Saturday, December 21, 2013

Construction Employment on The Rise

By ACC of America

Mississippi and California Rack up the Largest 12-Month Gains, Montana and Ohio Have Biggest Declines; Indiana and California Top Monthly Rankings, While Kentucky and Arizona Shed the Most Jobs in November

Construction firms added jobs in 39 states over the past 12 months, while employment nearly stabilized in the remainder, according to an analysis released today by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials cautioned that the industry’s recovery was still relatively fragile, noting that a number of states experiencing large annual gains lost jobs during the past month.

“The widespread job gains seen in most states for the past few months continued in November, while no state recorded a year-over-year loss of more than 4 percent,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But progress remains fragile, with some states having results in the latest month that diverge sharply from their year-over-year outcomes.” He added that every state remains below its previous construction employment peak.

Mississippi led all states with a 17 percent rise (8,000 jobs) in construction employment between November 2012 and November 2013. Yet the state ranked 49th out of 50 states plus D.C. between October and November, with a loss of 2.3 percent or 1,300 construction jobs. Conversely, Indiana topped the monthly rankings, adding 4.8 percent (5,400 construction jobs), but lost 3.4 percent (-4,100 jobs) over 12 months. Only Montana (-4.0 percent, -900 jobs) and D.C. (-3.7 percent, -500 jobs) had steeper 12-month declines, Simonson pointed out.

States with strong 12-month percentage gains besides Mississippi included Connecticut (11 percent, 5,600 jobs), Missouri (9.8 percent, 10,100 jobs) and Georgia (9.5 percent, 13,200 jobs). California added the most jobs over the year (31,500, 5.2 percent), followed by Florida (24,300, 7.0 percent), Texas (13,300, 2.2 percent), Georgia and Missouri.

A total of 10 states plus D.C. shed construction jobs between November 2012 and November 2013, while employment was constant in Delaware. The largest number of losses occurred in Ohio (-5,200, -2.9 percent), followed by Indiana, Alabama (-2,500, -3.2 percent) and North Carolina (-2,500, -1.5 percent).

For the month, 30 states added construction jobs, 16 lost jobs, and employment held steady in four states plus D.C. In addition to Indiana, the steepest one-month gains occurred in New Hampshire (3.5 percent, 800 jobs) and Alaska (3.4 percent, 600 jobs). California added the most construction jobs in November (6,600, 1.1 percent), followed by Illinois (6,100, 3.3 percent) and Indiana. The steepest losses for the month occurred in Kentucky (-3.1 percent, -2,100 jobs), Louisiana (-2.6 percent, -3,700 jobs) and Mississippi. Louisiana lost the most jobs over the month, followed by Ohio (-3,600, -2.1 percent) and New York (-2,900, -0.9 percent).

Association officials noted that the job gains occurred following an unusual spike in public construction spending experienced in October that masked softening private sector demand.  They cautioned that as public spending declines, construction employment is likely to weaken in many parts of the country.  As a result, they urged Congress and the Obama administration to finalize water resources legislation and to act swiftly next year to renew long-term highway and transit legislation.

“At this point, it is hard to predict whether construction employment will continue to expand in many states next year,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Passing vital infrastructure measures will help protect construction employers from any softening in private sector demand, while giving the economy a needed boost.”

SOURCE ACC of America

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OSHA: What You Need to Know Right NOW

 

osha global hazard symbolsIn 1983 OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) published a Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). This became know as the "Employee Right-to-know" standard. In a nutshell, it meant workers had the right to know about hazardous chemicals in their workplace.
 
In 2012 OSHA revised this standard and it is now known as the "Right-to-understand" standard. With this revision OSHA mandated that all employers train workers on two parts of this new standard by December 1, 2013. Download this handout and familiarize yourself with new labeling requirements and the new format.
 
Whether you work in the office and encounter only toner for a copy machine or you work in the field and wonder what's in that spray foam we use in houses, this standard affects you. OSHA requires this training for all employees regardless of potential exposures.
 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mayor Annise Parker Rings in Season with 94th Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Ceremony

Ring in the season with the 94th Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Presented by Reliant on Friday, December 6 at Hermann Square outside of City Hall; 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. This spectacular, FREE event is a holiday tradition of music, fireworks and family fun. A towering holiday tree, glowing with energy efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lights, shimmering ornaments and a stunning star topper will light up the streets of downtown Houston this holiday season.

Danielle Bradbery, winner of "The Voice" 2013, will enchant crowds at Houston’s premier tree lighting as the featured artist. The holiday variety show will also include performances by the Winter Wonderettes, the KIPP SHARP Singers, and a command performance by International Touring Artist, Marcie Chapa and the MacArthur Jammin’ Generals Drum Line.

“I’m excited once again to kick-off the holidays at City Hall with my fellow Houstonians,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “This is such an animated event filled with lights, fireworks, music, family and friends. It truly signifies Houston’s energy.”

Immediately following the performance, Mayor Annise D. Parker and Reliant President, Elizabeth Killinger, will light the Official Holiday Tree and ignite a spectacular fireworks finale perfectly timed to the Hallelujah Chorus from “Handel’s Messiah” featuring Music Director, Ernest Walker and his award winning band and the official Holiday Choir featuring Westbury High School and Gospel Music Heritage Month Choir.

“I am thrilled to join Mayor Parker in this annual celebration of hope and joy, coming together as a city to usher in the holiday season with the tree lighting,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of Reliant. “This is Reliant’s eighth year to sponsor the event, and we are excited to join in the holiday fun while being ever conscious of energy efficient alternatives to light up our holidays.”

The Presenting Sponsor is Reliant, an NRG Company. Other sponsors include: Southwest Airlines®, Official Airline Sponsor; Cigna, VIP Reception Sponsor; Houston Downtown Management District; Houston Parks and Recreation Department; and the Houston Public Library Foundation. The celebration is produced by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. Public parking is available in the Theater District.

For more information, please visit www.houstontx.gov or www.houstonspecialevents.org.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Houston Fire Department Offers Home Heating Safety Tips


Houston Fire Department LogoWith the holiday season and colder weather fast approaching, the Houston Fire Department (HFD) recommends the following safety tips when using supplemental heating sources:
Space Heaters Need Space
  • Keep all combustible materials at least three feet from the heater
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater
  • Open-face heaters should have a screen
  • Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Vented Gas / Fired Heating Appliances Tips - Central heating units, floor furnaces, recessed wall heaters and vented space heaters
  • Do not use these units without a proper vent pipe that exhausts to the outside
  • If your flame is not blue, it is not burning properly and is producing carbon monoxide, which can kill you. Turn off the appliance
  • Inspect the appliance(s) annually by a qualified service technician. Don't wait for cold weather!
  • Look for the American Gas Association label and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper usage.
  • Use flexible metal tubing (never rubber) with threaded ends to connect the heater to the gas valve. There should be a cutoff valve for the heater at the wall
  • Use soapy water to check all connections and valves for leaks. NEVER use a match to test for a gas leak!
Electric Heaters Tips
  • Never overload outlets or breakers
  • Never use extension cords for the heater. If the cord is hot to the touch, turn off the heater and unplug it!
  • Permanently installed electric heaters should have lint and dust removed regularly. Lint and dust will burn!
Fireplace safety from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) 
According to the NFPA, while fireplaces often conjure up images of warmth and comfort, they also are a source of house fires.

  • Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, and kept at a safe distance from your home
  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a professional chimney sweep
  • Keep combustibles at least three feet away from a fireplace, and create a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room
  • Never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly when children are present
Smoke Detectors Save Lives - It's Just That Simple
If you need a smoke detector, call 832.394.6633 to schedule a smoke detector installation or appointment. If you or someone you know is deaf or hard-of-hearing and needs a smoke detector, contact Kenyatta Parker at Kenyatta.parker@houstontx.gov or 832.394.6648.

For more information on smoke detectors, visithttp://www.houstontx.gov/fire/community/smokealarmform.html. To learn more about HFD, visitwww.houstonfire.org.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Efforts Underway to Control Harmful Air Pollution at Texas, Louisiana Facilities

Boston-based Cabot Corporation, the second largest carbon black manufacturer in the United States, has agreed to pay a $975,000 civil penalty and spend an estimated $84 million on state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution, resolving alleged violations of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at its three facilities in the towns of Franklin and Ville Platte, La. and Pampa, Texas, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today.  This agreement is the first to result from a national enforcement initiative aimed at bringing carbon black manufacturers into compliance with the CAA’s NSR provisions.    
 
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is a co-plaintiff in the case and will receive $292,500 of the penalty.
 
“With today’s commitment to invest in pollution controls, Cabot has raised the industry standard for environmental protection,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These upgrades will have lasting, tangible impacts on improved respiratory health for local communities. We expect others in the industry to take notice and realize their obligation to protect the communities in which they operate.”
 
“By agreeing to pay an appropriate penalty and install state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution, Cabot Corp is taking a positive step forward to address these significant violations of the Clean Air Act,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “This agreement will serve as a model for how the industry can come into compliance with the Clean Air Act by installing controls that prevent harmful pollution and improve air quality for surrounding communities.” 
 
“This is a huge win for the citizens of our district,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley.  “These harmful pollutants can cause serious, long-term respiratory harm.  The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the enforcement of the environmental laws and protection of the community.  This settlement promotes a healthier environment and an opportunity to allow the residents of the district to breathe cleaner air.”
 
At all three facilities, the settlement requires that Cabot optimize existing controls for particulate matter or soot, operate an “early warning” detection system that will alert facility operators to any particulate matter releases, and comply with a plan to control “fugitive emissions” which result from leaks or unintended releases of gases.  To address nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, Cabot must install selective catalytic reduction technology to significantly reduce emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent limits.  At the two larger facilities in Louisiana, Cabot must address sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution by installing wet gas scrubbers to control emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent emissions limits.  In addition, the Texas facility is required to comply with a limit on the amount of sulfur in feedstock which is the lowest for any carbon black plant in the United States.
 
These measures are expected to reduce NOx emissions by approximately 1,975 tons per year, SO2 emissions by approximately 12,380 tons per year, and significantly improve existing particulate matter controls. Exposure to NOx emissions can cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. SO2 and NOx can be converted to fine particulate matter once released in the air. Fine particulates can be breathed in and lodged deep in the lungs, leading to a variety of health problems and even premature death.  The harmful health and environmental impacts from these pollutants can occur near the facilities as well as in communities far downwind from the plants.
 
In the complaint filed by DOJ on behalf of EPA, the government alleged that between 2003 and 2009, Cabot made major modifications at its carbon black facilities without obtaining pre-construction permits and without installing and operating required pollution technology. The complaint further alleges that these actions resulted in increased emissions of NOx and SO2, violating CAA requirements stating that companies must obtain the necessary permits prior to making modifications at a facility and must install and operate required pollution control equipment if those modifications will result in increases of certain pollutants.
 
Today’s action also requires that Cabot spend $450,000 on energy saving and pollution reduction projects that will benefit the communities surrounding the facilities in Franklin and Ville Platte, La. and in Pampa, Texas, such as upgrading air handling units at municipal buildings in the three communities to more efficient technology. 
 
Carbon black is a fine carbonaceous powder used as a structural support medium in tires and as a pigment in a variety of products such as plastic, rubber, inkjet toner and cosmetics. It’s produced by burning oil in a low oxygen environment; the oil is transformed into soot (carbon black), which is collected in a baghouse. Because the oil used in the process is low value high sulfur oil, the manufacturing process creates significant amounts of SO2 and NOx,, as well as particulate matter.
 
This settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions. Since 2010, EPA has been focusing enforcement efforts on reducing emissions at carbon manufacturing plants in the United States. Currently, none of the 15 carbon black manufacturing plants located in the United States have controls on emissions of SO2 and NOx or have continuous emissions monitors.
 
Cabot Corporation manufactures global specialty chemicals and performance materials, which include rubber additives for tires and brake pads, activated carbon for air purifiers, chemicals used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, and inkjet colorants. 
 
The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the United States District Court for the Western District Court for Louisiana and will be subject to a 45-day public comment period. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement. The proposed consent decree can be viewed online atwww.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html
 

More information about EPA’s national enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011airpollution.html

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Judge Rules in Favor of EPA: Chemical Company Fails to Disclose Public Health Risks

In an administrative decision issued earlier this week, Elementis Chromium, Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of chromium chemicals in the world, was ordered to pay a penalty of $2,571,800 for failing to disclose information about substantial risk of injury to human health from exposure to hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, on workers in modern chemical production plants, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 

“Our job is to protect all Americans from exposure to harmful chemicals at home, at work and in their daily lives,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This decision supports our commitment to public health and reinforces the importance of companies providing key information about the risks their chemicals pose.” 

TSCA requires chemical manufacturers, processors, or distributors that obtain information demonstrating that a substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment immediately inform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This information allows EPA to understand and limit, when necessary, potential hazards associated with the manufacturing, use, and disposal of chemical substances. 

In September 2010, EPA filed a complaint against Elementis with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, alleging TSCA violations for failing to report the results of an industry-commissioned study that documented significant occupational impacts to workers in modern chemical plants. According to EPA, the study filled a gap in scientific literature regarding the relationship between hexavalent chromium exposure and respiratory cancer in modern chromium production facilities. Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan Biro held an administrative hearing in December 2011, where both sides presented expert witnesses and additional evidence. On November 12, 2013, Judge Biro issued a decision and assessed a penalty, concluding that Elementis had violated TSCA. 

This decision will become a final order 45 days following issuance unless the company chooses to appeal the decision to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. 

Elementis, which is based in East Windsor, N.J., is a global specialty chemical company with operations worldwide. Elementis has been manufacturing and distributing chromium-based chemical substances and mixtures for more than 35 years and has two main manufacturing plants in Castle Hayne, N.C., and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NARI Encourages Green Remodeling Practices

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and GreenStar have formed a strategic alliance to provide green training and certification to the remodeling community.

GreenStar is a leading residential building standards and certification program available in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. This program certifies homes via an objective, third-party verification system that assures consumers that their remodeling project meets the program requirements and is constructed as designed.

NARI’ Green Certified Professional (GCP) certification prep program “High-Performance Remodeling” has incorporated GreenStar training, and GreenStar will now award points toward its project certifications for those who have earned a NARI GCP.

“NARI’s High- Performance Remodeling course and GCP certification provides remodelers the technical tools needed to build GreenStar certified projects,” says Dan Taddei, NARI director of education and certification. “The industry has been looking for a way to recognize projects like such as additions or kitchen and bath remodels as being remodeled green—GreenStar does it.”
   
“GreenStar marks a new era for remodelers across the country,” says Michael Anschel, GreenStar’s director of development.  “Now there is finally a comprehensive, robust, legitimate green remodeling tool that anyone can use. The debate over what constitutes ‘green’ is over. Remodelers can certify everything from a bathroom, kitchen, or even windows and siding replacement, all the way to a whole home remodel and offer something unique and valuable to their clients.”

Both NARI’s GCP and GreenStar focus on the holistic view of the house and its interactive systems, focus on areas such as energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, water conservation, resource efficiency and site and community impact.


About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry.  The Association, which represents member companies nationwide—comprised of 63,000 remodeling contractors— is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”™ To learn more about membership, visit www.NARI.org or contact national headquarters, based in Des Plaines, Ill., at (847) 298-9200.

ABOUT GREENSTAR: GreenStar, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 2007 and has developed a leading residential building standards and certification program created to promote healthy, durable, high-performance design and construction for both new and existing homes.  An objective, third-party verification system assures consumers that the new home or remodeling project meets the program requirements and is constructed as designed. A whole-systems approach applies the five (5) key concepts of green building programs – Energy Efficiency, Resource Efficiency (including durability), Indoor Environmental Quality, Water Conservation, Site and Community – to the traditional building process.  The MNGS program improves the impact of green building programs on individuals, their families, the community, and the environment. - See more at: http://www.nari.org/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=1685#sthash.0zMoxAgn.dpuf

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What is Builder Confidence in 55+ Market?

By NAHB

Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market showed continued improvement in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) latest 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. All segments of the market—single-family homes, condominiums and multifamily rental—registered strong increases.

The single-family index increased 14 points to a level of 50, which is the highest third-quarter number since the inception of the index in 2008 and the eighth consecutive quarter of year over year improvements.

“We have seen steady improvement in the 55+ housing sector as buyers and renters are attracted to new homes and communities that offer the lifestyle they desire” said Robert Karen, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council and managing member of the Symphony Development Group. “Although the market is significantly stronger than it has been in recent years, we still have a ways to go to get back to full production.”

There are separate 55+ HMIs for two segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes and multifamily condominiums. Each 55+ HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair or poor (high, average or low for traffic). An index number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good.

All of the components of the 55+ single-family HMI showed considerable growth from a year ago: present sales climbed 16 points to 52, expected sales for the next six months rose 11 points to 53 and traffic of prospective buyers increased 10 points to 43.

The 55+ multifamily condo HMI posted a gain of 14 points to 37, which is the highest third-quarter reading since the inception of the index. All 55+ multifamily condo HMI components increased compared to a year ago as present sales increased 15 points to 37, expected sales for the next six months climbed 11 points to 40 and traffic of prospective buyers rose 13 points to 35.

The 55+ multifamily rental indices also showed strong gains in the third quarter as present production increased 17 points to 48, expected future production rose 15 points to 50, current demand for existing units climbed 18 points to 60 and future demand increased 16 points to 60.

“Right now the positive year over year increase in confidence by builders for the 55+ market is tracking right along with other segments of the home building industry,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “And like other segments of the industry, the 55+ market is improving in part because consumers are more likely to be able to sell their current homes, which allows them to buy a new home or move into an apartment that suits their specific needs.”

For the full 55+ HMI tables, please visit nahb.org/55hmi.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Remodeling Market Index (RMI) Continues to Climb

By NAHB

The Remodeling Market Index (RMI) continued to climb at a modest pace in the third quarter of 2013 rising two points to 57, the highest reading since the first quarter of 2004, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

An RMI above 50 indicates that more remodelers report market activity is higher (compared to the prior quarter) than report it is lower. The overall RMI averages ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future remodeling activity. The RMI's current market conditions index rose from 54 in the previous quarter to 58, the highest reading since the creation of the RMI in 2001, driven partly by rising existing home sales.

"The growth in home equity and home sales prompted home owners to remodel as they prepare to move or undertake upgrades that they put off during tough times," said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bill Shaw, GMR, GMB, CGP, a remodeler from Houston. "NAHB Remodelers looks forward to continuing our tradition of professional service and craftsmanship as the housing recovery makes progress."

All three major components of the RMI's current market conditions index increased in the third quarter. Major additions and alterations increased from 51 to 55, minor additions and repairs from 55 to 58 and maintenance and repair from 57 to 59. The future market indicators component of the RMI remained even with the previous quarter reading of 56.

Regionally, the RMI has registered two consecutive quarters of gains in the Northeast, Midwest and West. In the South, the RMI edged down slightly in the third quarter after a five point gain the previous quarter. All four regions were above 50 and higher in the third quarter than in the first quarter of 2013.

"In addition to existing home sales, which support remodeling activity as owners fix up their homes before and after a move, remodeling has benefitted from rising home values," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "This boosts home equity that owners can tap to finance remodeling projects. We expect existing home sales and house prices to increase, but at a slower rate over the next year, so the demand for remodeling services should also increase, but more gradually over that period."

For more information about remodeling, visit www.nahb.org/remodel.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carbon Pollution Decreases 10%

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its third year of greenhouse gas data detailing carbon pollution emissions and trends broken down by industrial sector, greenhouse gas, geographic region, and individual facility. The data, required to be collected annually by Congress, highlight a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions as more utilities switch to cleaner burning natural gas.

“EPA is supporting President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by providing the high-quality data necessary to help guide common-sense solutions to address climate change,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Putting this data in the hands of the public increases transparency, supports accountability, and unlocks innovation.”

Greenhouse gases emitted through human activities such as transportation and power generation are the primary driver of recent climate change, which threatens the health and welfare of Americans—by increasing the likelihood of hotter, longer heat waves, fueling more frequent and intense extreme weather events, and worsening ground level ozone, an air pollutant that causes respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. 

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program collects annual greenhouse gas information from over 8,000 facilities in the largest emitting industries, including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills, and landfills. In addition, the program is receiving data on the increasing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air-conditioning. The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the United States. 

The 2012 data show that in the two years since reporting began, emissions from power plants have decreased 10 percent. This is due to a switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation and a slight decrease in electricity production. Fossil-fuel fired power plants remain the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. With just under 1,600 facilities emitting over 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, these plants account for roughly 40 percent of total U.S. carbon pollution. 

The data are accessible through EPA’s online data publication tool, FLIGHT, which is available for both desktop and mobile devices. This year, with three years of data for most sources, FLIGHT has been updated with new features, including the ability to view trend graphs by sector and facility, and download charts and graphs for use in presentations and reports. The data are also published through EnviroFacts, which allows the public to download data for further analyses. 

Access EPA’s GHG Reporting Program Data and Data Publication Tool:
http://www.epa.gov/ghgreporting/

Source: EPA

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Energy Day Festival Hits Houston at Hermann Square

Expanded Electronic Recycling in Houston

 

The City of Houston has a more comprehensive electronics waste (e-waste) products program for residents.  Houstonians can now drop off e-waste to be recycled  free of charge at storage facilities participating in the GREENspot DROPoff Houston Program.  
 
Currently, there are over 30 locations throughout the city where residents can drop off e-waste, with the goal to add an additional 20 locations by the end of 2013.  For GREENspot locations, visit http://dropoff.houstontx.gov     
    
Here are some examples of everyday items that can now easily be recycled: Beta/DVD/VCR players, cables, computer mice and monitors, cords, hard drives, fax machines, keyboards, laptops, radios, stereo components, televisions and zip drives.  Note:  All personal information will be stripped before recycling.
Since September 2011, the City has partnered with CompuCycle to provide a permanent electronics recycling drop-off site at CompuCycle headquarters located at 7700 Kempwood Houston 77055, and monthly mobile e-waste collections on Saturdays at three City of Houston recycling sites. 
 
For more information about the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department (SWD) and its services, visit www.houstonsolidwaste.org, follow SWD on twitter at houstontrash or like SWD on facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/houstonsolidwaste.

Energy Day Festival
Saturday, October 19, 2103 at Hermann Square
 
The Third Annual Energy Day Festival is a free, family-friendly festival on Saturday, October 19,2013, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., at Hermann Square, 900 Smith, Houston 77002, directly in front ofHouston City Hall. This day-long festival celebrates and highlights the importance of energy in the daily lives of Houstonians. There will be energy exhibits, contests, food, live music, food and fun for all ages.
 
The Energy Day's mission is to highlight and demonstrate innovation in energy and to especially spark the interests of the next generation in energy-related careers. Through exciting and interactive formats, Energy Day will give children/young adults and their families an opportunity to learn about various forms of energy, scientific breakthroughs and state of the art technology through educational displays, demonstrations and presentations.  Additionally, there will be the chance to meet the experts and ask questions.
 
To learn more about the festival, visit http://energydayfestival.org/. For more information on City of Houston sustainability efforts, visit www.codegreenhouston.org/ andwww.greenhoustontx.gov/.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tips for Ventilating Your Kitchen

Cooking in the kitchen generates a lot of moisture and odors, and requires ventilation. While there are various ventilation strategies for a kitchen, the range hood is by far the most common. The range hood should be used to capture and exhaust combustion products and vent them directly outdoors. These range hoods should be sized correctly. For a typical range, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) recommend 100 cubic feet per minute (cfm). Larger fans may need to have make-up air provided, to prevent excessively depressurizing the home and potentially causing combustion equipment to backdraft. Choose a quiet or remote mounted fan so noise doesn't keep you from using the range hood every time you cook.

Air-sealing Opportunities

Despite good ventilation, moisture-laden air from the kitchen can still make it's way into wall and ceiling cavities. A kitchen remodeling project may present an opportunity to improve air-sealing. Electrical, plumbing, and ventilation penetrations should be sealed where they are accessible or in any walls that are opened. Depending on how they were constructed, soffits can be troublesome to air-seal, but if you are replacing cabinets, you may be able to access space that would otherwise be unreachable.

Flooring

Flooring must not only have a good resistance to harm by water, but should also prevent water which does get on the floor from penetrating to the subfloor and space below.

Do not install carpet near water sources or in areas where there is a chronic moisture problem such as around sinks. To reduce the potential for microbial growth in the joints of hard surfaces or porous flooring installed near water sources, be sure to seal the entire surface.

Windows

Kitchen remodeling may present a good opportunity to replace old windows with new ENERGY STAR® windows. While costs do not always justify the change from purely an energy savings perspective, there may be other benefits of new windows. More efficient windows may be less prone to condensation and related mold growth. Painted window sashes and frames in homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint; this is a special concern because the friction of opening and closing windows can release lead dust into the home.

EPA General Recommendations

While remodeling or improving the energy efficiency of your home, steps should be taken to minimize pollution from sources inside the home. In addition, residents should be alert to signs of inadequate ventilation, such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold and mildew growth and use the remodeling project to correct underlying problems. While all of our general recommendations may not apply to your home, you should be aware of the issues, from radon and lead, to ventilation, and good work practices.

By EPA

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Census Reports States Married Couples with Children Account for Only 19.6% of All Households in U.S


By NAHB

According to a recent report by the Census, married couples with children account for only 19.6% of all households in the U.S.  The new figure represents a drop of 4.5 percentage points from 2000 when 24.1% of all households in the U.S. were married couples with children. The share of total households in 1970 was 40.3%.

As the share of households that include married couples with children decreased, one-person households and other household types rose. The share of one-person households increased from 17.1% in 1970 to 27.5% in 2012.

The dramatic decline in married households with children is due in part to delays in household formation. Researchers point out that Americans, on average, are waiting 5 years longer to get married when compared to 1970. Additionally, Americans are waiting longer to have children. The average age at first birth in 2006 was 25 compared to the average age at first birth age of 21 in 1970.

While delays in household formation place downward pressure on the demand for single-family homes, the increasing share of those living alone places an upward pressure on the demand for rental units. Trends in new multifamily construction suggest builders and developers may be taking delayed household formation into account. The share of multi-family homes built for rent increased from an historic low of 47% during the third quarter of 2005 to above 90% in 2013. Additionally, the size of units built for rent remains relatively small when compared to owner-occupied units. The median size of rental apartments was 1,081 square feet in 2012.

In fact, builder and developer sentiment about current conditions in the apartment and condominium market are at all time highs. In the second quarter of 2013, the Multifamily Production Index MPI increased nine points to 61. The (MPI) is measured on a scale of 0 to 100 so that any number over 50 indicates that more respondents report improving conditions than worsening conditions.

Although builders and developers appear to be well positioned to take advantage of the trends in household formation, it is important to recognize that delayed household formation does not mean these household are not eventually formed. Instead, many individuals will eventually marry and have children or form other household types.

Other household types (family and nonfamily) increased from 12.3% in 1970 to 23.9% in 2012. Other family households include one-parent families, about half of all respondents in 2012, with the remainder being families that include an unmarried householder and relative(s). The share of households that include couples without children has been remarkably stable, near 30%.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

13th annual Green Power Leadership Awards Go To 21 Green Power Partners

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented its 13th annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 21 Green Power Partners and three suppliers for their achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable electricity market. Close to one-third of America’s carbon pollution – a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change – comes from power plants. By using green power, communities, businesses and organizations can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support America’s growing renewable energy industry, improve public health, and help transition the United States to cleaner energy sources.

“Our 2013 Green Power Leadership Award winners are driving new renewable energy generation and providing clear examples of organizations thriving on innovation and sustainability,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These winners are moving us closer to the vision President Obama outlined in his Climate Action Plan—cutting harmful pollution and promoting American leadership in renewable energy.”

EPA defines green power as electricity that is generated from renewable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and low-impact hydroelectric sources and produces no fossil fuel-based carbon pollution. The winning organizations are recognized for dramatically increasing their green power purchases, installing large-scale solar panel arrays, and leading innovative renewable energy procurement efforts, among other actions.

The 2013 Green Power Leadership Award winners are listed below in the following categories:

Sustained Excellence in Green Power: Intel Corporation (Santa Clara, Calif.); Kohl's Department Stores (Menomonee Falls, Wis.); Staples (Framingham, Mass.)
Green Power Partners of the Year: Cisco Systems, Inc. (San Jose, Calif.); Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.); Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, Wash.); The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) 
Green Power Communities of the Year: Cincinnati, Ohio; Mercer Island, Wash.
Green Power Purchasing: Accredo Packaging, Inc. (Sugar Land, Texas); Dell Inc. (Round Rock, Texas); Pearson (Upper Saddle River, N.J.); Powdr (Park City, Utah), The North Face (Alameda, Calif.); U.S. Department of Energy (Washington, D.C.); UW Credit Union (Madison, Wis.); Western Pennsylvania Energy Consortium (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
On-site Generation: Apple Inc. (Cupertino, Calif.); County of Santa Clara, Calif.; Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, Calif.); Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Green Power Suppliers of the Year: 3Degrees (San Francisco, Calif.); Dominion Virginia Power (Richmond, Va.); Sterling Planet (Atlanta, Ga.) 

The 21 award-winning partners were chosen for their exemplary use of green power from more than 1,500 partner organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, small and medium sized businesses, local, state and federal governments, and colleges and universities. Utilities, renewable energy project developers, and other green power suppliers were eligible to apply for the Supplier of the Year Award, which recognizes leadership in voluntary renewable energy offerings.

EPA also announced the winners of the third annual Green Power Community Challenge, a national competition between communities to use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the collective participation of local governments, businesses, and residents. Out of 48 competing communities, Washington, D.C., won the challenge for a third year in a row for using the most green power annually with more than one billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). Oak Park, Ill., also won the challenge for a second consecutive year for achieving the highest green power percentage of total electricity use at 92 percent.

EPA, through the Green Power Partnership, works with partner organizations to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use. Nearly two-thirds of partners use 100 percent green power. All together, the partners are voluntarily using more than 28 billion kWh of green power annually, equivalent to avoiding carbon pollution created by the electricity use of more than three million average American homes each year.

More on the Green Power Leadership Awards: http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/awards/winners.htm
More on the Green Power Community Challenge: www.epa.gov/greenpower/communities/gpcchallenge.htm
More on the Green Power Partnership: www.epa.gov/greenpower

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stop Smoking in Your Home and Car: Serious Health Conditions


Secondhand Smoke Can Make Children Suffer Serious Health Risks

Breathing secondhand smoke can be harmful to children's health including asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), bronchitis and pneumonia and ear infections.

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for:

  • increases in the number of asthma attacks and severity of symptoms in 200,000 to 1 million children with asthma;
  • between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (for children under 18 months of age); and,
  • respiratory tract infections resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year.

Head Start

  • EPA and HHS Partnering to Promote Smoke-free Homes for Head Start Families
  • EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Bureau are working together to improve the quality of life for nearly a million Head Start children by conducting nationwide secondhand smoke and asthma outreach.  Read more about the EPA and HHS partnership and what you can do as a Head Start teacher, staff member or parent to help create Care for their Air: Promoting Smoke-free Homes for Head Start Families.
  • The developing lungs of young children are severely affected by exposure to secondhand smoke for several reasons including that children are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults, and have little control over their indoor environments. Children receiving high doses of secondhand smoke, such as those with smoking mothers, run the greatest risk of damaging health effects.
EPA

Saturday, September 14, 2013

EPA Launches Interactive Web-Based Mapping Tool


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an interactive web-based mapping tool that provides the public with access and information on Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) filed with EPA for major projects proposed on federal lands and other proposed federal actions. When visiting the website, users can  click on any state for a list of EISs, , including information about the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of these projects. 


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the impacts of proposed actions, as well as any reasonable alternatives as part of their decision-making process. For proposed projects with potentially significant impacts, federal agencies prepare a detailed Environmental Impact Statement which is filed with EPA and made available for public review and comment. EPA is required to review and comment on Environmental Impact Statements prepared by other federal agencies.

“This interactive tool makes it easier for the public to be informed about the environment around them,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which oversees NEPA compliance. “Major projects and decisions have the potential to affect the environment where you work and live. I encourage everyone to check out the tool, stay informed and lend your voice.” 

The user can click on a state in the map and is provided with comment letters submitted by the EPA on Environmental Impact Statements within the last 60 days. The tool also provides users with the information they need to identify projects with open comment periods, including how to submit comments.

The tool supports EPA’s commitment to utilize advanced information technologies that help increase transparency of its enforcement and compliance programs. EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has recently launched the “Next Generation Compliance” initiative, designed to modernize its approach and drive improved compliance to reduce pollution. Learn more about the effort by visiting: http://blog.epa.gov/epaconnect/2013/08/nextgen/.

To use EPA’s EIS Mapper, visit http://eismapper.epa.gov/.

For more about EPA’s NEPA Program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/ 

Monday, August 26, 2013

EPA's New Climate Change Video Series Supports President Obama's Climate Action Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution


The series supports President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and highlights benefits of reducing energy consumption
WASHINGTON
– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a new series of short public service videos on climate change. The videos cover a range of topics related to climate change, including its causes and impacts, actions Americans can take to reduce their impact, and the benefits to the economy of addressing climate change.
 
The new video series supports the President’s Climate Action Plan by encouraging American families to reduce the amount of energy they consume, cutting down on their utility bills and protecting people’s health.
On June 25th, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change. A warming climate can adversely impact water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems as well as health and safety of Americans and the nation’s economy.
 
These videos show that there are simple things that all Americans can do to help.
Watch the video series: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBhfkkujnoRAgTFtLreccWDfpxBIspCGv
Download broadcast quality video: http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/usepa#.Ue11v9LVB54


 Learn more on climate change:
http://www.epa.gov/climatechange
 
 
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NOAA Says 2012 Hottest Year on Record Globally: What Are You Doing to Save the Planet?


State of the Climate in 2012 - report cover.
The 2012 State of the Climate report is available online.
(Credit: NOAA)
Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed report, with scientists fromNOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries (highlightsfull report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky. 
“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place," said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment."
Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest “summer minimum” extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent.
The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.