STATES

President Trump’s BLM Gutting Methane Standards Move is Wasteful, Misguided, and Unpopular

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

President Trump’s Bureau of Land Management Gutting Methane Standards Move is Wasteful, Misguided, and Unpopular

Statement by Howard A. Learner

Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“President Trump’s Bureau of Land Management is gutting the standards designed to reduce wasteful flaring of methane. That misguided action hurts people, wastes a resource and adds pollution. In a poll last year, 60% of North Dakota Republicans and 59% of independents supported strong standards to reduce flaring in federal and tribal lands. That’s common sense. An estimated $76 million in natural gas is flared annually on North Dakota’s public and tribal lands. Instead of wasting that resource, we should be advancing use of innovative technologies to reduce waste, keeping jobs and money in the state.”

Traverse Magazine: Howard Learner Guest Column: Protecting the Great Lakes & the Thunder Bay Nat’l Marine Sanctuary

December 2017

Protecting the Great Lakes and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
By Howard A. Learner

The Great Lakes are our great natural treasure. This is where Midwesterners live, work and play. Protecting the Great Lakes has strong bipartisan support. Safe clean drinking water is not partisan at all. We all care—a lot.

President Trump won the 2016 election in the Great Lakes states, but his policies are puzzling in light of Michiganders’ clean water priorities. His administration is proposing to allow offshore oil drilling and cut down the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron along the Alpena-to-Mackinaw City shoreline. His proposed budget slashes the sensible Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to zero. The EPA is rolling back common sense Clean Water Act standards that protect safe clean drinking water.

These are headscratchers, criticized by both Republican and Democratic leaders and by business, civic and environmental groups alike.

The Great Lakes are a global gem. They contain 21 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, provide drinking water for 42 million people, provide a rich aquatic habitat for many species, support the $7 billion fishing industry, and offer recreational opportunities for millions of people.

Military analysts say future wars will be fought over water. Fresh water availability is our region’s competitive advantage. Michiganders recognize this remarkable value. We can’t afford to spoil the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a review for reducing the size of, and allowing offshore oil drilling in, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron.

Thunder Bay protects a treasure trove of 100 significant shipwrecks. Following participatory stakeholder processes in 2014, this National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 448 to 4,300 square miles.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary draws visitors to explore Shipwreck Alley and offers a window into Great Lakes maritime history. The sanctuary is not controversial. It’s America’s only fresh water Marine Sanctuary.

Federal law and Michigan law prohibit offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes. The Commerce Department’s review is puzzling.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is leading the charge to protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Our joint comments submitted with 14 Great Lakes groups explained why this popular National Marine Sanctuary must not be chopped.

Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and bipartisan Representatives Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Daniel Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Dave Trott and Fred Upton sent a joint letter to the Commerce Department expressing …

“[S]trong opposition to reducing the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary … The expansion of this sanctuary in Lake Huron in 2014, which was the result of a rigorous approval process with extensive public input, is critical to Michigan’s economy and heritage. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has helped revitalize local economies in our state.”

Let’s protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and preserve this historical maritime site today and for future generations. That’s good for jobs, economic growth and the environment.

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BREAKING: ELPC Joins EDF, OEC Ask Ohio Supreme Court to Block FirstEnergy Bailout

 

December 1, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

Groups Challenge FirstEnergy Bailout at Ohio Supreme Court
Joint statement from EDF, OEC and ELPC

COLUMBUS –  The Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Law & Policy Center today appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) bailout for utility giant FirstEnergy. Last year, the PUCO approved a plan to provide FirstEnergy with more than $600 million over a three-year period in no-strings-attached subsidies for its uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

Since the PUCO’s ruling Ohioans have already paid over $120 million of the $600 million bailout to FirstEnergy. While FirstEnergy will keep the money they’ve already collected even if the Supreme Court overturns the PUCO’s ruling, we are filing our appeal to the Supreme Court to protect Ohio ratepayers from further unjustified bailout payments.

“Last year, when Ohio regulators tried to hand FirstEnergy $4 billion to keep its outdated, uneconomic power plants operating, federal regulators came to the rescue and blocked the deal. But the utility giant is relentless and devised a new bailout plea that didn’t require federal oversight, which state regulators quickly rubber-stamped. We are confident the Ohio Supreme Court will recognize Ohioans should not be responsible for FirstEnergy’s bad business decisions, and overturn the $600 million bailout.”

  • Dick Munson, Midwest Policy Director, Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund

“With an abundance of renewable energy opportunity in the Buckeye State, it doesn’t make sense that our state regulators agreed to raise Ohioans’ electric bills to subsidize plants that are old and expensive. These consumer-funded subsidies distort trends in the market that would otherwise be pushing electric utilities to innovate, creating cleaner, more efficient generation options. I’m confident that the Ohio Supreme Court will side with the customers, ensuring a cleaner, prosperous future for all.”

  • Trish Demeter, Vice President of Policy, Ohio Environmental Council

“We are challenging this bailout because it raises electric bills for Ohio families to pay off FirstEnergy’s shareholders, and provides no benefits to customers. Instead of bailing out failing coal plants, we should help lower customer bills and pollution through energy efficiency.”

  • Madeline Fleisher, attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our Energy Exchange blog. 

Ohio Environmental Council (theoec.org) The Ohio Environmental Council is the state’s most comprehensive, effective and respected environmental advocate for a healthier, more sustainable Ohio. Our experts work daily to restore, protect, and strengthen the quality of life for families and communities—from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat and natural resources we enjoy.

Environmental Law & Policy Center (elpc.org) is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy.

 

Detroit Free Press OpEd: Hey Michigan, use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

 

Hey Michigan, Use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

OpEd

By Toby C. Lewis and Janet McCabe

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder and state officials have an opportunity to help kids get a healthier start to their school day by purchasing clean electric school buses to replace dirty, diesel-powered school buses that cause asthma attacks. The state is about to get access to $65 million from a Volkswagen settlement that can only be spent on a few items to reduce air pollution, including electric school buses to replace the aging, dirty diesel fleet.

Over the course of nearly seven years, Volkswagen sold close to 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. with engines programmed to trick emissions standards, contributing many tons of pollution to the environment. As part of a national settlement, the company is providing nearly $3 billion to states to support pollution-reducing projects.

A lot of Michigan kids can benefit from riding cleaner school buses. An estimated 660,000 children in communities across Michigan are climbing onto about 17,000 diesel-powered school buses every day.

There are three reasons why electric school buses make sense:

Healthier children: Children’s lungs are still developing and they breathe more rapidly than adults, making kids particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of exposure to diesel pollution. About 10% of Michigan children currently suffer from asthma, a disease that leaves lungs sensitive to irritation from the complex mix of fine particles, nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants in diesel fumes. These fumes seep into the cabins of school buses. Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Washington have found that diesel school buses are responsible for millions of missed school days in the U.S. each year.

Healthier communities: A diesel bus driving around our cities and towns emits a chemical cocktail at ground level, near our schools, playgrounds and homes. The average school bus makes 85 stops per day. With an electric school bus, there’s no danger from running or idling engines, because no emissions come out of the tailpipe. In fact, there isn’t a tailpipe at all.

A healthier economy: States understand that a strong economy depends more and more on a healthy environment, which includes shifting to renewable energy resources. Because school buses operate according to school schedules, they can recharge their batteries overnight, when demand for energy is low. Electric school buses can also serve as local battery packs to provide extra juice back to the grid when it’s needed most. That reduces the demand on all energy sources providing power to the grid and creates a more sustainable power system with more clean energy as the source.

Electric school buses are not science fiction. There are already more than 100 on the road in North America, and American companies known for their diesel technology, like Cummins and Blue Bird, have announced investments in electric technologies for school buses.

Funds from the Volkswagen settlement are expected to be released once state agencies submit spending proposals. Governors putting VW money towards electric school buses would drive the market forward and costs down. School buses represent the largest category of mass transportation in our country, larger than transit and rail combined. We urge Michigan to help move this market to zero emissions and demonstrate leadership for health, the environment, our energy future, and most importantly, our children.

Toby C. Lewis is associate professor of pediatric pulmonology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan and attending physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Janet McCabe served as the U.S. EPA’s acting assistant administrator for Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama administration and is currently a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

READ OpEd HERE

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Protect Drinking Water Near Quarries Before There’s a Crisis

Sun-Times Editorial Board

Illinois does not need another case of rubble trouble.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that 80 percent of old Illinois quarries that allow the dumping of concrete and other demolition waste have higher-than-acceptable levels of toxins, according to state sampling results.
That’s a wake-up call. State authorities had better take action before we have an environmental disaster on our hands.

Spokesmen for industry argue that there is no reason for alarm because there is no sign of any health hazards — and Illinois has the strictest regulations in the nation for dumping “clean construction and demolition debris” at sites other than landfills. Road builders, construction companies and others who use the quarries say additional testing is unnecessary and too expensive.

But that overlooks a fundamental rule when it comes to the threat of environmental contamination: Always err on the side of caution. Once contaminants get into the environment, it is difficult and expensive — and sometimes impossible — to get them out. We should be bending over backward to keep our drinking water and the environment acceptably clean, not responding to a crisis.

Most waste is hauled off to landfills, which are capped with soil and designed with liners to prevent toxic material from fouling the air or leaching into groundwater. But an exception is made for construction material — lumber, bricks, broken concrete, etc. — that is considered “clean.” The exception — it can be dumped at a less sealed site — is made so that it does not fill up much-needed landfill space, and because it doesn’t generally present an environmental threat. Concrete is concrete.

But last spring, tests by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency found levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, atrazine and other heavy metals, pesticides and hazardous volatile organic compounds above permissible limits at 80 percent of the 92 Illinois quarries that accept clean construction debris. The former quarries, many of which are in Will County, often are directly above groundwater sources.

Dan Eichholz, executive director of the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers, told the AP that the IEPA turned up no more contaminants than you’d get if you tested “clean soil from backyards all around Illinois.”

Sounds good, sure. But too often in the past authorities have ignored potential health risks until the cost of addressing them soared and people’s health was affected. Many Chicagoans still have raw memories of a pile of construction debris and tainted material that grew into “The Mountain” in West Garfield Park in the 1990s. Residents of Flint, Michigan, also learned the danger of ignoring potential health risks when lead from old pipes and fixtures contaminated their drinking water.

“This is a contaminated drinking water problem waiting to happen,” said Howard A. Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “There are sensible steps that should be taken at each of these sites.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit that now is before the Illinois Appellate Court seeking to require groundwater monitoring at quarries that accept construction debris, citing the risk of pollutants getting “directly into the water table.”

In the Legislature, a coalition of environmentalists, local officials, Madigan and others last spring blocked by one vote a law that would have eased liability and permitting requirements for quarry owners. But an environment-friendly bill filed by state Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) that would have required groundwater monitoring at the quarries never made it out of committee.

McDermed said the recent IEPA testing showed the methods used to monitor construction degree “were completely inadequate.”

It can cost five times as much to dispose of materials at a landfill as in a former quarry, which creates a big incentive to dump so-called clean construction debris in quarries. But Henry Henderson, Midwest director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, cautions that “clean” debris is an inexact label. Much of it comes from the demolition of old buildings, he said, and it can include such contaminants as metals and asbestos.

Moreover, tainted groundwater is particularly difficult to clean up up once it has been tainted, Henderson said, pointing out that many communities outside the Chicago area rely on groundwater for drinking water.

Dumping construction debris in old quarries is not a bad idea. But an independent agency should monitor the material brought to those sites and the groundwater around them.

Preventive medicine is always best.

READ EDITORIAL

 

News Release: Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

For Immediate Release

Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

Rate Certainty Sets Stage for New Private Investments, Solar Energy Development

LANSING, MI – An order setting rates for renewable energy developers from Consumers Energy will create the certainty necessary to spur private investments and new growth in solar energy while ensuring utility customers’ electricity rates don’t increase.

“The Commission adopted a strong methodology that reflects the value solar provides to Michigan during peak periods,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. “This decision makes Michigan more attractive for renewable energy development at no additional cost to ratepayers.”

The Commission adopted new avoided cost rates that Consumers Energy must pay to renewable energy facilities in Michigan for the power those facilities supply to the grid.  This completes Michigan’s first update in 25 years of the approach utilities must take under federal law to compensate the owners of qualified clean energy facilities.

Solar industry officials hailed Wednesday’s announcement saying it can help make Michigan a leader in Midwest solar.

“The Commission correctly recognized the significant long-term value of solar to Michigan, and the need to update old rules to capture that value,” said Rick Umoff, director of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Solar companies can now ratchet up investment in Michigan’s economy, creating well-paying jobs and providing clean reliable energy to the state.”

Advocates also celebrated the news.

“The Commission’s decision to enable a level playing field for clean energy will launch a new wave of solar development in Michigan,” said Becky Stanfield, senior director of western states at Vote Solar. “Michigan’s leadership demonstrates to regulators and lawmakers across the country how to attract private investments, build a clean energy economy, and create local jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was enacted in 1978 to encourage renewable energy development, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy independence. It requires utilities to purchase energy from small qualified cogeneration and renewable energy providers and establishes what are known as “avoided costs” and “must-buy prices” that utilities pay to small renewable energy providers. Since its inception, PURPA has spurred more than 16 GW of cumulative capacity across the country.

In June, the Commission established avoided cost calculations based on the costs of energy and capacity from new natural gas facilities, creating an even playing field for independent developers of qualified clean energy projects. The order also simplifies the development and financing process for small projects by establishing 20-year contracts at a standard rate for projects up to 2 megawatts in size. Previously only projects up to 100 kilowatts were eligible.

Read the Commission’s order.

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Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Toxic Leak into Lake Michigan Should Not Have Been a Secret. ELPC’s Learner says “The EPA is supposed to play the role of watchdog.”

 

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board

Toxic Leak into Lake Michigan Should Not Have Happened

It’s a new day for the environment, and not in a hopeful sense.

A steel company’s request to Indiana authorities for “confidential treatment” when it dumped toxic metal into Lake Michigan last month is a worrisome sign that under the Trump administration we will be told less and less about threats to our environment.

Everyone, from environmental activists to ordinary Chicagoans who care about the safety of their drinking water, had better become much more vigilant.

The request came from U.S. Steel in an Oct. 31 letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management after chromium leaked on Oct. 25 from a company facility on the shore of Lake Michigan. Just six months earlier, a similar leak from the same plant fouled a river tributary that feeds into the lake.

The request for secrecy — to keep you in the dark — apparently worked. A Chicago Tribune review of online press releases shows that neither state officials nor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the public about the potentially hazardous leak.

The critical importance of leveling with the public in such matters also is illustrated by a new Better Government Association review and Associated Press investigate report of leaks from local nuclear power plants. The BGA and AP learned that radioactive material continues to leak from Exelon’s Illinois nuclear power plants. The leaks were properly reported, but we now are confronted by an EPA boss, Scott Pruitt, who takes a skeptical view of environment protections. We have less confidence that Pruitt’s EPA will partner with the public, and not with the despoilers of the environment, when such leaks occur.

According to the BGA report, radioactive waste continues to leak from the nuclear power plants more than a decade after chronic leaks led to a $1.2 million government settlement and the company promised to guard against future accidents. Exelon says the amounts were too little to be a health risk, but the leaks remind us our air and water can quickly become tainted to the point of hazard. We need both industry and authorities to be in the vanguard of protecting the environment.

Clearly, we all deserve to know promptly whenever there is a leak of toxic industrial substances that could endanger public health. In the case of U.S. Steel’s recent leak of chromium, the Halloween Day letter surfaced only because it was seen by law students from the University of Chicago who were tracking pollution violations. If data about the leak had been released promptly, independent scientists could have assessed it and made recommendations. That is how the public is protected.

Why didn’t U.S. Steel or the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, an agency considered lax by environmentalists, inform the public? Why didn’t U.S. Steel report the  leak to the National Response Center, which keeps local officials posted about spills and leaks? Embarrassment is not a sufficient reason for secrecy.

Howard A. Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the handling of the U.S. Steel leak is a sign that the EPA under Pruitt is signaling to companies that it is indifference to such environmental threats.

“The message coming from Pruitt is to lay off industry,” Learner said. “The EPA is supposed to play the role of watchdog, or the cop on the block, that leads people to be more careful.”

We pay for cops to deter crime in our city, and we pay federal inspectors and scientists to keep monitor spills and leaks that might endanger our health.

When it comes to our environment, the Trump administration is sending ominous signals.

READ HERE

 

Toledo Blade Editorial: There is More than One Strategy for Lake Erie

Editorial 

When you really, really want to be sure your pants won’t fall down, you go with the belt-and-suspenders strategy: You put on a belt, but in case a belt is not going to be enough to keep your pants up, you’ve got your suspenders.

The same can be said for strategies to clean up the pollution that is causing toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, says one of the environmental lawyers suing to force the federal government to designate the western basin of the lake impaired under the terms of the Clean Water Act.

While it is great that Ohio’s state environmental officials are pursuing research and voluntary pollution-control measures to reduce the amount of algae-feeding phosphorus flowing into the lake, if those approaches don’t deliver results, the Clean Water Act will.

Madeline Fleisher of the Environmental Law and Policy Center made the analogy at this year’s Great Lakes Water Conference at the University of Toledo.

There must be more than one strategy — and more than one path of action — to save Lake Erie.

Joining her on a panel at the conference was Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Karl Gebhardt, a former Ohio Farm Bureau lobbyist who is Gov. John Kasich’s point man on lake issues.

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Chicago Tribune: ELPC Among Groups Testing Citizen Devices to Track Chicago’s Pollution Hot Spots

Citizen devices tracking Chicago’s pollution hot spots

November 11, 2017
By Michael Hawthorne

With an array of palm-size devices strapped across her chest and connected wirelessly to her smartphone, Gail Merritt discovered the air in the South Loop might be a lot dirtier than expected.

Merritt and her group of volunteer pollution hunters had assumed the low-cost sensors they carried during daily walks would confirm their fast-growing neighborhood had relatively decent air quality, at least when compared with the gritty industrial corridors in other parts of Chicago.

Color-coded graphs that popped up on Merritt’s screen during an unseasonably warm October afternoon told a more complicated story. Something as common as a CTA bus or city garbage truck passing by caused the amount of lung-damaging particulate matter in the air to temporarily jump off the charts.

Just as concerning were spikes of pollution that turned up when the group reviewed data from a different air monitor stationed for three weeks in Dearborn Park, a quiet, tree-lined square framed by high-rise condominiums.

The volunteers now are eagerly awaiting a review of their handiwork by scientists who oversaw air monitoring in the South Loop and three other Chicago neighborhoods during the past six months. Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the project is part of a broader nationwide effort to use rapidly developing technology to give people easy-to-access information about pollution they breathe during their daily routines.

“We came into this thinking we would be a control group they could use to compare to other neighborhoods with environmental justice issues,” said Merritt, a management consultant who leads the Alliance for a Greener South Loop. “Given all of the vehicle and train traffic around us, it looks like we have our own pollution problems.”

Breathing even small amounts of particulate matter, commonly known as soot, can inflame the lungs and trigger asthma attacks. Long-term exposure can cause heart disease, increase the risk of developing cancer and shave years off a person’s life.

Unlike the thick clouds of pollution that choked cities during the past century, the soot particles that concern public health researchers today are so small that thousands could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

Since the amount of vehicle exhaust and factory pollution can vary widely within neighborhoods and at different times of day, the new wave of portable and stationary sensors can find pockets of dirty air that go unnoticed by authorities.

Intrigued by the potential of using personal technology to track the invisible-but-deadly pollution, the EPA began awarding scientific grants during the Obama administration to determine if relatively inexpensive sensors developed by tech startups and hobbyists could supplement a network of official monitors.

Regulators already measure soot at 17 sites in the Chicago area, and other monitors collect snapshots of data on smog, heavy metals and volatile chemicals to assess air quality across the entire region. But the bulky, expensive equipment isn’t mobile and the testing is designed to give a glimpse of the entire region, not identify hot spots. The closest soot monitor to the South Loop is more than 5 miles away.

Nobody thinks the new technology is reliable enough yet to be used in court or a regulatory proceeding. Rather, researchers and career staff at the EPA see it as a tool for citizens to conduct their own experiments and draw attention to pollution problems that otherwise might not be addressed, especially as President Donald Trump pushes to dramatically cut funding for federal and state environmental programs.

In addition to Merritt’s group, activists from Altgeld Gardens, Little Village and the East Side neighborhood are testing the reliability and ease of use of a half-dozen sensors, including devices small enough to fit on the straps of a backpack, one that looks like a throwback from the original “Star Trek” television series and another the size of a 16-inch softball.

Meanwhile, Serap Erdal, a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher who advises the groups, is testing all the devices next to an EPA monitor in Northbrook to determine how close the readings are to the regulatory gold standard.

Before fanning out again to see if the low-cost devices can endure a Chicago winter, some of the volunteers gathered last month at the nonprofit Delta Institute to share what worked and what went wrong during their summer and fall testing runs.

They reported the instructions and software for some of the devices were too confusing. One had a sensitive power button that would cause users to inadvertently turn off the devices. Another was knocked offline by a spider web.

“Doing good, low-cost sensor work is deceptively challenging,” said Scott Fruin, a University of Southern California researcher who studies air pollution but isn’t involved in the Chicago project. “Many of the sensors are not up to the task.”

Some of the volunteers chafed at filling out paperwork vital to helping their scientific advisers determine if spikes of pollution detected during their testing runs are meaningful or were merely the result of a sensor malfunction. Yet organizers said people of all ages are excited to keep going, driven by the idea they could someday figure out themselves if their suspicions about neighborhood air quality are valid.

Community leaders say the technology also gives them new opportunities to expand their networks and engage with neighbors reluctant to get involved.

“It really seems like we’re entering a new renaissance in the environmental movement,” said Sammy Corona, a volunteer with the Southeast Environmental Task Force who excitedly told the Delta Institute group about a recent conference that highlighted an elaborate network of air monitors in Southern California.

“When I got back,” Corona said, “I realized we are still in the Dark Ages in Chicago.”

The neighborhood experiments are just one example of how the nation’s third-largest city is catching up.

Researchers at the Urban Center for Computation and Data, an initiative by the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, have developed equipment that is being posted on light poles around the city to provide granular details about air quality, traffic, sound volume and temperature.

After working out glitches with the electronics and redesigning protective enclosures for the devices, dubbed the Array of Things, the scientists are planning to have 500 monitors up and running by the end of next year.

Charlie Catlett, a data scientist who directs the project, said the goal is to provide researchers and the public with new kinds of data that can be used to improve quality of life. The latest version of the monitors is designed to make it easier to add new technology as the field improves and expands.

Catlett’s project echoes a long-running study by the New York City Department of Health. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration relied on borough-by-borough maps of data from pole-mounted sensors in an effort to stop landlords from using sooty fuel oil to heat apartment buildings and switch to cleaner-burning natural gas.

In 2010, the Tribune used a handheld sensor to test air quality on Metra commuter trains and inside stations that more than a quarter of a million people pass through every weekday. The newspaper found spikes of noxious diesel soot inside passenger cars after the doors closed on outbound trains and locomotive exhaust was sucked into ventilation systems.

Metra responded by installing more effective filters that improved air quality inside the cars. But commuters still routinely complain about hazy clouds of diesel pollution inside Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center.

Another early adopter of personal air testing devices is the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit that loaned Walkman-size sensors to students, neighborhood groups and others between May and October to measure soot in 35 of the city’s 77 community areas.

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Indianapolis Business Journal: Cities can drive climate action with Paris Accord in flux

McCABE: Cities can drive climate action with Paris Accord in flux

November 11, 2017
OP-ED by Janet McCabe

Nicaragua has officially joined the Paris Climate Accord, and Syria just announced it intends to do so. That means the United States is now the only nation in the world outside this important global agreement. But while the federal government steps back, mayors across our country and across Indiana are stepping up.

Bloomington, Carmel, Crawfordsville, Gary, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Logansport and Whiting have made commitments to take meaningful action to address climate change. Mayors and their staffs from 18 Indiana cities attended the Second Climate Leaders’ Summit hosted by Earth Charter Indiana last month in Indianapolis. These cities can lead by example with climate-change solutions that provide a wealth of benefits for public health and the local economy and that save taxpayer dollars.

Clean energy and clean transportation deliver lower carbon and cleaner air. Fewer Hoosier children will miss school from asthma and other respiratory ailments, and fewer people will go to emergency rooms in respiratory or cardiac distress. Heat waves and floods—exacerbated by climate change—threaten lives, damage property, raise public safety costs and threaten Indiana’s agricultural economy. Climate action is a fiscally responsible priority for Indiana’s mayors.

It’s exciting that many Indiana cities say they want to be part of global climate-change solutions. If I were an Indiana mayor, I would ask: What are the best things I can do to serve my city and reduce my city’s carbon footprint? Here are three of the top options:

• Achieve 100 percent renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022. The Midwest has abundant wind power, and solar energy and energy storage capacity are accelerating as prices fall and technologies improve. Cities can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by using locally produced solar energy plus storage, purchasing renewable energy from third parties, and securing renewable-energy credits from new in-state wind and solar projects.
• Clean up municipal fleets. Our nation’s transportation sector now produces more greenhouse gas pollution than the electric power sector. Indiana cities should buy electric vehicles or other zero-emission vehicles for non-emergency fleets. EVs have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs and their operating costs are lower and more predictable. Using wind and solar energy to power EV charging stations accelerates an even cleaner transportation system. And cities can help drive infrastructure for EVs that will support increased use of clean vehicles by residents and businesses.

• Rapidly improve municipal-building energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency investments produce cost savings and less pollution. Why wait? Many payback periods are short and the savings come fast. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is a no-brainer cost-saver and pollution-reducer. Antiquated HVAC systems and old appliances waste money and pollute more. Smart energy-efficiency products, technologies and controls are available. The time has never been better for cities to take stock of their energy use, then reduce their energy bills and cut pollution through energy-efficiency improvements.

• Cities can move forward with these three specific initiatives for clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency now and achieve significant pollution-reduction results. We should work together to turn words into deeds, achieve economic and environmental benefits together, and do our part to reduce the risks a changing climate pose to Hoosier communities.

 

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