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Renewable Natural Resources Foundation

Richard Denison speaks at RNRF round table on threats to TSCA implementation

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Denison also noted that the scopes of the risk evaluations for the first ten chemicals under review exclude known releases of and exposures to the chemicals. Only one draft risk evaluation has been published to date – for Pigment Violet 29. EPA proposed a determination that the chemical poses no unreasonable risks. However, Denison noted, there was a lack of environmental hazard/exposure data, a cursory workplace exposure assessment, and illegal withholding as confidential the few data on which EPA relied. Drafts of the other nine assessments are due to be out over the next few months.

While the Lautenberg Act greatly expanded EPA authority to mandate the development and submission of chemical data, Denison observed, the EPA has not used this authority despite large data gaps identified in initial chemical reviews. Additionally, the TSCA reforms allowed the EPA to mandate testing and regulation of new chemicals deemed to have insufficient risk data. During the initial phase of TSCA reform implementation, mandated testing and regulation were increased. However, in response to industry protests, then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt dramatically scaled back those mandates.

Denison further noted that during chemical risk evaluation, workers’ health is often ignored. Rather than regulating under TSCA as required, EPA is deferring workplace risks to weak or inapplicable OSHA regulations. When workers are found to be at risk from toxic substances, voluntary and poorly-enforced company policies are assumed without evidence to substitute for regulation.

TSCA implementation is made more difficult by attacks from political leadership on the EPA and its scientists. Pruitt issued a directive barring EPA-funded scientists (but not industry scientists) from serving on EPA advisory panels, creating financial conflicts of interest. Executive orders reinstituted the cost-benefit test for new regulations – but not for repealing existing ones. Severe cuts proposed to the budget of the Office of Research and Development and the attrition of senior scientists from the EPA’s ranks have further hampered toxic substance regulation.

The Lautenberg Act reforms to TSCA were viewed optimistically in 2016 as a means to close loopholes and bring more transparency to toxic substance regulation. In the past three years since implementation, however, it has become clear that the new rules are not being implemented in a way that meaningfully protects people and the environment, especially those most vulnerable (such as workers) to exposure to toxic substances. This EPA’s implementation of the Lautenberg Act’s amendments is turning out to be weaker than it was under the original 1976 TSCA.

Read more about risks to worker’s health under TSCA in Denison’s EDF blog post here.

RNRF WELCOMES new board member Andy Miller

Andy Miller
Andy Miller has joined the RNRF Board of Directors as the American Meteorological Society’s representative.

Miller is a policy fellow with the American Meteorological Society. His main research focuses on local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, he studies cities’ motivations to take action and how they chose to organize themselves. Miller is also interested in the future of public-private partnerships, the global weather enterprise and the relationship of policy and the academic sector.

Miller joined AMS after graduating from MIT with a PhD in atmospheric science in the summer of 2017. His thesis focused on troposphere-stratosphere interactions. Born and raised in Germany, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Hamburg while working at the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology.

RNRF WELCOMES new board member Dresden Farrand

Stephen Yaeger Dresden Farrand has joined the RNRF Board of Directors as the American Water Resources Association’s representative. Farrand is the newly appointed executive vice-president of AWRA. 

Prior to joining the AWRA team, Farrand was the vice president of membership and chapter development for the Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IEC), a national trade association, where she created strong new sources of revenue and organizational growth. Her other association successes include building programs and services, increasing membership and fostering high performing teams that put members at the center of their work. 

Farrand is a certified association executive (CAE), and holds a master’s degree in public administration from University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in public policy from St. Louis University.

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's Transboundary Landscape Program described at RNRF lecture

Talley Dr. Rajan Kotru, Program Manager of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's (ICIMOD) Regional Transboundary Landscapes Program, spoke at RNRF’s lecture "Landscape-Level Sustainable Development: Transboundary Mountain Management Across the Himalayas."

ICIMOD's Transboundary Landscapes Program is the recipient of RNRF’s 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award.

At the lecture, Dr. Kotru discussed the challenges of sustainable development in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and ICIMOD's work to bridge international boundaries in a region where nearly two billion people live and work. The program provides a valuable framework for international cooperation in long-term ecological monitoring and both environmental and cultural conservation, even between countries with geopolitical sensitivities.

TalleyThe lecture was hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Dr. Kotru's presentation can be found here.

More information about the program can be found here:


Community, city, and state level action on climate change has intensified to fill the gap left by the federal government after Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. Mayors, city officials, and business leaders across the country have committed to reducing their impacts on the environment and over 400 cities have adopted the goals of the Paris Agreement.

RNRF's Fall Meeting featured presentations on climate change action at local and state levels from three major coalitions formed in the wake of the Paris withdrawal: We’re Still In, America’s Pledge, and the U.S. Climate Alliance. Speaker presentations were followed by robust discussion from representatives of over 20 private sector, federal government, and non-profit organizations. The meeting was hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

TalleyKevin Kennedy, deputy director of the U.S. Climate Initiative at World Resources Institute, introduced the America’s Pledge initiative. Kennedy’s presentation focused on details from America’s Pledge’s recent report Fulfilling America’s Pledge, which was released during the California Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018.

America’s Pledge was formed with three goals in mind: 1) to survey non-federal climate action in the U.S., particularly current actions and the potential for more action, 2) to communicate those findings to both international and domestic audiences, and 3) to catalyze further climate action by states, cities, and businesses in the near-term. Fulfilling America’s Pledge compiled emissions reduction policies and progress so far in reaching the U.S.’s Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of 26-28% in greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The report found that the U.S. is almost halfway to this target and that current commitments from the federal government and market forces could see a further decline to 17% below 2005 levels by 2025. In 2017, America’s Pledge released its Phase 1 Report outlining ten Climate Action Strategies – key priority areas that would have the most near-term impact on greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Fulfilling America’s Pledge reported that emissions could be further reduced to 21% by fully implementing those ten measures, and even broader buy-in from coalitions of cities, states, and businesses could see a reduction of up to 24% of 2005 levels by 2025.

Kennedy outlined some current strategies already being taken at the sub-federal level to reduce emissions. These include retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient, regional strategies for sequestering carbon in agricultural and forest land, carbon pricing programs, identifying and mitigating methane leaks, and accelerating the retirement of coal plants. Kennedy cautioned that, although commitments across the country have been made to reduce emissions, there will still be a tremendous amount of effort required to meet and exceed those commitments. With that in mind, he further reiterated that Fulfilling America’s Pledge seeks to encourage actors around the country to look for places where a particular state, city, or business has the potential to make a difference in their emission reductions.

TalleyShara Mohtadi, senior advisor to the president of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) described state-level greenhouse gas reduction policies in New York, and how coordination works among the states of the the U.S. Climate Alliance. The U.S. Climate Alliance is a coalition of 17 governors (3 Republican, 14 Democrat), whose mission is to keep their states on track to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. There are three criteria that states must meet to join the coalition: 1) collectively the states must meet the U.S. nationally determined contribution (NDC) of greenhouse gas emission reduction outlined in the Paris Agreement, 2) all coalition states must publicly track their progress in reducing emissions (detailed in an annual report), and 3) member states must also commit to accelerating and strengthening existing state policies meant to reduce emissions.

Once states have joined the Climate Alliance, the organization works to enhance the states’ individual capacities to research and implement climate-conscious policies. Mohtadi noted, for example, that some states only have a handful of employees working on climate policy issues, while others have 500 or more. The Climate Alliance helps aggregate the states’ resources and philanthropic funding, directing resources to states with smaller institutional capacities. Another aim of the coalition is to leverage the significant market share among all of the states to raise industry standards for greenhouse gas pollution nationwide. Climate Alliance states California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York have already started by announcing their intention to reduce their limits for hyper-polluting hydrofluorocarbon emissions than federal law requires. Similar work is underway to raise appliance standards.

TalleyElan Strait, U.S. campaigns director for World Wildlife Fund, concluded the meeting with a talk on the We’re Still In initiative. We’re Still In represents a broad, multi-sectoral coalition of American businesses, non-profit organizations, and local governments interested in staying in the Paris Climate Agreement. The coalition was initially formed for two reasons: 1) to encourage other countries to stay in the agreement by showing an international audience that Americans still care deeply about climate policy, and 2) to show other Americans that, despite federal-level rhetoric, the Paris Agreement has wide domestic, bipartisan support among the general population. We’re Still In initially aimed at only putting out a statement that various organizations and governments could sign to support global climate action. However, when large numbers organizations began signing on (now over 3,000), We’re Still In began seeking other ways to mobilize their coalition.

Strait acknowledged that without leadership at the federal level, We’re Still In and other similar campaigns and coalitions need to focus on making change at the state and local levels. The next steps for We’re Still In will be to form state-level coalitions similar to their national membership list in order to create greater coordination among state-level actors, to provide organized support in response to oil- and gas-funded groups with well-funded and established networks, and to put pressure on individual senators that are key in changing the national trend in climate action.

While strong federal leadership would provide much needed support in emissions-reducing policies and resources, there is still a great deal of work that can be done among the many thousands of non-national actors who want to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Fall Meeting proved to be an excellent opportunity for reviewing and discussing the need to build and maintain momentum for climate action at the state and local level. Coalitions such as We Are Still In, America’s Pledge, and the U.S. Climate Alliance provide research, policy support, and avenues for coordination to build domestic support for the Paris Agreement. They also demonstrate to the international community that the U.S. still takes climate issues seriously.

See the full Fall Meeting agenda here.

Download Kevin Kennedy's PowerPoint presentation here.

Other reports cited during RNRF's Fall Meeting include the IPCC 1.5° Report, the most recent New York Clean Energy Industry Report, and the Obama White House report Climate Change: The Fiscal Risks Facing the Federal Government

American Geophysical Union


On February 12, 2019, AGU announced the launch of the AGU Ethics and Equity Center (the Center). The Center aims to tackle the issues of bias, harassment, and discrimination in science by fostering safe work environments and working to ensuring that researchers, students, and institutions have access to leading practices and tools to address harassment and achieve inclusive excellence. AGU was one of the first scientific societies to recognize sexual harassment as scientific misconduct—akin to plagiarism and falsification of data—that harms the individual and the entire scientific enterprise. In addition to providing access to a wealth of professional ethics-related resources, a key unique feature of the Center is to provide access to consultation with a legal advisor, available to AGU members and members of partner organizations, their students, postdocs, and untenured faculty members experiencing harassment, bullying, discrimination, retaliation or other misconduct. This service will empower individuals to make informed decisions with confidence, educate individuals about formal and informal and internal and external remedies, promote effective communication, and offer guidance in charting a successful course forward.

The Center will be regularly updated with professional development and ethics-related resources designed to support individual scientists at all career stages, as well as information for organizations and institutional leaders that are looking to implement leading practices in ethics or equity related topics. It will also be a home for information on upcoming workshops on a variety of related topics, as well as a place where interested parties can request custom workshops tailored to their own specific needs.

Read the full press release here.

American Meteorological Society

New Minds for New Science: The Forecast for Work in Weather, Water, and Climate

As society goes through a period of rapid technological and societal change, only a small fraction of the current workforce is trained to take full advantage of machine learning, quantum computing, next generation satellites, and new sensor technologies. That same workforce, if it is to benefit society, must also master the formidable array of social skills needed to build diversity and inclusion, foster effective teamwork, and collaborate with outside groups. There is tremendous opportunity to advance weather, water, and climate science and apply the resulting information for the benefit of society in the coming decades. To meet these demands, our workforce must evolve.

However, employers face challenges in attracting sufficient talent in these developing fields, in part because students and early career scientists struggle to receive adequate training. At the same time, large numbers of government employees are expected to retire over the next ten years leaving leadership with the task to replace experience with the skill set required for decades to come. As societal demands on our community become enhanced, we must navigate a complex landscape in workforce evolution while increasing participation of women and minorities, striving to improve education at all levels and aligning incentives of career development with workforce needs.

Bringing together scientists and managers from public, private and academic institutions and from across the United States, this workshop will mark the beginning of a series of discussions on issues related to workforce in Weather, Water and Climate. The 1.5 days will focus on 3 topics:

1) How will new technologies affect society and the workforce overall?

2) How will these changes translate to the Weather, Water and Climate community?

3) How do these changes affect the knowledge, abilities and skills required to succeed in our community?

The workshop will take place on April 29-30, 2019 at the AAAS Building, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009. For more information, click here.


The U.S. Northern Plains and East Africa droughts of 2017, floods in South America, China and Bangladesh, and heatwaves in China and the Mediterranean were all made more likely by human-caused climate change, according to new research published December 10, 2018, in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS).

The seventh edition of the report, Explaining Extreme Events in 2017 from a Climate Perspective, also included analyses of ocean heat events, including intense marine heatwaves in the Tasman Sea off of Australia in 2017 and 2018 that were "virtually impossible" without human-caused climate change. Also included are analyses of Australian fires and Uruguay flooding.

This is the second year that scientists have identified extreme weather events that they said could not have happened without warming of the climate through human-induced climate change.

"These attribution studies are telling us that a warming Earth is continuing to send us new and more extreme weather events every year," said Jeff Rosenfeld, Editor in Chief of BAMS. "The message of this science is that our civilization is increasingly out of sync with our changing climate."

The report presents 17 peer-reviewed analyses of extreme weather across six continents and two oceans during 2017. It features the research of 120 scientists from 10 countries looking at both historical observations and model simulations to determine whether and by how much climate change may have influenced particular extreme events.

BAMS Special Editor Martin Hoerling, a NOAA research meteorologist, said that while the events studied in this issue spanned six continents and a calendar year, what became clear is they are intimately connected.

"These studies confirm predictions of the 1990 First IPCC report, which foresaw that radical departures from 20th century weather and climate would be happening now," Hoerling said. "Scientific evidence supports increasing confidence that human activity is driving a variety of extreme events now. These are having large economic impacts across the United States and around the world."

Read the entire press release, along with some findings from the studies, here.

American Society of Civil Engineers


U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Inspiring New STEM Professionals by Investing in Renovation of Education Spaces (INSPIRES) Act December 20, 2018. The INSPIRES Act would increase educational and career opportunities for students attending rural and remote middle and high schools, community colleges, and other education institutions by providing funds to modernize, renovate, or repair STEM facilities.

"We are continuing to see STEM job growth outpace all others, but because of a lack of resources, rural and remote schools have a harder time keeping up with the demand," said Sen. Schatz. "The federal government can do more to help local governments provide better learning environments to help students achieve their full potential. The INSPIRES Act would give schools resources to modernize their facilities and expand access to STEM education so that our students have greater opportunities to succeed."

"With our global competitors investing in STEM, it’s critical that we ensure American students have the resources they need to remain competitive," said Sen. Brown. "This bill will help empower our students to become the next generation of researchers, statisticians, and engineers."

With the STEM job market expected to continue its rapid growth, the INSPIRES Act aims to improve the quality and availability of STEM and career and technical education instruction by providing grants to rural and Native-serving local educational agencies (LEAs) and community colleges for improvements to facilities.

Organizations endorsing the INSPIRES Act include the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

Read more here.

Visit the ASCE website here.

American Society of Landscape Architects Fund


The following is a statement by ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, regarding the proposed rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to alter the definition of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act in such a way that severely threatens the quality of drinking water and community health and well-being nationwide.

The Trump administration's proposed rule redefining the term "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) within the Clean Water Act is a direct assault on the health and well-being of American communities nationwide. The proposed definition severely limits which waterways and wetlands are protected from pollutants, and could have catastrophic effects on the quality of the nation’s water, human health, the economies of communities, and the viability of wildlife populations.

ASLA supports having one clear and consistent definition of WOTUS that balances the need to have safe, healthy bodies of water with commerce and sound development practices. The proposed rule change significantly alters that balance, endangering communities and ecosystems while allowing polluters to adversely affect communities and ecosystems well beyond the boundaries of their property.

The fact is, clean water is good business and polluted water is not. A WOTUS Rule should ensure healthy drinking water, reduce adverse health consequences, bolster communities reliant on tourism and recreation, and facilitate place-making for coastal communities. This irresponsible rule change will undermine those goals. It is particularly regrettable that this rule would go into effect at a time when climate change is already wreaking havoc with fragile environments, particularly those in flood-prone areas. Increasingly frequent and intense storms will, by definition, affect the dry riverbeds and isolated wetlands that this new rule would exempt from protection. This rule would make a bad situation even worse.

Landscape architects work at the nexus of the built and natural environments, and are at the forefront of planning and designing water and storm-water management projects that help to protect and preserve our nation's water supply and enrich the lives of communities. The administration’s replacement rule would be a drastic step backward from the commitment to clean water for all Americans that is at the heart of the original Clean Water Act and the WOTUS rule, and ASLA will work to oppose this proposal.

Visit the ASLA website here.

American Water Resources Association


AWRA's Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Dresden Farrand joined the association as its executive vice president effective January 2, 2019.

"Dresden's ability to capture a vision and see it through is one reason why she has been chosen to lead the American Water Resources Association into the future," noted AWRA President Brenda Bateman. "As a well-credentialed expert in association management, she will partner with the board, staff and members to help AWRA continue to thrive. We are delighted to have her on board."

Prior to joining the AWRA team, Farrand was the vice president of membership and chapter development for the Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IEC), a national trade association, where she created strong new sources of revenue and organizational growth. Her other association successes include building programs and services, increasing membership and fostering high performing teams that put members at the center of their work. She is a certified association executive (CAE), and holds a masters degree in public administration from University of Missouri-Columbia and a masters degree in public policy from St. Louis University.

"With the addition of Dresden, we are confident that the organization will continue to grow and provide meaningful services to our members and stakeholders," noted AWRA President-Elect Lisa Beutler. "We welcome Dresden and look forward to her professional stewardship." Farrand succeeds Ken Reid, who retired on January 4, 2019, after serving AWRA as executive vice president for 37 years.

Visit the AWRA website here.

Geological Society of America

GSA tomorrow: an open challenge to promote the future of geoscience

An article posted in GSA Today's "Groundwork" series entitled "GSA Tomorrow: An Open Challenge to Promote the Future of Geoscience" issued a call to action for geoscientists to openly discuss how their work and profession impacts society. The article concludes with:

"Make a difference, get involved, and expand geoscience appreciation! If geoscience is vital to the betterment, sustainability, and continuity of humankind and society, it is our responsibility as geologists to educate the non-geologists who don’t agree or understand why. We invite you to contribute to this discussion by coming up with your own succinct, measurable, and clear reasons on the importance of your specific discipline in how it affects all aspects of society. Unconventional and unusual reasons are encouraged, and "succinct" is key: we ask you to add your thoughts to our challenge by sending a two-sentence e-mail to or, for those so inclined, posting your answer in a single Twitter or Instagram post. Be sure to tag @geosociety and #geotomorrow so that your responses may be collected. Responses will be made available for our geoscience community to use, adapt, and advocate with as we continue into the future. As the voice of the Geological Society of America, you are responsible to initiate a surge in geoscience appreciation and understanding. We know what GSA Today is—what is GSA Tomorrow?"

Read the full article here.

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


SETAC places emphasis on basic applied sciences such as environmental chemistry, toxicology and ecology. The primary goal of this joint conference with the Society of Risk Analyses (SRA) is to illustrate how these sciences relate to using health and environmental risk analyses within Africa. The long-term goal is supporting the eventual use of risk analyses and related sciences in policy making and regulatory development.

The conference is three days, from 6–8 May 2019, and will include daily plenary panels, joint SRA and SETAC sessions, platform and poster sessions and special symposia.

The program will blend health, environmental and risk sciences from SRA and SETAC as well as abstracts from members from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), who plan to be a conference sponsor.

SRA and SETAC have identified topics for which there are invited speakers. In keeping with the spirit of gender, geographic and sector diversity, these are leading experts in their respective fields selected to provide a diversity of opinion. Topics for which SRA and SETAC are combining sessions include:

• Advancing holistic risk approaches: OneHealth and the interconnectivity of ecosystem services
• Toxicology across the taxonomic spectrum
• Addressing legacies of contaminated lands
• Dealing with complex risk issues: Malaria and vector control
• Evaluating and ensuring food safety
• Climate change and information systems
• Public health and emerging disease
• Environmental and social impacts of mining and extraction industry
• Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals
• Migration and resilience across systems
• Risk communication

Read more at the conference website here.

International News

UN Environment

World Takes a Stand Against Powerful Greenhouse Gases with Implementation of Kigali Amendment

The world has taken an important step on the road to drastically reduce the production and consumption of powerful greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and limit global warming, with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer coming into force on 1st January 2019.

If fully supported by governments, the private sector and citizens, the Kigali Amendment will avoid up to 0.4°C of global warming this century while continuing to protect the ozone layer. The amendment will substantively contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. HFCs are organic compounds frequently used as refrigerants in air conditioners and other devices as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol. While HFCs themselves do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases with global warming potentials that can be many times higher than carbon dioxide.

The parties to the amendment have put in place practical arrangements for its implementation, including agreements on technologies for the destruction of HFCs and new data reporting requirements and tools. The amendment comes with provisions for capacity-building for developing countries, institutional strengthening and the development of national strategies to reduce HFCs and replace them with alternatives. Phasing down HFCs under the Kigali Amendment may also open a window to redesign cooling equipment that is more energy efficient, further increasing the climate gains.

Implementation of new targets set out in the amendment will be done in three phases, with a group of developed countries starting HFCs phase-down from 2019. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024 and with a few countries freezing consumption in 2028.

Ratified by 65 countries so far, the Kigali Amendment builds on the historic legacy of the Montreal Protocol agreed in 1987. The Protocol and its previous amendments, which require the phasing out of the production and consumption of substances that cause ozone depletion, have been universally ratified by 197 parties.

The broad support for and implementation of the Montreal Protocol has led to the phase-out of more than 99 per cent of nearly 100 ozone-depleting chemicals and significantly contributed to climate change mitigation.

Evidence presented in the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060.                                   

Read the press release from UN Environment here.

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