Pandemic Accelerates Dismal Financial Performance of U.S. Fracking Companies

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A cross-section of 34 North American shale-focused producers continued a long-term losing streak in the second quarter of 2020, spending $3.3 billion more on drilling and other capital projects during the quarter than they generated from selling oil and gas. Low prices and declining sales volumes slashed revenues, leaving the fracking sector awash in red ink despite steep cuts in capital spending. 

EPA Proposes 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for Water Services in Disadvantaged Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment (FCA) for the Clean Water Act, which will help communities plan for water infrastructure improvements. Through the 2020 FCA, EPA is seeking to support water utilities that serve economically disadvantaged communities and provide vital clean water services that support public health, the environment and local economies. This is the first time in more than 20 years this document has been updated.

“EPA is working to ensure that all Americans—regardless of their zip code—have clean water for drinking and recreation,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “With this action, the agency is supporting wastewater utilities to help them better serve disadvantaged communities that have financial challenges.”

The 2020 FCA proposal explores how customers’ ability to pay for service impacts planning for capital expenditures and operation and maintenance needed to support Clean Water Act compliance. This guidance is used to evaluate the financial capability of a community when developing a schedule (i.e., plan) for water infrastructure improvements. EPA’s proposed FCA 2020 guidance includes new metrics to inform a community’s implementation schedule, including indicators that more accurately reflect how much low-income communities can afford to pay for water infrastructure upgrades.

“It has been a long time since the 1997 Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development reflected EPA’s actual practices when reviewing the affordability of Clean Water Act control measures,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “I am glad we finally are providing transparency regarding the tools available to communities to inform EPA enforcement decisions and how we use that information.”

“The Conference of Mayors has been working with the US EPA since the 1990s outlining the growing burden of financial impacts that unfunded Clean Water Act mandates have on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. This new affordability guidance provides greater transparency and additional tools to allow cities to work in conjunction with EPA to find solutions that protect public health in a more affordable manner. We appreciate EPA’s willingness to listen to our concerns and work with us to develop solutions,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Tom Cochran.

 “Affordability is a pressing concern for water and wastewater utility customers, even more so in this time of pandemic. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is pleased that EPA has released this proposal for public review and comment. It is a genuine effort to ensure that clean and safe water is affordable for low-income customers,” said AWWA Executive Director of Government Affairs G. Tracy Mehan.

 “NACWA applauds EPA’s hard work over the past several years to advance a proposed financial capability assessment that strives to better account for potential impacts on low-income populations,” said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz. “This has never been more important than now as utilities and ratepayers struggle with the financial impacts caused by the ongoing pandemic.”

“WEF is excited to see EPA move forward with the proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for the Clean Water Act,” said WEF President Jackie Jarrell. “We believe this new guidance, when finalized and implemented, will help utilities across the country to more accurately ascertain how much their customers and communities can afford to pay for compliance with Clean Water Act requirements, particularly by considering household-level affordability that better reflects the financial situation for lower-income ratepayers.”

When finalized, the 2020 FCA will support negotiations of schedules for implementing Clean Water Act requirements for municipalities and local authorities. Upon publication in the federal register, EPA will accept comment for 30 days via the Federal eRulemaking portal at, referencing Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2020–0426.


As part of the 2016 Appropriation, Congress directed EPA to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to create a framework for “community affordability.” The resulting report from NAPA included several recommendations for improving EPA’s 1997 FCA Guidance and 2014 FCA Framework. The proposed 2020 FCA reflects these recommendations and updates EPA’s methodology for evaluating a community’s capability to fund CWA projects/programs. Additional information about the proposed 2020 FCA is available at

Who Owns Florida’s Beaches?

Read the full story at Sarasota Magazine.

Most Floridians—and our visitors—have no idea that their ability to stroll our beloved beaches is in jeopardy.

Europe’s electricity could be 80% fossil fuel-free by 2030: industry group

Read the full story from Reuters.

As much as 80% of the European Union’s electricity could be fossil fuel-free by 2030, regardless of whether the European economy faces a prolonged economic crisis, industry association Eurelectric said on Monday.

Materials in lithium-ion batteries may be recycled for reuse

Read the full story from Washington University — St. Louis.

China expects to generate 2.5 billion end-of-life lithium-ion batteries from portable electronics such as smartphones and laptops in 2020, but very few are recycled. Although these batteries are discarded, the metals inside them are still valuable.

A team of researchers, led by Zhen (Jason) He at Washington University in St. Louis, is developing a method to recycle the batteries’ materials to reuse their valuable compounds. He, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering, and colleagues at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University conducted a feasibility study for electrochemical “refilling” of lithium-ion batteries into the spent electrodes to regenerate useful compounds, such as lithium cobalt oxide.

Associated journal article: Lingen Zhang, Zhenming Xu, and Zhen He (2020). “Electrochemical Relithiation for Direct Regeneration of LiCoO2 Materials from Spent Lithium-Ion Battery Electrodes.” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 8(31), 11596-11605.

Energy Self-Reliant States 2020: The Third Edition

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In 2010, ILSR published the first national overview of state renewable electricity potential with the second edition of Energy Self-Reliant States (ESRS). At the time, only 32 states met the “self-reliant” standard and most states were setting ambitious goals to attain 25 percent renewable electricity. Now, several states and over 100 U.S. cities have made truly ambitious commitments to 100 percent renewable power.

Our maps illustrate nationwide renewable electricity potential from a wide variety of sources. We have mapped out the state-by-state renewable generation potential of rooftop solar, onshore and offshore wind, conventional geothermal, and small hydro.

As before, we’ve also considered energy efficiency, creating a version of our all-resources potential map that considers the difference if all states could match their energy intensity to a state like New York (a decrease in energy use per dollar of GDP for most states). A new layer considers how renewables could meet the increased energy demand required for the electrification of vehicles and buildings. Finally, we present an all-resources potential map that imagines a state of both lower energy intensity and high electrification, where the state taps its renewable electricity potential to power more of the total economy.

The bottom line: improved renewable electricity technology would allow nearly every state to produce 100 percent of its electricity needs from local renewable resources.

Environmental Justice Atlas

The Environmental Justice Atlas documents and catalogues social conflict around environmental issues.

Across the world communities are struggling to defend their land, air, water, forests and their livelihoods from damaging projects and extractive activities with heavy environmental and social impacts: mining, dams, tree plantations, fracking, gas flaring, incinerators, etc. As resources needed to fuel our economy move through the commodity chain from extraction, processing and disposal, at each stage environmental impacts are externalized onto the most marginalized populations. Often this all takes place far from the eyes of concerned citizens or consumers of the end-products.

The EJ Atlas collects these stories of communities struggling for environmental justice from around the world. It aims to make these mobilization more visible, highlight claims and testimonies and to make the case for true corporate and state accountability for the injustices inflicted through their activities. It also attempts to serve as a virtual space for those working on EJ issues to get information, find other groups working on related issues, and increase the visibility of environmental conflicts. Register to add new cases into the atlas.

The Atlas is directed at ICTA-UAB by Leah Temper and Joan Martinez Alier and coordinated by Daniela Del Bene, at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

EPA Guidance Documents

EPA created this portal to its guidance documents in response to Executive Order 13891. It includes links to guidance issued by the following EPA offices:

Green Infrastructure Works

The American Society of Landscape Architects has compiled information about the importance of green infrastructure and sustainable landscapes. The content includes:

EPA: Statement About Signing Paper Hazardous Waste Manifests During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

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This temporary statement contains three changes from the Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy: (1) shortening the phrase transporters or designated facilities should write in Box 15, for generator signature, to address space limitations on the manifest form; (2) changing the reference to the EPA policies about signatures on manifests during the COVID-19 public health emergency in the generator’s signature substitute; and (3) removing language referencing the Temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Policy regarding how generators and transporters should maintain documentation.