The Promise and the Potential of Comprehensive Commercial Building Retrofit Programs

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Commercial buildings consume 20% of the total energy used in the United States, a significant portion of which can be saved through comprehensive retrofits that take into account the interactive effect of the energy use of the various energy systems in the building.

While many utility programs offer incentives for comprehensive retrofits, the participation in such programs has been limited. In this report, we review over 25 programs from across the nation and recommend pathways that program administrators can adopt to increase their market penetration and improve the program outcomes. The report summarizes our key findings along the program life cycle beginning from prospecting and outreach, to design and implementation, and finally monitoring and verification of savings.

Leading programs in this space have innovatively designed incentives that encourage deeper savings. We find that advances in measuring real-time energy-use data and advanced analytical capabilities are creating new opportunities for whole-building assessments, identification of comprehensive savings, and automated monitoring and tracking of energy-systems performance.

Efficiency retrofits provide many non-energy benefits such as health, safety, comfort, and productivity improvements, in addition to energy savings, which can help customers achieve their primary institutional mission and thus make efficiency an even more attractive prospect.

A Lesson in Farming, Classroom to Cafeteria

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Beyond a stack of hay bales, past the site of Indiana’s first soil-judging contest, high school students in this tiny eastern town stroll down a grassy slope to reach their newest classroom: a fenced-in field of cud-chewing cattle.

Starting in the next academic year, the cattle, which arrived last month and have names like Ground Round and Honey Bear, will be fed by students enrolled in an agricultural science class. Then, when the animals are fat enough, they will be fed back to their caretakers — as beef patties on lunchroom trays.

Review of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Process

Download the document or read it online (hard copy available for $44).

The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is a program within the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is responsible for developing toxicologic assessments of environmental contaminants. An IRIS assessment contains hazard identifications and dose-response assessments of various chemicals related to cancer and noncancer outcomes. Although the program was created to increase consistency among toxicologic assessments within the agency, federal, state, and international agencies and other organizations have come to rely on IRIS assessments for setting regulatory standards, establishing exposure guidelines, and estimating risks to exposed populations. Over the last decade, the National Research Council (NRC) has been asked to review some of the more complex and challenging IRIS assessments, including those of formaldehyde, dioxin, and tetrachloroethylene. In 2011, an NRC committee released its review of the IRIS formaldehyde assessment. Like other NRC committees that had reviewed IRIS assessments, the formaldehyde committee identified deficiencies in the specific assessment and more broadly in some of EPA’s general approaches and specific methods. Although the committee focused on evaluating the IRIS formaldehyde assessment, it provided suggestions for improving the IRIS process and a roadmap for its revision in case EPA decided to move forward with changes to the process. Congress directed EPA to implement the report’s recommendations and then asked the National Research Council to review the changes that EPA was making (or proposing to make) in response to the recommendations.

Review of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Process provides an overview of some general issues associated with IRIS assessments. This report then addresses evidence identification and evaluation for IRIS assessments and discusses evidence integration for hazard evaluation and methods for calculating reference values and unit risks. The report makes recommendations and considerations for future directions. Overall, Review of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System Process finds that substantial improvements in the IRIS process have been made, and it is clear that EPA has embraced and is acting on the recommendations in the NRC formaldehyde report. The recommendations of this report should be seen as building on the progress that EPA has already made.

In Fracking Hotbed, a Muted Approach to Regulation

Read the full story at Pro Publica.

In Ohio, where gas drilling is booming and toxic waste abundant, legislators acted modestly to address concerns about public safety.

EPA Announces Availability of $335, 000 in Technical Assistance for Integrated Planning

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Wastewater Management is pleased to announce the availability of $335,000 in technical assistance forcommunities seeking technical support to develop an integrated planning approach to meeting Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements for municipal wastewater and stormwater management. The primary purpose of the technical assistance is to help EPA develop practical examples of how to implement the different steps in developing an integrated plan in order to provide useful information to communities across the nation who are interested in integrated planning.

The value of the total EPA assistance available in 2014 is approximately $335,000, and EPA anticipates providing assistance to 5 communities. Interested communities are encouraged to respond to our Request for Letters of Interest. Letters of interest must be received by June 27, 2014, 5:00 p.m. EDT. If additional funding becomes available, EPA may return to the applicant pool identified through this request to select additional recipient communities.

3 Reasons to Never Plant Butterfly Bush Again

Read the full story at Rodale News.

If you truly love nature and butterflies, you can’t plant this invasive favorite anymore—no excuses.

Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction

Read the full post from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Environmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.

But implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction,” Hamilton emphasized the need to educate the public on new and existing policies impacting carbon emissions for broader public involvement.

Watch James Brown touting home weatherization in this amazing video

Read the full post at Grist. Watch the video below.

Weatherization, energy audits, airtight homes — none of these things inspire shouts of glee … until you add James Brown. Which, mercifully, this random video does. Scraped from the corners of the internet by home efficiency site Energy Vanguard, here are three minutes of the late Godfather of Soul advertising a blower door to test your home’s air leakage.

MPCA Environmental Assistance Grants Program

On May 12, 2014, with the publication of the Request for Proposals (RFP) Notice in the State Register, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has officially announced the opening of the Fiscal Years (FY) 2014-2015 Environmental Assistance (EA) Grant Program for applications.

Approximately $1 million is available for EA grant awards to provide financial assistance for researching, developing, or implementing projects and practices related to all aspects of waste management and prevention including hazardous substances, toxic pollutants, and problem materials.  Additionally, market development and education grants are also allowed. The MPCA seeks to encourage environmentally-sustainable practices and approaches to pollution prevention and resource conservation. Eligible applicants, grant award amounts and minimum matching fund requirements will vary by Focus Areas and Preferred Proposals.

Applications for financial assistance will be for Proposals in the following nine (9) Focus Areas:

  • Focus Area A. Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
  • Focus Area B. Food Waste Reduction
  • Focus Area C. Green Chemistry & Design Curriculum
  • Focus Area D. Reuse/Repair/Rent
  • Focus Area E. Environmental Solid Waste Management Practices
  • Focus Area F. Communities Adapting to Climate Change and Extreme Weather
  • Focus Area G. City Sustainability Policy Development
  • Focus Area H. State ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings Goal
  • Focus Area I. School Site Sustainability and Student Environmental Education

The deadline for application submittal is no later than 2:00 p.m. Central Time as follows:

  • July 16, 2014: submission deadline for Focus Areas B – I
  • August 13, 2014: submission deadline for Focus Area A

Summary of a Workshop on Mississippi River Water Quality Science and Interstate Collaboration

Download the document or read it online (hard copy available for $28).

Summary of a Workshop on Mississippi River Water Quality Science and Interstate Collaboration summarizes presentations and discussions of Mississippi River and basin water quality management, monitoring, and evaluation programs that took place at a workshop that was held in St. Louis on November 18-19, 2013. The workshop examined a wide array of challenges and progress in water quality monitoring and evaluation in states along the Mississippi River corridor, and provided a forum for experts from U.S. federal agencies, the Mississippi River states, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to share and compare monitoring and evaluation experiences from their respective organizations.