Continued Innovation Brings High Fuel Economy in U.S.

January 15, 2018

The EPA issued two annual reports that provide information on fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from light duty vehicles in the United States. The reports show auto manufacturers continue to innovate and make progress increasing fuel economy and reducing pollution.

The Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975-2017 report is the authoritative reference for real world fuel economy, technology trends and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions, for new personal vehicles sold in the U.S. every year since 1975. The report shows fuel economy for the U.S. fleet continues to improve. Model year (MY) 2016 vehicle fuel economy was 24.7 mpg, slightly higher than MY 2015, and a record high overall. Since MY 2004, fuel economy and CO2 emissions have improved in ten out of twelve years.

The Manufacturer Performance Report assesses compliance performance for individual automakers and for the U.S. fleet as a whole with the GHG emissions standards for light duty vehicles. This year’s report shows all manufacturers are in compliance with the standards.

EPA, DOT, and CARB implement coordinated regulations for passenger cars and light trucks on fuel economy and GHG emissions.

USDOT Announces Initiative to Modernize Data Analysis and Drive Down Fatalities

The DOT is launching a multi-model initiative, including two pilot programs to modernize its data analysis and integrate its traditional datasets with new “big data” sources to gain insights into transportation safety.

“Advances in data science have the potential to transform the Department’s approach to safety research and provide insights that can help improve highway safety,” said DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan announced the initiative at the Transportation Research Board Conference on January 8th.

One pilot project will integrate established data on known crashes and highway design with anonymous data from GPS-enabled devices that provides prevailing speeds at 5-minute intervals across the entire National Highway System. For the first time, the Department will be able to look directly at prevailing operating speeds at a large scale to see how speed and speed differentials interact with roadway characteristics to influence the likelihood of crashes. Every year speeding is a contributing factor in traffic fatalities, and in 2016 10,111 roadway deaths involved speed. The pilot will also look at the role of speed in rural incidents.

The second pilot project will integrate traffic crash data with data from the crowd-sourced app Waze on traffic hazards and conditions. This initiative will examine the feasibility of using this new crowd-sourcing application to provide a reliable, timely indicator of reportable traffic crashes, and estimate crash risk based on Waze-reported hazards.

Together, these pilot projects represent a new approach to data analysis that will seek to augment traditional data sources with new data that can be collected and analyzed much more quickly. This approach will create new multi-dimensional models of the transportation system. The initial focus of the effort is on gaining insights that will help drive down highway fatalities.

Michigan Tackles PFAS Contamination, Strengthens Environmental Criteria

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced it has developed a drinking water criterion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The residential and nonresidential drinking water criterion is 0.07 μg/L (70 parts per trillion) for the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS, which sets an official state standard for acceptable concentrations of these contaminants in ground water used for drinking water purposes.

The combined criterion took effect January 10, 2018. Previously there has been no level set in state criteria.

“This new standard allows us to take regulatory enforcement actions, something we have not been able to do absent a state criterion.” said Heidi Grether, DEQ director. “This means we will now have tools to mandate a responsible party conduct activities to address PFOA and PFOS contamination, thereby reducing risk to human health and the environment.”

With the new criterion, the department can now issue violation notices and take legal action against any responsible party who doesn’t comply with the state’s clean up rules.

“Our philosophy is that we expect responsible parties to voluntarily comply with state clean up criteria, which is why we work in close collaboration with them to help bring them into compliance,” said Grether. “This rule update allows us the proper enforcement tools to ensure state law is met on the occasion that we need them, should compliance become a challenge.”

The legal basis for development of the generic cleanup criteria is Part 201, Environmental Remediation, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, and the Part 201 administrative rules. Rule provisions [R 299.6(9) et al] allow the department to determine that a substance not listed in the generic cleanup criteria tables is a hazardous substance using best available information about toxicological and physical-chemical properties of the substance, and to use that information to develop a generic criterion. The new criterion developed pursuant to these rules take effect when published and announced by the MDEQ.

The PFOA and PFOS drinking water criterion is set at the lifetime health advisory value presented in the United States Environmental Protection Agency Drinking Water Health Advisories for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), EPA 822-R-16-005, May 2016 and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), EPA 822-R-16-004, May 2016. Compliance with the drinking water criterion requires comparing the sum of the PFOA and PFOS groundwater concentrations to the drinking water criterion of 0.07 μg/L. The drinking water criterion for PFOA and PFOS protect for both short-term developmental and chronic exposures.

Last fall Governor Snyder issued Executive Directive 2017-4 creating the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team MPART) to address the need for cooperation and coordination among agencies at all levels of government charged with identifying PFAS contamination, informing and empowering the public, and mitigating the potential effects. Particularly in view of the current lack of nationwide best practices, the directive serves to set a strategic and proactive approach for the state with this emerging contaminant. The MDEQ has been a key agency in the discovery and investigation of PFAS sites around the state with the goal of mitigating potential risk to public health and identifying immediate and long-term solutions to this issue.

“While PFAS is a national issue, we are determined to continue studying this emerging science until we are assured that Michigan’s communities are safe from this contaminant,” said Grether.

Listening Sessions Announced on Proposed Repeal of Clean Power Plan

The EPA announced the dates for three public listening sessions on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan: 

  • February 21, 2018 – Kansas City, MO
  • February 28, 2018 – San Francisco, CA
  • March 27, 2018 – Gillette, WY

“In response to significant interest surrounding the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan and the success of the West Virginia hearing, we will now hold listening sessions across the country to ensure all stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Contact: Registration information and more details will be posted at: Pre-registration to provide an oral presentation will begin when the notice is published in the Federal Register and close one week prior to each session.

With the publication of an upcoming Federal Register notice, EPA will re-open the public comment period for the proposed repeal through April 26, 2018 and provide further details on the listening sessions. Written statements and supporting information submitted while the public comment period is open will be considered with the same weight as any oral comments and supporting information presented at the listening sessions. Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the methods listed on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Repeal: How to Comment web page.

Climate Change Could Leave Largest Alteration on Earth’s Landscape

Climate change will replace land use change as the major driver of changes in Earth’s biosphere in the 21st century if GHG emissions aren’t curbed, new research suggests.

Historically, human land use change, like urban development and agricultural expansion, has been the primary cause of anthropogenic ecosystem change. For example, more than 4.5 billion hectares (17.4 million square miles) of the planet has been converted into land for growing crops and feeding livestock, roughly 30% of Earth’s land surface area.

But now, due to rising GHG levels, climate change has become a growing threat to ecosystems. The rapid pace of climate change is making it difficult for species to adapt to changes in temperature, water cycles, and other environmental conditions that affect life on Earth.

To address the risk of climate change, the world’s nations adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, an international pledge to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. In a new study published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, researchers developed computer simulations that illustrate how the success or failure of the Paris Agreement would impact Earth’s land ecosystems.

According to this new research, if the international community fails to reach their regulatory goal, climate change will likely replace land use change as the biggest catalyst for major changes to the planet’s ecological landscape.

Land use change has already interfered with important ecological systems and put species at risk of extinction. Scientists are concerned that climate change’s growing contribution to landscape change will deal even more damage to Earth’s biosphere.

“Think of the impacts that have already been caused by land use change. Now imagine that climate change impacts will likely be even bigger than that by the end of this century,” said Sebastian Ostberg, a geoecologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany and lead author of the new study.

A Changing Environment

Climate change can alter Earth’s ecosystems in several different ways. For instance, increasing temperatures can disrupt important time-sensitive ecological interactions that many species rely on for survival. Although every species reacts differently to these changes, a change in temperature could cause some plants and animals to start their activities earlier in spring, and cause some plants to shed their leaves later in autumn, Ostberg said.

The increased carbon dioxide levels associated with climate change can also drive ecosystem change, acting as fertilizer for vegetation growth and consequently causing a ‘greening effect’ across Earth. This kind of change presents a problem for regions normally devoid of plants, as increased vegetation can make ecosystems more vulnerable to fires and other major ecological changes.

Scientists have already seen evidence of some of these changes, and researchers predict these impacts will only increase if climate change isn’t controlled. “There are already observations of changes in ecosystems from all continents and all climate zones,” Ostberg said.

Modeling Global Impact

Several studies have examined how climate change and land use change have individually impacted or will impact Earth’s various ecosystems, but the new study seeks to understand how the interaction of these factors influences terrestrial biomes.

To fully assess how climate change and land use change will impact Earth’s ecosystems, the researchers created biosphere simulations for three scenarios. In the first scenario, the world reaches the Paris Agreement goal by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In the second scenario, the world reduces GHG emissions, but not enough to achieve the Paris Agreement goal, and in the third scenario, the world completely fails to control GHG emissions.

The researchers used climate change and land use projections based on four GHG concentration trajectories, known as representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Like the Paris Agreement scenarios, the RCPs represent varying degrees of GHG regulation success. Ostberg and his colleagues used each GHG pathway as a proxy to represent one of the three Paris Agreement scenarios.

The researchers ran computer simulations that demonstrated how climate change and land use change have already influenced the biosphere and how the two factors might influence the planet’s biosphere under the three Paris Agreement scenarios.

Their models suggest that by the start of the 21st century, climate change and land use change had already caused major ecosystem changes to 25-30% of Earth’s land surface, with land use change responsible for roughly twice as much land surface change compared to climate change.

If the international community successfully limits global warming to their agreed upon goal, the researchers say land use change will be responsible for major impacts to 23% of the Earth’s land surface, and climate change will account for major impacts to 22% of Earth’s land surface by the end of the century.

In the case that the world reduces GHG emissions, but is unable to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the researchers’ model projects climate change will cause major changes to 34% of Earth’s biosphere while land use change will impact 11-13% of the global land surface by 2100.

If the world fails to reduce carbon emissions, climate change and land use change will bring major changes to 73% of the global landscape by the end of the century, according to the model. In this scenario, the researchers predict climate change alone would account for almost three-quarters of this change.

“It’s hard to know what the future world will actually be like, but this is a valuable first attempt to draw attention to the fact that climate change in the future could become more important as a driver of land cover change than anthropogenic land use change,” said Jed Kaplan, an expert on land cover at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study.

Missouri Explosives Company Receives Final Permit for Full Operation

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved the proposed hazardous waste permit modification for the EBV Explosives Environmental Co. facility, allowing the company to begin full operation of new thermal treatment units at its facility.

EBV, doing business as General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, Munitions Services, operates a commercial hazardous waste treatment and storage facility at the site, located at 4174 County Road 180 in Carthage. EBV analyzes, packages and treats various explosive/reactive hazardous wastes. The explosives manufacturing industry, government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, and several other manufacturing companies produce the wastes.

EBV operates the facility under a department-issued Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Facility Part I Permit and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-issued Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Part II Permit. On Aug. 10, 2016, EBV submitted a permit modification request to the department, requesting to modify their Part I Permit to build and operate two new thermal treatment units housed in a new building at the facility. While reviewing EBV’s permit modification request, the department approved Temporary Authorization requests for EBV to build, test and temporarily operate the new thermal treatment units. After a thorough technical review of the permit modification request and opportunity for public comment, the department approved the permit modification request and issued a final Part I Permit modification, which allows the company to begin full operation of the new thermal treatment units.

There were no public comments received on the draft Part I Permit modification during the public comment period, which began Nov. 10, 2017, and ended Dec. 26, 2017. Please be aware that any parties adversely affected or aggrieved by department’s decision to approve the permit modification request and issue the final Part I Permit modification, or specific conditions of the final Part I Permit modification, may be entitled to pursue an appeal before the Administrative Hearing Commission by filing a written petition by Feb. 13, 2018, as more fully described on page 8 of the final Part I Permit modification.

The final Part I Permit modification and additional information is available on the department’s website or at the Joplin Public Library, 1901 E. 20th St., Joplin (during normal business hours). For more information about the final Part I Permit modification, or to obtain a written copy of the final Part I Permit modification for review, please contact Radu Mariuta, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Hazardous Waste Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176, by telephone at 573-751-3553 or 800-361-4827, or by email at Hearing- and speech-impaired individuals may reach Mariuta through Relay Missouri at 800-735-2966.

Electronics Industry Leaders Recognized for Innovation and Recycling Achievements

The EPA recently recognized leading electronics manufacturers, retailers, and brand owners for their significant contributions in designing products sustainably and diverting electronics from landfills by sending them to third-party certified recyclers as part of the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge.

“Innovative industry leaders finding new, sustainable methods to reduce electronic waste are paving the way for the future of manufacturing,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Through their efforts, our 2017 SMM Electronics Challenge winners exemplify the ability to promote economic growth while protecting human health and the environment.”

“CTA is honored to host EPA at CES 2018 and recognize companies helping advance our industry’s commitment to sustainability,” said Walter Alcorn, Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Industry Sustainability at the Consumer Technology Association. “This year’s award winners demonstrate our industry’s focus on advancing sustainable operations to reduce e-waste and our industry’s overall environmental impact.”

Electronics are a global economic driver with supply chains that reach around the world and products that touch every part of our lives. Today’s electronics are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials including precious metals. If not properly managed at the end of their lifetime, some of the materials in electronics may pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Leaders from Dell Inc. (Gold Tier); Samsung Electronics (Gold Tier); Staples, Inc. (Gold Tier); Xerox (Gold Tier); Best Buy Co., Inc. (Silver Tier); LG Electronics USA, Inc. (Silver Tier); VIZIO, Inc. (Silver Tier); and Sony Electronics, Inc. (Bronze Tier) gathered at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada to celebrate their environmental achievements, which include diverting over 227,000 tons of used electronics from landfills in 2016. This is equivalent to saving the energy used by over 58,000 homes for one year.

EPA also honored LG, Staples and Samsung as the SMM Electronics Challenge Champion Award winners for exemplifying leadership and innovative processes and products that focus on environmentally responsible ways to best use a product’s materials throughout its entire life cycle.

  • LG is receiving the Product Award for their line of OLED TVs. Compared to LCD/LED TVs, LG eliminated the use of several hazardous materials, reduced their overall materials impact, and made these TVs easier to disassemble and recycle.
  • Staples is receiving the Non-Product Award this year for their continued success with the “Make More Happen” initiative, an outreach and public education campaign that has provided information on Staples’ Technology Recycling Program to over 6 million people.
  • Samsung is receiving the Cutting Edge Award for their development of the Galaxy Upcycle program, a program in which Samsung provides all the necessary resources and tools to “upcycle” an old Galaxy smartphone into a new product, such as a closed circuit TV or a desktop PC.

Best Buy and Dell received Honorable Mentions in the Product and Cutting Edge Champion Award categories, respectively.

More information for consumers to find a location to donate or recycle their electronics click here.

Excellence in Site Re-Use Awarded to Seattle Industrial Park Project

The EPA recently announced eight recipients of the “Howard Orlean Excellence in Site Re-Use Award.” The award recognizes innovative and collaborative work of these public and private sector partners in Oregon to cleanup and redevelop the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park. The former Reynolds Metals Superfund Site is already home to a FedEx Ground sorting facility, and construction is now underway on an Amazon Fulfillment Center.

Receiving the award are:

  • Port of Portland
  • Alcoa Corp.
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
  • City of Troutdale, OR
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • FedEx Ground
  • Amazon
  • Trammell Crow Company

“The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park demonstrates what can happen when partners work together to clean up the site, transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries and get the site ready for redevelopment,” said EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, Chris Hladick. “This project will pay both environmental and economic dividends for decades.”

“It is with these partnerships that we can advance the Agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment in the best possible way,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “I congratulate the award winners and hope their efforts to turn a formerly polluted site into a beneficial addition to the surrounding communities becomes the norm for redevelopment and cleanup at Superfund sites across the country.”

Part of a national site reuse recognition program, EPA Region 10’s Howard Orlean Excellence in Site Re-Use Award recognizes “demonstrated commitment to collaboration, creativity, and selflessness when approaching productive, protective, and community-enhancing reuse of formerly contaminated commercial sites.” The regional award is named for the late EPA project manager and champion of productive reuse of Superfund sites.

The former Reynolds Metals Company Superfund Site in Troutdale, Oregon, includes an 80-acre former wartime aluminum smelter and about 700 surrounding acres. During cleanup, Alcoa, EPA and Oregon DEQ focused on plans to retain about half of the site property as industrial land. Risk assessments informed cleanup strategies paving the way for compatible redevelopment while protecting local neighborhoods and the environment.

PhD Candidate Awarded for Work on Solar Airfield Pavement Anti-Icing Systems

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has honored Joseph Daniels, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arkansas, with the Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) award in Washington, D.C. The annual award encourages college students to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to aviation challenges.

Daniels’ work examined the potential for developing an airfield pavement anti-icing system with electric heating elements and a photovoltaic energy system. He looked at the operation and economic advances of solar water heating technology and developed a metric to compare the solar technology with existing heated pavement projects and conventional deicing methods.

“Congratulations to this year’s winner for developing new techniques to enhance safety during extreme weather events at airports, which is so important to protecting the traveling public,” Secretary Chao said.

The RAISE award recognizes innovative scientific and engineering achievements that will have a significant impact on the future of aerospace or aviation.

A native of Silver Spring, MD, Daniels is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. His long-term objective is to incorporate sustainable practices and renewable energy to his research approach for cost efficiency, system longevity, and environmental protection.

For more information on the 2017 Secretary’s RAISE award please click here.

The 2018 RAISE announcement will be published in March.

DEEP Reminds Residents to Protect Air Quality, Burn Only Seasoned Firewood

Wood burning season in Connecticut is underway and to protect air quality the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) wants to remind residents to burn only clean, dry, seasoned firewood that has been split and dried for at least 6 months, and avoid allowing fires to smolder. 

“Many Connecticut residents burn wood to heat their homes, but it also creates air pollution,” said DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee. “Burning wood efficiently saves money and will let you and your neighbors breathe a little easier. On windy days, wood smoke pollution from your wood burning device can also negatively impact your neighbors without your knowledge so please be a good neighbor and be Air Aware.”

Wood burning in fireplaces and woodstoves is the largest source of particle pollution generated by residential sources during the winter. The cold and still winter weather conditions can cause wood smoke pollution to become trapped close to the ground and build up to unhealthy air quality levels, making it difficult for those with respiratory conditions to breathe.

Wood smoke affects everyone, but children, teenagers, older adults, people with lung disease, including asthma and COPD and/or people with heart diseases are the most vulnerable. The smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain tiny particles that can linger in the air and are so small that the bodies’ natural defenses cannot filter them out. Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. Some studies also suggest that long-term exposure to particle pollution can be linked to cancer, and harmful developmental and reproductive effects such as infant mortality and low birth weights.

Residents should check that their wood stoves and fireplaces are EPA-certified and be aware that burning wet wood is an inefficient means of heating your home because most of the energy goes towards drying the wood, not heating your home. Quality, well-seasoned firewood will also help your wood stove or fireplace burn cleaner and more efficiently, while green or wet wood can cause smoking problems, odor problems, rapid creosote buildup and possibly even dangerous chimney fires. Burning hardwoods rather than softwoods is also recommended because hardwoods provide more heat energy and burn more slowly and evenly, which produces less smoke.

Visit DEEP’s Woodstove webpage to find additional tips for cleaner wood burning.

Environmental News Links

Senators from 12 States Seek Offshore Drilling Exemptions, Like Florida’s

California Approves Closure of Last Nuclear Power Plant

New York City Suing Major Oil Companies Over Global Warming

Burning Iranian Oil Tanker Raises Environmental Concerns for China’s Coast

WateReuse Congratulates EPA On Release of Potable Reuse Compendium

ChlorPyrifos Pesticide Harms Salmon and Orcas Government Report Says

Clean Energy Transition Demands Action on Electricity Demand

Climate and Weather Disasters Cost U.S. a Record $306 Billion in 2017

Oil Giants See a Future in Off-Shore Wind Power

2017 Was the Third Warmest Year on Record for the US

FAA Drone Registry Tops One Million

Michigan Waste Facility Seeks OK to Treat Dioxins, Among Most Toxic Man-Made Chemicals

Trucking Company Wins Claim Against Insurance Company in $9M Claim