EPA Releases Draft Policy for Ensuring Scientific Integrity

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today is releasing its draft Scientific Integrity Policy for public comment.  The draft policy reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to the ethical standards and transparency necessary for ensuring the highest quality science.

The draft Scientific Integrity Policy was developed in response to a December 2010 memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  The memorandum charged federal agencies to develop policies in four areas: foundations of scientific integrity in government, public communications, use of federal advisory committees, and professional development of government scientists and engineers.

EPA’s draft Scientific Integrity Policy was developed by an ad hoc workgroup consisting of senior staff and scientists from the agency’s programs and regions.  The draft policy addresses the promotion of scientific ethical standards, including quality standards; communications with the public; the use of advisory committees and peer review; and professional development, as well as the roles and responsibilities of a new Scientific Integrity Committee.

Public comments will be taken through September 6.

EPA’s draft Scientific Integrity Policy is available at: http://www.epa.gov/osa

DOE Technical Assistance Program Summer Webinar Schedule

State, city, county, and tribal energy practitioners will have the opportunity to sharpen their skills and knowledge with the Technical Assistance Program’s (TAP) webinars. These sessions will continue to explore best practices and technical information for energy experts looking to gain the latest information in the field.

The August webcasts will address a range of topics including:

  • The vision of the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency for 2025
  • The second part of the series on increasing energy efficiency through community-wide behavior change
  • The role of public utility commissions in energy efficiency program delivery
  • An introduction to the EECBG Portfolio Manager Initiative
  • And learn about integrating experimental design into your program from the BetterBuildings team.

You can find the complete webcast schedule for this month below. Webcast details may change during the month so please check Solution Center webcasts page for the most up to date information. You can find presentations from past Technical Assistance Program webcasts on the Solution Center webcasts page. A description of each webinar, sign-up details, and other valuable information for policymakers, program managers, and other energy experts can also be found on the TAP blog.

Don’t see a webcast for a topic you’re interested in? Make a comment on our blog or send an email to solutioncenter@ee.doe.gov.

Upcoming summer webcasts include:

Part 2: Using Community-Wide Behavior Change Programs to Increase Energy Efficiency
Presenter: ICF International
Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011
Time: 2:00-3:30 EDT
Registration Link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/735085672
Description: Part two of a two part webcast series. This webcast will focus on how state and local governments can move beyond technology dissemination and engage employees to adopt energy efficiency behaviors and enhance the savings potential of efficiency upgrades in buildings. The webcast will highlight key program design considerations and present case studies to illustrate how state and local governments can influence employee behaviors by providing end-users with information about their energy use and by recognizing staff that exhibit energy leadership at work. Participants in the webcast will learn about approaches to implementing policies and programs that influence energy-related behaviors. The webcast will highlight how government organizations can:

  • Make energy use visible
  • Provide staff with tools to manage their consumption and change their behaviors
  • Provide staff with motivation (e.g., goals, budgets)
  • Make saving energy easy and fun.

Integrating Experimental Design into Your Program Team: Merrian Fuller, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Time: 3:00-4:30 EDT
Registration Link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/490317401
Description: Experimental design is often used to increase certainty about the actual impacts of a program and what strategies are worth repeating going forward. There are many ways to add additional rigor to new program models. This webinar will review some experimental design techniques and give examples of how they might fit into your programs.

EECBG Portfolio Manager Initiative
Presenter: ICF International
Date: Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Time: 1:00-2:00 EDT
Registration Link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/131894248
Description: This webcast will introduce grantees to the EECBG Portfolio Manager Initiative. Grantees will learn about the benefits and features of using U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to benchmark, track, and report and disclose public building energy use. They will also hear from multiple grantees about the ways state and local governments can use Portfolio Manager both internally and externally to manage their energy use and communicate the benefits of energy efficiency. Along with highlighting Portfolio Manager’s key benefits, the webcast will present the various Portfolio Manager technical assistance resources that will be available to interested grantees during the EECBG Portfolio Manager Initiative and share how to access these resources.

Biochar makeover for abandoned mines?

See the infographic from High Country News.

Abandoned mines — about 31,000 of them — linger like ghosts on the West’s public lands. It’s harder to find exact numbers for old mines on private land, but Colorado, for example, has about 14,000, compared to 3,299 public-land sites. In the San Juan Mountains, water from snowmelt and rainfall picks up mining remnants like arsenic, lead, cadmium and zinc from tailings piles, delivering them to the headwaters of the Animas River. This mineral runoff can harm fish, insects and other small river organisms. To help revegetate and stabilize the acidic, plant-hostile soils around mine sites, scientists are borrowing a technique from agricultural research: They apply biochar, a charcoal formed by heating plant and wood waste in the absence of oxygen, to the soil. The carbon-dense char, used to boost soil fertility on farms, helps plants get established in barren mine sites, reducing contaminated runoff.

SDSU research envisions crude oil from switchgrass

Read the full story in The Daily Republic.

Rural landscapes of the future might have pyrolysis plants instead of grain elevators on every horizon — processing centers where farmers would bring bulky crops such as switchgrass to be made into crude oil.

Greenwashing: Corporations target Indian country with scams

Read the full post at Climate Connections.

Indian country leaders are being courted with “greenwashing,” as corporations attempt to profiteer from the new Green Movement which seeks to halt global warming and create alternative energy sources. The scam of carbon credits, and waste incinerators disguised as renewable energy and recycling projects, are the latest corporate hoaxes.

New GAO report on green information technology

Green Information Technology:  Agencies Have Taken Steps to Implement Requirements, but Additional Guidance on Measuring Performance Needed.  GAO-11-638, July 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11638high.pdf

Summary:  The federal government’s substantial use of information technology (IT) contributes significantly to federal agencies’ energy use and environmental impact. To help mitigate this impact, organizations have adopted practices for using computing resources in a sustainable and more environmentally friendly manner– sometimes referred to as “green IT.” These practices include equipment acquisition, use, disposal, and related processes. GAO was asked to (1) determine the extent to which the government has defined policy and guidance on green IT and how selected federal agencies are implementing this policy and guidance, and (2) identify leading green IT practices used by federal agencies, state and local governments, and private-sector organizations. To do this, GAO evaluated federal guidance and policy, as well as guidance and initiatives at selected agencies; identified and characterized efforts in the public and private sectors; and interviewed officials.

Two executive orders, from 2007 and 2009 respectively, assign responsibility to federal agencies for increasing their environmental sustainability and contain green IT-related requirements. These requirements include acquiring electronic products that meet certain environmental standards, extending the useful life of electronic equipment, implementing power management on computers, and managing federal data centers in a more energy efficient manner. In meeting these and other sustainability requirements, agencies are required to designate senior sustainability officers and develop performance plans that prioritize actions for meeting the requirements in the executive orders. The six agencies in GAO’s review (the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Health and Human Services; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the General Services Administration) have developed sustainability performance plans and taken additional steps to implement the executive orders’ requirements. For example, they have increased their acquisition of certified energy-efficient IT equipment, established and implemented policies to extend the useful life of agency equipment, and developed environmental policies for disposing of electronic equipment. However, the overall effectiveness of the agencies’ efforts cannot be measured because key performance information is not available. Specifically, the agencies have not identified the information needed to measure the progress or results of their efforts. For example, the agencies have generally not established baselines (starting points) or developed performance targets that are consistently defined in terms of quantifiable benefits, such as a reduction in energy. This is in part because the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a key White House council–the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)–have not developed specific guidance on establishing performance measures for green IT efforts. Without such guidance, the effectiveness of these efforts and their contribution to overall federal sustainability goals will remain unclear. GAO identified a number of leading practices used by federal, state, and local government and private-sector organizations that are relevant to green IT. These practices include enhanced leadership, dedicated funding, prioritization of efforts, and improved employee training, as well as acquiring IT equipment with the highest energy efficiency ratings; consolidating equipment and services; reducing use of paper; and using new, more efficient computers. For example, according to a 2009 survey of federal employees, agencies spend about $440.4 million per year on unnecessary printing. By contrast, in the non-federal sector, a major IT equipment company implemented managed print services that reportedly reduced the number of printers by 47 percent globally, cut per-page print costs by up to 90 percent, and saved more than $3 million in 2 years in the United States alone. GAO recommends OMB and CEQ develop green IT guidance to help agencies more effectively measure performance and encourage the use of leading practices. In comments on this report, OMB and CEQ partially concurred with the recommendations. They agreed to encourage the use of leading green IT practices but did not agree that additional guidance was needed for measuring performance. GAO continues to believe that additional guidance is needed to help determine the effectiveness of agencies’ efforts.

Is Environmental Activism on the Rise or Dying Out?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

There was a conflict of sorts in my inbox last week.

Wednesday heralded the arrival of the latest Ethical Corporation newsletter, the subject line for which read “Effective environmental activism all but abandoned in the US”, and which pointed recipients to an early July post from Peter Knight of Context America suggesting “Environmental groups have all but abandoned a push for better policies in preference for encouraging their supporters to pursue futile personal green efforts, aided and abetted by marketers flogging supposedly green goods.”

Surrounding Ethical Corporation’s missive? Multiple emails pronouncing the biggest investment in grassroots activism in, well, forever: Michael Bloomberg’s $50 million contribution to in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Knight is a smart, seasoned observer in the sustainability space. Bloomberg didn’t make billions by throwing away tens of millions on lost causes. What’s going on?

Under Pressure, Manufacturers Removing Chemicals from Car Seats

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

In the last few years, child car seat makers have made a big shift in which chemicals they use in their products, a change brought about by consumer pressure and legislation cracking down on toxics in other goods.

HealthyStuff.org tests products like toys, pet goods, handbags and cars, rating them on the presence of lead, PVC, brominated flame retardants and other chemicals connected to health, development and behavioral problems.

Since 2008, said HealthyStuff.org research director Jeff Gearhart, the average car seat score has improved 64 percent. And the number of car seats with brominated flame retardants went down 18 percent.

Imagining a Green Chemistry Moonshot

Read the full story at GreenerDesign.

I had the good fortune recently to attend the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference. In his keynote address, Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development and co-author of The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, called for a crash program in the development and deployment of green chemistry akin to JFK’s May 1961 challenge to the nation to put a man on the moon by 1970 — a “green chemistry moonshot” program, so to speak.

It’s a wonderful and evocative way of expressing the daunting challenge of rethinking and remaking our industrial chemical enterprise. As Dr. Anastas observed, this is a tall order, but rising to meet challenges like this is what we do. He reminded us that the technology needed to safely land humans on the moon and return them to Earth was, quite literally, science fiction in 1961.

Woods Institute for the Environment

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2011.

Woods Institute for the Environment

Based at Stanford University, the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Institute
for the Environment draws on the expertise and creativity of leading
academics and decision makers to create practical solutions for people and
the planet. Some of their projects include research trying to discover
solutions for global environmental sustainability issues and developing
strong environment leaders for today and the future. In the site’s
“Research” area, visitors can learn about their strategic collaborations
that deal with food security and ocean viability. In their “Uncommon
Dialogue” area, visitors can read transcripts and paper abstracts from
meetings that include “California Rangelands” and “Wastewater as a Resource:
Focus on the Bay”. New visitors should also take a look at the “Gateways
For” area, as there is a drop-down menu for journalists, business, and most
importantly educators and students seeking to use some of their findings in
the classroom. [KMG]