Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

Records-Of-Decision: Two important RODs were announced last week:
* POLB Pier B Rail Project: This project at the Port of Long Beach has been under final review for years. Final was finally finalized last week when MARAD issued its ROD giving the OK for the $1.57 billion to proceed; federal share is $870 million. Freight rail is at the core of this project, but it impacts every mode of transportation, from harbor capacity to Interstate access to pipelines to the Long Beach street grid. Pier B will be reconfigured to allow shorter trains, operating a bit more nimbly, to haul freight instead of trucks. The project is part of the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan; the trains are supposed to be better for the environment than thousands of trucks. The scale is almost hard to imagine. The new configuration will allow trains up to 20,000 feet long to be loaded and unloaded. The first arrival, departure and storage tracks are expected to be completed in 2025, with additional tracks coming online in 2030, followed by project completion in 2032.

* DOD PELE Microreactor: The Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) released a Record of Decision (ROD) for Project Pele, a program intended to design, build, and demonstrate a mobile microreactor, small enough to be moved on a truck bed or a rail car. (This project has been referenced previously in Regulatory Update.) SCO will construct “an inherently safe by design” nuclear microreactor capable of being transported by the DOD and able to deliver 1-5 MegaWatts of electrical power for a minimum of three years of full power operation. You may recall that a concern for DOD is how to use less petroleum fuel; DOD uses 10 million gallons of fuel every day and DOD expects that to increase. DOD writes that “a safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that would not add to the DOD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments.” There’s another important lesson here: if such a microreactor can work for DOD there’s no reason it couldn’t work within many other applications, military or civilian. A final design will be selected “later this spring,” DOD writes.

* Great Lakes Shipping: MARAD has issued a request-for-proposals to conduct a feasibility study on “future energy options for Great Lakes shipping.” This $350,000 study will involve a review of applicable green technologies, and a ranking of a “shortlist of potential alternative fuels and power options that are feasible and practical in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve energy efficiency for existing and/or future ship operations from 2022 to 2050.” This study will evaluate a variety of alternative fuels (such as synthetic natural gas, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen) including biofuels (such as ethanol, bio-methane, bio-ethane, bio-propane, bio-diesel etc.) and power options as part of full-electric and hybrid propulsion and power generation (shore power, solar photovoltaic, fuel cells, batteries). It will also evaluate benefits and barriers of the alternative fuels and power options and map the availability and implementation timeline for these energy options for Great Lakes shipping from now until 2050. Proposals are due May 16.

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