White House proposes cutting EPA staff by one-fifth, eliminating key programs

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Office of Management and Budget has suggested deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget that would reduce its staff by one-fifth in the first year and eliminate several programs, according to multiple individuals briefed on the plan.

The Value of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Read the full post from the Northeast Recycling Council. To see what things looked like in EPA’s earliest years, see pictures from EPA’s DOCUMERICA project.

The year 1970 was a turning point for our nation’s environment. On January 2 of that year, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law; and on December 2, his administration created the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The creation of EPA as an independent agency was the result of a rising tide of concern over our nation’s environment; the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. With strong bipartisan support, legislators convinced the Nixon administration that a single agency was needed; one that would consolidate under a single umbrella a myriad of federal activities—including research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement—to ensure the protection of our nation’s environment.

Looking back from the vantage of today’s fractured body politic, how did such a monumental bipartisan action take place? The nation’s air, water, land, wildlife, and indeed its citizens, were feeling the onslaught of decades of environmental neglect and pollution. Here are just a few examples:

A variety of bee species down on the farm leads to juicier fruits

Read the full story in Science.

There are more than 2500 bee species around the world that pollinate plants, and research has shown that having a variety of pollinators can boost crop yields and naturally control pests. Yet in many farm environments, there’s only one bee to be found: Apis mellifera, the European honey bee. Thousands of years of domestication have made this insect able to pollinate under a wide variety of circumstances, but native wild bees (such as this metallic green bee) need native habitat, which is often in short supply in agricultural environments. According to new findings reported here today at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science, farmers can invite greater bee diversity in their fields by diversifying their crops.

Great Lakes Scientist says, “If We Lose The EPA, We Lose Lake Erie”

Read the full story from Great Lakes Now.

At the 8th Binational Meeting of the Lake Erie Millennium Network, 125 scientists gathered at the University of Windsor in Ontario to hear experts weigh-in on the health of the southernmost, warmest and shallowest of the Great Lakes.

They presented research on everything from climate change, water quality, phosphorous, agricultural run-off, cynobacteria (blue-green algae), hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen), cladophora (green algae) to ice, invasive species, sediment concentrations, and much, much more.

Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, and yet it has the highest population living along it’s shorelines, which makes it more vulnerable to pollution and many other problems than the rest of the Great Lakes.

The Canadian province of Ontario as well as the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan share its shoreline. Nearly 12 million people get their drinking water from Lake Erie.

Its primary inlet is the Detroit River.

Lake Erie is important not just for its drinking water, beaches, swimming and boating, but for its fish.  The number of anglers on Lake Erie is greater than any other of the Great Lakes.

The lake, unfortunately, is famous for getting so polluted in the late 1960’s, one of its tributaries caught fire. The incident helped lead to the formation of the EPA, the Clean Water Act and other regulatory agencies and regulations.

Over the past fifty years, there have been incredible improvements to the quality of Lake Erie, but the scientists at the conference admitted they were concerned about some of the old issues that led to Lake Erie’s pollution returning once again without constant research, monitoring and regulations.

Trump’s 2018 budget will squeeze civilian science agencies

Read the full story in Science.

The chunk of the federal budget that includes most of the U.S. government’s spending on basic science would shrink by 10.5% in 2018 under a plan outlined today by President Donald Trump and administration officials.

Flint residents must start paying for water they still can’t drink without a filter

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Residents in Flint, Mich., are about to start paying the full cost of their water again, even though what’s flowing from their taps has yet to be declared safe to drink without an approved filter.

On Wednesday, state officials will end a program that has helped pay residents’ bills since a series of ill-fated decisions by state-appointed emergency managers left the city’s water system contaminated with lead. Since that 2014 disaster, the state has spent roughly $41 million in credits to help offset local utility bills. Residents have gotten a 65 percent credit each month on their water use, while commercial accounts received a 20 percent credit.

2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) data now available

The first data from the 2015 RECS are now available. These housing characteristics tables, featuring estimates of fuel use, structural characteristics of homes, heating, appliances, electronics, and more, can be found at http://www.eia.gov/ consumption/residential/data/ 2015/.

EIA expects to release an overview of the 2015 data, a methodology report, and the preliminary public use microdata file in April. Square footage estimates from the 2015 RECS are expected in summer 2017. Estimates of energy consumption and expenditures are currently in production and are anticipated to be released in 2018.

EIA’s 2015 RECS Household Survey captured information about more than 200 energy-related items from more than 5,600 households. The 2015 RECS is the 14th iteration of the program, which has been conducted periodically since 1978.

What’s The Environmental Footprint Of A Loaf Of Bread? Now We Know

Read the full story from NPR.

When it comes to climate change, we often think of the cars we drive and the energy we use in our homes and offices. They are, after all, some of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But what about the toast you ate for breakfast this morning?

A new study published Monday in Nature Plants breaks down the environmental cost of producing a loaf of bread, from wheat field to bakery. It finds that the bulk of the associated greenhouse gas emissions come from just one of the many steps that go into making that loaf: farming.

Why is federal government data disappearing?

Read the full story in The Hill.

The White House recently deleted all of the data on its open data portal, which served as a public clearinghouse for data on everything from federal budgets to climate change initiatives.

This is a red flag, since for eight years, the Obama White House championed the practice of making government data freely available to the public in order to promote transparency and accountability, to serve as a resource for researchers, and to allow innovators to create new tools and services that spur economic activity and solve social problems.

While the Trump administration has not yet signaled that it will oppose open data across the federal government, its silence on the issue suggests that open data may not receive the same level of priority it has in the past. In sharp contrast, President Obama declared a “new era of openness” on his first full day in office and directed federal agencies to be more transparent.

Smart Irrigation Reduces Nitrogen Leaching

Read the full story in Water Efficiency.

While nitrogen is critical for agricultural production, too much nitrogen can negatively affect health and the environment. Ironically, excess nitrogen can even produce a harmful effect on crop yield, as well as native species and biodiversity.