Tag Archive for 'Tom Ewing'

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Advisory Board meets for two days next week in Oakland, CA.  A primary topic on the draft agenda is NOAA’s “Blue Economy,” which includes marine transportation, tourism, ocean exploration, and fisheries and amounts to approximately $320 billion of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP).  The OEAB advises NOAA leadership on strategic planning, exploration priorities, competitive ocean exploration grant programs and other matters as requested by NOAA’s Administrator.  The 12-member Board is chaired by John R. Kreider, Senior VP Advanced Technology of Oceaneering International, Inc.
*  The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed last week, on Friday, in a 40-page Federal Register notice, to delist the Gray Wolf – from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  By the next day, Saturday, the docket had over 500 comments from interested groups and citizens.  This change – which started, nationally, in 2013 – would not impact the status of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).  FWS writes that “We propose this action because the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed entities do not meet the definitions of a threatened species or endangered species under the Act due to recovery.” The comment period closes on May 14.
*  Two big deepwater port projects are starting off Texas’ coast.  One is called COLT, the other SPOT – not sure if those are acronyms or not.  SPOT will have over 100 miles of 36” double on-shore and in-water pipelines.   The new port will allow for up to two very large crude carriers (VLCCs) or other crude oil carriers to moor at single point mooring (SPM) buoys and connect with the deepwater port via floating connecting crude oil hoses and a floating vapor recovery hose. The maximum frequency of loading VLCCs or other crude oil carriers would be 2 million barrels per day, 365 days per year.  COLT has similar statistics.  MARAD and the Coast Guard are starting an environmental impact statement for SPOT and they have scheduled an open house and public meeting in Lake Jackson, TX next week.  You’ll be happy to know there’s free parking.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Department of Agriculture (DOA) holds a “listening session” this week to take public comments to implement new programs to regulate hemp production, which is now legal in the US, its status changed in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Hemp can draw a giggle because it is related to marijuana plants.  Hemp contains a very low concentration of THC – the stuff that causes munchies and extremely deep insights at 2:00 AM into Elizabethan poetry, usually forgotten a few hours later.  Hemp has THC at 0.3% or less vs. maryjane (marijuana) 15-40% (dry weight basis).  Hemp is valuable for industrial purposes, a primary resource for paper, clothing, building materials, biofuel, food products, oils and more.  DOA will have oversight over upcoming, new state and tribal hemp farms.  DOA’s question to the public: How do we best make this new agri-industry work?
*  Remember the proposed Colusa-Sutter (CoSu) – 500-kilovolt transmission line project in California?  It’s canceled.  The line would have connected the California-Oregon Transmission Project (COTP) to transmission facilities on the west side of the Sacramento Valley.  Why?  “The cost estimate increased, and the value and the need of the proposed line diminished” for SMUD, that’s the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.  At the start, SMUD said that the line would create a new transmission path and needed capacity, improve local and regional reliability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help meet renewable energy demands and improve import/export capabilities.  That big picture has changed and SMUD writes that it will now focus on local, regional and in-state renewable and reliability projects, as well as “incremental transmission infrastructure.”
*  Last week I noted DOE’s $51.5 million funding opportunity for freight vehicles.  As anyone who signs up for DOE’s press releases knows, DOE announces, almost daily, the availability of tens of millions of R&D dollars for a generation, efficiency, storage, carbon, transportation, metallurgy, hydrogen.  And that’s just one agency.  In reality, the US has a Green New Deal, which isn’t really new, of course, having started when DOE was established 42 years ago in 1977.  Did you ever wonder: What’s happened to those billions of R&D dollars?  Or more accurately, what’s happened because of those R&D dollars?  All R&D doesn’t directly “pay off,” of course.  But what are the major R&D outcomes that have transformed, at scale, the electric and transport economic sectors?  The biggest energy news this past week?  That the US is producing more oil and refined products than Saudi Arabia or Russia.  Now that’s transformative.  But not at all in line with decades of taxpayer-funded DOE research…
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had good news last week regarding the State’s 2018 state-wide sampling of public, school, and tribal water supplies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  This was the first such study in the nation, and it was extensive, including 1,114 public water systems, 461 schools that operate their own wells, and 17 tribal systems.  Importantly, 90 percent of these supplies showed no detection for any PFAS. Very low levels, below 10 parts per trillion (ppt) were detected in 7 percent of systems. Levels between 10 and 70 ppt were detected in 3 percent.  Work will continue: MI will pay for quarterly monitoring of the systems with levels above 10 ppt.  In addition, the ad-hoc “Michigan PFAS Action Response Team” (MPART) will continue with a new, more formal status.  In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer established MPART as a permanent body within the MDEQ.
*  U.S. Department of Energy announced a rather generous version of its own Green New Deal last week: up to $51.5 million for new and innovative research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and the fuels that power them.  This FOA – “funding opportunity announcement” – is focused on gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen; heavy-duty freight electrification; hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy-duty applications; and energy efficient off-road vehicles.  The FOA has five topical areas, including novel materials for high-density gas storage and transport, advanced waste to energy technologies, and technology integration that focuses on lowering costs and overcoming technical barriers to the use of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and hydrogen-fueled vehicles.  Another focus is on battery electric heavy-duty freight and technical barriers to advanced batteries, electric drive systems, and charging systems.  Concept papers are due to DOE by March 29; full applications by May 15.
*  There is a fascinating story out of “9to5Google” about how two Alphabet divisions are working together to “train a neural network on weather forecasts and historical turbine data.”  Scientists there then use the DeepMind system to “predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation.”  Variability with wind and solar electric generation is a critical weakness.  Civilization doesn’t run on electricity, it runs on electrical systems, with dependability and timeliness two of the most critical factors.  If you know when the wind is going to blow you can plan on using it.  On the other hand, if you know wind won’t be there, 36 hours is plenty of lead time to make other, non-panicky arrangements.  Google’s report states that its algorithm is still being refined, but Google notes how machine learning — compared to no time-based commitments to the grid — has “boosted the value of our wind energy by roughly 20 percent.” The company is applying this optimization to its wind farms in the central United States that generate 700 megawatts of wind power.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last August, Texas Gulf Terminals filed an application with Texas Gulf Terminals and the Coast Guard to construct and operate a deepwater port (DWP) located approximately 12.7 nautical miles off the coast of North Padre Island, TX.  The DWP would load and export various grades of crude at flow rates of up to 60,000 barrels per hour.  Things haven’t gone as planned and the CG and MARAD had to suspend the timeline (the “stop- clock”) for reviewing TGT’s application.  The reasons: TGT has not fulfilled environmental reporting obligations and, the Agencies charge, it has missed deadlines on a range of critical topics.  Some concerns are really basic, e.g., agencies don’t yet know what the preferred pipeline route will be, or how TGT will source its feed oil.  The stop clock decision interrupts a process schedule meant to give companies some assurance that an application will be reviewed and judged within a relatively predictable timeline, usually within a year.  Maybe TGT can scramble and get back in synch with CG and MARAD.  On the other hand, maybe they can’t, possibly throwing a monkey-wrench into very complicated infrastructure.  After all, next August is only about five months away.
*  The FCC published a notification last week on a topic that, very likely, most people don’t think about too much, but is within a system impacting critical daily processes: “Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age.”  FCC is seeking to amend rules that mitigate space debris and to address various market developments.  This is the first comprehensive review since the rules were adopted in 2004.  FCC writes that the amount of debris capable of producing catastrophic damage to functional spacecraft has increased.  And don’t just think in terms of a chunk of metal as big as a 1963 VW Beetle crashing through some robotic windshield and wiping out your ATM transactions.  Rather, one concern, for example, is the release of liquid fuel droplets, rather than, say, gaseous fuel propellants, which dissipate when leaked.  At orbital velocities, the droplets can cause substantial or catastrophic damage upon collision.  Got any ideas about fixing that?  Comments are due by April 5.
*  NOAA holds a two-and-a-half-day meeting next month of the Hydrographic Services Review Panel (HSRP), a Federal Advisory Committee established to advise the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere on matters related to the responsibilities and authorities in Section 303 of the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act of 1998.  This is important stuff, focusing on national issues – from sea level rise to navigation data – as well as core NOAA issues, including gravity modeling, nautical charting, and bathymetric mapping.  These NOAA programs support navigation, resilient coasts and communities, and the nationwide positioning information infrastructure to support America’s commerce.  The agenda will include presentations from state and federal agencies, non-federal organizations and associations, regional and national stakeholders and partners about their missions and how they use NOAA’s navigation services and how those services might improve.
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Who knew, right-?  But today is not just Presidents’ Day, it’s also National Battery Day!  And to celebrate (Battery Day, that is) the US DOE announced the opening of a Battery Recycling Center at Argonne National Laboratory.  The new Center will work to reclaim and recycle critical materials (e.g., cobalt and lithium) from lithium-based battery technology.  It will focus on cost-effective recycling processes to recover as much economic value as possible from spent lithium-ion batteries.  In addition, DOE established the “Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize” to encourage American entrepreneurs to “find innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling.”  DOE’s cash prizes will total $5.5 million, awarded in three progressive phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype.  The goal is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90% of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States and recover 90% of the key materials from the collected batteries. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5%.
*  News-speak from the boss, i.e. CT’s new Governor, Ned Lamont, who has an op-ed in CT papers called “A path forward on tolling.”  Maybe it should be titled “A path forward on trolling, about tolling” since it’s really a heads-up to legislators and citizens that the Guv is getting ready to ask for more money for transportation, most of which, likely, will go for highways.  Lamont writes that CT has it all (at least “on paper,” his words) but that economic development peeps ask: “What about the congestion on your highways?”  Lamont writes that gas tax revenues are flat and unreliable and likely to decline as electric cars increase.  The governor is turning away from bonds.  So watch for tolls – first on trucks, if that single focus is legal, then to benefit specific infrastructure, e.g., bridges, or one bridge.  He’s developed a number of options and tells peeps to be ready for this debate when his budget is introduced on Wednesday.

*  If you’re feeling bad that about 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year (who doesn’t feel bad about that?), here’s a chance to help. A company called Envision Plastics collects and recycles this waste.  Ocean plastic waste can be recycled just as land-based plastic can be recycled.  If you want to make a statement (and a good one) consider this new upcoming product: business cards made from the recovered plastic.  (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka are the five largest plastic polluters, according to Envision Plastics.)  Now the company is teaming up with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) to promote this business-based recycling effort.  To place an order for these multi-message business cards, contact Envision Plastics (advise if you need that link.)

Tom Ewing

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