Archive for April, 2012

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Black Hills, White Hills

Image by Thomas G. Kristensen. 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.

This week, the EPA slipped in a call to agencies willing to participate in a new pilot program for electronic submission of EIS filings. To participate in the pilot, agencies should register at: https://cdx.epa.gov

* * *

EIS No. 20120113, Final EIS, BPA, OR, Albany-Eugene 115 kilovolt No. 1 Transmission Line Rebuild Project, Extending from Albany Substation to the Alderwood Tap, Linn and Lane Counties OR, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Douglas F. Corkran, 503–230–7646. Website.

EIS No. 20120114, Final Supplement (Volume 1, Volume 2), USN, CA, Hunters Point (Former) Naval Shipyard Disposal and Reuse, Supplement Information on the 2000 FEIS, Implementation, City of San Francisco, San Francisco County, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Ronald Bochenek, 619–532–0906. Website.

EIS No. 20120115, Final EIS, USFS, AK, Tonka Timber Sale Project, Proposed Timber Harvesting, Petersburg Ranger District, Tongass National Forest, Petersburg, AK, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Jason Anderson, 907–772–3871. Website.

EIS No. 20120116, Final EIS (Volume 1, Volume 2), 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, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Lynn Kolund, 605–673–4853. Website.

EIS No. 20120117, Draft EIS, BLM, WY, Lost Creek In Situ Recovery Project, To Analyze the Site-Specific Impacts Associated with the Plan of Operations, Sweetwater County, WY, Comment Period Ends: 06/11/2012, Contact: John Russell, 307–328–4252. Website.

EIS No. 20120118, Final EIS, FTA, CA, California High-Speed Train (HST): Merced to Fresno Section High-Speed Train, Propose to Construct, Operate, and Maintain an Electric-Powered High-Speed Train (HST), Merced, Madera, and Fresno Counties, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: David Valenstein, 202–493–6381. Website.

EIS No. 20120119, Final EIS, NPS, IN, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, White-Tailed Deer Management Plan, Implementation, Lake, Porter, LaPorte Counties, IN, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Randy Knutson, 219–395–1550. Website.

EIS No. 20120120, Draft EIS, BLM, CO, Mohave County Wind Farm Project, Application for a Right-of-Way Grant to Construct, Operate, Maintain and Decommission a Wind Powered Electrical Generation Facility, White Hills, Mohave County, CO, Comment Period Ends: 06/11/2012, Contact: Jerry Crockford, 505–360–0473. Website.

EIS No. 20120121, Final EIS, FHWA, OR, Newberg Dundee Bypass Project, Proposal to Build a Four Lane Expressway and Reduce Congestion on OR 99W, from OR 99W/OR/8 to the top of Rex Hill, USACE 404/ Removal Fill Permits, Funding, Yamhill and Washington Counties, OR, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Michelle Eraut, 503–316–2559. Website.

EIS No. 20120122, Draft Supplement, USACE, NM, Rio Grande Floodway Flood Protection Plan, San Acacia to Bosque Del Apache Unit, To Provide Higher Levels of Flood Risk Management to Floodplain Communities from San Acacia Diversion Dam Downstream to Elephant Butte Lake, Socorro County, NM, Comment Period Ends: 06/11/2012, Contact: Julie A. Alcon, 505–342–3281.

EIS No. 20120123, Final EIS, BLM, NV, Phoenix Copper Leach Project, Construction and Operation of a New Copper Beneficiation Facility, Lander County, NV, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Dave Davis, 775–635–4000. Website.

EIS No. 20120124, Final EIS, NPS, SD, South Unit—Badlands National Park, General Management Plan, Implementation, SD, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Eric J. Brunnemann, 605–433–5361. Website.

EIS No. 20120125, Final EIS, FTA, CA, Hercules Intermodal Transit Center, Construction To Improve Access to Public Transit, Funding USACE Section 404 Permit, Contra Costa County, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Paul Page, 415–744–2734. Website.

EIS No. 20120126, Draft EIS, USFS, CO, Black Mesa Vegetation Management Project, Implementation, Divide Ranger District, Rio Grande National Forest, Hinsdale and Mineral Counties, CO, Comment Period Ends: 06/11/2012, Contact: Thomas Malecek, 719–657–3321. Website.

EIS No. 20120127, Final EIS, USFS, CA, Rubicon Trail Easement and Resource Improvement Project, Construction and Operation, Right-of-Way Grant, Eldorado National Forest, Pacific Ranger District, El Dorado County, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Laura Hierholzer, 530–642–5187. Website.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20120047, Draft EIS, BIA, WA, West Plains Casino and Mixed-Use Development Project, Approval of Gaming Development and Management, Spokane Tribe of Indians, Spokane County, WA, Comment Period Ends: 05/16/2012, Contact: Dr. B.J. Howerton, 503–231–6749. Revision to FR Notice Published 03/02/2012; Lead Agency Re-opening the Comment Period to end 05/16/2012.

EIS No. 20120104, Draft EIS (Volume 1, Volume 2), NOAA, 00, Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan, Implementation, Comment Period Ends: 06/04/2012, Contact: Daniel S. Morris, 978–281–9250. Revision to FR Notice Published 04/20/2012: Change Agency Contact to Daniel S. Morris, 978–281–9250 and Correction to EIS Title.

The Economics of Hype: Rio+20

Photo by Ivan Herman. Some rights reserved.

In June, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Known as Rio+20 because it aims to address similar issues to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, its official discussions will focus on building a green economy to lift people out of poverty and improving international coordination for sustainable development.

Environmental Finance highlights the opportunities the conference will create for investors. Increased attention to Rio+20’s issues will focus public scrutiny on sustainability and countries’ policies, generating what Citigroup’s analysts call “green sentiment” in the markets. In addition to its effects on investment, media coverage might increase pressure on politicians to strengthen climate policies.

To illustrate this possibility, the analysts suggest that European politicians might leave the conference embarrassed about the low price of carbon dioxide permits in Europe and seek to raise prices through legislation back home. This would stimulate the carbon dioxide market and boost the low-carbon investments that depend on it, especially those made by alternative energy companies.

The U.S. wind industry, for example, depends heavily on government support, and is in the trenches of a campaign to pressure Congress to extend the production tax credit that expires at the end of this year (see our post on the topic here). Increased visibility of climate change on the global agenda could propel the issue, causing major uncertainty in the industry, to the top of legislators’ concerns.

Finally, Citigroup’s analysts say that sustainability reporting will boost engagement between companies, governments, and activists. At the very least, there will be a lot of journalists willing to go to Rio on business.

FERC Seeks Input on Interconnection Facilities

Late last week, FERC put out a call for comments via an April 19th Notice of Inquiry relating to open access and priority rights on interconnection facilities. Just a few days later law firms Van Ness Feldman and Alston + Bird stepped up to the plate with their analysis (here and here, respectively) on FERC’s proposed changes.

Specifically, FERC asks “whether, and, if so, how the Commission should revise its current policy concerning priority rights and open access with regard to certain interconnection facilities.” According to their news release, at a 2011 FERC technical conference, commenters asserted “asserted that open-access policies may be ill-suited for generator lead lines, which the NOI refers to as interconnection facilities,” and that “the policies may have detrimental impacts on the development and financing of such lines.”

Therefore FERC asks:

  • Has industry largely adapted to current policy in the time since the technical conference?
  • Must interconnection facilities provide third-party access under an open-access transmission tariff (OATT) to ensure non-discriminatory access and just and reasonable rates?
  • Does current policy blur the line between interconnection and transmission service with respect to third-party access, creating unintended consequences?

So, what does it all mean?

Alston + Bird concludes that “the NOI could mark an early step in a major shift in the Commission’s policy towards generator interconnection,” and that “[t]he impact could be particularly pronounced in the renewable power industry, where generators are often located in remote locations at long distances from transmission systems, and are increasingly being planned and constructed on a modular, phased basis.” VNF, in turn, wraps it up like so:

“FERC will need to consider how best to balance the need to promote generation development from areas remote from the transmission grid, how to allocate costs in a way that does not promote free rider interconnections to generator lead lines, and how to reduce the regulatory burden on generation developers, among other issues.”

Comments are due June 11, 2012. View the Federal Register notice here.

“Iraq is called upon to cater for the world energy needs”

Photo by joiseyshowaa. Some rights reserved.

Photo by joiseyshowaa. Some rights reserved.

A few months after the formal end comes a formal beginning: the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) on Energy, which aims for “joint cooperation in the areas of oil production and export, natural gas, electricity, and critical energy infrastructure protection.”

The meeting, which took place on April 23, 2012, at the U.S. Department of Energy, was co-chaired by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy, and the Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. According to the joint statement released by the committee, “both sides expressed interest in making efforts to assure oil markets meet producers’ and consumers’ needs for worldwide economic growth, and recognized the bold steps Iraq has taken to increase its oil production and export.”

Regardless of what happens with Keystone XL, we’ll always have Iraq, it seems. And Iraq knows it. Says Deputy Prime Minister Shahristani, in a Special Briefing from the meeting:

“Iraq is called upon to cater for the world energy needs in the coming years, and it is expected that the world will need more energy, more hydrocarbon energy, in the coming two to three decades, and Iraq is uniquely positioned to be able to provide the world with its incremental energy needs.”

The JCC on Energy was established by the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the United States.

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish

Photo by jessicafm. 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. 20120103, Final EIS, USACE, 00, Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Navigation Improvements to the Federal Navigation Channel, Chatham County, GA and Jasper County, SC, Review Period Ends: 05/21/2012, Contact: William Bailey 912–652–5781.

EIS No. 20120104, Draft EIS (Volume 1, Volume 2), NOAA, ME, Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan, Implementation of Management Measures to Adjust the Fishery Management Program for Federally Managed Atlantic Herring Fishery, Gulf of Maine, Comment Period Ends: 06/04/2012, Contact: Paul Howard 978–465–3316.

EIS No. 20120105, Final EIS, USFS, CA, Kirkwood Meadows Power Line Reliability Project, Proposal to Construct and Operate 34.5 kilovolt Power Line, Eldorado National Forest, Amador, Eldorado, and Alpine Counties, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/21/2012, Contact: Susan A. Rodman 530–621–5298.

EIS No. 20120106, Draft EIS, NOAA, 00, Amendment 14 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan, Implementation, Comment Period Ends: 06/04/2012, Contact: Daniel S. Morris 978–281–9250.

EIS No. 20120107, Final EIS, BLM, OR, John Day Basin Resource Management Plan, To Provide Direction for Managing Public Lands in Central and Eastern Oregon, Prineville District, Grant, Wheeler, Gilliam, Wasco, Sherman, Umatilla, Jefferson and Morrow Counties, OR, Review Period Ends: 05/21/2012, Contact: Monte Kuk 541–416–6700.

EIS No. 20120108, Draft EIS, BLM, CA, Ocotillo Sol Project, Proposed 100- acre Solar Photovoltaic Generation Facility, Possible Issuance of a Right-of-Way Grant, Imperial County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 07/18/2012, Contact: Noel Ludwig 760–833–7104.

EIS No. 20120109, Draft EIS, FHWA, OR, Salem River Crossing Project, Proposes to Build a Modified or New Crossing of the Willamette River in Salem, Funding, USACE Section 10 and 404 Permits, Marion and Polk Counties, OR, Comment Period Ends: 06/18/2012, Contact: Cindy Callahan 503–399–5749.

EIS No. 20120110, Final EIS, USFWS, CA, Sears Point Wetland and Watershed Restoration Project, To Restore Tidal Wetlands and Rehabilitate Diked Wetlands, Sonoma County, CA, Review Period Ends: 05/21/2012, Contact: Don Brubaker 707–769–4200.

EIS No. 20120111, Draft EIS, USFS, AZ, Kaibab National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, Implementation, Coconino, Yavapai, and Mojave Counties, AZ, Comment Period Ends: 07/18/2012, Contact: Ariel Leonard 928–635–8200.

EIS No. 20120112, Draft EIS, USFS, AK, Greens Creek Mine Tailings Disposal Facility Expansion, USACE Section 404 Permit, Admiralty National Monument, Tongass National Forest, Juneau, AK, Comment Period Ends: 06/04/2012, Contact: Sarah Samuelson 907–789–6202.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20120091, Second Draft Supplement (Actually Draft EIS, see below), BLM, AK, National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska (NPR–A) Integrated Activity Plan, To Determine Appropriate Management BLM-Administrated Lands in the NPR–A, North Slope Borough, AK, Comment Period Ends: 05/29/2012, Contact: Jim Ducker 907–271–3130. Revision to FR Notice Published 3/30/2012; Correction to Document Status from Second Draft Supplemental to Draft and Change Comment Period from 05/29/2012 to 06/01/2012.

EIS No. 20120098, Draft EIS, USAF, 00, F–35A Operational Basing, Beddown and Operation of F–35A Aircraft for the Combat Air Forces at One or More Locations throughout the Contiguous U.S. from 2015 through 2020, Comment Period Ends: 06/01/2012, Contact: Nicholas Germanos 757–764–5994. Revision to FR Notice Published 4/13/2012; Change Comment Period Ends from 06/04/2012 to 06/01/2012.

Powering the Cloud

Photo by Michael Graham Richard. Some rights reserved.

As technology companies expand their cloud storage services, data servers around the country are expanding and increasing their energy consumption. Several media and advocacy groups have taken note of these huge facilities’ power usage, and this week Apple has come under the microscope. Grist raises concerns over Apple’s new data center in Maiden, N.C., citing Greenpeace estimates that the facility will draw 100 megawatts of power, and noting that its power provider, Duke Energy, is “coal-heavy.”

Their criticism is based on Greenpeace statistics estimating the portion of major technology companies’ energy coming from coal. In terms of overall reliance on coal, Apple is in the lead at 55%, above rival cloud service providers Microsoft (39%), Amazon (33%), and Google (28%). A map compiling related Greenpeace data shows 52 of the largest data centers in the country and how reliant they are on coal.

Apple, for its part, highlights its planned construction of on-site renewable energy plants near the Maiden, N.C. center, to include a solar farm and fuel cell installation from which it plans to generate 60% of the center’s energy needs. They would not be the first to explore new strategies for powering their data centers, though. As we have previously posted, in a data center in Taiwan, Google runs cooling systems at night to chill liquid coolant for use during the following day. The nighttime electricity is cheaper due to low demand, and the reduced daytime electricity usage eases pressure on Taiwan’s electrical grid.

To better appreciate the energy accounting of “cloud” storage, I would like to see an examination of the efficiency cost or gain of outsourcing our data storage from individually-powered hard drives in our homes around the country to a few massive data centers thousands of miles away.

“In response to a court deadline…”

“In response to a court deadline,” the EPA yesterday finalized the long-awaited (and long-dreaded, by some) rules that aim to reduce air pollution from the oil and natural gas industry, including setting “the first federal air standards” for natural gas wells that are hydraulic fractured. According to the EPA, these rules are expected “to yield a nearly 95 percent reduction in [volatile organic compound] emissions from more than 11,000 new hydraulically fractured gas wells each year.”

Back in August of 2011, when we covered the release of the proposed rules, the EPA was supposed to finalize the rules by February 28, 2012. However, prompted by the outpouring of public comments on the release – including requests to extend the comment period – the litigants agreed to a 35-day extension, pushing out the deadline to April 3, 2012 (um…a few weeks ago, by my count).

Plaintiff WildEarth Guardians was understandably pleased at the news.

More analysis of the new rules can be found on The Hill’s Energy & Environment Blog.

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