The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:26:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Week in EPA Science Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:26:11 +0000 By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch recap with birthday cake

Happy birthday Research Recap! This weekly blog series turned 1 today—celebrate by reading below for the latest in EPA science.

  • Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists
    Small, hand-held air quality sensors are now commercially available and provide citizens the ability to plan, conduct, and understand local environmental air quality as never before. EPA released training videos to share tools used to conduct projects involving this technology and to educate interested groups and individuals about best practices for successful air monitoring projects.Read more about the training in the blog Release of Community Air Monitoring Training Videos.

  • Virtual Beach software making an impact
    Virtual Beach is a software suite that uses location, hydrology, land use, wave height, and weather data to create models that predict waterborne pathogen outbreaks at beaches.  Using this software, beach managers should be able to issue same-day beach closures or health advisories to protect the health of swimmers and the surrounding community.  On August 24, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources researcher reported that Virtual Beach recently correctly predicted an outbreak at a city beach. It helped the city issue a timely advisory, and avoid unnecessary advisories.Read the full story in the article ‘Virtual Beach’ for real-water safe fun.

Photo of the Week

diver hands samples up to people on boat

Dive tenders Lisa Macchio and Tim Siwiec take solid phase microextraction devices from EPA diver Brent Richmond at the Pacific Sound Resources Superfund site. EPA divers placed and retrieved these devices which absorb site contaminants over a period of time to determine if the cleanup is working.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

]]> 0
EPA’s Clean Power Plan Protects Low-Income and Minority Communities Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:26:30 +0000 When President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan earlier this month, he predicted that some cynical critics would claim the plan harms minority and low-income communities. Then he chuckled and shook his head, because the truth is, failing to act on climate is what stands to hurt vulnerable Americans the most.

Just as the President predicted, in the weeks since the announcement, we’re seeing the usual cast of special interest critics roll out the usual tired, worn out, and frankly, false arguments. Put simply, the Clean Power Plan will not impact affordable, reliable power. It will protect vulnerable communities. And it will save consumers money.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—a powerful reminder that low-income and minority communities are the most vulnerable to climate-related impacts like stronger storms, floods, fires, and droughts, and the least able to rebuild after a disaster. And the carbon pollution driving climate change comes packaged with other dangerous soot- and smog-forming pollutants that can lead to lung and heart disease. Low-income and minority Americans are more likely to live in the shadow of polluting industries like power plants, and more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution.

When we cut carbon pollution, we also reduce other dangerous pollutants and protect public health. Under the Clean Power Plan, in 2030 alone, the U.S. will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children and 300,000 missed days of school and work due to respiratory symptoms—saving families the costs of medical treatment and hospital visits.

Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recently said “The poor and disenfranchised—too often those in communities of color—still disproportionately bear society’s harms through no fault of their own. That truth has compelled the fight for social justice across the spectrum: labor rights, women’s rights—and yes—environmental rights. Because no matter who we are or where we come from, we’re all entitled to the basic human rights of clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to call home. Make no mistake, the injustice of climate change and the pollution that fuels it are among this century’s most debilitating engines of inequality.”

Through its Clean Power Plan, EPA is striving to protect low-income and minority Americans. We received more than 4.3 million public comments on our draft rule, and hosted hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, including vulnerable communities. We heard loud and clear that we needed to make sure our rule didn’t disproportionately impact low-income Americans—and we worked with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure that’s the case.

By 2030, the average family will save $85 a year on electricity, thanks to increased energy efficiency measures. In the interim, any small, short-term increase in electricity bills would be well within normal price fluctuations—roughly the cost of a gallon of milk per month. For each dollar spent on the Clean Power Plan, families will see 4 dollars in health benefits alone. And in all, we’ll see $45 billion a year in net benefits thanks to EPA’s plan.

Climate action is an incredible economic opportunity, and to make sure its benefits extend to every community, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will help states transition to clean energy faster. It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind or solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities.

EPA is also requiring states to demonstrate how they are engaging with communities as they craft customized state plans to meet their carbon pollution reduction goals.

The real threat to affordable, reliable electricity is climate change. More extreme heat and cold cause utility bills to skyrocket, which hurts low-income families the most. And storms, floods, fires, and drought can knock out the power for days or weeks, threatening public health.  That’s why we need to act.

The cynics’ claims are nothing new. We heard the same tired arguments back in the 1990s, when some critics opposed EPA’s limits on acid rain-causing pollution from power plants. They warned electricity bills would go up, and the lights would go off. But they were wrong. Instead of the economic doomsday some predicted, we slashed acid rain by 60 percent—while prices stayed stable, and the lights stayed on. EPA has been limiting harmful pollution from power plants for 45 years, and we have a proven track record of keeping energy affordable and reliable.

We still have work to do to protect vulnerable communities from pollution, but EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a historic step in the right direction. In his announcement, President Obama spoke about our moral obligation to vulnerable communities, to our children, and to future generations to act on climate. The Clean Power Plan will help build a safer, brighter future for all Americans.

]]> 0
New Tool Helps Rural Communities Assess Opportunities for Smart Growth and Development Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:15:04 +0000  Main street in Cazenovia, NY – a Madison County community

Main street in Cazenovia, NY – a Madison County community

Rural communities are all around us. Covering the vast majority of the national landscape, small towns, villages, rangeland tribal areas, working forests, and farmlands are integral to the American economy, and home to nearly twenty per cent of the U.S. population. These communities are all different, with unique assets and unique opportunities. However, many rural communities across the country face similar challenges—aging populations, lack of quality affordable housing, economic decline, childhood poverty, and depletion of treasured natural landscapes. The reality is that many rural communities have limited resources and planning capacity to help manage tough growth and development decisions. A new tool from EPA – the Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities – responds to these challenges and can help.

Steamboat Springs, CO is interested in incentivizing more green building

Steamboat Springs, CO is interested in incentivizing more green building

Around the country, rural communities are turning to smart growth solutions to address common growth and development issues. But smart growth solutions are not one size fits all—what works for an urban, or even suburban community, may not be right for a more rural area. Working with a rural partner in central New York State—Madison County—EPA created the Self-Assessment to help bridge that gap and create tangible smart growth policy options for rural places. This easy-to-use tool supports the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort, a coordinated approach across federal agencies to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. It helps communities take a holistic look at eleven topics, ranging from revitalizing villages and town centers to supporting agriculture to providing housing and transportation choices and to improving health and active living, and then identify gaps that may be impeding their ability to reach long- and short-term goals. However, the self-assessment doesn’t just identify shortcomings; it provides practical steps and policy alternatives as well as helpful case study examples from across the country.

Underutilized property in Osceola, AR

Underutilized property in Osceola, AR

Road tested in communities from Maine to Arkansas to Colorado, this self-assessment has already helped rural areas find new opportunities to spur economic development, improve quality of life for residents and protect the natural environment. In Damariscotta, Maine, a community with significant seasonal tourism, the self-assessment helped community members identify a key underutilized strength—local non-profits and non-profit collaborations—that could help them better capitalize on downtown economic development for the benefit of year-around residents. In Osceola, Arkansas, the self-assessment revealed how re-writing local land use plans could be an effective strategy to remove blight and underutilized properties by helping prioritize areas for infill development. And in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the self-assessment helped local officials create a plan to further incentivize green building as a way to support local sustainability goals; this strategy was also seen as a way to lower housing prices by decreasing energy costs and other monthly expenses for renters, and helping builders reduce costs through tax credits and other programs.

Local leaders gather for a self-assessment in Damariscotta, ME

Local leaders gather for a self-assessment in Damariscotta, ME

In each of these places, EPA’s Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities helped identify gaps, offer policy options and guide community leaders down a path that can help them realize their own unique goals and vision for the future. To access this new tool and start assessing conditions and opportunities in your rural community, go to

]]> 0
The Proof is in the Peppers Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:46:38 +0000 by Jennie Saxe

Rain barrel water is great for backyard gardens and saves money, too!

Rain barrel water is great for backyard gardens and saves money, too!

A few months back, I blogged about installing my first rain barrels. With the hot summer nearly in the rear-view mirror, I can report that rain barrels work…and they save money, too!

How do I know that the rain barrels work? Well, the proof is in the peppers. And pansies. And all of the other plants that not just survived, but thrived, on the rain water collected in the barrels. By this point of the summer, I usually have garden beds full of crunchy, brown plants. The rain water has kept my flowers blooming and vegetables growing happily for over 3 months.

I saved some money, too! I water my vegetable garden and flowers about 4 times a week, using about 4 watering cans of rain water each time.  At 2 gallons per can, I avoided using nearly 450 gallons of tap water for my watering needs – enough to fill almost 10 bathtubs. And at about 9 cents per gallon for tap water, that’s a savings of around $40!   pansies

I’ll keep using my rain barrels throughout the fall, to water fall plantings. In the winter, I’ll drain the barrels to avoid any damage. Then next spring, I’ll grab some compost, hook up my rain barrels, and get my garden growing!

For more on sustainable lawn and garden care year-round, check out these tips.


About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.


]]> 0
Release of Community Air Monitoring Training Videos Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:39:44 +0000 picture

Community leaders and EPA presenters

By Amanda Kaufman

I have seen a fast expansion of next generation air pollution sensor technologies while working in the field of citizen science for the past three years. Small, hand-held air quality sensors are now commercially available and provide citizens the ability to plan, conduct, and understand local environmental air quality as never before. Many of these cost less than $1,000, making them more accessible for community groups and even individuals to purchase.

While the new sensor technologies generally do not provide regulatory-grade data, such devices are rapidly advancing to improve data quality and can be used to enhance monitoring efforts. They can be used in a wide range of situations including to investigate air quality concerns in local communities and to teach people about the importance of clean air to public health and the environment.


EPA’s Kristen Benedict talks about sensor messaging

With the rapid growth of sensor technologies, there is a great demand for information on how to select the appropriate monitoring technology and use it to gather viable information. That is why I am pleased to announce the availability of six air monitoring training videos, developed to help citizen scientists conduct air quality monitoring projects. The videos feature presentations by EPA experts and a citizen science professional given at EPA’s Community Air Monitoring Training workshop on July 9, 2015.

EPA hosted the training workshop as a pilot venture to share tools used to conduct citizen science projects involving Next Generation Air Monitoring (NGAM) technology and to educate interested groups and individuals about best practices for successful air monitoring projects.

The videos are part of the Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists and are intended to serve as resources for anyone interested in learning more about monitoring air quality. They provide short overviews (between 15-18 minutes in length) on topics that can help citizens plan and implement a successful air monitoring project. The topics and presenters are:


I was delighted to see the enthusiasm of the workshop attendees for the training and their desire to apply it to their local situation. It was contagious. Many who attended indicated they would go home and share key aspects of the training with their community groups to develop their own citizen science research plans.

With the availability of the training videos, more people will have access to the information provided on emerging technologies and community air monitoring. I see a bright future for citizen scientists as they become more aware of their local environment.


About the Author: Amanda Kaufman is an ORISE participant hosted by EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.

]]> 0
Improperly Stored Tires Lead to Big Mosquito Problems Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:02:43 +0000 By Marcia Anderson

Make sure tires on playgrounds have drainage holes to prevent rainwater from accumulating and causing a mosquito breeding problem.

Make sure tires on playgrounds have drainage holes to prevent rainwater from accumulating and causing a mosquito breeding problem.

I have a vivid memory of visiting a childcare center on Staten Island, NY. When I approached a corner of the backyard, a swarm of mosquitoes must have sensed me and dive-bombed onto every exposed part of my body. I was bitten repeatedly from my head down to my shoes. When I peered over the fence into the neighboring yard, I saw thousands of mosquitoes congregating around a pile of discarded tires.

Although many scrap tires are brought to state approved disposal sites, many also wind up in illegal dump sites. Untold more are thrown along roadways or stored in yards. Tire stockpiles present a threat to human health and the environment for several reasons.

Why are improperly stored tires hazardous to your health?

Each tire in a yard, if improperly stored, can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes which can carry life-threatening diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus and various forms of encephalitis.

The design of tires provides an ideal nursery for mosquito larvae. Tires fill with water after a rainstorm and retain the water as some of the inside areas of the tires are shaded continuously, preventing evaporation of the trapped water. Tires are somewhat insulated and retain heat for long periods of time that speeds up mosquito egg hatching and larval growth. They also collect leaf litter and debris that provides nutrition for the larvae.

Despite over 30 years of efforts to address scrap tires, stockpiles continue to be a problem across the U.S. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, over 290 million more tires are scrapped every year, and over 653 million tons of these are land-disposed. Tires in dumps are difficult to clean up due to the sheer numbers and because trees grow through them and trash, leaves, garbage, and water collect in them.

Tires on playgrounds as part of climbing or swinging structures are another potential breeding site. Ensure that the tires, and other children’s outdoor play structures have drainage holes and that the holes are kept unblocked by debris, such as leaves, to maintain water flow.

Mosquito Control: The most effective mosquito control is to keep tires dry. Pesticides applied to tire piles to control larval or adult mosquitoes may not be fully effective. Shredding tires, or otherwise rendering them incapable of holding water, is usually more effective than pesticides. If you must keep tires, store them indoors or stack and cover them with a tarp to prevent them from collecting water. Drill holes in tires in play equipment or other tire sculptures to allow water drainage and prevent future water accumulation. Keep vegetation and grasses around tires short, reducing resting sites for adult mosquitoes.

Tire Recycling:  Over 1.3 million pounds of tires are recycled each year by chopping them into high grade rubber nuggets. Some are reincorporated in the manufacture of new tires while others are converted into a urethane binder to make sidewalks, playground surfaces, and basketball courts. Roads in some areas are resurfaced using tire chips for backfill and insulation, giving asphalt both springiness and longer life. In New Hampshire, Timberland is putting tires back on the road in boots and shoes with soles made of recycled rubber. And as of 2009, 40% of scrap tires are used in energy generation due to their high BTU content.

When Buying New Tires, Recycle Your Old Tires: Businesses that sell or install tires must take back tires of approximately the same size that they sell. The fee for the collection of old tires is included in the cost of new tires.

In New York City, the Department of Sanitation will accept up to four tires from passenger cars at any of its garages or at one of the department’s household special waste drop-off sites. For more information go to New York City Department of Sanitation’s website or dial 3-1-1.  There are similar programs across the country; contact your local Department of Public Works for drop sites.

About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

]]> 0
Your Voice Matters! Help Shape How Federal Agencies Move Forward on Environmental Justice Tue, 25 Aug 2015 20:16:10 +0000 By Mustafa Santiago Ali

About the author: Mustafa Ali is the Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization.

Public forums in which community members participate (whether online or in-person), provide problem-solving ideas and actions that have taken environmental justice to new heights. The importance of these conversations, to which stakeholders bring their experience, expertise, and knowledge, echo the 10th principle of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development:

Environmental decisions are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens …[who] shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment held by public authorities, including … the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.


Click to watch ‘The Road to Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice’ Video

Over the years, I have witnessed the power of community input that has shaped how federal agencies are integrating environmental justice into their policies and programs. Notably, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) was created in 1994 in response to public comments asking the federal family to address — in a holistic manner — the myriad of challenges and opportunities facing communities that are overburdened and under-resourced.


Community Meeting, Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, 2010

As part of its effort to engage as many stakeholders as possible, the EJ IWG is seeking public input about its new draft Action Agenda Framework. The Framework is a strategic plan to define new goals for the next three years and advance greater federal agency collaboration to improve quality of life and expand economic opportunity. As a forum for federal agencies, the EJ IWG strives to build comprehensive solutions to address environmental justice and ensure that the public has meaningful opportunities for participation in the decision-making process.

In addition to the public comment period, which starts today, August 25, and runs through September 25, the EJ IWG is hosting two national webinars about the draft Framework. Don’t miss out on this important opportunity to influence decision-making that is fundamental to improving federal agency environmental justice initiatives, programs, and activities.

I urge you to participate in one of the live webinars to learn more about the Framework. Information about each webinar is listed below. Mark and your calendar and register today. Note that both webinars will cover the same information:

  • Tuesday, September 1, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Eastern)
  • Wednesday, September 16, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Eastern)

You can RSVP for both webinars here. For more information or if you need special accommodation, contact Kevin Olp, Webinar materials will be forwarded to participants a week before each presentation.

Youth1In 1991, environmental justice advocates laid out 17 principles for environmental justice. Among them was Principle 7, which called for the “participation as equal partners at every level of decision-making.” Voicing your comments during the public comment period will directly influence government decision-making and actions for the next three years. Help shape an effective Framework that addresses environmental justice issues in environmental protection, housing, transportation, economic development, energy policy, management of natural and cultural resources, and health disparities.

Take an active part in developing goals and activities that collectively advance environmental justice principles in an integrated effort by reviewing the Framework and providing your comments to

Remember. Your voice matters!

]]> 0
The Last Year of an Environmental Educator’s Career: Reflections on Sustainability Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:42:55 +0000 Introduction by Kathleen L. Fenton

I’m fortunate to manage EPA Region 7’s Environmental Education Program. I get to meet folks like Dr. Michael Hotz, who work tirelessly to ensure today’s students understand, value and enjoy learning. Dr. Hotz is one of those exceptional teachers who students remember long after they’ve graduated, an educator who makes a lasting impression. Most importantly, he’s influenced students to realize that science, technology, engineering and math are subjects they can understand and have fun doing, while actually learning – and it’s knowledge they can keep and use for years to come.

Dr. Hotz is a model teacher and representative of many fine teachers across the Heartland. I had the honor of watching him receive his Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. I wish him well on his career’s final year, and hope the teaching profession can employ more teachers like him. Thank you, Dr. Hotz, for an impressive 31-year run!

By Dr. Michael Hotz

As I begin the last of 31 years of teaching young people, I reflect on sustainability. Through the last 19 years in the Kansas City, Kan., Public School District, I’ve had the opportunity to create a school garden/outdoor classroom, conduct long-term watershed studies, create an aquaponic system where tilapia grow and greenhouse plants are nourished, and conduct energy audits to save more than $100,000 in utility costs.

Dr. Hotz and his wife, Catherine, at PIAEE award ceremony

Dr. Hotz and his wife, Catherine, at PIAEE award ceremony

It’s been a great experience, and I have an EPA employee to thank for, as she says, “planting the seed of ideas.” Roberta Vogel-Luetung sat with me as we brainstormed ideas over 15 years ago at an in-service meeting conducted by EPA. We discussed how an empty, unused courtyard at Wyandotte High School could be used for teaching environmental content. Since that meeting, the courtyard has been turned into a school garden and outdoor classroom with 20 raised beds, an automated sprinkler system, all-weather walkways, flower gardens, a water feature, and composting facilities.

Students were challenged and stepped up to the task of designing, building, and financing this area, which they also help plant and maintain. These students, as well as others, have reaped the fruits of their labors. Joanne Postawait has taken over the responsibility of planting and harvesting this area, while I continue to help with its hardscape maintenance.

School garden/outdoor classroom

School garden/outdoor classroom

The EPA video “After the Storm” inspired me to create a “challenge-based” learning experience for the Small Learning Community in which I teach at Wyandotte High School. Through collaboration with my fellow educators Ms. Hornberger (Math), Mr. Willard (English), and Mr. Zak (Engineering), we created a long-term project around Big Eleven Lake in Kansas City, Kan.

Each year, students study their watershed in my science classes. We bring the studies down to the local level of what the students can do themselves to help the watershed. They’ve been taught how to conduct water testing, and then go into the field and test Big Eleven Lake, Kaw Point (at the convergence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers), and other lakes in the area. Comparisons are made and reported to the Kansas Health Department. All of the curriculums are tied into this experience. Standardized test scores demonstrate that significant gains have been made because of this program.

I was also a member of the EPA Urban Lake Testing Group where EPA provided water testing techniques and equipment, and samples were sent to EPA laboratories for analysis. I was then able to train residents of the Big Eleven Lake area, who belong to the Struggler’s Hill/Roots Neighborhood Association, to do the water testing. These neighborhood association members were helpful in sharing their lives and experiences around the lake, and the EPA employees were just as helpful with the testing and field work.

Aquaponics system

Aquaponic system

We developed a pilot aquaponics program where tilapia are grown. The water from these tanks is sent to trays where plants are grown, establishing a symbiotic relationship between the fish and plants. Wastes from the tilapia nourish tomatoes, herbs, squash, and other plants in our greenhouse. This type of organic, non-polluting growing system is 10 times more efficient than traditional methods and saves water.

I initiated energy audits and plans to save on utility costs. Students use testing equipment to monitor lights, electricity, and temperature and then develop plans to reduce usage. More than $100,000 was saved in a single year. A recycling program also is in place, which is operated by our Environmental Club and is part of the Green Schools Program of the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education.

Aquaponic system

Aquaponic system

These programs helped me to be recognized as a proud winner of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). EPA and its employees have been instrumental in the development and teaching of these programs.

I am honored that my former student and 2015 graduate, Karina Macias Leyva, wrote the following in her letter of recommendation for the award: “When Dr. Hotz teaches anything that is part of the environmental education field, even with the smallest projects, he inspires students to gain awareness of their environment and acquire knowledge, skills, values, experiences and also determination, which will enable students to act individually and collectively that will lead to solving present and future environmental problems.”

I’m currently working with Towson University, investigating how environmental education happens in and out of the classroom and what impacts student understanding and attitudes about the environment and environmental science.

As I plan for this final year of teaching, my major concern is sustaining these programs. I’m training and encouraging other teachers at Wyandotte High School to keep them going. Our environmental future depends upon the teaching of young minds here in the Heartland and across the nation.

I have enjoyed and am thankful for the relationships that have been made with EPA, and I look forward to working with all of you at EPA during this final year.

About the Introducer: Kathleen Fenton has worked with communities on environmental health issues, environmental education grants, and Healthy Schools projects for over 20 years.

About the Author: Dr. Michael Hotz has been a teacher at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan., for the past 19 years, as part of his 31-year teaching career. He was awarded the PIAEE in 2015.

]]> 0
This Week in EPA Science Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:06:37 +0000 By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap with School Bus

Heading back to school soon? Want to freshen up your science skills? Then check out this week’s Research Recap!

  • Be a scientist: Hands on activities to learn about air quality and climate change
    • Build your own Particulate Matter Air Sensor Kit! Particle pollution, known as particulate matter, is one of the major air pollutants regulated by EPA to protect public health and the environment. EPA developed an air sensor kit to monitor for particle pollution and now you can build one too.
    • EPA scientists developed an interactive board game called Generate! to explore energy choices and the environment. Players will learn the costs and benefits of the energy choices we make; find out what happens if the mix of energy sources changes in the future and learn what energy choices mean for our climate, air, water, and overall environmental quality.

      Instructions for both of these activities can be found on the EPA Air Research page here.

  • One last backyard project this summer
    When rain hits rooftops, parking lots and roads instead of wetlands, forests and grasslands, it tends to run into storm drains that are directly connected to our waterways. Stormwater runoff is one of the fastest growing sources of pollution. Green infrastructure practices mimic natural habitats and absorb excess water. Building a rain garden—a kind of green infrastructure—is a fun way to help keep your waterways healthy and learn about the water cycle!

    Learn more about building your own rain garden in EPA Science Matters for Kids: “Green Infrastructure”- Soaking it In!

  • Wonder what it’s like to be like to be an EPA scientist?
    • EPA chemical engineer Diana Bless works on sustainable materials management research for rare earth elements in consumer electronics and approaches related to characterization, source control and treatment of mining-influenced waters.

      Meet EPA Scientist Diana Bless.

    • EPA Scientist Eric S. Hall is currently developing a decision support tool (web browser) to help communities make sustainable decisions.

      Meet EPA Scientist Eric S. Hall.
      Meet more of our researchers at our Researchers at Work page.

Photo of the week

 Bob Kavlock (ORD), Troy Pierce (EPA Gulf of Mexico Program), and Chesapeake Biology Laboratory researcher review Chesapeake Bay water quality measurements on the R/V Rachel Carson during the Challenging Nutrients Coalition meeting in Solomons, MD.

Bob Kavlock (ORD), Troy Pierce (EPA Gulf of Mexico Program), and Chesapeake Biology Laboratory researcher review Chesapeake Bay water quality measurements on the R/V Rachel Carson during the Challenging Nutrients Coalition meeting in Solomons, MD.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!


About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

]]> 0
Energy Efficiency and the Clean Power Plan Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:43:44 +0000 The Clean Power Plan is a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that puts energy efficiency front and center as an important strategy for meeting state goals.  For years, energy efficiency strategies have been widely used by states because they can substantially and cost-effectively lower energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. The Clean Power Plan will not only expand these practices – it offers flexible compliance options, providing states a wide array of ways to use energy efficiency to meet their state goals, regardless of the state plan approach chosen.

Energy efficiency programs make perfect sense for states; they have low costs and large potential.  Our analysis projects that, in every state, demand-side energy efficiency programs will be a significant component of state compliance plans under the Clean Power Plan.  Because energy efficiency is not assumed as part of each state’s goal, it can serve as kind of a “bonus” strategy for compliance – as many comments suggested.

And the energy savings achieved by these programs will not only help cut emissions, they will save consumers money on their electric bills.  We project that the Clean Power Plan will spur a 7 percent reduction in electricity demand, reducing electricity bills by, on average, $7 per month for American families and businesses in 2030. The way we’ll get there is through energy efficiency.

Here are ten ways that the Clean Power Plan encourages energy efficiency:

  1. The Clean Power Plan encourages states to select energy efficiency as a compliance path to meet their goals, leading to cost savings for consumers.
  1. With the final Clean Power Plan, EPA also proposed model rule text describing how states could credit energy efficiency.
  1. Draft Evaluation, Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Guidance is available to help states effectively credit demand-side energy efficiency.
  1. The final Clean Power Plan simplifies interstate accounting for energy efficiency compared to the proposal.
  1. The Clean Power Plan’s Trading-Ready concept facilitates interstate trading of Emissions Reductions Credits (ERCs) – including those issued for energy efficiency – without requiring formal agreements between states.
  2. Under a mass-based approach, energy efficiency automatically “counts” toward compliance and states can use an unlimited amount to help achieve their state goals.
  1. Under a rate-based approach, the final Clean Power Plan enables states to get credit for all eligible energy efficiency projects installed after 2012, a longer time frame than what was proposed.
  1. Under a state measures approach, the Clean Power Plan allows state energy efficiency policies and programs to be used to meet the emissions guidelines, without requiring the state measures to be federally enforceable.
  2. The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) provides additional incentives for early investment in demand-side energy efficiency in low-income communities.
  3. The Clean Power Plan Toolbox offers resources to help states implement proven, cost-effective energy efficiency strategies.

A more detailed explanation of each item on this list can be found on our Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet.

]]> 0