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Thursday, February 22, 2018

They thought the solar array would be a good neighbor to have. Then it rained./The Westerly Sun

Hard to believe that solar panels don't make the perfect neighbor, but here we see that, in fact, they don't.  Now, here we see a mistake that we hope does not happen very often:  An over zealous developer or installer not leaving in a proper natural canopy to slow the run off of water and shield the array from neighbor's view.

Good lessons for us all.  Certainly these panels will add more value and positives--lots of clean energy, local production, better use of land stripped of trees than more houses or industrial buildings--but that's hard to explain to a unhappy nearby community.

Richard Jurzyk, a property owner on Heaton Orchard Road in Richmond whose property abuts the Harvest Acre Farm solar array, is having problems with silted water runoff from the newly-built project. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

RICHMOND — Two homeowners on Heaton Orchard Road who live next to a newly-built solar generating station are complaining that the installation is generating runoff that inundates their yards and floods the road. 
The solar array consists of 16,000 panels and covers approximately 23 acres of Harvest Acre Farm, owned by John and Cindy Duncan on Kingstown Road (Route 138).
The installation, which is split into two arrays, was built by WED Kingstown Solar 1 LLC, received Planning Board approval last April.
Richard Jurzyk, who owns a house at 5 Heaton Orchard Road, keeps an eye on the weather, because when it rains, water flows from the solar array into his wooded property. Sitting at his kitchen table, Jurzyk showed a series of photos he has taken of his flooded yard, the trees standing in deep ponds of water. There are also several photos of the flooded road and the solar panels in standing water.
At the rear of his property, where he was expecting that a wooded buffer would shield the array, instead there is a row of large boulders creating a barrier similar to a sea wall. The silt fence, which is required in order to minimize erosion, has been buried in several spots by sediment transported by water from the property. The solar panels are standing on bare ground that has turned to mud, and water flows under and between the big boulders.
Jurzyk said he first began having runoff problems in mid-January when a snowfall was followed by heavy rain. He turned to the town of Richmond for help, but the town directed him to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which is responsible for issuing stormwater and wetlands permits. He said DEM could not help him, either.
“The town says ‘contact the DEM,’ DEM said ‘contact the town,’” he said.
Richmond Town Planner Juliana Berry said the DEM, not the town, has the authority to regulate stormwater runoff.
“RIDEM permits were received/recorded in BPZ/Land Evidence on July 6, 2017, final plans were recorded on August 11, and Richmond building permits were subsequently applied for and issued,” she wrote in an email. “The town has now received a few inquiries from Heaton Orchard Road residents and from the Conservation Commission regarding who to contact on stormwater/runoff concerns related to this project. The permitting authority with purview over this matter is RIDEM.”
Contacted about the Heaton Orchard Road situation, DEM spokesperson Gail Mastrati said the agency was looking into the complaints.
“DEM has received a complaint regarding this matter and will be conducting an inspection,” she said.
Jurzyk, who, with his wife, Carol, has owned his house since 1988, said this was the first time he had experienced runoff problems.
“The 2010 floods have come and gone and there were no issues,” he said.
Like the solar installation, the home is in a light industrial zone, but Jurzyk said he had no idea how large and disruptive the project would be.
“It’s worse than a strip mine,” he said. “I had no idea. Okay, they’re going to put a solar farm in … Would I have liked it better if it had stayed woods? Yeah. But I’ve been here 30 years and I remember saying to my wife ‘we don’t own the property. It’s light industrial just like this is, and they do what they want.’”
Sections of Jurzyk’s back yard, which were covered with grass, now resemble muddy stream beds. On the perimeter of the array, there are no trees left to screen it from view.
“There wasn’t anything green left,” he said. “The topsoil is all gone. If there’s any topsoil left, it’s just a veneer.”
The water doesn’t stop at the Jurzyks’ house. It pools on Heaton Orchard Road and floods the yard of his neighbors, Bill and Candace Bishop. Bill Bishop said that after blasting occurred at the construction site, his well water became cloudy.
“My well has gone cloudy three times during heavy rain,” he said. “It’s the only time it’s happened in the 17 years we’ve been there. We put in a brand new well.”
“My whole front yard is a pond,” Candace Bishop said, adding that after they complained, the developer dropped a load of coarse gravel on the side of the road and at their driveway.
“They came and filled it in with rocks at the end of our driveway,” she said. “I have no problems with what John and Cindy Duncan have done with the farm, but I wish they’d do something about the flooding on the street.”
The Bishops complained to the DEM a month ago and are still awaiting a response.
“They never call you back,” Candace said. “They should address this before they [the developer] pull out. It’s not John and Cindy, it’s the developer.”
Berry said she intended to visit the neighborhood in the near future to assess the situation.

EPA Settles with Amazon for Distributions of Illegal Pesticides/RNN

Good news on our efforts to control pesticides and toxins getting into our eco-system.  We need even more stringent controls and fines for those who do not respect the need to take these noxious products out of our environment.

Some would say Amazon is growing faster than weeds, but are they growing so fast that they can’t accurately manage what they’re selling?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with Amazon Services LLC to protect the public from the hazards posed by unregistered and misbranded pesticide products. The agreement settles allegations that Amazon committed nearly four thousand violations of the “Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act” – dating back to 2013 – for selling and distributing imported pesticide products that were not licensed for sale in the United States.
“This agreement will dramatically reduce the online sale of illegal pesticides, which pose serious threats to public health in communities across America,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick. “Amazon is committed to closely monitoring and removing illegal pesticides from its website, and EPA will continue to work hard to ensure these harmful products never reach the marketplace.”
Under the terms of today’s agreement, Amazon will develop an online training course on pesticide regulations and policies that EPA believes will significantly reduce the number of illegal pesticides available through the online marketplace. The training will be available to the public and online marketers in English, Spanish and Chinese. Successful completion of the training will be mandatory for all entities planning to sell pesticides on
Amazon will also pay an administrative penalty of $1,215,700 as part of the consent agreement and final order entered into by Amazon and EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle, Washington.
In late 2014, EPA began investigating online pesticide product distributions and sales through several internet retail sites including Amazon and third-party sellers that used Amazon’s online marketing platform. In March 2015, EPA inspected an Amazon facility in Lexington, Kentucky, and inspectors in EPA’s Region 10 office successfully ordered illegal pesticides from In August 2015, EPA issued a FIFRA Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order against Amazon to prohibit the sale of the illegal pesticide products that can easily be mistaken for black-board or side-walk chalk, especially by children.
EPA issued another Stop Sale Order against Amazon in January 2016 after discovering that certain unregistered or misbranded insecticide bait products were being offered for sale on After receiving the stop sale orders, Amazon immediately removed the products from the marketplace, prohibited foreign sellers from selling pesticides, and cooperated with EPA during its subsequent investigation. The orders, as well as EPA’s subsequent engagement with the company, prompted Amazon to more aggressively monitor its website for illegal pesticides. As a result, Amazon has created a robust compliance program comprised of a sophisticated computer-based screening system backed-up by numerous, trained staff.
In October 2016, Amazon notified all customers who purchased the illegal pesticides between 2013 and 2016 to communicate safety concerns with these products and urge disposal. Amazon also refunded those customers the cost of the products, approximately $130,000.
Non-English speaking members of the public are at increased risk from these pesticides that are illegal in the U.S. but have long been used throughout Asia. These populations’ familiarity with these products make it more likely they will order them from online sources such as Amazon. By removing such products from Amazon’s online platform and by educating third party sellers on the hazards of these unregistered and misbranded pesticide products, this agreement will decrease the availability of these unsafe products and protect these vulnerable groups.
For more information on this settlement or to read a copy of the consent agreement and final order, go to:
Learn how to avoid illegal pesticide products:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Queen Elizabeth has declared war - on plastic

Queen Elizabeth has declared war - on plastic

Queen Elizabeth II has declared war — on plastic — with a new waste plan put into place across the royal estates.

The environmentally-conscious move was said to be inspired by nature documentarian and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, after the pair worked together on a documentary about wildlife in the Commonwealth,

Buckingham Palace has said the royal household has a “strong desire to tackle the issue” and would do so by cutting back plastics, such as straws and plastic bottles.
A spokesman for the Palace said, “Across the organization, the royal household is committed to reducing its environmental impact.

“As part of that, we have taken a number of practical steps to cut back on the use of plastics,” he said.
These steps would include phasing out plastic straws in public cafes and banning them completely from staff dining areas.

Royal cafe takeaway food containers will now be compostable or biodegradable, while those working and living within Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh will only be able to use crockery and glasses, or recyclable cups.
The initiative comes after the EU announced plans to make all plastic in Europe recyclable or reusable by 2030.

The Queen’s stance follows that of her son Prince Charles, who often talks about environmental issues, including the damage plastic garbage is doing to the oceans.
Last year he said climate change was “catastrophically underestimated” and urged that world leaders act urgentally to protect our marine environments.

Prince Charles has a long history of environmental advocacy and established the International Sustainability Unit in 2010 to address major environmental challenges across the globe including marine degradation, deforestation and animal conservation.

He has even weighed in on the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, saying: “The fact that significant portions of the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s eastern coast have been severely degraded or lost over the last few years is both a tragedy and also, I would have thought, a very serious wakeup call,” he said.

According, an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide each year — and many of those bags are only used once.
Australians alone use around 5 billion plastic bags a year — with some 50 million entering the litter stream.

Single-use bags will soon be banned across all states and territories in Australia, except NSW. Meanwhile, major supermarkets — Coles, Woolworths and IGA — have already announced they will phase out single-use plastic bags this year.


Developer pitches 40-acre solar project near Holliston Sand/Valley Breeze

RI has a very good, robust plan for renewables.  They expanded again this year.  The result is what you see here:  Big investments by developers.  Great news.

A national company has plans to purchase seven properties in the area of Holliston Sand Company to build a 40-acre solar farm, one of the largest of its kind in the state, according to a pre-application submitted to the Planning Board.

Town code currently limits solar projects to six acres, and the massive 6.22-megawatt project will require additional approvals, as well as a zoning variance.

The proposal, submitted by TPE Rhode Island Solar Holdings2 LLC, also known as Turning Point Energy, would see a commercial solar array built primarily on a 64-acre property on Old Oxford Road currently owned by William Horton King. The heavily forested land sits within a Rural Residential Conservation zoning district near Holliston and Brookside Equestrian Center, which is also currently used for sand mining, according to the 47-page application.

The facility would take around five months to build and once complete, would power 1,200 Rhode Island homes according to documents prepared by the Denver-based company.

Image result for pictures of solar arrays

“This pilot program is among the first in the country and allows the residents of Rhode Island to purchase electricity at a discount to current National Grid rates without having to put solar on their rooftops,” the application states. “Residents will have the chance to subscribe to the solar facility and receive a 20 percent discount on their bills.”

Turning Point Energy has already developed some 750 megawatts of solar projects across the country, valued at more than $2.1 billion.

Additional properties potentially affected by the North Smithfield proposal include several parcels owned by Cheryl Bator and Keith Stone. Entrance, exit and utility connections would take place through two properties on Pound Hill Road owned by Alfred and Sandra Caron, through a 14-foot gravel access road. The Caron lots each hold one single-family home and the rest is used for “ATV riding, shooting and a minor hay operation,” according to the applicant.

The project could bring in new tax revenue, and would also provide relief to several property owners who have been unable to access their land for more than a decade.

The lots for the proposed solar project surround Old Tifft Road, an unpaved “paper street,” or mapped street that is no longer used, near the Slatersville Reservoir that landowners say was blocked off with boulders in 2003. Bator and Stone were part of a group that brought the issue to the Town Council in 2016, saying they’d been illegally barricaded from accessing their land.

Council members briefly considered legally adopting the paper street at the time, but learned that the issue was the subject of lawsuit in Superior Court. Holliston eventually won control of the dirt street through an adverse possession suit.

And lack of access isn’t the only problem making the properties worth little beyond their proposed use, according to the investors. The area also has groundwater contamination, states the application, and “economic development opportunities on these parcels are extremely limited.”

The only other use that could work, they note, would be another sand and gravel pit.

The combined total tax revenue brought in by the lots where the solar project would be built is $2,300, and TPE estimates that the number would jump to $31,600 once the facility is built, a 2,948 percent increase. Benefits would also include short-term and long-term job creation, with 50 to 75 people put to work during the construction process.

The solar farm would be fenced in and accessed with security gates, and would be one of the largest facilities currently in Rhode Island, according to TPE. The application notes that the company already has legal site control of all of the proposed land parcels as proposed real estate purchases at a significant premium to the current market.

Planning Board members showed general interest in the project during the conceptual review phase at a meeting earlier this month.

“You want to try to give the applicant clear direction,” Town Planner Tom Kravitz said of the process. “They want to see the next step.”

If the proposal passes the next stage of planning, the developers would need to resolve zoning issues. While TPE plans to leave a buffer surrounding the solar farm, one area would not meet the 100-foot setback from property lines required for solar arrays. Additionally, rules set out in the town’s solar ordinance, amended just last year, state that projects cannot exceed 30 percent of a lot, or be larger than six acres. On the King property, the company hopes to disturb 40 acres of a 60-acre lot.

Kravitz said the timeline for the project will depend how quickly TPE completes needed fieldwork, including land surveying.

“The ball’s in the developer’s court now,” Kravitz said.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Top 10 Sustainability Trends for 2018/Sustainability Academy

Really good stuff to consider for this year:

Sustainability Trends, technology, climate change, local governments, cultural divide, disaster, hurricanes, sinkholes, tornadoes, blizzards, fires, retailers, sustainable products, corporate breakdown, silos, fake news, Cross-Company collaboration, consumers, Generation Z, Sustainability related jobs, Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Programs (2018 Advanced Edition)

By Nikos Avlonas, CSE President
Over the past decade, the term sustainability has caught on in the boardroom, courtroom and living room.  While the concept has reached the mainstream, opportunities abound for implementation.  Ten trends to watch for and prepare in 2018….
  1. Role of technology – Between smart grids, smart supply chains and smart transport, i.e., electric trucks, trains and cars, reliance on AI will increase. This can be good or bad, depending on whether programmers KNOW to code for sustainability.  Unfortunately, research shows Silicon Valley is behind the curve.  Other tech centers will step up.
  1. Cities planning for climate change – Now that the insurance sector acknowledges the risks of climate change, increasingly local governments will prepare themselves. Coastal cities planning for sea-level rise or any town planning for the disaster du jour – hurricanes, sinkholes, tornadoes, blizzards, fires – must put sustainability plans in place or face uninsurable liability.
  1. Cultural divide – Besides the haves and have nots, expect a divide between those who do and those who don’t: do recycle, don’t eat meat; don’t stave off vampire electrics, do use plastic bags; don’t drive big cars, do carpool. Reduce/reuse from the Thrift Store or shop new at the Box Store?  Fortunately, retailers will offer more sustainable products to attract both.
  1. Corporate breakdown of silos – Corporations will increasingly value integrating sustainability across departments, product lines, R&D, manufacturing, infrastructure, everything! Up and down the supply chain, as imperative for international trade or a method of risk abatement – assimilating sustainability will become essential to ameliorate corporate woes and increase profitability.
  1. Fake news driving real news – With so little trust in media, companies, NGOs and governments will increasingly depend on externally assured self-reporting of their sustainability successes and challenges. As stakeholders become disillusioned and distrustful, sustainability reporting must prove itself – real metrics, no green or blue washing, with quantifiable goals.  And, all of it must be verified by an outside source.
  1. Cross-Company collaboration – Many of today’s pressing issues are simply too complex to solve alone. An even bigger traction of companies – and competitors – will partner to advance whole-scale change, like for example Danone and Nestle did to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance.
  1. Sector-wide collaboration with consumers – Acknowledging the power of strength in numbers, companies in specific industries will continue to band together to accelerate progress on shared issues. For example, the Food and Beverage industry has aggressively tackled transparency, with major players like Hershey and Panera arming consumers with additional information, not only nutrition but also production (organic, non-GMO), shipping and handling (human rights), and sustainability efforts.
  1. Generation Z influence – Generation Z will hold companies to high standards. Much like their Millennial counterparts, Generation Z is focused on the impact companies have on the world. In a study by i4cp, 93% of Gen Zs said that a company’s impact on society affects their decision to work at or purchase from the company.
  1. Companies aligning initiatives around United Nations SDGs – The Sustainable Development Goals call for action by all UN member states to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. By aligning around the 17 Goals, and their smaller targets, corporations will take on major sustainability initiatives specific to company values. The SDGs are also going to change and enhance the future of Sustainability Reports.
  1. More Sustainability related jobs – Sustainability related jobs will be created, not only in large companies but also including benefit corporations and green startups. To get advanced knowledge in this field and earn qualifications, go to
Based on a collective 100-plus years of experience among our leadership and advisors, extrapolating from our annual research, we at CSE know the challenges are surmountable.  With awareness, education and determination – ever forward!
The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) specializes in global sustainability consulting, training and research.  CSE has trained over 5,000 professionals, many from the Fortune 500.  CSE’s Sustainability Academy offers affordable, online education in corporate responsibility. Accredited by CMI (Chartered Management Institute), CSE is a GRI-certified training provider. 

Sea Level Accelerating Faster/RNN

As our technology improves, so does our data.  Where does sea level rise lead us?   Do we abandon today's waterfront and move back a mile, or more?  Do we build sea walls?  Can we restore more natural coastal vegetation to blunt some of the surge?  What does all this mean to our quality of life and resilience?  

Of course many people tune out these warnings.  They simply don't listen when the metrics around climate change swirl around them like the seas will some day.  Insurance companies see it, of course.  Some communities are bracing more than others.  This is not a moment to dip your toe in the water and check the temperature.  The temperature is rising.  Water is seeping up.  We have billions of lives and dollars at stake.  We know Mother Nature never blinks first.  How we react, and then act in unison to prepare for pending storms and coastal flooding, is one crises we cannot kick down the road.

Global sea level rise is not cruising along at a steady 3 mm per year, it’s accelerating a little every year, like a driver merging onto a highway, according to a powerful new assessment led by CIRES Fellow Steve Nerem. He and his colleagues harnessed 25 years of satellite data to calculate that the rate is increasing by about 0.08 mm/year every year — which could mean an annual rate of sea level rise of 10 mm/year, or even more, by 2100.
“This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate — to more than 60 cm instead of about 30.” said Nerem, who is also a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. “And this is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” he added. “Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that’s not likely.”
If the oceans continue to change at this pace, sea level will rise 65cm (26 inches) by 2100 — enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, according to the new assessment by Nerem and several colleagues from CU Boulder, the University of South Florida, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Old Dominion University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The team, driven to understand and better predict Earth’s response to a warming world, published their work today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways. First, warmer water expands, and this “thermal expansion” of the oceans has contributed about half of the 7 cm of global mean sea level rise we’ve seen over the last 25 years, Nerem said. Second, melting land ice flows into the ocean, also increasing sea level across the globe.
These increases were measured using satellite altimeter measurements since 1992, including the U.S./European TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3 satellite missions. But detecting acceleration is challenging, even in such a long record. Episodes like volcanic eruptions can create variability: the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 decreased global mean sea level just before the Topex/Poseidon satellite launch, for example. In addition, global sea level can fluctuate due to climate patterns such as El Niños and La Niñas (the opposing phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO) which influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns.
So Nerem and his team used climate models to account for the volcanic effects and other datasets to determine the ENSO effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying sea-level rate and acceleration over the last quarter century. They also used data from the GRACE satellite gravity mission to determine that the acceleration is largely being driven by melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.
The team also used tide gauge data to assess potential errors in the altimeter estimate. “The tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the GMSL (global mean sea level) acceleration estimate,” said co-author Gary Mitchum, USF College of Marine Science. “They provide the only assessments of the satellite instruments from the ground.” Others have used tide gauge data to measure GMSL acceleration, but scientists have struggled to pull out other important details from tide-gauge data, such as changes in the last couple of decades due to more active ice sheet melt.
“This study highlights the important role that can be played by satellite records in validating climate model projections,” said co-author John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “It also demonstrates the importance of climate models in interpreting satellite records, such as in our work where they allow us to estimate the background effects of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo on global sea level.”
Although this research is impactful, the authors consider their findings to be just a first step. The 25-year record is just long enough to provide an initial detection of acceleration — the results will become more robust as the Jason-3 and subsequent altimetry satellites lengthen the time series.
Ultimately, the research is important because it provides a data-driven assessment of how sea level has been changing, and this assessment largely agrees with projections using independent methods. Future research will focus on refining the results in this study with longer time series, and extending the results to regional sea level, so they can better predict what will happen in your backyard.
For more details from PNAS click here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Get A Bulb, Give A Bulb/RNN

Peter Arpin's 
Business Side of Green
Get A Bulb, Give A Bulb
This week I'm extremely proud to be talking with Monica Florville, CEO June Lite America.
June Lite is a company that considers the defense of nature and the ecological challenge as cross-cutting issues that include all fields of human activity. Very soon June Lite will assume its role as an educator that brings together all public and private players around a common goal: the responsible and sustainable development of an Africa conscious of its responsibility towards its ecosystem, its forests and its oceans for a better world at large. Reconciling economic imperatives and the harmonious development of civil society while valuing and perpetuating growth gains and always building are at the forefront of all we stand for.