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Regional Roundtable Review – Day 2, October 28

November 16, 2015

Bill Dunbar, policy advisor to the Region 10 EPA Administrator (and former President of the PPRC Board of Directors), delivered a compelling introduction for the morning’s keynote speaker, Bob Perciasepe.

In his address, Perciasepe – former Deputy Administrator of U.S. EPA, appointed by President Obama, and now President and CEO of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – zoomed out to contextualize the success of the concept of pollution prevention over the last 25 years. “In the sixties and seventies,” Perciasepe said, “we were in crisis mode. Los Angeles’ air was not too dissimilar from the pictures we see of Beijing today, smog blotting out the sun … Through the years we have moved from an approach of ‘plug the leaks’ to one of ‘change the chemical.’ And we’re learning how to do better at this.”

Perciasepe described how the P2 approach, which is always moving farther upstream, can be effectively applied to five critical issues today: greenhouse gases, urban water pollution, low-level ozone, e-waste, and food waste. As an example of the ever-growing e-waste issue, Perciasepe mentioned that there are currently almost as many cell phones on our planet as people. By manufacturing phones to be recycled more easily, Perciasepe said, “We could save a lot of waste.” He then outlined the five institutions best poised to implement P2 solutions: states, cities, businesses, universities, and professional sports. He called out a few stellar examples of each. In addition to the Mariners, the Philadelphia Eagles now generate many more times the power needed to run their stadium and are selling electricity back to the grid. “We need to keep pushing,” Perciasepe said of P2 efforts to move further upstream. “And we need to improve the connective tissue between different institutions.”

 

PPRC’s Executive Director, Paula Del Giudice, gave an “Update of PPRC’s Work” over the past year. Here are some choice highlights:

  • PPRC helped Solarize programs in Bellevue and Kirkland achieve 29 and 31 contracts respectively. These programs are ongoing and still adding contracts.
  • Added three new cities to the Greening Sports Directory, which now includes over 1,000 individual contacts available for sports facilities trying to green any aspect of their operations.
  • Produced a Craft Brew Topic Hub, detailing the common sustainability issues and solutions faced by the hundreds of craft brewers around the Northwest.
  • EcoBiz added 14 new certified businesses.
  • Toxics Spray Efficiency trainings saved businesses about $643,400 in material and labor costs.
  • Auto Safer Alternatives program produced five factsheets on different ways auto shops can use safer alternatives. Over 2,000 factsheets were distributed to over 400 auto repair shops state wide.

 

Darryl Williams, of the Tulalip Tribe and Qualco Energy Bio-Gas Project, gave a fantastic presentation that demonstrated the infinite possibilities of symbiotic partnerships. The project is a partnership between Tulalip Tribes, Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, the WA State Dairy Association, and Northwest Chinook Recovery. As Williams said, the program represents  unprecedented cooperation between Tulalip tribes and dairy farms. “Usually we sit across from one another in court,” Williams joked, referring to historical conflicts over water quality and land. The project uses an anaerobic digester to turn waste into energy and biosolids that can be used as compost. The compost, which offers more readily available nutrients than fertilizers, replaces the application of raw manure that was harmful to water quality and salmon runs. In the project’s first year, participating farms saved $250,000 dollars on fertilizer costs.

The bio-digester accepts almost everything: thousands of gallons of manure per day; fats, food, and fish waste, even waste alcohol and soda. The facility currently generates enough electricity to power the facility and sell electricity back to Puget Sound Energy. The project also turns a profit by receiving tipping fees for the waste it usefully disposes. Williams talked openly about a number of ways that the facility could be improved. It currently flares, or burns, most of the methane produced because it has no way to capture this gas. Williams said that they are looking to add digester capacity, generator capacity, and more farms.

 

Clayton Brown described the ways Clean Water Services is working in Oregon to reduce the negative impacts of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) while producing energy. Brown began by noting that wastewater treatment plants are often one of the largest energy users in any given municipality. These facilities have huge opportunities to reduce their energy footprints. In Tigard, at the Durham Wastewater Treatement Facility, a new bio-digester facility provides 60 percent (or 13 million kWh/yr) of the energy used at the plant. In Gresham, a new digester helped that wastewater treatment facility become completely energy independent.

Using fats, oils, and grease (FOG) to power bio-digesters is a double-win for a wastewater facility. Here’s why: Wastewater facilities spend a lot of money on treating the grease that flows into their laps. The Durham facility spends about $3.8 million dealing with grease, not including the resources spent cleaning lines at local problem points. Conveniently, Brown said, FOG is the most efficient waste for making biogas, in terms of the amount of energy produced per pound. Fats burn hot. Using fat waste from food services to power a wastewater treatment plant is an elegant and economical solution. “Using FOG is a game changer,” Brown said. Using FOG will help the Durham plant increase its energy production, receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in tipping fees (from pumpers who get paid to accept FOG from restaurants), and significantly reduce cleaning and treatment costs.

 

At lunch, Green Chemistry guru Ken Geiser, laid down a blueprint to creating a world where we don’t use harmful chemicals. Drawing from his critically acclaimed new book, Chemicals Without Harm, Geiser described the strengths and weaknesses of different drivers toward safer chemicals. Consumers are calling for changes. States are making them. Businesses are making them. “There are many safer chemical policies moving … however they are fragmented and not scaled to meet the chemical problem,” Geiser said. “They need to be woven together into a broader Safer Chemicals Strategy.” The strategy should follow critical principles. It needs to be comprehensive, transparent, participatory, hazard-based, transformative, and innovative. Geiser then explained six building blocks for a safer chemicals policy. We need to: set national goals and plans, characterize and classify all chemicals, generate and make accessible chemical information, accelerate substitution with safer alternatives, create safer alternatives, and reconstruct government capacity. For concrete and inspiring details about any of these building blocks, you’ll need to read the book. If you would like your own copy, email pdelgiudice@pprc.org and she can put one in your hands.

 

Christopher James, with the Regulatory Assistance Project, dissected the P2 implications of the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP). James explained how the plan gives the power to the states to encourage flexibility and efficiency in the ways that states meet emissions goals. James emphasized the opportunity for improved energy efficiency. “Energy efficiency is pollution prevention,” James said, “and improves the cost-effectiveness of states’ CPPs.” But, James reminded us, energy efficiency changes alone likely won’t get states to their goals. States will need to take advantage of the flexible trading rules that the power plan allows. James also suggested that utilities and states plan for future regulatory trends – such as more stringent ozone and sulfur dioxide limits – by developing far-sighted and diverse resource portfolios.

Picking up where James left off, the Department of Commerce’s Tony Usibelli, director of the State Energy Office, explained the CPP’s implications for Washington State. Usibelli first put the CPP in perspective. He showed that the biggest producer of carbon in the state, by far, is transportation, emissions to which the CPP does not apply. Reducing power plant emissions will still help the state meet the CPP’s stated 2030 goal, which represents a 37 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Usibelli remarked that the new power plan has yet to determine whether reductions will be measured based on rate or mass. Based on rates, the state would need to reduce carbon emissions to 983 pounds per MW/hr of electricity produced. Based on total mass, the state would need to reduce the production of carbon to 10,739,172 tons of CO2 by 2030.

Regardless of how these reductions are measured, the three big components of the state’s compliance plan will need to be: First, to fully retire the Centralia coal power plant by 2025; second, to have utilities make all possible cost-effective electricity efficiency changes; and last, to bring online 15 percent “new” renewable energy by 2020.

Usibelli closed by describing how the CPP rule may dovetail with the state’s stricter Clean Air Rule proposal, which is also in planning stages. The current state-proposed rule, based on Cap and Trade principles, will apply to facilities that produce over 100,000 tons CO2 (or equivalent greenhouse gases), a number that includes power plants as well as the state’s larger waste facilities, factories, and petroleum producers. Usibelli reinforced James’ closing thoughts by suggesting that, regardless of the specific forms the national and state laws take, larger facilities need to take action and plan based on regulatory trends. Facilities that plan to prevent pollution and minimize risk will have a competitive advantage over those that wait and react.

 

Margaret McCauley, environmental engineer with the EPA Region 10, gave an insightful regulatory perspective on the federal “No Exposure” form that businesses can use to be excluded from national NPDES requirements. The form exists to keep businesses mindful of stormwater discharges as well as reduce the regulatory burdens on both facilities and government agencies. Administering this form is not easy for regulators. The form’s vague language leaves a lot open for interpretation and inconsistency in the ways sites are inspected. McCauley suggested that the EPA can maximize resources by targeting certain sectors, operations, and high risk pollutants. Facilities could also be assisted by using clear picture guides that supplement FAQs (by showing clear examples of proper and improper outdoor storage). The goal is to try to have operators view their facilities in the same way that inspectors do, with a critical eye and a focus on improvement.

Facilities can benefit by focusing on three common problems: material storage; material transfer; and process equipment. McCauley closed by providing dozens of specific best management practices facilities can use to solve the above problems. For example, treated lumber of any kind needs to be covered. “The metals and chemicals in treated lumber make it a high risk source of pollutants.”

 

Lisa Rozmyn, with the Washington Stormwater Center, provided a succinct overview of the problems with, and potential solutions to, stormwater. Complicating the problem from the start, stormwater has many regulatory designations, such as: industrial, construction, boatyard, sand and gravel mines, and municipal. Thankfully, the best management strategies for all of these designations are very similar. “Stormwater is a problem for two reasons,” Rozymn said, “Quality and quantity.” It contains nasty pollutants, harmful to any ecosystem and human health. And heavy loads of stormwater cause erosion, which can mean further water quality degradation and expensive infrastructure problems. Rozymn emphasized source control as the most ideal solution for any designation of stormwater. For example, municipalities and businesses can prevent metal runoff by eliminating galvanized surfaces.

In addition to providing a number of useful Best Management Practices, Rozymn put the problem of stormwater in historical context. Traditionally, we have managed stormwater by moving it, she said, or by “getting it outta here!” Low Impact Development (LID) offers another way. The goal is to construct our urban landscapes to behave like natural ones so that they filter and recharge water supplies. LID also helps the quantity problem. It controls and treats water near the source so flows don’t concentrate to unmanageable levels. LID solutions – like raingardens, bioswales, and green roofs – are getting better as we figure out how to best construct and manage them. The Washington Stormwater Center is pioneering research into the solutions that work best. The Technology Assessment Protocol – Ecology (TAPE) program offers a process for evaluating and approving emerging stormwater treatment BMPs and technologies.

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