Road salts wash into Mississippi River, damaging ecosystems and pipes

Read the full story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Wisconsin Watch.

This winter has already brought significant snowfall to much of the U.S. Historically, more snow has meant more road salt. It’s an effective way to clear roads — but also brings cascading environmental impacts as it washes into rivers and streams. 

But amid one powerful winter storm that walloped the Midwest in December, employees from the La Crosse County Facilities Department in Wisconsin did something a little different. 

As usual, they clocked into work well before dawn to plow the county’s downtown parking lots. They were followed by facilities director Ryan Westphal, who walked each of the lots, checking for slick spots. Finding none, he didn’t lay any salt down on top. 

That’s a major departure from how he would have handled the situation a few years ago – before their department made the decision to dramatically cut back on salt use to prevent it from flowing into waters like the nearby Mississippi River, which new data show has been growing saltier for decades.

Washington state just started capping carbon emissions. Here’s how it works.

Read the full story at Grist.

Washington state rang in the New Year with the launch of its most ambitious plan to slash carbon pollution. The new “cap-and-invest” program is designed to follow in the footsteps of California, where a cap-and-trade system began in 2013, while trying to learn from its missteps.

Signed into law by Washington Governor Jay Inslee in 2021, the Climate Commitment Act works by setting a statewide “cap” on greenhouse gas emissions that steadily lowers over time. Washington, like California, is establishing a market for businesses to buy pollution “allowances” that will become increasingly expensive — an incentive to cut emissions and a way to raise money to counter climate change.

The first auction to sell off these allowances is scheduled at the end of February, and if all goes according to plan, Washington’s emissions will drop to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, an even steeper cut than California’s, which aims for an 80 percent reduction by the same year.

EPA announces availability of $50 million to support states and tribes developing programs for carbon sequestration and groundwater protection

On January 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help states, Tribes and territories develop and implement Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class VI programs. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Class VI programs ensure that groundwater resources are protected while supporting geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

EPA supports efforts by states, Tribes, and territories to implement existing primacy programs and seek primary enforcement and permitting responsibility (primacy) for Class VI programs. EPA is inviting states, Tribes and territories to submit letters of intent to indicate their interest in this new funding, and interested parties have until March 20, 2023 to submit their letters. After receiving submissions, EPA will determine funding allocations and award the full $50 million in a one-time distribution.

As a condition of receiving funding, applicants to the new Class VI UIC grant program must demonstrate how environmental justice and equity considerations will be incorporated into their Class VI UIC primacy programs. Primacy program commitments may include identifying communities with potential environmental justice concerns, enhancing public involvement, appropriately scoped environmental justice assessments, enhancing transparency throughout the permitting process and minimizing adverse effects associated with permitting actions.

Background

The geologic sequestration of CO2 in UIC Class VI wells is used in carbon capture and storage to prevent CO2 emissions from industrial sources from reaching the atmosphere. The CO2 is injected through specially constructed wells that extend into deep rock formations. These formations must be tested and selected based on geologic characteristics suitable for the safe containment of CO2 for long-term storage. This technology will provide well-paying jobs and promote environmentally responsible industry.

EPA has, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, developed stringent federal requirements for injecting CO2 that protect public health by ensuring injection wells do not contaminate underground sources of drinking water (USDWs). These UIC regulations mandate using a variety of measures to assure that injection activities will not endanger USDWs.

Additional tools, resources and information about Class VI wells are available here.

The U.S.’ addiction to road salt is out of control. These cities are trying to cut back

Read the full story in Time.

Ice-free roads may be good for drivers, but scientists warn that salt is seeping into lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi, killing wildlife and posing health risks to humans. Salt also corrodes asphalt and metal, causing some $5 billion in damage each year to roads and cars. And it lures deer and moose onto highways to lick it up, triggering accidents.

And yet, North Americans are addicted to road salt. Road crews have been pouring the stuff in ever greater quantities since the 1950’s, when cars and highways began to proliferate across the region. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of salt used on U.S. roads ballooned from 1 million tons in 1954, to 10 million tons in 1985, to around 24 million tons a year by 2019, as drivers demanded increasing levels of safety and convenience. “Fifteen years ago, it wasn’t common practice to expect dry pavement after snow,” Gleason says. “But somehow this idea has taken over that everyone should be driving like it’s summer in the winter.”

To reduce trash, some states charge the companies producing it

Read the full story at Stateline.

Municipalities and waste managers around the country are raising the alarm about limited landfill capacity, and some see Extended Producer Responsibility policies as a piece of the puzzle.

As electric vehicle growth squeezes gas tax revenues, data helps states prepare

Read the full story from Pew.

Forecasters expect sales of electric vehicles (EVs), already at record levels, to grow at a breakneck pace in the years ahead. This transition from gasoline to electric-powered vehicles matters not only for car buyers and climate goals, but also for state governments. In the aggregate, fuel taxes provide nearly 40% of the revenue that states direct to their transportation funds—special accounts for transportation spending. Much of that could vanish in the coming decades.

Despite the attention on EVs, their sales remain a modest share of total vehicle sales. Still, state policymakers will need data to inform decisions about how to fill the funding gap that’s expected once sales increase. By producing long-term projections of gas tax revenue, state analysts can provide critical estimates for how quickly and how far gas tax revenue will fall. And that will help states implement sustainable transportation funding sources.

As electric vehicles shrink gas tax revenue, more states may tax mileage

Read the full story at Stateline.

The increasing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles is shrinking revenue from gas taxes, prompting more states to consider charging fees based on miles driven to help pay for roads and bridges.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Flood Risk Disclosure: Model State Requirements for Disclosing Flood Risk During Real Estate Transactions

Download the document.

As of the date of publication, 35 states have enacted some form of legal or regulatory mechanism requiring property sellers to disclose factors related to flood risk about their property. This guide identifies states with the strongest flood risk disclosure requirements and provides a selection of their laws and disclosure forms as models for use in introducing or strengthening a state’s real estate disclosure requirements.

Dried up: Texas cities in fear of running out of water

Read the full story at The Hill.

The American West is experiencing its driest period in human history, a megadrought that threatens health, agriculture and entire ways of life. DRIED UP is examining the dire effects of the drought on the states most affected — as well as the solutions Americans are embracing.

As the Western U.S. suffers under its worst drought in a millennium, the government of Texas, a state that faces its own unique set of dangers from extreme weather, is at last turning to deal with the threat that climate change poses to its long-term water supply. 

Texas’s situation is sufficiently dire that in July, a majority-Republican panel on the state legislature voted unanimously to require the state water planning board to consult with the state climatologist as it advises cities in planning to meet the state’s water needs in the future.  

The rule change “removes the possibility that the political climate could harm [local water officials’] ability to plan responsibly for the future,” state Sen. Nathan Johnson (D), a major backer of the shift, told The Hill. 

“It kind of insulates the regional water authorities from political pressures that would harm their ability to do what they need to do,” Johnson said.  

But that process won’t bear fruit for years — and Texans increasingly worry that the crisis is here now.