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RESES Program: 2017 Highlights

The Regional Sustainability and Environmental Sciences Research Program (RESES) matches EPA scientific and technical expertise with high-priority, short-term research needs in each of the Agency’s ten Regions across the nation. Projects are funded through an internal (EPA-only) annual solicitation for proposals.

Below are highlights of 2017-funded projects.

Sensor Pod Loan Trial for Investigating Regional and Community Air Pollution

EPA Regions and the communities they serve want to understand the pollutant concentrations in the air they breathe and want to be aware of potential pollution exposures in microenvironments where they live and work. Fixed regulatory monitoring networks might not be able to capture these local-scale conditions. This project will give Regions (and/ or their local partners) the ability to investigate local and regional air quality using lower cost sensors through a sensor pod loan trial. With the results, ORD will be able to assess the need for a larger and more permanent program and the success of the actual sensor technology for future projects. The information from this study will provide educational opportunities for the communities to learn about air quality and will uncover a better understanding on local air quality and community health.

Local Information for Empowering Environmental Education (LIFE3)

A collaboration between ORD and Region 5 addresses the many communities in the region facing local-scale environmental health concerns driven by pollution, as well as the need for the capacity to assess environmental health risks, identify research gaps, and prioritize regulatory and non-regulatory mitigation approaches. The project’s approach will use SHC tools to map issues in Saginaw and characterize health and environmental quality impacts using measures of community and ecosystem health, while also identifying and addressing research gaps related to environmental health and assessment techniques. The results of the project will include the development of a searchable databased of environmental health impacts and possible solutions, and the EPA and community partners will also collaborate in applying SHC tools to provide and document integrated analysis that supports comprehensive planning to improve community wellbeing. The impact of these results is that they will improve the way in which the Region characterizes conditions, ranks environmental health concerns, prioritizes solutions, implements mitigation actions, and evaluates their effectiveness.

A Deeper Look at Ouachita River: Approaches to River Maintenance for Sustainability & Resilience to Flood Impacts

Waterways across the US are being impacted by reduced funding for river maintenance which in turn is impacting surrounding communities that benefit from their eco-system services. For example, Ouachita Parish community in Louisiana was heavily impacted by historic flooding that damaged the Ouachita River. This RESES projects aims to apply a Structure Decision Making (SDM) approach to assess community sustainability goals and how to best prepare for future extreme events. The SDM approach will help the community better understand social, economic, and environmental data that can be used to engage stakeholders on complex decisions. The project will provide a detailed analysis of trade-offs among multiple EGS benefits for stakeholders to use for flood risk reduction on the Ouachita River. Success of this project will emphasize the effectiveness of the SDM approach and how it can be used in other communities across the country for ecosystem benefit analysis.

Environmental siting Assessment for Solar Power Infrastructure - A Partnership with City of Brownsville on Economic Opportunities

Localized assessment of solar energy economic feasibility will benefit the structuring of residential solar energy deployment globally. In the U.S. growing interest in rooftop residential solar among city managers has spurred the development of photovoltaic (PV) feasibility maps of the technical and economic solar potential within cities. The City of Brownsville, Texas was interested in evaluating solar feasibility for their city but lacked information to make informed policy decisions on PV development. This paper presents novel and systems approaches for determining the technical and economic feasibility of solar development for homes in the Brownsville using LiDAR and local information. Residential technical and economic potential was assessed by optimizing the internal rate of return (IRR) and an average residential building demand profile to determine ideal size and placement of solar arrays. Results showed that residential structures in Brownsville have the technical potential to generate approximately 11% of the total energy provided by the local utility; however, average IRR was only 2.9% with a payback period of over 15 years. Five neighborhoods in the City of Brownsville were identified with spatially clustered homes that had relatively higher IRRs compared with other areas in the city. Despite the high technical potential, modeled results indicate that perspective home owners interested in solar development may require additional incentives to improve the economic feasibility of PV in Brownsville. This study provides a demonstration of an interdisciplinary systems approach and methodology that can be adopted internationally to evaluate the feasibility of solar development in other areas.

Decision Makers Guide to Waste Combustion & Conversion Facilities

Under-resourced communities may not understand the complete picture of community environmental impacts related to waste combustion and conversion technologies used to manage waste and create energy. This project will develop a Decision Makers’ Guide that synthesizes the technical report evaluating waste combustion and conversion technologies through a life cycle assessment (LCA) and examining the status of conversion technology projects, those that succeeded and stalled. The Guide will support communities in making more informed decisions on waste management infrastructure.

Decision for Integration for Strong Communities (DISC)

Communities want to be more sustainable and maintain public health, community vitality and ecosystem services. Smaller communities, however, often lack the essential information and resources to accomplish this goal. While there are tools that can be used for sustainability assessment, they require a tremendous amount of time and resources that smaller communities don't have. The objective of this project is to identify indicators from existing tools to assess sustainability, engage target communities, create a model to display these indicators, and test it so that communities can properly utilize it. This project will give them a snapshot of their current status and provide them vital information to work toward achieving their sustainability goals.  This will allow them to make useful, targeted investments, informed decisions, and lead them to information, resources and examples to meet their own community goals.