Monday, March 25, 2013

Executive Order - Sustainable Growth - Over Regulation


President Obama mentioned recently that he is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on climate change before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways. He will not implement his plan via a bill that congress must approve but through an executive order.

President Obama gave an address at Argonne National Laboratory, where he proposed to spend $2 billion on an energy-security trust fund for renewable fuel research. Obama boldly pledged “to shift our cars entirely . . . off oil.” 

…on the day of Obama’s Argonne speech, the Department of Energy released a series of coordinated reports called “Transportation Energy Futures” (developed in cooperation with Argonne). This DOE project explores a variety of strategies designed to curb America’s greenhouse gas emissions up to 80 percent by about 2050. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t hear about these DOE reports

Arguably the most controversial of those reports covers the “effects of the built environment on transportation.” To put it plainly, the “built environment” report lays out strategies the federal government can use to force development away from suburbs and into cities, supposedly for the sake of reducing carbon dioxide emissions given off by all those suburban commuters. The Obama administration wants to force so-called smart growth policies on the country: get out of your car, stay out of the suburbs, move into small, tightly-packed urban apartment complexes, and walk or take public transportation instead of driving. A close look at the “reduce car use” section suggests “full cost pricing” that would entail a tax on gasoline “to cover the estimated harmful environmental and health costs of driving.”  It goes on to say that this would amount to $12 per gallon and should be gradually phased in like Europe!

 So what else is Smart Growth Tools ?

Limits and Regulations:
Limit building permits
Draw urban growth boundaries
Create greenbelts around cities

Zoning:
Promote mixed use of housing and small business
Concentrate development along mass transportation routes

Planning:
Ecological land use planning
Environmental impact analysis
Integrated regional planning

Protection:
Protect open space
Buy new open space
Prohibit certain types of development

Taxes:
Tax land not buildings

Tax Breaks:
For owners agreeing not to allow certain types of development

Revitalization and New Growth:
Build well-planned towns and villages within cities

You can see what is coming. The only projects that will get approval will be those in the cities. A developer wants to build a new subdivision in a suburb will find the permits denied or delayed indefinitely while the impact on climate change is reviewed and reviewed again. Need to add roads or schools to a suburb? Sorry! It would produce too much green house gases. The idea will be to make too expensive to live in the suburbs.

And, of course, there are all those federal grants that local politicians can’t turn down funding it all. A review of the prior blog post shows the type of studies Connect is doing here locally with a HUD Grant.  Connect seems to be the data collection phase to justify imposing all these new growth and job killing regulations.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Unelected Regional Government and Commercial Real Estate

A lot of people have never heard of Centralina Council of Government an unelected  regional governmental organization funded by Federal, State and Member Local Governments. Originally the concept was for CCOG to provide local member governments with access to qualified and trained people for special projects. A City updating a Zoning Code would require additional staff above the normal levels. Belonging to CCOG meant those people were available on a temporary or project by project basis.

That was then and this is now as CCOG has hired contractors with a HUD grant of $4.9 million to inspect private vehicle fleets and to use thermal imaging in "selected neighborhoods" to assess greenhouse gas emissions and carbon emissions.  CCOG has hired staff devoted to tracking VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) by private citizens.  There exists the potential for this data to be used for the purpose of forcing people to retrofit and or replace their private property  and vehicles under carbon emission rules justified by "Global Warming" claims. Bottom line is data could be misused for creation of more and more regulations about more and more of our daily lives.

CCOG hired contractors to assess land use, water use, and energy use throughout 14 counties, four of which are in South Carolina, the rest in North Carolina. These actions seem to be for the purpose of collecting data on private citizens for the Federal government to use to control those resources and citizens lives through unelected regional councils like CCOG. Here is where the potential exists for the creation of whole new layers of regulation and permitting on top of what already exists. Unavoidably this would add to the costs of development and construction of all types, homes, schools, roads, churches, shopping centers, offices and factories. Rising costs will prevent families from buying a home, remodeling a home or getting a larger home for a growing family. At a time when it can least be afforded these same rising costs will hurt job growth as offices and factories go to areas with less regulation ie..less cost.

This is not to say I see Black Helicopters everywhere with UN troops sending us all to Camps. What I do see is potential abuse from something well intended. Abuse formulated by people or groups who fail the follow the Value Formula, Value=Price/Quality. Sometime the price, intended or unintended, for a small incremental increase in quality is too high to provide a reasonable and justified value.

 Is this one of those instances?  

 DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT DATA COLLECTION

The Neighborhood Energy Profile Database and Energy Enhancement Recommendations Project team will be led by Jim Kirby, GREENTHINC., PLLC and Hamilton Cort, Cort Architectural Group, PA. Both will share the two-state/multi-county management/database development responsibilities for residential building energy performance assessment, corresponding database development, and publication of proven/affordable energy enhancement strategies. Members of the US Green Building Council-Charlotte Region Chapter (USGBC-CRC) will serve in the outreach messaging efforts and home
sampling selection efforts for the 14 county CCOG region. Matthew Ryan, Efficiency 1st, LLC will
provide on-site residential building diagnostics, assessment and reporting responsibilities for the twostate/multi-county residential buildings through blower-door/pressurization testing, HVAC systems
review and envelope thermal imaging. All four consultants will provide in-kind staff matches to lower grant costs. CCOG will provide meeting space for six (6) meetings valued at $1200 (these costs are shown in Section 9, “Other Direct Costs” of the grant narrative.) Costs for each are as follows:
CONSULTANT TOTAL COST GRANT $$ CONSULTANT MATCH $$ Efficiency First $10,314 $8,247 $2,067 USGBC $23,192 $18,575 $4617Greenthinc $52,825 $42,925 $9900 CORT Architectural $50,400 $40,320 $10,080


c. Climate Change

This project strengthens the link between climate change, development, health impacts and during the
creation of the Regional Preferred Development Scenario by providing tangible data for policy
development. The focus of the study is to (1) analyze road construction and building projects planned
in the region over the next five years; (2) analyze emission levels of construction equipment being used
in the region, with an emphasis on equipment using older diesel engines; (3) determining the effects
that voluntary public and private climate action plans have had in the region; (4) assess the feasibility ofexpanding grant programs designed to replace aging diesel engines with more modern, and less polluting engines; and, (5) assess job creation opportunities in the diesel engine retrofit sector. ATC Associates will conduct an inventory of construction equipment used in the region to determine the model year, estimated usage hours and engine upgrade retrofits. This inventory will be conducted on both municipally-owned fleets and privately owned fleets (general contractors, grading, construction, and equipment rental companies) and entered into a database.  The purpose will be to assess the age

problem that aging diesel fleets represents. The cost for their work, all of which is to be paid for using

grant funds, is $85,760. Mecklenburg County will assess the feasibility of expanding their highly successful GRADE (Grants to Reduce Aging Diesel Engines) Program. Currently the program targets older construction equipment in the region for engine repowers or replacement to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxide, a major component of ozone pollution. Expanding the program or creating a similar model to provide grant funding for diesel particulate filter retrofits will address the emissions of black carbon. Potential sources of funding for this program will also be explored. All of Mecklenburg County’s staff time (valued at $23,940) is being provided through an in-kind match.UNCC will assess the job creation opportunities within the diesel retrofit sector (manufacturing, installation and maintenance) that would result from increasing the installation of diesel particulate filters on pre-2008 construction equipment and vehicles in the region. UNCC will also identify workforce retraining options for manufacturing and diesel mechanics. All funds attributed to UNC Charlotte, $31,705, are to be paid for by the grant. Supporting work will also be provided by Clean Air Carolinas (CAC), a clean air advocacy group in the Charlotte region and by Jason Wager (CCOG Sustainability Program Manager). CAC is providing $2000 in in-kind staff assistance. Approximately 23.3% of Wager’s time is being provided by an in-kind match through CCOG. (NOTE: Wager’s time is accounted for in Section 1, Personnel Labor Costs, of the Budget Narrative.)