Archive for March, 2013

This Week in Online Environmental Impact Statements: Effects of Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic Ocean

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. 20130072, Final EIS, FHWA, AR, River Valley Intermodal Facilities, Review Period Ends: 05/13/2013, Contact: Randal Looney 501-324-6430. Website.

EIS No. 20130073, Draft Supplement, NRC, WY, Ross In-Situ Leach Recovery (ISR) Project, Supplement to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities, Comment Period Ends: 05/13/2013, Contact: Johari Moore 301-415-7694. Website.

EIS No. 20130074, Draft Supplement, FHWA, USACE, WV, King Coal Highway Delbarton to Belo Project and Buffalo Mountain Surface Mine Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Application, Comment Period Ends: 05/22/2013, Contact: Jason Workman (FHWA) 304-347-5928, Mark Taylor (USACE) 304-399-5610, Ben Hark (WVDOT) 304-558-2885. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of the Army’s Corps of Engineers and the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways are Joint-Lead Agencies for this project. Website.

EIS No. 20130075, Draft Supplement, NMFS, AK, Effects of Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic Ocean, Comment Period Ends: 05/28/2013, Contact: Candace Nachman 301-427-8401. Website.

EIS No. 20130076, Draft EIS, USFS, AZ, Four-Forest Restoration Initiative Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, Comment Period Ends: 05/29/2013, Contact: Henry Provencio (928) 226-4684. Website.

EIS No. 20130077, Draft EIS, NPS, TX, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area and Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument Draft General Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 05/28/2013, Contact: Erin Flanagan 303-969-2327. Website.

EIS No. 20130078, Final EIS, USFS, MT, Jack Rabbit to Big Sky Meadow Village 161 kV Transmission Line Upgrade, Review Period Ends: 04/29/2013, Contact: Amy Waring 406-255-1451. Website.

EIS No. 20130079, Draft EIS, BLM, MT, Billings and Pompeys Pillar National Monument Resource Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 06/27/2013, Contact: Carolyn Sherve-Bybee 406-896-5234. Website.

More Fracking Squabbles in Wyoming

Photo by Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking dealt a blow to Wyoming denizens (Wyomingites?) seeking specific information on chemicals currently being pumped into the ground that could be potentially harmful to the environment. Essentially, the court in Casper ruled in favor of the state of Wyoming, which already has the sought-after intelligence about these chemicals (thanks to a 2010 rule in which Wyoming became one of the first states to require fracking companies to disclose their ingredients to the state government) but refuses to share this information with the general public.

A bit of background: the chemicals in question are used by mining companies to lubricate the cracks in the earth created by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), so that loose sand will pour in and hold the cracks open, to more easily access the natural gases beneath. Environmentalists across the globe have grave concerns about the environmental consequences of fracking, as readers of this blog already know. Wyoming itself is already on red alert with the EPA regarding what kind of permanent damage is being done by fracking to its groundwater. So, the demand by environmental groups to publicly release the ingredients of these fracking fluids does not seem inherently unreasonable to me, and yet the court found otherwise, on the grounds that the ingredients are trade secrets that are protected from disclosure under Wyoming’s open records laws. Environmentalists argue that they have strong claims to the information, as it could help prevent irreversible pollution damage.

While environmentalist groups debate taking the case to a higher court, James Fallow, in a fascinating Q&A with the Atlantic, argues that asteroid mining within the next century could save the environment.

This Week in Online Environmental Impact Statements: Proposed Modernization

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.

* * *

EIS No. 20130064, Final Supplement, USFS, AK, Bell Island Geothermal Leases, Review Period Ends: 04/22/2013, Contact: Sarah Samuelson 907–789–6274. Website.

EIS No. 20130065, Draft EIS, BLM, MT, HiLine District Draft Resource Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 06/20/2013, Contact: Brian Hockett (406) 262–2837. Website.

EIS No. 20130066, Final EIS, USN, GA, Proposed Modernization and Expansion of Townsend Bombing Range, Review Period Ends: 04/22/2013, Contact: Veronda Johnson 571–256–2783. Website.

EIS No. 20130067, Draft EIS, WAPA, ND, Wilton IV Wind Energy Center, Comment Period Ends: 05/06/2013, Contact: Rod O’Sullivan 720–962–7260. Website.

EIS No. 20130068, Draft EIS (Currently unable to locate.), USACE, CA, Berryessa Creek Project, Comment Period Ends: 05/06/2013, Contact: Tyler Stalker 916–557–5107. Website.

EIS No. 20130069, Final Supplement, FHWA, WA, I–90 Snoqualmie Pass East, Avalanche Structures, Contact: Liana Liu 360–753–9553. Website.

EIS No. 20130070, Draft EIS, WAPA, USFWS, 00, PROGRAMMATIC—Upper Great Plains Wind Energy, Comment Period Ends: 05/21/2013, Contact: Mark Wieringa 720–962–7448. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service are Joint Lead Agencies for this project. Website.

EIS No. 20130071, Draft EIS (Not yet available online. Check back here for updates.), BLM, NV, Pan Mine Project, Comment Period Ends: 05/07/2013, Contact: Miles Kreidler 775–289–1893. Website.

Amended Notices

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: 04/10/2013, Contact: Larry Vinzant 916–498–5040. Revision to FR Notice Published 01/25/2013 and 03/08/2013; Extending Comment Period to 04/10/2013. Website.

A Sideways Glance at the Ethanol Boom

Photo by roger4336. Some rights reserved.

Photo by roger4336. Some rights reserved.

“Ethanol is ethanol is ethanol.” A biology professor in college used this maxim to dispel the popular myth that drinking different kinds of alcohol has a different effect on one’s mental state. But what else is ethanol? Well, of course, it’s a fuel additive, and one that’s become drastically more popular in the last ten years, so much so that it’s led to an “ethanol boom.”

The New York Times reports this week that land prices in the American heartland are hitting thirty-year highs, as crop prices (corn and soy, in particular) keep ticking up, due largely to an increasing demand for ethanol, both domestically and abroad. As such, farmers across America’s fertile plains are putting their land up for sale, both to other farmers looking to expand or to outside investors interested in a taste, unable to resist the unreal prices.

But what happens when the ethanol boom ends? Reports from the end of last year seemed to suggest that the high international demand for ethanol is a fleeting concept, and is forecasted to begin steadily dropping off, as the amount used as a fuel additive in gasoline (one of its most popular uses here in the U.S.) is already reaching federal limits, and gasoline consumption wanes overall. The high farmland prices that we’re seeing now hold dangerous consequences for those over-zealous folks who rushed to buy more land may be hit with a sudden decrease in land prices and leave their creditors with heavy debts.

Meanwhile, ThinkProgress takes a look at the issue from another angle, in how the steep corn prices are strangling the already stuggling biofuel industry and what it means for sustainable energy.

This Week in Online Environmental Impact Statements: Roca Honda

 

Photo by ed g2s. 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.

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.

* * *

EIS No. 20130057, Final EIS, USFWS, CA, Llano Seco Riparian Sanctuary Unit Restoration and Pumping Plant/Fish Screen Facility Protection Project, Review Period Ends: 04/15/2013, Contact: Kelly Moroney 530–934–2801. Website and website.

EIS No. 20130058, Final Supplement, NPS, WY, Yellowstone National Park Winter Use Plan, Review Period Ends: 04/15/2013, Contact: Wade Vagias 307–344–2035. Website.

EIS No. 20130059, Draft EIS, USFWS, ID, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan, Comment Period Ends: 05/15/2013, Contact: Jennifer Brown-Scott 208–467–9278. Website.

EIS No. 20130060, Draft EIS, DOE, CO, PROGRAMMATIC—Draft Uranium Leasing Program, Comment Period Ends: 05/16/2013, Contact: Ray Plieness 303–410–4806. Website.

EIS No. 20130061, Draft EIS, USFS, OR, McKay Fuels and Vegetation Management Project, Comment Period Ends: 04/29/2013, Contact: Marcy Anderson 541–419–0517. Website.

EIS No. 20130062, Draft EIS, USFS, NM, Roca Honda Mine Project, Exploration and Mine Development, Cibola National Forest, Comment Period Ends: 05/14/2013, Contact: Diane Tafoya 505–346–3809. Website.

EIS No. 20130063, Final EIS, CALTRAN, CA, Tier 1—State Route 180 Westside Expressway, Review Period Ends: 04/15/2013, Contact: Kelly Hobbs 559–445–5286. Website.

Fracking Updates in NY, IL, and MN

Probably not the best sand for fracking. Photo by Sharon Mooney, some rights reserved.

A quick update on fracking regulations at the state level around the country: The New York State Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing, which must now go before the Senate, then Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bill also would require the State University of New York to conduct a review of high volume fracking. The Assembly’s bill follows similar moratoria passed in 2010 and 2011 that went nowhere in the Senate; however, the political makeup of the Senate makes the bill’s passage more likely this year.

Governor Cuomo’s administration is awaiting its own health impact study of fracking before proceeding with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s fracking regulations. This regulatory review process has already resulted in what is essentially a five-year ban on fracking. DLA Piper, whose memo gives the details on the moratorium, sees the prospects for shale gas production in New York to be low.

In contrast, Illinois, after five months of negotiations between environmental groups and the energy industry, has worked out draft regulations on fracking. The Natural Resources Defense Council stepped in to ensure that drillers were liable for water pollution and that they disclosed the chemical makeup of fracking fluid, among other safeguards.

The makeup of the fracking fluid that is injected to extract shale gas has been a hot topic recently, but a few Minnesota towns are making news by rejecting Minnesota Proppant’s proposal to open a sand processing and rail-loading facility. The sand near St. Charles Township in southeastern Minnesota is just the right size and strength to wedge open cracks just enough for natural gas to escape. And after St. Charles Township rejected their proposal, next-door St. Charles did the same. Supposedly Wisconsin has been more pro-sand mining in the past, but there is some evidence that it might not be smooth sailing there, either, as the town of Bridge Creek rejected similar plans for a sand mine there.

Update from the Great Soon-To-Be-Not-Quite-As-White North

Photo by wikimedia/PMX. Some rights reserved.

Photo by wikimedia/PMX. Some rights reserved.

You’ve heard of Canada. Exporters of the finest maple syrups, snow-dusted land of elk and hockey, America’s sun hat (and just to be clear, that was an intentional “land of milk and honey” joke). When last we checked in with the great white north, the government of Alberta was setting up advanced techniques to monitor oil sands, in anticipation of the “infamously stalled” Keystone Pipeline (more on that here).

Now it appears that, in the face of a recent “lobbying blitz” by Canadian officials in support of that dastardly Keystone XL, the necessary voice of opposition is on its way to Washington. Yes, Tom Mulcair (leader of the Official Opposition in Canadian government, which is currently his New Democratic Party) will arrive in D.C. this week to oppose recent claims by the Canadian government (whom he says is “playing people for fools”) that Canada is only backing the Keystone project because it’s not as bad for the climate and the environment as its opponents claim it is. Muclair argues that these statements are fundamentally dishonest, as Canada’s environmental record is spottier than officials claim (they are the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, and fail to meet the emission targets set at Copenhagen).

President Obama, who holds the omnipotent decision power on the Keystone project because it crosses country borders, has so far indicated that he is leanings towards scrapping Keystone, even as its proponents argue that this would result in a huge loss of potential jobs in the energy market.

However, as we also learn this week that 20% of Canada’s glaciers could melt by the year 2100 if the global average temperature rises 5.4 degrees or more in the interim time (a rate that fits with projected models), it seems to me that doing everything we can to protect Canada’s majestic natural beauty is in our own best interest! After all, a loss of all that glacial ice would result in a 1.4 inch rise in global sea levels, and we’ve discussed how that kind of change could negatively affect all sorts of other things.

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