The Latest Trending Economic, Environmental and Demographic News Curated for You By The Balmoral Group
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Happy Friday, everyone!
Hello from the Seattle Office! This week Resource Economist Amy Bainbridge traveled to Washington's beautiful wine country, Walla Walla to present on the economics of coastal management at the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference (PNREC). She highlighted some of the different policies and planning decisions that go into coastal management decisions, as well as provided some great NSW, WA, and FL case studies, based on TBG's work in all three locations. As part of the visit, she was able to take a tour of the Walla Walla Basin Spring Chinook Hatchery and learn about the salmon reintroduction program, as well as Chinook return goals.
For those in the PNW this weekend (many without air conditioners), it looks like near record high temperatures and sunshine as it nears 90 degrees in the city. Here's to hoping to do some paddleboarding at Scenic Beach State Park. Find ways to stay cool!
This week's edition features pieces on an EPA plan to clean up the superfund site of East Waterway in Seattle, Microsoft's power purchase agreement with Helion Energy, and new technologies to combat seagrass depletion, among others.
Enjoy the read and feedback is always appreciated! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested. If you'd like to view previous editions please click here, or to subscribe please click here! Have a great weekend!
Lawmakers Give Green Light to Seagrass Technology Innovation Bill
The Legislature passed a bill that would fund new technologies to combat seagrass depletion. SB 724 would establish a Seagrass Restoration Technology Development Initiative within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and would involve a partnership between DEP, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the University of Florida to conduct applied science-based statewide strategic restoration to address the diminishing seagrass habitat and diversity. Florida has experienced rapid seagrass loss in recent years, seeing a 58% decline in existing seagrasses from 2011 through 2019. Read more here.
Microsoft's Power Purchase Agreement with Helion Energy
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced it has signed a power purchase agreement with nuclear fusion startup Helion Energy. Microsoft will begin to buy electricity from them in 2028, which will serve as a vote of confidence for electricity from fusion sources. Fusion has the potential to be a source of unlimited clean energy as it is the way the sun makes its energy. As efforts to combat climate change have become more urgent, businesses have invested $5 billion into private fusion companies looking to harness the ‘holy grail’ of clean energy. Helion’s agreement with Microsoft will be the first time a fusion company has set a deal to sell electricity. While Helion’s goal for 2028 is aggressive, they have shown the plans to make it a reality. Read More.
Superfund Proposed Plan for Cleanup of East Waterway in Seattle A new aggressive plan was released by the EPA last week to clean up 157 acres of contaminated sediment along Seattle’s East Waterway. This industrial channel, located on the Lower Duwamish River below the Spokane Street Bridge, is one of seven parts of the larger Harbor Island Superfund Site, originally placed on EPA’s National Priorities list in 1983. Built in the early 1900s, the 420-acre island supports businesses that conduct commercial and industrial activities. EPA’s primary objective is to reduce contaminant concentrations in the sediment to levels that are protective of human health and the environment. A 60-Day public comment period is active now and will run through June 27, 2023. Additionally, a virtual public meeting will take place on Thursday, May 25, 2023. Seattle Times
New Rule to Cut Climate Pollution from Power Plants by 90%
A newly proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency will require plants that have been spewing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to cut emissions by 90%. The proposed rule by the EPA comes at a time when many carbon capture and storage technologies are becoming more affordable, especially with tax credits available under the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act that was passed last year. The regulation faces challenges from coal and gas-fired power plants, many of which critics say will be forced to shut down, leaving the grid vulnerable to blackouts. Sixty percent of the country's electricity still comes from fossil fuels. NPR
Florida Lawmakers Finish Session by Approving $117B budget for FY 2023-24 SB 2500, the General Appropriations Act, passed both chambers reaching an estimated $117 billion, $7 billion higher than the previous year’s budget. $13.6 billion will be for DOTs Work Program ($1 billion higher) and $4 billion of road projects will be accelerated under the Moving Florida Forward initiative. Local transportation projects will receive $401 million. Additionally, $695 million have been set for Everglades restoration, $320 million for the Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan and $206 million will be allocated to preserve beaches and restore sand dunes. You can read more here.
Data Visualization of the Week
New Study Showcases the Threat to Sea Life from Lost Fishing Gear
Researchers from Dalhousie University have found that an area off Nova Scotia's southern tip, one of Canada's most productive fishing regions, is heavily polluted with lost or abandoned fishing gear (ALDFG) that harms marine life and the fishing industry's bottom line. Over two years, the team of scientists, working with the Department of Fisheries, fishing captains, volunteers, and different fisheries organizations, collected 25,000 kilograms of ALDFG and almost 5,000 kilograms of assorted gear from seven shoreline searches. The study also found that lobster traps made up 68% of the gear collected, and that some of the retrieved buoys came from the United States, highlighting the multijurisdictional nature of marine debris and ghost gear. Read more here.