Posts tagged EPA

Greenhouse gases – a public health threat

This just in from the EPA:

EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Threat to Public Health, Welfare

 

Proposed Finding Comes in Response to 2007 Supreme Court Ruling

 

 

 

(Washington, D.C. – April 17, 2009)  After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding Friday that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

 

The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat.

 

“This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations.  Fortunately, it follows President Obama’s call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation,” said Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”

 

As the proposed endangerment finding states, “In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem.  The greenhouse gases that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”

 

EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.

 

The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change impacts human health in several ways. Findings from a recent EPA study titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone,” for example, suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:

 

·         increased drought;

·         more heavy downpours and flooding;

·         more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires;

·         greater sea level rise;

·         more intense storms; and

·         harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.

 

In proposing the finding, Administrator Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources.

 

In addition to threatening human health, the analysis finds that climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.

  

The proposed endangerment finding now enters the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process EPA must undertake before issuing final findings. Today’s proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations. Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input.  Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.

 

More information:  http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

 

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Cedar Rapids school not on EPA’s list for outdoor air pollution monitoring

   Johnson Elementary in Cedar Rapids was not included in a list the Environmental Protection Agency released today of schools that will be monitored for outdoor air pollution.

   The EPA, state and local agencies will work together to monitor air toxics around 62 schools in 22 states that are located near large industrial facilities or in urban areas. EPA identified the schools based on information – from a newspaper analysis – that raised questions about air quality.

   Roland-Story High School in Story City, north of Ames, was the only Iowa school included on the EPA monitoring list.

   Johnson Elementary ranked among schools nationwide with the worst outdoor air quality, according to a report in December by USA Today.

   Linn County Public Health officials disputed the report, and held a meeting in February at Johnson Elementary, 355 18th St. SE.

    Jim Hodina, supervisor of the air quality division at Linn County Public Health, discussed air quality issues with about 15 parents at the school.

 The USA Today report said the main chemical of concern was manganese, emitted from Cedarapids Inc. 909 17th St. NE.  The model used by USA Today suggested all of the manganese generated at the plant was released into the air.  Cedarapids Inc. generates dust in its plant from cutting metal, Hodina said, but not all of the dust leaves the building.

    For more information about Linn County Public Health’s response to the air quality report, go to: http://www.linncleanair.org

    Here is the EPA press release:

 (Washington, D.C. – March 31, 2009) In an unprecedented effort to help protect children from toxic air pollution around schools, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced a list of schools that will undergo outdoor air monitoring.

“As a mother, I understand that concerned parents deserve this information as quickly as we can gather and analyze it,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “EPA, state, and local officials are mobilizing to determine where elevated levels of toxics pose a threat, so that we can take swift action to protect our children at their schools.”

EPA, state and local agencies will work together to monitor air toxics around 62 schools in 22 states that are located near large industrial facilities or in urban areas. EPA identified these schools for monitoring based on information that raised questions about air quality. That information included the best data available to EPA scientists about air pollution in the vicinity of schools, results of a computer modeling analysis, results from a recent newspaper analysis, and information from state and local air agencies.

Depending on the availability of staff and equipment, monitoring at some schools on the list will begin almost immediately; other schools will begin monitoring over the next 60 to 90 days. State and local air agencies will install and operate the monitors, while EPA will purchase the monitors and pay for laboratory analysis.

State and local agencies will take periodic samples of the air around the schools for a 60-day period. EPA will analyze the results of the monitoring and share the information with the schools and the public. EPA will use the information gathered in this initiative to determine how best to move forward, which could require additional monitoring or enforcement action where appropriate.

EPA and states will work with school communities to ensure they understand the monitoring results. In addition to monitoring the outdoor air quality, EPA also will help interested schools improve the quality of their indoor air.

To learn more about this program and to view the list of schools that are part of the monitoring initiative: http://www.epa.gov/schoolair

 

 

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Black & Gold going green

This just came out today – the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in Fall 2009:

Gone are the days when the environment was solely the purview of biologists, climatologists and engineers. If tomorrow’s world is truly going to be greener, teachers, dental assistants, grassroots advocates, government leaders and even artists must be prepared to contribute to sustainable systems and practices.

To help put students on a path toward becoming effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability in whatever professional setting they choose, the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009. The program will allow students to augment their majors and minors with a certificate that promotes an integrated understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.

To meet the certificate’s requirements, students must complete 24 semester hours of course work that includes three introductory core courses, four electives from a designated list and one project course. Courses already required as part of a student’s major or minor fields of study may count toward the certificate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.00 grade point average.

“The need for sustainable practices, awareness and ingenuity is going to grow exponentially in the coming years as the world manages diminishing resources and humanity learns how to better live within its means,” UI President Sally Mason said. “Energy, society, culture, economics, construction and public policy all will be impacted. That’s why I’m thrilled that the University of Iowa has taken this important step toward providing our students with the tools and academic framework to couple sustainability with whatever fields of study they choose.”

The required courses include “Introduction to Sustainability,” “Introduction to Environmental Science” and “Contemporary Environmental Issues.” For their electives students may select from a wide array of courses offered across the disciplines, from “Glacial and Pleistocene Geology” and “Wetlands: Function, Geography and Management” to “History and Environment in Africa” and “Planning Livable Cities.”

The required projects will address advanced problems in design, sustainability and education, multimedia writing on the topic of a green economy and other relevant issues. One option, for example, is a course offered through the UI College of Engineering’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that provides students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to propose solutions to problems faced by people in the developing world. Students study and develop the appropriate technologies required to improve water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health. 

Barbara Eckstein, an associate provost and professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chaired a task force of faculty and staff from eight colleges that developed the certificate, which she said is accessible to any undergraduate student.

“Whatever students’ career goals, understanding the ties that bind economic development, environmental protection, and equity is key to their future,” Eckstein said.

An interdisciplinary advisory board will oversee the certificate’s implementation. The board members are Jim Throgmorton, a professor in Urban and Regional Planning; Laura Rigal, an associate professor in the Department of English with a joint appointment in American Studies; Mark Reagan, a professor of igneous petrology and geochemistry in the CLAS Department of Geoscience; Christy Moroye, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning; and Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The certificate is just one of many ways in which the university is strengthening its commitment to sustainability as outlined by Mason in an Earth Day address last year. Despite the flood of 2008 and the ongoing recovery, as well as the significant budget challenges presented by the downturn in the national economy, the university has made important strides toward developing a greener campus and curriculum.

Soon after her address, Mason established a Sustainability Steering Committee and in November appointed Liz Christiansen the university’s first director of sustainability. Already, the UI diverts about 30 percent of its general waste stream through recycling practices. And the UI is ahead of schedule in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2010, as required by its membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which the UI was an early member.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lauded the UI for reducing carbon emissions at its power plant by using one system to generate both heat and energy, saving the equivalent amount of carbon stored by 11,232 acres of pine forests for one year or the emissions from 8,046 passenger vehicles. The plant burns oat hulls to reduce its reliance on coal by 20 percent and may serve as a model for a new power plant under consideration that could eventually provide 100 percent renewable energy at the Oakdale campus.

UI faculty and students are getting in on the act, too. In February, student leaders and the UI Environmental Coalition presented a series of sustainability panels as part of the National Teach-In on Global Warming 2009. And student members of the UI College of Engineering’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, working with faculty advisor Craig Just, recently won a first-place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for designing a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives in developing countries.

Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is using a $750,000 NASA grant to examine the atmosphere above the Arctic — a natural receptor of smoke and forest fire pollution from northern Europe, Asia and North America that creates a visible arctic haze. And Larry Weber, director of the UI’s world renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering research unit, is using the flood of 2008 as an opportunity to develop better ways to predict future flooding, and help communities live more sustainably near volatile waterways.

Even economic development should benefit from the UI’s commitment to sustainability. The UI College of Engineering is involved with the newly launched Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a partnership among the regents universities, community colleges, industry, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, designed to support the state’s efforts to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries in order to become the nation’s leader in alternate energy technologies.

For more information on the plan and other UI energy conservation efforts visit http://energy.uiowa.edu/

 

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