EPA Releases New Rules for Protecting US Waters

From the Thursday 28 May 2015 online edition of the NY Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday [27 May 2015] announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

The rule, which would apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, comes as part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

Industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are already preparing lawsuits to challenge the rule, and legal experts say the battle over control of the nation’s waters could end up before the Supreme Court, which in recent years has cast doubt on the government’s authority to regulate certain waterways.

Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. This summer, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of regulations intended to counter climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants.

Already, Republican lawmakers are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay both the climate and clean water rules.

In announcing the rule, Mr. Obama said, “One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution.”

“With today’s rule,” he added, “we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, called the rule “a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” adding, “House members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders” to reject the rule.

The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the United States, last spring. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.

The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.

E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.

The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” the E.P.A. administrator, Gina McCarthy, said in a written statement.

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers, which co-wrote the rule.

“This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations,” she added.

Environmentalists praised the rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.

“Our rivers, lakes and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.

Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.

“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent.”

Industry groups also warned that enforcement of the new rule would create a profusion of lawsuits and other legal red tape. If property owners fail to apply for permits to build, till, develop or perform other potentially polluting activities near water bodies, they can be sued by the E.P.A. Environmental advocates and even private citizens will also be able to bring lawsuits against landowners who might be in violation of the regulations.

The lobbying fight over the rule has generated a public relations battle on social media.

In its protest, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of it. But some legal experts say that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Science, Agriculture and Oversight committees sent letters to Ms. McCarthy demanding that the E.P.A. turn over documents relating to the development of the social media campaign.

Posted in agriculture, business, conservation, economics, news, policy, pollution, water

RU Awarded IL Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant

RU skyline AIARoosevelt University was awarded a grant in April 2015 that was applied toward upgrading the energy efficiency  lighting systems for its National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building at the Chicago Campus as well as for the entire Schaumburg Campus facility. The grant was made by the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. It not only enables Roosevelt to take another stride toward energy efficiency and environmental awareness; it also helps the University reduce the cost of its monthly electricity bill.

Installation of the systems was completed last month and we are looking forward to seeing what our savings will total. At the Schaumburg Campus alone, estimated cost reduction could total $13,600 annually. The university expects to save 169,681 kilowatts hours of electricity through the grant program.

For more information on this and other RU sustainability initiatives, contact Rebecca Quesnell, Environmental Sustainability Student Associate (rquesnell@roosevelt.edu).

Posted in awards, climate change, conservation, economics, energy, Illinois, news, Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s 2015 Bike2Campus Winners

One of the key events of Earth Week at Roosevelt this past April was Bike2Campus, a multi-university effort to promote cycling in Chicago. All students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to participate by biking to campus — whether directly or to a public transit commuting location — and documenting their rides on the Bike2Campus website. Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus in the Loop is a prime location for bike and transit access, and its Schaumburg Campus is part of that Village’s extensive network of bike paths/lanes. The purpose of this now-annual event is two-fold: to promote sustainable, active transit; and to have fun.

This year’s Bike2Campus RU winners received nice bike accessory prizes for their efforts, courtesy of the Physical Resources Department. The SUST Program salutes your participation, and thanks all who participated in this year’s competition!

Diana Zak Bike2Campus 1st Place RU 2015

First-place winner Diana Zak works as Assistant to the Chair of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and is majoring in Sustainability Studies. Diana commutes 8 miles daily (round trip) to RU’s Chicago Campus, and often stops at the grocery store on the way home, so her rides do double-duty. Way to go, Diana! You definitely set the standard here at Roosevelt.

Steven Monserud Bike2Campus 2nd Place RU 2015

Second-place winner Steven Monserud is Director for Accounting and Reporting at RU’s Chicago Campus. As of this posting, we don’t know Steven’s daily mileage for his ride to Roosevelt — but we’ll find out. Congratulations, Steven, and thanks for your participation in Bike2Campus week!

Mike Bryson Bike2Campus 3rd Place RU 2015

Third-place winner Mike Bryson is Professor of Humanities and Director of the Sustainability Studies program at RU. During Bike2Campus week he rode from his house in Joliet to the Rock Island Metra Station (2 miles one way) on 3 days, thus combining a short bike ride with a train commute to RU’s Chicago Campus. He rides his bike to the train year-round, whenever weather allows.

Chicago’s campus winners of the Bike2Campus competition in 2015 were, in order, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Dominican University. We salute all who participated in the spirit of promoting active transit in Chicago.


Posted in activities, biking, events, news, Roosevelt, transportation

2015 U.S.-China Forum: Spotlight on Climate Change at University of Chicago, 19 May 2015

The Energy, Environment, and Climate Nexus in China:
Where Opportunities Converge

Tuesday, 19 May 2015, 8:30am-3pm


On almost any major issue, from climate change and urbanization to international trade and peace and security, how the U.S. and China work together (or don’t) will shape our global future.  This inaugural U.S.-China Forum takes up one of these major issues: climate change. What is the health and economic toll of climate change and associated environmental challenges? What key energy and environmental policy decisions have been made, and will need to be made, in order to forge a sustainable path toward long-term economic growth? And how can the two countries work together to build the kind of lasting relationship that is needed to address climate change, and other vital global challenges?

About the Series

The U.S.-China Forum is sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Chicago Office of Global Engagement. The annual Forum brings together renowned experts—including faculty from the University of Chicago and scholars from China—for high-level engagements focused on issues of importance to both countries and, by extension, the world. It is intended to spur long-term research collaborations between Chinese and University of Chicago researchers. This year’s program is focused on the climate change challenge, and hosted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Paulson Institute.


All sessions are open to registrants. Registration is required as space is limited. To request special assistance, please contact the Office of University Events and Ceremonies at 773.702.9626.


Morning Session – The Energy, Environment, and Climate Nexus in China: Where Opportunities Converge

When international negotiators meet in Paris later this year for the next round of UN climate talks, much of the world’s focus will be on two countries: China and the U.S. Both countries have shown their leadership in confronting climate change, with a landmark joint climate announcement last year outlining their respective new climate goals for 2025 and beyond. But much work remains to be done to make these goals a reality. This panel and associated discussion with current and former senior government officials and academics will explore the intertwined environmental and climate challenges the country faces, their health and economic toll, and the key energy and environmental policy decisions that China has made and will need to make in order to forge a sustainable path forward.

9:00am  Welcome remarks

9:15am  Panel – China’s Environment and Climate Challenges: The Human Toll and Path Forward

China’s Climate: Changes and Physical Impacts
Elisabeth Moyer, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science, Department of Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago

Air Pollution: Current and Future Trends
Wang Litao, Professor of Environmental Engineering, Hebei University of Engineering

The Environment and Health: Impacts from Air Pollution Today, Climate Change Tomorrow
Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the College, The University of Chicago; Director, Energy Policy Institute at Chicago

National Policy Efforts and Implementation
Zou Ji, Deputy Director General, National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, People’s Republic of China

Moderated by Pete Ogden, Senior Advisor and Fellow, Senior Advisor and Fellow, Energy Policy Institute at Chicago

11:00am  Beyond Paris: A Conversation with Hank Paulson, Chairman, Paulson Institute and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

Moderator: Michael Greenstone

11:45am  Morning closing remarks with Dali Yang, Professor, Department of Political Science, The University of Chicago; Founding Faculty Director, The University of Chicago Center in Beijing

12:00pm  Complimentary lunch with pre-registration

Afternoon Session – U.S.-China Relations

Climate change is not the only challenge the U.S. and China must work together to confront. Their relationship, and how it evolves, is crucial to all of our futures.  As the two countries continue to learn how to interact in an ever changing world, there will be cooperative opportunities and times of contention.  In what areas do the U.S. and China have the greatest common interests?  And how can they work past areas of debate to forge a relationship that will aid both countries’ interests and our common future?

1:30pm  Keynote address and conversation with Madame Fu Ying, Chairperson, Foreign Affairs Committee, 12th National People’s Congress, People’s Republic of China

Posted in climate change, conferences, energy, events

Bubbly Creek Restoration Plan: Deadline for Public Comments is May 15

RU and FCR Canoe Trip on Bubbly Creek, 2010 (M. Bryson)

RU and FCR Canoe Trip on Bubbly Creek, 2010 (M. Bryson)

Please read this message from one of RU’s environmental education partners, Friends of the Chicago River. Bubbly Creek is one of the region’s most famous (and notoriously abused) waterways, and now has a chance for environmental restoration. Even in its currently degraded state, the Creek supports abundant wildlife and human recreation, and is an important part of Chicago’s history as well as its sustainable future as a point of contact between humans and urban nature.

Roosevelt students and faculty have cleaned litter from the banks and waters of Bubbly Creek, and taken numerous canoe trips along its 1.2 mile length; and SUST prof Mike Bryson has written extensively about the Creek’s environmental history and prospects.

Photo: M. Bryson, 2012

Photo: M. Bryson, 2012

Please take a few minutes to read this note from FCR and communicate your opinion on the proposed restoration project to the US Army Corps of Engineers. Indication of public support for this project will make it more likely to happen!

Until this Friday, 15 May 2015 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comments regarding their ecosystem restoration project for Bubbly Creek, a stretch of the river that most people have forgotten all about. This interesting reach of the river has a long and sordid history made famous by Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, which described life in the Union Stockyards. It is past refuse from the stockyards that makes Bubbly Creek bubble.

Despite its inglorious history, today Bubbly Creek is full of opportunity. We regularly see wildlife including beavers, muskrats, snapping turtles and state-endangered black crowned night herons along the creek and there is a ton of activity with crew teams, new parks, residential development and a new boat house which should start construction later this year.

The Army Corps’ plan capitalizes on all this wonderful activity and adds in-stream and riverbank habitat that will create a haven for wildlife in, on, and under the water. This ecosystem restoration project will: improve fish habitat, which is sorely needed throughout the watershed, provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and the black-crowned night heron and the banded killifish, both threatened species, and complement all of the other projects and uses that are planned for Bubbly Creek and the surrounding communities.

Please tell the Army Corps these are the reasons that you support this project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs one last push of support to get this project moving, we are encouraging as many voices as possible to show how important this is.

Emailed comments must be received by Friday, May 15, 2015. Mailed comments must be postmarked by Friday, May 15. Comments can be emailed to chicagodistrict.pao@usace.army.mil, ATTN: Bubbly Creek Draft Report.

Please contact Anthony Cefali, Friends’ policy and planning specialist, at (312) 939-0490, ext. 15 or Kelly Fitzpatrick from the 11th Ward if you have any further questions.

Posted in biodiversity, conservation, ecology, parks and public land, planning, restoration, water, wildlife

SETF Summer Tours of Chicago’s South Side

This summer, the Southeast Environmental Task Force is offering several public tours of the environmental sites of interest on Chicago’s South Side that offer a close-up view of wastewater treatment systems, landfill and recycling facilities, hazardous waste and pollution sites — all united by a focus on environmental justice and urban sustainability.

All tours are conducted on a comfortable coach bus with minimal walking required, and feature SETF’s expert narrators / activist professionals. Each tour begins (10am) and ends (2pm) at the Chicago Cultural Center, Michigan & Randolph St. in downtown Chicago.

Deep Tunnel and Thornton Quarry Tour

Last chance to go deep into one of the world’s largest rock quarries, and to descend 250 feet below ground into the deep tunnel.
Saturday, June 20  – 10am to 2pm (cost $30)

Recycling Tour (jointly sponsored by the Chicago Recycling Coalition)

Visit a working recycling facility, compost sites, landfills, and a wastewater treatment plant; see how Chicago deals with its waste.
Saturday, July 18  – 10am to 2pm ($30)

Energy Solutions Tour

Visit the US’s largest inner-city solar facility; the massive BP refinery in Whiting, Ind.; and some more-innovative energy options being employed in Chicago.
Saturday, August 8  –  10am to 2pm ($30)

To Register:

Visit www.setaskforce.blogspot.com or call 773-646-0436.

Posted in activities, cities, education, events, field trips, pollution | 1 Comment

RU Environmental Sustainability Internship Open for Applications

RU's restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

RU’s restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

The RU Physical Resources Department is offering a paid student internship position to begin in Spring/Summer 2015 and run through 2015. This job is an outstanding professional development opportunity and involves working directly with the RU Physical Resources Team under the direction of Paul Matthews, Associate VP for Campus Planning/Operations. The internship is based primarily at the Schaumburg Campus, though occasionally duties may involve going to the Chicago Campus. Applications are being accepted ASAP (see details below) until the position is filled.

Note: An additional position based on the Chicago Campus will open at some point during the summer semester. Contact Paul Matthews (see info below) for more information.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Manage the Schaumburg Campus RUrbanPioneers Community Garden
  • Assist in implementing the newly adopted Sustainability Strategic Plan, approved in February 2015
  • Maintenance and updating of the RU Green Campus website, Green Campus Blog, and associated Facebook page, including articulating a mission statement, information on topics such as green construction and recycling programs, provide links to outside environmental organizations, post sustainability-related news, and provide other information which may benefit and educate the RU community about environmental sustainability.
  • Assist in maintaining contact with associations and government sponsored agencies that support the Physical Resources Environmental Sustainability Initiatives, including: Association for the Advancement for Sustainability within Higher Education (AASHE), United States Green Building Council, Second Nature, World Wildlife Federation, EPA Green Power Partnership Program, and the Illinois Governor’s Campus Sustainability Compact
  • Participate in DCEO Recycling Grant Reporting; Recycling Project for AUD, Field House, and Wabash (with 50% diversion goal); and university Compost Agreement, which provides materials for Schaumburg Garden Plots
  • Help prepare PowerPoint presentations on select ES topics to present to the RU Community when necessary.
  • Attend RU-based meetings that deal with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership thru Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification Program for the Wabash Vertical Campus, Field House, and other major construction projects. Assist in tracking the LEED credits for certification and green building construction, and in achieving USGBC LEED Silver level for Field House.
  • Work on Physical Resource plans or initiatives that center around green technologies, landscapes, hardscapes, alternate methods of transportation, and renewable energy sources.

To Indicate Interest and Get More Information:

Contact Paul Matthews, Associate VP for Campus Planning/Operations, Department of Physical Resources, Roosevelt University, at 312-341-33684 (office) or pmatthews@roosevelt.edu (email).

To Apply:

Visit the Student Employment page on the RU website, locate the position announcement in e-Recruiting, and submit your application.

Posted in education, green jobs, internships, Roosevelt, students