Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  DOE’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a DOE’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week – the “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.”  Because electric energy regulators and policymakers do not use English the way most people do the narrative of energy rulings is frequently puzzling.  One core NOPR issue centers on the dependency and resiliency of old-school power generation – coal, natural gas and hydro versus how “the market” prices and compensates new-school renewable generation.  DOE’s Staff Report writes that markets need further study and reform to address grid reliability and resilience. “System operators are working toward recognizing, defining, and compensating for resource attributes that enhance reliability and resilience (on both the supply and demand side). This is on a fast track: the Secretary has directed the Commission to take final action within 60 days of publication of the proposed rule or to issue the rule as an interim final rule immediately.  Comments are due either November 24 or according to a schedule to be published by the Commission.  Clear on that?
*  Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) established a “permitting dashboard” which is supposed to track all major federal infrastructure projects, from power systems to dams to highways and pipelines.  The dashboard is also supposed to reflect the work of a new FAST-41 Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC).  Both the Council and the dashboard have been on the sidelines for the past 18 months. The setup is more like a library than a control tower.  But changes are in the works including a GSA proposal allowing the Council to collect fees from project sponsors, using the money to keep projects on track, with project performance linked to individual performance reviews.  What?!  No way.  Stay tuned.
*  Last March the Department of Commerce started work on a Presidential directive to study regulatory changes to help expand manufacturing development and investments in the US.  The report was supposed to be concluded in mid-May but DOC just released the report.  It’s worth a close look.  One important suggestion: “There is no regular process for consultations with industry to identify specific actions the federal government can take to eliminate unduly burdensome regulations and accelerate permitting decisions. Thus, the Department recommends creating an annual, open forum for regulators and industry stakeholders to evaluate progress in reducing regulatory burdens.”  [Now, if you-know-who would just stay focused…! *:D big grin ]
 
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The comment period ended last week on EPA’s review, which started last March, of the Final Determination of the Mid-term Evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles for model years 2021-2025 (procedurally, the model year 2021 was considered a separate action).  EPA’s work was coordinated with a parallel rulemaking by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding CAFE standards – Corporate Average Fuel Economy.  This topic drew a heck of a lot of interest: 405,908 comments; so far, though, just 7,764 are posted online. *:D big grin
*  Speaking of CO2 and greenhouse gas equivalents transportation CO2 emissions increased in 2016.  The US Energy Information Administration (EIS) released its report “US Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2016” last week.  A few highlights (and recall that the economy expanded in 2016): overall carbon intensity (CO2/GDP) declined by 3.1%.  Emissions declined in 6 out of the past 10 years, and energyrelated CO2 emissions in 2016 were 823 (14%) million metric tons (MMmt) below 2005 levels.  Natural gas CO2 emissions surpassed those from coal. However, because natural gas produces more energy for the same amount of emissions as coal, growth in natural gas consumption contributed to the overall 2016 decline in total emissions.  Of the four enduse sectors, only transportation CO2 emissions increased in 2016.  Motor gasoline accounted for 56.0% of the 34 MMmt net increase in transportation-sector CO2 emissions in 2016—totaling 19 MMmt—an increase of 1.8% from the 2015 level.  Jet fuel emissions were up by about 4.0% (9 MMmt), diesel declined by 2.7%.
*  EPA released its Draft FY 2018– 2022 Strategic Plan last week.  The Strategic Plan is being revised, as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010. EPA expects to submit a final Strategic Plan to Congress in February 2018.  The Strategic Plan reflects the Administrator’s three strategic goals: Core Mission – to “deliver real results to provide Americans with clean air, land, and water;” Cooperative Federalism – rebalancing power between Washington and the states; and Rule of Law – administering the law as Congress intended, focusing on statutory obligations.  Comments on the Draft are due 10/31.
 
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  EPA announced last week the start of a new program called “Smart Sectors,” within its Office of Policy.  The SS (careful with that acronym) is based on EPA’s Sector Strategies program.  The program will “re-examine how EPA engages with industry in order to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden, create certainty and predictability, and improve the ability of both EPA and industry to conduct long-term regulatory planning while also protecting the environment and public health.”  EPA writes that industry-wide environmental performance improvement is the goal and the Agency will work with trade associations and others to “find creative ways to document environmental progress and burden reductions.”  Stay tuned, this could be important.
*  Is big “gubmint” getting smaller or not?  Well, using the number of Federal Register pages as one indicator big “gubmint” is just shrinking away.  End of 3rd quarter this year, 09/29/17 – the FR was at 45,677 pages.  Last year, 09/30/16, the page count was 67,899.  That’s a delta of 22,222.  Or, about 89 pages per business day of size 8 font that you didn’t have to read!
*  Maybe this doesn’t have anything to do with energy and environmental topics – or, more likely, everything: 09/27 was Google’s 19th birthday.  Of course we all know that because all 32 billion of us used Google that day, and looked right at the birthday thingy, likely many times, maybe without even thinking about it, taking the monstrous, friendly-faced search engine for granted, always welcoming it to be part of any and every activity, no questions asked, no need for questions, really… 19 years: Global domination of all thoughts, information and thinking about information and, really, thinking itself.  Unbelievable…   *:)) laughing

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  A DOE notice about SunShot 2030 caught my eye recently because it is one of many DOE renewable energy initiatives filling my inbox lately, in contrast, really, to gloom and doom “news” from many “sources” about hairy, brutish Luddites with pitchforks taking over the Department and smashing all the Keurig machines.  The Solar Energy Technologies Office wants comments on “integrated data and analysis needs across the solar value chain to inform near to mid-term plans for the development of resources such as information based network planning, real time optimization, and bankability tools in the context of DOE’s SunShot 2030 goals.” SunShot is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption.  2030 is 12 years away.  Sounds like things are continuing, not stopping.  Hurry up: comments are due October 6!
*  Corporations and other institutions have contracted for more than 2,300 MW of off-site solar, using power purchase agreements (PPAs), green tariffs, or bilateral deals with utilities.  The corporate procurement of utility-scale PV has grown from less than 1% of annual installed utility-scale capacity in 2014 to 9% in 2016 and it accounted for 17% in early 2017. To expand corporate procurement of off-site solar, both a purchasing pathway and cost competitive solar are required.  This insider’s look is from a new DOE/NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) report titled “Charting the Emergence of Corporate Procurement of Utility-Scale PV.”  NREL will expand on the report, with discussions and commentary, in a webinar next Monday, October 9.

*  Also next Monday, California’s Air Resources Board holds a public workshop on the State’s “Beneficiary Mitigation Plan” for its $423 million allocation of the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust.  Eligible activities consist mostly of scrap-and-replace projects, including supportive infrastructure for zero- and near zero-emission advanced technology replacements, for the heavy-duty sector.  Program leaders also “strive to ensure that at least 35 percent of California’s allocation benefit low-income or disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution.”  If you can’t make the meeting you can submit comments to CARB.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a new voluntary guidance on automated driving systems—”Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety.” This guidance is based on public comments received on the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (FAVP) released a year ago, September 2016. The updated guidance is “to support industry innovators, States, and other key stakeholders as they consider and design best practices relative to the testing and deployment of automated vehicle technologies while informing and educating the public and improving roadway safety.” NHTSA is looking for public comments on the guidance and “additional ways to improve its usefulness.”  The document is part of DOT’s efforts to support the introduction of automation technologies that “hold the promise of fulfilling NHTSA’s mission of reducing the number of injuries and fatalities on our roads.”  Comments are due by November 14.
*  In Oregon, an interim joint House-Senate committee on energy and environment meets today for two hearings focused on transportation electrification.  One hearing is titled  “Public Utility Commission’s Resource Value of Solar and Transportation Electrification Dockets.”  Staff from OR’s Public Utility Commission will update legislators.  The second hearing topic is titled “Electrification Transportation Programs and Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.”  Testimony will be from utility experts and officials from vehicle trade groups.
*  Who knew, right, that we have a National Advisory Committee on Windstorm Impact Reduction (NACWIR or the Committee)?  Well, we do and the Committee holds an open video conference meeting next week, on Monday, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The purpose of the meeting: to finalize the Committee’s report on wind reduction assessments and recommendations. You can participate remotely. The NACWIR was established in accordance with the requirements of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015. The Committee is charged with offering assessments and recommendations on trends and developments in the natural, engineering, and social sciences and practices of windstorm impact mitigation, program priorities and coordination and, importantly, the effectiveness of the Program in meeting its purposes.
Tom Ewing
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