Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  In a way, a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finding may be as significant as the particular project itself.  FERC announced availability last week of a draft EIS regarding the Texas LNG Project, proposed by Texas LNG Brownsville, LLC.  That’s not particularly newsy – draft docs are part of the process.  Rather, it’s FERC’s draft conclusion, “that approval of the Texas LNG Project would result in adverse environmental impacts.”  Mitigation measures could help except with “visual resources when viewed from the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.”  There’s more: this project, combined with other nearby projects, “would result in significant cumulative impacts from sediment/turbidity and shoreline erosions within the Brownsville Ship Channel during operations from vessel transits” and on the federally listed ocelot and jaguarundi from habitat loss, among other impacts.  The EIS is open for public review and comment.  Recall the charge noted here a few weeks ago by a pipeline opponent: that FERC has never said no to a proposed project.  This news isn’t a “No,” but it’s unusual.  Stay tuned.
*  EPA is making available for review the draft Integrated Review Plan for the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (draft IRP). This document contains the draft plans and the anticipated schedule for the current review of the air quality criteria and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for photochemical oxidants including ozone (O3).  This process will continue all through 2019; EPA will likely make final decisions in 2020.  For many reasons, ozone is the most contentious of the “criteria pollutants” (so-called because this is ancient history now, these were pollutants – including ozone, NOx, SOx, particulates – for which scientists had actual health-based criteria to use in setting exposure levels).  Across the country, ozone levels are mostly below the national standard.  But of course, this will get very political.  Possible regulatory changes will be critical for manufacturing growth, energy and overall economic development.
*   The Army Corps of Engineers is starting a major study on environmental impacts related to the improvement of New York and New Jersey harbor anchorages.  The Corps will review “changed conditions and/or assumptions since the original feasibility study was completed in 2000.”  Big problem: existing Federal anchorages are “insufficient” in meeting such functions as security and U.S. Coast Guard inspections, lightering, bunkering/refueling, waiting areas, and emergency ‘‘bailout’’ areas.  Multiple issues have been identified by key harbor users and stakeholders.  ACE writes: “There is not enough anchorage area to accommodate all of the vessels that need to anchor for various reasons.”  This is a lot of traffic and important to consider as EPA takes a re-look at ozone levels within an economy that (hopefully) continues to expand.  Scoping comments may be submitted to ACE until December 10, 2018.
Have a great week!
Tom Ewing
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