Tag Archive for 'FERC'

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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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  There’s a tidal-hydrokinetic research project underway in Bourne, MA, at the end of the Cape Cod Canal.  The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative of New England filed an application (not its first filing) with FERC for a draft pilot license application that would allow interconnection with the on-shore electrical grid.  This is pretty small stuff where power is concerned, about 100 kW.  A public comment period started in November and given MA’s environmental mandates pertaining to energy you might think that this Collaborative would have a whole lot of friends hoping they get this thing working, the faster the better.  Nope: not one supportive comment to FERC from any public officials or renewable energy or anti-pipeline groups.  In fact, MA’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife criticized the application, writing that it falls short and requires more work, that the pilot license should not be granted.  Ditto for NOAA.  FERC is likely to make a next-step decision soon.  
*  But, change takes time, of course.  On Dec. 17 USEPA proposed approving a MassDOT project establishing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and specified transit facilities on certain roadways around Boston, e.g., I-93, I-90 and Route 3. The changes would improve air quality because of decreased vehicle miles traveled and less congestion.  Less fuel burned, of course, also means less CO2.  Again, considering MA is required to decrease greenhouse gas emissions you would think there would be a lot of support for MassDOT’s projects.  Hmmm… Well, there likely is but probably everyone is waiting for the last minute to send in his or her “attaboy.”  One proposal – a good one – within the recent report from the MA Commission on the Future of Transportation is for projects that increase corridor efficiencies, to move more people, not just vehicles.  These aren’t exactly new ideas – the Boston HOV lanes were first proposed in 1996 *:D big grin… It takes a while…!
*  Well, for what it’s worth as a measure of Big Gubmint, total Federal Register pages were way up at the end of 2018 compared to 2017.  Last year’s FR had 68082 pages.  2017 totaled 61949.  That’s a big delta of 6133 more pages!  2019 is off to a slow start because of the Federal government shutdown.  One day last week the entire document was two pages.
Have a great Monday and a great week!

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

*  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

*  An anti-pipeline website contains the following quote: “Every pipeline project proposed has been permitted by FERC. None have been denied.”  I asked FERC: Is that true?  Reply: “No.”  Follow up: How about some examples, then, to rebut that claim, to show that FERC doesn’t just rubber-stamp projects with powerful backers?  FERC: “…uh…well…one project recently…” But beyond this person’s individual “recollection,” (not research-based) FERC could/would not provide any list of projects disproving that website claim: “none have been denied,” most likely false (fake-news) but in the public forum it stands as true because FERC can’t, or won’t, demonstrate otherwise.  No wonder it’s hard to build a pipeline.
*  EPA made two significant announcements last week about refrigerants and related policies.  The first continued a move started last spring regarding controls on ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and EPA’s 2016 extension of those controls to HFCs which are NOT ozone depleting but can be significant global warming compounds, hence EPA’s effort to control.  A court had ruled that extension wasn’t legal since Congress has never included global warming compounds within Clean Air Act legislation.  EPA’s second notice was a “determination of acceptability” for 34 new substitutes in the refrigeration and air conditioning, foam blowing, fire suppression, cleaning solvents, and aerosols sectors – effective immediately.  A quick review shows the new compounds with an ODS of zero; global warming potentials range between 9 and about 1400 (with CO2 as the comparative unit of 1).
*  DOE’s Bioengineering Technology Office (BETO) last week that “sustainable aviation fuel made from recycled waste carbon gases” powered an international Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to London.  This culminated critical work between LanzaTech, based in Chicago, and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Lab.  You gotta take your time and think about this.  LanzaTech takes waste gases containing carbon and uses bacteria to convert the carbon into fuels and chemicals.  The company’s core philosophy: “That waste carbon is an opportunity, not a liability and that carbon can be reused to provide sustainable benefits for all. Together we can create the carbon future we need.”  This is bigger than a couple of spoonfuls of fuel dripping out of some lab glassware.  LanzaTech produced 4000 gallons of alternate jet fuel at its Georgia facility.  The fuel has passed standard-setting review.  Stay tuned.

Tom Ewing
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513-379-5526 voice/text