Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  News from Michigan about two contaminants found in groundwater used for drinking water.  The report forced the anguished question: just how isolated or singular was MI’s struggle with lead, or is lead just one element in a witches brew with other poisons only awaiting discovery?  The contaminants are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), ubiquitous compounds used in everything from carpets to insect baits to dental floss.  Companies are phasing out production but exposure is widespread.  Some good news: recent data indicates declining levels in human blood.  Health effects?  No solid evidence about any one thing.  Last week Michigan DEQ set a drinking water criterion for the compounds: 0.07 μg/L (70 parts per trillion), based on an EPA health advisory.  With a standard in place, the state can now take legal action against polluters.
*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced draft guidelines for the use of a “Design Envelope” approach in Construction and Operations Plans (COPs) for offshore wind energy facilities.  BOEM says developers wanted this design approach, standard in some European countries for permitting processes.  The change gives flexibility in certain project-design decisions—e.g., which turbines to use—at a more commercially advantageous time in the development process.  BOEM writes this change results partly from the Administration’s regulatory streamlining work; it could reduce redundant environmental reviews while still maintaining appropriate safeguards.  The agency holds an introductory webinar end of January.
*  Department of Energy (DOE) and many other agencies started to make available their semiannual Unified Agendas of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Agenda), including Regulatory Plans.  The Agendas are a government-wide compilation of upcoming and ongoing regulatory activity, including a brief description of each rulemaking and a timetable for action. The Agendas also include a list of regulatory actions completed since publication of the last Agenda. One important rulemaking under development at DOE is called “Modifying the Energy Conservation Program to Implement a Market-Based Approach.”  Last November, DOE published a request for information on how this idea might work.  Comments are due in February.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  EPA announced the next step in its eventual classification of counties and metro areas that do not meet the 2015 ozone (O3) standard.  Recall the standard was changed, from 0.075 ppm to 0.070 ppm, in October 2015.  In November, EPA released the list of US counties declared in attainment
or “unclassifiable,” i.e., there’s no consistent local air quality data, common in rural and wilderness area.  Last week, EPA presented the counties it judges to be non-attainment, meaning those counties will continue to face air pollution control regs, largely affecting vehicles, industries, and power plants.  In the spring, EPA will present final declarations including how nonattainment areas are classified– a ranking from “marginal” to “extreme.”  Classification is critical: it establishes the compounded controls required by the Clean Air Act to assure further pollution reductions.  These classifications impact economic development in big ways.

*  GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee holds a teleconference/web meeting next month.  The Advisory Committee provides independent policy advice and recommendations to GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings.  Members include a broad range of stakeholders including senior officials from Federal agencies and leading green building experts from state, local, private, non-governmental, and academic sectors.  This meeting will likely provide important indicators regarding upcoming trends and directions, particularly regarding regular reviews of private sector efficiency standards and mandatory revisions to building codes.

* The US House Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing this week entitled “DOE Modernization: Advancing DOE’s Mission for National, Economic, and Energy Security of the United States.” The hearing will examine plans for modernizing and realigning the Department of Energy (DOE). It will provide Representatives with information to help assess what is necessary to ensure effective execution of DOE’s core missions—national security, energy and economic security, environmental cleanup, and the scientific and technological innovation to support those missions.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  EPA has started to move on regulating CO2 from electric generating units (EGUs).  Recall that the Agency moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan, but it still needs to address CO2 as an air pollutant.  EPA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in December focusing on considerations “pertinent to a potential new rule establishing emission guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing EGUs.” In the Notice, EPA sets out and requests comment on the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of the federal government, state governments, and regulated entities in developing and implementing such a rule, and the Agency seeks information regarding the “appropriate scope of such a rule and associated technologies and approaches.”  Pretty quick deadline for comments: February 26.
*  Department of Interior’s Advisory Committee on Water Information meets in two weeks for two days in Reston, VA.  The ACWI represents the interests of water information users and professionals in advising Federal programs working to address the Nation’s water-information needs. The ACWI’s goal is to improve access to and quality of information needed for decisions about natural resources management and environmental protection.  While the final agenda is not yet available the upcoming meeting will discuss topics relating to national water initiatives, and the development and dissemination of water information.
*  Federal Register check: The 2017 Federal Register ended on page 61,949.  2016: 97,110.  That’s a delta of 35,161 fewer pages.  You can put money in the bank from that lower number.  The Ophthalmology Association calculates that health insurance providers will save $42.5 million from avoided eyeball strain and general workplace “bad humour,” an ancient, miserable condition. *:)) laughing  Happy New Year!
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…

Another year ends and another year begins; 2017 morphs into 2018 leaving behind unattained dreams, goals and hopes and the promise of fulfilling another menu in the coming year.

It is a time of dreaming, wishing, hoping, giving, getting, reflecting, sharing, celebrating, a special time of kaleidoscope-like activities and reflections when we try to blend work with family with friends and acquaintances.

For many, it is also the saddest time of the year when the pain of missing the people who were an integral part of or touched our lives becomes more acute, more poignant.

It’s a time to reflect and plan not only personally but also professionally. How did we do this year? Was it a good year? What wasn’t good about it or what was good about it? Do we need to make changes? What changes? What will we do to manage these changes to make certain that we implement them? It’s a time for questions and answers.

There is so much going on so much in suspension that it is probably more difficult than it usually is to plan for and change. When will Obamacare issues be resolved? What will tax reform look like and how will they impact us personally and on a business level?

Thinking back over 2017 we can conclude it has been a rough year – three hurricanes, fires, terrorist problems, the North Korean threats, the political unrest domestically and the litany of problems continues.

On a positive note, the economy has improved and all construction segments have grown. One of the biggest problems the industry faces is the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers. Our infrastructure is in really sad shape. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the country scored a D+ on its 2017 report card. That means that virtually every aspect of the infrastructure needs updating, which translates into more construction work – highways, bridges, water supply/delivery, power generation, airports, ports, terminals, etc. We need to address these deficiencies if we are going to grow economically.

I guess we could say that Christmas this years brings us the gift of opportunity, opportunity in virtually every aspect of our lives — personally, professionally, socially, economically, politically, internationally, commercially…

This much opportunity is a gift. Will we make the most of it taking advantage of it, growing with it, building a better tomorrow or will we continue to waste time? Opportunity is knocking, let’s open the door and see what kind of Christmas present we will give ourselves, our families and the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  DOE is shaking up the empire in 2018.  The Agency made at least three significant announcements last week: First, it will commit $18.5 million to develop a new consortium for off-shore wind energy research. Second: investing up to $100 million within the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA‑E) latest “OPEN” funding opportunity directed at finding “American energy entrepreneurs and researchers to show us the next breakthrough in energy security.” Third, big-time reorganization focusing on four priorities: U.S. energy dominance; protecting energy and national security; advancing innovation; and improving outcomes in environmental management.

*  The Oregon Department of Energy and the Public Utility Commission are developing a comment letter regarding EPA’s Clean Power Plan. OR has a draft set of comments for review; the public can comment (due Jan. 5) on the comments. The draft contains a number of non-fossil energy projects said to be making headway in Oregon. Hopefully, they all come to fruition. But the draft does not make clear: Why should OR’s local interest justify the national imposition of the CPP? Oregon can build on hydroelectric projects started decades ago, subsidized by taxpayers from sea to shining sea. It’s a lot more difficult for many other states.

*  MA seeks big carbon reductions. There’s a draft proposal out there now regarding transportation in MA and ways to get people out of their cars. I haven’t taken a close look at it yet; it’s on the list for Christmas day.*:D big grin But, interestingly, EPA recently proposed approval of 5000 new parking spaces at Logan Airport.  Federal approval for parking?  Apparently, back in the day, parking at Logan was deliberately kept in check so that people would take transit or carpool, a move formally placed in the State’s SIP – the state implementation plan, the iron-clad document that controls and enforces and fines any and every aspect of a state’s air quality plan (think CPP, and why people don’t like it).  Any change to a federally approved SIP requires EPA’s approval, for anything.  Apparently, the parking limit didn’t work for air pollution goals.  Now, full-circle, the 5000 new spaces are for “environmental reasons,” of course, to decrease VOC, NOX, and CO (no mention of CO2) so people don’t keep driving and driving until they find a parking space!

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