BioCycle March 2009, Vol. 50, No. 3, p. 10
EPA Proposes National Reporting On Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first comprehensive national system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by major sources in the United States. EPA is developing this rule under the authority of the Clean Air Act. “Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Through this new reporting, we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases.” In developing the reporting requirements, EPA considered the substantial amount of work already completed and underway in many states, regions and voluntary programs. Approximately 13,000 facilities, accounting for about 85 percent to 90 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, would be covered under the proposal. The new reporting requirements would apply to suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, as well as large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or greater than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year (tpy). Categories of emitters listed in the preamble of the proposed rule that fall within the solid waste and organics recycling industries include ethanol production, food processing, landfills, wastewater treatment and manure management.
The proposed rule would require reporting of annual emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorochemicals (PFCs), and other fluorinated gases (e.g., nitrogen trifluoride and hydrofluorinated ethers [HFEs]). The proposed rule would apply to certain downstream facilities that emit GHGs (primarily large facilities emitting 25,000 tpy of CO2 equivalent GHG emissions or more) and to upstream suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial GHGs, as well as to manufacturers of vehicles and engines. Reporting would be at the facility level, except certain suppliers and vehicle and engine manufacturers would report at the corporate level. The first annual report would be submitted to EPA in 2011 for the calendar year 2010, except for vehicle and engine manufacturers, which would begin reporting for model year 2011. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is expected in late March or early April. Two public hearings will be held during the comment period. More information on the proposed rule: www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgrulemaking.html
Local Food As An Economic Stimulus
A statewide task force report – Local Food, Farms & Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy – delivered to the Illinois General Assembly in early March concluded that a local farm-and-food development strategy could trigger $20 billion to $30 billion in new economic activity annually, while also creating thousands of new jobs. “The business of creating and maintaining all the links in the local supply chain – aggregating, processing, packaging, storing and transporting products – translates into jobs that cannot be outsourced,” notes the report prepared by the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force. “Right now, such a system doesn’t exist. There is not enough local food to meet the demand, nor enough farmers growing local food, nor companies in the business of processing local food. This void is what is called opportunity.” The task force is comprised of farmers, distributors, retailers, community organizations and government representatives from around the state. Its findings confirm that local food system development is a nationwide phenomenon: “Many states are taking steps to satisfy consumer demand to know how food is produced, where and by whom. State government’s role is to help jumpstart job creation, lending and investment in the local food system so that entrepreneurs can grow the economy.”
The report recognizes how demand for local food is increasing on the wholesale level as well. “Illinois colleges and universities, as well as corporate kitchens, schools, hospitals, prisons, restaurants and grocery stores want to buy farm products from nearby sources. Inadequate local food production and delivery channels pinch supply. Illinois’ predominant farm and food systems are designed to serve distant markets, not link farm production with in-state markets.” To download a copy of the report, go to: www.foodfarmsjobs.org.
Improving Infrastructure For Renewable Energy
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $356 million in loans to 16 rural utilities and cooperatives, across 10 states to improve the infrastructure for renewable energy transmission. The loans will add or fix 3,830 miles of transmission and distribution lines, and benefit about 4,500 customers in rural areas.
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), based in Andarko, Oklahoma, will receive the largest loan, of $103.3 million. It plans to build 120 miles of new lines, 3 switching stations and 10 substations. WFEC says it began receiving electricity from a 19-megawatt wind farm last month, and is looking to add another 100 to 200 megawatts of wind energy. Other loan recipients include Victory Electric Cooperative Association in Dodge City, Kansas, the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative in Prattville, Alabama and the Piedmont Electric Membership Cooperative in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
National Sewage Sludge Survey
The U.S. EPA Office of Water released results of the latest Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey (TNSSS). The survey was among the action steps EPA committed to in response to the 2002 National Research Council report, Biosolids Applied to Land. The survey involved collecting samples of sewage sludge from 74 randomly-chosen wastewater treatment facilities in 35 states during 2006 and 2007. The sampled facilities are considered to be representative of the nation’s 3,337 largest treatment facilities – those that treat more than 1 million gallons/day. Samples were tested for 145 analytes, including metals, PAHs, nitrogen, phosphorus, flame retardants (PDBEs), pharmaceuticals, hormones and steroids. The survey found nitrite/nitrate, fluoride and water-extractable P in every sample; 27 metals were also found in every sample. Semivolatile organics and PAHs were identified in a number of samples; 3 pharmaceuticals – cyprofloxacin, diphenhydramine and triclocarban – were found in all 84 samples. But the majority of pharmaceuticals tested for were not found in any sample. Steroids and flame retardants were also identified. It is important to note that the TNSSS is only a measurement of what is present in the sludge samples. Potential fates and impacts were not studied. EPA noted that the levels of metals measured suggest that wastewater agencies are complying with EPA’s Part 503 pollutant limits. EPA plans to evaluate the pollutants identified by the survey as being present in sewage sludge. The TNSSS report can be downloaded at the EPA biosolids web page: www.epa.gov/waterscience/biosolids.
Atlanta Launches Zero Waste Zone
Last month, the Green Foodservice Alliance, Atlanta Recycles, EPA Region 4 and Georgia Department of Natural Resources launched a zero waste zone in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. In Phase One, businesses in the convention district are targeted; 10 participating food service operations are committing to recycle, convert used grease into biodiesel, and to donate or compost food waste.
Levy Restaurants, which operates the Georgia World Congress Center and Georgia Dome, signed a year-long contract with EnviRelations, LLC to begin composting its food waste, estimating it will divert 34 tons/month. The groups plan to expand the initiative throughout the downtown, and ultimately to other areas of the city. “The companies participating in Atlanta’s downtown Zero Waste Zone, the first in the Southeast and one of just a handful across the nation, will recover material that would ordinarily be sent to landfill and instead put them to good use,” says Stan Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator.
Dairy Industry Sets Ghg Reduction Goal
The dairy industry announced in February that it is committing to a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the year 2020 – equivalent to taking more than 1.25 million passenger cars off the road every year. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, established through Dairy Management, Inc. (a nonprofit group), is taking the lead on bringing together producers, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers, to achieve this GHG reduction goal while at the same time building business value and meeting growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products. The Innovation Center unveiled 12 project plans offering a range of solutions for large and small operations across all industry segments. The projects include “Dairy Underground,” which will pilot a methane pipeline for digester clusters, and “Dairy Power,” an initiative to coordinate industry efforts to facilitate digester adoption and remove barriers to project implementation. The latter, says the Innovation Center, has a 2020 potential business value of $38 million, and a 12 percent reduction in CO2. A website is under development; inquiries can be sent to Alison McKechie at Dairy Management, Inc.: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mapping Renewable Energy Businesses And Jobs
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) unveiled a new tool for mapping green businesses across the U.S. Currently the map only covers 12 states. For a given state, the map shows companies that work in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and includes business name, address and speciality. “These green jobs aren’t just exotic jobs in Silicon Valley,” says Fred Krupp, President of EDF, in a New York Times blog entry. “They’re everyday jobs.” EDF notes that its main target for the project is members of Congress, to illustrate the importance of green job expansion in their home towns and states. It also demonstrates how a cap on carbon will create a new energy economy. “These maps tell the story of companies across the manufacturing heartland that will get new customers and create jobs with a cap on carbon,” says Jackie Roberts, Director of Sustainable Technologies at EDF. View the map at www.edf.org.
Economic Impact Of Recycling, Reuse Industry
Recycling and reuse fuel a $35 billion/year industry in Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, according to a report released in February by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC). The research, which updates NERC’s 2000 Recycling Economic Information Study, found that more than 11,000 recycling and reuse businesses employ over 100,000 individuals in the five states, and pay them wages that exceed $4.2 billion. There are three categories of establishments studied in the survey – recycling industry; relying on recycling; and reuse/remanufacturing. New York has the largest number of those establishments (3,948), followed by Pennsylvania (3,803). However, in terms of direct economic impact, Pennsylvania is more than double that of New York – $20.6 million versus $10.1 million. Pennsylvania employs over 52,000 in the three categories studied; New York employs over 32,000, followed by 14,000 in Massachusetts, 4,500 in Maine, and 1,900 in Delaware.
NERC also evaluated the environmental benefits related to recycling and reuse. Each year, recycling operations in the five states save the amount of energy needed to power close to two million households, and avoid almost 1.25 MTCE of greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to taking 2.8 million cars off the road, according to an estimate by NERC based on the study’s findings. Research for the Recycling Economic Information Update included several significant changes to the methodology used in the 2000 study to examine the economic impacts of the industry, says Lynn Rubinstein, NERC’s Executive Director. “The changes were designed to more accurately estimate the economic contribution of the recycling industry in the five participant states for the year 2007. Those changes also make it difficult to compare the studies to one another.” The complete report is available on the NERC website, www.nerc.org.
Community Digesters Proposed For Clean Lakes, Clean Power
Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin announced support of two community anaerobic digesters (AD) that will help clean Lake Mendota in Dane County and increase production of renewable energy. Doyle is proposing $6.6 million in his capital budget to support the project. “By providing support for these community anaerobic digesters, not only will we help clean our lakes, but will move forward on a clean energy future that will create jobs for hardworking Wisconsin families, protect our environment, and improve our security,” says Doyle.
The two digesters would be located in northern Dane County, one in Waunakee and one in Middleton. Anticipated benefits include: Eliminating an estimated 8,000 to 20,000 pounds/year of phosphorous, per community digester, from the Lake Mendota watershed; Reducing 12,000 tons/year of greenhouse gases, per digester; Generating $900,000/year in revenue from renewable energy produced, per digester; and, Creating jobs for Wisconsin families to construct the digesters, run the digesters, etc.
Reviewing Compostability Vs. Biodegradability
To help sort out the growing number of biodegradability claims in the marketplace, Dr. Ramani Narayan, a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University, reviewed the fundamentals of what makes a plastic “compostable” versus solely “biodegradable.” In an article in Bioplastics magazine, Narayan writes, “Biodegradability is an end-of-life option that allows one to harness the power of microorganisms present in the selected disposal environment to completely remove plastic products designed for biodegradability from the environmental compartment via the microbial food chain in a timely, safe and efficacious manner.” Specifying the time needed for microbial assimilation of the plastic in the “selected disposal environment is an essential requirement – so stating that it will eventually biodegrade or it is partially biodegradable or it is degradable is not acceptable,” he says.
Narayan concludes the article with a list of elements that define and constrain a plastic’s biodegradability. They include: The disposal system, e.g., composting, anaerobic digestion, landfill; Time required for complete microbial utilization in the selected disposal environment (e.g., with composting it is 180 days or less); Complete utilization of the substrate carbon by the microorganisms as measured by the evolved CO2 (aerobic) and CO2+CH4 (anaerobic) leaving no residues; Measured quantitatively by established International and National Standard Specifications, e.g., ASTM D6400 for composting environment, ASTM D6868 for coatings on paper substrates in a composting environment. The complete article can be downloaded from the Biodegradable Products’ Institute website, www.bpiworld.org.