Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPA Report Shows Progress in Reducing Urban Air Toxics Across the United States

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress - the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. 
“This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice - striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”
Using national emissions and air quality data, the Urban Air Toxics Report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
  A 66 percent reduction in benzene;-   A nearly 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources like coal-fired power plants; An 84 percent decrease of lead in outdoor air, which slows brain development in children; The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics like arsenic, benzene, lead and nickel from stationary sources and another 1.5 million tons per year (about 50 percent) of air toxics from mobile sources. This is significant because air toxics (also referred to as hazardous air pollutants or HAPs) are known or suspected of causing cancer and can damage the immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems;
- And, approximately 3 million tons per year of criteria pollutants, like particulate amtter and sulfur dioxide, have been reduced from cars and trucks as co-benefits of air toxics reductions.


Reducing toxics is a top priority for EPA, and even with this progress, we continue to improve our understanding of them, so we can effectively reduce remaining risks, particularly in overburdened communities. EPA’s Plan EJ 2014is making sure environmental justice is addressed in programs and policies across the agency. EPA is working closely with state, local and tribal agencies to promote area-wide and regional strategies to address air toxics and support a number of community-based programs that help communities understand, prioritize and reduce exposures to toxic pollutants in their local environment. For example, in Indianapolis, we are working with partners on the ground through an EPA grant for the “Building Lead Safe Communities” Project in the Martindale-Brightwood and Nearwest neighborhoods. We’re addressing the risk of toxic lead exposure in children through outreach efforts and compiling block level soil lead data, identifying hotspots utilizing air sampling and developing synergistic local solutions.

Additionally, recent EPA actions will further address toxic pollution in communities. Since 2005, EPA has taken steps to address air emissions from stationary sources that include major reductions from boilers, power plants, and Portland cement facilities. For example, the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent about 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air. The 2007 Mobile Source Air Toxics rule is projected to reduce toxics emitted from highway vehicles and nonroad equipment, which are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health and environmental effects, by 330,000 tons in 2030, including 61,000 tons of benzene, and VOC emissions (precursors to ozone and PM2.5) by over one million tons. We expect reductions in air toxics from cars and trucks to grow to 80 percent by the year 2030 as we get newer, cleaner vehicles on the road. The proposed updates to emission standards for petroleum refineries would reduce emissions from the 150 petroleum refineries across the U.S., many of which are located near communities.  It would also reduce emissions of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene by 5,600 tons per year.  These efforts, along with the implementation and adoption of new and existing national rules for stationary and mobile sources of pollution, will improve public health for all Americans by providing further reductions in air toxics.
More information on the report: http://www2.epa.gov/urban-air-toxics

Monday, August 4, 2014

EPA Issues Policy Supporting Tribal and Indigenous Communities

CONTACT:
Jennifer Colaizzi
Colaizzi.Jennifer@epa.gov
202-564-7776

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2014

EPA Issues Policy Supporting Tribal and Indigenous Communities
WASHINGTON – Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis when issues of environmental justice arise.
“All tribal and indigenous communities deserve environmental and public health protection. Through this agreement, we are reinforcing our commitment to tribal communities, especially in addressing issues of Environmental Justice,” said Administrator McCarthy.  “We know that tribes are uniquely impacted by a changing climate, which highlights the importance of this agreement and other agency actions, including funding research through the STAR Tribal health grants.”
Over the past 20 years, the agency has made substantial progress in developing both its tribal and environmental justice programs. Building on EPA’s Plan EJ 2014, the policy integrates 17 environmental justice and civil rights principles. The plan also identifies existing informational and resource tools to support EPA in its endeavor to make indigenous regions environmentally safe.
This policy, started in 2011, was developed through tribal government consultations, meetings with state and tribalorganizations and three public comment periods engaging indigenous communities and other stakeholders.
More information on:
 EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peopleshttp://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/resources/policy/indigenous/ej-indigenous-policy.pdf
EPA’s Plan EJ 2014http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/resources/policy/plan-ej-2014/plan-ej-2011-09.pdf
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Amazing Simulation of Aerosols Transport Courtesy of NASA

Even if we can't see them, aerosols play an important part in weather, pollution, and air quality. As NASA points out, they are recognized as one of the most important forcing agents in the climate system (Forster et al. 2007).  Using GEOS-5,  NASA's  Global Modeling and Assimilation Office have made available two very impressive simulations of aerosols distribution throughout the earth. It looks like gentle smoke moving about with the wind,  but it helps us see clearly how pollution can spread far and wide. We are more connected than we realize. 

http://gmao.gsfc.nasa.gov/research/aerosol/modeling/nr1_movie/

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

FDA and EPA issue updated draft advice for fish consumption

Advice encourages pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to eat more fish that are lower in mercury

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued updated draft advice on fish consumption. The two agencies have concluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children should eat more fish that is lower in mercury in order to gain important developmental and health benefits. The updated draft advice is consistent with recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Previously, the FDA and the EPA recommended maximum amounts of fish that these population groups should consume, but did not promote a minimum amount. Over the past decade, however, emerging science has underscored the importance of appropriate amounts of fish in the diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and young children.

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

An FDA analysis of seafood consumption data from over 1,000 pregnant women in the United States found that 21 percent of them ate no fish in the previous month, and those who ate fish ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends–with 50 percent eating fewer than 2 ounces a week, and 75 percent eating fewer than 4 ounces a week. The updated draft advice recommends pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of a variety of fish that are lower in mercury to support fetal growth and development.

“Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits,” said Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Water. “This updated advice will help pregnant women and mothers make informed decisions about the right amount and right kinds of fish to eat during important times in their lives and their children’s lives.”

The updated draft advice cautions pregnant or breastfeeding women to avoid four types of fish that are associated with high mercury levels: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; and king mackerel. In addition, the updated draft advice recommends limiting consumption of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

When eating fish caught from local streams, rivers and lakes, follow fish advisories from local authorities. If advice isn’t available, limit your total intake of such fish to 6 ounces a week and 1-3 ounces for children.

Before issuing final advice, the agencies will consider public comments, and also intend to seek the advice of the FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee and conduct a series of focus groups.

The public can provide comment on the draft advice and the supplemental questions and answers by submitting comments to the Federal Register docket or by participating in any public meetings that may be held. The comment period will be open until 30 days after the last transcript from the advisory committee meeting and any other public meetings becomes available. The dates of any public meetings, as well as when the public comment period will close, will be published in future Federal Register notices at www.federalregister.gov.

For more information:
• Draft advice on fish consumption, and supplemental questions and answers about the draft advice:  Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know
•Federal Register Notice of Availability: Advice About Eating Fish; Draft Update

EPA Requires Ford to Correct Fuel Economy for Six Vehicle Models

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that Ford Motor Company (Ford) is revising the fuel economy (mpg) estimates for six vehicle models to correct errors found in an internal Ford audit. Ford is required to correct fuel economy labels on affected vehicles within 15 days.
EPA oversaw Ford’s re-testing program and conducted independent tests to confirm the corrected results as soon as it was notified by Ford of the potential errors. Ford has agreed to implement enhanced validation tests for future vehicles under EPA oversight.
“This issue highlights the need for continued strong oversight of the fuel economy labeling program,” said Chris Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Consumers need to trust that fuel economy window stickers are giving consumers reliable and fair estimates of real world fuel economy.
Cars currently in dealer lots will be re-labeled with new window stickers reflecting the corrected mileage estimates. Ford will re-label four versions of the Ford Fiesta, the Hybrid and Energi versions of the Ford Fusion, the C-Max Hybrid and Energi, and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.  Most labels will change between 1-5 miles per gallon (mpg). The largest change is for the Lincoln MKZ hybrid whose combined city and highway fuel economy value has been reduced by 7 mpg. EPA and DOE have updated their joint fuel economy site, www.fueleconomy.gov, to reflect the corrected numbers.
EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., conducts fuel economy testing on a number of vehicles each year to ensure that their performance matches the mileage and emissions data submitted to EPA by automakers. These “spot-checks” are part of the oversight program that helps verify that vehicles on the road meet tailpipe emission standards to protect public health and the environment and that all carmakers follow the same procedures for calculating mileage estimates. 
More information on fuel economy: http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/updates.htm
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EPA Selects Six Universities to Help Find New Uses for Toxics Data


WASHINGTON – 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today its selection of academic partners for the 2014 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) University Challenge, a project designed to find innovative ways to increase public awareness of industrial releases of toxic chemicals in communities and around the country.

“For more than 25 years, EPA has gathered critical environmental data to provide communities with information that empowers them to protect their air, water, and land,” said Renee P. Wynn, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Environmental Information. “Through the 2014 TRI University Challenge, we hope to raise student awareness of environmental data and programs while improving research on our environmental challenges to further our work to protect human health and the environment.”

TRI provides communities with information about toxic chemical releases to the air, water, and land, as well as what industries are doing to reduce and prevent these releases. TRI helps industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and the public make more informed decisions to protect their health and environment.

The TRI University Challenge is open to anyone affiliated with an accredited college or university. The selected projects for 2014 were proposed by faculty and students from Drew University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Tennessee State University, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of South Carolina.

Through these partnerships, EPA will work with six diverse academic institutions to develop practical and replicable projects focused on data visualization and analytics for improving the presentation and understanding of TRI data.

The 2014 TRI University Challenge follows the successful 2013-2014 Challenge, in which eight academic partners collaborated with EPA on projects related to environmental education, pollution prevention, stakeholder engagement, and data mash-ups.

While there is no financial award for this Challenge, academic partners will receive support from TRI Program staff and national recognition by being featured on the TRI University Challenge website. In addition, partners will be encouraged to pursue opportunities to speak at relevant conferences and events.

The selected projects will begin in the fall of 2014 and are expected to conclude at the end of the academic year in the summer of 2015.

More information on the TRI University Challenge: www.epa.gov/tri/university

EPA Proposes Updates to Reduce Methane, Other Harmful Pollution from New Landfills

Agency also seeks public input on potential updates to guidelines for existing landfills
WASHINGTON – As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health. The agency also is seeking broad public feedback on how and whether to update guidelines for existing landfills.
Non-hazardous waste from homes, business and institutions ends up in municipal solid waste landfills, where it decomposes and breaks down to form landfill gas, which includes carbon dioxide, a number of air toxics and methane. Methane has a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.
“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” said Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This latest step from the President’s methane strategy builds on our progress to date and takes steps to cut emissions from landfills through common-sense standards.”
Today’s proposal would require new MSW landfills subject to the rule to begin controlling landfill gas at a lower emissions threshold than currently required. Under the proposal, landfills would capture two-thirds of their methane and air toxics emissions by 2023 – 13 percent more than required under current rules. EPA estimates the net nationwide annual costs of complying with the additional requirements in the proposed rule would be $471,000 in 2023.
Today, methane accounts for nearly 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane in the country, accounting for 18 percent of methane emissions in 2012. Regulatory and voluntary programs, including the agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, have helped reduce emissions from landfills by 30 percent from 1990 to 2012. However, without additional actions, methane emissions are projected to increase through 2030.
Also today, EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking broad public input on whether and how to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane. The agency is considering updating those guidelines based on a several factors, including significant changes that have occurred in the landfill industry since the original guidelines were issued in 1996. Nearly 1,000 MSW landfills in the U.S. currently are subject to either the 1996 emission guidelines for existing landfills or the 1996 NSPS for new landfills.
EPA will take public comment on the proposed performance standards updates and the ANPR for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. If a hearing is requested, it will be held on August 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Information on the Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/28/strategy-cut-methane-emissions
Information on the Climate Action Plan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change
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