Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  NY’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) requires the State’s utilities to undertake demonstration projects to help advance the many ideas on which REV is based.  Project reports are filed quarterly; they are all in a public docket.  Many of the demo projects conclude this year, after starting in 2015.  The update reports are sobering, not at all indicative of broad successes, on any level, except, perhaps: don’t do this again.  Expensive lessons,  although that’s really hard to tell because the budget portions of the quarterly reports are often blacked out as if money isn’t important.  For REV, these demonstration projects are supposed to provide the instruction and experience for bigger scale-up application throughout a utility’s service area.  The update reports, though – and their key-learnings – haven’t drawn much attention, almost as if people, deliberately, prefer a distorted energy vision.

*  The President’s “Memorandum for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” (April 12) is an important document.  Its focus is “Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation—Policies and Procedures Relating to Implementation of Air Quality Standards.”  This Memo gives the Administrator direct orders addressing 10 critical functions within the Clean Air Act and its labyrinthine and endless permitting and modeling requirements.  Imagine, asking EPA to “endeavor” to take final action on applications for preconstruction permits, “as appropriate and consistent with law, within 1 year of the date of receiving a complete application.”  (Receiving a complete application can be difficult enough.)  This is important.  Investments in manufacturing make the pie bigger, for everyone.

 *  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is starting an environmental assessment (EA) regarding the impacts of the Empire North Project – a big pipeline project proposed for upstate New York and extending into Pennsylvania.  FERC will use the EA in its “decision-making process to determine whether the project is in the public convenience and necessity.”  This project would include an upgrade in the maximum allowable operating pressure of the Empire Connector Pipeline (ECP) from 1,290 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) to 1,440 psig. The ECP is an existing 76.6- mile-long, 24-inch-diameter pipeline that runs from Victor, NY to Corning, NY.  Comments are due by May 10.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program is a voluntary EPA program, started in 2016, through which oil and natural gas companies commit to reducing methane emissions.  (While this methane focus is new, the overall energy STAR program started in 1993.)  Just about every major natural gas company signed up to participate, representing about 66 percent of US natural gas customers, according to the American Gas Association.  But there’s a problem: apparently, the paperwork isn’t finished. In December 2016, EPA sought industry comments on the draft reporting documents that would establish a company’s control efforts.  Response: big fat zero.   Now, after one full calendar year (2017), participants are supposed to submit their data regarding last year’s reduction activities.  Last week, EPA started a new 30-day information request, again seeking industry comments on the draft reporting forms and what kind of changes might add value to this process and data set. Important work.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.  Comments are due by May 14.

*  In January, the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee recommended to DOE about the need for consensus on a proposed rule for test procedures and energy efficiency standards for certain air conditioners and heat pumps.  Last week, DOE announced its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking working group to, indeed, focus on such a proposed rule; a process DOE presents “as authorized by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, as amended.”  DOE is recruiting working group volunteers. Applications/nominations are due by April 26.

*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for the sale of commercial wind energy leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts.  The offer is for two leases that were unsold during the Atlantic Wind Lease Sale-4 (ATLW–4) on January 29, 2015.  The new PSN contains information including areas available, proposed lease provisions and conditions and auction details.  BOEM set a 60-day public comment period, ending June 11.  Importantly, “the issuance of the proposed leases resulting from this sale would not constitute approval of project-specific plans to develop offshore wind energy.” Those plans would be subject to subsequent environmental and technical reviews prior to a decision by BOEM to approve the development.

Tom Ewing

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update


*  BOEM’s busy: publishing a “Call for Information and Nominations” (Call) from companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within the New York Bight, an area between Long Island and the New Jersey coast.  In addition, BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) wants more general, public comments on issues within the Call area, issues that could affect BOEM’s decisions about specific sites, for example, fishing and navigation.  Also last week BOEM and DOI announced the proposed lease sale for two additional areas offshore Massachusetts for commercial wind energy, totaling nearly 390,000 acres.  Look for details this week in the Federal Register.  Also upcoming, a public seminar regarding auction details and to demonstrate, with examples, how the auction works.

*  Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources completed its draft plan to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) from mobile sources. The draft beneficiary mitigation plan outlines Missouri’s vision and goals for spending $41 million from the Volkswagen Trust. The department also has completed draft guidelines for implementing the plan.  The department developed the draft documents with advice from the VW Trust Advisory Committee and from Missouri citizens. Since October of 2017, the department has received comments and suggestions during meetings, via surveys and through emails and letters.  The department will accept public comments on the draft documents through May 4, 2018.  Proposed spending includes $12 million to replace older school buses (or engines); $6 million for government-owned trucks; and $4 million for transit vehicles.

*  DOE Secretary Rick Perry headlines a hearing by the US House Subcommittee on Energy this week.  The main topic: DOE’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget.  One focus is the budget’s priorities, particularly relating to energy security issues “identified in the committee’s ‘DOE Modernization’ series, and the agency’s expanding role to address emerging and existing threats to the physical and cybersecurity of the nation’s energy infrastructure, among other things.”
 
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Another request last week for information on autonomous vehicles: US DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is reviewing existing regs “that may need to be updated, modified, or eliminated to facilitate the safe introduction of automated driving systems (ADS) equipped commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) onto our Nation’s roadways.”  More specifically, the agency requests information in 3 broad areas: (1) about scenarios and environments where entities expect that ADS will soon be tested and integrated into CMVs operating on public roads or in interstate commerce; (2) the operational design domains (ODD) in which these systems are being operated or would be tested and eventually deployed; and (3) measures to protect proprietary or confidential business information that might reach the agency.  This process continues and builds on DOT’s “voluntary guidance” work that started last September.  The guidance adopts SAE  (Society of Automotive Engineers) definitions which divide vehicles into five levels based on ‘‘who does what, when.”  Comments are due May 10.

*  EPA proposes adding hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste program under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations. This change, once finalized, could benefit the wide variety of establishments generating and managing hazardous waste aerosol cans, including the retail sector.  EPA writes that new rules would provide “a clear, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans” and that streamlined universal waste regulations would “ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and others that discard hazardous waste aerosol cans,” promote collection and recycling and encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce waste quantities being landfilled or combusted.  Comments are due May 15, 2018.

*  Okay, it’s just a rough measure but Federal Register pages totaled 13,815 at the end of the 1st quarter this year.  Same time last year? 16,099 pages.  That’s a negative delta of 2,284 pages over which you didn’t need to twist and distort your eyeballs.  Feeling better?

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  At the end of February, the Secretary of the Interior presented a draft list – for public comment – of 35 “critical minerals,” defined as essential to the economic and national security of the United States.  The list drew many comments, focusing on a range of issues: “Children are mining Rare Earth Elements for Electric Cars, while Electric car companies are mining government subsidies for the rich that can afford the $90,000 price tag for a new model. While Americas poor are put out of jobs from regulations.”  Hmmmm…. Is that true? It was sent in by one of many people named Anonymous Anonymous.  Another group said the list is too short: “Placing limits on this list, due to over-zealous environmental policies, completely undermines the 1872 Mining Laws and the wisdom of some extremely important Presidents that saved this Nation over the course of History.”  That’s from the Materials and Mining Advisory Council, based in Nashville, TN.  Is it worth noting that the Council sent its comments via fax?  Not sure when Interior’s list will be finalized.
*  The US House Committee on Energy & Commerce sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt regarding EPA reorganization plans, particularly pertaining to workforce analysis.  The letter writes that “EPA has struggled for decades to determine whether the workforce at the agency has the appropriate skills and competencies to accomplish its mission.”  The Committee notes that EPA has not conducted a workforce analysis in over 20 years and the letter further references a 2012 EPA Office of Inspector General report on the need to improve workload analysis.  The Committee notes that some reorganization is already occurring: certain offices have been combined and over 1000 employees have accepted buyouts.  The Committee wants a briefing by EPA’s Chief of Operations “and other relevant personnel.”  The deadline to set this meeting is March 27.
*  Here’s a topic for careful review – very careful review: DOT published an RFI last week seeking insights on the autonomous transport of hazardous materials, both for trucks/highways and railroads.  DOT writes that “Automated Driving Systems’’ (ADS) have shown the capacity to “drive and operate motor vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles, as safely and efficiently as humans, if not more so. Similar technological developments are also occurring in rail.”  The RFI poses eleven core questions, which reference safety, of course, but also ask about systems under development, regulatory conflicts and integrating possible new rules with existing hazmat regulations.  This could be one reset for difficult pipeline issues in New England: upcoming applications to ship in LNG via driverless trucks! *:D big grin  Comments are due by May 7.  Stay tuned…
Tom Ewing
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