Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* A settlement agreement with a California utility establishes revised costs and parameters for a vehicle charging system. Final cost: $160 million for 3-year program providing 7,500 L2 ports and 100 DCFC ports. L2 = Level 2 charging, providing a “top-off charge” in 2-3 hours, full charge in 4-6 hours. DCFC = Direct current fast charging, requiring 20-30 minutes, for a full charge. The utility originally wanted a larger 7-year program costing $654 million. A small annual ratepayer subsidy is required.

* DOT/FHWA left its “friends” at the nation’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) looking like Wile E. Coyote in the middle of the road after the steamroller went by. DOT finalized proposals, made last June, to shake-up the insular world of MPOs and their frequently entrapped local officials who snooze through meetings feigning interest in “travel demand models” and air quality conformity. DOT judged the MPO world as too inefficient, slow and not focused enough on America’s transportation needs. The agency recieved 660 comments, just 16 supported the Agency’s proposals! The final rule was announced Thursday. Look for it in the Federal Register soon.

* Fish & Wildlife (FWS) recently released two important notices for bald and golden eagles. Both pertain to inextricable eagle-wind energy conflicts. One notice was for the massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase I Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, WY, likely to include 500 wind turbines and require a huge construction footprint. The second notice was more general – the final revisions for Eagle “take permits,” a complicated policy allowing the “unavoidable take” (killing) of eagles but requiring, from the permit holder, mitigation and corrective activities as offsets. If only the eagles would read the Federal Register they would know humans want to get this right. FWS believes that bald eagle numbers can tolerate some level of “take.” Unfortunately, the situation is more dire for golden eagles.

 

Tom Ewing

p.s. The boss is giving me a short break! I’ll holler back atcha in January, 2017! Have a great holiday season. Thank you for letting me work with you this past year! I appreciate it! TE

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* Git-‘r-done; well, someday, maybe. A Federal Highway Environmental Impact Statement notice caught my eye last week for an Interstate project in New Hampshire, for which FHWA plans a “Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).” That’ll light a spark! After all, project planning started in 1985, just 31 years ago. A “notice of intent” was published in 1998. A draft EIS in 2007. A public hearing was held in 2007. “Project development was subsequently delayed for several years,” reads the notice. The Governor reactivated the project in 2015. This new EIS should be done in September 2017. Whaddya think: construction starts October 1, 2017…?

* DOT holds a workshop next week on application of high-power batteries in maritime transportation. The workshop will be used to enhance Agency and industry stakeholders’ understanding of the state of technology, potential design requirements for electric powered and hybrid electric vessels, and areas for future research, development and demonstration projects. The agenda will cover alternative energy technologies for propulsion and auxiliary systems, with a view toward greater efficiency, lower costs and reduced air emissions.

* California’s largest utilities release plans next month to start heavy duty transportation electrification (TE). The Public Utilities Commission then needs to approve or disapprove the plans. Last summer the PUC released a 45 page guidance for the utilities. Here’s a bit of an understatement: “The electric utilities will need to think outside of the box on how they can provide electricity to fuel vehicles, integrate and maximize the use of renewable energy, and accelerate the adoption of TE in order to achieve the multiple objectives outlined by SB 350, namely: reduce dependence on petroleum, meet air quality standards, lower GHG emissions, and achieve the goals set forth in the Charge Ahead California Initiative in the Health and Safety Code.” Think anybody’s staying late at the office, maybe working Christmas day *😀?

Tom Ewing

As 2016 Fades Into History…

Baby & GIt’s been a long year but we survived it. The elections are over and the world is looking ahead to see what emerges and evolves.

As you might expect all the industry associations have published congratulatory statements to president-elect Donald Trump. I have participated in a Wells Fargo webinar that looked at the some of the possibilities we could expect in the coming year under a new administration. The projections are positive especially for our infrastructure.

ASCE – Civil Engineers Urge President-Elect Trump To Fulfill Vow To Invest In America’s Infrastructure

The following is a statement by Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., F. SEI., F. ASCE, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), on the election of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States:

“The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) congratulates President-elect Trump upon his election and urges prompt action on his ambitious plan to repair and modernize our nation’s infrastructure and foster economic growth. Infrastructure is the very backbone of our nation’s economy, yet ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s infrastructure a cumulative grade of ‘D+.’ An economic study we released earlier this year found that the U.S. is on track to invest only half of what is needed in infrastructure over the next decade. A continued failure to act will result in significant consequences for our economy and for American families, who lose $3,400 a year due to aging infrastructure.

“If invested wisely, President-elect Trump’s proposed $1 trillion investment in infrastructure represents an important step toward closing the investment gap to raise the grade and achieve a globally competitive American infrastructure system fit for the 21st century. ASCE and its 150,000 members call on President-elect Trump and the 115th Congress to prioritize infrastructure repair, replacement, and modernization, to improve our economy, public health, and safety, so that every family, community, and business can thrive.”

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President & CEO Pete Ruane Statement
on the Election of Donald Trump:

Pete Ruane

Pete Ruane

“President-elect Trump will have a ‘can do’ industry as his partner in rebuilding and expanding the nation’s transportation infrastructure to make it again second to none. Give us the proper resources and the new jobs and innovative solutions will take off.

“Republicans in Congress should heed the call of their party’s leader and make urgently-needed improvements of national infrastructure networks a top priority in early 2017.

“Despite a highly partisan political environment, Republicans and Democrats have routinely worked in a bipartisan manner to support infrastructure legislation.  All sides should view a long-term infrastructure package as an opportunity for the two parties to come together and make meaningful progress for the American people.”

Other industry associations and organizations have published similar statements. The timing couldn’t be better for CONEXPO CON/AGG 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada March 7-11, 2017.

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* Last week the US Geological Survey hosted a public briefing on its work to develop a database on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with extraction of fossil fuels from federal lands. In January 2015, Interior Secretary Jewell asked the USGS to establish and maintain such a public database. The meeting provided a briefing on the basic methods, data sources, and likely format and content of project output. Results and data were not presented; watch for that information next year. USGS data covered carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions.

* Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is conducting a study on how a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions might work in Oregon. DEQ has to report to the State legislature when it reconvenes in February. DEQ has released a “partial draft study” for public review. The work so far is focused on a “cap-and-trade” program that would be compatible with the Western Climate Initiative’s multi-jurisdiction carbon market. Comments on the draft are due December 22, the same day as a public meeting.

* Cushy gubmint jobs: “Religious Compensatory Time.” Who knew, right? Federal employees can adjust work schedules to earn time off for religious purposes via compensatory time, earned in advance or repaid after the religious observance. EPA’s Inspector General reports that one extremely devout EPA employee received a retirement payout of $32,469 for accumulated religious compensatory time. Thirteen co-workers received a total of $41,045. Without policy changes, future payments could total up to $81,927. Pretty soon that turns into real money, huh? The IG does write, however, that that first employee did “earn” his/her time; now I feel better. 😀

Tom Ewing

 

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* It’s a big country I: A new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for transport is available from the US Forest Service: “Pack and Saddle Stock Outfitter-Guide Special Use Permit Issuance.” Topic: protection of wilderness from commercial tour and guide services in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness areas in Washington state. USFS writes that “pack and saddle stock use is an appropriate mode of transportation in wilderness, since it does not include any mechanized or motorized equipment.” Tourists and others (e.g., research groups) are not skilled in stock handling, do not own stock and equipment, do not have the knowledge of stock handling techniques that minimize resource damage, and would be endangering their lives and the lives of others because of the hazards associated with stock. The comment period ends January 9, 2017.

* It’s a big country II: A Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) (SCMAGLEV) Project is being developed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Maryland DOT to run between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, with an intermediate stop at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) Airport. FRA announced an EIS on this project last week. FRA writes that the “Proposed Action consists of the construction and operation of a high-speed SCMAGLEV train system.” Written comments on the scope of the EIS are due by December 27. FRA plans two public scoping meetings: December, 2016 and January, 2017. I’ll try to update.

* Office of Management and Budget is preparing to rule in December that companies selling to the federal government must disclose whether or not they publicly report greenhouse gas emissions and reduction targets. The reporting doesn’t have to be to the government, the numbers just have to be publicly available somewhere. This would be mandatory for vendors who received $7.5 million or more in Federal contract awards in the preceding Federal fiscal year; it’s voluntary for all other vendors. OMB writes that “an annual representation will promote transparency and demonstrate the Federal Government’s commitment to reducing supply chain emissions.” Furthermore, the government will “have accurate, up-to-date information on its suppliers.” This idea was first proposed last May. OMB didn’t receive any public comments. But apparently a comment period remains open because if you want to make comments they are due on or before December 22, 2016.

Tom Ewing