Dec 31, 2016

DOE Announces Six Projects for Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, Biopower

Energy Department Announces Six Projects for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower the selection of six projects for up to $12.9 million in federal funding, entitled, "Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower." These projects, required to share the cost at a minimum of 50%, will develop and execute plans for the manufacturing of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and/or biopower in a domestic pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery. 

The projects will be evaluated in two phases. Award recipients will design and plan their facilities in Phase 1. In order to continue to Phase 2, projects will be evaluated on Phase 1 progress, as well as the ability to secure the required 50% cost share funding for Phase 2. DOE anticipates Phase 2 awards to be made in fiscal year 2018 to construct and operate the pilot- or demonstration-scale facility. Projects could receive additional federal funds of up to $15 million for pilot-scale facilities or $45 million for demonstration-scale facilities.   

The six Phase 1 projects will utilize thermochemical, biochemical, algal, and hybrid conversion technologies to generate the data required to enable future commercial-scale facilities.

Demonstration-Scale Integrated Biorefineries:

  • AVAPCO, LLC (Atlanta, Georgia): The AVAPCO, LLC ($3.7 million) project will develop a demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery that combines AVAPCO's biomass-to-ethanol process with project partner Byogy's alcohol-to-jet process to create an integrated process that produces jet fuel from woody biomass. In addition to the jet fuel primary product, the demonstration facility will also produce cellulosic renewable diesel and other bioproducts with another project partner, Genomatica. 
  • LanzaTech, Inc. (Skokie, Illinois): LanzaTech, Inc. ($4 million) has brought together a large team to design, construct, and operate an integrated demonstration-scale biorefinery that will use industrial waste gases to produce 3 million gallons per year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have already successfully demonstrated their renewable jet fuel production technology.

Pilot-Scale Integrated Biorefineries:

  • Global Algae Innovations (San Diego, California): Global Algae Innovations ($1.2 million) has developed novel technologies that improve several stages of the algae production process. This project seeks to design a pilot-scale algae biofuel facility with improved productivity of open pond cultivation and more energy-efficient algae harvest. 
  • ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. (Baltimore, Maryland): ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. ($0.8 million) will work in collaboration with project partners to design a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery to produce transportation fuels from woody waste and agricultural feedstocks. The project proposes many improvements throughout the system, which in combination would allow for smaller, more cost-effective integrated biorefineries with increased liquid fuel yield. 

Pilot-Scale Waste-to-Energy Projects:

  • Rialto Bioenergy, LLC (Carlsbad, California): Rialto Bioenergy LLC ($2 million) plans to design the Rialto Advanced Pyrolysis Integrated Biorefinery facility that will have the capacity to convert 300 tons per day of biomass such as food extracted from municipal solid waste and wastewater treatment plant biosolids into a high-nutrient fertilizer and up to 6.4 megawatts of carbon-negative, renewable biopower. 
  • Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (Alexandria, Virginia): Water Environment & Reuse Foundation ($1.2 million) will design a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery that utilizes wastewater treatment plant sludge. This project will convert residual sludge and solids into biocrude oil, biogas, and fertilizer. The biocrude oil, when upgraded, is comparable to fossil-derived crude and can produce a variety of fuels including gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel with nearly zero net carbon emissions. The biogas produced by the system will be used to offset power needs elsewhere in the plant or will be sold to the grid. 


​(WIRED) ...Even a few thousand gallons of spilled oil is consequential. Even more consequential are more than 30,000 of those so-called small spills each year. Which is probably the bare minimum spill estimate, says Manthos of SkyTruth. Really, it's hard to know if this figure is complete, and even harder to calculate the volume of oil being leaked. Some new oil equipment is smart enough to know when, and measure how much, it leaks. But those sensors can malfunction. Plus most oil infrastructure is way older. Most of the time oil companies, activists, and the US Coast Guard are all doing some version of educated guessing.

The volumes that oil companies and others do calculate and report get compiled in a National Response Center database. And if you ask an oil lobbyist, it all totals to about one million gallons per year. And those oil company-provided numbers are what the US Coast Guard relies on to levy fines against those that spill. Which is a problem, because oil companies have a financial incentive to lowball the spill estimates, because the fines levied against them often triple if they cross that major spill threshold. "It's the fox watching the henhouse," Manthos says.

At SkyTruth, Manthos uses satellite imagery and remote sensing data to get a much more definitive picture of spill size and color than you can get from sticking your head out of a helicopter door. "We make an estimate and compare it to estimate they submit, and they usually don't add up," he says. "An environmentally concerned person might have a tendency to overreport. If the report comes from someone working on a oil platform, those volumes are frequently underreported." And does not account for the many spills that go unnoticed somewhere along the 2.4 million miles of oil pipe in the United States. "There's so much infrastructure and no one monitoring it," says Jonathan Henderson, founder and president of environmental watchdog organization Vanishing Earth. "It's impossible to say how much damage is being done."

Not for lack of trying. When SkyTruth contributed to a study comparing oil companies' estimates to more objective satellite data, they found that on average, the volume of oil spilled is at least 13 times higher than reported—Thirteen million gallons is more than an Exxon Valdez per year. And oil companies don't need to be accurate. "There are penalties for not reporting something that you should have seen," Manthos says. "But no penalties for underreporting."

The Coast Guard's self-defense on these enforcement matters isn't too convincing. "The Coast Guard would likely seek enforcement action," says Lieutenant Katie Braynard. She would not comment more specifically.

Aging Infrastructure and Poor Regulation
American oil infrastructure is old. On this map, each dot represents a still-standing platform or rig. The lighter the dot, the older the construction. The oldest date back to the 1960s. You can click on a rig to see the installation date.

Read full at"

Dec 20, 2016

The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than in Flint @REUTERS

(REUTERS) A Reuters examination of lead testing results across the country found almost 3,000 areas with poisoning rates far higher than in the tainted Michigan city. Yet many of these lead hotspots are receiving little attention or funding.

ST. JOSEPH, Missouri – On a sunny November afternoon in this historic city, birthplace of the Pony Express and death spot of Jesse James, Lauranda Mignery watched her son Kadin, 2, dig in their front yard. As he played, she scolded him for putting his fingers in his mouth.

In explanation, she pointed to the peeling paint on her old house. Kadin, she said, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.

He has lots of company: Within 15 blocks of his house, at least 120 small children have been poisoned since 2010, making the neighborhood among the most toxic in Missouri, Reuters found as part of an analysis of childhood lead testing results across the country. In St. Joseph, even a local pediatrician's children were poisoned.

Last year, the city of Flint, Michigan, burst into the world spotlight after its children were exposed to lead in drinking water and some were poisoned. In the year after Flint switched to corrosive river water that leached lead from old pipes, 5 percent of the children screened there had high blood lead levels.

Flint is no aberration. In fact, it doesn't even rank among the most dangerous lead hotspots in America.

In all, Reuters found nearly 3,000 areas with recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city's contamination crisis. And more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher.
Earlier: Reuters reports flawed CDC report left children vulnerable 
The poisoned places on this map stretch from Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River where 36 percent of children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning. In some pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent.

Like Flint, many of these localities are plagued by legacy lead: crumbling paint, plumbing, or industrial waste left behind. Unlike Flint, many have received little attention or funding to combat poisoning.

To identify these locations, Reuters examined neighborhood-level blood testing results, most of which have not been previously disclosed. The data, obtained from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracks poisoning rates among children tested in each location.

The resulting portrait provides a granular look at places where decades-long U.S. efforts to stamp out lead poisoning have fallen short.

"The disparities you've found between different areas have stark implications," said Dr. Helen Egger, chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center's Child Study Center. "Where lead poisoning remains common, many children will have developmental delays and start out behind all the rest."

In children up to age 6, the CDC threshold for an elevated blood lead level is 5 micrograms per deciliter. Any child who tests high warrants a public health response, the agency says; even a slight elevation can reduce IQ and stunt development.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates that 2.5 percent of small children have elevated levels. In the communities identified by this analysis, a far higher rate of children who got tested had lead poisoning. In most cases, the local data covers a 5- or 10-year period through 2015.

WATER KITS: Milwaukee residents wait in line for water filtration kits under a pilot program run by the Sixteenth Street Clinic, United Way and the city. REUTERS/Darren Hauck
"We need to do more."

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker, whose city has boosted childhood blood screenings
Reporters visited several of the trouble spots: a neighborhood with many rundown homes in South Bend, Indiana; a rural mining town in Missouri's Lead Belt; the economically depressed North Side of Milwaukee. In each location, it was easy to find people whose lives have been impacted by lead exposure. While poverty remains a potent predictor of lead poisoning, the victims span the American spectrum – poor and rich, rural and urban, black and white.


Most U.S. states disclose data on the percentage of child blood tests that show elevated levels of lead. Yet this data, often for statewide or county-wide populations, is too broad to identify neighborhoods where children face the greatest risk.

Instead, Reuters sought testing data at the neighborhood level, in census tracts or zip code areas, submitting records requests to all 50 states.

U.S. census tracts are small county subdivisions that average about 4,000 residents apiece. Zip codes have average populations of 7,500. In each area, a relatively small number of children are screened for lead poisoning each year.

Reuters found 2,606 census tracts, and another 278 zip code areas, with a prevalence of lead poisoning at least twice Flint's rate.

The test results allow for local analysis, pinpointing neighborhoods whose lead poisoning problems may be obscured in broader surveys.

For example: Across Maryland, 2 percent of childhood lead tests were high in recent years, just a small fraction of the rate in the worst-affected Baltimore tracts. In Flint, while 5 percent of children citywide recently tested with high blood lead levels, the highest rate has been in the downtown zip code, where about 11 percent tested high from 2005 to 2015.

"I hope this data spurs questions from the public to community leaders who can make changes," said epidemiologist Robert Walker, co-chair of the CDC's Lead Content Work Group, which analyzes lead poisoning nationwide. "I would think that it would turn some heads."

The findings, Walker said, will help inform the public about risks in their own neighborhoods and allow health officials to seek lead abatement grants in the most dangerous spots.

There isn't much federal help available. Congress recently directed $170 million in aid to Flint. That's 10 times the CDC's budget for assisting states with lead poisoning this year.

Please read full at:  (REUTERS) 

Dec 15, 2016

Sweden's Recycling is so Revolutionary, the Country is Running Out of Trash

When it comes to recycling, Sweden sets an example for the rest of the world. Thanks to a government prioritization on sustainability, the Nordic country recycles 1.5 billion bottles and cans annually, a staggering amount for a population of about 9.6 million (in 2013). In terms of rubbish, Swedes only produce a measly 461 kilograms (1,106 pounds) of waste average per year—less than 1% of discard ends up in landfills. This is slightly below the half-ton average in the rest of Europe.

Fastidious Recycling Has Unusual Drawbacks

This impressive commitment to an eco-friendly world has a bizarre effect on electricity production. Sweden participates in a waste-to-energy (WTE) program, and they have 32 of these special plants. If you're unfamiliar with this unique form of energy production, here's how it works: furnaces are loaded with garbage and burned to generate steam. This newly-produced gas is then used to spin generator turbines and produce electricity, transferred to transmission lines and the power grid. By using this approach, the country is able to reduce toxins that seep into the ground. "When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment" Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell explained in a statement.

Before incinerating garbage, it's first filtered by home and business owners. Things that can be recycled are separated (such as food scraps and paper products), and anything that can be salvaged is set aside. Because would-be waste is carefully examined, it leaves relatively little for the WTE program. As a result, Sweden imports garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway, and Ireland to ensure they stay up and running.

Trash incinerator

Don't Trash It, Repair It!

Sweden continues to think of innovative ways to stay green. "We feel that we have responsibility to act responsibly in this area and try to reduce our ecological footprint," states Per Bolund, Swedish Finance and Consumption Minister in a video for AJ+. "The consumers are really showing that the want to make a difference and what we're trying to do from the government's side is to help them act, making it easier to behave in a sustainable way."

One proposed approach rejects the Western practice of throwing things away all together. Things that would normally see their way to a trash bin—such as clothing, shoes, or bicycles—would instead be repaired. The burden, however, would not be put on the owner of these well-worn goods (not everyone can mend a jacket, afterall), but would give way for new employment opportunities. There's room in the labor market for people that can fix things. These are skilled jobs that can be intellectually stimulating but don't require a very high level of education, so people can enter the job force in a matter of months rather than years.

Of course, people would still be able to buy things that won't be able to be repaired—but it'll cost them. Taxes would be imposed on these items to incentivise consumers in purchasing items with a long life ahead of them.


Dec 14, 2016

4 million Americans could be drinking toxic water and would never know

USA TODAY — The leaders of this former oil boomtown never gave 2-year-old Adam Walton a chance to avoid the poison.

It came in city water, delivered to his family's tap through pipes nearly a century old. For almost a year, the little boy bathed in lead-tainted water and ate food cooked in it. As he grew into a toddler — when he should have    been learning to talk — he drank tap water containing a toxin known to ravage a child's developing brain.

Adam's parents didn't know about the danger until this fall.

Officials at City Hall knew long before then, according to local and state records. So did state and federal government regulators who are paid to make sure drinking water in Texas and across the nation is clean. Ranger and Texas officials were aware of a citywide lead problem for two years -- one the city still hasn't fixed and one the Waltons first learned about in a September letter to residents. The city and state even knew, from recent tests, that water in the Walton family's cramped, one-bedroom rental house near the railroad tracks was carrying sky-high levels of lead.

Destiny and John Walton got their first inkling of a problem when blood tests in June detected high levels of lead in their son's growing body. They first learned that their tap water contained lead — about 28 times the federal limit — when a USA TODAY Network reporter told them in early November.

Millions of Americans face similar risks because the nation's drinking-water    enforcement system doesn't make small utilities play by the same safety rules as everyone else, a USA TODAY Network investigation has found.

Tiny utilities - those serving only a few thousand people or less - don't have to treat water to prevent lead contamination until after lead is found. Even when they skip safety tests or fail to treat water after they find lead, federal and state regulators often do not force them to comply with the law.

USA TODAY Network journalists spent 2016 reviewing millions of records from the Environmental Protection Agency and all 50 states, visiting small communities across the country and interviewing more than 120 people stuck using untested or lead-tainted tap water.

The investigation found:

  • About 100,000 people get their drinking water from utilities that discovered high lead but failed to treat the water to remove it. Dozens of utilities took more than a year to formulate a treatment plan and even longer to begin treatment.
  • Some 4 million Americans get water from small operators who skipped required tests or did not conduct the tests properly, violating a cornerstone of federal safe drinking water laws. The testing is required because, without it, utilities, regulators and people drinking the water can't know if it's safe. In more than 2,000 communities, lead tests were skipped more than once. Hundreds repeatedly failed to properly test for five or more years. 
  • About 850 small water utilities with a documented history of lead contamination — places where state and federal regulators are supposed to pay extra attention — have failed to properly test for lead at least once since 2010.

This two-tiered system exists in both law and practice. State and federal water-safety officials told USA TODAY Network reporters that regulators are more lenient with small water systems because they lack resources, deeming some lost causes when they don't have the money, expertise or motivation to fix problems. The nation's Safe Drinking Water Act allows less-trained, often amateur, people to operate tiny water systems even though the risks for people drinking the water are the same.

...Untested water


A cornerstone of those 25-year-old lead regulations is testing. But the USA TODAY Network found that 9,000 small water systems together serving almost 4 million people failed to test properly for lead in the past six years, meaning the toxin could be there without anyone knowing. More than a quarter of those systems had repeat lead-testing violations.

EPA acknowledges it gives higher priority to immediate public health issues like acute contamination than testing violations.

Money is a factor in skipping lead tests, which can cost around $50 per tap. Utilities must test from five to 20 locations, depending on how many customers they serve. A USA TODAY Network analysis found it would cost about $1.2 million to check the water served by every small utility that failed to test twice since 2010. Lead testing for every small water utility that missed even one test would cost around $5 million.

Read full at: USA TODAY

Dec 13, 2016

U.S. EPA Releases Final Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water Resources

EPA's report concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence these impacts

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing its scientific report on the impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources, which provides states and others the scientific foundation to better protect drinking water resources in areas where hydraulic fracturing is occurring or being considered. The report, done at the request of Congress, provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances. As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe. The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps. These uncertainties and data gaps limited EPA's ability to fully assess impacts to drinking water resources both locally and nationally. These final conclusions are based upon review of over 1,200 cited scientific sources; feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA's Science Advisory Board; input from engaged stakeholders; and new research conducted as part of the study. 

"The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation's fragile water resources. EPA's assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities," said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA's Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development. "This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing."

The report is organized around activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle and their potential to impact drinking water resources. The stages include: (1) acquiring water to be used for hydraulic fracturing (Water Acquisition), (2) mixing the water with chemical additives to make hydraulic fracturing fluids (Chemical Mixing), (3) injecting hydraulic fracturing fluids into the production well to create and grow fractures in the targeted production zone (Well Injection), (4) collecting the wastewater that returns through the well after injection (Produced Water Handling), and (5) managing the wastewater through disposal or reuse methods (Wastewater Disposal and Reuse). 

EPA identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality, to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.

As part of the report, EPA identified certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe, including:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts.

Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA's ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources both locally and nationally. Generally, comprehensive information on the location of activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle is lacking, either because it is not collected, not publicly available, or prohibitively difficult to aggregate. In places where we know activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle have occurred, data that could be used to characterize hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the environment before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing were scarce. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, as well as others described in the assessment, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. 

EPA's final assessment benefited from extensive stakeholder engagement with states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and the public. This broad engagement helped to ensure that the final assessment report reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and uses all data and information available to the agency. This report advances the science. The understanding of the potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources will continue to improve over time as new information becomes available. 

For a copy of the study, visit

Dec 7, 2016

Plastic substitutes and other breakthroughs from 25 years of green chemistry via @bruce1971

(The Guardian - Bruce Watson) This year, green chemistry celebrates its 25th birthday. The science of finding more sustainable and less toxic chemicals was once a revolutionary idea, but has since become a part of the consumer product landscape. From removing carcinogens from furniture to banning ineffective antibacterial chemicals, the struggle to create a healthier and more sustainable chemical landscape continues to attract widespread attention.

Customers – and companies – are taking note. A recent survey estimates that the global market for green chemicals is on track to grow from $11bn in 2015 to $100bn in 2020. In North America, the numbers are expected to go from $3bn to $20bn in the same period.

Petroleum made in a lab?

Martin Mulvihill, co-founder and former director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and co-founder of Safer Made, a venture capital fund that invests in the latest green chemistry technologies.

"One of the most influential trends has been the move to bio-based feedstocks for chemistry. Historically, chemistry has relied on petroleum based products, which means that we have to extract petroleum from the ground, transport it and process it. As therecent problems with fracking show, that's expensive and environmentally damaging.

"When we're done with these products, they don't biodegrade; instead, they pile up in landfills and in the ocean. It's interesting that people think that our leftover plastic and other products are just going to disappear: fossils fuels are the remains of organic matter that have managed to stay around for millions of years. What makes us think that [plastics] are going to go away just because we're done with them?

"Scientists have begun using microorganisms to biosynthesize materials, which means that, rather than using chemicals that come from oil, we're growing our chemicals in the lab. In the future, it's entirely possible that the basic building blocks of our chemistry will come from biomass, including food and crop waste. In other words, this biotechnology revolution will help us use our waste to make new materials.

"This is one of the most exciting new areas of chemistry, and it provides us with an opportunity to design safer and more sustainable chemicals. Companies like Amyris, BioAmber and Elevance are already commercializing this process, and the next generation of chemists are already beginning to reach for biosynthesized materials, rather than petroleum based ones. It's a vast change, and it's transforming the way we develop and manufacture products."

A BPA-free future

David Levine is the co-founder and CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, a coalition of business organizations dedicated to building a more sustainable, less toxic economy.

"The biggest advancement in green chemistry has been a shift in consciousness and practice. The public has become aware of the need for and value of green chemistry and companies have become aware of the economic opportunities that it offers – as well as the danger of not taking advantage of them, which the 2015 report by the American Sustainable Business Council, GC3 and Trucost demonstrate.

"Nalgene's bottle recall in 2008 is a perfect example. The presence of BPA in plastic bottles became a major media story and captured the public's interest. The public demanded action on numerous products, from baby bottles to the water bottles that college students were toting around. Within a year, many companies were changing their production to cut BPA out of their products. And those that didn't watched their reputations – and their market share – evaporate.

"Today, you walk into every store and see 'BPA free' products on the shelves. There are new plants, new advertising, new products. Consumers are demanding products without hazardous chemicals, companies are realizing that they can be responsible, innovate and improve their profits, and regulators and legislators are realizing that they can provide more comprehensive regulations. Green chemistry is providing an opportunity for a stronger economy and a healthier society."

Breathing new life into greenhouse gases

Libby Bernick is senior vice president, North America for Trucost, a research firm that measures the way that companies use natural resources.

"One of the biggest advancements in green chemistry is the growth in manufacturers that are starting to use pollution as a raw material for making their products.

"This is incredibly significant: according to the World Economic Forum, the biggest risk currently facing our society is its failure to mitigate or adapt to climate change. We're continuing to produce greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, which are leading to further climate change that will, in turn, have massive financial implications for the economy.

"But there's another approach that we can take. Instead of looking at methane and carbon dioxide as an inevitable byproduct of manufacturing, companies like Novomerand Newlight are seeing it as an opportunity. They're using it to make new products: Newlight makes a price-competitive plastic, and Novomer makes chemicals that can be used to produce anything from diapers to paints. In so doing, both companies are creating new markets and new economic opportunities."

Read on at:

EPA Action Plan Outlines Ways to Improve Safety, Reliability of Nation’s Drinking Water

​(EPA.GOV) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a plan that serves as a national call to action, urging all levels of government, utilities, community organizations, and other stakeholders to work together to increase the safety and reliability of drinking water.

"Ensuring that all Americans have access to safe drinking water is an absolute top priority for EPA," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We must work collectively to seize opportunities for progress, partnership, and innovation in order to continue to provide our citizens with the safest drinking water in the world."

The plan includes six priority areas and identifies proposed actions for each area:

  • Building capacity for water infrastructure financing and management in disadvantaged, small, and environmental justice communities: Actions include launching a national initiative to promote regional partnerships, reinvigorating training programs for system operators, sharing best practices, and establishing an online water funding portal.
  • Advancing oversight of the Safe Drinking Water Act: Actions include electronic reporting for Safe Drinking Water Act compliance data, releasing triennial EPA reviews of state programs, and developing indicators to identify troubled systems.
  • Strengthening source water protection and resilience of drinking water supplies: Actions include updating and acting on source water vulnerability assessments, building collaborative local partnerships for watershed protection, developing an initiative to enhance community resilience to climate and extreme weather events, launching source water monitoring pilot projects, and promoting water efficiency and reuse.
  • Addressing unregulated contaminants: Actions include strengthening the effectiveness of the health advisory program, prioritizing work on contaminants that pose the most significant risk, and promoting the development of low-cost and innovative technologies that may remove a broad range of contaminants.
  • Improving transparency, public education, and risk communication on drinking water safety: Actions include strengthening transparency and public education, developing indicators to enhance how data is presented on the internet, and improving risk communication tools.
  • Reducing lead risks: Actions include the consideration of critical options in revising the Lead and Copper Rule and continuing work to improve implementation of the current rule through enhanced oversight, identifying best practices on lead service line replacement, and revising guidance for schools.

The plan reflects input from state, local, and tribal government officials; drinking water utilities; community groups; and environmental organizations. While EPA and partners have already begun to take some actions, others will require additional resources and further stakeholder engagement. EPA recognizes that partnership and collaboration across all levels of government, utilities, the private sector, and the public will be essential to the success of the plan.

In tandem with the development of the plan, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) undertook a study on science and technology for drinking water safety. The PCAST's recommendations complement and support EPA's plan.

Today, nearly every American depends on 152,000 public drinking water systems and consume more than one billion glasses of tap water a day. EPA has established drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants, and compliance data show that more than 90 percent of the nation's water systems consistently meet those standards. While America's drinking water remains among the safest in the world, the drinking water sector faces a growing array of challenges including aging infrastructure, limited funding and management capacity, emerging contaminants, pollution of source water, and the impacts from drought and other climate events. These challenges can be particularly acute in small and disadvantaged communities.

Learn more about the plan and the PCAST report.

Will California Climate Regulations Trump a Weak EPA? via @JessicaHrdcstle

(EnvironmentalLeader -Jessica Lyons Hardcastle) President-elect Donald Trump is expected to announce his pick to lead the EPA any day now. And assuming Trumpsticks to his campaign promises, the new EPA administrator will be spending more time dismantling all of President Obama's climate rules — such as the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rules — than enforcing the nation's air and water pollution regulations.

Meanwhile, California regulators are moving ahead with the most ambitious climate targets in North America.

On Friday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The state plans to achieve these steep carbon cuts through a series of actions including low- and zero-emissions vehicles, cap-and-trade regulations, waste diversion from landfills and water conservation, and possibly a carbon tax.

"Now more than ever, the nation — and the world — are looking to California for leadership on climate change and air quality," said CARB chair Mary D. Nichols in a statement. "Denial is not an option. We must plan, invest and transform."

Days earlier, CARB rolled out its revised draft of the state's proposed short-lived climate pollutant strategy, aka the cow farts regulation. Senate Bill 1383, recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, requires the state to reduce super pollutants and targets a 40 percent methane emissions reduction below 2013 levels by 2030. The revised draft of the short-lived climate pollutant strategy outlines how regulators can work with the dairy industry and other stakeholders to make this happen.

Why should businesses outside of California care about any of this? The short answer is that many companies do business in California and other states so greenhouse gas emissions from their products and services sold outside of the golden state affect their overall carbon footprint. And despite a more lenient federal EPA under Trump, other states may follow California's lead in enacting tougher climate rules.

"All the US EPA does is set a standard," said attorney William Anaya, an officer in the environmental litigation group at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, in an interview. "States can be more stringent if they wish and they are — California being one of them — all up and down the West Coast. California will continue to be a leader, telling the rest of the world how to do that calculation: take less raw materials, create less waste and come up with more finished goods."

Dairy farms and other agriculture interests outside of California may face tougher methane emissions reductions under the short-lived climate pollutant strategy, said Todd Palmer, practice group chair of the environmental & natural resources and energy law practices at Michael Best.

"California's plan will likely culminate in a requirement that California dairies install anaerobic digestion systems [to reduce methane emissions,]" Palmer said in an interview. "Dairies located outside of the state may have installed anaerobic digestions systems on a voluntary basis to manage their manure and many of those non-California dairies have been participating in the California cap-and-trade program."

Palmer's clients include several of these non-California dairies. They participate in the state's cap-and-trade program because they receive carbon credits for implementing CARB-approved emission reduction equipment such as anaerobic digesters.

"Anaerobic digesters that currently exist outside of California will likely be grandfathered in," Palmer said. "But in other states when a dairy is looking at the capital expense and the operations and maintenance associated with an anaerobic digesters, one of the more significant revenue streams would be the credits from the cap and trade program. If those are no longer an option, that may affect whether or not those out-of-state digesters get built."

But it is not all bad news, Palmer says. The California short-lived climate pollutant strategy also sets aside state money in the form of grants and incentives to develop anaerobic digestion systems as well as infrastructure to pipe biogas from methane — a valuable low-carbon transportation fuel — throughout the state.

"I've talked to companies that provide services and engineering and products in that space, and they've been watching the development of California and that program because they see it as a market opportunity, a growth plan," he said.

Attorney Chris Carr, who chairs Morrison & Foerster's environmental and energy group, said he expects to see greater interest in emissions regulations and clean energy development at the state level once Trump takes office.

"We also anticipate there will likely be a raucous battle in the federal courts over the legality of strict state requirements, particularly when those requirements implicate interstate commerce," he said in an interview.

California's low-carbon fuel standard, for example, which was created under California's first-in-the-nation global warming law, AB 32, was previously challenged in court by big oil and out-of-state ethanol producers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 upheld the standard, which will reduce the amount of carbon pollution released from fuels sold in California by 10 percent by 2020. A year later, the US Supreme Court today denied petitions from these industry groups to review and reverse the appeals court's decision.

"Ultimately, those who believe their interests adversely effected by California emissions regulation can be expected to try to mount court challenges, whether those regulations involve fuel supply mix, shipping and fleet requirements, or engine standards," Carr said. "Once the vacancy is filled on the US Supreme Court, one should also expect renewed efforts to get the court to review the Ninth Circuit's jurisprudence that has so far blessed California's actions.

Read full by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle at EnvironmentalLeader

S. 2852, OPEN Government Data Act - would direct federal agencies to publish all data they collect in an open format that can be used by any computer.

S. 2852 would direct federal agencies to publish all data they collect in an open format that can be used by any computer. Under the bill, the Office of Management and Budget would establish an inventory of all federal data sets and would direct the General Services Administration to maintain an online interface for all such data. In addition, S. 2852 would rename the Office of Electronic Government as the Office of the Federal Chief Financial Officer.

Information from selected agencies suggest that most of the provisions of the bill would codify Executive Order 13642 and other executive branch policies that set the framework for agencies to promote openness and interoperability in information management. That executive order requires agencies to standardize data sets and to make them publicly available. A website ( has been established to share this government information with the general public. CBO expects that implementing S. 2852 would have no significant effect on spending because agencies effectively are already working to implement the requirements of the bill. 


EPA to Publish Final Formaldehyde Emissions Rule

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon publish in the Federal Register a final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and establishes a process by which companies will use third parties to certify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards. EPA's announcement follows a four-month long delay since its pre-publication notice on July 27. The pre-publication notice was mostly consistent with 2009 limits that California's Air Resources Board began to phase in. California's limits range from 0.05 part per million (ppm) to 0.13 ppm, depending on the product covered.

According to the agency, the final rule addresses formaldehyde, which can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat following short-term, relatively low exposures. EPA says elevated exposures may cause some cancers.

One year after the rule's publication, composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported into the United States will need to be labeled as Title VI compliant under the Toxic Substances Act (TSCA). These products include hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.

The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing a number of provisions covering composite wood products.

Formaldehyde may be released from adhesives that are used in a wide range of wood products, such as some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases, and building materials including plywood and wood panels. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms, and cancer.

EPA is setting testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establishing eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and establishing eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The new rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping, and enforcement provisions.

Additional provisions, including recordkeeping requirements, apply to importers, distributors and retailers, which includes dealers selling recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and building materials.

There is, however, some variation between the national rule and California's, one of which is that EPA requires recordkeeping for three years compared to California's two-year requirement. EPA is also requiring importers to provide certification of their compliance with the rule within two years, and the agency requires manufacturers to disclose emissions test results to their direct purchasers upon request.

Additionally, companies that make or import laminated hardwood plywood products are not automatically exempt, as they are from California's requirement. Under EPA's final rule, while some laminators will qualify for exemptions, others must comply within seven years.

National Safety Council accepting nominations for Green Cross Awards until Dec. 9

National Safety Council

The nonprofit National Safety Council, an OSHA Alliance participant, is accepting nominations for its Green Cross Awards for Safety, which recognize people and organizations who have contributed to the advancement of safety. NSC will accept nominations through Dec. 9 in the following three categories:Safety ExcellenceSafety Innovation, and Safety Advocate.

OSHA issues recommended practices to promote workplace safety and health programs in construction

Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction

As a complement to its recommended practices to help employers in general industry establish safety and health programs in their workplaces, OSHA has released Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction. The recommendations may be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized contractors who may not have safety and health specialists on staff. The goal of safety and health programs is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths as well as the financial difficulties these events can cause for workers, their families and their employers. For more information, see the news release.

Ohio worker's death highlights doubling of trench collapse fatalities nationwide in 2016

Trenching Injuries and Deaths 2012-2016: 2012: 8 deaths, 2 injuries; 2013: 15 deaths, 2 injuries; 2014: 11 deaths, 13 injuries; 2015: 11 deaths, 16 injuries; 2016 (YTD): 23 deaths, 12 injuries

Twenty-three workers have been killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses so far in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse," said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary. "These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for KRW Plumbing LLC of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that KRW failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench. OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read thenews release.