CDC expands use of Whole Genome Sequencing in Foodborne Illness

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) provides insight into the genetic fingerprint of a pathogen by sequencing the chemical building blocks that make up its DNA and is increasingly being employed in food safety efforts. Since 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regularly turned to WGS to better understand foodborne pathogens, including identifying the nature and source of microbes that contaminate food and cause outbreaks of foodborne illness.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the use of whole genome sequencing to monitor for outbreaks of Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and coli that are commonly transmitted through food and animal contact has expanded to 38 states and two cities. This data is reported in the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Investment Map, which shows early progress by states to combat antibiotic resistance. This year’s Antibiotic Resistance Investment Map features more than 170 state-reported successes, including rapidly identifying and containing rare and concerning resistant germs to protect communities. Each state reported multiple successes.

You can learn more about CDC’s AR Solutions Initiative and ongoing work to combat antibiotic resistance at cdc.gov/DrugResistance.

 

© 2018 Keller and Heckman LLP.

Baker-Polito Administration Awards $3.7 Million in Grants for Clean Energy Technology

On November 1, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $3.7 million in grants to increase the adoption of cost-saving clean energy technologies by Massachusetts low-income residents as part of the Commonwealth’s Affordable Clean Residential Energy Program (ACRE).

Launched in April of this year, the ACRE program evolved out of the Administration’s $15 million Affordable Access to Clean and Efficient Energy (AACEE) Initiative, which focuses on coordinating the agencies that serve the energy and housing needs of Massachusetts’ low- and moderate-income residents. The Initiative’s goal is to increase the number of renewable technologies employed by low-income, single-family homes throughout the Commonwealth. To that end, an AACEE working group published a report last year highlighting recommendations to address barriers to clean energy investment by the state’s low-income residents. These recommendations, which included maximizing clean energy market growth in the low-income housing community and structuring clean energy incentives to better serve low-income residents, have served as a guidepost for the Initiative and its suite of programs.

Through ACRE, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is awarding $2 million to Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), a non-profit human services organization helping low-income residents in the greater Boston region transition from poverty to stability. ABCD will assist in the installation of air-source heat pumps and solar photovoltaic systems, weatherization, and energy efficient lighting as well as appliance replacement for qualifying single-family homes with reported incomes below 60 percent of the State Median Income.

Energy Futures Group, an expert consulting services organization focused on the design and evaluation of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, will receive the remaining $1.7 million of the Administration’s funding and will focus their efforts on Western Massachusetts residents living below 80 percent of the State Median Income.

The ACRE program will give low-income homeowners access to renewable technologies, allowing these households to reduce energy costs without out-of-pocket investment. In addition to helping mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the expanded use of energy efficient appliances benefits all Massachusetts’ ratepayers. By increasing the affordability and accessibility of these technologies, Massachusetts continues to affirm its role as a leader in clean energy generation and the fight against climate change.

This post was written by Sahir Surmeli of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.,©1994-2017
For more Environmental & Energy legal analysis, go to The National Law Review 

Tesla Bringing Supercharger Stations to Boston and Chicago

On September 11th, Tesla announced the opening of Supercharger stations in downtown Boston and Chicago, representing the first step in the company’s effort to expand its Supercharger network into urban areas. The company currently operates 951 Supercharger stations worldwide, primarily along major highways to provide quick recharging on long trips. By bringing the network of charging stations into city centers, Tesla hopes to service growing demand among urban dwellers without immediate access to home or workplace charging.

Unlike the Destination Charging connectors at hotels and restaurants meant to replicate the longer home-charging process, Superchargers quickly deliver 72 kilowatts of power to each car for short-term boosts, resulting in charging times around 45-50 minutes. The new stations will be installed near supermarkets, shopping centers, and downtown districts, making it easy for drivers to charge their car while running errands. The Boston Supercharger station will be located at 800 Boylston Street and include 8 charging stalls.

Tesla announced plans to double its national charging network to 10,000 stations by the end of 2017. The company is bringing urban Superchargers to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, and Austin by the end of this year. The expansion accompanies Tesla’s release of the Model 3 this summer, which boasts a lower starting price of $35,000 that is expected to bring more buyers to the brand.

A spike in Tesla sales would fall in line with the trend of increased demand for electric vehicles (EV) across the country. The year 2016 saw EV sales in the United States increase by 37% over 2015. Total EV sales topped out at roughly 160,000, with five different models (Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Fusion Energi) selling at least 10,000 units. These sales, coupled with the expanding ease of access to charging station’s like Tesla’s, bode well for continued innovation and growth in the electric auto sector.

This post was written by Thomas R. Burton, III of  Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved. ©1994-2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

DOE Announces $8.8 Million In Funding For Algae Technology Innovation Projects

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected an additional four Productivity Enhanced Algae and Toolkits (PEAK) projects to receive up to $8.8 million.  The projects aim to develop high-impact tools and techniques that will increase the productivity of algae organisms to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.  In total, DOE has awarded over $16 million in funding to the initiative.

The project winners include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, which will use advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors to improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains;
  • University of California, San Diego, which will work with Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations on the development of genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains;
  • University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, which will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide, and deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing; and
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.
This post was written by  Kathleen M. Roberts of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. ©2017
For more Environmental & Energy legal analysis go to The National Law Review

EPA Ready to Support FEMA, State Efforts on Hurricane Harvey

EPA has an organized emergency response program for responding to man-made and natural disasters and is positioned to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state, local, and tribal partners in response to Hurricane Harvey.

“I am in regular contact with EPA Region 6 and want to commend them for their leadership and preparation,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is closely coordinating with state and regional partners, and we have teams standing by to support FEMA.  EPA is ready to respond to anything that may occur due to Hurricane Harvey.”

EPA headquarters emergency operations center is monitoring the storm closely and making preparations to activate in order to support states and regions affected by the storm.

EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas is taking action to ensure that Superfund sites are secured in advance of the storm, to assist approximately 300 public drinking water system rapid assessments, and to seamlessly integrate emergency response activities with Texas, Louisiana, and other federal response agencies.

EPA supports hurricane preparedness and response in a number of ways, including:
•    Addressing Fuel Shortages: The Clear Air Act allows EPA Administrator Pruitt, in consultation with Energy Secretary Perry, to waive certain fuel requirements to address shortages that occur as a result of the storm. If Administrator Pruitt determines that extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist in a state or region as a result of the hurricane, a temporary waiver can help ensure an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected area, particularly for emergency vehicles. EPA has an experienced team standing by to expedite handling of any fuel waiver requests by the states.

•    Monitoring Public Water Systems: Water systems can be severely impacted during hurricanes due to storm surge, flooding, or loss of power. EPA Region 6 has developed a tracking system for us to identify systems in the storm’s pathway. About 300 public drinking water systems are in the path (red zone) of hurricane Harvey in Texas. Both Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Louisiana Department of Hospitals have uploaded their potentially impacted systems into Response Manager, which enables planning for rapid assessments to restore water systems after the storm passes and flood waters recede. Following the storm, and if the state requests federal assistance, EPA conducts damage assessments of both drinking water and wastewater systems to identify impacts to critical assets and assist in the recovery.

•    Securing Superfund Sites: EPA assesses conditions at the NPL Superfund sites in the storm’s pathway and tasks each Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) remedial site manager to assess conditions and make on-site preparations for high winds and heavy rainfall.  Following the storm and receding floodwaters, EPA conducts rapid assessments to identify damage at sites and initiate cleanup plans if necessary. Any on-site activities at sites located in the storm’s path are ceased until the all clear is given and on-site equipment is secured.  In addition, freeboard for lagoons or ponds is increased to accommodate forecasted rainfall if possible. After a hurricane makes landfall and any flooding recedes, the EPA remedial managers will conduct assessments of each Superfund NPL site to ensure no damage has occurred.

•    Assessing Conditions at Major Industrial Facilities: EPA assesses conditions at the major industrial facilities in the storm’s pathway to identify potential impacts and countermeasures. Following the storm and receding floodwaters, spills and releases are reported to the National Response Center. NRC notifies US Coast Guard or EPA based on preapproved jurisdiction boundaries. EPA conducts follow up inspections and damage assessments in response to reports within EPA jurisdiction.

As EPA prepares to support FEMA and its local and state partners, it continues to focus its message on the importance of public safety. For information and updates from EPA, please visit EPA’s emergency response website, www.response.epa.gov/Hurricaneharvey2017.

This post was written by the United States Environmental Protection Agency © Copyright 2017
For more Environmental Law analysis, go to The National Law Review

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules on Renewable Fuel Standard Battle

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of renewable fuels advocates, including the Americans for Clean Energy and the National Corn Growers Association, agreeing with the petitioners that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) erred in how it interpreted and used the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver in the Renewable Fuel Standard law in setting low renewable fuel volumes for 2014-2016.

The National Corn Growers Association stated that the “court decision is a win for farmers, the biofuels industry, and consumers. This ruling affirms our view that the EPA did not follow the law when it reduced the 2014-2016 renewable fuel volumes below levels intended by Congress. The court held that EPA was wrong to interpret the phrase ‘inadequate domestic supply’ to mean ‘inadequate domestic supply and demand.’ We agree with the Court that effectively adding words to the law through this interpretation simply exceeds EPA’s authority.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the EPA isn’t allowed “to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers.”

The court ruling is a blow to oil refiners, who have argued that there are constraints to blending the fuels into petroleum. The American Petroleum Institute said in a statement it was “disappointed” with the court’s decision, which the trade group said highlighted the need for congressional action to reform the renewable fuel standard – a move congressional analysts have said is unlikely to happen.

This post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum LLP.
For more Environmental & Energy Legal News go to the National Law Review.

USDA Announces $15.1 Million In Grants For Bioenergy and Bioproducts

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems.  The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
  • Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
  • University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.​​​

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:

  • Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
  • Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
  • Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
  • University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.

More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

This post was written by Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D. of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Read more legal analysis at the National Law Review.