Friday, April 20, 2018

China trash ban is a global recycling wake up call

chinese man swimming in plastic bottles

China's trash import ban is giving the global recycling industry an enormous headache. The flip side: the world has finally been forced to rethink its approach to waste.

Ivana Kottasová reports for CNN Money:
Beijing has last year banned the imports of 24 varieties of solid waste, including types of plastic and unsorted paper. On Friday, it extended the ban to dozens more types of recyclable materials, including steel waste, used auto parts and old ships.
The ban has terrible consequences for some places. A town in Australia has been sending recyclable waste to a landfill because it can no longer afford to recycle it.
In the UK, hoards of low-grade plastic have been hanging around in storage, eventually heading for incineration.
The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries warned the ban is disrupting global supply chains and may lead manufacturers to use new materials rather than recycled ones.
But experts say the ban has been a massive wake-up call for countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Japan and others who relied on China to buy and handle their trash from them. 

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'Man the pumps' to save Miami Beach from a rising ocean?

An anti-flooding water pump roars at full capacity at Maurice Gibb Park in Miami Beach due to the beginning of King Tide last October. (C.M. GUERRERO photo)

Alex Harris reports in The Miami Herald:

Miami Beach's $500 million attempt to elevate and pump itself out of sea level rise's path has drawn criticism, but an expert panel concluded Thursday that the city's doing what it needs to survive.
The question of Miami Beach's future, whether the community stands a chance in the face of rising seas, was an unspoken theme in every interview the panel held this week, said Mark Osler, a national practice leader in Coastal Science and Engineering with Michael Baker International.
"Our professional opinion is that the outcome is uncertain, and it is in your hands," he said, to audible gasps from the audience. Osler said the panel believes the city has a future if the public and the government work together on solutions and don't let up on the push to enact them.
The experts praised the city for "acting with courage" to start construction on the elevated roads and pumps that have left streets dramatically drier after floods — provided, of course, the power isn't knocked out in a storm.
That's not to say the island's engineering-first, green-solutions-never approach drew perfect marks. The experts, a nine-member panel convened by the Urban Land Institute, called for a more comprehensive plan for living with water and increased transparency with the public on what's changing and why.
The city should embrace more "green" infrastructure, they said, like parks to soak up floodwater and mangroves to lessen wave impacts on the coast, in addition to "gray" infrastructure like elevated roads and sea walls. A group of Harvard graduate students recommended a similar approach last week.
The panel also critiqued the city on water quality, a topic that wasn't included in the panel's scope and became a controversial issue following a Florida International University scientist's discovery that the city's pumps push more pollutants into the bay.

Department of Energy Announces $39M for Innovative Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research & Dev.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $39 million in available funding to support early stage research and development (R&D) of innovative hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. As one component of DOE’s portfolio, hydrogen and fuel cells can enable affordable and reliable energy that enhances economic growth and energy security. The work supported through this investment will address key early-stage technical challenges for fuel cells and for hydrogen fuel production, delivery, and storage related to hydrogen infrastructure.
Anticipated R&D topics include:
  • Topic 1: ElectroCat
    • Platinum group metal-free oxygen reduction electrocatalyst and electrode R&D enabling cost-competitive polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, as part of DOE’s Energy Materials Network.
  • Topic 2: H2@Scale
    • 2a) Integrated Energy Production and Hydrogen Fueling R&D -innovative component and integration R&D enabling cost competitive stations.
    • 2b) Electrolyzer Manufacturing R&D - R&D to enable manufacturing techniques to reduce electrolyzer capital costs.
    • 2c) Breakthrough Infrastructure R&D - materials and component R&D to reduce cost and station footprint.
  • Topic 3: Innovative Concepts
    • 3a) Innovative Fuel Cell Membrane R&D - non-polyfluorosulfonic acid and high temperature membrane types to address critical barriers and increase performance and durability while meeting cost targets.
    • 3b) Innovative Reversible and Liquid Fuel Cell Component R&D - innovative concepts for reversible fuel cells or direct liquid fuel cells.
Concept papers are due May 7, 2018 and full applications will be due June 12, 2018. More information, application requirements, and instructions can be found on the EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange website.
More information about DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office can be found HERE.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What do Cory's Booker's football years tell us about him?

Booker still keeps a football in his Senate office in Washington (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)

Jonathan Tamari reports in about Cory Booker:

On his gleaming resumé, Booker's college football career stands out as an unusual bullet point.
Unlike at most stops in his life, the onetime Stanford class president, Rhodes scholar, Newark mayor, and political celebrity who became a senator at 44 never achieved star status as a Stanford athlete. He was relegated to the background, a role player on a talented team.
It's a piece of his biography that has gone largely unexplored as Booker has landed on the shortlist of potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020. With that possibility comes a new level of scrutiny on Booker's personal history, as voters seek to understand the experiences that shaped a man who might put himself forward to lead the country.
A look at his four years on the Cardinal football team shows how someone who has enjoyed a rapid rise, whose ambitions seem boundless, and whose political critics accuse him of being more flash than substance handled frustration, disappointment, and a workmanlike grind with little personal glory.

Murphy on VW settlement: Half for DEP, half for me

Clean-air advocates wind up with $72 million, had hoped total amount would go to fighting greenhouse-gas emissions

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Roughly half of the $141 million the state will receive from settlements with Volkswagen involving air-pollution violations and cheating on emissions tests will go into the general fund instead of clean-car initiatives.

The state Department of Environmental Protection told lawmakers $69 million from the auto manufacturer resulting from a settlement reached with the attorney general’s office has been directed to the state budget.

Clean-energy advocates had hoped the money, along with $72 million from a separate settlement involving the auto manufacturer and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, would go to funding a series of programs to reduce air pollution from vehicles.

But the DEP, in answering questions from the Office of Legislative Services, indicated yesterday the money from the settlement with New Jersey is being diverted to the general fund.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sunoco proposes changes to Mariner East 2 construction

Mariner East 2 pipe being installed in 2017 in Washington County, Pa.
Jon Hurdle reports for StateImpact:

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on plans by Sunoco Pipeline to modify its construction of the controversial Mariner East pipelines at two sites in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township.

The DEP said Monday that Sunoco proposes to change its construction method for the pipelines from horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to a conventional bore at one site and from HDD to a combination of conventional bore, open trench and HDD at the other sit

The changes would mean “major modifications” to the company’s permits under the DEP’s Chapter 105 water obstruction and Chapter 102 erosion control regulations, and so require DEP approval after a public hearing, the department said in a statement.

The meeting will be held on April 30 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm at the EN Peirce Middle School in West Chester. The DEP also extended a public-comment period from April 21 until May 11.

The statement said one of the affected sites is on East Swedesford Road, where the local water utility, Aqua America, has raised concerns about a well at Hillside Drive. The other location is along North Pottstown Pike, where the new work plan has been prompted by hydrogeological analysis and seismic testing, DEP said. Sunoco submitted both plans last October.

The sites are among about 60 along the cross-state pipeline route that have been subject to a court-ordered “re-evaluation” of local geology after a string of drilling-fluid spills.

Sunoco sought the change “to ensure Aqua America’s water supply would not be impacted,” spokesperson Lisa Dillinger wrote in an email. The change would allow construction to continue “in the most efficient manner possible while keeping safety as our first priority

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Spectre of fracking waste clouds treatment plant bill in NJ

Opponents worry that loophole in bill on governor’s desk will allow fracking waste to be discharged into river

dupont wastewater treatment
Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:

At one time, the sprawling 1,455-acre DuPont Chambers Work facility was the largest commercial wastewater treatment plant in North America, dumping as much as 40 million gallons daily into the Delaware River.
The business was largely phased out six years ago, a victim of industry trends to minimize waste and other factors. But the facility, now operated by a spinoff company, could experience a bit of economic revival under a bill on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.
The legislation, overwhelmingly approved by both houses last week, has significant implications for Chemours, which now operates the site. If signed by the governor, the company would avert a much more rigorous review from environmental regulators to allow the plant to renew commercial operations, according to critics.
“This bill will put more pollution into the Delaware because it creates a loophole that redefines a hazardous waste facility, allowing them to dump toxic chemicals,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The bill would allow the facility to bring in more and different hazardous waste to be treated at the plant, he said.
But backers of the bill, including Assemblyman John Burzichelli, a sponsor, argue the facility would provide a valuable function by ensuring safe handling of hazardous waste. “It has a history of safety; it has a history of compliance,’’ he told a legislative committee that heard the bill earlier this year.
The facility’s treatment plant currently discharges waste from onsite into the river, but the bill would allow it to resume accepting waste from other businesses offsite, a red flag to environmentalists who fear that could include waste from natural-gas fracking operations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
“If this bill is signed, it could allow comingled fracking waste to be dumped in the river,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “That’s a disaster in the making for the ecology of the estuary.’’
Jeff Fritz, state government affairs director for Chemours, downplayed the concerns raised by critics in a legislative hearing in February. He said the company would still need to obtain a modified permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which would set the standards for discharges into the river.
Murphy is on record as opposing fracking within the Delaware River Basin. At a press conference in February, the governor said he is against dumping of fracking waste within the basin, as well as water withdrawals within the watershed to support fracking outside the region.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

MA's top court refuses to block Exxon climate fraud probe

The ruling clears the way for state Attorney General Maura Healey’s investigation into whether oil giant Exxon misled the public and investors about climate change.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

He who owns the tractor software owns the farm

American farm equipment has grown larger and more productive, but also more dependent on electronic sensors and computer software.

When something goes wrong, repairs can be costly, and tractor-makers like John Deere are withholding the diagnostic tools that a farmer could use to fix his own equipment.

This has led to a legislative debate called 'Right to Repair.'

[Motherboard Video]

Related: New Jersey Just Introduced Right to Repair Legislation

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Pa reporters win awards for series on toxic water

Jenny Wagner and Kyle Bagenstose

Staff writers for the Bucks County Courier Times and The Doylestown Intelligencer have earned state awards for their environmental reporting from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors. The awards will be presented in Gettysburg in June.
Kyle Bagenstose and Jenny Wagner earned first-place honors in the Best Investigative Reporting category and second place in the Best Public Service category for their continuing work on this news organization’s Unwell Water series.
Since 2014, 22 public wells and about 200 private wells in the area have been shut down by contamination from perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate. The series tells the stories of local people who believe they’ve been sickened by chemicals, speaking with health experts on the potential toxicity of the chemicals, and examining the actions taken by local, state and federal agencies as they address the contamination.

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