How Vermont tackled farm pollution and cleaned up its waters

Read the full story from FERN and Eating Well.

From Vermont’s Lake Champlain to rivers and oceans across the nation, waterways are being overloaded with pollution from farms. But Vermont took an approach that could be a model for states – especially now that the federal government is in regulatory retreat.

Can States and Cities Really Uphold the Paris Climate Deal?

Read the full story in Governing.

They have pledged to carry out the landmark accord on behalf of America. We asked environmental experts for the most effective and politically practical ways they can help do that.

New York unveils state methane reduction plan with focuses on food waste, landfills

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Dive Brief:

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a new multi-agency “Methane Reduction Plan” that is part of the state’s goal to reduce energy sector emissions 40% by 2030, based on 1990 levels. According to the plan, landfills account for 58% of the state’s methane emissions and 5% of overall emissions.
  • Recovering or recycling organic waste from large generators is listed as the state’s top priority for reducing emissions from landfills. This is said to include support and funding from multiple agencies for food donation networks, composting facilities and anaerobic digesters.
  • As for landfills themselves, the report cites proposed revisions to the Part 360 permit system that would require the installation of horizontal gas collection wells in newly constructed landfills or cells. The state also plans to review strategies for active or closed sites and review its guidance in comparison to the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas reporting criteria to identify any potential regulatory updates.

Green Report on Status of Environmental Agency Budgets

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State environmental agencies operate the majority of federally delegated and authorized programs and manage funds to implement related environmental regulations. In July 2016, ECOS sought state environmental agency budget data (EAB) for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. ECOS received 48 responses.

This ECOS Green Report provides information on state EABs for fiscal years (FY) 2013, FY2014 and FY2015, and focuses on changes and trends in these budgets, including analysis of changes to the three main funding sources: state general funds, federal funding, and fees or other sources.

Energy Usage Data Access: A Getting-Started Guide for Regulators

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Accessible energy usage data can unlock energy savings in several ways. Easily accessible data can help residents and businesses achieve savings by better managing energy use in homes, large buildings, and entire communities. Local governments, meanwhile, can use aggregated data for planning purposes (see our Local Policy Toolkit for details). Increasingly, energy service providers are also finding ways to use energy usage data to provide innovative programs and services for residents and businesses.

Although utilities have access to vast amounts of data on their customers’ energy use, customers’ ability to use those data is still relatively limited. To facilitate better data transparency, states can develop guidelines or regulations that require utilities to send the data directly to customers or to third parties (with customer permission). State regulators can play an important role in streamlining the existing patchwork of city and utility approaches to managing customer data.

In this toolkit, we focus on opportunities for state utility regulators to enable, guide, or require utilities and localities to collect, share, and use customer energy data. We explore the benefits of statewide data access guidelines, discuss the processes by which state regulators can enact them, and provide relevant resources and state examples throughout.

This Heated Road De-Ices Itself

Read the full story at Fast Company.

These heated slabs can melt the snow right off the road, and although they cost quite a bit more than regular pavement, the use of industrial waste in their construction means that they’re not too pricey, either.

The gimmick here is that the concrete itself is conductive. When electricity runs through this concrete, it turns the whole road into a giant heater element. Forty eight volts is enough to power it, and if it is switched on before the snowstorm hits, the road surface is warm enough to stop snow settling in the first place.

Carpet and Mattress Recycling Made Simple with Newly Released How-To Guides

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has released two new “how-to guides” for recycling scrap carpet and used mattresses to help state and local government officials address the multi-million dollar challenge of managing these bulky products safely, responsibly, and cost-effectively.

More than 50,000 mattresses are discarded each day in the U.S., the equivalent of close to 20 million annually. While as much as 90 percent of mattress components – steel, cotton, and foam – are recyclable, only a tiny percentage – less than 5 percent – of mattresses are salvaged annually; the rest present operational problems for our nation’s landfills and waste-to-energy plants. Scrap carpet also poses a looming threat, with Americans discarding nearly 3.9 million tons of carpet and rugs each year and recycling only about 7.5 percent.

In May, Connecticut became the first state to implement legislation that requires manufacturers to manage, and consumers to fund, mattress recycling programs. Rhode Island and California will implement similar programs in 2016. California, the only state with a similar “producer responsibility” law for carpet, launched its program in 2011.

“Recycling used carpet and mattresses saves resources, creates jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and energy use,” said Scott Cassel, PSI’s chief executive officer and founder. “Currently, the cost of recycling or disposing of these products falls on government and taxpayers, and that is not sustainable. The burden needs to be shifted to manufacturers and consumers for these valuable materials to enter the circular economy.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the guides lay out key steps to reduce waste and set the stage for successful product stewardship programs. More specifically, the guides provide tools for state and local governments to:

  • Increase awareness of recycling opportunities and best practices
  • Implement convenient and effective collection systems
  • Collaborate with various stakeholders in the carpet and mattress life cycle, including consumers, suppliers, dealers, recyclers, and manufacturers, to facilitate and advance recycling
  • Increase market development opportunities for recycled carpet and mattress components
  • Lay the groundwork for extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation

“Connecticut is already seeing the benefit of mattress stewardship legislation, including the creation of private sector recycling jobs,” said Tom Metzner, environmental analyst at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP). “More than 80 towns now have collection containers specifically designated for mattress recycling, making it possible to divert mattresses from solid waste disposal.”

Even so, state and local governments don’t need to wait for EPR legislation to pass to proceed with the development of carpet and mattress recycling programs. Effective programs can be created through coalitions of key players working together to ensure the existence of sufficient and convenient collection systems, appropriate storage, and adequate outreach to carpet and mattress consumers.

“Bulky waste recycling depends on the collaborative efforts of all involved stakeholders – including manufacturers, collectors, storage facilities, processors, and state and local governments,” said Kathy Frevert, senior environmental scientist at the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). “Ensuring that materials are properly managed as they flow from one link to another in the management chain, and that the economics are viable at each link, is important for developing an effective program.”