May 10, 2021
The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provides EPA new authorities to address hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) in three main areas: phasing down the production and consumption of listed HFCs, maximizing reclamation and minimizing releases of these HFCs and their substitutes in equipment (e.g., refrigerators and air conditioners), and facilitating the transition to next-generation technologies by restricting the use of HFCs in particular sectors or subsectors. Under this third authority, EPA recently received five petitions from industry, states, and environmental organizations to address HFC use in refrigeration, air conditioning, and other applications.
The AIM Act’s phasedown is consistent with the global phasedown of HFCs outlined in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international agreement ratified by more than 115 countries.
EPA has proposed its first rule under the AIM Act to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and many other applications. The AIM Act directs EPA to sharply reduce production and consumption of these harmful pollutants by using an allowance allocation and trading program. This phasedown will decrease the production and import of HFCs in the United States by 85% over the next 15 years. A global HFC phasedown is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.
“With this proposal, EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check. The phasedown of HFCs is also widely supported by the business community, as it will help promote American leadership in innovation and manufacturing of new climate-safe products. Put simply, this action is good for our planet and our economy.”
“By phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are powerful greenhouse gases, implementation of the AIM Act will create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs that will combat climate change, said Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “In joining the rest of the world in reducing the use of HFCs, we will help avoid an increase of 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century. Passing the AIM Act was a momentous climate achievement that will help save our planet, and today we are one step closer to its benefits being a reality.”
“The AIM Act is one of the most significant environmental policy laws passed in recent years. This HFC allocation rule is key to achieving an orderly HFC phasedown in the United States, creating a uniform federal approach to this effort, and capturing significant projected environmental and economic benefits,” said Karen Meyers, Vice President of the Rheem Manufacturing Company, and Chairman of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy. “Alliance member companies look forward to working with EPA on rapid completion of this first AIM Act rule, as well as moving to next generation compounds and user technologies and improving refrigerant management.”
“The U.S. Climate Alliance welcomes this next step from EPA to phase down highly potent HFCs across the country. National standards will ensure all communities have access to higher quality products, and that we are giving U.S. industry the best opportunity to innovate and lead the global transition to HFC alternatives,” said U.S. Climate Alliance Executive Director Julie Cerqueira. “Alliance states have been leading the charge in reducing HFC emissions in recent years and now have a strong federal partner in this push. It’s a win for jobs, a win for our economy and it will help us achieve our bold state and federal climate goals.”
The AIM Act is among the most significant environmental laws from the U.S. Congress in recent years – co-sponsored and passed with strong, bipartisan support. Backed by a broad coalition of industry and environmental groups, it provides regulatory certainty across the United States for phasing down HFCs and ushers in the use of more climate friendly and efficient alternatives that will save consumers money while improving the environment. American companies are at the forefront of developing HFC alternatives and the technologies that use them, and the AIM Act allows these companies to continue to lead and innovate internationally.
Phasing down HFCs in favor of environmentally safer alternatives and more energy-efficient cooling technologies is expected to save billions of dollars and better protect Americans’ health and the environment.
HFCs are extremely powerful greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change, which threatens society with costly health and environmental impacts such as floods, wildfires, drought, and increasingly severe weather events. EPA estimates that the present value of the cumulative benefits of this action is $283.9 billion from 2022 through 2050, and that the proposal will yield cumulative compliance savings for industry. In 2036 alone, the year the final reduction step is made, this rule is expected to prevent the equivalent of 187 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – roughly equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from one out of every seven vehicles registered in the United States. The total emission reductions of the proposal from 2022 to 2050 are projected to amount to the equivalent of 4.7 billion metric tons of CO2 – nearly equal to three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels.
EPA conducted an environmental justice analysis that determined overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from this rule would benefit populations that may be especially vulnerable to damages associated with climate change, such as the very young, elderly, poor, disabled, and indigenous populations. As the proposal moves forward, EPA will further consider the impacts on at-risk communities.
EPA’s proposal would set the HFC production and consumption baseline levels from which reductions will be made, establish an initial methodology for allocating HFC allowances for 2022 and 2023, and create a robust, agile, and innovative compliance and enforcement system. EPA intends to use the approach established through this rulemaking to issue allowances for 2022 by October 1, 2021, and plans to revisit the approach for subsequent years in a later rulemaking. In addition to proposing to establish a general HFC allowance pool and a set aside pool (e.g., for new market entrants), the proposal outlines how EPA plans to issue allowances for specific applications listed in the AIM Act that the agency was directed to provide allowances for, such as mission-critical military applications.
This proposal is the first to provide an estimate of the social costs of HFCs, or the monetized benefits from a decrease in emissions of HFCs, corresponding reductions in global warming, and the avoided damages. In April, EPA finalized a rulemaking under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program
that listed new refrigerant options for use in retail food refrigeration, residential and light commercial air conditioning, and heat pump equipment. These additional options have lower global warming potentials and provide additional flexibility for industry, supporting the transition to alternatives needed to meet the AIM Act’s HFC phasedown reduction steps. More information: https://www.epa.gov/snap
On April 22, as a part of the Paris Agreement, the United States pledged to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Due to the significant reduction of highly potent HFCs, this proposed rulemaking is an important step toward meeting that commitment.
EPA will accept comments on this proposal for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register and hold a public hearing. The agency plans to finalize this rule later this year.
It’s OK to Consume Soy Sauce
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced the release of Interpretive Guideline 2021-0
, which indicated that under Proposition 65 a warning for exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2
) from consumption of soy sauce is not warranted. Exposure to sulfur dioxide in soy sauce was found to be below the Maximum Allowable Dose Level for the reasonably anticipated rate of intake by the average user of the product.
COVID-19 Workplace Protections Extended in Oregon
Oregon OSHA has adopted a rule
to maintain risk-reducing safety measures for workers across the state against the coronavirus. Although the rule includes several changes based on the public comments received since the rule was proposed in late January, the basic requirements are largely consistent with those that have been in place since Oregon OSHA adopted a temporary workplace rule in November of last year.
The rule – which will be repealed when it is no longer needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the workplace – is in effect now. As with the temporary rule it replaces, the rule includes such health protection measures as physical distancing; use of face coverings; employee notification and training; formal exposure risk assessment and infection control planning; and optimization and maintenance of existing ventilation systems.
One of the most significant areas of public comment concerned the lack of a specific sunset date or other trigger to automatically repeal the rule. As a result, the final rule includes considerably more detail about the process and criteria that will be used to make the decision o repeal the rule. Oregon OSHA determined that the ongoing pandemic required that the rule be extended to ensure workers receive basic protections from the workplace health hazard presented by COVID-19.
The rule went through the normal process, unlike the greatly abbreviated process allowed for a temporary rule, because Oregon state law does not allow a rule using that temporary process to be in place more than 180 days.
“We reviewed all of the comments – including the many comments that opposed the rule – and we gave particular consideration to those comments that explained their reasoning or provided concrete information, said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. “Although we chose to move forward with the rule, the final product includes a number of changes based on that record."
“At the same time, we are keeping in place key protections for workers as part of Oregon's larger and ongoing project to defeat COVID-19," Wood said. “To allow the workplace COVID-19 protections to simply go away would have left workers far less protected. And it would have left employers who want to know what is expected of them with a good deal less clarity than the rule provides."
Because Oregon OSHA determined it is not possible to assign a specific time for a decision to repeal the rule, Oregon OSHA has committed to consulting with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, the Oregon Health Authority, and other stakeholders to help determine when the rule can be repealed. The first of these discussions will take place no later than July 2021, and will continue every two months until the rule has been repealed. The indicators factoring into the decision will include infection rates (including the rate of spread of COVID-19 variants), positivity rates, and vaccination rates, as well as hospitalizations and fatalities.
While the final rule
broadly reflects the temporary rule, it also includes some significant changes. Those include:
- Reducing the number of industry-specific appendices by six and limiting such requirements specifically to those involving worker protection (which reduced the length of the appendices, and, therefore, of the entire rule, by more than 50 pages)
- Dramatically reducing the K-12 schools appendix and removing all references to cohorts and square footage limitations, as well as physical distancing between students.
- Requiring employers to consider alternatives to transporting multiple people in a single vehicle and providing other guidance about reducing risk while sharing vehicles. The rule does not, however, require using multiple vehicles to transport multiple employees.
- Requiring employers with more than 10 employees – and that have existing ventilation systems – to state in writing that, to the best of their knowledge, they are running their systems in line with requirements. The final rule does not require the purchase or installation of new ventilation systems.
- Reducing required sanitation measures to reflect the most up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
- Requiring employers to provide written notification to employees of their rights to return to work when employees must quarantine.
- Requiring health care employers to provide respirators to employees working with known or suspected COVID-19-positive patients, unless such respirators are unavailable.
The final rule also makes clear that the risk assessment, infection control plan, and infection control training completed under the temporary rule do not need to be repeated as a result of the adoption of the final rule.
The division offers resources to help employers and workers understand and apply the requirements. Those resources include consultation services
that provide no-cost assistance with safety and health programs and technical staff,
who help employers understand requirements.
Meanwhile, the division has also adopted COVID-19 workplace requirements for workers who rely on housing provided by employers, including as part of farming operations. Those requirements
were adopted April 30, and will work in tandem with the comprehensive COVID-19 rule by providing specific guidance for situations involving such housing.
Sweeping Water Protection Legislation Enacted in Arizona
On May 5, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to ensure clean water in nearly 800 Arizona streams, lakes and rivers that are critical for drinking, fishing and recreation.
“Living in the desert, the value of water is something we in Arizona know well, and we have taken great steps to protect it, including the Groundwater Management Act and the Drought Contingency Plan,” said Governor Ducey. “But just having water is not enough. We need to ensure our water supplies are clean and safe. That’s why I signed into law another landmark Arizona water protection bill — the Surface Water Protection Program providing protections for nearly 800 Arizona streams, lakes, and rivers.”
House Bill (HB) 2691 implements the Arizona Surface Water Protection Program
by creating a list of rivers, streams, and lakes used for drinking, recreation and fishing that are protected from harmful discharge of any pollutant. Specifically, the legislation:
- Preserves important water quality safeguards and provides clarity and consistency to the regulated community;
- Promotes transparency by providing a defined list of protected Arizona waters that will be protected through a permitting program, as well as Geographic Information System map functionality, on the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) website; and
- Provides an opportunity to develop meaningful and impactful best management practices that will protect these important waterways.
“This legislation protects and regulates discharges into Arizona surface waters that are used for drinking water sources, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities,” said Representative Gail Griffin, who sponsored the legislation, of Legislative District 14. “We don’t need to rely on the federal government to tell us how to regulate our waters. We have taken this important responsibility that requires best management practices to ensure that discharges do not cause violations in water quality standards.”
“With this legislation Arizona will protect its most important waters that are not currently regulated by the federal government in a streamlined and locally responsive way,” said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera.
Governor Ducey applauded the US EPA’s 2020 decision to improve the federal Clean Water Act and committed that Arizona welcomes the need to protect state surface waters. Unlike previous federal efforts to regulate every dry ditch in the desert, Arizona focused on protecting actual waters with tools specific to Arizona.
As Governor Ducey wrote on Inauguration Day
, Washington, D.C. should take note of what is happening in the states across the country. When it comes to protecting water, Arizona is leading by example.
HB 2691 is the first Arizona-specific water quality protection bill enacted since the Aquifer Protection Permit program in 1991, and together, these two programs will serve to protect the quality of both Arizona’s surface and groundwater resources.
More information on the Surface Water Protection Program, including the draft list of protected waters is available on ADEQ’s website
Fatality Map Dashboard
To continue raising awareness of construction hazards and the need for improved safety in the industry, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training’s Data Center has developed the Construction Fatality Map Dashboard
. It builds on the Construction Fatality Maps, which were launched in 2011 to support the National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction.
New Jersey’s Ban on Single-Use Plastic Products Takes Effect in One Year
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette are joining forces to encourage Garden State business owners to prepare for the launch of New Jersey’s ban on single-use carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products in stores and food service businesses.
On Nov. 4, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law P.L. 2020, c117, which prohibits the use of single-use plastic carryout bags in all stores and food service businesses statewide and single-use paper carryout bags in grocery stores that occupy at least 2,500 square feet beginning May 4, 2022. The law is designed to reduce pollution and protect New Jersey’s environment and economy for generations to come.
“With the enactment of the single-use plastic ban, New Jersey, is again leading in protecting our environment, communities, and economy,” said DEP Acting Commissioner LaTourette. “Resistant to natural degradation, single-use plastics have long littered our communities and harmed our waterways and the wildlife that depend on them. Plastic pollution also has a detrimental effect on character of our communities and damages important industries like tourism and fishing—both major contributors to New Jersey’s economy. The steps we take together to reduce plastic pollution will improve quality of life for all New Jersey residents.”
“We love New Jersey beaches, forests and waterways, and we want to protect them for current and future resident and visitors to enjoy,” Secretary Way said. “We’re here to support New Jersey’s businesses as they make the transition to reusable bags. We understand that these changes take time. We’ll be here to help business owners understand the law and answer any question they may have as we look ahead to May 2022.”
Beginning May 4, 2022, New Jersey businesses may not sell or provide single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers. Those businesses that decide to sell or provide reusable carryout bags must ensure that the bags meet the requirements as defined in the law.
The law defines reusable bags as ones that:
- Are made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
- Have stitched handles; and
- Are designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.
To help New Jersey businesses prepare, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), part of the New Jersey Department of State, and the DEP have developed online resources. The State’s business-focused website Business.NJ.gov
as well as the DEP website (www.nj.gov/dep/dshw/plastic-ban-law/
) feature the latest information on the law. The business experts on the NJBAC website’s Live Chat and at 1-800-Jersey-7 are available 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday, for the information you need to comply with the new law.
Future resources for businesses on the website will include a listing of vendors who sell reusable carryout bags that meet the new requirements. In addition, the NJBAC will be conducting virtual roundtables discussing implementation of the law with Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations around the State.
Under the new law, polystyrene foam food service products and foods sold or provided in polystyrene foam food service products will also be banned as of May 4, 2022, and food service businesses will only be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws by request starting Nov. 4, 2021.
However, the following products will be exempt for an additional two years, until May 4, 2024:
- Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
- Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
- Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
- Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product; and
- Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by the DEP.
Draft Cancer Inhalation Unit Risk Factor for 1-Bromopropane
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced the release for public comment of a draft document
that summarizes a cancer inhalation unit risk factor (IUR) for 1-bromopropane. Cancer IURs are used in the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program to estimate lifetime cancer risks associated with inhalation exposure to a carcinogen. The public comment period for this cancer IUR will end June 21, 2021.
The 1-bromopropane cancer IUR and cancer inhalation slope factor values are as follows:
- Unit Risk Factor 7 x 10-6 (µg/m3)-1
- Inhalation Slope Factor 3 x 10-2 (mg/kg-day)-1
Transforming Atmospheric Carbon into Industrially Useful Materials
Plants are unparalleled in their ability to capture CO2 from the air, but this benefit is temporary, as leftover crops release carbon back into the atmosphere, mostly through decomposition. Researchers have proposed a more permanent, and even useful, fate for this captured carbon by turning plants into a valuable industrial material called silicon carbide (SiC)--offering a strategy to turn an atmospheric greenhouse gas into an economically and industrially valuable material.
In a new study, published in the journal RSC Advances on April 27, 2021, scientists at the Salk Institute transformed tobacco and corn husks into SiC and quantified the process with more detail than ever before. These findings are crucial to helping researchers, such as members of Salk's Harnessing Plants Initiative
, evaluate and quantify carbon-sequestration strategies to potentially mitigate climate change as CO2 levels continue to rise to unprecedented levels.
"The study offers a very careful accounting for how you make this valuable substance and how many atoms of carbon you've pulled out of the atmosphere. And with that number, you can start to extrapolate what role plants could play in mitigating greenhouse gases while also converting an industrial byproduct, CO2, into valuable materials by using natural systems like photosynthesis," says co-corresponding author and Salk Professor Joseph Noel.
SiC, also known as carborundum, is an ultrahard material used in ceramics, sandpaper, semiconductors and LEDs. The Salk team used a previously reported method to transform plant material into SiC in three stages by counting carbons at each step: First, the researchers grew tobacco, chosen for its short growing season, from seed. They then froze and ground the harvested plants into a powder and treated it with several chemicals including a silicon-containing compound. In the third and final stage, the powdered plants were petrified (turned into a stony substance) to make SiC, a process that involves heating the material up to 1600 ?C.
"The rewarding part was that we were able to demonstrate how much carbon can be sequestered from agricultural waste products like corn husks while producing a valuable, green material typically produced from fossil fuels," says first author Suzanne Thomas, a Salk staff researcher.
Through elemental analysis of the plant powders, the authors measured a 50,000-fold increase in sequestered carbon from seed to lab-grown plant, demonstrating plants' efficiency at pulling down atmospheric carbon. Upon heating to high temperatures for petrification, the plant material loses some carbon as a variety of decomposition products but ultimately retains about 14 percent of the plant-captured carbon.
The researchers calculated that the process to make 1.8 g of SiC required about 177 kW/h of energy, with the majority of that energy (70 percent) being used for the furnace in the petrification step. The authors note that current manufacturing processes for SiC carry comparable energy costs. So while the production energy required means that the plant-to-SiC process isn't carbon neutral, the team suggests that new technologies created by renewable energy companies could bring down energy costs.
"This is a step towards making SiC in an environmentally responsible approach," says co-corresponding author and Salk visiting scientist James La Clair.
Next, the team hopes to explore this process with a wider variety of plants, in particular plants like horsetail or bamboo, that naturally contain large amounts of silicon.
Scientists Developed a Technology for Processing Liquid Industrial Waste
Russian group of scientists led by an associate professor at the Ural Federal University (UrFU) has developed a technology for processing liquid industrial waste. The technology has no analogs in the world. It is universal, suitable for almost any industrial enterprise. It allows cleaning industrial wastewater - remove insoluble components from the solution and desalinate the water.
Wastewater treatment by this technology takes place in two stages. The first one is the preliminary cleaning of solutions from suspended rock particles. This stage has been worked out in the oil-producing sector and assumes the use of ceramic membranes. Then comes electrodialysis. With the help of anionic and cationic membranes, scientists separate all salt components into two zones. As a result, scientists get a very salty solution (10 times saltier than seawater) and purified water.
"We went further and used an additional type of membrane - bipolar," said Alexander Cherepanov, professor at UrFU. "This is a construction of the first two types of membranes. It decomposes the water in the sludge into hydrogen and hydroxyl groups, which bind to the separated salt components. Due to this, we get hydrochloric acid and alkali. Thus, from the initial solution, we get two - acidic and alkaline."
Acidic and alkaline solutions are chemical reagents used in industry.
"That is, we do not just dispose of potash production waste, but we process it into a marketable product, using zero-cost raw materials," said Alexander Cherepanov. "This means that the potash industry does not need to purchase chemical reagents. They will take them from the post-production waste."
Received products will be in demand as a basis for household chemicals production, materials for glass manufacture, detergent for cleaning equipment, food, and oil industries. Also, acidic and alkaline solutions with residual salt content are ideal for: removing contaminants inside oil wells and increasing the recovery of oil-bearing reservoirs.
"Since the costs of waste processing are minimal, the sale of the received products can be no less profitable than the production of potash fertilizers," said Alexander Cherepanov. "Our technology and apparatus are also good for seawater desalting. The process is nothing more than an aqueous sodium chloride solution and some other compounds and elements, including potassium. For example, it can help solve the problem of lack of drinking water."
Researchers already have two patents on this technology. Now they are preparing to apply for a third one. Besides, they are working on an industrial modular installation. The expected service life is at least ten years.
"It is enough to dock the corresponding number of modules to increase the installation productivity," said Alexander Cherepanov. "We calculate the equipment dimensions to fit a standard 20 lb. shipping container, protecting it from external influences and convenient for transportation."
UBCO Researchers Find a New Use for Paper Waste
Waste materials from the pulp and paper industry have long been seen as possible fillers for building products like cement, but for years these materials have ended up in the landfill. Now, researchers at UBC Okanagan are developing guidelines to use this waste for road construction in an environmentally friendly manner.
The researchers were particularly interested in wood-based pulp mill fly ash (PFA), which is a non-hazardous commercial waste product. The North American pulp and paper industry generates more than one million tons of ash annually by burning wood in power boiler units for energy production. When sent to a landfill, the producer shoulders the cost of about $25 to $50 per ton, so mills are looking for alternative usages of these by-products.
"Anytime we can redirect waste to a sustainable alternative, we are heading in the right direction," says Dr. Sumi Siddiqua, associate professor at UBC Okanagan's School of Engineering. Dr. Siddiqua leads the Advanced Geomaterials Testing Lab, where researchers uncover different reuse options for industry byproducts.
This new research co-published with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Chinchu Cherian investigated using untreated PFA as an economically sustainable low-carbon binder for road construction.
"The porous nature of PFA acts like a gateway for the adhesiveness of the other materials in the cement that enables the overall structure to be stronger and more resilient than materials not made with PFA," says Dr. Cherian. "Through our material characterization and toxicology analysis, we found further environmental and societal benefits that producing this new material was more energy efficient and produced low-carbon emissions."
But Dr. Siddiqua notes the construction industry is concerned that toxins used in pulp and paper mills may leach out of the reused material.
"Our findings indicate because the cementation bonds developed through the use of the untreated PFA are so strong, little to no release of chemicals is apparent. Therefore, it can be considered as a safe raw material for environmental applications."
While Dr. Cherian explains that further research is required to establish guidelines for PFA modifications to ensure its consistency, she is confident their research is on the right track.
"Overall, our research affirms the use of recycled wood ash from pulp mills for construction activities such as making sustainable roads and cost-neutral buildings can derive enormous environmental and economic benefits," she says. "And not just benefits for the industry, but to society as a whole by reducing waste going to landfills and reducing our ecological footprints."
In the meantime, while cement producers can start incorporating PFA into their products, Dr. Cherian says they should be continually testing and evaluating the PFA properties to ensure overall quality.
Researchers Develop New Metal-Free, Recyclable Polypeptide Battery that Degrades on Demand
The introduction of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has revolutionized technology as a whole, leading to major advances in consumer goods across nearly all sectors. Battery-powered devices have become ubiquitous across the world. While the availability of technology is generally a good thing, the rapid growth has led directly to several key ethical and environmental issues surrounding the use of Li-ion batteries.
Current Li-ion batteries utilize significant amounts of cobalt, which in several well-documented international cases is mined using child labor in dangerous working environments. Additionally, only a very small percentage of Li-ion batteries are recycled, increasing the demand for cobalt and other strategic elements.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Texas A&M University has made a breakthrough that could lead to battery production moving away from cobalt. In an article published in the May issue of Nature
, Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus, Axalta Coating Systems Chair and professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Karen Wooley, distinguished professor in the Department of Chemistry and holder of the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry in the College of Science, outline their research into a new battery technology platform that is completely metal free. This new battery technology platform utilizes a polypeptide organic radical construction.
“By moving away from lithium and working with these polypeptides, which are components of proteins, it really takes us into this realm of not only avoiding the need for mining precious metals, but opening opportunities to power wearable or implantable electronic devices and also to easily recycle the new batteries,” said Wooley, recently honored as the 2021 SEC Professor of the Year
. “They [polypeptide batteries] are degradable, they are recyclable, they are non-toxic and they are safer across the board.”
The all-polypeptide organic radical battery composed of redox-active amino-acid macromolecules also solves the problem of recyclability. The components of the new battery platform can be degraded on demand in acidic conditions to generate amino acids, other building blocks and degradation products — one of the major breakthroughs in this research, according to Lutkenhaus.
“The big problem with lithium-ion batteries right now is that they're not recycled to the degree that we are going to need for the future electrified transportation economy,” Lutkenhaus added. “The rate of recycling lithium-ion batteries right now is in the single digits. There is valuable material in the lithium-ion battery, but it's very difficult and energy intensive to recover.”
The development of a metal-free, all-polypeptide organic radical battery composed of redox-active amino-acid macromolecules that degrade on demand marks significant progress toward sustainable, recyclable batteries that minimize dependence on strategic metals. As a next step, Wooley and Lutkenhaus have begun working in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Tabor, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, through a 2020 Texas A&M Triads for Transformation (T3) grant
that aims to utilize machine learning to optimize the materials and structure of the battery platform.
The lead authors on the paper are Tan Nguyen, a current postdoctoral associate at the University of Michigan and former doctoral student from the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry, and Alexandra Easley, a doctoral student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M. This work was financially supported by the National Science Foundation, the Welch Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
Washington State Law Protects Temporary Agency Workers
The Washington State Legislature recently passed a new law
that has been signed by the Governor to protect workers employed through temporary staffing agencies. This new legislation is based on NIOSH-funded research
from Washington’s State-based Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance Program
. The research showed that temporary workers were more likely to be injured on the job than permanent workers but were less likely to get the training needed to recognize and protect themselves from job hazards. The new law, which takes effect July 25, 2021, requires construction and manufacturing employers to work with temporary staffing agencies to make sure these workers are informed of job hazards and receive safety training.
Proposed Nevada Rule to Tackle Ozone and Ozone Precursors
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released a proposed rule
that will improve air quality for all New Mexicans by establishing innovative and actionable regulations to curb the formation of ground-level ozone in the state’s most affected regions. The rule will also result in reduced emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases. The proposed rule is more protective of public health and the environment than current federal requirements — and will enable New Mexico to lead the nation as a model in smart regulation.
“Today, New Mexicans can breathe easier knowing that present and future generations will have cleaner air,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “This rule will not only hold industry accountable, but will also spur innovation and greener practices in the oil and gas fields. The effect will be equivalent to taking eight million cars off the road every year.”
Once finalized, the new rule will reduce emissions of ozone precursor pollutants – volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen - by nearly 260 million pounds annually and reduce methane emissions by over 851 million pounds annually. The rule will apply in New Mexico counties with high ozone levels. Currently, this includes Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, and Valencia counties.
“We undertook a two-year planning process, engaging with thousands of New Mexicans across the state, scientists and researchers inside and outside of our agencies, oil and gas operators, and environmental organizations,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “We listened closely during the public comment process, we invested significant staffing resources, and we delivered a nationally leading oil and gas rule as a result.”
The revised rule builds upon a draft issued in July of last year and contains important modifications. Namely, the proposed rule eliminates all exemptions for stripper wells and facilities formerly classified as “low potential to emit” that had been included in the previous draft.
Additionally, the proposed rule sets foundational requirements for all oil and gas operators to calculate emissions and confirm their accuracy through a professional engineer, perform monthly checks for leaks and fix them within 15 days, and maintain records to demonstrate continuous compliance. Building on the foundational requirements are stricter standards for equipment and processes that can emit larger quantities of pollution.
The proposed rule establishes emission reduction requirements for equipment like storage vessels, compressors, turbines, heaters, engines, pneumatic devices, produced water management units, and more. The proposed rule also establishes emission reduction requirements for processes such as well workovers, liquids unloading, pig launching and receiving, and more.
When adopted, the rule will work in conjunction with regulations recently adopted by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to establish a comprehensive framework across agencies that will significantly reduce emissions, protect New Mexico’s valuable natural resources, and hold polluters accountable. By providing both consistency and clarity for industry, the new regulations will eliminate the potential for confusion or unintended regulatory loopholes that could undermine the protection of air quality in New Mexico.
“In addition to taking this significant step in solving our ozone problem to protect public health, this rule also puts us on course to reach the climate goals we set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 45% or more by 2030 by reducing over 851 million pounds of methane emissions,” said Secretary Kenney. “This amount of methane is equivalent to the energy needed to power 1.2 million New Mexico homes for an entire year.”
Before taking effect, the new rule must be considered by the seven-member New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board. A public hearing before the Board is expected this fall. The hearing process will include additional opportunities for public engagement, including the opportunity for the public and stakeholders to provide oral and written comments and testimony. Pending the Board’s decision, NMED anticipates the rule will go into effect in early 2022.
New Oregon DEQ Online Portal for Permits, Payments, Records and More
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality took a major step forward in modernizing its online communication with regulated industries and the public with the launch of Your DEQ Online
, which allows for one-stop permitting, payments, data searches and more.
Several years in the making, DEQ is rolling out the new service in phases, bringing in additional DEQ programs over the summer and in the months to come.
As of now, natural gas suppliers and electricity generators will be reporting their greenhouse gas emissions through Your DEQ Online, and companies that transport gasoline in Oregon will submit their permit applications online as well.
“The launch of Your DEQ Online represents a huge milestone for DEQ,” said agency Director Richard Whitman. “We are putting an end to cumbersome and wasteful paper processing and bringing our technology up to 21st century standards. The bottom line is, it is going to be easier and more efficient to work with DEQ.”
Your DEQ Online is a cloud-based data management system that can be used to submit applications for permits, licenses, certifications and other needs by businesses and individuals who fall under DEQ’s environmental regulatory authority. It also allows for paying fees and fines electronically, instead of by paper check.
The public can access the system and search for published reports and other non-confidential data. The amount of searchable data will grow as more programs are added to the system over time.
Later in the summer Your DEQ Online will be available for asbestos reporting and hazardous waste programs, along with three water quality programs: certifications for hydroelectric, dredging and filling projects (also known as 401 certification); underground discharges (also known as underground injection control); and storm water runoff from construction and industrial sites.
Development of Your DEQ Online was authorized by the Oregon Legislature, which approved $10 million in bonding authority to pay for the environmental data management system.
New York Company to Pay $2.3 Million in Penalties and Community Compensation
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced $2.3 million in enforcement penalties, compensation, and corrective actions against Momentive Performance Materials, Inc., in Saratoga County, for violations of the State's air, water, and hazardous waste laws and the facility's permit conditions. The Order on Consent requires Momentive to pay a $1 million penalty to resolve violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as State water and air laws, and an additional $1 million to fund an Environmental Benefit Project for the surrounding communities.
Commissioner Seggos said, "Enforcing New York's stringent environmental laws and regulations and holding facilities accountable are top priorities for DEC. I applaud the work of our legal and regulatory experts in addressing Momentive Performance Materials' past violations and crafting this settlement to help ensure this facility remains in compliance with New York's hazardous waste, air, and water protection measures. DEC also looks forward to working with the Waterford and Halfmoon communities to implement this million-dollar Environmental Benefit Project as we continue to provide rigorous oversight of Momentive's operations."
The Order on Consent settles all violations at this facility extending back to 2007, requires additional corrective action for violations that were not previously addressed, and enables Momentive to undertake the operational upgrades necessary to prevent re-occurrence, while supporting its transition in operations. The Order on Consent and enforcement actions will govern the transition of Momentive's Waterford plant from a bulk chemical manufacturing facility to a specialty chemical manufacturing facility. The order includes $300,000 in tax forgiveness for the Waterford-Halfmoon Union Free School District, and additional settlement conditions include requirements for compliance upgrades to address the violations. DEC will require strict adherence to the schedule of compliance and take additional action if the schedule is not met.
In addition, the Order on Consent includes $1 million for an Environmental Benefit Project (EBP) for the Waterford and Halfmoon communities. An EBP is a project that the respondent agrees to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement matter. Generally, an EBP must improve, restore, protect, or reduce risks to public health or the environment beyond that achieved by a respondent's full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. DEC will work with Waterford and Halfmoon to develop the necessary plan to design and implement the EBP.
DEC is authorized to implement the RCRA program for New York State as delegated by the EPA. As an authorized agency, DEC adopts and enforces regulations, issues permits, conducts inspections, provides technical assistance, and gathers and processes data related to hazardous waste management in New York. The facility is also regulated by DEC water and air permit requirements. For additional information on the New York hazardous waste management program, visit DEC's website
Clarke Products, Inc. Cited for 19 Violations, Unresolved Safety Hazards
Moving machine parts have the potential to cause serious or fatal injuries when safety protections and procedures are ignored, and yet a Waco bath and shower manufacturer once again failed to provide its employees a safe and healthful workplace.
An OSHA inspection in November 2020 found Clarke Products Inc. failed to use required machine guards and cited the manufacturer for 19 violations. The violations included willful and repeated failures related to machine guarding and fall protection. Proposed penalties total $558,821. In October 2018, OSHA cited Clarke Products for failing to ensure the use of guards.
“The willful and repeat violations found during this inspection show Clarke Products’ ignored required worker safety protections,” said OSHA Area Director Timothy Minor in Fort Worth. “OSHA will cite employers who disregard their legal responsibility to provide workers with a safe workplace.”
Headquartered in Colleyville, Clarke Products Inc. had approximately 110 employees at its Waco facility at the time of inspection. The company has 15 business days from receipt of citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
CSL Behring Cited for Risk Management Program Violations
The EPA announced a settlement with CSL Behring, LLC of Bradley, Illinois, that will improve the company’s implementation of its Risk Management Program
and includes a civil penalty of $527,144 to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
CSL Behring is engaged in the research, development and manufacturing of blood-plasma based medical therapies at its Bradley facility. After inspecting the facility, EPA alleged multiple violations of the Risk Management Program requirements under the Clean Air Act. Facilities that use certain hazardous substances are required to develop a Risk Management Plan and implement a Risk Management Program to protect human health and the environment. EPA alleged the company failed to develop written operating procedures for safely conducting activities, implement a mechanical integrity program, implement an emergency response program with instructions on the use of relevant equipment, and meet recordkeeping requirements.
EPA and CSL Behring have entered into a consent agreement and final order resolving these alleged violations. To date, CSL Behring has taken steps to comply with the Risk Management Program requirements by hiring additional personnel to implement. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $527,144 to the U.S. government.
Notification Level Recommendations for Four Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) notification level (NL) recommendations for four cyanotoxins as follows:
Cyanotoxins are toxins produced by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, during algal blooms. Notification levels are health-based advisory levels established by the SWRCB Division of Drinking Water (DDW)
for chemicals that lack drinking regulatory water standards (maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs). When chemicals are found at concentrations greater than their NLs, certain requirements and recommendations apply. The NL recommendation memos for the four cyanotoxins
are now available, and links to access the peer-reviewed studies for their derivation can be found in the references section of each.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course
is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course
, call 800-537-2372 to find out how you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at email@example.com
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