Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

* The piece de resistance? Why, the candlelight, of course: If you want to read a desperate (pitiful) plea get a copy of the California ISO’s (CAISO) “Request for Emergency Order Pursuant to Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act.” The 31-page letter asks the Secretary of Energy to declare that an emergency exists in California requiring intervention “to preserve the reliability of (the) bulk electric power system,” continuing at least through summer 2022. Wanna be scary this Halloween? Dress up like a CA energy official. A critical issue is air permit limits on reserve plants and the need, now, to exceed emission levels. Here’s an understatement: CAISO is deeply concerned that losing power to homes and businesses “presents a greater risk to public health and safety than the temporary and limited exceedances of air emission permit limits that would occur under the requested emergency order.” Ya think? No hurry here either. CAISO sent the letter on September 7. They pleaded for DOE’s approval by September 10! Now with the candles I would recommend a full-bodied red, maybe, a Cabernet Sauvignon or  Merlot. But read the label before the lights go out.

* What’s old is new (maybe): EPA published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to advancing pyrolysis and gasification (P&G) units used to convert “solid or semi-solid feedstocks” – from municipal waste to medical waste to tires to oily sludges – into “useful products such as energy, fuels and chemical commodities.” Oh, and let’s not forget plastic waste. P&G are not the same as mass burning. Rather, they are controlled processes in which heat causes decomposition into building block materials that can be reused as feedstocks. The appeal here, if it can be made to work at scale, is an industrial “circular economy” – old stuff becomes new stuff, reducing the need for new resources. Last week’s Notice follows an RFI about a year ago pertaining to certain solid waste combustors and easier federal permitting (Title V). Now EPA seeks information on who is doing what with P&G research, pilot operations, new processes, any new information that could make this technology work better and sooner, not later, especially with new demands to control and reduce plastic waste. Comments are due by November 8.

* Your right-to-know… nothing: General Motors applied for a Special Permit with DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to authorize “the transportation in commerce via motor vehicle of production batteries that have not been proven to be of a type that meets the testing requirements of the UN Manual of Test and Criteria Section 38.3. (mode 1).” This is for new lithium batteries – hazard class/division 9 – and the shipment includes more than 100 such batteries (100 is a threshold). Beyond that it’s hard to know what’s going on. The public version of the Special Permit is redacted such that there is no pertinent information that might be helpful to local emergency or haz mat personnel. Are these truck shipments going from Tennessee to Michigan across Cincinnati’s infamous (and not always trouble free) I-75 Brent Spence Bridge? Or is it going through a Nevada desert? Once transported, safety tests will continue on the new batteries at the destination site, prior to vehicle assembly; testing should take 12-16 weeks. How many truckloads are planned and when do they end? GM writes “there is no expected increased risk from these batteries compared to their prototype counterparts currently being shipped for the purposes of testing.” Need to know more? Well, you could contact PHMSA and get the blacked-out version of the permit! Then if you squint real hard maybe you can see some details… (Or send me a note and I will send my pdf copy.)

Tom Ewing “reply” or 513-379-5526 voice/text