Through a Sustainability Lens

Often times we talk about the Green Spectrum, particularly with respect to projects that are green in general, or appear to have no sustainability aspect, when, in actuality, all projects have a sustainability element.  This time, we’ll look at a project that is Green by Definition, but is scrutinized through a sustainability lens.  And, it is a very,very interesting concept.

As part of the “Smart from the Start” (that sounds like a good phrase for sustainability in projects, too) initiative by Secretary of Interior Salazar, there is a proposal for a 200 mile-wide wind energy corridor stretching from Canada to the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

While we don’t know yet about the other sustainable aspects being considered, we do know, at this point, that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will write an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  “Wind energy is crucial to our nation’s future economic and environmental security. We will do our part to facilitate development of wind energy resources, while ensuring that they are sited and designed in ways that minimize and avoid negative impacts to fish and wildlife,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “This EIS process gives us an opportunity to evaluate impacts to dozens of imperiled species at a landscape level to ensure that wind energy development occurs in the right places in the right way.”

The reasoning behind the EIS is that in order to accomplish the project, an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) needs to be granted.  Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations “prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened.”  It doesn’t allow the harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, capturing, or collecting or, an attempt to engage in those practices when it comes to endangered or threatened species.  However, Under Section 10 of the Act, it allows for people to obtain an ITP as long as they are pursuing otherwise legal activities.  The permittee is then provided “incidental take” authorization.

The applicant must submit a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) containing the measures that it will take to minimize, avoid, or mitigate incidental take.  The Service will then review the HCP and issue an EIS that considers the impacts.  The Service will also identify “potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental/historical resources that may occur directly or indirectly as a result of implementing the proposed action or any of the alternatives. Various strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of incidental take will also be considered.  Sounds like risk management to me!

“The proposed Permit Area is defined as a 200-mile wide corridor determined by defining the center line of the whooping crane migration based on the database of confirmed whooping crane observations from the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Program and buffering that line by 100 miles on either side. This corridor spans the Gulf Coast of Texas north to the Canadian border and encompasses such cities as Houston, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita, KS; Bismarck, ND; Grand Island, NE; and Aberdeen, SD. In addition, the permit area includes the current and a large part of the historic range of the lesser prairie-chicken which extends the covered area beyond the 200-mile wide whooping crane migration corridor to include parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.”

“Species currently considered for inclusion under the permit include the following: the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana); endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos); endangered piping plover (Charadrius melodus); and lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a candidate species.”

There are two important points here for a project manager.  The first is that this will be one heck of a program, involving a huge amount of projects, wind energy projects including; the wind power generators themselves, transmission, distribution, support facilities, etc.  Secondly, it involves looking at the project through a sustainability lens.  In above case, a very narrow view because of regulatory issues (specifically the Endangered Species Act) one of the “drivers” in our book.  There will be more and more of these opportunities for the project manager who is not only aware of sustainability issues, vocabulary, and problems and drivers, but also uses that knowledge and considers greenality* when approaching any project.

* The degree to which an organization (project manager) has considered environmental (sustainable) factors that affect its projects during the entire project life cycle and beyond.

I’m Going to Wash That Carbon Right Out of My…..

scrubbrushWith all due respect to the musical South Pacific, we were reading the Boston Globe the other day and saw an article on a technology that makes a lot of sense.  Why not get rid of the problem before it becomes a problem.  It would seem easier than trying to get rid of it after. It’s like we say about greenality, plan it in!

According to eassortment , “The technical definition of fossil fuels is “incompletely oxidized and decayed animal and vegetable materials, specifically coal, peat, lignite, petroleum and natural gas”.  The technical definition of fuel is “material that can be burned or otherwise consumed to produce heat”. In our modernized western world, fossil fuels provide vast luxurious importance. We retrieve these fossil fuels from the ground and under the sea and have them converted into electricity. Approximately 90% of the world’s electricity demand is generated from the use of fossil fuels. Combustion of these fossil fuels is considered to be the largest contributing factor to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In fact it is believed that energy providers are the largest source of atmospheric pollution today. There are many types of harmful outcomes which result from the process of converting fossil fuels to energy. Some of these include air pollution, water pollution, accumulation of solid waste, not to mention the land degradation and human illness.”

According to several sources there is between 1.4 and  2.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in the United States.  A significant amount and if managed correctly could greatly reduce our need for foreign oil.  However, even though natural gas may be one of the cleaner fuels, when it is burned, it produces carbon dioxide, water, and energy.  It’s just a fact of combustion.  However, a new technology (project) developed by a Canadian company, Atlantic Hydrogen Inc. of Fredericton, New Brunswick, may be able to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and can capture that black gunk (solid carbon), “a substance that can be used in making tires, laser printer toner, and other products.”  Makes sense to us.  Let’s get it out before it gets in and, if we have a usable byproduct, all the better.  Read the full article here.  My question to you is: Where in the “green” spectrum is this project (Green by Intent; Green by Project Impact; Green by Product Impact, or Green General)?

Strange Environmental Bedfellow’s Defeat Prop 23 (Update)

strangebedThis is a follow up to an earlier post.

The California vote “signifies the largest public referendum on clean energy legislation. Tom Steyer, co-chairman of the NO on 23 campaign, stated “In the midst of a major economic downturn, and with a barrage of fear mongering and scare tactics, voters still said they want a clean energy future.”” from  Solar Novus Today (

Californians rejected the attempt to suspend the state’s global warming law signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The defeat was by a significant margin, 39 percent to 61 percent, with 93 percent of the precincts counted, according to the Associated Press.

The San Francisco Chronicle states that; “The vote clears the way for a state law restricting greenhouse-gas emissions to go into effect in 2012. The law requires the state cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It will require utilities to get almost a third of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar panels, and create a market for carbon-dioxide pollution permits.  Proposition 23 was “the largest public referendum in history on climate and energy policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.”

Although backers of Proposition 23, conceded defeat, they called the outcome “a victory for Wall Street over Main Street” vowing to continue their efforts to “save jobs” and curb energy costs.   I’m a little confused.  When I look at the contributors to the fight for and against Proposition 23, I might say it was a victory for Wall Street over Wall Street, because on one side are the likes of Microsoft and Apple, on the other is Big Oil.  It reminds me of the Harlequin, turn one way it is dark, turn the other it is light, but overall, it is the same, but that’s the subject of another post.

Continuing with the Chronicle, “”Millions of voters have said they see clean-energy jobs as the path forward through a tough economic climate,” Krupp said.”  For us, as project managers, that is key.  We need to continue to “surf the green wave.”  Green jobs mean green projects, mean project managers to manage those projects.

Don’t you think that those sponsors of green projects would rather have someone familiar with the reasons, the driving forces, behind the green wave, to manage their projects?  For further information on how you get SMARTER* on this “green revolution” see our book and follow us on this site.  The revolution is here, evidenced by the defeat of California’s Prop 23 and a continued emphasis on tax incentives for alternate energy development.

*From Green Project Management, CRC Press (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Timely, and Environmentally Responsible)

Strange Bedfellows

halloween2We were hard pressed to think that we would ever write about the alignment of President Obama, Governor Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and the companies of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel, but we are.  These and others, including the California Teachers Association, the American Lung Association, and the CA League of Women Voters,  are banding together to work for the defeat of Proposition 23 in California.  Proposition 23 would effectively suspend AB32, AKA the Global Warming Act of 2006.  Prop 23 ties California’s unemployment rate to AB32.  AB32 would be suspended until California’s unemployment rate sinks to 5.5% or less and stays there for a year.  AB32 is one of the initiatives we document in our book.

On the other side, in support of Prop 23, some strange bedfellows, too, like the CA Firefighter’s Association,  The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business, and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, traditionally democrat, and the CA Republican Party (sans the governor).  According to Ted Costa, head of the Peoples Advocate, withdrew initial support  in March 2010, saying, “”Big money interests have come in and shut out the people.”

There’s pretty big money on both sides of the issue.  Louise Bedsworth, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, predicted in April that total campaign spending on Proposition 23 could top the $154 million record set in 2006 by Proposition 87. ( The largest contributors on the support side are some CA based oil companies, oil refiner companies, or companies and associations supporting the oil and gas industry.   The largest contributors on the “Vote No” side are the companies listed in the beginning of this post.

To quote from our book, “There may be quite a debate around the true causes (of global climate change) are, but one only has to look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (2007) to answer the question on whether or not there is a significant change in the world’s climate….” the recent trend may or may not be part of a “much larger cycle”, but it is clear that something is going on and that green house gas emissions are contributing to the change.

As project managers, at the least, we need to know how the vote goes.  No one is really sure how many jobs (projects) are being created and maintained while companies work to comply with AB32, but we can speculate that if Proposition 23 passes, those jobs will vaporize, except for those companies who agree with our assertion that “a project run with green intent is the right thing to do…”

Blythe [sic] Spirit – Solar Power Goes Big Time

solarAnd this is no British fantasy comedy, but the largest solar project ever to be built on U.S. public land.  A $6 billion solar power project has been approved by the Obama administration.  It is the start of a boom in solar power on federal lands.  This project will be built in the Mojave Desert near Blythe, California.  “Today is a day that makes me excited about the nation’s future,” (Ken) Salazar said Monday at a news conference. “This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home.”

The Blythe Project, being developed by Solar Millennium, a German solar developer, is slated for more than 7,000 acres of public land near the Arizona border, some 225 miles east of Los Angeles.  According to Rachel Rossitto at, this project alone will be generate 1,000 megawatts of power, is expected to take care of more than 300,000 homes as well as hire 1,066 workers during construction and create 295 permanent positions. The project is the sixth solar power development approved by the Interior Department this month – all in California and Nevada. Approval of a seventh project – also in California – is expected in the next few weeks. All could start transmitting electricity by the end of 2011 or early 2012.  At full capacity, the seven projects would generate more than 3,000 megawatts of power and provide electricity for up to 2 million homes.

The bureau opened federally owned lands in 2005 to solar development, but an examination of records and interviews of officials by The Associated Press showed the program operated a first-come, first-served leasing system that quickly overwhelmed its small staff and enabled companies, regardless of solar industry experience, to squat on land without any real plans to develop it.  To expedite environmental review and bureaucratic red tape, the Interior Department identified 14 of the most promising solar projects among the more than 180 current permit applications covering about 23 million acres of federally owned desert in the Southwest.  Those 14 “fast-track” projects alone would produce more than 6,000 megawatts, enough to power 4 million homes for a day at peak usage, officials said.

Final approval by the end of the year qualifies the solar projects for federal funds under the economic stimulus law approved last year. Solar Millennium is eligible to secure $1.9 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the Energy Department for the Blythe project.

And looking beyond the traditional boundaries of a project, the company will be required to mitigate the project’s effect on more than 8,000 acres of habitat for the desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard, as part of an agreement with federal officials.

There are a couple of pertinent Green Project Management principles that come out of this announcement.  It is clearly a “Green by Intent” project and for sure part of the “Green Wave” of environmental awareness.  Additionally, it has the important element of considering what happens beyond the traditional deliverable of the output of the project.   While we applaud the green power initiative, we are just as excited about the green project management elements the project displays.