Tag Archive for 'Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update'

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

*  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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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 The Department of Interior issued a sobering notice last week addressed to the Governors of the seven Colorado River Basin States.  DOI calls the Colorado River “the most important water resource in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.”  DOI wants recommendations from the Governors on what actions are appropriate to reduce risks from drought.  These corrective actions have to be adopted prior to an August 2019 deadline for decisions about operations in Lake Powell and Lake Mead in 2020.  Time literally has run out.  Unbelievably, this process started in 2007!  The Governors agreed to have their proposals ready at the end of 2018.  Guess what?  Didn’t happen.  Now DOI may have to act unilaterally “to reduce the risk of continued declines in the critical water supplies of the Colorado River Basin.”  [Picture the not-so-informed headlines in a few months: “Trump Officials Forcing States on Water Issues.”]
*  The Army Corp of Engineers is taking comments, until March 1, regarding the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to implement the Chesapeake Bay Native Oyster Recovery Program in Virginia.  A recovery program will be implemented to achieve the goals set by the Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order, signed almost 10 years ago (May 12, 2009) by President Obama, a directive involving work by five federal agencies.  The oyster recovery program will utilize “existing information, current technologies, research and population dynamics” to identify “restoration strategies in each tributary.”
 
*   Heads up if you’re feeling drowsy while driving through South Dakota because SD DOT wants to “update and revise” its routes for LCVs – “Longer combination vehicles,” a tractor pulling “2 or more cargo-carrying units.”  In other words, a pretty darn big truck.  SD currently allows LCVs on 10 designated routes, Interstates and “qualifying Federal-aid Primary System highways.”  Those 10 routes total 989.2 miles.  The proposed change would add 18 more routes, covering another 731.1 miles.  LCVs are combinations longer than 81.5 feet.  Highway speed limits in the Mount Rushmore State are between 65 and 80 mph.  So don’t blink.  If one of those bad boys hits your Leaf on I-90 near Sioux Falls you’ll likely come down about 400 miles away in Spearfish.  Here’s something scary: That highway officials in Delaware or Rhode Island might give their counterparts in Pierre a call.
Tom Ewing

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