Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  News from Michigan about two contaminants found in groundwater used for drinking water.  The report forced the anguished question: just how isolated or singular was MI’s struggle with lead, or is lead just one element in a witches brew with other poisons only awaiting discovery?  The contaminants are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), ubiquitous compounds used in everything from carpets to insect baits to dental floss.  Companies are phasing out production but exposure is widespread.  Some good news: recent data indicates declining levels in human blood.  Health effects?  No solid evidence about any one thing.  Last week Michigan DEQ set a drinking water criterion for the compounds: 0.07 μg/L (70 parts per trillion), based on an EPA health advisory.  With a standard in place, the state can now take legal action against polluters.
*  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced draft guidelines for the use of a “Design Envelope” approach in Construction and Operations Plans (COPs) for offshore wind energy facilities.  BOEM says developers wanted this design approach, standard in some European countries for permitting processes.  The change gives flexibility in certain project-design decisions—e.g., which turbines to use—at a more commercially advantageous time in the development process.  BOEM writes this change results partly from the Administration’s regulatory streamlining work; it could reduce redundant environmental reviews while still maintaining appropriate safeguards.  The agency holds an introductory webinar end of January.
*  Department of Energy (DOE) and many other agencies started to make available their semiannual Unified Agendas of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Agenda), including Regulatory Plans.  The Agendas are a government-wide compilation of upcoming and ongoing regulatory activity, including a brief description of each rulemaking and a timetable for action. The Agendas also include a list of regulatory actions completed since publication of the last Agenda. One important rulemaking under development at DOE is called “Modifying the Energy Conservation Program to Implement a Market-Based Approach.”  Last November, DOE published a request for information on how this idea might work.  Comments are due in February.

Tom Ewing
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