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8/3/2001

UPCOMING DEADLINES

Environmental


Clean Air Act

  • August 14: Each producer, importer, or exporter of a Class II controlled substance must submit a report to EPA providing information on the production, imports, and exports of such chemicals during the previous quarter.

  • September 15: Reformulated gasoline standards detailed under 40 CFR 80.78(a)(1)(v) expire until the following summer.


Safe Drinking Water Act: August 6

Each state must report to the EPA administrator on the success of enforcement mechanisms and initial capacity development efforts in assisting public water systems.

Sulfate must be included in the list of drinking water contaminants for which a determination to regulate must be made.


BUSH ANNOUNCES NEW VAMPIRE SLAYER

Move over, Buffy. In a speech to Department of Energy employees, President Bush announced Energy Secretary Spence Abraham will also be the administration's new vampire slayer. The federal government will lead a major conservation effort to bring American homes, government and industry to a new energy saving standard for "vampire" devices -- machines that drain energy even when not in use.

Energy vampires are standby power devices that draw excessive energy even when not in use. Vampires typically consume anywhere from 4-7 watts per hour. Vampires can be found in almost every household appliance including televisions, telephones, fax machines, washers, and dryers. Vampires make sure that the appliance is "instantly" functioning when you want to use it; they are also used to maintain memory functions in these devices. Some vampires, such as cell phone chargers, draw energy when plugged in even if they are not connected to the device they normally charge. Approximately 26 power plants are needed just to power these energy vampires.

"Vampire Slayers" are energy-efficient standby power devices that use one watt or less of energy per hour. If more devices used vampire slayers, we could save billions of kilowatt-hours per year without sacrificing performance. If the nation as a whole moved to one-watt standby power devices, we might need 20 fewer power plants to power these devices than we do currently. Vampire slayers often cost as little as 50 cents more than the inefficient energy vampires, and can pay for themselves through reduced energy bills. In the aggregate, households across the nation would save from $1 to $2 billion on their energy bills if they adopted appliances that utilize vampire slayers.

The President will direct procurement officers to purchase -- whenever practicable and cost-effective to do so -- off-the-shelf appliances and devices that use energy-efficient standby power devices. This directive will further ensure that the federal government is doing its part to reduce unnecessary energy use. The federal government is the largest single user of electricity in the U.S. and the President wants to take the lead on conservation.

The President will direct DOE and EPA to include within the "Energy Star" program a 1-watt standard for standby power devices, where that standard would be technologically feasible and economically worthwhile for consumers. The Energy Star label is the symbol that alerts consumers to their best energy value in the marketplace. Consumers will be able to make more informed decisions about the savings that could be reaped.

The President will also challenge American businesses, both in their manufacturing decisions and in their purchasing decisions, to look to the vampire slayer as a means of conserving energy and saving money. He also will direct the DOE to develop a process to track industry's move to a 1-watt standard, to recognize companies that do so, and to hold workshops where technical issues could be addressed. Businesses can follow the Administration's example and save energy and increase their bottom lines.


EPA RELEASES NEW DATA FOR COMMENT ON COAL REMINING

EPA is taking comments on new data it has received concerning "remining" practices that retrieve remaining coal from abandoned mines.

Last year, on April 11, 2000, EPA proposed to establish Clean Water Act effluent limitations guidelines on remining operations that will encourage the extraction of coal from abandoned mine lands while at the same time encouraging the cleanup of acid mine drainage. EPA is releasing new data and comments on the April 2000 proposal for public review and further comment.

When remining, the operator must reclaim the abandoned mine land and implement pollution control technologies designed to reduce the pollution caused by acid mine drainage. Thus, remining has the multiple benefits of improving water quality, removing hazardous conditions and utilizing remaining coal.

Acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines is the number one water quality problem in the Appalachian states. It is estimated that there are over 1.1 million acres of abandoned coal mine lands, over 9,000 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage, and many miles of dangerous embankments, highwalls, and surface impoundments. Prior to 1977, reclamation of mine lands was not a federal requirement. Many coal mines were left in an abandoned state and continue to degrade the environment and pose health and safety risks. In addition to having severe environmental and safety problems, abandoned mine lands can contain large amounts of coal. Modern surface mining techniques now provide mining operators with more economical means of "remining" to extract remaining coal reserves.

EPA's April 2000 proposal addressed regulatory disincentives and encouraged remining activities that will reduce acid mine drainage and improve water quality. It would significantly increase the rate at which abandoned mine lands are reclaimed, allowing remining at up to 61 additional sites, reclaiming 1800-2500 acres a year. It would require coal remining operators to develop a site specific pollution abatement plan designed to reduce the pollution load from pre-existing discharges.

At the same time that EPA proposed the coal remining subcategory to the effluent guidelines, the agency also proposed a Western Alkaline Coal Mining subcategory.

The notice and supporting documents that describe this rule are available on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/coal. EPA expects to publish a final rule by the end of the year.


TENNESSEE COMPANY, TWO OFFICIALS SENTENCED FOR WASTE VIOLATION

On July 13, Simpson Construction Company of Cleveland, Tenn., Claude S. Simpson, Simpson Construction's President, and Ralph E. Hicks, company foreman, were sentenced for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Simpson Construction and Claude Simpson were ordered to pay $867,320.83 in fines and in support of environmental improvement projects.

Simpson Construction specializes in the construction of roads and bridges. The defendants illegally burned hazardous solvent and paint wastes in a pit at the company's facility.

The case was investigated by a task force composed of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and regional staff, the FBI, the Tennessee Valley Authority Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Bradley County Sheriff's Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Criminal Investigation Division, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Department of Environment and Conservation. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Knoxville.


MISSOURI POULTRY FIRM RECEIVES $5 MILLION ENERGY PROJECT GRANT FROM EPA

U.S. Senator Kit Bond and Acting EPA Regional Administrator Bill Rice (Region VII) announced on July 28 a $4,989,000 grant to the Gas Technology Institute of Des Plaines, Ill. The award will help support the development of a demonstration food processing facility for use by the Butterball Turkey Co. in Carthage, Mo. This project may eventually help the food industry to adopt an efficient and profitable process for converting poultry wastes into useful, high-value energy products without discharging air pollutants that pose odor and human respiratory problems.

This demonstration facility will use a new process, called thermal depolymerization (TDP), to dispose of all types of poultry waste. TDP is a "green" alternative that converts wastes into useable energy and other useful products, such as industrial chemicals. Traditional disposal methods can produce odors in the local community and generate air pollutant emissions. For example, disposing of waste in landfills has the potential for leaching contaminants into the groundwater and also generating significant quantities of global warming gases.

For further technical information on the grant, contact Jim Durham of EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at 919-541-5672.


WHITMAN DECIDES TO DREDGE HUDSON RIVER

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman moved forward on a decision to clean up PCB pollution from the upper Hudson River. The Agency is circulating for interagency review a draft proposal that in major respects tracks the plan proposed last December that would dredge as many as 2.65 million cubic yards from the river.

"The Administration is committed to cleaning up the Hudson River in a manner that is environmentally sound and is responsive to the concerns of the affected communities," said Whitman.

To that end, EPA intends to incorporate the draft cleanup plan with a series of performance standards by which the cleanup will be evaluated regularly. The performance indicators being considered will include measuring PCB levels in the soil, and the water column as well as measuring the percentage of dredged material that gets re-suspended. Based on these objective scientific indicators, EPA will determine at each stage of the project whether it is scientifically justified to continue the cleanup. PCB levels in fish will be monitored throughout the project as well.

PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, and some 1.1 million pounds are thought to be deposited in the river. The substance has been linked to cancer in humans and bioaccumulates in fish. The chemical was banned in 1977 but prior to that time General Electric had been dumping the chemical for more than 35 years.

Since the initial cleanup proposal last year, the Agency has received more than 70,000 comments from a variety of interested parties regarding the proposed plan. Many of these comments came from individuals who live along the upper Hudson River and who are concerned about the environmental and economic impacts of dredging. In addition, recent studies conducted since last December by the National Academy of Sciences and the United States Geological Survey raise questions about the impacts of river dredging. The plan is expected to ensure the proposal for cleaning up the river will not put individuals at greater risk of PCB exposure.

Several performance criteria will be included in the final Record of Decision, which is expected in late September, with others to be developed during the design phase and in consultation with the communities. Following the issuance of the Record of Decision, EPA will establish a community involvement program that will provide the public with continued opportunity for early and meaningful input during the remedial design phase, which will include siting and other local impacts. This enhanced community involvement program will remain active throughout the phases of the project.


SENATE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE GIVES CONTROVERSIAL ENFORCEMENT NOMINEE THE GREEN LIGHT

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to confirm Donald R. Schregardus of Ohio for the position of assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Four senators voted against Mr. Schregardus's confirmation: Senator Boxer of California, Senator Clinton of New York, Senator Corzine of New Jersey, and Senator Wyden of Oregon. If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Schregardus will take charge of the national environmental enforcement program.

Both national and Ohio environmental organizations raised numerous concerns over Schregardus's nomination, which has been particularly controversial due to questions raised concerning his enforcement record as director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Schregardus's administration at Ohio EPA is currently the subject of a federal investigation by EPA to determine whether to revoke Ohio's authority to implement federal environmental programs for failure to enforce federal environmental laws in the state.

In addition to the EPA's federal investigation of Ohio progenms, environmental groups have taken issue with several other aspects of Schregardus's track record as director of Ohio EPA, including:

  • Schregardus's role in Ohio EPA's decision to disregard a federal mandate that called for the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from utilities.

  • A ruling by a US Administrative Law Judge that found Schregardus and other Ohio EPA officials guilty of violating the whistleblower provision of seven federal environmental statutes and of misrepresenting possible threats to human health at a contaminated site in Marion, Ohio.

  • During Schregardus's tenure at Ohio EPA, legal actions brought by the agency to force polluters to clean up contaminated sites fell by more than 50 percent.