ACEC NewsLine
July 9, 2014

Headlines

Energy

"Produced Water from Hydrofracturing Challenges and Opportunities for Reuse and Recovery"

Land/Buildings

"Achieving Cost-Effective Building Design"
"DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts"
"U.S. Construction Spending Barely Rises in May"

Water

"Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conseve Water and Make Money"
"Reuse Figures Into Plan for Oklahoma City Water"

Transportation

"U.S. Department of Transportation Outlines Steps for Managing Impending Highway Trust Fund Shortfall"

Legislation & Regulation

"Cleaning Up the Trash? EPA Looks to Reduce Emissions at Landfills"
"Obama Says No Executive Action On Transportation Funding"

Other

"Construction Industry Adds 6,000 Jobs in June"



Energy

Produced Water from Hydrofracturing Challenges and Opportunities for Reuse and Recovery
Bridge (07/14) Silva, James; Gettings, Rachel; Kostedt, William; et al.

The production of natural gas from shale gas has created an energy boom, but management wastewater from drilling has become an issue. In states such as Pennsylvania the water is recycled as blendstock for hydrofracturing more wells. However, industry experts predict the amount of water created will soon exceed demand for it. In most cases the water is disposed of deep-well injection, recycled as clean water, or reused as blendstock for another well. Thermal water and salt recycling are the least expensive options that make good use of the wastewater. For water produced in the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania 55 percent of the water reuse is possible through evaporation. That water would only require an additional treatment process to remove high levels of barium and radium. The recycling process involves several steps to remove certain impurities. However, water treatment process can be unique on a case-by-case basis. Wastewater recycling is expected to increase in demand as the cost of transporting and disposing of the water rises. Experts note that 90 percent of wastewater from fracking operations in the Marcellus formation was recycled. This signals that thermal water and salt recycling are viable options for producers. The simple process used to recycle the water and existing technology makes it extremely feasible.
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Land/Buildings

Achieving Cost-Effective Building Design
Healthcare Finance News (06/30/14) Moore, Rodney

With the average cost of a new hospital ranging from $1.5 million to $2 million per bed, developers are increasingly searching for ways to obtain the most cost effective design. Fred Campobasso, managing director, Navigant Healthcare Real Estate, says hospital design and construction is largely driven by the desire to save money and improve patient experiences. He adds, "There is increased emphasis on operational planning integrated with facility planning with the goal of ‘smarter’ real estate/facilities assets and building less facility with increased throughput/efficiencies. The intersection of retail and healthcare will steadily increase in order to maximize accessibility, reduce costs and improve the patient experience." Experts say building materials such as steel or concrete can also be a cost saving decision. Green building practices and an integrated project delivery approach are also popular cost saving efforts. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a 3D modeling process that is also gaining ground in the hospital construction field.
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DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts
U.S. Government Accountability Office (06/30/14)

In the Department of Defense (DOD) report Fiscal Year 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, the officials say rising temperatures and sea levels caused by climate change can potentially impacting its infrastructure. Further, Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials visited sites and found instances where the ramifications of climate change were evident. One example was seen in Alaska where thawing permafrost, decreasing sea ice, and rising sea levels on the coast has increased coastal erosion at several Air Force radar early warning and communication installations. The result is damage to roads, seawalls, and runways. Navy officials have told the GAO that rising sea levels represent the greatest threat to their waterfront infrastructure and operations. In response, the DOD has ordered planners to assess and consider climate change for certain facilities. The DOD is also collecting data on historic and future vulnerabilities for coastal facilities. However, definite plans and goals for future action have yet to be created.
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U.S. Construction Spending Barely Rises in May
Reuters (07/01/14) Mutikani, Lucia

According to the Commerce Department, U.S. construction spending rose by 0.1 percent to an annual rate of $956.1 billion. Industry observers predicted construction spending to advance 0.5 percent after a previously reported 0.2 percent gain. The new figures are in contrast to thoughts that a recovery from a cold winter was underway. Growth shrunk at a 2.9 percent annual pace in the first quarter. Economists last week cut second-quarter growth estimates after weak consumer spending in May. Additionally, growth forecasts are now listed as high as a 3.5 percent and as low as 2.1 percent. Federal Government spending by the fell 8.9 percent and state and local government projects rose 2.0 percent.
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Water

Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conseve Water and Make Money
Governing (07/14) Vol. 27, No. 10, P. 40 Arrandale, Tom

With droughts plaguing large regions of the U.S., municipal utility companies are struggling with the dilemma of seeking water sources far afield, which raises costs to homeowners. The resulting price hikes have spurred consumers to conserve water, which means less revenue that utilities need to operate. One survey found 60 percent of U.S. utilities sold less water in 2012 than six years earlier. Meanwhile, utility rates will keep rising as governments work through what may be a $1 trillion backlog to replace degraded pipes, renovate treatment facilities, and extend mains into sprawling neighborhoods. Raising rates, however, only gives customers a greater incentive to conserve, cutting sales further. Water supply agencies "end up in a downward cycle of lower revenues and increasing rates, and customers feel like they're being punished for doing the right thing," notes University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center Chief Operating Officer Mary Tiger. Usually 20 percent of utility revenues come in through fixed fees for supplying homes and businesses with water, while the rest comes from shifting charges based on meter readings that count how much water customers consumed the previous month. Utility analysts think one solution is to stabilize rates and revenue by repaying dividends to thrifty consumers, while another suggestion is to allow a ratepayer to choose a yearly budget, subject to heavy fines for exceeding the target. Some dry regions permit the buying and selling of water among municipal governments and private parties as a simple commodity. "While water in most of the U.S. is not yet priced like a commodity, it likely could be within our lifetime" as more markets develop for scarce resources, said a 2011 Standard & Poor's analysis.
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Reuse Figures Into Plan for Oklahoma City Water
Oklahoman (07/02/14) Crum, William

Forthcoming improvements Oklahoma City’s water system include plans to start pumping treated wastewater back into Lake Hefner. The Water Utilities Trust has agreed to a five-year, $1 billion plan that includes work on a second pipeline to transport drinking water from southeast Oklahoma, integration of separate parts of the water distribution system, and upgrades to enable reuse of water from Oklahoma City’s Deer Creek wastewater treatment facility. Utilities Director Martha Slaughter says treated wastewater would be of a higher quality than the river water entering Lake Hefner. Water circulated through the system would be treated at Lake Hefner, flow to customers, and then be flushed to the Deer Creek plant for treatment and then fed back into the lake through transmission pipes and the canal between Lake Overholser and Hefner. Oklahoma City predicts reuse of water from the plant would not commence before 2018. The plan allocates some $512 million for design and construction of the second pipeline to Oklahoma City from Lake Atoka. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2021. Water from southeast Oklahoma is anticipated to be increasingly important for meeting Oklahoma City’s requirements as drought makes river flows from western Oklahoma less reliable.
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Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation Outlines Steps for Managing Impending Highway Trust Fund Shortfall
U.S. Department of Transportation (07/01/14)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has outlined efforts he will be forced to take as the U.S Highway Trust Fund nears insolvency. Predictions show that the trust fund will reach near insolvency in only a few weeks. As a result, the Department of Transportation will implement cash management procedures for highways, states, and mass transit projects. In August, officials will use formulas to determine how much money states will receive from what is left in the fund. Reimbursements to states will be limited to the available cash and new revenues will be added every two weeks as money from the gas tax flows into the Fund. These steps are intended to help states fund projects that are deemed priorities and which projects should receive reimbursements.
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Legislation & Regulation

Cleaning Up the Trash? EPA Looks to Reduce Emissions at Landfills
The Hill (07/01/14) Devaney, Tim

The EPA is launching efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions from landfills by 20 percent. Under the EPA's proposals, new landfills would be required to capture two-thirds of their methane emissions by 2023. That is a 13 percent increase from current rules. The EPA says the rule would cost businesses $471,000 a year to comply. Separate new rules will be created for existing landfills. The EPA emission rules for landfills haven't been updated since 1996 and landfills are a large source of methane. Landfill emissions have fallen by 30 percent since 1990, but are expected to increase over the coming years. Methane accounts for 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the country, but is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to its contributions to climate change.
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Obama Says No Executive Action On Transportation Funding
The Hill (07/03/14) Laing, Keith

President Obama has said that he will leave it to Congress to approve a transportation funding fix. "We’re not going to be able to fund the Highway Trust Fund and to ramp up our investment in infrastructure without acts of Congress," says Obama. "That’s something that we need Congress to help us on." The comments come shortly after Obama criticized Republican leaders in Congress for threatening to sue him for his use of executive actions in areas like immigration, saying middle-class families cannot wait for Republicans in Congress to take action. The Department of Transportation says the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in August, unless Congress acts. The agency warned states it will begin cutting payments for road and transit projects at the beginning of August unless a fix is passed by Congress. The traditional source of revenue has been the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon, which has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses as cars have become more fuel efficient. The current transportation bill, which expires in September, includes approximately $50 billion in infrastructure spending, but the gas tax generates only about $34 billion per year.
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Other

Construction Industry Adds 6,000 Jobs in June
Associated General Contractors of America News Release (07/03/14)

The construction industry's unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent in June, its lowest level for the month in six years, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Employers added 6,000 workers to their payrolls last month, though this progress could take a hit in August when the federal governments starts to cut back on transportation projects. Total construction employment reached 6 million in June, the highest since June 2009 and up 3.2 percent from the same time last year. However, construction employment is down 22 percent, or 1.7 million jobs, since the industry's last peak in 2006.
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