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- Senator Markey asks: What if people could buy food they know is free of secret ingredients?
By Tom Neltner
In May 2015, 36% of consumers said that chemicals in food was their most important food safety issue and 23% of consumer said they changed their purchase habits out of concern with chemicals in their food. Leading food manufacturers responded by reformulating their products to remove artificial flavors and colors.
What if these same consumers knew that chemicals added to their food had not been reviewed for safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? As the Natural Resources Defense Council made clear two years ago, 56 food additive makers chose to avoid FDA’s scrutiny by taking advantage of a loophole in the law for “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) substances. They purposely chose not to be transparent by keeping secret the safety evaluation conducted by their employees or consultants. These companies appear to make only a few of the estimated 1000 chemicals that FDA has not checked for safety or is aware they exist.
In February, we learned that 51% of consumers think that safety means not only that a product is free of harmful ingredients but that its labeling is clear and accurate. Forty-seven percent want clear information on ingredients and sourcing. With this in mind, it’s fair to assume that consumers also expect that all food chemicals are safe and known to the FDA. Many consumers would likely not buy products where the labeling failed to disclose that the food they serve their families contained ingredients the FDA has admitted it “cannot vouch for their safety".
On April 26, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) put the issue front and center when he asked FDA whether it has “sufficient authority to require a special label on any foods or beverages containing ingredients that have been self-determined to be GRAS without an FDA review?” If FDA had sufficient authority, then “what would the label look like?”
Recognizing that safety goes beyond transparency, Senator Markey also addressed the risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent and pervasive in secret safety decisions made without FDA oversight. He asked FDA if it has authority to promulgate rules to minimize conflicts of interest for experts making the safety decision. Based on FDA’s comments at a recent Grocery Manufacturers Association meeting, the agency confirmed it was only planning to issue a non-binding guidance on such conflicts instead of an enforceable rule. Finally, the Senator asked whether FDA needs additional authority to ensure the safety of GRAS substances, and requested a response on all his questions by May 17.
Senator Markey’s questions get at a fundamental question: as long as the agency cannot ensure the safety of GRAS substances, can it then enable consumers to make a better informed choice whether or not to buy food with ingredients that the agency has never evaluated for safety? There is precedent for such actions with dietary supplement ingredients. Why not food?Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 30, 2016 - 11:42 pm
- 3 Ways NGOs Can Help Sustainable Supply Chains Grow
Earlier this week, a former sustainability executive with McDonald’s delivered a wake-up call for environmental groups, listing “5 ways that NGOs stunt sustainability.” In this article, Bob Langert explains the ways that nonprofits are failing to help companies turn sustainability commitments into on-the-ground results. In the context of sustainable palm oil, he notes:
“You can’t just go after big brands and expect them to manage a supply chain that has them seven stages removed, starting with the smallholders, to mills, then plantations, to storage facilities, refineries, ingredient manufacturers and then product manufacturers, then into a final product a retailer sells, such as ice cream, a granola bar or shampoo — with palm as a minute ingredient.”
He’s right – sustainability in supply chains, especially in agriculture, is incredibly complex.
So how can environmental groups effectively champion sustainability progress throughout global supply chains, from the C-suite to crop fields? Here are three ideas EDF has learned from deep, on-the-ground partnerships with leading brands.
- Get your hands dirty
In the interest of transparency, EDF and Langert go back 25 years to EDF’s first ground-breaking partnership with McDonald’s to phase out the Styrofoam hamburger clamshell. That project began when EDF staff attended McDonald’s Hamburger University, where we learned all the nitty gritty details of what makes the hamburger business tick. That insider knowledge was the foundation for understanding what strategies would work for McDonalds and for the environment.
Similarly, prior to launching our collaboration with Smithfield Foods, I spent a lot of time in eastern North Carolina, visiting grain buying locations and learning about the company’s operations. That knowledge was essential in developing a program that benefits the environment, Smithfield’s business, and crop farmers.
The more you know about supply chain/company operations, the more effective NGO-business…
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- Let science be your guide – and keep it simple
Langert notes that environmental groups tend towards “complexism” – in other words, making everything far too complicated.
Agricultural ecosystems are intricate, and sometimes we err on the side of asking too much in terms of the data that must be collected by corporations and farmers in order to measure the impacts of sustainable agriculture initiatives. But we’ve learned that there must be a balance between scientific rigor and the feasibility of data collection, or else you’re likely to end up with no data at all.
Environmental groups can and should harness science to make sustainability easier for corporations and farmers. For example, the NutrientStar program assesses the effectiveness of nitrogen efficiency tools and products on the market – all based on science. NutrientStar makes it easier for farmers to figure out what will work for their operations, and for food companies to decide what to promote to crop growers in their sourcing regions. That makes implementing sustainable sourcing projects easier, and also generates better results for the environment.
- Keep your eyes on the prize
EDF’s sustainable sourcing initiative is working toward an agricultural system in which sustainability is business as usual. We want to transform the entire food supply chain, not just niche markets.
When EDF announced this vision, critics said it would be impossible, given that most food companies don’t have a line of sight to grain growers. In the past few years, we’ve proven that this argument doesn’t hold water.
It’s in food companies’ interest to better understand their grain supply chains, both to meet their customers’ demands and to manage costs and future risks to their supply chains – especially those posed by climate change. With modeling developed through our collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, we are helping food companies better understand where their grain comes from and its environmental impacts and risks.
We’ve also found that companies do have the ability to assist farmers in adopting more sustainable practices – especially when you get farmers’ existing support system involved. By engaging farmers’ trusted advisors, such as agricultural wholesaler United Suppliers, and connecting those advisors to demand from food companies, we’re seeing tangible improvements from Campbell’s Soup, Unilever, Smithfield Foods, Kellogg’s, and a host of other companies.
While we still have a ways to go to reach our goal of sustainability as business as usual, we’ve seen action from companies and farmers throughout the supply chain who are willing to lead the way. That gives me hope that the prize is within reach.
Follow Maggie on Twitter – @MaggieMonastSource: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 29, 2016 - 2:44 pm
- NOAA Guarantees Continued Crisis For New England Fisheries With Irresponsible ActionRead more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 29, 2016 - 4:00 am
- Four Reasons We Can’t Wait to Plug the Leaks
By Felice Stadler
From articles in top media, to diverse state leaders taking action, there has been a noticeable uptick in public attention on the need for methane pollution limits on the oil and gas industry over the past few months.
It’s great to see growing national and international interest being brought to an issue that was deserving of attention many years ago. But we need to move faster to rein in this problem.
Why the urgency? Here are four reasons:
- Americans across the country are seeing the impact of an uncontrolled oil and gas industry on their air quality.
When oil and gas operators intentionally vent methane or leak it from faulty equipment or poor practices, they are simultaneously releasing harmful smog-forming pollutants than exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems, and toxic, cancer-causing pollutants like benzene.
And let’s face it: clean air protections have not kept pace with the explosive expansion of oil and gas drilling in the U.S. over the past decade.
This was brought home once again last week when the American Lung Association (ALA) released their annual State of the Air report. Over 40 counties with significant oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and other energy producing states received a ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade for high-smog days. What’s more, over two dozen counties got a worse grade this year than last year, moving backward at a time when industry claims to be making progress.
If my child’s grades got worse from one year to the next and I did nothing, I’d be an irresponsible steward. The same applies to the federal government, whose job it is to provide clean air protections to all communities. There’s no excuse to delay action on a problem that’s cost-effective to solve.
ALA’s 2016 report coincides with the newly released National Climate Assessment which predicts that a warming climate will further exacerbate air quality and health impacts of smog pollution.
- Methane emissions are vastly higher than we thought
EPA’s recently released 2014 greenhouse gas inventory found that we have been significantly underestimating oil and gas methane emissions. The updated inventory estimates that oil and gas operations release 9.8 million metric tons of methane pollution every year — 34% more than previously estimated. These emissions have the same short-term climate impact as over 200 coal-fired power plants, or driving over two-thirds of all of the cars in the U.S. for a year.
With every year of delay we continue to release an astounding amount of methane pollution and these numbers show this problem is much too large to ignore.
- Climate and clean air protections must keep pace with the oil and gas industry
EPA soon will release final rules that will set methane pollution limits for new or modified (i.e., expanded or rebuilt) oil and gas operations. While these rules are critical, the end result is that the majority of industry operations will remain unregulated.
According to a recent Energy Information Agency analysis, a staggering amount of energy production came online over the last five years: 48% of oil production in 2015 came from wells drilled within the previous two years.
While a new well doesn’t guarantee methane emissions, a new study reinforces that methane leaks, especially ‘super-emitters’ — disproportionately large, unpredictable emissions – can happen anytime, anywhere, from both new and old oil and gas equipment.
Not surprisingly, nearly four dozen counties that received poor or failing grades (C, D, or F) from the American Lung Association are also home to these new oil and gas wells. Proper oversight and environmental standards have just not kept pace with the nation’s expanding energy infrastructure.
- Methane pollution is contributing to an ever-unstable climate.
Every day there is more sobering news about the changes scientists are observing due to a warming climate.
As the evidence mounts, it’s clear we are reaching a tipping point: coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef; polar bears experiencing increasing stresses as sea ice vanishes; coastal communities facing recurring flooding, and insect borne diseases threatening our families and even our pets.
All of these data points demonstrate we don’t have the luxury of time, especially not with delaying action on potent pollutants like methane that are responsible for 25% of the warming that we’re experiencing today.
The oil and gas boom that this country has enjoyed comes with big environmental consequences. It’s time to fix this problem.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 28, 2016 - 7:53 pm
- The True Cost of Electricity: What we’re not paying for through our utility bills
By Ferit Ucar
The price we all pay for electricity generally does not reflect the “true costs” of producing it. As described in a recent blog post, generating electricity creates harmful pollution, damaging the environment and public health. This comes with a cost, but it is not necessarily paid for by those generating the pollution or purchasing the electricity. These types of costs are known as “external costs.”
For example, a coal-fired power plant releases pollution into the atmosphere, which adversely affects the health of residents in nearby communities. This pollution is an example of an external cost because it causes health problems that neither the plant owners nor the electric users pay for (unless they live near the plant and pay the cost through their health bills).
From coal mining and energy production, to distributing and using that energy, to disposing of waste products, electricity has many external costs. By examining them, we can better understand the true cost of electricity and how it varies depending on the technology or fuel used to generate it.
Upstream operations take place before electricity is generated. For fossil-fuel and nuclear generators, the largest upstream external costs are associated with producing, processing, and transporting fuel. For solar and wind, the main upstream impacts are associated with manufacturing and transporting materials required for the solar panels and wind turbines.
The external costs associated with upstream operations can be significant. Natural gas, for example, burns cleaner than other fossil fuels such as coal. However, methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a very potent greenhouse gas – up to 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it is released into the atmosphere. Leaks and intentional releases of this damaging pollutant during the production, delivery, and use of natural gas, if not addressed, have the potential to negate the environmental benefits of natural gas over coal.
The True Cost of Electricity: What we’re not paying for through our utility bills
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The potential dangers of methane from natural gas operations can be most starkly seen in the recent, massive methane leak at a natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon, California. After a well in the facility failed, it leaked a total of 97,000 metric tons of methane before the gas company was able to plug the leak. This is the short term climate equivalent of burning almost a billion gallons of gasoline.
Downstream operations take place during the generation of electricity and its subsequent transmission and distribution to customers.
Pollution from fossil-fuel power plants makes up a significant portion of the downstream external costs associated with electricity generation. The U.S. Clean Air Act regulates and limits the amount of common pollutants power plants can release, including particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Emissions of SO2 and NOx are also regulated under various cap-and-trade programs. While these programs have substantially reduced SO2 and NOx pollution, the remaining emissions from fossil-fuel generators still have adverse health impacts, including premature death and asthma.
A National Research Council study in 2005, for example, found that these health-impacting pollutants from coal- and gas-fired power plants, respectively, cost society 3.2 cents and 0.16 cents per unit of generated electricity (kilowatt-hour). With an average household in the United States using about 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, the health cost associated with that electricity consumption would be about $350 per year if it all came from a coal plant.
Health-impacting pollutants from coal- and gas-fired power plants, respectively, cost society 3.2 cents and 0.16 cents per unit of generated electricity (kilowatt-hour).
In addition to the types of pollution described above, fossil-fuel power plants also release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – the main culprit of climate change. The carbon intensity of electricity generation varies significantly by fuel and technology, with coal and oil generation producing the most carbon and certain renewable energy, like solar and wind, producing none. However, as mentioned earlier, these renewables do produce carbon in upstream operations. The graph shows the total lifecycle carbon emissions for each technology, including upstream and downstream emissions.
A coal-fired plant emits about one ton of carbon for each 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity it generates over its lifecycle. In 2013, the U.S. government updated its estimate of the cost to society of each ton of carbon emitted (also known as the “social cost of carbon”) and valued it at approximately $40 per ton. Based on that estimate, the climate-related damages from coal plants equal 4 cents per kilowatt-hour on average. However, $40 per ton is an underestimate because not all climate damages are considered in this figure.
Overall, the electric power sector contributes significantly to the nation’s carbon emissions – equaling almost 40 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2015. Based on the social cost of carbon, climate-related damages from the power sector were nearly $80 billion in a single year. That cost is mostly borne by current and future generations through increased frequency of extreme weather events like flooding, drought, storms, and so on.
Certain power plants need large amounts of water to operate, reducing water quality and intensifying drought in some areas. For example, these plants occasionally release chemical pollutants into nearby lakes or rivers. Even when these instances are limited and regulated, there are still occasional, accidental releases like the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina. Importantly, solar and wind require no water to produce electricity, making them a less costly choice in terms of water impacts.
So what should we do with these external costs now that we know more about them? Incorporating the health and environmental costs of electricity into the price we pay for it is one solution for which Environmental Defense Fund is advocating. Doing so will help reduce pollution and ensure a level playing field for clean energy in our electricity markets, creating a cleaner system for everyone.
This blog post is part two in a four-part series that takes a deep dive into the economics of our electric system and the role pricing can play in accelerating the clean energy economy.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 28, 2016 - 4:19 pm
- Texas Methane Leaks are a Problem—for California
By Tim O'Connor
Aliso Canyon was a big methane release, especially in Los Angeles, but in the grand scheme of methane released every day by the nation’s oil and gas industry, it was a blip. And recent footage from Texas, coupled with a new study of over 8,000 oil and gas wells gives a glimpse at the kind of leaks that are happening outside of California’s borders – leaks that have huge implications for the state.
The Texas infrared footage shows a cloud of methane leaking from a pump jack in an oil field in Texas’ Permian Basin. While these smaller leaks may not be as egregious as the one at Aliso Canyon, they often go undetected and unaddressed, adding up to a large amount of pollution. And as these leaks happen in Texas – with little plans to stop them – the climate footprint of the gas supply system continues to increase.
So what does this have to do with California? California imports nearly 90 percent of its natural gas from regions across western North America, with a large portion coming from Texas production areas like the Permian and Anadarko basins. To put it another way: when it comes to the climate, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. So even while progress is happening to cut oil and gas pollution in the Golden State, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure imported gas isn’t responsible for significant climate damage before it gets here.
Texas-sized methane problem
To put this problem into perspective, Texas releases nearly 10 times the methane emissions that leaked from Aliso Canyon into the air, every year. And as the nation’s leading methane polluter, Texas contributes about a third of the country’s total methane emissions. That’s a huge amount of climate damage, because methane is 84 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is emitted.
Taking into account new scientific research, those emissions are likely even higher. The latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, nationwide, industry’s methane emissions are 34 percent higher than previously thought. It’s an issue that’s of particular concern in Texas, where a recent study found methane levels in the state’s Barnett Shale may be up to 90 percent higher than earlier EPA estimates.
While California and other leading gas producing states like Colorado and Pennsylvania are making progress to address methane pollution, there’s no such effort happening in Texas. Methane pollution is also a wasted energy problem. Because natural gas essentially is methane, pumping it or burning it into the air is no different than throwing money away.
California’s legal duty
As we wrote (here), California’s Global Warming Law, AB 32, includes the responsibility to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas it uses, even if those emissions occur outside of state lines. AB 32 requires the state board to minimize leakage of greenhouse gases to achieve climate pollution goals, and under the law, the very definition of leakage is “a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases within the state that is offset by an increase in emissions of greenhouse gases outside the state.”
Over the last several decades, California has benefited from the use of natural gas for power generation and more recently, as a transportation fuel. However, recent analyses have shown that leakage of methane within the natural gas value chain can seriously undermine the climate benefit of using natural gas. So, while natural gas may be cutting in-state emissions, methane leaks from pipes and equipment that produce and transport gas into California from other states can nearly cancel out that benefit.
In addition to AB 32 requirements, other regulations (the Natural Gas Act – AB 1257) specifically address the need to reduce all methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, requiring the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to keep natural gas a low-emission resource and consider its role in meeting greenhouse gas targets. The law specifically requires CARB to evaluate environmental impacts of emissions reduction strategies using science-based analysis. Following on, AB 1496 (Thurmond) from 2015, requires CARB to develop the climate footprint analysis necessary to understand the role of imported gas in undermining the state’s climate progress.
State and federal efforts
California is on a good path toward addressing its own methane pollution problems, recently introducing some of the most stringent standards in the nation for methane emissions from oil and gas production, and also issuing emergency rules for natural gas storage in the wake of the Aliso Canyon disaster. But if California is to truly address the climate damage that comes from its natural gas use, it has to play an active role in efforts by other states and the federal government.
For example, by working with the Western Governors’ Association, California can work with states like Colorado to ensure others across the Western United States implement state-level rules to reduce methane during production, and cut down on methane pollution created along the supply chain that provides much of California’s fuel.
At the federal level, California can take a leading role by helping support robust regulations on oil and gas development currently being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management, and actively support stronger pipeline standards and economic incentives at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address methane emissions from interstate pipelines.
And at home, California can look to efforts like the recently released strategy to reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants that identifies the need to develop solutions to imported natural gas leakage, and SB 1441 that is currently working its way through the state legislature. These efforts recognize there are things California can do to push market signals for leakage reduction upstream – thereby reducing emissions in places like Texas without taking money out of Californians’ wallets.
California is taking a stand against methane pollution, but when top producers like Texas don’t, the only answer is strong federal rules, innovative state solutions, and regional cooperation that ensure all oil and gas producers take steps to cut their emissions.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 28, 2016 - 2:40 pm
- Unfulfilled: EPA’s 2009 commitment to fix lead-based paint hazard standard
By Tom Neltner
Tom Neltner, J.D., is Chemicals Policy Director.
In 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama, supported by then-Senator Hillary Clinton, forced the Bush administration to issue a long-overdue rule to ensure contractors used lead-safe work practices when conducting renovations, repairs, and painting work at homes and child-occupied facilities. So when Senator Obama became President Obama, there was tremendous promise for advances in lead poisoning prevention.
By the second half of 2009, it appeared that promise was turning into reality. Under President Obama’s leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made lead poisoning prevention a priority and undertook a series of important commitments to protect children. Despite that initial success, many of those prevention efforts were foundering by late 2010.
One of the several critical commitments Obama’s EPA made was to revise the agency’s outdated 2001 “Identification of Dangerous Levels of Lead” Rule that set standards for health-based lead-based paint hazards in homes and childcare centers. The standards are an essential building block for lead poisoning prevention because they define when the risk posed by lead in paint, in dust, and in soil is so high that action is needed to reduce those hazards. The uses include:
- EPA and state-certified risk assessors use the standards to advise property owners and families;
- Do-it-yourself test kits reference them when telling families whether or not they have a problem;
- Health departments and housing code officials often rely on these standards for citations;
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) references the standards in its lead-safe housing rule to protect residents of federally subsidized housing; and
- EPA and state environmental agencies use them to guide cleanup of contamination.
Since 2011, EPA has taken no apparent action to follow through on its commitment. We will explore the status of the other commitments in other blogs, but for now let’s consider what happened on the lead-based paint hazards rule.
1999 to 2001: Establishing the hazard standards
The lead-based paint hazard standards rule is one of many that Congress mandated in the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazards Reduction Act of 1992, a comprehensive program to protect children from paint. Part of the bill, which included establishing Title IV the Toxic Substance Chemical Act, directed EPA to issue a hazards standard rule by 1994 (15 U.S.C. § 2683). It wasn’t until 1999 that the agency released a proposed rule. And it was another two years before the EPA finalized the proposal and promulgated a rule on January 5, 2001 in the last days of the Clinton Administration (40 CFR § 745.61 to 65). The Bush Administration had the option to reverse the decision but declined to act
The rule established three types of hazard standards: paint-lead hazard, dust-lead hazard, and soil-lead hazard. The dust-lead hazard standard established 40 micrograms of lead per square foot (µg/ft2) of the floor of homes and child-occupied facilities as a hazard that must be eliminated. This is equivalent to one gram – the same amount of sugar in a packet we add to our tea – spread evenly over about 1/2 of a football field. The agency set this level because it would “result in a 1 to 5 percent probability of an individual child’s exceeding a blood lead level of 10 µg/dL”. The definition of elevated blood lead level in 2001, when the rule was promulgated, was 10 µg/dL; it was reduced to 5 µg/dL in 2012. For interior window sills, the level was 250 µg/ft2. For bare soil, a hazard was defined as levels over 400 parts per million (ppm) in the play area and 1,200 ppm in the rest of the yard.
2007 to 2009: Standards found to be “insufficiently protective of children’s health”
In 2007, one of EPA’s scientific advisory committees told the agency that the dust-lead hazard standard was “insufficiently protective of children’s health, as indicated by recent epidemiological studies.” The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) reevaluated the available data and concluded that the risk of an elevated blood level was 18% not less than 5% as EPA claimed in 2001.
Two years later, 12 groups, including Sierra Club, NCHH, United Parents Against Lead, Childhood Lead Action Project, Improving Kids Environment, Healthy Homes Collaborative, Environmental Health Watch, Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, New Jersey Citizen Action, and others petitioned EPA to revise the rule. They asked EPA to:
- Reduce the lead in dust standard from 40 to 10 µg/ft2 on floors and from 250 to 100 µg/ft2 on interior window sills; and
- Change the definition of lead-based paint from more than 5,000 ppm lead to 600 ppm, the maximum allowable level of lead in paint after 1978.
On October 22, 2009, EPA granted the request and said it would coordinate with HUD to revise the definition of lead-based paint because of the agencies' shared responsibility. EPA stated that it did not commit to a specific rulemaking outcome or a certain date to promulgate a final rule.
2010 to 2011: Affirmation from agency science advisors
EPA sought feedback from its Science Advisory Board (SAB) on a proposed approach to revise the dust-lead hazard standard in 2010. Later that year, a panel convened by the SAB to consider the issue, found the approach “to be well conceived, clearly described, logical, and reasonable.” It commended EPA for initiating a revision to the standard. In 2011, the full SAB issued its final report supporting the agency’s overall approach and made recommendations to improve the modeling.
No activity for more than 5 years
Since the SAB report in 2011 affirming the approach, EPA appears to have made no further progress towards updating these standards. With its limited resources, EPA chose to focus on one of its other commitments made in late 2009: implementing an agreement the agency made to settle a lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, EPA agreed to reconsider flaws in its renovation, repair and painting rule, including extending the rule to include public and commercial buildings and not just housing and child-occupied facilities. Expanding lead poisoning protections to these sites is necessary, but it should not be an either-or proposition. It should not come at the expense of action on other commitments to protect children from lead.
With lead poisoning prevention back in the news, the demand for updated lead standards is all the more urgent. Families are asking about lead more than ever. In February 2016, 24 groups led by Loyola University and the Shriver Center petitioned HUD to update its lead-safe-housing rule. Within a month, HUD moved forward on a proposal to fix the rule. In March 2016, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced legislation directing EPA to revise rule. In addition, EPA has been asked by an National Drinking Water Advisory Council to issue a health-based action level for lead in drinking water that is similar to the lead-based paint hazard standards.
The lead-based paint hazard standards rule is an essential part of the federal lead poisoning prevention program. In the six years since EPA agreed to fix the rule, the evidence of the harm caused by lead has become even more compelling. The agency needs to immediately revise its lead-based paint hazards consistent with the latest science and the recommendations of its own Science Advisory Board.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 28, 2016 - 12:26 pm
- Report: Proposed BLM Methane Waste Rule Will Increase Production, Revenue in New Mexico’s San Juan BasinRead more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 28, 2016 - 4:00 am
- Can airlines help reduce deforestation?
By Chris Meyer
A window of opportunity may be opening to secure sustainable financing – from an unusual source – to support national, state, and provincial-level efforts to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
The global airline industry is seeking international agreement on a program to cap the carbon dioxide emissions of flights between countries, and let airlines use a Market-Based Measure (MBM) to offset emissions above the cap. When the 191 governments that comprise the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) vote on the MBM at the end of September, that may decide whether airlines can use REDD+ to offset their emissions above 2020 levels.
Why does ICAO need REDD+?
In 2013, ICAO member states adopted a goal of “carbon neutral growth from 2020” – i.e., capping the net emissions of international flights at 2020 levels. International aviation’s emissions, however, are forecasted to rise dramatically, as tens of thousands of new large aircraft take to the skies in coming decades.
Even after international aviation makes improvements in operational and technological efficiency, the sector will still likely face an “emissions gap” of 7.8 billion tonnes (or 7.8 Gt CO2) over the period of 2020-2040. National and jurisdictional level REDD+ projects that meet the environmental and social safeguards agreed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are anticipated to be able to supply offsets enabling aviation to cover a significant portion of the expected gap, even while ensuring that these reductions are not also claimed against national emission reduction commitments.
Getting the right REDD+ into ICAO: REDD+ programs that meet UNFCCC requirements
The December 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 197 Parties to the UNFCCC, gave special recognition to the key role that REDD+ can play in mitigating climate change.
The Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC’s 2013 Warsaw Framework on REDD+, and related UNFCCC Decisions provide that REDD+ programs must be created at national, or – temporarily – subnational (e.g. state and province) level. This is important because national and subnational REDD+ programs (collectively known as jurisdictional REDD+ or “JREDD+” programs) can create and enforce policies to address deforestation at a large scale.
For example, without jurisdictional REDD+, there’s a risk that forest protection in one project area could displace deforestation to other areas; this is avoided when REDD+ projects are “nested” in a national or jurisdictional-level program. According to guidance by the UNFCCC, JREDD+ programs’ results must be recognized by national REDD+ Focal Points and submitted to the REDD Information hub in order to ensure that emissions reductions are not claimed more than once.
In March and April, ICAO convened a set of regional dialogues to give governments, industry, and civil society stakeholders the opportunity to discuss MBM design options and potential sources of offsets. ICAO will convene a high-level ministerial meeting May 11-13 at ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada, to review a draft text. Additional meetings will be held throughout the summer and the final, and most important ICAO Assembly, where the MBM will be finalized, is to be held in Montreal from 27 September to 7 October 2016.
Seizing the opportunity
REDD+ countries interested in sustainable financing for their national and jurisdictional REDD+ programs should be aware of the potential for a new ICAO market based mechanism to provide such financing. In order to seize this opportunity, REDD+ policy makers and aviation counterparts need to collaborate to ensure an ICAO market based mechanism inclusive of REDD+ and with environmental integrity.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 27, 2016 - 8:42 pm
- Take Action: The Clock is Ticking on Aviation PollutionRight now, the industry's climate impact is unchecked--and if we do nothing, emissions will triple by 2050.Read more »Source: Main Feed - Environmental Defense | Published: April 27, 2016 - 8:15 pm