Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Idaho Transportation Department Agrees To EPA Settlement Following Asbestos Mishandling

In April 2013, according to recent reports, Idaho Transportation Department hired St. Anthony Idaho Work Camp (Idaho Department of Correction) inmates for a project to renovate an ITD Maintenance Shop in Rigby, ID. The renovation work included the removal of approximately 460 square feet of old floor tiles and underlying mastic. Upon receiving complaints from a worker and supervisor at the job site, the EPA launched an investigation into the removal project.

During their investigation, the EPA discovered that the tile floor had been contaminated with asbestos-containing material which was then placed in a trash dumpster, a violation of asbestos waste disposal regulations. Further, the waste was then removed by a private hauler to a landfill site that did not have approval to receive asbestos contaminated material.  The ITD produced documents stating an asbestos survey for the building had last been performed in July 1989. The test was negative for asbestos but was limited to a single sampling.  Proper industry standards require the collection of multiple samples in order to test for asbestos.  The ITD had based their renovation on an over 30 year old survey which turned out to be useless in terms of giving an accurate indication of the presence of asbestos, thereby unnecessarily exposing workers to the hazardous materials.

The workers and supervisors hired by the ITD were untrained in the proper methods of handling and disposing of asbestos-contaminated materials and were left at risk for potential health hazards as a result of the work completed.

The ITD has since agreed to a settlement with the EPA which includes a $55,800 penalty for alleged violations of federal asbestos regulations. In accordance with the agreement and consent to its terms, ITD neither admits nor denies the allegations described by the EPA.

How can you help with these problems? Report incidences of hazardous materials, such as asbestos and mold, to your local or state environmental or health department. 

Read EPA's full release here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/ab2d81eb088f4a7e85257359003f5339/c35b5cc3887722a485257d10005b0026!OpenDocument


GreenEDU offers a variety of online and in-person Asbestos Certification courses to increase your awareness of these toxic materials or become certified to remove them.

EPA's Battle of the Buildings

For the past four years, the EPA has hosted the Battle of the Buildings, a nationwide competition that challenges participants to come up with innovative ways of conserving energy and water. The theme of this year's Battle of the Buildings is the "Team Challenge." Teams consist of five or more buildings who collectively work together to save energy and money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing environmental protection. With over 5,500 buildings making up 112 teams, this year's competition is one of the biggest yet and promisingly one of the biggest reductions in energy consumption as well.
Battle of the Buildings, LEED
Source: energystar.gov

Yearly, commercial buildings face over $100 billion in utility bills. Additionally, commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for nearly 20 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions per year. Last year's competition saw an approximate 20 percent reduction in energy use in a majority of the buildings who participated in the competition.  That resulted in an approximate $20 billion collectively saved from the more energy efficient building designs and operations.

Buildings of the competition will track their monthly energy consumption through the EPA's online energy measurement and tracking tool: Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The teams must work together to optimize and upgrade their buildings' equipment, lighting, and their occupants' energy consumption habits. It is not simply an effort on the part of the building owners' but an overall effort on the part of the occupants who can help reduce energy consumption by developing smarter habits when it comes to their individual energy use.

What does it take to win the competition, you ask? At the end of the 12-month performance the team that has reduced their buildings' average energy consumption the most based on percentages will be declared the winner. Apart from the team competition, there are over 700 individual buildings who are in competition to reduce their water consumption during the same time period. These buildings are utilizing the EPA's WaterSense program to learn and implement new practices for water management.

Want to learn more about the competition, see who's leading the way in energy efficiency, or learn how to get involved with next year's competition? Visit ENERGY STAR's website for more information! Mid-competition results will be posted in October and the winner will be announced in April.

Read EPA's full release on the competition here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/f0d7b5b28db5b04985257359003f533b/72bd4a635997fc4785257d11005ca23b!OpenDocument

What is LEED?
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system. Created by the United States Green Building Council, LEED provides a point system for green buildings and their construction, awarding points for 5 main areas: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Buildings can then be awarded levels of certification--Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The more points a building gets, the higher their level of certification.

Interested in getting your building LEED certified? Visit GreenEdu for a full lineup of accredited courses.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Supreme Court Rules on EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In the Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA case, the Supreme Court came to a final ruling in June which resulted, mostly, in a win for the EPA.  The high court ruled that the EPA could require greenhouse gas emission control on larger companies such as power plants and other extensive pollution-causing companies of similar size. However, they ruled against the emission control over smaller offenders of greenhouse gas emissions. The Court was critical of the EPA's attempt to rewrite the provisions outlined in the Clean Air Act.

According to Justice Antonin Scalia, the EPA "sought to regulate sources that it said were responsible for 86 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources nationwide." With the Supreme Court's amendments, it is by their calculations that 83 percent of those emissions will still be able to be regulated by the EPA. Though this decision does limit the EPA's ability to heavily regulate greenhouse gas emissions, it still offers plenty of viable options available within the EPA's arsenal of command without giving them the power to have regulatory control over millions of smaller entities. Under the scope of the Clean Air Act's provisions, the EPA still maintains the ability to set emissions standards to desirable levels without giving the EPA permission to require permits based on greenhouse gas emissions alone.

Although it was not an overall victory, the EPA still considered it "a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution because it allows EPA, states, and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources.”  In addition, industry groups made requests for the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling of the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA. The 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA court case brought suit against the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants.  Had the Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts and the other states involved, this would have removed the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Supreme Court denied the reconsideration of their ruling, which in turn resulted in another small victory for the EPA by reinstating the Court's support of EPA jurisdiction over greenhouse gas emissions.

For further discussion regarding the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions visit http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/supreme-court-sides-against-epa-carbon.  

Details on the case are available at http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/utility-air-regulatory-group-v-environmental-protection-agency/


Also, be sure to check out Green Education Services for a multitude of courses to learn more about sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Green Buildings on the Rise in Commercial Market

In recent years, there has been a collective push towards a greener, more sustainable style of living. New products have been created promoting the "Go Green" mindset, new modes of transportation have been designed in the hope of reducing our carbon footprint, and surprisingly this trend has even spread to the commercial property market.  In 2010, a report lead by Nils Kok suggested that the push towards sustainable building would be slow across the commercial property sector. Four years later, he has revisited the topic due to the many changes that abounded in the intermittent years, looking at data provided by USGBC and the EPA.

Kok's new research has found that the desire for energy efficiency and sustainability in the real estate market has not slowed down. In fact, it was found the push towards LEED design to be of an even greater significance in recent years and that it shows no signs of stopping.

According to the new research, more than 10 percent of the real estate and commercial property market has adopted ENERGY STAR for office buildings, and the proportion of LEED certified buildings in the commercial sector has increased from 0.5 percent in 2005 to 5 percent in 2014.  This sizable increase is exceptionally surprising for the property market as it tends to be both slow moving and cautious to drastic change. Click here to read more about the new report's findings regarding the movement towards energy efficiency and sustainability.

Based on this data, this is just the beginning of what is to come from the push for better, greener buildings.  With the changes seen in just a decade, it will be interesting to see what further innovations will be made in the near future in order to continue improving and expanding upon energy efficient design and building.


What is LEED?
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system. Created by the United States Green Building Council, LEED provides a point system for green buildings and their construction, awarding points for 6 main areas: Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Buildings are then awarded levels of certification--Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The more points a building gets, the higher their level of certification.


Don't fall behind in this growing field of energy efficiency and sustainability in the real estate sector! Become a LEED Certified Professional today from a tried and trusted trainer like Green Education Services. Still not sure what it means to be LEED certified? Read more about it here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GBI Announces Green Globes for Sustainable Interiors (SI)

Green Building Initiative (GBI) recently announced the launch of Green Globes for Sustainable Interiors (Green Globes SI), designed for commercial and institutional interior fit-outs and remodels. Projects can now pursue the Green Globes certification for individual spaces and leases, without the entire building having to go through the system criteria.

In addition to the entire building not needing to be certified for Green Globes, the initiative also promotes a substantial amount of additional benefits for business owners.  These benefits include allowing users to pick and choose the strategies that best apply to each project in order to meet the mandated point minimums, covering emissions, energy, IEQ, materials, project management, and water. In addition, a minimum number of weighted criteria must be met in the energy efficiency, indoor environmental, and material choices and resource consumption sectors of the assessment areas. This departure from the standard Green Globes assessment of having to meet all seven criteria allows for a great deal of flexibility for building owners.

According to GBI president Jerry Yudelson GBI's press release, “One of the aspects that makes Green Globes for Sustainable Interiors so versatile–and practical–is that it enables tenants to certify the specific environmental and sustainability attributes of the space they lease. Other certifications include aspects of the entire building and surroundings, and as a result tenant improvements can be penalized for conditions they do not control.”

By doing this, Green Globes SI allows building owners to use their initiative to their benefit without having to accommodate unnecessary standards.  In order to meet the standards, Green Globes SI will use a third-party assessor to review building characteristics and documentation that is provided by the building owner. This third-party assessor will need to document a full report as well as be available for online or telephone support with the building owner during the certification process to answer any questions that may arise.

Upon submission of the report and achievement of the necessary criteria, the company will receive a final certification for the project from GBI.

For more information about the initiative, visit the GBI Green Globes' website.


What is Green Globes?
Green Globes is a green building guidance and assessment program that offers a practical and affordable way to advance the environmental performance and sustainability of a wide variety of building types. The Green Globes program includes:
  • A comprehensive environmental assessment protocol
  • Software tools that speed and simplify online assessment
  • Best practices guidance for green construction and operations
  • Third-party assessors with green building expertise
  • A rating/certification system
Green Education Services has a full line up of courses specializing in Energy Efficiency Training as well as LEED Certification, a competing green building rating system.

Obama's Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution

A recent New York Times article discusses President Obama's new plan to fight climate change, which will rely on the individual states to select initiatives and standards to help meet national goals for cutting carbon pollution. This strategy is reminiscent of Obama's health care plan strategy which was met with opposition and questionable results.

The new plan aims to reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This bold goal is being presented with a plan that allows maximum freedom based on state's regulations and individual needs. In doing this, states are able to adjust plans accordingly in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Coal-fired power plants, the county's largest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions, are a main target of the new proposal.

The EPA understands that states have their own individual needs based on the type of energy sources they use, and therefore wants to give them the freedom to adjust their pollution output in ways that are best suited for them. The intention of the new plan is not to set strict regulations that must be enforced but rather put the state's governments in charge of complying with the overarching goal of pollution reduction.

The EPA does have suggestions that states can put into place in order to comply with the new national rule. States can, among other actions:
  • shut down coal plants,
  • install wind and solar power and energy-efficiency technology,
  • join the California or Northeastern cap-and-trade programs, or
  • enact a state-level tax on carbon pollution.
Though many have their doubts about the effectiveness of this plan, President Obama stands by his work, calling it “a sensible, state-based plan” thereby dismissing any criticism.

Be sure to visit Green Education Services, if you are interested in learning more about energy efficient technology and training in order to help reduce your carbon footprint!