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

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  A new Department of Energy study indicates that the universe is running out of electrons, i.e., free electrons not already held within a flashlight battery or an app or an Internet-of-Things application or Youtube cat videos.  “It sounds inconceivable,” MIT professor Dymm Witt said in a recent lecture, “but there are a finite number of particles in our world, as immeasurable as that once seemed to be.  But it takes electrons in motion to, well, respond to billions of constantly working thumbs.  Everyone has two thumbs,” Dr. Witt advised students, “and that adds up to a lot of constant electrical demand.”  Witt said that even wood, old 2x4s in your basement, for example, are now electrically charged, like cell phones, iPads, laptops, and EVs place a premium on any undisputed electron from here to Taurus Afurass, 200 billion light years away.
*  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) made two important announcements this week: one, that upcoming hearings will be in Latin and, second, that commissioners and hearing participants must wear wigs.  “Non inhaero ad furca ad ostium tabernaculi,” Slip op. 10, “whatever the hell that means,” remarked Commissioner Leck Tron, who explained that “we are a legal and formal process; clarity is job number 1 for the Foederati Industria Regulatory Commissione bigas.”  In a press release, FERC said a toupee, no matter what color, will not count as a wig, although it can be worn under the wig or transferred discreetly to a brief-case or purse at the start of a hearing.  In the 200 page ruling, Commissioner Tron said Latin to English translations will not be provided (except for a fee).  He said, “nobody can figure out what we do anyway so why translate from Latin to sine fine particularibus infimis?”  Wigs will be collected after each hearing and given a good shakepostridie parati.
*  You’ve likely seen reference to “cultured meats,” i.e., collections of live animal cells grown within very specific conditions, critical research for food and related to efforts to re-grow human organs. Turns out that a few buckets of this slop were recently delivered to at least one Silicon Valley lab.The reason: venture teams are trying to develop a third arm and hand, something that can be affixed, still to be determined how and where, to a person so that after transplant she/he can use both regular hands and still hold a cell phone.“We’ve had new moms and dads complain that it’s really hard to change a baby and hold a phone,” commented director Lawng Gnudle, “right now, this is early stage.”  Another likely application, Gnudle suggested, might be for people who unload a grocery cart with just one hand because they can’t put their phone down.  Gnudle said this would likely, at first, be a somewhat rudimentary appendage. An “enhanced person,” he said, couldn’t play both parts of a piano duet, for example. Well, maybe both parts of   

Tom Ewing

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Here’s something not for the faint-hearted: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is seeking comments on “possible improvements to its electric transmission incentives policy.”  Still there?  C’mon this is important.  Incentive policies encourage the development of infrastructure that is reliable and reduces congestion and ratepayers’ costs.  FERC’s upcoming effort will review an order adopted in 2012.  Some fundamental issues are at play: should incentives be granted based on project risks and challenges or based on benefits?  Economic efficiency vs. reliability?  In addition, FERC is interested in comments about possible metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of incentives.  Hmmm… checking to see whether something actually works… better take a brisk walk and get some more coffee… Comments are due 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.
*  The Global CCS Institute will release a new report highlighting strategic policy priorities for the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Institute’s upcoming report also reviews current progress achieved with existing policies and the reasons behind positive investment decisions for the current 23 large-scale CCS projects in operation and construction globally.  Look for that report on April 2.  Then, watch for an upcoming webinar during which two of the paper’s authors will provide insights into the key findings and recommendations.  The webinar will address barriers to CCS deployment, the conditions that have enabled current CCS facilities, lessons from current projects and the strategic priorities for policymakers to support CCS deployment.  Click here for more info.
*  The ocean off the West Coast is shifting from several years of unusually warm conditions – a marine heat wave known as the “warm blob” – toward a cooler and more productive regime that may boost salmon returns and populations of other ocean predators, according to a new NOAA Fisheries report.  The report cautions against expecting a return to “normal,” given the continuing wide variability of conditions in recent years. This perspective echoes other recent reports from around the world that note the increasing frequency of climatic disturbances is making it hard for ecosystems to recover before “being knocked out of whack again.”  The report, now in its seventh year, informs Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries managers as they develop fishing seasons and limits.

Tom Ewing
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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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