Tag Archive for 'DOT'

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

*  At the end of February, the Secretary of the Interior presented a draft list – for public comment – of 35 “critical minerals,” defined as essential to the economic and national security of the United States.  The list drew many comments, focusing on a range of issues: “Children are mining Rare Earth Elements for Electric Cars, while Electric car companies are mining government subsidies for the rich that can afford the $90,000 price tag for a new model. While Americas poor are put out of jobs from regulations.”  Hmmmm…. Is that true? It was sent in by one of many people named Anonymous Anonymous.  Another group said the list is too short: “Placing limits on this list, due to over-zealous environmental policies, completely undermines the 1872 Mining Laws and the wisdom of some extremely important Presidents that saved this Nation over the course of History.”  That’s from the Materials and Mining Advisory Council, based in Nashville, TN.  Is it worth noting that the Council sent its comments via fax?  Not sure when Interior’s list will be finalized.
*  The US House Committee on Energy & Commerce sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt regarding EPA reorganization plans, particularly pertaining to workforce analysis.  The letter writes that “EPA has struggled for decades to determine whether the workforce at the agency has the appropriate skills and competencies to accomplish its mission.”  The Committee notes that EPA has not conducted a workforce analysis in over 20 years and the letter further references a 2012 EPA Office of Inspector General report on the need to improve workload analysis.  The Committee notes that some reorganization is already occurring: certain offices have been combined and over 1000 employees have accepted buyouts.  The Committee wants a briefing by EPA’s Chief of Operations “and other relevant personnel.”  The deadline to set this meeting is March 27.
*  Here’s a topic for careful review – very careful review: DOT published an RFI last week seeking insights on the autonomous transport of hazardous materials, both for trucks/highways and railroads.  DOT writes that “Automated Driving Systems’’ (ADS) have shown the capacity to “drive and operate motor vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles, as safely and efficiently as humans, if not more so. Similar technological developments are also occurring in rail.”  The RFI poses eleven core questions, which reference safety, of course, but also ask about systems under development, regulatory conflicts and integrating possible new rules with existing hazmat regulations.  This could be one reset for difficult pipeline issues in New England: upcoming applications to ship in LNG via driverless trucks! *:D big grin  Comments are due by May 7.  Stay tuned…
Tom Ewing
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Hidden Damage in US Bridges Could Place Public at Risk

Clutch Performance – C.W. Matthews Finishes Bridge Reconstruction Ahead of Schedule

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  July ended a NOAA public comment period regarding the North Pacific right whale, the start of a 5-year review under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  The review “must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review.”  Whales have human friends but maybe not this particular whale.  NOAA’s docket presents just one public comment, which raises important issues about energy exploration, plastic pollution and over-fishing and loss of diet.  NOAA writes that they will continue to accept new information about “any listed species at any time.”  Peeps had better speak up.
*  Check this out: Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed new, experimental procedures to encourage increased project management flexibility, more innovation in project funding, improved efficiency, timely project implementation, and new project revenue streams.  What?  Make things quicker, easier and cheaper?  No way!  FTA is seeking comments on its ideas.  Wait a minute – if these revisions could work for FTA, maybe these ideas could extend all through DOT’s empire?  Stay tuned.

*  The Department of Commerce announced last week that US coal companies will supply coal to the Ukraine’s state-owned power generation company Centrenergo PJSC.  This is about power, and, of course, power, i.e., the military-political realpolitik of who is squeezing whom, and who or why they can get away with it.  If you’re a Mom in Kiev trying to keep your kids warm and the charming Mr. Putin is withholding Russia’s natural gas to teach you a lesson, well, you’re probably pretty glad to have a diversified fuel source.  In a way, it’s all still like that old Berlin airlift thing isn’t it…?  Sorry, drifting off topic…

Tom Ewing
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