Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  If you’re in a bad mood take a look at the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2019 Annual Energy Outlook.  Wow.  Plenty of energy at the national scale for the next 30 years.  If you’re in a really bad mood, look closer – plenty of affordable, recoverable energy for economic growth, heating and cooling, transportation, manufacturing.  As one expert said during EIA’s press conference and discussion last week US energy policy isn’t aligned with an energy status of plenitude; it’s still dominated by scarcity, that “we’ll run out…!”  Again, not only will the US not run out, but EIA predicts prices will stabilize, even fall.  Unbelievable: economic growth and decreased energy intensity. And critically, this unimaginable wealth isn’t dependent on a single fuel.  To the contrary, EIA’s analysis depends on a mix of fuels, with renewables zooming past coal and nuclear, becoming a larger share of U.S. electric generation than nuclear and coal in less than a decade.  Now, whatever your concern – CO2, air quality standards, prices, availability… feeling better on a Monday morning?
*  Of course, the availability and use of natural gas is at the core of all of that optimism.  It was noteworthy last week, then, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the final environmental impact statement for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), a transcontinental gas pipeline expansion that would meet projected increased demand for the greater New York City metro region.  Somewhat confusingly, the EIS concludes: “Construction and operation of the NESE Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts.” Most would be temporary, construction related.  Long-term impacts on air quality and noise would result from Compressor Station 206, new infrastructure.  However, with proposed impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as adherence to FERC recommendations, “all project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”  Clarity, please. This massive project faces massive local resistance.
*   The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated its “Requirements for Renewable Energy Projects in Highway Right-of-Way (ROW).”  The most recent update is dated December, 2018; it was released last week.  The guidance is intended to point FHWA Division Offices and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to relevant FHWA requirements.  FHWA notes that several states have installed renewable energy generation projects such as solar arrays and wind turbines along highway ROW, and other States are considering doing so.  “Public interest” is a core notion and FHWA writes that renewable energy projects “connected to the public electricity grid or provide electricity used by a public agency such as the State DOT would generally be considered as serving the public.”  (Wind tower slalom run on I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus?  Nope.  ODOT says not gonna happen… )

Tom Ewing

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