Day: July 19, 2019

NARA digitizes more than 500 volumes of U.S. Navy muster rolls; logbooks containing weather and ocean data to follow

Read the full story from the National Archives.

The National Archives partnered with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of Washington to digitize more than 500 volumes of U.S. Navy muster rolls, making them accessible to the publicthrough the National Archives Catalog.

The muster roll digitization is part of a $482,000 grant awarded to JISAO and the National Archives Foundation to support the Seas of Knowledge: Digitization and Retrospective Analysis of the Historical Logbooks of the United States Navy program at the National Archives…

In addition, the National Archives will digitize thousands of Navy logbooks containing new-to-science ocean and weather data as well as the names of ship’s officers and other details of daily shipboard life. After the digitization of the logbooks is complete, the Archives and NOAA will call upon citizen archivists, genealogical researchers, and climate scientists to help transcribe information from the logbooks and muster rolls into digital formats usable by computers. Citizen archivists can now transcribe this muster roll data from the catalog.

Once this phase of digitization is complete, possible research will include the recovering of position of ships, weather records, oceanographic data, and other historical information that will have a profound impact on our ability to study and understand the influence of weather and environmental conditions on people and events during this era.

How toxic ‘forever chemicals’ made their way into your food

Read the full story in The Hill.

It’s summertime, which means the tourists are flocking to beachside ice cream stands. With their double scoop of blueberry, however, they may be getting a dose of toxic PFAS — thanks to the lax oversight of these harmful industrial chemicals entering our food supply.

3M could face huge cleanup costs over substance in Scotchgard

Read the full story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

3M could face billions of dollars in liabilities over its use of chemicals known as PFAS that were once used to make everything from clothing to cookware resistant to water, grease and heat.

Study: Green infrastructure can spread disease when poorly planned

Read the full story from the Water Environment Federation.

Green infrastructure designs that fail to consider the effects of the installation’s placement or the types of wildlife it may attract can increase risks of spreading serious diseases, according to research published in the journal, Ecology and Epidemiology.

“There seems to be a prevailing assumption among the general public that everything that is nature – that is part of wilderness – is good and safe,” said Mare Lõhmus, professor of environmental medicine at Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) and co-author of the study, in a release. “Little thought is given to what can go wrong.”

Using Technology to Combat Food Waste

Read the full story at Progressive Grocer.

Technology can make grocers savvier about how they manage and dispose of food waste

Planned concert hall hits a sustainable note

Read the full story at New Atlas.

Steven Holl Architects and Architecture Acts, in association with Nagata Acoustics, have been selected to design a new concert hall in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The building’s unusual form is described as an “instrument in its case” and will sport an eye-catching zinc roof that has solar panels installed.

‘Trends end’: Fashion brands are working to move sustainability efforts beyond PR

Read the full story in Glossy.

Sustainability is about more than just materials. While making a pair of shoes out of plastic bottles is good PR, it’s the behind-the-scenes supply chain changes across a company’s inventory that really move the needle on reducing its carbon impact.

America’s addiction to absurdly fast shipping has a hidden cost

Read the full story from CNN Business.

In theory,e-commerce can be greener than a bunch of shoppers making personal trips in their own cars: Consolidating products and delivering them on one route to a bunch of homes requires fewer miles on the road. In a 2012 study, University of Washington professor Anne Goodchild found that grocery delivery can cut between 80% and 90% of carbon emissions, for example, compared to consumers going to pick up their items on their own. However, she says, that calculus changes significantly if items are coming from further away and have to be sent immediately, which creates fewer opportunities for lumping deliveries together.

EPA Advisory Committees: Improvements Needed for the Member Appointment Process

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Based on GAO’s review of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance, the agency’s established process for appointing advisory committee members involves three main phases: soliciting nominations, evaluating candidates, and obtaining approvals. Each phase involves several steps. For example, a key step for evaluating candidates involves EPA staff’s preparing documents that reflect staff recommendations on the best qualified and most appropriate candidates for achieving balanced committee membership, according to EPA guidance.

EPA generally followed its established process for most of its 22 advisory committees; however, in fiscal year 2018, EPA did not follow a key step for appointing 20 committee members to two committees GAO reviewed: the EPA Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which advise the agency on environmental regulatory matters, among other things. The 2018 appointment packets for these two committees did not contain documents reflecting EPA staff rationales for proposed membership, as called for by EPA’s established process. EPA developed guidance to implement the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). By directing officials responsible for appointing committee members to follow a key step in its process to document staff rationales for proposed membership, the agency would have better assurance that it will (1) consistently meet FACA’s purpose of encouraging uniform appointment procedures and (2) show how it made appointment decisions to achieve the best qualified and most appropriate candidates for balanced committee membership. EPA also did not consistently ensure that members appointed as special government employees (SGE)—who are expected to provide their best judgment free from conflicts of interest and are required by federal regulations to disclose their financial interests—met federal ethics requirements. For about 23 percent, or 17 of the 74 financial disclosure forms GAO reviewed, an ethics official had not signed and dated that the SGE filing the form was in compliance with federal ethics rules. EPA also did not periodically review its ethics program, as called for by federal regulations, such as through audits or spot-checks, to evaluate the quality of financial disclosure reviews for SGEs. Until EPA’s Ethics Office evaluates the quality of financial disclosure reviews of SGEs as part of its periodic review of its ethics program, it will not have reasonable assurance that it will address noncompliance with federal ethics requirements and prevent conflicts of interest on its advisory committees.

Based on GAO’s review of the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) FACA database, there were notable changes to selected characteristics of EPA advisory committees (i.e. at least a 20 percentage point difference in the change to a characteristic after January 2017 compared to the period after January 2009). Of the four characteristics GAO reviewed—committee composition, regional affiliation, membership turnover, and number of meetings committees held—one or more of the first three changed notably for four of 18 EPA advisory committees after January 2017.

Why GAO Did This Study

Federal advisory committees provide advice to federal agencies on many topics. As of March 31, 2018, EPA managed 22 such committees. They advise the agency on such issues as developing regulations and managing research programs. Questions have been raised about EPA’s process for appointing committee members after recent policy changes affecting who serves on the advisory committees.

GAO was asked to review issues related to how EPA appoints advisory committee members. This report examines: (1) EPA’s process for appointing advisory committee members, (2) the extent to which EPA followed its process for selecting members from October 2016 through March 2018, and (3) how, if at all, selected characteristics of EPA advisory committees changed after January 2017. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; reviewed documents from committees that appointed members over this period; analyzed information from the GSA’s FACA database; and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that EPA direct (1) officials responsible for appointing committee members to follow a key step in its appointment process to document staff rationales for proposed membership and (2) EPA’s Ethics Office to evaluate the quality of financial disclosure reviews of SGEs appointed to advisory committees. EPA disagreed with the first and agreed with the second recommendation. GAO continues to believe that both are valid, as discussed in the report.

Philadelphia refinery will close after fire. Now who will clean up the mess?

Read the full story at Grist.

In the wake of last week’s intense fire and loud series of explosions, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, one of the largest and oldest oil refineries in the country, is finally shutting its doors. The blasts jolted nearby residents and sparked new concerns about the plant’s impact on public health.

The 150-year-old oil complex has a history of dangerous industrial incidents including accidental fires and hazardous gas leaks. In the past, South Philadelphia residents have drawn connections between the neighborhoods high cancer and asthma incidence and their proximity to the refinery. The plant, which processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil each day, is the largest source of air pollution in the city and has been in violation of both the Clean Air and Water Acts.

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