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May 29, 2009
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Hopeful Signs - Part 2

This is the second installment in a series about news that bodes well for the economy. Forward sugested items to

Natural Gas Boom

So, here's the choice.

A) We can use the unexpected natural gas bounty of the United States to significantly reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, significantly shrinking our carbon footprint.

B) We can use the gas for transportation, somewhat reducing air emissions while drastically cutting our cash exports to all the warlords, princes and dictators profiting from US oil consumption.

Even three years ago, the options might have seemed outlandish. At that time, US natural gas production was in decline and most experts believed the downturn was permanent. But, thanks to new drilling technology, it turns out the US is home to enormous new gas reserves, setting the stage for major policy debates about the best ways we might use the relatively clean burning fuel.

The gas boom is usually lost in the shuffle on the cable news shows, but it was recently the subject of an excellent overview in the Wall Street Journal. That story can be found here.

The new drilling technique is called hydraulic fracturing and it's a process in which huge shots of water are injected deep into shale formations up to 10,000 feet deep. The injections crack the rock and free up the natural gas trapped inside. Fracturing is also supported by new rigs capable of horizontal drilling, which taps gas throughout the shale formations, instead of simply poking into and through them.

Sounds simple enough, but the results are amazing. US natural gas production increased more than 10% over the past two years and there's way more from where that gas came from.

One new field in Louisiana holds 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. That would translate to 33 billion barrels of oil. That's nearly three times the amount of the oil found at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. Looked at another way, thirty-three billion barrels of oil would meet US oil needs for nearly 20 years.

Additional reserves are also now within reach at vast, deep fields in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Mainstream industry experts believe these fields possess more than 2,000 trillion cubic feet of gas and they say that's enough to meet all US gas needs for the next 100 years.

Near term, the rise in gas supply has swamped demand and depressed natural gas prices. Long term, it means natural gas will most likely serve as the bridge fuel that will help us get through the next few decades while new fuel resources are brought on line.

A US fossil fuel boom in the 21st Century? Who would have thunk it. Well, as it turns out, Dick Cheney is among those who did.

The former vice president is credited and/or discredited with securing an exemption a few years ago that permitted fracturing to proceed free from the constraints normally imposed by US clean water regulations. This came in handy because fracturing uses lots of water, sand and some chemicals to break open the shale. The exemption triggered the first controversy of the new gas era.

Some members of Congress want to repeal the exemption because of concerns about the potential dangers posed to water resources by the fracturing process. Bloggers have of course joined the fray, identifying cow kills and animal birth defects that may be, could be, or might be linked to the chemicals used in fracturing, which is pretty amazing given the short period of time that fracturing has been used.

But, so it goes. In addition to generating environmental concerns, Congressional inquiries, lawsuits and blogs, the resurgent gas industry will generate trillions of dollars for US energy companies and workers along with major demand for all the sophisticated equipment, supplies and systems that must be built to fracture, extract, move and process the gas. And it will all come with major environmental benefits. Is this a great country, or what?

Many electric utilities are already voting with their wallets, inspired by the growing gas supplies, the prospect of lower gas prices and the threat of new carbon fees.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 206 gas fired electrical generating plants are planned for construction throughout in the US over the next three years. Over the same period, just 31 new plants will be built powered by coal.

We Want to Hear From You
- Save the Date to Visit Us at a Location Near You -
Join the Federal Highway Administration, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the City of Seattle for a public scoping meeting on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. We will also present other program information on elements such as the seawall and new waterfront surface street. At the meetings, you will be able to ask questions and share your thoughts on what environmental elements and mitigation measures should be studied in the supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the proposed bored tunnel alternative.

You can give your comments in writing or verbally to an on-scene court reporter. Can't attend one of the meetings? Please e-mail or mail your comments to:
email -
address - Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program
Attn: Angela Freudenstein
999 Third Ave., Suite 2424
Seattle, WA 98104

Please submit your comments by July 10, 2009, to ensure they are considered and included in the project's environmental documents.

Information Locations
Monday, June 8 from 5-7 p.m., Seattle City Hall, Bertha Landes Room, 600 Fourth Ave.
West Seattle
Wednesday, June 10 from 6-8 p.m., Madison Middle School, Commons 3429 45th Ave. SW
Thursday, June 11 from 6-8 p.m., Leif Erickson Hall, Auditorium, 2245 NW 57th St.

More information is available at

Nighttime lane closures on I-405 in Bellevue, Renton and Tukwila
DATE: May 26-28
DETAILS: Crews may close the following lanes and ramps during the night and early morning hours in the Bellevue, Renton and Tukwila area:
•Two lanes on northbound I-405 between I-90 and Main Street.
•Three lanes on southbound I-405 between Main Street and SE Eight Street.
•The ramps at the I-90 and downtown Bellevue interchanges.
•One lane in each direction on I-405 between I-5 and SR 169.

Link light rail trains operating in SODO
King County Metro is now running trains in the SODO area in preparation for the launch of service on July 18. USE EXTRA CAUTION: Link trains are very quiet and can travel in any direction, on any track, at any time; always look both ways before crossing tracks, at designated crosswalks and signalized intersections. After a train passes, another train may be approaching from the opposite direction.

Heads up Seattle Drivers
Cherry Street on-ramp to close for 4 weeks.
If you use the Cherry Street on-ramp to northbound I-5, better find another route for the next four weeks. Sound Transit closed the ramp late Tuesday night, May 26. The ramp will remain closed for up to four weeks as crews prepare the ground beneath I-5 for tunneling. A 3-mile light rail tunnel will link downtown Seattle to the University of Washington. During the closure all drivers may use the Cherry Street entrance to the I-5 express lanes, which is normally restricted to buses and carpools.

Groovin' on I-5
If you drive on I-5 between the University District and Shoreline, you probably noticed the partially ground and grooved lanes. Since February we've worked nights and weekends to replace hundreds of cracked concrete panels and ground out miles of rutted and bumpy pavement. We're on track to finish the project on time late this summer. In the meantime drivers are advised to look out for "grooved pavement" signs along the highway and drive for road conditions.
Why the grooves? The process is like mowing a lawn row after row, only this lawn is 72 feet wide and six miles long – in both directions.

- Freight Travel Alerts -
I-5 Bellingham

START DATE/TIME: Friday, May 29 @ 10:00 pm
END DATE/TIME: Monday, June 1 @ 5:30 am
LOCATION: Southbound I-5 near the Northwest Avenue bridge (milepost 257)
>>Crews will close the right lane of southbound I-5 near the Northwest Avenue bridge (milepost 257) at 10 p.m. May 29, and reopen it by 5:30 a.m. Monday, June 1.
>>A wide-load detour is also in effect.
>>This work will also require crews to close the southbound I-5 on-ramp at Bakerview Road (exit 258).
DETOUR: Drivers needing to access southbound I-5 from Bakerview Road will detour north on I-5 to Slater Road, exit 260, where they will be able to exit and re-enter I-5 southbound. Drivers should plan alternate routes around the area if possible this weekend. Delays are expected.

For more information, visit the project Web page at

Westbound I-90 will close in July
Unprecedented backups are expected starting July 5 when all westbound lanes of I-90 floating bridge are closed for three weeks and all westbound traffic is shifted into just two express lanes.
During the past construction, travel times improve when drivers shifted when they commute. Changing driving habits will be crucial for drivers who want to avoid the July backups. So talk to your employer now to see about flexible scheduling, working from home and vacation time. The deadline for new vanpoolers to get three months free has been extended.
If Bike to Work Day is still on your mind, remember biking across the I-90 Bridge will be a great alternative to slogging through traffic in July. Two temporary bicycle bridges are being built around the construction zones to keep the I-90 Trail open. For more info:

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Spring 2009
Issue is Here.

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Past eBulletins

Signs of Economic Hope
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo
17th of May
Deep Bore Breakthrough
Tale of Two Garages

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