Day: January 26, 2018

These Decaying Film Canisters Could Hold Secrets to Saving Species from Extinction

Read the full story in the Revelator.

Archivists are working to save decades of film and other scientific information that could hold clues to protecting species and habitats today.

Trump administration cancels detailed review of Obama-era mining ban near Minnesota wilderness

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Trump administration will curtail a detailed review of how cordoning off 230,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Minnesota from mining development will affect a neighboring wilderness area, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Water and Wastewater Workforce: Recruiting Approaches Helped Industry Hire Operators, but Additional EPA Guidance Could Help Identify Future Needs

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Projections from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggest that workforce replacement needs for water operators are roughly similar to workforce needs nationwide across all occupations; however, little is known about the effects of any unmet needs on compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. BLS has projected that 8.2 percent of existing water operators will need to be replaced annually between 2016 and 2026. Although BLS projections are intended to capture long-run trends, rather than to forecast precise outcomes in specific years, this predicted replacement rate is roughly similar to the predicted rate of 10.9 percent for all workers across the U.S. economy. Limited information is available to determine whether retirements, or other workforce needs, are affecting drinking water and wastewater utilities’ ability to comply with the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water acts. At a national level, neither the water utilities’ industry associations nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has analyzed whether there is a relationship between unmet workforce needs and compliance problems. EPA relies on states to inspect utilities to ensure compliance with the acts. EPA’s inspection guidance documents, for both drinking water and wastewater, advise states to examine the quality and quantity of staff operating and maintaining water utilities. However, the guidance does not advise states to examine future workforce needs. GAO has found that future workforce needs can be identified through strategic workforce planning, which involves developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve program goals. By adding questions to EPA’s inspection guidance on strategic workforce planning, such as the number of positions needed in the future, EPA could help make this information available for states to assess future workforce needs. Information on future workforce needs could help states and utilities identity potential workforce issues and take action as needed.

Representatives from 11 selected water utilities reported that by using various approaches, they were generally able to meet their current workforce needs but faced some challenges in doing so. Representatives from the selected utilities said that they recruit operators using word of mouth, websites, newspapers, and partnering with local technical schools. However, representatives from small utilities said that even with these approaches, they had difficulty hiring certified operators and instead hired and trained entry-level employees. Additionally, representatives from large utilities said they face difficulties in recruiting skilled workers, such as electricians and mechanics, part of a larger national pattern.

Five federal agencies that GAO reviewed—EPA and the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), Education, and Veterans Affairs (VA)—have programs or activities that can assist utilities with their workforce needs in several ways, including through guidance, funding, and training. EPA has worked with DOL and industry groups to develop a water-sector competency model to support industry training and with VA to help place disabled veterans in water industry jobs. In addition, USDA funds personnel who travel to rural utilities to provide hands-on assistance through its Circuit Rider program. Four of five small utilities GAO interviewed said they used this program and other USDA technical assistance for training operators.

Why GAO Did This Study

Safe operation of the nation’s water utilities depends on access to a qualified workforce, particularly certified water operators. Industry reports have cited high rates of retirement eligibility and raised concerns about the water industry’s ability to fill job openings.

GAO was asked to review workforce needs within the drinking water and wastewater industry. This report describes (1) what is known about workforce needs at water utilities compared with workforce needs nationwide and effects of potential unmet workforce needs on the utilities’ compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act; (2) approaches used by selected utilities to manage their workforce needs and challenges they have faced in managing those needs; and (3) ways in which federal programs can assist water utilities with workforce needs.

GAO reviewed workforce projections, relevant laws and regulations, agency documents, and industry studies and interviewed federal, local, and industry officials. GAO also conducted semi-structured interviews with a nongeneralizable sample of 11 water utilities, selected by size, location, and indications of workforce needs.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA add strategic workforce planning questions, such as the positions and skills needed in the future, to its inspection guidance documents. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation as it related to drinking water, but neither agreed nor disagreed regarding wastewater. GAO believes the entire recommendation should be implemented.

U.S. EPA reverses policy on ‘major sources’ of pollution

Read the full story from Reuters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it was withdrawing a provision of the Clean Air Act that requires a major source of pollution like a power plant to always be treated as a major source, even if it makes changes to reduce emissions.

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2018 Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference call for abstracts

The theme of this year’s conference, scheduled for October 7-10, 2018 in Washington, DC, is “Building Bridges.” In a time of increasing polarization, behavioral sciences play an important role in bridging political, cultural, economic, and geographic divides that prevent sensible solutions to climate change. From the beginning, BECC has aimed to facilitate conversations and collaborations across sectors and disciplines. In 2018, through regular and special sessions, we plan to showcase research, programs, and dialogues that bridge divides and help move toward a sustainable energy and climate future.

We are seeking new, innovative research and applied work from leaders in behavioral sciences as applied to the adoption of sustainable energy production and use.  Please note that work that has been discussed in other public forums or presented at BECC in the past will not be accepted.

We invite abstracts of 300-400-words for formal 15-minute presentations, with or without accompanying full papers, as well “lightning talks,”(5-7 minutes) panel discussions, and poster presentations. Abstracts may be submitted as part of a panel application (a group of presentations) or independently. Any abstracts submitted as part of a panel will also be considered independently if the complete panel is not accepted.

To help moderators prepare their sessions, we request that presenters who are delivering full-length or lightning talks also prepare a brief summary of their work (maximum of two pages) or a final set of slides one month prior to the conference.

Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2018.

Peter Rabbit is the Latest Celebrity Fighting Food Waste

Read the full story in Food & Wine.

From José Andrés to Anthony Bourdain, chefs around the world are joining the battle to end food waste. But now, they’ve been joined by fresh produce’s biggest celebrity proponent of all: Peter Rabbit. Yes, on Feb 9 of this year, the new Peter Rabbit movie will be hitting theaters, and the new, CG-animated version of Beatrix Potter’s beloved rabbit, (voiced by James Corden) is taking part in the “Better Ate Than Never” campaign to reduce food waste.

Climate Change and the Stories We Tell: The Making of a Collaborative Digital Archive in Rural Maine

Read the full article in Digital Engagements; Or, the Virtual Gets Real.

How can digital engagement deepen the relationships celebrated by community-engaged-learning (CEL) pedagogy—between students and residents, scholars and community members? And how can we prepare our undergraduates—both practically and ethically—to conduct field research that they will later make accessible to a larger public? This article will explore these questions in the context of a Creative Writing and Environmental Studies seminar taught last spring in a small liberal arts college located in rural Maine. First, this essay will examine how community-engaged learning and digital pedagogy practices, when applied together, have the potential to broaden the climate change dialogue by recording and disseminating the voices of those living in rural communities. Second, this essay will outline the principles and procedures that shaped the creation and implementation of the Climate Change and the Stories We Tell course, highlighting student experience and take-aways. Finally, the essay will conclude with a reflection on both the opportunities and limitations that arise when applying CEL and digital pedagogy practices alongside one another.

New Sustainable Paint Helps Boats Use Less Energy

Read the full story in Green Matters.

While most people don’t see them, barnacles, algae, and mussels latch onto boat hulls and have been a headache for the shipping industry to deal with for centuries. These little creatures create significant issues by adding to the vessel’s weight. They also create drag, so ships have to use more fuel or energy to cut through the water.

To combat this problem, shipping companies have been using special paints to help keep the tiny army of marine organisms at bay, but that approach often comes at a price as those special paints can pollute the ocean. To find an ideal solution, a team in Germany came together to create a non-toxic paint that keeps organisms off the hulls by making it harder for them to latch on. The result is a win-win solution for the environment and the shipping industry for a few reasons.

Century-old botany records may hold key to monarch butterfly survival

Read the full story from the College of William & Mary.

Naturalists’ records dating back more than 100 years may be instrumental in determining the fate of the monarch butterfly in the 21st century.

Jack Boyle, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow of Environmental Science and Policy at William & Mary, has been using the web to mine millions of century-old botany records to track abundance patterns of milkweed in America.

The trouble with Trump leaving climate change to the military

Read the full story in Vox.

Late last week, the Pentagon released the unclassified summary version of America’s new National Defense Strategy. For the first time since 2008, it makes no mention of climate change.

The administration didn’t cite climate change in its National Security Strategy release in December, either. After that, a bipartisan group of 106 lawmakers begged Trump to reconsider, but at this point, there is no reason to think he or his appointees plan to listen. At least formally, they plan to ignore climate change in security and military policy.

This neglect has prompted a great deal of agita in the climate community, where the nexus of climate change and national security is intensely studied. It would be strategically disastrous for the US military to ignore climate change. Practically speaking, it cannot.

James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral now serving as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, succinctly lays out the reasons the military can’t ignore climate change in this piece. Scarcity of water and other resources will drive dislocation and conflict, he writes. Coastal Naval bases are in danger of being inundated by rising seas; the Arctic is melting and opening new areas of geopolitical conflict; the rising cost of climate impacts will squeeze the military budget; and responding to severe weather events will reduce military readiness.

The military is taking climate change seriously because it has to. Unlike its Commander in Chief, it is not involved in a reality show — it has to deal with actual reality.

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