EPA predict counties’ climate disaster resiliency

Those counties that are deemed more likely to bounce back from a climate disaster are in dark blue, while those most vulnerable counties are light yellow. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Jenna Ladd | March 2, 2017

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a Climate Resilience Screening Index (CRSI) and determined the expected resiliency of each county as the climate continues to change, making floods, droughts and wildfires more common.

The report was released in October and used 117 measurements to figure each county’s severe weather risk, governance, society, built environment, and natural environment into an overall resiliency score. Fortunately, researchers found that many U.S. counties have moderate to strong likelihood of bouncing back following a natural disaster however, the outlook varies.

The Appalachians, many counties in the southeast and the western Midwest and some counties in southwestern Texas were found to have lower resiliency scores. The factors that decrease a region’s resiliency in the face of climate disaster include limited access to internet and radio to communicate during an emergency, insufficient infrastructure for evacuation and the absence of local construction industries to rebuild afterward. Southeastern states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee scored the lowest collectively in the U.S.

Those counties with higher social cohesion, levels of education and natural resource conservation are predicted to fare much better. The Pacific Northwest was determined most resilient to the changing climate, with region one of the U.S., including Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island following close behind.

The report’s authors suggest that index’s information be used to determine where climate mitigation resources are allocated in the future. However, it is unlikely that the current administration will use the information to inform any real climate policy.

Dr. James DeWeese is a research analyst studying on climate resilience at the World Resources Institute and was not involved in this study. He said to the Pacific Standard, “Whatever happens, I definitely think the CRSI is something innovative. I haven’t seen much else like it.”

The executive summary and full report can be found here.

President Trump’s budget plan slashes EPA budget

SG On route to Ilulissat
Quickly melting ice sheets in Illulissat, Greenland are evidence of Earth’s warming climate. (United Nations/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 17, 2017

President Donald Trump plans to cut U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent according to his budget plan released Thursday.

In all, the proposed plan would cut $2.6 billion dollars from the agency and eliminate some 3,200 EPA jobs. Gina McCarthy was EPA administrator during the Obama administration. She said, “Literally and figuratively, this is a scorched earth budget that represents an all out assault on clean air, water, and land.”

While funding will be slashed for climate change research and Superfund site reclamation, some EPA programs will be eliminated all together. Among them are urban air quality improvement efforts, infrastructure projects on Native American reservations, energy efficiency improvement programs and water quality improvement work in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward. We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.’ So that is a specific tie to his campaign.” More than 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming over the last century are due to human activity, according to NASA.

In line with a recent report written by over 400 medical doctors, Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies said, “If such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”

Other environmental activists and scientists were also quick to speak out against the proposed cuts. Fred Krupp is the director of the Environmental Defense Fund, he said, “This is an all-out assault on the health of our planet and the health and safety of the American people.” Krupp continued, “Cleaning up our air and protecting our waters are core American values. The ‘skinny budget’ threatens those values — and puts us all at risk.”

President Trump’s budget outline still must be approved by Congress and is expected to change. The Administration’s final budget will be released in May.

Flint residents sue EPA for $722 million in damages

Tap water samples used by Virginia Tech University researchers during the Flint Water Study. (Science-based Medicine)
Jenna Ladd | February 2, 2017

Residents of Flint, Michigan are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allegedly mishandling the city’s lead contamination issue.

The more than 1,700 citizen are seeking $722 million dollars in damages. The plaintiffs argue that the EPA “failed to follow several specific agency mandates and directives” and neglected to determine whether local and state officials were immediately taking steps to address the issue.

The 30-page lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Michigan on Monday. It reads, “This case involves a major failure on all levels of government to protect the health and safety of the public…Local, state and federal agencies and employees, working individually and at times in concert with each other, mismanaged this environmental catastrophe.”

According to the EPA’s own website, lead contamination of drinking water can cause behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia among children. Lead from drinking water can also pass through the placenta resulting in reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth.

The city of Flint, population of 100,000, switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014, causing lead to leach from the city’s old pipes. A year later, children from Flint were found to have high levels of lead in their blood samples. Researchers from Virginia Tech University concluded that 40 percent of the homes in the predominantly African American city had drinking water that exceeded federal safety limits in September of 2015.

On January 24, 2017, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced that the city’s drinking water tested below the federal limit. Ninety percent of the samples taken contained lead levels of 12 parts per billion or less, well below the federal limit of 15 parts per billion. Still, public health officials recommend that residents continue to use filtered water for cooking and drinking as the city continues to replace its pipes.

This class-action lawsuit follows Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s felony charges against four government officials involved in the public health crisis. In all, 13 current and former government officials have been held accountable for the contamination of Flint’s water.

Two Iowa businesses and one school district recognized by EPA for energy efficiency

(Energy Star)
(Energy Star)
Nick Fetty | March 30, 2016

Two Iowa-based businesses and one school district were recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday for energy efficiency in Region 7.

Pella Corporation – a window and door manufacturer based in Pella, Iowa – was one of eight businesses nationwide recognized as a 2016 Energy Star Partner of the Year for Outstanding Achievements in Energy Efficiency. The company is being recognized for manufacturing Energy Star certified products. Additionally, Pella Corporation has partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs – based at the University of California-Berkeley – for developing automated shading technology. The company also sponsored the 2015 Solar Decathlon Education Days to teach students about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Principal Real Estate Investors was recognized by EPA as a Partner of the Year for Energy Management. The Des Moines-based company was selected for its efforts which reduced energy consumption by 1.8 percent and for achieving 2015 Energy Star certification at 65 buildings, including 60 re-certifications. Principal also received an “A” rating on the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing annual survey.

Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) was recognized as an Energy Star Partner of the Year in Sustained Excellence for energy efficient facilities and educational efforts. Three new DMPS buildings achieved Energy Star status in 2015, bringing the grand total of Energy Star-certified buildings district-wide to 49. DMPS has saved more than $2 million since first implementing its energy management approach in 2008. DMPS is the largest school district in Iowa, serving more than 32,000 students.

Principal and DMPS were both honored as part of a joint effort between EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Awards will be presented to recipients during a ceremony in Washington D.C. on April 13.

EPA teams up with religious groups to reduce food waste

Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vacouver, British Columbia. (Flickr)
Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Stephen Rees/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 20, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teaming up with religious groups of all faiths to redirect food on to the plates of the hungry as opposed to landfills.

EPA unveiled the Food Steward’s Pledge on Monday. Not only would this initiative help to feed the hungry but it would also reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that in 2013, 14.3 percent of households in the U.S. did not have regular access to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle. Additionally , the United State Environmental Programme estimates that 870 million malnourished people worldwide could be fed by wasted food.

“Faith communities exemplify caring for the well-being of all people and are leaders in being responsible stewards of our resources for current and future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. “Reducing, donating, and composting excess food is a triple win that protects the environment, cares for the global human family, and saves organizations and Americans money.”

More than 1200 calories of food is wasted per person per day in the U.S. which amounts to roughly $1,600 per year for a family of four.

This initiative is part of a bigger plan by EPA and USDA to cut food waste in half by 2030.

To sign the Food Steward’s Pledge, click here.

Iowa school districts receive EPA grant to improve buses

Nick Fetty | December 16, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that two Iowa school districts will receive $60,000 to retrofit or replace school buses with more fuel efficient models.

The IKM-Manning Community School District in Manning, Iowa will receive $40,000 for two buses while the Sioux City Community School District will receive $20,000 for one bus. This funding is part of a $7 million nationwide project to replace and retrofit 400 inefficient dispersal school buses through EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding.

“Schools and other organizations that install clean diesel technology are doing more than just saving money – they’re creating cleaner, healthier air for children and all community residents,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “This program continues to help thousands of children breathe easier and lead safer lives year after year.”

The new and retrofitted buses are expected to reduce nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions which can contribute to health complications such as asthma and lung damage. DERA has provided funding for more than 650 clean diesel projects across the country which has led to emissions reductions in more than 60,000 engines since 2008.

In 2012, seven Iowa school districts received more than $280,000 to improve fuel efficiency as part of a joint project between EPA and the Department of Natural Resources.

School buses travel approximately four billion miles each year and provide transportation for more than 25 million American school children each day, according to EPA data.

Iowa joins 13 other states challenging EPA water rule

The Raccoon River near Walnut Woods States Park in Des Moines, Iowa. (Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr)
The Raccoon River near Walnut Woods State Park in Des Moines, Iowa. (Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | November 18, 2015

Governor Terry Branstad announced Tuesday that Iowa will join 13 other states in challenging the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The challenge is part of a current court case in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota Southwestern Division against the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. In a press statement, Branstad called the rule “a federal overreach that imposes significant barriers and impairs Iowa’s ability to advance innovative, water quality practices that would actually advance our common goal of water quality.”

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds said the rule is “an overreach by the federal government that hurts Iowa farmers and small businesses” and applauded efforts by Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and other Iowa congressional delegates to combat the rule. She said she hopes the rule is withdrawn so “Iowa can continue to improve water quality through the collaborative and innovate Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said, “The misguided WOTUS rulemaking process has created uncertainty and has threatened to impede our efforts to get conservation and water quality practices on the ground. Joining this lawsuit is the right thing to do and I hope that ultimately the courts will overturn the rule.”

Federal officials say the rule is necessary “to limit pollution in small waterways and wetlands that 117 million Americans depend on for drinking water.”

Other states challenging the rule include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.