Tag Archive for 'Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)'

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  If you’re in a bad mood take a look at the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2019 Annual Energy Outlook.  Wow.  Plenty of energy at the national scale for the next 30 years.  If you’re in a really bad mood, look closer – plenty of affordable, recoverable energy for economic growth, heating and cooling, transportation, manufacturing.  As one expert said during EIA’s press conference and discussion last week US energy policy isn’t aligned with an energy status of plenitude; it’s still dominated by scarcity, that “we’ll run out…!”  Again, not only will the US not run out, but EIA predicts prices will stabilize, even fall.  Unbelievable: economic growth and decreased energy intensity. And critically, this unimaginable wealth isn’t dependent on a single fuel.  To the contrary, EIA’s analysis depends on a mix of fuels, with renewables zooming past coal and nuclear, becoming a larger share of U.S. electric generation than nuclear and coal in less than a decade.  Now, whatever your concern – CO2, air quality standards, prices, availability… feeling better on a Monday morning?
*  Of course, the availability and use of natural gas is at the core of all of that optimism.  It was noteworthy last week, then, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the final environmental impact statement for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), a transcontinental gas pipeline expansion that would meet projected increased demand for the greater New York City metro region.  Somewhat confusingly, the EIS concludes: “Construction and operation of the NESE Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts.” Most would be temporary, construction related.  Long-term impacts on air quality and noise would result from Compressor Station 206, new infrastructure.  However, with proposed impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as adherence to FERC recommendations, “all project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”  Clarity, please. This massive project faces massive local resistance.
*   The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated its “Requirements for Renewable Energy Projects in Highway Right-of-Way (ROW).”  The most recent update is dated December, 2018; it was released last week.  The guidance is intended to point FHWA Division Offices and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to relevant FHWA requirements.  FHWA notes that several states have installed renewable energy generation projects such as solar arrays and wind turbines along highway ROW, and other States are considering doing so.  “Public interest” is a core notion and FHWA writes that renewable energy projects “connected to the public electricity grid or provide electricity used by a public agency such as the State DOT would generally be considered as serving the public.”  (Wind tower slalom run on I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus?  Nope.  ODOT says not gonna happen… )

Tom Ewing

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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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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  US DOT is getting ready to start a fascinating study on how automated vehicles will impact “drivers and operators of commercial vehicles, including labor displacement.”  The prep work for the $1.5 million studies has been available for review lately because DOT is soliciting comments on the scope of the study.  “Labor displacement,” of course, could include truck drivers but it also could include new demands for coders and programmers to run – safely – some very big “systems.”  Cities are already well advanced in thinking about AV possibilities.  One Florida city said it could extend its Skyway people mover system into new neighborhoods with an automated system because – and here’s the important part – it could be expanded at grade, at street level.  This is critical: lower costs and community acceptance, people in older neighborhoods didn’t want the elevated structure but they will accept new transit at grade, that otherwise fits into the existing street network.  This study was requested by Congress in the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriation act.  Unfortunately, the exact schedule for the Study is not available.
*  Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company filed an application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking authorization to “construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain the certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”  This work will increase natural gas capacity on its pipeline system by approximately 72,400 dekatherms* per day. The projects include: (1) the construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of approximately 2.1 miles of pipeline loop, and (2) the abandonment and replacement of two compressor units with a new compressor unit at an existing compressor station.  This project includes service territory in or near Lawrence, MA, the site of Columbia Gas’ September 13 explosion.  People are a bit nervous and the FERC docket already contains challenges from environmental and alternate energy groups.  Just how – and whether – this project moves forward will provide important insights about gas and gas service in the Northeast states.
*  Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker established a “Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth” to advise his Administration on future transportation needs and challenges. The Commission’s work includes anticipated changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy to determine likely impacts on transportation between 2020 and 2040. The Commission’s work is to provide “a robust grounding in facts and trends, development of plausible future scenarios, and formulation of recommendations,” due by December 1, 2018.  Transportation electrification is one focus for the Commission, the focus of one recent meeting.  The presentations were neither robust nor original, just a recitation of theoretical possibilities by people who present the same things over and over again, and get paid for it.
*A dekatherm (dth) is a unit of energy used primarily to measure natural gas, developed in about 1972 by the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, a natural gas pipeline company. It is equal to 10 therms or 1,000,000 British thermal units (MMBtu) or 1.055 GJ.

Dekatherm – Wikipedia

Tom Ewing
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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
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*   The Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions was announced in the Federal Register last week.  The Unified Agenda lists the actions that administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long-term.  The Agenda is released by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  It shows how the President plans to “maintain his commitment to regulatory reform” and “a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the American people.”  The Agenda shows each agency’s reform priorities and where each related policy stands within the rule development process, from a “pre-rule stage” to proposed to final.   If you want a crystal ball, this is an important one.

*  FERC has scheduled an all-day Reliability Technical Conference – led by FERC Commissioners – at the end of July that will take a close look at critical new energy policy initiatives.  An afternoon session, for example, is called “Managing the New Grid.”  The discussion will explore power system planning and operations and related challenges and opportunities from the changing mix of electric generation resources, including impacts of power plant retirements and increasing dependence on natural gas, solar, and wind power.  An expert panel will discuss critical issues linked to frequency response, ramping and voltage support – the dynamics required to turn electric power into an electric system.  Difficult stuff, kind of important…!
*   FERC also gave notice last week that it received a complaint from a city council person in Rhode Island alleging that the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission on August 16, 2010, as directed by the Rhode Island General Assembly, approved a 20-year Purchase Power Agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid that “appears to constitute a violation of the Federal Power Act.”  The complaint is extensive and hard-hitting, including charges that the Block Island wind project does “not serve a public interest, and creates a significant economic hardship for all levels of residential, commercial, and manufacturing sectors.”  The Complaint states further that studies in Texas, where wind power is prevalent, have shown that the net effect of adjusting conventional power plant output to accommodate intermittent and unpredictable power sources like wind turbines can “actually cause higher net fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions.”  There’s an open window, until June 27, to officially intervene in this interesting case.

Tom Ewing
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www.regulatoryclarity.com