Biden ‘EV revolution’ delayed as utilities, carmakers await critical IRS guidance on Inflation Reduction Act

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The Inflation Reduction Act’s EV ecosystem rules need clarity for customers, charger builders and global supply chain providers, analysts said.

Innovation takes center stage at Sustainability in Packaging conference

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Speakers came at sustainability from all angles, including equipment digitization and debating the nagging question of whether consumers will pay more for products containing PCR.

Toxic chemical releases in 2021 remained below pre-pandemic levels sccording to new Toxics Release Inventory data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its 2021 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, which shows that environmental releases of TRI chemicals from facilities covered by the program remained below pre-pandemic levels and releases in 2021 are 10% lower than 2012 releases, even with an 8% increase from 2020 to 2021. Additionally, in 2021, facilities managed 89% of their TRI chemical waste through preferred practices such as recycling, energy recovery and treatment, while reporting that they released 11% of their TRI chemical waste into the environment.

The 2021 TRI National Analysis summarizes TRI chemical waste management activities, including releases, that occurred during calendar year 2021. More than 21,000 facilities submitted reports on 531 chemicals requiring TRI reporting that they released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. EPA, states and Tribes receive TRI data from facilities in sectors such as manufacturing, mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste management.

“It’s absolutely essential that people have access to information about the chemicals being used in their communities. By making this information publicly available, EPA is advancing its commitment to reduce pollution and give communities tools to help them make better informed decisions to protect people and the planet.”

Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff.

The 2021 Analysis features updated visualizations and analytical tools to make data more useful and accessible to communities, including the option to view data by region and watershed. EPA has also updated demographic information in the “Where You Live” mapping tool and in the Chemical Profiles section.

Readers can view facility locations with overlayed demographic data to identify potential exposure to TRI chemical releases in disadvantaged communities. Community groups, policymakers, and other stakeholders can use this data, along with other environmental data, to better understand which communities may experience a disproportionate pollution burden and take action at the local level.

In addition, this year the TRI National Analysis Sector Profiles highlights the plastic products manufacturing sector alongside the standard profiles for electric utilities, chemical manufacturing, federal facilities, and metal mining. This allows readers to learn about releases and waste management of TRI chemicals, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, from facilities in these sectors.

EPA is holding a public webinar on March 28, 2023, to give an overview of the 2021 TRI National Analysis. Register for the webinar.

Notable Trend in 2021

The National Analysis shows a 24% increase in the number of new pollution reduction activities facilities initiated from 2020 to 2021 — a strong rebound after the decrease seen from 2019 to 2020. These activities include facilities implementing strategies like replacing TRI chemicals with less hazardous alternatives or reducing the amount of scrap they produce. Through both existing programs and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA offers grant opportunities to state and Tribal technical assistance providers to help prevent pollution.

Industry professionals can also look at TRI reporting on pollution prevention to learn about best practices implemented at facilities.

Ethylene Oxide Reporting

TRI reporting also shows a 45% decrease in ethylene oxide releases from 2012 to 2021, driven by decreased air emissions. Although there was a 15% increase in releases compared to 2020, quantities of ethylene oxide released in 2021 are lower than pre-pandemic quantities from 2019. EPA also expanded reporting requirements for ethylene oxide and other chemicals to include additional facilities. Reporting from these facilities will appear for the first time in next year’s National Analyses.

PFAS Reporting

For the second time, the TRI National Analysis includes reporting on perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) following the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. For Reporting Year 2021, 176 PFAS were reportable to TRI. Facilities reported managing 1.3 million pounds of these chemicals as waste. This is an increase from the 800,000 pounds in 2020 and is largely due to reporting on one PFAS, perfluorooctyl iodide, which EPA began requiring facilities to report in 2021. Most of the facilities that manage PFAS operate in the chemical manufacturing and hazardous waste management sectors. The hazardous waste management sector accounted for roughly 80% of the 108,334 pounds of PFAS released into the environment, primarily to regulated landfills.

Last December, EPA proposed a rule that would improve reporting on PFAS to TRI by eliminating an exemption that allows facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals are used in small, or de minimis, concentrations. Because PFAS are used at low concentrations in many products, this rule would ensure covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.

Creating Resilient Water Utilities (CRWU)

U.S. EPA’s CRWU initiative provides drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater (water sector) utilities with practical tools, training, and technical assistance needed to increase resilience to climate change. CRWU assists water sector utilities and stakeholders by promoting a clear understanding of climate change and helps to identify potential long-term adaptation options for decision-making related to implementation and infrastructure financing.

Risk assessment tools include:

The site also features:

New York eyes floating technology innovations as it aims to expand offshore wind to deeper waters

Read the full story from Utility Dive.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is working on a second offshore wind master plan focusing on development in deeper waters, and plans to release a blueprint in the spring, an official said.

Georges Sassine, NYSERDA’s vice president for large-scale renewables, announced during a session of a recent Floating Offshore Wind Shot summit that the agency is “in the midst of kickstarting” the plan and encouraging innovation in the floating wind space.

NYSERDA said it will study the risks and benefits of launching offshore wind in deeper waters and release a synthesis of those studies around 2025.

Study forecasts tile drainage and crop rotation changes for nitrogen loss

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Midwestern agriculture contributes the vast majority of nitrogen in the Gulf of Mexico, causing an oxygen-starved hypoxic zone and challenging coastal economies. State and federal policies have tried for decades to provide solutions and incentives, but the hypoxic zone keeps coming back. A recent study from the University of Illinois offers a new way to understand Midwestern nitrogen dynamics and forecasts future nitrogen loads under various management scenarios across the region. 

Relay Race, Not Arms Race: Clean Energy Manufacturing Implications of the IRA for the US and EU

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The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the US has elicited two competing reactions from policymakers in Europe. European officials are relieved that with the passage of the IRA, the US has a credible pathway to meet its 2030 emission reduction target under the Paris Agreement, provided it is paired with federal climate regulations and additional state-level climate action. At the same time, many in Europe are concerned that incentives for US clean energy manufacturing investment in the IRA could harm European industrial competitiveness. In response, the European Commission has proposed a Green Deal Industrial Plan to further support clean energy manufacturing on the continent. This has generated headlines warning of a “subsidies arms race” between allies.

In this note, we unpack the IRA and what it means for European industry. We find that while the IRA includes meaningful new incentives for the US clean energy industry, the share of IRA spending that supports US manufacturing directly at the expense of European industry is considerably lower than recent reporting on the transatlantic clean energy rift might suggest. The primary driver from the IRA shaping the clean energy manufacturing landscape is likely to be the overall accelerated pace of clean energy deployment in the US. This will expand clean energy manufacturing in the US, but will also create opportunities for European companies and lower the cost of clean energy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Can corporate greenwashing be proven empirically? Maybe.

Read the full story in Anthropocene Magazine.

In a first-of-its-kind global assessment, researchers found that having a sustainability board or an official climate-change initiative has little effect or even worsens a company’s carbon emissions.

Nanoparticles self-assemble to harvest solar energy

Read the full story from the American Institute of Physics.

Solar-thermal technology is a promising environmentally friendly energy harvesting method with a potential role to play in solving the fossil fuel energy crisis.

The technology transforms sunlight into thermal energy, but it’s challenging to suppress energy dissipation while maintaining high absorption. Existing solar energy harvesters that rely on micro- or nanoengineering don’t have sufficient scalability and flexibility, and will require a novel strategy for high-performance solar light capture while simultaneously simplifying fabrication and reducing costs.

In APL Photonics, from AIP Publishing, researchers from Harbin University, Zhejiang University, Changchun Institute of Optics, and the National University of Singapore designed a solar harvester with enhanced energy conversion capabilities.

Researcher discovers threshold that triggers drought response in forests

Read the full story from the University of Missouri.

Missouri is home to an array of natural resources, with forests among the state’s most valuable ecosystems. As warmer temperatures fueled by climate change affect ecosystems globally, forests are under stress to adapt to these changes and ensure their survival in a warmer world. Researchers now introduce the ‘ecosystem wilting point’ concept, which explains how whole forests respond to drought.