however, should be cautious about taking any action
that suggests that price controls are the answer to today's gasoline
market conditions. The nation's ten-year experiment with government
intervention into the fuel market during the seventies led to gasoline
shortages and long lines at gas stations. Consumers were prohibited
from purchasing gasoline on certain days of the week. That history does
not suggest that price controls would be an acceptable template for
The most effective way to maintain adequate gasoline supplies at
reasonable prices is continued reliance on market mechanisms, not price
regulation or other actions that interfere with and distort market
realities that both refiners and consumers must face.
A recent, but very compelling example of the need to rely on
continued market mechanisms was the temporary price increase during the
immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These nationwide
price increases moderated consumer demand, attracted increased refined
product imports, and motivated unaffected U.S. refiners to augment
their production. Without the price increase, there would have been
little incentive to attract increased supply, and long-lived and
widespread fuel shortages may have occurred. Instead, the market acted
and moderated the price of gasoline and returned retail prices to pre-
storm levels by the end of November 2005.
The Federal Trade Commission investigated charges of post-Katrina
``price-gouging'' and found ``no evidence to suggest that refiners
manipulated prices through any of these [illegal] means.'' Instead, it
found that ``refiners responded to market prices by trying to produce
as much higher-valued products as possible, taking into account crude
oil costs and physical characteristics.'' Although the prices increases
might have been surprising and painful to many, they were a natural
consequence of the widespread effects of Hurricane Katrina and helped
mitigate demand in a supply-short environment.
The charge of ``price-gouging'' is not new to the refining
industry. Dozens of investigations have been launched at the state and
Federal levels and in each instance the industry has been cleared of
charges of ``price-gouging.'' Then, as now, allegations of price-
fixing, price-gouging or other illegal practices are false.
current state of the domestic refining industry
149 refineries are currently operating in the United States. These
refineries, located in 33 states, have a combined capacity of over 17.4
million barrels per day (b/d).\11\ Although a new, ``green-field''
refinery has not been built in the United States since 1976, America's
operable refining capacity continues to expand. While there are several
factors that contribute to the lack of new refineries--enormous capital
costs, rising commodity costs, environmental regulations, and sustained
community resistance--America's refining capability continues to grow.
The domestic refining industry has increased capacity over the past
thirteen years. U.S. refining capacity on January 1, 1994 stood at 15.0
million b/d and at 17.4 million b/d on January 1, 2007. This increase
of 2.4 million b/d represents an aggregate growth of 16 percent or, in
simpler terms, the addition of a large-scale (185,000 b/d) refinery
\11\ EIA, July 2007.
\12\ EIA: the size of an average U.S. refinery on 1/1/07 was
The Congressional Research Service reports that domestic refining
margins in 2007 declined versus 2006 with several independent refiners
experiencing significant losses in the fourth quarter of 2007. ``New
capacity investments in refineries, one possible source of gasoline
price relief for consumers, are likely to be slowed by the poor profit
performance of the refining sector. If new capacity does not come on
line the need for imported gasoline will remain a key factor in
avoiding shortages in the U.S. market.''\13\
\13\ Congressional Research Service. ``Oil Industry Profit Review
2007,'' RL34437, April 4, 2008, p. CRS-8.
recommended policy actions
The refining industry continues to evolve, and we will strive to
face these complex challenges. Yet we need the help of Congress to do
so. By implementing sensible, strategic policies, Congress can help
guarantee America a secure, reliable and predictable supply of energy.
Necessary and prudent actions include the following:
Increase supplies of domestic oil and gas resources
Refineries and other important onshore facilities have been
welcome in limited areas throughout the country, including the
Gulf Coast. However, policymakers have restricted access to
much-needed offshore oil and natural gas supplies in the
eastern Gulf and off the shores of California and the East
Coast. Congress should permit oil production in ANWR.
These areas must follow the example of Louisiana and many
other states in sharing their energy resources with the rest of
the nation. In light of the concerns regarding the
concentration of energy producing complexes along the Gulf
Coast, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to
diversify our energy sources. By doing so we ensure steady
access to our own natural resources, and also reduce our
dependence on foreign imports.
Simply put, this additional supply is sorely needed.
Repeal of the renewable fuels mandate
here are serious questions whether to continue a mandate for
increasing amounts of corn ethanol and biodiesel in the midst
of a global food crisis.
Recent studies have explained the negative impacts biofuels
mandates are having on the environment
USDA projects that corn production in 2008 will be 7.3%
below the record level in 2007, while domestic ethanol plants
will use 33% of this year's corn harvest. This ``will keep the
price of corn in record territory into 2009.''\14\ This will
also contribute to higher costs for ethanol-blended gasoline.
\14\ Kilman, Scott. ``U.S. Corn Production Seen Dropping, Though
More to be Used for Ethanol'' Wall Street Journal 10 May 2008.
Congress should suspend the tariff on imported ethanol
Given the significant strain on our nation's fuel supply
system associated with the dramatically increased ethanol
mandate, Congress should suspend the tariff on imported ethanol
in order to maximize the supply of renewable fuels. This is not
a new position for NPRA; NPRA advocated this position in
testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee in May 2006, before the Senate Energy
and Natural Resources Committee in February, and before the
House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. Removing the
tariff is critical to providing refiners more flexibility that
will be desperately needed to comply with the newly expanded
Congress should preempt state biofuels mandates
The present enthusiasm for renewable fuels has resulted in
several states and even municipalities adopting local mandates.
Local mandates will impose additional strain on the ethanol
distribution system and increase costs for shipping and
The existing federal renewable fuels standard mandate with
its credit-trading provisions contains a degree of freedom that
allows the distribution system to operate at a low-cost optimum
by avoiding infrastructure bottlenecks (such as lack of storage
or rail capacity). Mandating biodiesel usage in specific areas
forces a distribution pattern that is less flexible, and
therefore has less capability to minimize costs.
Further, these mandates create boutique markets requiring
special fuel formulations and transportation logistics, thereby
balkanizing the national fuel market. If Congress wishes to
allow for as diverse a supply of alternative fuels as possible,
and to promote as much flexibility in the system as possible,
state and local biofuels mandates should be preempted.
Resist tinkering with market forces, including imposition of ``windfall
profits'' taxes, LIFO repeal or elimination of foreign tax
Market interference that may initially be politically
popular leads to market inefficiencies and unnecessary costs.
Policymakers must resist turning the clock backwards to the
failed policies of the past.
Experience with price constraints and allocation controls in the
1970s demonstrates the failure of price regulation, which adversely
impacted both fuel supply and consumer cost. The state of Hawaii
cancelled its less than one-year old gasoline price regulation because
it led to higher prices and supply uncertainty. A windfall profits tax
would discourage investment in refineries, which is needed to expand
domestic production capacity and produce cleaner fuels. Such a tax
would also place domestic upstream producers at a further disadvantage
to state-owned oil companies, resulting in more, not less imports of
foreign supplies. A recent Congressional Research Service report states
that ``[t]he combination of high crude oil prices that raised
[independent refiners' and marketers'] costs and the inability to
quickly pass cost increases on to consumers lowered refining margins,
resulting in generally declining profits'' in 2007.\15\
\15\ Congressional Research Service. RL34437, ``Oil Profit Industry
Review 2007,'' April 4, 2008, summary.
Review permitting procedures for new refinery construction and refinery
Seek ways to encourage state authorities to recognize the
national interest in increased domestic refining capacity by
reducing the time needed to permit expansions and other
NPRA, its members, and the entire oil and gas community are
dedicated to working cooperatively at all levels to ensure an adequate
supply of clean, reliable and affordable petroleum products for
America. We stand ready and willing to work with Congress, and are
committed to serving American consumers. I appreciate this opportunity
to testify today and welcome your questions.
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
Ms. Edgar, why don't you go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF LISA POLAK EDGAR, COMMISSIONER, FLORIDA PUBLIC
SERVICE COMMISSION, TALLAHASSEE, FL
Ms. Edgar. Thank you. Good morning, Chairman Bingaman,
committee members. Thank you, to Senator Martinez, for his
introduction and for his support.
On behalf of Governor Charley Crist, I am so pleased to be
here today and to share with you the impacts that severe storms
have had on Florida's energy infrastructure, and the steps that
we have taken to be better prepared.
The 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons were the most
destructive in Florida's history. In a 6-week period in 2004,
Florida was hit by four major hurricanes. Charlie, Frances, and
Jeanne overlapped in the central part of Florida. Hurricane
Ivan crossed the northwest panhandle. The very next year, we
had hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Ranging in
strength from category 2 to category 4, together these eight
storms caused more than $25 billion in private property damage
and over $2 billion in restoration costs for Florida's
investor-owned electric utilities.
The widespread damage to Florida's electrical system
provided strong evidence of its vulnerability to hurricanes and
also dramatically illustrated how important it is to get the
power back on. The sooner that businesses and schools can
function, the sooner families and communities can have some
normalcy and local economies can recover.
In response, the Florida Public Service Commission
initiated a multifaceted approach to address future storm
readiness and storm hardening, addressing both lessons learned
by individual utilities and a more comprehensive statewide
perspective to the grid. For each action, the Commission
carefully balanced the need for a robust infrastructure with
the need to minimize the rate impact for utility customers.
Our approach includes an annual pre-hurricane-season
preparedness briefing, inspection and replacement regime for
wooden poles and other facilities, reliability reports, and a
10-point storm preparedness initiative.
Each Florida electric utility--investor-owned, municipal,
and rural cooperatives--are required to present an annual
hurricane preparedness briefing to the Commission. We just had
our briefing for this year, and I am so pleased to be able to
tell you that Florida's utilities are well prepared for the
upcoming hurricane season.
In response to concerns in past storms that wooden utility
poles had not adequately withstood hurricane winds, resulting
in more downed lines, the Commission imposed a systematic pole
inspection program. In addition, our 10-point plans address
vegetation management, joint-use attachments, transmission
inspection and hardening, GIS, data collection, and
coordination with local governments. A detailed discussion of
all of these initiatives is in my written testimony.
The Commission also adopted new rules in three areas:
encouraging utilities to exceed minimum engineering standards
in vulnerable coastal areas; storm hardening plans to enhance
reliability, to reduce restoration costs and outage times, and
to make adjustments as data and experience indicated; and also,
more cost-effective undergrounding, where appropriate.
As a high-growth State, Florida is assessing generation
options to meet future growth in demand. We're looking for
reliable, cost-effective, and diverse sources. The PSC recently
approved a need petition for two new nuclear units, and we have
a request pending before us for two more additional units. Our
experience showed little damage to nuclear and other generation
facilities. Measures to harden transmission and distribution
will benefit all communities.
Three points to end with. The first, and perhaps the most
critical, is that we must maintain a high level of storm
preparedness. All of us--government, utilities, citizens--must
not become complacent after a quiet storm season. We know that
intense storms will occur again, and we've learned firsthand
that the rapid response of our utilities is critical to the
safety of our people and to the recovery of our communities and
our businesses. Second, strengthening our electric
infrastructure will be an ongoing process. Third, the goal of
hardening our electric infrastructure to improve reliability,
to reduce storm damage, outages, and restoration time, must
include cost-benefit data and analysis. Our customers deserve
good financial value as we move forward.
Thank you for this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Edgar follows:]
Prepared Statement of Lisa Polak Edgar, Commissioner, Florida Public
Service Commission, Tallahassee, FL
Good morning Chairman Bingaman and members. Thank you for the
opportunity to speak before you today and thank you to Senator Martinez
from Florida for his support.
On behalf of Governor Charlie Crist, it is my privilege to share
with you our experience with the impacts severe storms can have on
critical energy infrastructure and what Florida has done to be better
My name is Lisa Edgar. I am a commissioner on the Florida Public
Service Commission, which regulates electric utilities. I was appointed
to the Commission in January, 2005, just after the unprecedented 2004
hurricane season and just in time for the numerous storms of 2005, and
I served as Chairman in 2006 and 2007.
the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons
The 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons were the most destructive in
Florida's history. During a six-week period, from August 13 through
September 25, 2004, Florida suffered from the affects of an
unprecedented four major hurricanes. The paths of Hurricanes Charley,
Frances, and Jeanne overlapped in the central part of Florida.
Hurricane Ivan crossed the northwestern panhandle. Ranging in strength
from category 2 to category 4, together these four storms caused more
than $17.5 billion in damages to private property (homes and
businesses) and $1.3 billion in restoration costs for Florida's
investor-owned electric utilities (distribution and transmission).
Similarly, in 2005, Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma
caused over $7.2 billion in private property damage and approximately
$1 billion in investor-owned electric utility restoration costs. The
widespread damage to Florida's electrical system in 2004 and 2005
provided strong evidence of its vulnerability to a hurricane's fury. In
the storms' aftermaths, clean-up and restoration of service was
accomplished in record time and involved a peak work force of over
27,000 utility volunteers from as far away as California and Canada.
This effort also dramatically illustrated how important it is to get
the power back on--the sooner businesses and schools can function, the
sooner families and communities can have some normalcy and local
economies can recover.
commission's multi-faceted approach to storm readiness and hardening
In January 2006, the Florida Public Service Commission initiated a
multi-faceted approach to address future storm readiness and storm
hardening beginning with a workshop to explore the lessons learned by
all electric utilities during the past two hurricane seasons.
Storm readiness includes the operational plans and
procedures to make sure that utilities are prepared--in advance
of each hurricane season--with adequate equipment and labor
resources to quickly and efficiently restore service to their
Storm hardening means upgraded design and construction
practices, as well as maintenance practices, so that electric
facilities are better able to withstand high winds, storm
surges, and flooding.
The Commission's multi-faceted approach to storm preparation
includes several actions designed to provide a higher level of
preparedness and hardening of the state's electric infrastructure. This
approach addressed both lessons learned by individual utilities, and a
more comprehensive, statewide perspective. For each action, the
Commission carefully balanced the need for developing a robust
transmission and distribution system with the need to moderate rate
impacts to utility customers. The Commission's multi-faceted initiative
Annual Pre-Hurricane Season Hurricane Preparedness Briefing
Each Florida electric utility--including investor-owned utilities,
municipal electric utilities, and rural electric cooperatives--is
required to present an annual Hurricane Preparedness Briefing at a
Commission workshop prior to each hurricane season to gauge their storm
readiness. Our briefing this year was held on May 1, and I am pleased
to report Florida's utilities are well prepared for the upcoming
Inspections and Replacement of Wooden Poles
In response to concerns that wooden utility poles had not
adequately withstood hurricane winds resulting in more downed lines,
the Commission imposed a more thorough and systematic pole inspection
program. The Commission required an eight-year wooden pole inspection
process for all investor-owned electric utilities and local exchange
telephone companies. Each company is required to file, by March 1, an
annual inspection report.
Annual Distribution Service Reliability Reports
Each investor-owned utility is required to file, by March 1 of each
year, a report summarizing its reliability performance data for the
distribution services provided to customers. Report requirements
include overall system reliability data, as well as storm-related
impacts. The results of each utility's storm hardening activities are
also to be included in their Annual Distribution Service Reliability
Ten Point Storm Preparedness Initiatives
On April 4, 2006, the Commission voted to require the investor-
owned utilities to file plans and implementation costs for ten ongoing
storm preparedness initiatives. After reviewing the plans, the
Commission required each IOU to implement programs for each of the ten
initiatives, which include:
A three-year vegetation management cycle for all major
An audit of joint-use attachment agreements.
A six-year transmission structure inspection program.
Hardening of existing transmission structures.
A transmission and distribution geographic information
Post-storm data collection and forensic analysis.
Collection of detailed outage data, differentiating between
the reliability performance of overhead and underground
Increased utility coordination with local governments.
Collaborative research--between the IOUs, municipals, and
co-ops--on the effects of hurricane winds and storm surge.
A natural disaster preparedness and recovery program.
A detailed discussion of each of the ten ongoing storm preparedness
initiatives is contained in the Commission's Report to the Legislature
on Enhancing the Reliability of Florida's Distribution and Transmission
Grids During Extreme Weather, submitted in July 2007. A copy of this
report* is attached as an exhibit to my testimony.
* Report has been retained in committee files.
New Construction Standards
As part of the comprehensive storm preparedness initiative, the
Commission adopted new rules encouraging investor-owned utilities to
exceed minimum accepted engineering practices of the National
Electrical Safety Code (NESC) for facilities in areas most vulnerable
to the effects of hurricanes. The rule also directs maximum use of
easements and road rights-of-way by requiring new and replacement
distribution facilities where there is safe and efficient access for
installation and maintenance.
Storm Hardening Plans
New rules were also adopted that require IOUs to file storm
hardening plans every three years for review by the Commission. The
objective is to enhance reliability while reducing restoration costs
and outage times, and to make adjustments as data and experience
Recognizing that, in some situations, it could be appropriate to
convert existing overhead electric distribution systems to underground,
the Commission adopted new rules for cost-effective installation of
It is generally recognized that construction of underground
electric distribution systems is more expensive than a comparable
overhead system. Customers who request underground service are
responsible for paying the difference between the cost of the
underground project and the cost of a comparable overhead project. This
cost difference, or contribution-in-aid-of-construction (CIAC), is
often a barrier because it's expensive, and because the customer is
required to pay the total amount upfront before construction begins.
The Commission amended its rules to:
Require utilities to compare hardened overhead to hardened
underground facilities to ensure comparable costs.
Require utilities to include the cost differentials in long-
term operating costs and benefits, including the costs and
benefits of storm restoration in the CIAC.
Share the costs of undergrounding of a specific location
with all ratepayers if it will provide quantifiable benefits to
customers outside the immediate area.
Allow customers to pay the CIAC charges over time, through
approved utility tariffs, to address the ``sticker shock''
often associated with the up-front costs of overhead to
underground conversion projects.
Later this year, a new cost model being developed by Florida
utilities and universities should be available to assist in the
economic evaluation of future underground conversions.
I will conclude with a couple of observations. The first, and
perhaps the most critical, is that Florida must maintain a high level
of storm preparedness, regardless of the level of activity of the most
recent hurricane season. The utilities, and citizens, must not become
complacent, after a quiet storm season. We know that intense storm
seasons will occur again and we've learned first hand that the rapid
response of our utilities is critical to the safety of our people and
to the recovery of communities and businesses.
Second, strengthening Florida's electric infrastructure to better
withstand storm impacts calls for a wide range of hardening activities
that, in some cases, may take years to complete. Utilities have taken
steps to harden critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and highway
crossings, and more projects are planned for the future.
Third, the goal of strengthening the state's electric
infrastructure to improve reliability, and reduce storm damage,
outages, and restoration time, must incorporate cost benefit data and
analysis. Customers deserve good financial value as we move forward.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share Florida's initiatives
with this committee.
The Chairman. Thank you all very much for the excellent
Let me start--and we'll just do 5-minute rounds here on
questions--let me start with you, Dr. Burkett. You talked about
the Geological Survey's estimates, as I understand it, with
regard to sea-level rise.
Ms. Burkett. Yes, sir.
The Chairman. What is the estimate? I mean, is there a
consensus as to what we need to expect in the Gulf, on the West
Coast, on the East Coast, with regard to sea-level rise at
particular periods in our future?
Ms. Burkett. Yes, sir. The IPCC has this global estimate,
but it, of course, depends, like Ted was saying, on the
elevation of the land surface. In this particular region, in
the Gulf Coast, the land surface is sinking and sea level is
rising. In Louisiana, the sea- level rise is a centimeter per
year. In the past 100 years, only about a fifth of that is due
to global sea-level rise; the rest is sinking. But, in the
future, as sea-level rise accelerates two-, three-, or
fourfold, depending largely on what happens in the ice sheets,
the sea--you know, the land will be submerged much more
So, in the study area, between Mobile and Galveston, we had
the low end of sea-level rise, which was more toward the
Florida Panhandle, which was about 3 millimeters per year, and
then you can double or triple that--basically, between 2 and 4
feet, we think, is plausible.
The Chairman. By what time?
Ms. Burkett. 2050.
The Chairman. By 2050. Two----
Ms. Burkett. Because that includes----
The Chairman. Two to four feet sea-level rise, and this
Ms. Burkett. Relative sea-level rise, which includes the
changes in the land surface.
The Chairman. Is this in Alabama--Senator Sessions' State--
you're talking about, or where is this?
Ms. Burkett. There are parts--well, it varies from one part
of the coast to the other because of the geology. It's a little
slower--the rate of sea-level rise is a little slower in the
Mobile area compared to south Louisiana, because of the
leveeing of the river and the other things that have happened
there. In Galveston, the rate is also higher than it is in
Mobile, because of groundwater withdrawals.
The Chairman. Okay. To what extent is the projected
increase in sea level being factored into decisions about
location of infrastructure, either public infrastructure or
Ms. Edgar, is this something that you folks factor in when
you give permits to put in new plants or put in new
transmission facilities? Do you factor in what's expected to
happen to the sea level?
Ms. Edgar. Certainly. Our Department of Environmental
Protection, that would do much of the analysis of the siting
issues, would look at future conditions and environmental
impacts, and impacts to those communities. Certainly, we have
found, with the siting of generation facilities in particular,
that the buffer areas that are required provide a good level of
The Chairman. Okay.
Let me ask Dr. Wilbanks and Dr. Wallace, both, Is it your
impression that the Federal Government--I mean, I know both of
you work for laboratories that are contracted with the
Department of Energy, but is this kind of a expected change
being integrated into our planning in the future for Federal
facilities and Federal infrastructure?
Mr. Wilbanks. There is growing interest in looking at risks
and vulnerabilities that can be addressed at fairly low cost.
For example, the Department of Defense has a program that is
now starting to look at climate-change implications for
military installations in vulnerable areas, where it may be
possible, for example, in an area that might be subject to sea-
level rise and storms in coastal areas, to assure that new
construction is built so that it can handle sea-level rise and
storm effects, so that the building stock that's in use 20 or
30 years from now will be much more resilient to that then the
building stock that's in place right now. So, there is that
kind of thinking ahead that is beginning, but impact and
adaptation actions are still at a fairly early stage in this
country, compared with attention to mitigation.
The Chairman. Dr. Wallace, did you have a point of view on
Mr. Wallace. I think that there originally was a program to
look at national infrastructure that was an EERE in DOE, and it
moved to the Department of Homeland Security. Los Alamos and
Sandia, in particular, have a joint program called NISAC to
look at infrastructure, and it allows a powerful set of
modeling tools in which you can do various scenarios. So, there
is a lot of scenario- planning around looking at things like
sea-level change. It's not necessarily climatic changes, but,
as referenced in Dr. Burkett'--it could be subsidence, it could
be what you would expect from a national disaster, should you
remove a levee. So, there actually is quite a bit of scenario-
planning to look at this. Again, in the end, you still have to
make decisions about how you want to invest or not invest, and
those aren't the decisions that the technical side actually
does, but do give the tradeoffs and also the economic impacts.
The Chairman. Okay. That's--my time's up.
Senator Craig. Mr. Chairman, where do we start? I've spent
a lot of time, as have you, looking at predictions,
projections, modeling as it relates to climate change and
impact, rate of sea rise, and all of that. While I express
concern about it, I'm as interested in making decisions that
are a part of large investment schemes that bring about
infrastructure in a way that obviously reflects that, and does
so to sustain itself in the future.
You know, living in Idaho, there was always a standard joke
about California, when it came, not to climate change, Mr.
Chairman, but to earthquakes, that owning property in Idaho was
really a pretty good prospect, because ultimately it would
become oceanfront property. We now might have to adjust that a
But, while that might be standard humor, certainly looking
for higher ground, if you will, in part, is a reality that we
ought to be concerned about. When it comes to the low-lying
lands of the Gulf Coast and Louisiana, we've got some real
problems, and I think you've spelled that out most clearly
today, as it relates to what's there now and its capacity and
its capability based on any given scenario.
Let me, though, go back to the Pacific Northwest. Possibly
you, Dr. Wilbanks, could respond to this. We believe, in the
Pacific Northwest this year, we had record snowfall. In many
areas of the Pacific Northwest, we recorded the highest
snowfall ever in the history of recorded snowfall; not just in
total fall, but in actual accumulation at a given point in
time. So, it was predicted that we would have substantial
runoff for the hydro systems of the Pacific Northwest this
year. The runoff isn't coming. It is interesting that the
combination of cooler temperatures and warmer days at times--
and we were predicting substantial flood scenarios in key areas
that had historically had flood scenarios; they are not
materializing, as we speak. In fact, some large reservoir
systems are now predicting that they will barely fill, when
they had expected to ``fill and spill.''
Are you working with the Department of Energy and the
Interior--as it relates to how we look at these water scenarios
and how we look at additional capacity in system, as it relates
to times of runoff and different kinds of combinations that
would impact the hydro system? Certainly, the Bonneville Power
Administration was looking at what appeared to be an ample
water season, which may now not materialize.
Mr. Wilbanks. I can offer a few comments on that, Senator.
It's a very interesting point.
First of all, one of the limitations of climate-change
projections is that they tend to focus on averages, not on
variability. One of the things we know about nature is that
there's a great deal of variability in nature, and it's often
the extremes that are the problems, not the averages. So,
there's a challenge there in answering questions like this with
the existing science.
A second thing is that nature still has the capacity to
surprise us, and that ought to make us all humble who think we
know the answers to most nature society questions. The climate-
change projections that are available to us right now all say
that, in the long run, snowfall in the western mountains will
decline, on the average. That doesn't mean in every season,
but, on the average, they will decline, which means that
meltwater into the dry river basins of the West will decline,
on the average. It suggests that, by, say, the last quarter of
the century in the Columbia River Basin, there will be less
water to go around to meet the needs for agriculture, for
energy, and for urban development.
A group at the University of Washington led by Ed Miles is
doing a lot of research on regional climate-change implications
for the Northwest. He suggests that by the year 2050 or shortly
thereafter, the Pacific Northwest will need affordable
desalination of seawater to meet needs for water for continued
urban development on the Pacific West--the Northwest Coast of
the United States So, there are challenges there. We're looking
at--we don't know all the answers yet, but the point you're
making about surprises is an important one for us to remember.
Senator Craig. My time is running out. Let me just offer
this as a concern. When we talked about the new study that's
out, proposing a--wind energy capacity going up 20 percent of
portfolio, it also suggested the need of a $20 billion worth of
infrastructure upgrades in transmission to handle that, because
wind oftentimes isn't where the current transmission is. You've
got to connect it, and oftentimes you have to transport it even
further than is current. I look at those combinations, that's a
bit of a hurdle.
Thank you all.
The Chairman. Senator Landrieu.
Senator Landrieu. Thank you.
I'd like to start with just showing some graphs, if I
could, some charts that I think might put some of this in
If you could hold up the--this is the toe of the boot, I
guess. If Louisiana is shaped like a boot, this is the toe of
the boot, and, just to orient the committee members, this is
Port Fourchon. Tom, if you could point to that. That's Port
Fourchon, right there.
Now, it's just a spit of land--I guess, 100 miles or so
down that bayou. The bayou's about 100 miles--Ted, right?--from
LaFourche. But you can see that--I mean, it's a--you can't see
the road there, but the--Highway 1 starts there and goes all
the way up. Actually, does the highway already run to Canada,
all the way up to--we don't know. We think it might go all the
way up through the country.
Mr. Falgout. It's called ``the longest street in the
Senator Landrieu. But, it starts there. It's two lanes, and
it basically sits at sea level now. We have been trying to get
the Federal Government and the State of Louisiana to recognize
the significance of this particular road to connect Port
Fourchon, which 20 percent or 25 percent of the energy of the
country comes through--if this small little port is shut down,
it has huge impacts, as has been outlined.
Mr. Chairman, for the life of me, I can't understand how
the country can invest in, you know, ``The Big Dig'' in Boston
and other--you know, in projects, and not realize that lifting
this particular road, either with general-fund dollars, which
is one option, but the other option that we've provided, which
makes a lot of sense, is using a portion of the taxes generated
by the industry that uses this port--not additional taxes, but
the revenues, which is what revenue-sharing was all about.
The other thing that this graph shows is--the red is the
potential--or real land loss that's occurring. We are--have a
project--Tom, if you'd point to Morganza, to the Gulf--to
protect some of this infrastructure. This is Homer, right here.
We're trying to get a levee built right here, and we have, now,
several lawsuits pending and some problems with--although the
Congress has taken action to build this levee, we've been
trying to get this done for 40 years, and it's just one thing
Now, I want to put up the next poster to show you where the
infrastructure is, because--the next one, not this one--well,
actually, no, this one is the right one. I wish I could do this
talking into the mic. But, the R's are where the refineries
are, and you'll notice the big refineries are not on the coast,
they're up, because they know to move away from the coast for
protection. So, they're not on the beach, is what I'm trying to
explain. We don't build refineries on the beach. But, we're
building them where they need to be. The Mississippi River is
that blue line, blue, swirly line. They have to be with a
source of water. You have to be by a source of water to build a
refinery. So, the industry is doing a pretty good job of siting
their refineries where they need to be.
The little F's are other infrastructure that is defined as,
sort of, other petrochemical infrastructure. But, as you can
see, this is the infrastructure necessary to move oil and gas.
These are pipelines. They only exist beneath Louisiana, Texas,
and Mississippi. This--there's nothing like this off the coast
of Florida or in the West or on the East Coast or on the West
Coast. This is the infrastructure that is laid down.
Now, we have two choices. We can protect this, or we can
move it. Both are expensive, but I'd suggest protecting it is
less expensive than moving it, because, first, there's no other
place in the country you can move it to, and the resources are
here. If you put wind out in the--if you put wind out in the
West, you're going to have to have an infrastructure grid that
sort of looks like this. These are pipelines and facilities
that can transport--generate and transport the energy.
I want to show you what this supports. This infrastructure
supports this distribution system in the country. This is the
gas distribution system for the Nation, and it basically comes
out of Louisiana. So, that infrastructure that I just showed
you supports the distribution of gas that comes all around. The
only other trunk even close to the trunk that we have is, you
can see, from Canada, is a large amount of gas coming from
Canada. The other part of it comes from here.
So, I just want to conclude, not by a question, but just
saying, Mr. Chairman, when Dr. Burkett, who's studied this her
whole life, says that between Mobile and Galveston we're
predicting a 2- to 4-foot sea rise, basically because of
subsidence of our land and, of course, the rising temperature
of the water, that this is a--truly an emergency right now, and
that is why Senator Sessions and others of us are trying to
lead this effort on America's energy coast to explain that it's
not just for the people of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana
that this is a problem for, it's a problem for the whole
So, in conclusion, spending a little bit of money to build
levees, to raise these highways, to do smart siting of these
facilities is going to save us billions of dollars in the long
run, and we believe that we're generating the funding right now
to do that, which is what revenue-sharing and coastal impact
assistance was all about.
In my final minute, I'd just like Ted to add a word or two.
Mr. Falgout. I guess a logical question would be, Why not
move Port Fourchon further inland, where the refineries are,
and not have to protect the coast? That is not what Port
Fourchon does. Port Fourchon is the intermodal hub where
everything changes modes of transportation, and that has to be
on the Gulf of Mexico for the most efficient transportation
system that's out there.
If you move Port Fourchon inland 30 or 40 miles, that means
270 large vessels a day that go to this port, bringing these
widgets and gadgets back, have to do this 30- or 40-mile
stretch further inland, burning more fossil fuels, causing more
erosion, doing huge environmental impact. We have to sustain a
place on the Gulf of Mexico to do this transfer, and this is
your best option.
The Chairman. Senator Sessions?
Senator Sessions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Burkett, you used the figure ``2- to 4-feet sea rise,''
and some of that is land subsidence. How much do you estimate
to be actual sea rise and how much is the sinking on this land?
Ms. Burkett. The percentage, of course, varies. In
Louisiana, the percentage of--that is due to the land sinking
is greater than it is in Alabama. In my testimony, we have a
table that actually breaks out the amount that is due to sea-
level rise versus subsidence. In the Alabama Mississippi Sound
area, the subsidence--Mississippi Alabama Sound is .34
millimeters per year. So, the sea-level rise there is much
greater, 2.14. So, most of the change in the Alabama coast is
due to the sea-level-rise factor, as opposed to the sinking.
It's just the opposite in Louisiana and Galveston.
Senator Sessions. Mr.--it's Drevna, I believe; is that
Mr. Drevna. Yes, sir.
Senator Sessions. Yes. You know, I think a lot of work was
done to get those refineries back on after Hurricane Katrina
delivered that direct hit on, I guess, our energy coast, but it
didn't seem like it was very fast to me and the people in our
area whose prices were up and whose shortages existed. Post-
Katrina, has the oil and gas industry, including pipelines and
refineries--have they learned lessons that could allow their
facilities to be hardened? Are there redundant supplies of pipe
or other equipment that could be utilized to promptly bring
this back online? Finally, what economic interest is there for
the oil and gas industry to spend considerable sums of money in
merely trying to bring the system back up online quickly?
Mr. Drevna. Senator, I understand the frustration, back in
the summer of--late--early fall of 2005, but if you look at
it--if you look at it from the total devastation that your area
of the country experienced, but, in relative terms, I think
the--again, the oil and gas and refining industry--
petrochemical and the electric utility industry--we all--we
were all together for those 2 or 3 weeks, working very
diligently on getting those facilities back up online. If you
look at--if you look at it from the total impact to when we got
everything back online, it--I would just, sort of, disagree
with you, Senator, it was a relatively short period of time.
Yes, it was a----
Senator Sessions. How----
Mr. Drevna [continuing]. Frustrating----
Senator Sessions. How long?
Mr. Drevna. We were back up within 3 to 4 weeks, in most
cases. Now, there were--I know that the one--the one refinery
in your State that was--the Pascagoula refinery, that facility
was under 5, 6 feet of water for a long time, so that took a
heck of a lot longer to get back online.
Senator Sessions. I agree that Hurricane Katrina, which
almost couldn't have been a more perfect storm----
Mr. Drevna. Right.
Senator Sessions [continuing]. To hit the energy sector--it
wasn't the biggest and strongest; it was a category 3, as I
recall, and Camille was category 5--but the very nature of the
configuration of that storm----
Mr. Drevna. Right.
Senator Sessions [continuing]. The way it moved slowly and
pushed so much water, was very----
Mr. Drevna. Right.
Senator Sessions [continuing]. Aberrational and
devastating. But, I guess my inquiry would be, What are you
going to do about that? Are you--do we need better berms? Can
we put better dikes up around the refineries? Can we take other
steps to--and utilizing the lesson of Katrina to more quickly
Mr. Drevna. Senator, we--as I mentioned in my oral remarks
and as in my--in the written testimony, we do have a May 2006
publication, ``Hurricane Security Operations,'' and it
identifies six critical elements that should be provided in any
emergency response plan. It's an emergency management team,
it's facility security, logistics, communications, personnel,
government and community relations. It's all these things that
have to be taken into account and worked together.
I think it's--you should also--we should also understand
that refineries and petrochemical facilities, especially along
the Gulf--we've been dealing with hurricanes for decades, but
you said ``the perfect storm,'' and that--and, unfortunately,
that's what Katrina, and then, 2 weeks, followed up by Rita,
But, I would like to go back and comment, if I may, on
Senator Landrieu's point. You know, we have a--we have a group
called the Homeland Security Department, and we're diligently
working in establishing regulations to protect our refineries
and the petrochemical facilities and other critical
infrastructure against terrorism, but I think, as Senator
Landrieu points out so clearly and so poignantly, it doesn't
make a difference, if we don't protect it from Mother Nature.
You know, as critical as that area of the country is in
providing the whole--the whole country with energy, with those
BTUs that keep our economy going, to cavalierly say, ``Well,
we're going to have an Energy Independence and Security Act of
2007 that doesn't address anything like that''----
Senator Sessions Well----
Mr. Drevna. Now----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. My time's up, but I just
would follow up on that. That's exactly the point I was
raising. Some of this may need to be funded by taxpayers, some
of it needs to be funded by the industry. We--the industry
funds its protection against terrorism attacks, fundamentally,
Mr. Drevna. That----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. So, maybe we need to be
asking what kind of standards we need for our critical oil and
gas facilities and electric generating facilities in the light
of storms. I don't know--the data I have shows that in--since
1900, we haven't seen, based on the mean data, an increase in
hurricanes, but there's enough of 'em--too many, far as I'm
concerned--and they're will always be, I assume, hurricanes in
the future. Whether it's global warming or not, we've got
threats from hurricanes, and hopefully we can do better.
Madam Chairman, thank you--
Senator Landrieu [presiding]. Yes. Thank you.
Senator Sessions [continuing]. For your interest in this
subject. Your knowledge of it is valuable to us in this
Senator Landrieu. Thank you.
Senator Salazar. Thank you very much, to Chairman Bingaman,
for this hearing, and to you, Senator Landrieu, for your
leadership on so many issues in the Gulf Coast and on energy.
Let me ask a question to you, Dr. Burkett. You know, I hear
you giving us the ominous statistic, which is 2 feet to 4 feet,
in terms of the change of the sea level caused by subsidence
and also the sea rise. When you look back at the statistic that
Senator Landrieu spoke about, which is, over the last 50 years
you've seen, I think she said, Louisiana losing 34 square miles
a year--34 square miles a year--when you look back at those 50
years, and you look at both of these factors--sea rise, as well
as subsidence--how does that compare to looking ahead at the
next 50 years?
Ms. Burkett. The past 100 years, about a fifth of the
change in elevation was due to sea-level rise. But, you know,
sea level is supposed to accelerate--they call it ``latent sea-
level rise'' in the IPCC report--because it takes the ocean a
long time to absorb the thermal energy, the heat energy from
the atmosphere, and for the glaciers to retreat. So, the rate
of sea-level rise is expected to accelerate, this century. We
haven't seen an acceleration yet, even though, during the past
15 years, the rate of sea-level rise is double what it was over
last century. But, we don't have a long enough record yet to
attribute that to human activity. It might just be natural
variability, hopefully. But, we may already be seeing that
initiation of the acceleration that would change it from being
one-fifth of the cause to being one-half or more of the cause,
and largely dependent on----
Senator Salazar. How----
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Ice sheets.
Senator Salazar. Dr. Burkett, how confident are you and
your scientific peers of this 2-foot to 4-foot rise by the year
2050? Is it a consensus within the scientific community that
this is going to happen?
Ms. Burkett. We use IPCC models, that were used for the
fourth assessment report, to--as input into the sea-level rise,
so the sea-level rise, coupled with the actual records that we
have of the sinking of the land----
Senator Salazar. Okay.
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Using tide gauges, the IPCC says
they're--you know, they have a high degree of confidence
Senator Salazar. Do you----
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Their numbers.
Senator Salazar. Do you have a high degree of confidence?
Is it going----
Ms. Burkett. Yes.
Senator Salazar [continuing]. To happen?
Ms. Burkett. We use their numbers.
Senator Salazar. So, you believe that it is going to
happen, that we're going to have this 2- to 4-foot rise----
Ms. Burkett. I'd say it----
Senator Salazar [continuing]. By 2050.
Ms. Burkett. Yes, sir, it's likely, but by 2100. That's----
Senator Salazar. Okay. So, that--then, you would probably
conclude, and most people would be a part of your effort, that,
then, we should be doing something about this, whether it's
hardening the infrastructure, taking other kinds of actions to
deal with this issue. It's a reality. It's coming.
Ms. Burkett. Yes.
Senator Salazar. We should be dealing with it.
Let me ask Dr. Wallace a question. You may pipe into this
one, Dr. Burkett, as well. This is not about the coast, but it
is related to climate change. You know, for us, in the West,
water is the lifeblood of our communities, as we often say. For
me, in Colorado, I have great concerns about what happens with
the Colorado River and what happens with the ski industry and
our agriculture that depends on irrigation from those rivers.
Do you have some thoughts, from the Los Alamos perspective, or,
Dr. Burkett, you, as the head of geo-survey, climate-change
experts, on what's going to happen with respect to global
warming and the flow of waters into the Colorado River Basin?
Mr. Wallace. It's a good question, because I think the--our
understanding of global warming, there is a consensus about
the--a global rise. But, as Dr. Wilbanks referred to before,
you have variability within that, and the grand challenge that
stands before us from energy and climate today is to scale that
to a regional level. So, we can do a pretty darn good job of
understanding what's going to happen in a global sense, but how
it--there's winners and losers in climate change, and our
climate in New Mexico and Colorado is largely controlled by
what happens with what's called the ENSO or the El Nino/La Nina
effects. There isn't consensus, to be perfectly honest, with
the rise in global temperature, exactly how that will affect La
Nina or El Nino. Some models today are suggesting that you will
actually get increased rainfall in the Southwest, and
presumably, increased snowfall in the Rockies. Other models
show that you will have a drought, which may rival the Great
Drought of between 1000 and 1200 A.D. in the West, and which
changed civilization there. We just don't know yet. We need to
do a lot more modeling, and we realize this is very complicated
The fact of the matter is, there'll be a significant
change, but the grand challenge is for us to be able to develop
the science and the models to take this to small regional
Senator Salazar. Dr. Burkett, if you could answer that
question, too, in terms of the regionalization of understanding
Ms. Burkett. Yes.
Senator Salazar [continuing]. Of global warming, down to
that kind of basic----
Ms. Burkett. Right.
Senator Salazar [continuing]. Level----
Ms. Burkett. In general, we expect to see less snow at low
altitudes. In addition, we--because of the temperature of
these--the expansion of the spring, warming earlier in the
year, the timing of runoff to reservoirs will change. If you
couple the declining snowfall at low altitudes with the
increasing temperature, the propensity for drought in your
region is highlighted.
I am an author of a IPCC special report on water that will
come out. It was just approved by the governments, the U.N.
member governments. I'm going to send you a copy of that. We
focus on your region. Also, I want to send you a copy of some
output that we're working on now for a report that'll come out
from the Climate Change Science Program very shortly, that
looks at your region, and I think it'll answer your--a lot of
But, the regional modeling is where a lot of activity needs
to be focused so we can get real definite answers----
Senator Salazar. I look forward----
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. To you.
Senator Salazar [continuing]. To receiving and reviewing
those reports, Dr. Burkett, and thank you for your good work.
Senator Landrieu. Thank you, Senator.
Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I want to
thank you. Thank you for your leadership on energy issues. I
think you have--you have proven yourself as you talk about the
Gulf States, you talk about the development and, just, the
production that comes out of your region, and, in terms of an
individual that is constantly reminding us all about the energy
breadbasket down in the Gulf and how the State of Louisiana, in
particular, has for years been supplying this Nation, and, in
many cases, not asking for much in return, maybe a little
respect, maybe a little funding coming down.
But, the trip that we were able to take when you took me
down there to Port Fourchon, we had an opportunity to meet with
you, Mr. Falgout, to understand and see firsthand what goes
on--it's one thing to look at those charts and see the little
spider web of infrastructure there, it's another thing to be
flying over, for a long period of time, and looking down--
reminds me of Alaska; it's really wet, and----
Senator Landrieu. Big.
Senator Murkowski [continuing]. It's huge. So, I
appreciate, again, your leadership on this, and an opportunity
to talk about what happens to this very, very critical
Now, Alaska wasn't part of this discussion. Our issues are
a little bit different up there. But, when we take into account
how, really, we have so much of our energy infrastructure
concentrated in one area, down there in the Gulf, there's a
level of vulnerability. When we're talking about whether--how
we protect it from Mother Nature, it is a very dicey issue.
We're looking at erosion issues, where we've got communities up
north that are literally falling into the Arctic Ocean, into
the Bering Sea, and we see how much it's going to cost to move
a small village. To move the infrastructure that is literally
powering this country will be phenomenally expensive.
So, I guess the question that I throw out to you--it's one
thing to provide for protection of existing infrastructure--is
there anything out there, in terms of innovative technologies,
that you're looking at within the industry that could provide
for greater protection?
The example that I'll use up north, when we knew we had to
deal with permafrost, we just didn't lay a pipe on the tundra,
we had to elevate it, because you couldn't have the warm pipe
on the frozen permafrost; you had the ability to move it, or
have it be flexible in the event of earthquakes; so, you build
in that type of technology. Directional drilling has allowed us
to do remarkable things up north without disturbing the
Is there anything that you see, in terms of technology
within the industry, that can provide for greater security,
greater protection? That's just kind of a general question to
Mr. Falgout and Mr. Drevna.
Mr. Falgout. We have a lot of tools in our chest for
coastal restoration. Certainly, we have one of the greatest
resources sitting there, the Mississippi River, for sediment.
But, you have to transport that sediment. It's unrealistic to
cut the levees and let everything flood again and try to
rebuild the delta. That'll take 1,000 years anyway. So, long-
distance distribution of sediment through pipelines and through
dredging operations in the Mississippi River, taking that
sediment and placing it through the estuary, trying to rebuild
the skeleton, at least, of the system to where then, over the
longer term, you can start to build onto the skeleton, built
meat, so to say, in the estuaries, and bring--to build the
friction, to break the storms, to do the things necessary--all
of that costs billions of dollars to do. But, certainly when we
look at the resources that are out there, what is--you know,
what is coming through Coastal Louisiana, I think it just makes
sense to approach it in that manner. Then, certainly Senator
Landrieu has, you know, overwhelming experience in seeing some
of these things. We are starting with the offshore revenue-
sharing money, the State has committed 100 percent of it,
through a constitutional amendment, to be used for coastal
restoration and infrastructure protection. So, we're getting
there, but, you know, some of our--we say, you know, we're at
ground zero--and what we say, we're at zero ground, actually--
down at Port Fourchon.
Mr. Falgout. You know, some of this is immediate need. If--
unless we develop a mechanism to mitigate some of these
immediate energy issues, we may not just be able to sustain the
ability to do what we do.
Senator Murkowski. Mr. Drevna.
Mr. Drevna. Senator Murkowski, just to go back to the
comment I made before, about Senator Landrieu's charts,
absolutely we had the technology to prevent--or, to minimize
the damage and--in the critical infrastructure--and, you know--
and, of course, we should, naturally, protect what we have and
what's there and now, but we also have the technology to be
able to expand our horizons, so to speak, and not put all our
eggs in one energy basket, as we've done in this country for
the past 35 years.
You know, if you only go back, again, a couple of summers
ago, in reference--Katrina and Rita--you know, huge offshore
platforms were actually toppled over, not one iota of
environmental damage. We've learned a lot over the past 25, 30,
35 years. We can effectively and with a very, very, very
limited or no environmental footprint, bring resources from the
East Coast, the eastern Gulf, the West Coast, and your fair
State of Alaska. For some reason, we decide we'd rather tell
foreign countries to send more to us, but then tell 'them not
to send more to us, and keep our own resources locked up. So, I
think what we need is an energy basket that is for everyone,
that is for all resources, whether it's coal, nuke, oil and
gas, biofuels done in the right way, not trying to create
winners and losers or create a false market, but, yes, the long
answer to your question, we have the technology available to
provide the American citizens with the BTUs they need.
Senator Murkowski. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Landrieu. Thank you.
We're going to have a vote called in a few minutes, but I
do have a couple of more questions. If the members--Senator
Sessions has another question.
But, before I do, a statement. I had the staff calculate
that if Katrina and Rita happened again just like it did 3
years ago--it'll be the 3-year mark in August 29 for Katrina,
and September 24 for Rita--based on the current price of
gasoline today, as it was relative 3 years ago, gas would go to
$6.10 a gallon.
Now, we don't know if Katrina is going to hit again, but it
could. Hurricane season starts in June. Based on what happened
to the price of gas the last time it hit, not factoring in
anything else, gas will go to $6.10.
Now, we can't prevent that storm, but we could be taking
steps, as following up with what Mr. Drevna said, as to have
alternatives. If the Gulf had to shut down, you could open the
East Coast or the West Coast, or you could bring in more from
Canada, or you could do something. But, right now we're
basically sitting ducks, because there is no other place to go
to get the capacity. We don't have redundancy in the system.
I'm going to say it over and over again. We're happy to
continue to do what we can do in the Gulf. We can harden our
assets. We want to bring in more energy. We have the capacity
to do it. But, that is, in itself, not even enough. We need
The example that is most clear, and it's easy for the Gulf
to understand--we have two major shipyards in the Gulf where
we're building ships: Avondale, in New Orleans, and Gulfport,
in Mississippi. Gulfport was completely destroyed. We
completely stopped shipbuilding in Gulfport. But, luckily,
Avondale was still standing, and so, you could move your
shipbuilding capacity to Avondale until you could get Gulfport
back up online.
We don't have that redundancy in the energy--so, if the
Gulf shuts down, I can just tell the country, ``We told you
The only final thing I'll say about it is, had Rita hit
Houston the way Katrina hit South Louisiana, I don't know, Mr.
Drevna, what would--what would you say? You're closer to it
than anybody else at this panel. What would--what are some of
the things that you all talked about, had Rita hit Houston
Mr. Drevna. Senator----
Senator Landrieu [continuing]. Shut down the Houston ship
Mr. Drevna [continuing]. We were literally scared to death
about the path of Rita. I mean, not that Rita was--not that
some facilities, unfortunately, did not dodge that bullet, but
the--if it would have hit as projected earlier on, you would
have had--you would have had, you know, Katrina-squared, as far
as impact. I don't know--honest to goodness, I don't know what
the country would have done. I mean, we--I mean, there's only
so much more you can bring in from imports. I don't--you know,
it was--it would have been--it would have been a real national
Senator Landrieu. Okay. So, let's just factor that into the
hearing, not that we can prevent hurricanes, but we could build
redundancy into this system, we could be doing some things to
protect the assets, and we could be using the revenues that are
coming into this country more wisely; i.e.--Senator Sessions,
I'll get to you in a minute--but, the revenues generated from
the industry, just in the Gulf, are about $10 billion a year.
Ten billion just in taxes paid by the current industry. None of
that money right now is going to protect this infrastructure.
It's all basically going into the general fund to be spent on
general operational expenses of this Nation. If some of it was
returning, which was what we accomplished in revenue-sharing,
but it's perspective, we could be building some of these
levees, you know, hardening some of these assets, and
protecting ourselves from the shock that will occur if another
monster storm hits the Gulf.
Senator Sessions, you had another question, then I think
we'll call it a wrap.
Senator Sessions. Thank you.
When you say ``in revenue,'' you don't mean jobs and
salaries and--but, you mean just the tax revenue--Government--
Senator Landrieu. Just the tax----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. To the Government of the
United States from this production.
Senator Landrieu. Just one form of tax revenue. It's the
severance and royalties. I'm not even counting the income taxes
that people are paying, or the corporate taxes that----
Senator Sessions. Those that are----
Senator Landrieu [continuing]. Are going to----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. Making good salaries.
Senator Landrieu. That's in addition. So, it's $10 billion
just from revenue--from severance and royalties, basically.
Senator Sessions. I couldn't agree more. I'm convinced.
Mr. Drevna, I agree with you, that--what is it that makes
us say it's perfectly all right to pay for oil produced off the
coast of Nigeria or in the Persian Gulf or in the Caspian Sea
or in the North Sea, but we won't allow any of it to be
produced off our shore? If we really care about the
environment--and T. Boone Pickens, I saw an article where he
said, ``Our purchase of oil abroad''--he estimated $600 billion
a year, maybe, next year; other estimates are about $500
billion--represent the greatest wealth transfer in the history
of the world. If anybody thinks that's not affecting our
economy, if anybody thinks that's not driving up the average
person's gas price, they're from another planet.
That's what people are talking to me about. They're talking
about gas prices. They're not telling me they want a cap-and-
trade bill that's going to drive up the cost of gas, according
to EPA, $1.50 a gallon, and according to the National
Association of Manufacturers, about $5 a gallon, depending on
how you estimate it. But, I'm just saying, these are really
important issues. This infrastructure in the Gulf is critical
to our Nation, and we did open up, 2 years ago--under Senator
Landrieu and Senator Domenici's leadership, we were able to
open up some more potential production in the Gulf, but large
parts of it are closed.
I'm--Dr. Burkett, you--I'm trying to get this straight,
because if we're talking about--2 to 4 feet in change in water
makes me nervous, and just by 2050. But, I think the numbers
you gave me, in my homemade mathematics here, show that we're
talking about two-point---is it millimeter--2.4--2.14
millimeter rise--yes, millimeters per year.
Ms. Burkett. Right.
Senator Sessions. You add the subsidence in my area, of
.34, which is less than 2.5--I multiply that out to say, by
2050, considering both of those factors, we're talking about
less--around an inch a year, in common--an inch by 2050. Would
you disagree with that number?
Ms. Burkett. Putting together the--that's the historical
trend. The 2.14 there is the historical trend. That's the
sinking of the tide gauge, basically, relative--well, that's--
that is the actual tide-gauge record there. Basically, we have
three long-term tide-gauge records, and you can see them----
Senator Sessions. So, you would expect it to increase.
Ms. Burkett. Yes, sir. We expect it to accelerate.
Senator Sessions. How much do you--how much, just from the
sea rise, not subsidence? Hopefully, the subsidence won't
Ms. Burkett. No, sir. We----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. But it could, I suppose.
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Expect that to be steady, the
rate of subsidence to just continue. But then, looking--and you
can look at the----
Senator Sessions. What would you estimate, then, using----
Ms. Burkett. On the low end, on your part of the coast, off
of--off the Alabama coast--now, Mobile--you know, Mobile has a
higher rate of subsidence than does this general average for
the area. So, depending even on the--in the Alabama coast where
you are, the rate of relative sea-level rise will be greater.
In the Upper Mobile Bay area, for example, the land is sinking,
so it would be higher there. So, it depends upon where you are.
Senator Sessions. Why is that happening?
Ms. Burkett. Due to human activity.
Senator Sessions. We're not producing any significant oil
and gas in the upper part of the bay----
Ms. Burkett. No, sir, but----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. To my knowledge.
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. There are groundwater
withdrawals. I'd have to look exactly what the----
Senator Sessions. Okay.
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Causes are, but there are other
factors that are--you have a slightly higher rate in the
Northern Mobile Bay----
Senator Sessions. Anyway, do you know what the Gulf Coast--
regarding subsidence, the actual sea-level rise is projected to
Ms. Burkett. The sea-level rise alone there, you're looking
at, basically, the global average, 0.6 meters--0.6 meters, and
a meter is 3 feet--over a 100-year period.
Senator Sessions. Okay. So, 0.6 meters, and that's about 18
inches, right? That's over 100 years, not by 2050. So, you're
saying 100 years, which would be 2106, is 18 inches from the
sea increase, and by 2050 you would agree that it would
probably be much less than that.
Ms. Burkett. Right. The actual----
Senator Sessions. I just want to be sure----
Ms. Burkett [continuing]. Estimates----
Senator Sessions [continuing]. I'm not having everybody
selling their beachfront property and----
Ms. Burkett. No, sir.
Senator Sessions [continuing]. Moving to Ohio or
Senator Sessions [continuing]. Because I'm not sure it's
that dramatic. I hope it's not.
Ms. Burkett. The low end was 1 foot, the high end was 6
foot. For the purposes of this study, we selected 2 to 4 feet
as being the range at which we would assess the impacts on
transportation infrastructure. So, the low end--you're right in
your calculations--would be about 1 foot, and the high end
would be as high as 6 feet. Those are conservative, though,
Senator Sessions. Now you're going conservative. You're
going to high and low and--but, Okay.
Ms. Burkett. Because they don't assume any changes in ice-
Senator Sessions. All right. I understand, and I'm with
you. thank you, Madam Chairman.
Senator Landrieu. We're going to wrap up with this. It--I
wanted to ask one final question, Ms. Edgar. This--watching the
destruction of Katrina and Rita on the electricity grid--you
talked about that in your testimony--it occurred to me that we,
after every storm season, put those poles back up, try to cut
the trees a little more, and every season they go down again
and everybody's electricity goes off. Is there any better way
to do that? Is--are burying these lines possible, both from a
cost-effective manner and--what do other countries do with
their electricity grid distribution that are either in high-
wind areas or high-storm areas?
Ms. Edgar. Senator, thank you for the question. One of the
things that we have tried to do is look at the different
geographical variations across our State. Certainly
undergrounding in some areas does make sense. It is, as we
realize, often more expensive, but trying to look at those
long-term community benefits and trying to assess where those
costs and benefits will be is one of the things that our State
has been looking at. We have made some regulatory changes to
try to make undergrounding more cost- effective, where, indeed,
it does look like it would have long-term benefits.
Senator Landrieu. Okay.
Is there anything anyone wants to add, on the panel, that
you don't feel----
Mr. Drevna. Senator, if you don't mind, I'd just like to
respond to your--again, to your earlier comment about, you
know, the infrastructure, where we should get the money from.
I think it's--you know, I mean, with some trepidation, I
bring this up, but, what the heck--you know, there's been a lot
about oil industry profits these days, and if--I don't think
the American public knows, and maybe a lot of us in this room
don't know, that one company who has made $40 billion last
year, their taxes were $60 billion. So, they paid more in taxes
than profits. They still employed high-paying jobs that had
ripple effects on all towns across the country, as did the
whole industry. So, I think there's a story to be told there,
that, you know, there--are the resources available out there to
fix the problem? Absolutely. It's just the direction of where
those resources go. I applaud you, and I urge you to continue
to fight to get those resources where they belong.
Senator Landrieu. Okay. Thank you very much.
I want to thank the staff for putting a good hearing
together, and thank all of our panelists.
The meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:17 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
Responses to Additional Questions
Responses of Charles T. Drevna to Questions From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. In light of all the changes that petroleum refiners
have had to implement to prepare for hazardous weather, such as the
hurricanes that occur in the Gulf Coast area, do you feel that the
infrastructure is sufficiently `reinforced' against future extreme
weather and other possible impacts brought on by climate change?
Answer. U.S. petroleum refiners have made several significant
changes in how they prepare for and react to hazardous weather. Almost
every refinery in the Gulf Coast has performed process analyses of the
time it takes the facility to enact a full shutdown procedure, which
tells them how long it takes to drain the tanks of inventory (to
prevent leakage) or fill them with water (to ensure buoyancy and
minimize damage to the tanks and surrounding equipment.) During
hurricane season, the facilities monitor the projected path of the
storm, the ``storm arc'' and react accordingly. Because projected storm
paths narrow as the storm moves closer to shore, facilities have
different levels of reaction depending on how far the storm is out to
sea. The process is based on the idea of a trip wire--if it takes a
plant 36 hours to empty its tanks of inventory and fill them with
water, and if the plant is in the storm arc 36.5 hours out, shutdown
procedures are enacted.
There are additional ways to assist refiners in preparing for
extreme weather events that may occur in the future. Congress could
signal that investments in energy infrastructure are a national
priority with tax incentives. The National Petroleum Council--an
advisory group to the U.S. Department of Energy--recently reported that
oil and gas will be critical to meeting the global energy needs over
the next quarter century. Congress should resist efforts to single out
the oil and gas industry with repeal of the Section 199 manufacturing
deduction in the IRS Code (by excluding gross receipts of the taxpayer
derived from the sale, exchange, or other disposition of oil, natural
gas, or any primary product thereof from the term ``domestic production
gross receipts'') or increase the amortization schedule for geological
and geophysical expenditures for major integrated oil companies from
five to seven years because this would send a message that these
industries are not national priorities and would provide a disincentive
for domestic investment.
Question 2. Are the other components of the refining infrastructure
hardened against sea-level changes, subsidence in the gulf, and
shoreline erosion? If not, what else needs to be done to ensure the
safety and security of the infrastructure?
Answer. Refiners have made many investments in protecting
themselves against the hazards of the Gulf Coast. However, the best way
to protect America's energy infrastructure is to permit and encourage
the geographical diversification of its energy supply. Refineries and
other important onshore facilities have been welcome in limited areas
throughout the country and policymakers have restricted access to much-
needed offshore oil and natural gas supplies in the eastern Gulf and
off the shores of California and the East Coast. Congress should permit
oil production in ANWR. By diversifying our energy supply, we ensure
steady access to our own natural resources, and also reduce our
dependence on foreign imports.
Additionally, tax incentives would promote investments in refining
infrastructure both in the Gulf and in more geographically diverse
locations. For example, section 1323 of EPAct05 provided a tax benefit
such that a refinery can expense 50% of the cost of a refinery
expansion. Congress could apply this tax provision to investments in
Question 3. You mention in your testimony that 3 major pipelines
were shut down in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina due to disruption
of electricity supplies. What mechanisms have been put in place to
mitigate such circumstances in the future?
Answer: Since NPRA does not represent the oil pipeline industry,
this question could be directed to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines.
Question 4. You state in your testimony that after Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita that the restart process for several refineries was
particularly challenging due to flooding of electric pumps. What
measures have been put into place to mitigate these circumstances in
Answer. NPRA is not aware of any technology that would mitigate
Response of Charles T. Drevna to Question From Senator Domenici
Question 1. As we seek to address the coastal energy infrastructure
impacts associated with climate change, should greater emphasis be
placed on strengthening and expanding energy infrastructure in the
areas where it is already located, or on diversification of the areas
within the United States where energy is produced, refined or otherwise
Answer. Each of these goals are of vital importance, and Congress
must work to advance both of them. Congress should encourage an
expansion of energy infrastructure through tax incentives and policies
that support investment. Congress should enhance our energy security by
expanding domestic energy production and permit oil production in ANWR
and remove restrictions on offshore oil and gas supplies in the eastern
Gulf of Mexico and off the shores of California and the East Coast.
Responses of Lisa Polak Edgar to Questions From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. It seems that the rest of the coastal areas in the US
could learn from the efforts that you have undertaken in Florida to
harden the energy infrastructure against extreme weather conditions.
How much did these readiness and hardening efforts cost Florida in
terms of time and financing? In other words, how much of these program
developments and infrastructure hardening efforts were transferred to
Floridian energy consumers in the form of increased electricity costs?
Answer. Storm readiness and hardening measures are an ongoing
process, with some activities requiring several years to complete. It
is important to carefully examine and balance the need for a robust
transmission and distribution system with the need to moderate rate
impacts to consumers.
Initial storm hardening efforts such as pole inspections will be
completed by utilities within 8 years and inspections will continue on
an 8 year cycle. Electric utilities are performing vegetation
management in cycles of 3 years for major feeders and up to 6 years for
laterals. Florida's largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light,
estimated costs of between $48.5 million and $61.5 million to implement
storm hardening in 2007. Projected costs for 2008 and 2009 are between
$75 million to $125 million and $100 million to $150 million,
respectively. These costs are for projects to harden infrastructure
serving critical customers, crossing major thoroughfares, major planned
expansions, rebuilding and/or relocating facilities, and constructing
new distribution facilities. The Commission will review the actual
expenditures resulting from implementation of storm hardening plans
when an investor-owned electric utility makes a formal request for cost
recovery thorough a pass-through mechanism or through a request for
base rate increase. To date, only one utility has requested cost
recovery. A small investor-owned utility, Florida Public Utilities
Company, requested an adjustment to base rates. The Commission approved
an increase of $19,615 for costs associated with storm hardening
Measures considered to reduce potential storm damage and outages
should include cost/benefit data and analysis. Consumers deserve good
financial value, short-term and long-term.
Question 2. By taking these preventative measures, how much do you
estimate that you are saving the government and consumers by preventing
dramatic property damage and energy losses due to extreme weather?
Answer. Estimated benefits of storm-hardening to electric consumers
include reduced damage to electrical infrastructure, shorter
restoration time, and reduced restoration costs. In addition, there are
public benefits which accrue due to reduced disruption to Florida's
overall economy. Local businesses and schools need electricity to
function; the sooner they can operate after a major disruption, the
better for families, communities and state and local economies.
However, the exact dollar value of total benefits is difficult to
estimate as there is limited historical data available to conduct
conventional cost/benefit analyses on many of the new preventative
In order to estimate ratepayer benefits, investor-owned utilities
such as Florida Power & Light relied on their experience with the 2004-
2005 hurricane season, forensic analysis of damage to facilities, and
an independent analysis by a consulting firm to produce an estimate.
Assuming a hurricane frequency of once every 3-5 years, FPL estimates a
storm restoration cost savings, on a net present worth basis, of
approximately 70% to 45%, respectively, of the hardening costs over a
30 year period. Quantifying the total savings to the government and
consumers for preventing property damage and energy losses is difficult
because such analysis is, by nature, somewhat subjective and dependent
upon how and what data is considered. To aid further analysis, the
Commission directed each investor-owned utility to include the methods
it would use to collect detailed outage data in its storm-hardening
plan. Improving these methods will allow more meaningful analysis and
more accurate measurement as we move forward.
As stated in the order approving the plans of Florida Power & Light
and other investor-owned utilities, the measures directed meet the
requirements of enhancing reliability and reducing restoration costs
and outage times in a prudent, practical, and cost-effective manner.
Question 3. Have you worked with any other partners in other states
to help them prepare for extreme weather--whether through preparedness
measures or through infrastructure hardening, particularly in the area
of electricity transmission to areas outside of Florida?
Answer. During the Commission's work with the Florida Emergency
Operations Center, information related to storm preparedness and
recovery has been shared with Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The
Commission has also shared our experiences with other states through
our participation with the National Association of Regulatory Utility
Commissioners. The Commission has provided information and material to
other states in response to numerous telephone inquiries. All documents
and activities associated with the Commission's storm hardening efforts
are available on our website at http://www.psc.state.fl.us/utilities/
Question 4. How will rising sea-level impact Florida's energy
transmission? It is clear that Florida has made an enormous effort in
preparing for hazardous weather--but have you done the same for
anticipating and preparing for changes in sea level?
Answer. The Florida Public Service Commission has not addressed the
impact of changes in sea level on energy transmission. Evaluations
after the 2004-2005 storm season revealed that damage to transmission
was minimal compared to the damage sustained by coastal distribution
lines. The damage to transmission was due more to high winds and
localized tornadoes than from surges and flooding.
In Executive Order 07-128, Governor Crist established the
Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. This team will
develop an Action Plan to achieve targets for statewide greenhouse gas
reduction, including policy recommendations and changes to existing
law. As part of this effort, six Technical Working Groups have been
established, one of which is looking at potential Adaptation issues.
Question 5. How have sea-level rise projections been factored into
your siting decisions for future energy infrastructure?
Answer. Power plants and transmission lines are designed to take
into account storm surge and historic flood levels. The Florida
Department of Environmental Protection is the state agency that would
review the impact of sea-level on transmission line and power plant
Response of Lisa Polak Edgar to Question From Senator Domenici
Question 1. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we created an
Electric Reliability Organization to ensure the functionality of
electric infrastructure. The North American Electric Reliability
Council reached some troublesome conclusions about the diminishing
capacity margins across our country in their 2007 Long Term Reliability
In your experience, what role does the supply of energy have in the
reliability of our electric delivery infrastructure and how does it
compare to the threat posed by weather events?
Answer. Based on data from the Florida Reliability Coordinating
Council, Florida electric utilities are planning to maintain reserve
margins between 20-25%, over the next 10 years. However, Florida is
heavily dependent on natural gas as a fuel source for generating
electricity. Any interruption to that supply, whether caused by weather
events, shortage of fuel supply, or inadequate interstate transmission
could be problematic. The severe 2004-2005 hurricane season caused
interruptions to the natural gas supply sources; however, Florida
electricity generation was not curtailed due to adequate generating
capacity and fuel supply reserves.
Achieving a diverse fuel mix is one of the strategic concerns the
Commission considers when determining whether a new power plant is
needed to meet future energy demands in Florida. On March 18, 2008, the
Commission approved the need for Florida Power & Light to build two new
nuclear generating units and the Commission recently concluded hearings
on a need determination petition filed by Progress Energy, Florida, for
two new nuclear units. The Commission has also approved the need for
Florida Power & Light to increase the generating capacity at two
existing nuclear units. Renewable generation, conservation, and demand-
side management programs are also an important part of Florida's
approach to maintaining a balanced and reliable fuel supply.
Responses of Terry Wallace to Questions From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. How have the NISAC findings been applied in a practical
sense--meaning have you worked with public utilities and other state/
local entities to implement the results of your modeling?
Answer. LANL has worked and is continuing to work with the
following utilities and local governments: Sonoma County (CA),
California Energy Commission, Public Company of New Mexico (PNM) and
City of Santa Fe. Some of these have resulted in continuing relations.
Question 2. According to the NISAC findings what critical areas/
issues have been overlooked in recent climate change impact
Answer. Present dialogue and analyses tend to overlook,
(-1-) Realistic time and effort necessary for integrating
renewable energy into national grid.
In most cases, energy storage and smart grids would be necessary to
optimally use power generated by renewable sources. Both the technology
maturation and supply chain should be carefully examined. It is our
belief that such analyses have not been carried out to the fullest
(-2-) Social and market response to integration of renewable
into the national grid.
Most likely social response would be governed by projected increase
in costs per kilowatt-hour; and inflationary impacts on national GDP.
This may be countered by increase in employment. On the other hand, it
is difficult to gauge market response. On one hand, policy impacts such
as carbon-emissions trading may make this approach attractive and on
the other hand periodicity of wind power introduces major uncertainty
in pricing approaches.
Question 3. Are there any severe consequences that we have not yet
Answer. Land use dynamics. One of the aspects of global warming
that is often ignored is impacts of more frequent extreme weather
events (such as hurricanes, intense thunder storms, and long stretches
of dry seasons). We expect desertification of additional lands in US
Southwest land and soil erosion in some coastal regions. This could
lead to substantial reduction on energy reliability due to damage to
distribution networks (similar to reliability problems encountered due
to flooding). We believe commercial, technical and social impacts of
this sort could be studied using NISAC type models, but have so far not
Responses of Thomas J. Wilbanks to Questions From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. In your testimony, you mentioned that there may be
reduced water supplies for power generation and cooling capabilities.
Have you also considered the impacts to production of liquid
Answer. This is an interesting question, related to everything from
oil refining to biomass liquid fuel production. In our review of
published research for the Climate Change Science Program, we did not
find open literature publications on this issue, although we know that
the industry understands petroleum fuel production connections and
research is under way on biomass liquid fuel production connections.
Clearly, the question is especially important for regions that are (or
are expected to be) liquid transportation fuel producers and are also
projected to face greater water scarcity with climate change.
Question 2. Of all of the areas studied in the SAC model, which
coastal area(s) do you feel will be most greatly affected by climate
change and its impacts? In other words, where should we focus our
Answer. The answer to this question is a matter of personal
judgment, of course. The most immediate impacts of climate change are
already being experienced in Alaska; in fact, there is no other U.S.
region for which weather events will be attributable to climate change
for some time yet. For near-term impacts, then, the top priority is
Alaska. For mid-term impacts, e.g., in a 2030-2050 time period, my
personal judgment is that the region most vulnerable to serious impacts
is the coastal Southeast, including but not limited to the Gulf Coast.
A combination of Sun-belt growth, more intense storms, sea-level rise,
and land subsidence suggests that if there is any U.S. region at risk
of very serious impacts in that time frame, it is this one. For the
longer-term, I would add potentials for large-scale flooding in the
coastal Northeast and risks of freshwater scarcity limiting coastal
development in the West, unless we are successful in developing
affordable desalination technologies.
Question 3. What are the foreseen impacts of climate change on
Alaska, particularly in regards to oil and gas exploration and
Answer. The best current reference on likely impacts of climate
change on Alaska is the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA: http://
www.acia.uaf.edu/pages/scientific.html). According to this
authoritative source, climate change is likely to have both positive
and negative effects on oil and gas exploration, production, and
related markets. Regarding both exploration and production, climate
change is likely to improve access to resources in presently ice-
covered waters and adjacent land areas. Drawing from Table 18.8, page
1001, of that study, for exploration reduced sea ice is likely to
facilitate some off-shore operations but hamper winter seismic work on
shore-fast ice. Later freeze-up and earlier melting are likely to limit
the use of ice and snow roads. For production, reduced extent and
thinner sea ice are likely to allow construction and operation of more
economical offshore platforms. Storm surges and sea-level rise are
likely to increase coastal erosion of shore facilities and artificial
islands. The costs of maintaining infrastructure and minimizing
environmental impacts are likely to increase as a result of thawing
permafrost, storm surges, and erosion. For transportation, reduced
extent and duration of sea and river ice are likely to lengthen the
shipping season and shorten routes (including trans-polar routes).
Permafrost thawing is likely to increase pipeline maintenance costs.
Responses of Thomas J. Wilbanks to Questions From Senator Domenici
Question 1. Dr. Wilbanks, you discussed as a Western impact the
increasing levels of competition for water. In terms of their
individual contributions to the tightening of water supplies, how
significant do you believe the impacts of climate change are when
compared with population growth?
Answer. As you suggest, it is at least as important to be looking
at driving forces for water demand as at possible reductions in water
supply. Over the next century, changes in population sizes and
distributions, economic patterns, technologies, and institutions are
likely to reshape regional economies and the quality of life more than
climate change alone. The issue is how climate change will interact
with these other forces--for instance, the possibility that growing
regional water scarcity might begin to affect job creation and lead to
population shifts, or the possibility that significant improvements in
technologies for efficient use of water might improve prospects to
adapt to some shrinkages in water supply. A significant challenge for
climate change science is improving our capacity to project
socioeconomic scenarios over time periods equivalent to the available
projections of climate change.
Question 2. Dr. Wilbanks, your testimony cites research indicating
that a one degree Celsius increase in temperature would result in
disproportionate heating and cooling adjustments (5-20 percent increase
in cooling and 3-15 percent decrease in heating). Can you explain in
greater detail the disparities between these two adjustments?
Answer. Thank you for the question. There might be two issues here.
One is the relatively wide range implied by 5-20 and 3-15. The main
explanation is that published research studies include a wide range of
assumptions about such important factors as trends in building
construction and the rate of market penetration of innovative building
equipment technologies. Another explanation is that there is some
uncertainty about what would actually happen. I believe that these
ranges are useful for policy discussions rather than confusing.
The other issue is why cooling demands are somewhat more sensitive
to a temperature change than warming demands. The main explanation for
this is simply a scale factor: nationally, we consume substantially
more energy to warm buildings in the United States than to cool them.
An assumed change in a driving force is likely to affect a smaller base
more in percentage terms than a larger base. One part of this
explanation is that there are many areas in the northern parts of the
U.S. where summer air-conditioning of buildings is less universal than
in the south. A relatively small increase in summer heat indexes might
stimulate a considerable increase in the market penetration of air-
conditioning in these areas.
Question 3. Dr. Wilbanks, your testimony alludes to the existence
of some positive impacts on energy production and infrastructure that
could result from climate change. Can you explain in greater detail
what these might be?
Answer. There are several kinds of impacts that might be considered
positive. One example is easier access to oil and gas reserves in areas
now covered by ice in Alaska, along with easier trans-polar
transportation by tanker. Another is actions to reduce vulnerabilities
to climate change that also reduce vulnerabilities to impacts of
climate variability, such as exposures to coastal hurricanes. A third
is that attention to climate change risks and vulnerabilities may
increase attention to embedded issues that are important with or
without climate change, such as the ``energy-water nexus.'' A fourth is
the potential that U.S. responses to concerns about climate change
might include the development and demonstration of energy technologies
that improve our competitiveness in a greening global energy technology
marketplace. One responsibility that we all share as policymakers,
scientists, and citizens is responding to challenges such a climate
change in ways that create opportunities as well as problems.
Responses of Thomas J. Wilbanks to Questions From Senator Akaka
Question 1. Your testimony states: ``Finally, climate change could
have effects on renewable energy alternatives other than hydropower,
such as biomass energy, windpower, and solar energy. Currently
available research does not tell us enough to draw firm conclusions
about this topic, but it is important for us to improve the information
available for energy decision-making in this regard.''
Question 2. Hawaii relies on imported oil for 90% of its energy
needs, and is continually seeking alternative, sustainable, and clean
energy sources. Marine and hydrokinetic energy is an alternative energy
source that is of particular interest to me. Can you elaborate on the
aforementioned excerpt? By excluding hydropower, are you implying that
it is resilient to climate change impacts?
Answer. Thank you for your question and your interest in this
topic. Earlier in my testimony, I indicated that hydropower is the only
renewable energy system for which climate change impacts have been
projected by a body of published research. Hydropower potentials are
almost certain to be affected in some regions by diminished mountain
snowfalls, at least in the longer run. This is a significant energy
supply issue for the American West.
Marine and hydrokinetic energy is an alternative of particular
interest to many island states and nations, and effects of climate
change on ocean currents, storm patterns, and the sea level are likely
to affect evaluations of potentials for this alternative. In our
summary of existing research for the Climate Change Science Program, we
did not find analyses of such effects, but I would agree that such
analyses should be carried out.
More generally, it appears that in many instances island states and
nations have the potential to serve as ``test-beds'' for innovative
uses of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement strategies,
because their energy costs tend to be relatively high and their ability
to demonstrate locally-appropriate smaller-scale energy alternatives is
also relatively high. We should be working actively with island states
and nations to realize their potentials to become the leaders in
exploring clean energy pathways for the world's future. I have
personally been involved in USAID-supported explorations of this
potential in the Caribbean, and the results were very encouraging.
Another current target of opportunity might be DOD's current interest
in Guam, where local leaders are asking about longer-term benefits to
their economy that are not dependent on U.S. defense expenditures.
Helping them to develop leadership positions in their region related to
clean energy options for island nations might be one answer.
Responses of Ted Falgout to Question From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. In terms of the climate change impacts to coastal
wetlands, the stabilization of wetlands in the Port Fourchon area is
critical to maintaining a strong and secure energy infrastructure. The
subsidence and sediment loss that has occurred in the past several
decades has resulted in a fairly significant loss of wetlands in
Louisiana's gulf coast. Have any of the restoration efforts been
successful in stabilizing erosion in the critical energy corridor that
you mentioned in your testimony?
Answer. There have been numerous small scale efforts to protect
some of the most vulnerable areas of the corridor. Most have been very
successful, but are not nearly to the scale necessary to match the
problem. For instance, at the Port, we have installed offshore
breakwaters that have performed masterfully along the shoreline. We
have also utilized all of our dredge material from channel maintenance
for marsh restoration and beach nourishment. We have also conducted our
mitigation from Port impacts in a manner that protects the port and
helps to insure sustainability. We are quite capable of sustaining the
Port well out into the future with the tools we are currently using in
this relatively small area.
Where the major problem lies is the 17 mile stretch between the
Port and the Hurricane Protection Levee System. This expansive area has
limited sources of sediment and is rapidly eroding into open water. It
is probably too far deteriorated to save, even with very aggressive
restoration efforts will be challenged in this reach. This is the reach
that the single road (LA1) is becoming exposed to open water and its
vulnerability is increasing daily. All agree that in this particular
area, the only cost effective way to insure access to the Port is to
build a bridge. This is precisely what we are doing, but have exhausted
our funding and are only half way there. What I have tried to convey,
is that this highway is one of, if not the most, significant pieces of
energy infrastructure in this country and to have it in the condition
it is in is flirting with disaster.
From the Hurricane Levee inland, numerous small scale restoration
efforts have been successful and prove that this stretch of the
corridor is sustainable if we act soon. A multiple lines of defense
system will work well in this stretch. This would involve Barrier
Island restoration, rebuilding marsh in the mid basin by long distance
delivery of dredge sediments, increased levee protection and long term
sustainability achieved by major diversions from the Mississippi River
into the Barataria and Terrebonne Basins.
Responses of Virginia Burkett to Questions From Senator Bingaman
Question 1. In your testimony, you mention the two remaining phases
to be undertaken related to climate change impacts to infrastructure.
When will the next phase commence? Will phase II only focus on roads,
or will it also include energy-related transportation, such as
pipelines for liquid fuel transportation and electrical transmission
Answer. According to the discussions USGS has had with DOT, the
second phase of this work will involve an in-depth study of risks to
transportation at one or more selected locations in the central Gulf
Coast region. It is expected to include a structural and operational
assessment, and socio-economic analysis on the local, regional and
national importance of the transportation services. Phase 2 is also
anticipated to fully develop the risk assessment approach toward
transportation decision-making under uncertain conditions that was
begun in phase 1. Yes, this phase is expected to cover all aspects of
transportation, and in the Central Gulf Coast region, including the
energy sector to the extent possible. Since many of the pipelines and
much of the information is proprietary, analysis of specific energy
facilities is frequently more difficult. The third phase will identify
and analyze adaptation and response strategies and produce tools to
help communities and states implement successful adaptation. The timing
of phases 2 and 3 is dependent upon funding availability within the US
Department of Transportation, but we anticipate that phase two will
begin in Fiscal Year 2009.
Question 2. What other regions, coastal or otherwise, have the
greatest need for a comprehensive study of climate change impacts?
Answer. The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) reveals numerous hot spots of societal or ecological
vulnerability in the United States, including the entire state of
Alaska, low-lying sedimentary coastlines (such as the Mississippi River
Delta and the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts), arid regions (because of
the projected decline in rainfall in the southwestern United States),
western mountain regions, coral reefs and small islands (including
Hawaii and the U.S. protected islands and freely associated states in
the Pacific), heavily populated coastal areas (such as New York City
and Miami), the Great Lakes region, and several dozen other geographic
regions of America. A methodical, comprehensive, routinely updated,
border-to-border national assessment program is needed because all
areas of the country will be impacted in some way by climate change. A
climate change impacts and adaptation program would enable our country
to minimize the adverse effects of climate change while allowing us at
the same time to take advantage of any benefits that it might offer.
Question 3. Is there any intent or plan to expand these research
efforts to other regions of the U.S.?
Answer. Yes, the U.S. Climate Change Science program has a
strategic plan that will expand this type of research to other areas of
the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning to
expand its research efforts to other parts of the United States and is
already working on a similar project in the mid-Atlantic region.
Responses of Virginia Burkett to Questions From Senator Akaka
Question 1. Your testimony warns of a rise in sea-level by 2050,
which will vary between 2 to 4 feet, on the coastline extending from
Mobile, AL to Houston/Galveston, TX. Do you have similar analyses that
apply to the islands of Hawaii and the U.S. territories? If so, can you
please provide the data?
Answer. We have not conducted the same level of assessment for the
islands of Hawaii or the U.S. island territories, though this would
certainly be possible. The U.S. Geological Survey has, however,
conducted assessments of the vulnerability to sea level rise for the
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park (in Hawaii) and the National
Park of American Samoa (NPSA) (see attachments).
Question 2. The impact of climate change on the ocean is of
particular concern to Hawaii. Hawaii is disproportionately susceptible
to increases in sea-level rise and ocean temperature, which jeopardize
public safety, economic development, cultural resources, and the health
of our unique island ecosystems and wildlife. Are you aware of future
studies, either by USGS or other agencies that recognize the unique
characteristics of islands (compared to the continental U.S.) and
explore the impacts of climate change on the sea-level rise and ocean
temperature on Hawaii and the U.S. territories?
Answer. The USGS and the National Oceanic Atmospheric
Administration are jointly planning a coastal impacts and adaptation
program that will have an island component. Such a program should
entail an assessment of impacts for all U.S. coastal areas and
potential adaptation strategies, which could widely vary among coastal
types. The Small Island chapters of the past two IPCC assessment
reports (2001 and 2007) broadly characterize the unique vulnerability
of small islands. However, there are still many unknowns concerning the
potential impacts of climate change on small islands-even though there
is a strong scientific consensus that they are among the most
vulnerable regions to climate change.
Currently, the USGS is partnering with NOAA, the University of
Hawaii, the University of Colorado, and the International Pacific
Research Center to develop high-resolution climate change projections
for Hawaii. These projections can then be used to model how native
Hawaiian ecosystems, freshwater stream flows, invasive species, and
coastal communities might be affected by changes in rainfall patterns,
increased sea level, and increasing temperatures.
Data and information results from these research efforts would help
stimulate new projects designed to identify management options for
decision-makers to mitigate the impacts of future climate change.