US Senate approves HFC treaty

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

The Senate voted 69–27 on Sept. 21 to allow the US to join an international treaty to curb the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons. HFCs are industrial gases used in a slew of applications, including as refrigerants in air conditioners and freezers. They are potent greenhouse gases.

What if carbon border taxes applied to all carbon – fossil fuels, too?

Most national carbon border adjustments being considered target only manufactured goods. Thatree Thitivongvaroon via Getty Images

by Joonha Kim, Rice University and Mark Finley, Rice University

The European Union is embarking on an experiment that will expand its climate policies to imports for the first time. It’s called a carbon border adjustment, and it aims to level the playing field for the EU’s domestic producers by taxing energy-intensive imports like steel and cement that are high in greenhouse gas emissions but aren’t already covered by climate policies in their home countries.

If the border adjustment works as planned, it could encourage the spread of climate policies around the world. But the EU plan, as well as most attempts to evaluate the impact of such policies, is missing an important source of cross-border carbon flows: trade in fossil fuels themselves.

As energy analysts, we decided to take a closer look at what including fossil fuels would mean.

In a newly released paper, we analyzed the impact and found that including fossil fuels in carbon border adjustments would significantly alter the balance of cross-border carbon flows.

For example, China is a major exporter of carbon-intensive manufactured goods, and its industries will face higher costs under the EU border adjustment if China doesn’t set sufficient climate policies for those industries. But when fossil fuels are considered, China becomes a net carbon importer, so setting its own comprehensive border adjustment could be to its energy producers’ benefit.

The U.S., on the other hand, could see harm to its domestic fuel producers if other countries imposed carbon border adjustments on fossil fuels. But the U.S. would still be a net carbon importer, and adding a border adjustment could help its domestic manufacturers.

What is a carbon border adjustment?

Carbon border adjustments are trade policies designed to avoid “carbon leakage” – the phenomenon in which manufacturers relocate their production to other countries to get around environmental regulations.

The idea is to impose a carbon “tax” on imports that is commensurate with the costs domestic companies face related to a country’s climate policy. The carbon border adjustment is imposed on imports from countries that do not have similar climate policies. In addition, countries can give rebates to exports to ensure domestic manufacturers remain competitive in the global market.

This is all still in the future. The EU plan phases in starting in 2023 but currently isn’t scheduled to fully go into effect until 2026. However, other countries are closely watching as they consider their own policies, including some members of the U.S. Congress who are considering carbon border adjustment legislation.

Capturing all cross-border carbon flows

One issue is that current discussions of carbon border taxes focus on “embodied” carbon – the carbon associated with the production of a good. For example, the EU proposal covers cement, aluminum, fertilizers, power generation, iron and steel.

But a comprehensive border adjustment, in theory, should seek to address all cross-border carbon flows. All the major analyses to date, however, leave out the carbon content of fossil fuels trade, which we refer to as “explicit” carbon.

In our analysis, we show that when only manufactured goods are considered, the U.S. and EU are portrayed as carbon importers because of their “embodied” carbon balance – they import a lot of high-carbon manufactured goods – while China is portrayed as a carbon exporter. That changes when fossil fuels are included.

The impact of including fossil fuels

By assessing the impact of a carbon border adjustment based only on embodied carbon flows, those involving manufactured goods, policymakers are missing a significant part of total carbon traded across their borders – in many cases, the largest part.

In the EU, our findings largely reinforce the current motivation behind a carbon border adjustment, since the bloc is an importer of both explicit carbon and embodied carbon. [view graph of EU carbon border adjustment data]

For the U.S., however, the results are mixed. A carbon border adjustment could protect domestic manufacturers but harm the international competitiveness of domestic fossil fuels, and at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is placing renewed importance on the U.S. as a global energy supplier. [view graph of U.S. carbon border adjustment data]

The Chinese economy, as an exporter of embodied carbon in manufactured goods, would suffer if its trading partners imposed a carbon border adjustment on China’s products. On the other hand, a Chinese domestic border adjustment could benefit Chinese domestic energy producers at the expense of foreign competitors who fail to adopt similar policies. [view graph of China carbon border adjustment data]

Interestingly, our analysis suggests that, by including explicit carbon flows, the U.S., EU and China are all net importers of carbon. All three key players could be on the same side of the discussion, which could improve the prospects for future climate negotiations – if all parties recognize their common interests.

Joonha Kim, Graduate fellow, Baker Institute, Rice University and Mark Finley, Fellow in Energy and Global Oil, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University

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

Here’s how the new US tax credits and rebates will work for clean energy home upgrades

Electrek spoke with Dan Gayer, JD, CPA, a senior manager in the tax practice at Baker Newman Noyes, about how homeowners can claim tax credits and rebates as they work to achieve energy efficiency and lower their energy bills.

In ‘Cancer Alley,’ judge blocks huge petrochemical plant

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Louisiana activists battling to block an enormous plastics plant in a corridor so dense with industrial refineries it is known as Cancer Alley won a legal victory this week when a judge canceled the company’s air permits. In a sharply worded opinion released Wednesday, Judge Trudy White of Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge noted that the residents in the tiny town of Welcome, where the $9.4 billion petrochemical plant would have been built, are descendants of enslaved Africans.

Producers need to start getting ready for the UK’s EPR packaging regulations

Read the full story at Bakery and Snacks.

The implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations in the UK has been delayed until 2024, but packaging data specialist Ecoveritas is cautioning producers to not be complacent and to start making plans now.

As state PFAS in packaging laws loom, restaurants mull serviceware alternatives

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

As fast food chains face lawsuits related to PFAS in packaging, and numerous states prepare to enact related packaging bans, restaurant franchisors should consider proactively changing their foodware offerings, attorneys recommended during an Aug. 10 webinar from legal services firm Lathrop GPM.

Franchisors must closely monitor upcoming changes to state regulations, which could dictate how they source or purchase items like cups, takeout containers and other food serviceware — and what kinds of products eventually end up in disposal sites, they said.

Ten states have passed laws banning intentionally-added PFAS in packaging, with New York’s law taking effect at the end of the year. With more such laws expected to pass in the next few years, experts suggested finding PFAS-free packaging alternatives, even if businesses are complying with current state and local regulations related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

SEC chair spars with senators over climate rules

Read the full story at The Hill.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler faced a grilling on Capitol Hill on Thursday, with the agency head defending the SEC’s approach to issues including climate disclosure and cryptocurrency regulation.

The SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rules — which it released in March — would require publicly traded companies to calculate and publish the risks that climate change poses to their operations and what they are doing to address it.

Republicans have criticized the rules as onerous, arguing they are an example of the SEC conducting policy beyond its mandate. Gensler joined two other Democratic commissioners in voting for the proposed rules in March, while the SEC’s lone Republican commissioner, Hester Peirce, voted no.

Regulators have a big chance to advance energy equity

Read the full story at The Revelator.

A small circle of industry insiders controls crucial decisions about energy projects. New changes — if done right — can offer communities a seat at the table.

EPA releases Draft Revised Risk Determination for Carbon Tetrachloride for public comment

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released for public comment a draft revision to the unreasonable risk determination for carbon tetrachloride pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) section 6(b). The draft revised risk determination proposes to find that carbon tetrachloride, as a whole chemical substance, presents an unreasonable risk of injury to human health under the conditions of use.

The carbon tetrachloride draft revised risk determination incorporates policy changes announced in June 2021 to ensure the public is protected from unreasonable risks from chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law. EPA’s proposed revisions will ensure that, if finalized as proposed, the carbon tetrachloride risk determination better aligns with the objectives of protecting health and the environment under the amended TSCA.

Carbon tetrachloride is used in commercial settings as a raw material for producing other chemicals like refrigerants, chlorinated compounds, and agricultural products. EPA did not identify any intended, known, or reasonably foreseen consumer uses for this chemical.

EPA’s carbon tetrachloride risk evaluation identified adverse human health effects from inhalation and dermal exposures to carbon tetrachloride. Cancer effects include adrenal gland, brain, and liver tumors,  and non-cancer effects include liver toxicity.

The draft revised risk determination for carbon tetrachloride does not reflect an assumption that workers always and appropriately wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This decision should not be viewed as an indication that EPA believes there is widespread non-compliance with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. In fact, EPA has received public comments from industry respondents about occupational safety practices currently in use at their facilities. EPA will consider these comments, as well as other information on use of PPE and other ways industry protects its workers, as potential ways to address unreasonable risk during the risk management process.

Not assuming use of PPE in its baseline exposure scenarios reflects EPA’s recognition that certain subpopulations of workers exist that may be highly exposed because they are not covered by OSHA standards, because their employers are out of compliance with OSHA standards, or because OSHA’s chemical-specific Permissible Exposure Limits (largely adopted in the 1970’s) are described by OSHA as being “outdated and inadequate for ensuring protection of worker health” (as is the case for carbon tetrachloride).  

As EPA moves forward with a risk management rule for carbon tetrachloride, the agency will strive for consistency with existing OSHA requirements or best industry practices when those measures would address the identified unreasonable risk. EPA will propose occupational safety measures in the risk management process that would meet TSCA’s statutory requirement to eliminate unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.

Overall, 13 of the 15 conditions of use EPA evaluated would drive the carbon tetrachloride whole chemical unreasonable risk determination due to risks identified for human health. Removing the assumption that workers always and appropriately wear PPE when making the whole chemical risk determination for carbon tetrachloride would not alter the conditions of use that drive the unreasonable risk determination for carbon tetrachloride. However, without the assumed use of PPE, inhalation exposures to workers would now also drive the unreasonable risk and dermal exposures would also drive the unreasonable risk due to non-cancer effects (specifically liver toxicity). In addition, the November 2020 Risk Evaluation contained a typographical error in the acute dermal point of departure (POD). This error was corrected in an errata memorandum dated July 2022 and posted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0499 at www.regulations.gov. The changes to the risk estimates for acute dermal exposures are reflected in the draft revision to the risk determination. The corrections do not alter the conditions of use that drive the unreasonable risk determination for carbon tetrachloride.

Two out of the 15 conditions of use do not drive the unreasonable risk: when carbon tetrachloride is processed as a reactant in reactive ion etching and in distribution in commerce. However, EPA is not proposing to make condition of use-specific risk determinations for those conditions of use or to issue an order under TSCA section 6(i)(1).

Following finalization of the revised risk determination for carbon tetrachloride, consistent with the statutory requirements of TSCA section 6(a), EPA will propose risk management regulatory action to the extent necessary so that carbon tetrachloride no longer presents an unreasonable risk. EPA expects to focus its risk management action on the conditions of use that drive the unreasonable risk. However, it should be noted that, under TSCA section 6(a), EPA is not limited to regulating the specific activities found to drive unreasonable risk and may select from among a suite of risk management requirements in section 6(a) related to manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, commercial use, and disposal as part of its regulatory options to address the unreasonable risk. As a general example, EPA may regulate upstream activities (e.g., processing, distribution in commerce) to address downstream activities (e.g., consumer uses) driving unreasonable risk, even if the upstream activities do not drive the unreasonable risk.

Separately, EPA is conducting a screening approach to assess potential risks from the air and water pathways for several of the first 10 chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride. For carbon tetrachloride, the exposure pathways that were or could be regulated under another EPA administered statute were excluded from the 2020 risk evaluation. This resulted in the ambient air and ambient/drinking water pathways for carbon tetrachloride not being assessed. EPA’s screening approach will identify if there are risks that were unaccounted for in the risk evaluation for carbon tetrachloride. While this analysis is underway, EPA is not incorporating the screening-level approach into this draft revised unreasonable risk determination. If the results suggest there is additional risk, EPA will determine if the risk management approach being contemplated for carbon tetrachloride will protect against these risks or if the risk evaluation will need to be formally supplemented or revised.

Note that EPA has not conducted new scientific analysis on carbon tetrachloride as part of today’s actions. The carbon tetrachloride risk evaluation (as corrected by the errata memorandum) continues to characterize risks associated with individual conditions of use. EPA will continue to rely on the evaluation of each condition of use to support any determination of unreasonable risk for carbon tetrachloride as a whole chemical substance.

EPA will accept public comments on the draft revised risk determination for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0733 at www.regulations.gov.

Read the Draft Revised Unreasonable Risk Determination

EPA proposes designating certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under Superfund to protect people’s health

Following through on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to tackle environmental injustice and improve public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a significant action under Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to protect people and communities from the health risks posed by certain PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” EPA is proposing to designate two of the most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.” This rulemaking would increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination. 

The proposal applies to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), including their salts and structural isomers, and is based on significant evidence that PFOA and PFOS may present a substantial danger to human health or welfare or the environment. PFOA and PFOS can accumulate and persist in the human body for long periods of time and evidence from laboratory animal and human epidemiology studies indicates that exposure to PFOA and/or PFOS may lead to cancer, reproductive, developmental, cardiovascular, liver, and immunological effects. 

“Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these forever chemicals. The action announced today will improve transparency and advance EPA’s aggressive efforts to confront this pollution, as outlined in the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Under this proposed rule, EPA will both help protect communities from PFAS pollution and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions.”  

Many known and potential sources of PFAS contamination are near communities already overburdened with pollution. If finalized, the rulemaking would trigger reporting of PFOA and PFOS releases, providing the Agency with improved data and the option to require cleanups and recover cleanup costs to protect public health and encourage better waste management. 

It would also improve EPA, state, Tribal nation, and local community understanding of the extent and locations of PFOA and PFOS contamination throughout the country and help all communities to avoid or reduce contact with these potentially dangerous chemicals.  

EPA is focused on holding responsible those who have manufactured and released significant amounts of PFOA and PFOS into the environment. EPA will use enforcement discretion and other approaches to ensure fairness for minor parties who may have been inadvertently impacted by the contamination. EPA is also committed to doing further outreach and engagement to hear from impacted communities, wastewater utilities, businesses, farmers and other parties during the consideration of the proposed rule. 

If this designation is finalized, releases of PFOA and PFOS that meet or exceed the reportable quantity would have to be reported to the National Response Center, state or Tribal emergency response commissions, and the local or Tribal emergency planning committees. A release of these or any other hazardous substance will not always lead to the need to clean up or add a site to the National Priorities List (NPL), liability or an enforcement action. EPA anticipates that a final rule would encourage better waste management and treatment practices by facilities handling PFOA or PFOS. The reporting of a release could potentially accelerate privately financed cleanups and mitigate potential adverse impacts to human health and the environment. 

Additionally, the proposed rule would, in certain circumstances, facilitate making the polluter pay by allowing EPA to seek to recover cleanup costs from a potentially responsible party or to require such a party to conduct the cleanup. In addition, federal entities that transfer or sell their property will be required to provide a notice about the storage, release, or disposal of PFOA or PFOS on the property and a covenant (commitment in the deed) warranting that it has cleaned up any resulting contamination or will do so in the future, if necessary, as required under CERCLA 120(h). 
 
EPA will be publishing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register in the next several weeks. Upon publication, EPA welcomes comment for a 60-day comment period. 
 
As a subsequent step, EPA anticipates issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking after the close of the comment period on today’s proposal to seek public comment on designating other PFAS chemicals as CERCLA hazardous substances.  
 
Today’s actions represent a significant milestone within the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitments to combat PFAS pollution and safeguard drinking water, and specifically EPA’s October 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Under the Roadmap, EPA is working across the agency to protect the public from the health impacts of PFAS. EPA has taken a number of actions to deliver progress on PFAS including:  

  • Releasing drinking water health advisories for four PFAS – using the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently; 
  • Making available $1 billion in grant funding through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; 
  • Issuing the first Toxic Substances Control Act PFAS test order under the National PFAS Testing Strategy;   
  • Adding five PFAS Regional Screening and Removal Management Levels that EPA uses to help determine if cleanup is needed;  
  • Publishing draft aquatic life water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS;  
  • Issuing a memo to proactively address PFAS in Clean Water Act permitting;  
  • Publishing a new draft total adsorbable fluorine wastewater method; and 
  • Issuing the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to improve EPA’s understanding of the frequency that 29 PFAS are found in the nation’s drinking water systems and at what levels and preparing to propose a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation by the end of 2022. 

For more information

Source: U.S. EPA news release