Tag Archive for 'infrastructure'

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of the organizers for the 4th International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans, which will take place in Washington, DC, June 4-8.  The Symposium is an intense mix of science and the policies likely to become increasingly dependent on the knowledge developed and presented.  From energy to sustainable fishing to warm water “blobs” to polar transit and national security these issues impact everyone and everything.  If you need a correspondent or someone to work with your team please let me know; more about the agenda for further Updates.
*  The Coast Guard announced last week its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze impacts of six new polar icebreakers, part of the CG’s Polar Icebreaker Program.  This starts the public “scoping process,” the effort to determine the full range of issues to include in the EIS.  Potential environmental stressors include acoustic (underwater acoustic transmissions, vessel noise, icebreaking noise, aircraft noise, and gunnery noise), and physical (vessel movement, aircraft or in-air device movement, in-water device movement, icebreaking, and marine expended materials).  Polar regions are becoming increasingly important to U.S. national interests. Changing polar environments could lead to increased commercial ship, cruise ship, and naval surface ship operations, as well as increased exploration for oil and other resources, particularly in the Arctic.  Homeport will likely be Seattle.  Public meetings will be held in May in Alaska.  Written comments are due by June 25.
*  The Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board meets for two days in mid-May in Baltimore.  The Board provides independent advice to the government on GPS-related policy, planning, program management, and funding profiles in relation to the current state of national and international satellite navigation services.  Currently, there are 25 members representing U.S. industry, academia, and international organizations.  The meeting agenda includes an update on U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Policy and Global Positioning System (GPS) modernization; current and planned GPS capabilities and services while assessing future PNT architecture alternatives with a focus on affordability; and emerging trends and requirements for PNT services, including backup services for terrestrial, maritime, aviation, and space users.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  NY’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) requires the State’s utilities to undertake demonstration projects to help advance the many ideas on which REV is based.  Project reports are filed quarterly; they are all in a public docket.  Many of the demo projects conclude this year, after starting in 2015.  The update reports are sobering, not at all indicative of broad successes, on any level, except, perhaps: don’t do this again.  Expensive lessons,  although that’s really hard to tell because the budget portions of the quarterly reports are often blacked out as if money isn’t important.  For REV, these demonstration projects are supposed to provide the instruction and experience for bigger scale-up application throughout a utility’s service area.  The update reports, though – and their key-learnings – haven’t drawn much attention, almost as if people, deliberately, prefer a distorted energy vision.

*  The President’s “Memorandum for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” (April 12) is an important document.  Its focus is “Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation—Policies and Procedures Relating to Implementation of Air Quality Standards.”  This Memo gives the Administrator direct orders addressing 10 critical functions within the Clean Air Act and its labyrinthine and endless permitting and modeling requirements.  Imagine, asking EPA to “endeavor” to take final action on applications for preconstruction permits, “as appropriate and consistent with law, within 1 year of the date of receiving a complete application.”  (Receiving a complete application can be difficult enough.)  This is important.  Investments in manufacturing make the pie bigger, for everyone.

 *  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is starting an environmental assessment (EA) regarding the impacts of the Empire North Project – a big pipeline project proposed for upstate New York and extending into Pennsylvania.  FERC will use the EA in its “decision-making process to determine whether the project is in the public convenience and necessity.”  This project would include an upgrade in the maximum allowable operating pressure of the Empire Connector Pipeline (ECP) from 1,290 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) to 1,440 psig. The ECP is an existing 76.6- mile-long, 24-inch-diameter pipeline that runs from Victor, NY to Corning, NY.  Comments are due by May 10.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program is a voluntary EPA program, started in 2016, through which oil and natural gas companies commit to reducing methane emissions.  (While this methane focus is new, the overall energy STAR program started in 1993.)  Just about every major natural gas company signed up to participate, representing about 66 percent of US natural gas customers, according to the American Gas Association.  But there’s a problem: apparently, the paperwork isn’t finished. In December 2016, EPA sought industry comments on the draft reporting documents that would establish a company’s control efforts.  Response: big fat zero.   Now, after one full calendar year (2017), participants are supposed to submit their data regarding last year’s reduction activities.  Last week, EPA started a new 30-day information request, again seeking industry comments on the draft reporting forms and what kind of changes might add value to this process and data set. Important work.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.  Comments are due by May 14.

*  In January, the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee recommended to DOE about the need for consensus on a proposed rule for test procedures and energy efficiency standards for certain air conditioners and heat pumps.  Last week, DOE announced its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking working group to, indeed, focus on such a proposed rule; a process DOE presents “as authorized by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, as amended.”  DOE is recruiting working group volunteers. Applications/nominations are due by April 26.

*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for the sale of commercial wind energy leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts.  The offer is for two leases that were unsold during the Atlantic Wind Lease Sale-4 (ATLW–4) on January 29, 2015.  The new PSN contains information including areas available, proposed lease provisions and conditions and auction details.  BOEM set a 60-day public comment period, ending June 11.  Importantly, “the issuance of the proposed leases resulting from this sale would not constitute approval of project-specific plans to develop offshore wind energy.” Those plans would be subject to subsequent environmental and technical reviews prior to a decision by BOEM to approve the development.

Tom Ewing

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2018 National Work Zone Awareness Week

2018 National Work Zone Awareness Week:

“Expect the Unexpected” In Roadway Construction Work Zones, ARTBA Say 

April 10 Kick-Off in Chicago, April 11 “Go Orange Day” Coincide with Unofficial Start of Construction Season
 What’s happening on the nation’s roadways should always have the full attention of motorists, but it’s even more critical as drivers approach and pass through construction work zones, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

Paying attention to signs, maintaining safe following distances, signaling intentions and “expecting the unexpected,” are keys to preventing work zone crashes that kill and injure drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and workers.

Over the past five years, over 3,300 people—including an estimated 650 workers—have been killed nationally in work zone crashes, with distracted driving blamed directly for at least 500 of the deaths, according to government data. More than 35,000 people annually are injured at these work sites.

As part of the 19th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), April 9-13, ARTBA Foundation-managed National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (www.workzonesafety.org) has produced a free brochure providing tips for safely navigating work zones.

The theme for the 2018 NWZAW is “Work Zone Safety: Everybody’s Responsibility.” An official kickoff was held April 10 at the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction project in Chicago. Mark Borkowski chairman of ARTBA state chapter affiliate, the Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Association, represented the ARTBA Foundation at the event.

Wednesday, April 11, is “Go Orange Day,” when transportation professionals and others across the nation are urged to wear orange to show their support for work zone safety. Help spread this important message by taking a selfie or group photo and posting it to social media using the hashtags: #Orange4Safety or #OrangeForSafety.

More information can be found on the NWZAW website.

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, now in its 21st year, handles more than 200,000 requests annually. It provides users with information on accident and crash data, flagging, emerging technologies and equipment, best practices, key safety experts, laws and regulations, safety standards, research publications, training videos and programs, and successful public education campaigns. Materials are available in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French, Russian, and Arabic.

For more information about the Clearinghouse operations, contact ARTBA Senior Vice President of Safety & Education Brad Sant.

President Trump Is Cutting Red Tape On Infrastructure Projects

President Trump Is Cutting Red Tape On Infrastructure Projects

IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS:  President Trump’s Administration is working together to improve and streamline environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects.

  • Federal agencies are signing the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishing a coordinated and timely process for environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects.
  • The signatories of the MOU have agreed to an unprecedented level of collaboration in the environmental review process and include the:
    • Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
    • Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council
  • One lead Federal agency will be responsible for navigating each major infrastructure project through the entire Federal environmental review and permitting process.
    • Until now, project sponsors have had to navigate decision-making processes across multiple Federal agencies. Federal agencies will work with the lead agency for a project to develop a single Environmental Impact Statement and sign a single Record of Decision.
    • The lead agency will seek written concurrence from other agencies at important points in the process.
  • Federal agencies will follow permitting timetables established by the lead Federal agency, with a goal of completing the process within two years.
    • In the past, Federal agencies were generally not required to follow a comprehensive permitting timetable.
    • Under the MOU, Federal agencies will conduct their review processes at the same time, rather than sequentially, which has led to unnecessary delays.
  • The MOU will ensure interagency issues and disputes are elevated and resolved in a timely manner.
    • Previously, interagency disputes could remain unresolved for years.

DELIVERING STREAMLINED DECISION-MAKING: The One Federal Decision MOU follows through on the President’s policy of streamlining inefficient and lengthy environmental reviews.

  • The MOU will deliver on the President’s policy of One Federal Decision for major infrastructure projects.
  • President Trump’s Executive Order 13807 established a One Federal Decision policy for major infrastructure projects.
    • The Executive Order directed the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality to develop a framework for implementing One Federal Decision.

CUTTING COSTLY DELAYS:  Inefficient environmental review processes have led to unnecessary delays, depriving our communities of needed infrastructure projects.

  • The MOU improves Federal agency cooperation and ensures Federal agencies establish coordinated permitting timetables for major infrastructure projects, cutting down on needless delays.
  • Too many important infrastructure projects have been held up for years by the environmental review process.
  • The median environmental review completion time for a complex highway project is more than seven years, according to a 2014 Government Accountability Office report.
  • The environmental review and permitting process for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge Replacement Project in North Carolina took more than 20 years.
    • The environmental review process involved numerous studies and interagency disputes and was subject to extensive delays.
    • The original bridge was well past its design life and is now being replaced with a design that can better withstand the harsh coastal environment.
    • The One Federal Decision framework would have allowed for a much more timely environmental review process.
  • Loop 202, a critical freeway project which will provide an alternative route of travel around Phoenix, took well over a decade to complete the environmental review process.
    • Loop 202’s environmental review faced numerous setbacks and dragged on for years due to poor communication, no agreed upon timetable and other issues.
    • The project, which is the largest in Arizona’s history, is finally in the final stages of development.
    • Had One Federal Decision been in place, agencies could have identified and resolved conflicts throughout project development and reduced their impact on project schedules.