Posted July 5, 2017
Earlier this year we posted about the lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and how that could delay important energy infrastructure projects across the country – including a number of natural gas pipelines that would help distribute gas and its benefits to consumers, businesses, manufacturers and power generators.
The issue then was making nominations to fill vacancies to the five-member body, which has lacked a quorum to take official actions since January. Now the issue is the U.S. Senate taking timely action to confirm two nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, who were approved by the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee last month. With the recent departure of Commissioner Colette Honorable, FERC currently has just one remaining member, Acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur.
The Senate needs to move swiftly – to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the U.S. infrastructure system, and to help advance broad economic benefits.
Posted May 5, 2015
During months of public discussion of improving the safety of transporting crude oil by rail, we’ve stressed the need to let science and fact-based analysis guide development of a holistic strategy that would have the best chance of producing tangible safety benefits.
Unfortunately, new rules published last week by the Transportation Department – featuring requirements for sturdier tank cars and electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes – are a mixed bag that will do little to prevent derailments in the first place.
Instead of working to ensure the integrity of the tracks and to eliminate human error as much as possible, both of which would help prevent accidents from occurring, it seems federal officials at times opted for the optics of appearing to make progress. In the case of the ECP brakes, it’s a technology that experts say doesn’t significantly improve safety – which is the goal. To add to the 99.99 percent safety record in the transport of hazardous materials by rail, a more comprehensive approach that focuses more attention on prevention is needed.
Posted April 20, 2015
A couple of important points on Arctic energy development from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska at an event hosted recently by CSIS:
- The biggest obstacle to U.S. development of its Arctic energy reserves is the U.S.
- Development of Arctic energy resources will occur regardless of whether the United States engages in it.
- A discussion of Arctic energy must give weight to the needs and concerns of Alaskans, many of whom directly depend on energy development for the quality of their lives.
Posted January 16, 2015
Pacific Standard magazine (PS) has an interesting longread on honeybees in its January issue. While this is not our area of expertise and we can’t judge the veracity of the entire article, there was one part that we had, unfortunately, seen before:
Over a million acres of grassland were converted to crops in five Midwestern states from 2006 to 2011, according to a study by South Dakota State University. … Across the region more than 99 percent of what was originally prairie has been converted, mostly to corn and soy for animal feed, ethanol, and sweetener … Now the entire Midwest, several beekeepers told me, has become a “corn desert.” This has wrought devastation on most anything that used to live in the fields. Monarch butterflies no longer have milkweed for laying eggs. Birds no longer have insects to eat or prairie to shelter in. Native bees are disappearing.
The years 2006 to 2011 are not a coincidence, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains:
After the federal Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law in 2007, many corn growers decided to plant corn year after year to profit from higher prices, rather than switching between corn and soybeans, for example. This transition has greatly harmed air and water quality.
And apparently bees. But not to worry, the federal government is on the case.
Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 12, 2009