I Served, I Remember, I Stand

  I Served, I Remember, I Stand

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update


*  Connecticut news sources report that a citizen-based group called “Rescue Candlewood Mountain” has filed suit to stop a project called Candlewood Solar, one of those projects in which winners are hard to find.  People want solar and renewables but there are plenty of “buts” developing out there with individual projects.  According to the Hartford Courant, about 70 acres of prime forest will be razed for this project and environmental officials are concerned how that clear-cutting might affect another 788 acres of unfragmented forest.  It’s not clear whether that 70 acres includes access roads, staging areas, transmission pathways and limits to site access.  The Courant reports that one big concern, and a sense of unfairness, is that the project was filed three days before a new law in CT to protect forests and farmland.  Yet what are energy companies supposed to do?  There’s great pressure to build renewable generation, to buy the power, to add it to the grid.  Projects won’t be on the moon.  There likely will be thousands of these relatively small projects all strung together to power New England.  Candlewood Solar is only 20 megawatts.  And keep in mind ISO NE’s statistic that actual production from solar photovoltaics (PV) is expected to be about 8% of nameplate capacity.
*   Speaking of renewables New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Quality sent comments to BOEM’s docket regarding off-shore wind turbines in the New York Bight, the section of the ocean from mid-NJ northeast to the far end of Long Island.  NJ’s comments are another example of “strong support” for wind energy but DEQ then proceeds to request fish and fishery studies regarding project impacts on just about every finned creature in the sea.  One idea mentioned in NJ’s comments is for a mitigation fund to pay fishermen who may lose their livelihood.  Not sure who would pay into that fund but everybody could go fishing with that can of worms!*:D big grin
*  Plenty of oil.  At the other end of the energy spectrum, Texas Gulf Terminals filed an application with MARAD and the Coast Guard to construct and operate a deepwater port (DWP) for the export of oil located approximately 12.7 nautical miles off the coast of North Padre Island, TX.  There has to be at least one public hearing with these kinds of applications and there is a strict timeline to get it done.  The hearing has to be held within 240 days after regulators judge the application complete.  Then, within 45 days of that hearing, the Governor must approve/disapprove.  MARAD can set license conditions and schedule another public meeting.  A final decision is required within 90 days of the final hearing.  The DWP would include the loading of various grades of crude oil at flow rates of up to 60,000 barrels per hour.  Approximately eight Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) vessels (or equivalent volumes) would be loaded per month.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) recent draft highway/infrastructure proposal would make fundamental changes to the US Highway Trust Fund – the primary means by which the US funds the interstate and federal highway systems and the Fund that returns big $$ to the states.  It’s an interesting proposal for many reasons.  One, it raises taxes.  Two, it adds new taxes, on electric cars, for example, and even bicycles.  Third, it indexes those taxes to inflation.  Perhaps just as interesting is that the Committee’s website has become something of a real-time link because it includes comments from taxpayers – ok, mostly well-organized trade groups – on Shuster’s ideas.  The anti-taxers are – automatically, of course – against it.  Their comments, though, don’t reference the fact that with the kind of changes Shuster proposes the US general fund would save about $100 billion, tax money that would not have to go to the Trust Fund to pay mostly for highways.
 
*   The report from the University of Hawaii “Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment” raises fascinating questions about greenhouse gas emissions.  The report, in the journal PLOS One, by Sarah-Jeanne Royer, Sara Ferron, Samuel Wilson, and David Karl, presents research showing “that the most commonly used plastics produce two greenhouse gases, methane, and ethylene when exposed to ambient solar radiation. Polyethylene, which is the most produced and discarded synthetic polymer globally, is the most prolific emitter of both gases.”  The article notes that polymer manufacturing has accelerated, from 2×106 metric tonnes (Mt) per year in 1950 to 381×106 Mt per year in 2015, and is expected to double in the next 20 years (emphasis added).  The authors write that “Our results show that plastics represent a heretofore unrecognized source of climate-relevant trace gases that are expected to increase as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment.”  Probably the end of discussion on this topic, huh?
*  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants comments on national-level test facilities for offshore wind-specific research and development. DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) is seeking information on facilities that can conduct unique offshore wind research and development (R&D), information on upgrades needed to existing facilities or new facilities to keep the U.S. “at the cutting edge of offshore wind R&D, and what specific tests and analyses could be carried out at existing, upgraded, or new facilities in order to advance the U.S. offshore wind industry.”  Comments are due by September 14.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  On July 23 House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) released a legislative discussion draft reflecting Congressional comment on an infrastructure package “designed to meet the challenges of a 21st-century transportation system.”  Shuster said that the “2016 presidential campaign shined a spotlight on America’s crumbling infrastructure.  Since election day, the American people have waited for action by their federal elected representatives, and I am just as frustrated as they are that we have yet to seriously consider a responsible, thoughtful proposal.”  The discussion draft is not a legislative bill.  Shuster said it is meant to “reignite discussions among my colleagues.”  Watch for the upcoming activity.  Here’s a link to the discussion draft.

* On July 24, the U.S. Geological Survey, within the Department of the Interior, repeated a request for comments regarding a Federal Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) to develop and administer a National Ground-Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN). This network is required as part of Public Law 111–11, Subtitle F—Secure Water: Section 9507, 42 U.S.C. 10367, ‘‘Water Data Enhancement by United States Geological Survey.’’ The NGWMN will consist of an aggregation of wells from existing Federal, State, Tribal, and local groundwater monitoring networks. The USGS will be providing funding through cooperative agreements to water-resource agencies that collect groundwater data.  Proposals, for funding, should describe the groundwater networks to be included in the NGWMN, the purpose of the networks, and the Principal aquifers that are monitored.  Comments are due 08/23.
*  It’s not whatcha say it’s whatcha do and to develop and build new and modern transit nobody’s leading like Indianapolis.  Check out the info for Indy’s upcoming 2018 Indiana Bike & Walk SummitLeading Locally for Active Transportation, taking place Wednesday and Thursday, August 29 & 30, at the Omni Severin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. The Summit is presented by the Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana State Department of Health, Bicycle Indiana and Health by Design. Check this link for keynote speakers and an overview of the agenda.  Still to come is the Elected and Appointed Officials Panel and additional details on the breakout sessions and mobile workshops.  This isn’t just fringe stuff in Indy; that city is building – has started to build – its new bus rapid transit system.  Bike and walk complement that nicely.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Wha’..?!  You mean those peeps making six figures and gathering-up rich pensions at taxpayers’ expense were actually supposed to DO something?  C’mon…!  That’s the sense of outrage you get reading the EPA Office of Inspector General report on the Flint, MI lead water crisis, starting in 2014.  Some really talented finger pointing going on for a couple years between EPA, particularly Region 5 in Chicago, and MI’s Department of Environmental Quality.  This despite long-standing and clear EPA directives regarding policies, responses, monitoring and action-steps to prevent and avoid such a debacle, which ruined a lot of lives in Flint and minimally cost the taxpayers about $400 million (so far), not to mention the nice cash and bennies and vacation days the suits got for their non-hard work.  And likely are still getting, since, unfortunately, the report doesn’t name names about who oughta be fired or demoted.  Good system, taking full advantage of that old oxymoron: bureaucratic accountability.
 * Well, it was largely along party lines but the US House voted on July 19 that “yes,” it is the sense of Congress “that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.”  The vote was on H.Con.Res.119, sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise, from Louisiana’s First District, near New Orleans.  Scalise said that a carbon tax would increase costs for an American family by an estimated $1,900 (likely per year, although that’s not clarified in comments).  Rs voting “yes” totaled 222.  Six Rs voted “no,” i.e., that’s not the sense of Congress.  Among Ds, 174 voted “no,” but 7 voted “yes.”  Interestingly two Reps just answered “present,” but didn’t otherwise vote.  Seventeen were apparently present but didn’t answer anything – just abstained.  Profiles in courage… or maybe just asleep…?
*   The death or injury of two false killer whales has caused the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to propose closing the Southern Exclusion Zone, a Pacific fishing area, disallowing deep-set longline fishing through December 31, 2018, for all vessels registered under the Hawaii longline limited access program.  The deaths or injuries were noted within the Fisheries’ formal observer program.  NMFS is required to respond because the incidents trigger protective action.  NMFS will take comments but it’s not waiting to move; its decision is effective July 24, which is 7 days after the closure decision, allowing fishermen to get their gear and relocate to other areas.

Tom Ewing
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