Haskell Indian Nations University receives $20 million National Science Foundation research award for Indigenous science hub project

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland today announced that Haskell Indian Nations University, a Bureau of Indian Education-operated Tribal University in Lawrence, Kansas, is the recipient of a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation for an Indigenous science hub project. Funded under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the award is for five years and is the largest research award ever granted by the NSF to a Tribal college or university.

The project will create The Large Scale CoPe: Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub, a space for the convergence of disciplines and epistemologies where Indigenous knowledge-holders from diverse coastal regions will work with university-trained social, ecosystem and physical Earth system scientists and students on transformative research to address coastal hazards in the contexts of their communities.

“The Rising Voices, Changing Coasts hub to be located at Haskell Indian Nations University is a tremendous step forward in supporting Tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers to collaborate on how Indigenous people in coastal areas can build resiliency to the dynamic forces resulting from climate change.”

The Rising Voices, Changing Coasts hub’s goals are to improve modeling and prediction of coastal processes to support decision-making by Indigenous communities, develop a framework for cross-cultural collaboration that can be adopted in the future, train the next generation of Indigenous researchers, and increase the infrastructure at Haskell needed to support future large research projects.

The hub will focus on place-based research in four regions: Alaska (Arctic), Louisiana (Gulf of Mexico), Hawai‘i (Pacific Islands), and Puerto Rico (Caribbean Islands). It will combine Indigenous knowledge, modeling capabilities, archeological records, geographic information system techniques, socio-economic analysis and hazards research. Together, these data, transdisciplinary analysis and convergent findings will enhance fundamental understanding of the interconnected physical, cultural, social and economic processes that result in coastal hazards and climate resilience opportunities, and increase the accuracy, relevance and usability of model predictions on multi-decadal timescales.

The Haskell Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit serving the university, secured the project’s funding. “This award is wonderful and critically important today,” said Haskell Foundation Director Aaron Hove. “It cements Haskell’s leadership role in Indigenous Climate Change research and demonstrates what a small institution can accomplish when it builds relationships with internationally known research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scripps Research Institute and large research universities.”

“This research hub is a significant part of the growing recognition that traditional ecological knowledges and Indigenous knowledges should be a part of the science that is being done today regarding global climate change,” noted Dr. Daniel R. Wildcat, Haskell faculty member and the hub’s lead investigator. “It is a game changer for Indigenous peoples. We have been advocating for years that we need a seat at the table in scientific discussions regarding climate. I think the funding for this hub allows Indigenous knowledge holders to build their own table and invite leading academic trained scientists to take a seat.”

In addition to Haskell Indian Nations University, as the lead institution, partners in the hub are: NCAR and its Rising Voices Center for Indigenous and Earth Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group, and community partners in the four targeted regions.

Racial and ethnic disparities persist in NSF funding decisions

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

Over the past 2 decades, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has consistently funded White researchers at higher rates than researchers from other racial and ethnic groups, according to a new study that has not yet been peer-reviewed (OSF Preprints 2022, DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/xb57u).

The study also found that White principal investigators (PIs) have secured NSF funding at increasing rates since at least 1999, a finding that contrasts with a common sentiment among White researchers that they have had more difficulty acquiring funding over time, says Christine Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who led the work.

The energy transition runs into a ditch in rural Ohio

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Resistance to renewable energy is growing in America’s farm country, including in this Ohio village where a solar proposal has divided the community. Here’s how it looks to two families that used to be friends: the Scheins and the Barneses.

Who benefits from renewable energy subsidies? In Texas, it’s often fossil fuel companies that are fighting clean energy elsewhere

Texas is the No. 1 wind power producer in the U.S. Greg Smith/Corbis SABA via Getty Images

by Nathan Jensen, The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts and Isabella Steinhauer, The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts

Texas is known for fiercely promoting its oil and gas industries, but it’s also the No. 2 renewable energy producer in the country after California. In fact, more than a quarter of all the wind power produced in the United States in 2021 was generated in Texas.

These projects benefit from a lucrative state tax incentive program called Chapter 313. That incentive program expires on Dec. 31, 2022, and the rush of applications for wind and solar energy projects to secure incentives before the deadline is providing a rare window into a notoriously opaque industry.

By reviewing the applications and ownership documents, we were able to track who actually builds and owns a large portion of the nation’s renewable energy, when and how those assets change hands, and who ultimately benefits from the tax incentives.

The results might surprise you. The majority of utility-scale solar and wind energy projects in Texas aren’t owned by companies focused on renewable energy – they’re owned by energy companies or utilities that are better known for fossil fuels, including some that have aggressively opposed renewable energy and climate policies in other states and nationally.

The policy implications of these findings are complex. While these subsidies might lead some energy companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they also can allow energy companies to continue polluting from existing fossil fuel assets while collecting the subsidy benefits.

A subsidy program that saves companies billions

Chapter 313 limits how much companies have to pay in property taxes for schools if those companies build infrastructure and agree to create jobs. The Texas Legislature passed it in 2001 when a number of large companies, including Intel and Boeing, were considering Texas for an investment location.

Companies using this program can save billions of dollars in local property taxes. However, investigations have revealed high costs per job and minimal requirements for companies. The state’s school funding system also suffered.

The program wasn’t renewed, but companies that applied for the incentive by Aug. 1, 2022, could grandfather in their investments for 10 years of tax benefits. That led to the rush of applications, including for wind and solar projects.

Who’s proposing renewable energy projects?

We reviewed 191 wind and solar project applications filed in 2022. If built, these projects would almost double the number of renewable energy projects in Texas.

It is notoriously difficult to track the owners of renewable energy projects in the U.S., because most are structured as limited liability companies, or LLCs. However, the application for Texas incentives requires not only information on the owner, but also a signature of an individual representative of the owners. That provides a glimpse into the impact that subsidies can have and who benefits.

We found that just over a third – 69 out of 191 proposed projects – are owned by renewable energy companies, such as Danish company Ørsted and Recurrent Energy, owned by Canadian Solar.

Over half the proposals – 101 – were submitted by energy companies known more for oil and gas, or utilities with fossil fuel assets. This includes the renewable energy subsidiaries of oil supermajors such as Total and BP, and utility owners including EDF, AES and Engie, all of which are major global players.

Some project applications came from investment groups such as DeShaw Group, Cardinal Investment Group and Horus Capital. Apex Clean Energy, a renewable energy subsidiary of the major investment manager Ares Management, frequently showed up in applications.

New owners take over

The proposed projects provide a snapshot of the renewable energy projects’ developers – but what happens after these projects are built?

To figure that out, we also looked at all renewable energy projects completed in 2020 and 2021 that participated in the Chapter 313 incentive program.

To our surprise, almost half of the projects built in 2020 or 2021 had changed hands by 2022. Some were due to company acquisitions. Many other projects were sold.

This changed the composition of owners. While renewable energy companies owned roughly half the projects at the application stage, by 2022, two-thirds of the projects were owned by utilities and energy companies with fossil fuel assets.

The original developers may have benefited from the first year or so of the tax break, but the new owners are poised to reap the majority of the remaining years of the 10-year property tax incentive.

The most common pattern of sales was a renewable energy developer selling a project to an energy company or utility. For example, Duke Energy purchased a solar project originally owned by Recurrent Energy, and Alpin Sun sold a solar project to BP.

We found that ownership by self-described “venture capitalists” and other investors was rare before 2022. The lucrative and expiring incentive program likely led to a gold rush of applications, including by some companies with limited experience in renewable energy.

When renewable incentives become subsidies to fossil fuel companies

Many of the owners benefiting from these subsidies have parent companies with high carbon emissions and a history of fighting climate policies.

For example, the company with the most renewable energy projects subsidized under Chapter 313 from 2020 to 2022 is NextEra. NextEra is also the parent company of Florida Power and Light, a utility that has campaigned against rooftop solar in Florida and sued to block hydropower imports in Massachusetts. In Texas, however, NextEra lobbied for a continuation of Chapter 313 incentives.

Other major energy companies in the owner list include France’s Total Energy, BP, Duke Energy and Savion, which is owned by Shell.

The data suggests some possible tensions within green energy policy.

Environmentalists have long argued for federal and state subsidies for renewable energy as a means of combating climate change, including in the climate- and inflation-focused bill currently in Congress.

However, as our data analysis shows, the owners who benefit from renewable energy incentives can in some cases be the same fossil fuel companies that actively oppose a green energy transition. The results of a 2021 study, using data released by energy companies on earnings calls, also suggest that energy company investments in renewable energy projects are often simply diversification strategies – they aren’t replacing fossil fuels.

Our analysis is based on one program in Texas, but with the size of the Texas renewable energy sector, and the companies involved, it can offer insights for broader renewable energy policies.

Key to any subsidy program is clearly articulating the goals and tracking success in meeting them. If the goal is to reduce greenhouse as emissions, that means examining who is benefiting and determining if the subsidies are actually leading to a transition away from fossil fuels.

Our data begins to shine a light on the answer.

Nathan Jensen, Professor of Government, The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts and Isabella Steinhauer, Master of Public Affairs Candidate and Graduate Research Assistant, The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts

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

What is a flash flood? A civil engineer explains

A bridge and road submerged by floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Kentucky, July 28, 2022. Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images

by Janey Camp, Vanderbilt University

Flash flooding is a specific type of flooding that occurs in a short time frame after a precipitation event – generally less than six hours. It often is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall and happens in areas near rivers or lakes, but it also can happen in places with no water bodies nearby.

Flash floods happen in rural and urban areas, as in late July 2022 in St. Louis and eastern Kentucky. When more rainfall lands in an area than the ground can absorb, or it falls in areas with a lot of impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt that prevent the ground from absorbing the precipitation, the water has few places to go and can rise very quickly.

If an area has had recent rainfall, the soil may be saturated to capacity and unable to absorb any more water. Flooding can also occur after a drought, when soil is too dry and hardened to absorb the precipitation. Flash floods are common in desert landscapes after heavy rainfalls and in areas with shallow soil depths above solid bedrock that limits the soil’s ability to absorb rain.

Since water runs downhill, rainfall will seek the lowest point in a potential pathway. In urban areas, that’s often streets, parking lots and basements in low-lying zones. In rural areas with steep terrain, such as Appalachia, flash flooding can turn creeks and rivers into raging torrents.

A home security video shows floodwaters rising rapidly in Waverly, Tennessee, in August 2021.

Flash floods often catch people by surprise, even though weather forecasters and emergency personnel try to warn and prepare communities. These events can wash away cars and even move buildings off their foundations.

The best way to stay safe in a flash flood is to be aware of the danger and be ready to respond. Low-lying areas are at risk of flooding, whether it happens slowly or quickly and whether it’s an urban or rural setting.

It’s critical to know where to get up-to-date weather information for your area. And if you’re outdoors and encounter flooded spots, such as water-covered roadways, it is always safer to wait for the water to recede or turn back and find a safer route. Don’t attempt to cross it. Flood waters can be much faster and stronger than they appear – and therefore more dangerous.

Building for a wetter future

Engineers design stormwater control systems to limit the damage that rainfall can do. Culverts transfer water and help control where it flows, often directing it underneath roads and railways so that people and goods can continue to move safely. Stormwater containment ponds and detention basins hold water for release at a later time after flooding has ceased.

Many cities also are using green infrastructure systems, such as rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavement, to reduce flash flooding. Restoring wetlands along rivers and streams helps mitigate flooding as well.

Often the design standards and rules that we use to engineer these features are based on historic rainfall data for the location where we’re working. Engineers use that information to calculate how large a culvert, pond or other structure might need to be. We always build in some excess capacity to handle unusually large floods.

Now, however, many parts of the U.S. are experiencing more intense storm events that drop significant amounts of rainfall on an area in a very short time period. The recent St. Louis and Kentucky floods were both on a scale that statistically would be expected to occur in those areas once in 1,000 years.

With climate change, we expect this trend to continue, which means that planners and engineers will need to reconsider how to design and manage infrastructure in the future. But it’s hard to predict how frequent or intense future storm events will be at a given location. And while it’s extremely likely that there will be more intense storm events based upon climate projections, designing and building for the worst-case situation is not cost effective when there are other competing demands for funding.

Right now, engineers, hydrologists and others are working to understand how best to plan for the future, including modeling flood events and development trends, so that we can help communities make themselves more resilient. That will require more, updated data and design standards that better adapt to anticipated future conditions.

Janey Camp, Research Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University

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

Food manufacturers can recycle equipment destined for landfill or incineration

Read the full story at Food Manufacture.

A new range of Zero Waste Boxes has been launched allowing food manufacturers to recycle equipment such as hair nets and gloves that would be destined for landfill or incineration.

How can we clean up PFAS, the ‘forever chemicals’?

Read the full story at Fast Company.

They last forever, so they’re going to require some out-there ideas to get rid of—like electrocuting microbes or chemical-attracting bubbles.

8 must-read design books this summer

Read the full story at Fast Company.

From fashion wisdom to a fiery analysis of the plastics industry, there’s something in here for anyone interested in design.

6 novels to read if you’re a fan of climate tech fiction

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Happy Friday! How often do you sit in bed and think, “I wish I had a book to read that focuses on climate tech”? More times than you can count? Well, color me surprised. Me, too! And then, after that first thought, do you search for a climate tech-specific novel and discover that they are few and far between? Me too! This problem is the bane of my existence. 

So today, I’ve decided to throw us all a genetically engineered/3-D printed bone and offer a list of books about climate tech, or that are climate tech adjacent. (Cut me a break, it’s a super-specific topic.) If you came for climate tech, you’ll like this list. Disclaimer: I have not read all of these books. They have been meticulously cultivated from Goodreads, my library and the GreenBiz Group Slack group. Enjoy!

EPA’s Spring 2022 Regulatory Agenda updates actions for PFAS Strategic Roadmap

Read the full story at JD Supra.

On October 18, 2021, EPA announced EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap (“Roadmap”) which outlines EPA’s comprehensive agency wide approach for addressing PFAS. The Roadmap contains timelines for EPA to take actions to address PFAS. A critical component of the Roadmap is the development of new regulations within existing EPA programs to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of PFAS.

On June 21, 2022, EPA’s Spring Regulatory Agenda was released which contains several important PFAS rules for the implementation of the Roadmap. The regulations are from the Office Water, Office of Land and Emergency Management and Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. While the Office of Air and Radiation is included in the Roadmap, there are no pending proposed or final stage regulations.