Maine House advances pioneering ban on sludge spreading linked to PFAS contamination

Read the full story in the Bangor Daily News.

Maine could be the first state to ban sludge spreading linked to forever chemical contamination after the Democratic-led House of Representatives advanced a bill contested by legislative Republicans and sewer districts.

The bill from Rep. William Pluecker, I-Warren, would prohibit the spreading of the waste product from sewage treatment plants and barring the use or sale of sludge, along with banning the sale of agricultural crops grown where septage was spread. The material would instead go to landfills. Compost from food processing and alcoholic beverages would still be allowed.

EPA launches civil rights inquiry into Louisiana agencies

Read the full story from E&E News.

EPA will probe alleged racial discrimination by two Louisiana agencies in a predominantly Black area, a senior official confirmed this week.

The agency’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office will investigate both the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of its air pollution control program and whether the Louisiana Department of Health is failing to inform residents of St. John the Baptist Parish about health threats posed by hazardous air emissions from a local chemical plant and other sources, Lilian Dorka, the office’s director, wrote in letters to Earthjustice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The FDA’s food failure

A POLITICO investigation based on more than 50 interviews finds the FDA is failing to meet American consumers’ expectations on food safety and nutrition.

Educational tool highlights COVID-19 and arsenic research

Read the full story in Environmental Factor.

A new online educational resource invites high school students to examine ways that humans are exposed to arsenic and how exposure might influence susceptibility to COVID-19 infection. The tool was developed by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

Resiliency and natural disaster debris workshops

tornado damaged houses

In 2021, EPA and its partners convened a series of virtual workshops on resiliency and natural disaster debris with EPA Region 5 and EPA Region 9.

Workshop participants generated a range of practical steps the federal government and others can take to bridge gaps and drive innovation around disaster debris management and resilience, including:

  • Reducing the generation of disaster debris.
  • Equitably and safely managing disaster debris.
  • Leveraging funding resources.
  • Building a community of practice.
  • Developing a resource center with technical assistance.
  • Sharing and developing additional case studies, best practices, and pilot projects.

The Resiliency and Natural Disaster Debris Workshop Final Summary Report summarize the themes and potential actions that emerged from virtual workshop conversations.

Related EPA webinars

Additional resources

Texas A&M shut down a major climate change modeling center in February after a ‘default’ by its Chinese partner

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in February mailed letters to 22 U.S. universities: Cut ties with Chinese institutions that have previously “ensnared” scholars in schemes to steal valuable information, he wrote. China’s military, he said, is attempting to acquire and develop cutting-edge technology, sometimes through theft under the guise of academic collaboration.

Texas A&M University and its governing system responded one day later with a letter to the Florida senator. They had already “mitigated” or eliminated 200 A&M “instances of activity” with evidence of foreign influence, including a climate modeling center called the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction, according to the letter written by administrators.

The university system coordinates with the FBI on a “near daily basis,” the administrators said. And one affiliation that Rubio specifically questioned—Ocean University in Qingdao—is being severed, according to the letter.

The correspondence provides the clearest picture to date on the Texas A&M University System’s attempts to extensively monitor other countries’ involvement in its research. But more broadly, it raises questions about the conflict between universities’ research goals and policymakers’ concerns about foreign interference in U.S. research and technology.

Trying everything, even lettuce, to save Florida’s beloved manatees

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Pollution has killed the sea grass that manatees feed on, and they are starving to death in large numbers. Extraordinary intervention may not be enough to protect them.

The Fabric of Belonging: How to Weave an Inclusive Culture

Download the document.

Building inclusive teams improves performance and is the right thing to do. It also pays off in recruitment, retention, and better teamwork. People describe what being included looks and feels like in remarkably similar ways. Helping everyone feel included is deceptively difficult, but organizations can navigate the complexities by marrying systemic change with more inclusive behaviors.

Across all groups, a common thread is the desire to grow and succeed. But organizations can pinpoint additional specific steps that will improve inclusion by looking at their population through the lenses of demographics, geography, and seniority. There’s no quick fix, but getting started—testing and learning, prioritizing the actions and populations that most need support, and demonstrating commitment—produces immediate value.

Environmental management: An industry classification

Irene Andersen, Dennis Bams (2022). “Environmental management: An industry classification.” Journal of Cleaner Production 344, 130853.

Abstract: In this paper, we seek to inform managers, regulators, and investors of the setting in which a firm’s environmental management activity is costly and when it is profitable. To identify this setting, we classify firms according to their environmental management activities and the subsequent impact on firm operating performance. This classification has allowed us to explore four potential economic drivers of environmental management, namely competitive positioning, risk management, compliance, and pressure to overinvest. Our results show that consumer-oriented firms that are visible to the public observe a positive relation between environmental commitment and operating performance. They use environmental management as a strategy to appeal to consumers, but also feel the pressure to overinvest. Firms that are in heavily polluting, capital intensive, less visible industries, observe a negative relation between environmental impact management and operating performance. Their environmental management follows primarily from risk management and compliance motivations. When the cost of an environmental activity is high, firms are less likely to self-engage and so regulatory intervention is more likely to be warranted.

How to clean solar panels without water

Dust that accumulates on solar panels is a major problem, but washing the panels uses huge amounts of water. MIT engineers have now developed a waterless cleaning method to remove dust on solar installations in water-limited regions, improving overall efficiency.
Image: Courtesy of the researchers via MIT.
Dust that accumulates on solar panels is a major problem, but washing the panels uses huge amounts of water. MIT engineers have now developed a waterless cleaning method to remove dust on solar installations in water-limited regions, improving overall efficiency.
Credits: Image: Courtesy of the researchers via MIT

Read the full story from MIT.

Solar power is expected to reach 10 percent of global power generation by the year 2030, and much of that is likely to be located in desert areas, where sunlight is abundant. But the accumulation of dust on solar panels or mirrors is already a significant issue — it can reduce the output of photovoltaic panels by as much as 30 percent in just one month — so regular cleaning is essential for such installations.

But cleaning solar panels currently is estimated to use about 10 billion gallons of water per year — enough to supply drinking water for up to 2 million people. Attempts at waterless cleaning are labor intensive and tend to cause irreversible scratching of the surfaces, which also reduces efficiency. Now, a team of researchers at MIT has devised a way of automatically cleaning solar panels, or the mirrors of solar thermal plants, in a waterless, no-contact system that could significantly reduce the dust problem, they say.