In Los Angeles County, an environmental regulator has temporarily relaxed limits on the number of cremations that can be performed each month, citing a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a press release Sunday that it is suspending certain permit conditions for crematoriums at the request of the county’s medical-examiner coroner and public health department. Crematorium permits typically carry limits based on potential air quality impacts, but can be suspended during a state of emergency.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on January 20, 2021 as the forty-sixth President of the United States could usher in a sweeping period of environmental regulatory changes vastly eclipsing those of his immediate predecessor – and perhaps even those of President Barack Obama. Further, with key Senate victories in January by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia, a Democrat-controlled Congress is better situated to help the President-elect achieve the environmental goals he’s promised would be a focus of his administration.
Regulated industries can expect the new administration to consider action on climate change, environmental justice, chemicals regulation, wetlands/waters of the United States, and endangered & threatened species. Although some of these actions may be complex, look for key Trump administration rules to be rolled back and replaced and new rules and legislation to be proposed. Below we provide a brief overview of key environmental policy initiatives poised for action under a Biden administration.
This week, we continue with our 2021 outlook series with a focus on environmental, health, and safety. This year brings a new Presidential administration, and with it will come a host of new programs, as well as some new takes on established programs. The following are a few initiatives that could impact manufacturers in 2021.
Researchers led by Oxford University have developed a strategy for creating jet fuel out of natural greenhouse gas, joining a growing list of firms and aviation organizations aiming to tackle mounting climate change concerns.
Last week, the research team in Britain published a study on a novel scientific process that would transform carbon dioxide in the air into an alternative jet fuel that could power existing aircraft.
The EPA’s industry-friendly climate rule for power plants violates federal law, the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday in a searing defeat for the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the Affordable Clean Energy rule and remanded it to the Environmental Protection Agency, giving the incoming Biden administration a clean slate for regulating emissions from the power sector.
The decision undercuts Trump officials’ bid to leave a legacy of deregulation, tossing one of the administration’s highest-profile replacements of aggressive Obama-era environmental rules.
The EPA, under former President Barack Obama, crafted the far-reaching Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the power sector. The plan never took effect; the Supreme Court froze its implementation, and the EPA quickly dismantled and replaced the rule after President Donald Trump took office.
Creating a more sustainable supply chain and more efficient processes are non-negotiables for most in the denim business. In reality, however, the global denim industry had two options when the pandemic struck in early 2020: it could work to maintain the years of momentum it had been building to reduce its overall environmental footprint, or, as an industry in survival mode, it could pull back on investments in solution-oriented technologies and curb sustainable projects in progress.
Recently in The Netherlands, a group of over 17,000 citizens and several environmental groups sued Shell, asking the Court to require the company to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030 by 45% of 2019 emission levels. Milieudefensie (“Friends of the Earth Netherlands”) is heading this case. Shell has publicly agreed that change is needed to address climate change, but says that court action is not the appropriate avenue to accomplish this necessary change. This standpoint is all too familiar in the United States, where energy companies sued in climate litigation over the past few years have made the same argument, claiming that regulatory changes are the appropriate avenue to address our climate crisis, not litigation.
The lockdowns and restrictions introduced to control the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in huge changes to urban life. Previously bustling city centres remain empty, shunned in favour of suburban or rural areas where social distancing is easier and connections to the outdoors are abundant.
The roll out of vaccines provides hope for a partial restoration of normality in cities. However, the impact of COVID-19 could last much longer.
In particular, the pandemic has shown how damaging congestion, pollution and lack of green space can be – including how these factors have contributed to the severity of suffering for city dwellers. We have an opportunity to change city living for the better.
Barcelona offers an example of how city areas can be transformed to reduce pollution and increase access to green space.
The city pioneered the concept of superblocks, first introduced in 2016, as part of green urban planning. Superblocks are neighbourhoods of nine blocks. Traffic is restricted to major roads around the superblocks, leaving the streets inside for pedestrians and cyclists.
Recently, further plans have been announced to expand green zones in the city’s central district, Eixample. This is a major expansion of low-traffic zones, giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists to reduce pollution and provide green spaces.
The new plan will cover 21 streets and have space for 21 new pedestrian plazas at intersections. At least 80% of each street is to be shaded by trees in summer and 20% unpaved. A public competition in May 2021 will decide the final design.
The purpose of the plan is to ensure that no resident will be more than 200 metres from a green space.
There are many benefits to creating urban green spaces like these. They include an improvement in air quality and noise levels on the car-free streets, and a reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) from road traffic. Exposure to high level of NO₂ can lead to a range of respiratory problems.
COVID-19 has made the case for green urban planning even more compelling. However, these plans can come at a cost.
Barriers to green cities
A particular negative impact of green zones could be a high demand for housing, leading to subsequent rises in property prices. This can lead to gentrification and displacement of local residents and businesses. Care must be taken to make sure that homes remain affordable and urban green zones do not become rich enclaves.
In addition, while city centres are the usual focus areas for greening initiatives, suburbs and other peripheral areas also need attention. The goal is to reduce carbon dependence in total – not shift it from one area to another, or one sector to another.
The plan should also include steps to make private and public transport completely green. This could include replacing carbon-producing transport system with zero-emission vehicles and providing ample infrastructure such as dedicated lanes and charging stations for electric vehicles.
Cities differ hugely in how they look, shape and operate. One size will not fit all. If other cities choose to follow Barcelona’s model, local issues must be carefully considered. Superblocks work really well in a neat grid system such as in central Barcelona. But many cities do not have a well-designed grid system.
However, the principles of green, environmentally friendly, car-free or restricted-traffic neighbourhoods can be adopted in any city. Examples of schemes include low-traffic neighbourhoods in London, the 15-minute city initiative in Paris, or Manchester’s plans for a zero-carbon city centre.
While adopting such interventions, it is important to keep citizens’ daily needs in mind to avoid adding extra burdens on them. If motor traffic is to be limited, the availability of public transport must be considered, safe infrastructure for walking and cycling as well as adequate road structure for essential services or deliveries.
Significant capital investment is needed to support these plans. The Barcelona plan is projected to cost €38 million (£34 million). Much more will be required if it is to roll out to more areas. Cities in the developing world and poorer countries cannot afford such huge sums. Moreover, COVID-19 has left several cities laden with a huge amount of debt.
Green city initiatives need to be long-term – and created with the support of local people. Recognition of the benefits of green living and informed support of developments will result in positive behaviour changes by the citizens.
Electricity systems are designed to meet peak demand — the maximum load during a specified period, typically in summer — even if that demand occurs only a few hours in a year. Yet most evaluations of electricity efficiency programs focus on reductions in annual energy use. However, these efficiency programs are also delivering peak demand savings at an affordable cost.
A new study by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) explores the program administrator (PA) cost – or the cost to implement an energy efficiency program to a utility or third party administrator – of saving peak demand through efficiency programs for electric utility customers. Berkeley Lab collected data on costs, annual energy savings, and peak demand savings for electricity efficiency programs for 52 utilities and other program administrators in 15 states between 2014 and 2018. The analysis focused on eight program types that represent 68% of the peak demand savings for the utilities and program administrators studied. The findings improve our understanding of which energy efficiency programs produce the most peak demand savings and their cost performance.