Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Who knew, right-?  But today is not just Presidents’ Day, it’s also National Battery Day!  And to celebrate (Battery Day, that is) the US DOE announced the opening of a Battery Recycling Center at Argonne National Laboratory.  The new Center will work to reclaim and recycle critical materials (e.g., cobalt and lithium) from lithium-based battery technology.  It will focus on cost-effective recycling processes to recover as much economic value as possible from spent lithium-ion batteries.  In addition, DOE established the “Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize” to encourage American entrepreneurs to “find innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling.”  DOE’s cash prizes will total $5.5 million, awarded in three progressive phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype.  The goal is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90% of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States and recover 90% of the key materials from the collected batteries. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5%.
*  News-speak from the boss, i.e. CT’s new Governor, Ned Lamont, who has an op-ed in CT papers called “A path forward on tolling.”  Maybe it should be titled “A path forward on trolling, about tolling” since it’s really a heads-up to legislators and citizens that the Guv is getting ready to ask for more money for transportation, most of which, likely, will go for highways.  Lamont writes that CT has it all (at least “on paper,” his words) but that economic development peeps ask: “What about the congestion on your highways?”  Lamont writes that gas tax revenues are flat and unreliable and likely to decline as electric cars increase.  The governor is turning away from bonds.  So watch for tolls – first on trucks, if that single focus is legal, then to benefit specific infrastructure, e.g., bridges, or one bridge.  He’s developed a number of options and tells peeps to be ready for this debate when his budget is introduced on Wednesday.

*  If you’re feeling bad that about 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year (who doesn’t feel bad about that?), here’s a chance to help. A company called Envision Plastics collects and recycles this waste.  Ocean plastic waste can be recycled just as land-based plastic can be recycled.  If you want to make a statement (and a good one) consider this new upcoming product: business cards made from the recovered plastic.  (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka are the five largest plastic polluters, according to Envision Plastics.)  Now the company is teaming up with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) to promote this business-based recycling effort.  To place an order for these multi-message business cards, contact Envision Plastics (advise if you need that link.)

Tom Ewing

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 The Department of Interior issued a sobering notice last week addressed to the Governors of the seven Colorado River Basin States.  DOI calls the Colorado River “the most important water resource in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.”  DOI wants recommendations from the Governors on what actions are appropriate to reduce risks from drought.  These corrective actions have to be adopted prior to an August 2019 deadline for decisions about operations in Lake Powell and Lake Mead in 2020.  Time literally has run out.  Unbelievably, this process started in 2007!  The Governors agreed to have their proposals ready at the end of 2018.  Guess what?  Didn’t happen.  Now DOI may have to act unilaterally “to reduce the risk of continued declines in the critical water supplies of the Colorado River Basin.”  [Picture the not-so-informed headlines in a few months: “Trump Officials Forcing States on Water Issues.”]
*  The Army Corp of Engineers is taking comments, until March 1, regarding the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to implement the Chesapeake Bay Native Oyster Recovery Program in Virginia.  A recovery program will be implemented to achieve the goals set by the Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order, signed almost 10 years ago (May 12, 2009) by President Obama, a directive involving work by five federal agencies.  The oyster recovery program will utilize “existing information, current technologies, research and population dynamics” to identify “restoration strategies in each tributary.”
 
*   Heads up if you’re feeling drowsy while driving through South Dakota because SD DOT wants to “update and revise” its routes for LCVs – “Longer combination vehicles,” a tractor pulling “2 or more cargo-carrying units.”  In other words, a pretty darn big truck.  SD currently allows LCVs on 10 designated routes, Interstates and “qualifying Federal-aid Primary System highways.”  Those 10 routes total 989.2 miles.  The proposed change would add 18 more routes, covering another 731.1 miles.  LCVs are combinations longer than 81.5 feet.  Highway speed limits in the Mount Rushmore State are between 65 and 80 mph.  So don’t blink.  If one of those bad boys hits your Leaf on I-90 near Sioux Falls you’ll likely come down about 400 miles away in Spearfish.  Here’s something scary: That highway officials in Delaware or Rhode Island might give their counterparts in Pierre a call.
Tom Ewing

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last week, U.S. DOE announced up to $42 million in project selections to support early-stage research and development (R&D) of innovative residential and commercial energy efficiency (EE) technologies for buildings, which use 75% of U.S. electricity and account for 40% of U.S. overall energy use.  A total of 46 research teams were selected as a result of three fiscal year 2018 funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).  Funds will go to projects in three major focus areas: (1) Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies – 19 selections for $19.5 million; (2) Solid State Lighting – 11 selections for $11 million; and (3)Building America – 16 selections for $11.5 million.  This group includes “development and validation of high-performance residential envelope systems.”  
*  The ability to smell is critical for salmon which depend on scent to avoid predators, sniff out prey and find their way home when they return to spawn (and then die) in the streams where they hatched.  New research from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Washington shows this powerful sense of smell might be in trouble as carbon emissions continue to be absorbed by the oceans. NOAA writes that ocean acidification is changing ocean water chemistry and lowering its pH. The study, in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first to show that ocean acidification affects coho salmons’ sense of smell. The study also investigates where in the sensory-neural system the ability to smell erodes for fish, and how that loss of smell changes behavior.  The researchers plan to look next at whether increased CO2 levels could affect other fish species in similar ways, or alter other senses in addition to smell.
 
*   The rapper Reg-U-L8 sent this in: The minions with dominion on Da Man’s opinions r back at it in the yard, hittin it hard, rootin out the lard from the pork-barrel.  Watch the projects, from li’l kidz to rockets, send your stuff to the dockets.  Keep your cash in your pockets.  Prez sez build the wall, my Grrl the Speak won’t turn the other cheek.  Now they both be hatin, should be negotiatin.  Gettin real, real toxic, dudes are gonna mock it, some peeps wanna Glock it.  Tryin to stay chill about playuhs on the Hill, gettin all they money spendin time with they honey, jus lookin funny to me.  Gotta spend it gotta spend it!  Can’t end it.  Dudes need to mend it.  One thing certain people is hurtin.  Three weeks until we get it, again.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  If you’re in a bad mood take a look at the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2019 Annual Energy Outlook.  Wow.  Plenty of energy at the national scale for the next 30 years.  If you’re in a really bad mood, look closer – plenty of affordable, recoverable energy for economic growth, heating and cooling, transportation, manufacturing.  As one expert said during EIA’s press conference and discussion last week US energy policy isn’t aligned with an energy status of plenitude; it’s still dominated by scarcity, that “we’ll run out…!”  Again, not only will the US not run out, but EIA predicts prices will stabilize, even fall.  Unbelievable: economic growth and decreased energy intensity. And critically, this unimaginable wealth isn’t dependent on a single fuel.  To the contrary, EIA’s analysis depends on a mix of fuels, with renewables zooming past coal and nuclear, becoming a larger share of U.S. electric generation than nuclear and coal in less than a decade.  Now, whatever your concern – CO2, air quality standards, prices, availability… feeling better on a Monday morning?
*  Of course, the availability and use of natural gas is at the core of all of that optimism.  It was noteworthy last week, then, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the final environmental impact statement for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), a transcontinental gas pipeline expansion that would meet projected increased demand for the greater New York City metro region.  Somewhat confusingly, the EIS concludes: “Construction and operation of the NESE Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts.” Most would be temporary, construction related.  Long-term impacts on air quality and noise would result from Compressor Station 206, new infrastructure.  However, with proposed impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as adherence to FERC recommendations, “all project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”  Clarity, please. This massive project faces massive local resistance.
*   The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated its “Requirements for Renewable Energy Projects in Highway Right-of-Way (ROW).”  The most recent update is dated December, 2018; it was released last week.  The guidance is intended to point FHWA Division Offices and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to relevant FHWA requirements.  FHWA notes that several states have installed renewable energy generation projects such as solar arrays and wind turbines along highway ROW, and other States are considering doing so.  “Public interest” is a core notion and FHWA writes that renewable energy projects “connected to the public electricity grid or provide electricity used by a public agency such as the State DOT would generally be considered as serving the public.”  (Wind tower slalom run on I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus?  Nope.  ODOT says not gonna happen… )

Tom Ewing

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental

*  In early December USEPA published a notice requesting public comments on nominees to serve as special expert advisers to EPA’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC).  These experts, on standby, so to speak, are specialists on chemicals requiring Agency review as set by the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.  EPA posted candidates’ biographical and professional summaries on a website.  You may recall that EPA and its volunteer committee structure took a beating not long ago by some who said the Agency sold out, deliberately tilting toward Big Money.  EPA’s roster shows expertise across a variety of backgrounds, from labor to community health to industry.  The comment period was a chance to call out wolves in sheep’s clothing, so to speak.  Apparently, that fox/hen-house thing is just like, you know, so whatever.  There was no firestorm with this list; in fact, not even any interest, really.  Just eight comments were sent to EPA; unfortunately, none is posted.
*  The “Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change” is the new name for the US House Energy & Commerce Committee’s subcommittee, previously named “The Subcommittee on Environment.”  Rep. Paul Tonko (NY) is Chairman.  Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) is Ranking Member.  The text describing the new subcommittee’s jurisdiction does not directly mention “climate change” nor CO2 nor polar ice, for example.  Subjects referenced are quite traditional: Clean Air Act, water, Superfund, nuclear wastes, drinking water, noise and links related to certain work of the Department of Homeland Security.
*  US DOE’s “2019 Project Peer Review” is scheduled for March 4-8 in Denver and, wow, an expansive agenda: 24 pages, listing technology review sessions on 14 research topics, including “carbon dioxide utilization,” “co-optimization of fuels and engines,” “advanced algal systems,” and “agile biofoundry.”  The listing of CO2 utilization projects takes up one whole page.  Project Peer Review is held every two years.  This year, more than 300 researchers will make presentations.  As its title implies, projects presented are reviewed by experts from industry, academia, and federal agencies.
Tom Ewing

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