Tag Archive for 'energy'

President Trump Is Cutting Red Tape On Infrastructure Projects

President Trump Is Cutting Red Tape On Infrastructure Projects

IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS:  President Trump’s Administration is working together to improve and streamline environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects.

  • Federal agencies are signing the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishing a coordinated and timely process for environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects.
  • The signatories of the MOU have agreed to an unprecedented level of collaboration in the environmental review process and include the:
    • Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
    • Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council
  • One lead Federal agency will be responsible for navigating each major infrastructure project through the entire Federal environmental review and permitting process.
    • Until now, project sponsors have had to navigate decision-making processes across multiple Federal agencies. Federal agencies will work with the lead agency for a project to develop a single Environmental Impact Statement and sign a single Record of Decision.
    • The lead agency will seek written concurrence from other agencies at important points in the process.
  • Federal agencies will follow permitting timetables established by the lead Federal agency, with a goal of completing the process within two years.
    • In the past, Federal agencies were generally not required to follow a comprehensive permitting timetable.
    • Under the MOU, Federal agencies will conduct their review processes at the same time, rather than sequentially, which has led to unnecessary delays.
  • The MOU will ensure interagency issues and disputes are elevated and resolved in a timely manner.
    • Previously, interagency disputes could remain unresolved for years.

DELIVERING STREAMLINED DECISION-MAKING: The One Federal Decision MOU follows through on the President’s policy of streamlining inefficient and lengthy environmental reviews.

  • The MOU will deliver on the President’s policy of One Federal Decision for major infrastructure projects.
  • President Trump’s Executive Order 13807 established a One Federal Decision policy for major infrastructure projects.
    • The Executive Order directed the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality to develop a framework for implementing One Federal Decision.

CUTTING COSTLY DELAYS:  Inefficient environmental review processes have led to unnecessary delays, depriving our communities of needed infrastructure projects.

  • The MOU improves Federal agency cooperation and ensures Federal agencies establish coordinated permitting timetables for major infrastructure projects, cutting down on needless delays.
  • Too many important infrastructure projects have been held up for years by the environmental review process.
  • The median environmental review completion time for a complex highway project is more than seven years, according to a 2014 Government Accountability Office report.
  • The environmental review and permitting process for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge Replacement Project in North Carolina took more than 20 years.
    • The environmental review process involved numerous studies and interagency disputes and was subject to extensive delays.
    • The original bridge was well past its design life and is now being replaced with a design that can better withstand the harsh coastal environment.
    • The One Federal Decision framework would have allowed for a much more timely environmental review process.
  • Loop 202, a critical freeway project which will provide an alternative route of travel around Phoenix, took well over a decade to complete the environmental review process.
    • Loop 202’s environmental review faced numerous setbacks and dragged on for years due to poor communication, no agreed upon timetable and other issues.
    • The project, which is the largest in Arizona’s history, is finally in the final stages of development.
    • Had One Federal Decision been in place, agencies could have identified and resolved conflicts throughout project development and reduced their impact on project schedules.

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  A DOE notice about SunShot 2030 caught my eye recently because it is one of many DOE renewable energy initiatives filling my inbox lately, in contrast, really, to gloom and doom “news” from many “sources” about hairy, brutish Luddites with pitchforks taking over the Department and smashing all the Keurig machines.  The Solar Energy Technologies Office wants comments on “integrated data and analysis needs across the solar value chain to inform near to mid-term plans for the development of resources such as information based network planning, real time optimization, and bankability tools in the context of DOE’s SunShot 2030 goals.” SunShot is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption.  2030 is 12 years away.  Sounds like things are continuing, not stopping.  Hurry up: comments are due October 6!
*  Corporations and other institutions have contracted for more than 2,300 MW of off-site solar, using power purchase agreements (PPAs), green tariffs, or bilateral deals with utilities.  The corporate procurement of utility-scale PV has grown from less than 1% of annual installed utility-scale capacity in 2014 to 9% in 2016 and it accounted for 17% in early 2017. To expand corporate procurement of off-site solar, both a purchasing pathway and cost competitive solar are required.  This insider’s look is from a new DOE/NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) report titled “Charting the Emergence of Corporate Procurement of Utility-Scale PV.”  NREL will expand on the report, with discussions and commentary, in a webinar next Monday, October 9.

*  Also next Monday, California’s Air Resources Board holds a public workshop on the State’s “Beneficiary Mitigation Plan” for its $423 million allocation of the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust.  Eligible activities consist mostly of scrap-and-replace projects, including supportive infrastructure for zero- and near zero-emission advanced technology replacements, for the heavy-duty sector.  Program leaders also “strive to ensure that at least 35 percent of California’s allocation benefit low-income or disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution.”  If you can’t make the meeting you can submit comments to CARB.

Tom Ewing
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ABC Reports: Construction Input Prices Plod Higher, Energy Prices Down

Construction input prices increased0.3 percent in July and are up 3 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonresidential construction input prices were in line with overall industry dynamics, increasing 0.3 percent for the month and 2.7 percent for the year.

Eight of 11 key construction input prices rose in July. Among the inputs experiencing declines in prices were crude petroleum (down 8 percent) and natural gas (down 7 percent). Natural gas prices have fallen during four of the past six months.

“Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of U.S. economic performance in recent years has been the general lack of inflation,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Despite recently completing eight years of economic recovery and hurtling towards full employment, the Federal Reserve’s most intensely scrutinized measure of inflation remains well below 2 percent. Even worker compensation has not risen rapidly, despite indications by construction firms, trucking enterprises, hotel operators and manufacturers of large-scale shortfalls in human capital. America is presently home to 6.2 million job openings and 7 million unemployed, which means that there is nearly one job for every person looking for one.

“The lack of inflation helps explain many things, including low interest rates, rising levels of consumer indebtedness, rising home prices, high multiples on corporate earnings and elevated commercial real estate values. In other words,” said Basu, “the reasonably strong performance of the U.S. economy and the phenomenal performance of financial markets is largely traceable to surprisingly low inflation.

“It is in this context that today’s report is so important,” said Basu. “Inflationary pressures are certainly apparent in today’s report. True, one should not make too much out of a single month of data. Moreover, one cannot make the claim that today’s release is consistent with anything approaching rampant inflation.

“However, in certain input categories, the rise in prices has been noteworthy,” said Basu. “For instance, steel mill products, iron and steel and softwood lumber have each experienced price increases of around 10 percent over the past 12 months. With energy prices stabilizing recently, the construction producer price index is likely to exhibit faster growth during the months ahead. Many contractors continue to report elevated backlog, and other leading nonresidential construction indicators remain positive. This implies growing demand for materials in America. With the global economy firming and with the dollar having weakened a bit recently, the implication is that materials prices will continue to rise during the months ahead along with compensation costs. These dynamics are likely to place additional pressure on construction industry profit margins.

Visit ABC Construction Economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator, Construction Confidence Index and state unemployment reports, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members.

Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.

ABC Statement: What The Construction Industry Needs From President Obama’s Jobs Plan


On the eve of President Obama’s speech to unveil his jobs plan to the nation, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today called on the president to repeal costly regulations and offer bold, new public-private partnership policies to jumpstart the economy and get Americans back to work.

“The torrential flood of costly and burdensome regulations from this administration has created a climate of uncertainty among small business construction contractors,” said 2011 ABC National Chairman Michael J. Uremovich, president of Great Lakes Energy Consultants, LLC, Manhattan, Ill. “Business owners are buried in government red tape that erodes their bottom line and creates an uncertain future – hardly the formula needed to stimulate economic growth and create jobs.”

Included in the many Obama administration actions is Executive Order 13502 which encourages anti-competitive and costly government-mandated project labor agreements on federal construction projects; a proposal by the National Labor Relations Board to limit an employer’s ability to effectively communicate the impact of unionization to its workers; and sweeping health care mandates forcing some construction contractors to purchase more expensive policies or drop their coverage all together.

“ABC believes a safe and reliable infrastructure, including transportation, energy, schools and military construction, is critical to our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy,” Uremovich said. “While the federal government lacks the resources to make significant investments in our nation’s infrastructure, demand  for infrastructure projects still exists. Public-private partnerships present an opportunity to responsibly invest in improving our nation’s infrastructure without adding to our deficit.

“An example of a successful public-private partnership is the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, through which the renovation, design and maintenance of more than 200,000 housing units on military bases have been delivered during the last 15 years,” said Uremovich. “The private sector and the federal government profited, jobs were created, and federal infrastructure was improved, enhanced and expanded.

“As part of any plan to invigorate the economy and create jobs, it is necessary to break down those barriers that prevent banks from financing construction projects,” Uremovich said.  “It is critical that real estate development and construction firms have access to much-needed capital in order to allow construction growth and development.”

Multifamily Buildings 2011: The Energy Efficiency Edge Brings Together Leading Minds In Energy Efficiency, Durability And Sustainability

Multifamily Buildings 2011: The Energy Efficiency Edge, presented by the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), will bring together leaders in the industry for a unique event focusing on the programs, processes and technology that deliver energy efficiency to multifamily housing.

Held in Chicago, IL, August 8 – 10, 2011, the conference will play host to policy-makers, program designers and implementers, as well as building owners and operators, design and building performance professionals, weatherization agencies, contractors, and diverse energy experts as they discuss the challenges and opportunities facing an industry devoted to making multifamily buildings across North America energy efficient, durable, healthy and sustainable.

The Multifamily Buildings conference features interactive workshops, panels and technical presentations. Topics include assessment and retrofits of existing buildings and systems, management of building energy use, high performance building design and renewable energy. Industry standards, training and financing will also be discussed. A town hall meeting will address current hot topics in the industry.

“Chicago is proud to host this key national meeting on energy efficiency in multifamily housing,” said Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago, who will be a keynote speaker at the event on August 8.  “Key players in public, private market and utility energy-efficiency programs in the Chicago area and the Midwest are involved in the program–and holding it here means that more building performance and weatherization professionals from Illinois and neighboring states will be able to attend, contribute, and learn from peers and thought leaders in this growing industry.”

Fully 25% of all US homes and 60% of the nation’s rental stock are situated in multi-unit properties. Residential buildings consume 21% of the nation’s energy and are responsible for an equivalent percentage of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Multifamily buildings are ripe for the types of energy savings that can significantly cut building operating costs while they clean the air and improve public health,” said David Hepinstall, Executive Director of AEA, noting that an increasing number of state and local governments are adopting energy-efficiency portfolio standards and greener building codes.

“Energy efficiency is the wave of the future,” Hepinstall said. “And this conference offers unmatched opportunities to explore the ideas, technologies and best practices that will soon make energy-efficient multifamily buildings the norm, rather than the exception in this country.”

According to Hepinstall, the conference will also seek the most effective ways to utilize the organizational, technical and training infrastructure developed under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to achieve ongoing economic, environmental and health benefits in the years to come.

The conference provides a forum for leaders and practitioners who will play active roles in making the conference an exceptional platform for information-sharing and innovation to advance the policies, strategies, and practices that make multifamily buildings energy efficient, durable and safe, extending the benefits of energy efficiency throughout the multifamily building market.

This year’s conference involves over 100 presenters in more than 60 sessions. Attendance at each of the past two conferences in the series has been over 500 professionals. In addition to Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer of the City of Chicago, featured speakers include:

Robert C. Adams, the head of the Weatherization Assistance Program for the US Department of Energy

Wayne Waite, Manager of Field Energy and Climate Operations, US Department of Housing and Urban Development

David Diestel, Senior Vice President of Operations for First Service Residential Management, North America’s leading provider of residential property management

The conference is underwritten by the US Department of Energy’s Building America program, by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. (CEDA), and other organizations working in multifamily energy efficiency, including Chicago’s CNT Energy.

“AEA’s Multifamily Buildings conference targets key issues of concern to all of us who work in multifamily energy efficiency,” said John Hamilton, Weatherization Director of CEDA, the local host sponsor of this year’s event. “We’re pleased to have helped to make it possible to hold the conference in Chicago this year.”

About the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA)

With offices in New York and California, AEA is a leading provider of energy technical services and training, including energy audits, modeling, work scope and specification development, energy usage monitoring, construction management and quality assurance. Since the early 1990s, AEA has been implementer of weatherization and utility energy-efficiency programs, and a technical services contractor for weatherization and a variety of research and development projects in the field. AEA serves all types of residential properties, but specializes in delivering energy efficiency to multifamily properties, including affordable housing. AEA has long been recognized as one of the foremost advocates for energy efficiency in multifamily housing across the United States.

AEA’s Energy Management Training Center offers over 50 courses for building performance professionals, technical and program staff, installation contractors, weatherization workers, and green job seekers. Many of these courses prepare trainees for key industry certifications from groups such as the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA). Using high-definition, interactive distance learning technology, AEA is extending the reach of its training through collaborative arrangements with partners across the US.