E&E Daily - A new report blasts dysfunction and partisanship on Capitol Hill for disrupting the management and operation of federal agencies. The study by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit government research group, comes as ongoing budget battles in Congress could again shut down the federal government, with funding set to run out at the end of this month. Lawmakers are working on a short-term funding measure, but that is only likely to forestall the crisis for a few months until the end of this year. In the meantime, agency managers have to check their shutdown contingency plans to keep vital functions running if they have to close their doors and pick who on their staff will and will not be sent home on furlough. The never-ending funding crises in Congress that have resulted in significant cuts under sequestration, rancor over raising the debt ceiling and the 2013 government shutdown have not helped the executive branch, according to the partnership.
Washington Post - Is the four-decade-old ban on U.S. exports of crude oil a useless relic or a valuable safeguard for American consumers? Or is the ban so full of holes that it doesn't matter anymore? A House bill that would end the ban is set to pass the Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this week that the legislation could soon come to the floor. "If there was ever a time to lift the oil export ban, it's now," he said in remarks prepared for delivery to a civic group in Houston. "Lifting the oil export ban will not only help our economy, it will also bolster our geopolitical standing." He added that "as President Obama prepares to lift sanctions on Iran, including Iranian oil, it is unfathomable to think American crude wouldn't have the same opportunity on the global market." Even if the House passes a bill, opposition awaits in the Senate, and President Obama would likely veto the measure.
New York Times - The fires that have scorched large stretched of California continue to burn on Thursday, but with lower wind, cooler temperatures and even a little rain, they are no longer spreading fast, and they pose less of a threat than they did early in the week. The Valley Fire northwest of Sacramento and the Butte Fire southeast of the city had charred about 142,000 acres by Thursday a fairly small increase from the day before. The Butte Fire was 47 percent contained, and the Valley Fire 35 percent. The largest wildfire in the state, the Rough Fire, in a sparsely populated area of the rugged southern Sierra Nevada, was also growing only slowly, to 141,000 acres, and firefighters reported having it 67 percent contained, a big improvement from he day before. It will be weeks, at least, before those fires are out, and for now, residents are not able to return to the most badly scorched areas. In addition, thousands of structures are still considered at risk, and a return of high winds could undo the progress firefighters have made.
New York Times - Justin Galvan was out on the fire line trying to hem in a ravenous mountain blaze on the western flank of the Sierra Nevada when he got a distress call from home, 150 miles away. A wildfire had exploded in the mountains above his hometown. It had swallowed his parents' house, and was barreling toward his own. For years, fire has shaped the lives of Mr. Galvan and scores of other firefighters who live, work and retire in this middle-class town. Mr. Galvan was a 19-year-old looking for work when he got a seasonal job fighting wildfires, and slowly worked his way to full-time engineer, then captain overseeing a small crew of firefighting prison inmates. When the drought-dry hills ignited, he and other firefighters from the area would race away to try to save somebody else's home. But this time, many of the people touched by the fire are themselves firefighters.
Washington Post - In May, when Tesla Motors announced its new battery product to vast media buzz, the talk was all about people putting batteries in their solar-powered homes, and thereby becoming that much less reliant on the grid. But there was always another and perhaps even bigger side of the story - the idea that very large scale batteries or battery packs could help out the grid itself by storing large amounts of solar energy for use in the evening or at night. The ultimate effect might be to displace electricity generated from coal or natural gas, and convert an inherently "intermittent" renewable energy source - solar - into a more constant one. So is it happening? The answer seems to be yes - 2015 has seen several key announced, completed, or experimental grid-scale projects pairing batteries and solar photovoltaic panels. "In the last few months we've seen the frequency of these project announcements go up," says Ravi Manghani, an energy storage analyst with GTM Research. Manghani adds that while there have been pioneering initiatives and pilot projects prior to now, it does appear that this solar plus storage technology is beginning to arrive.
The Suffolk Times - Local environmentalists and lawmakers say they believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' latest plan for disposing dredged materials won't protect the Long Island Sound. About 50 people attended a public hearing Wednesday night at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead to discuss the proposed Dredged Material Management Plan, known as DMMP, and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, called PEIS. Copies of each plan can be found on the Corps website. Both drafts are related to a 2005 mandate by New York and Connecticut aimed at phasing out the method of dumping dredged materials into the Long Island Sound. Local dredge dumping sites include: Cornfield Shoals, north of Greenport; and the New London site, just west of Fishers Island. Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, and nearly 30 local environmental group leaders signed a letter addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo stating they oppose the proposal because it calls for disposing between 30 to 50 million cubic yards of dredge spoils into the Sound over the next 30 years.
Duluth News Tribune - Ron Ryberg drove the big Marsh Master all-terrain vehicle with a deft touch, through deep ditches and across former cropland and sod fields that are slowly soaking up water. It's here where crews are using whole tamarack trees and mud to plug ditches and slow the flow of water across the land - recreating the peat bog that covered the land for millennia before it was ditched and drained in a failed attempt to make farmland. "Once you plug the ditch it doesn't take long here and things get pretty wet," said Ryber, who's lived just up the road in Forbes for 50 years now. "Some people around here are afriad of what they're doing here. But I think it makes sense...Why the heck anyone tried to farm here is beyond me." The 'they' is Ecosystem Investment Partners, or EIP, the Baltimore-based for-profit company that has acquired 23,223 acres, 36 square miles of the Sax-Zim bog area to restore as naturally functioning wetlands. The restored wetlands would benefit many plant communities and wildlife such as moose, Connecticut warblers, great gray owls, northern harriers and more, wildlife experts say.
Coastal Review - The National Park Service has approved the state's plan for replacing the 52-year old Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. The Department of the Interior announced on Monday its decision to adopt the final Environmental Impact Statement issued in 2008 and the 2010 Environmental assessment of the N.C. Department of Transportation's plan for the replacement and demolition of the current span, the Outer Banks Voice reported. Park Service Regional Director Stan Austin approved and signed the documents necessary for construction to begin on a parallel bridge within the existing N.C. 12 corridor. The action provides the basis for the Park Service to grant a Federal Highway Easement Deed to the state for the new bridge and to issue a special-use permit regulating the construction activities associated with the project in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Sun Sentinel - With demand for yacht parking on the rise in South Florida, a new marina for mega-yachts is being planned in Dania Beach at a cost estimated to top $12 million. Edelman development Corp. plans to buy a nearly five-acre portion of a waterfront parcel owned by the Archdiocese of Miami and excavate land to develop the marina, said Ken Edelman, president of the real-estate group based in Weston. Plans call for creating about 2,400 lineal feet of dock space and renting out that space on a daily, monthly or even yearly basis for smaller vessels or yachts 200 feet long, Edelman said. The proposed dock space can accommodate roughly 40 smaller boats or 20 mega-yachts, said environmental consultant Tyler Chappell The Chappell Group, based in Pompano Beach.
Coastal News Today - The following project awards have been announced:
- Orion Marine group Announces A Contract Award of Approximately $42 Million Orion Marine Group, Inc. (NYSE:ORN) (the "Company") a leading construction company, today announced a contract award of approximately $42 million. The Company's Heavy Civil Marine Construction segment was recently awarded a contract for a seawall reconstruction project in Alaska by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project will begin the 2nd quarter of 2016 and last approximately 4 years, with work being performed seasonally only in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of each year
- Weeks Marine Inc., of Covington Louisiana, has won another major dredging contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This time it is the $25 million contract for a cutterhead pipeline dredge that will perform Pascagoula Harbor dredging project, with an estimated completion date of October 9, 2016. The project area is located primarily within Mississippi Sound, a shallow coastal lagoon which extends 9 miles offshore and encompasses the area between Mobile Bay, Alabama to the east and Lake Borne, Louisiana, in the west. Bids for the project were solicited via the Internet with three received. The Corps, Mobile, Alabama, was the contracting activity.