Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last October, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum titled “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West.”  It set streamlining demands for major western water projects, including work underway within the Columbia River Basin – more specifically, an Environmental Impact Statement and Biological Opinion originally due in 2021.  The President said: too slow, git-‘r-done faster.  Last week the co-lead agencies – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration – announced that their plan to speed things up was approved by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Work will be finished next year – 2020.  “The agencies now are revising project details in order to reach the new completion date.”  It looks like the work pace quickens for tasks related to “Public Comment Review and Synthesis” and “Prepare Final EIS and Identify Preferred Alternative.”  The final EIS should be out in June 2020 rather than the previous, much more exact deadline of March 26, 2021.
*  Next week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release the findings of its Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (AEO), including long-term projections of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices, including cases that address alternative assumptions regarding U.S. economic growth rates, domestic energy resources and technology, and world oil prices. Additionally, EIA will present its January 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).  This news release will really be an event, a presentation, and discussion by top EIA officials followed by an expert panel discussion on the issues within the new Outlooks.  Panelists are from the Bipartisan Policy Center, EPRI and FERC.
*  PFAS* monitoring continues in Michigan.  State and County officials retested 21 private residential wells in Otsego, MI.  Fortunately, there was no presence of fearsome dioxins in most of the wells that had previously tested positive.  Only one well showed trace amounts – the highest level was 0.13 parts per quadrillion (ppq), far below drinking water standards.  Wells were tested for PFAS around the former Menasha Corporation Landfill in Otsego.  Good news: All residential well samples came back negative for PFAS.  This investigation continues.  Next phase: testing soil samples for dioxins and PFAS.
*”PFAS,” or PFAs,” is an acronym for perfluoroalkyls, which are a group of man-made chemicals that are not found naturally in the environment, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These are industrial chemicals used in manufacturing.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  There’s a tidal-hydrokinetic research project underway in Bourne, MA, at the end of the Cape Cod Canal.  The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative of New England filed an application (not its first filing) with FERC for a draft pilot license application that would allow interconnection with the on-shore electrical grid.  This is pretty small stuff where power is concerned, about 100 kW.  A public comment period started in November and given MA’s environmental mandates pertaining to energy you might think that this Collaborative would have a whole lot of friends hoping they get this thing working, the faster the better.  Nope: not one supportive comment to FERC from any public officials or renewable energy or anti-pipeline groups.  In fact, MA’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife criticized the application, writing that it falls short and requires more work, that the pilot license should not be granted.  Ditto for NOAA.  FERC is likely to make a next-step decision soon.  
*  But, change takes time, of course.  On Dec. 17 USEPA proposed approving a MassDOT project establishing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and specified transit facilities on certain roadways around Boston, e.g., I-93, I-90 and Route 3. The changes would improve air quality because of decreased vehicle miles traveled and less congestion.  Less fuel burned, of course, also means less CO2.  Again, considering MA is required to decrease greenhouse gas emissions you would think there would be a lot of support for MassDOT’s projects.  Hmmm… Well, there likely is but probably everyone is waiting for the last minute to send in his or her “attaboy.”  One proposal – a good one – within the recent report from the MA Commission on the Future of Transportation is for projects that increase corridor efficiencies, to move more people, not just vehicles.  These aren’t exactly new ideas – the Boston HOV lanes were first proposed in 1996 *:D big grin… It takes a while…!
*  Well, for what it’s worth as a measure of Big Gubmint, total Federal Register pages were way up at the end of 2018 compared to 2017.  Last year’s FR had 68082 pages.  2017 totaled 61949.  That’s a big delta of 6133 more pages!  2019 is off to a slow start because of the Federal government shutdown.  One day last week the entire document was two pages.
Have a great Monday and a great week!

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
*  Have a GREAT holiday season!
*  I’ll holler back atcha in January, 2019!
Have a great Monday and a great 3 weeks!

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Price points.  French gas prices during the Yellow Vest chaos were about $1.53/liter on the day I checked; a US equivalent of $5.78/gallon.  Gas in my area dropped to $1.98/gallon, about 52¢/liter.  Around the same time, Yahoo! News reported that an Exxon, Hess, and NCOOC off-shore exploration project confirmed the discovery of 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, with exploration continuing.  Estimated recovery cost: $35/barrel (in the ocean!).  In other words, cheap oil, just about forever.  I like how Hamlet said it: “There are more hydrocarbons recoverable on Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Value is frequently judged by how much people will pay for something, and then they won’t.  Value is hard to assess with grand, singular cultural creations and monuments; you know, maybe like what’s the value of the Arc de Triomphe, damaged during the French protests?  Now it’s clear: The treasures of France are not worth $5.78/gallon.  If gas costs less, they stay.  If it costs more, the Arc and all that old stuff va être brûlé au sol!
*  On Friday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for “the Construction and Operation Plan (COP) submitted by Vineyard Wind LLC (Vineyard Wind).” The Draft analyzes potential environmental impacts of the proposed Vineyard Wind project and reasonable alternatives. The Notice starts the public review and comment period and it presents the dates and locations of public hearings.  The project would install up to 100 wind turbine generators, each with a capacity of between 8 and 10 MW in an area approximately 12 nautical miles from the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard and a similar distance from the southwest side of Nantucket.  The comment period ends January 22, 2019.
*  Update: I asked the MA’s Governor’s office about The Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth Report, noted last week to be late; it was due by December 1.  “No specific date can be conveyed today,” a staff person wrote back, “please feel free to check back with me next week.”  This really isn’t about one more state transportation report.  I mean, you could rebuild the Taj Mahal with state transportation reports printed and filed over the last decades.  There are two bigger issues: one, missed deadlines devalue the work.  “It’s just not that important” is the signal from the top, about issues supposedly undertaken in the public’s interest.  Second, although apparently not likely with this work, what about the people who need the report so they can make next-step decisions?  Isn’t their time worth anything?  A web page note would be thoughtful, e.g., “Sorry, the report’s delayed!  Late comments deserve a careful review!  Thanks for understanding!”  The message now? “Get over it, peons, you’re just so not worth it.”
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  A subcommittee of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has scheduled a hearing this week titled “Preparing for Maritime Transportation in a Changing Arctic.”  The Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, chaired by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), will examine emerging transportation issues including increases in vessel traffic and the resulting need for updates in waterway management, infrastructure investment, and domain awareness.  Right now, witnesses include Mr. Willie Goodwin, Chairman, Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, Ms. Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America and Captain Ed Page, Executive Director, Marine Exchange of Alaska.  The witness list could change.
*  The Conservation Fund has an important meeting coming up next week in West Virginia dealing with “gateway communities,” which the Fund defines (for its work) as communities that border publicly owned lands such as national and state parks and forests, communities that often struggle to “balance the need for economic growth with the desire to protect their natural ecosystems, landscapes, and cultural heritage.”  The meeting is something of a first for the Fund, the complete title is the”Inaugural National Summit for Gateway Communities.”  It has an interesting set of sponsors, including the Federal Highway Administration, the RV Industry Association and the US Forest Service.  The draft Agenda is strong and focused on how to get real work done.  You can click here to see about attending but you might be too late – registration is limited to 200 people!
*  Agreed: deadlines are a pain.  Massachusetts was supposed to release its report from the “Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth” by December 1, which, of course, was Saturday.  The report will present the Commission’s analysis and advice to help the Governor assess likely impacts on transportation between 2020 and 2040 caused by changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy.  The Commission was established January 23; which is when somebody set that deadline (probably thought it would never get here…*:D big grin).
Tom Ewing
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