The latest find as water levels fall: Dinosaur tracks in Texas

Read the full story in the New York Times.

As a punishing drought grips parts of the world this summer, bodies of water have been drying up, exposing submerged World War II relics in Europe, several sets of human remains at Lake Mead outside Las Vegas, and even an entire village in Spain.

The latest find as water levels fall: dinosaur tracks in Texas.

Severe drought conditions at Dinosaur Valley State Park, about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth, exposed dinosaur tracks from around 113 million years ago that were previously hidden underneath the Paluxy River, according to Stephanie Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The tracks, which were discovered this month, belong to Acrocanthosaurus, which are theropods, or bipedal dinosaurs with three toes and claws on each limb.

The dinosaur would have stood 15 feet tall and weighed close to seven tons as an adult. They would have left their tracks in sediment that hardened into what is now limestone, researchers say.

Proposed FERC rules aim to accelerate grid decarbonization

Listen to the podcast and read the transcript from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.

The United States’ electricity regulator has proposed two major electricity market reforms that could speed the pace of renewable energy development.

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of proposed clean energy projects in the United States. In fact, the amount of clean energy that’s waiting in line to connect to the nation’s electric grid is greater than the total installed generating capacity on the grid today. 

The prospect of so much clean energy in waiting is a bright spot in the larger effort to decarbonize and address climate change. Yet proposed clean energy, and actual clean energy, are two very different things, and the fact is that a number of policy barriers stand in the way of turning so many clean energy proposals into reality. 

Shelley Welton, a Presidential Distinguished Professor of Law and Energy Policy with the Kleinman Center, discusses proposed policy reforms from the nation’s electricity regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that aim to remove these barriers to the greening of the electric grid. Welton looks at rules that seek to speed the process for connecting clean energy to the grid, and ensure that the grid is ready to handle all that new clean power. She also discusses the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that narrows the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and implications the ruling might have for the FERC’s ability to regulate on issues relating to climate change.   

The Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t get around the Supreme Court’s climate ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, but it does strengthen EPA’s future abilities

The Supreme Court limited the EPA’s authority to regulate power plant emissions. Al Drago/Getty Images

by Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School

The new Inflation Reduction Act is being justly celebrated as the most significant piece of federal legislation to address the climate crisis to date. It includes about US$370 billion in incentives for everything from solar panels to electric vehicles.

But there’s some confusion around what it allows the Environmental Protection Agency to do.

Comments by politicians on both sides of the aisle have suggested that the new law could upend a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the court’s conservative majority shackled the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The new law does amend the Clean Air Act – the nation’s primary air quality law – to define several greenhouse gases as air pollutants. So it will help the EPA as it plans future regulations. But it doesn’t specifically grant the EPA new authority to regulate power plants.

So, as groundbreaking as it is, the Inflation Reduction Act does not change the impact of the Supreme Court’s determination in West Virginia v. EPA that the EPA lacks the authority to require a systematic shift to cleaner sources of electricity generation.

Why the ruling remains a roadblock for the EPA

The court case involved the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a policy that would have required power generators to use cleaner forms of electricity but never went into effect.

Writing for the court in West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the EPA was asserting broad new authority under a little-used provision of the Clean Air Act without explicitly being granted the authority to do so by Congress.

In what has become known as the “major questions doctrine,” the court has adopted a more stringent approach to how it interprets laws that gives much less deference to the views of experts at the federal agencies charged with implementing complex, dynamic regulatory programs designed to protect public health and safety. That accurately describes the challenge of dealing with carbon pollution and the profound impacts it is already having throughout the world.

Roberts made clear that Congress could choose to pass more detailed legislation granting EPA the authority at the heart of the case if it wished.

Explaining the ruling in West Virginia v. EPA.

The Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act to add seven specific new programs to reduce greenhouse gases and provide funding to the states to develop their own plans. Taken together, these provisions go a long way to address Roberts’ concern that Congress has not spoken plainly enough about EPA’s authority to tackle climate change.

But it falls short of granting EPA the authority to revive the generation shifting approach of the Clean Power Plan.

To get the bill through the sharply divided Congress, the Senate’s Democratic majority used a process called budget reconciliation. That process allows for legislation to pass with only a simple majority of the vote. But legislation passed that way must be closely tied to spending, revenue and the federal debt limit – it cannot set broad national policy.

What the new law does do for EPA’s authority

While the Inflation Reduction Act cannot undo what the Supreme Court has done, it does strengthen EPA’s ability going forward to take stronger actions under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases.

The act not only provides substantial increases in EPA’s budget across a wide range of air pollution programs, it also, for the first time, explicitly defines greenhouse gases to include the six specific gases that the EPA determined in 2009 pose a risk to public health and welfare. That 2009 “endangerment finding” was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2014 case Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA.

As Sen. Tom Carper, one of the principal architects of the Inflation Reduction Act, said, “The language makes pretty clear that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act.”

Of course, nothing in life or litigation is certain.

Challenges to EPA’s forthcoming rules replacing the Clean Power Plan, regulating methane emissions from oil and gas operations, tightening tailpipe emission and fuel economy standards, and so on can be expected. But at least now there is clear legislative direction from Congress for the EPA to take bold action needed to meet the profound challenge of climate change and transition to a sustainable economy.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School

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

DOE issues Request for Information on integration of onsite clean energy technologies in the industrial sector

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) that seeks input on the Barriers and Pathways to Integrating Onsite Clean Energy Technologies in the Industrial Sector. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is very interested in understanding how DOE can support the deployment of these critical decarbonization technologies.

Integration of onsite clean energy technologies will play a significant role in achieving President Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. These technologies include—but are not limited to—solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind power, renewable fuels, geothermal, battery storage, and thermal storage.

The industrial sector is responsible for approximately 30% of energy-related GHG emissions, and energy use in this sector is projected to increase by 31% over the next 25 years. Accordingly, DOE’s industrial partners are incorporating onsite clean energy technologies into their corporate sustainability strategies to reduce GHG emissions and achieve renewable energy targets.

AMO is exploring ways to support these efforts. This RFI welcomes input on barriers and opportunities to integrate onsite clean energy and storage systems into the industrial sector. In particular, AMO would like feedback on:

  1. The current state of onsite clean energy technology use in the industrial sector
  2. Opportunities and barriers for onsite clean energy technology deployment
  3. Existing technical assistance and resources available for onsite clean energy projects
  4. Pathways to accelerate the adoption of onsite clean energy technologies
  5. Workforce development opportunities and equity considerations for programmatic planning

Feedback is welcome from end-users of onsite systems for details on the challenges they face, as well as from academia, research laboratories, state and local policymakers, utilities, regulators, government agencies, community-based organizations, and more.

Read the RFI and learn how to submit your feedback. Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to onsiteenergy@ee.doe.gov no later than 5:00PM (ET) on September 23, 2022.

Webinar: Trick or Trash: Fostering Circular Economy Participation through Education

Sept. 15, 2022, noon-1 pm
Register here.

It is estimated that each year 600 million pounds of candy are consumed in the United States during the Halloween season. The materials used for candy packaging are notoriously difficult to recycle, with the vast majority ending up in landfills. That’s why Rubicon created Trick or Trash™, an educational program designed to help reduce the waste that accumulates every year around Halloween. Candy wrapper recycling boxes are provided free of charge to schools, universities, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations, providing communities with a fun and easy way to help make Halloween a bit more sustainable!

Each Trick or Trash box helps keep hundreds of candy wrappers out of landfills. But it is the recycling education tied to Trick or Trash—provided by teachers to their students, business owners to their staff and customers, and community leaders to their members—that inspires lifelong commitments to fostering the circular economy and a more sustainable world.

On this webcast you will hear from a panel of Trick or Trash partners that make this program a reality in all 50 states. Rubicon, g2 revolution, and the National Wildlife Federation will discuss their learnings from the front lines of sustainability education: from implementing a program at scale to collaborating across diverse networks and audiences to driving tangible behavior change. The panelists will share their unique insights into “what works” for sustainability education and their ideas for inspiring communities to contribute to and to advocate for a circular economy future.

Moderator:

  • Suz Okie, Director of Design Strategy & Senior Analyst, Circular Economy, GreenBiz Group

Speakers:

  • Katie Kinnear, Director of Engagement Strategy, Rubicon
  • Kristy Jones, Director, Higher Education Programs, National Wildlife Federation
  • Rachael Kroll, National Accounts Manager, g2 revolution LLC

If you can’t tune in live, please register and GreenBiz will email you a link to access the webcast recording and resources, available to you on-demand after the live webcast.

Growing the impacts of climate-smart agriculture

Read the full story from the National Academies.

Roughly 11 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — mostly nitrous oxide and methane — can be traced to the nation’s agricultural sector.

A range of ‘climate-smart’ farming practices have the potential to lower that impact, and also help sequester carbon dioxide emitted by other parts of the economy. For example, planting cover crops in between plantings of cash crops can absorb CO2 into the soil, among other benefits. However, cover crops and other climate-smart practices aren’t yet the norm.

“I’m seeing more and more farmers getting on board,” said Mitchell Hora, a seventh-generation Iowa farmer, and founder and CEO of Continuum Ag. “The issue is, in the first couple years, it’s really tough. You’re changing your practices, but you’re changing your mindset as well.”

Hora was among the panelists at a recent webinar hosted by the National Academies, Scientific American, and Nature Portfolio that explored how to increase the use of climate-smart agricultural practices. Moderated by Scientific American’s Laura Helmuth and Andrea Thompson, the event was part of the annual Science on the Hill series of conversations, which connects policymakers with experts from the scientific community.

So you’re the first sustainability hire. Now what?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

You’ve been offered your dream job tackling sustainability issues for a company that is in the nascent stages of embedding sustainability into its operations and culture. But you’re starting from the ground up. No team. Just you. What’s the roadmap to success? With a master of environmental management degree from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, concentrating on business and the environment, I have spent the past five years focusing on corporate social responsibility objectives across multiple industries. Food manufacturing and distribution is my current focus; however, I also have worked across various sectors in the renewables industry and sustainability consulting.

Sustainability often means something different to each company. The definition of sustainability is heavily affected by various key stakeholders, inclusive of customers and investors. Here’s a foundational guide to leveraging your sustainability know-how and create real change that is digestible, presentable, and advantageous for your key customers — your new colleagues.

The Superfund Next Door: Toxins and Mistrust in Atlanta

Aydali Campa at Inside Climate News recently wrote a three-part series on the neighborhood impact of a Superfund site cleanup effort on Atlanta’s Westside.

In Atlanta, work on a new EPA Superfund site leaves Black neighborhoods wary. fearing gentrification
The EPA wants to test soil for lead contamination in two historically Black neighborhoods on Atlanta’s west side. Residents, eyeing the creep of gentrification, worry that the cleanup is part of an effort to push them out.

A fear of gentrification turns clearing lead contamination on Atlanta’s Westside into a ‘two-edged sword’ for residents
The EPA says it is working hard to allay communities fears as it works to clean up 2,000 properties on a new Superfund site. But suspicions run deep in a city with a history of displacing Black communities in the name of urban redevelopment.

Progress in baby steps: Westside Atlanta lead cleanup slowly earns trust with help from local institutions
A historic church in Atlanta’s Vine City community is helping build residents’ trust and bring attention to the environmental health concerns in the area. The historically Black neighborhood is part of a new Superfund site contaminated with lead-tainted soil.

Upcycling gains traction as key sustainability initiative

Read the full story at The Food Institute.

Consumers consistently rank sustainability as a top motivator for dining and shopping decisions, and upcycled ingredients are leading the way.

Let’s start the conversation: Farm and food collaboration key to sustainability

Read the full story at Food Industry Executive.

While sustainability was initially synonymous with the environment, expectations have expanded to encompass a diverse set of attributes, such as health and wellness, animal welfare, worker treatment, food waste, and packaging, amongst others. Food companies often are forced to make decisions regarding a single ingredient, process or practice – like non-GMO, pesticide-free or grass-fed, for example – without understanding the interconnected attributes and cascading impact on the entire chain.