The House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality are issuing a series of Climate Change Legislation Design White Papers as the next step toward enactment of a mandatory, economy-wide climate change program.
Cell Phone Recycling Is an Easy Call
The nation’s leading cell phone makers, service providers, and retailers have teamed up with the EPA and New England states to answer the call for easy cell phone recycling in the New England region with EPA’s “Plug-In to eCycling” program. Partners supporting the cell phone recycling campaign include AT&T Wireless, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, Office Depot, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Staples, and T-Mobile.
“Thanks to our Plug-In partners’ efforts, recycling an old cell phone has become a quick and easy way for consumers to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keep valuable materials out of landfills and incinerators, and conserve natural resources,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “By dropping it off at a store or sending it through the mail, we have more recycling options today than ever before.”
EPA New England has been donating cell phones to various women’s crisis shelters, the Stoughton Fire Department, our U.S. troops in Iraq, and other organizations since 2004. In total, EPA New England has donated about 274 cell phones, 2 pagers, and numerous accessories.
To kick-off the campaign, EPA has released a series of print public service announcements, “Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s An Easy Call,” which highlight the convenience and environmental and social benefits of recycling a cell phone. EPA also introduced a podcast that addresses many common questions on cell phone recycling.
EPA started the campaign because many consumers still do not know where or how they can recycle their unwanted cell phones. Consequently, less than 20% of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year.
Recycling a cell phone offers an opportunity for everyone to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, and conserve natural resources. An estimated 100 to 130 million cell phones are no longer being used, many languishing in storage. If Americans recycled 100 million phones, we could save enough upstream energy to power more than 194,000 U.S. households for a year. If consumers were able to reuse those 100 million cell phones, the environmental savings would be even greater, saving enough energy to power more than 370,000 U.S. homes each year.
Plug-In To eCycling is a voluntary partnership between EPA and electronics manufacturers, retailers, and service providers to offer consumers more opportunities to donate or recycle their used electronics. In 2007, as part of their commitment to the program, retailers and electronics manufacturers voluntarily recycled more than 47 million pounds of electronics, mostly computers and televisions. For example, Staples and Office Depot both launched in-store electronics take-back programs across the continental United States, and Sony teamed up with Waste Management Inc. to expand local TV recycling opportunities. Efforts like these have helped the Plug-In program to recycle more than 142 million pounds of electronics since 2003.
Put Your Pipes on a Fat-Free Diet
It’s not something we think about when we pour leftover grease down the drain, but wastewater treatment plant operators across Washington state wish folks would put their pipes on a fat-free diet.
Most blockages in sewer systems can be traced to the presence of fats, oils, and grease, creating sewage spills and sewage overflows both onto private property and into city streets. It can also mean more frequent pumping of septic tanks.
Many people believe that pouring grease down the drain and following it with lots of hot water will keep the fats liquefied and carry them safely through the pipes. This is not true. Fats, oils, and grease cool down very quickly and can solidify after traveling only a few feet.
Raw sewage in the pipes will attach to fats, oils, and grease, creating impenetrable globs that back up sewer lines. These globs of fat and waste are difficult to disinfect at treatment plants and can allow disease-causing pathogens to enter nearby streams, lakes, and rivers.
“Cleanups are difficult and costly,” explained Lynda Jamison, a water-quality specialist with the Washington Department of Ecology. “Blockages can cause raw sewage to back up into streets and possibly even into homes and businesses.”
You can help keep fats from clogging pipes by disposing of grease properly:
- Never pour fats, oils, or grease down the drain.
- Never flush fats, oils, or grease down the toilet.
- Always put grease in the trash.
- Pour hot oils or grease into heat-proof containers, such as a tin can, and cool before putting it in the trash. You may even freeze the grease for easier disposal. Wipe greasy pans and dishes with paper towels before washing them and throw the paper towels into the trash to keep as much grease as possible out of your drains.
These tips can help prevent expensive plumbing repairs and sewage overflows. You can save yourself some repair bills, as well as keep our rivers and streams clean. Put your pipes on a fat-free diet. Dispose of grease properly.
Washington Gov. Gregoire Calls for Continued Work to Fight Climate Change
Governor Chris Gregoire hailed a new report as a key step toward shaping actions to limit and respond to climate change in Washington.
“Climate change is the defining environmental challenge of our generation. How we respond will tell everything about who we are—as a people and a state,” said Governor Gregoire. “It's a challenge that we must address to ensure we leave future generations a cleaner, healthier Washington state.”
One year ago, the governor issued an Executive Order that established goals for reductions in climate pollution, increases in jobs, and reductions in spending on imported fuel.
The Governor has asked the 2008 Legislature to adopt her legislation, developed with the business and environmental communities, which will lead the state’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide an increase in well-paying jobs in the clean energy sector, and continue to reduce Washington’s dependence on foreign fuels.
Governor Gregoire recognizes Washington is especially vulnerable to the changing climate, but it is also positioned to succeed in the clean energy economy. Under her leadership, we have already taken steps to strengthen emission standards, build the biofuels industry, and promote renewable sources of energy.
The Governor accepted the interim report from Ecology Director Jay Manning and CTED Director Juli Wilkerson, who cochaired the state’s Climate Advisory Team. “Leading the Way on Climate Change” contains:
- Directional recommendations from the Climate Advisory Team on actions and strategies that the state can use to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Team members will continue working in 2008 to develop specific details on possible actions and strategies. They expect to produce a final report before year's end.
- Recommendations from the state’s Preparation and Adaptation Work Groups that are meant to help guide preparations for inevitable impacts from climate change.
- A framework for involving citizens in efforts to limit and respond to climate change.
EPA Helps Bring Cleaner Heat to Montana County
A $100,000 grant from the EPA’s Woodstove Changeout Program will help bring cleaner heat to residents of Ravalli County in southwest Montana.
Montana public health officials are using the $100,000 grant to help replace old woodstoves for low-income residents who use wood as their primary source of heat. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will offer up to $2,570 toward the cost of changing out older, more polluting stoves to EPA-approved, cleaner-burning heating devices. Old stoves will be disabled and recycled.
Woodstoves sold in the United States before 1992 can be a significant source of fine particle pollution, also known as PM 2.5. Montana has recommended that EPA designate Ravalli County as nonattainment for EPA’s daily fine particle standard, based on the results of outdoor air quality monitoring. Woodstove changeouts are one step states can take to help reduce particle pollution and improve air quality.
Improving Public Health and the Environment for Local Communities Is Just a Click Away
A new EPA website features dozens of projects that local communities can undertake to help make the air cleaner and healthier to breathe. These projects have a successful track record: They were previously put into action by state and local governments across the country. This site includes information about the costs to establish and maintain each project and how local communities can apply for EPA grants to kick-start their activities.
NIH Collaborates With EPA to Improve Chemical Safety Testing to Reduce Reliance on Animal Testing
A new toxicity testing agreement will help improve the safety testing of chemicals ranging from pesticides to household cleaners, according to federal scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the EPA.
The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research was launched five years ago to create collaborations between institutes and centers on big projects that none could do alone. “(I) never envisioned a trans-agency collaboration testing for environmental toxins,” NIH Director, Elias A Zerhouni, M.D., said. “This research collaboration has the potential to make crucial discoveries that will protect the public health by identifying and understanding chemical toxicants to which people are exposed.”
Two NIH institutes have formed a collaboration with the EPA to use the NIH Chemical Genomics Center’s (NCGC) high-speed, automated screening robots to test suspected toxic compounds using cells and isolated molecular targets instead of laboratory animals. This new, trans-agency collaboration is anticipated to generate data more relevant to humans; expand the number of chemicals that are tested; and reduce the time, money, and number of animals involved in testing. Full implementation of the hoped-for paradigm shift in toxicity testing will require validation of the new approaches, a substantial effort that could take many years.
This collaboration is being made possible through a newly signed five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which leverages the strengths of each organization. The MOU builds on the experimental toxicology expertise at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), NIH; the high-throughput technology at NCGC, managed by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NIH; and the computational toxicology capabilities at the EPA’s recently formed National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT).
The MOU provides for sample and information sharing necessary to more rapidly and effectively identify chemicals that might pose possible risks to the health of humans and animals and to the environment. It addresses opportunities for coordination in four basic areas related to achieving the toxicant testing goals, including identification of toxicity pathways; selection of chemicals for testing; analysis and interpretation of data; and outreach to the scientific and regulatory communities. The collective budget is yet to be determined.
The MOU and the plans articulated in the Science article provide a framework to implement the long-range vision outlined in the 2007 National Research Council (NRC) report, “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy”, which calls for a collaborative effort across the toxicology community to rely less on animal studies and more on in-vitro tests using human cells and cellular components to identify chemicals with toxic effects. Importantly, the strategy calls for improvements in dose-response research, which will help predict toxicity at exposures that humans may encounter.
Simple Radon Test Can Prevent Lung Cancer
Did you know that a simple test can protect you from a major cause of cancer? Each year, more than 20,000 people die from lung cancer caused by exposure to radon, the leading cause of lung cancer deaths in non-smokers. Radon is an odorless, colorless naturally-occurring gas that could be seeping into your home right now. Yet, only one in five homeowners has actually tested their home for radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General are urging people to protect their health by testing their homes. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix it and protect yourself and your family. Any home can have a radon problem.
“There is a simple test to find out if you do or don’t have high radon levels in your home,” said a Regional Administrator for EPA. “Radon is a problem that can be easily fixed, and I urge everyone to test their homes.”
Test kits may be available from your state’s Radon Program, and they are also available for purchase at local hardware stores as well as from some local health departments. If the test shows that there is a problem, the homeowner should contact their state radon office for advice on how to fix it. Most solutions are simple and relatively inexpensive.
Nearly 80% of American homes have not been tested for radon, perhaps because radon cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Yet, it may be the most potent carcinogen in your home. In fact, radon can build to unhealthy levels, especially during colder months when windows and doors are kept closed. The invisible radioactive gas can seep into your home from underground and can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors.
EPA Reminds Pesticide Producers to File Annual Reports
EPA’s Region 7 is reminding businesses that produce pesticides to file annual pesticide production reports as of March 1, 2008. This pesticide information will provide EPA a reliable source of production volume and location of pesticide products.
“The mission and goal of EPA Region 7’s Toxics and Pesticides Branch is to ensure that the production, sales, distribution, or use of pesticides is in compliance with all applicable requirements and is protective of human health and the environment,” said John B. Askew, EPA’s Region 7 Administrator.
The following information for each pesticide produced is required to be filed in the annual reports: types and amounts produced in the past calendar year; types and amounts sold or distributed in the past calendar year, regardless of when the product was produced; and an estimate of the amount expected to be produced in the current year. This pesticide production information provides EPA with a significant tool for identifying and evaluating the production of pesticides.
The Toxics and Pesticides Branch is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) through a balanced approach of providing compliance incentives and assistance as well as taking appropriate enforcement actions, which may include penalties. FIFRA includes provisions requiring all businesses that produce pesticides, including repackaging and relabeling containers, to be registered by EPA.
Burt's Bees Embraces Renewable Energy and Offsets 100% of Its Electricity With Wind Power
Burt's Bees, a leading manufacturer of natural personal care products, announced that it has purchased 3,954,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by wind farms across America. Burt's Bees' REC purchase from Boulder, Colo.-based Renewable Choice Energy will offset 100% of the company's electricity use. The EPA estimates that this purchase helps avoid the same amount of CO2 emissions produced by nearly 563 passenger vehicles annually.
"Burt's Bees is committed to supporting the development of clean renewable wind energy and to continuously improving our company's overall environmental footprint," said John Replogle, president and CEO of Burt's Bees. "In addition to the energy and resource conservation efforts we currently have in place, this purchase of wind RECs is a step in the right direction as we do our part to move our country toward a more sustainable energy future."
Burt's Bees is encouraging its employees to join the company in supporting wind power by participating in Renewable Choice Energy's home wind power program, which enables consumers to purchase RECs offsetting their home energy use. When employees sign up for the wind power program, the company will pay 50% of the employee's first year charges as part of its employee benefits package. As part of its commitment to Burt's Bees, Renewable Choice Energy held an on-site educational training for employees on renewable energy and the REC market.
"Burt's Bees' purchase of RECs is a prime example of how environmentally responsible companies can play a significant role in developing our nation's wind energy infrastructure," said Quayle Hodek, CEO of Renewable Choice Energy. "Corporate REC purchases play a critical part in providing developers with more opportunities and flexibility to get wind projects built. We're excited to work with Burt's Bees and other progressive companies to create demand for an increase in our nation's supply of clean renewable wind power."
How RECs Work: More than 70% of U.S. electricity comes from fossil fuels like burning coal and gas. Every time we burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, harmful greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Wind power-generated electricity is renewable, sustainable, and does not produce environmental pollution.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) help get more clean power online. A REC is created every time a renewable energy facility adds one MWh of electricity to the national electricity grid. Every renewable energy developer considers REC sales when deciding whether or not to build new facilities. RECs allow government and consumers to price the positive value of renewable energy, making its generation more competitive financially with electricity generated from fossil fuels.
More than 20 states rely on RECs to track and verify government renewable energy mandates. Consumers purchased approximately 12 million megawatt hours of RECs in 2006. Organizations supporting the use of RECs include the World Resources Institute, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Green-e program, administered by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions, certifies and verifies every transaction to ensure that each REC meets the highest environment and regulatory standards and is not double counted. Green-e provides transparency, marketing guidelines, and consumer disclosure for renewable energy credits.
Novelis Corporation to Pay $1.9 Million to EPA for Past Cleanup at Superfund Site
The Novelis Corporation has agreed to reimburse the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) $1.9 million for cleanup costs at the Butler Mine Tunnel Superfund Site in Pittston, Luzerne County, Pa.
Novelis Corp., previously known as the Alcan Aluminum Corp., is the last of approximately 50 potential responsible parties to agree to reimburse EPA for cleanup costs. A consent decree, lodged January 11 by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of EPA, requires Novelis to pay the $1.9 million in three installments, which covers the remaining balance of EPA’s cleanup costs at the site.
The Butler Mine Tunnel was constructed in the 1930s in order to drain deep-mine workings from underground coal mines in a surrounding five-mile area. Flow from the mine tunnel discharges directly into the Susquehanna River. An oily discharge in the Susquehanna in 1979 was traced to runoff from the mine tunnel. The runoff was further traced to boreholes that were originally drilled into the mines to serve as air vents.
Novelis Corp. was allegedly one of several parties identified as contributors to the runoff because the company had hired a contractor to dispose of hazardous industrial waste that was discharged directly into one of the boreholes that led to a network of deep underground mines and eventually flowed into the Susquehanna. Under the Superfund law, the landowners, waste generators, and waste transporters that are responsible for the contamination of a Superfund site must either clean up the site or reimburse the government or other parties for cleanup activities.
Since 1987, when the site was added to EPA’s Superfund list of the nation’s most contaminated sites, EPA has entered into several consent decrees that required responsible parties to perform remedial action and/or reimburse EPA. Most of the remedial action was completed at the site in 2005.
EPA Recovers $1.45 Million in Cleanup Costs for California Superfund Sites
The EPA is recovering $1.45 million from Powerine Oil Company and two related entities, CENCO Refining Company and Energy Merchant Corp., for cleanup costs at three southern California Superfund Sites—Waste Disposal, Inc., in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Operating Industries, Inc., in Monterey Park, Calif., and Casmalia Resources in Casmalia, Calif.
According to a federal lawsuit filed in 2004, Powerine Oil Company sent hazardous substances, including oil refinery wastes, to all three sites, resulting in liability under the Superfund law. EPA also alleges that Powerine Oil Company and its parent company, Energy Merchant Corp., illegally transferred assets when Powerine Oil Company distributed to Energy Merchant Corp. funds that should have been paid to EPA.
“This settlement will bring valuable resources to help finance three very important and complex cleanup projects,” said Keith Takata, director of the Superfund Division for EPA’s Region 9 office. “We pursue financial settlements such as this one with Powerine, to recover the costs EPA spends to cleanup sites.”
In September 2006, EPA certified that construction was complete at the Waste Disposal, Inc., site, but remedy operation and maintenance continues. EPA has several cleanup projects to complete at the Operating Industries, Inc., site; with the rest of the remedial work being conducted by other liable parties at the site. EPA is currently investigating and characterizing the Casmalia Site, conducting cleanup actions, overseeing the installation of permanent caps on several landfills, and conducting groundwater monitoring.
Enacted by Congress in 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act created a “Superfund” account, which was originally funded by a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries, and provided broad federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that might endanger public health or the environment.
Two Penalties Handed Out in Columbia River Spill Case
Findings from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) investigation into a December 2006 fuel spill have resulted in separate penalties against the owner of the ship and a tank barge operator.
Ecology has handed a $14,000 penalty to Seattle’s Olympic Tug & Barge, Inc., for spilling 50 gallons of diesel fuel to the Columbia River during a fuel transfer on Dec. 4, 2006, to the car carrier Cosmos Express, while the vessel was moored at a Port of Vancouver berth.
After the fuel transfer, the Olympic barge had disconnected its fueling hose from the Cosmos Express hose. The tank barge crew member lost control of the ship’s hose and it swung out over the side of the tank barge, spilling the fuel to the barge’s deck and into the Columbia River.
The captain of the Cosmos Express quickly reported the spill to the U.S. Coast Guard and Ecology. However, the Olympic barge’s tankerman initially reported only a small spill to the barge deck. Ecology and Coast Guard inspectors found diesel fuel downstream of the ship’s berth the next day. The crew member then admitted fuel had indeed reached the river.
“This was an unfortunate incident that was compounded by the actions of a worker in charge of the oil transfer,” said Ecology’s Jim Sachet, who oversees spill response activities in southwest Washington. “Anytime oil is spilled to water, it damages the environment. We rely on quick and accurate information from the spiller to make sure that the oil spill is controlled and cleaned up as much as possible.”
An Ecology investigation found that Olympic Tug & Barge was negligent for the spill due to poor positioning of the barge and transfer hoses, hose connections, hose draining procedures, and inexperience of the lead worker who was under pressure to hasten the job. Once informed of the spill, the company cooperated fully, giving department investigators access to crew members, vessels, and documents.
The immediate cause of the spill was linked to the tankerman’s failure to follow company procedures. He was fired by Olympic for failure to follow company policies, including notification of the spill to appropriate authorities and the company.
Barber Ship Management of Malaysia, which operates the Cosmos Express, is being fined $1,000 for the diesel spill to the river because the fuel came from that ship’s hose. They were not found negligent.
Federal Agreement Ensures Long-Term Protection of the Troy Mills Landfill Superfund Site
EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have reached a bankruptcy settlement agreement to resolve claims with Troy Mills, Inc., of New Hampshire and the bankruptcy trustee appointed to oversee the bankruptcy.
The Troy Mills Landfill Superfund site is a two-acre former drum disposal area located on a larger 270-acre parcel owned by Troy Mills in Troy, N.H. The site was used by Troy Mills to dispose of drums of hazardous substances that were generated in its manufacturing process. In September 2003, the site was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).
Under the agreement, the bankruptcy trustee and Troy Mills agree, in exchange for a release from liability at the site, that the United States will have an allowed administrative claim against the debtor in the amount of $14 million and be allowed to place a lien for this amount on the property. In addition, the bankruptcy trustee will grant an easement and environmental agreement to the State of New Hampshire, which will allow access to the property, as well as establish land use restrictions to prevent exposure to contaminated groundwater and soil at the site.
“This settlement agreement marks an important milestone at the Troy Mills site,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “It ensures that the Troy Mills site will have the necessary land use restriction in place to protect human health and the environment. We look forward to continuing to work with the state and local community to implement the site’s cleanup.”
EPA removal actions initiated in July 2004 involved the excavation of 7,692 buried drums, the removal of 29,924 gallons of flammable liquid waste and 3,099 cubic yards of sludge, and the excavation of 26,244 tons of heavily contaminated soil, which were transported off-site for disposal at permitted facilities. EPA’s long-term cleanup plan finalized in September 2005 calls for monitored natural reduction of contaminated groundwater, institutional controls, and maintenance of the existing remediation systems, such as collection trenches, a permeable soil cap, and monitoring wells.
Pennsylvania’s DEP Underscores the Importance of Commitment to Abandoned Mine Reclamation Projects
The unregulated mining practices of the past have left southwestern Pennsylvania with challenges. However, the state is addressing those economic and environmental issues and working to restore the state’s natural treasures, according to the state’s top mining official.
“All across the state, we’ve worked hard to turn the mining-scarred land remnants of Pennsylvania’s past into safe areas that create economic opportunities and add to the quality of life here,” said Scott Roberts, Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources. “Here in western Pennsylvania, where mining has a long history, the state has invested nearly $90 million since 2003 to reclaim abandoned mine lands and restore acid mine damaged streams in the 24 counties represented by this coalition.”
Roberts pointed to abandoned mine reclamation projects in western Pennsylvania that were recently awarded contracts through DEP, including a $232,000 project in Rayne Township, Indiana County. Others include:
- $777,600 to stop acid mine drainage (AMD) and reclaim an abandoned mine in Benezette Township, Elk County
- $653,000 to fund nearly 120,000 cubic yards of grading on an abandoned mine along state Route 3011, install piping, and stop AMD in Irwin Township, Venango County
- $86,500 for grading, ditch excavation, seeding, and installing lining and filter material at a project in West Liberty Borough, Butler County
“Despite this substantial investment, much work remains,” Roberts said. “That’s why Governor Rendell pushed so hard to persuade Congress to reauthorize the federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund, which now, will provide increased funding for this important environmental initiative during the next 15 years.”
The federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund program directs money to states that have abandoned mine lands to reclaim and is funded by a tax on current mining activities. Pennsylvania will receive $27.6 million from the program for 2008, up to 30% of which can be used for treating abandoned mine drainage that makes streams uninhabitable for fish and other aquatic life.
Recent media reports incorrectly stated that the commonwealth will not fund abandoned mine drainage projects in the future, but Roberts disputes those claims and said that these projects will continue to be funded through the department’s abandoned mine reclamation program this year and beyond.
KDHE Renews Its Call for Reductions of Greenhouse Gases
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has renewed its call to industry and stakeholders to engage in discussions to establish goals for voluntary reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in Kansas.
“Despite repeated invitations, no one has contacted us to begin the public process of addressing climate change in Kansas,” stated the Secretary of KDHE, Roderick L. Bremby. “We need to work side-by-side to develop a state policy addressing greenhouse gas emissions to better position Kansas when the inevitable federal legislation is enacted.”
It is almost certain that a federal “cap and trade” system will be enacted within the next three years that would create a price for carbon dioxide emissions similar to those being implemented in Europe. Industry experts believe the cost would likely be $20 to $30 a ton.
“We are choosing not to ignore the impending federal legislation,” said Bremby. “We want to work with industry to develop strategies to mitigate those future regulations.”
One tool that will be used when considering energy policy options will be the state’s first detailed inventory of carbon dioxide pollution emitted in Kansas. KDHE has hired the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) to inventory greenhouse gas emissions for Kansas for the period of 1990–2025.
CCS is a nonprofit service organization that works directly with public officials and agencies to identify design and implement policies that address climate mitigation, clean energy, and economic development opportunities. It is estimated that the inventory will be completed by the end of April.
New York City Becomes First City to Pass Electronics Recycling Law
The New York City Council passed groundbreaking legislation (Intro. 104-A) that will institute a city-wide electronics recycling program for the 25,000 tons of discarded electronics the city collects annually, making it the first major municipality in the nation to tackle the rising tide of discarded electronics in the waste stream.
“Every time you turn around, there’s a new iPod or iPhone, a new slimmer laptop or a bigger TV enticing you to purchase it,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “With the speed at which we upgrade our gadgets these days, it’s no wonder that electronics are the fastest-growing part of our waste stream. But now, with the city’s adoption of a 21st-century recycling measure, New York has found a solution that will undoubtedly become the model for other jurisdictions around the nation.”
The law, sponsored by 47 council members, requires computer, TV, and MP3 manufacturers to take responsibility for the collection of their own electronic products when New Yorkers want to dispose of them. The measure will save the city money and give manufacturers the incentive to design less toxic and easier-to-recycle products. The city’s Department of Sanitation will have to approve each manufacturer’s collection plan, which could include curbside collection, drop-off events, or mail-in programs.
“New Yorkers now have a clear, simple answer to the question: ‘What do I do with my old iPod, TV, or computer?’” said Sinding. “And, finally, all those old electronic products collecting dust in our homes can be disposed of properly, affording us a little extra closet space as well.”
Old electronics account for about 40% of the lead found in municipal landfills as well as mercury, cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals in landfills and municipal incinerators. Currently, much of New York City’s electronic waste is burned in the Newark incinerator, polluting the air in New York and New Jersey with heavy metals.
“We now have a smarter way to deal with old electronics that doesn’t include burning them or burying them in landfills,” said Sinding. “And it is a system that both taxpayers and business can get behind. We consumers can now get rid of our electronics in an environmentally responsible way and companies can now recover and reuse valuable materials instead (of) tossing them aside in ways that will come back to haunt us. Speaker Quinn, chief sponsor Bill de Blasio, and Sanitation Committee Chair Michael McMahon, along with the rest of the bill’s sponsors, deserve a great deal of credit for passing this measure, which Mayor Bloomberg should quickly sign into law.”
The new measure also received broad support from major corporations, such as Apple and GE, and Tekserve, one of New York City’s largest computer retailers. Nearly two dozen environmental groups also supported the measure, including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the League of Conservation Voters, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
The law requires companies to begin collecting old equipment in July 2009. Starting in July 2010, the Department of Sanitation will no longer accept electronic products covered in the bill for collection and can fine manufacturers if they fail to submit approvable plans and/or fail to meet specific performance standards in implementing them. By 2012, manufacturers must take back at least 25% (by weight) of their current sales for recycling or reuse; by 2015, they must collect 45%; and by 2018, manufacturers must collect at least 65% of their current sales.
Companies Recognized for Green Power Purchases
Three major companies based in New England—Staples, Inc., State Street Corporation, and Pitney Bowes—were among 53 Fortune 500 organizations recently recognized by EPA for taking voluntary steps to purchase and use green power.
EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program helping to increase the use of green power among U.S. organizations. There are currently hundreds of partners utilizing green power to reduce the environmental impacts from conventional electricity generation, including Fortune 500 companies; local, state, and federal governments; trade associations; as well as colleges and universities. Each of the award winners are EPA Green Power Partners who must meet or exceed EPA purchase requirements for green power.
“Integrating environmental leadership into the corporate world is one of the important steps in addressing environmental problems, including climate change,” the regional administrator of EPA’s New England office stated. “When large companies make the move to use green power, it demonstrates that alternative power sources are viable.”
California Leads the Nation in ENERGY STAR Buildings
Finding energy-efficient schools, supermarkets, offices, and other facilities throughout the country has become even easier for Americans interested in being green. People can now find the ENERGY STAR where we work, shop, learn, and play. The number of commercial buildings and manufacturing plants to earn the ENERGY STAR for superior energy efficiency is up by more than 25% in the past year, and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions reduced has reached an all-time high of more than 25 billion pounds.
California is home to 917 ENERGY STAR-qualified buildings, representing approximately 177 million square feet of space and saving an estimated $199 billion annually in lower energy bills, while meeting industry standards for comfort and indoor air quality. These buildings also prevent 1.6 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions from more than 135,000 vehicles.
“Building owners in California are taking important steps to reduce their carbon footprint by creating ENERGY STAR buildings,” stated, Wayne Nastri, the EPA administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “They realize they can reduce energy costs without sacrificing comfort or tenant satisfaction.”
In the United States, 4,056 office buildings, schools, hospitals, and public buildings have earned the EPA’s ENERGY STAR for superior energy and environmental performance, including 1,400 in 2007.
Energy use in commercial buildings and manufacturing plants account for nearly half of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 50% of energy consumption nationwide. For more than a decade, EPA has worked with businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through strategic energy management practices. There are ENERGY STAR-qualified facilities across the country. To qualify for the ENERGY STAR, a building or manufacturing plant must score in the top 25% using EPA’s National Energy Performance Rating System.
ENERGY STAR was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. In 2006, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved about $14 billion on their energy bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million vehicles.
Energy Star Class of 2007 Includes 47 Schools, Hospitals, and Commercial Buildings in the Pacific Northwest
Forty-seven commercial buildings and manufacturing plants in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have earned the 2007 Energy Star label. Energy Star is a program for top-performing buildings that have made powerful cuts to their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
“We applaud the efforts taken to make these buildings models of energy efficiency,” said EPA Regional Administrator Elin Miller. “Energy conservation leadership in the public and commercial building sector is helping keep the Pacific Northwest at the forefront of the national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Green Choices Grow With Energy Star-Qualified Buildings
Finding energy-efficient schools, supermarkets, offices, and other facilities throughout the country has become even easier for Americans interested in being green. Now they can find the Energy Star not only where they live but where they work, shop, play, and learn.
“From a historic office tower in the Big Apple to a small manufacturing plant in America’s heartland—EPA is pleased to see so many organizations offering high-efficiency Energy Star buildings and facilities,” said Robert J. Meyers, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation.
Nearly 4,100 buildings and manufacturing plants have earned the EPA’s Energy Star through the end of 2007, with the addition of more than 1,400 in 2007 alone. They include about 1,500 office buildings, 1,300 supermarkets, 820 K-12 schools, and 250 hotels. Also, more than 185 banks, financial centers, hospitals, courthouses, warehouses, dormitories, and—for the first time—big-box retail buildings earned the Energy Star. More than 35 manufacturing plants such as cement, auto assembly, corn refining, and—for the first time—petroleum refining are also being recognized.
In total, these award-winning commercial buildings and manufacturing plants have saved nearly $1.5 billion annually in lower energy bills and prevented carbon dioxide emissions equal to the emissions associated with electricity use of more than 1.5 million American homes for a year, relative to typical buildings.
Energy use in commercial buildings and manufacturing plants accounts for nearly half of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 50% of energy consumption nationwide. For more than a decade, EPA has worked with businesses and organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through strategic energy management practices. Today, there are Energy Star-qualified facilities in every state across the country. To qualify for the Energy Star, a building or manufacturing plant must score in the top 25% using EPA’s National Energy Performance Rating System.
Energy Star was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. In 2006, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved about $14 billion on their energy bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million vehicles.
More Than 175 Buildings in New England Receive ENERGY STAR Designation
EPA has recognized the top performing buildings in New England that have earned the prestigious ENERGY STAR label for superior energy performance. These award-winning buildings represent more than 38 million square feet, save an estimated $52 million annually in reduced energy bills, and prevent more than 400 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to the annual emissions of approximately 1 million vehicles.
“Across New England, businesses and organizations are stepping forward to brighten our nation’s future by making smart decisions that are good for the environment and good for the bottom line,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. These facilities have shown innovation, good management, and a commitment to leading the way with a new generation of environmentally preferable building management practices.”
In 2007 alone, more than 60 buildings in New England were awarded ENERGY STAR labels. These buildings include private and government office buildings, hotels, K-12 schools, and even college residence halls and town halls.
The Old Saybrook Inn & Spa is the only hotel in Connecticut to earn the ENERGY STAR label in 2007. “We view our operation of our Inn as a stewardship,” said Stephen Tagliatel, part-owner of Saybrook Inn & Spa. “When at all practical, we look to preserve our location and to do our part in protecting and rescuing our environment. We have been conscious of the need to conserve since my family purchased the property in 1980.”
In Brunswick, Vt., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s administration and visitor facility is the newest in that state to earn recognition. “We are delighted that the new Nulhegan Division national wildlife refuge administration and visitor facility is the first within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to receive ENERGY STAR designation,” said Wendi Weber, deputy regional director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “In the last decade, we have built eight new energy-efficient facilities at our field stations in the Northeast region to meet national environmental design standards. We strive to make our buildings as environmentally sensitive as possible as part of the Service’s mission to conserve natural resources.”
EPA Investigation to Determine if Smith and Thompson’s California Site Is a Health Threat
The EPA is conducting a geophysical survey and will conduct a preliminary assessment of an illegal disposal site known as the Smith and Thompson Pumping Company Site in Lancaster, Calif. The court-ordered surface cleanup of the site is complete, and EPA’s investigation will determine if hazardous waste is buried underground.
“We’re conducting a thorough investigation to determine if there is any danger to residents in the surrounding community,” said Rich Martyn, Federal On-scene Coordinator for the Superfund Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “So far, we have not found an imminent, substantial threat—but if we do, we will take action.”
The EPA estimates the preliminary assessment and survey will be completed by early summer. The geophysical survey will be completed first and will help the EPA identify if there is waste buried underground at the site. The EPA began the geophysical investigation February 13, using ground-penetrating radar to identify potential hazards and shovels to recover them.
In 2005, two drums were unearthed at the site, both of which were later determined to be non-hazardous. To date, no additional drums have been found.
Following the geophysical survey, EPA will conduct a preliminary assessment that will review possible longer-term threats posed by the site, with respect to soil and groundwater contamination. The preliminary assessment will provide an abbreviated evaluation of the site’s eligibility for the Superfund National Priorities List.
Together, these studies should provide the information the EPA needs to evaluate if the site poses a risk to nearby residents and water supplies.
The EPA will continue to work closely with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to investigate and further remediate this site.
Draft List of Tennessee Impaired Waters for Public Review
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has released a statewide listing of streams, lakes, and reservoirs that do not support the public’s use of them.
The department will take public comments on the draft 303(d) List at a series of public meetings in February and March. Written comments will be accepted through March 17. After responses are prepared for the comments received, the 303(d) List may be modified and will be submitted to the EPA for review and approval.
“The primary mandate of the Department’s Division of Water Pollution Control is to preserve and protect the right of the people of Tennessee to safe and clean water,” said Paul Sloan, Deputy Commissioner for Environment. “To fulfill its mandate, our program must monitor and assess surface waters to determine if they are suitable for their intended uses.”
Tennessee has an abundance of water resources, with more than 60,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 500,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs within its borders. Waters are classified for specific uses. All streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs in Tennessee are classified at a minimum to meet the national goal of fishable and swimmable waters. Tennessee’s classified uses include designations to protect fish and other aquatic life; to maintain streams for recreational uses, such as swimming, wading, and boating; to minimize human health risks from pollutants; and to provide for public water supplies.
Water quality criteria establish how clean the water needs to be to maintain the public’s use of a stream or lake. When different criteria are assigned for different uses of the same stream or lake, the department’s rules require that the most stringent criterion be met. The department has tested water quality at more than 6,000 locations across the state in the last 35 years.
“We use a combination of chemical, physical, and biological monitoring methods to obtain information for our assessments,” said Paul Davis, director of the department’s Division of Water Pollution Control. “Reliable data from partner agencies and other sources are also utilized. Our assessments help the department, other agencies, and watershed and community groups plan restoration activities to improve the quality of waters affected by pollution.”
The draft 303(d) List compiles all the waters known by the state to violate one or more water quality standards in a single document. Once identified, these streams and lakes are prioritized for specialized studies called total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). TMDLs identify the sources of pollutants and propose strategies to restore bodies of water through various pollutant controls.
“Everyone is affected by water pollution and has a vested interest in improving water quality,” Sloan said. “Everyone contributes to pollution in large and small ways. By understanding the effects of pollution and what each of us can do to reduce those effects, we can make a difference in Tennessee and the world.”
Public meetings will be held in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Johnson City.
Green Transportation Infrastructure
Although EPA does not have a position on the “Green Transportation Infrastructure Research and Technology Transfer Act” (H.R. 5161), it does support efforts to raise awareness and stimulate research and action for green infrastructure. The U.S. House of Representatives Science and Technology Subcommittee on Innovation approved the legislation last week with an amendment and will be considered by the full committee next. Subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are also considering the legislation.
“The bill recognizes (that) our country can accelerate environmental and transportation progress together,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “Through our January 2008 Green Infrastructure Strategy and the President’s Executive Order 13423 (Strengthening Federal Energy, Environmental, and Transportation Leadership), EPA and the Department of Transportation are working together to advance common goals and protect watersheds, such as our Green Highways partnership in the Mid-Atlantic region. The growing emphasis on green transportation infrastructure will be key to meeting our ambitious goals for protecting wetlands and managing stormwater.”
EPA Helps Communities Increase Water System Sustainability
EPA is providing tools and timely information to help communities improve sustainability of their water systems. Two new documents that describe how EPA is carrying out efforts to help are the “National Capacity Development Strategic Plan” and “Analysis on the Use of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Set-Asides: Promoting Capacity Development.” EPA works with a number of partners, including organizations that provide technical assistance to small public water systems for improving technical, managerial, and financial capacity of systems.
The “National Capacity Development Strategic Plan” describes how EPA, state drinking water programs, drinking water system owners and operators, and technical assistance providers will work together to achieve the objectives and anticipated outcomes of the national capacity development program. The strategy outlines how EPA and its partners will promote proactive communication and outreach to help ensure that water systems have the capacity to demonstrate long-term sustainability. Funding made available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program can be critical in advancing capacity development programs at the state level.
EPA’s report titled “Analysis on the Use of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Set-Asides: Promoting Capacity Development” provides information on how states have used their funds and will help state drinking water personnel, drinking water system owners and operators, and technical assistance providers to better understand how the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund can support state programs and EPA’s sustainable infrastructure initiative.
California Calls on EPA to Adopt More Protective Ozone Strategy
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve its plans to meet the eight-hour ozone standard for both Southern and Central California and is revoking its plan to attain the one-hour ozone standard in Southern California.
ARB staff decided to pull the outdated 2003 one-hour ozone standard plan, because there is already a one-hour State Implementation Plan, or "SIP," in place for Southern California that the U.S. EPA approved in 2001. This SIP has helped reduce smog-forming emissions in Southern California at unprecedented rates. Although ozone concentrations on the South Coast were more than twice the standard during the mid-1990s, today more than 60% of the area's population live and work in areas that meet the standard. These areas include nearly all of Orange County and the coastal region of Los Angeles County.
ARB will not rescind its one-hour ozone SIP for the Central Valley because there is no other plan in place for reducing the region's smog-forming emissions. "At this point, the current SIP is no more than a paperwork exercise. We have the framework in place to reduce South Coast ozone emissions already and have passed the halfway mark in terms of being where we need to be by 2010," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "We now need the U.S. EPA to act on our eight-hour ozone standard plans."
The EPA set a new eight-hour ozone standard in 1997 that largely supersedes the previous one-hour standard, because it is more stringent and protective. The eight-hour standard protects the public against chronic health effects from day-long episodes to unhealthy ozone concentrations as compared to one-hour exposures. ARB submitted eight-hour ozone SIPs for both the Central Valley and Southern California to the U.S. EPA in November. These SIPs include measures that will reduce thousands of deaths and illnesses associated with smog exposure. The U.S. EPA never acted on the 15-year-old plan that ARB is rescinding today.
NOAA Study Shows Extent of Harmful Human Influences on Global Marine Ecosystems
More than 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily impacted by human activities, including overfishing and pollution, according to a new study that will appear in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
Casey said three measures of human-induced climate change were examined by the research team, including changes in sea surface temperatures, UV radiation, and ocean acidification. These measures were found to be among the most important factors in determining the global impacts.
“The extent of human influence was probably more than any of us expected,” said Casey, explaining that red areas on the map indicate the most heavily impacted regions. He added the study and map—designed to visually highlight the trouble spots in the oceans—are tools for the world’s decision-makers to assess the real impact of human activities on marine ecosystems and help identify ways to lessen the threats.
According to the study, the ecosystems most at threat are: coral reefs, which house more than 25% of all marine life and protect against wave erosion, and seagrass beds, which are nursery grounds for young fish and mangroves, which grow in coastal habitats and also help ward off erosion.
“This project allows us to finally start seeing the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Ben Halpern of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California—Santa Barbara.
Casey said the study established the framework for routinely assessing the state of marine ecosystems in the future. “As we compile more and better data, they can be fed back into the study to see where things stand.”
Maryland Department of Environment Issues Statement on CFLs and Mercury
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) encourages citizens to reduce energy costs, protect the Chesapeake Bay, and help combat climate change by using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)—an important tool in efforts to reduce energy use—which benefits air and water quality and addresses climate change.
CFLs have several advantages over incandescent light bulbs. They last 8–10 times longer, use about 75% less energy, and produce 90% less heat while delivering more light per watt. For example, a 25-watt CFL provides about 1,800 lumens, where a 100-watt incandescent lamp provides 1,750 lumens. Use of CFLs reduces electricity use and the amount of pollutants such as nitrogen, mercury, and carbon dioxide emitted from power plants.
CFL bulbs contain up to 5 milligrams of mercury, the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen, as compared to older home thermostats and mercury fever thermometers, which contain between 500 to 30,000 milligrams of mercury.
The MDE urges consumers to use care when handling CFLs by screwing and unscrewing the bulb by the base. If a CFL bulb breaks, the amount of mercury released can evaporate into the air where it will likely remain at a level below safety standards set by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
CFL bulbs should be recycled after use, if at all possible. MDE strongly encourages consumers to take advantage of available local recycling options for used CFL bulbs. Some counties in Maryland have permanent sites for household hazardous waste (HHW) collection, including CFLs, while others have collection events on certain dates throughout the year. If recycling is not an option, a CFL bulb may be placed in the household trash.
Public Listening Session Scheduled for New Hampshire Climate Change Action Plan
The New Hampshire Governor’s Climate Change Policy Task Force will be holding a public listening session on Tuesday, February 19, from 5– 9 p.m. in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H.
This will be the public’s first opportunity to contribute to the development of the New Hampshire Climate Change Action Plan. Members of the Climate Change Policy Task Force and staff from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services will be on hand to provide information on the process and listen to citizen concerns. The event is anticipated to yield valuable insights regarding the potential opportunities and impacts that should be considered early on in the development process.
Illinois EPA Removes Chemicals Used in Classrooms
Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott announced another success