Tag Archive for 'EPA'

Tow Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  As everybody in the world knows the U.S. Global Change Research Program released two major, related reports on Friday, reports required by the Global Change Research Act.  The reports were released slightly ahead of schedule, originally expected in December.  The reports are the “Fourth National Climate Assessment” and the “2nd State of the Carbon Cycle.”  Most news excerpts are likely from the report summaries which provide easy – and endless – sound-bites allowing an editor to find whatever sentence he or she may need to make whatever point she wants: that we’re doomed or we’re not doomed, or indeed, noting that CO2 levels (at least in the US) have stabilized and are trending downward.  These are important reports, deserving close attention – from everybody.  Important, though, is not the same as helpful, at least from a policy sense.  But that’s another discussion.
*  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) phone jangled off the hook last week with calls mostly from people in white-hot opposition to a 2.1-mile natural gas Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company project (TGP is based in Texas) that would “construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”  TGP refers to this as the “261 Upgrade Projects.”  Whew… One if by land, two if by sea, three if by pipeline.  The Old North Church tower is almost on fire.  The 261 Project would upgrade equipment and reduce emissions.  It would fit mostly within existing rights-of-way, avoiding residential areas.  It would ease capacity in New England markets.  Doesn’t matter.  261 opponents cite global warming, they expect public policies that move away from fossil fuels to actually be implemented, not just talked about (imagine that!).  They warn of danger, referencing the September explosion in Lawrence, MA.  They claim that if leaks were captured from existing infrastructure the 261 Project wouldn’t be needed.  This is ground-zero for how/whether pipelines and energy advance or not, in the Northeast.  Stay tuned.
*  Note to bees and pollinators: hang on!  EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced on November 8 that it planned to start preliminary research on EPA’s Office of Pesticides support of states’ Managed Pollinator Protection Plans, designed to reduce pesticide exposure to bees.  When announced, OIG was setting up initial meetings, starting with requests from EPA for a current list of each State’s primary pollinator contacts.  You may recall that the Department of Agriculture in June 2017 hosted a “listening session” on bees and their place – really their viability – within an increasingly bizarro world.  Listening involved a lot of talk but not much action by DoA.  Maybe EPA’s work will be different.
Have a great Monday and a great week!

Tom Ewing
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513-379-5526 voice/text

TRIP REPORTS: NEW YORK STATE DRIVERS LOSE $24.8 BILLION ANNUALLY ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME SAFETY FEATURES

 …AS MUCH AS NEARLY $2,800 PER DRIVER. LACK OF FUNDING WILL LEAD TO FURTHER ROAD AND BRIDGE DETERIORATION, INCREASED CONGESTION & HIGHER COSTS TO MOTORISTS

Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New York drivers $24.8 billion per year – as much as $2,768 per driver – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Adequate investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels is needed to relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge, and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New York, according to a new report recently released TRIP, a Washington, DC-based national nonprofit transportation research organization.

The TRIP report, New York Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s  Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,”finds that throughout the state, nearly half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 10 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or longer) are in poor condition. The report also finds that the state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. In addition to the statewide report, TRIP has produced customized regional reports for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Binghamton, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York-Newark-Jersey City, Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica areas.

Driving on deficient New York roads costs state’s drivers a total of $24.8 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on rough roads, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The chart below details costs to drivers of driving on deficient roads statewide and in New York’s eight largest urban areas.

The TRIP report finds that 28 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in New York are in poor condition and another 21 percent are rated in mediocre condition, costing the state’s motorist an additional $7 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

“Many New Yorkers know the poor road conditions in our state lead to wear and tear on our cars and wallets; but now we have irrefutable evidence of the real cost of failing roads and bridges that continue to be ignored,” said Gib Gagnon, chairman of Rebuild NY Now. “Every dollar of deferred maintenance on our roads and bridges will cost taxpayers an additional four to five dollars in future repairs. These shocking figures are no longer ‘hidden costs.’ They are an alarming call to action to our representatives around the State. Simply patching our roads and bridges will not do the job; now is the time to rebuild our economy and infrastructure for a better New York.”

Traffic congestion in New York is worsening, causing up to 74 annual hours of delay for the average motorist in the largest urban areas and costing the state’s drivers a total of $13 billion each year in lost time and wasted fuel.

In New York, 10 percent of bridges (1,771 of 17,444) are in poor condition, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components and another 53 percent (9,313 of 17,444) are rated in fair condition, indicating some deterioration to major components of the bridge.  This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length. More than half – 52 percent – of New York’s bridges are at least 50 years old.

From 2012 to 2016, a total of 5,552 people were killed in traffic crashes in New York. The financial impact of traffic crashes costs New York drivers a total of $4.8 billion.  New York’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.83 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.18. The fatality rate on New York’s non-interstate rural roads is approximately three and a half times higher than on all other roads in the state (2.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.60).

The efficiency and condition of New York’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy.  Annually, $1.3 trillion in goods are shipped to and from sites in New York, mostly by trucks, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.

“Driving on deficient New York roads comes with a $24.8 billion yearly price tag for the state’s motorists,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Adequate funding for the state’s transportation system would allow for smoother roads, more efficient mobility, enhanced safety, and economic growth opportunities while saving New York’s drivers time and money.”

New York Transportation

by the Numbers

Meeting The State’s Need For

Safe, Smooth And Efficient Mobility

NEW YORK KEY TRANSPORTATION FACTS

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS

Driving on New York roads that are deteriorated, congested and that lack some desirable safety features costs New York drivers a total of $24.8 billion each year. TRIP has calculated the cost to the average motorist in the state’s largest urban areas in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on rough roads, the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion, and the financial cost of traffic crashes.In addition to the statewide report, TRIP has produced customized regional reports for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Binghamton, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York-Newark-Jersey City, Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica areas.

 NEW YORK ROADS PROVIDE A ROUGH RIDE

Due to inadequate state and local funding, 49 percent of major roads and highways in New York are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on rough roads costs the average New York driver $587 annually in additional vehicle operating costs.

A 2017 report by Rebuild New York found that the state faces a $5.5 billion backlog in needed pavement repairs for state-maintained roads and highways. The report also calculated that the state’s annual $325 million paving budget would need to be increased by 60 percent (to $520 million annually) to maintain current pavement conditions, and would need to be more than doubled (to $710 million annually) to improve pavement conditions on state-maintained roads and highways.

Pavements on thirty-four percent of the 559-mile New York Thruway system are rated in poor or very poor condition, 28 percent are rated in fair condition and 38 percent are rated in good or excellent condition.

NEW YORK BRIDGE CONDITIONS

Ten percent of New York’s bridges are in poor condition, meaning there is a significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, although many newer bridges are being designed to last 75 years or longer. In New York, 52 percent of the state’s bridges (9,039 of 17,444) was built in 1969 or earlier.

Approximately two-thirds (531 of 809) of bridges on the New York Thruway system are more than 60-years-old.

NEW YORK ROADS ARE INCREASINGLY CONGESTED

Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New York drivers $13 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $1,765 and more than three full days each year in congestion.

NEW YORK TRAFFIC SAFETY AND FATALITIES

From 2012 to 2016, 5,552 people were killed in traffic crashes in New York. Traffic crashes imposed a total of $14.3 billion in economic costs in New York in 2016 and traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $4.8 billion in economic costs – an average of $398 per New York driver.

TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The health and future growth of New York’s economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, $1.3 trillion in goods are shipped to and from sites in New York, mostly by truck. Increases in passenger and freight movement will place further burdens on the state’s already deteriorated and a congested network of roads and bridges.

The design, construction, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New York support 318,604 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $9.8 billion annually. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture, and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.

CONCLUSION

As New York works to build and enhance a thriving, growing and dynamic state, it will be critical that it is able to address the state’s most significant transportation issues by providing a 21stcentury network of roads, highways, bridges, and transit that can accommodate the mobility demands of a modern society.

New York will need to modernize its surface transportation system by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility for residents, visitors and businesses. Making needed improvements to the state’s roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems would provide a significant boost to the economy by creating jobs in the short term and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

Despite the modest funding increase provided by the FAST Act, numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of New York’s roads, highways, bridges and transit systems will not be able to proceed without a substantial boost in state or local transportation funding.  If New York is unable to complete needed transportation projects it will hamper the state’s ability to improve the condition and efficiency of its transportation system or enhance economic development opportunities and quality of life.

TRIP has also prepared customized regional  reports for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, BinghamtonBuffalo-Niagara Falls,  New York-Newark-Jersey CityPoughkeepsie-Newburgh-MiddletownRochester, Syracuse and Utica areas

For the full report visit TRIP

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  In a way, a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finding may be as significant as the particular project itself.  FERC announced availability last week of a draft EIS regarding the Texas LNG Project, proposed by Texas LNG Brownsville, LLC.  That’s not particularly newsy – draft docs are part of the process.  Rather, it’s FERC’s draft conclusion, “that approval of the Texas LNG Project would result in adverse environmental impacts.”  Mitigation measures could help except with “visual resources when viewed from the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.”  There’s more: this project, combined with other nearby projects, “would result in significant cumulative impacts from sediment/turbidity and shoreline erosions within the Brownsville Ship Channel during operations from vessel transits” and on the federally listed ocelot and jaguarundi from habitat loss, among other impacts.  The EIS is open for public review and comment.  Recall the charge noted here a few weeks ago by a pipeline opponent: that FERC has never said no to a proposed project.  This news isn’t a “No,” but it’s unusual.  Stay tuned.
*  EPA is making available for review the draft Integrated Review Plan for the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (draft IRP). This document contains the draft plans and the anticipated schedule for the current review of the air quality criteria and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for photochemical oxidants including ozone (O3).  This process will continue all through 2019; EPA will likely make final decisions in 2020.  For many reasons, ozone is the most contentious of the “criteria pollutants” (so-called because this is ancient history now, these were pollutants – including ozone, NOx, SOx, particulates – for which scientists had actual health-based criteria to use in setting exposure levels).  Across the country, ozone levels are mostly below the national standard.  But of course, this will get very political.  Possible regulatory changes will be critical for manufacturing growth, energy and overall economic development.
*   The Army Corps of Engineers is starting a major study on environmental impacts related to the improvement of New York and New Jersey harbor anchorages.  The Corps will review “changed conditions and/or assumptions since the original feasibility study was completed in 2000.”  Big problem: existing Federal anchorages are “insufficient” in meeting such functions as security and U.S. Coast Guard inspections, lightering, bunkering/refueling, waiting areas, and emergency ‘‘bailout’’ areas.  Multiple issues have been identified by key harbor users and stakeholders.  ACE writes: “There is not enough anchorage area to accommodate all of the vessels that need to anchor for various reasons.”  This is a lot of traffic and important to consider as EPA takes a re-look at ozone levels within an economy that (hopefully) continues to expand.  Scoping comments may be submitted to ACE until December 10, 2018.
Have a great week!
Tom Ewing
reply” or
513-379-5526 voice/text

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last June 26 EPA posted a call for information asking interested parties to submit information on any “adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects which may result from various strategies for attainment and maintenance of existing, new, or revised NAAQS” (National Ambient Air Quality Standards, e.g., ozone, particulates, NOx, etc.).  The comment period closed on October 24.  It’s an important inquiry because some people could cite significant adverse effects, ranging from unrealistic and imbalanced predictions about health benefits to increases in costs from regulatory demands to plant closures to sclerotic, slow and stilted permitting processes with no connection to market demands and business practices.  Of course, 40 years ago making steel and aluminum presented in-your-face environmental impacts.  Now, importing steel but exporting natural gas presents far different issues.  Critical questions, and opportunities, as the US economy heats up and rebuilds.
*  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking nominations of 11 people for membership on the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Federal Advisory Committee which advises the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior on “strategies and priorities for the design, monitoring and adaptive management of effective MPAs in U.S. waters.”  The Committee’s purview includes the Great Lakes.  NOAA also announced a Committee meeting early in November, a meeting at which the Committee will “finalize and vote on three products for submission to the U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior.”  These “products” include (1) Sustaining MPA Benefits in a Changing Ocean; (2) Factors Influencing Resilience in MPAs (a Supplementary Report); and, (3) revisions and updates to the MPA Center’s existing Cultural Heritage Resources Tool Kit.
*   If you’re in Washington Friday, November 9 through Tuesday, November 13, 2018, you might want to stop by the free Fourth Wood Stove Competition to focus on automation and electricity generation.  It will be on the National Mall.  Twelve teams will compete for modest cash prizes but, of course, much greater glory.  Wood stoves are still used by 30 – 60% of homes in hundreds of rural and suburban counties.  Participants will compete in two events:  One is to automate the wood stove with 21st-century technology like sensors and WIFI-enabled controls that improve combustion efficiency, reduce air pollution and improve ease of use.   The second competition focuses on thermoelectric wood stoves that generate electricity to power lights, cell phones, and WIFI-enabled controls.  The event includes rigorous testing of the next generation of technology that can make wood stoves consistently cleaner, more efficient, easier to use and, like solar energy, a renewable source of electricity.  And, of course, still pretty nice to sit next to on a freezing day, soaking in that heat, finally getting the chance to read one of those tightly bound, covered stacks of paper; you know, what some people call “a book.”
Tom Ewing
“reply” or
513-379-5526 voice/text

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Political science: – “The last few meetings have been troubling to me because they seem rather than forum for constructive dialogue, they’ve become public shaming of EPA, particularly Office of Pesticide Programs, and sometimes members of the PPDC, and when members speak up, their comments and sometimes mode of their questions and even ridiculed on social media.”  Doesn’t make exact, literal sense because it’s from a voice transcription service – but the core message is clear: bullying at scientific meetings, in this case at EPA’s May meeting of the Pesticide Program Advisory Committee.  Importantly, that Committee meets next week for a two-day session in Washington.  Contamination is obvious.
*  The Transcontinental gas pipeline starts at Texas’ Gulf Coast and runs like an aorta northeast to New York and New Jersey.  The Williams Companies are trying to expand Transco, to meet the Megalopolis’ gas demand for heating and power.  This is called the NESE project – Northeast Supply Expansion, with new pipeline segments on land, starting in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and then underwater, via NJ’s Raritan Bay, to a Staten Island junction for National Grid service into New York City.  The project includes a new 32,000 HP compressor station in NJ.  Wow.  NESE is taking a beating.  From recent comments, you’d think this wasn’t a natural gas pipeline but a serpent built to discharge nerve gas into kids’ playgrounds.  Service is supposed to be ready by winter 2020.  The Northeast, coming soon: very dark, very cold, or very very expensive.
*  The Secretary of Energy is required to conduct an electric transmission congestion study every three years and to prepare the study in consultation with affected states and regional reliability organizations. The study focuses on specific indications of transmission constraints and congestion and consequences. It reviews a specific time frame – e.g., historical trends over the past few years, and looking forward three to five years. The study is based entirely on publicly-available data and transmission-related documents.  DOE announced the study in August; the public comment period closed in October.  Then, last week, DOE reopened the comment period for 15 days, closing Nov. 1.  This is important stuff, raising all sorts of concerns, for example, about what the electric grid was built for versus what is expected going forward with new and different generation in new and different places, or put another way, largely built for coal, nuclear, oil and gas but expected to work for solar, wind and various distributed generation sources.
 
Tom Ewing
reply” or
513-379-5526 voice/text