Monday, June 26, 2017

DOE Grant To Penn State Continues Research Into Rare-Earth Elements Extraction From Coal

In 2016, a team of Penn State and U.S. Department of Energy researchers discovered a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and coal byproducts.
Now, through a $1 million grant from DOE's Office of Fossil Energy, this research may be headed one-step closer to commercialization.
Rare-earth elements are a set of seventeen metals -- such as scandium, yttrium, lanthanum and cerium -- necessary to produce high-tech equipment used in health care, transportation, electronics and numerous other industries.
Penn State and a consortium of three industry partners, Texas Mineral Resources Corporation, Inventure Renewables Inc., and K-Technologies, will use the funding to conduct laboratory testing and prepare a technical design for a pilot plant to profitably produce salable REEs and other critical elements from coal-related materials from an eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal mine.
The goal is to determine the economic feasibility of recovering REEs from domestic coal and coal by-products.
Penn State researchers found initial success in extracting REEs in 2016 using ion exchange, which involved extracting coal byproducts with a solvent that releases the rare-earth elements bound to them.
Through this new grant, the researchers will develop a new extraction technique that combines pressure filtration, which uses external forces to separate solids from fluids, with an environmentally friendly ion-exchange/ion chromatography process.
The resulting REE-enriched liquid can be processed to recover the elements while recycling the liquid for reuse in the system.
"We're interested in using environmentally-friendly solvents that will be the best at reacting with these elements and extracting them," said Sarma Pisupati, professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State. "If we reach a ceiling with the method of ion exchange, we will begin to test alternative methods that may be economical and environmentally feasible. We believe this novel approach for extraction will be able to provide the high efficiency and throughput sought by the industry for a technologically feasible and an economically viable extraction method for REEs."
TMRC's focus will be to install a self-contained, modular and portable continuous ion exchange/ continuous ion chromatography pilot plant in Pennsylvania, and to determine the economic viability of producing scandium and other REEs associated with coal waste material from Pennsylvania coal.
"The potential to profitably produce scandium and other rare earth minerals from Pennsylvania coal waste holds great promise," said TMRC Chairman Anthony Marchese. "Creating value profitably from waste is an environmental goal shared by all citizens, especially when considering the strategic nature of the minerals proposed to be produced."
REEs are a group of 17 elements — all metals — found in the Earth's crust. REEs have unique chemical properties making them essential components of technologies ranging from electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense.
The United States Geological Survey expects worldwide demand for rare earth elements to grow more than 5 percent annually through 2020. The increased demand for REEs has spurred interest in developing cost-effective technologies for domestic REE recovery.
The team of Penn State researchers includes Pisupati; Mark Klima, associate professor of mineral processing and geo-environmental engineering; and Xiaojing Yang, graduate student in energy and mineral engineering.
For more information contact Patricia Craig, 814-863-4663, or send email to: plc103@psu.edu or A'ndrea Elyse Messer, 814-865-9481 or send email to: aem1@psu.edu.
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday PA Environmental NewsClips

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June 26 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The June 26 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

The PA Supreme Court Tuesday issued an opinion declaring the 2009 and 2010 Fiscal Code and other amendments diverting $478 million from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund to the General Fund unconstitutional because there was no evidence the General Assembly considered the use of the funds in its role as public trustee for natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution.

The House State Government Committee held its third hearing Tuesday on the regulatory climate in Pennsylvania, this one focused on potential solutions to regulatory burdens.  However, they were told by the Shale gas industry they don’t want regulatory relief, they just want their permits on time.

The Senate has only five voting days left before they finish the budget and head home for the summer, but still no word on whether they plan to vote on Senate Bill 658 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) to designate the eastern hellbender Pennsylvania’s state amphibian.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Wednesday released its assessment of the progress made implementing Chesapeake Bay Watershed milestone commitments in 2016 and found Maryland and Virginia largely on track to meet commitments for reducing pollution and Pennsylvania falling significantly short in reducing nitrogen pollution.

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority has been providing wastewater treatment services for residents of Luzerne County since 1962. WVSA’s service area includes 35 municipalities from Harveys Lake to Pittston to Newport Township.
Not only is the Authority managing upgrades to deal with its combined wastewater and stormwater sewer system, it has proposed a new role for itself in serving as permit administrator to comply with the MS4 Stormwater pollution prevention program for its member municipalities.

By Harry Campbell, PA Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
As a young boy, my curiosity about the woods, critters and water of the Back Mountain region of northern Luzerne County made for an exciting and formative time.

The Stroud Water Research Center in Chester County has a simple mission, but one that’s hard to accomplish-- “To advance knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, education and restoration.”  This is how it all began 50 years ago.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Friday announced the first, second and third place winners of its Great American Cleanup of PA Video Contest on the KPB  Facebook page.

The PA Environmental Council’s Community Illegal Dumpsite Cleanup Program returned to action this spring, as nearly 200 local volunteers hauled away upwards of 46 tons of waste and debris from sites across northeastern Pennsylvania.

Gladys Brown, Chairman of the Public Utility Commission, told the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Monday microgrid systems offer many potential benefits to the electrical grid, including increased resiliency during large scale electric disruption, increased integration of highly efficient Distributed Energy Resources (like solar energy and combined heat and power systems) and potential cost savings for consumers, ratepayers and utilities.

PennLive.com Friday published a story by Wallace McKelvey saying Exelon formally notified the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 20 it will close the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in Dauphin County in September 2019.

Recognizing the strong link between business sustainability performance, financial performance, and regional quality of life, corporate CEOs from throughout the Pittsburgh region Tuesday announced the formation of the CEOs for Sustainability executive council.  

The PA Horticultural Society Tuesday announced it has been awarded a $300,000 grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to spotlight healthy food access issues and invite the public to help solve these issues through urban gardening and farming.

In the spirit of true National Pollinator Week celebration, Bayer Monday announced the first round of organizations that will receive Feed A Bee Program funding to establish forage for pollinators across the nation, including a grant to the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, Inc. in Westmoreland County.

To read the Digest, visit: www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com.  Click Here to view or print the entire Digest.

PA Environment Digest is edited by David E. Hess, former Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and is published as a service of Crisci Associates.


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Friday, June 23, 2017

Updated PA Wilds Design Guide For Community Stewardship Now Available

The PA Wilds Center Friday released a new edition of the PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship, a popular free tool for communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds, is now available for download, and a national expert on sustainable development called it and the work it relates to one of the best rural development effort in the nation.
Click Here to watch a  new video promoting the Design Guide.
Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute and a national expert on sustainable community design, says the effort to grow the place-based tourism industry in the Pennsylvania Wilds is "one of the single greatest rural, natural resource-based, economic development programs in the United States of America.”
He said the comments to a crowded room of more than 250 people from across the region who had gathered at the DuBois Country Club this spring to unveil the Second Edition of the Design Guide and celebrate other milestones in the Pennsylvania Wilds effort.
"People in the world that I work in… talk about this initiative all over the country, because it's about taking what's special and making it valuable,” McMahon said.
The Design Guide is a core program of the larger Wilds movement, which also includes regional marketing, growing and connecting unique place-based businesses, youth outreach, regional planning and inspiring stewardship of natural and community assets.
Many local stakeholders from the public and private-sectors are involved in the Wilds work. State and federal partners are also at the table. PA Wilds Center, a regional nonprofit, is the coordinating entity of the landscape-level effort.
“A lot of people have asked us for a link to his talk because they wanted to share it with their city or borough councils, local townships and other partners,” said PA Wilds Center Executive Director Ta Enos. “So many of our communities in rural PA are dealing with the same development issues. Ed has a way of inspiring people to action.”
A former TED Talk speaker, McMahon is well known for his passion and humor and his ability to use common sense and before and after photos to transcend political and other lines. He told the crowd in April:
“I am one of those people who think we spend way too much time in this country fighting about what we disagree on and not nearly enough time sitting down community by community and figuring out what we do agree about. And I tell you when you do do that -- you can reach consensus about place. Because most Americans care more about the place they live than the political party they belong to.”
He went on to say that communities have two choices, to shape development or to let development shape them. “There is no place in the world today that will stay special by accident,” he said.
McMahon helped inspire the original Design Guide, which rolled off the presses in 2007, just as the Wilds effort was starting to gain steam.
It was a product of the PA Wilds Planning Team, a grassroots stakeholder group that includes the region’s 12 county governments and dozens of other nonprofit and economic development stakeholders from across the Wilds.
The document provided tips and illustrations on how communities, developers, architects, business owners and others could be good stewards of their community character as they grew.
Several counties in the Pennsylvania Wilds amended their comprehensive plans to include the Design Guide, and other organizations voluntarily made its use a requirement for accessing mini grants and other similar types of programs.
Over the last few years it has been used by a variety of partners to guide development projects of all types and sizes, from chains looking to do something less cookie cutter to communities looking to better reflect their history or connection to nearby natural assets.
The new Design Guide includes new chapters, is far more visual than its predecessor, and also highlights more local examples of its practices in action, said Clearfield County Planning Director Jodi Brennan, whose committee spearheaded the overhaul.
“What's the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words?” Brennan said. “These visuals are more inspiring than any words could do justice … They reflect not what's happening somewhere else USA but here in our own home towns. Folks will recognize places from their own communities in this Second Edition or those they have visited or travelled through.”
An award-winning resource unto its own, the Design Guide has proved seminal to the Wilds partnership being able to compete for additional resources for the region, including two rounds of signage mini grants, one round of design assistance grants, and most recently, $183,000 for a regional fa├žade grant pilot program targeting Route 6 communities in the Wilds, all of which have or will leverage tens of thousands of dollars in private-sector investment toward strategic revitalization efforts.
“During the development of the 1st Edition I didn't dream of the possibilities that are now before us,” Brennan said. “The recent award of regional facade dollars for Route 6 Alliance was SO exciting and has opened the door for other communities to follow in their footsteps.”
Community leaders, business or property owners, architects, developers, government partners and others on the front lines of shaping growth in communities in the Wilds are encouraged to check out the new Design Guide and McMahon’s presentation.
The Pennsylvania Wilds includes the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Elk, Cameron, Forest, Clearfield, Clarion, Jefferson and northern Centre.
Click Here to download the Design Guide Second Edition.  Click Here for McMahon’s full presentation.  Click Here to watch a  new video promoting the Design Guide.
For more information, visit the PA Wilds Center website.

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