energy

Make Your Light Bulb Choice Count

By Janet McCabe

Throughout the month of October,you can save money and energy while helping your local community by purchasing an ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb. I’m excited to announce that every time you purchase one of these bulbs from participating retailers, more than 20 organizations across the U.S. will give back to local communities as part of their participation in ENERGY STAR’s Change the World Tour.With prices dropping rapidly, LED lighting is becoming more affordable than ever. LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR label use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. This means that families can save over $55 in electricity costs over the life of one of these bulbs, and they can expect it to last over 12 years with typical use, making LED lighting a practical option for all families. And remember, bulbs with the little blue label are independently certified to deliver energy savings and quality performance based on rigorous testing against more than 20 requirements.

Saving energy also helps protect our climate. If every American home replaced an incandescent light bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR label, we would save enough energy to light 2.6 million homes for a year and prevent nearly 7 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Best of all, this month, when you purchase an ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb, utilities, manufacturers and retailers across the country are supporting local and regional service projects, which include: meals being delivered to families in need, the rebuilding of local homes, energy-efficient lighting retrofits in schools, and support for families of fallen soldiers. The range of service projects that our ENERGY STAR partners have chosen to support across the country is truly impressive, and they all build on the benefits we see when we choose ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting.

So, join me in making your bulb choice count, knowing that in addition to saving money, saving energy and protecting the climate, you’ll be helping your local community, too. Visit energystar.gov/BrightenALife to see how you can participate.

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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Waste and Materials Tracking Now Available in EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®

By Mathy Stanislaus and Janet McCabe

While you might not think about buildings as polluters, the places where we work, shop and learn offer a significant opportunity to save energy, save water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce waste. The good news is that for many buildings, measuring and tracking energy and water use has become standard operating procedure.

Waste and materials are another story, however. Materials can include items such as furniture, construction materials, and equipment. Up to this point, there hasn’t been an easy or consistent way to track waste in commercial buildings and manufacturing facilities. That’s a problem since these facilities are responsible for nearly half of the 167 million tons of waste that wind up in incinerators or landfills each year.

Material recovery and waste reduction are essential components to the productive and sustainable use of materials across their entire life cycle to conserve resources, reduce waste, slow climate change and minimize the environmental impacts of the materials we use.  EPA’s 2009 report, Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices, shows that approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are associated with materials management. Since new and existing buildings include materials such as furniture, construction materials and equipment, buildings represent a good opportunity for improvement and GHG reductions in America.

That’s why two years ago EPA began collaborating with leading building owners, managers, and waste haulers to identify key metrics and waste management options to add to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, the Agency’s popular online energy and water measurement and tracking tool.

Portfolio Manager is actually the industry standard energy measurement and tracking tool for commercial buildings in the United States and Canada. More than 450,000 U.S. buildings, representing over 45 percent of the nation’s commercial building space, have been benchmarked in Portfolio Manager, as well as more than 10,000 buildings in Canada. These buildings are already using the tool to benchmark and improve performance, prioritize investments, and verify reductions in energy and water use across these tens of thousands of buildings.

We’re proud to debut the result of this collaboration. Portfolio Manager now includes a new waste and materials tracking feature. It’s designed in a way that allows for flexibility and basic comparative analysis, recognizing that the type and quality of available waste and materials management data vary widely.

With the addition of waste and materials tracking in Portfolio Manager, building owners and managers can now apply their successful energy management techniques holistically to reduce not only waste, but also the associated carbon footprint that results from landfill decomposition and incineration, as well as the costs of disposal.

Historically, waste management activities haven’t been well measured and tracked in commercial buildings.  However, as we learned from our experience with energy tracking, standardized measurement is the cornerstone of building management practices that drives improvement.

It’s incredibly rewarding when we can work together with businesses and organizations to offer new tools and capabilities that not only help them save money, but also help their communities remain economically competitive and support a healthy environment. We can’t wait to see what innovations lie ahead as owners and managers tap the same wealth of knowledge and creativity they’ve used to reduce energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions, and apply it to the important issue of managing and reducing waste and materials. To learn more, visit www.energystar.gov/trackwaste.

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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When it’s hot, we can help “shave the peak”

By Gina Snyder          

“Shave the Peak,” said the email message. My local light department was asking me to join in its efforts to help reduce the summer’s peak electrical demand and with that, also reduce the cost of electricity. The highest electric use runs from June 1 through Aug. 31. There are a few really hot days when everyone is running air conditioning on top of other appliances, which causes a spike in electricity use – the peak.

Air conditioners in particular put a high demand on electricity. The email explained that about 25 GinaElectricusepercent of our electric bill is determined by how well electricity is conserved during that peak time. In my area the peak occurs on a hot weekday afternoon sometime in June through August, usually between 2 and 5 pm.

The defining hour represents the highest point of customer consumption of electricity for all of New England. The prediction of the peak is done by the Independent System Operator – New England. One of the commissioners of our local light department has said nearly $1.1 million could be saved simply by reducing “peak afternoon electricity use.” He noted that this would also cut emissions.

Why would reducing afternoon electricity use lower costs and cut emissions? Mainly because of how electricity is generated and used. Picture electricity flowing through the wires like your drinking water flows through the pipes. When you turn on the faucet, water pours out. When you turn on the switch, it’s as though electricity ‘pours’ into the appliance to make it run.

Drinking water is easy to store, so that if the water treatment plant can’t keep up with demand, there’s a storage tank that has gallons and gallons of water stored to provide water when it’s needed. But we don’t have storage like that for electricity. Instead, as demand goes up, more power plants have to come online.

This means that some power plants run all the time and some power plants only run on the hottest days of the year. The latter plants sit there year round, costing money and maintenance, only to run a few hours or a few days a year. And everyone has to pay to have those “peaking plants” available.

The result is we pay all year for the electricity to be available to us during that very brief peak time. Peaking plants typically are the least efficient and most expensive to run and often come with higher emissions per unit of electricity generated than other plants. To encourage people to avoid using electricity during those afternoons, electric companies have developed rates called “Time of Use” or TOU. In my town, you can sign up for a time of use rate and, by avoiding electric usage during those peak times, save money.

You’d also be helping the environment because peaking plants mostly run on oil or natural gas, with attendant emissions. So by cutting down on power needs during peak times, you can also help lower emissions from those extra plants going online. So, start watching your own “time of use” and see if you can help lower emissions and the cost of electricity in Massachusetts.

You can help by not using appliances like stoves/ovens or washers and dryers during the hottest time of the day, shutting off pool pumps for a few hours, turning off or raising the setting on your air conditioning thermostat a few degrees or cooking dinner on the grill.

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About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee. She llives in Reading, Mass.

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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EPA: “Aim High” – Working Toward a Sustainable Future

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

Last month, I asked EPA employees to share how their work at EPA is contributing to a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. I wanted to hear about the many ways our staff are going above and beyond EPA’s foundational work to limit harmful pollution, and taking proactive steps to build healthy, economically vibrant communities.

Our teams responded in force, with 55 stories about the diverse, creative, and innovative ways they are building a sustainable future. Our best ideas are those that can be shared, replicated, and built upon. And we have so much to learn from each other’s successes. Here are some team highlights from across the agency:

Sustainable city planning: A team based in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in partnership with a number of EPA offices and regions, is looking at the connection between green infrastructure, energy consumption, and improved air quality. The team is providing technical assistance to Kansas City, MO-KS, to help better quantify the changes in pollution that result from “greening” of urban infrastructure in the area (i.e., green streets, green roofs, trees). This project will ultimately help promote green infrastructure projects that demonstrably improve water quality and advance sustainability – so that they can be incorporated into future city planning.

Green Remediation: EPA Region 1 is using strategies to make the cleanup of contaminated sites more sustainable, including by promoting, tracking, and considering green and sustainable remediation practices for Brownfield sites and Superfund sites. These efforts are helping to minimize the impacts of remediation and cleanup efforts, and ensure long-term, sustainable outcomes.

Community-Based Social Marketing: Region 5 provided funding and contractor assistance to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, as they worked with their local tribal college to improve waste management. The project used community-based social marketing (CBSM) techniques to develop positive behavior strategies that are culturally appropriate. The project focused on increasing recycling behavior at the Band’s community college. Results from the pilot showed a 41% overall increase in the recycling rate at major locations throughout the campus. The Band worked with Region 5 and contractor support to put together a Tribal CBSM Training Guide, based on the lessons learned from the pilot to encourage other tribes to use CBSM to increase sustainable behaviors.

Coordinating Across EPA Programs: EPA Region 10 staff from Superfund, Clean Water Act, TSCA and Counsel have coordinated for several years to better align and sustain efforts in reducing toxics in waters. Staff recognized that in order to achieve more sustainable and long-lasting results, they needed to work together to more efficiently and effectively reduce toxics in the environment.  This includes addressing ongoing sources of and pathways for pollutants and aligning overlapping programmatic efforts to “clean up” waters and sediments. This small ad-hoc group ensured that language was added to EPA’s National Industrial Stormwater General Permit requiring those discharging into local Superfund Sites to work with the Regional office to minimize impacts and prevent caulking and paint sources of PCBs from getting into Superfund sediment sites. Region 10 staff also wrote language included in the Washington General Fish hatchery Permit to identify and remove sources of PCBs.

CWSRF: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and the Farmer’s Irrigation District (FID) collaborated and used the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) to convert miles of open, earthen irrigation ditch system to a pressurized and piped system for Hood River’s Farmers Irrigation District. Most recently the Farmers Irrigation District also began using the CWSRF loans to purchase equipment for production of clean, renewable energy through micro-­‐hydroelectric generation.

I couldn’t be prouder of the work EPA employees are doing across the country. Here’s to more creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the months and years ahead.

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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When Buildings Compete, We All Win

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

On average, Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. So the buildings where we work, learn, and shop have an important role to play in our wellbeing. At the same time, buildings also contribute to the health of our surrounding environment. In 2015, about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption was consumed in residential and commercial buildings. And commercial buildings are responsible for nearly 20% of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Improving energy efficiency has proven to be one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways for businesses and organizations to save money, create jobs, and improve employee wellbeing. Plus, facility improvement measures can actually improve employee productivity by creating more comfortable spaces for people to work.

Since 2010, EPA has run the ENERGY STAR® Battle of the Buildings, which enlists interested building owners from across the country to compete in saving energy and water.

Last year, 143 teams – made up of at least five buildings each – along with thousands of individual buildings signed onto the challenge, setting out to slim down their energy and water “wastelines” by making behavioral changes, upgrading inefficient equipment, and optimizing mechanical systems.

The 2015 results are in. All told, last year’s Battle of the Buildings competitors achieved impressive savings, to say the least. More than 60 buildings cut energy use by 20 percent and 40 buildings cut water use by 20 percent or more in just 12 months.

Seven people stand in front of an industrial facility with the Texas A&M logo

Pictured: The Texas A&M University – ESCO Project’s energy management team

GOLD FOR ENERGY: Texas A&M University – ESCO Project,in College Station, improved energy efficiency by 35 percent and saved nearly $550,000 across their six competing buildings. All told, they prevented more than 1,700 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions from the annual energy used by more than 150 homes. The team completed a full lighting retrofit, updated the building automation system, and installed occupancy sensors and a pump variable frequency drive. They maximized savings related to heating and cooling by connecting lighting occupancy sensors to an automation system that controls the HVAC system. They also appointed a full-time team to work closely with students and faculty to ensure comfort while conserving energy.

A large group of standing people.

Pictured: The coaches at Southface Energy Institute who helped Team Boys & Girls Clubs All Stars save energy

GOLD FOR WATER: Team Boys & Girls Clubs All Stars cut water use by more than 50 percent across their 12 competing buildings in seven different states, with help from their “coaches” at the Southface Energy Institute. The biggest savings opportunities came from eliminating water leaks, upgrading plumbing fixtures, securing faucets, and replacing toilets and urinals with low-flow equipment. The Boys & Girls Clubs also switched from potable water to rainwater for some of their educational projects. Today, the building features a new rainwater harvesting system that collects water from the roof of the facility for use in the garden. Savings from reduced water costs have allowed the Boys & Girls Club to allocate more resources toward hiring staff, purchasing program supplies, and fulfilling its mission: “Enabling all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”

Check out the full list of winners and a wrap-up report with advice and best practices on the competition web page.

Do you have what it takes to join the Battle of the Buildings?

This year, the competition will return as the 2016 ENERGY STAR BOOTCAMP – a 90-day competition to reduce energy and water use in our nation’s buildings. Register to participate in the 2016 ENERGY STAR BOOTCAMP now through July 17, 2016.

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 Greener 2016

By Lina Younes

Happy New Year! As we begin the new year, we’re looking for a fresh start to a healthier and happier life. How about finding ways to embrace a greener lifestyle for 2016?

Personally, I’ve selected some green resolutions that will help me make better environmentally sound choices for my family, my community and the planet. I think they’re easy to follow now and throughout the year. I’m sharing them with you. What do you think?water

Resolution #1: Save energy.

Saving energy at home, at school, or in the office can start with one simple light bulb. I know I often sound like a broken record trying to convince my youngest to turn off the lights in her room when she leaves. This year I want both of us to make that special effort. This simple action can go a long way to save energy.
Also, at home, we’ve made sure that all our major appliances have the Energy Star label.  Are you planning to to replace an old computer or household appliance this year? You can save energy and money, too, if you choose a new appliance with the label.

Resolution #2: Save water.

We definitely cannot live without water. So, why not do our best to use this precious resource as efficiently as possible? Saving water saves energy and money. This year, I’m making a special effort to take shorter showers and turn off the faucet while I brush my teeth. These simple steps can go a long way.

Do you have a leaky faucet or toilet? Did you know that household leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water every year in the U.S. alone? I’ve had problems with leaky toilets at home and learned from the experience! Don’t let a leak break the bank.  Look for the WaterSense label when buying new water efficient toilets and other plumbing fixtures to save valuable water and money every day.

Resolution #3: Use safer chemicals.

We’ve all heard the expression: “cleanliness is next to godliness.” So, why not look for safer cleaning products to protect ourselves, our family and the environment? Did you know that we have a program that helps us do just that? It’s called SaferChoice. Products with the SaferChoice label have met high EPA standards to ensure that they’re greener to better protect people, pets, workers’ health and the environment. Personally, I seek greener chemicals to help protect my family. I’m glad there will be more products available with the SaferChoice label this year.

Resolution #4: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Make an effort to reduce waste from the outset. Why not use reusable containers at home, at school, and at the office? Reducing disposable packaging and waste saves you money and ultimately protects the environment. Looking for additional tips on how to reduce waste? Here are more suggestions on what you can do every day.

For starters, I’m focusing on waste free lunches. When I prepare lunches for my youngest to take to school or for me to bring to work, I’m avoiding disposable plastic bags. I’m using reusable containers for the food and beverages. Not only am I preventing those bags from ending up in a landfill, but I’m saving money, too.

By the way, don’t forget the other two R’s—reuse and recycle. For additional tips, visit: http://www.epa.gov/recycle.

Resolution #5: Be more active.

While we often include losing weight as a New Year’s resolution, how about aspiring to become more active as the means to a healthier lifestyle? You don’t have to sign up for an expensive gym membership to achieve that goal. It’s much easier and less costly than you think. How about simply walking more often? Take your dog on longer walks. How about visiting your local park?

Personally, I’m taking the stairs more often at work. I also have a new standing desk. So, I’m not as sedentary as in the past. Being more active at work, becoming healthier, and protecting the environment sound like a win-win to me!

So, what green resolutions will you embrace in 2016? We’d love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison in EPA’s Office of Web Communications. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several federal and state government agencies over the years.

 

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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Career Beat: Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators

by Patti Schwenke

Job opportunities exist in the water and wastewater sector

Job opportunities exist in the water and wastewater sector

Ever consider a career as a drinking water or wastewater treatment plant operator?  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects are expected to be excellent in the coming decade with a projected growth of 8% through 2022.  Many current treatment plant workers are nearing retirement age, and there are not enough new workers entering the industry to meet demand.  Recent high school graduates looking for steady work or anyone thinking about a new career with good pay, benefits, and economic stability can find career opportunities in the water treatment and distribution fields. As of May 2014, more than 78% of water and wastewater treatment plant operators were employed by local governments and earned an annual salary of $45,880.  Those employed by the federal government reported the highest annual salary at $55,050.  Employees of state governments averaged $51,800 a year.

It’s an exciting time to be working in these industries: plant operators are now on the cutting edge of innovative treatment technologies, energy efficiency, and nutrient recovery.  The processes to get drinking water from streams, reservoirs and aquifers and to make wastewater safe to release into the environment are complex.  Drinking water treatment plant operators run the equipment and monitor the processes that treat the water which starts in aquifers, streams, and reservoirs, ultimately flowing to your tap. At wastewater treatment plants, operators use biological and chemical treatment to treat and disinfect wastewater before it’s released to a local waterway.

Energy efficiency has also become an important part of treatment plant operations in helping communities become more sustainable, protect against climate change, and save money.  Drinking water and wastewater systems account for 3 to 4 percent of energy use in the U.S., resulting in emissions of more than 45 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.  Wastewater plants are being recognized as resource recovery facilities, harnessing energy and even mining nutrients for marketing as a fertilizer.

What does it take to be a water treatment plant operator?  Check out this video from an EPA partner, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership or take a virtual tour of a water treatment plant. If you think this might be a career for you, these links to operator certification programs in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia will get you started.

Water is vital for all living things to survive. Professional treatment plant operators have the challenging and rewarding job of keeping water safe for us all.


About the Author:  Patti Schwenke has been with EPA’s Philadelphia office for more than 20 years.  In 2014, she joined the Water Protection Division as a Project Officer, where she manages grants that fund drinking water projects.  Patti and her husband, Glen, enjoy the outdoors and travelling in their motorhome.

 

 

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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EPA Honors 2015 Green Power Leaders

By Janet McCabe

On October 19th, I had the honor of presenting EPA’s 15th Annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 25 organizations that are leading the charge in using renewable energy and setting an example for their peers, helping to accelerate development of a strong clean energy portfolio nationwide. The awards honor a range of organizations for innovative achievements in acquiring and using renewable electricity as well as commitments to responding to climate change.

In addition to large corporations, nonprofit and educational institutions were also highlighted. From Northwestern University, to Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Tucson Unified School District, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, these groups educate students and the public about the environment. For instance, Crossroads School (K-12) in Santa Monica, California sourced 100 percent of their electricity use from wind, biomass, and biogas resources through a collective procurement and includes green power in its academic curriculum. And at Phipps, a public garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 100 percent of its electricity sourced from renewable resources, its 350,000+ visitors annually get an in-depth look at photovoltaic arrays, a wind turbine, geothermal wells, and many, many other sustainable energy features—all within a single accessible site. In addition, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) installed one of the largest on-site solar generation projects at a K-12 school system in the nation last year, and shares the lessons it learned far and wide. TUSD also is working closely with a local Native American tribe on developing its own solar project.

As we’ve seen in the past few years, local governments are doing more with green power. This year’s government winners—Government of the District of Columbia, Ulster County, NY, and the City of Hayward CA Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF)—are leading the way in innovative approaches. For instance, Hayward WPCF’s new cogeneration facility uses the methane produced from the digesters as fuel. Waste heat from the new cogeneration system is captured and used to heat the city’s anaerobic digesters, further reducing reliance on natural gas formerly used to heat the sludge during colder months of the year. This cogeneration facility, along with the facility’s solar array, produces more renewable electricity than it needs, so it exports the excess renewable electricity to other city facilities.

The Sustained Excellence category winners – Intel, Kohl’s, and TD Bank – continue to uphold their outstanding work in driving the green energy market, and first-time winners like Traditional Medicinals and National Hockey League have been investing in sustainable operations, including clean energy and electricity use, for years. What a tremendous inspiration for all!
The Green Power Leadership Awards are sponsored by EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program in collaboration with the Center for Resource Solutions. See the award list for more about all the green power leaders.

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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Working Together to Implement the Clean Power Plan

By Gina McCarthy

This summer, EPA issued our historic Clean Power Plan, one of the largest steps America has ever taken to combat climate change and protect future generations. The Plan puts the U.S. on track to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants – our nation’s biggest single contributor to climate change.

Because greenhouse gas pollution threatens public health and welfare, EPA is using its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate sources of these pollutants, including in the power sector. Along with the many other actions we’re taking under President Obama’s leadership, the Clean Power Plan will translate to major health benefits and cost savings for American families.

The Clean Power Plan is grounded firmly in science and the law. Science clearly shows that carbon dioxide fuels a changing climate, which in turn poses threats to our health and to the environment that sustains us all. The Plan is fully consistent with the Clean Air Act, and relies on the same time-tested state-federal partnership that, since 1970, has reduced harmful air pollution by 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has tripled.

What makes the Plan so effective is that it reflects the voices of those who are closest to the issues on the ground. Extensive input from states, industry representatives, energy regulators, health and environmental groups, and individual members of the public helped us get to a plan that we know works for everyone.  In fact, we considered over 4.3 million comments received in response to our initial proposal.

And we listened.

It was feedback from utilities that made sure our plan mirrors how electricity moves around the grid, so that we could open up opportunities. It was input from states that made sure we set fair and consistent standards across the country. And it was comments from many folks that told us that we needed to extend the timeframe for mandatory cuts by two years, until 2022. States and utilities told us they needed more time, and we listened.

As a result of this unprecedented amount of outreach, the Plan is fair, flexible, affordable, and designed to reflect the fast-growing trend toward cleaner American energy.

With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability, and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix.

But our engagement hasn’t stopped with the signing of the rule. Since issuing the Clean Power Plan in August, we’ve reached out to all 50 states, making sure every state has multiple opportunities to hear from us and to ask questions.

We’ve also held dozens in-person meetings and calls with states, tribes, communities, industry representatives, and elected officials, and we’ve held or participated in a number of widely-attended conferences about the Plan.

Staff at each of EPA’s 10 regional offices and our headquarters have responded to hundreds of questions about the final rule, and questions continue to come in through meetings, our website, and other venues.

We’ve seen firsthand that when diverse voices are brought to the table, environmental protection works. For nearly 45 years, our interactions and engagement with states and stakeholders has resulted in tremendous progress to cut down air pollution and protect Americans’ health – including tangible benefits for communities, families, and kids.

We are committed to helping everyone better understand the Clean Power Plan and have been impressed – but certainly not surprised – by the remarkable level of constructive engagement across the board. Conversations are happening across the country. And we’re encouraged to see that many states are beginning their own planning processes because that means they’re preparing to take action.

We have every interest in helping states succeed, and every confidence that the Clean Power Plan provides states the options, time and flexibility to develop plans that meet their unique needs and goals.

We look forward to continuing our work with states, the energy sector, and many other groups to follow the science, implement the law, and build a healthy future for our kids and grandkids – together.

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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Farmers markets: shrinking food’s footprint

Corn growing just steps from the National Mall.

Corn growing just steps from the National Mall.

by Jennie Saxe

On a sightseeing trip to Washington, DC, my family and I observed two unexpected sights, just steps from the National Mall: a busy farmers market in some valuable downtown parking spaces and huge stalks of corn growing in a small garden plot right next to the sidewalk. Farmers markets and urban gardens are a great way to feed your family healthy foods and protect natural resources at the same time. Reducing the number of steps between you and your food means that less water and energy are needed to get the food onto your dinner table.

The close connection between energy production, water supply, and food production has been described as the “energy-water-food nexus.” In fact, over 94% of water withdrawals in the United States are to support these three sectors. The energy-water connection has been the subject of past Healthy Waters blogs.  And we’ve talked about the work that the agriculture community is doing to protect water quality, as well, since our farms are a vital part of our economy that rely on clean water supplies for their livelihoods and to feed the country.

Let’s follow the food to find out how energy, food, and water connections all come together, by focusing on one of a cook’s favorite ingredients: butter. When you think of all of the steps that are involved in producing a stick of butter – from irrigation for the crops that feed the cows, to the processing of the butter itself, and its transport to your supermarket – energy and water are intricately involved in every step along the way. Globally, the water footprint of butter is estimated to be 5,553 liters of water per kilogram of butter. That is equivalent to about 167 gallons per quarter-pound stick – enough water to fill about 4 standard-sized bathtubs!

What if there were fewer steps in the process? Imagine that the cows are grazed on grass pastureland, instead of on delivered feed and that the butter was made locally. Farmers markets bring fresh, local food right into the heart of communities, while minimizing the impact on our natural resources.

While doing some research on the miniature corn field and farmers market that I stumbled upon, I found out that this week, August 2-8, was proclaimed National Farmers Market Week by the US Department of Agriculture. This week, get out to meet the hard-working farmers that grow your food at a farmers market near you!

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs. If your community is looking for assistance in developing a local food system, EPA’s Smart Growth program is accepting applications for Local Foods, Local Places technical support. Check out the announcement for details; applications must be received by September 15, 2015.

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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