Tag Archive for 'wind power'

Daily Dirt

EPA Head Visits Wyoming Wind Farm

The relatively nascent U.S. wind industry can help propel the country out of its economic doldrums and bring energy independence, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

While touring Happy Jack Windpower, a new 30 MW windpower facility west of Cheyenne, WY, Jackson said wind energy will benefit Wyoming and the rest of the nation by creating jobs to build and maintain wind farms.

Happy Jack Windpower was developed by Duke Energy Generation Services. The fourteen Suzlon turbines operate at 2.1 MWs each. The project generated its first MW of electricity on July 17, 2008 with a commercial operations date of September 3, 2008 and sells 100 percent of its clean, renewable energy to Cheyenne Light Fuel & Power under a 20-year renewable energy purchase agreement. Happy Jack Windpower will generate approximately 100,000,000 kWhs of electricity per year — enough to power approximately 12,000 homes.

“In a thriving wind power industry, turbines like the ones here will be designed, manufactured, constructed and maintained by Americans,” she said. “For American workers that creates new jobs, especially manufacturing jobs in communities all across our country.”

At the invitation of Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal (D), Jackson began a two-day tour of the state’s energy industry at the wind farm. Today, Jackson will tour Wyoming coal and natural gas fields.

Illinois Senate Passes $29 Billion Public Works Program

On Wednesday, the Illinois Senate voted to legalize video poker, boost liquor taxes and allow lottery wagering over the Internet to fund a $30 billion statewide capital infrastructure program. The funding will be used for the repair of the state’s aging roads and bridges, making them safer while creating thousands of jobs to stabilize the state’s ailing economy.

“Many roads, bridges and other projects in the 22nd District have been in urgent need of renovation for years. By first ensuring the funding for this program, we can then move forward with a capital plan, putting people to work while shoring up our crumbling infrastructure,” Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin) said. “With this program, we will be able to put thousands of people to work making our roads safer while putting good wages in the pockets of working people. These people will then be able to spend more money in our stores, pay off their mortgages and generally increase commerce everywhere.”

Illinois has not had a comprehensive capital improvement plan in a decade. Over the course of those ten years, many bridges and roads around the state have fallen into disrepair. By passing an infrastructure improvement program now, Illinois will be able to capture billions more in federal dollars to assist in fixing the continuing problem of its deteriorating transportation network.

In January, when Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) was first elected to lead the supermajority of Democrats, he pledged to establish and pass a major capital construction program. Over the course of the past several weeks, Cullerton has engaged Senate Republicans and leaders from the Illinois House to develop the plan passed Wednesday.

“For the past several years, the politics of personality has interfered with developing a jobs plan that a strong majority of legislators could support,” Cullerton said. “Today, with the help of Democrats and Republicans, the House and the Senate, I am confident we will finally move forward the spark needed for our state economy. It couldn’t have been done without the commitment to work together, in good faith. I commend each legislator and each legislative leader who has helped put more Illinoisans to work.”

The capital bill, (HB 312), includes 13 billion in state funding and $7 billion in matching federal funds. On the spending side, more than $15 billion will go for road projects and $3 billion for school construction. The plan also would finally pay $148 million in school construction money owed for years to two dozen school districts throughout Illinois, including $29.7 million for Chicago schools. Higher education, parks and museums also will get funds. Chicago-area mass transit would receive $1.8 billion out of the $2 billion set aside for local bus and train service statewide. The breakdown: $900 million for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), $810 million for Metra commuter rail and $90 million for Pace suburban bus.

When it came to where the money would be spent and authorizing the bonds to pay for it, senators voted 59-0. The toughest vote was on whether to increase taxes and fees and expand gambling. Even that measure passed 47-12.

But Illinoisans also would pay higher fees for license plates, which will cost $79 on July 1 and would rise again to $99 under the proposal. A driver’s license, now only $10, would cost $30 under the legislation. The plan relies most heavily on so-called sin taxes. A six-pack of beer, bottle of wine or fifth of scotch will all cost more.

The agreement would legalize video gambling to take advantage of the widespread under-the-table business that thrives in Illinois, authorizing up to five poker, blackjack or video slot machines per business and taxing the proceeds for an estimated $375 million a year.

The legislation also would open up the state to selling lotto tickets over the Internet, a proposition that would need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Gambling opponents spoke out against both proposals before the executive committee approved the measures on 12-0 bipartisan votes.

Before becoming law, the proposal must be approved by the House and signed by Governor Pat Quinn (D), who has signaled his openness to the plan.

Cullerton predicted the package would pass the House swiftly, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

ROAD PROGRAM INVESTMENT:

  • More than $15 billion will be invested in roads (includes state bonds and local/federal matching funds)
  • More than $11.6 billion will be directed to the state’s Multiyear Road Program
  • $3 billion will be invested in new road projects
  • $500 million will be directed to new local transportation projects

EDUCATION INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT:

  • Illinois will receive a 100% local/federal match for school construction and maintenance investment. House Bill 312 directs $1.6 billion t
    o school construction and maintenance, garnering another $1.6 billion from non-state investment
  • More than $1 billion will be directed to state universities
  • Community Colleges will gain $353 million

ENVIRONMENTAL/ENERGY/TECHNOLOGY INVESMENTS:

  • More than $1.9 billion will be invested in environmental, energy and technology projects. More than $1.2 billion of this commitment comes from local and federal dollars, or 65% of the overall investment
  • Illinois will invest more than $900 million in clean water and sewer programs through this bill. $110 million in state investment, garnering $796 in local and federal commitments
  • Parks, libraries and museums are slated to receive $500 million in the authorization

MASS TRANSPORTATION INVESTMENTS:

  • $4.66 billion will be directed to public transit programs. 90% of these funds will be spent on the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), CTA and Metra
  • In sum, almost $6 billion will be invested in transportation investment throughout Illinois

STATE FACILITIES & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INVESTMENTS:

  • $750 million of investment is authorized for state facility improvements. These investment dollars will be directed to improve aging state buildings and public service facilities.
  • $50 million will be used for new investments in health care facilities.

Mimi Sitek

Daily Dirt

Cement Industry Honors Leaders In Environmental Improvement

Six cement plants received special recognition for their commitment to improving the environment and their communities at the Eighth Annual Cement Industry Environment and Energy Awards, presented by Portland Cement Association (PCA) and Cement Americas magazine at PCA’s Spring Meeting in Chicago, April 28, 2009.

The awards program, created in 2000 by PCA as part of its renewed environment and energy strategic plan for the U.S. cement industry, honors individual cement facilities that exemplify the spirit of continuous environmental improvement and support this spirit with action. These plants went beyond government regulations and local laws to ensure that their processes and policies contributed to making their communities better places to live and work. The awards honor activities conducted during the previous calendar year, and the program is open to any cement manufacturing plant in North America.

“Minimizing the environment impact of its plants and making their local communities better places are top priorities for cement manufacturers,” said Brian McCarthy, PCA president and CEO. “The actions taken by these plants and many others are at the fore-front of manufacturing technology and illustrate the cement industry’s commitment to produce a superior product while continuously challenging policies and procedures”

Twenty-five cement plants in the United States and Canada were nominated for the awards. Six categories recognized plants throughout the United States:

  • Overall Environmental Excellence: A facility that demonstrates excellence in several or each of the below categories is recognized with this award.

    Titan America LLC/Roanoke Cement Company Troutville, VA
    Honored as a runner-up in the Energy Efficiency category and a finalist in the Environmental Performance category, the Roanoke Cement Company plant is keenly aware that increasing efficiencies in operations reduces its environmental impact. The company has initiated several programs to meet its goal to reduce, reclaim and reuse wastes. For example, it reuses 100 percent of its cement kiln dust (CKD) and is emptying its CKD landfill for use by local farmers. For the past two years Roanoke Cement has been a receipt of the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR and in 2008 became an ENERGY STAR partner. As an ENEGY STAR partner, all Titan plants will submit to independent energy efficiency monitoring that includes base lining, tracking, and benchmarking the company’s energy performance. Surrounded by the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, the plant and its employees participate in several environmental community events including an creek-clean up.

  • Outreach: Facilities that strive to enhance community, employee, and government relations through communication, partnerships, voluntary efforts, contributions, environmental education, and other measures are honored in this award.

    Holcim (US) Inc. – Theodore, AL
    The Holcim Theodore facility staff participates in a number of community and environmental outreach activities each year. For the past several years, the plant has participated in the Annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup Day, a world-wide event to clean trash and debris from beaches, lakes and streams. During the 2008 Clean-up, Holcim-led volunteers collected more than 3,000 pounds of debris from the Theodore Industrial Canal. In addition to participation in community events such as Mobile Bay Derelict Crab Trap Removal Day and the Keep Mobile Beautiful electronic recycling days, the plant has a Community Advisory Committee made up of neighborhood residents. This group helps Holcim maintain an open line of communications with the local community and engages stakeholders.

  • Environmental Performance Award: This category honors those facilities that take steps beyond those contained in environmental laws, regulations, permits, and requirements to minimize their impact on the environment. Recognition for this award is given for pollution prevention, waste minimization, distinctive environmental controls, environmental management systems, and facility recognition.

    Holcim (US) Inc. – Holly Hill, SC
    In 2008, the Holcim Holly Hill facility completed several notable projects that improved their environmental performance in emissions and energy consumption. For example, the plant was able to reduce the amount of CKD by 44 percent compared to 2007 through better raw material analysis. The Holly Hill plant utilizes a significant amount of waste material that it generates as an alternative fuel source, saving landfill space and fossil fuels. In 2008, alternative fuels supplied 32 percent of the fuel requirements for the plant, the equivalent of nearly 62,000 tons of traditional fossil fuels.

  • Land Stewardship: Efforts to protect and enhance the surrounding land through landscaping, species protection, and remediation and rehabilitation of quarries, wetlands, and other features are recognized in this category.

    CEMEX – Knoxville, TN
    The CEMEX Knoxville plant has worked with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), local schools and other organizations to improve wildlife habitats on their property. It worked with University of Tennessee students to preserve and dedicate the nine-acre Cabbage Island in the Holston River as a wildlife habitat. The island is home to more than 30 avian species, including bald eagle, and 16 mammalian species. CEMEX also worked with the Wild Turkey Federation, the NRCS and Legacy Parks Foundation to locate 5.5 acres of wildlife food plots that improve nutrition of local wildlife such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and bobwhite quail.

  • Innovation: This category recognizes the development and application of innovation technologies and techniques relevant to environmental protection or energy efficiency.

    Buzzi Unicem USA – Greencastle, IN
    The
    Greencastle Buzzi Unicem USA facility has found an innovative means to address a portion of their energy needs. It is the only cement plant in the U.S. utilizing spent pot liner (SPL) as an alternative fuel source. SPL, a waste product generated by the aluminum industry, traditionally has been sent to landfills. The Greencastle plant developed a dedicated storage, handling, and injection system for off-site processed pot liner. In addition to recognizing a modest replacement of coal when using the byproduct, SPT’s raw material constituents also allow for modest replacement of raw materials such as sand and shale. Based on the success of the SPL project, Buzzi is exploring the possibility of incorporating additional hard-to-handle waste materials from other industries.

  • Energy Efficiency: This category focuses on energy planning, applications of efficient technologies and practices, and climate change mitigation efforts.

    CalPortland Cement Company – Mojave, CA
    The CalPortland Cement Company Mojave plant has an efficiency program that has resulted in major energy reductions, saved thousands of dollars, and prevented the emission of tens of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. In 2008, the plant completed a “behind-the-meter” wind project that represents the largest such renewable wind project servicing a manufacturing facility in the world to date. Eight 3-megawatt wind turbines (24 megawatts total) generate 60 million kilowatts per year of renewable energy and supply approximately 35 percent of the plant’s annual electricity needs. This is a reduction of over 42,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions which is the equivalent of powering 5,255 homes for a year.

New Jersey To Increase Road Construction Crews

Construction crews will be a familiar sight on roads, bridges and highways throughout the United States for the next several months thanks to federal and state efforts to improve the economy. New Jersey is no exception.

“Certainly this summer you’re going to see a lot of work,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Steve Dilts during Tuesday’s Assembly Budget Committee meeting in Trenton, NJ.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), New Jersey has received over $1 billion in stimulus funds for highway, bridge and transit projects. New Jersey is building, designing or acquiring right-of-way for 40 projects throughout the state which will create thousands of jobs.

Dilts outlined his agency’s plans for the next fiscal year as part of the committee’s ongoing review of the $29.8 billion budget that Governor Jon Corzine (D) put forward in March. The address included much about construction.

The department’s operating budget is being reduced by Corzine as part of a broader response to revenue decreases brought on by the bad economy. But, Dilts said, his department and other state transportation agencies will spend nearly $6 billion on infrastructure improvements this year and in 2010, thanks to capital projects the governor has made a priority in an effort to create jobs.

Despite staff reductions and other cutbacks, Dilts said, DOT is prepared to handle oversight of the massive infrastructure spending.

“We will continue the high level of transparency we have instituted so the public knows exactly where stimulus dollars are going,” he said. “We embrace the transparency and accountability of this process in an effort to give the public full confidence in its government.”

Among the planned infrastructure projects is the new mass transit tunnel linking New Jersey and Manhattan. Dilts called the tunnel “the most important project of this generation.”

The tunnel construction will create 6,000 jobs annually through 2017 and 44,000 permanent jobs, he said. It will also speed up express service and in-state transit.

“The tunnel is absolutely a cornerstone of our transportation system moving forward,” added Dilts.

Greg Sitek

Daily Dirt

Bechtel Announces Record 2008 Business Results

Bechtel Corporation recently announced total revenue of $31.4 billion in 2008 and $35 billion in new contract awards, the sixth straight record year for revenue and the third straight record for new work.

With robust performance across its diversified global portfolio, Bechtel delivered world-class projects, making its 110th anniversary year an overall success. Operations in North America generated more than two-thirds of the new work. Business also was strong in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“With a robust backlog of work, and the strength and stability of Bechtel and its 44,000 employees, we fully expect to ride out the current difficulties and remain a premier engineer-constructor,” said chairman and CEO Riley Bechtel.

Bechtel’s Oil, Gas & Chemicals business unit continued to stand out in the liquefied natural gas industry, helping customers meet growing demand for clean, efficient energy. Bechtel National, a leading service provider to the U.S. government, turned in another strong performance. Bechtel Civil continued its work on significant rail, motorway, and airport infrastructure projects worldwide. Bechtel Power figured prominently in both fossil-fuel and nuclear markets. Bechtel Mining & Metals experienced significant growth throughout the first half of the year, but that was dampened by the impact on its customers of falling commodity prices toward the end of the year. Bechtel Communications maintained a strong position in a tough market. Bechtel also placed a renewed emphasis on opportunities in alternative energy, including wind and solar power.

Bechtel keeps combining strong execution with an assurance of quality, safety, sustainability, innovation, and unmatched commitment to customers. A solid safety record complemented the company’s strong performance, with nearly 90 percent of Bechtel projects completing the year without a lost-time accident, and 55 projects each achieving more than 1 million consecutive safe work hours.

Project execution continued being enhanced through 24/7 engineering and introduction of an innovative Internet portal for sharing information among project teams. Bechtel helped customers meet increasingly sophisticated sustainability goals through efforts to enhance the capabilities of local people and companies so they can benefit from and beyond its projects. Bechtel also continued to support customers’ efforts to reduce emissions by implementing state-of-the-art technology at new power plants, refineries, and other industrial projects, and through sustainable design and construction.

Project completion highlights include the West Coast Route Modernization project in the United Kingdom, with faster, more reliable service adding 60,000 seats per day on a busy line from London to Glasgow; an LNG receiving terminal in Louisiana, one of the largest in the world; and the Sohar aluminum smelter in Oman, completed on time while training 750 Omanis in a variety of construction trades.

Greg Sitek

Ohio Transportation Program

Ohio Embarks On One Of It’s Most Ambitious Transportation Construction Seasons

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D) recently announced that 149 transportation infrastructure projects have been prioritized for full or partial funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) resources.

Federal transportation stimulus funds totaling $774 million will be spent in nearly every Ohio county. Based on federal calculations for transportation investment, an estimated 21,257 jobs will be created or retained through these stimulus projects, with thousands of additional jobs likely to be spurred by the economic development that will occur as a result of the projects.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will invest $603.5 million into 113 separate roadway projects. Of those 113 projects, $242.9 million is dedicated to 30 bridge projects, $200 million of which will go toward one of the biggest projects on the “to do” list; build a new five-lane Interstate 90 Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland and $360.6 million to 83 pavement projects, including $150 million to complete a bypass of state Route 33 around Nelsonville in southeast Ohio.

Ohio will spend $57 million in federal stimulus money on highway projects that won’t begin for years, an unusual strategy for money that President Barack Obama said should be used to give the economy an immediate job-creating jolt.

Unlike other states that are using money only on construction to create jobs, Ohio steered 7 percent of its $774 million share toward studies of long-term projects that Gov. Ted Strickland hopes will encourage future economic growth.

The Federal Highway Administration has no other examples of states using stimulus money for planning, although some states haven’t completed their project lists, spokeswoman Nancy Singer said.

Obama’s $787 billion Stimulus Package, designed to help turn around the economy and pay for public works projects, allows money to be used for engineering and planning. But it also says priority should be given to projects that can start quickly and be completed in three years.

While the overall approach to Obama’s $787 billion Stimulus Package is to get money to projects that can be started right away, planning is a legitimate use of economic stimulus money, said Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Strickland said studies of long-term projects, as well as some types of preliminary work, position the state for future economic growth.

That includes a two-year study of a highway and rail project on the east side of Cincinnati and the design of a three-mile road connecting Interstate 490 to Cleveland’s art and museum district. The cost is $20 million apiece.

“We’re putting planners and engineers to work, too, so I think it does fit the spirit of the Stimulus Package to develop projects today that have opportunities for tomorrow,” said Scott Varner, spokesman for ODOT.

The projects were selected by a special team within ODOT that reviewed 4,600 applications from cities, businesses and individuals. Priority was given to those that would maximize job creation and economic growth, with agency director Jolene Molitoris having the final say, Varner said.

The agency balanced short-term projects designed to get people working right away with projects that have long-term potential and need further studying, he said.

The two-year, $20 million engineering and environmental study in Cincinnati will lay the foundation for a $1 billion highway, bus, bike and rail system that will open up economic development in the city and its eastern suburbs, eventually leading to 10,000 new jobs, said Hamilton County deputy engineer Theodore Hubbard.

Without the stimulus money, the project would have lingered, he said. Still, no money for future construction has been secured.

Other projects in the planning stage will get some of the stimulus funds. The state will spend $7 million of the money for engineering and design work on the Ohio Hub — a plan for high-speed rail — and give $10 million to ODOT to spend on various design work statewide.

Construction companies, which are evaluating projects to bid on, generally are happy with the list, said Chris Runyan, president of the Ohio Contractors Association.

“It’s going to give the construction industry a much-needed shot in the arm,” he said. Money for planning, while it won’t put shovels in the ground, still keeps transportation projects moving forward, he said.

Ohio’s push to fund transportation projects that can encourage economic development also shows up in the decision to buy heavy machinery at maritime ports. The number of jobs created by these projects isn’t easily defined.

ODOT will invest $34.5 million into five maritime projects, including about $6.8 million to demolish and replace cranes at the Port of Toledo. As business grows, more skilled crane operators will be hired, but how many is uncertain, said Carla Firestone, spokeswoman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

Other maritime investments include major enhancement projects to the City of Lorain’s waterfront development along Lake Erie, along the Ohio River at the South Point Industrial Inter-Modal Transfer Facility in Lawrence County and about $5.7 million will build an overhead bridge crane and conveyor system that will allow a shipping port in Wellsville in eastern Ohio to become fully operational. The bridge crane will load cargo from a barge on the Ohio River onto trucks or railcars.

The number of jobs directly or indirectly related is hard to pin down, said Tracy Drake, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority.

The port’s recent work included loading 13 40-ton rocket segments developed at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland onto a cargo vessel bound for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

An additional $68.9 million will be directed to 22 separate railroad projects, mostly targeting the state’s busy freight rail system.

The state will invest $50.9 million to support improved intermodal connections, including $14 million at Franklin County’s Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal and Global Logistics Park, and $6.5 million at Toledo’s Airline Junction Intermodal Terminal to connect freight shipments by air, rail, and truck.

When combine
d with Recovery Act funds allocated under Ohio’s Rural Transit Program, stimulus investments will be made in 87 of Ohio’s 88 counties. (Noble County, the remaining county, did not submit a federally-eligible transportation stimulus project; however the state will be investing more than $9.7 million in non-stimulus transportation funds over the next year.)

These stimulus projects will add to the more than $2.1 billion in capital/construction projects ODOT already has planned to undertake over the next 15 months (through state fiscal year 2010). That includes nearly $1.6 billion in investments through the end of this calendar year, encompassing more than 650 transportation projects in each of the state’s 88 counties.

Many of these non-stimulus projects will soon begin construction, as part of the department’s annual maintenance and modernization efforts identified in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This includes 36 interstate projects and 125 bridge projects on the state’s highway system. The ceremonial start to ODOT’s 2009 Construction Season was April 7, although a number of construction projects are already active.

“These projects speak to the important transportation needs of our communities, while creating jobs and positioning Ohio for long-term economic growth and stability,” said Ohio Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris.

Combined, the stimulus resources and ODOT’s planned state construction spending will total more than $2.8 billion. Together, those investments will create or retain an estimated 79,637 jobs based on federal calculations for transportation investment.

ODOT Director Jolene Molitoris understands there is frustration on behalf of drivers who may be inconvenienced by the construction, but she hopes people view the orange barrels as something positive rather than something negative, particularly at a time when the state is hurting economically.

“What I’m hoping is that every time an Ohioan sees an orange barrel they are going to remember that it is connected to a job, and its connected to improvements for them and their family and their state and their city and so they will become something that people love.” Molitoris said.

The highway patrol is also urging drivers to be patient, rather than risk a hefty fine. Safety has always been a concern for drivers and for construction workers where work is being done, and troopers are not going to be sympathetic to anyone caught pushing the limits through construction zones.

Transportation projects in Ohio this summer will not be limited to highways and surface streets. ODOT says it is making significan investments in rail, airport infrastructure, foot and bike paths and even maritime transportation.

A full list of priority transportation projects and other information about the state’s transportation infrastructure investments can be seen here.
Recovery Funding will Create an Estimated 1,728 Jobs in Western New York
Local drivers will likely need a little extra patience this construction season, thanks in part to the federal stimulus package.
New York Governor David Paterson (D) returned to Niagara Falls on Thursday with a promise to create more than 1,700 new jobs by spending $72 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding on local construction projects.

Speaking to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Paterson told the gathering of construction workers that he wants to put them to work so they can help stimulate other aspects of Western New York’s economy. He also expressed hope the state’s version of the federal stimulus plan will not only combat rising unemployment, but help New York address its deteriorating infrastructure and uncertain financial future.

“Today’s announcement represents a small fraction of the total funds Western New York can expect to receive. Here in Niagara County, millions of dollars in paving projects on local roads are expected to be finalized and certified in the coming months, and will be just one visible example of these economic recovery dollars at work. These investments will update aging infrastructure, making our roads, highways and bridges safer while also creating jobs, bolstering economic development and ensuring a brighter future for our State,” Gov. Paterson said.

Paterson and other elected officials said Western New York is actually expected to receive a total of $180 million in highway and bridge funding in 2009-10, including $76 million set aside by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for highway and road repairs, bridge maintenance and other improvement projects and approximately $32.9 million in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding, which the recovery funds enabled New York to restore to the State budget.

Thursday’s announcement offered few details on specific stimulus projects in Niagara County, although references were to plans for nine road repair projects in the City of Niagara Falls and a highway maintenance effort along the upper portion of the Robert Moses Parkway.

Democrats joining Paterson made it clear that they viewed the influx of stimulus dollars into New York as a catalyst that will put people back to work and help New York’s economy recover along with the rest of the nation.

“It’s not just 1,700 jobs,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). “It’s what economists call the multiplier effect, give money to an ironworker or an electrician and when they go spend it in the stores, buying things, that gives money to someone else.”
The economic recovery funds coming to New York for transportation projects must follow the same process required for distributing all federal transportation funds. The funds are allocated to projects that are selected by the 13 regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) across the State, which are comprised of local elected officials, local transit operators and members of the DOT. MPO’s vote unanimously on projects for their Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and economic recovery funds will be directed to projects on those lists. Similarly, regions of New York without MPO’s are served by the DOT, which consults with local elected officials and selects projects for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. The Department is working with local officials and the Governor’s Economic Recovery Cabinet to identify priority shovel-ready projects eligible for recovery funds.
“These projects will preserve the integrity of Western New York’s transportation infrastructure and improve the safety of motorists. Governor Paterson has worked hard to secure these valuable federal funds to bolster our transpor
tation infrastructure and invest in critical job creation,” said Astrid C. Glynn, DOT Commissioner.
Paterson spokesperson Erin Duggan said yesterday’s announcement included only those projects that have already been certified by the Obama Administration, including $6.3 million worth of improvements to roads and bridges in Erie and Cattaraugus counties. Certification is one of the final steps that needs to be completed before construction can begin.
The projects include:
  • $1.6 million of ARRA funding to replace two culverts on NY Route 242 in the towns of Ellicottville and Little Valley, Cattaraugus County. This project will eliminate culvert deficiencies and ensure good structural condition. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
  • $900,000 of ARRA funding for a project to repair culverts on US Route 219 and NY Route 400 in the towns of Boston and Concord, Erie County. This preventative maintenance work will eliminate corrosion and restore drainage elements to a state of good repair. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
  • $1.5 million of ARRA funding for resurfacing approximately three miles of pavement on US Route 219 and NY Route 417 in the City of Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, and Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The top layer of worn, deteriorated pavement will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and fresh pavement markings to extend the service life of pavement. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
  • $900,000 of ARRA funding for resurfacing approximately 1.5 miles of pavement on NY Route 78 in the Village of Depew and towns of Lancaster and Cheektowaga, Erie County. The top layer of worn, deteriorated pavement will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and fresh pavement markings to extend the service life of pavement. Traffic signal sensors will be replaced and the drainage system will be cleaned and repaired to improve the quality of storm-water runoff. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
  • $2.2 million of ARRA funding for a project to restore the deteriorating stone facing of an historic bridge carrying NY Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, over NY Route 384 in the City of Buffalo, Erie County. The bridge is located in the historic site of Delaware Park designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Drainage on the bridge will also be repaired and upgraded to protect the structure from future damage and keep it safe for pedestrians on Rt 198 and Delaware Ave. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2010
  • $500,000 of ARRA funding for a project to replace selected signs on state highways throughout the City of Buffalo, towns of Amherst and Cheektowaga and Village of Williamsville, Erie County. Installation is expected to be completed in the summer of 2010.
As for Niagara County, Paterson said “millions of dollars” worth of additional paving projects are expected to be certified and finalized in the coming months. The list is likely to include nine road repair projects submitted to the Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council earlier this year. Those projects include the resurfacing of Pine Avenue from Main Street to Hyde Park Boulevard and the resurfacing of Main Street from Ontario to Walnut Avenues.

Schumer touched on plans to fund repairs to the upper portion of the Robert Moses Parkway, a controversial stretch of highway many in and around Niagara Falls would like to see torn out completely. “He used the money just as we are using the money — to put people back to work by building highways and bridges and roads,” Schumer said, referring to Moses who was instrumental in the parkway’s development.
Schumer said the plan is to use stimulus funds to re-construct the portion of the parkway from the I-190 to John B. Daly Boulevard, but will “not waste taxpayer money” between Main Street and Finlay Drive, a section being considered for removal.
“What we are trying to do is take community concerns into account, spend the money quickly and get the job done,” Schumer said.
Paterson said the state is making alterations to the original Robert Moses proposal because “it does not fit with what the local government wants to do here.”
U.S. Department of Interior Announces Economic Stimulus Projects
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the Department of the Interior’s first projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – $140 million that will fund 308 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) projects across the 50 states. The USGS, the leading science research bureau in the federal government, supports the science needs of all the other bureaus of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other departments of the U.S. government. The USGS will play a critical role in addressing the nation’s energy and climate change challenges.
Overall, the DOI will manage $3.0 billion in investments as part of the recovery plan signed by the President to jumpstart our economy, create or save jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st Century.
“These USGS projects not only stimulate job creation and preservation, but they stimulate the scientific research that must underpin the decisions we make on behalf of the American people as the stewards of the nation’s natural resources,” Sec. Salazar said in a teleconference today. “As America’s leading earth science agency, USGS is central to helping us meet the imperatives of the nation’s energy and climate change challenges.”
Among the programs funded through the Department’s ARRA investments, USGS will dedicate $15.2 million to volcano monitoring and $14.6 million to streamgage upgrades, support that will further the agency’s recent efforts to protect life and property in places such as Alaska and North Dakota.
The $140 million announced today for USGS will fund repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades; national map activities; and critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects.
Specific investments include:
  • Volcano Monitoring – $15.2 million to modernize equipment in the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) at all USGS volcano observatories. The U.S. and its territories include some of the most volcanically-active regions in the world, with 169 active volcanoes. As many as 54 of these potentially dangerous volcanoes need improved monitoring.
  • Upgrades to streamgages used in flood monitoring – $14.6 million to upgrade to high-data radio (HDR) technology and upgrade streamgages with new technologies for streamflow measurement. All 7,500 streamgages will be upgraded by 2012.
  • Water Program Deferred Maintenance – $14.6 million for remediation to remove streamgages, cablewa
    ys, and ground-water wells that are no longer in use, making these sites safer for public enjoyment and support local economies.
  • Deferred Maintenance of Facilities – $29.4 million for projects that address health and safety issues; functional needs such as improved laboratory space; make facilities more energy efficient, and incorporate sustainable design criteria in project implementation.
  • Earthquake Monitoring – $29.4 million to modernize the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) by doubling the number of ANSS-quality stations and upgrading seismic networks nationwide, to bring the total from approximately 800 to 1600. These improved networks will deliver faster, more reliable and more accurate information – helping to save lives by providing better situational awareness in the wake of the damaging earthquakes that can strike this nation at any time.
  • Construction – $17.8 million for research facilities at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Research Center in Laurel, MD; the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) in Columbia, MO; and the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) in LaCrosse, WI. Work at these centers will improve the ability of scientists to conduct innovative research on contaminants and wildlife, endangered species, wind power and wildlife, adaptive management, wildlife disease and much more. The rehabilitation of these facilities will support jobs for the local community, improve functionality, and reduce long-term operating costs.
  • Imagery and Elevation Maps – $14.6 million to improve mapping data, which will then be made available for multiple uses including flood mapping, emergency operations, and natural resource management.
  • Data Preservation – $488,000 to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) to digitize, and make available to the public via the Internet, the historical banding recovery and bird banding records. Bird banding data have a wide variety of uses including applications for disease research.
“President Obama and this Department have ambitious goals to build America’s new energy future, protect and restore our treasured landscapes, and create a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps,” added Salazar. “These USGS projects and the science that guides them will help us fulfill these goals while helping American families and their communities prosper.”
The USGS projects were selected in a rigorous merit-based process based on the longstanding priorities of the agency, as will all projects included in the Department’s Recovery Act funding.
Noting that he is visiting Alaska next week, Salazar emphasized the critical nature of USGS’ work in emergencies. “Their monitoring of Redoubt, which has erupted several times, alerted people in the pathway of the volcano to take precautions ahead of time. Protecting public safety is invaluable.”
The five USGS Volcano Observatories have been allotted $15.2 million to modernize monitoring networks and warning systems. Many of the dangerous volcanoes in the United States may not be monitored well enough for scientists to warn the public of explosive eruptions, alert aircraft of ash clouds or warn communities of ash falls and lava and mud flows.
The importance of these observatories was evident during the recent Mar. 22 eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano, 106 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory started issuing warnings of an impending eruption starting Jan. 23 after recording increased seismic activity at the volcano, giving communities and businesses time to prepare. The observatory’s top priority is to prevent repetition of the incident that occurred during Redoubt’s eruption 19 years ago, when a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft strayed into an ash cloud and nearly crashed.
Stimulus funds will improve AVO’s preparedness and vigilance, both at Redoubt and at other similar volcanoes in Alaska.
With respect to the funds for streamflow and flood monitoring projects, USGS has a network of 7,500 streamgages, most of which run on solar power. The streamgages feature radio transmitters that send data to satellites. Because of advances in satellite communication technology, these radios will be obsolete in 2013. The stimulus funds will enable USGS to upgrade streamgages with new radio transmitters that will reduce transmission time and make data available to the public hourly, an improvement from the current wait of 3-4 hours.
“This type of technology was pivotal to addressing the flooding hazards that recently threatened North Dakota,” added Salazar. “Stream flow monitoring is critically important to our understanding of the effects of climate change on water availability in some regions of the nation, and accurate long-term streamflow information is necessary to determine how water managers can respond and adapt to these changes.”
Sec. Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project at http://www.recovery.gov/ or www.interior.gov/recovery.
Greg Sitek

Daily Dirt

Idaho Governor Releases Stimulus Spending Plan

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) said Thursday that he decided not to reject the federal government’s economic stimulus money, but to accept it “reluctantly and cautiously” to help Idaho residents get through the recession.

Most of Idaho’s legislators never wanted it, but the stimulus money is there. So, now, Division of Financial Management Administrator Wayne Hammon, wants the governor’s recommendations for spending Idaho’s stimulus to be crystal clear.

Gov. Otter discussed what his recommendations are for the $1.24 billion geared for Idaho from the federal Stimulus Package. He mentioned that a little more than $200 million is dedicated to highway infrastructure with another $60 million headed to other infrastructure.

“The quickest way we can get shovels in the dirt, get people using their shovels is giving back to the infrastructure needs that have already been underlined,” Otter said.

Gov. Otter wasn’t able to give an exact number for the amount of jobs his stimulus recommendations would create, but early forecasts stated that 3,000 jobs would be created in transportation alone, if only $120 million was spent on highway and bridge projects. Since Otter proposes to set aside over $200 million, it’s likely even more construction jobs will be created.

Hammon spent over an hour Thursday explaining the plan and answering questions during a meeting of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.

“Our first priority is to create and protect jobs. And that is something that is stated in the very front of the stimulus bill itself, but also when it comes to the governor’s philosophy,” explained Hammon.

When it comes to job creation, 16 percent of the money would go to fund transportation, creating highway, bridge and public transit projects.

One of the eight transportation projects statewide receiving money includes the US 93 Twin Falls Alternate Route. This route heads south to connect with the existing highway 93/30 junction.

Pam Lowe, director of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) says, “You’ve got a very, very nice state highway out there dumping into a largely insufficient local road system and we have worked with the local jurisdictions and spent a lot of time, effort and money holding the local road system together.

Lowe says it will help with traffic and remove ongoing maintenance.

In addition to that, many small town drinking water and waste water facilities would see improvements, priorities most committee members seemed to agree with.

“Obviously infrastructure and transportation is very important and so are the clean water, and waste water treatment facilities, and the construction projects that will occur there,” said Sen. Dean Cameron, (R-Rupert).

Rep. John Rusche, (D) House Minority Leader said, “We are pleased he accepted the stimulus money to help Idahoans and not just in transportation, but in other areas.”

“If you don’t have that infrastructure in place then how do you expect to grow the economy,” stated Rep. Darrell Bolz, (R-Caldwell).

Many committee members expect to make some changes to the governor’s plan, but say it’s a good place to start.

Otter will hold the $29.8 million for transportation for up to 90 days to see what the Legislature does with his transportation funding plans. Otter said he has been pushing for transportation improvement since he first became governor in 2006.

“I hope that suggests the urgency of our infrastructure (needs) in Idaho,” Otter said.

Stimulus Plan Paving Way For Tennessee Manufacturers

While Astec Industries, the Chattanooga, TN-based road-building equipment maker, could profit significantly from the $787 billion federal stimulus, it won’t be as much or as soon as most people think, company officials say.

“The industry is very aware, the infrastructure portion of this stimulus bill is relatively small,” Dr. J. Don Brock, chairman and CEO of Astec said. “Highways and bridges are less than 4 percent, but yet there is a whole lot of press talk about stimulus infrastructure helping it. I think the highway departments are really aware and on point that they better spend this quickly and show that it will stimulate the economy, which I believe it will.” Dr. Brock said Astec, which builds asphalt plants and road construction equipment, likely will benefit from the Stimulus Package, but the company isn’t counting the big dollars yet.

His view is similar to that of other Chattanooga companies that are set to gain business from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu and Aerisyn, the wind turbine tower manufacturer, may benefit from the Stimulus Package, but it’s a wait-and-see proposition, officials said.

Dr. Brock admitted that he already is seeing an increase in the number of orders for asphalt plants, but it likely won’t have the desired financial benefit until later in the year. Astec was recently named one of the top companies to benefit from the stimulus plan by the financial column, The Motley Fool.

“I think you’ll see a benefit in the second quarter, and you’ll see a stronger third and fourth quarter than we normally have on an annual basis,” he said.

Like other manufacturers, Astec’s business has slowed in the past year. The company’s fourth quarter sales were down 13 percent from the same period the year before. In total, Astec Industries has made layoffs at seven of its 14 companies, a workforce reduction of 17 percent.

For Astec and Komatsu, however, the really big money may be coming later from a highway construction bill now making its way through Congress. The stimulus plan earmarks $29 billion for modernizing roads and bridges, but Dr. Brock said the Federal Highway Trust Fund bill expected later this year will be a bigger boost to Astec and the economy.

“There seems to be probably the best opportunity in my lifetime to see a major rebuilding of our highways and our bridges and our infrastructure coming up in this next bill,” he said. “There’s talk of it being as much as 80 percent to 100 percent larger than the past one — in the $450 billion to $550 billion range.”

Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met recently with mayors from across the nation and called the Stimulus Package a “dress rehearsal” for a new six-year highway bill that likely will include about $450 billion for roads, bridges and transit projects.

“The stimulus bill is very nice, but if we don’t get the highway bill the money we get on the stimulus will be a one-shot deal that will not keep employment high,” Brock said. “So whatever we do now we will be giving back nex
t year unless we get a pretty good highway bill.”

In 2005, former President George W. Bush signed a $286 billion transportation bill that is set to expire this year.

Many have suggested that Komatsu also may benefit from the road and bridge improvement portion of the stimulus plan, but company officials said they are not sure the company will feel any effects.

Dennis Riddell, general manager of Komatsu’s Chattanooga facility, said the company isn’t likely to see any boost right away.

“We are not expecting any short-term benefit, especially here at the local facility,” he said. “We believe there will be some positive benefit, but it is probably 18 months away.”

The stagnant economy forced Komatsu to halt production at the end of 2008, but the company continued to pay its full-time employees while they performed community service in the area.

Company officials said they’d like to see the stimulus plan kick-start their business, but they are aware the road improvement portion of the stimulus plan is focused on improving existing roads, while much of Komatsu’s equipment is designed for new road construction or housing development.

“We’re not expecting an immediate turnaround,” Mr. Riddell said. “What we need is a recovery in the housing market.”

Equipment from Komatsu can cost from $200,000 to $400,000 for a single piece, he said, and “people don’t make those types of decisions on a whim.”

Mike Hohl, president and chief executive for Aerisyn, said the wind turbine tower manufacturer likely won’t benefit directly from the stimulus either, but extending the production tax credit, which gives energy production companies tax credits once they begin producing energy, should give the entire renewable energy sector a boost. President Obama wants to extend the credit to 2012.

“Renewable energy is real high on the president’s agenda,” Mr. Hohl said. “This will be helpful to our industry.”

Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said 116,000 jobs and $19 billion in investments are at risk if the federal government hedges on its commitment to wind energy.

According to information provided by the AWEA, the industry suffered steep drops in production during 2000, 2002 and 2004, declines that the AWEA attributes to a tax credit that expired in the preceding years.

“The credits are a critical element of a long-term federal policy to support this vibrant, fast-growing industry,” Mr. Swisher said.

Aerisyn, like the rest of the wind energy industry, had been growing, but Mr. Hohl said the company took a big hit in the fourth quarter of 2008 when customers began to pull back orders by about 50 percent. Aerisyn was forced to cut production and lay off more than 50 employees, he said.

“We’ve already started bringing some of them back,” Mr. Hohl said.

He is hopeful the production credit will give the entire industry a boost, but he knows 2009 still will be a difficult year, he said.

“The biggest obstacle to our industry is banking and credit. Wind power projects still require financing,” Mr. Hohl said. “We still believe renewable energy is the right field to be in. We believe that especially after the change in administration.”

Ben Fischer, president of Signal Wind, and Rick Ector, president of Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group, two Chattanooga-based construction companies that build wind farms, said the Stimulus Package should boost their businesses, also.

“It can have a huge impact on the future of our company,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Ector said the package includes some provisions that may provide grants for wind power projects. He said the Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group had a record year in 2008, but the industry came to a “screeching halt” during the credit crunch when financing for wind energy dried up.

“We think and certainly hope it is going to (increase business),” Mr. Ector said of the recovery plan. “We keep hearing it will free up some projects, but we haven’t seen it yet.”

Greg Sitek