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Bronx Zoo Memories

2014 October 20
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

By Elias Rodriguez

October memories bring me to declare a few words in commemoration of our just retired Yankees team captain, reliable #2, Derek Jeter.  Babe Ruth was #3. Baseball season will soon be over and a new champion will be crowned. Our region is distinct and one source of pride is that we are home to the winningest team in professional baseball history. Sadly, for my beloved New York Yankees, the season is already over given their uncharacteristically poor hitting and anemic pitching this year. Ever optimistic, perhaps we will add to our 27 World Series championships next year?

I am not sure what El Capitán’s stance is on the environment, but he certainly warmed the earth with his obvious love for the game and changed the climate in professional sports with his on and off the field goodwill. There is no real need to review Jeter’s illustrious career but for the unfamiliar: on his way to helping the team win five championships, he was also named Rookie of Year in 1996, Sports Illustrated’s 2009 Sportsman of the Year, a five time winner of the Golden Glove (which you do not get for dropping the ball) and winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given each year to the league player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Yep, our shortstop only played on one team during his career and he was a paragon in pinstripes. We lovingly refer to Yankee Stadium as the Bronx Zoo for its spectacular atmosphere and wild incidents.

Of course, becoming a world renowned competitor does not signify that you are an inherently positive role model. Yet, according to most accounts, Jeter leaves behind a legacy of professionalism, hard work and earned the respect of peers and fans alike.

We will sorely miss the Bronx Bomber. What legacy will you produce? Each of us can contribute to a better world and healthier environment. Switch to clean energy. Use less energy. Watch your water use. Reduce waste. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to bat in a run or score a point for planet Earth!

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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Eclipse-Mania!

2014 October 16
The October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse.

The October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse.

By Jim Haklar

I love eclipses. I mean, I really love eclipses! I love eclipses so much that two years ago, I flew to Albuquerque for the weekend to see a solar eclipse. But more about that later…

An eclipse happens when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up. Technically, this is called syzygy (try to form that word in a game of Scrabble).  A lunar eclipse happens when the earth is between the Moon and the Sun. When the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth you get a solar eclipse. Lunar eclipses happen when the Moon is full and solar eclipses occur when the Moon is new. So, why don’t we have an eclipse twice a month? Well, the Moon’s orbit is tilted by a little over five degrees. So most of the time there isn’t perfect alignment and you don’t have syzygy.

From any given location on the Earth, lunar eclipses are more frequently seen than solar eclipses. That’s because the Earth casts a bigger shadow on the Moon than the Moon does on the Earth. The shadows consist of two parts. There is a smaller, darker umbra surrounded by the lighter penumbra. If you are in a location where the Moon’s umbra passes through, you will see a total solar eclipse. Otherwise the solar eclipse will be partial (since you will be in the penumbra). For lunar eclipses, the situation is a little different. The Moon can completely or partially pass through the Earth’s umbra (resulting in a total or partial lunar eclipse) or just pass though the penumbra (called a penumbral eclipse).

Now for my Albuquerque story. Two years ago the Moon’s umbra passed directly in front of the Sun and this was visible in many cities including Albuquerque (I went to Albuquerque because of the clear weather). But since the Moon was at a point in its orbit when it was farther away from the Earth, it didn’t completely block out the Sun. Instead, an annulus or ring of light from the Sun’s disk encircled the Moon. This is called an annular solar eclipse.

On August 21, 2017 there will be the first a total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States in over 30 years. Information on the best places to see the eclipse is already on the Web, so start think about taking an eclipse vacation!

About the Author: Jim is an environmental engineer at the EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center.  In his 28 years with the agency he has worked in a variety of programs including Superfund, Water Management, Public Affairs, and Toxic Substances.  He has been an amateur astronomer since he was a teenager, and can often be found after work in the back of the Edison facility with his telescope.

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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Latinos in the Melting Pot: Personal Memories During National Hispanic Heritage Month

2014 October 14
The flag of Puerto Rico

The flag of Puerto Rico

By Elias Rodriguez

As mentioned in my previous blog, which commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month, my parents were part of the pioneros who came to the mainland Unites States in search of personal growth and better economic opportunities. They were both born on Borinquen as the natives originally called it before the Spanish conquistadores colonized Puerto Rico. I collaborate regularly with my peers on the island since EPA Region 2 is comprised of New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations.

The island commonwealth is not yet one of the 50 states, but anyone born there is a United States citizen. Today, Puerto Ricans live in every state in the Union. In this blog I share a hidden treasure of information. My alma matter, Hunter College, houses the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro). They have developed a comprehensive and informative poster series about the Puerto Rican experience among a vast trove of other resources and archives. The series on Puerto Rican migration is particular

ly fascinating, but the entire series is well worth a perusal.

Latinos are a diverse bunch and our stories are ever evolving. My preferred identifier in this regard is to be called a Nuyorican, a creative designation we use to describe a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent rather than our Boricua cousins, who were actually born on the Caribbean island of PR. In this tradition, I am similar to the highest ranking Nuyorican or Puerto Rican in the United States public service, namely, United States Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Maria Sotomayor. With her ascension to that high position it is evident that we are fully integrated into the melting pot of American life.

As we join the fiesta together with folks whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, let us recognize that people from all nations, tribes and tongues are worthy of celebration and have unique contributions to make.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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Exploring the Former Fresh Kills Landfill via Kayak

2014 October 8

By Murray Lantner

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

On a grey, windy and cool day a group of over 20, including EPAers from several Region 2 divisions, including our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, and their friends and family took to the estuarine inlet within the former Fresh Kills Landfill site for a one-of-a-kind paddling trip. The trip was organized by Maureen Krudner, Regional Green Infrastructure Coordinator and Staten Islander – through the EPA Region 2 Emerging Leaders Network – and was hosted and outfitted by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation which provided kayaks and an amazing guide, Chris, who provided an informal informational tour. We started the trip with a short visit to the NYC Department of Sanitation Visitor’s Center at the former landfill where we learned about the decades-long effort to transform the Fresh Kills landfill into a 2,200 acre city park some three times the size of Central Park.

The plan for the park is to combine state-of-the-art ecological restoration techniques with extraordinary settings for recreation, public art, and facilities for many sports and programs. While nearly 45 percent of the site was once used for landfilling operations, the remainder of the site is currently composed of wetlands, open waterways, and unfilled lowland areas. We also learned that the methane gas that is generated in the landfill is collected, purified and sold to the gas company where it is transmitted to over 20,000 Staten Island homes. This landfill gas collection process not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions by converting methane into fuel but also has generated approximately $3-$5 million a year in revenue for the city over the last decade. The Fresh Kills Park is a great example of how New York City is embracing sustainability, both through mitigation and climate adaptation strategies.

Out on the water, the tides were quite high so the restored Spartina alterniflora or saltmarsh cordgrass was partially submerged and only the tops were visible, and in some cases we could paddle right over it.  The city has a nearby nursery that grows plugs of cordgrass for use in salt marsh restoration projects, which did seem to be taking root here – a great sign for the park.

The Fresh Kills landfill paddle was truly a treat – open waters, salt marsh, surrounded by mostly vegetated hill slopes (the former garbage dumps) –  making for a surprisingly peaceful and natural experience. This is a fantastic area to explore and, once there, it’s quite easy to forget the past use of the site and to look forward to the fascinating restoration and parkland that is being created on top of the landfill. To help facilitate the park creation process Region 2 ELN raised about $200 that was donated to the Fresh Kills Park Alliance. Thanks again to Maureen, EPA ELN, NYC Parks and Recreation and the NYC Dept. of Sanitation for a wonderful experience, I encourage you all to check out the park, and explore future opportunities for educational adventures along the Fresh Kills.

About the Author: Murray Lantner is an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Water Compliance Branch who conducts enforcement of wastewater and stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act at EPA’s Manhattan office. Murray has worked for the EPA for 20 years, and started in EPA’s Chicago office. Murray enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and paddling. Murray holds a B.S in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.

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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Personal Memories During National Hispanic Heritage Month

2014 October 6
The author and his family.

The author and his family.

By Elias Rodriguez

America is presently engaged in National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. Latino cultural pride is a diverse, multifaceted and nonpartisan experience. This national period of reflection and events began in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was broadened by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

To remember and honor my Latino ancestors during this festive period, I’m sharing a family photo that captures the affection, energy and delight of family life in my distinct Puerto Rican clan.

My father and mother migrated to Nueva York from Santurce and Canovanas, Puerto Rico in the 1950s. They met at church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the rest is history. In this photograph, taken in NYC, circa 1970s, the restless niño on my grandfather’s lap is me. Anchoring the family portrait is my beloved mother and maternal grandparents surrounded by my two sisters, four brothers, one aunt and an infant cousin. True to form, dad was absent during the photo shoot and at work after which he probably brought home from the local bodega: groceries, treats and, on one memorable occasion, a live rooster. The latter did not last long in a Manhattan apartment building and was promptly converted into a delicious stew.

A few short years after this photo, I experienced my first visit to Puerto Rico. Treasured memories of my abuelo and abuela include hearty meals of rice, beans, pork and freshly picked vegetables from our ancestral home; the luscious taste of leche fresca straight from cows milked early in the day; and the absolute recognition that the only way to address my grandparents was in a low, respectful tone, and in Spanish, their sole language.

Fortunately, my forbearers also left behind the legacy of a healthy respect for the Earth, an admiration for nature, and a commitment to responsible stewardship. Their enduring message is that every natural resource is a divine blessing and should be managed with wisdom, generosity and cooperatively. My abuelitos taught my family to respect the planet because it will outlast us, never litter because this is where we live, never be wasteful because every resource is cherished, and always be grateful for our days are few before we too are a memory.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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Light Pollution and Amateur Astronomy

2014 October 1
This picture of the Sun was taken on September 26, 2014 from the Edison Environmental Center.

This picture of the Sun was taken on September 26, 2014 from the Edison Environmental Center.

By Jim Haklar

One of my hobbies is astronomy, and for me there is nothing more relaxing than looking up at a sky full of stars. However, light pollution has made it increasingly difficult for people to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Light pollution represents energy that’s being wasted. Think of an older style “bulb” type streetlamp (where the bulb hangs upside-down from a pole). A portion of the light coming from the bulb lights the street below, but some of the light travels upward and contributes to the nighttime glow. While there are communities that require the use of special “directed” lighting, we have a long way to go before we’ll be able to see the Milky Way from lower Manhattan.

Amateur astronomers have several options for dealing with light pollution. They can use special filters that block the wavelengths of light emitted by nighttime lighting. However, those filters also block some of the light emitted by stars or galaxies and that can be a problem when viewing or taking photos of these objects.

Another option is to drive to a location where the light pollution is minimal. For someone living in the New York City area, this may mean driving for several hours. You also have to consider whether the location you’re observing from is safe. There have been times when I’ve been startled by a nocturnal animal who wandered too close to my equipment. While I don’t mind a deer joining me for an evening of observing, I definitely would have problems spending my quality time with a skunk!

One other alternative is solar astronomy. By using a properly filtered telescope to look at the Sun during the day, light pollution is never an issue. And the Sun’s surface changes from day to day. I can also get to bed at a reasonable hour (and avoid my smelly nighttime companions).

In spite of the light pollution I still believe that astronomy is a worthwhile hobby. No matter where you live, be it the city, suburbs or a rural area, there will always be something to see in the sky. Just look up.

About the Author: Jim is an environmental engineer at EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center. In his nearly 30 years with the Agency he has worked in a variety of programs including Superfund, Water Management, Public Affairs, and Toxic Substances. He has been an amateur astronomer since he was a teenager, and can often be found after work in the back of the Edison facility with his telescope.

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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Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Resilience, Smart Growth and Equitable Development on Long Island

2014 September 26
Destruction and debris on Oak Beach in Suffolk County, NY after Superstorm Sandy

Destruction and debris on Oak Beach in Suffolk County, NY after Superstorm Sandy

By Joe Siegel and Rabi Kieber

Last of a five-part series on climate change issues.

It has been nearly two years since the shores of Long Island were battered by Superstorm Sandy, leaving behind devastation across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. What emerged in the aftermath was an unprecedented collaboration that went beyond simply rebuilding by incorporating the principles of resilience, smart growth and equitable development into long-term planning for Long Island.

Within months after Hurricane Sandy, EPA, FEMA, New York State Department of State, Suffolk County, Nassau County and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) formed the Long Island Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership to discuss options to help Long Island rebuild in a smarter, stronger and more resilient fashion. This group was, in part, an outgrowth of a broad collaboration through the National Disaster Recovery Framework, Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-8 and the Recovery Support Strategy that was written for the Sandy recovery process. One of the key goals of the Partnership is to encourage economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development in low risk areas away from flood zones and along transit corridors in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Over the past year, the Long Island Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership has embarked on a number of projects to achieve its goal of merging resilience, smart growth and equitable development. It organized a ground-breaking conference, Accepting the Tide: A Roundtable on Integrating Resilience and Smart Growth on a Post-Sandy Long Island, which took place last May and brought together a wide variety of stakeholders. The Partnership also trained communities in community outreach and stakeholder engagement, and Health Impact Assessments (HIA) for recovery. Additional training for communities and federal recovery workers is being planned on tools such as Community Viz, a participatory scenario planning tool for decision-making on smart growth andEPA’s National Stormwater Calculator.

As part of the Partnership, EPA is working with FEMA to support sustainable rebuilding in specific communities such as Long Beach, Long Island. Long Beach received technical assista

nce from Global Green which was funded through a grant from EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. The Partnership also helped to secure law students from Touro College’s Land Use and Sustainability Institute to assist Long Beach in implementing some of the recommendations from both the Global Green Technical Assistance and a New York University study on green infrastructure and storm water management.

As an outgrowth of the May 2014 Roundtable, the Partnership has begun to focus efforts on ecosystem services valuation and health impact assessment to guide post-Hurricane Sandy redevelopment and recovery on Long Island. In doing so, the Partnership has added to its cadre of experts, representatives from Stony Brook University and The Nature Conservancy. At a meeting in July, the group launched a number of projects including a pilot that will not only generate important ecosystem-related economic data on improving resilience, but will also encourage green infrastructure and promote strategies to maintain and enhance ecosystem resilience. Ecosystem services valuation is a very useful tool because it can help us better understand, for example, the economic benefits of restoring wetlands to prevent impacts from future storms.

EPA Region 2 has already begun working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the Partnership on an island-wide ecosystem services assessment, a pilot health impact assessment in Suffolk County, and a project to develop a set of health indicators that can be used for long term evaluation of health impacts of projects, polices or plans. Health impact assessment is an important decision-making tool because it can illustrate how a particular plan, action or policy under consideration, will impact the health and well-being of a community. Health indicators can be used to evaluate the long-term health impact of the project, policy or plan.

Hurricane Sandy was devastating for Nassau and Suffolk Counties, but the Long Island Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership has turned lemons into lemonade by incorporating not only climate change resilience but smart growth and equitable development into long term planning on Long Island. The groundbreaking work of the Partnership will no doubt serve as a model for other recovery efforts in Region 2 and beyond.

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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Addressing Tomorrow’s Emergency with Today’s Plans

2014 September 25
Eroded coastline near the Shinnecock Nation’s territory on Long Island, NY

Eroded coastline near the Shinnecock Nation’s territory on Long Island, NY

By Irene Boland Nielson

Fourth in a five-part series on climate change issues.

Native Americans have long understood the need to be caretakers of the earth and were among the first to recognize the signs of climate change. It is no surprise that some tribes are leading the way to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

One such tribe is the Shinnecock Indian Nation on the South Fork of Long Island. They experienced firsthand the potentially devastating impacts of climate change when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the area in October 2012. Shoreline scouring and flooding of roads, burial grounds and basements during Sandy showed that climate change poses immediate threats to the Shinnecock. The Nation is now taking broad steps to adapt to climate change and setting a good example for other island communities.

First, the Shinnecock looked to neighbors and peers, and held a community workshop to discuss climate threats. The tribe worked with funding from the EPA, in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk, a Tribal Nation straddling the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. – Canada border. Next, they used climate vulnerability assessments from the Peconic Estuary and convened all Shinnecock department heads to identify climate threats to their Nation. This is important, since tomorrow’s emergency needs are linked with long-term community plans for the future.

Global rise of sea levels is the most confidently projected climate threat, since water expands when warmer like a heated teapot. (See yesterday’s blog on sea level rise.) With rising seas, by 2050, a storm with one percent chance of happening any year could inundate almost half of the Nation, including some evacuation routes. The Shinnecock’s climate adaptation plan calls for restoring their shoreline as a frontline of defense against flooding with native plants, as well as upgrading overwhelmed culverts to protect sacred burial grounds. Precious coastal water aquifers are also vulnerable to encroaching saltwater. The Shinnecock will reduce water contamination by replacing tribal cesspools with a closed community sewer and wastewater treatment facility. The plan also calls for improving the Nation’s food security by reestablishing community farming and protecting vital shellfish beds and reducing fossil fuels, open burning, idling, and tree loss.

Cleaner air, shorelines protected by natives plants, energy and food security are all hallmarks of resiliency in the Shinnecock Indian Nation Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Island communities should follow the example set by the Shinnecock Indian Nation and make plans to protect themselves and their neighbors from climate change impacts.

About the Author: Irene Boland Nielson is the Climate Change Coordinator for the New York City based office of the U.S. EPA. She joined the EPA as a Presidential Management Fellow and has worked on a range of issues, including the Agency’s Strategic Plan, a memorandum of agreement with Department of Defense for a sustainable Guam, and the EPA Climate Adaptation Plan. Currently, she co-chairs the EPA Region 2 Climate Change Workgroup, administers Climate Showcase Community grants and works to promote sustainability in 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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Sea Levels and Flooding Risks on the Rise

2014 September 24

By Irene Boland Nielson

Third in a five-part series on climate change issues.

Some 23 million Americans live near the coast at an elevation of less than 10 meters above sea level. Here in New York and New Jersey, recent storms like Superstorm Sandy drew attention to exposure to coastal flooding and many people are looking for maps to understand current and future flooding risks.

For current flood risk, FEMA maps are a good source of information. FEMA updates flood maps county by county using updated mapping technology and historic meteorological data. Check the website to view the current FEMA flood map.

Due to climate change, future risk is not the same as current risk. As seas rise and expand more coastal areas will be exposed to flooding and flooding risk will increase.

Climate scientists model the three main drivers of sea level rise. First, higher global temperatures lead to the expansion of the oceans because water expands when warmer. Second, land based ice which melts and adds surface water in quantities great enough to raise the ocean, (remember that floating ice does not add volume to the ocean when it melts). Third, and independent of climate change, continents are either rising or sinking due to geologic processes (rebounding from the last ice age) or human practices such as groundwater extraction or diversion of sediment rich waters in river deltas (think New Orleans). NOAA Sea Level Rise Vieweris a good source of information about sea level rise projections. You can move the slider bar to visualize sea level rise at different levels ranging from 0ft to 6ft and see historic records from tide gauges.

The National Climate Assessment released in June of this year projects sea level rise of 1 to 4 feet by 2100. We don’t know how much greenhouse gases will be released over the next century but we do know from the International Meteorological Organization that last year, global emissions increased at the fastest rate in 30 years.

Sea level rise is just one of many impacts of climate change, but unlike some climate change impacts that may vary in direction of change, sea level rise is only increasing. Projections examine not if but when the higher sea elevations will be reached. This is because the emissions already in the atmosphere will continue to expand the worlds’ oceans for centuries to come. Hopefully now you can dive into public information resources to understand why today’s coastal flooding risk is changing in the future.

Tags: sea level rise, climate change, flood zones, FEMA flood maps, evacuation zones, coastal flooding, flood, flood risk

About the Author: Irene Boland Nielson is the Climate Change Coordinator for the New York City based office of the U.S. EPA. She joined the EPA as a Presidential Management Fellow and has worked on a range of issues, including the Agency’s Strategic Plan, a memorandum of agreement with Department of Defense for a sustainable Guam, and the EPA Climate Adaptation Plan. Currently, she co-chairs the EPA Region 2 Climate Change Workgroup, administers Climate Showcase Community grants and works to promote sustainability in 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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CAFE Standards

2014 September 23

The Road to Fuel EfficiencyBy Adriana Lenarczyk

Second in a five-part series on climate change issues.

Happy Climate Week, everybody!

So, I was standing on the subway on my way to work (chances are you don’t get to sit down on your crowded morning commute from Bushwick, Brooklyn) and as I stood squished between a businessman and a street punk, I found myself missing the privacy and freedom of my car back in Portland, OR. Steel-grey 2009 Jetta, heated seats (!), the incredible amount of trunk space, and 27 miles to the gallon (which was pretty good back then).

And that got me thinking of sky-high gas prices in New York City. Which got me thinking about my boyfriend’s gas-guzzling SUV that got 15 mpg. Which made me cringe at the thought of the cost of gas for our backpacking trip to Vermont this weekend. Which made me wonder:

Why don’t we just trade these enormous hunks of steel for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars? I mean, are people buying them? Wait, no, are car manufacturers actually producing more fuel-efficient vehicles??

And just then, I learned about CAFE standards—

CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy, are regulations that were first enacted by Congress in 1975, intending to improve the average fuel economy of cars and “light trucks” (i.e. trucks, vans, and SUVs) sold in the United States.

In 2009, President Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program which adopts federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. The program covers years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 (39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks), which is a pretty decent jump from the current average of 29 mpg. The result of all this is a projected reduction in oil consumption of about 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program and a projected total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 900 million metric tons.

So if you’re thinking of buying a new car consider an electric vehicle. The U.S. government offers a $7,500 federal tax credit with the purchase of a new Tesla acquired for personal use. In Southern California, where my parents live, electric vehicle purchasers are eligible for a rebate up to $2,500 from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) until funds are exhausted. Currently there are no state incentives for New York, but things may change.

More information on EPA Fuel Economy can be found at: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

To read the entire proposed rule for carbon pollution emission guidelines, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/18/2014-13726/carbon-pollution-emission-guidelines-for-existing-stationary-sources-electric-utility-generating#h-13

About the Author: Adriana Lenarczyk wrote this as an intern in EPA’s Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Adriana is originally from the West Coast.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.