EPA comes up with plan to protect children from lead exposure


Kindergarten - Re-opened!
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Elyse Gabor | October 31, 2022

Lead has been found in the blood of fifty percent of children in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to limit and reduce exposure and illnesses caused by lead through screening more children, training people for a job in lead remediation, and so on.  

Carlton Waterhouse, the deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, said, “This for the first time represents the agency looking not only to limit the amount of exposure that children and others have to lead, but in fact to make significant improvements and advancements with regards to environmental justice by also addressing disparities, long standing disparities, in terms of who finds themselves adversely affected by lead.” 

According to a study last year by The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, the Midwest sees the highest numbers of exposure to lead. The EPA is working hard to reduce levels of lead that can be found in lead paint, soil, and so on. This includes changing the policy guidelines for Residential Soil Lead Guidance for Contaminated Sites and remedying 15 lead Superfund sites.  

Waterhouse said, “So we’re very focused on going towards those places that have hot spots, going towards those places and determining what the dominant and primary sources of that are in those communities.” 

Climate change challenges human ability to properly cool down


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Grace Smith | September 8, 2022

As the Earth warms, scientists realize outdoor humidity is making it challenging for sweat to cool down bodies properly. Normally, the body can cool itself by sweating, but when humidity is at a high level, sweat will not evaporate as fast, threatening human health and life.

“The inability to cool down leaves us more than just uncomfortable. It actually wears on our internal processes,” Dr. Benjamin of Health Partners said in a company blog. “As our core temperature continues to rise, our bodies need to work harder to try and cool us down. This causes us to overheat.”

Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, Larry Kenney conducts tests in his lab at Penn State. Kenney puts test subjects in a climate-controlled room and has them walk on a treadmill as he increases the room’s humidity. It is harder to get subjects’ core temperatures to cool down with that increase. Kenney told NPR when the temperature gets close to the humidity of sweat on the skin, it can no longer evaporate.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1,300 deaths per year in the United States are heat-related, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said that heat-related health issues will continue to rise with an increase in heat.

Food waste worsens climate change


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Grace Smith | July 21, 2022

An estimate of 30 to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted. When food gets wasted, inputs used to store, process, transport, and prepare the food are also wasted. Not only does food waste impact the inputs, but its use of greenhouse gases is worsening climate change. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report in 2021 that said, every year, U.S. food loss encompasses 170 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, GHG emissions. The EPA compared it to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants. 

The combination of food waste in landfills, which accounts for about 23 percent of total landfilled waste, and methane burped from cows makes up for a significant number of Earth’s total methane emissions. 12 percent of methane emissions come from livestock manure. In addition, agriculture makes up 11 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

To prevent food waste from increasing, Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, an organization that examines food waste, said during a committee meeting that standardized food labeling would make a large impact. Right now, different types of food have different labels, including “best by,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by.” Gunders said creating a standard would help stunt climate change.

EPA, states continue to combat climate change despite SCOTUS ruling


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Grace Smith | July 15, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to restrict pollution coming from greenhouse gases. But, not all its power was stripped. The EPA and the Biden Administration have new plans in place to reach President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030. 

Joseph Goffman, Biden’s nominee for EPA’s air chief, told the New York Times the ruling against the EPA didn’t alter any current plans that the agency has. Next year, the agency plans to implement more restraints on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-powered plants. The EPA also plans to propose a regulation that cuts emissions from new gas-powered plants.

Now that the Supreme Court created a setback for action against climate change, the role of state and local level efforts increases. Colorado has passed about 50 climate laws over the last four years and is working to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030, as well as New York. 

Although the state of Iowa doesn’t have a statewide climate plan, an Iowa City plan, which has about 35 actions, includes decreasing greenhouse gases in the community by 80 percent by 2050. In addition, Cedar Rapids’ plan to combat climate change seeks zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

EPA creates waiver for E15 fuel sale in in May


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | May 6, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a fuel waiver last week allowing heightened levels of ethanol in gasoline to be sold later into the summer.

The waiver is an attempt by the Biden-Harris administration to lower fuel prices as they continue to increase. The waiver allows gas stations to sell cheaper blends with 15 percent ethanol, also known as E15 fuel, to address the fuel supply gaps created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The waiver only extends until May 20, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch, but the EPA can extend the waiver if they see fit.

The waiver affects a small percentage of gas stations across the country that sell corn-based ethanol fuel. Only 2,300 gas stations nationwide offer a 15 percent ethanol blend, compared to the more than 140,000 gas stations across the U.S.

During a stop in Iowa in April, President Joe Biden said the waiver would continue into the summer. There are not any current projections as to when the waiver would be extended nor for how long. Iowa’s delegation in Washington D.C. have pushed for year-round use of E15. Currently, the fuel cannot be sold from June to September because of air pollution concerns.

Iowa City passes Iowa DNR drinking water analysis


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 29, 2021

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found negligible amounts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl, commonly known as PFAS, in Iowa City’s drinking water.

The department released their findings on Wednesday. The tests were conducted following the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory regarding two PFAS: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. If the two chemicals combined to have a concentration of 70 parts per trillion, it would exceed the EPA’s health advisory. According to a City of Iowa City release, the Iowa DNR did not detect either chemical in Iowa City’s samples.

While looking for other PFAS, Perfluorobutanoic acid was detected in Iowa City’s drinking water at 3 parts per trillion. In the release, Water Superintendent for Iowa City Jonathan Durst said the results were low and expected.

“The City will continue to work with the Iowa DNR to monitor PFAS and conduct additional on-site testing,” he said. “We are committed to providing the highest quality drinking water to our community.”

This water analysis came a month after Iowa City was found to have high levels of zinc in its water. The city reduced its daily zinc intake in early November.

Tougher vehicle emissions requirements finalized by EPA


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 28, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized tougher vehicle emissions requirements, reversing former President Donald Trump-era policies.

The new requirements shift the country to look towards electric vehicles and reducing pollution significantly over the next five years. The rules will decrease carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle by 3.1 billion tons through 2050, according to Reuters. The EPA’s guidelines coincide with the goals of President Joe Biden’s administration. Biden wants to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. to around 50 percent by 2030. He also has been pushing for stricter fuel efficiency standards, like former President Barack Obama did in the early 2010s.

In 2020, Trump rolled back Obama’s efficiency standards by 3.5 percent. The switch made is so vehicles in the U.S. only had to average 40.4 miles per gallon rather than nearly 47 miles per gallon by 2026 under Obama’s regulations.

The new EPA standards will take effect in the 2023 model year. The Alliances for Automotive Innovation, an auto trade association, said the new requirements will result in an increase in electrical vehicles and incentives from the government for consumers to switch to purchasing those cars. When announcing the finalization, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the standards were “doable” even if they are tough. He said he wants to move ahead to the next round of requirements soon.

“We are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet,” Regan said.

Newly passed infrastructure bill invests in climate action


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By Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 9, 2021

With the passing of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the U.S. Congress, the largest environmental spending package ever is waiting on President Joe Biden’s signature.

$47 billion is designated by the federal government to invest in climate resistance within the country, starting with helping multiple communities prepare for extreme floods, fire, natural disasters, and droughts. The bill passed with bipartisan support. According to The New York Times, the bill’s passing is an indication that at least some Republicans in the federal government believe in human-caused climate change and its economic impacts.

A second bill looking to fund climate change mitigation in the United States is still waiting on a congressional vote. The legislation would give an additional $555 billion to global warming mitigation.

The House of Representatives passed the infrastructure bill on Friday, but it has yet to be signed by the president. The portion of the legislation focusing on climate change mitigation was partially written by Republican lawmakers, including Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Louisiana will see more funding regarding hurricanes.

In 2020 alone, 22 climate disasters struck the U.S. that cost over $1 billion. This broke a 2011 and 2017 tie at 16. These events included the derecho that hit Iowa in August 2020, wildfires on the west coast, tornados across Tornado Alley, and six hurricanes hitting the southeastern coast.

The legislation also looks to reduce emissions, according to Forbes, alongside backing clean energy provisions. The bill provides more than $200 million to tribal nations who have disproportionately been impacted by climate change.

Iowa to see PFAS water testing


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 19, 2021

Iowans could will soon see testing for “forever chemicals” in their water supply.

State officials are preparing to begin testing specific water sources for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to at PFAS. The chemicals can lead to cancer and other health problems. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to start testing in the next few weeks, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The water monitoring will begin in central Iowa.

PFAS regulation has increased in recent months. In mid-June, the Environmental Protection Agency established a council on the chemicals. The council is specifically tasked with reducing the potential risks caused by these chemicals. Before the creation of the council, U.S. Representatives and Senators were pushing to reclassify PFAS.

The risk of PFAS is low, Supervisor of the Department’s Water Quality Program Roger Bruner said. He said a team from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will go to municipal water sources to sample the drinking water.

Iowa previously tested drinking water for PFAS during a federal monitoring system from 2013 until 2015. The original tests did not show any significant levels of contamination. There is no definitive date for when the results of the 2021 tests will be released to the public.

Democrats look to tax big polluters


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | August 5, 2021

Democrats in Washington D.C. are looking to tax a handful of major gas and oil companies who are causing harm to the environment.

Senator Chris Van Hollen from Maryland has drafted legislation in recent days that would have the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Environmental Protection Agency identify companies that have released large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in recent years. After determining the biggest polluters, the bill would assess a fee for companies based on what kind and the amount of emissions they’ve released since 2000.

The collected fees would go to research and development of clean energy solutions as well as to the communities across the county suffering from climate crises, like flooding and wildfires. The proposal comes on the heels of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that allocates billions of dollars to prepare and recover from climate change events. The infrastructure legislation has yet to be passed, but shows a commitment to funding initiatives that address climate change.

Scientists have linked increased flooding, more frequent wildfires, and other prominent disasters to the burning of fossil fuels. The drafted bill would attempt to holds fossil fuel companies accountable for the cost of such weather events.

Van Hollen told The New York Times on Wednesday that the drafted bill would collect $500 billion in the next decade. He is optimistic that the draft would have support from his Democratic colleagues if he introduced it in the U.S. Senate. Some of the companies that would be fined would be Exxon Mobil and Chevron.