Environmental Building Newsbriefs

Environmental Building Newsbriefs

Environmental Building News gets around. This time: Vermont's mercury labeling law passes; a new ENERGY STAR rating system for hotels; green energy providers that meet environmental protection standards; a bill to ban asbestos; Hunter Lovins resigns from RMI; the newly formed Biobased Manufactures Association launches.



The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Vermont’s first-in-the nation mercury labeling law by denying an attempt by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to have the 1998 law declared unconstitutional. Vermont’s Mercury Reduction Act requires manufacturers to label mercury-containing products that are sold in the state and to convey in the label that it is illegal to dispose of such products in the trash. In November 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Garvin Murtha, acting on an appeal by NEMA, issued a preliminary injunction releasing manufacturers from the labeling requirement. A subsequent appeal to the Second Circuit Court in New York by Vermont’s Attorney General (with friend-of the- court support filed by California, New York, and six other states), denied NEMA’s appeal, setting the stage for NEMA’s final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. For more information, visit www.mercurypolicy.org.

On June 12, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched an ENERGY STAR® performance rating for hotels, enabling hotel owners to benchmark their energy performance against similar hotels nationwide on a 1–100 scale. Hotels with energy performance of 75 or more points can carry the ENERGY STAR label. The first two hotels to qualify were the Courtyard by Marriott–Indianapolis at the Capital, managed by White Lodging Services Corp., and the Sheraton Boston Hotel, owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. For details, visit www.energystar.gov or call 202/564-2408.

The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) has fulfilled its promise to identify green energy providers who meet CRS Green-e environmental and consumer protection standards. Following their March 2002 establishment of Green-e tradable renewable certificates (TRCs) for qualifying wind, solar electric, geothermal, biomass, and low-impact hydropower energy providers (see EBN Vol. 11, No. 5), CRS has announced the first certified suppliers: Community Energy, Sterling Planet, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Renewable Choice Energy (available nationwide); Aquila (for commercial and industrial consumers nationwide and internationally); and Sun Power Electric (available throughout New England). For more information on Green-e and TRCs, as well as links to the six certified providers, visit online at www.green-e.org .

A bill to ban asbestos has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. In 1989, the U.S. EPA proposed a limited ban on asbestos, but a federal appeals court overturned the regulations in 1991. Risks of asbestos exposure were brought back into focus by Libby, Montana, however, where 200 people have died from asbestos- related illness and thousands more are sick. On June 18, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, introduced a bill that would “outlaw the manufacture, processing, importation, and distribution of asbestos-containing products” by 2005. Prospects for the bill are uncertain.

Beginning with the 2003 fiscal year, all new U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) facilities will be designed and built to achieve at least basic LEED™ certification; higher-level certification (Silver, Gold, Platinum) is encouraged. The GSA’s Federal Building Fund includes $276 million in appropriations for 2003 and is responsible for projects such as federal courthouses and border stations throughout the country. More information can be found at www.gsa.gov.

Rocky Mountain Institute co-CEO Hunter Lovins announced on June 10 her resignation from the institute she cofounded with then-husband Amory Lovins. “I’ve been thinking about going out on my own for some time,” Lovins said. “The day-to-day running of RMI has prohibited me from focusing on what I really want to do: taking Natural Capitalism to a greater audience.” Lovins said that she expects to be associated with RMI and some of its projects, but primarily she will be working with other organizations. Hunter has written or coauthored hundreds of articles and numerous books, including (with EBN editor Alex Wilson) Green Development: Integrating Ecology and Real Estate.

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) has released its 2002 Residential Home Appliance Programs National Summary. The summary details various incentive programs around the country designed to promote energy- efficient clothes washers, dish washers, refrigerators, and room air conditioners. The programs together apply to over 77.2 million consumers. Examples include a $75 bounty for Long Island, New York residents who replace old air conditioners with ENERGY STAR® units; a $50 mail-in rebate for Waverly, Iowa residents who purchase ENERGY STAR refrigerators; and a $100 water bill credit for Albuquerque, New Mexico residents who purchase resource-efficient clothes washers. The complete summary can be downloaded at www.cee1.org/resid/seha/ 02seha-progsum.pdf.

United Solar, a joint venture between Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. and N. V. Bekaert, opened a 30-megawatt solar cell manufacturing facility in its hometown of Auburn Hills, Michigan on July 1. The largest of its kind, the plant will turn out thin-film amorphous photovoltaic cells in a continuous roll-to-roll process similar to that used for newsprint. The facility is expected to increase American solar energy production capacity by 20%. For information, visit www.uni-solar.com.

Kristin Ralff Douglas has stepped down after two and a half years as publisher and editor of Environmental Design and Construction (ED&C) magazine. She will remain active in the green building field, working as an independent consultant out of her office in San Francisco. She can be reached at 415/863-2614 or by email at [email protected]. The new ED&C editor is Erin Brown, reachable at 248/244-1280 or by e-mail at [email protected].

In response to the continuing housing crisis on American Indian reservations, residents of two Montana reservations—the Crow and Northern Cheyenne—are planning a twoweek straw-bale “blitz build” to erect two public buildings and demonstrate the potential of straw-bale construction for cheap, durable, energy- efficient housing. Beginning July 14, volunteer architecture and engineering students plan to join the Red Feather Development Group and community members in the construction of a literacy center at Chief Dull Knife Memorial College on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and a community study hall at Crow Agency. The study hall was designed by “The Rez Protectors,” four Crow middle school students (see photo), and funded largely by the National Championship Award money they earned in the 2001 Bayer/National Science Foundation competition. For more information, call the American Indian Housing Initiative field office at 406/477-6215 x127 or visit the Red Feather Development Group online at www.redfeather.org.

The Biobased Manufacturers Association (BMA) was launched on June 12 in Phoenix, Arizona to assist in the marketing and promotion of a wide range of biobased products—everything from alternative fuels and solvents to construction composites, paints, and bioplastics. “We see our mission as selling biobased instead of petroleum or synthetics,” according to Peter Nelson, a Board Member of the BMA. A press release announcing the formation of BMA touts the benefits of such products to farming while promoting greater reliance on renewable resources and independence from petroleum. The organization hopes initially to attract 200 to 400 members out of an estimated 2,500 companies involved with biobased manufacturing. For further details, visit www.biobased.org or contact Mark Drake of Gemtek at 800/331-7022.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology has issued a call for papers for a special edition on the environmental impact of biobased materials. The issue was inspired by recent studies casting doubt on the environmental benefits of biobased materials —and demonstrating the need for the “systems-based analysis” JIE is known for. The deadline is December 2, 2002; all papers will be peer-reviewed. For further information look online at www.yale.edu/jie/cfpbiobased.htm.

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Copyright 2002 BuildingGreen, Inc., publisher of Environmental Building News, a GreenBiz News Affiliate.