How untreated water is making our kids sick: FSU researcher explores possible climate change link

Read the full story from Florida State University.

A Florida State University researcher has drawn a link between the impact of climate change and untreated drinking water on the rate of gastrointestinal illness in children.

Assistant Professor of Geography Chris Uejio has published a first-of-its-kind study, “Drinking-water treatment, climate change, and childhood gastrointestinal illness projections for northern Wisconsin (USA) communities drinking untreated groundwater,” in the Hydrogeology Journal. The study explores the benefits of additional drinking water treatment compared to the risks created by climate change. 

BIER Issues Results of 2016 Water and Energy Use Benchmarking Study

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) released their 2016 Water and Energy Use Benchmarking Study, celebrating their ninth benchmarking report on key performance data within the industry. Findings of the study substantiate the beverage industry’s ongoing efforts to better understand and reduce resource use on a global scale. Nineteen companies participated in this study, providing valuable quantitative insight for nearly 1,500 facilities across six continents.

The 2016 benchmarking study includes water and energy data from 2011, 2013, and 2015, representing a diverse variety of facility types, production sizes, and geographic locations from around the globe. Of the facilities that provided all three years of data, 71% achieved an improvement in water use ratio and 64% achieved an improvement in energy use ratio. The study presents several key takeaways; for example, results show an increase in the use of renewable energy sources. This helps illustrate the proactive approach the beverage industry is taking to improve business practices, understand industry challenges, and lessen environmental impacts.

“The BIER benchmarking study continues to be a valuable resource for beverage industry leaders evaluating energy and water use within their companies,” says Laura Nelson, Consultant for Antea Group and BIER Benchmarking Project Manager. “The report shows continued dedication to transparency in the industry, making this comprehensive study an invaluable resource.”

Moving forward, BIER plans to work with member companies on carbon emissions data to improve the quality and depth of data collected for future benchmarking purposes.

The complete 2016 benchmarking results report can be downloaded at http://www.bieroundtable.com/benchmarking-coeu.

ISTC Fact Sheet: Illinois Shop Towel Rule

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Shop towels and wipes utilized by businesses are commonly used in conjunction with solvents or other materials that contain solvents. These items are commonly generated by businesses after being used for cleaning purposes and other maintenance activities. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued a rule in 2013 specifically ordering the proper management and disposal of contaminated shop towels, referred to as the “Solvent Contaminated Wipes Rule”, or the “Shop Towel Rule”.

Grants Management: EPA Has Taken Steps to Improve Competition for Discretionary Grants but Could Make Information More Readily Available

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What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages competition for its discretionary grants through a process established by its competition policy and implemented by its program and regional offices. Under the policy, offices are to advertise discretionary grant opportunities on Grants.gov—a website for federal grant announcements—and may also advertise using other methods, such as trade journals and e-mail lists. The announcements must describe eligibility and evaluation criteria, and the process may be customized to assess (1) all applications against eligibility criteria and (2) eligible applications for merit against evaluation criteria. Under the policy, EPA established a Grants Competition Advocate, a senior official who provides guidance to and oversight of the offices. EPA officials said this position has been key to improving competition for discretionary grants.

From fiscal years 2013 through 2015, EPA provided nearly $1.5 billion in discretionary grants to about 2,000 unique grantees, with state governments, nonprofits, and Indian tribes receiving the largest shares, according to GAO’s analysis of EPA data. Of the $1.5 billion, $579 million was for new grants subject to the competition policy, and according to EPA, the agency met its performance target to competitively award at least 90 percent of these new grant dollars or awards annually. Some discretionary grants are not subject to the competition policy for several reasons—for example because they are available by law only to Indian tribes. Of the remaining approximately $920 million, $282 million was for new grants not subject to the competition policy, and about $632 million was for amendments to existing grants, such as for added work.

Publicly available information from EPA about its discretionary grants is neither easy to identify nor complete. For example, different information about the grants, such as dollar amounts, is available at four federal websites; but three of these websites do not have a way to search all the grants, and the fourth cannot identify the grants because EPA does not flag them in its submissions to the website. EPA officials plan to better flag these grants in the future; however, to obtain complete information, users would still have to search several websites containing different parts of this information. Also, GAO found that the unofficial reports EPA makes publicly available on the number of applications received for its grant competitions contain limited information. Moreover, these reports are not current because EPA relies on manual processes to collect the information from its offices, which can cause reporting delays. Further, GAO found that although EPA’s internal grants management system has a field for tracking grant types, a lack of clarity in EPA’s guidance may contribute to EPA staff’s inconsistent use of this field. Consequently, EPA cannot easily identify discretionary grants in its system or collect complete and accurate information on them. EPA is transitioning to a new system that is expected to be operational in 2018 and to provide the capability to collect more timely and complete information. However, EPA officials said they do not have plans to use the new system to improve their publicly available reports, which is inconsistent with effective internal and external communication suggested by federal internal control standards. More complete information could help Congress and other decision makers better monitor EPA’s management of discretionary grants.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA annually awards hundreds of discretionary grants, totaling about $500 million. EPA has the discretion to determine grantees and amounts for these grants, which fund a range of activities, from environmental research to wetlands restoration. EPA awards and manages discretionary grants at 10 headquarters program offices and 10 regional offices. Past reviews by GAO and EPA’s Inspector General found that EPA has faced challenges managing such grants, including procuring insufficient competition for them and providing incomplete public information about them. GAO was asked to review EPA’s management of discretionary grants.

This report examines (1) how EPA manages competition for discretionary grants, (2) how much in discretionary grants EPA provided from fiscal years 2013 through 2015 and to what types of grantees, and (3) the information EPA makes publicly available on discretionary grants. GAO reviewed EPA’s competition policy and guidance, examined internal evaluations of grant applications for competitions that were selected partly because they accounted for large portions of discretionary grant dollars, analyzed EPA data as well as information EPA made available on public websites, and interviewed EPA officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA develop clear guidance for tracking grants and determine how to make more complete information on discretionary grants publicly available. EPA agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

Climate change could raise risk of selenium deficiency

Read the full story at Environmentalresearchweb.

Climate change could raise the risk of people becoming selenium deficient by cutting the concentration of the element in soils. Today around one in seven of the global population has a low intake of selenium in their diet.

Sustainability in the Beverage Industry 2025: Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable Releases Toolkit for Future Planning

Read the press release from BIER.

In an effort to provide informed future planning guidance, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) has launched the Future Scenarios Toolkit. With this toolkit, companies have a clear and robust framework to analyze potential future scenarios regarding impacts (social, environmental, governmental, etc.) to their business, their supply chain, and their production, as well as successfully prepare to tackle those scenarios.

How Have Federal Agencies Implemented the CEQ Guidance on Climate Change and Environmental Reviews?

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

The Sabin Center has just published a new survey examining how federal agencies have been implementing the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)’s guidance on climate change and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. The survey, which was conducted by a team of Columbia undergraduate students as their capstone project for the Sustainable Development program, reviews 31 environmental impact statements (EISs) published in the fall of 2016 and explains how these EISs implemented specific aspects of the CEQ guidance. You can download the written report and accompanying excel database here.