Day: February 16, 2012

Michigan officials try to stop pharmaceuticals from getting into water

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will distribute $250,000 in grants to help communities properly dispose of household drugs.

DOE Webcast March 1: Achieving Energy Efficient Data Centers with New ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) will present a live webcast titled Achieving Energy Efficient Data Centers with New ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines on Thursday, March 1, 2012. The webcast will take place from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The session will benefit professionals interested in operating data centers at wider environmental ranges and greater efficiencies to reduce energy, capital, and maintenance costs.

Experts Don Beaty of DLB Associates Consulting Engineers and Will Lintner of FEMP will offer training on how to improve energy performance in federal data centers and research facilities.

Specifically, the instructors will provide training on:

  • The latest ASHRAE TC9.9 guidance on allowable and recommended temperature and humidity ranges
  • The impact of higher temperatures on IT equipment
  • The increased potential to design data centers that don’t rely on mechanical refrigeration such as chillers and compressors.

Participants are encouraged to email or call in their questions before and during the program to receive tailored advice from the experts during the live “Q&A” segment. Questions submitted before the webcast can be sent to

The 90-minute webcast is free of charge, but advanced registration is required to obtain an Internet URL for the presentation.

Register to attend the seminar.

Effective Tracking of Building Energy Use: Improving the Commercial Buildings and Residential Energy Consumption Surveys

Download the prepublication PDF from National Academies Press.

The United States is responsible for nearly one-fifth of the world’s energy consumption. Population growth, and the associated growth in housing, commercial floor space, transportation, goods, and services is expected to cause a 0.7 percent annual increase in energy demand for the foreseeable future. The energy used by the commercial and residential sectors represents approximately 40 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption, and the share of these two sectors is expected to increase in the future.

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) and Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) are two major surveys conducted by the Energy Information Administration. The surveys are the most relevant sources of data available to researchers and policy makers on energy consumption in the commercial and residential sectors. Many of the design decisions and operational procedures for the CBECS and RECS were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, and resource limitations during much of the time since then have prevented EIA from making significant changes to the data collections. Effective Tracking of Building Energy Use makes recommendations for redesigning the surveys based on a review of evolving data user needs and an assessment of new developments in relevant survey methods.

New Study Examines How States Evaluate Utility Energy Efficiency Programs

As state policies requiring utilities to offer energy efficiency programs become more widespread and energy savings requirements become stronger, increasing attention is being focused on the issue of how these energy efficiency programs are being evaluated. One concern that has been raised is the apparent inconsistency in evaluation approaches across different states. Some have called for the creation of a “national standard” for energy efficiency program evaluation.

In response, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) conducted a comprehensive national survey, A National Survey of State Policies and Practices for the Evaluation of Ratepayer-Funded Energy Efficiency Programs ( The study found a great diversity in the policy framework, administrative structure, and technical details across states in their approach to evaluation; but overall, a high level of state regulator commitment to evaluation.

“These states take their responsibility for ratepayer protection very seriously,” said Dr. Martin Kushler, ACEEE Senior Fellow and lead author of the report. “As someone who spent 10 years directing the evaluation unit of a major state utility regulatory commission, I can say that dollar-for-dollar, it’s hard to think of any other aspect of utility operations that receives as much detailed scrutiny as energy efficiency.”

Moreover, the variability in evaluation approaches across states does not seem to materially change the bottom line: energy efficiency programs are highly cost-effective. In a related earlier study, Saving Energy Cost-Effectively: A National Review of the Cost of Energy Saved Through Utility-Sector Energy Efficiency Programs (, ACEEE examined the reported evaluation results across 14 different states with major ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs, and found that the overall utility cost of conserved energy across states-despite differences in evaluation approaches-only ranged from 1.6 to 3.3 cents per kWh. Any point in that range is far cheaper than any available new electric supply resource, which range in cost from roughly 6 to 14 cents per kWh.

The report provides the overall survey results on a wide array of variables, ranging from policy framework and administrative structure to cost-effectiveness tests, approaches for dealing with “free-riders” and “spillover,” deemed savings databases, and a variety of key input assumptions. ACEEE did find some areas where evaluation practices could be improved and/or made more consistent, and those are noted in the report. An appendix to the report also provides links to individual state policies and rules regarding energy efficiency program evaluation.

EPA Issues Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a new permit, in accordance with the Clean Water Act, that will provide streamlined permitting to thousands of construction operators, while protecting our nation’s waterways from discharges of polluted stormwater from construction sites. Stormwater discharges from construction sites can contain harmful pollutants, such as nutrients, that contaminate waters, increase drinking water treatment costs, and damage aquatic ecosystems. The new permit was shaped by important input from the public and stakeholders to ensure that it provides important protections for waterways, while also providing flexibility to operators.

The 2012 construction general permit (CGP) is required under the Clean Water Act and replaces the existing 2008 CGP, which expired on February 15, 2012. The new permit includes a number of enhanced protections for surface waters, including provisions to protect impaired and sensitive waters. Under the Clean Water Act, national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permits are typically issued for a five-year period, after which time EPA generally issues revised permits based on updated information and requirements, as is the case with today’s announcement. NPDES permits control water pollution by including limits on the amount of pollutants that can be discharged into waterways by specific sources. The permit also provides new flexibilities for operators. For example, it allows for emergency projects (e.g., restoration following a flood or other natural disaster) to begin immediately without permit authorization from EPA, while still retaining full authority for EPA to ensure that the project proceeds in an environmentally responsible manner once it has commenced. The permit also enables operators of already permitted projects flexibility where compliance with a new permit requirement is economically impracticable.

The 2012 CGP updates include steps intended to limit erosion, minimize pollution sources, provide natural buffers or their equivalent around surface waters, and further restrict discharges to areas impaired by previous pollution discharge.

Many of the permit requirements implement new effluent limitations guidelines and new source performance standards for the construction and development industry that became effective on February 1, 2010, which include pollution control techniques to decrease erosion and sediment pollution.

The permit will be effective in areas where EPA is the permitting authority: Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and most U.S. territories and in Indian country lands.

EPA invited the public to comment on the draft permit. The agency also had a webcast to introduce owners and operators of construction sites, members of the public, and State or Tribal permitting authorities to the new requirements of the proposed CGP.

More information on the proposed construction general permit:

Top 10 Books on the Environment for Youth: 2012

Read the full story in Booklist.

Two topics jump out from this list of the best environmental books reviewed in Booklist over the past year—the life of Jane Goodall and the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. All of the titles below, though, explore ecological themes in fascinating ways.

Top 10 Books on the Environment: 2012

Read the full story in Booklist.

Public awareness of environmental concerns waxes and wanes, but science and nature writers remained on the case over the last 12 months, reporting on catastrophes overt and slow-brewing as well as efforts to do right by nature and ourselves

Tribal Clean Energy Projects Awarded $6.5 Million from U.S. Energy Department

As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening partnerships with Tribal Nations and supporting tribal energy development, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced 19 clean energy projects to receive more than $6.5 million. These competitively selected projects will allow Native American Tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects and deploying clean energy technologies. These projects will help Tribal communities across the country save money and create new job and business opportunities.

“As President Obama highlighted in the State of the Union, the Administration is committed to building an American economy that lasts and leverages our nation’s clean energy resources,” said Secretary Chu. “The awards announced today will help Tribes across the country advance a sustainable energy future for their local communities, spur economic development, and advance innovative clean energy technologies.”

The Energy Department has taken a number of steps to strengthen its support for Tribal energy development and empower Tribal leaders to make informed decisions that promote community economic development. Over the past year, the Department has established the Indian Country Energy Infrastructure Working Group with Tribal leaders from across the country and launched programs to provide technical assistance and support to help Tribal communities, colleges and universities deploy energy projects and gain skills in energy development and financing.

Since 2002, the Energy Department’s Tribal Energy Program has provided $36 million to 159 tribal energy projects.

The projects selected for negotiation of award today fall under three project areas:

$3.6 Million for Feasibility Studies – Thirteen projects will receive $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands to generate utility-scale power or study the feasibility of installing renewable energy systems on buildings to reduce energy use by 30%.

$1.7 Million for Renewable Energy Development Projects – Four projects will receive $1.7 million for pre-construction development activities. Three are developing more than 250 megawatts of new renewable energy generation, and one, when implemented, would reduce the need for diesel fuel for heating by 80% – or 9,600 gallons annually.

$1.3 Million for Installation Projects – Two projects will receive $1.3 million to deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass to energy. Once installed, the projects will generate 5 megawatts of energy per hour using municipal solid waste and using cordwood for heating to save between 2,500 and 3,200 gallons of propane.

The tribal energy projects announced today were selected as a result of a DOE funding opportunity announcement issued last year. See a summary of all 19 selected tribal energy projects.