As summer approaches, school systems throughout the United States are planning for in-person and hybrid learning next fall. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Congress has appropriated $190 billion to assist those efforts; the recent American Rescue Plan Act alone provides around $122 billion for PK-12 public education.
The coronavirus pandemic has focused increased attention on indoor air quality and ventilation. Yet, many people remain unaware of the health risks posed by an activity that occurs every day in their homes: cooking.
The agricultural industry is developing fast. With new and emerging technologies on the rise, industrial agriculture continually strives to incorporate sustainability and efficiency into its operations. Although the industry produces significant pollutants, including animal waste, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other agricultural inputs and byproducts, incorporating new technologies, such as drones, helps to mitigate the hazardous pollutants associated with industrial agriculture. In addition to mitigating environmental harm, incorporating sustainable technology into agricultural practices can improve water conservation and bolster efficiency.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of toxic synthetic chemicals collectively known as PFAS, are all around us—in the environment and in our bodies. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, most people in the United States have PFAS in their blood. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to these “forever chemicals” can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including increased cholesterol, pregnancy complications, and kidney and testicular cancers; recent studies also suggest that PFAS may reduce resistance to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and may reduce antibody responses to vaccines.
The Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico more than 10 years ago. Yet hundreds of individuals across the Gulf coast are still battling BP in court for damages related to a host of ailments arising from exposure to oil, dispersants, or both. A recent order out of the Northern District of Florida (N.D. Fla.) granting BP’s summary judgment motion as to one set of plaintiffs may be a sign of things to come. Regardless of this ruling, the sheer volume of these cases may occupy dockets for months or years.
Nearly all the pollutants in our everyday environment can be found easily — albeit less problematically — when one leaves our planet’s surface. Ozone is the most ironic example, restricted at ground level and protected above. And the atmospheres of Mars and Venus are mostly carbon dioxide, which at least in our atmosphere, where it is only a trace gas, the Supreme Court says it can nonetheless be mitigated under the Clean Air Act.
On August 5, 2015, EPA personnel assigned to mitigate pollutants from the foreclosed Gold King Mine in Colorado caused the discharge of toxic wastewater into the Animas River watershed, releasing lead, arsenic, and other metals and toxic elements. Even though Colorado Governor Hickenlooper eventually declared the area a disaster zone, the delayed response and devastating environmental impacts from the Gold King Mine wastewater spill revealed an urgent need to address the nearly 500,000 Abandoned Mine Lands throughout the United States. According to the EPA, the total cost to clean up AMLs ranges from $50-70 billion. Although the burden of mitigating toxic pollutants from AMLs may appear to rest solely upon the federal government, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) mandates that the party responsible for AML hazardous contamination must assume financial responsibility.
Environmental agencies are increasingly transforming their approach to citizen science, from viewing it as a source of data primarily for education and awareness to a potential source of concrete value for their programs. Although this relationship has existed for some time, the emergence of new technologies, an increasingly aware public, and the rise of unexpected pollution events has reinvigorated the way agencies and the public work together.
As we are moving from an aggressively deregulatory period to one in which regulation is more likely to be seen as important in advancing environmental policy, let’s take a quick look at what to anticipate from the three branches of the federal government.
The first session of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) six-part citizen science webinar series explored the current and potential uses of citizen/community science initiatives to improve environmental monitoring, compliance, and enforcement around the world. Citizen science encompasses a broad range of activities, ranging from the use of low-cost hand-held air monitors by individuals to sophisticated, university-based monitoring networks and satellite monitoring plans by large environmental NGOs. These activities can raise awareness of environmental issues, inform agency actions including compliance and enforcement programs, and inform citizen litigation to stop polluting activities.