Bill would take food safety away from FDA

Read the full story at Food Processing.

Newly introduced legislation in Congress would take primary responsibility for food safety away from the FDA.

The Food Safety Administration Act was introduced by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). It would create a new agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services, that would perform the functions of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the Office of Regulatory Affairs.

In a press release announcing the legislation, Durbin and DeRosa made it clear that they were motivated by reports of dysfunction at the FDA’s food-safety operations. The agency has come under criticism since an investigative piece at Politico revealed that unclear lines of command and other factors have led to virtual paralysis of the agency’s food-safety function.

Biden-Harris administration announces $56 million to advance U.S. solar manufacturing and lower energy costs

The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), recently announced a slate of new initiatives and $56 million in funding, including $10 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to spur innovation in solar manufacturing and recycling. Together, the funding will help make clean energy more affordable and reliable, create good-paying jobs, and enhance U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Developing more solar power, the cheapest form of new electricity supply, is key to achieving President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

“This administration wants to seize U.S. leadership in solar energy, from manufacturing to recycling, and that means making the right investments to ensure these technologies are made right here at home,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE is able to invest in our nation’s innovators so they can improve manufacturing and strengthen the domestic solar supply chain—lowering energy bills for Americans and businesses and driving toward an equitable clean energy future.”

According to DOE’s Solar Supply Chain Review Report, developing more domestic solar manufacturing can lead to benefits to the climate and environment as well as for American workers, employers, national security, while lowering energy bills for American families. The new programs announced today are designed to drive innovation in solar technology and manufacturing, supporting opportunities for the U.S. to expand production of thin-film modules, which do not rely on foreign-dominated supply chains, as well as supporting newer technologies like perovskite solar cells.

DOE’s New Solar Innovation Funding Opportunities 

The $29 million FY22 Photovoltaics (PV) Research and Development funding opportunity includes $10 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support projects that increase the reuse and recycling of solar technologies. The funding opportunity also supports projects to develop PV module designs that reduce manufacturing costs, as well as those that advance the manufacturing of PV cells made from perovskites, a family of materials that show potential for durability, high performance, and low production costs.  

The FY22 Solar Manufacturing Incubator funding opportunity will provide $27 million for projects aimed at commercializing new technologies that can expand private investment in U.S. solar manufacturing. Funding is available for projects that ready new technologies and manufacturing processes for commercialization and demonstrate solutions that can boost domestic manufacturing of thin-film PV made from cadmium telluride, the second-most common PV technology on the market, behind silicon.

DOE’s Continued Commitment to Solar Energy 

Today, DOE also announced $18 million in funding through the Technology Commercialization Fund for seven proposed National Laboratory projects designed to tackle commercialization challenges DOE-funded technologies face. 

DOE is also issuing a Request for Information on challenges and opportunities for vehicle-integrated PV, which would enable solar energy to provide power to vehicles, including cars, recreational vehicles, trains, boats, and planes. The solar and transportation industries and other stakeholders are encouraged to submit feedback by August 22 at 5 p.m. ET.

Earlier this week, DOE announced $8 million will go to seven small solar companies to perform research and development in concentrating solar-thermal power, power electronics, and solar-powered water technologies. 

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and its research priorities in PV manufacturing and competitiveness and attend a webinar on the incubator funding opportunity on August 3 at 3 p.m. ET.

EPA issues final rule to require reporting on five PFAS

Today, as a follow up to a January 2022 announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a final rule to update the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemical list to identify five additional PFAS subject to reporting requirements.  

The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides the framework for the addition of PFAS to the TRI each year. As previously announced, for TRI Reporting Year 2022 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2023), reporting is required for four additional PFAS. Today’s final rule officially incorporates these requirements into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for TRI. Additionally, this TRI update provides a conforming edit to the CFR to include a PFAS that met TRI listing requirements under the NDAA as of Reporting Year 2021.

TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors, including federal facilities, that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. Information collected through the TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also help inform EPA’s efforts to better understand the listed substances.

Addition of three PFAS with final toxicity values

The 2020 NDAA includes a provision that automatically adds PFAS to the TRI list upon the agency’s finalization of a toxicity value. In April 2021, EPA finalized a toxicity value for the following three chemicals and therefore they were added to the TRI.

  • Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid also known as PFBS (Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number (CASRN) 375-73-5)
  • Perfluorobutanesulfonate (CASRN 45187-15-3)
  • Potassium perfluorobutane sulfonate (29420-49-3)

Reporting forms for these three PFAS will be due to EPA by July 1, 2023, for calendar year 2022 data.

Addition of one PFAS no longer claimed as confidential business information

Under NDAA section 7321(e), EPA must review confidential business information (CBI) claims before adding a PFAS to the TRI list if the chemical identity is subject to a claim of protection from disclosure under 5 U.S.C. 552(a). EPA previously identified one PFAS, CASRN 203743-03-7, for addition to the TRI list based on the NDAA’s provision to include certain PFAS upon the NDAA’s enactment. However, due to a CBI claim related to its identity this PFAS was not added to the TRI list at that time. The identity of this PFAS was subsequently published in an update to the TSCA Inventory in October 2021 because at least one manufacturer did not claim it as confidential during prior  reporting under the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. Because it was no longer confidential, it was added to the TRI list.

Reporting forms for this PFAS will be due to EPA by July 1, 2023, for calendar year 2022 data.

Addition of one PFAS subject to a significant new use rule

The NDAA identifies certain regulatory activities, such as being subject to a significant new use rule (SNUR), that automatically add PFAS or classes of PFAS to the TRI beginning January 1 the following year. Last year, EPA updated the CFR with three PFAS that were added to the TRI on January 1, 2021, pursuant to section 7321(c) of the NDAA, due to their addition to an existing SNUR under the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA has since determined that one additional PFAS, CASRN 65104-45-2, was designated as “active” on the TSCA Inventory and was added to the SNUR in 2020. Because this chemical met the structural definition in the rule and was designated “active,” it triggered automatic addition to TRI under the NDAA, effective January 1, 2021.

The first reporting forms for this PFAS, which met NDAA conditions as of January 1, 2021, were due to EPA by July 1, 2022, for calendar year 2021 data.

Visit the U.S. EPA website to learn more.

NOVA Chemicals plans chemical recycling pilot

Read the full story at Plastics Recycling Update.

NOVA Chemicals is planning a pilot-scale reactor for plastics pyrolysis in 2022, the latest recycling-related move from the resin manufacturer.

In its 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance report, NOVA also reported that it recycled more than 99% of its industrial scrap PE, about 7,000 tons, and diverted another roughly 1,200 tons of PE from landfill, sending lumps and strands created during production changeovers to a plastics company for processing. 

NOVA, in partnership with Enerkem, now plans to begin construction of a pilot-scale reactor. Intended to address hard-to-recycle plastics, the reactor will use pyrolysis to convert discarded plastic to feedstocks for new plastic production. 

SEC’s climate disclosure plan could be in trouble after a recent Supreme Court ruling, but a bigger question looms: Does disclosure work?

Factories can be large sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

by Lily Hsueh, Arizona State University

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is considering requiring publicly traded U.S. companies to disclose the climate-related risks they face. Republican state officials, emboldened by a recent Supreme Court ruling, are already threatening to sue, claiming regulators don’t have the authority.

While the debate heats up, what’s surprisingly missing is a discussion about whether disclosures actually influence corporate behavior.

An underlying premise of financial disclosures is that what gets measured is more likely to be managed. But do corporations that disclose climate change information actually reduce their carbon footprints?

I’m a professor of economics and public policy, and my research shows that while carbon disclosure encourages some improvement, it is not enough by itself to ensure that companies’ greenhouse gas emissions fall. Worse still, some companies use it to obfuscate and enable greenwashing – false or misleading advertising claiming a company is more environmentally or socially responsible than it really is.

I believe the SEC has an unprecedented opportunity to design a program that is greenwashing-resistant.

Disclosure doesn’t always mean less carbon

Although carbon disclosure is often held up as an indicator of corporate social responsibility, the data tells a more nuanced story.

I investigated the carbon disclosures made by nearly 600 companies that were listed in the S&P 500 index at least once between 2011 and 2016. The disclosures were made to CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit organization that surveys companies and governments about their carbon emissions and management. More than half of all S&P 500 firms respond to its requests for information.

At first glance, one might think that a mandated, unified framework for reporting companies’ climate management and risk data and their greenhouse gas emissions, such as the one proposed by the SEC, is likely to lead to more efficient use of fossil fuels, lowering emissions as the economy grows.

I did find that companies that have proactively disclosed their emissions to CDP on average reduced their entitywide carbon emissions intensity by at least one measure: carbon emissions per capita of full-time employees. This means that as a company increases in size, it is estimated to reduce its carbon footprint on a per-employee basis. This does not, however, necessarily translate to a reduction in a company’s overall carbon emissions. Much of the decline involved large emissions-intensive companies, such as utilities, that were trying to get ahead of expected climate regulations.

Companies that received a “B” grade from CDP increased their entitywide carbon emissions on average over that time. Notably, those in the financial, health care and other consumer-oriented sectors that did not experience the same level of regulatory pressure as greenhouse gas-intensive firms led the increase.

About a quarter of the S&P 500 companies that completed CDP’s annual climate change survey undertook assessments of their business impacts on the environment and integrated climate risk management into their business strategy. Yet entitywide emissions still increased.

Earlier research found similar results in the first decade of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Registry. Overall, it found that participating in the registry had no significant effect on the companies’ carbon emissions intensity, but that many of the companies, by being selective in what they reported, reported emissions reductions.

Another study, which focused on the power sector’s participation in CDP’s surveys, found an increase in carbon intensity.

‘A-List’ may not be exempt from greenwashing

Even companies that made CDP’s coveted “A-List” of climate leaders may not necessarily be free of greenwashing.

A company earns an “A” grade when it has met criteria of disclosure, awareness, management and leadership, including adopting global best practices, such as a science-based emissions target, regardless of whether these practices translate into improved environmental performance.

Because CDP grades companies based on sustainability outputs rather than outcomes, an “A-list” company could be “carbon neutral” when it counts only the facilities it owns and not the factories that make its products. Moreover, a company that has earned an “A” could commit to removing all emitted carbon but maintain partnerships with oil and gas companies to “generate new exploration opportunities”.

An illustration of buildings with symbols of sustainability above each.
Companies often define sustainability in different ways to suit their needs. Narongrit Doungmanee via Getty Images

Retail and apparel giants Walmart, Target and Nike – all in the “B” to “A-minus” range in recent years – offer an example of the challenge.

They regularly disclose their carbon management plans and emissions to CDP. But they are also part of the industry-led Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which has controversially portrayed petroleum-based synthetics as the most sustainable choice above natural fibers in the Higgs Index, a supply chain measurement tool that some clothing companies use to show a social and environmental footprint to consumers. Walmart has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission over products described as bamboo and “eco-friendly and sustainable” that were made from rayon, a semi-synthetic fiber made using toxic chemicals.

Designing a greenwashing-resistant disclosure program

I see three key ways for the SEC to design a climate disclosure program that is greenwashing-resistant.

First, misinformation or disinformation about ESG – environmental, social and governance factors – can be minimized if companies are given clear guidelines on what constitutes a low-carbon initiative.

Second, companies can be required to benchmark their emission targets based on historical emissions, undergo independent audits and report concrete changes.

It’s important to clearly define “carbon footprint” so these metrics are comparable among companies and over time. For example, there are different types of emissions: Scope 1 emissions are the direct emissions coming out of a firm’s chimneys and tailpipes. Scope 2 emissions are associated with the power a company consumes. Scope 3 is harder to measure – it includes emissions in a company’s supply chain and through the use of its products, such as gasoline used in cars. It reflects the complexity of the modern supply chain.

Finally, companies could be asked to disclose a fixed deadline for phasing out fossil fuel assets. This will better ensure that pledges translate into concrete actions in a timely and transparent manner.

Ultimately, investors and financial markets need accurate and verifiable information to assess their investments’ future risk and determine for themselves whether net-zero pledges made by companies are credible.

There is now momentum across the globe to hold companies accountable for their emissions and climate pledges. Disclosure rules have been introduced in the United Kingdom, European Union and New Zealand, and in Asian business hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong. When countries have similar policies, allowing for consistency, comparability and verifiability, there will be fewer opportunities for loopholes and exploitation, and I believe our climate and economy will be better for it.

Lily Hsueh, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Arizona State University

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

High water and prolonged flooding are changing the ecosystem of the Upper Mississippi River, a new report finds

Read the full story at Investigate Midwest.

The report shows increasingly wetter conditions in the Upper Mississippi over the past few decades, a trend that — spurred by climate change and land-use practices — looks likely to continue.

Alaska on fire: Thousands of lightning strikes and a warming climate put Alaska on pace for another historic fire season

A large tundra fire burned near St. Mary’s, Alaska, on June 13, 2022. BLM Alaska Fire Service/Incident Management Team/John Kern

by Rick Thoman, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Alaska is on pace for another historic wildfire year, with its fastest start to the fire season on record. By mid-June 2022, over 1 million acres had burned. By early July, that number was well over 2 million acres, more than twice the size of a typical Alaska fire season.

We asked Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, why Alaska is seeing so many large, intense fires this year and how the region’s fire season is changing.

Why is Alaska seeing so many fires this year?

There isn’t one simple answer.

Early in the season, southwest Alaska was one of the few areas in the state with below normal snowpack. Then we had a warm spring, and southwest Alaska dried out. An outbreak of thunderstorms there in late May and early June provided the spark.

Global warming has also increased the amount of fuels – the plants and trees that are available to burn. More fuel means more intense fires.

So, the weather factors – the warm spring, low snowpack and unusual thunderstorm activity – combined with multidecade warming that has allowed vegetation to grow in southwest Alaska, together fuel an active fire season.

Chart shows 2022 starting faster than any of the other large fire years on record and on pace with the 2015 fire season.
2022 is among Alaska’s busiest fire seasons in over 30 years of records. AICC

In Alaska’s interior, much of the area has been abnormally dry since late April. So, with the lightning storms, it’s no surprise that we’re now seeing many fires in the region. The interior had about 18,000 strikes over two days in early July.

Are lightning storms like this becoming more frequent?

That’s the million-dollar question.

It’s actually a two-part question: Are thunderstorms occurring more often now in places that used to rarely get them? I think the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Is the total number of strikes increasing? We don’t know, because the networks tracking lightning strikes today are far more sensitive than in the past.

Lightning strikes in Alaska July 2-4, 2022. AICC

Thunderstorms in Alaska are different from in most of the lower 48 in the sense that they tend to not be associated with weather fronts. They’re what meteorologists call air mass or pulse thunderstorms. They’re driven by two factors: the available moisture in the lower atmosphere and the temperature difference between the lower and middle atmospheres.

In a warming world, air can hold more moisture, so you can get intense storms. In interior Alaska, we’re getting thunderstorms more frequently. For example, the number of days with thunderstorms recorded at the Fairbanks Airport show a clear increase. Indigenous elders also agree that they’re seeing thunderstorms more often.

You mentioned hotter fires. How are wildfires changing?

Wildfire is part of the natural ecosystem in the Boreal north, but the fires we’re getting now are not the same as the fires that were burning 150 years ago.

More fuel, more lightning strikes, higher temperatures, lower humidity – they combine to fuel fires that burn hotter and burn deeper into the ground, so rather than just scorching the trees and burning the undergrowth, they’re consuming everything, and you’re left with this moonscape of ash.

Spruce trees that rely on fire to burst open their cones can’t reproduce when the fire turns those cones to ash. People who have been out in the field fighting fire for decades say they’re amazed at the amount of destruction they see now.

Firefighters in tall grass silhouetted by flames in the trees beyond.
Fire crews walk through tall vegetation as they conduct defensive burning against a large complex of fires near Lime Village, Alaska. The group of fires totaled more than 780,000 acres on July 5, 2022. Bryan Quimby/Alaska Incident Management Team

So while fire has been natural here for tens of thousands of years, the fire situation has changed. The frequency of million-acre fires in Alaska has doubled since before 1990.

What impact are these fires having on the population?

The most common impact on humans is smoke.

Most wildfires in Alaska aren’t burning through heavily populated areas, though that does happen. When you’re burning 2 million acres, you’re burning a lot of trees, and so you’re putting a lot of smoke into the air, and it travels long distances.

In early July, we saw explosive wildfire activity north of Lake Iliamna in southwest Alaska. The winds were blowing from the southeast then, and dense smoke was transported hundreds of miles. In Nome, 400 miles away, the air quality index at the hospital exceeded 600 parts per million for PM2.5, fine particulate matter that can trigger asthma and harm the lungs. Anything over 150 ppm is unhealthy, and over 400 ppm is considered hazardous.

Fires burning on June 10, 2022, seen from a satellite. NASA Earth Observatory
A close-up view shows where people were evacuated near one of the region’s largest tundra fires on record. NASA Earth Observatory

There are other risks. When fires threaten rural Alaska communities, as one did near St. Mary’s in June 2022, evacuating can mean flying people out.

Worsening fire seasons also put pressure on firefighting resources everywhere. Firefighting is expensive, and Alaska counts on fire crews, planes and equipment from the lower 48 states and other countries. In the past, when Alaska had a big fire season, crews would come up from the lower 48 because their fire season was typically much later. Now, wildfire season there is all year, and there are fewer movable resources available.

Rick Thoman, Alaska Climate Specialist, University of Alaska Fairbanks

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

Major construction firms team up to get the carbon out of concrete

Read the full story at Canary Media.

The Climate Group’s ConcreteZero initiative will set standards and create markets for low-carbon concrete. Experts say its early goals are well within reach.

Worldwide carbon capture, utilization, and storage industry expected to reach $9.4B by 2027

Read the full story from Environment + Energy Leader.

The Global Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Market is estimated to be $2.84 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $9.43 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 27.14%. That’s according to a new report by ResearchandMarkets.com.

EPA research improves air quality information for the public on the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Air sensors, more portable and easier to use than conventional regulatory air monitors, have become increasingly popular for measuring air pollution across the United States, particularly during wildfires. Researchers and communities have used air sensors to fill gaps in understanding local air quality. However, these sensors can often incorrectly estimate pollutant levels compared to regulatory-grade monitors. EPA researchers want to make it easier to compare the data from air sensors with data from highly accurate monitors. To do this, they have collocated, or placed sensors side-by-side with accurate regulatory monitors, in several locations throughout the country.

One widely used sensor type, the PurpleAir, was tested at more than 70 locations throughout the United States by EPA researchers and more than 30 state, local, and tribal air agency partners. While there are several options for air sensors on the market, the popularity of PurpleAir sensors meant the researchers could tap into a widespread sensor network spanning the country. Using this data, EPA researchers developed a mathematical equation, called a “correction equation,” to adjust the air sensor data, making the making the data more accurate and comparable to the regulatory network.