EPA Connect

FracFocus Report: Helping us Paint a Fuller Picture

The following is an excerpt of a blog posted on EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership.

By Tom Burke

Portrait of Tom Burke

Thomas Burke, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development and EPA Science Advisor

Only a few years ago, very little was known about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Congress asked us to embark on a major effort to advance the state-of-the-science to accurately assess and identify those risks. Today, we are releasing a new report to provide a fuller picture of the information available for states, industry, and communities working to safeguard drinking water resources and protect public health.

The Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Data from the FracFocus Chemical Registry 1.0. is a peer-reviewed analysis built on more than two years of data provided by organizations that manage FracFocus, the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Operators disclosed information on individual oil and gas production wells hydraulically fractured between January 2011 and February 2013 and agency researchers then compiled a database from more than 39,000 disclosures.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Our Commitment to Scientific Integrity at EPA

The following is an excerpt of a blog posted on EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership earlier today.

 

By Francesca T. Grifo

annual_report_scientific_integrity_2014As someone who has devoted her career to the advancement of strong, independent science, I am thrilled to announce the release of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report. In the report, we highlight accomplishments and identify areas for improvement and action, exemplifying the Agency’s unwavering commitment to setting and upholding the highest standards of scientific integrity in an open, transparent way.

The Scientific Integrity Annual Report we just released is the latest example of our efforts to continually monitor and share our performance, and take swift action when needed. Because research provides the foundation for every action the Agency takes to meet our mission to protect human health and safeguard the environment, we are actively cultivating a culture across the Agency and beyond that embraces scientific integrity at all levels. We are working to ensure that every scientist and engineer who works for or in partnership with the Agency conducts investigation that are at once free from conflicts of interest, unburdened by bias or interference, transparent, and present results in fair, accurate, and accessible ways.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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EPA: Taking Action on Toxics and Chemical Safety

The following was originally posted on EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership.

Innovative-Research

By Gwen Keyes Fleming

For all of their beneficial uses, chemicals can also pose potential risks: manufacturing them can create emissions and waste, and exposure to them can impact our health and the environment. One of EPA’s highest priorities is making sure our children, our homes, and our communities are safer from toxic chemicals.

Last October, Administrator McCarthy asked EPA employees to log into GreenSpark, our internal online employee engagement platform, and share stories of the innovative and collaborative work that they are leading to take action on toxics and chemical safety. I’d like to share some of their exciting work with you.

Developing Innovative Science: EPA’s Office of Research and Development, with support from the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, is working to change the way we evaluate chemical safety to make it quicker and easier to understand the potential toxic effects of chemicals on human health and the environment.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Scientific Report Shows Strong Connection between Wetlands, Streams, Rivers and Estuaries

The following excerpt is reposted from “EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership

Aerial photograph of river and wetland

EPA recently released a scientific report about the connectivity of U.S. waters.

By Lek Kadeli

You may have noticed along a favorite hiking trail that some streams only appear after rainfall, or maybe you’ve seen wetlands far from the nearest river. You probably didn’t think about the importance of those smaller water bodies. But a new scientific report we’re releasing today shows that small streams and wetlands play an important role in the health of larger downstream waterways like rivers and lakes.

Our researchers conducted an extensive, thorough review of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies to learn how small streams and wetlands connect to larger, downstream water bodies. The results of their work are being released today. The report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence, is a state-of-the-science report that presents findings on the connectivity of streams and wetlands to larger water bodies.

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New Challenge: Put Technology to Work to Protect Drinking Water

The following excerpt is reposted from “EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership

By Ellen Gilinksy

You likely remember when, this past summer, half a million people who live in the Toledo, Ohio, area were told not to drink the water coming out of their taps for several days. A state of emergency was declared because of a harmful algal bloom, which released toxins into the water that could have made many people ill.

Algal blooms like the one near Toledo are partly caused by an excessive amount of nutrients in the waternutrient-sensor## – specifically, nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients are essential for ecosystems, but too many of them in one place is bad news. Not only do harmful algal blooms pose huge risks for people’s health, they can also cause fish and other aquatic wildlife to die off.

Cleaning up drinking water after a harmful algal bloom can cost billions of dollars, and local economies can suffer. The U.S. tourism industry alone loses close to $1 billion each year when people choose not to fish, go boating or visit areas that have been affected. It’s one of our country’s biggest and most expensive environmental problems. It’s also a particularly tough one, since nutrients can travel from far upstream and in runoff, and collect in quieter waters like lakes or along coastlines.

That’s why a group of federal agencies and private partners – including our Office of Research and Development and our Office of Water – are announcing the Nutrient Sensor Challenge. The challenge will help accelerate the development of sensors that can be deployed in the environment to measure nutrients in our country’s waterways. Its goal is to have new, affordable sensors up and running by 2017.

At EPA we run an innovative research program on nutrients management, at sites that range from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes to Chesapeake Bay. We’ve also been working with new technologies that can give us better information on nutrient pollution, including satellites and portable remote sensors.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Our Clean Power Plan Will Spur Innovation and Strengthen the Economy

Crossposted from “EPA Connect

It’s an important day.  Today, at the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. And we don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs.

Here are the top four things to know about the proposed plan.  The Clean Power Plan:

  1. Fights climate change: Our climate is changing, and we’re feeling the dangerous and costly effects today.
  2. Protects public health: Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Although there are limits for other pollutants like arsenic and mercury, there are currently no national limits on carbon. Americans will see significant public health and climate benefits now and for future generations.
  3. States leading with proven approaches: States and businesses have already charted a course toward cleaner, more efficient power.  Our plan doesn’t prescribe, it propels ongoing progress
  4. Key is flexibility and putting states in the driver’s seat: With EPA’s flexible proposal, states choose the ways we cut carbon pollution, so we can still have affordable, reliable power to grow our economy.

Watch a video from Administrator McCarthy on the Clean Power Plan here:

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

Interested in more detailed information on the benefits of the rule?  View the Whiteboard video by Joe Goffman, EPA Associate Assistant Administrator for Climate.

By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

For more information, view the following fact sheets:

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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Advancing Chemical Testing by the Thousands

Reposted from EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA leadership.

By Bob Kavlock

Bob Kavlock PortraitStudying thousands of chemicals at a time with the use of high-tech computer screening models and automated, often robot-assisted processes sounds like science fiction. But it’s not. EPA scientists are doing just that, leading the advancement of “high-throughput screening,” fast, efficient processes used to expose hundreds of living cells or isolated proteins to chemicals and then screen them for changes in biological activity—clues to potential adverse health effects related to chemical exposure.

This scientific advance is positioned to transform how we understand the safety of chemicals going forward. Twenty years ago, using high-throughput screening to test chemicals for potential human health risks seemed like technology that belonged in a science fiction television series rather than in real life.

Back then there were several large data gaps that would not allow us to extrapolate from the isolated biological changes we observe on a cellular level to adverse human health effects. However, through our computational toxicology (CompTox) research, which integrates, biology,

Robotic arm moving samples for screening

Robotic arm moves samples for automated chemical screening.

biotechnology, chemistry, and computer science, that is changing. We are helping to transform the paradigm of chemical testing from one that relies almost solely on expensive and time-consuming animal testing methods to one that uses the full power of modern molecular biology and robotics.

A significant part of this effort is the Toxicity Forecaster (ToxCast), launched in 2007. ToxCast allows us to prioritize potentially toxic chemicals for more extensive testing as well as giving us the opportunity to test newer, possibly safer alternatives to existing chemicals. By 2013, we evaluated more than 2,000 chemicals from industrial and consumer products to food additives using more than 500 high-throughput screening assays.

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The Sweet Spot: Riding to Work

 Alone with my thoughts as the pavement scrolls by under my wheels, it’s just the perfect symmetry to begin and end the work day.

Cyclists gather in downtown Washington, DC

Enjoying post-ride festivities on Bike to Work Day.

 

Reposted from “EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership.

By Lek Kadeli

There are times in life when everything seems to align. When you know you are in the right place at the right time, doing something that is at once productive and satisfying. I’ve found a regular activity that fits the bill: bicycle commuting.

I began making the switch to two-wheeled commuting over time. At first I was primarily looking for a way to build a bit more physical activity into my weekly routine. I began leaving the car at home from time to time in favor of riding. It turned out to be an easy transition.

At eleven-and-a-half miles, the distance between my home in Falls Church, Virginia and EPA’s headquarter offices in Washington, D.C., is an ideal length for riding: not too time-consuming, but long enough to feel like I’ve gotten some exercise. Even more encouraging is that the majority of the route is along the Martha Custis trail, a paved and well-maintained bike path.

Over the years I found myself driving less and less. So much so that I’ve now completely given it up—along with the expensive downtown parking spot. When I don’t ride I take the metro, which is the only place I catch myself longing for those warm spring evenings when I would enjoy the occasional cigar as I drove home with the top down in my convertible. But I don’t even miss those commutes when traveling under my own power. Alone with my thoughts as the pavement scrolls by under my wheels, it’s just the perfect symmetry to begin and end the work day.

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Along the Road to Sustainability

Reposted from EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership. 

By Bob Perciasepe

Bob Perciasepe official portraitTechnology and open access to data and tools have ended the excruciating choice that generations of unsure car travelers have sometimes faced: forge ahead just a few more miles, or stop and ask for directions? Such stress has largely faded with the advent of dashboard-mounted, satellite-enabled navigation systems and readily available smartphone applications.

Getting to your desired destination is always easier when you have the right information at your disposal. That’s why today I’m excited to announce that EPA has released a tool to help environmental decision makers and local communities navigate toward a more sustainable future: EnviroAtlas.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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National Academies’ Report Shows that EPA has Strengthened IRIS Program

Reposted from EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA’s leadership.

By Lek Kadeli

Portrait of Lek KadeliOne of the best aspects of my job is working with some of the most dedicated human health and environmental scientists in the business. On a daily basis, I have a behind-the-scenes view of the innovation and problem solving that is meeting the nation’s most pressing environmental challenges and advancing a more sustainable future for us and our children. It’s inspiring to see that progress unfold, and I feel fortunate to have a front row seat. But what’s even more gratifying is when leaders in the scientific community world take notice, too.

That’s exactly what happened today when we received positive news about progress we’ve made to enhance our Integrated Risk Information System, or “IRIS” program. IRIS provides health effects information about environmental contaminants such as dioxin and tetrachloroethylene. The program received some well-deserved kudos from the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC). I’m really proud of the whole IRIS team! This is an example of EPA science at its best, and how our researchers rise to meet challenges.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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