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  • Gulf Restoration Groups Applaud Updated RESTORE Council Comprehensive Plan

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:

    Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
    Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
    Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
    Rachael Bishop, Ocean Conservancy, 202.280.6232, rbishop@oceanconservancy.org
    Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org

    Gulf Restoration Groups Applaud Updated RESTORE Council Comprehensive Plan

    Updated plan an important component of largest ecosystem restoration program in U.S. history

    (New Orleans — August 23, 2016) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council released a draft update to its Comprehensive Plan, guiding restoration of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In May 2013, the RESTORE Council released its first Comprehensive Plan, “The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf Coast,” which was unanimously approved by the Council in August 2013. As a result of the BP settlement, the RESTORE Council will administer more than two billion dollars in recovery and restoration funds over the coming years.

    National organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

    “The RESTORE Council has an unprecedented opportunity to make crucial investments toward the long-term recovery and resilience of the Gulf, and the Comprehensive Plan is the foundation upon which these decisions and investments will be made.

    “We are pleased to see the RESTORE Council make continuing progress toward a meaningful Comprehensive Plan update with the release of this draft, which addresses many important issues. We applaud USDA’s leadership and the dedication of all the RESTORE Council members in improving this important guiding document. As the draft Comprehensive Plan advances toward finalization, our groups look forward to providing the Council with feedback that can make this updated plan as strong as possible to guide the tremendous restoration opportunities ahead.”

    # # #

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  • California carbon market's August auction results see slight rebound, but show need for post-2020 climate action

    By Erica Morehouse

    The results released today from California and Quebec’s latest cap-and-trade auction show a slight rebound in demand from results seen in May, but still demonstrate the need for a continued commitment on ambitious climate action beyond 2020. The results were released minutes after members of the California Assembly voted on ambitious 2030 targets; the final legislative votes are expected tomorrow.

    The August 16 auction offered more than 86 million current vintage allowances (available for 2016 or later compliance) and sold just over 30 million. Approximately 10 million future allowances were offered that will not be available for use until 2019 or later; 769,000 of those allowances were sold.

    These auction results represent a slight increase in demand from the May auction, where approximately 10% of the current and future vintage allowances that were offered sold. More allowances were also offered at this auction since allowances consigned by utility participants that were not sold in May were offered again at this auction.  The number of allowances offered for sale by utilities meant that the only state controlled allowances that sold were a small number of future vintage allowances.

    California state controlled allowances that were not sold in August will not be offered again until two auctions clear above the floor price, representing a temporary tightening of the cap and a way for the program to self-adjust to temporary decreases in demand.

    What changed and what is the same since the May auction

    After May’s auction we pointed to several major factors that contributed to low demand: secondary market allowances were available for purchase below the floor price; regulated emissions have been below the cap allowing businesses to take a wait-and-see approach to purchasing allowances in advance of a pending appeal challenging the cap-and-trade auctions in the court of appeal; and need for increased certainty about the post-2020 cap-and-trade program.

    Here’s what affected the August auction results:

    1. Secondary market prices have increased to right around the price of the current auction floor. This is likely the main factor contributing to the August auction’s slightly higher sales.
    2. There have been no further developments on the litigation as parties wait for the court to announce an oral argument schedule.
    3. There has been some movement on California’s effort to provide post-2020 certainty but not definitive action. In July, California's Air Resources Board released proposed amendments to set rules and a cap-and-trade carbon budget in-line with achieving a 40 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2030. Final agency action is not expected until spring of 2017. The California Legislature is also considering a package of bills that would cement the 2030 target, currently in executive order, into statute. Assembly members voted today on climate targets and we will see whether legislative members will fulfill the will of over two-thirds of the California electorate by passing these targets.

    California’s package of climate programs, including cap and trade, must first be evaluated based on whether emissions are going down – and the latest data from ARB in June showed that emissions do continue to decline. Selling out an auction and raising a set amount of revenue does not equate to overall success for the cap and trade program.

    That said, once climate proceeds are in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), spending them wisely to reduce emissions and benefit communities, especially disadvantaged communities, is a metric of program success. To date, about 1.4 billion dollars have been languishing in the GGRF, not creating benefits, and resulting in consequences for real Californians.

    In addition to passing climate targets, Legislators should continue to act on proposals like the one Pro Tem Kevin de Leon has put forward to spend existing climate dollars this session.

    Read more »
  • The time is now: Solutions for lasting change in Upper Gulf of California

    By Laura Rodriguez

    Photo: Carlos Aguilera

    Photo: Carlos Aguilera

    We are deeply concerned about the future of the vaquita marina, a small porpoise endemic to Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.  Long on the brink of extinction, the vaquita is facing an additional threat due to rampant poaching of an endangered fish – the totoaba – whose swim bladder is prized in Asian cuisine, and whose future is also imperiled. The situation is now dire with scientists estimating that fewer than 60 vaquita may now exist, escalating the urgency for action. Not only are the futures of vaquita and totoaba at stake, but also the future of thousands of legal fishermen whose livelihoods are uncertain as the government proposes management changes to address the threats to vaquita.

    In July, President Peña Nieto and President Obama called for a permanent ban on gillnets in the Upper Gulf region where vaquita are found, the development of alternative gear to ensure that legal fishing in the Upper Gulf does not interact with vaquita, and bilateral coordination on enforcement to eliminate illegal trafficking of totoaba. The Mexican government has made initial strides, and this week the Mexican Senate Fisheries Committee convened Upper Gulf stakeholders to provide a platform for discussion of the critical issues at hand.

    We commend both governments for understanding the urgency and importance of these issues, and for announcing efforts focused on fisheries gear improvements. However, these actions alone are not enough. What’s most important is to end the illegal poaching of totoaba. As long as poaching continues, vaquita continue to risk death as a result of entanglement in totoaba nets and further, the already depleted totoaba population will continue to decline.

    We are working with a group of committed experts and stakeholders to develop innovative solutions that get to the root of the problem – ending illegal poaching. Systemic changes are needed, including solutions that create consequences for illegal action while rewarding good performance.  Further, solutions are needed to deter poaching, eliminate corruption in the enforcement process, and ensure justice is brought to bear. There also needs to be a reduction of black market trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. Many of these solutions will require changes on the water, while some may also require cooperation across Mexican and U.S. borders and beyond.

    While promoting solutions that end poaching, we will also work hand in hand with Upper Gulf communities to develop the strict measures – and means of transparent verification – to ensure that legal fisheries do not cause direct harm to vaquita or provide cover for illegal poaching of totoaba. This will include focus on the curvina fishery, one of the most economically important finfish fisheries in the Upper Gulf which has improved performance through a science-and-rights-based management system.

    Now is the time to solve these challenges. With new solutions involving the best science available, technology, and continued government and community commitment to change, we will have a vibrant Upper Gulf supporting a wide diversity of marine life, including the vaquita and totoaba, while providing stable livelihoods for thousands of people.

    Read more »
  • California Has Solid Data on Methane Leaks, Now They Need To Be Fixed

    By EDF Blogs

    By Luis Bourgeois, Public Policy Intern, Oil and Gas Program

    Until recently Californians were in the dark when it came to the state’s natural gas distributionBLOG PIC system and its pollution. But all that is changing now; for the first time ever, consistent data on the annual methane emissions from gas utilities is available for all to see. And what does this data show? California has room to reduce leaks and tighten the integrity of its gas delivery system.

    A move toward better transparency

    California’s recent step to boost disclosure of the amount of emissions leaked and number of repairs made to gas pipelines and other equipment is the product of Senate Bill 1371 (Leno) passed in 2014, and subsequent regulations from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). SB 1371 took this approach because methane, the main component of natural gas, is a powerful climate pollutant that puts our environment and communities at risk with a leak-prone system across the natural gas transmission, distribution and storage sectors.

    This bill also resulted in the CPUC developing new formulas to calculate the statewide amount of gas that California customers pay for, but which is not delivered because it is leaked or vented into the air. This is important because SB 1371 also required that revenues for all activities identified and required to be adjusted based on the amount of “lost and unaccounted for gas”, meaning that customers are not left paying the bill for what gas goes unused.

    Results speak for itself

    Last month, in a breakthrough for transparency, utilities submitted their eye-opening leak reports to the CPUC, shedding much-needed light on the state’s continued problem with gas leaks and methane pollution.

    Here are some key findings that emerged from the reports:

    • California lost a lot of gas in 2015

    In all, California lost almost 10 billion standard cubic feet of gas last year. While Aliso Canyon’s 2015 load was approximately one-third of this, the remaining gas lost through “normal” leaks and vents (about 6 billion SCF) has the same 20-year climate impact of burning about 1 billion gallons of gasoline.

    • Leaks have been going on for years

    One surprising and unfortunate finding from the reports was the age of the methane leaks in the state, highlighting chronic problems with repair practices.

    For instance, of the almost 46,000 distribution pipeline leaks reported by SoCalGas in 2015, more than 20 percent remained open at the end of the year, and over 1,000 of them have been leaking for five years or longer.

    PG&E isn’t really any better in this regard, reporting that over 9,000 of their 20,000 total distribution pipeline leaks were left unrepaired for an average of over three years, while many exceeded five years – and at least one was over 30 years old. While the report didn’t explain why these leaks were left unfixed for so long, these chronic leaks show that improvements in leak detection and repair practices are urgently needed.

    • Top emissions sources are consistent across many or all of the utilities

    All three of the largest California gas utilities Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) reported customer meter leaks as a leading source of emissions. Metering and regulating station leaks, distribution pipeline leaks and transmission pipeline blowdowns were also found to be a significant emission source at many of the utilities. This reinforces the need for more frequent detection and prioritized repair of leaks.  Blowdowns, which are intentional releases of gas to test or repair pipelines, can be easily and cost effectively mitigated, allowing for immediate reductions from a large emission source.

    • Aliso Canyon was huge, but not an isolated problem

    Not so surprisingly, these reports reinforced the size and scale of the Aliso Canyon leak. This catastrophe accounted for 60% of SoCalGas’s system-wide emissions in 2015. It was also bigger than PG&E’s total annual emissions last year and nearly 15 times the annual emissions from SDG&E’s entire system. The reports, however, confirm that Aliso Canyon is an extreme example of an all-too common problem, and highlight the need for regulations to require more frequent leak survey and leak repair.

    • More improvements are needed for transparent, consistent reporting

    Despite the findings noted above, what’s notable is what wasn’t included in the utilities’ methane leaks reports. For instance, many leaks had missing emissions data, and other emissions measurements weren’t assumed to apply to the entire system, likely leading to underestimates in emissions and leaving room for improvement.

    In addition to leak reporting, SB 1371 also required utilities to fix leaks and reduce venting using best practices available in the gas industry. As this data shows, with thousands of leaks ongoing across the state, careful yet aggressive implementation is needed.

    This initial round of data is a breakthrough for gas customers, who deserve to know how much gas is lost, and for utilities, giving them the tools needed to run a more efficient system. However, there is more work to be done to develop consistent reporting standards. Only then can we accurately determine the biggest sources of methane emissions and reduce these leaks, benefitting both Californians and our environment.

    Read more »
  • New EPA Guidelines: An Opportunity to Reduce Smog, Protect Public Health

    By EDF Blogs

    By Peter Zalzal and David Lyon

    With families across the country starting back to school this week, the official summer season may be gone, but the ozone season is still in full swing.

    Ozone, more commonly known as “smog” is a harmful air pollutant that results in respiratory ailments like asthma and can even lead to premature death. For too many Americans, ozone pollution makes the activities that we enjoy doing outdoors in the summer difficult or even impossible.  And in recent years, ozone—once a summertime phenomenon impacting mostly larger cities—now affects rural parts of the country and can persist throughout the year.  In fact, rural Wyoming and Utah have experienced elevated ozone levels in the winter on par with some of the larger cities in the country. 

    A number of different industrial sources can contribute to this pollution, but in certain areas, emissions from the oil and natural gas sector are a significant factor. Fortunately, this summer, EPA finalized the nation’s first-ever standards for methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector–standards that will also reduce smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

    EPA has also proposed guidelines for states to help minimize smog-forming emissions from oil and gas infrastructure that is already in existence and located in certain areas with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution. These control techniques guidelines (CTGs) identify commonsense, highly cost-effective measures that are similar to those already being deployed by states like Colorado and Wyoming to cut smog pollution from the oil and gas sector and protect public health. The CTGs will also help to ensure that these sources do their part to reduce emissions and restore healthy air, and because they are guidelines, the CTGs simply require states to evaluate the merits of addressing particular emissions sources. Where states have different and more effective strategies to reduce oil and gas sector pollution, the guidelines help create a framework to evaluate and enable these state-based solutions.

    We expect that the agency will soon finalize these requirements. Below are three things to look for in the final set of guidelines.

    Leak Detection and Repair Requirements

    Equipment leaks are a significant source of emissions from the oil and natural gas sector, and  rigorous leak detection and repair (LDAR) standards are the cornerstone of any effective program to minimize these emissions.

    In final standards applicable to new and modified sources, the agency made several improvements to strengthen LDAR requirements, including:

    • increasing inspection frequencies for compressor stations;
    • removing exemptions for low-producing wells; and
    • removing provisions that allowed operators to reduce the frequency of inspections based on the percentage of components leaking at a site.

    EPA should ensure these same improvements are reflected in final CTGs.  Particularly as recent evidence, including measurements in ozone nonattainment areas, has underscored that low-producing wells can be a significant source of emissions.

    Storage Tanks

    Storage tanks are likewise an important source of smog-forming emissions. EPA should finalize protective guidelines for tanks that include a certification requirement, similar to the one the agency finalized in its methane regulations earlier this summer. This will help to ensure that tank controls are designed and sized properly. Recent evidence, including information from scientific studies and from the state of Colorado, suggests tank controls are often ineffective and so proper design of these controls, combined with frequent inspections, is necessary to minimize emissions.

    Liquids Unloading Activities

    EPA has not proposed guidelines applicable to liquids unloading activities, even though these too are a significant source of smog-forming emissions. These practices are designed to restore production in lower producing wells and can involve substantial venting of gas (sometimes in excess of 10 percent of a wells production). Colorado and Wyoming require operators of new and existing wells to undertake steps to limit emissions from liquids unloading activities. Moreover, the flexibility EPA has in crafting guidelines could allow the agency to pursue an approach focused on best management practices, much like the standards in place in these leading states.

    EPA’s CTGs are an indispensable, highly-cost effective, and flexible tool that can help protect the health of communities that face elevated levels of ozone pollution. It is critical that EPA move forward with protective final guidelines that provide state air quality planners with tools to reduce this pollution from the oil and natural gas sector.

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  • Gulf Restoration Groups Applaud Updated RESTORE Council Comprehensive Plan
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  • Why Are Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Emissions Going Up?

    By Andrew Williams

    NatlGasFlares_142558250_Photos-RFA new report reveals that harmful emissions from oil and gas development are increasing.  This is bad news for Pennsylvania families who have been repeatedly told by industry trade groups that pollution is under control.

    According to the Department of Environmental Protection, in 2014 oil and gas companies emitted nearly 110,000 tons of methane – a powerful climate pollutant that’s rapidly accelerating global warming. That represents a 1% increase over the previous year, but even a modest increase is too much. With 2016 on pace to be the warmest year ever recorded, we should be reducing methane emissions, not increasing them.

    The uptick in methane emissions is not the only red flag. The DEP reports that other pollutants known to create severe health problems are also on the rise.  According to DEP, industry emitted more than 6 thousand tons of smog-forming Volatile Organic Compounds – a 25% increase over the previous year. For the nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians who suffer from asthma, this rise in smog-forming pollution is especially troubling.

    While alarming, these figures still don’t represent the full scope of pollution created by this industry.  The data released by the DEP merely reflects what was reported.  Many scientific studies reveal that emissions are likely much higher.  One study in Texas, for example, revealed that emissions were almost twice as high as official estimates.

    Fortunately, there is clear evidence that regulations can help drive down emissions. In 2012 the EPA started requiring companies to practice “green completions” on new gas wells.  Since then, reported data indicates completion emissions in Pennsylvania have declined by over 80%.  Colorado also serves as a textbook example: in 2014, the state began regulating oil and gas methane emissions and that same year methane emissions from oil and gas production declined 10% according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    With oil and gas emissions going up in Pennsylvania, it’s clear that the state should get serious about the problem. In January, Governor Wolf and the DEP committed to regulating industry’s methane and VOC pollution but these protections have yet to become a reality due largely to counterproductive efforts from the state legislature.  How much higher do emissions have to rise before Pennsylvania communities can get the protections they were promised?

    Left to its own devices, oil and gas companies have made air pollution in Pennsylvania worse.  And while we may still not know the full scope of Pennsylvania’s emissions, these new figures make it abundantly clear that we need more oversight of the oil and gas industry in order to protect Pennsylvania from the rising risks of expanding development.

     

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  • Reconnecting the Delta: How Increased Mud Supply Can Improve Sediment Diversions

    Jordan Davis, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

    Rising sea level and anthropogenic sediment loss is a combination affecting sustainability of deltaic ecosystems. Around the world, major deltas have been experiencing a 44% decline in sediment supply since the 1950s due to construction of dams and reservoirs, including the Mississippi River Delta. A recent journal article, published in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, examined the role of fine-grained sediments in deltaic restoration. The authors found that the supply of suspended mud (silt and clay) to the coast has dropped from a mean of 390 Mt y-1 (megatonnes per year) to just 100 Mt y-1 since 1970. These fine-grained sediments play a crucial role in estuarine ecosystems by sustaining existing marshes.

    Almost 100 dams, built as part of the Pick-Sloan water development project, trap mud that once flowed from the Missouri River Basin, resulting in high erosion of very fine sediment, known as loess, in both the eastern and western bank tributaries. Five large reservoirs eliminated sediment from 53% of the watershed. This loss of sediment, with the loss of deltaic wetlands, has hit Louisiana especially hard, and this continued decline in fine-grained sediment flux from the Mississippi River is more important than ever.

    (1)(A) Suspended sediment sampling stations in the Mississippi River watershed, modified from Meade and Moody (2010). (B) USGS sediment sampling stations (red triangles) and large dams along the Missouri River Basin, modified from Alexander et al. (2013). (C) Mississippi River Delta Plain and proposed sites of large diversions (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, 2012). Image from Kemp et al. 2016.

    (1) (A) Suspended sediment sampling stations in the Mississippi River watershed, modified from Meade and Moody (2010). (B) USGS sediment sampling stations (red triangles) and large dams along the Missouri River Basin, modified from Alexander et al. (2013). (C) Mississippi River Delta Plain and proposed sites of large diversions (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, 2012). Image from Kemp et al. 2016.

    The wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta are rapidly shrinking. Since 1923, almost 1,250,000 acres have been lost to open water. Initiatives to stop this loss are underway; the Coastal Master Plan calls for at minimum two large (75,000 cubic feet per second) controlled sediment diversions, engineered to encourage land building by reconnecting the lower Mississippi River to its delta.

    (2)Annual total suspended sediment and suspended sand loads in the Mississippi River at Tarbert Landing showing relationship between 1950-1969 and 1970-2013, modified from Meade and Moody (2010). Image modified from Kemp et al. 2016

    (2) Annual total suspended sediment and suspended sand loads in the Mississippi River at Tarbert Landing showing relationship between 1950-1969 and 1970-2013, modified from Meade and Moody (2010). Image modified from Kemp et al. 2016

    The Mississippi River is naturally effective at building land. Over the last 7,000 nearly 25,000 square miles of new land were built in the delta. Sediment diversions mimic the natural processes that originally built coastal Louisiana by reconnecting the river to its wetlands. Sand transport via sediment diversions allows wetland building in shallow, sheltered coastal bays. However, the finer grained mud that is necessary to sustaining existing marshes will still need to play a role in restoration.

    According to the authors of the study, 66% of the missing mud lies in reservoirs on the lowest Missouri River tributaries. Increased mud supply to the delta is possible. The authors found that bypassing 100 Mt y-1 of mud around the dams would increase Mississippi River delta sediment supply within 1-2 decades, and such measures are compatible with the objectives of the Missouri River Restoration and Platte River Recovery Program. Additionally, the authors believe that more mud would enhance river diversions, making them more effective.

    Undoubtedly, extensive regional coordination and funding is needed to move fine-grained sediments past as many as 50 Lower Missouri River tributary dams. However, the deterioration of the Mississippi River Delta is so rapid that to just sustain a fraction of the landmass, engineered river diversions and an increase in mud supply are necessary.

    Jordan Davis is a summer intern at the Environmental Defense Fund working with the Mississippi River Delta Restoration team. Jordan is a junior at the College of Charleston majoring in geology and minoring in environmental science. Jordan is interested in coastal geology and is excited to apply what she has learned at the Environmental Defense Fund to problems in Charleston; this fall, she will be working on local beach restoration initiatives in the area.

    Read more »
  • Fishermen lead the way in discarding old habits

    By Guest Author

    Photo: Laurence Hartwell

    Photo: Laurence Hartwell

    By: Dr. Erik Lindebo, Senior Consultant, EDF Oceans Europe

    For coastal communities across Europe, fishing is both a way of life and a business. It’s an activity rich with tradition, spanning generations within families – but to be passed down from father to son, businesses need to be strong: fishing must stay profitable, and sustainable. Facing a changing policy landscape can challenge fishing businesses of all sizes, and the introduction of a ‘Landing Obligation’ (which requires fishermen to land and account for all of their catch rather than discarding unwanted fish) by the Common Fisheries Policy is certainly one of the biggest policy challenges the industry has had to adapt to.

    Whilst many industry members are still reeling at the implications of landing 100% of catch – and worried about their bottom line in a ‘discard free’ future – a dedicated and growing core of active fishermen are seeking new solutions to implementing the Landing Obligation (LO). Their vision is of fishing businesses that waste little, deliver profits and remain sustainable in the long-term. But how can this be achieved?

    “We just need to make use of the tools available. With the right combination of tools and policy measures we can create the right conditions for sustainability and strong business.” Peter Olsson, Swedish Fishermen’s Producer Organisation.

    No need to reinvent the wheel:

    With the LO in place, I believe constructive dialogue between policy makers and those working to practically apply their legislation is more important now than it ever has been. In recent years we have seen a step-change in how fisheries science and management is viewed: the start of a shift from top-down instructions to something more inclusive, which seeks answers and inspiration from the communities affected by legislative change. Using the knowledge already inherent in fishing communities, and giving them the space and correct incentives to experiment and deliver change, we can see existing tools to combat discards put to new uses.

    This will have to be the basis upon which a successful Landing Obligation is delivered.

    “The collaborative approach to implementation is truly worthwhile. When you give fishermen the ability and incentive to deal with the issues themselves, they are able to come up with the best solutions. Fishermen need the freedom to take control of their fisheries.” David Stevens, Crystal Sea Fishing

    Highlighting the range of tools available to achieve low – or no – discards has been at the heart of EDF’s industry-led approach in Europe, with our Discard Reduction Manual offering methods which can be applied in different scenarios, combined, or used in isolation: all of which can play a role in delivering the LO. These tools include options for smart quota management and building accountability, but also look closely at ways to improve selectivity within fisheries.

     

    Industry innovation highlighted at IIFET 2016 in Aberdeen:

    Providing a crucial platform for the exchange of knowledge from within fishing communities and debate emerging new ideas, the International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET) dedicated a day of its 18th biennial meeting solely to ‘industry and policy’. I was there to host an EDF panel session entitled: ‘Adapt, improvise and overcome: fishermen’s responses to the LO’.

    Practical, optimistic approaches to the LO conundrum were at the heart of discussions, with both fishermen and the processing sector detailing their trial, error and triumphs with self-driven gear adaptation. Whilst there was a clear sense of ambition from those present, the vision of the future presented was not without some stark warnings from industry.

    With that crucial aim of constructive and mutually respectful dialogue in mind, it’s clear that legislators need to listen and be sensitive to the testimonies of fishermen like Crystal Sea Fishing’s David Stevens. His participation in the Cefas and Marine Management Organisation (MMO)-supported “Catch Quota Trial” enabled him to achieve a 67% reduction in mortality and almost completely erase juvenile haddock discards. This was, however, done at a 19% economic loss. This cannot be ignored.

    An important step forward:

    I strongly believe that closely examining real life examples, such as David’s, and the others we heard during our panel conversation, is the first step on the path to discovering practical implementation solutions for policies that affect livelihoods as well as ecosystems. It allows us to assess and balance the on-the-water effectiveness of increased selectivity, different forms of smart quota management, and everything else in the toolbox. Such scenarios also let us see potential limitations of policies and the need for further innovation from the bottom-up – as well as increased flexibility from the top-down.

    EDF will continue to find channels through which to encourage this kind of dialogue, and to champion the examples of ambitious fishermen generating best practice ahead of the curve. With old knowledge, new innovations and a varied toolbox at hand, Europe can deliver a sustainable future: for fish, fishermen and communities.

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  • Crucial – but unfulfilled – role local code officials have in protecting children from lead

    By Tom Neltner

    Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

    The tragedy in Flint, Michigan has reminded us once again how dependent we are on state and local officials to protect us from hidden threats like lead. In hindsight, anyone with a basic understanding of the role of corrosion control in keeping lead out of the water we drink knows that changing the source of that water, especially to one as corrosive as the Flint River, must be done with extreme care. Based on criminal indictments that have been handed down, the officials ignored the federal regulations designed to prevent such a tragedy.

    State and local building code officials will have a chance this October to show whether they have learned from Flint. As voting members of the International Code Council (ICC), code officials will cast their ballot on a simple proposal that can significantly improve the protections for children from lead hazards. The proposal by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) would require that any contractor seeking a building permit to conduct renovations in homes built before 1978 be properly certified to ensure that their work leaves behind no dangerous levels of lead contaminated dust.

    For a decade, NCHH has been submitting proposals to ICC seeking revisions to the organization’s model codes. These proposals were designed to protect residents from the hazards created when lead-based paint is disturbed or allowed to deteriorate. Each time ICC has rejected the proposal, NCHH has refined, strengthened, and narrowed them in response to feedback.

    NCHH persisted in submitting these proposals because the ICC model codes largely define what state local officials consider as safe. Most states, cities, and counties in the United States use these model codes as the starting point to ensure homes are built, repaired, and renovated in a manner that protects the health, safety, and welfare of residents. They adopt the ICC model codes adding or removing provisions to fit local needs and conditions. In almost every community in our country, when a contractor applies for a building permit to renovate a home, the code official responsible for reviewing the construction documents relies on ICC model codes to guide that work. Therefore, it is critical to get the model codes right.

    The current proposal before the code officials in October is the most narrow possible. It ONLY asks code officials to require that contractors include the lead-safe renovation firm certificate, required by federal rule for contractors working in pre-1978 housing, as part of the permit application process. Demonstrating that firms actually possess the mandatory certificate levels the playing field so that contractors who skirt the law will not have a competitive advantage over those in compliance. A certified contractor is also more likely to do the work safely than one who has ignored the law.

    The certificate has been mandatory since 2010 under EPA’s Lead-Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which required that all contractors obtain training in lead-safe work practices. Unfortunately, many contractors are still unaware of the regulation or unwilling to take the proper training. When the Minnesota legislature adopted this requirement to be certified in order to pull permits, EPA saw a 30% jump in contractors getting certified. Cities like Rochester, New York have had similar success.

    In preliminary reviews of the October proposal, an ICC committee rejected NCHH’s proposal because they saw it as making code officials responsible for enforcing federal rules. At the hearing, EPA officials made it clear that it was the Agency’s responsibility, and not code officials, to enforce the rule. Rather, the proposal is simply asking code officials to verify that contractors are properly credentialed for the work they are proposing to complete, much the way they verify plumbing and electrical licenses of contractors working in those fields.

    We depend on building code officials to ensure that renovations done on our homes are performed safely. That is their mission. When the voting on NCHH’s simple proposal closes in November, we will learn whether these officials choose to step up to their role in ensuring that the lessons from Flint have in fact made a difference.

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