Day: February 2, 2021

EPA Welcomes Members of the Biden-Harris Leadership Team

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced key members of the agency’s incoming leadership team who will advance the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda to tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and create clean energy jobs.

“We are proud to join the EPA team of dedicated career professionals,” said Dan Utech, EPA’s incoming Chief of Staff.  “EPA will be at the heart of President Biden’s commitment to protect public health and the environment while building a clean energy future that creates good paying jobs.  We will be guided by science as we work together to achieve these goals on behalf of all Americans.”

EPA’s leadership team comes with a broad range of expertise and knowledge, including decades of experience in federal, state, and local governments; academia; and non-profit and advocacy organizations.  The EPA team also reflects the Biden-Harris commitment to diversity. Additional members of the EPA appointee team will be named in the days and weeks to come.

The team was sworn in on January 20, 2021 and as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to the highest ethical standards, appointees received an initial ethics training today.

Members of the incoming EPA leadership team are listed here along with their intended new role and brief biographies:

Radha Adhar, Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional Affairs

Radha Adhar joins EPA from the Office of Senator Tammy Duckworth where she served as Senior Policy Advisor for Energy, Environment and Science.  In 2016 and 2017, Radha was an Advisor to the Jobs Strategy Council in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy.  She has also worked at the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, focusing on the Beyond Coal Campaign and the 2012 Earth Summit.  Radha holds a M.S.in Energy Policy and Climate Change Science from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S.in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Victoria Arroyo, Associate Administrator for Policy

Vicki Arroyo returns to EPA after having served as Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center for 12 years, leading work on climate law and policy and supporting leading states and cities in their efforts to address and prepare for climate change.  Previously she served at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change as Vice President for Policy Analysis and General Counsel where she directed Pew’s policy analysis, science, adaptation, economics, and U.S. policy programs for a decade and was Managing Editor of the Center’s book, Climate Change: Science, Strategies and Solutions.  She was recently Chair of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and has served on numerous other boards and committees advising the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the California Air Resources Board. Vicki previously served in two offices at  EPA, the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Research and Development, where she reviewed development of standards under the Clean Air Act.  Vicki also served as Policy Director for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, drafting legislation that reduced toxic air pollution by 50% and linking tax breaks to firms’ environmental records. She was elected to the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018 and holds a B.S. in biology from Emory and a M.P.A. from Harvard and a J.D. from Georgetown.

Tomás Elias Carbonell, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Stationary Sources, Office of Air and Radiation

Since 2012, Tomás Carbonell has held a number of positions at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), most recently as Senior Counsel and Director of Regulatory Policy for EDF’s U.S. Clean Air program.  His work included leading EDF’s litigation and regulatory advocacy in defense of the Clean Power Plan and carbon pollution standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants; defending Clean Air Act protections for hazardous air pollution from power plants and industrial sources; and advocacy in defense of EPA’s use of rigorous health science and economic analysis.  From 2008 until 2012, Tomás was an Associate at Van Ness Feldman, LLP, where he counseled diverse clients on federal legal and regulatory matters related to climate change, clean energy, and environmental and electricity regulation.  He has a J.D. from Yale University, degrees in Environmental Change and Management and Development Economics from the University of Oxford, and bachelors’ degrees in Chemical Engineering, Economics, and Multidisciplinary Studies from North Carolina State University.  

Alison Cassady, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy

Alison Cassady most recently served as the Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, where she managed a team of lawyers and scientists to conceptualize, draft and deliver a congressional policy roadmap for achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and building a clean energy economy that values workers and advances environmental justice.  From 2017 – 2019 she was the Managing Director of the Energy and Environment Team at the Center for American Progress, providing strategic planning and managerial support to a team working on climate change policy, public lands conservation, and ocean protection.  Alison also served on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  She holds a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Dimple Chaudhary, Deputy General Counsel for Nationwide Resource Protection Programs

Dimple Chaudhary joins EPA after serving as Deputy Litigation Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Her work included litigation and advocacy to protect communities from drinking water contamination and exposure to toxics.  Dimple was lead counsel for community groups in Flint, Michigan, in a case brought to address lead contamination in the city’s drinking water, which led to a settlement requiring the replacement of all Flint’s lead service lines within three years.  Prior to joining NRDC, she was an associate at WilmerHale and a law clerk for the Honorable Carol Bagley Amon of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree in urban planning from the London School of Economics, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Rosemary Enobakhare, Associate Administrator for Public Engagement and Environmental Education

Rosemary Enobakhare returns to EPA where she served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Engagement and Environmental Education, leading the agency’s community outreach and strategic engagement plans. Since then, she has been the Director of Campaigns at The Hub Project, developing and managing large-scale advocacy campaigns that shift the conversation around top progressive policies.  She also worked for two years as the Campaign Director at the Clean Water for All Campaign, serving as the principal point of contact for stakeholders and overseeing all aspects of the campaign’s daily operations. Rosemary is a graduate of Spelman College with a degree in Economics.

Philip Fine, Principal Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy

Dr. Fine joins EPA after a 15 year career at the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California. He most recently served as the Deputy Executive Officer for the Planning, Rule Development & Area Sources Division, where he oversaw all activities of the Division, including development of State Implementation Plans and Air Quality Management Plans, strategies and regulations for air pollution control, meteorology and forecasting, air quality evaluation, air toxics risk assessment, emissions inventories, socioeconomic analyses, transportation programs, and enforcement for area sources.  Prior to this role, Dr. Fine’s previous responsibilities at South Coast AQMD included oversight of ambient air monitoring, laboratory services, quality assurance, and source testing.  Dr. Fine served on the California Air Resources Board’s legislatively-mandated Research Screening Committee, and has also served on several EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee expert panels.  Before joining the South Coast AQMD, Dr. Fine was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles where he taught courses and conducted extensive research on particulate pollution, air monitoring technologies, and exposure assessment.  He has over 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications to date.  He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in Environmental Science & Engineering, and his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Radhika Fox, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water

Prior to her appointment at EPA, Radhika Fox was the Chief Executive Officer of the US Water Alliance, a national nonprofit organization advancing policies and programs that build a sustainable water future for all.  She has more than 20 years of experience in developing, policies, programs and issue-based advocacy campaigns on the most salient water issues facing the nation including climate change, affordability and innovative finance, water infrastructure investment, equity, and the evolution of the One Water movement. Previously, Radhika directed policy and government affairs for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is responsible for providing 24/7 water, wastewater, and municipal power services to millions of Bay Area residents.  She also served as the Federal Policy Director at PolicyLink, where she coordinated the organization’s policy agenda on a wide range of issues, including infrastructure investment, transportation, sustainable communities, economic inclusion, and workforce development.  Radhika has a M.A. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Columbia University.

Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (starting 1/25)

Michal Ilana Freedhoff joined the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as its Minority Director of Oversight in February 2017. She has more than twenty years of government experience, beginning in 1996 in then-Congressman Ed Markey’s office as a Congressional Science and Engineering fellow after receiving a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Rochester.  She has also served on the staffs of the House Science Committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.  Her legislative work includes the fuel economy provisions in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, a law requiring the creation of an online database of dangerous consumer product safety defects, the 2016 re-authorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act, and 2019 legislation to address PFAS contamination. She lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband and four children.

Joseph Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation

Joe Goffman returns to EPA after serving from 2009 – 2017 as the Associate Assistant Administrator for Climate and Senior Counsel in the Office of Air and Radiation, where he provided policy and legal counsel on a wide range of climate policy and Clean Air Act regulatory and implementation issues and rulemakings. Since 2017 he has served as the Executive Director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School where he led a team of attorneys and communications specialists providing information and analysis to stakeholders, government decision makers and the media, and offering innovative responses on emerging issues in the areas of federal, state and municipal energy and electricity law and environmental and administrative law as well as in selected areas of corporate law.  Joe also worked on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as the Democratic Chief Counsel and Majority Senior Counsel.  He holds B.A. and J.D. degrees from Yale University.

Lindsay Hamilton, Associate Administrator for Public Affairs

Lindsay Hamilton comes to EPA from Climate Nexus, a communications non-profit, where she was senior director of national media strategy.  She also spent time as the chief spokesperson for The George Washington University, the chief of staff and a vice president with the Center for American Progress, and she served in roles in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the and the U.S. Senate.  Early on in her career, she worked for ABC News. Lindsay earned a B.A. in international affairs and political science from The George Washington University.  She earned her master’s degree from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. She is originally from Omaha, Nebraska.

Sinceré Harris, White House Liaison

Sinceré Harris joins EPA with years of senior-level experience in developing strategies to define, communicate and achieve political goals.  Since 2015 she has served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, where she was at the forefront of successful statewide coordinated campaigns, approving and managing multi-million dollar coordinated budgets, and led the formation of the 2020 organizing team.  In 2020, Sinceré was named the Pennsylvania Senior Advisor for Joe Biden for President, including advising a team of over 200 on digital organizing, voter protection, political and coalition building, and communications.  She previously worked as the Assistant Deputy for Legislative Affairs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Sinceré has a degree in Psychology from Temple University.

Melissa Hoffer, Principal Deputy General Counsel

Prior to joining EPA, Melissa Hoffer was with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office where she served as the Chief of the Energy and Environment Bureau and oversaw the work of the Bureau’s attorneys on matters including prosecuting civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws, energy policy, ratepayer advocacy, defensive cases, and affirmative advocacy, including litigation in support of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.  In 2020, Melissa was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Environmental Lawyers; she has received a 2020 Meritorious Service Award from the National Association of Attorneys General, a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women of Law award in 2013, and a Boston Bar Association President’s award in 2007.  Melissa served for over five years as a vice president of Conservation Law Foundation and director of its Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice Program, and director of its New Hampshire Advocacy Center.  Melissa practiced at WilmerHale for many years where her focus was environmental law and litigation.  She holds a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, an M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts, and a B.A. from Hampshire College with a focus on education.

Casey Katims, Deputy Associate Administrator for Intergovernmental Affairs

Casey Katims most recently served as Director of Federal and Inter-State Affairs for Washington Governor Jay Inslee, working as his primary advisor on federal policy issues and directing the state of Washington’s engagement with Congress, the White House, federal agencies, fellow governors’ offices and various other stakeholders in D.C.  Prior to this role, he spent five years as a policy advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives for Rep. Suzan DelBene, developing bills and amendments on a range of issues and helping manage her responsibilities on the House Ways and Means Committee.  Casey has a degree in Political Science from Vassar College and grew up in Edmonds, Washington.

John Lucey, Special Assistant to the Administrator

John Lucey joins EPA from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), starting as a Legislative Analyst in 2015.  He has served since 2019 as the Chief Strategy Officer, helping create and manage the strategic implementation of both North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan and Risk and Resiliency Plan.  He also provided guidance to the Department on significant State initiatives including the Duke Energy Coal Ash Settlement, the North Carolina Environmental Justice and Equity Board and the Chemours Consent Order. John holds a B.A. in Political Science from North Carolina State University and an Associate of Arts degree from Central Piedmont Community College.

Dan Utech, Chief of Staff

Dan Utech has over 20 years of experience in the federal environmental and energy sectors., including as a Presidential Management Fellow in 1997/1998 with assignments at EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Forest Service.  From 2014 – 2017 he served at the White House Domestic Policy Council, including as Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, where he led the White House and cross-governmental teams to implement and coordinate communications for President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, oversaw the Administration’s energy and climate change strategy, and promoted the President’s agenda in Congress.  Dan also served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, where his responsibilities included budget development and management of key initiatives such as nuclear waste.  Prior to his federal agency experience, Dan was Senior Advisor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, advising the Senator on all energy and environmental issues, including climate change, clean diesel, and energy efficiency, as well as air and water quality, toxic substances and endangered species.  He has been a lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, from which he received an M.E.S. degree. He also holds degrees from the Yale School of Management and Amherst College.

New York approves $854M transmission line, outlines path to reach storage, renewables goals

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) on Thursday approved a 93-mile, $854 million transmission project that includes a new line planned to run from Oneida County to Albany County. The 345-kV transmission line will help the state meet renewable energy goals set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

LS Power Grid New York and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will jointly develop the transmission line, the Marcy to New Scotland Upgrade Project, which also includes new and upgraded substations and the replacement of older transmission towers.

Staff of the New York Department of Public Service on Tuesday published a long-awaited power grid study, outlining work needed for the state to meet CLCPA goals. The Marcy to New Scotland project was among those the study assumed would be completed.

Nescafé targets 100% responsibly sourced coffee by 2025

Read the full story at Beverage Daily.

By 2025, Nestlé’s Nescafé expects to have 100% responsibly sourced coffee: meaning coffee that is traced back to an identified farmer group and verified or certified by independent organizations.

Following Google’s footsteps, Des Moines pledges 24/7 clean electricity by 2035

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

The Des Moines City Council on Monday approved a resolution outlining a series of carbon emission goals, including a 24/7 clean energy by 2035 pledge modeled after Google’s round-the-clock energy plan.

Des Moines is already well on its way to 100% clean energy, according to the council resolution; 83% of the city’s energy came from clean sources in 2020.

While Des Moines may benefit from factors that enable it to pursue ambitious energy targets, environmental advocates hope the resolution will spur greater aspirations in similarly-positioned communities.

Von der Leyen’s green Bauhaus dream

Read the full story in Politico.

Ursula von der Leyen wants Europe to tap into its inner avant-garde.

To meet some of its most pressing strategic goals — managing a sustainable industrial transition and finding new green technology to mitigate climate change — the Commission president has pledged to revive Bauhaus, the experimental art school founded in interwar Germany to marry artistic form with functional design.

“We need to give our systemic change its own distinct aesthetic — to match style with sustainability,” von der Leyen said in her State of the Union speech last month. “This is why we will set up a new European Bauhaus — a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together to make that happen.”

Invasive tawny crazy ants have an intense craving for calcium – with implications for their spread in the US

Multiple queens ensure colonies have a steady output of workers. Ryan Reihart, CC BY-SA

by Ryan Reihart (University of Dayton)

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

In a recent study, my colleagues and I discovered micronutrients in the ground can control populations of invasive crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva).

Tawny crazy ants – named for their fast, erratic movements – can blanket the ground by the millions. Originating in South America and now established in parts of the southern U.S., they harm other insects, asphyxiate chickens and even short-circuit electronics in homes.

Close up photo of a golden-colored ant against a blue background.
At only 0.125 inches (3.2 mm) long, crazy ants are tiny but mighty. Ryan Reihart, CC BY-SA

Crazy ants are liquid feeders that consume nectar from plants – and honeydew (or secretions) from certain insects. Ants crave these sugary resources, which boost their colony growth, enabling them to outcompete native species and ultimately spread.

The nutritional content of nectar and honeydew vary widely, however, depending on the nutrients available in a particular ecosystem. There are 25 chemical elements required to build life – too much or too little of one may cause disease. So far, ecologists only really know about the importance of macronutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, that are abundant in living tissue. My team wanted to learn more about what micronutrients might be important to crazy ants.

A man kneeling over a small hole dug in the grass.
Installing a pitfall trap in one of the 128 fertilized study plots. Kiersten Angelos, CC BY-SA

We conducted a fertilization experiment at the University of Houston’s Coastal Center and were able to demonstrate that the abundance of tawny crazy ants decreased 24% where there was more potassium and 45% where there was more sodium and potassium.

What greatly surprised our team was the discovery that ants were 13% more abundant in areas where there was more calcium – even in areas that had more sodium and potassium. This finding, published in the journal Ecology, could have big implications for the continued spread of crazy ants.

Why it matters

Ours is the first study showing calcium is important to an invasive ant, which is somewhat surprising given ants don’t have bones. It turns out, though, calcium is important in their egg production, larval development and physiological regulation.

If the spread of crazy ants continues north, the calcium-rich limestone bedrock of the lower U.S. Midwest may provide ideal conditions for populations to explode. Farmlands may be at risk because calcium is found in many fertilizers. Additionally, cities often have more calcium than surrounding areas, thanks to heavy cement use, limestone quarrying and destruction of buildings.

Tawny crazy ants not only are a major threat to the biodiversity and conservation of ecosystems but also cost the U.S. billions of dollars in damage annually.

What still isn’t known

Our results add to a small but growing list of other experiments that show the importance of micronutrients to insects.

How far will tawny crazy ants make it in the United States? Will calcium influence their spread? Could other micronutrients like magnesium or iron be important to crazy ants?

In a world where humans are changing the “ingredients” of Earth’s surface soils at an alarming rate, people may be unwittingly creating more favorable habitats for some invasive species. Figuring out which elements are most important to invasive species will be key to predicting, preventing and managing their spread.

Ryan Reihart, Teaching Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate of Ecology, University of Dayton

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

Decades of DNA in the Ocean Depths Could Help Track Fish Populations

Read the full story in Hakai Magazine.

There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but how many did there used to be? The answer to that question is lurking in DNA hidden at the bottom of the ocean.

Japanese scientists who analyzed DNA trapped in seafloor sediments have now shown, for the first time, how this preserved genetic material can be used to chart changes in fish populations over centuries. The new technique, reported in a recent study, could be used to help understand population dynamics of marine species.

FirstEnergy, Duke challenge Sierra Club claims of ‘greenwashing’ on climate goals

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Despite setting goals to decarbonize their resource mix, many utility pledges amount to little more than “meaningless greenwashing” because power companies are not moving quickly enough to phase out fossil fuels and add clean energy, according to a new report and data set from Sierra Club.

The report grades utility decarbonization efforts based on coal plant retirement schedules, plans to add gas-fired capacity, and clean energy investment. Some utilities with carbon-neutral pledges received a failing grade using Sierra Club’s methodology.

The utility sector defended its approach to the decarbonization process. “The goals we have are a reflection of our current understanding of technology and economics,” said Emily Fisher, senior vice president of clean energy at Edison Electric Institute. 

Can Microbes Save Us from PFAS?

Read the full story from ACS Central Science.

For three decades starting in the 1940s, General Electric dumped solvents from its manufacturing facilities into New York’s Hudson River, contaminating it with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Scientists worried about how best to clean up the pollutants.

“At that time, they thought PCBs were completely nonbiodegradable,” says Lawrence P. Wackett, a biochemist at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities who consulted for the company in the late 1980s.But analysis of sediment cores extracted from the river throughout the 1980s showed that the PCBs were slowly losing their chlorine atoms and turning into benign hydrocarbons. Later, scientists determined that the transformation was performed by microbes.

Now, researchers are hoping microbes could do the same for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as forever chemicals. Used in personal care products as well as firefighting foam, stain-repellent coatings, and membranes for chlor-alkali production, PFAS have strong carbon–fluorine bonds that make them difficult to degrade. PFAS have become a high-profile contaminant, polluting areas near manufacturing facilities that make or use them and military sites like air bases. Researchers are still trying to fully understand the health effects of PFAS but have determined that some are carcinogenic and toxic to multiple systems.

Illinois residents value strategies to improve water quality

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Illinois residents value efforts to reduce watershed pollution, and they are willing to pay for environmental improvements, according to a new study from agricultural economists at the University of Illinois.

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