Plans for a carbon dioxide pipeline in Illinois have been temporarily halted. Navigator Heartland Greenway LLC has voluntarily withdrawn its Application for a Certificate of Authority to construct the pipeline that would cross through 13 Illinois counties. Navigator said it plans to refile a new application with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) next month, including plans for an additional route.
The Washington-based Vinyl Institute (VI), a U.S. trade association representing manufacturers of vinyl, has announced the formation of the Viability program. VI says this is a first-of-its-kind, industrywide recycling grant program aimed at accelerating postconsumer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) recycling in the country.
According to a news release from VI, the grant program will make available up to $1 million in funds each year for the next three years from four PVC resin manufacturers in the U.S.: Formosa Plastics, based in New Jersey, and Oxy, Shintech and Westlake, all based in Houston.
On January 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first opportunities for public input on new programs focused on lower carbon construction materials made possible by a $350 million investment from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The Agency will hold three public webinars and will accept written feedback on establishing new grant and technical assistance programs, and a carbon labeling program for construction materials with substantially lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions.
EPA’s new programs will provide grants, technical assistance, and tools to help states and Tribal Nations, manufacturers, institutional buyers, real estate developers, builders, and others measure, report, and substantially lower the levels of embodied carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use, and disposal of construction materials and products. These new programs, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, will build upon EPA’s work in the ENERGY STAR Industrial Program and the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program, among others, to protect human health and the planet.
EPA will hold three public engagement webinars to solicit feedback from experts and stakeholders, including institutional buyers, developers, builders, manufacturers, and representatives from states, Tribal Nations, non-profit organizations, trade associations, and others.
March 2, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST: Reducing Embodied Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Construction Materials Prioritization and Environmental Data Improvement – This webinar will ask for feedback on how to prioritize construction materials and products and how to improve data on embodied greenhouse gas emissions through measurement, standardization, transparency and reporting criteria. Register here.
March 22, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST: Reducing Embodied Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Grants and Technical Assistance for Environmental Product Declarations – This webinar will ask for feedback on new grant and technical assistance programs to help businesses calculate and report the greenhouse gas emissions data for construction materials and products through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Register here.
April 19, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST: Reducing Embodied Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Carbon Labeling – This webinar will ask for feedback on how EPA could develop a carbon labeling program for construction materials and products with substantially lower embodied greenhouse gas emissions. Register here.
In addition, EPA will issue a Request for Information to solicit written comments on the design of these new programs. Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, comments on any of the questions outlined should be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2022-0924 on Regulations.gov by May 1, 2023. The Agency also published an interim determination under Inflation Reduction Act Sections 60503 and 60506 that was provided in December 2022 to the Department of Transportation and the General Services Administration on their Inflation Reduction Act funded procurement of construction materials and products with substantially lower embodied greenhouse gas emissions.
EPA will use the public input received during the webinars and in writing to guide the development and implementation of its programs.
These actions support President Biden’s Buy Clean Initiative, which leverages the Federal Government’s power as the largest purchaser in the world to advance low-carbon construction materials across its procurement and funded infrastructure projects.
In August 2022, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the Inflation Reduction Act into law, creating the largest investment to combat the climate crisis in U.S. history. The Inflation Reduction Act will bolster U.S. energy security, help families save money on energy costs and prescription drugs, reduce the deficit, and create good-paying jobs. EPA received $41.5 billion in appropriations to develop and support 24 new and existing programs that monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, protect health and advance environmental justice.
Food manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, farmers, and schools now have reason to let go of a fear many of them have long harbored: a fear of litigation if they donate their surplus food. The Food Donation Improvement Act (FDIA), signed into law December 2022, amends the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which was intended to encourage food donation, but had some glitches. A big one was ambiguous language explaining the rules around donation.
The FDIA clarifies and expands liability protections outlined in Emerson; perhaps the most monumental reform is that it lays a more direct path for qualified entities to give away good food they would otherwise throw out. Now they can donate directly to people in need in their communities when prior they had to arrange to get it to nonprofits that distribute it.
FDIA had full bipartisan support, passing unanimously and as a standalone bill, a little over a year after its introduction.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new guidelines for the amount of lead that can be in processed food for babies and small children under the age of 2, a move the agency says would result in significant reductions in the exposure to the toxic metal.
The new guidance includes a limit of 10 parts per billion of lead in fruits, some vegetables and yogurts and 20 parts per billion in root vegetables and dry cereals. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said the new standards could result in a 24 percent to 27 percent reduction in exposure to lead from the foods.
California has seen so much rain over the past few weeks that farm fields are inundated and normally dry creeks and drainage ditches have become torrents of water racing toward the ocean. Yet, most of the state remains in drought.
All that runoff in the middle of a drought begs the question — why can’t more rainwater be collected and stored for the long, dry spring and summer when it’s needed?
As a hydrogeologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I’m interested in what can be done to collect runoff from storms like this on a large scale. There are two primary sources of large-scale water storage that could help make a dent in the drought: holding that water behind dams and putting it in the ground.
Why isn’t California capturing more runoff now?
When California gets storms like the atmospheric rivers that hit in December 2022 and January 2023, water managers around the state probably shake their heads and ask why they can’t hold on to more of that water. The reality is, it’s a complicated issue.
California has big dams and reservoirs that can store large volumes of water, but they tend to be in the mountains. And once they’re near capacity, water has to be released to be ready for the next storm. Unless there’s another reservoir downstream, a lot of that water is going out to the ocean.
In more populated areas, one of the reasons storm water runoff isn’t automatically collected for use on a large scale is because the first runoff from roads is often contaminated. Flooding can also cause septic system overflows. So, that water would have to be treated.
You might say, well, the captured water doesn’t have to be drinking water, we could just use it on golf courses. But then you would need a place to store the water, and you would need a way to distribute it, with separate pipes and pumps, because you can’t put it in the same pipes as drinking water.
Putting water in the ground
There’s another option, and that’s to put it in the ground, where it could help to replenish groundwater supplies.
Managed recharge has been used for decades in many areas to actively replenish groundwater supplies. But the techniques have been gaining more attention lately as wells run dry amid the long-running drought. Local agencies have proposed more than 340 recharge projects in California, and the state estimates those could recharge an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water a year on average if all were built.
One method being discussed by the state Department of Water Resources and others is Flood-MAR, or flood-managed aquifer recharge. During big flows in rivers, water managers could potentially divert some of that flow onto large parts of the landscape and inundate thousands of acres to recharge the aquifers below. The concept is to flood the land in winter and then farm in summer.
Flood-MAR is promising, provided we can find people who are willing to inundate their land and can secure water rights. In addition, not every part of the landscape is prepared to take that water.
You could inundate 1,000 acres on a ranch, and a lot of it might stay flooded for days or weeks. Depending on how quickly that water soaks in, some crops will be OK, but other crops could be harmed. There are also concerns about creating habitat that encourages pests or risks food safety.
Another challenge is that most of the big river flows are in the northern part of the state, and many of the areas experiencing the worst groundwater deficits are in central and southern California. To get that excess water to the places that need it requires transport and distribution, which can be complex and expensive.
The idea is to siphon off some of that runoff and divert it to infiltration basins, occupying a few acres, where the water can pool and percolate into the ground. That might be on agricultural land or open space with the right soil conditions. We look for coarse soils that make it easier for water to percolate through gaps between grains. But much of the landscape is covered or underlain by finer soils that don’t allow rapid infiltration, so careful site selection is important.
One program in the Pajaro Valley encourages landowners to participate in recharge projects by giving them a rebate on the fee they pay for water use through a “recharge net metering” mechanism.
We did a cost-benefit analysis of this approach and found that even when you add in all the capital costs for construction and hauling away some soil, the costs are competitive with finding alternative supplies of water, and it is cheaper than desalination or water recycling.
Is the rain enough to end the drought?
It’s going to take many methods and several wet years to make up for the region’s long period of low rainfall. One storm certainly doesn’t do it, and even one wet year doesn’t do it.
For basins that are dependent on groundwater, the recharge process takes years. If this is the last rainstorm of this season, a month from now we could be in trouble again.
With multiple forces acting against global food security, researchers in Singapore have been innovating. Read their solutions that help combat food waste and obesity, while improving health and sustainable food production.
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