Smoking Refinery in Illinois, USA.
Photo by Henryk Sadura courtesy Adobe Stock Smoking Refinery in Illinois, USA.

The Trump Administration is again targeting Obama-era chemical regulations with a recent proposal to revise the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule that helped to reduce mercury pollution from fossil fuel power stations. According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) release, the administration hopes to prove that "it is not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants" because of the cost benefits associated with the regulations under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. As the Associated Press notes, "Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities and other birth defects in children, among other harm. Coal power plants in this country are the largest single man-made source of mercury pollutants, which enters the food chain through fish and other items that people consume." [EPA]

Following a vote by the California Building Standards Commission last month, the Golden State will officially become the first in the nation to require solar panels on new residential construction. According to the new rule, single family and multifamily residential projects up to three stories high must include the energy-saving technology starting in 2020. Houses often shaded by the sun are exempt from this new standard. [NPR]

A PhD student at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. has devised a process through which pine needles from old Christmas trees can be converted into paint and adhesives, reducing the carbon footprint of the trees and biomass in landfills. When combined with heat and solvents such as glycerol, the needles are broken down into bio-oil and bio-char, which can be used in paint, adhesives, and even food or vinegars. [University of Sheffield]

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, have developed a carbon-based powder that could help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Leveraging a process called adsorption, carbon dioxide molecules released by facilities that utilize fossil fuels are captured by the highly porous carbon mixture. According to the team, this material could be applied to water filtration systems as well as energy storage. [University of Waterloo]