Tag Archive for 'environment'

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Advisory Board meets for two days next week in Oakland, CA.  A primary topic on the draft agenda is NOAA’s “Blue Economy,” which includes marine transportation, tourism, ocean exploration, and fisheries and amounts to approximately $320 billion of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP).  The OEAB advises NOAA leadership on strategic planning, exploration priorities, competitive ocean exploration grant programs and other matters as requested by NOAA’s Administrator.  The 12-member Board is chaired by John R. Kreider, Senior VP Advanced Technology of Oceaneering International, Inc.
*  The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed last week, on Friday, in a 40-page Federal Register notice, to delist the Gray Wolf – from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  By the next day, Saturday, the docket had over 500 comments from interested groups and citizens.  This change – which started, nationally, in 2013 – would not impact the status of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).  FWS writes that “We propose this action because the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed entities do not meet the definitions of a threatened species or endangered species under the Act due to recovery.” The comment period closes on May 14.
*  Two big deepwater port projects are starting off Texas’ coast.  One is called COLT, the other SPOT – not sure if those are acronyms or not.  SPOT will have over 100 miles of 36” double on-shore and in-water pipelines.   The new port will allow for up to two very large crude carriers (VLCCs) or other crude oil carriers to moor at single point mooring (SPM) buoys and connect with the deepwater port via floating connecting crude oil hoses and a floating vapor recovery hose. The maximum frequency of loading VLCCs or other crude oil carriers would be 2 million barrels per day, 365 days per year.  COLT has similar statistics.  MARAD and the Coast Guard are starting an environmental impact statement for SPOT and they have scheduled an open house and public meeting in Lake Jackson, TX next week.  You’ll be happy to know there’s free parking.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Department of Agriculture (DOA) holds a “listening session” this week to take public comments to implement new programs to regulate hemp production, which is now legal in the US, its status changed in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Hemp can draw a giggle because it is related to marijuana plants.  Hemp contains a very low concentration of THC – the stuff that causes munchies and extremely deep insights at 2:00 AM into Elizabethan poetry, usually forgotten a few hours later.  Hemp has THC at 0.3% or less vs. maryjane (marijuana) 15-40% (dry weight basis).  Hemp is valuable for industrial purposes, a primary resource for paper, clothing, building materials, biofuel, food products, oils and more.  DOA will have oversight over upcoming, new state and tribal hemp farms.  DOA’s question to the public: How do we best make this new agri-industry work?
*  Remember the proposed Colusa-Sutter (CoSu) – 500-kilovolt transmission line project in California?  It’s canceled.  The line would have connected the California-Oregon Transmission Project (COTP) to transmission facilities on the west side of the Sacramento Valley.  Why?  “The cost estimate increased, and the value and the need of the proposed line diminished” for SMUD, that’s the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.  At the start, SMUD said that the line would create a new transmission path and needed capacity, improve local and regional reliability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help meet renewable energy demands and improve import/export capabilities.  That big picture has changed and SMUD writes that it will now focus on local, regional and in-state renewable and reliability projects, as well as “incremental transmission infrastructure.”
*  Last week I noted DOE’s $51.5 million funding opportunity for freight vehicles.  As anyone who signs up for DOE’s press releases knows, DOE announces, almost daily, the availability of tens of millions of R&D dollars for a generation, efficiency, storage, carbon, transportation, metallurgy, hydrogen.  And that’s just one agency.  In reality, the US has a Green New Deal, which isn’t really new, of course, having started when DOE was established 42 years ago in 1977.  Did you ever wonder: What’s happened to those billions of R&D dollars?  Or more accurately, what’s happened because of those R&D dollars?  All R&D doesn’t directly “pay off,” of course.  But what are the major R&D outcomes that have transformed, at scale, the electric and transport economic sectors?  The biggest energy news this past week?  That the US is producing more oil and refined products than Saudi Arabia or Russia.  Now that’s transformative.  But not at all in line with decades of taxpayer-funded DOE research…
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had good news last week regarding the State’s 2018 state-wide sampling of public, school, and tribal water supplies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  This was the first such study in the nation, and it was extensive, including 1,114 public water systems, 461 schools that operate their own wells, and 17 tribal systems.  Importantly, 90 percent of these supplies showed no detection for any PFAS. Very low levels, below 10 parts per trillion (ppt) were detected in 7 percent of systems. Levels between 10 and 70 ppt were detected in 3 percent.  Work will continue: MI will pay for quarterly monitoring of the systems with levels above 10 ppt.  In addition, the ad-hoc “Michigan PFAS Action Response Team” (MPART) will continue with a new, more formal status.  In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer established MPART as a permanent body within the MDEQ.
*  U.S. Department of Energy announced a rather generous version of its own Green New Deal last week: up to $51.5 million for new and innovative research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and the fuels that power them.  This FOA – “funding opportunity announcement” – is focused on gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen; heavy-duty freight electrification; hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy-duty applications; and energy efficient off-road vehicles.  The FOA has five topical areas, including novel materials for high-density gas storage and transport, advanced waste to energy technologies, and technology integration that focuses on lowering costs and overcoming technical barriers to the use of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and hydrogen-fueled vehicles.  Another focus is on battery electric heavy-duty freight and technical barriers to advanced batteries, electric drive systems, and charging systems.  Concept papers are due to DOE by March 29; full applications by May 15.
*  There is a fascinating story out of “9to5Google” about how two Alphabet divisions are working together to “train a neural network on weather forecasts and historical turbine data.”  Scientists there then use the DeepMind system to “predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation.”  Variability with wind and solar electric generation is a critical weakness.  Civilization doesn’t run on electricity, it runs on electrical systems, with dependability and timeliness two of the most critical factors.  If you know when the wind is going to blow you can plan on using it.  On the other hand, if you know wind won’t be there, 36 hours is plenty of lead time to make other, non-panicky arrangements.  Google’s report states that its algorithm is still being refined, but Google notes how machine learning — compared to no time-based commitments to the grid — has “boosted the value of our wind energy by roughly 20 percent.” The company is applying this optimization to its wind farms in the central United States that generate 700 megawatts of wind power.

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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

*  Last October, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum titled “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West.”  It set streamlining demands for major western water projects, including work underway within the Columbia River Basin – more specifically, an Environmental Impact Statement and Biological Opinion originally due in 2021.  The President said: too slow, git-‘r-done faster.  Last week the co-lead agencies – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration – announced that their plan to speed things up was approved by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Work will be finished next year – 2020.  “The agencies now are revising project details in order to reach the new completion date.”  It looks like the work pace quickens for tasks related to “Public Comment Review and Synthesis” and “Prepare Final EIS and Identify Preferred Alternative.”  The final EIS should be out in June 2020 rather than the previous, much more exact deadline of March 26, 2021.
*  Next week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release the findings of its Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (AEO), including long-term projections of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices, including cases that address alternative assumptions regarding U.S. economic growth rates, domestic energy resources and technology, and world oil prices. Additionally, EIA will present its January 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).  This news release will really be an event, a presentation, and discussion by top EIA officials followed by an expert panel discussion on the issues within the new Outlooks.  Panelists are from the Bipartisan Policy Center, EPRI and FERC.
*  PFAS* monitoring continues in Michigan.  State and County officials retested 21 private residential wells in Otsego, MI.  Fortunately, there was no presence of fearsome dioxins in most of the wells that had previously tested positive.  Only one well showed trace amounts – the highest level was 0.13 parts per quadrillion (ppq), far below drinking water standards.  Wells were tested for PFAS around the former Menasha Corporation Landfill in Otsego.  Good news: All residential well samples came back negative for PFAS.  This investigation continues.  Next phase: testing soil samples for dioxins and PFAS.
*”PFAS,” or PFAs,” is an acronym for perfluoroalkyls, which are a group of man-made chemicals that are not found naturally in the environment, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These are industrial chemicals used in manufacturing.

Tom Ewing
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