Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*   The Coast Guard is seeking comments on a natural gas project to construct a new marine berth, in Cameron Parish, LA, adjacent to Port Arthur, TX, about halfway between New Orleans and Houston.  The Parish contains a number of national wildlife refuges, including, somewhat ironically perhaps, the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.  This big project makes very clear how gas is stepping up to be an even bigger player on the world’s energy stage.  If approved the new berth would expand LNG vessel traffic from the current 400 vessels per year to 580, or about 2.3 LNG vessels every business day.  The CG wants comments on impacts to the Sabine-Neches Waterway; comments should address issues pertaining to the “physical nature of the affected waterway and issues of safety and security associated with LNG marine traffic.”  Comments are due by August 8.

On July 10, EPA published the most significant proposed environmental rule in the last 30 years: that there will be no remaining ozone nonattainment or maintenance receptors in the eastern US in 2023.  More specifically, this proposed rule is part of what’s called the states’ “Good Neighbor Policy,” i.e., that air pollution in one state must be so adequately controlled that it does not cause monitors in a downwind state(s) to show a violation of federal air quality standards; that air pollution from Illinois or Ohio, for example, does not cause problems in, say,  Pennsylvania or Rhode Island.  To a certain extent, this means the ozone problem is fixed, at least given the current standard.  Likely this is based on information from state EPAs themselves.  In filings from the states after the 2015 O3 standard changed, most agencies in east coast states calculated that their entire state would be in compliance, with a few exceptions within the metro New York City area and around Philadelphia.  It’s not an exaggeration to write that the entire US economy since 1990 has been dominated by this Herculean struggle.  Likely, in the general press, you won’t hear anything about it.
*   Well, it wasn’t in the Federal Register until July 10 but The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) announced it would hold another public “listening session,” in San Francisco, on July 12 on “Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) Which May Be a Barrier to the Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems in Commercial Vehicle Operations.”  You may remember a previous session held a few months back.  In this second meeting, FMCSA wanted comments from stakeholders not part of the previous session, “including academia, insurance groups, and technology providers and developers.”  The Agency’s focus is on automated driving Levels 3,4 and 5, a ranking developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers; the overall five Levels include varying degrees of driver engagement, all the way to Level 5 – “Full Driving Automation: the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions.”  Remember, this is for commercial driving.  Comments due: July 25.

Tom Ewing
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