3p Contributor: Bill DiBenedetto

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

Recent Articles

Big Bucks for NextGen Aviation and Alternative Jet Fuels

| Wednesday September 18th, 2013 | 1 Comment

jetstarMaybe it’s time to get serious about the development of alternative jet fuels as a way to aid both the airline industry and the environment, or at least throw more barrels of money at it. That is the American way, isn’t it?

The Federal Aviation Administration last week selected a group of universities to run a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for alternate jet fuels and the environment. The COE, with Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the lead universities, will explore ways to meet the environmental and energy goals that make up a large part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen. The FAA says NextGen is the “transformation of how airplanes traverse the sky,” affecting pilots, passengers, air controllers and the aircraft.

The government-university partnership supports President Obama’s plan to address climate change, said Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation. “The Center of Excellence will tap talented universities to help us take environmentally friendly, alternative jet fuel technology to the next level,” he said. “Airlines and their customers will both benefit from their work developing cleaner fuel that supports the environment and continued aviation growth.”

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Air Canada’s CSR Marks Progress on Safety, Environment

| Wednesday September 11th, 2013 | 0 Comments

ac_blue_logoAir Canada’s second CSR report focuses on four areas of sustainability: safety, the environment, the well-being of employees, and community involvement. There are points of progress and but the airline acknowledges that further progress is needed.

In brief, not bad for a second effort by Canada’s biggest airline.

Citizens of the World “improves upon the first edition in a number of ways, including the fact it is based on a materiality assessment developed from an extensive survey we undertook to identify the sustainability issues of most concern to our stakeholders,” notes Calin Rovinescu, the airline’s president and CEO.

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GHG Impacts in China Now Considered in PNW Coal Export Review

| Thursday August 29th, 2013 | 3 Comments

110420040Paul_K_Anderson_CoalThe coal industry’s plan to move millions of tons of coal through Pacific Northwest (PNW) terminals to China and other Asian markets received a body blow when Washington regulators said environmental impact reviews must consider the worldwide impact of burning the export coal in China.

One of the major battles surrounding the various proposals has centered on the “scope” of the environmental review process.

That question was answered on July 31 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County jointly announced the scope of their joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, in northwest Washington State. If built, it would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, exporting up to 48 million metric tons of coal per year to Asia. The proponents of the terminal include Peabody Energy, SSA Marine, and Goldman Sachs.

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CH2M Hill’s Run as a Top Environmental Firm Dates to Rocky Flats

| Tuesday August 27th, 2013 | 0 Comments

convert rocky flatsThere are good reasons that CH2M Hill is consistently ranked as the top U.S. environmental firm, but for those with long memories, the company’s innovative and ground-breaking involvement in the Rocky Flats nuclear waste site cleanup and closure is a great place to start.

The Rocky Flats Nuclear Production facility near Denver opened in 1952, but by 1992, when it was ordered closed by President George H.W. Bush, it was a disaster: one of the worst hazardous sites in the world. The Department of Energy estimated it would take 75 years and cost as much as $37 billion to close and clean up the contaminated 175-acre facility.

Various contractors had little success and by 1995, DOE acknowledged that a different tack was needed. Rather than continuing with the bureaucracy’s normal transaction-based project procedures, DOE sought a collaborative, innovative performance-based contract and governance structure that would drastically reduce the time and the cost of the cleanup/closure project.

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Fracking Hits Property Values

| Monday August 26th, 2013 | 1 Comment

marcellus_shale_gaswellWhy is the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, method of drilling for natural gas and oil seemingly exempt from unintended consequences such as soil, water and air pollution, water waste and earthquakes, among other really bad things?

No need to answer that, but here’s another alarming outcome of fracking that could hit close to home, especially if your home is in Bradford County, PA, where 93 percent of the acreage is under lease to a gas company.

Nearly 63,000 residents there live above the Marcellus Shale and the fracking phenomenon is creating a new world of murky uncertainties around home lending, refinancing and the real estate market in general.

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Kroger Converts Food Waste into Renewable Energy

| Thursday August 15th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Resource Recovery ProjectWhen a company produces 150 tons of food waste every day that is either a huge problem or a great opportunity to innovate and produce energy.

Kroger’s food divisions, Ralphs and Food 4 Less, opted for the latter. Recently the food would get trucked to a distribution center in Compton, CA, where it was combined and sent to a composter 100 miles away. But now Kroger’s food waste, which was a cost in terms of lost revenue, disposal fees and emissions, is providing cheap, clean energy for the distribution center.

Ralphs and Food 4 Less installed an “anaerobic digestion” system designed by Feed Resource Recovery at the DC: it takes in the food and puts out biogas, providing power for the campus where the center is located. “Anything that can’t be sold or donated comes into the system,” said Kendra Doyel, a spokesperson for Ralphs and Food 4 Less, who was quoted in a GreenBiz article.

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Coalition Tries to Block Huge Tar Sands Development in Utah

| Tuesday August 6th, 2013 | 0 Comments

tar sand miningThe fate of tar sands development could shift to a potentially precedent-setting legal battle in Utah.

A coalition of conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and others, have filed a 253-page “request for agency action” urging the Utah Department of Air Quality to revoke its June 21 approval of a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah. The refinery is planned by the Calgary-based U.S. Tar Sands.

Assuming the agency refuses to revoke the permit, the next step would be legal action in various courts. The group’s challenge is based on UDAQ’s approval of the plant over several alleged violations of the Utah Air Conservation Act. The challenge was submitted to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and will be heard by an administrative law judge, and potentially, the Utah Supreme Court.

In addition to condemning the UDAQ decision, the coalition contends that the introduction of oil shale mining and refining would adversely affect the region’s air quality along with the fragile Colorado River Basin Green River Formation ecosystem. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil in the Green River Formation “have a high potential for development,” which is 2-7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

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The False Promise of Fracking

| Monday August 5th, 2013 | 0 Comments

snake-oil-front-coverRichard Heinberg and the Post Carbon Institute are on a mission to debunk the benefits of the hydraulic fracturing method of gas and oil extraction, or fracking, which many contend outweigh its disadvantages.

In his latest book, SNAKE OIL: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future, Heinberg—journalist, author and senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute—says the “false hype” surrounding shale gas and oil production “has hijacked America’s energy conversation.”

Heinberg says his research shows that “rather than offering the nation a century of cheap energy and economic prosperity, fracking may well present us with a short-term bubble that comes with exceedingly high economic and environmental costs.”

Heinberg continues, “Horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas pose a danger not just to local water and air quality, but also to sound energy policy, and therefore to our collective ability to avert the greatest human-made economic and environmental catastrophe in history.”

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Mars Raises the Bar in CSR

| Thursday August 1st, 2013 | 0 Comments

Ed note: Mars CSO Barry Parkin recently participated in a Twitter chat hosted by 3p and CSRWire to talk about its approach to sustainability. If you missed it, you can read the summary here

PIA pic Final_edited-2[1]Mars, Incorporated is putting its CSR principles where its mouth is – through an aggressive five-pronged strategy to accomplish an ambitious agenda that’s based on quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.

It’s probably a safe bet that unwrapping a Milky Way bar does not lead immediately to thoughts of a company’s commitment to freedom, for example, but that’s an essential element of the private, family-owned business’s mindset.

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You Too Can Live on McDonald’s Wages – With Two Jobs and No Heat

| Friday July 19th, 2013 | 0 Comments

mcdonalds_downey_McDonald’s should just stick to slinging cheap burgers and fries and abstain from budget recommendations for its workers.

A story from ThinkProgress reports McDonald’s and Visa in have launched a website that purports to advise its low-wage workers — they average $8.25 per hour — with some handy tips on how to live, you guessed it, on $8.25 an hour. It’s called the Practical Money Skills Budget Journal, or as they explain, “a great first step toward taking control of your money.”

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Nature’s Fortune: The Case for Investing in Nature

| Tuesday July 16th, 2013 | 0 Comments

natures-fortune-490x250We know that corporate responsibility is ethically correct, but is the jury still out on CSR as the correct business move?

In his new book, Nature’s Fortune, Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, makes a strong and impassioned case that business and environmental interests can and must align for everyone’s long-term benefit. And that includes the planet. New win-win alignments may be closer to reality than many might realize.

Tercek wrote the book, published by Basic Books, with the science writer and conservation biologist Jonathan Adams. His premise is that business and society can thrive by investing in nature through new alliances that “will enable us to conserve nature on a scale never before achieved.”

A new valuation of nature is needed, which Tercek calls natural capital or placing a value on nature as an asset. This is not a Pollyanna thought: He brings a plateful of credibility to that idea, because prior to joining TNC in 2008, he was a managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs. At Goldman he was named by then-CEO Henry M. Paulson to build and lead the firm’s first environmental efforts, not necessarily in the name of CSR, but from a “pure business standpoint.”

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PNW Ports Set Ambitious Clean Air Goals

| Friday July 12th, 2013 | 0 Comments

NWports_cleanairThe Pacific Northwest ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, BC updated their clean air strategy by setting goals to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions by 75 percent per ton of cargo by 2015, rising to 80 percent by 2020.

Relative to 2005 baseline, the ports’ goal is also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per ton of cargo by 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020.

Combined with projected cargo growth in the region—which may be optimistic on the ports’ part— the draft 2013 Update is forecasting overall emission reductions of 70 percent by 2015 and 75 percent by 2020.

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Los Angeles Goes All In on Rooftop Solar Panels

| Wednesday July 10th, 2013 | 4 Comments

first-project_CleanLA SolarDon’t think it’s possible to provide clean and renewable energy that creates jobs and fuels private investment? Think again and then check out CLEAN LA Solar.

A program developed and supported by the Los Angeles Business Council, a coalition of environmental, business, health and research organizations, and the CLEAN LA Coalition, it’s the largest urban rooftop solar program in the nation. Its five-year goal is to power more than 34,000 homes while creating some 4,500 construction, installation, design engineering, maintenance and administrative jobs in Los Angeles.

CLEAN LA Solar allows businesses and commercial property-owners to generate energy for the city’s power grid through rooftop solar panels, and then sell the power to the Department of Water and Power (DWP). This policy is known as a feed-in-tariff (FiT), and is a great way to promote clean, solar energy.

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Environmental Justice and the Structure of Human Rights

| Monday July 8th, 2013 | 0 Comments

infrastructure_thevaluewebphotoglleryIn a very basic way, Environmental Justice is about the intersection of human rights, infrastructure and how people–rich and poor, living in rich or developing countries–equitably and sustainably access the resources and things they need to survive and prosper. Robert Bullard, an environmental sociologist and Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is passionate about the human side of Environmental Justice and “unequal” environmental protection.

“Environmental Justice embraces the principle that people and communities are entitled to equal protection of our environment, health, employment, education, housing, transportation and civil rights laws….Environmental Justice brings it all together under one tent.”

The Environmental Justice movement has grown both in public awareness, attitudes and action since the signing of Executive Order 12898 in 1994. Progress has been made, but is it a success? President Clinton’s order was 20 years ago, and the question remains whether EJ today is more than a finger in the dyke in the face of forces such as the House of Representatives members who would like to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, or countries and companies bent on the privatization of water. Many programs to improve communities focus on small issues like bike paths, parks and sidewalks, but we still plan to send hundreds of coal export trains through low income communities and site landfills in them.

A major question facing people who live on the “other side of the tracks” — places where landfills, water treatment plants, chemical plants and refineries tend to be located — is if the Environmental Justice movement is real and effective. The results are mixed, because as Bullard says, “there is always the other side of the tracks” for the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the homeless and those without access to cars or to transit systems. Poor communities wind up with a “disproportionate share of the bad stuff and a shortage of libraries, sidewalks, parks and greenspace.”

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New York City Tackles the Perils of Climate Change

| Monday June 24th, 2013 | 2 Comments

Hurricane Sandy Flooding Avenue C at East 6th StreetNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s warning and major initiative about the impact of climate change on the city might seem like something out of a “hard” science fiction novel, for instance Flood by Stephen Baxter.

Only it’s not fiction.

“I strongly believe we have to prepare for what scientists say is a likely scenario,” Bloomberg said at a press briefing last week at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

He cited the perils of climate change and the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in his call for a $19.5 billion initiative that would include new coastal protections and zoning codes for the city as well as new standards for telecommunications and for providing fuel.

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