Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Obama Will Use Nixon-Era Law to Fight Climate Change

Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.

In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.

Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.

Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.

The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).

In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.

So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.

Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.

Queue a big political fight on this one.

President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.

The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.

It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.

In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Via the excellent Bloomberg.com

North Carolina Bill Aims to Send Signal on Future Shale Development

North Carolina politician Buck Newton is bent on submitting to oil and gas companies. Local media has soured on the Republican, yet NC residents remain silent. The bill (in part) exempts oil and gas frackers from regular permitting procedures, such as avoiding pollution monitoring. Faster drill permits means faster fracking development for the state. (I also note that Duke Energy, which contributed to Buck Newton’s campaign, is lobbying to raise electricity rates. In other words, drillers want free money from two sources - free gas from drilling, and free money from residents’ electric bills. Clever.).

North Carolina hopes recent legislation introduced into its general assembly will send a “very clear signal” to oil and gas companies that the state wants shale gas exploration in the state, a state representative told Rigzone in an interview Monday.

State Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton, the sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 76, the Domestic Energy Jobs Act, told Rigzone that, while the ban on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has been lifted, the state hopes to provide certainty to the energy industry by fixing a specific date in which permits for shale gas drilling can be pulled.

Newton, who represents Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties in eastern North Carolina, introduced the bill last week. SB 76, which would authorize the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue permits for oil and gas exploration and production, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, on or after March 1, 2015.

North Carolina officials hope to send a signal in two ways – one, that the legislature is very serious about pursuing shale exploration, and two, that the state is working “with all deliberate and purposeful speed” to get itself ready to issue permits.

Early indicators show North Carolina to have shale gas reserves that may be on the order of the Fayetteville play in Arkansas, with approximately 1.4 million surface acres with shale deposits of an average thickness of 200 feet. North Carolina has three basins with shale potential. The Deep River Basin, the one that is most talked about, has wet gas reserves.

Via Rigzone

U.S. Regulator Halts Nuclear-Plant Licensing

Interesting. But, how many companies are affected? I can’t imagine very many.

thenuclearblog:

Court Rules That NRC Can No Longer Accept Assurances a Permanent Waste Repository Is Coming

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it would stop issuing licenses for nuclear plants until it addresses problems with its nuclear-waste policy that were raised by a recent federal appeals court decision.

click here to continue reading…

Finally, the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline is approved. The pipeline will transport tar sands oil from Canada to Texas to be refined into fuel and chemicals, them (mostly) shipped and sold on the international market. Only a portion of the oil and refined products will go to American industries and gas stations. TransCanada, a foreign company, will temporarily hire both foreign and American workers to build the pipeline, some of it on land taken via eminent domain.

On Friday, TransCanada received the last of three permits it needed from the Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction on the 485-mile stretch of pipeline.

The permits dealt a blow to efforts by national environmental groups to slow the momentum behind the southern leg of the project — now also known as the Gulf Coast project. Those groups, including Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, have urged their Texas supporters to send comments to the Army Corps, which governs pipeline permits there. The groups have highlighted dangers linked to wetlands and rivers.

But the Army Corps have moved ahead.

Excellent reporting via Washington Post: TransCanada gets key go-ahead for final southern leg of pipeline project

Canadian gold mining company asks government to ignore aboriginal "spirituality" and culture while reviewing mining permits

They’ll probably win their request. They also ask the Canadian government to ban prayers and children’s plays at public hearings. The mining company states that permit review should only include “objective facts.” They have a point.

A new federal environmental review panel “does not have any right to attribute significance to the spirituality of a place per se,” wrote Taseko Mines Ltd. president Russell Hallbauer in a letter obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to The Vancouver Sun by B.C. independent provincial representative Bob Simpson.

Last year, the mining company was denied a mining permit. The company went to court to force the government to reconsider the permit, but lost. But, all is not lost for the poor mining company! In addition to weakening the permit review standards, which take native Indian rights into consideration, they’re lobbying the Canadian government to change federal environmental laws all together. After the lawsuit was lost, and the company lobbied some more, the Canadian government will now allow review of a revised permit application.

Stephen Harper’s government is acceptingly being sodomized by oil, gas, and mining companies, which means that the Canadian government is not just gutting environmental laws, it’s obliterating them. The mining company will eventually win their permit to mine for gold and copper - they’ll just have to plant some trees and hire a few natives.

To my mind, this mess reveals major weaknesses of Canada’s progressive voters, environmental activists, and environmental lobbyists. As a result of this disorganization, environmental laws in Canada are bought and sold on the free market right under everyone’s noses.

How to stop fishermen fishing

"Fishermen generally understand the risks of overfishing. Yet still they flout quotas, where they exist. That is often because they take a short-term view of the asset—they would rather cash in now and invest the money in something else. And it is invariably compounded by a commons-despoiling feeling that if they don’t plunder, others will.

In most fisheries, the fishermen would make more money by husbanding their resource, and it should be possible to incentivise them to do so. The best way is to give them a defined, long-term right to a share of the fish. In regulated industrial fisheries, as in Iceland, New Zealand and America, this has taken the form of a tradable, individual share of a fishing quota. Developing countries, where law enforcement is weak, seem to do better when a group right over an expanse of water is given to a co-operative or village fleet. The principle is the same: fishermen who feel like owners are more likely to behave as responsible stewards. The new statistical study confirms that rights-based fisheries are generally healthier.”

Read more about rights-based fishing at The Economist

Wind Turbine Energy Applications Process Streamlined in MD/VA/NJ/DE

On February 2nd, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau announced that BOEM’s National Environmental Policy Act assessment found that there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast, allowing Interior to move forward with the process for wind energy lease sales off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.

BOEM also published Calls for Information and Nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations from industry and request public comments regarding site conditions, resources and multiple uses of the Wind Energy Areas.

Additionally, BOEM announced the finalization of a first-of-its-kind lease form that will help streamline the issuance of renewable energy leases on the OCS. The lease form will be effective 15 days following publication in the Federal Register at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.

     -  The Notice of Availability of the environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact are available through the Federal Register at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.

     -  For more information and links for the Maryland call, see: http://www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Press-Releases/2011/press02022012(2).aspx. For more information and links for the Virginia call, see: http://www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Press-Releases/2011/press02022012.aspx.

     -  Additional information, including summaries of the public comments received and the Bureau’s response to those comments is available at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Regulatory-Information/Index.aspx.”

Sources: Dept of Interior, CSO

The National Marine Fisheries Service has released the "Effects of Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic Ocean" Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The report analyzes the impacts of oil and gas offshore exploration activities (including drilling) in Federal and state waters of the U.S. Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
NOAA Fisheries invited comments and input from the public, organizations and interest groups, local governments, and Federal and state agencies on issues surrounding the proposal, including input on the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts that should be considered in the EIS. Comments on the draft report will be accepted at public hearings, email arcticeis.comments@noaa.gov, and mail during the public comment period. Comments will be accepted through February 28, 2012. The full draft report and information about upcoming public hearings are available on the project website at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/arctic.htm.
 

"A snake charmer in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was angry that the government did not grant him a plot of land to keep his reptiles. So he went into the state’s tax office and released a slew of snakes, including poisonous cobras. From The Telegraph:

Workers stood on chairs and shook table clothes at the hissing reptiles as excited crowds gathered outside.

Hakkul later told reporters that a district magistrate had promised him a plot of land for his snakes two years ago.

"I am a conservationist and have been seeking the government’s help. Having waited patiently for so long, I had no option but to leave all my snakes in this office."

Telegraph via Boing Boing