EPA announces winners of the 2022 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2022 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances. This year’s winners have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that provide solutions to significant environmental challenges and spur innovation and economic development. In support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis, EPA added a new award category this year that recognizes technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions.

“Tackling environmental challenges like climate change and the disproportionate impact of pollution in communities with environmental justice concerns is going to take creative and innovation solutions – and sustainable, green chemistry is a critical part of that,” said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator Jennie Romer. “Preventing waste, reducing energy use, and avoiding hazardous chemicals, all of which we’re recognizing with our awards today, demonstrate the power and potential green chemistry has to protect human health and the environment while providing benefits to businesses and our economy.”

The 2022 winners are:

  • Professor Song Lin of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, for developing a new, more efficient process to create large and complicated molecules that are widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. The new technology avoids using hazardous materials and has the potential to reduce both energy use and wasteful byproducts.
  • Merck, Rahway, New Jersey, for developing a greener way to make LAGEVRIO™ (molnupiravir), an antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Merck significantly improved the manufacturing process for this antiviral drug in a short time, producing ingredients more efficiently and greatly reducing solvent waste and energy use.
  • Amgen, Thousand Oaks, California, for an improved manufacturing process for LUMAKRAS™ (sotorasib), a novel drug for the treatment of certain non-small cell lung cancers. Amgen’s innovation decreased manufacturing time, the amount of solvent waste generated and established a recycling process for a high-value waste stream.
  • Provivi, Santa Monica, California, for creating ProviviFAW®, a biological pheromone-based product that controls the fall armyworm, a destructive pest of corn. The product’s pheromone active ingredients are produced through innovative green chemistry using renewable plant oils. ProviviFAW™ can reduce the need for conventional pesticides, which can be harmful to beneficial insects, such as pollinators.
  • Professor Mark Mascal of the University of California, Davis, California, in partnership with Origin Materials, for a technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by producing chemicals for making polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic from biomass derived from sugar fructose rather than petroleum. This novel chemistry could have significant climate impacts by replacing fossil-based products with carbon-neutral, biobased products, especially when the technology is scaled to an entire industry.

EPA recognized the winners today during the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Since 1996, EPA and the American Chemical Society, which co-sponsor the awards, have received more than 1,800 nominations and presented awards to 133 technologies that decrease hazardous chemicals and resources, reduce costs, protect public health, and spur economic growth. Winning technologies are responsible for reducing the use or generation of nearly one billion pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving over 20 billion gallons of water and eliminating nearly eight billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents released to the air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2022 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2022 winners.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry

EPA issues first test order under National Testing Strategy for PFAS in commercial fire fighting foam and other uses

Today, as a part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the agency issued the first in a series of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) test orders to require companies to conduct and submit testing on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). When EPA announced its Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide, the agency also released the National PFAS Testing Strategy to help identify PFAS data needs and require testing to fill those gaps.

“For far too long, families across America, especially those in underserved communities, have suffered from PFAS. High-quality, robust data on PFAS helps EPA to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by these chemicals,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Our communities deserve transparency from the companies that use or produce these substances about their potential environmental and human health impacts.”

EPA selected 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine (CASRN 34455-29-3) as the first order issued pursuant to the National PFAS Testing Strategy. 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine has been manufactured (defined to include importing) in significant quantities (more than 25,000 pounds in a given year) according to TSCA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule reports. This chemical substance is a surfactant used to make commercial fire-fighting foams and may be found in certain floor finishes. CDR data also indicate that at least 500 workers in a given year could be potentially exposed to this chemical. Although there is some hazard and exposure information about this PFAS, EPA found there is insufficient data to determine the effects on human health associated with the inhalation route of exposure. This test order will address this data need.

The Chemours Company, DuPont De Nemours Inc., National Foam Inc., and Johnson Controls Inc. are the recipients of this first test order. The companies subject to the test order may conduct the tests as described in the order, including testing of physical-chemical properties and health effects following inhalation, or provide EPA with existing information that they believe EPA did not identify in its search for existing information. EPA encourages companies to jointly conduct testing to avoid unnecessary duplication of tests. The order employs a tiered testing process, as TSCA requires. The results of all the first-tier testing are required to be submitted to EPA within 400 days of the effective date of the order and will inform the decision as to whether additional tests are necessary. The orders and any data submitted in response to these orders that are not subject to a valid confidentiality claim will be made publicly available on EPA’s website and in applicable dockets on www.regulations.govEXITEXIT EPA WEBSITE.

PFAS National Testing Strategy

In the PFAS National Testing Strategy, EPA assigned 6,504 PFAS into smaller categories based on similarities in structure, physical-chemical properties, and existing toxicity data. Of these categories, EPA identified 24 that lack toxicity data to inform EPA’s understanding of the potential human health effects and contain PFAS with at least one identifiable manufacturer to whom EPA could issue a test order. As EPA continues to further develop the National PFAS Testing Strategy and following the review of some stakeholder feedback, the agency also plans to increase the weight it places on the potential for exposures when identifying the representative PFAS for each category.

Based on EPA’s experience to date in developing tiered testing strategies for PFAS, it will also be important to have a better, upfront understanding of physical-chemical properties for the wide variety of PFAS included in the National PFAS Testing Strategy. The information from these initial orders will provide the agency with critical information on more than 2,000 similar PFAS that fall within these categories. This information will allow the agency to make better-informed decisions about PFAS as well as guide any future orders. The agency plans to issue the additional Phase I orders in the coming months.

Based on available information and predictive models, testing on 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine will also inform the agency’s understanding of the human health effects of 503 additional PFAS with similar structures as detailed in the Testing Strategy.

Section 4 Test Orders

Developing section 4 test orders is a complex and resource-intensive process involving many scientific and regulatory considerations, as explained in this Overview of Activities Involved in Issuing a TSCA Section 4 Order. With this test order, EPA is for the first time describing the process future PFAS test orders will follow to obtain data on human health effects pursuant to a “may present an unreasonable risk” finding under TSCA section 4(a)(1). This testing comprehensively yet efficiently investigates human health endpoints, applying testing methodologies appropriate for the physical-chemical properties of the subject PFAS. Given the complexity of the testing requirements, a broad spectrum of experts across many offices in the agency worked to determine testing methodology and needs and address other details that go into the process of drafting and issuing an order (e.g., assessing the economic burden of an order).

Additionally, one order often applies to multiple companies. EPA must identify these companies and their associated points of contacts. To improve the transparency of the process, EPA also tries to resolve confidential business information claims that could prevent EPA from publicly connecting the company to the chemical substance prior to issuing test orders.

Waukegan says goodbye to a coal plant but must now contend with its industrial waste

Read the full story from WBEZ.

Environmental activists warn that leaving large coal ash repositories in place could lead to toxic spills and groundwater contamination.

5th Annual Green Chemistry Commitment Summit (free, virtual event)

June 23, 2022, 10 am-2 pm CDT
More information and to register

Never has integrating green chemistry into our higher education system been more critical. At this fun and inspiring summit, you’ll connect with our growing community of green chemists and educators from around the globe; gain valuable connections, resources, and insights; and learn how you can be an essential part of the green chemistry future.

With programming tracks for both current Green Chemistry Commitment signers and green chemistry newcomers, the Summit will offer useful resources and information for all higher ed faculty and those who aim to practice green chemistry.

Why attend?

At this educational and inspiring summit, you will: 

  • connect with fellow green chemists, educators, and industry leaders,
  • share resources and successes,
  • innovate together,
  • and connect and collaborate.

Is this event for me?

Wondering if you should join us? This event is for you if you are:

  • higher ed faculty from universities across the globe
  • looking for support to start incorporating green chemistry into your courses
  • looking to expand green chemistry in your courses and on your campus
  • looking for resources and networking within the field of green chemistry education
  • a supporter of green chemistry education

DOE invests $6 million in geothermal heating and cooling technologies at federal facilities

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to receive up to $6 million to help expand the deployment of geothermal heating and cooling technology at federal sites. The federal government is the nation’s largest energy user, consuming nearly 1% of all end-use energy in the United States. Installing these carbon-free heating and cooling systems at federal sites will support President Biden’s goal to make the federal government carbon-neutral and help demonstrate the benefits and potential of this technology.  

“Geothermal heating and cooling is renewable, versatile, and critical to decarbonizing buildings as well as the economy as a whole,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “Scaling up deployment of geothermal heating and cooling technology on federal sites will help reduce costs and energy demand, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars and leading by example to decarbonize our economy.” 

This funding will provide technical assistance for geothermal energy deployment at federal sites, helping reduce or replace electricity demand, offset peak loads to the grid, and add resiliency and security to local energy systems.  

The team receiving this funding is led by ORNL and includes three other national labs, two universities, a state agency, and an industry partner who all bring strong expertise in the low-temperature geothermal space. ORNL and its partners—National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Illinois State Geological Survey, International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, Oklahoma State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison—will establish a technical assistance framework with an innovative workflow that will result in more accurate models and recommendations as well as deployment-ready reports. The team will also conduct data analysis, carry out resource characterization, perform site surveys, and design geothermal heating and cooling systems in support of deploying geothermal energy at federal sites. 

This effort supports and is enabled by the Federal Geothermal Partnership, a collaboration between the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) and the Federal Energy Management Program. 

Who really owns the oil industry’s future stranded assets? If you own investment funds or expect a pension, it might be you

More countries are discouraging fossil fuel use, but the industry is still pumping. Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

by Gregor Semieniuk, UMass Amherst and Philip Holden, The Open University

When an oil company invests in an expensive new drilling project today, it’s taking a gamble. Even if the new well is a success, future government policies designed to slow climate change could make the project unprofitable or force it to shut down years earlier than planned.

When that happens, the well and the oil become what’s known as stranded assets. That might sound like the oil company’s problem, but the company isn’t the only one taking that risk.

In a study published May 26, 2022, in the journal Nature Climate Change, we traced the ownership of over 43,000 oil and gas assets to reveal who ultimately loses from misguided investments that become stranded.

It turns out, private individuals own over half the assets at risk, and ordinary people with pensions and savings that are invested in managed funds shoulder a surprisingly large part, which could exceed a quarter of all losses.

More climate regulations are coming

In 2015, almost every country worldwide signed the Paris climate agreement, committing to try to hold global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) compared to pre-industrial averages. Rising global temperatures were already contributing to deadly heat waves and worsening wildfires. Studies showed the hazards would increase as greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from fossil fuel use, continue to rise.

It’s clear that meeting the Paris goals will require a global energy transition away from fossil fuels. And many countries are developing climate policies designed to encourage that shift to cleaner energy.

But the oil industry is still launching new fossil fuel projects, which suggests that it doesn’t think it will be on the hook for future stranded assets. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called a recent wave of new oil and gas projectsmoral and economic madness.”

Teenagers play in the water of the Caspian sea - one young man is flipping another, with several Soviet oil rigs behind them.
Much of the stranded asset risk falls on individuals. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

How risk flows from oil field to small investor

When an asset becomes stranded, the owner’s anticipated payoff won’t materialize.

For example, say an oil company buys drilling rights, does the exploration work and builds an offshore oil platform. Then it discovers that demand for its product has declined so much because of climate change policies that it would cost more to extract the oil than the oil could be sold for.

The oil company is owned by shareholders. Some of those shareholders are individuals. Others are companies that are in turn owned by their own shareholders. The lost profits are ultimately felt by those remote owners.

In the study, we modeled how demand for fossil fuels could decline if governments make good on their recent emissions reduction pledges and what that would mean for stranded assets. We found that $1.4 trillion in oil and gas assets globally would be at risk of becoming stranded.

Stranded assets mean a wealth loss for the owners of the assets. We traced the losses from the oil and gas fields, through the extraction companies, on to those companies’ immediate shareholders and fundholders, and again their shareholders and fundholders if the immediate shareholders are companies, and all the way to people and governments that own stock in the companies in this chain of ownership.

It’s a complex network.

On their way to ultimate owners, much of the loss passes through financial firms, including pension funds. Globally, pension funds that invest their members’ savings directly into other companies own a sizable amount of those future stranded assets. In addition, many defined contribution pensions have investments through fund managers, such as BlackRock or Vanguard, that invest on their behalf.

We estimate that total global losses hitting the financial sector – including through cross-ownership of one financial firm by another – from stranded assets in oil and gas production could be as high as $681 billion. Of this, about $371 billion would be held by fund managers, $146 billion by other financial firms and $164 billion could even affect bondholders, often pension funds, whose collateral would be diminished.

U.S. owners have by far the largest exposure. Ultimately, we found that losses of up to $362 billion could be distributed through the financial system to U.S. investors.

Some of the assets and companies in an ownership chain are also overseas, which can make the exposure to risk for a fund owner even more difficult to track.

Someone will get stuck with those assets

Our estimates are based on a snapshot of recent global share ownership. At the moment, with oil and gas prices near record highs due to supply chain problems and the Russian war in Ukraine, oil and gas companies are paying splendid dividends. And in principle, every shareholder could sell off their holdings in the near future.

But that does not mean the risk disappears: Someone else buys that stock.

Ultimately, it’s like a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, someone will be left with the stranded asset. And since the most affluent investors have sophisticated investment teams, they may be best placed to get out in time, leaving less sophisticated investors and defined contribution pension plans to join the oil and gas field workers as losers, while the managers of the oil companies unfold their golden parachutes.

Alternatively, powerful investors could successfully lobby for compensation, as has happened repeatedly in the U.S. and Germany. One argument would be that they couldn’t have anticipated the stricter climate laws when they invested or they could point to governments asking companies to produce more in the short-term, as happened recently in the U.S. to substitute for Russian supplies.

However, divesting right away or hoping for compensation aren’t the only options. Investors – the owners of the company – can also pressure companies to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy generation or another choice with growth potential for the future.

Investors not only may have the financial risk, but also the related financial responsibility, and ethical choices may help preserve both the value of their investments and the climate.

Gregor Semieniuk, Assistant Research Professor of Economics, UMass Amherst and Philip Holden, Senior Lecturer in Earth System Science, The Open University

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

In My Opinion: What teens suggest about recycling’s future

Read the full story at Resource Recycling.

Envirothon is North America’s largest high school environmental education competition. Held May 6, the Oregon Envirothon was one of many such events taking place around the country to select teams to advance to the national Envirothon competition, which is scheduled this year for late July at Miami University in Ohio. 

In the leadup to the competition, the high schoolers studied a variety of ecological issues, which this year included waste and recycling. They faced questions I suspect most adults would struggle to answer: What is the difference between recycling and waste prevention? What does the idea of “the Global North dumping its dangerous waste on the Global South” actually mean? 

This Japanese designer turned discarded fishing containers into groovy furniture

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Japan’s declining fishing industry has left behind a constellation of discarded fishing containers. Now some of them have been reborn as chairs.

Why environmental compliance auditing is important in the purchase/sale of a business

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

Another very important reason for conducting environmental compliance audits is tied to the purchase/sale of a business, particularly where operations associated with the business use or store hazardous substances (e.g., cleaning solvents, hydraulic oils) or generate hazardous wastes (e.g., used chlorinated solvents) or universal wastes (e.g., used lead-acid batteries, antifreeze). 

We don’t have to solve business problems with food waste

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

When asking indigenous farmers about food waste, A-dae Romero-Briones, director of programs for the First Nations Development Institute, said they expressed puzzlement. According to Romero-Briones, indigenous farmers didn’t know why they would operate a system that intentionally wasted food. After all, if they were doing things right, they wouldn’t be wasting any resources. Basically, she said that to these farmers, waste was an indicator that the system wasn’t working quite right.

Romero-Briones shared this insight during this year’s ReFED Food Waste Solutions Summit in Minneapolis, where farmers, scientists and business leaders came together to share and discuss challenges and solutions to global food waste.