Day: March 18, 2019

Critics pounce on EPA’s mercury proposal

Read the full story in Greenwire.

EPA officials confronted a chorus of calls this morning to drop plans for revisiting their landmark regulation of power plant mercury pollution as speakers at a public hearing accused the agency of industry bias, flawed analysis and sheer wrongheadedness.

Student Teams from Ohio, Minnesota and Illinois Awarded Nearly $75,000 EPA Grant for Innovative Technology Projects

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced nearly $75,000 in funding for five student teams through its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grants program. The teams from Miami University-Ohio, University of Saint Thomas, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University are receiving funding to develop sustainable technologies to help solve environmental and public health challenges.

“EPA’s P3 grants program supports the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These students are able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-world environmental problems that require innovative solutions.”

“EPA’s P3 grants help students apply their knowledge to solve some of today’s pressing environmental and public health concerns,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp.

The P3 competition challenges students to research, develop and design innovative projects that address a myriad of environmental protection and public health issues. The Phase I teams will receive grants of up to $15,000 each to fund the proof of concept for their projects.

Grantees include student teams from the following universities:

  • Miami University – Oxford, Ohio: A student team from Miami University will use a novel UV-LED photocatalytic process to reduce or eliminate evaporative fuel vapor emissions from automobiles.
  • Miami University – Oxford, Ohio.:  A student team from Miami University will design and test a continuous-flow water purification device that uses a novel fluorinated anion exchange sorbent for removal of perfluoroalkyl compounds including perfluorooctansulfonic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOS) from drinking water.
  • University of Saint Thomas – St Paul, Minn.: A student team from University of Saint Thomas will use a bioretention filter system to test the most effective soil amendments for phosphorus and nitrogen retention.. The findings can be used to increase the effectiveness of bioretention as a green infrastructure approach.
  • Illinois State University – Normal, Ill.: A student team from Illinois State University is investigating the use of recycled glass as a unique construction material that has the potential to accelerate broader adoption of recycled glass as a cement/fly ash substitute.
  • Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Ill.: A student team from Southern Illinois University will study using photocatalysis to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from wastewater effluent so that it can be reused in agriculture, which otherwise may bring potential adverse impacts on crops and human health.

The Phase I recipients will attend the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo in Boston, Mass., on June 17-18, 2019, to showcase their research. They can then apply for a Phase II grant that provides funding up to $100,000 to further the project design.

These students, who represent the future workforce in diverse scientific and engineering fields, are following in the footsteps of other P3 teams. Some of these teams have gone on to start businesses based on ideas and products developed through their P3 project. In 2018, a previous P3 Phase I awardee from Oklahoma State University (OSU) leveraged P3 funding to initiate their research to develop a cost-effective approach to enhance energy efficiency in wastewater treatment. In furthering their P3 project, OSU transformed the research into a business plan and won the Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition with its startup business plan for Contraire, a predictive analysis control system designed to provide near real-time wastewater test measurements. Amongst 15 other teams, OSU pitched their business plan to a panel of Canadian business leaders and received multiple inquiries from investors.

To learn more about the P3 projects, visit:

For more information on the P3 Program, visit:

EPA bans deadly chemical used in paint strippers — but provides exemption for commercial operators

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday restricted the use of a toxic chemical used in paint and coating strippers that has been linked to dozens of accidental deaths. But the agency stopped short of the total ban proposed by the Obama administration and pushed by some health groups, instead allowing commercial operators to keep using the chemical so long as they are trained.

Big Ideas: “Convert CO2 from the air into concrete” with Peter Fiekowsky

Read the full story at Thrive Global.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Fiekowsky. Peter is a physicist and entrepreneur who is committed to leaving behind a world he is proud of. Peter founded the Foundation for Climate Restoration and the Healthy Climate Alliance (HCA), a nonprofit organization that connects and supports the public, government, and scientists as they aim to shift the global climate paradigm and discover solutions to reverse global warming and restore the climate. Peter’s passion for this goal drives his leadership in multiple climate initiatives, including the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He is the founder and president of Automated Visual Inspection (AVI) LLC, a board member of Repower Capital Inc., and an MIT-trained physicist with 27 patents. Peter is committed to reducing atmospheric CO2 levels to 300 parts-per-million and restoring polar ice by 2050 in order to restore the climate for our children.

Plastics Road lives up to its name as Dow debuts new asphalt recipe

Read the full story in the Houston Chronicle.

Plastics Road at Dow Chemical’s Lake Jackson campus is now, perhaps, the most plastic road in America. If it holds up, drivers could find themselves rolling atop discarded shopping bags in no time — and with little notice.

USDA Report is First to Provide Consolidated Data on Conservation Practices by U.S. Farmers

Increasingly, food companies, environmental organizations, and agricultural commodity groups are setting ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from farms. These goals are realized through conservation practices such as reduced tillage farming, and precision technologies, like autosteer tractors. Yet, there’s not much nationally consistent data to help farmers and policymakers know which practices are being used, and how the adoption of those practices is changing over time.

In a new report, USDA is offering consolidated data on ten years’ worth of GHG-reducing conservation practices in the United States. Agricultural Conservation on Working Lands: Trends from 2004 to Present (PDF, 7.6 MB) combines USDA survey data to track adoption of practices including precision agriculture technologies, nitrogen management, no-till and mulch-till, and cover crop adoption, all of which reduce GHG emissions and/or store carbon in the soil. The report focuses on conservation practices for three major crops: corn, soy, and wheat, and reports trends by region and farm size. The report notes that these practices result in additional benefits, such as reduced production costs, increased yields, and improved soil and water quality.

As one example finds, the report looks at the increasing popularity of autosteer technology (tractor guidance systems using GPS). This practice requires a GPS system, software, and hardware. Autosteer has been widely adopted. For corn crop farming alone, autosteer use jumped from 13 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2016. The benefits are many: autosteer has been found to improve efficiency, save money, reduce operator fatigue, improve seeding of field row crops, and reduce both fuel use and over-application of nitrogen fertilizer.

The report gathers several USDA survey datasets on food production and conservation practices. These surveys usually focus on a particular location or crop in a single year and, until now, the conservation-related data they collected were not reported in one place. This made it difficult to develop a complete picture of conservation practice adoption across the farming sector and over time. Data sources include the Economic Research Service and National Agricultural Statistic Service’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). The resulting statistics provide a more complete picture of conservation adoption practices across the farming sector.

Ultimately, this report and collected data can help public and private sector organizations develop more effective strategies to increase future adoption of these conservation practices.

Soaking up clues from freshwater sponges

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

University of Minnesota Crookston researchers, aided by students, are shedding light on freshwater sponges in Minnesota, which may be indicators of water quality.

Study Finds Racial Gap Between Who Causes Air Pollution And Who Breathes It

Read the full story at NPR.

Pollution, much like wealth, is not distributed equally in the United States.

Scientists and policymakers have long known that black and Hispanic Americans tend to live in neighborhoods with more pollution of all kinds, than white Americans. And because pollution exposure can cause a range of health problems, this inequity could be a driver of unequal health outcomes across the U.S.

A study published Monday in the journal PNAS adds a new twist to the pollution problem by looking at consumption. While we tend to think of factories or power plants as the source of pollution, those polluters wouldn’t exist without consumer demand for their products.

Carbondale Spring plan reimagines future of city, combats climate change

Read the full story in the Daily Egyptian.

The Carbondale Spring plan is a new plan to make Carbondale less reliant on the government and more reliant on community while creating jobs and combating climate change.

The plan consists of four initiatives intended to accomplish this goal, and has been endorsed by Carbondale Solidarity Network, The Flyover Social Center and Concerned Citizens of Carbondale.

The initiatives of the plan include creating and implementing food autonomy, a care worker network, a cooperative business fund and a renewable energy fund.

ISTC project informs California school’s food waste diversion pilot program

When California mandated that businesses and organization, including schools, begin diverting their organic waste from the state’s landfills, the Franklin Elementary PTA in Glendale, California decided to take action.

Using information from ISTC’s Green Lunchroom Challenge for inspiration, the school developed an organics diversion program, which is a pilot for the entire Glendale Unified School District.

Monica Favand Campagna, the Parent Foundation’s Green Team captain, says, “We looked to your website as one of our sources for info when we began this project.”

The school’s PTA and Parent Foundation worked with the school to initiate the pilot program. Southland Disposal, the school’s hauler, provided green bins and picks up the scraps once per week to compost in a commercial facility nearby. The group has also developed a training video for parent volunteers who supervise the daily lunchroom waste separation at breakfast, snack, and lunch.

The Green Lunchroom Challenge, a voluntary pledge program for K-12 schools to improve the sustainability of their food service operations, was funded by U.S. EPA Region 5 from 2015-2016.  The Challenge involved suggested activities ranging in complexity and commitment, which allowed participants choose those that best suited their situation, budget, and available community resources. Participants earned points for documentation of completed activities, and were recognized as having achieved different levels of accomplishment.

Although the project ended in 2016, suggested activities for food waste reduction and prevention are still available on the project web site, as well as in IDEALS, the  University of Illinois’ institutional repository.

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