Monday, April 27, 2009

Stimulus Money Puts Shovels In The Ground for the Environment

The recent stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by the President included money to aid existing Superfund cleanups, especially orphan sites, to the tune of $600M. This NY Times article discusses the situation by highlighting an orphan site in NJ.

Congress and the President intend to reinstate the defunct Superfund tax. Money from the tax would advance EPA's other missions of finding polluters, holding polluters accountable for their actions, and cleaning up sites. It will help relieve the financial burden from the taxpayers.

Regardless of the fate of the Superfund tax, it's good to see stimulus money putting shovels in the ground for the good of everyone.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Five Beginners’ Steps to a Greener Home

RECENT search for “green home” pulled up more than 15,000 book titles. Who has time to read them all? So this week, The Green Home tracked down Eric Corey Freed, the author of “Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies,” and asked him to distill this growing cottage industry of green advice into five must-do steps.

What’s the first and most important thing every green-minded dweller should do? Look at all the vampire loads that are sucking energy even when you’re not using them.

You mean like the toaster with a digital clock and the cellphone charger?
Yes. Anything with a ready light. Collectively, vampire loads cost Americans about $3 billion a year. The biggest culprits are stereos, DVRs, game systems and plasma TVs. Simply unplug them when they’re not in use. Or purchase smart power strips, which cost about $25 and shut off automatically.
What’s the second step for making our homes greener?
Take an empty two-liter soda bottle, wash it out, fill it with water, screw the lid on tightly and set it into your toilet tank, as far away from the flapper valve as possible. This prevents two liters of water from being used every time you flush.

Your third recommendation?

Install an ultra-low-flow shower head. A 1992 federal law requires all shower heads to be “low flow,” which means 2.5 gallons shoot out every minute it’s on. Switching to ultra-low-flow means you could go anywhere from two gallons all the way down to half a gallon a minute.

What’s No. 4?
Install a gray-water system that collects soapy water and diverts it to the toilet. Instead of clean water, you flush with soapy water. WaterSaver Technologies ( makes AQUS, a $300 system that installs under the sink.

What’s the final step people should take?
This is probably the most important: replace old thermostats with a programmable one. It’s kind of like a TiVo of thermostats. It lets you turn the heat down when you sleep and back up before you wake. It can also tell the difference between Monday and Friday, so you can turn down the heat while you’re at work. A good one costs about $20, and saves about $180 a year on energy bills.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

EPA moving toward regulation of greenhouse gases

Agency will decide if emissions blamed for global warming are a danger to human health and welfare.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson says the agency is moving toward regulating the gases blamed for global warming.In an interview on Tuesday with the Associated Press, Jackson said the agency would decide whether greenhouse gases are a danger to human health and welfare, the legal trigger for regulation under federal law.

Jackson said the EPA owes the American people an opinion. "We are going to be making a fairly significant finding about what these gases mean for public health and the welfare of our country," Jackson said.Recent EPA decisions have hinted that the agency was leaning toward using the Clean Air Act to regulate the gases, a step the Bush administration refused to take despite prodding from the Supreme Court.Jackson took a different position Tuesday during one of her first interviews since winning Senate confirmation Jan. 23."

It is clear that the Clean Air Act has a mechanism in it for other pollutants to be addressed," she said."If EPA is going to talk and speak in this game, the first thing it should speak about is whether carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare," she said. "It is a very fundamental question."Jackson, a Princeton University-educated chemical engineer, headed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from 2006 until 2008.

Click here for the full LA Times article.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Southern California Edison Signs Solar Power Contract

Edison International's (EIX) Southern California Edison unit, the largest electric utility in California and a major U.S. purchaser of solar energy power, has contracted with privately-held BrightSource Energy for 1,300 megawatts of solar power, or enough to serve nearly 845,000 homes.

The first of the solar power plants could be operating within four years, said the utility, which serves a population of more than 13 million, signed two contracts on Tuesday for almost 2,000 gigawatt-hours of wind power. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The deal comes as the solar-power industry has become increasingly pessimistic about the sector's short-term future, with many in the industry cutting production or lowering their outlook to reflect lower demand. Clean energy's momentum is also being stalled by the financial meltdown and lower oil and gas prices. Still, longer term the companies are expected to profit as governments seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, demand for solar power in California is soaring despite the economic downturn, according to a report state regulators issued in late January. California homeowners, businesses and local government agencies installed 158 megawatts of solar panels in 2008, double the amount installed the previous year, the California Public Utilities Commission said.

Click here for the full CNN article.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced an $825 billion stimulus package that includes more than $14 billion for water- and environment-related programs, along with $32 billion for the development of a smart power grid and more than $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy projects. In the water and environment area, $6 billion would go to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), $2 billion to the Drinking Water SRF, $4.5 billion for Army Corps of Engineers civil-works projects, $500 million for Bureau of Reclamation drinking-water projects, $224 million for the International Boundary and Water Commission’s water projects, $800 million for the federal Superfund program, and $300 million for the federal underground storage tank cleanup and brownfields cleanup programs.

According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the bill is just a first step in Congress’s development of a comprehensive economic stimulus package and is likely to go through several changes as the relevant House committees review it— to say nothing of the likely differences between the House’s final legislation and any forthcoming Senate package. The House Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce committees are scheduled to vote on their portions of the package this week. Pelosi said that a floor vote will take place next week.

Article from EBJ's Weekly News Update.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Solar A Net Environmental Loss?

A growing concern in the solar energy market, specifically, and the green market, generally, is the fact that much of the manufacture, distribution, and disposal of solar photovoltaic cells causes environmental damage. It is argued that the manufacture and distribution of solar panels use more energy than the panels save in their lifetimes.

In addition, silicon is a hazardous material and many of the discarded panels could end up in landfills (whether at the end of their useful lives or when materials are replaced with upgrades). In this LA Times article, Solar energy's darker side stirs concern, many of these newly-realized concerns are explored.

When you're purchasing solar panels, take care to look for companies (like Tempe, Arizona's First Solar) who offer cradle to grave handling of panels or research the emerging market of 'organic' solar cells. Curbing greenhouse gas emissions through use of alternative energy is not the only reason to think and act green - there is the factor of environmental cost throughout a product's lifecycle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sustainable Development Practices Provide Meaningful Benefits to Developers and Local Communities in Challenging Economic Times

With ongoing economic uncertainty and a lagging real estate market, Brownfield redevelopment is just the latest example of a sustainable development practice that is showing measurable benefits for both local communities and developers.

Virtually every major city within the United States, today, is burdened by abandoned manufacturing facilities and industrial sites that are impacted by known or perceived environmental contamination, known as Brownfields. Historically, the contamination of existing buildings and surrounding lands has spawned environmental concerns, discouraging many developers from taking on Brownfield redevelopment. The cleanup and development of contaminated lands is further complicated by costly and strict environmental oversight.
However, thanks to current economic development and regulatory incentives to support sustainable development, Brownfield redevelopment activity is helping reduce urban decay and reignite growth and investment in local communities throughout the United States. In addition, with a new Administration on the horizon, the environmental movement and a trend towards sustainable development practices could soon dominate community development strategies at both federal and state levels.

"Brownfield redevelopment will undoubtedly be a hot button issue in 2009, particularly with respect to government incentives for sustainable development endeavors," said Robert Fabricant, Chair of Akerman's Environment and Natural Resources practice group and former General Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "This could be a win-win situation for both communities and developers in an otherwise challenging economic time."
Federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce have partnered in the mission to lead the federal economic development agenda by encouraging Brownfield redevelopment projects that enhance job creation and overall community revitalization. These collaborative efforts have led to innovative government incentives, including an environmental remediation tax incentive that was signed into law in October of this year and $1.5 million of funding for Brownfield Training, Research, and Technical Assistance Grants. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has also encouraged developers to utilize Brownfields in order to help achieve the coveted USGBC LEED certification.

Akerman was instrumental earlier this year in passing Florida legislation addressing Brownfield and voluntary cleanup tax credit issues that offer a range of economic, environmental, and public health benefits to communities in which Brownfields and contaminated sites are located.
"The new bill provides important incentives and tools to encourage the voluntary cleanup and restoration of Brownfields and contaminated sites throughout Florida and bring a range of added benefits to local communities," said Jason Lichtstein, Akerman Shareholder and recently elected President-Elect of the Florida Brownfields Association. "We are very pleased about this legislation and excited about what these enhancements will do for Florida's Brownfields program and growing the program in the future."

Recent Akerman Brownfield work also includes a California project where Akerman attorneys assisted a national developer with its proposal to acquire and construct a regional shopping center on a portion of a formerly hazardous waste landfill. In Florida, Akerman assisted a client with the development of a hotel that now sits on a former Brownfield site. And in New York, Akerman is currently helping to redevelop a Brownfield, located along the Hudson River, as the site for a hotel and conference center that is expected to meet the standards for USGBC LEED Gold certification.

Click here to view the full PR Newswire article.