Tag Archive for 'DOE'

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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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  An anti-pipeline website contains the following quote: “Every pipeline project proposed has been permitted by FERC. None have been denied.”  I asked FERC: Is that true?  Reply: “No.”  Follow up: How about some examples, then, to rebut that claim, to show that FERC doesn’t just rubber-stamp projects with powerful backers?  FERC: “…uh…well…one project recently…” But beyond this person’s individual “recollection,” (not research-based) FERC could/would not provide any list of projects disproving that website claim: “none have been denied,” most likely false (fake-news) but in the public forum it stands as true because FERC can’t, or won’t, demonstrate otherwise.  No wonder it’s hard to build a pipeline.
*  EPA made two significant announcements last week about refrigerants and related policies.  The first continued a move started last spring regarding controls on ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and EPA’s 2016 extension of those controls to HFCs which are NOT ozone depleting but can be significant global warming compounds, hence EPA’s effort to control.  A court had ruled that extension wasn’t legal since Congress has never included global warming compounds within Clean Air Act legislation.  EPA’s second notice was a “determination of acceptability” for 34 new substitutes in the refrigeration and air conditioning, foam blowing, fire suppression, cleaning solvents, and aerosols sectors – effective immediately.  A quick review shows the new compounds with an ODS of zero; global warming potentials range between 9 and about 1400 (with CO2 as the comparative unit of 1).
*  DOE’s Bioengineering Technology Office (BETO) last week that “sustainable aviation fuel made from recycled waste carbon gases” powered an international Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to London.  This culminated critical work between LanzaTech, based in Chicago, and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Lab.  You gotta take your time and think about this.  LanzaTech takes waste gases containing carbon and uses bacteria to convert the carbon into fuels and chemicals.  The company’s core philosophy: “That waste carbon is an opportunity, not a liability and that carbon can be reused to provide sustainable benefits for all. Together we can create the carbon future we need.”  This is bigger than a couple of spoonfuls of fuel dripping out of some lab glassware.  LanzaTech produced 4000 gallons of alternate jet fuel at its Georgia facility.  The fuel has passed standard-setting review.  Stay tuned.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) announced its next meeting dates: October 18 & 19; the 2nd day is a half-day session, in Rockville, MD.  The BERAC meets two to three times each year.  It met last in April.  The purpose of this Advisory Committee is to “provide advice on a continuing basis to the Director, Office of Science of the Department of Energy, on the many complex scientific and technical issues that arise in the development and implementation of the Biological and Environmental Research Program.”  A regular part of the Agenda is a report from the “Biological Systems Science and Climate and Environmental Sciences Division.”  BERAC’s work includes a focus on DOE’s “Grand Challenges” Report, last published in November 2017.  These grand challenges guide the fundamental research, from climate to biochemical systems, funded by DOE throughout its labs and within university programs.

*  The US Forest Service is seeking comments on preliminary work to revise the Mining Law of 1872.  The focus is on the need to clarify or otherwise enhance regulations covering environmental impacts, within the National Forest System, resulting from prospecting, exploration, development, mining, and processing operations linked to what is called “locatable” minerals, e.g., gold, silver, platinum, copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, nickel, tungsten, bentonite, barite, fluorspar, uranium, and uncommon varieties of sand, gravel, and dimension stone.  This set of regs hasn’t been updated since 1974.  Comments are due on a range of substantive issues by October 15.

*  EPA announced the final version of the updated National Priorities List (NPL), adding five sites – commonly called “Superfund sites.”  The NPL is intended to guide EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation to assess the nature and extent of public health and environmental risks.  Eventually, of course, the hope is that these Superfund sites get cleaned up, that uncontrolled releases of toxic and hazardous materials are stopped and that these properties are returned to safe and productive use.  The five sites are Broadway Street Corridor Groundwater Contamination, Anderson, IN; Rockwell International Wheel & Trim, Grenada, MS; Donnelsville Contaminated Aquifer, Donnelsville, OH; Southside Chattanooga Lead, Chattanooga, TN; and Delfasco Forge, Grand Prairie, TX. Remember Valley of the Drums?  Hard to believe that was 40 years ago, in Kentucky, Bullitt County, near Louisville… 23 acres, 100,000 waste drums corroding, deteriorating… The rest is, well, modern environmental history – from RCRA to CERCLA to LUST to NPL to Superfund…

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

In its Sixth Assessment Cycle, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is producing three Special Reports: Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, Global Warming of 1.5°C and Climate Change and Land as well as the main Working Group Assessment Reports. This session will start with reports focusing on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability.  Much of this session will be devoted to open discussion with participants regarding oceans and climate and the Working Group II Assessment Report, including topics such as what literature does IPCC assess, how were authors selected and how does IPCC review process work, as well as ocean knowledge gaps highlighted in previous reports and emerging knowledge of climate change impacts and risks for ocean ecosystems and human communities.   I will be attending this Symposium.  Advise if you need a correspondent or someone to work with your team reporting on this complex set of issues.

  •  My how time flies!  Last week EPA proposed withdrawing four proposed rules dealing with groundwater and pesticides and plant genetics.  But don’t worry too much about public safety and environmental decline.  There’s a lot of cobwebs here.  Two rules were proposed in 1994.  Uh, that’s 24 years ago.  Bill Clinton was President.  One proposed rule did have more recent action, at least partially – in 2001, just 17 years ago, you remember, about the same year as that space odyssey.  The most recent rule? 1999, dealing with pesticide registration requirements; left in the dust as other laws changed, leaving the proposals, yes, still proposals, stranded by the regulatory roadside.  I wonder if the typewriters still work that were used to draft those rules?  I do need a new ribbon for my Selectric…  Imagine all the things that don’t happen as people wait and wait and wait for answers, direction, approvals…
  • Last week was the deadline for a DOE request for comments on the development of a Solid State Power Substation (SSPS) Roadmap.  An SSPS is defined as “the strategic integration of high voltage power electronic converters in substations to provide enhanced capabilities and support the evolution of the grid.” SSPS technology can overcome some of the current limitations within substations by enabling control of real and reactive power flows, management of voltage transients and harmonic content, and the ability to increase the flexibility, resiliency, and security of the electric power system.  Deployment of SSPS technology within substations can enable better asset utilization, increasing system efficiency, enhancing security and resilience, and easing the integration of distributed energy resources and microgrids.  This is important stuff, note the reference to distributed energy, or microgrids –  two big issues as renewable and storage technologies (e.g., electric vehicles) work to get mainstreamed
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program is a voluntary EPA program, started in 2016, through which oil and natural gas companies commit to reducing methane emissions.  (While this methane focus is new, the overall energy STAR program started in 1993.)  Just about every major natural gas company signed up to participate, representing about 66 percent of US natural gas customers, according to the American Gas Association.  But there’s a problem: apparently, the paperwork isn’t finished. In December 2016, EPA sought industry comments on the draft reporting documents that would establish a company’s control efforts.  Response: big fat zero.   Now, after one full calendar year (2017), participants are supposed to submit their data regarding last year’s reduction activities.  Last week, EPA started a new 30-day information request, again seeking industry comments on the draft reporting forms and what kind of changes might add value to this process and data set. Important work.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.  Comments are due by May 14.

*  In January, the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee recommended to DOE about the need for consensus on a proposed rule for test procedures and energy efficiency standards for certain air conditioners and heat pumps.  Last week, DOE announced its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking working group to, indeed, focus on such a proposed rule; a process DOE presents “as authorized by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, as amended.”  DOE is recruiting working group volunteers. Applications/nominations are due by April 26.

*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for the sale of commercial wind energy leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts.  The offer is for two leases that were unsold during the Atlantic Wind Lease Sale-4 (ATLW–4) on January 29, 2015.  The new PSN contains information including areas available, proposed lease provisions and conditions and auction details.  BOEM set a 60-day public comment period, ending June 11.  Importantly, “the issuance of the proposed leases resulting from this sale would not constitute approval of project-specific plans to develop offshore wind energy.” Those plans would be subject to subsequent environmental and technical reviews prior to a decision by BOEM to approve the development.

Tom Ewing

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513-379-5526 voice/text
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