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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
House passes Welch bipartisan energy efficiency legislation
By a vote of 375-36, the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon approved energy efficiency legislation authored by Representative Peter Welch. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, H.R. 2126, is the first significant bipartisan energy initiative approved by the House in the 113th Congress. Source:, 3/5/14

Minnesota seeks comment on draft paint stewardship plan
In accordance with Minnesota legislation signed into law in May 2013, all architectural paint sold in the state must soon be managed through a statewide product stewardship program implemented and financed by producers of paint. Upon the slated launch date of July 1, 2014, no architectural paint may be offered for sale in the state unless the paint's producer participates in an approved stewardship plan. PaintCare Inc., serving as a stewardship organization on behalf of paint manufacturers, submitted a detailed stewardship plan on March 3, 2014. The MPCA has 90 days to review, and must approve this plan before the program can begin. A public comment period is open through April 15. MPCA will post comments and take them into consideration as part of the staff review of the stewardship plan. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 3.5.14

Monday, March 3, 2014
New USGS Study -- Coal Tar Sealcoats are Persistent Source of Toxics
Research by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published in the journal Environmental Pollution shows high concentrations of toxic chemicals in runoff from coal tar sealcoated parking lots months after the sealcoat was applied. Source: SHWEC, 3/3/14

Turning tobacco plants into factories for cleaner pesticides
For more eco-friendly pest control, scientists have genetically modified tobacco plants, making them factories for producing insect pheromones. Source: Smart Planet, 3/2/14

Secretary Vilsack Announces Regional Hubs to Help Agriculture, Forestry Mitigate the Impacts of a Changing Climate
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the creation of the first ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country. "Climate Hubs" will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged that his Administration will continue to do everything in its power to act on climate change. Today's announcement is part of the President's Climate Action Plan to responsibly cut carbon pollution, slow the effects of climate change and put America on track to a cleaner environment. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2/5/14

Lignocellulose shown to have potential in bioplastic production
Chemical building blocks from lignocellulosic feedstock form a huge potential for the production of bioplastics. More specifically, they have potential for biodegradable plastic polylactic acid (PLA). The building block for PLA - lactic acid - is currently produced mainly from starch originating from corn, or sugar from sugarcane. A sustainable and cost-effective production process for lactic acid on a scale that meets future demands requires the use of second generation biomass such as lignocellulose. Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research studies the process from lignocellulosic feedstock to lactic acid. Source: Biomass Magazine, 2/26/14

How Clever Companies Are Using Circular Thinking To Get Ahead
Creating businesses that make money from their waste as well as their product is the idea behind this new business model. Here's how it's working. Source: Fast Company, 2/27/14

Can small retailers make shopping for green energy more like buying milk?
Unlike other products, electricity options don't sit side-by-side on store shelves. American Efficient is partnering with local shops to show consumers their choices. Source: The Guardian, 2/28/14

E.P.A. Set to Reveal Tough New Sulfur Emissions Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil a major new regulation on Monday that forces oil refiners to strip out sulfur, a smog-forming pollutant linked to respiratory disease, from American gasoline blends, according to people familiar with the agency's plans. Source: New York Times, 3/3/14

Friday, February 28, 2014
New Refrigeration Efficiency Standards To Take a Bite out of Supermarket and Restaurant Energy Costs
The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule for strong new efficiency standards today that will take a big bite out of the energy consumption of the refrigerators and freezers used in supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, and commercial kitchens. The significant reductions in energy use that we'll see with the new standards are made possible by the availability of technologies including LED lighting and occupancy sensors, high-performance glass doors, and high-efficiency motors, which all provide big efficiency gains. Source: ACEEE, 2/28/14

Walmart puts product suppliers on notice about chemicals
Dozens of consumer product makers today will get a letter from Walmart detailing new requirements on phasing out a list of toxic chemicals found in goods sold by the world's largest retailer. The comprehensive initiative is by far the largest and most ambitious of its kind. It reflects a growing trend in which consumer and wholesale purchasing power are combining to change the chemical makeup of the products we see on store shelves and bring into our homes. Source: GreenBiz, 2/27/14

Thursday, February 27, 2014
Coffee Recycling Keeps Community Grounded
More than eight tons a month. That's how much organic material in the form of spent coffee grounds the Austin-based Ground to Ground program diverts from area landfills and makes available to people in the community as compost. Source: Texas AgriLife Research, 2/27/14

How companies' community leadership drives political change
Small local businesses across the country are realizing that their ecological footprints are as important as their bottom lines. Visionary business leaders are not waiting for an act of Congress or an executive order to take action. They are at the forefront of their communities in creating a vision for a new era of a sustainable economy. They are leading on this issue -- but they can do only so much on their own. Source: GreenBiz, 2/26/14

Rare Earth Recycling Takes on New Luster
Rare earth mining companies aren't exactly setting the investment world on fire, but for that same reason, prepare to hear about more electronics and automotive manufacturers seeking ways to "mine" these and other precious metals out of end-of-life or discarded products--everything from mobile phones to wind turbines to spent batteries. Source: Forbes, 2/25/14

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
A 3-step sustainability action plan for business leaders
Company executives have moved way past questioning why sustainability is important. Instead, leaders ask how to transform their business model to generate a triple win: operational efficiencies that cut costs, reduce demand on shared natural capital and improve quality of life for communities of people they serve. These leaders seek a new model that returns business value through efficiency and top-line growth drivers. Source: GreenBiz, 2/25/14

Cleansing microbeads are everwhere -- including lakes and rivers
Plastic exfoliating microbeads--pinhead-sized spheres suspended in hundreds of facial scrubs, toothpastes and shaving creams--are silting fresh-water lakes, biologists say. And there's some evidence that they're flowing into the Chicago River. Source: Crain's Chicago Business via Plastics News, 2/24/14

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