Bloomberg introduces sustainability news section

Bloomberg is a US multinational specializing in news and information for business. Imagine then GallonDaily’s surprise when, last month, Bloomberg introduced a sustainability section into its daily news offerings.

In late 2009 Bloomberg acquired New Energy Finance, a similar though much smaller news service focusing on renewable and alternative energy. Building on the new energy theme, Bloomberg’s sustainability section seems to be focussing on US and global environment and energy issues and commentary.

Bloomberg claims to have 2300 news professionals at work globally, 4.7 million readers for its Business Week magazine, and more than 15,000 employees around the world. If you notice a name resemblance to the third-term Mayor of New York City you would understand a connection, now severed, between the Company’s founder and the current NYC Mayor. It is reliably reported that, in July of this year, Michael Bloomberg announced a donation of $50 million to the US Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign

For a fresh face with a US perspective in the sustainability news world, GallonDaily is pleased to welcome Bloomberg: go to http://www.bloomberg.com/ and click on SUSTAINABILITY at the top of the page.

Clean air creates jobs, states Ceres study

Ceres, formerly known as the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and author of the highly respected Ceres Principles, a code of corporate environmental conduct, has, in partnership with the Institute of Clean Air Companies, published a report which seeks to identify the employment implications of clean air regulation of the electricity sector.

The report, which includes a number of case studies, builds on a February 2011 report from the Political Economic Research Institute (PERI) based at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst which estimated that investments driven by EPA’s two new air quality rules would create nearly 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs per year on average over the next five years.

This new study projects that the total amount of investment needed to comply with the new rules is around $94 billion. This investment would flow directly to US companies, creating both construction and manufacturing jobs. The report also claims that “Unprecedented amounts of capital sit on the sidelines in the American economy” and that America’s electric power generators have cash on their balance sheets at historic levels, ready to be invested.

While the report is perhaps not as quantitative as necessary to convince opponents of clean air regulations, it does document the year‐end cash reserves for the top 20 U.S. electric generators for the period 1995‐2010 and many of the companies ready and waiting to build new clean power plants and pollution control systems.

GallonDaily commends Ceres for producing the kind of report that helps disarm those critics that claim that the economies of developed countries cannot afford clean air rules.

The Ceres report is available at http://www.ceres.org/press/press-releases/new-study-shows-how-epa-clean-air-rules-boost-the-economy-and-create-jobs

Canada – US Environmental Joint Action Plan

Today, Canada and the US entered into a Joint Action Plan under the  United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council that was announced in February.

Action Plan initiatives in the environmental area include the following:

  • Refine and enhance the existing Air Quality Committee (under the United States–Canada Air Quality Agreement) work plan with regard to information sharing, technical work-sharing, scientific
  • Collaboration and testing related to completed emission regulations for light-duty vehicles, which have been bilaterally coordinated.
  • Work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from locomotives, building on the already extensive collaboration and coordination between both governments on locomotive air pollutant regulations.
  • Environment Canada, U S Department of State, and the Environmental Protection Agency to consider an expansion of the United States–Canada Air Quality Agreement to address particulate matter, the air pollutant most commonly associated with premature mortality, based on comparable regulatory regimes in the two countries.
  • Work to better align American and Canadian standards on the containment of dangerous goods.
  • Develop and adopt common monographs (e g , including properties, claims indications, and condition of use) for routine over-the-counter drugs.
  • Enhance collaboration on enforcement and compliance by increasing mutual reliance on each other’s routine surveillance good manufacturing practices (GMP) inspection reports of manufacturing facilities for drugs and personal products, rather than having to conduct unnecessarily duplicative inspections in the other country.
  • Align and synchronize implementation of common classification and labelling requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals within the mandate of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Health Canada.
  • Share information, and develop joint approaches, on regulatory aspects of nanomaterials—including terminology and nomenclature, as well as risk assessment and management.

Other initiatives which may be of direct interest to our environment and business readers include:

  • Develop common approaches to food safety, in light of food safety modernization efforts in both countries, to jointly enhance the safety of the United States–Canada food supply and minimize the need for routine food safety surveillance inspection activities in each other’s country (applies to products within the mandates of both the U S Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
  • Enhance equivalence agreements for meat safety systems to streamline, simplify, and, where possible, reduce import and administrative procedures, while maintaining public health outcomes.
  • Establish mutual reliance on jointly acceptable food safety laboratory recognition criteria, test results, and methodologies to ensure food safety laboratory testing conducted in one country is acceptable to regulators in both countries and facilitate cross-utilization of laboratory results by industry and regulators (applies to products within the mandates of both the U S Food and Drug Administration and Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
  • Streamline the certification requirements for meat and poultry including, where possible, the reduction or elimination of redundant certification, data elements, and administrative procedures for shipments flowing between the United States and Canada.
  • Further align crop protection product (e.g., pesticides) approvals and establishment of maximum pesticide residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • Further align marketing application submission and review processes for veterinary drugs, including efforts to establish identical maximum drug residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • Develop a perimeter approach to plant protection with a view to leverage each country’s efforts to mutual advantage and, where possible, streamline certification requirements for cross-border shipments.
  • Work towards a common approach to zoning of foreign animal diseases.
  • Jointly review and establish a common collaborative regulatory standard setting agenda for all new motor vehicle safety standards (e g , rear camera, electric and alternative energy vehicles, quiet cars).
  • Work together on the development of regulations and standards to fully support the integration of intelligent transportation systems.
  • Align rail safety standards and establish a joint mechanism to conduct periodic review of regulations.
  • Establish a mechanism to share experiences on regulations related to unmanned aircraft systems, with a view to aligning regulatory approaches.

The full agreement is to be found under the heading United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Action Plan at http://canada.usembassy.gov/canada-us-relations/border-issues/beyond-the-border-a-new-strategy.html

LEED Platinum car factory excels in many areas

There are not too many LEED industrial buildings in North America. Most factories are constructed in the cheapest possible way with little regard to the environment or energy efficiency. Hence a car plant certified to the highest LEED standard caught GallonDaily’s eye.

The building is a Volkswagen car plant newly constructed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The building has many environmental features. Some of those least expected at a car plant include:

  • superior building insulation;
  • LED lighting on the exterior;
  • rainwater collected and used to flush toilets and cool equipment;
  • a white roof to reflect heat;
  • built on a brownfield site; and
  • 100 ft. wide creeks and wetlands around the property to create natural habitats.

More information at http://www.volkswagengroupamerica.com/newsroom/2011/12/01_vw_chattanooga_earns_LEED_platinum.htm

Zero waste batteries by mail

A new US project promises something new in the way of rechargeable batteries – delivery by mail direct to the end user with a real performance guarantee.

Many Canadians know that used batteries are a serious waste problem. Many are still very loyal to rechargeable batteries even though few last as long as claimed, especially if not continuously used and recharged. Battery recycling in Canada has been slow to get off the ground.

The new US initiative, known as earthCell, provides freshly recharged high performance  low self-discharge nickel metal hydride AA and AAA batteries by mail.  The batteries come with a prepaid mailer. When received by the distributor they are revitalized, tested, and sent out again. Those that do not meet specifications are recycled into new batteries.

To date, earthCells are available only in the US but the company states that it is looking for international distributors. This is a startup company funded by a creative project funding platform called Kickstarter where prepurchase helps entrepreneurs get their companies up and running.  As with all startups, one never knows what the future holds but this project seems to be in the top echelon of extended producer responsibility and environmental stewardship. GallonDaily wishes earthCell well and hopes that we will soon see a similar initiative in Canada.

More information about earthCell at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/46649112/earthcell-the-renewable-battery

Arsenic found in some US apple and grape juice

Consumer Reports, the magazine of the non-profit Consumers Union, has recently published a report of its findings of inorganic arsenic, a known human carcinogen, in commercial apple and grape juice.

A test of 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut found that 10 percent had total arsenic levels exceeding US federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion. Most of the arsenic was inorganic. Consumer Reports speculates that the arsenic comes from contaminated soils resulting from historical use of lead-arsenate pesticides in apple orchards in the US and China. They believe that arsenic contaminated groundwater in China may also be a source of some of the arsenic.

A parallel study of almost 3,000 people found that those who said that they regularly drink apple juice had on average 19 percent greater levels of total urinary arsenic than those who did not, and those who reported drinking grape juice had 20 percent higher levels.

Consumers Union is urging the US government to set strict standards for arsenic in apple and grape juice.

Much more information on this project is to be found at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/consumer-reports-magazine-january-2012/arsenic-in-your-juice/index.htm

New UK green energy bond announced

Ecotricity, a privately owned UK not for profit company (Ecotricity uses the term not-for-dividend because they invest all profits back into the company) in the green energy business has announced a second round of ‘ecobond’ financing that allows ordinary people to invest in the green energy revolution.

Last year’s first round of ecobonds, which allow small investors to participate in a basket of renewable energy projects, was heavily oversubscribed.  Ecobonds are fixed rate corporate bonds with an interest rate of 6%, increased to 6.5% for customers of Ecotricity. As corporate bonds, ecobonds are not guaranteed but are regulated by the UK Financial Services Authority.  Ecobonds can be purchased only by UK residents.

The recently announced second round is limited to £10 million with a minimum investment of £500. Once an individual applicant has been approved the Ecobonds can be purchased online using a debit card. Business purchasers must proceed by mailing a cheque.

GallonDaily applauds Ecotricity for this initiative. Some wind projects in Canada have been funded by community investment but it is not yet a common model. The benefits of the Ecotricity model include the basket of projects approach, which helps to mitigate risk, and the ease of investing, not too much more difficult than buying a travel ticket online. Hopefully a Canadian company will soon strive to overcome the regulatory hurdles and launch a similar initiative in Canada.

Lots of information about ecobonds can be found at http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/about-ecotricity/ecobonds