After months of reading near-daily newsletters from DOE and EPA, I’ve reached a conclusion about that question: The government is doing more than we think, and the media is reporting on almost none of it.

But in fact, our government is doing a lot about environmental issues of every sort. Taken in the aggregate, the sweep is quite amazing. Throughout this week, I’m going to provide an overview that may well surprise you: our government is continually making concerted efforts to improve a great many aspects of the environment.

Please keep in mind, however, this is not nearly an exhaustive list. In fact, the EPA issued over a dozen press releases in the past week alone. Once again, these stories are just the very tip of the iceberg.

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EPA To Provide Nearly $2 Million to Revitalize U.S. Urban Waters

Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities. By promoting public access to urban waterways, EPA will help communities become active participants in restoration and protection.

The goal of EPA’s urban waters small grants is to fund projects, training and research that will advance restoration of urban waters by improving water quality and community access. These activities will also support community revitalization and improving public health, social and economic opportunities, general livability and environmental justice for residents. Examples of projects eligible for funding may include:

– Education and training for water quality improvement or green infrastructure jobs
– Public education about ways to reduce water pollution
– Local water quality monitoring programs
– Engaging diverse stakeholders to develop local watershed plans
– Innovative projects that promote local water quality and community revitalization goals

Fertilizer Company Agrees to Pay $1.8 Million Penalty to Resolve Hazardous Waste Violations

(DALLAS – December 7, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that Agrifos, a former phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer producer, has agreed to pay a $1.8 million dollar penalty and conduct an environmental project to resolve alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Air Act. Violations include processing and disposing of hazardous wastewater without a permit and the improper routing of effluent from a scrubber through a cooling tower. The settlement will protect public health and the environment by reducing possible releases of hazardous wastewater into area waterways. Agrifos currently produces sulfuric acid and ammonium sulfate fertilizers.

EPA and New York State Announce Ban on Dumping Sewage from Boats into Lake Ontario

(New York, N.Y. – December 8, 2011) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation today announced that a 3,675 square mile area of Lake Ontario is now a “no discharge zone,” which means that boats are completely banned from discharging sewage into the water. EPA reviewed DEC’s proposal to establish a no discharge zone for the lake and determined that there are adequate facilities in the area for boats to pump out their sewage. Boaters must now dispose of their sewage at one of the lake’s 37 specially-designated pump-out stations. This action is part of a joint EPA and New York State strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state’s waterways.

“Clean water is one of New York’s most valuable assets, and pumping sewage from boats into local waters is a practice that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Lake Ontario provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands of New York residents. Establishing a no discharge zone for the lake is an important step in cleaning up New York’s treasured water bodies.”

Four Groups in EPA Region 6 Receive More than $3.1 Million to Reduce Diesel Emissions

(DALLAS – November 29, 2011) More than $3.1 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funds have been granted to four organizations in EPA Region 6 to aid in diesel emissions reductions. The organizations are the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Railroad Research Foundation, Leonardo Academy and Port of Houston Authority. The funds are part of $50 million allocated nationwide through the National Clean Diesel Program’s DERA grant program.

“Reducing diesel emissions is an effective way to improve air quality and protect public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “These projects will help improve our economy, our health and our environment.”

Diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 333,000 tons of soot annually. Diesel pollution is linked to thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and millions of lost work days.

Energy Department Releases Study of Electricity System Ahead of Proposed EPA Air Quality Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In anticipation of forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency proposals for clean air standards, the Department of Energy today released a new report examining the potential impact those proposed standards could have on the reliability of our nation’s energy systems. The report compares compliance deadlines even more stringent than those that are expected to be associated with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) to typical timelines for the installation of pollution controls at existing older plants and construction of new generation capacity. Echoing the results of several other recent reports, the Department’s review indicated that the new EPA rules will not create resource adequacy issues.

Energy Department Finalizes $132 Million Loan Guarantee to Support the Abengoa Bioenergy Project

Washington D.C. – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that the Department finalized a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC (ABBK) to support the development of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. ABBK’s parent company and project sponsor, Abengoa Bioenergy US Holding, Inc., estimates the project will fund approximately 300 construction jobs and 65 permanent jobs. The project will be located in Hugoton, Kansas, about 90 miles southwest of Dodge City, Kansas.

“Investing in a domestic advanced biofuels industry will help us compete in a growing, global clean energy economy while creating jobs in rural communities across the country,” said Secretary Chu. “At the same time, these investments will help us reduce carbon emissions and decrease our dependence on oil.”

Energy Department Finalizes Loan Guarantee for Ormat Geothermal Project in Nevada

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the Department finalized a partial guarantee for up to a $350 million loan to support a geothermal power generation project. The project, sponsored by Ormat Nevada, Inc., is expected to produce up to 113 megawatts (MW) of clean, baseload power from three geothermal power facilities and will increase geothermal power production in Nevada by nearly 25 percent. The facilities are Jersey Valley in Pershing County, McGinness Hills in Lander County and Tuscarora in Elko County. The company estimates the project will fund 332 jobs during construction and 64 during operations

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More tomorrow, on our final day.

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Reader Comments welcome.