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Massachusetts Undertakes Efforts to Turn Food Waste into Energy

Massachusetts is offering $3 million in low-interest loans to companies that can help develop new industrial plants that will convert commercial food waste into energy.
The Department of Energy Resources also is offering $1 million in grants to public agencies as an incentive to build anaerobic digesters. Those anaerobic digesters help convert methane found in food waste into power.
The state is making the loans and grants available in anticipation of regulations slated to take effect in July 2014 that will prohibit hospitals, universities, hotels and large restaurants from throwing food waste in the trash.
Those new rules require companies and organizations that produce more than a ton of organic waste—including food waste, weeds and manure—to dispose of it by composting it, donating edible food waste to food pantries or sending such waste to one of the new anaerobic digestion plants planned across the commonwealth, according to The Boston Globe.
In addition to contributing energy to the region’s electrical grid, the digesters also will prevent methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere.
Businesses covered by the regulations will be responsible for paying private food haulers to deliver food waste to the new plants. Some businesses have expressed concern about the cost of hauling food waste, as well as the amount of time the waste will remain on their properties before being hauled away.
Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection suggest, however, that most businesses will likely save money on trash bills in a state where solid waste disposal rates are among the highest in the country.
Up to one-fourth of what is sent to state landfills is organic waste, and officials suggest that the food waste ban will help to reduce waste by 30 percent by 2020. Officials indicate plans to ultimately extend the ban to residential food waste as well.
 
Sea Level Rise
Maryland is making plans for an anticipated rise in sea level along its coast of up to six feet by the end of the century, The Washington Post reported in July. Gov. Martin O’Malley in December signed The Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction executive order directing state agencies to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise for capital investment. A technical working group is revisiting the Maryland Climate Action Plan of 2008 to explore ways to counter the threat of sea level rise.
 
Inmates’ Right to Know
A pair of bills under consideration in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would curb or end inmates’ use of the open records law. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, inmates filed 1,527 requests with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections last year under the state’s Right to Know law, which aims to increase government transparency. The corrections department handles more Right to Know requests than any other state agency, the Post-Gazette reported.
 
Redeveloping Industrial sites to schools
Revisions to a Rhode Island environmental law will make it easier to redevelop blighted industrial sites into schools, but also will require safeguards to prevent exposure to toxic vapors, The Providence Journal reported. The revisions alter a 2012 law prohibiting school construction on sites where toxic gases may pose a health risk. They also establish new standards requiring developers to physically remove or eliminate the threat of vapor-causing chemicals from any soil or groundwater at potential school sites.
 
Teacher Standards
Vermont education officials are revising state standards for elementary school teachers, according to the Burlington Free Press. The revisions aim to align teacher standards with the common core state standards, which identify the expectations for student learning at various grade levels. A team of education officials and professionals working to rewrite the standards is expected to present the revisions to the Vermont Standards Board of Professional Educators this fall.
 
Privacy Rights
Key rulings by the New Jersey Supreme Court this year demonstrate a continued focus by the court on upholding privacy rights, the Star-Ledgerreported. The court ruled unanimously in July that police officers need warrants to obtain information about a crime suspect’s cell phone location, the first such ruling in the country.
 
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