Monthly Archives: August 2017

Some Environmental Legal Updates – August 2017

Things change so quickly, but here are a few new items that have gone on this summer. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had been very vocal about how he feels EPA regulations have hurt industry and job creation. Since taking office, he has quietly begun an effort to repeal or not to enforce several Obama-era environmental rules.

On July 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit nixed EPA Administrator’s Scott Pruitt’s attempt to delay a rule limiting methane leaks at oil and gas facilities. The rule requires companies digging for natural gas to plug leaks of methane, which would help them recover natural gas they can sell, as well as reduce emissions of a potent greenhouse gas and air pollutant. As part of his effort to ease regulations for industry, Pruitt decided, instead of having the rule repeal, to instead achieve the same end by suspending the rule’s compliance deadlines. The EPA had argued that the Clean Air Act allowed the EPA to do this (temporarily suspend a rule) while considering objections that could not have been raised prior to the rule’s issuance. However, the court found the claim to be false. The objections were clearly shown to have been raised earlier.

Pruitt’s actions to repeal or reduce enforcement of rules have been done very quietly without proper public notice or comment. The Administrative Procedure Act requires EPA to seek and respond to public input before taking major deregulatory steps. But Pruitt has been attempting to bypass that requirement by suspending rules indefinitely without public comment, instead of repealing them. Suspension can only occur for rules before they go into effect. Therefore, he has been successful in only suspending rules that had just been promulgated at the end of the Obama Administration, but had not gone into effect yet.

Once a rule goes into effect, elements of the rule, such as what is compliance and when it goes into effect cannot be suspended or altered without a request for public comment, and serious review of such comment. This has not stopped the EPA from suspending compliance deadlines for several rules after those rules went into effective.

On July 18, 2017, the EPA published in the Federal Register its proposed rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019. ( The proposed volume requirements represent decreases from current standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel. Only the requirements for renewable fuel is essentially the same in 2018 and 2019 compared to 2017. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by August 31, 2017.

While the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel is relatively small, many in the biofuels industry are concerned that it sends the signal to the market that the U.S. renewable fuel industry will no longer grow. The proposed volume requirements may undercut the Administration’s goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy and reviving U.S. manufacturing, despite President Trump’s repeated pledge to support the ethanol industry.

Please note that this should not be considered a legal interpretation in any way. For further information, speak to a qualified environmental legal representative to fully understand new or modified rules and how they may affect you and your firm. CCES has the technical experts to help you keep abreast of new rule changes at the federal and state level and how to address them to impact you as little as possible. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Research Finds Proper Lighting Lowers Worker Stress

I recently submitted a great proposal for an upgrade to LED lights for a warehouse. Solid utility rebates, an excellent reduction of energy costs and return on investment (existing lights were very inefficient). Yet, the company’s Board of Directors was split. I presented the facility manager a summary of all the benefits, including that it will likely raise worker productivity. He questioned all of the findings (even as he said he was in favor of the project!), and I only then realized that this company just did not want to deal with change – even if the numbers showed it was beneficial.

After he questioned the ability of proper lighting to improve productivity I decided to look deeper into the notion of lighting influencing workplace stress. A major research study at RPI (found in the journal Sleep Health, June 2017) found that office workers who receive a significant dose of circadian-effective light in the morning, from either electric lighting or daylight, experience better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress, than those who spend their mornings in dim or low light levels. The research team investigated the connection between circadian stimulus (CS), a measure of light’s impact on the circadian system, and sleep, depression, and stress in and better overall sleep quality and mood scores, in both summer and winter seasons.

Further study has pinpointed the likely mechanism. Humans, of course, lived and evolved under the Sun. Natural sunlight contains all wavelengths of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared radiation, as well. Common office or factory fluorescent lights typically emit visible light in a fairly tight range of wavelengths. Many wavelengths our eyes and, therefore, our brains are used to dealing with are absent. This affects our circadian rhythm, as we have not dealt with such a narrow range in evolutionary history, and therefore raises stress and sleeplessness. LED lights more closely mimic the wider range of visible light, reducing the change from our natural system and, thus, reducing circadian disruption and stress.

A 2016 study of the effects on the productivity of garment workers in India working under LED lights vs. fluorescents also showed increased productivity ( The authors believe at least some of the effects is due to the reduced heat given off by the LEDs and thus, the more comfortable temperatures in the shop. But the improvement was demonstrated.

CCES has the experts to help you implement a lighting assessment to both save significant energy costs and to raise comfort and productivity of your employees. While saving energy costs are itself great, improving worker productivity (fewer errors, more work done, fewer sick days) can make a business even more money, as well as reputation. We have lighting experts not just to replace existing lights, but to assess if lighting can be made better for your workers or to show off your products or any other reason. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Our Hang-up With Energy Rebates

I can’t tell you the number of times I have approached building owners or managers with great opportunities to upgrade energy systems (lights, HVAC, etc.) saving money right away and paying back the investment in a short time, and the first question I’m asked is “Are there any rebates?”. When I tell a client there are none for that or it is paltry, the building owner/manager actually ignores the many other benefits and is reluctant to do the project. If the payback of an upgrade is under 3 years and the ROI of investment is double digit percent growth per year anyway, why should a rebate “make or break” a project? I guess some people really enjoy “free money”, of part of the cost being paid by a government or utility. While a client and the engineer should look for all available applicable rebates, it is unreasonable to actually squelch a project due to its absence.

So that you understand why rebates may or may not be available in your area, here is some background. It is certainly contrary to business sense for a utility to pay a building to install and utilize technology that will cause it to use less energy (natural gas or electricity). Utilities offer rebates for either of two reasons. One is they are forced to by the state’s government or watchdog agency. These elected officials or people beholden to them know that being able to say that they saved a certain amount of a resource or utilized it more efficiently is what people want and a good thing for a politician to boast. A second reason is that the more energy a region uses, the greater the infrastructure costs are for the utility. In even modest utility districts, utilities are forced to spend billions of dollars in capital costs to upgrade, expand, or replace existing infrastructure (utility lines, gas lines, etc.). And, of course, to ensure they are up-to-date and safe. If infrastructure fails, and a power blackout results or a gas line explodes, the negative headlines, the anger of residents and businesses, and being hauled into legislative hearings over the failure, is something to avoid at nearly all costs. Therefore, the less energy used, the less that infrastructure needs to be upgraded and at a lower cost.

Therefore, it is important to do research on rebates. The availability and amount for different programs vary between utilities. In general, most rebates are universal for a utility. A rebate for LED lights resulting in decreased electric usage is valid throughout a utility’s district. However, some utilities designate some rebates as greater in different areas within the district. For example, in New York City, Con Edison’s Demand Response Program encouraging building owners to use their own generators and be off the grid during peak demand periods, has greater rebate payments for buildings located in a certain area which has seen the greatest growth in electrical demand (gentrification) and weakest infrastructure. And lower incentives everywhere else, including zones where infrastructure is fine. So look carefully at the conditions of a rebate.

Part of your research should also be on timing. Utilities and the commissions that oversee them often decide annually on rebates. They decide if they are effective or not, look at market conditions, and then adjust for the next year. A rebate at a certain level this year may go down (or up) next year or be eliminated altogether. For example, some utilities are reducing or eliminating LED lighting rebates. The price of LEDs has droped recently, plus it is more accepted. Many feel an incentive is no longer needed; savings and payback are sufficient without it. Your engineer (including this one!) should keep up with the latest trends and talk to those managing rebates.

I should add that I have seen the opposite reaction (occasionally) of building owners and managers feeling almost guilty about receiving a rebate for an upgrade. Nobody should feel this way. Most rebates come from charges that are in your monthly utility bill. You pay into a fund used for rebates. Therefore, when you do an upgrade, you are simply taking back the money that you have put in!

In summary, research or have your engineer research and go forward with any energy rebates that an upgrade qualifies for. However, don’t be hung-up on it. If a rebate (or tax deduction or other financial benefit) does not exist or is only worth a small percentage of the upfront cost, let it not stop you from doing the project. The vast majority of energy upgrade projects are very financially beneficial for building owners for a long-period of time even without utility or government rebates.

CCES has the experts and experience to help you get the maximum financial benefits from an energy upgrade, including being up to date on potential rebates and to get you through the application process. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Don’t Overlook Ways To Save Water

This blog and newsletter have historically focused on air and energy. How can you save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and be environmentally compliant? But another important part of a good sustainability plan is water conservation, which is becoming a bigger issue as we face future shortages of quality water. Water has historically been “cheap” and overlooked as an avenue of study. But rates are rising and even in areas with ample supply, it is needlessly costly to be wasteful. Ways to reduce your water usage will save you cost, as well as put you in a more flexible condition.

Water resources are commonly shared. If you manage a facility that needs clean water to make product, there are likely other facilities nearby sharing water from the same source (reservoir system, wells, etc.), not to mention nearby farmers, and residents. If you use what is perceived to be “more than your fair share” of water, that could be both very expensive and put you in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis other stakeholders.

Optimize Your Infrastructure

An easy way to reduce water use is to use water-saving fixtures. Let the technology do the savings and the people involved won’t know the difference (or feel inconvenienced).

Leaks: An overlooked avenue of water loss is through leaks of water through the byzantine pipes of a facility. One area that is a common candidate is condensate from steam boiler systems. There will always be losses, but is the amount returning as condensate somewhat equal to the water sent out as steam? If not, investigate and see where water may be lost and do the necessary repairs. Even a “little” leak that seems innocuous, when continued 24/7, can result in a large water loss. Don’t take condensate or water shipped from some other place for granted that it will reach the destination.

Toilets: A typical toilet uses about 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf). High-efficiency toilets typically use around 20% less per flush. The USEPA recommends models that are water efficient through its WaterSense program or Maximum Performance (MaP). Dual-flush models, popular in Europe, provide 2 options; for liquid waste (0.8-1.1 gpf), and for solid waste (1.3-1.6 gpf). Pressure-assist toilets push water and waste down the drain with a pressurization system and use 0.8-1 gpf.

Urinals: Low-flow urinals use less water to rinse away the urine. Some models use as little as 1 pint of water per flush (0.125 gpf), saving 87%. Waterless models rely on gravity to drain urine through a lighter liquid that prevents odorous compounds from seeping through into the air.

Sinks: Aerators are a very cheap and effective way to reduce the amount of water coming out of a faucet. The water does “its job” (washing hands, rinsing dishes, filling up pots) with reduced water flow, reducing water use by up to 75%.

Maintenance, It’s Always Maintenance

I have said in a number of articles in this blog and newsletter the hidden gains of energy cost savings, increased productivity and reliability by doing regular maintenance. Yes, it is not exciting and hard to boast about, but savings are achieved with renewed and improved maintenance. Train your staff to read and follow manufacturer’s procedures. You have paid some for the various water-saving features. Make sure equipment is operating properly to get your money’s worth and maximize savings and benefits.

CCES has the experts to help you put together a comprehensive sustainability program to maximize your savings and benefits in water conservation, energy usage, waste, etc. Specific for what you do and specific for your needs and limitations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at