Monthly Archives: March 2017

USEPA On the Chopping Block

As of this writing, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts USEPA funding by 31% and staff by 20%, the largest proposed cut of any agency or department in the federal government. What would this mean to us in the environmental community? Fewer environmental regulations and reduced enforcement. If the proposed budget is approved (initial budgets are rarely approved as proposed), the USEPA budget would be cut to $5.7 billion, its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation.

The Trump Administration says the budget cuts would move the USEPA’s focus back to its “core legal requirements” of safeguarding air and water.

The proposed USEPA budget would eliminate over 50 programs, including Energy Star, the Chemical Safety Board, and regional programs that not only clean polluted areas, but also provide job training in under-served areas. There would be major cuts in enforcement of Superfund and the Clean Air Act, promoting greater emissions. A number of governors – even Republicans – seeing other benefits to these programs, have criticized the proposed cuts. Therefore, many believe that Congress will renew and fund some of these programs before the budget is approved.

Philosophically, the new administration wishes to transfer lawmaking and enforcement responsibilities to the states, with the USEPA retaining only a minor support role.

In addition, on March 13, President Trump gave all executive branch agencies, including the USEPA, 180 days to conduct an internal review and to propose reorganization plans to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.” The intention is to recommend and then institute the potential elimination or major paring down of agencies or divisions deemed unnecessary and to merge redundant functions. The criteria for change includes:

• whether some or all of the functions of an agency is even necessary or important to the public, or justified by the public benefits that it provides,

• whether some or all of the functions of an agency would be better left to state or local governments to administer or be unregulated and left to the private sector,

• whether some or all of the functions of one or multiple agencies are redundant,

• the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, programs, and terminating staff.

This presidential order includes receiving comment from the public and affected stakeholders through Federal Register Notice.

In addition, a subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee recently heard testimony on how to improve the USEPA’s Clean Air Act and Brownsfield program of CERCLA. The intent of the hearings, according to the Republicans who head the subcommittee, is to determine how updating these environmental rules can result in expanded economic opportunities, infrastructure, and manufacturing.

It is no secret that a broad goal of the new administration is to revise or eliminate environmental laws that are perceived to hurt business growth. A major initial target of this effort is the repeal of the Clean Power Plan of the Obama Administration, which is expected shortly. A simple majority of Congress can repeal rules passed in the waning days of the previous administration. The same may be true of federal rules finalized in January that would increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. Recent studies differ on the cost to auto manufacturers to comply. The new administration cited one study indicating a high cost, while a more recent study accused the first study of overstating the cost of compliance by industry by 40%. (

Of course, critics and the environmental community have a lot to say about these various proposals, mainly that most environmental laws have public health benefits, such as reduced premature death, reduced hospitalizations, and improved worker productivity that is much greater than the costs of particular industries to pay for the environmental upgrades necessary to comply. For example, the Office of Management and Budget stated that between 2001 and 2011 that the benefits of USEPA regulations far exceeded the actual costs to implement and comply: $141 billion to $691 billion in benefits compared to $42 billion and $66 billion in costs.

Also, by eliminating many USEPA programs, including scientific research, there will be less scientific data available to substantiate a need to modify or toughen a specific existing rule; yet the need may be there. If environmental management is left to the states, there will be less funds available to perform such research. This is part of an anti-science bias of the new administration alleged by critics.

CCES has the experts and experience to perform a comprehensive technical (not legal) review of your compliance status vis-à-vis air and other environmental regulations. We keep up to date on changes at the federal and state level. Contact us today to see how we can help you reduce compliance costs at 914-584-6720 or at

Enabling Renewable Power With Battery Storage Systems

Renewable energy has dramatically advanced in the US in recent years, progressing against the established energy base because of technological advances, the easy accessibility of raw materials, and government mandates and financial incentives. Not only are solar panels affordable and profitable for many home owners, but conditions are right to build solar farms for large-scale electricity generation. And there are many news stories about wind farms and plans to build massive off-shore wind farms. Many states have ambitious, yet achievable goals for a certain percentage of power coming from renewables. But the “elephant in the room” is that most renewable energy sources are intermittent and, therefore, limiting in terms of reliable integrating into a utility grid, such as at night or cloudy days or when the wind is not blowing. When conditions are “right”, these sources can produce a large amount of power, but when not, they produce little or none. It is hard to manage an electrical grid for a city or community this way.

The answer is to be able to store large quantities of excess power production above the demand of the moment, to be utilized during periods when power cannot be produced. Heavy research into larger and better utility-sized batteries or storage systems is proceeding. Whatever the form of such storage will become economical and prevalent, there will likely be land use, permitting and environmental issues to contend with.

Energy storage technologies do exist. Pumping water to higher ground at night to be used to generate electricity during peak demand is used. The main research these days is on lithium ion-based battery systems, which many believe offer the prerequisites for a viable utility-based system, such as reliability, fast response times, ease to implement, and large scale for residential and commercial applications.

In anticipation of the growth of utility-scale battery storage projects, several states have passed rules with goals for certain gigawatt storage capabilities state- or community-wide (CA, OR, WA, MA). However, to achieve this, it is likely that significant land must be available to install and operate such systems and infrastructure and operations be present, as well, to transmit the stored power into the grid for rapid transmittance during peak demand. This may result in critical issues that must be addressed, such as land use, noise, truck traffic, storage and transportation of potentially hazardous materials, permitting, and environmental. It is likely that such energy storage projects would be placed where power is needed in or near urban areas where space is tighter and more people reside or work. States and localities with old infrastructure or in greatest need of reliable power during peak periods would be warned to anticipate and address such issues sooner rather than later, before systems are potentially chosen and designed.

CCES has the experts to help your company become both more energy efficient and to implement renewable power to maximize financial benefits and promote flexibility with a minimum of disruption for your employees. Join the wave of a more efficient and cleaner energy future and maximize the benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Overlooked Way To Reduce Electricity Usage: Power Factor Correction

This blog has produced many articles on how to save electricity and other energy usage through energy efficiency or use of renewable power. All good. But an additional way to save electricity usage is to optimize the way electricity comes into your building and is managed, called Power Factor Correction. According to this excellent article in, Power Factor Correction can reduce energy use by 10% or more. (

The article describes two kinds of power used in AC operations: active energy and reactive energy. Active power is more conducive to perform mechanical work. Therefore, ways to increase the relative proportion of active power to reactive power will lead to greater electricity savings. The article uses a beer analogy to describe this. Think of the beer mug as total electricity. The beer is composed of the liquid beer (active power) and the foam (reactive power). While the foam has some taste, you are clearly getting more of your money’s worth having more liquid in the mug and less foam.

The power factor (PF) is the ratio of the active to total electricity. A PF of 90% or greater is optimal. PF can be affected by two areas. If a motor is oversized for the application, this can lower PF. More power is needed initially to overcome greater viscosity during mixing compared to the middle of the operation. This can be corrected and efficiency improved with a variable frequency drive (VFD), which adjusts the motor output based on need. Another option to save electricity is to use a smaller motor, but perform the mixing for a longer period.

Another fine article ( discusses well correcting PF at the load which for large motors can produce significant energy savings. Power factor correction introduces capacitor banks or energy compensators into the facility electrical infrastructure. Implementing these tools reduces energy loss, increases energy efficiency, and reduces equipment costs.

Power factor correction can be enhanced by adopting certain measures:

• Automatic capacitor banks provide economic benefit for low voltage loads

• Installing automatic low voltage capacitor banks allows for full compensations without risk of overcompensation.

• To better manage large sites with multiple transformers, facility managers should consider devices for capacitor bank monitoring and control with built-in communications capabilities.

While power factor correction is not as glitzy as solar panels or LED light arrays, it should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce energy usage and costs. Make sure a qualified, experienced electrical firm performs the measurements of PF, as well as designs and installs the strategies to improve efficiency.

CCES has the experts to help you by performing an energy audit to help you maximize financial benefits by minimizing your energy usage and peak demand. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Natural Gas Generated from Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations

Municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) do the unheralded work of taking sanitary waste and treating it so it can be safely managed. Over a hundred years ago, cholera and other diseases of exposure to crude sanitary waste were commonplace in the US. But quietly, because of well-run WWTPs we have few cases any more.

While treating the solid waste portion of sanitary waste, bacteria digest the solids anaerobically to form digester gas, a gas that contains methane and has combustion capabilities. However, digester gas is more dilute, in terms of methane – than natural gas, and, therefore, is not very useful. Many WWTPs have purchased generators that can combust digester gas for supplemental power, but otherwise, there has been little interest in using digester gas for energy, particularly outside the WWTP.

A new process has been developed to convert digester gas to natural gas. This is often called RNG or renewable natural gas to differentiate it from natural gas that comes from the Earth and is mined, a fossil fuel. A large Phoenix WWTP is currently implementing this new process to turn digester gas into RNG and to place it in the city’s natural gas pipeline to use as a transportation fuel for its bus lines, making it the largest in the U.S.

This illustrates an opportunity for governments to take an asset it has (digester gas) and turn it into something useful for a different, large function (providing fuel for a bus fleet), saving much costs. It is also possible that governments could market and sell RNG to private entities, making such municipal functions money-makers. Of course, using RNG to displace fossil natural gas or diesel fuel has environmental benefits, as well, and can be part of an effort to make the municipality more sustainable. The project is expected to initially generate $1.2 million in annual revenue. While the cost of the project is high and the payback may not be strong, this is a useful endeavor for the Phoenix area and give leaders flexibility in terms of how to power their plants and fleets.

CCES can help your firm evaluate your energy sources and provide you with cost savings and greater flexibility of future use. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at