Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Price points.  French gas prices during the Yellow Vest chaos were about $1.53/liter on the day I checked; a US equivalent of $5.78/gallon.  Gas in my area dropped to $1.98/gallon, about 52¢/liter.  Around the same time, Yahoo! News reported that an Exxon, Hess, and NCOOC off-shore exploration project confirmed the discovery of 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, with exploration continuing.  Estimated recovery cost: $35/barrel (in the ocean!).  In other words, cheap oil, just about forever.  I like how Hamlet said it: “There are more hydrocarbons recoverable on Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Value is frequently judged by how much people will pay for something, and then they won’t.  Value is hard to assess with grand, singular cultural creations and monuments; you know, maybe like what’s the value of the Arc de Triomphe, damaged during the French protests?  Now it’s clear: The treasures of France are not worth $5.78/gallon.  If gas costs less, they stay.  If it costs more, the Arc and all that old stuff va être brûlé au sol!
*  On Friday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for “the Construction and Operation Plan (COP) submitted by Vineyard Wind LLC (Vineyard Wind).” The Draft analyzes potential environmental impacts of the proposed Vineyard Wind project and reasonable alternatives. The Notice starts the public review and comment period and it presents the dates and locations of public hearings.  The project would install up to 100 wind turbine generators, each with a capacity of between 8 and 10 MW in an area approximately 12 nautical miles from the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard and a similar distance from the southwest side of Nantucket.  The comment period ends January 22, 2019.
*  Update: I asked the MA’s Governor’s office about The Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth Report, noted last week to be late; it was due by December 1.  “No specific date can be conveyed today,” a staff person wrote back, “please feel free to check back with me next week.”  This really isn’t about one more state transportation report.  I mean, you could rebuild the Taj Mahal with state transportation reports printed and filed over the last decades.  There are two bigger issues: one, missed deadlines devalue the work.  “It’s just not that important” is the signal from the top, about issues supposedly undertaken in the public’s interest.  Second, although apparently not likely with this work, what about the people who need the report so they can make next-step decisions?  Isn’t their time worth anything?  A web page note would be thoughtful, e.g., “Sorry, the report’s delayed!  Late comments deserve a careful review!  Thanks for understanding!”  The message now? “Get over it, peons, you’re just so not worth it.”
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  A subcommittee of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has scheduled a hearing this week titled “Preparing for Maritime Transportation in a Changing Arctic.”  The Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, chaired by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), will examine emerging transportation issues including increases in vessel traffic and the resulting need for updates in waterway management, infrastructure investment, and domain awareness.  Right now, witnesses include Mr. Willie Goodwin, Chairman, Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, Ms. Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America and Captain Ed Page, Executive Director, Marine Exchange of Alaska.  The witness list could change.
*  The Conservation Fund has an important meeting coming up next week in West Virginia dealing with “gateway communities,” which the Fund defines (for its work) as communities that border publicly owned lands such as national and state parks and forests, communities that often struggle to “balance the need for economic growth with the desire to protect their natural ecosystems, landscapes, and cultural heritage.”  The meeting is something of a first for the Fund, the complete title is the”Inaugural National Summit for Gateway Communities.”  It has an interesting set of sponsors, including the Federal Highway Administration, the RV Industry Association and the US Forest Service.  The draft Agenda is strong and focused on how to get real work done.  You can click here to see about attending but you might be too late – registration is limited to 200 people!
*  Agreed: deadlines are a pain.  Massachusetts was supposed to release its report from the “Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth” by December 1, which, of course, was Saturday.  The report will present the Commission’s analysis and advice to help the Governor assess likely impacts on transportation between 2020 and 2040 caused by changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy.  The Commission was established January 23; which is when somebody set that deadline (probably thought it would never get here…*:D big grin).
Tom Ewing
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Tow Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  As everybody in the world knows the U.S. Global Change Research Program released two major, related reports on Friday, reports required by the Global Change Research Act.  The reports were released slightly ahead of schedule, originally expected in December.  The reports are the “Fourth National Climate Assessment” and the “2nd State of the Carbon Cycle.”  Most news excerpts are likely from the report summaries which provide easy – and endless – sound-bites allowing an editor to find whatever sentence he or she may need to make whatever point she wants: that we’re doomed or we’re not doomed, or indeed, noting that CO2 levels (at least in the US) have stabilized and are trending downward.  These are important reports, deserving close attention – from everybody.  Important, though, is not the same as helpful, at least from a policy sense.  But that’s another discussion.
*  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) phone jangled off the hook last week with calls mostly from people in white-hot opposition to a 2.1-mile natural gas Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company project (TGP is based in Texas) that would “construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”  TGP refers to this as the “261 Upgrade Projects.”  Whew… One if by land, two if by sea, three if by pipeline.  The Old North Church tower is almost on fire.  The 261 Project would upgrade equipment and reduce emissions.  It would fit mostly within existing rights-of-way, avoiding residential areas.  It would ease capacity in New England markets.  Doesn’t matter.  261 opponents cite global warming, they expect public policies that move away from fossil fuels to actually be implemented, not just talked about (imagine that!).  They warn of danger, referencing the September explosion in Lawrence, MA.  They claim that if leaks were captured from existing infrastructure the 261 Project wouldn’t be needed.  This is ground-zero for how/whether pipelines and energy advance or not, in the Northeast.  Stay tuned.
*  Note to bees and pollinators: hang on!  EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced on November 8 that it planned to start preliminary research on EPA’s Office of Pesticides support of states’ Managed Pollinator Protection Plans, designed to reduce pesticide exposure to bees.  When announced, OIG was setting up initial meetings, starting with requests from EPA for a current list of each State’s primary pollinator contacts.  You may recall that the Department of Agriculture in June 2017 hosted a “listening session” on bees and their place – really their viability – within an increasingly bizarro world.  Listening involved a lot of talk but not much action by DoA.  Maybe EPA’s work will be different.
Have a great Monday and a great week!

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Pipeline fallout: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds a hearing next week titled “Pipeline Safety in the Merrimack Valley: Incident Prevention and Response” in South Lawrence, MA. The focus is on September 13, 2018, natural gas pipeline explosions and fires in Lawrence and Andover, MA, that killed one person, injured over two dozen, and damaged over 100 structures, requiring extreme response efforts by federal, state, and local authorities.  MA Senators Markey and Warren asked for this hearing in the impacted communities.  Markey and Warren are pressing hard for answers about emergency planning, integrity management and the adequacy of emergency response (think money).  Witnesses include top corporate and state and federal governmental leadership.  Pipeline opponents are now citing the Lawrence explosion as a reason to stop separate projects.
*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) established a New York Bight Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force (TF) and BOEM has scheduled a TF meeting in New York at the end of the month.  The purpose is to discuss BOEM’s draft Wind Energy Areas that were developed based on information received from the Call for Information and Nominations issued earlier this year.  The TF includes Federal officials as well as elected state, local, and tribal officials, and/or designated member representatives as well as the New York and New Jersey Renewable Energy Intergovernmental Task Forces.  Actually, just about the whole east coast is involved: BOEM has also invited representatives from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland.
*  Here’s a sobering thought from the Global CCS Institute: Right now, there are 18 large-scale CCS (carbon capture and storage) facilities operating around the world. “But it is not enough,” the Institute writes, “If we want to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, we need thousands.”  Norway, the US, and Canada are CCS leaders.  The Institute poses two key questions: is the world ready to deploy CCS at the scale required? And if so, how does each country rank in its “readiness” to achieve this?  These issues are the focus of a webinar on November 27, taking a close look at the Institute’s most recent “Thought Leadership” reports; a series consisting of three CCS Indicator Reports and the CCS Readiness Index.  To participate, try this link; it’s a “gotowebinar” link.
Have a great Monday and a great Thanksgiving! 🦃
Tom Ewing
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Whether Or Not You Care About The Weather

By Greg Sitek

… it will have an impact on you and if you’re in construction it will have an even greater impact on you and your bottom-line.

Activities, employees and equipment, well everything, are affected by temperatures and precipitation. Common sense and OSHA rules dictate what is required for the winter handling of employees. Common sense and results govern job site activities. Common sense and preseason maintenance practices control equipment performance in freezing and subfreezing temperatures.

There is more than an abundance of information on getting ready for winter with an eye on managing survival through these challenging months but there is little information available on what challenges you can expect.

I came across a 2018/2019-winter forecast from a source that looks at the season from a totally different vantage point. They love snow. They love the cold. They love winter. Based on this I figured that their forecast would probably be more accurate than most.

Take a look.

From: Snowboarding.TransWorld.net

https://snowboarding.transworld.net/features/farmers-almanac-2018-2019-winter-weather-forecast-predictions/

“It’s time for one last winter weather forecast before we buckle down and see what Mother Nature throws our way first hand. But, don’t fret as we have saved the best for last; where the NOAA and Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasted a bleak winter of warmer temperatures and less precipitation, the Farmer’s Almanac has a different outlook, “teeth-chattering cold ahead.”

“Unlike the Old Farmer’s Almanac that makes weather predictions through a combination of animal signals, chicken bones, pig spleens and other weather lore, (onion and potato skins were my mother’s favorite), the Farmer’s Almanac bases their outlook on a “mathematical and astronomical formula” that dates back to the 1800’s and takes sunspot activity and other astronomical anomalies into account. In fact, the formula is so confidential that only Mr. Caleb Weatherbee, the Farmer’s Almanac’s weather prognosticator, knows it in entirety.”

So what will winter look like?

“According to Mr. Weatherbee, winter 2018-2019 will be colder than average from the Continental Divide east through the Appalachians, while the only near-normal winter weather is predicted to be in areas west of the Rockies, the mid-Atlantic States, and the Southeast.

“Those in the Great Lakes, and the Midwest through New England can rejoice, as colder than average temperatures combined with above average precipitation make for an exceptionally snowy winter, particularly throughout January and February. However, Mr. Weatherbee is also calling for an exceptionally snowy winter for those across the Pacific Northwest and the mid-Atlantic States, where temperatures aren’t expected to get as blistering cold, but will still drop low enough to ensure increased levels of snowfall.”

Mr. Weatherbee’s “Red-flagged” predictions

“In addition to the broader prediction of colder weather across the board, Mr. Weatherbee has also red-flagged a handful of particular winter storm incidents that are expected to be key points in the coming season. To begin, the mid-Atlantic through New England can expect a deep holiday season, with December 1st-3rd, 16th-19th, and 28th-31st bringing big storm systems followed by gusty winds. Other red-flagged periods include a mid-February arctic cold front expected to come down from Canada and stretch across the entire eastern seaboard, and a mid-March weather system expected to deliver increased snowfall from coast to coast, in particular, throughout New England from March 20th-23rd.

“In addition to an exceptionally cold winter with increased snowfall, Mr. Weatherbee is also calling for a longer than average winter season. The red-flagged nation-wide storm system in March will be followed up by another cold front coming down from the Arctic that will delay spring from settling in until mid-April.”

Winter weather forecast summary

“All in all, where the NOAA and Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted a warmer winter with less than average snowfall, the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for the exact opposite. We are certainly hoping for the latter.”

While we’re not, “hoping for the latter” this does or should give us guidelines on what we need to do to be ready for winter – ALL THAT WE CAN! The only thing you can count on about winter weather forecasting is that it’s never right and it’s never wrong.