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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has a series of four community meetings scheduled for September (a 5th meeting is unscheduled at this point) “to discuss concepts to control pollution from large freight facilities including seaports, railyards, and warehouses/distribution centers.”  Each meeting is a chance for residents to talk with CARB staff about current regulatory actions and the “development of new concepts to reduce the air pollution and health impacts from freight.”  This work is a required part of CA’s freight-air pollution control program efforts.  By next March, CARB needs to have the “concepts for an indirect source rule,” (emphasis added) i.e., think how ozone precursors are controlled and how/whether such approaches might work across huge industrial/commercial landscapes.
*  Last October, in Cleveland, US DOE held a “scoping meeting” for a wind turbine project in Lake Erie, called “Project Icebreaker,” developed and sponsored by a local group called LEEDCo – Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.  Importantly, that meeting started a required environmental assessment (EA) process.  On Friday, ten months later, DOE proposed funding to “support the development of a wind demonstration project consisting of 6 turbines in Lake Erie approximately 8 miles off Cleveland, Ohio.”  A draft EA is available for review, comments are due by 10/10/17.  This is an important move, for reasons way beyond energy and how it’s generated.
*  Environmental Update employees in Columbia, SC, were told they can put their feet up on their desks, lean back and take a power nap when it gets dark during today’s eclipse.  Columbia reportedly will experience the longest period of totality for a metro area on the East Coast: up to 2 minutes and 36 seconds of complete darkness.  (Big question: can you operate an electric car during the eclipse?)  The eclipse peaks between 1-3 pm when mighty Mr. Sun is forced to peek from behind tiny Mr. Moon, an event that always piques our interest. C’mon now, lighten up! *:D big grin
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 FAA’s regulatory reform advisory committee submitted initial recommendations to agency staff.  Seems like there ought to be some good ideas in the mix – after all, the draft is 154 pages containing over 300 individual suggestions to repeal, replace or modify regulatory language.  This is a rough draft listing all of the ideas from committee members.  Next steps: further review and working towards consensus on changes FAA can make to provide near-term regulatory relief consistent with the goals in the President’s Executive Order seeking a long term strategy promoting safe and efficient transportation systems.
*  Nothing to see here, folks – keep moving… Some concerns/comments sent from citizen John Doe re DOT’s regulatory reforms.  Mr. Doe identifies himself as a highway engineer, working for a consulting company, with 20 years experience: ** Multiple standards result in far too many personal preferences and design changes and sometime higher costs. ** Property owners with political connections get preferential treatment, e.g., one state recently spent $80 million on an interchange that could have cost $50 million but a Big Guy knew the governor and he wanted a “non standard” interchange to remain near his business. ** State pension issues are leading experienced people to bail out; inexperienced staff left behind cause design and construction problems.

*  The National Coal Council’s (NCC) June Newsletter cites a report from a group called GCube Underwriting, Ltd, a “renewable energy underwriter,” based in London.  GCube cautions that “resource risk” – a lack of wind or low wind speeds – will be the most pressing concern for the wind energy sector “for a number of years.” Low wind speeds are reportedly hurting the performance of wind farms in numerous markets. In fact, GCube writes that resource risk has now surpassed mechanical and electrical breakdowns as the top potential cause of financial loss.  I sent an email to GCube asking for their full report… No reply yet.

Tom Ewing
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513-379-5526 voice/text

ABC Says: Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips to Start 2017

Nonresidential construction spending contracted during January, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Nonresidential spending fell 1.9 percent from December to $698.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. This represents the first month total nonresidential construction spending dipped below $700 billion since July 2016.
Despite the monthly setback, year-over-year progress remains intact, with nonresidential spending increasing 1.5 percent since January 2016. However, in real terms, that represents virtually nonexistent growth. Private nonresidential spending remained unchanged for the month, while public sector spending plunged 4.7 percent. The greatest loss in spending volume occurred in the public safety, water supply and conservation and development segments.
“The significant loss in public construction spending momentum is hardly novel,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For several years, public funding for construction activity has been flat and erratic. Public budgets remain constrained by underfunded pensions, surging Medicaid expenditures, and other non-infrastructure-related needs.
“The new president’s speech on Tuesday night discussed the need for additional infrastructure investment,” said Basu. “If the president is able to implement his public-private partnership plan, public construction spending is set to soar. However, there are many obstacles to his plan coming to fruition.

“Private construction spending was also soft in January, but the outlook remains upbeat,” said Basu. “Corporate confidence is high, architects became much busier during the period immediately following the presidential election, and capital from banks and other sources should be broadly available to developers during the year ahead.”

January 2017 Nonresidential Construction Spending

ARTBA Comments: Trump Executive Order on Waters of the U.S. Rule Beneficial to Transportation Permitting Process

 President Trump’s Feb. 28 executive order directing the withdrawal of the controversial “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule removes an unnecessary obstacle that would have delayed transportation improvement projects, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

At issue for the transportation construction industry is how the Obama Administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to redefine what collections of water constitute the WOTUS and are therefore subject to federal authority. Before EPA issued the rule, ARTBA told the agency on multiple occasions that “roadside ditches are not, and should not be regulated as, traditional jurisdictional wetlands as they are not connected water bodies and they contribute to the public health and safety of the nation by dispersing water from roadways.”

The rule, however, did not categorically exempt roadside ditches from federal jurisdiction. Instead, the EPA, in a regulatory overreach, decided a litany of qualifications must be met before a roadside ditch can be deemed exempt from federal permitting requirements.

ARTBA explained to EPA such a piecemeal approach would add another layer of burdensome permitting requirements, create confusion and increase permitting delays for transportation projects. The WOTUS rule, the association said, would also likely be used as a litigation tool to delay projects and, in the process, make them more expensive for taxpayers.

Subsequently, ARTBA, in addition to numerous other trade associations and state governments, sought relief from the federal courts. As a result of that litigation, the WOTUS rule was stayed nationwide.

It’s unclear how the Feb. 28 executive order will impact future federal court proceedings. The association said it plans to work with EPA Administrator Pruitt to craft a new rule that strikes the proper balance between necessary regulatory protection and the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Established in 1902, ARTBA is the transportation construction industry’s “consensus voice” on environmental and regulatory matters in the Nation’s Capital.

Purina is donating 1 pound of dog food to a shelter for every viewing of this video.

Purina is donating 1 pound of dog food to a shelter for every viewing of this video. As a service to other shelter dogs, please send it on to your dog friends.