Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

New DOT leadership: Mayor Pete was sworn in as DOT’s new Secretary on February 3.  An AP report said he wants imaginative, bold, forward thinking and that DOT needs to take on a vital mission to rebuild America’s infrastructure and foster equality.  One can’t help note a certain irony here, of course, since these big dreams (as well as the new Secretary’s nice salary and bennies and pension contributions) all rest on that horrible fossil fuel gas tax.  One of the new Secretary’s first big moves should be a financing plan showing how he will raise, annually, $50 billion (FHWA’s 2021 budget) for road and highway projects without the gas tax.  Vehicle miles travelled?  A new federal fee on state registrations, say an annual $300-$400 due when you renew your license? Another important policy move, and, uh, Congressional challenge: unlocking the Highway Trust Fund to allow gas tax money to go for new transit systems and EV charging stations and related electric transmission and distribution and Amtrak service and, don’t forget, billions to fix up ancient trackage and rights of way that haven’t carried passengers for almost a century.  And then there are 50 states where gas tax revenue is sacrosanct.  In my state, for example, the gas tax – for roads and highways only – is enshrined in the state constitution!  The constitution!

New York State of Mind:  NYSERDA – New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority – released its new  2021-2024 Strategic Outlook last week, presenting key objectives to support mission outcomes: greenhouse gas emissions reduction, renewable energy, energy efficiency and building decarbonization, a clean energy economy, and a resilient and distributed energy system.  The document also includes an updated organizational vision and mission to guide its work going forward.  I looked for transmission issues.  Not important, apparently, in remaking a power system – it’s mentioned three times in the 64-page document.  Then, and one hates to be contrary, I checked for “diversity” and “inclusion” and “equity” (or close variants). These must be very important for power systems.  They are mentioned 46 times

Big stuff – focusing on the small stuff: Nanotechnology refers to manipulation and control of individual atoms and molecules, for specific purposes and processes.  Last week, the Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a series of conferences and stakeholder discussions on targeted nanotechnology topics for 2021.  The federal Nanotechnology Initiative coordinates, sponsors and manages meetings and workshops on a wide range of issues from basic research to exploring the potential environmental, health and safety risks of nanotechnology.  There are many players in this overall effort.  The Initiative itself has four conferences scheduled for 2021: Nanotechnology for Food and Nutrition Security, in March; TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo, in June; ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC), also in June; and the 15th International Conference on the Environmental Effects of Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials, in August.

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