Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update – January 9, 2017

* Three federal agencies are starting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Columbia River system of dams and related energy infrastructure. A final public comment session today, January 9, in Astoria, OR, will help set the scope of this major study. A draft EIS is expected to be ready in spring, 2020. When you look at this huge system you can see why Northwest power is “greener” than, say, Midwest power (and cheaper, since all Americans subsidized western energy developments, and likely still do, in some ways). The EIS raises critical questions about “business as usual” for dams and reservoirs, navigation and commerce, fish and wildlife and eagles and how much of that can change and still provide inexpensive “green” power to 13 million people in the Northwest. This is one to watch, for many reasons.

* USEPA holds a public hearing Thursday, January 12, starting at 9:00 a.m. at its HQ building, in Washington. The hearing is to take comments on the Agency’s proposed rule to implement the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. The implementation proposal was published in the Federal Register on November 17, 2016. You recall, of course, that the Agency revised (lowered) the ozone standard last October, 2015. Now starts the programs and policies required to more strictly control the “precursor pollutants” – mostly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – that combine in the atmosphere to form ozone (O3).

* How do they do it? 388 pages each and every business day! That’s the output from the amazingly efficient and proficient and obviously inspired regulatory authors working within federal agencies, writing and pontificating about everything – literally, from nuclear weapons to school bus safety to cupcake filling to the Hualapai Mexican Vole. Total 2016 Federal Register pages: 97,110. In 2015: 82,035. Will the number go down in 2017? Wanna bet…? Oh, and if you’re interested, the total for 20 years ago – 1996 = 69,366 pages. Ahhh… those were the days…! Big Gubmint, indeed!

Tom Ewing