During Climate Week, Governor Cuomo Announces Finalization of New Standards to Cut Hydroflourocarbons, a Potent Greenhouse Gas Used in Refrigerants

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced new regulations have been finalized to significantly reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons in New York and help prevent these climate-altering gases from affecting the state’s environment and public health. HFCs are a group of potent greenhouse gases found in an array of household and commercial refrigerant products like refrigerators, air conditioners and consumer aerosol products. The Department of Environmental Conservation regulations finalized today will adopt changes to the Significant New Alternatives Policy that the Trump Administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to implement.

“As New York continues taking bold actions to fight climate change, we have leaders in the federal government who ignore proven science, deny that climate change even exists and are gleefully rolling back efforts to protect our planet from harmful chemicals at every opportunity,” Governor Cuomo said. “With these nation-leading actions, New York will help drive manufacturers to adopt better, cleaner products, and pioneer clean energy solutions that not only protect our health and our precious natural resources, but also grow our economy.”

“New York is leading the nation in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and ensure health and safety,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “During Climate Week, we are continuing to take important steps to combat climate change and protect our environment. At the same time, our clean energy initiatives are providing alternative energy options for businesses and residents that are more affordable and efficient. As we build back better from the pandemic, we are committed to advancing our ambitious energy goals to also build back cleaner and greener for future generations and the future of our planet.”

The State’s new adopted regulations complement a new $3 million initiative – New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Next Generation HVAC Innovation Challenge to bring new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for buildings. oday’s actions also support the implementation of the State’s ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and put New York on the path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 on a path to economy-wide carbon neutrality. The announcement was made during the State’s recognition of Climate Week 2020

New Regulations

The regulations ban the sale, installation, and commercial use of certain HFC refrigerants in new or retrofitted food refrigeration equipment, large air-conditioning equipment (or chillers), and vending machines, as well as prohibitions on substances used as aerosol propellants and foam-blowing agents in new consumer products. The prohibitions will take place over the next four years and are expected to reduce HFC emissions by more than 20 percent of projected levels by 2030, or a cumulative total of 17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. 

New York’s HFC standards will help to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce the use of HFCs as a substitute for ozone-depleting substances. The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) developed the regulations in collaboration with partner states in the U.S. Climate Alliance, ensuring this action has the widest impact possible. After the federal government announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, New York joined with California and Washington State to form the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the goals of the agreement. The U.S. Climate Alliance has grown to include 25 governors representing the majority of the U.S. gross domestic product.  

New York joins California and Colorado in finalizing regulations and about a dozen other states that have adopted laws or announced their intention to backstop the EPA program and require the reduction of these dangerous pollutants. Addressing HFCs in these substantial markets will help drive industry to transition away from HFCs nationally and globally. In addition, American-based businesses that produce substitutes for HFCs will benefit from New York’s leadership in taking this action. 

The formal Notice of Adoption is being filed with the Department of State and is anticipated to appear in the October 14, 2020 State Register. The rule will be effective 30 days after filing.

DEC Commissioner and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo directed DEC to act on hydroflourocarbons in 2018 because he understands failing to reduce the long-term effects these high-intensity pollutants will hold back New York’s progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the causes of climate change. Adopting these standards demonstrates New York’s ongoing leadership in creating a cleaner, more sustainable future.”  

Next Generation HVAC Innovation Challenge

As part of NYSERDA’s multi-round Next Generation Innovation Challenge, the $3 million available funding will be used to spur development and adoption of new refrigerants that have a less damaging effect on the environment than their current counterparts. The Challenge supports clean energy companies that want to develop, commercialize, and demonstrate new technologies that improve the performance of advanced HVAC systems and create new economically viable opportunities for energy efficiency in buildings. This funding will be offered through a competitive solicitation process to develop advanced refrigerant monitoring and leak detection solutions, new compressor technologies, in-field leak repair solutions, demonstration and evaluation of emerging technologies, refrigerant capture and recycling, industry collaboration on training, market awareness and product requirements and overall development of low climate change refrigerants.

Buildings account for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion and electric generation in New York State. The unpreventable leaking of refrigerants used in today’s air conditioners, heat pumps and refrigeration systems have a high potential to accelerate climate change even further, in some cases 1,000 to 2,000 times more than carbon dioxide. As the use of heat pumps and refrigeration increases, so will the need for more environmentally friendly refrigerants. While low climate change refrigerant options exist, their flammability, toxicity or performance have prevented them from being widely adopted, leaving a gap in the services and technology to bring these alternatives to scale.

The Next Generation HVAC Innovation Challenge is part of New York’s approach to build a strong foundation for a carbon-neutral building stock and energy efficiency activities economy-wide. This initiative will help make electrification solutions like heat pumps more environmentally friendly and cost effective, accelerating the adoption of these non-fossil fuel heating and cooling solutions for communities across New York State. By fostering innovation to deliver enhanced energy efficiency solutions, New York will cut emissions by cost-effectively reducing electricity and fuel demand in buildings across the state. In total, $15 million has been made available through four rounds of the challenge to encourage private investment and advance the next generation of HVAC systems for buildings. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, New York State is investing over $6.8 billion to decarbonize buildings across the State.

Doreen Harris, Acting President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “The lack of widespread availability for environmentally friendly refrigerants presents a significant and impactful gap in the market that must be addressed in order to win the fight on climate change. The Next Generation HVAC Challenge is about changing the market as we seek to limit HFCs in our environment, and the way we think about cooling and heating our buildings which will allow us to make significant progress towards Governor Cuomo’s ambitious climate goals.” 

Applications for the Challenge are due on November 17, 2020 with awards anticipated in the first quarter of 2021. For more information about this funding or to see if which companies qualify, please visit https://portal.nyserda.ny.gov/CORE_Solicitation_Detail_Page?SolicitationId=a0rt0000006nDncAAE.

New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan

Phasing down the use of HFCs is a critical component of Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading climate agenda, the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero emissions electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy-wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York’s unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including a $3.9 billion investment in 67 large-scale renewable projects across the state, the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments benefit disadvantaged communities, and advancing progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtus.

PFAS in food: EFSA assesses risks and sets tolerable intake

Read the full story from the European Food Safety Authority.

EFSA has set a new safety threshold for the main perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that accumulate in the body. The threshold – a group tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 4.4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per week – is part of a scientific opinion on the risks to human health arising from the presence of these substances in food.

New practices to improve water quality at work in Mercer County

Read the full story at Ohio’s Country Journal.

Though it started with a focus on farms, ongoing efforts to improve water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys in Mercer County are now including additional practices to address the issue.

“We have had a slew of efforts over the last 10 years in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed. It started with a lot of agricultural efforts. We expanded manure storage on farms, we covered feedlots, we wrote nutrient management plans for all the farms in the watershed,” said Theresa Dirksen, Mercer County Ag Solutions coordinator. “In the last 5 years or so we have done more innovative practices like installing wetlands and saturated buffers. We also restored about 2,000 feet of channel through the Mercer County Elks Golf Club. We have some really innovative things happening and we are trying to move further upstream in the watershed with these practices like wetlands, saturated buffers, stream restoration, and more filter strips to improve water quality in the lake.”

Microplastics in farm soils: A growing concern

Read the full story at Environmental Health News.

Researchers say that more microplastics pollution is getting into farm soil than oceans—and these tiny bits are showing up in our fruits, veggies, and bodies.

Global study reveals time running out for many soils, but conservation measures can help

Read the full story from Lancaster University.

Researchers found more than 90 per cent of the conventionally farmed soils in their global study were thinning, and 16 per cent had lifespans of less than a century. These rapidly thinning soils were found all over the world, including countries such as Australia, China, the UK, and the USA.

Associated journal article: Daniel L. Evans, John N. Quinton, Jessica A. C. Davies, Jianlin Zhao, Gerard Govers. Soil lifespans and how they can be extended by land use and management changeEnvironmental Research Letters, 2020; DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aba2fd

COVID-19 driving Canadians to waste less food: survey

Read the full story at Canadian Manufacturing.

new survey shows that Canadians are wasting less food while COVID-19 public health measures have been in place. Love Food Hate Waste Canada, delivered by the National Zero Waste Council in conjunction with its campaign partners, worked with the Mustel Group to understand how food purchasing, storage, consumption and waste behaviours have changed since the introduction of quarantine and physical distancing measures.

Conagra Brands Improves Sustainability of Swiss Miss Packaging

Read the press release.

Conagra Brands and Berry Global today announced a new package design for Conagra’s Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa line, representing the first major hot cocoa brand to move from round canisters to a more eco-efficient recyclable cube. Created in partnership with Berry Global’s Blue Clover Studios, the new light blue easy-grip container is made of recyclable plastic with a wraparound in-mold label and a space-efficient tapered cube design that, based on an analysis conducted by Berry Global, reduces the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and transporting the hot cocoa containers by 15 percent1. The new package design will initially be used for Conagra Brands’ 38-ounce size Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix.

EPA selects University of Illinois to receive $323,928 in Pollution Prevention funding

During Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the selection of the University of Illinois – Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (U of I) to receive a $323,928 P2 Grant to promote pollution prevention in manufacturing and processing facilities. P2 means reducing or eliminating pollutants from entering any waste stream or otherwise being released into the environment prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.

“The EPA’s pollution prevention grants provide businesses with more incentives and opportunities to reduce waste and save money. It’s much cheaper to prevent pollution than to clean it up, and continuing to work together with our partners across Illinois will ensure we’re successful in what is a primary objective of this agency under the Trump administration, ” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede.  “These grants can also align with our ongoing efforts to engage with industry through our Smart Sectors initiative and the EnergyStar program.”

U of I will use the funds to provide on-site technical assistance to 30 Illinois manufacturing and processing facilities across multiple business sectors, comprising EPA’s five National Emphasis Areas. Implementation of P2 recommendations from assistance will be measured and reported, resulting in reduced energy and water use, hazardous materials generation and reduced business costs at the facilities.

“ISTC’s technical assistance staff have participated in this program for nearly 15 years and have a proven track record of helping companies both reduce pollution and improve their bottom line,” said ISTC director Kevin C OBrien. “This support from EPA will enable us to continue collaborating with companies as they work to become both more sustainable and more competitive.”

U of I is one of 42 organizations across 39 states to receive grant funding totaling $9.3 million, supporting pollution prevention across the country. For these grants, EPA emphasizes the importance of grantees documenting and sharing P2 best practices that are identified and developed through these grants, so that others can replicate these practices and outcomes. Each grantee will be required to develop at least one case study during the grant period on P2 practices that are new or not widely known or adopted, or where detailed information on the P2 practices could benefit other businesses or P2 technical assistance providers.

The work done under these grants will focus on at least one of the five P2 priority areas, also referred to as National Emphasis Areas and support several of the agency’s Smart Sectors. These areas include food and beverage manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, aerospace product/part manufacturing, and metal manufacturing.

This year marks 30 years since the passage of the Pollution Prevention Act, which focuses industry, government, and public attention on reducing the amount of pollution through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use. This week is also P2 Week, a time to celebrate the diverse and creative ways businesses, academic institutes, local governments, and other organizations are working to prevent pollution. In support of the Pollution Prevention Act and P2 Week, these grant awards encourage businesses and other stakeholders to find ways to prevent pollution from entering any waste stream, furthering EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

Read more about P2 and the P2 Grant Program.

Toxic waste fixer rises from incinerator shadow as source of stink in Detroit

Read the full story at MLive.

 The stink that forces KT Andresky and others to close windows, stay inside and take detours around the neighborhood is described as “rotting fish that smells kind of chalky, sometimes mixed with a strong chemical smell — almost like a Sharpie marker.”

“It’s disgusting,” said Andresky, who lives about a mile east of a hazardous waste treatment facility in Detroit that state regulators are cracking down on for chronic nuisance odors that documents show date back at least 25 years.

Earlier this week, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) announced a consent order with Idaho-based U.S. Ecology, which agreed to investigate the problem and propose ways to reduce odors escaping its Detroit-South facility at 1923 Frederick Street.

The facility, formerly known as EQ Detroit, treats hazardous industrial waste and landfill leachate. It is adjacent to the former Detroit Renewable Power trash incinerator that, until last year, was itself a controversial source of noxious odors until it closed following years of air quality complaints.

The waste treatment plant owners had an easy scapegoat for odor complaints while in the shadow of the incinerator. But the trash-burning is over and the industrial stink in the area continues. The EGLE air quality division has written U.S. Ecology five nuisance odor citations since the nearby incinerator shut down in March 2019.

Judge removes Trump public lands boss for serving unlawfully

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

A federal judge ruled Friday that President Donald Trump’s leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully, blocking him from continuing in the position in the latest pushback against the administration’s practice of filling key positions without U.S. Senate approval.

U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley served unlawfully for 424 days without being confirmed to the post by the Senate as required under the Constitution, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris determined.

The ruling came after Montana’s Democratic governor in July sued to remove Pendley, saying the former oil industry attorney was illegally overseeing an agency that manages almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.