Archive for December, 2011

Last Week In Environmental Impact Statements: Hell Canyon and Chicken Creek

Photo by Plutor. Some rights reserved.

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

* * *

EIS No. 20110430, Draft EIS (and Appendices), HUD, CA, Alice Griffith Redevelopment Project, Redevelopment of the #4-Arce ‘‘Project Site’’ for 1,200 New Dwelling Units, Retail Development, Open Space and Associated Infrastructure, City and County of San Francisco, CA, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Eugene T. Flannery (415) 701–5598.

EIS No. 20110431, Draft EIS, USFS, NV, Geothermal Leasing on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, To Facilitate the Development and Production of Geothermal Energy, Ely, Austin, Tonopah and Bridgeport Ranger Districts, NV, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Keith Whaley (760) 932–7070.

EIS No. 20110432, Final EIS (and Appendices), USACE, FL, Brevard County, Florida Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, To Reduce the Damages Caused by Erosion and Coastal Storms to Shorefront Structures Along the Mid-Reach Segment, Implementation, Brevard County, FL, Review Period Ends: 01/30/2012, Contact: Candida Bronson (904) 232–1697.

EIS No. 20110433, Draft EIS, USFS, SD, Vestal Project, Commercial and Noncommercial Vegetation Treatments and Prescribed Burning to Reduce Mountain Pine Beetle Risk and Fire Hazard, Hell Canyon Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest, Custer County, SD, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Kelly Honors (605) 673–4853.

EIS No. 20110434, Draft EIS, DOI, 00, Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Lease Sales: 2012–2017 Western Planning Area Lease Sales 229, 233, 238, 246, and 248: Central Planning Area Lease Sales 227, 231, 235, 241, and 247, TX, LA, MS, AL and Northwestern FL, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Gary Goeke (504) 736–3233.

EIS No. 20110435, Final EIS, NPS, IL, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, General Management Plan, Implementation, Sangamon County, Springfield, IL, Review Period Ends: 01/30/2012, Contact: Nick Chevance (402) 661–1844.

EIS No. 20110436, Draft EIS, NOAA, AK, Effects of Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic Ocean, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, AK, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: James H. Lecky (301) 713–1632.

EIS No. 20110437, Draft EIS, USFS, UT, Chicken Creek Gypsum Mine, Proposed Plan of Operations to Conduct Mining Operations, San Pitch Mountains, Sanpete Ranger District, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Juab County, UT, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Karl Boyer (435) 637–2817.

EIS No. 20110438, Draft EIS, USFS, ID, Scriver Integrated Restoration Project, Improve Watershed Conditions by Reducing Road-Related Impacts to Wildlife, Fish, Soil, and Water Resources and Restoration of 2010 Forest Plan Vegetation Conditions, Emmett Ranger District, Boise National Forest, Boise and Valley Counties, ID, Comment Period Ends: 02/13/2012, Contact: Melissa Yenko (208) 373–4245.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20110307, Draft EIS, BLM, CO, Colorado River Valley (formerly known as Glenwood Springs) Resource Management Plan, Implementation, Colorado River Valley Field Office, Portions of Eagle, Garfield, Mesa, Ritkin, and Routt Counties, CO, Comment Period Ends: 01/17/2012, Contact: John Russell (970) 876–9025. Revision to Notice Published 09/16/2011: Extending Comment Period from 12/14/2011 to 01/17/2012.

Vermont’s Plan for 90% Renewable Energy

Photo by Andrew Curtis. Some rights reserved.

While Irene proved little more than a light rain shower where I waited it out in New Hampshire, Tropical Storm Irene launched a surprise assault across the Connecticut River in Vermont. The resulting damage shocked the state and people across the country, but Vermonters now see the potential to rebuild infrastructure in a smarter way. The state government is hoping to align local, regional, and state energy policies to support “resilient growth,” foster economic stability, and safeguard the environment.  New Governor Peter Shumlin led the effort to develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan, Vermont’s first in more than a decade, setting their sights on obtaining 90% of their total energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Vermonters have a history of thinking progressively about their energy. In 2011, they got 23% of their energy from renewable sources, compared to 14% across the U.S. (though Knowledge Mosaic’s home state of Washington’s number stands close to 80%).  Even before Irene, the state had set a goal of reducing energy usage in state government by 5%. And while proud of their efforts to increase efficiency and keep demand for electricity down, the CEP goes further.

Identifying oil and fossil fuels, which remain the backbone of heating and transportation, as particular areas of focus, the CEP emphasizes four drivers of progress: finance and funding, innovation, outreach and education, and regulatory policy and structures. Their goal is to consider all four areas in every energy policy.

A first priority of the plan is to promote efficiency and make progress metrics, while continuing to improve the structure for allocation and pricing of energy. It supports reducing household heating cost through building codes and biofuels, and recommends a plan to move transportation infrastructure towards supporting electric vehicles.

It is a bold vision. But even the state’s own overview of the program recognizes that they are a “state leading by example.” Vermont’s economy is the smallest in the U.S. But they hope to make progress they could not consider if not facing significant infrastructure repairs across the state, and maybe have an outsized impact on other states’ future decisions.

Texas Fracking Rules Go Into Effect 2/1/2012

Photo by mrflip. Some rights reserved.

It was June of this year when HB 3328 was sent to the Governor of Texas. In the six short months since, regulations implementing the legislation – requiring public disclosure of the composition of hydraultic fracturing fluid – have been both proposed and adopted.

According to the Railroad Commission of Texas Press Release announcing the big news (the rules were adopted earlier this month), “[a] listing of chemical ingredients used to hydraulically fracture a well that has been permitted by the RRC on or after Feb. 1, 2012, must be uploaded to the public national chemical disclosure registry,”

Of course one big caveat remains: “A supplier, service company or operator is not required to disclose trade secret information unless the Attorney General or court determines the information is not entitled to trade secret protection.”

I was glad to hear, however – via a Jackson Walker e-Alert – that “[t]he Commission kept the trade secret exception narrow in the rulemaking process. While commenters requested that the Commission revise the meaning of trade secret information to include proprietary or confidential business information, the Commission found that the addition of those terms would make the scope of the definition broader than was intended by HB 3328.”

The law firms Fulbright & Jaworski and Pillsbury also have more details.

Last Week In Environmental Impact Statements: The American Presidents Line

Photo by peretzpup. Some rights reserved.


While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

* * *

EIS No. 20110423, Draft EIS, NRC, SC, William States Lee III Nuclear Station Units 1 and 2 Combined Licenses (COLs) Application, Constructing and Operating Two New Nuclear Units at the Lee Nuclear Station Site, NUREG–2111, Cherokee County, SC, Comment Period Ends: 02/06/2012, Contact: Sarah Lopas (301) 415–1147.

EIS No. 20110424, Final EIS, NOAA, IL, Illinois Coastal Management Program, To Preserve, Protect, Restore, and Where Possible, Enhance Coastal Resources in Illinois, Review Period Ends: 01/23/2012, Contact: Diana Olinger (301) 563–1149.

EIS No. 20110425, Final EIS, FHWA, CT, North Hillside Road Extension on the University of Connecticut Storrs Campus, Hunting Lodge Road, US Army COE Section 404 Permit, in the town Mansfield, CT, Review Period Ends: 01/23/2012, Contact: Amy Jackson-Grove (860) 659–6703 Ext. 3009.

EIS No. 20110426, Draft EIS, USFS, FL, City of Tallahassee Southwestern Transmission Line Project, Proposes to Construct, Operate and Maintain a New Overhead 230- kilovolt (kV), Electric Transmission Line, Special-Use-Permit (SUP), Apalachicola National Forest (ANF), Leon County, FL, Comment Period Ends: 02/06/2012, Contact: David Harris (404) 347–5292.

EIS No. 20110427, Final EIS, AFS/BLM, UT, Greens Hollow Coal Lease Tract Project, Proposed Federal Coal Leasing and Subsequent Underground Coal Mining, Funding and Lease Application, Fishlake and Manti-La Sal National Forest, Sanpete and Sevier Counties, UT, Review Period Ends: 01/23/2012, Contact: Tom Lloyd (435) 636–3596 (AFS) and Steve Rigby (435) 636–3604 (BLM). This is a Joint Lead document between AFS and BLM.

EIS No. 20110428, Draft EIS, USACE, CA, Berths 302–306 American Presidents Line (APL) Container Terminal Project, Construction and Operation, US Army COE Section 10 and Section 103 of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act, Los Angeles County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 02/17/2012, Contact: Theresa Stevens (805) 585–2146.

EIS No. 20110429, Draft EIS, FTA, NJ, Northern Branch Corridor Project, Restoration of Passenger Rail Service in Northeastern Hudson and Southern Bergen Counties, NJ, Comment Period Ends: 02/06/2012, Contact: Anthony Lee (212) 668–2170.


Amended Notices

EIS No. 20110371, Draft EIS, BLM, UT, Alton Coal Tract Lease by Application Project, the Exploration and Development of Mineral Resource, Kane County, UT, Comment Period Ends: 01/27/2012, Contact: Keith Rigtrup (435) 865–3063 Revision to FR Notice Published 11/04/2011: Extending Comment Period from 01/06/2012 to 01/27/2012.

BLM Guidance on Carbon Sequestration

A large, naturally occurring CO2 storage system at Soda Springs, Idaho offers a study system. Photo by Idaho National Laboratory. Some rights reserved.

We have posted previously on the potential for carbon sequestration in the US. Our post earlier this month covered a Department of Energy report on carbon capture and storage potential in the US, identifying 5,700 years of potential storage of CO2 emitted by stationary sources. Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Management issued guidance on proposals for potential carbon sequestration projects on BLM lands, which by its own account make up 5.5 percent of the nation’s carbon sequestration capacity.

The Instruction Memorandum, which details the “processing of land use proposals and permit applications for exploration and site characterization studies,”comes as part of a wave of federal interest in carbon sequestration. In 2009, the Secretary of the Interior urged Congress to establish a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon dioxide underground. In 2010, the President established a task force to overcome barriers to deployment of carbon sequestration within 10 years. BLM director Bob Abbey says in the release that the IM helps achieve Obama’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over the next forty years.

The new guidelines only cover exploratory activities, though. The IM notes that to resolve the liability and stewardship responsibilities for long-term development projects, new Federal legislation may be required, and that we should expect the BLM and other agencies to issue further guidance on related application and review processes.

The IM posts an online reference for determining an area’s CO2 storage potential, and requires prospective “land use proponents” to meet with the BLM to discuss geologic suitability and potential conflicts with existing uses.

Two “Big Deal” Final Rules Released: Mine Safety Disclosure and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Photo by Grayskullduggery. Some rights reserved.

December 21st marked a day of great regulatory importance as both the SEC and EPA released final versions of rules that have been in the works for years.

The SEC published Final Rule 33-9286, “Mine Safety Disclosure,” – which implements Section 1503 of the Dodd-Frank Act – a grandiose 364 days after the proposed version hit the Federal Register. The new rule will dictate how mining companies must disclose information about mine safety and health in certain SEC filings. Now that the rule has finalized (it becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Regsiter), we hope to see examples of this disclosure from more companies than just Monarch Cement Co.

Even earlier in the day came the news that the EPA had revealed its new, finalized rule setting national standards to limit mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution from power plants. Grist called the rules a “Big Deal,” waxing poetic about how the rules “will make America a more decent, just, and humane place to live.” Grist wasn’t the only one who thought so – we thought they were landmark, too. To read more about the standards, check out the EPA’s “MATS” page.

So go ahead and mark December 21st down in your calendar. It may just go down in history.

Competition Over Solar Panel Costs Sparks Escalating Energy War

Photo by Bert van Dijk. Some rights reserved.

The Obama Administration has always been vocal about its support for renewable energy and, even in the wake of the Solyndra debacle earlier this year, are moving forward with new solar and wind projects on both coasts that would help push the U.S. to the forefront of the green energy movement. Or so it would like to think…

New research shows that, while solar energy only currently accounts for a little over 1 percent of total U.S. electricity consumed, that we may be at a tipping point for the green movement where the reality of cheap solar energy is finally realized across the globe. Joshua Pearce, associate professor of electrical engineering and materials science at Michigan Technological University, explains that consumers and researchers have been vastly overestimating the rate at which solar panels would drop in productivity: instead of dropping at a rate of 1 percent per year, “if you buy a top of the line solar panel, it’s much less, between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.” Beyond this misconception, and perhaps more importantly, Pearce comments that “since 2009, the cost [of solar panels] has dropped 70 percent… the costs have been pushed down enough that [solar energy] can compete.” Who can we thank for such a drastic reduction in manufacturing costs? The answer shouldn’t surprise you.

Earlier this year, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) determined that American solar panel manufacturers were correct in their complaint that the American market was being flooded with cheaper models imported from China being sold at aggressively low prices that the American manufacturers could not compete with (we posted about U.S. solar energy company SolarWorld’s original complaint to the ITC in October). While no clear decision was reached, this initial vote clears a path for the Commerce Department to open an investigation and, in theory, impose tariffs on exported panels to level the playing field for American manufacturers. Of course, the availability of Chinese panels has everything to do with the aforementioned costs of solar energy being drastically reduced. It also has a lot to do with why American solar companies like Solyndra have been forced to declare bankruptcy. Understandably, this complex issue has already created a rift between American manufacturers (who have taken to labeling themselves the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing) and a group of American installers and distributors (as well as anti-tariff manufacturers) who are calling themselves the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy.

Both sides make extremely fair points (CASM: “Domestic production creates high-paying manufacturing jobs and builds national economic health while advancing energy independence” vs. CASE: “Protectionism drives up the price of solar electricity and negatively impacts more than 5,000 American solar companies, mostly small businesses, and more than 100,000 American jobs”), and its worth investigating both sides of the argument for yourself. Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has responded to the December 2nd ruling of the U.S. Commerce Department, arguing that their decision was made “without sufficient evidence showing the U.S. soalr panel industry has been harmed,” and has announced its own investigation into whether American subsidies of renewable energy sources have compromised China’s development of the same areas. It was also reported yesterday that India may itself look into joining the growing “energy war,” and impose its own taxes on imported panels.

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