Archive for January, 2013

China Is “All Out of Love” For Its Air Supply

Photo by Erik Charlton. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Erik Charlton. Some rights reserved.

Last summer, we reported on a Twitter account operated from the U.S. embassy in Beijing (@BeijingAir) which tweets hourly reports on the air quality levels in Beijing. We noted in our report that the Chinese government was hoping to get the account shut down and, while it is still up and running at the time of writing this, a cursory glance at any of its tweets makes it easy to see why. The pollutant levels are almost always deemed “Hazardous,” and at certain times, the quality is pushed into the category “Beyond Index,” which, to me, is utterly terrifying.

This week, the AP reported extensively on the worsening air quality in Beijing and northern China in general, where thick blankets of hazardous smog got so bad this week that airports were forced to cancel flights due to poor visibility, and 103 factories were also temporarily shut down by the Beijing government to prevent further pollution of the air. Hospitals saw a 30% increase in patients seeking treatment for respiratory issues over the past month. In some areas, visibility in the streets was less than 100 meters, causing landmarks and skyscrapers to disappear behind the curtain of fog.

The U.S. embassy Twitter account monitors PM2.5, a fine particle pollution of less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, and posted an hourly high of 526 micrograms per cubic meter, which is more than 20 times higher than the maxim set by World Health Organization safety levels. Even the figure reported by the Beijing city government (which consistently reports levels lower than those reported by @BeijingAir) for the same hour block was 433 micrograms per cubic meter, still considered highly dangerous by the WHO. A poll created by Chinese real estate mogul Pan Shiyi calling for a Chinese Clean Air Act to deal with some of these issues and prevent the situation from worsening even further received over 32,000 affirmative votes in under 10 hours.

Last Week in Online Environmental Impact Statements: Volcanoes

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.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

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EIS No. 20130009, Final EIS, NPS, HI, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Project, Protecting and Restoring Native Ecosystems by Managing Non-Native Ungulates, Hawaii County, HI, Review Period Ends: 02/25/2013, Contact: Rhonda Loh 808–986–6098. Website.

EIS No. 20130010, Draft EIS, BLM, CO, Grand Junction Field Office Resource Management Plan, Mesa, Garfield, Montrose and Rio Blanco Counties, CO, Comment Period Ends: 04/25/2013, Contact: Collin Ewing 970–244–3627. Website.

EIS No. 20130011, Draft EIS, NPS, TX, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Off-Road Management Plan, TX, Comment Period Ends: 03/26/2013, Contact: Arlene Wimer 806–857–0300. Website.

EIS No. 20130012, Draft EIS, USFS, MT, Blackfoot Travel Plan, Lincoln Ranger District, Helena National Forest, Lewis and Clark and Powell Counties, MT, Comment Period Ends: 03/11/2013, Contact: Amber Kamps 406–362–7002. Website.

EIS No. 20130013, Final EIS, USFS, ID, Scriver Creek Integrated Restoration Project, Emmett Ranger District, Boise National Forest, Boise and Valley Counties, ID, Review Period Ends: 03/12/2013, Contact: Randal Hayman 208–373–4157. Website.

EIS No. 20130014, Final EIS, FHWA, 00, Illiana Corridor Project Tier One Transportation System Improvements, Will and Kankakee Counties, IL and Lake County, IN, Contact: J. Michael Bowen 217–492–4600. Website.

EIS No. 20130015, Draft Supplement, FHWA, CA, Mid County Parkway, a new Freeway from the City of Perris to the City of San Jacinto, Riverside County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 03/11/2013, Contact: Larry Vinzant 916–498–5040. Website.

 

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20090231, Draft EIS, BIA, CA, Point Molate Mixed-Use Tribal Destination Resort and Casino, Proposed Project is to Strengthen the Tribal Government and Improve the Social Economic Status, Guidiville Band of Pomo Indian of the Guidiville Rancheria (Tribe), City of Richmond, Contra Costa County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 10/23/2009, Contact: Larry Blevin 916–978–6037. Revision to FR Notice Published 10/09/2009; The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has Officially Cancelled the above project. Website.

EIS No. 20120369, Draft EIS, NOAA, CA, Authorization of Incidental Take and Implementation of the Mendocino Redwood Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation and Timber Management Plan, Mendocino County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 04/22/2013, Contact: Eric Shott 707–575–6089. Revision to FR Notice Published 11/23/2012; Extending Comment Period from 02/21/2013 to 04/22/2013. Website.

EIS No. 20120383, Draft EIS, USACE, CA, Gregory Canyon Landfill, Application for Permit Authorizing Discharge of Fill in U.S. Waters, San Diego County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 04/15/2013, Contact: William H. Miller 602–230–6954. Revision to FR Notice Published 11/23/2012; Extending Comment Period from 02/21/2013 to 04/22/2013. Website.

Climate Assessment Report to Direct Policy Debate

Photo by ~sunny2001bj, some rights reserved.

At the Green Mien we focus on policy that affects the energy industry, but today we have the opportunity to examine a document whose findings will direct policy discussions for years to come. The U.S. National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, required by a 1990 law to submit a report to the President and Congress every four years summarizing the current scientific understanding of climate change and its impacts, released a draft Climate Assessment Report open for public review until April. (Thanks to Osler for their Update on the draft Report).

It’s pretty bulky – over a thousand pages – so maybe you could read it in the three-month comment period. It covers thirty topics, including climate change’s impact on health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, and profiles of particular regions. The draft Report concludes that climate change due to human activity is to some degree inevitable, and that we should focus on mitigation efforts. Namely, economic and health challenges should be front and center, and that companies or states can find new economic opportunities if they recognize and overcome climate challenges.

Mildly critical of the U.S. legislative approach to reducing emissions enough to significantly mitigate climate change’s momentum, the draft Report identifies a model where the most effective state and federal efforts could serve as “best practices” to guide further legislative changes.

In addition, the scope of the Report’s impact will extend to the policy debate in Canada, as the Government of Canada continues to work with the U.S. in climate policy. They are positioned to benefit from the Report’s analysis of climate change’s impact on infrastructure even down to the municipal level, and on health, recreation, and agriculture, because the challenges faced by Canada are relatively similar.

Coming Down the Pipe

Photo by Carl Chapman. Some rights reserved.

Just days after the pomp and circumstance of the Inauguration, President Obama is being confronted with a renewed push to make a decision on one of the more divisive environmental issues of his presidency – the Keystone pipline. On Tuesday, Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska approved new revisions to the pipeline route through the state, which became the last of the six states along the route to approve the plan. The President had previously delayed the approval process due to concerns about the Nebraska route, including possible effects on nearby water supplies in the event of a spill. A group of 53 Senators sent a letter to Obama encouraging swift approval of the  new plan.

One piece of the puzzle is still missing – an environmental review of the plan by the State Department is still underway and is expected to be completed sometime in March. While that review is separate, the approval from Nebraska at the state level has increased pressure to resolve the situation.

Last Week in Online Environmental Impact Statements: Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plans

Photo by Tree Leaf Clover. 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.

UPDATE: Starting October 1, 2012, EPA will not accept paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

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Draft EISs

EIS No. 20130002, Draft EIS, NRCS, 00, Henrys Fork Salinity Control Project Plan, Irrigation Improvements, Sweetwater and Uinta Counties, WY and Daggett and Summit Counties, WY, Comment Period Ends: 03/04/2013, Contact: Astrid Martinez 307–233–6750. Website.

EIS No. 20130003, Draft EIS, NPS, CA, Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan, Yosemite National Park, CA, Comment Period Ends: 03/18/2013, Contact: Kathleen Morse 209–379–1270. Website.

EIS No. 20130005, Draft EIS, NPS, CA, Merced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan, Yosemite National Park, CA, Comment Period Ends: 04/18/2013, Contact: Kathleen Morse 209–579–1270. Website.

EIS No. 20130007, Draft EIS, BLM, NV, Arturo Mine Project, Development, Elko County, NV, Comment Period Ends: 03/04/2013, Contact: John Daniel 775–753–0277. Website.

 

Final EISs

EIS No. 20130004, Final EIS, NOAA, 00, Issuing Annual Quotas to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC) for a Subsistence Hunt on Bowhead Whales for the Years 2013 through 2017/2018, Contact: Steven K. Davis 907–271–3523. Website.

EIS No. 20130006, Final EIS, NRC, MI, Enrico Fermi Unit 3 Combined License (COL) Application, Construction and Operation of a Power Reactor, U.S. Corp of Engineer 10 and 404 Permits, NUREG–2105, Monroe County, MI, Contact: Bruce Olson 301–415–3731. Website.

EIS No. 20130008, Final EIS, NPS, 00, Blue Ridge Parkway General Management Plan, Implementation, Virginia and North Carolina, Contact: Chris Church 303–969–2276. Website.

 

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20120362, Draft EIS, BLM, CA, Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project, Mono County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 01/15/2013, Contact: Collin Reinhardt 760–872–5024. Revision to FR Notice Published 11/16/2012; Extending Comment Period from 01/15/2013 to 01/30/2013. Website.

Salazar Departs Interior, Remembered for Advancing Renewables

Photo by Bob Johnson, USFWS Mountain Prairie, some rights reserved.

Photo by Bob Johnson, USFWS Mountain Prairie, some rights reserved.

One of the stars of the Green Mien since its inception has been Ken Salazar, Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, who announced he would be leaving Washington to return to his home in Colorado in March. He focused Interior on renewable energy and reorganized the formerly scandal-ridden agency into three agencies with clear and separate functions. We have written about his hand in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, in developing oil drilling plans in Alaska, in offshore oil and gas oversight, and much more.

The White House has given no indication as to who might succeed him, and combined with the departure of EPA’s administrator Lisa Jackson and DOE’s Steven Chu, continuity of the Obama Administration’s policies toward energy development and climate change is in question. As these vacancies are filled, expect to read about expectations for the new administrators’ goals and policies here.

Salazar has broadened the scope of Interior’s activities from its traditional focus on mining, forestry, and oil and gas development to an emphasis on renewable energy. Since 2009, the department has authorized 34 solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects, settled a 15-year legal battle with American Indian tribes, and established seven new national parks. His handling of contentious oil and gas issues, like the Deepwater Horizon spill and allowing Shell begin exploration for oil in the Arctic, drew the most headlines.

President Obama once rebuked the famously blunt former lawyer for using cowboy language. “We have our boot on their neck to make sure they got the job done,” Salazar explained, referring to Interior’s oversight of BP officials in the Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup. Hopefully we’ll be able to find another character to replace him.

What the Frack?

The Associated Press revealed on Wednesday that it discovered the EPA had evidence indicating that a major drilling company was responsible for contaminating drinking water at homes near its operation. When the EPA moved against the company, however, it threatened not to cooperate in a large-scale study of fracking within the industry. Soon after, the EPA ceased investigative activity directly targeting the company. Yet at one point, the agency was so concerned about the local water quality that it issued an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order regarding the situation. The order was later retracted.

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