The average American household spends about $175 a month on gasoline. That means billions of dollars to oil companies, refiners, and others — and a huge incentive for them to block policies that move America to clean, zero-emissions electric vehicles.
We're already seeing a coordinated push to stop President Biden and Congress from boosting American clean cars, trucks and buses — even though these policies will create jobs and a more just and equitable economy, clean the air, and are popular with the public.
EDF experts have assembled these facts to counter the lobbyists who want to make sure Americans keep paying at the pump.
1. Moving to Clean Electric Vehicles Will Help America Win the Race for Good Jobs Today and Tomorrow.
The question isn't electric vehicles versus gas-powered vehicles — the global industry is already moving to EVs, and spending at least $257 billion this decade to make the switch. The issue is whether American workers will get these jobs. We can build these vehicles in places like Hamtramck, MI and Spartansburg, SC or have them shipped to us from Hamburg and Shanghai. Switching to zero-emissions electric trucks, buses, and cars will create jobs today and help us compete with Europe and China in this rapidly expanding market.
Right now 95% of zero emission heavy duty vehicles are made in China, and Europe is making major investments. We need to act if we are going to ensure U.S. manufacturing is competitive in this growing zero emitting vehicles market.
2. Building More Electric Cars, Trucks, and Buses Here in the U.S. Can Mean Hundreds of Thousands of Good Paying Jobs.
Companies in the clean cars, trucks, buses industry and EV battery supply chain are already in operation and development all around the country. From Michigan to South Carolina, from Missouri to Texas, companies are building zero emission cars, EV batteries and charging infrastructure. As the shop chairman of United Auto Worker 598 recently said, companies like General Motors that are powered by union labor being on the forefront of this shift will mean "increased sales and customers… it means more jobs."
3. EVs Are Much Better for the Climate.
Electric vehicles in the U.S. emit less climate pollution than fully gasoline-powered cars, even when powered by today's mixed sources of electric power. Their engines are just much more efficient. And as we move to 100% clean power nationwide, EVs will be even better. That transition is already underway: 1 in 3 Americans are already getting service from a utility that's moving to 100% clean electric generation.
Transportation is the biggest source of climate pollution in the U.S. — and switching to zero emissions EVs are a big part of the solution. In the face of damaging and costly storms, floods, heatwaves and wildfires, we need action.
4. Zero Emissions Vehicles Mean Healthier Communities and a More Equitable America.
Fully electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions, so transitioning trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, taxis and ridesharing fleets to electric vehicles will reduce air pollution for everyone. This means fewer hospitalizations related to asthma and associated health problems — and can especially benefit people of color who, due to discrimination in housing, zoning and economic opportunity, more often live near ports, highways and other industrial sites where they are more likely to be exposed to harmful pollution from diesel and gasoline-powered vehicle traffic.
5. Achievable: The Speed of Technology Advancement, Along With Investments and Other Smart Policies, Will Let Us Reach Our Goal of All Zero Emission New Cars by 2035 and New Trucks and Buses by 2040.
More than 175 zero-pollution truck, bus, car and SUV models are in production or development for the U.S. market. Companies from Amazon and FedEx to Pepsi are looking to switch to clean vehicles. Every major car manufacturer is making significant investments in electric cars, with many aiming for a fully electric future. General Motors recently announced a goal of eliminating tailpipe pollution from all of its cars and pickup trucks by 2035. The faster we move, the faster we can put people to work building the cars of today and tomorrow
U.S. companies have proven time and time again, they can rise to meet any challenge — but they need a predictable business climate to scale up production and plan for the long term.
6. With Investment and Focus, Our Power Grid Can Manage and Support All Demand From Electric Vehicles.
Growth in electric cars and trucks will increase electricity demand. This can help increase investments in clean electricity, bolstering American energy independence and a reliable energy grid. With smart charging, EVs can actually help grid operators integrate higher levels of renewable energy. Energy regulators, electric utilities and grid operators are well aware of this and are monitoring and investing in the clean vehicle transition in real time – and Congress must prioritize and support incentives and policies to increase both EV and clean electricity deployment to ensure we maximize the benefits EVs can offer.
A cleaner grid means less dependence on polluting power plants, which are most often located near communities of color and low-income communities. It also means increased expansion of cleaner sources like rooftop solar in these neighborhoods. This can create good jobs in areas where they are desperately needed.
7. Electric Options Expand Consumer Choice.
Electric cars are being built and developed in as many varieties, from pick-ups to sports cars, as gasoline-powered cars. And their performance is better — some models can go from zero to sixty in 2.3 seconds, stats no gasoline-powered car off the lot can match.
Before too long, gas-powered cars will seem old-fashioned. Sure, some people will still enjoy their vintage cars. But technology moves quickly — and brings with it lower costs, higher performance and more fun.
8. Affordable: EVs Costs Are Declining and Will Save Consumers Thousands on Gas and Other Costs.
For years we've had debates about gas prices. With EV's you pay zero at the gas station. Just about the only people arguing against the switch to EVs are the oil companies, refiners and their allies — they're grasping to preserve their profits. Of course they want people to pay to fill up their cars with gasoline every week.
Analysts predict EVs will reach price parity with gasoline-powered cars by 2025. Research suggests that by 2030, the buyer of a new battery electric vehicle will save more than $7,000 over the life of the car compared to a gasoline-powered car. Our investments will also mean zero-emitting vehicles will be more affordable for local governments that want to create healthier communities.
9. We Can Produce Cleaner Car Batteries in the USA and Work to Recycle Their Components.
As we build more clean cars, we should also make producing batteries cleaner. A report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) says that the place where a battery is made has a lot to do with the amount of emissions from the manufacturing process. Batteries made in the US, with American manufacturing techniques, produce 65% less emissions than those currently made in China.* It's another reason for policies to boost American production of electric vehicles and their components and create jobs here at home.
We should continue to increase battery life and recycling. USA Today reports that "researchers found that recycling car batteries on a large scale was 'very promising'" and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that lithium-ion car batteries could last up to 15 years.
*Vehicles with Chinese-made batteries are still cleaner than gas vehicles.
10. To Combat Child Labor in the Overseas Mining Industry, We Need Strong Monitoring and to Build More Batteries Here Under U.S. Labor Laws.
Mineral sourcing from countries with gross human rights abuses, including child labor, is unacceptable. But the solution isn't sticking to a broken system of relying on polluting transportation that carries its own unacceptable human toll. Instead, we need standards supported by credible third-parties that verify minerals are being sourced sustainably and ethically. Those who are truly concerned about labor standards overseas should be advocating zero emission vehicle standards paired with domestic manufacturing incentive programs in the US.
11. The U.S. EPA and the State of California Have Clear Authority to Establish Pollution Safeguards That Rely on the Increasing Availability of Zero-Emitting Vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency has time tested authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt pollution standards that rely on the increasing availability of zero-emitting vehicles. California can set more protective standards for cars and trucks (and other states can adopt these standards).
Clean transportation is the future. It brings with it economic, health and environmental benefits. Still, lots of big interests make significant profits by ensuring that Americans open their wallets every week at the gas station. This gives us a big fight ahead to secure a quick transition to EVs.. But it's a fight we need to win.
Copyright © 2020 Environmental Defense Fund. Used by permission. The original material is available here.
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Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include
By Richard Denison
Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).
The typical course has been for EPA to identify risks to workers from a new chemical it is reviewing under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but then — instead of issuing an order imposing binding conditions on the chemical's entry onto the market, as TSCA requires — to find that the chemical is "not likely to present an unreasonable risk" and impose no conditions whatsoever on its manufacturer. This sleight of hand is pulled off by EPA stating that it:
expects employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) … consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the new chemical submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them.
We have detailed earlier the myriad ways in which this approach strays from the law, is bad policy and won't protect workers. But here's yet another gaping problem: When we are able to look at the actual SDSs — that is, when EPA has made them available and when they are not totally redacted — we are frequently finding that the specific PPE that EPA claims to be specified in the SDSs — and that EPA asserts is sufficient to protect all workers handling the chemical — is not in the SDSs.
EDF recently examined the SDSs for each of five new chemicals where EPA has declared them "not likely to present an unreasonable risk" and included the language I cited above. EPA has also included the five in a proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that would require companies to notify EPA if they intend to use a chemical in a particular manner that EPA has defined as a "significant new use." On Monday, EDF filed extensive critical comments on those proposed SNURs.
The reason we are focusing here on these chemicals is because, by law, EPA had to establish a rulemaking docket for the SNUR and place in that docket certain supporting documents pertaining to each new chemical. Among those documents is (supposed to be) the chemical's corresponding SDS.
Unfortunately, for two of the five chemicals (identified as P-18-0073 and P-19-0010, because the companies claimed their actual identities to be confidential), EPA failed to provide a copy of the SDS in its docket even though it is part of the documentation the company was required to submit to EPA. For another of the five (P-17-0239), the copy of the SDS EPA included in the docket is totally redacted — even though much if not all of its content comprises health and safety information not eligible for confidential business information (CBI) protection under TSCA and, for the remainder, there is no evidence EPA has reviewed and approved any CBI claims the company asserted for the SDS.
That leaves us with the SDSs for the remaining two cases (P-18-0048and P-18-0122), which are unredacted. Now we can compare what they specify by way of PPE to the specific PPE that EPA relied on in determining these chemicals are "not likely to present an unreasonable risk."
P-18-0048: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0048 states:
Risks to workers: Reproductive toxicity via dermal exposure; corrosion to all tissues via dermal and inhalation exposures.
PPE EPA relies on: EPA identifies as "appropriate PPE" the use of "impervious gloves and a respirator." EPA goes on to state:
EPA expects that employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment, including dermal and respiratory protection with an Assigned Protection Factor [APF] of 50, consistent with the Safety Data Sheet submitted with the PMN [premanufacture notice], in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 6, emphasis added)
The associated SDS does recommend wearing "protective gloves," "suitable protective equipment," and "appropriate chemical resistant gloves." Its only reference to respiratory protection, however, is this:
[I]n the case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment.
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 50. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
P-18-0122: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0122 states:
Risks to workers: Lung toxicity via inhalation; irritation to skin, eyes, lung and GI tract.
PPE EPA relies on:
Risks will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including respiratory protection with an APF of 10. Risks could not be quantified for irritation hazards, but appropriate PPE, including impervious gloves and protective eye wear, would mitigate concerns. EPA expects that employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e., impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a respirator), consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the PMN submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them. (pp. 5-6, emphases added)
While the corresponding SDS does recommend certain types of gloves and safety glasses, it specifically states:
Other protective equipment is not generally required under normal working conditions.
The only mention of use of a respirator anywhere in the SDS is where an OSHA regulatory workplace standard is exceeded – which is clearly not the case here, as no such standards exist for the new chemical. Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 10. Here again, the SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
Other Recent Cases Found
This finding spurred us to look further at other "not likely" determinations and the corresponding SDSs. This is slower-going, because there is no electronically accessible docket. That's not only because EPA has not proposed a SNUR for other new chemicals to which it recently gave the green light; it's also because EPA has failed to comply with its own regulations requiring it to provide electronic access to all new chemical submissions it receives.
As we have described elsewhere, EDF has had no choice but to request the "public files" for these chemicals through EPA's Docket Center, which can take several weeks (they come by snail mail on a CD-ROM).
I looked at a number of recent new chemicals EPA has green-lighted for which we have received public files. In one case no SDS was provided in the public file, while in two others the SDS was there but again totally redacted. In some of the remaining cases the SDS recommended PPE that matched that EPA described in its "not likely" document, or at least came close.
But in other cases, there was not a match. Here are two examples:
P-19-0021/22: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-19-0021 and P-19-0022 states:
Risks to workers: Lung overload via inhalation.
PPE EPA relies on:
Risks will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including a respirator with APF of 50. EPA expects that workers will use appropriate PPE consistent with the SDS prepared by the PMN submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 5, emphases added)
The associated SDS makes only this reference to respiratory protection:
Respiratory protection: Mist respirator, include single use respirator
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 50. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
P-18-0212: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0212 states:
Risks to workers: Systemic effects via inhalation exposure; portal of entry/contact effects to the eyes, lungs and skin following ocular, inhalation, and dermal exposures
PPE EPA relies on:
The risks and hazards identified will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including impervious gloves, respirators with an APF of at least 10, and eye protection. EPA expects that workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e., impervious gloves, respirator with an APF of at least 10, and eye protection), consistent with the Safety Data Sheet submitted with the PMN, in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 5, emphases added)
The associated SDS makes this reference to respiratory protection:
Respiratory Protection: For operations where inhalation exposure can occur use an approved respirator. Recommendations are listed below. Other protective respiratory equipment may be used based on user's own risk assessment. Recommended respirators include those certified by NIOSH.
Recommended: Full Face Mask with a combination particulate/organic vapor cartridge.
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 10. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
In each of these cases, EPA identified a particular type of respirator as necessary for its finding that the chemical is not likely to present an unreasonable risk, and in each case, EPA asserted that the corresponding SDS specified that type of equipment. But in fact, in each case, the SDS does not specify that type of respirator. EPA's decisions run counter to the actual evidence before the agency, and EPA has actually mischaracterized that evidence. That amounts to arbitrary decision-making. Practically speaking, this mismatch means that workers could follow the SDS to a T and be using a respirator that is not sufficient to protect them against the chemical's identified risks.
As we have noted before, EPA's reliance on SDS-recommended PPE flouts the law and falls vastly short of what TSCA requires EPA to do to protect workers. Amended TSCA requires EPA to issue binding orders to mitigate identified risks posed to workers by new chemicals, which it has identified in each of the cases we cite above. EPA's mere "expectation" that PPE will universally be available, used and effective is wholly insufficient to address the identified risks. The recommendations in an SDS are not binding on employers, neither on manufacturers nor on other companies downstream in supply chains. Failure to always use PPE or for it always to be effective is clearly reasonably foreseeable, and EPA is required to mitigate risks from "reasonably foreseen conditions of use" of a new chemical. PPE is the option of last resort under the longstanding Industrial Hygiene Hierarchy of Controls adopted by OSHA and embraced by the industrial hygiene community. Reliance on expected use of PPE shifts the burden of protection off of EPA and employers and onto the backs of workers.
Now, we find that even the PPE EPA identifies as necessary to be in an SDS in order to determine that a new chemical is not likely to present an unreasonable risk is frequently absent from the SDS. Even under its own flawed theories, EPA is utterly failing to protect workers from the risks of these chemicals.
How much farther under the bus will the Trump EPA throw American workers?
Richard Denison is a lead senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund.
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As consumers become more aware of issues like ocean plastics and overflowing landfills, many are looking for ways to cut down on their environmental footprints. An easy way to make your home more sustainable is to switch from heavy-duty plastic trash can liners to biodegradable garbage bags. While they aren't a perfect solution, they have a few key advantages over their traditional counterparts.
Whether you're looking for tall kitchen trash bags or a smaller option to line your countertop compost bin, in this article, we'll review five of the best biodegradable garbage bags on the market today.
Our Picks for the Top Biodegradable Garbage Bags
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Overall: UNNI ASTM D6400 100% Compostable Trash Bags
- Best Bulk Buy: Reli. BioGrade 13 Gallon Trash Bags
- Best Small Bags: BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags
- Best Biodegradable Kitchen Bags: Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags
- Best for Fast Decomposition: STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags
Why Switch to Biodegradable Garbage Bags?
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, a plastic bag takes 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. And when bags do decompose, they can leach toxins and microplastics into the environment. It's difficult to completely abandon plastic, but we can take simple steps toward reducing our environmental footprints by switching to products such as biodegradable garbage bags.
Although compostable and biodegradable plastics take longer to break down in a landfill than they would in an open environment, they can still be more eco-friendly than using traditional plastic bags. Below are some reasons you may consider replacing your plastic trash bags with more eco-friendly alternatives:
- Biodegradable bags produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime because the plants they're made from (often corn or sugarcane) absorb carbon while growing. This offsets the carbon they produce when breaking down. One study even found that switching to corn-based bioplastics could cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%.
- Biodegradable and compostable trash bags break down up to 1,000 times faster than regular garbage bags in the right environments. Biodegradable bags start their decomposition process when exposed to moisture or organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Compostable bags break down at a faster rate than conventional bags as well, but they usually require high heat to break down, so they should be disposed of at commercial composting facilities.
- Compostable bags will break down fully and will not turn into microplastics like traditional plastics and the bioplastics in some biodegradable plastic bags will.
There are also some downsides to bioplastics. For example, they require more land, water and pesticides to grow the crops that are turned into the bioplastics. They can also be much more expensive and can release methane if not exposed to enough oxygen during the decomposition process. However, most modern landfills in the U.S. are air-locked to prevent these and other harmful gasses from entering the atmosphere.
Considering both sides of the coin, is it worth switching to biodegradable garbage bags? According to Kartik Chandran, a professor in the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department at Columbia University, compared to traditional plastics, "bioplastics are a significant improvement." But the choice is ultimately up to you.
Of course, the most sustainable option would be to produce less waste in the first place, tossing your garbage in a bin without a liner and washing the bin after you dump your loose trash. Composting food scraps is another way to reduce your landfill contribution whether you're in a house or an apartment.
5 Best Biodegradable Trash Bags
If you decide to purchase biodegradable trash bags, it's important to note that not all biodegradable trash bags actually break down within a reasonable amount of time. Depending on its material, the claim that a bag is biodegradable can be little more than greenwashing.
In order to provide you with sustainable recommendations, when choosing the top biodegradable garbage bags, we looked at factors including:
- Composition: What materials go into the bags themselves? Are they plant-based? Do they have Environmental Products, Inc. (EPI) chemical additives to accelerate plastic degradation?
- Certifications: Are the bags certified to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for composting and biodegrading?
- Decomposition rate: How long does each company's bags take to decompose? (This can range from six months to over a year, depending on the brand.)
- Durability: Do the bags have the same strength as traditional trash bags? Or do they tear or leak easily?
- Packaging: Do the products have compact and recyclable packaging?
- Customer satisfaction: Are customers satisfied with the products? (We look at verified reviews as well as have conducted our own independent reviews on select products).
Best Overall: UNNI ASTM D6400 100% Compostable Trash Bags
UNNI garbage bags are our best overall choice because they are 100% biodegradable and compostable. The eco-friendly bags are also certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and OK Compost Home and are BPA-free. They are made entirely from corn starch and other plant starches and contain no polyethylene. Within 180 days, the bags will degrade into organic compounds such as CO2 and O2. The brand also makes drawstring waste bags and small trash bags for home composting and pet waste.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 4,400 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These compostable trash bags come in plenty of sizes and styles, so whether you need to dispose of dog poop or food scraps, you can find an eco-friendly bag from UNNI.
Best Bulk Buy: Reli. BioGrade 13 Gallon Trash Bags
Trusted for over 30 years, the bright green Reli. biodegradable garbage bags are designed for ease of use and durability. They have a star-sealed bottom to prevent breakage and are made with a high-density blend of plant-based materials and EPI chemical additives. The company sells compostable bags as well for those who have access to a composting facility, and the 13-gallon bags come in a compact cardboard box that can be recycled.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 250 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These biodegradable trash bags are eco-certified to ASTM D6954 standards and include EPI additives to ensure a faster degradation process. You can also lower your carbon footprint even more by buying in bulk and purchasing an 800-count package for $50.
Best Small Bags: BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags
BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags are made up of a bioplastic resin blend called Mater-Bi®, which uses non-genetically modified plant-based substances like corn starch and a variety of biodegradable/compostable polymers. BioBags has made a commitment to use as many renewable resources in its products, and its bags are manufactured in the U.S. with resin sourced from Italy. They are stored in a small cardboard package that can be recycled after use.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 3,200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These small bags are extremely versatile and can be used for small waste needs all around the home. BioBag's products are certified compostable and biodegradable according to European standard EN 13432, U.S. standards ASTM D6400 and OK Compost Home, and Australian standard AS 4736.
Best Biodegradable Kitchen Bags: Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags
Hippo Sak tall kitchen bags are made in the USA from at least 88% plant-based materials such as sugarcane rather than fossil fuels. These white trash bags are extremely durable with a slightly thicker layer on the bottom to prevent breakage. The kitchen bags also have large handles that make them easy to grip, pick up and replace without the fear of tearing. They are packaged in a small cardboard box with a large tab that makes it easy to pull individual bags out.
Customer Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 5,700 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: Hippo Sak garbage bags are USDA Certified Biobased Products, are completely recyclable and are BPA-free. They have an extremely high satisfaction rate and have been said by buyers to be extremely durable.
Best for Fast Decomposition: STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags
The STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags are specifically designed for collecting organic waste. Even though the average decomposition rate for biodegradable and compostable bags can range from six months to a year in an open environment, STOUT bags are said to decompose in 10 to 45 days and biodegrade in a maximum of six months in commercial composting facilities. Much like the other brands, these garbage bags come in compact cardboard packaging for easy recycling. A star seal on the bottom of the bag makes it possible to carry more weight without leaking or ripping.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These fast-decomposing bags are made in the U.S. by blind or visually impaired citizens. They're also USCC and BPI certified and meet the requirements of ASTM D6400.
Frequently Asked Questions: Biodegradable Trash Bags
Which garbage bags are biodegradable?
Garbage bags made from bioplastics or other plant-based starches and materials are considered biodegradable. Bioplastics are a mixture of organic materials that mimic the properties of traditional petroleum-based plastics. Some bioplastics include additives to speed up the deterioration process. Some bioplastics are so complex that they aren't considered biodegradable anymore. This is why it is important to make sure your products are not only composed of plant material, but are also certified biodegradable.
Are biodegradable bags better than plastic?
Biodegradable garbage bags produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastic bags. However, it takes more land, water and pesticides to grow the plant materials the bags are made from. Overall, researchers have stated that biodegradable bags are better, but they don't break down significantly faster in landfills.
How long do biodegradable bags take to decompose?
The range for the decomposition of biodegradable bags is different for each brand. Some state that it only takes 180 days for decomposition, while for others it may be up to a year and a half. It also depends on the environment the bag is in — in a commercial composting facility or at home in an open environment, decomposition will be significantly faster than in an air-locked landfill. Generally, no matter the time it takes for biodegradable garbage bags to decompose, it takes traditional garbage bags longer.
By Ilissa Ocko
The world's oceans are heating up. Scientists have found that 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for our oceans, and that they are warming even faster than previously thought.
When documenting global warming trends, we often focus on air temperature. But the oceans actually absorb more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by human emissions of greenhouse gases. So if we really want to know how much our planet is warming up, we look to the oceans.
And what the oceans are telling us is alarming.
Using multiple measurement devices, scientists from across the globe found that the amount of heat in the upper part of the world's oceans in 2018 was the highest ever recorded since observations began in the 1950s. In fact, the past five years are the warmest years on record and the increase in ocean heat has been accelerating since the 1990s.
Scientists also found that the oceans are warming faster than data previously published in a 2013 landmark report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Studies now show that in recent decades, the rate of warming in the upper ocean—the top 2,000 meter or 6,500 feet layer of the ocean—was about 40 percent higher than the earlier IPCC estimates showed. The new data, made possible by vast improvements to ocean heat records in recent years, is also consistent with model projections of ocean warming.
So how worried should we be?
Why Warmer Oceans Matter
Rising ocean temperatures are a major concern for societies and ecosystems across the globe. Hotter oceans lead to:
- rising sea levels when water molecules expand from increasing temperatures, and then erode coasts, threaten infrastructure and contaminate freshwater with intruding saltwater.
- heavier downpours and widespread flooding because more ocean water evaporates as temperatures increase, supplying the atmosphere with more moisture.
- more destructive hurricanes because of the increased moisture in the air and higher sea levels that worsen storm surges.
- dying coral reefs as the corals' colorful algae, their main food source, leave the corals due to heat stress. This bleaches corals of their vivid colors, causing them to starve, while affecting the survival of thousands of species that live in the reefs.
- fish moving poleward because their current habitats are becoming too warm, disrupting fisheries.
There Is Still Time
Recent scientific reports have concluded that our greenhouse gas emissions so far have not yet committed us to future warming levels that can cause catastrophic climate impacts. That is great news.
There are, in fact, countless reasons to feel hopeful. Numerous countries are reducing greenhouse gas emissions while growing their economies. Renewable energy sources are increasingly more affordable. And new technologies, such as carbon dioxide removal, are emerging.
Oceans are warning us, and we need to act now. As disconcerting as this oceans news has been, there's still time.
2018 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded for Our Oceans https://t.co/dlJfct7UGA #ClimateChange @oceana @ClimateReality— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1547676017.0
Ilissa Ocko is a climate scientist at Environmental Defense Fund.
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Walmart Joins Ranks of Retailers Pulling Toxic Paint Strippers From Shelves – When Will EPA Follow Suit?
By Sarah Vogel
Monday, Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in stores by February 2019—making it the first general merchandise retailer to take such action. Walmart's announcement follows the strong leadership demonstrated by Lowes, Home Depot and Sherwin Williams, all of which have committed not to sell methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint stripping products by the end of the year. Importantly, Walmart's action goes beyond its U.S. stores, including those in Mexico, Canada and Central America, as well as their online store.
The announcement signals an important step by Walmart to better protect consumers from dangerous paint strippers. Methylene chloride is highly neurotoxic and acutely lethal. The chemical is responsible for more than 50 reported deaths from acute exposure over the last 35 years—though many more likely have gone unreported. NMP is linked to fetal development problems, including low birth weight and birth defects.
The Environmental Defense Fund has advocated for several years for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban both methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers, using its enhanced authority under the reformed Toxic Substance Control Act. In January 2017, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride and restrict NMP in paint strippers, but action has stalled under the Trump administration. For over a year, the agency made no effort to finalize these actions—even taking steps to delay any progress.
This past May, families whose sons died from using paint strippers containing methylene chloride met with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to personally ask him to finalize the ban on these products. Just two days after the meeting, EPA announced its intention to finalize the proposed ban on methylene chloride-based paint strippers.
Three months later, EPA has yet to make good on its promise. But retailers across the nation are stepping up. We applaud the leadership demonstrated by these retailers and strongly urge EPA to follow suit and ban methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers. It is the only health-protective path forward.
By Richard Denison
In June 2016, Congress had the rare success of passing bipartisan legislation to update our nation's badly broken chemical safety system. It finally gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to strengthen health protections for American families.
Fast-forward 22 months and the implementation of that law is now in jeopardy.
The Trump administration is systematically weakening the EPA and seeking to dismantle key new authorities and mandates Congress just gave it under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act. This with the goal of shifting critical policies to serve the chemical industry's agenda instead of protecting public health.
Here are five actions Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his handpicked political appointees have already taken to undermine the law—potentially setting us back decades.
1. Shelved proposed bans of three toxic chemicals
In January 2017, the EPA proposed to ban high-risk uses of three dangerous chemicals: methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone and trichloroethylene. Methylene chloride, for one, is used in widely available paint strippers and is responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years.
Less than a year later, with a new president in the White House, the EPA has indefinitely delayed action on these chemicals by moving the proposed bans from active to "long-term action" status. This effectively puts them on the back burner, going against the very spirit and goal of the 2016 chemical safety reform.
2. Issued new and illegal rules for TSCA
One of the first orders of business under the 2016 Lautenberg Act was for the EPA to issue "framework rules" governing how the reformed law will work for years to come.
The proposed rules—released at the tail end of the Obama administration—were fair and faithful to the law. But the final rules published in July 2017 did a U-turn from those that had been proposed and now reflect the wish list of the chemical industry.
They are also patently illegal, which is why we're suing the EPA.
3. Reversed course on new chemical reviews
After the new law passed, the EPA immediately began to conduct the more robust reviews of new chemicals before they entered the market that the legislation called for.
But in response to industry demands, the EPA reversed course to instead avoid applying protective measures to speed up the approval process.
These changes circumvent clear requirements in the law and essentially return America to an era where few chemicals were adequately assessed or tested for safety as a condition of entering the market—and the public was kept in the dark.
4. Pushed to dismantle key EPA programs
- The Integrated Risk Information System program, which provides critical scientific information on chemical hazards to support public health decisions. Attempts by Pruitt's political appointees to weaken or eliminate the program have so far been unsuccessful, but this fight is far from over.
- EPA's Safer Choice program, which certifies products made with safer chemicals to help shoppers find products that are better for people and the planet. Pruitt has transferred a full third of its staff to another program.
- Science and research funding critical to furthering understanding of how chemicals affect our health and environment. Pruitt's latest budget request slashed funding for such programs by more than 48 percent.
5. Stacked the agency with industry cronies
It's no secret that the Trump administration has placed scores of people with deep conflicts of interest in powerful positions across the federal government.
Political appointees to the EPA are no exception. Case in point: Immediately prior to her appointment to the EPA, Nancy Beck was a senior official at the American Chemistry Council—the chemical industry's primary lobbying arm. In her new job, she is shaping policy on hazardous chemicals, making decisions that directly affect the financial interests of ACC member companies.
Among her numerous controversial moves so far: To direct the weakening of the TSCA framework rules—changes that in some cases mirrored the exact wording of ACC comments on the proposed rules. Beck, while at ACC, actually wrote such comments.
By reversing progress on toxic chemical regulation and by crippling the agency charged with its implementation, the Trump administration is consistently elevating industry interests over the protection of our health.
EPA Rule Change Would Expose Teenagers to Highly Toxic Chemicals https://t.co/wpwwgc2QkI @bpncamp @pesticideaction @PAN_UK— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515883207.0
Richard Denison is a lead senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund.
By Keith Gaby
Given the tenuous hold Scott Pruitt has on his job leading the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), attention has now turned to the pending nomination of coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to become the embattled agency's deputy administrator.
In the event Pruitt were forced from office by the avalanche of scandals swirling around him, Wheeler—if confirmed as the agency's number two—would suddenly be running the EPA.
His tenure as acting administrator could be lengthy, too, given the closely divided Senate and the controversial policies of the Trump administration in this area.
And things are moving fast: Wheeler's nomination is scheduled to come before the Senate this week. It is critically important that Americans get educated on his career to date.
Wheeler spent years as an energy industry lobbyist.
Here's the bottom line: Andrew Wheeler running the EPA would go far beyond having an administrator overly influenced by lobbyists. If he's confirmed, the head of the EPA would, in fact, be an energy industry lobbyist.
On Wheeler's client list was Murray Energy, one of the worst corporate citizens in America.
Working for a big lobbying firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, Wheeler lobbied on behalf of energy companies for nearly a decade, including Murray. He earned more than $3 million in income for his firm from the large coal mining company.
His coal mining client paid millions in fines.
Since Wheeler began lobbying for Murray Energy, the company has paid millions in fines and penalties for contaminating waterways in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania with coal slurry and discharge.
In 2010, Murray Energy contaminated the Captina Creek in Ohio for the fourth time since 2000, with coal slurry. According to the Columbus Dispatch, coal slurry from Murray Energy spilled into the creek in 2000, 2005 and 2008.
In 2015, federal regulators accused Murray Energy of attempting to silence whistleblowers and said that "Murray Energy chided 3,500 workers for making too many confidential safety complaints to regulators and—at one of the mines—threatened to retaliate by closing down operations."
As Wheeler's client, Murray Energy created an "action plan" for the EPA that called for overturning rules limiting mercury pollution, carbon pollution and air pollution that crosses state lines. It also called for cutting the EPA "at least in half."
Insider knowledge could make him dangerous.
Wheeler's lobbying list of clients regulated by the EPA is extensive. It also includes corporate names such as Bear Head LNG Corporation, Celanese Corporation, Domestic Fuel Solutions Group, ICOR International and the Nuclear Energy Institute.
He's devoted his career to defending the interests of the nation's largest polluters, as a lobbyist and in jobs on Capitol Hill. As deputy administrator, Wheeler would likely use his bureaucratic knowledge to continue to work for the goals of his past clients—with tragic results for our air, water, kids and heath.
That could make him even more dangerous than Scott Pruitt.
EPA Moves to Overhaul Obama-Era Coal Ash Disposal Rule https://t.co/FnWY1fuRMj @wwwfoecouk @GreenpeaceUK— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520071507.0
By Tom Murray
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections that could harm human health for decades, it's increasingly up to businesses to lead the way, charting the course to a future that includes both a thriving economy and a thriving planet.
Leading the way requires first setting ambitious, public targets like the more than 340 companies taking science-based climate action and 90 that have approved science-based targets; collaborating with partners across the value chain for maximum scale and impact—Walmart's Project Gigaton, a collaborative effort to reduce 1 billion tons for emissions, is a powerful example; and, supporting smart climate and energy policy
BSR's new sustainability framework closely echoes these leadership approaches and recommends that companies create resilient business strategies that align with sustainability goals. GreenBiz's 2018 State of Green Business report further supports these and other requirements for sustainability leadership, adding that businesses need to improve reporting on climate risk, impact, and progress towards goals. The We Mean Business coalition adds further calls to action for companies: join the low carbon technology partnerships initiative, grow the market for sustainable fuels and electric vehicles, and take proactive steps to end deforestation by 2020.
Yet currently missing from all of this corporate sustainability leadership guidance is a call for companies to accelerate environmental innovation and deployment of next generation technology—sensors, AI, data analytics and visualization, and digital collaboration—to solve our most pressing environmental challenges.
We're on the verge of a new wave of environmental progress: a revolution in environmental protection and advocacy driven by new technologies that give people the power to understand problems and scale solutions like never before. Leading companies and investors have a critical role to play and will help define the impact of this wave. Ensuring that 21st century problems are met with 21st century solutions.
Fourth Wave Environmental Innovation
Environmental progress doesn't just happen. It is propelled by successive waves of innovation inspired by leaders and actions. Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir launched the modern conservation movement. This First Wave of environmental advocacy created our national parks and protected our lands. It was followed by an era defined by Rachel Carson and the birth of environmental law—the Second Wave of environmentalism.
The third and most recent wave of the environmental movement took shape in 1990 when McDonald's and EDF joined forces to drive innovation in packaging and waste reduction. Today, Third Wave problem-solving, market-based approaches and corporate partnerships have become standard practices.
Now, in the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, an upcoming report from EDF shows that business leaders overwhelmingly recognize there is more potential than previous waves to improve the economy and the environment. Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed agreed that Fourth Wave technology can help their bottom line as well as improve their impact on the environment; this figure increases to 91 percent among those in the C-Suite.
These forward-thinking executives understand that a prosperous tomorrow will come through groundbreaking innovations that help create sustainable solutions.
Innovation Is Already Underway
Already, many leading companies like Walmart and IBM have begun investing in and implementing environmental innovations that are empowering people to take action—for example, by using Blockchain to track and improve food waste across the supply chain. Here are other examples of Fourth Wave innovation in action:
EDF and Google Earth Outreach teamed up to map air pollution threats on a block-by-block scale in West Oakland, California, to give communities actionable, empowering information that previously not even government could provide.
The Mobile Monitoring Challenge, a joint effort between EDF and Stanford with technical advice from ExxonMobil and others, was launched to inspire new and innovative approaches to reducing methane emissions at oil and natural gas sites.
This challenge was preceded by the Methane Detectors Challenge, a groundbreaking partnership between EDF, oil and gas companies, technology developers and entrepreneurs that catalyzed the development and deployment of stationary, continuous methane monitors that can prevent the loss of valuable product for the oil and gas industry—and reduce pollution. By making methane data more accessible, environmental solutions can get to scale faster than ever before. Already, Shell, Statoil and PG&E are all conducting demonstration projects to test out the next-generation of methane sensors.
Pathways to Environmental Progress
Innovation will also be at the heart of EDF's work to leverage market forces to accelerate environmental protection and economic growth.
Despite the Trump administration's continued attempts to jeopardize the environmental gains of the last several decades, I'm hopeful about the future of our planet. Fueling this hope is the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, where the exponential growth in innovation will empower people—business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, individuals, and communities—to take action and fill the gaps in environmental leadership.
3 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Our Planet in 2018 https://t.co/Adz6NaeBud @Greenpeace @ScienceNewsOrg @World_Wildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516324510.0
Tom Murray is vice president of EDF+Business at Environmental Defense Fund.
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By Rama Zakaria and Graham McCahan
A newly-updated report is shedding light on what President Trump's solar trade tariffs may mean for one state—and underscoring a tremendous opportunity to move forward toward clean energy, with all the benefits it can bring.
Xcel Energy filed its 30-day bid report update with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on March 1. The update follows Xcel's filing at the end of last year, in response to an "all-source solicitation," as part of its Electric Resource Plan and its proposed Colorado Energy Plan.
Xcel's plan would shut down two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo, Colorado, and replace the capacity with a mix of lower carbon resources. Earlier results were unprecedented, with more than 80 percent of the bids coming from renewable energy and storage at incredibly cheap prices.
Xcel then provided bidders an opportunity to refresh their bids following President Trump's final decision in the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case in January, which imposed tariffs on imported solar equipment.
The refreshed bids in Xcel's updated report show minimal change relative to last year's results and confirm that new wind and solar power in Colorado continues to be cheaper than existing coal plants—despite the trade tariffs.
According to the report, Xcel "received bid affirmation and refresh responses from all but one of the 400 plus bids."
Of these responses:
"58% of the bids affirmed no change in pricing, 16% increased pricing, and 26% decreased pricing."
The solar photovoltaic (PV) median bid price increased by only $1.5 megawatts per hour, and the median bid for solar PV with battery storage increased by $2.3 megawatts per hour—still the cheapest solar plus storage bids in the U.S. to date.
Based on analysis by Carbon Tracker, this means that the median bid price for solar is lower than the operating cost of all existing coal units in Colorado, while the median solar plus storage bid is lower than roughly 70 percent of operating coal capacity.
Federal renewable energy tax credits are likely buffering some of the solar trade tariff effects. While recent analyses show significant cost declines for renewable energy, with wind and solar becoming increasingly competitive with conventional generation even on an unsubsidized basis, the renewable tax credits are still a significant factor contributing to favorable wind and solar economics in the short-term and in the face of the Trump solar tariffs. That said, it's important to recognize that coal generation has enjoyed state and federal incentives for a century, and continues to do so.
The tax credits are being phased down in the next few years, with the production tax credit for wind phasing out in 2019 and the investment tax credit for solar in 2021. So it will be critical to act now to take advantage of those credits to deploy clean energy at lowest cost and secure the associated economic and public health benefits.
Colorado is an example of this tremendous opportunity to move forward now to lock in incredibly low-cost resources, with no fuel costs and therefore no medium- to long-term volatility or risk to consumers. The Xcel bids show that there is a lower-cost clean energy alternative to keeping the polluting Comanche units online in Pueblo, and it no longer makes sense to continue to operate and maintain these units at the expense of Colorado customers and Colorado air quality.
There is even the potential for low-cost utility-scale on-site solar to be used by Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel—a steel mill and the single largest manufacturer in Pueblo and largest producer of premium rail in North America—to help cut costs and keep manufacturing jobs in Pueblo.
Evraz is Xcel's largest retail customer in Colorado, and the 175-200 megawatt Evraz solar project that the company is considering would provide a cost-effective option to meet Evraz's growing needs, help guarantee Evraz low and stable electricity rates in the future, and therefore help keep Evraz in Colorado.
We are already witnessing some of the impacts of Trump's solar tariffs on jobs in some areas of the U.S., and the potential for these tariffs to stall American competitiveness and innovation—for instance, American solar company SunPower recently announced that it will lay off hundreds of workers, largely from its research and development and marketing positions.
But the Xcel refresh bids in Colorado—a state blessed with high solar and wind potential—provides an important first look at what the solar tariffs mean for the competitiveness of clean energy in a state where clean energy conditions are favorable.
In Colorado, it is clear that the advantages of clean energy for consumers and the local economy remain compelling. Despite the tariffs—and in the presence of renewable tax credits, rapid technological advances, and plummeting costs of solar and storage technologies—solar still outcompetes fossil fuels. It also helps lower costs to consumers, and protects local manufacturing jobs.
The state should act now to lock in those benefits for the people of Colorado.
The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped? https://t.co/VMF7n3pMyH @SolarEnergyNews @solarfeeds— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519431606.0
By Tom Neltner
On March 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be leading the U.S. delegation in the Netherlands proposing that the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopt a maximum lead limit of 40 parts per billion (ppb) in grape juice. The current limit, set by Codex in the 1980s, is 50 ppb. While it's a small step in the right direction, FDA's proposal falls woefully short of adequately protecting children from lead.
For context, the 40 ppb proposed Codex limit would be 2.6 times greater than the 15 ppb lead action level established for drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1991 and 8 times FDA's limit of 5 ppb for bottled water. In addition, a child drinking a single 8-ounce serving of juice with a lead concentration of 40 ppb will be exposed to 160 percent of FDA's maximum daily intake level of 6 micrograms of lead per day. This level, set in 1993, should be much lower because it does not reflect scientific discoveries of the past 25 years showing harm to children at lower levels.
The proposed limit is disturbing given the scientific consensus recognizing that NO safe level of lead in blood has been identified and analysis from EPA showing that food is currently the source of half of the lead exposure for the average 1 to 6 year old child. It is also troubling given that food manufacturers often rely on Codex standards and may use them to reassure the public and their customers that the food is "safe."
Moreover, the U.S.-led working group of 18 countries, chaired by FDA, is making the 40 ppb proposal to the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) without conducting a scientific evaluation of:
- The societal harm in terms of behavioral problems or lower IQs that is expected to result from these levels;
- The sources of lead in juice that may be reduced; and
- The lead levels that could be achieved with careful management.
The working group appeared to look no further than the recent levels of lead in the international grape juice market and selected 40 ppb because 97 to 98 percent of sampled products currently comply. The working group considered 30 ppb but decided that it was too restrictive, as only 94 to 96 percent of grape juice would be compliant. Eighty-five percent of the samples would comply with 20 ppb, the most "protective" level considered.
Again, the human health effects of these decisions were not considered.
What Is Codex, and Why Is It Important?
Codex may be an obscure organization to most people, but its purpose is to develop uniform, internationally-adopted food standards, guidance and codes of practice that "aim at protecting consumers' health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade." In an increasingly global food market, countries and industry rely on Codex for guidance. As examples, the World Trade Organization (WTO) references Codex standards, and FDA's regulations mandate that the agency review all Codex standards for possible adoption.
Codex, part of the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO), is based in Rome; its members are national governments. Representatives of food manufacturers and consumer protection groups serve as observers. Codex's CCCF develops proposals on contaminants and naturally occurring toxicants in food and relies on the Joint Food Agricultural Organization / World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) for scientific advice. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service coordinates U.S. activity on Codex and posts notices and holds public hearings regarding our country's position on Codex issues.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2011, JECFA completed a review of its Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) level for lead that it set in the 1980s. Codex used this old level to develop maximum limits for lead for many food commodities, including fruit juice. JECFA concluded "that it was not possible to establish a new PTWI that would be considered health protective" and withdrew the level. JECFA further stated that where people had prolonged dietary exposures to higher lead levels, "measures should be taken to identify major contributing sources and foods and, if appropriate, to identify methods of reducing dietary exposure that are commensurate with the level of risk reduction."
In response, Codex's CCCF established a working group of 18 countries led by the U.S. and represented by FDA to develop proposals to revise the Codex lead standard for selected commodities. Lacking a safe level from JECFA, CCCF decided to set a level that is "As Low As Reasonably Achievable" (ALARA) and decided ALARA would be roughly what can be met by 95 percent of the global food in that commodity.
The CCCF appears not to have considered whether the products used in the analysis were grown and processed in a manner consistent with Codex's 2004 Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Lead Contamination in Foods. This Code provides specific recommendations for good agricultural and manufacturing practices that countries and food producers and processors should follow. As a result, they have effectively replaced "achievable" in ALARA with "available."
Using this approach, the U.S.-led working group developed proposals for maximum limits of lead for an array of food including milks, juice and canned fruits and vegetables. Since 2012, the working group and CCCF have been evaluating data and proposing standards that Codex has ultimately adopted, including reducing the maximum lead limit in apple juice from 50 to 30 ppb.
In a Dec. 22, 2017 Federal Register notice and a Feb. 5, 2018 alert, USDA provided an update on Codex activities that included a proposal to update the standards for lead in selected foods such as grape juice. I missed these announcements and a comment period since I was not tracking USDA.
What Is Next?
At its March 12-14 meeting in the Netherlands, the CCCF will seek to develop consensus lead limits for commodities that have taken longer to evaluate and develop consensus around—including grape juice.
While FDA's leadership in developing the proposal is disturbing given the evidence that has been presented to it about lead in food in the past year, the proposal is consistent with its previous proposals on fruit juices and canned fruits and vegetables. So unless there is a change in the process that considers the health implications, costs to society, or compliance with Codex's Code of Practice to prevent and reduce lead contamination, the CCCF is likely to adopt a lead limit that will continue to put children's health at risk.
Whatever standard Codex adopts, FDA is obligated to consider it, but it is not obligated to adopt it. Instead, it can adopt a more protective standard. We expect that FDA would adopt a substantially lower standard for food sold in the U.S. A limit of anything more than 10 ppb—the current limit of quantification using FDA's official method—for fruit juices would be way too little improvement for children's health.
Until FDA adopts an adequate standard, consumers need to recognize that when a food manufacturer says that they comply with FDA or international standards for lead, it does not mean the food is safe.
Do Red and Yellow Food Dyes Disrupt Children's Behavior? https://t.co/gIud9lohLB @Healthy_Child @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519248307.0
Tom Neltner, J.D., is chemicals policy director at Environmental Defense Fund.
The monarch butterfly has a new chance at recovery, thanks to an innovative program seeking to crowdsource funding and habitat for the beloved species at an unprecedented scale and pace.
"The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a market-based solution for restoring and conserving high-quality monarch habitat on America's private working lands," said David Wolfe, director of conservation strategy and habitat markets at Environmental Defense Fund. "We like to call it an 'Airbnb for butterflies' because it's the only program of its kind that can open the vast untapped potential of large-scale farms and ranches to make habitat available for monarchs, fast."
Studies estimate that the monarch butterfly's population has declined by 95 percent since the 1980s.
"The monarch faces a June 2019 deadline for an Endangered Species Act listing decision," Wolfe said. "To change the monarch's trajectory and avoid the need for restrictive regulations that often accompany a listing, we need to restore millions of acres of native milkweed and wildflowers across the butterfly's vast migration route."
"Agricultural lands make up roughly half of the acreage required to recover the monarch," Wolfe added, "so recruiting farmers and ranchers who manage these large-scale landscapes will be a game changer."
Through the exchange, landowners are paid to create, maintain and improve habitat on their property through a variety of restoration activities.
"The exchange incorporates robust science, close monitoring and transparent reporting to ensure that each dollar achieves the most bang for the buck, and for the butterfly," Wolfe said.
Potential investors and donors include food, chemical and seed companies, state farm bureaus, wildlife agencies, philanthropic organizations and concerned citizens. All funds raised through the exchange are directed to Biodiversity Works, a Texas-based nonprofit responsible for administering the program.
"We anticipate a broad range of private and public funding sources from various companies, associations and individuals looking to achieve corporate sustainability goals, maximize conservation outcomes, and ensure that the monarch butterfly stays off the endangered species list," Wolfe said.
Smithfield Foods, a global food company that is also the world's largest hog producer and pork processor, is the first food company to participate in the program, contributing $300,000 to restore key prairie habitat for monarchs in Missouri. Smithfield invested in this project because of its multiple sustainability benefits, including providing habitat for pollinators, water quality benefits, carbon sequestration and biomass for biogas revenue.
"Participating in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a commitment to our employees, our producers, and our customers who care about wildlife and the multiple other environmental benefits that this program will achieve," said Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and Hog Production Division Environmental Affairs for Smithfield Foods. "We want to do our part to make sure that monarchs continue to thrive and play their significant role in our ecosystem."
The exchange is currently focused on developing projects in Missouri, Texas and California. Projects range from full prairie restoration to supplemental planting of milkweed within marginal agricultural fields. Milkweed is vital to monarch success, since butterflies lay their eggs and caterpillars feed exclusively on the milky sap-filled plant.
Amy Greer is a sixth-generation rancher in Brady, Texas. She and her husband, George, decided to participate in the exchange to help re-establish native milkweed and wildflowers on their ranch. Amy is also a trained wildlife biologist.
"George and I both understand how important ecological diversity is for all the plants, animals, insects and birds that live here on the ranch aside from us and our cattle," Amy said. "We also understand the importance of pollinators to the larger food system, so anything we can do to improve habitat for bees and butterflies is important to us."
Landowners, agribusiness leaders, philanthropic foundations and concerned citizens can help support projects on the ground by contacting the exchange or donating through the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange website.
EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland… https://t.co/LuWNIFxIRx— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1513715573.0
As investors increasingly focus on the risk of climate change in their portfolios, a new report from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows some oil and gas companies are exposing themselves to scrutiny by failing to adequately disclose meaningful information on emissions of methane, the heat-trapping pollutant that is drawing increased attention from the public.
The analysis demonstrates company reporting on methane has improved slightly, though unevenly, over the past two years since EDF first examined methane disclosure within the U.S. oil and gas industry in their report, Rising Risk. The quality of methane reporting has improved among the top companies, though 42 percent of the companies surveyed disclose nothing on their methane management practices.
Methane—the key component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide—is responsible for more than a quarter of the warming we are experiencing today and represents a fast-emerging, highly-potent form of carbon risk for investors.
"As a long-term global investor, we recognize that methane emissions are one of the most financially significant environmental risks we face," said Brian Rice, Portfolio Manager at CalSTRS, California's second largest public pension fund. "While the oil and gas industry has taken some steps to address this issue, CalSTRS sees opportunities for the industry to enhance its methane risk management and reporting efforts that simultaneously reduce atmospheric emissions and capture more natural gas by phasing out methane-emitting equipment, increasing training and designing new emissions-free systems."
The report, The Disclosure Divide: Revisiting Rising Risk and Methane Reporting in the U.S. Oil & Gas Industry, examines the current state of voluntary reporting on methane in the U.S. oil and gas sector. The authors surveyed publicly disclosed data and found of the 64 top upstream and midstream companies surveyed, only four companies report quantitative methane targets. Only nine companies report comprehensively on their leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs.
The report does show that investor engagement improves reporting. Five of the seven companies newly reporting on methane were targets of methane-disclosure shareholder resolutions during the past two years. The report also shows 82 percent of companies in voluntary initiatives provide some disclosure on methane.
Just Monday, XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and one of North America's largest oil and gas producers, called on governments to regulate and reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The analysis of company data includes public positions on methane regulation. With the addition of Exxon, there are now 10 companies, up from nine, who report a position.
Bright spots in the report include Southwestern Energy, which not only has a quantitative target, but is also committed to continuous improvement. Cimarex Energy received methane shareholder resolutions in 2016 and 2017, and has now started providing more transparent information about its methane management practices. And Noble Energy reports extensively on its LDAR program, and reports reducing over 1.5 billion cubic feet of methane in 2016.
Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are viewed as a financially material issue for companies, and by extension, their investors. Every ton of methane allowed to escape represents not only a loss of sellable product, but also undercuts natural gas' climate benefits as a fuel source. A 2015 study by the Rhodium Group found that the sector loses $30 billion globally each year from leaked or vented methane at oil and gas facilities.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is clear that the future of the oil and gas industry is dependent on how they manage the methane risk. IEA says the industry can feasibly reduce up to 75 percent of its current methane emissions.
The report suggests that all companies should report on basic metrics, including emissions data, LDAR programs, positions on regulation, and targets. Leading companies should continue to raise the bar by bringing continuous improvement in disclosure and methane management. And investors and other industry stakeholders should continue and expand engagement, where constructive conversation could help close the disclosure divide.
"Investors are increasingly looking to support leading companies who effectively manage material ESG issues," said co-author Sean Wright of EDF+Business. "Our report shows which companies are becoming more transparent about methane management, and which are not. Investors will take note of this when making decisions."
Five Things to Watch as Industry Tackles Methane in 2018 https://t.co/KPQjgGwl09 @dotearth @climatesavers @envirowire— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1514077506.0
By Jason Mathers
Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to take off. We've just closed a year of record demand and investment. It's no longer a question of whether EVs—will arrive, it's how: How big of a role will EVs play, how soon and how clean will they be?
Popularizing EVs will depend on tackling key challenges. We're seeing progress on several fronts.
1. Bringing Down the Cost of Batteries
Battery packs account for a third of the upfront cost of full EVs. Driving these costs down expands the number of EV models that are price-competitive with conventional vehicles. There is tremendous progress here.
The price of lithium ion batteries dropped 73 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Numerous analyses point to battery costs of $100 per kilowatt hour (kWh) as the mark where full EVs become as affordable as traditional cars. General Motors' battery costs are $145 per kWh, and the company expects that number to drop under $100 per kWh by 2021.
2. Ramping Up Automaker Investment for New, Improved Models
Automakers are bringing electric cars and trucks to market with ever-better batteries and driving range. Ford Motor Co.'s plan to double its investments in EVs to $11 billion is just the latest example.
Globally, automakers have announced investments of more than $90 billion in EVs. Automakers still need to reveal more about their plans, detailing specific models, timing of release and availability in various markets.
3. Making Charging Stations More Widely Available
People are more likely to invest in plug-in cars once they feel confident they'll always find a place to recharge their batteries away from home, and fast. In fact, the availability of public charging infrastructure is a leading factor in EV adoption.
While the vast majority of charging occurs at home, public charging stations enable EV drivers to take extended trips. They also facilitate EV ownership by households reliant on on-street parking.
A recent assessment found the need for 600,000 public "level 2" (240 volt) plugs and 27,500 fast-charging plugs nationwide by 2030. By mid-2017, there were 36,000 public level 2 plugs and 3,300 fast-charging plugs in the U.S. So, there is a long way to go on this front.
Growth will continue over the next year as states deploy funds from the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to support EV charging infrastructure. Beyond the settlement, California recently approved a utility effort to expand access to charging in the light, medium and heavy-duty sectors, with more long-term, broader projects pending. More states should follow California's lead.
The time it takes to recharge will need to be improved, too. Helpfully, efforts are underway to deploy a next generation of fast-charging stations capable of adding 250 miles in a 15-minute fuel stop.
4. Shifting to Clean Energy for Charging
To get the most out of EVs, we need more renewable energy on the electric grid and drivers who charge vehicles when the grid is its cleanest. States play a vital role.
For example, New York's Reforming the Energy Vision aims to decentralize the electric grid, while aligning utility earnings with public policy needs and marketplace innovations. The program focuses on making it easier—and financially attractive—for customers to help improve the electric system by opting for EVs, rooftop solar and other energy investments.
By encouraging customers to charge EVs at times when renewable energy is readily available and affordable, New York is ensuring that EVs will benefit the grid and the environment.
5. Strengthening and Extending Emission Standards
Well-designed emission standards are critical to scaling clean vehicle solutions, such as EVs. With the certainty of long-term standards in place, manufacturers invest. This dynamic can be seen across the globe, as policy measures from China to California are driving EV investments.
Unfortunately, we are at risk of impairing this critical tool in the U.S. At a time when we should be challenging ourselves to set a new round of protective standards, the Trump administration is reconsidering standards that were set long ago.
The automotive industry has been complicit in this effort, despite its previous embrace of the same standards. To avoid undercutting their own investments in the long-term success of EVs, it is critical that automakers work proactively to strengthen and extend vehicle emission standards.
We're at a Crossroads
Over the next decade EVs can become a major part of our fleet with benefits for our health, economy and environment. We can create a future that drives down global oil demand and cuts nearly 2 billion tons of climate pollution a year.
Technical innovation has opened up this path. We now must muster the conviction to take it.
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