Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

* The Problem: Smart People Aren’t Smart Enough: is the federal government’s contracting website. It’s largely a merchant kind of site but agency officials also use it to seek information from businesses – technical information, for example, or to check competition or to evaluate ways to include policy goals (project labor agreements, for example) within a contract. Bottom line: it’s not easy stuff and it’s not an easy process. (I recall one contract, for example, seeking basic work gloves, which was 79 pages.) Last week DOE released a SAM document referencing this complexity. The focus is on DOE’s impenetrable competitive research programs – not impenetrable due to the science, but the application process, so daunting that applicants are rejecting it, a concern for DOE. For a new applicant, DOE writes, the application process may require 100 to 150 hours. The application guide exceeds 150 pages and includes five websites. Now, DOE wants to “improve the (applicant’s) overall experience” and seeks a “visually appealing and user-friendly process.” If you can help with that name your price and let DOE know by April 1 (no, really). Then you can move on to FERC.

* Davy Jones Offshore Mining, Send Resume: DOC/NOAA announced last week that Lockheed Martin filed to extend, until 2027, two deep seabed hard mineral exploration licenses. We all know that offshore wind – for fish, whales, plants, the whole ecosystem – will be a completely neutral and serene, beneficial really, ocean presence. So why not add mining? Sure, it might stir up some mud, but imagine: endless gold, silver, lithium, hysterium, deliyreum, miltonberyleum! Actually, L-M’s renewal is mostly procedural. The original licenses date from the ancient Prephonian era, 1984. (I know for a fact that some RU readers weren’t even born in 1984.) The licenses were renewed once in 2017. L-M has never proceeded with exploration, an effort complicated by international treaties. Another reason: “conditions in the metals markets,” according to DOC/NOAA. Looking ahead, though, are market conditions changing? After all, it’s a US goal to domestically produce critical and strategic metals and minerals, particularly for energy, to source new smelting, sintering and manufacturing, with attendant heavy-rail infrastructure, and good paying jobs, in Martha’s Vineyard and Vail and Chevy Chase and Bluffview. Now might be a good time to plan for a 200 foot high ocean-strength coffer dam 75 miles from Virginia Beach, with good paying union jobs, in a BOEM approved metals energy area, next to a wind energy area, for the next 100 years. Comments are due to NOAA by May 17.

* Too Hot to Handle: DOE announced last week that it will provide $5 million to help support the development of a “national workforce development strategy for lithium-battery manufacturing.” DOE, along with the Department of Labor, writes that the “this workforce initiative will support the nation’s global competitiveness within battery manufacturing while strengthening the domestic economy and clean energy supply chains.”  This effort complements other DOE research initiatives on increasing mineral yields while decreasing the required energy, and related emissions, to extract minerals such as lithium, copper, nickel, and cobalt. (See deep seabed licenses above.) Also last week, the Coast Guard, in a related announcement, issued “Marine Safety Alert: Lithium Battery Fire” (Alert 01-22) “to increase awareness of the hazards of transporting lithium batteries.” It might also be worth noting that an air transport group filed comments opposing a DOT exemption for lithium batteries in aircraft signage. The reason: the proposed exemption is completely at odds with firefighting recommendations. Aww c’mon guys – you always ruin everything…

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