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The FERC and the USACE Sign MOU on Hydropower Development.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enable hydropower development at the USACE’s federal facilities, to synchronize each agency’s permitting process.

The MOU, which is an update to the previous MOU signed by the agencies in 2011, offers a more streamlined approach for project developers in an effort to improve efficiency within the FERC and USACE processes and to reduce permitting times, providing a single document and ensuring more certainty and less risk.

“The potential for hydropower development in this country is significant, particularly at existing Corps facilities,” said FERC Chairman Norman Bay. “Today’s MOU is a positive step toward the development of these resources. Thank you to the Corps for their commitment to working with us to streamline our processes.”

“This strengthened collaboration between FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers advances the Obama
Administration’s work to transition to a clean energy economy, and reduce carbon pollution,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “This synchronized approach will shorten the time it takes the private sector to develop and construct new hydropower, and will help us more efficiently use our existing infrastructure. It is also advancing our efforts to find alternative ways to finance new infrastructure.”

The synchronized approach has two phases – an environmental review phase followed by an in-depth technical, engineering and safety review phase. During Phase 1, the developer, FERC staff and Corps staff will meet early to discuss the developer’s proposal and the information needed to support the agencies’ permitting decisions. The environmental effects of the proposed project will be evaluated up front through a single, joint environmental document and a FERC license will be issued.

Phase 2 will include the developer coordinating with FERC and Corps staff to prepare a final project design and submitting that design to the Commission and the Corps. Once all of the Corps’ preconstruction requirements have been completed and the Commission receives the Corps’ written construction approval, the Commission will authorize the construction phase of the project.

Currently, the FERC issues preliminary permits and licenses to non-federal entities for the development of hydropower projects, including projects utilizing federal dams or other federal facilities, while the Corps operates water resources projects throughout the nation where potential exists for the development of hydropower and allows the development of hydropower at suitable projects. The updated MOU will simplify the permitting processes, leaving less room for error and provide an expedited timeline for the construction projects to get underway.


Source:
FERC News Release
Lexology


The Importance of a Company Culture.

Building a positive company culture leads to successful business performance, and a positive outlook on the job overall. At EDGE, we attempt to foster that growth through our core values. We are striving to build an internal company culture that reflects these values, to define every aspect of the business we conduct, and to continue growing towards our goal of becoming the leader in environmental consulting services. Our Mission at EDGE is to deliver responsive service and meaningful solutions to avoid, reduce and eliminate our clients’ environmental challenges. 

Our Core Values Are:

Excellence
We strive to become one of the most sought-after providers of environmental engineering and scientific consulting services.

Service
We endeavor to meet or exceed the expectations of our clients in all aspects of their environmental compliance program.

Encouragement
We promote a collegial atmosphere in which all individuals are encouraged to learn, improve and excel and to become leaders in the consulting, business and civic communities.

Diversity
We encourage diversity among our members and respect for differences among us.

Supportive
We work continuously to enhance the supportive attitude, common bond and collective sense of humor ― the special working atmosphere ― which is a hallmark of our firm.

Community
We pursue our belief that individuals with a sense of family and community and with interests outside the company are better for it.

Embracing these values will lead us closer to our common goal, of being the best in our field for our clients.


Join EDGE at the 28th Annual Texas Environmental Superconference.

This year’s Texas Environmental Superconference offers an exciting opportunity to hear leading experts discuss case law updates and the most significant environmental issues impacting our industry. EDGE looks forward to meeting and collaborating with our peers to shed light on the implications and challenges associated with new regulatory policies and discussing solutions to successfully deliver projects.

We hope to see you in Austin and look forward to providing further insight.

28th Annual Texas Environmental Superconference
Austin, Texas | August 4-5


EPA Keeping an Eye on Excess Emissions of Toxic Air Pollutants.

Based on their review of recent monitoring data, the EPA has concluded that facilities are releasing more air toxics than they are reporting. The EPA believes that the emission excess is primarily due to faulty or leaky equipment, or improper operation of the machinery.

Since 2004, the EPA has worked to address the issue of excess toxic air. The EPA plans to continue this initiative in the years 2017-19, by expanding it to include air emissions from large product storage tanks and hazardous waste generators and treatment, and storage and disposal facilities. The EPA’s effort will include leak detection and repair requirements for product storage tanks and hazardous waste tanks, surface impoundments or containers, as well as related waste treatment equipment.

As an industry partner, EDGE provides impactful solutions to successfully navigate EPA’s regulations. Let us work with you to put a plan in place to make the process streamlined and seamless, such as evaluating how regulatory changes will impact existing or new projects, analyze how existing or future projects can be designed and operated to avoid being subject to a new rule or program, as well as provide assistance with preparing any documentation that is required by a new rule or program. EDGE also provides ongoing support during the implementation of new procedures and practices, to comply with the new requirements and can negotiate with federal and state agencies to minimize the compliance burden.

Sources:

Cutting Hazardous Air Pollutants

Enforcing Law: [link to: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/enforcement-basic-information]

Climate, Air Quality, and Permitting Proposals for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry [link to: https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/pdfs/20150910presentation.pdf]


EDGE Partner Featured in Article

Christopher J. Colville of Edge Engineering and Science was featured on the Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia Brem LLP Law Firm website, advising oil and gas industry clients affected by the new modifications to the EPA methane emission reduction rules. Read the full article.


The EPA and the White House are suggesting major changes that could affect US businesses.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House are suggesting drastic changes to regulations that could change the way businesses function moving forward.

Hazardous waste shipments will no longer be tracked using printed long-forms, and instead will be tracked electronically (referred to as E-Manifests). This will allow regulators to make sure that hazardous waste shipments are being tracked appropriately, and it will also shed light on current businesses that are not tracking shipments as completely as they should be. This will eliminate long paper forms from over 150,000 sites. The rule was published February 2014, and will take effect in 2018.

The EPA is also planning to adjust air regulations, instituting a new national ozone standard of 70 parts per billion. After reviewing photochemical oxidants and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), it was noted that this change is necessary to protect public health and welfare. This change will affect both small and big businesses alike, and will make it tougher to have permits approved. Not only that, but the EPA is also looking to cut down on air toxics emissions across landfills, aluminum plants, brick and clay ceramics, and cement manufacturers.

Additionally, for the first time in 40 years, chemical safety laws will change. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) will be reformed, which will allow the EPA to identify and restrict additional chemicals from being allowed at job sites. Meaning the 83,000 chemicals recorded on the TSCA list will increase, in an effort to create more safety and protection.

Finally, although the EPA signed the Clean Water Rule in June of last year, it has seen much opposition on the state level, with multiple states filing lawsuits against the EPA to prevent the changes from taking place. The Rule protects wetlands, prairie potholes, Delmarva bays, vernal pools and irrigation and supply ditches from contamination. Although the ruling was supposed to go into effect in August of 2015, it is currently stalled until a verdict is reached in federal court.

Other rules taking effect are water treatment plants monitoring for additional contaminants and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit holders submitting their reports electronically, rather than in printed form.

Sources: Hazardous Waste Manifest System | Clean Air Act | TSCA Modernization


World’s Largest Ethane Export Terminal

EDGE’s client, Enterprise, the second-largest transmission and Pipeline Company in Houston, had a goal to capitalize on the shale boom by being first-to-market with the world’s largest refrigerated ethane export facility. Enterprise knew they wanted a Gulf Coast location, and ultimately decided on the Houston Ship Channel.

Since Enterprise had a facility opening date scheduled for the third quarter of this year, the aggressive construction timetable made for an aggressive air-permitting schedule for EDGE. Consequently, a lot of uncertainty occurred during the permitting process, primarily due to the engineering design, which was happening simultaneously. Usually the permit application is based on a completed engineering design. However in this case, because the design was incomplete, EDGE played a significant role in both design and permitting processes, assisting Enterprise concurrently in multiple facets of the project.

The permit was issued on time and with the operational flexibility Enterprise wanted. Enterprise CEO Michael Creel stated, “This facility is another example of Enterprise serving incremental market demand for growing supplies of U.S. energy.” The facility will meet the growing demand for domestic energy, and will be able to refrigerate approximately 240,000 barrels of ethane per day. The project is showing promise, already getting major attention from potential international clientele. Not only that, but the facility will decrease U.S. reliance on international oil resources, as well as create domestic jobs. EDGE was pleased to deliver the expedient and confidential service that a project of that caliber required.

Source: Houston Business Journal


Proposed EPA revisions to Risk Management Plan rules approved

The EPA proposed a revision to the rules governing risk management plans, and was approved by the federal Office of Management and the Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on February 24th, 2016. EPA submitted the proposal in December 2015, in response to President Obama’s executive order 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” which was issued in August 2013.

The revision covers a variety of areas, of which are accident prevention program modifications. This requires all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct a root cause analysis as part of an incident investigation of a catastrophic release or an incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release. It also requires these regulated facilities to contract with an independent third-party to perform a compliance audit after the facility has a reportable release. Additionally, it adds an element to the process hazard analysis (PHA), which is updated every 5 years.

The amendment also enhances emergency response. Owners or operators of all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes are required to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least once a year to ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release of a regulated substance, and are further required to conduct notification exercises annually to ensure that their emergency contact information is accurate and complete.

Additionally, the rule makes information more readily available to the public. It requires all facilities to provide certain basic information to the public through easily accessible means such as a facility website, social media, or other platforms. Additionally, it requires all facilities to provide Local Emergency Planning Committees or other local emergency response agencies with summaries of a variety of information upon request, and requires them to hold a public meeting within a certain timeframe following an RMP reportable accident.

The EPA held a public hearing in DC on March 29th, 2016, highlighting the upcoming amendments to the RMP.

Source: Texas Chemical Council on the RMP Revisions


Bringing Permitting and Compliance Issues to Light.

What the Final 4(d) Rule Means for Project Planning and Compliance.

In April of 2015, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) published its final rule to list the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) as a threatened species and provided an interim 4(d) rule with a request for comments from the public. Under the interim rule, purposeful and incidental take prohibitions were announced for the bat’s native habitats and regions designated as White-Nosed Syndrome (WNS) areas, or those areas where this deadly fungal outbreak responsible for the declining bat population has been identified.

On January 14, 2016, the scope of prohibitions set under the interim rule was reduced when the Service published its final 4(d) rule regarding the NLEB. According to the final 4(d) rule, all purposeful take is prohibited, save for in a few circumstances, including the protection of human life and property. Within the WNS area, incidental take is prohibited within a hibernaculum or as the result of tree removal within 0.25 mile of a known hibernaculum or within 150 feet of a known, occupied maternity roost tree during the pup season (June 1 through July 31). There are no prohibitions on incidental take outside of the WNS area.

For companies operating within the 37 states the bat currently inhabits, the restrictions outlined under the final rule likely won’t halt land development, pipeline routing or other projects. They do, however, create additional permitting and compliance restrictions, siting considerations, and paperwork that, without the proper knowledge, could result in significant and costly project delays.

At EDGE, we pride ourselves on maintaining up-to-the-minute knowledge of government regulatory changes and offer a range of services to assist our clients in addressing the challenges new restrictions may present. From feasibility and fatal flaws analyses that include GIS and GPS mapping to environmental assessments and endangered species consultations, we provide a more accurate understanding of site features and other environmental factors for improved planning, accelerated permitting and an enhanced understanding of what it takes to get your project off the ground and keep it moving forward.

Read the entire Federal Register Final 4(d) Rule here.

Sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

WNS Zone Map*
*Updated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the first of every month.

Give us a call and experience the further insight of EDGE.

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NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT SERVICES
Environmental Resource Reports and Applicant-Prepared Environmental Assessments
Third-Party Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments
Project Planning, Public Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement
Third-Party Compliance Monitoring and Environmental Inspection
Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act Consultations
Essential Fish Habitat Assessments
State Endangered Species Consultations
Migratory Bird Treaty Act Consultations

CULTURAL RESOURCES
GIS Archaeological Predictive Modeling
State/Tribal Historic Preservation Office (SHPO/THPO) Consultations
Integration of the Section 106 National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Compliance Process
Cultural Resource Surveys and Report Production

GIS AND MAPPING
GIS Database Development
GPS field Data Collection and Post-Processing
Data Management and Integration


EPA Breathes Easy with Implementation of Next Gen Tools and Compliance Initiatives.

“Out with the old, in with the new” seems to be the 2016 mantra of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency’s fall 2015 release of new proposed National Enforcement Initiatives (NEI), coupled with its memorandum calling for the incorporation of Next Generation Compliance (Next Gen) into enforcement settlements, indicates sweeping changes are ahead for the companies it’s tasked with regulating.

According to the NEI for 2017-2019, the EPA is moving its air enforcement focus from new source review (NSR) permitting of large sources (e.g., coal-fired utilities, cement plants, glass plans and acid plants) to reducing air toxic emissions — and CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) — per President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The EPA will first target flares, storage tanks, hazardous waste and vehicles, which will most immediately impact those operating in the oil & gas, petrochemical and automotive industries.

Alongside these new enforcement targets, the EPA is increasing pressure on companies to implement Next Gen compliance tools to either achieve compliance or, more to the point, to retroactively address noncompliance. In its January 2015 memorandum, the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance directs its employees to include Next Gen tools in all appropriate civil enforcement settlements. As such, any organization involved in noncompliance settlement cases will likely be compelled to implement one or more of the following tools outlined in the memorandum as part of the EPA’s proposed settlement:

  • Advanced monitoring, including both point source emission/discharge monitoring and ambient monitoring (e.g., fence-line monitoring of air pollution at the border of a facility),
  • Independent third party verification of a settling party’s compliance with settlement obligations,
  • Electronic reporting, and
  • Public accountability through increased transparency of compliance data.

Although the proposed NEI will not become official until 2017, recent enforcement settlements indicate the EPA has already begun focusing on the new enforcement targets and including Next Gen tools as part of those settlement agreements, as evidenced by the EPA’s Next Generation Enforcement Settlement Highlights document.

At EDGE, our Air Quality Management Practice is well-versed in the new NEI enforcement targets. We can assist proactive companies across all affected industries plan and prepare for Next Gen compliance, or assist companies found in non-compliance in responding to enforcement actions and implementing Next Gen tools.

Sources: EPA Next Generation Settlement Highlights | EPA Use of Next Generation Compliance Tools in Civil Enforcement Settlements Memorandum | Law360 | The National Law Review


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