Day: November 12, 2019

Obama’s former EPA chief takes the helm of environmental group that’s sued Trump nearly 100 times

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

An environmental group that has sued the Trump administration nearly 100 times announced Tuesday that it has hired Gina McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, as its new president and chief executive.

In a phone interview Tuesday, McCarthy, who headed the EPA from July 2013 until January 2017, said she was joining the Natural Resources Defense Council to fight for stronger environmental protections and address the challenge of climate change.

E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules

Read the full story from the New York Times.

The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking.

Application Period for 2020 Keeling Curve Prize Now Open

Applications are now being accepted for the 2020 Keeling Curve Prize, which is named after scientist Charles David Keeling’s iconic graph showing a sharp increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere since the 1950s. Earlier this year, the Keeling Curve showed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide topping 415 ppm — higher than at any other time in human history. 

Prizes of $25,000 will be awarded to two projects in each of the following five categories:  

  • Capture & Utilization — Activating and accelerating natural or human-made systems for carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration. 
  • Energy — Decarbonizing energy, supporting zero-carbon energy, or leading the way in the supply, distribution, access, infrastructure, or improvements of low- or zero-emissions energy systems. 
  • Finance — Making the economics or financial mechanisms work for heat-trapping gas reduction or reversal ventures. 
  • Social & Cultural Pathways — Changing the way people consider, understand, and act on humanity’s impacts affecting the livability of planet Earth.
  • Transport & Mobility — Reimagining and reinventing all types of vehicles, fuels, and mobility options for both people and products.

Keeling Curve Prize finalists and winners are chosen by a panel of climate scientists, public policy experts, and researchers, including Achala Abeysinghe, PhD, of the International Institute for Environment and Development; Brenda Ekwurzel, PhD, of the Union of Concerned Scientists; Lucas Joppa, PhD, of Microsoft; George Polk of the Tulum Trust; and Jonathan Silver of Tax Equity Advisors, LLC. 

The application period for the 2020 prize closes February 10. Finalists will be named in the spring, and winners will be announced in the summer. 

Infrastructure Projects: Actions Needed to Fully Develop Performance Schedules for Environmental Reviews

Download the document.

What GAO Found

GAO found that the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council’s (Permitting Council) process for developing and assessing member agencies’ implementation of best practices for environmental reviews and authorizations, as required by Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41), was generally consistent with key features of effective interagency collaboration that GAO has previously identified, such as having shared goals and establishing mechanisms to measure performance.The Permitting Council, an interagency body established by FAST-41, oversees the implementation of FAST-41’s provisions to streamline the federal permitting process.

As of July 2019, the Permitting Council has not issued performance schedules for ten infrastructure sectors, as mandated by FAST-41, due to a lack of sufficient project data and resource constraints. These schedules are to serve as baselines for environmental reviews and authorizations for projects covered under FAST-41. The Permitting Council has taken steps to develop performance schedules for the three infrastructure sectors—pipelines, renewable energy production, and electricity transmission—that account for 80 percent of the 43 FAST-41 projects (see figure). GAO found that the process the Permitting Council used to develop draft performance schedules for the three sectors did not fully implement two of three selected best practices for project schedules identified by GAO: (1) maintaining the baseline schedule and (2) conducting an analysis of potential risks. For example, the Permitting Council’s process included identifying the relevant environmental review actions for infrastructure projects, but it did not take into account how potential risks, such as incomplete applications by project sponsors, could result in delays of the actions. Without incorporating these selected best practices, the Permitting Council will be constrained in developing defensible performance schedules against which to evaluate whether the FAST-41 process has improved the environmental review and authorization process.

Why GAO Did This Study

FAST-41 outlined specific procedures for improving the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of the environmental review and authorization process for certain infrastructure projects in 10 specific sectors, including pipelines, renewable energy projects, and electricity transmission.

Congress included provisions in statute for GAO to review the efforts of the Permitting Council to implement FAST-41. This report examines, among other objectives, the Permitting Council’s process for developing and assessing implementation of best practices for environmental reviews, and the steps the Permitting Council has taken to develop performance schedules for the 10 infrastructure sectors. GAO reviewed the Permitting Council’s documents and guidance; evaluated the council’s process for developing performance schedules against selected GAO best practices related to the development of the schedules; and interviewed officials from federal agencies that are members of the Permitting Council, as well as selected project sponsors selected based on several factors, including projects’ status and infrastructure sector.  

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Executive Director of the Permitting Council incorporate selected best practices into its process for developing performance schedules for infrastructure projects covered under FAST-41. The Executive Director agreed with the recommendation and described current and planned actions to address it.

From a Young Climate Movement Leader, a Determined Call for Action

Read the full story at e360.

Xiye Bastida Patrick, a New York high school student, has become a key leader in the growing youth climate movement. In an e360 interview, she talks about why students are taking to the streets to demand action and how this is changing the climate conversation globally.

Hidden problem of ‘ghost gear’: the abandoned fishing nets clogging up oceans

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A new global initiative founded by World Animal Protection hopes to tackle the problem that’s killing animals and costing business

Emerging Contaminants: 1st CRC CARE International Symposium on Microplastics 2020

March 30-31, 2020, Newcastle West, NSW
Register here

The Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) has partnered with the University of Newcastle’s Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER) to deliver their 1st CRC CARE International Symposium on Microplastics. This 2-day event will focus on the latest developments in detection, fate and transport, risk assessment, clean-up, and regulation of emerging contaminants, with a focus on microplastics. It will bring together world-renowned experts and leaders from academia, government, the regulatory community, consultants and site owners.     

Day 1 will include presentations by some of the world’s foremost microplastics experts. Topics include:

  • sources and characteristics of microplastics as well as a range of other emerging contaminants
  • how regulators, contaminated site owners and their advisors can deal with this growing problem.

Day 2 will include lively panel discussions on research gaps, regulatory development, chemistry and analytics, toxicology and risk, and clean-up. 

Why attend?

Regardless of your level of expertise, this symposium will provide you with a unique appreciation of the current state of science and technology, coupled with practical approaches to handling emerging contaminants.  

This symposium draws together new knowledge with practical experience to give participants evidence-based insight into emerging contaminants in general and microplastics in particular. CRC CARE is hosting this important event in response to the critical need to build capacity to address a growing global crisis.

Expert instruction

In-depth instruction by, and interaction with, leading national and international environmental experts from academia, consulting and government. 


Participants will enjoy numerous structured and unstructured networking opportunities to build connections and relationships with national and international leaders in the field and with their fellow participants. 


Participants will receive: 

  • Handbook and downloadable online resource folder
  • Certificate of Completion
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit of 16 hours*.

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.

As cities’ interest in green infrastructure grows, so does the need to develop strategies and resources to maintain it

Read the full post at Ensia.

Urban projects designed to manage stormwater promise huge benefits as climate changes — but they also demand a new kind of care.

Careers and controversy before the First World War

Read the full story in Nature.

Women’s contributions to science were played down for decades after Nature’s 1869 launch, by both the journal and wider society.

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