Day: January 25, 2021

Warming Trends: A Catastrophe for Monarchs, ‘Science Moms’ and Greta’s Cheeky Farewell to Trump

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

A column highlighting climate-related studies, innovations, books, cultural events and other developments from the global warming frontier.

Cache River holding volunteer orientation for frog, toad surveys

Read the full story in the Metropolis Planet.

Citizen science volunteers are needed to assist with the calling frog and toad surveys in the Cache River watershed.

“Most people probably do not give amphibians much thought, but they play an important role in controlling insect populations, providing a valuable food source to other animals and contributing background sounds on warm spring and summer evenings,” said Mollie Oliver with Cache River State Natural Area.

In 1991 in response to an increased concern about worldwide population declines of frog and toad species, the Declining Amphibian Population Task Forces was formed. One of the first research priorities identified by the task force was to investigate whether the reported declines might actually be normal population fluctuations experienced by healthy amphibian populations. To do this required a baseline population data for as many species as possible over several years. Protocols were established to be carried out by volunteers using limited outside resources. Southern Illinois citizens have been participating in this long-term monitoring project for the Illinois Natural History Survey since 1995.

Wisconsin preparing legal action against PFAS contaminators

Read the full story from Fox6.

Gov. Tony Evers on Friday, Jan. 22 announced that his administration is preparing to take legal action against companies responsible for PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.

The governor, in consultation with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, asked the Department of the Administration (DOA) to begin the selection process for an outside law firm to help the state evaluate and pursue litigation against companies responsible.

What Musk’s $100 million carbon capture prize could mean

Read the full story in MIT Technology Review.

Tesla’s CEO is using a little of his growing wealth to accelerate progress on ways to prevent carbon dioxide pollution or pull it from the sky.

Biden has pledged to advance environmental justice – here’s how the EPA can start

‘Cancer Alley’ is an 80-mile stretch of chemical plants along the Mississippi River in Louisiana alongside many Black and poor communities. Giles Clarke/Getty Images

by David Konisky (Indiana University)

On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who “disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.”

To lead this effort Biden has nominated Michael Regan to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regan, who currently heads North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, would be the first Black man to serve as EPA Administrator in the agency’s 50-year history. His appointment has fueled expectations that the agency will make environmental justice a top priority.

The EPA first created an Office of Environmental Justice in 1992, but I know from my research on decades of the agency’s work that it has never given the issue sustained attention. Despite activism from a growing environmental justice movement, widespread evidence that pollution over-burdens poor and minority communities, and a Clinton-era executive order that mandated federal action, the EPA has largely failed to modify its programs, policies and decision-making processes in response.

Pollution burdens in Wilmington, Calif., a neighborhood of Los Angeles, cause significantly higher than average rates of asthma and cancers for its 50,000 residents, most of whom are Hispanic.

The agency’s toolkit for taking on environmental injustice is limited. Current environmental laws do not require it to craft policies to address unequal pollution burdens, and in some cases they make it difficult to do so. Several House and Senate members have introduced bills to give the EPA such a mandate, and they may try again in the new Congress. But the agency can get started before that happens.

Boost inclusion and enforcement

In my view, EPA officials can advance environmental justice immediately by striving for inclusive decision-making. This means not just listening to people of color and other communities suffering from pollution burdens, but empowering them to be involved in decisions that affect their lives.

Historically the EPA has too often taken an “announce-and-defend” approach to its decisions. By giving these communities more voice, I believe the agency will make better decisions and show that it is committed to changing its historical insensitivity to environmental justice goals.

Second, EPA leaders should prioritize enforcement activities in overburdened communities. Numerous studies have shown that federal and state agencies conduct fewer inspections and impose lighter penalties when offending pollution sources are located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Researchers have documented this pattern on issues including air pollution, drinking water and hazardous waste management.

EPA enforcement has declined for many years, so the agency needs to ramp up these efforts overall. But its leaders have full discretion to target enforcement toward companies located in communities that are heavily polluted. And they can use existing resources, such as the EJSCREEN mapping tool, to help identify these communities.

EPA officials will need to coordinate these enforcement efforts with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is responsible for prosecuting cases. In addition, the EPA will need to set clear expectations that states, which do the lion’s share of enforcement, also prioritize environmental justice communities.

Spotlight discrimination and analyze new rules for EJ impact

Another thing the EPA can do now is make better use of its authority under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, Title VI of the Civil Right Act prohibits organizations that receive federal funds from discriminating against protected groups. This includes state and local agencies that issue permits and carry out other activities to implement federal pollution control laws.

As external assessments have shown, the EPA has an abysmal record of applying Title VI. Historically it has not been willing to make findings of discrimination, or in many cases even to conduct serious investigations of credible allegations. In one of the few exceptions, when Michigan officials approved siting the Genesee Power Station in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Flint, Michigan, over community objections, the agency’s finding that this was discriminatory came 25 years after the initial complaint.

The EPA can improve this process by opening its door to Title VI claims and handling them promptly and fairly. Doing so will show environmental justice communities that it takes their concerns seriously, and make clear to state and local agencies that discrimination is not acceptable.

Photo of Michael S. Regan
Michael S. Regan, President Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, grew up near a coal-burning power plant in North Carolina and has pledged to ‘enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.’ NCDEQ

A fourth immediate action the EPA can take is to make it routine practice to consider environmental justice in its rule-making. President Clinton’s 1994 executive order suggested doing this, but unlike traditional cost-benefit analysis, it is not a regular part of agency decision-making.

Fortunately the EPA already has guidance that was published in 2016 showing how to do environmental justice analysis. Through more careful attention to how new rules affect low-income communities and communities of color, the agency can make its decisions more transparent and adopt policies with fewer impacts on already overburdened communities.

Achieving environmental justice is a long-term project, and the EPA is just one of many government agencies that need to change their ways before the U.S. can make progress. Eventually Congress will need to provide the EPA with new tools. Until that time, the agency can more effectively use its current authorities to get started.

David Konisky, Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New Wind Turbine Blades Could Be Recycled Instead of Landfilled

Read the full story from EE News (via Scientific American).

Researchers have developed a wind turbine blade that costs less and appears to be recyclable, two attributes that could accelerate the rapid growth of both onshore and offshore wind around the world.

The innovation may also reduce rising transportation costs because blades for taller turbines can now be as long as 262 feet, almost the length of a football field.

A Retracted Paper Has Been Cited Hundreds Of Times, Pointing To Wider Problems

Read the full story at IFLS.

Science’s greatest strength is its capacity to correct its mistakes, but it doesn’t always happen. Professor Jodi Schneider is trying to bringing the failures to the surface, making an example of a paper that was retracted because of fraud yet has been cited so often that it’s contaminating the field with its falsehood.

Climate Change Is Turning Cities Into Ovens

Read the full story in Wired.

A new model estimates that by 2100, cities across the world could warm as much as 4.4 degrees Celsius. It’s a deadly consequence of the heat-island effect.

U.S. EPA Big Gulp: Lessons Learned on Providing P2 Tech Assistance to Food and Beverage Manufacturers

This webinar highlights lessons learned in the field from delivering pollution prevention assistance to food and beverage manufacturers. The speakers highlight what has worked – and what hasn’t – in driving sustainability improvements in this diverse sector. They represent different locations, program approaches, and client types, but they all have hands-on experience working with businesses large and small.

This webinar is geared toward sustainability professionals working with the food and beverage sectors, such as technical assistance programs, water and energy conservation programs, green business certification programs, and consultants.

Speakers:

  • Mackenzie Boyer & Rain Richards, Arizona State University School of Sustainability
  • Josephine Fleming, CA Green Business Program
  • Donna Walden, greenUp! and the NV Green Business Program

Find presentation slides on the EPA website.

9 questions about the future of waste and recycling in 2021

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

In recent years, Waste Dive has shifted away from the annual prediction business. Between China’s scrap import policy changes, surprise M&A moves, effects from the coronavirus pandemic and plenty more, we’ve found this industry is increasingly full of unexpected turns. 

Instead, as we map out our beats and strategies for the new year, we’re letting you in on the planning process for covering whatever may lie ahead in 2021. As we ramp up, these are some of the key questions and themes we’ll keep coming back to in the months ahead.

The following analysis is based on reporting and research by the Waste Dive team. We invite you to share thoughts on these questions, or others of your own, via email at waste.dive.editors@industrydive.com.

%d bloggers like this: