The “Greening” of Superfund: Purchasing Wind Energy to Support Superfund Remediation

By James E. Woolford

Like many Americans, my family adopted a “greener” lifestyle – for both environmental and economic reasons. My daughter, learning a great deal of environmental issues in school, picked up a new career as part of the recycling and energy police– rescuing items that “can be recycled Dad!”

So now you might be thinking “that’s very nice, but what does this have to do with Superfund and the cleanup of contaminated properties?” Like many Americans, the Superfund Program, the nation’s primary program for cleaning up the most contaminated sites, is also undergoing a “greening” of daily life. Purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) to support cleanup activities is one effort.

A REC is the environmental benefit (e.g., reduced pollution or greenhouse gases) associated with generating one MWh (megawatt-hour) of electricity from a renewable energy source.

Recognizing that “green” efforts could be adopted in the remediation field, an effort began four years ago, with the federal, state, tribal, local, and the private sector, to “green” our cleanup practices. While the Superfund Program is, inherently, a “green” program (cleaning up contaminated land for productive use), we rely heavily on construction and remediation techniques. to achieve our goals. Cleanup technologies like pumping contaminated ground water to treatment facilities can be energy intensive – 200 fund-financed sites are currently at this stage of cleanup .

To balance this energy use, the Superfund Remedial program purchased 100,000 RECs from wind facilities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota to be used at sites across America. The RECs are Green-e certified and estimated to cover the electricity needs of projects not already being powered by renewable energy sources for 2012. We estimate our RECs will remove greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to emissions produced by approximately 18,000 cars annually or the emissions generated from about 11,000 average American homes each year.

For additional information on Superfund, please visit www.epa.gov/superfund/renewableenergy. For additional information on ways to incorporate green remediation practices into your cleanup, please visit www.epa.gov/superfund/greenremediation/.

About the author: James E. Woolford is the Director for the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation and is responsible for long-term cleanup of sites under the Superfund program and also promotes new technology and approaches to managing sites.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.