EPA upholds Trump-era decision not to regulate perchlorate

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Upholding a Trump-era environmental policy, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will not regulate a drinking water contaminant that has been linked to brain damage in infants.

The agency said the Trump administration’s decision in 2020 not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water was made with the “best available peer reviewed science.” The chemical is used in rocket fuel and fireworks.

UN chief names panel to probe companies’ climate efforts

Read the full story from ABC News.

The head of the United Nations announced the appointment Thursday of an expert panel led by Canada’s former environment minister to scrutinize whether companies’ efforts to curb climate change are credible or mere “ greenwashing.”

Internal EPA report describes “incredibly toxic work environment” in New Chemicals Division

Read the full story at The Intercept.

An internal workplace survey commissioned by the EPA reveals a work environment that agency scientists and other staff describe as “hostile,” “oppressive,” “toxic,” “extremely toxic,” and “incredibly toxic.” After whistleblowers from the Environmental Protection Agency’s New Chemicals Division publicly accused several colleagues and supervisors of altering chemical assessments to make chemicals seem safer, the agency hired consultants to ask employees about their experiences of working in the division, which assesses the safety of chemicals being introduced to the market. A resulting report, completed in January and released in response to a public records request in March, reveals a workforce consumed by internal disputes and torn between the agency’s environmental mission and intense pressure from chemical companies to quickly approve their products on tight deadlines.

Illinois environmental justice bill would help residents prevent pollution

Read the full story at Energy News Network.

Illinois activists who led fights to close coal plants and ban petroleum coke storage are now leading the charge for a bill that would provide new powers and funding to environmental justice communities.

The legislation (HB4093/ SB2906) would create a more robust community participation and oversight process for new industry in environmental justice areas. It would also expand the definition of environmental justice communities and direct funds from violations directly to those communities, among other provisions.  

See also ‘Environmental justice’ law appears dead as community, business groups clash in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times. According to the story, “Despite pleas from residents concerned about their health, a bill to protect overburdened communities from more pollution doesn’t have the votes in Springfield to pass during an election year.”

Bobcat preys on Burmese python eggs in Everglades

Read the full story from the Wildlife Society.

First-of-its kind footage reveals that bobcats may prey on invasive Burmese python eggs in southern Florida. While the video showed only a one-off confirmed case, the discovery reveals that some native wildlife may be able to fight against the spread of the disruptive predators…

In a study published recently in Ecology and Evolution, Currylow and her colleagues reported that, initially at least, they didn’t see much action. The nesting females moved so little—or so slowly—that they didn’t even trigger the motion detection devices on the cameras.

But suddenly the camera was triggered. It wasn’t the adult female snake setting it off—the serpent was absent. It was an interloping bobcat (Lynx rufus). The wild cat first investigated the nest then later began to dine on the eggs. “It very slowly began to devour the nest,” Currylow said. The feline even cached some of the eggs and came back over several days for leftovers.

Data from landmark Illinois Basin carbon storage project are now available

Injection start-up day at the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project. Pictured are project principal investigator Sallie Greenberg, second from right, and other project partners.

by Tricia Barker, Prairie Research Institute

The first-of-its-kind Illinois Basin – Decatur Project (IBDP), which concluded in 2021 after successfully demonstrating the safe geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) at an almost-commercial scale, is releasing datasets in two easily accessible locations.

Complete datasets are available through the U.S. Department of Energy’s EDX site. Curated datasets are also being released through CO2DataShare, an international open-access portal managed by SINTEF.

Over three years, approximately 1 million metric tons of CO2 captured from the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) ethanol production facility in Decatur, Illinois, were injected into the Mount Simon Sandstone, more than 2 km deep in the Illinois Basin. This carbon capture and storage (CCS) research and development project was carried out by the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC), one of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – National Energy Technology Laboratory to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of CO2 geological storage as a mitigation tool to address global climate change. The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) at the University of Illinois was the principal investigator for and manager of the IBDP, with the Indiana Geological Survey (now the Indiana Geological and Water Survey) and the Kentucky Geological Survey as key partners. Other partners included ADM, Trimeric Corporation, and Schlumberger.

The infrastructure installed for the IBDP includes three deep wells: injection, monitoring, and geophysical. It also includes 17 shallow groundwater monitoring wells, microseismic monitoring with down-hole, four-component sensors in the injection well, an in-well geophysical monitoring array for repeat plume monitoring using vertical seismic profiling, a compression/dehydration facility, and a 1.9 km pipeline. The available data include information from pre-injection site characterization (2007-2011), injection and monitoring (2011-2014), and post-injection (2014-2021).

“The ISGS continues its exceptional service to DOE and the swelling number of CCS stakeholders here and abroad by sharing the rich data products generated from the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project,” said Darin Damiani, Carbon Transport and Storage Senior Program Manager for the DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “DOE believes sharing high-value data from projects like the IBDP will help catalyze the growth and safe deployment of CCS in the U.S., as well as in nations looking to CCS as a component of their decarbonization strategy.” 

The IBDP developed and implemented a rigorous monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) program for the captured and stored CO2. The extensive MVA activities include high-fidelity induced seismicity monitoring, 3D seismic surveying, 3D vertical seismic profiling, soil flux monitoring, atmospheric monitoring, shallow groundwater monitoring, and deep subsurface fluid sampling to ensure the COremains safely stored underground.

“The Illinois Basin – Decatur Project led the way in developing and field-testing the full CCS value chain with carbon dioxide from biofuels production. We are proud to have created a project that has produced so much valuable data to share with colleagues and projects around the world,” said project principal investigator Sallie Greenberg.

Researchers interested in full the continuous microseismic dataset (not housed on EDX) should contact DOE NETL at EDXSupport@netl.doe.gov for more information.

An international collaboration between the United States and Norway has also been created to share selected datasets from the project on the CO2DataShare open access portal, including:  

  • GIS and georeferenced Imagery: provides a GIS-based portrayal and spatial archive of the IBDP project wells and the distribution of near-surface monitoring and sampling installations that were present at the IBDP field site.
  • Seismic data: includes IBDP 3D seismic (volume reprocessed), IMDP 3D time-lapse VSP (vertical seismic profile) (reprocessed), and IBDP passive seismic events monitoring (microseismic).
  • Well information: includes data collected from the project’s three deep wells, such as geophysical logs, core and sidewall core analyses, and various well tests. It also includes stratigraphic tops picked from the project wells and representative geologic cross-sections, as well as well design summary sheets and directional surveys.
  • Horizons and faults: exported from the Petrel geological model.
  • IBDP geological model: features a Petrel model containing wells, horizons, and fault interpretations from the project.
  • Technical reports and final project report: includes geo-mechanical reports, site map images, static model reports, stratigraphy, well completion reports, well diagrams, well testing reports and the final report (Sallie E. Greenberg, Ph.D: ILLINOIS BASIN—DECATUR PROJECT Final Report: An Assessment of Geologic Carbon Sequestration Options in the Illinois Basin: Phase III. Illinois State Geological Survey. July 2021.). Other selected reports and outreach materials also are available.

CO₂ DataShare, a platform for sharing CO₂ storage data, was launched in 2020. The portal builds on UNINETT Sigma2’s solution for data storage, combined with a tailored frontend that was developed using the open-source software CKAN.

“We are excited to be able to share the unique data from the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project with the CCS communities around the world,” said CO2DataShare project manager Grethe Tangen. “The dataset complements the published data from Norwegian CO2 storage projects. In particular, the microseismic data represents a valuable addition to the CO2 DataShare dataset portfolio.”

Information about CO2DataShare can be found on its project webpage.

Edible, biodegradable, anti-microbial plastic boasts higher tensile strength than petroleum-based plastic

Designed for use as food packaging, the material is produced by scientists at São Paulo State University from gelatin, clay and a nanoemulsion of black pepper essential oil (photos: preparing the mixture (left) and the gelatin-based biofilm; credit: researcher’s archive)

By José Tadeu Arantes  |  Agência FAPESP

Disposal of food packaging is a major cause of environmental pollution worldwide. More than 350 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year, and 85% of the garbage dumped in the oceans is plastic, according to estimates. Brazil is the fourth-largest producer, accounting for some 11 million metric tons per year. To make matters worse, most plastic packaging is derived from non-renewables such as petroleum. 

Given all these drawbacks, reducing the use of fossil fuels to produce plastic is the target of a great deal of research around the world. Many scientists are working on the development of biodegradable packaging materials that also prevent contamination by microorganisms and extend shelf life so as to reduce losses.

A study conducted by a research team called the Composites and Hybrid Nanocomposites Group (GCNH) at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Ilha Solteira has produced an important contribution to this effort. It was supported by FAPESP, and an article reporting its findings is published in the journal Polymers.

The researchers made their bioplastic (or “green plastic”, as it is also known) from type B bovine gelatin easily found in retail stores in the form of a colorless powder. 

“Gelatin was one of the first materials used in the production of biopolymers. It’s still widely used owing to its abundance, low cost and excellent film-forming properties,” said chemist and materials scientist Márcia Regina de Moura Aouada, a professor at the Ilha Solteira School of Engineering (FEIS-UNESP) and last author of the article.

“However, biopolymers for packaging have characteristics that need to be improved in order to be comparable to petroleum products, especially as far as mechanical properties and vapor permeability are concerned, so we added cloisite Na+ nanoclay to the gelatin,” she explained.

Adding nanoclay made the film more homogeneous and increased its tensile strength to 70 megapascals (MPa). Conventional polyethylene packaging has less than half this tensile strength (in the range of 20 MPa-30 MPa).

“Besides nanoclay, we also added a nanoemulsion made from black pepper essential oil to give the packaging a more attractive flavor and odor. The mixture also extends the shelf life of food products packaged with the material, thanks to the inclusion of anti-microbial and anti-oxidant components in the polymeric matrix,” she said.

It is worth noting that the bioplastic in question was originally designed to package beef in the form of hamburgers, which are vulnerable to microbial contamination and have a strong smell, but the principle of adding nanoclay and essential oil nanoemulsion to a gelatin matrix can and will be extended to other foods, varying the type and proportion of essential oil used.

“If this kind of packaging becomes widespread in the marketplace, it could significantly reduce the use of plastic made from non-biodegradable polymers and hence the amount of solid waste,” Moura Aouada said. “In addition, the bioplastic will better protect packaged food against contamination by pathogens and help reduce losses.”

The research lines followed at GCNH-UNESP focus on the circular economy, which converts waste into resources. The group’s leaders, Fauze Aouada and Márcia Moura Aouada, are professors affiliated with UNESP’s Program of Graduate Studies in Materials Science (PPGCM).

“Our proposals are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] adopted by the United Nations to end poverty, foster the planet’s economic sustainability, and ensure that the entire world population can enjoy peace and prosperity,” Moura Aouada said.

The group also produces wound dressings from bacterial cellulose, and edible packaging containing nanostructures derived from kale purée, cocoa purée, cupuassu (Theobroma grandiflorum) purée, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) extract and nanoemulsions, with potential applications in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

The research is supported by FAPESP via a Research Regular Grant and also via the Center for Development of Functional Materials (CDMF), a Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (RIDC) hosted by the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

The work is multidisciplinary and entails networking by several researchers per topic. The article mentioned earlier also has the following co-authors: Fauze Aouada, Tascila Saranti (MSc), and Pamela Melo (Ph.D.) from UNESP; and Miguel Cerqueira, from International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Portugal.

The article “Performance of gelatin films reinforced with cloisite Na+ and black pepper essential oil loaded nanoemulsion” is available at www.mdpi.com/2073-4360/13/24/4298.

This text was originally published by FAPESP Agency according to Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND. Read the original here.

Energy Equity for Renters Policy Tracker

ACEEE’s Energy Equity for Renters Policy Tracker lists which cities, counties, and states have adopted policies and programs to advance both energy efficiency and equity in rental housing as of February 2022. The map captures the following policies:

  • Adopting a renter right of first refusal on property sale
  • Creating a rental energy disclosure policy
  • Promoting existing state and utility efficiency programs to renters and landlords
  • Adopting a rental energy performance standard and assisting affordable housing providers with compliance
  • Designing rental efficiency loan and grant programs with affordability covenants
  • Granting renters the right to make efficiency improvements
  • Instituting limited-scope rental property retrofit requirements

Target to help customers identify products with sustainable packaging

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Retail giant Target recently announced the launch of Target Zero, a new initiative aimed at enabling customers to identify products and packaging that are designed to reduce waste, including those that are refillable, reusable, or compostable, made from recycled content, or made from materials that reduce the use of plastic.

Defying a gendered ‘narrative’

Read the full story at Inside Higher Education.

Are biased letters of recommendation one reason that women remain seriously underrepresented in experimental particle physics, at just about 15 percent of the field’s faculty? A new study suggests not.

The new paper, published in open-access format, includes some other interesting findings that challenge the existing literature on gendered language in letters of recommendation.