Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* Last December the Army Corp of Engineers published a draft rule that would update and formalize how water supplies are controlled and managed at Army Corps reservoir systems, formalizing a somewhat uneven regulatory process for the last 60 years or so. On the front lines: cities, potable water, commerce, energy production, wildlife, navigation and recreation from the Dakotas to Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. Oh, and fracking just might be involved. Last week the Corp announced the comment period would be extended to May. This will likely impact related state and municipal water issues, e.g., in the Klamath River basin in Oregon and California.

* The Department of Agriculture proposed updates to regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms, making it easier for “regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant pest or noxious weed risks.” Comments were due in May, but that has been extended for 30 days. The use of GMOs in energy crops was a big topic for DOE for many years, in association with Agriculture. It will be interesting to see how that research might shift in the next six to eight months.

* In its 2017 biennial report to the legislature Oregon’s Global Warming Commission has an important “key takeaway:” the majority of the increase (60%) in greenhouse gas emissions “came from the transportation sector, specifically the use of gasoline and diesel.” The GWC references “likely transportation legislation including a gas tax increase,” increased transit service levels, and “wider deployment of Electric Vehicles (EV’s) reliant on a clean electrical grid.” A related, possible 2017 legislative topic is establishing a carbon market, like California’s. So far, no moves on that front.

Tom Ewing

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 

* President Trump signed an Executive Order “Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High
Priority Infrastructure Projects.” The EO seeks “to streamline and expedite…all infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the Nation.” Process isn’t quite clear. First, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has 30 days to evaluate whether a forwarded project is, indeed, “high priority.” Then, CEQ will establish “in a manner consistent with law, expedited procedures and deadlines” for completing environmental reviews and approvals. Leadership will be held accountable if deadlines are missed.

* According to my notes Thursday, Feb. 9 will be one year since the Clean Power Plan was stayed by the US courts.

* Big gubmint: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeks comment regarding potential modifications to its policies for evaluating oil pipeline indexed rate changes. The Commission also seeks comment regarding potential changes to FERC Form No. 6, page 700. Page 700, within one form? Uh… literally? And do you have to read the 1st 699 pages to make sense out of page 700…? A lot of work to move not one drop of oil.

Tom Ewing

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* On 01/20, Reince Priebus, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, sent a Memo – “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review.” Priebus directed a 60 day stay for regulations published in the OFR (Office of Federal Register) but not yet, by date, effective. The purpose: to “review questions of fact, law, and policy.” There are exceptions – for “emergency situations or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial, or national security matters.” EPA published a list of 30 such regs, stayed until March 21, 2017. Many deal with local air quality issues. Some have national scope. None raises the specter of gutting the Clean Air Act or any other environmental statutes.

* Individual states could become new theaters of climate/energy action. Oregon, for example, is prepping to consider a market-based CO2 cap and trade program. OR’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will submit a report to legislators on cap and trade when the new session starts Wednesday, February 1. DEQ lays out options and choices for lawmakers. Some legislative Committee agendas are already set. Two big starting topics: wood smoke fires and extra days off from school because snow is crushing the state.

* Many states, of course, have programs to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), although California gets most of the attention. In addition to a “Global Warming Commission,” Oregon has many GHG programs: an energy facility siting standard, voluntary gas and electric utility/ratepayer programs, a zero emission vehicle mandate, an electric utility renewable portfolio standard and a utility coal import moratorium. However, in its Draft cap and trade report DEQ writes that the state is not on track to meet its 2020 goals, with GHG emissions projected to exceed the 2020 goal by approximately 11 million metric tons or 22%. “Absent additional state or federal policies, (the Commission) expects this gap to grow in the future and result in Oregon falling well short of its long-term GHG reduction goals.” What’s not working? More importantly, why?

Tom Ewing

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update — 2 Weeks Worth

Week of January 16, 2017
* Think of cities without trees: too depressing. Urban forests are critical. The Department of Agriculture works with cities via its National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, established by Congress in 1990. The Council meets 2-3 times/year. The next meeting is February 9, 10-5 EST, in Washington; you can participate via teleconference. Program topics include: the 2017 Work Plan; a presentation on innovation in timber building construction; and discussion on implementing the National ten year action plan (2016–2026).

* Two important technology initiatives advanced last week: the Department of Commerce released its draft Green Paper on how the federal government can best facilitate development of the Internet of Things (IoT). DoC’s work is based on a public meeting held last September. In an email staff wrote “We look forward to continuing the conversation… helping to enable the incoming administration to be well informed about this important technological development.” Nice. Comments due: 02/27. The second important publication was DOT’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications for new light vehicles and to standardize the message and format of V2V transmissions. Comments are due by April 12.

* We really don’t like you but we like your money. If you’re an oil/energy company that might be the message you take from a State Department grant titled “Workshops for Promoting Womens Full Participation in Community Consultations with Oil and Gas Companies.” Hmmmm… Text explains that this “is a new program via ENR aimed at increasing womens participation in community consultations with oil and gas companies so they can represent their own needs and advocate for their share of revenue, jobs, and other benefits; and join in community decision-making processes.” Just don’t mine, pump or extract any nasty carbon product, or try to sell it. Uh, now about the money…

Week of January 23, 2017
* DOT finalized rulings last week on national highway system (NHS) performance standards. How/whether CO2 would be included was a big question. The answer: CO2 measurements are now required as part of system performance, specifically the percent change in CO2 emissions from the reference year 2017, generated by on-road mobile sources on the NHS. All State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations with NHS mileage in their State geographic boundaries and metropolitan planning areas, respectively, will be required to establish targets and report on progress. The FHWA will assess every 2 years to determine if a State DOT has made significant progress toward achieving their targets. (Uh… and if they haven’t…?)

* California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) released its Draft Freight Hub Survey for Truck Stops. The survey is the first in a series of six such surveys from ARB this year. It’s meant to gather specific facility and equipment information from California based truck stops. ARB staff wants comments on the information included in the survey. The data will help ARB understand activity at CA truck stops, assess the potential for emission reductions, inform potential strategies for reducing those emissions, and direct funding assistance efforts.

* Last week I noted DOT’s proposal to establish vehicle-to-vehicle communication standards. Now here’s a citizen who speaks clearly and forthrightly – no on-the-fence waffling: “Drop this Bill in the Gulf of Mexico…….It’s actually another way of controlling the people. I oppose this bill and any others like it.” Well, the mail clerk will know which stack to put that letter in!

Tom Ewing

Note: The delayed posting was due to the fact that Site-K Construction Zone was in Las Vegas covering the 2017 World of Concrete.

 

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* A settlement agreement with a California utility establishes revised costs and parameters for a vehicle charging system. Final cost: $160 million for 3-year program providing 7,500 L2 ports and 100 DCFC ports. L2 = Level 2 charging, providing a “top-off charge” in 2-3 hours, full charge in 4-6 hours. DCFC = Direct current fast charging, requiring 20-30 minutes, for a full charge. The utility originally wanted a larger 7-year program costing $654 million. A small annual ratepayer subsidy is required.

* DOT/FHWA left its “friends” at the nation’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) looking like Wile E. Coyote in the middle of the road after the steamroller went by. DOT finalized proposals, made last June, to shake-up the insular world of MPOs and their frequently entrapped local officials who snooze through meetings feigning interest in “travel demand models” and air quality conformity. DOT judged the MPO world as too inefficient, slow and not focused enough on America’s transportation needs. The agency recieved 660 comments, just 16 supported the Agency’s proposals! The final rule was announced Thursday. Look for it in the Federal Register soon.

* Fish & Wildlife (FWS) recently released two important notices for bald and golden eagles. Both pertain to inextricable eagle-wind energy conflicts. One notice was for the massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase I Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, WY, likely to include 500 wind turbines and require a huge construction footprint. The second notice was more general – the final revisions for Eagle “take permits,” a complicated policy allowing the “unavoidable take” (killing) of eagles but requiring, from the permit holder, mitigation and corrective activities as offsets. If only the eagles would read the Federal Register they would know humans want to get this right. FWS believes that bald eagle numbers can tolerate some level of “take.” Unfortunately, the situation is more dire for golden eagles.

 

Tom Ewing

p.s. The boss is giving me a short break! I’ll holler back atcha in January, 2017! Have a great holiday season. Thank you for letting me work with you this past year! I appreciate it! TE