Feds investigating Pritzker EPA for approving new scrap shredder on Chicago’s heavily polluted Southeast Side

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is facing a federal environmental justice investigation after approving a new scrap shredder in a low-income, predominantly Latino neighborhood on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

The probe announced Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency comes amid a separate-but-related investigation of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration.

Civil rights divisions at the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are digging into why the state and city cleared Reserve Management Group to build a shredder in the East Side neighborhood after the Ohio-based company agreed to close a similar operation in Lincoln Park, a wealthy, largely white neighborhood on the city’s North Side.

Lawyers for Southeast Side community groups petitioned for federal intervention, accusing city agencies and the Illinois EPA of colluding with developers to concentrate polluting industries in a corner of the city where residential yards already are contaminated by heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science

Read the full story in The Hill.

An internal government watchdog is investigating after two Trump administration officials apparently published papers purporting to be from the White House that promoted climate change skepticism. 

“After careful consideration, we decided to review this matter further,” the inspector general’s office at the Commerce Department wrote to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). 

Hirono asked for the investigation along with several other Democrats.

The New York Times first reported the probe on Friday. 

A look at all of Biden’s changes to energy and environmental regulations

Read the full story at Ars Technica.

The series of executive orders signed by Joe Biden on his first evening in office included a heavy focus on environmental regulations. Some of the high-profile actions had been signaled in advance—we’re back in the Paris Agreement! The Keystone pipeline’s been put on indefinite hold!

But the suite of executive orders includes a long list that targets plenty of the changes Trump made in energy and environmental policies, many of which will have more subtle but significant effects of how the United States does business. Many of those make major changes, in some cases by eliminating policies adopted during the Trump years, a number of which we covered at the time. So, we’ve attempted to take a comprehensive look at Biden’s actions and their potential impacts.

Decarbonizing cities – how to harmonize buildings, mobility and infrastructure

Read the full story from the World Economic Forum.

Why is it so important to decarbonize cities? And how can we do it?

The first question is easy to answer: The cities in which more than half of us live account for nearly two-thirds of the CO2 emissions that lie at the root of our planet’s looming climate crisis. Skyscrapers in megalopolises, shopping malls, SUVs in the streets, air conditioners in a growing number of places throughout the globe – all consume a vast amount of high CO2-content energy.

The answer to the second question is to take an integrated approach: leveraging clean electrification and digital technology to harmonize urban energy systems, while also thinking beyond individual projects to consider their impact within the surrounding communities and the built environment.

2021 Outlook: The future of electric vehicle charging is bidirectional — but the future isn’t here yet

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Within a few years, cars may be able to power homes, participate in energy markets and help businesses lower power bills, experts say.

Scientists decry death by 1,000 cuts for world’s insects

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

The world’s vital insect kingdom is undergoing “death by a thousand cuts,” the world’s top bug experts said.

Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose probably 1% to 2% of its insects each year, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, lead author in the special package of 12 studies in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences written by 56 scientists from around the globe.

Legacy Fuel Company Embraces Sustainable Aviation Biofuel

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

In the latest demonstration that renewable energy has attained mainstream status, a subsidiary of Koch Industries has just teamed up with the Colorado-based biofuel company Gevo to expand sustainable aviation biofuel production in the U.S. It’s a baby step, considering Koch’s history of obstructing progress on climate action, but the new partnership could have widespread implications for the rapid decarbonization of the aviation industry and other sectors.

Why Aren’t USDA Conservation Programs Paying Farmers More to Improve Their Soil?

Read the full story in Civil Eats.

Soil health is crucial to fighting climate change, but a new study finds that funding to support it in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is lacking.

Carrot cement: How root vegetables and ash could make concrete more sustainable

Read the full story in Horizon.

Concrete has become our building material of choice for countless structures such as bridges, towers and dams. But it also has a huge environmental footprint mostly due to carbon dioxide emissions from the production of cement – one of its main constituents. Researchers are now experimenting with root vegetables and recycled plastic in concrete to see whether this can make it stronger – and more sustainable – and even power streetlights or air pollution sensors.

Analysis of Risk to Sandstone Water Supply in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago

Download the document.

In 2018, the City of Joliet assessed its long-term water supply and found that the city should change its water supply source, the deep Cambrian-Ordovician Sandstone aquifer, by 2030. A three-year follow-up study has been initiated with a collaboration among scientists from the Illinois State Water Survey and multiple communities and industries in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. This contract report summarizes the Year 1 findings.

Withdrawals from the deep Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system in northeastern Illinois have been unsustainable since the early 1900s. The sandstone aquifer system that supplies water to Will County contains the uppermost St. Peter Sandstone and the Ironton-Galesville Sandstone; this study frequently uses the terms “Cambrian-Ordovician Sandstone aquifers,” “sandstone aquifers,” or “sandstone” when referring to the St. Peter and Ironton-Galesville collectively. In the study area, sustainable withdrawals are estimated to range from 2 to 7 million gallons per day (mgd), while recent sandstone demands range from 35 to 38 mgd. As a result, sandstone water levels have been declining for over a century. In some areas, the uppermost St. Peter Sandstone is currently dewatered, while the lowermost freshwater aquifer, the Ironton-Galesville Sandstone, is at-risk of dewatering in localized areas. Further declines will increase the risk to both aquifers. With Joliet planning to switch off the sandstone aquifers by 2030 and communities in Kendall County considering leaving the aquifer shortly after, updated groundwater flow models have assessed the regional impact of this reduction on sandstone water use. This report focuses on a single model scenario, referred to as the Current Trend, and outlines its underlying assumptions. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to demonstrate the impact of pumping assumptions in different portions of the region.

Joliet and Kendall County communities switching from the sandstone aquifer will not alleviate the regional risk to the sandstone supply. The impact of alternate demands from new and existing industries, which were assumed to remain unchanged in the future, may still pose a risk to the regional sandstone supply. Regional action is needed to ensure a sustainable future water supply and to preserve the sandstone aquifer as an option for future back-up supply needs.