Giant snapping turtle ‘Chonkosaurus’ evidence of a much cleaner Chicago River

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The man behind the viral video of a huge snapping turtle nicknamed “Chonkosaurus” catching sunbeams along the Chicago River said the sighting points to the improving health of the historically polluted waterway.

Joey Santore and his friend Al Scorch were kayaking and filming a video on plants growing along the river when they came upon the massive reptile lounging on the water near Goose Island.

Everything about the video screams Chicago, from the previously polluted stream of water to Santore’s recognizable accent as he marvels at the turtle’s size.

Counted at last: US federal agency to pilot PhD survey with questions on LGBT+ scientists

Read the full story in Nature.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a pilot project to track sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) demographics when it releases its yearly census of all recipients of research doctorates at US institutions this year.

The annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which launched in 1957, collects demographic information on the sex, race and ethnicity, scientific discipline, debt burden, disability status and citizenship status of new PhD recipients, among other information. NSF publishes the results on its website and shares this information with degree-granting institutions in the United States.

SED data has typically been used by government agencies, academic institutions and industry to track the careers of women, people of colour and people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). But to date, the SED has not looked into the career progression of scientists who are members of gender or sexual minority groups (LGBT+).

Collecting these data will help the NSF and other agencies to analyse employers’ policies and procedures for addressing unintended barriers to employment, advancement and inclusion, said Charles Barber, NSF’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, in a statement to Nature. “This gives us an opportunity to create more opportunities and broaden participation to yield equitable outcomes for the LGBTQIA+ community and others.”

Nike faces lawsuit over greenwashing claims

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

A Missourian last week filed a complaint against Nike in federal court, alleging the sports apparel maker “falsely and misleadingly markets” products as sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The lawsuit cites the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, which educate companies on what could constitute deceptive advertising around sustainability claims. The guidance is limited, though, because it isn’t a set of enforceable rules or regulations, according to John Conway, CEO of Astonish Media Group.

Communities of color disproportionately exposed to PFAS pollution in drinking water

Read the full story from Harvard University.

People who live in communities with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic/Latino residents are more likely to be exposed to harmful levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their water supplies than people living in other communities, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers link this finding to the disproportionate siting of sources of PFAS pollution—such as major manufacturers, airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills—near watersheds serving these communities.

The study was published online May 15, 2023, in Environmental Science & Technology.

Kentucky’s largest utility tests new law creating barrier to retire fossil fuel plants

Read the full story at the Kentucky Lantern.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky, raising concerns that planned and ongoing retirements of coal-fired power plants could affect the reliability and resilience of the electric grid, passed a new law that creates an extra barrier for utilities to retire such plants.

Kentucky’s largest electric utility, which strongly opposed that law, is now testing it before the state’s utility regulator, arguing that the planned retirement of some of its coal-fired power generation is economical and will improve — not hurt — the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid.

Largest US public utility switching from coal to gas, despite proposed EPA carbon pollution limits

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

The nation’s largest public utility released plans Friday to build a new natural gas plant in Tennessee, largely dismissing renewable energy alternatives one day after the Biden administration proposed strict new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is replacing its coal-burning Kingston Fossil Plant, the site of a massive coal ash spill in 2008.

TVA’s draft environmental impact statement says constructing a 1500-megawatt gas plant along with 3-4 megawatts of solar and 100 megawatts of battery storage at the Kingston site is “the best overall solution to provide low-cost, reliable energy to the TVA power system.”

TVA considered replacing the Kingston plant with 1500 megawatts of solar and 2,200 megawatts of battery storage at various locations around the Tennessee Valley, but nixed solar as less reliable and spent only a few pages on the analysis.

IRS details which renewable energy components must be made in the US to qualify for IRA tax credits

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued a notice of intent that offers a first glimpse at how the IRS will determine which renewable energy projects qualify for the 10% domestic content tax credit rider created by the Inflation Reduction Act.

The IRA contains two tiers of domestic content requirements — one for steel and iron components and one for manufactured products. Friday’s notice begins to define how individual project components will fall into each of the two categories.

Industry groups generally praised the direction outlined in the initial guidance, but Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he’ll seek to increase domestic content to boost U.S. manufacturing.

EPA proposes ban on all consumer, most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the latest action to protect public health under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), proposing a ban on most uses of methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical known to cause serious health risks and even death. Today’s proposal would protect people from these risks while allowing for some uses to continue only where strict workplace controls could be implemented to minimize exposures to workers. Methylene chloride is the second chemical to undergo risk management under the reformed process created by the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, following agency proposed actions to protect people from asbestos exposure last year.

“The science on methylene chloride is clear, exposure can lead to severe health impacts and even death, a reality for far too many families who have lost loved ones due to acute poisoning. That’s why EPA is taking action, proposing to ban most uses of this chemical and reduce exposures in all other scenarios by implementing more stringent workplace controls to protect worker health. This historic proposed ban demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement new chemical safety protections and take long-overdue actions to better protect public health.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

Since 1980, at least 85 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in home renovation contracting work and even, in some cases, while fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment. Many more have experienced severe and long-lasting health impacts, including certain cancers. Still, use of methylene chloride has remained widespread, even after EPA banned one consumer use in 2019. Methylene chloride is used in a variety of ways including consumer uses such as aerosol degreasers and brush cleaners for paints and coatings, commercial applications such as adhesives and sealants, and in industrial settings for making other chemicals. For example, methylene chloride is used as a chemical intermediate in the production of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) 32, which is used in refrigerant blends developed to replace substances with higher global warming potential.

EPA’s unreasonable risk determination for methylene chloride was driven by risks associated with workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers and those in close proximity to a consumer use. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity, liver effects, and cancer from inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.

EPA’s proposed risk management rule would rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully implemented in 15 months. For most of the uses of methylene chloride that EPA is proposing to prohibit, EPA’s analysis found that alternative products with similar costs and efficacy to methylene chloride products are generally available.

For the industrial manufacturing, industrial processing, and federal uses that EPA is not proposing to prohibit, EPA is proposing a workplace chemical protection program with strict exposure limits to better protect workers. EPA has received data from industry that indicate some facilities may already be meeting the stronger proposed methylene chloride exposure limits. These proposed requirements would allow the continued processing of methylene chloride to produce chemicals that are important in efforts to reduce global warming outlined in the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. Climate-friendly refrigerants and other chemicals play a significant role in combatting climate change and EPA’s proposed rule supports continued efforts to reduce emissions. 

Similarly, EPA is also proposing that specific uses of methylene chloride required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration could continue with strict workplace controls because sufficient reductions in exposure are possible in these highly sophisticated environments, thereby minimizing risks to workers. 

The proposed prohibitions and restrictions would also protect communities from methylene chloride exposure. EPA identified potential risks to fenceline communities from a small number of facilities using six years of Toxics Release Inventory exposure data. The prohibitions in EPA’s proposed rule would cover ongoing uses of methylene chloride at a majority of these facilities, effectively eliminating the potential risks to the neighboring communities.

Workplace Chemical Safety Program for Methylene Chloride

EPA consulted with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) while developing this proposed rule and was mindful of existing OSHA requirements in building out the proposed worker protections. EPA’s proposed risk-based limits are based on recent data and meet the TSCA requirement to eliminate the unreasonable risk. Employers would have one year after the finalization of the risk management rule to comply with the worker chemical protection plan and would be required to periodically monitor their workplace to ensure that workers are not being exposed to levels of methylene chloride that would lead to an unreasonable risk.

EPA encourages members of the public to read and comment on the proposed rule. EPA is especially interested in hearing perspective on the feasibility and efficacy of the proposed requirement for worker protections from entities that would be required to implement the proposed program. In the coming weeks, EPA will host a public webinar targeted to employers and workers, but useful for anyone looking for an overview of the proposed regulatory action to discuss the proposed program. The date, time and registration information will be announced soon.

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for methylene chloride until July 3, 2023 via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0465 at

Learn more about the proposed rule.

A golden spike would mark the Earth’s next epoch: But where?

Read the full story at e360.

Before the Anthropocene can be officially proclaimed, a scientific working group must select a single site that permanently captures the new human-influenced epoch. Nine candidate sites — from California to China to Antarctica — are under consideration, with a decision expected soon.

Manufacturers turn to digital twins to improve supply chains

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive.

The burgeoning technology can help companies save time and money, if they can afford the upfront costs of integration and technology training.