emissions

From Cutting Edge to Commonplace

By Cynthia Giles

I’ve dedicated my career to working with state, local and tribal partners to enforce environmental laws to protect American communities from pollution. Looking back, we’ve come a long way in how we measure for pollution and take action to curb it. Years ago, accounting for air pollution from refineries, for instance, was unreliable and burdensome. It relied in large part on estimates, often done by the refineries themselves, which often undercounted actual emissions and the risks posed to neighbors. In those days, fully understanding refinery emissions would have required taking air samples one-by-one across many potential sources.

Over the past decade, new technologies and innovative solutions have significantly improved our enforcement and compliance efforts. Through EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategy, we’re building these tools into settlements with companies, pushing their development and implementation in communities across America.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Clean Power Plan – Following a Consistent Approach to Setting State Goals

The Clean Power Plan – following a consistent approach to setting state goals
EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan is continuing to get plenty of attention and lots of good questions. That’s great because it means people are digging into the proposal to see how it works.  We have heard a number of questions about the proposed state goals – and rightly so.  The proposed state goals are fundamental to how the program will cut pollution, so it’s important that you understand how we developed them, why they are different from state to state, and how states can meet them.  So let me provide a little more information.

How did EPA calculate the state goals?
As I mentioned last week, the Clean Power Plan works by setting state goals that gradually reduce each state’s carbon intensity rate, or “pollution-to-power ratio.” To do that, the state goals are determined by using a formula that takes the amount of CO2 emitted and divides it by the megawatt-hours of electricity generated (lbs/MWh). This is what we call a rate-based approach. Many other Clean Air Act rules have used emissions rates in the past to reduce other pollutants from power plants and many other types of facilities.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Check Your AQI IQ: It’s Air Quality Awareness Week

After the winter that felt like it would not end, the weather is finally warming up in many parts of the country. And now that we can get outside without freezing, many of us are exercising more and sending our children out to play, a step that’s great for improving our health. But there’s another step we can take to protect our health, and this week is the perfect time to start: That’s paying attention to air quality.

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week  – the week each spring when we join with our partners at the CDC, NOAA and at state, local and tribal air agencies to remind people to use the Air Quality Index (AQI)  to reduce their exposure to air pollution. Even for those of us who check air quality regularly, this is a good time to refresh our knowledge of how to use the AQI to plan our outdoor activities. When air quality is good – get outside and play or exercise. When it’s not, change the type or length of your activity, or plan it for a day or time when air quality is expected to be better. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Earth Month Tip: Reduce food waste

Thirteen percent of carbon pollution emissions in the United States are associated with the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food. More food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste. In 2012 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. Reducing the amount of food wasted has significant economic, social & environmental benefits – including the reduction of carbon pollution.

Reducing food waste reduces methane and other greenhouse gas emissions and improves sanitation, public safety, and overall health. By reducing the amount of food we waste, we can reduce carbon pollution and improve quality of life for Americans.

Learn more: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-basics

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Month Tip: Think about the life cycle

Forty two percent of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. In every one of these stages of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact.

Find out what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to reduce your impact at every stage of the life cycle.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Month Tip: Drive Smart

A series of daily tips throughout April.

To improve your fuel economy and reduce carbon pollution, go easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoid hard accelerations, reduce your time spent idling (no more than 30 seconds), and unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you have a removable roof rack that is not in use, take it off to improve your fuel economy. Use cruise control if you have it, and for vehicles with selectable four-wheel drive, consider operating in two-wheel drive mode when road conditions make it safe to do so.

For more information, take a look at these tips for driving more efficiently. Check out www.fueleconomy.gov, to find the best, most comprehensive information on vehicle emissions and fuel economy.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Empowering the Public through Power Plant Emissions Data

We’ve all heard that “Knowledge is Power.” I think about this phrase a lot in my work here in the Office of Air and Radiation because having access to good, scientifically robust, and relevant data is essential to our work. And because science and transparency are two of our core values, EPA is committed to providing the public with access to reliable data.

So, it is always gratifying to highlight good data on the EPA web site that is both accessible and useful. I encourage you all to check out our newly redesigned and interactive Power Plant Emission Trends page.  On this page you’ll find the most recent 2013 sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions data from power plants, as well as emission data from previous years.

These data show how power plant emissions have changed over time and where those changes have occurred, both geographically and at what power plants. For example, in 2013 SO2 emissions decreased by two percent, NOX emissions were unchanged, and CO2 increased by one percent from 2012 levels, while electricity generation remained generally stable. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Bike-Friendly EPA Headquarters

By Ed Fendley

It’s awesome to be part of an agency that’s helped clean America’s air and water and is working to reduce emissions of deadly mercury. Now I’ve got a new – and local – reason to appreciate the EPA: outdoor bicycle racks here at our headquarters buildings.

Recently, four sets of modern bike racks were installed outside at the Federal Triangle campus in Washington, D.C., as part of a broader EPA plan to welcome bicycling by employees and visitors. (We already have bike parking in our basement garages.)

Giving people choices in how to get around is a great thing. Studies show that if people can conveniently walk, bike, or take transit, many of them will choose to drive less – reducing traffic and cleaning the air.

And that fits neatly into our mission at EPA. According to EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 (April 2011), roughly 17 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from passenger vehicles. Investing in public transit and other transportation options, like biking, make it easier for people to drive less, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. These approaches can also help reduce carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other pollutants emitted by motor vehicles.

As EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld recently wrote, there are lots of good reasons to ride a bike – including pure joy. I can relate: my kids and I ride a lot. They bike to school and we often tool around on the weekends together. I’ve also ridden to work for 20 years now. It’s exciting to see that bicycling rates are increasing rapidly across the country.

Building design is part of that. Convenient bike parking, as well as showers and lockers, get more people riding. Placing racks within 50 feet of building entrances is recommended as it helps visitors who may not have access to the parking garage. It also helps employees like me who bike during the day to meetings around town.

As more employees and visitors choose to ride, EPA will need to make further improvements. But for the moment, I’ll pause to celebrate as I park my bike and stroll into my office.

About the author: Ed Fendley is a senior policy analyst with the Office of Sustainable Communities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate Leadership Provides Inspiration – and a Cleaner Environment 

Intel, a 2013 Climate Leadership Winner, has multiple solar arrays on its corporate campuses in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. This photo shows a solar support structure at the company’s parking lot in Arizona.

Intel, a 2013 Climate Leadership Winner, has multiple solar arrays on its corporate campuses in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. This photo shows a solar support structure at the company’s parking lot in Arizona.

By Melissa Klein

Part of my job is helping organize EPA’s annual Climate Leadership Awards. Through this work, I’ve been greatly inspired to learn about and highlight the steps companies are taking voluntarily to manage and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Earlier this year, we honored 23 corporations, public agencies, and individuals for their exemplary leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. The winners demonstrated their commitment to conducting operations in a more sustainable way – diversifying their energy supply, mitigating fuel cost risk, and cutting their energy-related emissions.

Their forward-thinking actions to reduce GHG emissions can have exciting ripple effects. For instance, when a business takes action on climate, the whole supply chain often improves, encompassing efficiency related to operations – from purchased goods and transportation – to distribution and product use. The ripple effects result not only in cleaner air and water and improved public health, but also in money savings on energy costs and economic growth.

It’s encouraging and inspirational that four of the five top winners were local governments, who often face budget and staffing constraints, but still made incredible progress. Sonoma County Water Agency in California, The Port of San Diego, City of Austin, Texas, and Boulder County, Colorado, have all taken impressive and meaningful steps toward carbon-neutral operations and have mobilized large networks of partners to enable change. Check out the full list of award winners here to see if your hometown made the list.

Planning for the third annual awards in 2014 is underway and the application period is open until September 13, 2013. We, in collaboration with our co-sponsors – the Association of Climate Change Officers, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry – are challenging organizations to think creatively and comprehensively to cut GHG emissions. For more information on the awards, please visit

About the Author: Melissa Klein, MPH, is the communications director for the Center for Corporate Climate Leadership within the Climate Protection Partnerships Division at the U.S. EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Have a Green Summer!

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

I was reviewing my electric bill recently. I noticed that there was an increase in the amount of energy used at home this year in comparison to last year. While we are already taken steps at home to be more energy efficient, we still can do more to save energy and money at home. So, I decided to share some tips  on how you can also be greener this summer.

  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room! Pretty simple, right? But, I have to remind my daughter and other family members to do so frequently!
  • Unplug phone and computer chargers when you’re not using them.
  • Change home air filters regularly! This improves the efficiency of your A/C and saves you money in the short term and costly repairs in the long term.
  • Also, consider using ceiling fans. With the fans, you can raise the temperature of the A/C and still feel comfortable during the summer heat.
  • Seal and insulate your home.
  • Are you planning to update one of your appliances? Purchase an Energy Star product when buying new appliances and electronics for your home.
  • Do you have a leaky faucet? Fix it! Did you know that more than 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted from leaks in U.S. homes each year?
  • If you are planning to refurbish your kitchen or bathroom, get WaterSense labeled fixtures to save water and money.
  • Do you use a sprinker to water your lawn? Inspect it to make sure there aren’t any leaks or broken sprinkler heads. Set the sprinkler for early in the morning. And definitely don’t turn it one if has rained in your area!
  • Planning a family gathering this weekend? Make sure to use reusable plates and containers. Remember your three R’s  during the summer months!
  • Planning a summer day trip? Well, you should also consider getting your car ready for the journey. A well maintained vehicle with properly inflated tires will save you a lot of money in fuel and maintenance costs and will also reduce gas emissions.

Do you have other suggestions as to how we can be greener this summer? As always, we appreciate your input. Love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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