EPA Releases Searchable Website for Drinking Water Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced improvements to the availability and usability of drinking water data in the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) tool. ECHO now allows the public to search to see whether drinking water in their community met the standards required under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which is designed to safeguard the nation’s drinking water and protect people’s health. SDWA requires states to report drinking water information periodically to EPA. ECHO also includes a new feature identifying drinking water systems that have had serious noncompliance.

“Today’s improvements to EPA’s ECHO tool support President Obama’s directive to make it easier for the public to search for and use the information we collect,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Improved access to information about our nation’s drinking water is critical for communities, nonprofit organizations, public water suppliers, regulators and industry that all have a stake in ensuring the water in our communities is safe and healthy to drink.”

The new Safe Drinking Water Act information on EPA’s website provides:

  • Users with information about whether their drinking water has exceeded drinking water standards.
  • A serious violators report that lists all water suppliers with serious noncompliance.
  • EPA’s 2009 National Public Water Systems Compliance Report, which is a national summary of compliance and enforcement at public drinking water systems.

The serious violators list identifies water systems that have had serious noncompliance due to a combination of unresolved violations. The data in ECHO shows that overall, the number of systems identified as serious violators continues to decrease due to lead agencies, in most cases the states, more efficiently addressing serious noncompliance. Currently, approximately 4 percent of all public water systems are considered serious violators. Through increased oversight and enforcement efforts, EPA will continue to work to reduce the rate of noncompliance and the number of public water systems that are serious violators.

Under the SDWA, water suppliers are required to promptly inform customers if drinking water has been contaminated by something that could cause immediate illness or impact people’s health. If such a violation occurs, the water system will announce the violation and provide information about the potential health effects, steps the system is taking to correct the violation, and the need to use alternative water supplies (such as boiled or bottled water) until the problem is corrected. Systems inform customers about violations of less immediate concern in the first water bill sent after the violation, in a Consumer Confidence Report, or by mail.

EPA’s enforcement goals for clean water include working with states and tribes to ensure clean drinking water for all communities and improving transparency by making facility compliance data available to the public. The release of drinking water violations data in ECHO advances these goals and creates additional incentives for government agencies to improve their reporting of drinking water violations and increase efforts to address those violations.

EPA will host a webinar demonstrating how to use the Safe Drinking Water Act violation information in ECHO on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 2 p.m. EDT. The demonstration will show users how to search for information about local water quality, how to compare data by state, and highlight other features of the tool.

Storm Over Silicones

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Some cosmetic ingredient makers defend cyclic methylsiloxanes as competitors tout substitutes

Dolphins Bear Heavy Loads Of Pollutants

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Dolphins are famous for their intelligence and playfulness, but environmental scientists also see them as sentinels for pollution in the ocean. Many marine mammals, such as dolphins, sit at the apex of food webs, so pollutant levels in their bodies reflect the amount of contaminants carried by their prey. To measure persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in marine environments along the coast of the southeastern U.S., a team of scientists has surveyed the chemicals’ concentrations in dolphin blubber (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es1042244).

EPA-Favored Cleaning Products

Read the full story from Chemical & Engineering News.

When it revised the standard for its Design for the Environment (DfE) logo on cleaning products last month, the Environmental Protection Agency says it sought to balance consumers’ demand for information with producers’ need to protect proprietary formulas.

Despite the agency’s effort, not all stakeholders are satisfied. Some product formulators are generally pleased with the agency’s revised standard. Environmental groups are, too. But one key industry association, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), says the disclosure requirements in the updated standard could backfire, deterring companies from participating.

Malt-O-Meal’s ‘Green’ Anti-Box Campaign is Half in the Bag

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Malt-O-Meal hasn’t made any changes to its packaging. It’s always come in big bags. Is that green?

The company thinks so, and has been ragging on cereal boxes with its Bag the Box website (relaunched in April), touting the environmental benefits of selling cereal in just bags.

At the top-most level, yes, putting cereal in just bags compared to bags and boxes has benefits: Not sourcing material from trees, and not using energy and fuel to produce and transport boxes.

But again: Is that green? And is Malt-O-Meal green as a result of this practice?

The answer, as near as I can tell, is a qualified “no.” Or “I don’t know.” Because green or not, Malt-O-Meal is an example of a company that is adding to the already overwhelming cacophony of green stories, by touting the environmental benefits of their products and packaging, without having made a single change.

The Pitfalls of Aligning CSR Goals with Public Policy Work

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Can a company take on sustainability initiatives — and promote their green credentials — while also lobbying behind the scenes to halt, slow or weaken environmental legislation?

That was the dilemma faced by members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009: Companies working toward smaller carbon footprints found themselves under scrutiny for their membership in the business lobbying group, which opposed the climate legislation then working its way through Congress.

A bill ultimately failed to pass the Senate and the hubbub largely disappeared, but the example illustrates the tightrope companies must walk to balance lobbying efforts with CSR initiatives. The situation forced some like Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to take a hard look at whether the groups with which they were associated shared the same values.

Kraft’s Recipe for Greener Mac-n-Cheese and Oreos

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Kraft Foods wants to use less water, energy and packaging in the manufacture of its stable of well-known food products, including Oreo’s, Ritz Crackers, Jell-O and its famous Macaroni and Cheese.

Kraft revealed last week several goals the company will work toward over the next five years, including a commitment from its European coffee brands that all coffee will come from sustainable sources by 2015.

Proposed rule: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From Coal- and Oil-fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Fossil-Fuel-Fired Electric Utility, Industrial-Commercial-Institutional, and Small Industrial-Commercial-Institutional Steam Generating Units

Read the full Federal Register Notice.

SUMMARY: The United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) is proposing national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) from coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) under Clean Air Act (CAA or the Act) section 112(d) and proposing revised new source performance standards (NSPS) for fossil fuel-fired EGUs under CAA section 111(b). The proposed NESHAP would protect air quality and promote public health by reducing emissions of the hazardous air pollutants (HAP) listed in CAA section 112(b). In addition, these proposed amendments to the NSPS are in response to a voluntary remand of a final rule. We also are proposing several minor amendments, technical clarifications, and corrections to existing NSPS provisions for fossil fuel-fired EGUs and large and small industrial-commercial-institutional steam generating units.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before July 5, 2011.

Final rule: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutant Emissions: Group I Polymers and Resins; Marine Tank Vessel Loading Operations; Pharmaceuticals Production; and the Printing and Publishing Industry

Read the full Federal Register Notice.

SUMMARY: EPA is taking final action for four national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) that regulate 12 industrial source categories evaluated in our risk and technology review. The four NESHAP include: National Emissions Standards for Group I Polymers and Resins (Butyl Rubber Production, Epichlorohydrin Elastomers Production, Ethylene Propylene Rubber Production, Hypalon\TM\ Production, Neoprene Production, Nitrile Butadiene Rubber Production, Polybutadiene Rubber Production, Polysulfide Rubber Production, and Styrene Butadiene Rubber and Latex Production); Marine Tank Vessel Loading Operations; Pharmaceuticals Production; and The Printing and Publishing Industry.

For some source categories, EPA is finalizing our decisions concerning the residual risk and technology reviews. For the Marine Tank Vessel Loading Operations NESHAP and the Group I Polymers and Resins NESHAP, EPA is finalizing emission standards to address certain emission sources not previously regulated under the NESHAP. EPA is also finalizing changes to the Pharmaceuticals Production NESHAP to correct an editorial error. For each of the four NESHAP, EPA is finalizing revisions to the regulatory provisions related to emissions during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction and promulgating provisions addressing electronic submission of emission test results.

DATES: This final action is effective on April 21, 2011.

Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement

Download the document.

Executive Summary

Background

Solar photovoltaics (PV) is a commercially proven technology and, in markets with incentives, can compete with traditional fossil fuel-based power. Wider adoption and decreases in manufacturing costs are driving down the cost of solar electricity. As the industry grows and matures, it will optimize and standardize its practices to further reduce costs and make solar energy accessible to a mainstream market. The crucial role of policy in accelerating this industry growth and maturation cannot be understated. Today, however, several barriers remain to bringing solar PV to scale:

  • Transaction costs can be high. Because the industry is fragmented and installation processes are not standardized around the country, each developer has different procedures and negotiated contracts. Allocating internal staff resources to research solar power and to negotiate fair contracts for each potential site can be expensive.
  • Learning takes time and effort. Potential buyers have to learn on their own about the solar market, financing, and technology, while building internal consensus for moving forward.
  • Demand is fragmented with many individual sites being developed opportunistically. The current patchwork approach of designing, permitting, contracting, and installing systems for one facility at a time is inefficient.

These barriers help explain the slow pace of solar PV adoption among commercial and government consumers. However, collaborative purchasing can help overcome these barriers and scale up solar PV deployment. By organizing interested consumers (and their potential installation sites) into groups, collaborative purchasing can reduce transaction costs, educate potential buyers, and aggregate demand so that solar panels can be installed at lower-than-average costs.

Purpose

This Best Practices Guide is intended to assist commercial and government entities in the process of organizing and executing a collaborative solar purchase. A measure of success will be the number of readers who use this guide in purchasing solar power to meet their electricity needs more sustainably and at an affordable price. The guide outlines a list of best practices, which together constitute a 12-step process to capture the economic and practical benefits of a joint purchase. The starting point for participating in such an effort is simply an interest in purchasing solar electricity. The best practices are intended as a resource for project planning and decision making. They provide specific actions in chronological order, with milestones to indicate when to move from one step to the next. The end goal is that regional groups of participants will have solar PV installed on their facilities at competitive prices.

Experts in the solar energy field, including those specializing in regional collaboration, helped to develop the best practices presented here. They are based on extensive research and real-world experiences, and are supported by case studies (one a private sector collaborative and one with public-sector participants). These two cases were unique models of regional collaboration, among the first in the country at this scale. Like all new approaches to a problem, both efforts encountered challenges along the way. Throughout the guide, we illustrate the lessons learned from these challenges, point out pitfalls to avoid, and highlight ways to streamline the process. We also provide resources, such as solicitation and procurement documents, participant questionnaires, and evaluation criteria.

By promoting the use of this guide and sample documents, we hope to encourage the use of these models for regional collaborative efforts. Successful collaboration can lead to lower costs, increased competition and vendor performance, and better projects with higher visibility.

Twelve Steps for Collaborative Solar Purchasing

  1. Early regional recruiting
    RESULTS: Initial participants indicate interest and agree to proceed with site identification and assessment in next stage.
  2. Initial participant questionnaire
    RESULTS: List of potential participating organizations with site opportunities and considerations documented.
  3. Solar project workshop
    RESULTS: All participants share common understanding about the basics of collaborative purchasing, key metrics to evaluate, timeline, and expectations of them. Lead organization has been identified.
  4. Consolidated analysis of sites
    RESULTS: Compelling technical overview of total purchase size and individual bundles. This initiative overview is consolidated into packet including talking points explaining expected benefits for participants and lead organization.
  5. Internal decision maker consultation
    RESULTS: Buy-in to proceed in procurement process to drafting RFP is obtained from decision makers in each participant/lead organization.
  6. Design of procurement process & documents
    RESULTS: All participants agree to procurement process, template contracts, and standard terms with understanding of risks and opportunities.
  7. Request for proposals
    RESULTS: RFP issued with compelling bids received from potential vendors.
  8. Proposal evaluation
    RESULTS: Winning bidder is selected for each bundle through competitive process that ensures best-value vendor selection.
  9. Negotiations and award
    RESULTS: Negotiations are complete with successful award and signed contracts with a qualified vendor for each bundle, within agreed timeline.
  10. Installation project management
    RESULTS: Solar PV systems are properly built to meet or exceed specifications and safety standards.
  11. Commissioning and operations
    RESULTS: Successful solar installations demonstrate energy production and savings as planned for 25 years or more.
  12. Celebration of success
    RESULTS: Participants’ internal and external stakeholders, regional community, and government are aware of the positive impact of this effort and support future projects.