Air Pollution Worries Cast Cloud Over Olympics in Beijing


Winning gold medals won’t be the only thing on the mind of athletes during the Olympic games starting in Beijing next month. There’s growing concern that the city’s high air pollution levels may threaten athletes’ health and impair performance, despite the Chinese government’s pledge to clean up the air in time for the events, according to an article scheduled for the July 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

In a feature article in the magazine, C&EN Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich points out that Beijing’s air pollution levels have been high for the past five years, exceeding China’s standards for other major cities and stricter U.S. pollution standards. The air pollutants of most concern are ozone and particulate matter, which can cause respiratory problems. Some athletes have even threatened to arrive at the last possible minute before their own competitions—and skipping the opening ceremonies, for example—to minimize their exposure, the article notes.

But there’s been some progress toward reducing air pollution levels in Beijing, including switching many of the city’s coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning, natural gas facilities as well as stricter vehicle emissions controls. But these strides are being undercut by China’s booming economy and increased construction, which have sparked pollution increases. Beijing’s air pollution forecast during the Olympics and in the long-run remains uncertain, the article suggests.

Air Pollution Shown to Impact Even Healthy Outdoor Sports Enthusiasts

Recent research presented to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) links air pollution episodes to adverse health effects for athletes and those who must work outdoors.

Scientists have found that outdoor exercise during high levels of smog or particulate matter may cause otherwise healthy individuals to experience lung function decrease, exacerbation of asthma, and even DNA damage. For those with preexisting respiratory or heart ailments, the danger is even greater.

"This report once again shows that an active person's zeal for fitness may sometimes do more harm than good when air quality is suffering," ARB Chairman Mary Nichols said. "People should be aware of air quality in their region and take precautions to protect their health when pollution spikes occur. For example, we are surprised and alarmed to find many people out exercising during the recent rash of wildfires that have blanketed much of the state in smoke."

The findings from the studies include:

  • A three-fold decrease in lung function after walking near diesel traffic compared to walking in a park with no traffic
  • A four-fold increase in DNA damage after cycling in traffic
  • A 10% reduction in lung function after cycling with ozone exposure
  • Delivery of oxygen to the heart may drop by three times when exercising while exposed to diesel exhaust
  • A three-fold increase in asthma development for children who played multiple sports in high ozone areas

Research shows that during exercise, people breathe faster; a greater proportion of air is inhaled through the mouth, bypassing nasal filtration, and pollutants are carried more deeply into the lungs. And, greater volumes of air are exchanged during exercise—up to 10 or 20 times more air compared to when at rest.

As breathing rates increase so does the quantity of pollutants inhaled. Anyone exercising outdoors during times of high pollution should remember they will receive a greater dose of pollutants. Additionally, research studies found that people who exercise near roadways—such as joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians—experience increased risk because not only are they exposed to outdoor air pollution but traffic-related pollution as well.

For people who already have compromised lung function or heart disease, these risks are amplified. It is well-established that exercise promotes health and fitness. Regular exercise can help counteract the negative effects of air pollution. For example, regular activity may improve removal of inhaled particles from the lungs and can strengthen immune defenses. Prior to exercising outdoors, people can protect themselves by heeding air quality advisories, which are available in local newspapers, television weather reports, and through local health agencies and air districts.

New Arizona UST Rules

On May 20, 2008, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano signed into law House Bill (HB) 2425, a significant piece of underground storage tank (UST) legislation. HB 2425 is effective on Sept. 26, 2008, and brings substantive changes to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the regulated community. The new statutory requirements are based on the federal UST requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, ADEQ will have the authority to issue a “stop-use” order and attach a “stop-use” tag to the fill pipe of any UST that is significantly out of compliance with release detection or other operational requirements and if operation of the UST may result in a continued or new release. After ADEQ places a “stop-use” tag on a tank, the UST owner is required to empty the tank immediately and fulfill other temporary closure requirements. The owner must maintain the condition of the “stop-use” tag so that a product deliverer can easily determine that a regulated substance is not to be placed into the UST. The UST owner is responsible for ensuring compliance with a “stop-use” order and is subject to enforcement and potential penalties for not complying with the order or not maintaining the “stop-use” tag.

ADEQ will post the facility name, address, and specific USTs on the department’s website to inform product deliverers of the “stop-use” order ( A product deliverer who ignores a visible “stop-use” tag on a UST also may be subject to enforcement with penalties.

Once the UST owner provides adequate compliance documentation to ADEQ, the department will move quickly to terminate the “stop-use” order and then allow the “stop-use” tag to be removed. New UST Systems—all UST systems installed on or after Jan. 1, 2009—must have secondary containment and interstitial monitoring. These requirements do not apply to any UST system installed prior to that date.

Current UST Systems: Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, if a person replaces 25% or more of the piping between the tank and the dispenser, all of that UST system’s connected piping that routinely conveys a regulated substance under pressure must be fitted with secondary containment and interstitial monitoring.

Under-Dispenser Containment: If a UST owner installs or replaces a motor fuel dispenser that connects to a UST on or after Jan. 1, 2009, under-dispenser containment must be installed. Beginning Aug. 9, 2012, UST owners must designate Class A, Class B, and Class C operators for all of their active USTs. Each operator class has specific training requirements detailed below:

Class A Operator: This class of operator must be knowledgeable in all administrative and technical requirements of UST release detection and release prevention, including notification, release detection, reporting, financial responsibility, UST closure, delivery prohibition, other UST performance standards, and the training requirements for Class B and Class C operators.

Class B Operator: This operator class must be knowledgeable about specific requirements, including release detection, reporting, delivery prohibition, other UST performance standards, and the training requirements for Class C operators.

Class C Operator: This class of operator must be knowledgeable about initial response procedures associated with an emergency caused by a UST release or suspected release, including procedures for contacting Class A or Class B operators and any emergency responder.

A Class A operator may train both Class B and Class C operators; and a Class B operator may train Class C operators. A UST owner may designate Class A and Class B operators for USTs at more than one facility. There must be at least one Class C operator designated and on-site during normal operating hours at “manned” facilities. A UST owner may designate one or more persons as Class A, Class B, and Class C operators for the UST(s) at any one facility.

Training is valid for at least one year and not more than three years. After completing training, documentation of that training must be maintained for at least three years. This documentation must be available for ADEQ to inspect.

ADEQ will be developing rules with stakeholder input to address several issues, including types of training allowed, trainer qualifications, and format of the required training documentation.

CT–NY Commission on Environment and Energy Proposed

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has proposed the creation of a Connecticut–New York commission to establish a consensus on environmental and energy needs.

After the successful defeat of Broadwater, Blumenthal said that Connecticut and New York should now take a joint and intelligent approach to environmental and energy planning and develop a regional strategy.

"The states of the Northeast, and particularly Connecticut and New York, share many important resources and face many critical challenges," Blumenthal said. "Long Island Sound is one of the most precious from every standpoint—environmental, aesthetic, and economic. It joins our two states irrevocably, provides billions of dollars in economic and other benefits, and must continue to be the focus of a shared commitment to its protection.

"I propose that Connecticut and New York establish a joint commission consisting of citizens and government officials, representing a broad range of important interests, including businesses, ordinary citizens, environmental groups, commercial and recreational users of the Sound, utility regulators, and consumer advocates. Joining together both sides of the Sound, this commission can work to develop a regional consensus about environmental protection, energy needs, and ways and means to meet all concerns."

Blumenthal said the proposed commission should consider:

  • Designating areas of Long Island Sound that must be protected from all development—perhaps through a new federal or multi-state marine park
  • Reviewing ways in which our states can work jointly to support new renewable sources of energy
  • Additional ways to encourage energy efficiency and conservation to reduce oil reliance
  • Jointly supporting liquefied gas facilities—alternatives to Broadwater off the New York or New Jersey coasts—that help meet the energy needs of our region with this relatively clean energy source

Blumenthal said this proposal would not replace current state and federal licensing and environmental authorities, but could provide a sound basis for shared long-term planning for both states' mutual needs.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Auction Process Goes Live

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction process was initiated on July 24, beginning 60 days of bid preparation for this first-in-the-nation auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances to be held on Sept. 25, 2008.

The Auction Notice opens the process that potential bidders must follow to qualify for and participate in the CO2 allowance auction. The 10 RGGI states urge prospective bidders to seize this first opportunity to bid for CO2 allowances by downloading final auction documents from All potential bidders must successfully complete the qualification and approval process to participate in the auction.

"The launch of the RGGI auction process is a historic moment in our efforts to address climate change,” said Gina McCarthy, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. “Connecticut is proud to be a full RGGI partner and among the states participating in the first auction. Our involvement is yet another example of the leadership Governor Rell and this state have demonstrated on the climate issue. Our involvement in RGGI also serves as a building block in efforts underway to reduce Connecticut’s carbon emissions."

The 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States pioneering the auction have designed the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a simple and constructive way. The states have committed to cap and then reduce the amount of CO2 that power plants in their region are allowed to emit, limiting the region’s total contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. The auction will generate additional investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the RGGI region and fund programs to combat fuel poverty and support consumers.

The RGGI auction process was designed with input from stakeholders and all 10 participating RGGI states and will provide a platform for the auctioning of each state’s CO2 allowances.

The September 25 auction will offer 12,565,387 CO2 allowances, including CO2 allowances issued by Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Any CO2 allowances purchased at this auction can be used by a regulated facility for compliance in any of the RGGI states, even if that state does not offer allowances in this auction. Under the RGGI process, after the 10 participating states have stabilized power sector carbon emissions at their capped level by 2014, the cap will be reduced each year from 2015 through 2018.

By holding this auction and the one planned for December, the 10 RGGI states have exceeded the commitment made in December 2005. By signing the original Memorandum of Understanding, participating states committed to have a program in place by January 1, 2009. That goal will be met and these early auctions will ensure an ample opportunity for bidders to obtain the allowances they will need for compliance across the entire 10-state region.

All auction participants must open accounts in the RGGI CO2 Allowance Tracking System; simple guidance for this procedure is available at .

RGGI Background: Initial CO2 allowance auctions are being held in 2008 as precompliance events to facilitate market price discovery and compliance planning by regulated CO2 emitters prior to the beginning of the first RGGI compliance period on Jan. 1, 2009. A CO2 allowance represents a permit to emit one ton of CO2, as issued by a respective participating state. A power plant must hold CO2 allowances equal to its emissions to demonstrate compliance at the end of each compliance period.

Under RGGI, the 10 participating states will stabilize regional power sector CO2 emissions at their capped level through 2014, and then reduce the cap by 10% at a rate of 2.5% each year between 2015 and 2018. Regulated power plants will be able to use a CO2 allowance issued by any of the 10 participating RGGI states to demonstrate compliance with an individual state CO2 Budget Trading Program. Because CO2 allowances issued by any participating state will be usable across all state programs, the 10 individual state CO2 Budget Trading Programs, in aggregate, will form one regional compliance market for carbon emissions.

All participating states anticipate formal launch of their regulatory programs by the beginning of 2009. Any CO2 allowances purchased in the first auction will ultimately be usable to demonstrate compliance in any of the 10 state programs. All potential market participants are eligible to participate in the first auction, even if located in a state that has yet to complete its regulatory implementation process.

Western Climate Initiative Announces Cap-and-Trade Program to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Staff from the participating states and provinces of the Western Climate Initiative, including Washington, have released a draft design for a regional cap-and-trade program that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region by 2020.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global climate change. A cap-and-trade program is considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce these emissions. Under such a program, the covered facilities or entities decide how, where, and when to make emission reductions, so long as the reductions meet the overall preestablished limit, or cap. Cap-and-trade has been the preferred policy option at the national and international levels, because it harnesses the power of the market to provide reductions.

“Despite recent interest at the federal level, the federal government has failed to act to curb greenhouse gases.” WCI Chair Janice Adair said. “So it’s important for Washington and our WCI partners to lead these efforts. By leading, we can help ensure the Western perspective is included in any future federal action.”

The WCI is the first regional effort to design a multisector cap-and-trade program in the United States. It includes a diverse membership of U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The draft design serves as the initial framework for the regional cap-and-trade system for the participating jurisdictions in the WCI. A number of details must still be negotiated.

WCI partners are focusing on developing the regional cap-and-trade program proposal as part of a comprehensive effort to address global climate change, including promoting the development and use of clean and renewable energy; increasing energy efficiency; advocating regional and national climate policies that reflect the needs and interests of partner jurisdictions; and identifying measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The draft proposal makes the following key recommendations:

  • Incorporate all major GHG-emitting sectors of the economy into the cap-and-trade program
  • Ensure that all regulated entities use consistent reporting
  • Cover emissions from electricity generation and consumption
  • Allow flexibility among WCI partners on the allocation and auctioning of allowances
  • Allow emissions offsets, up to a limit, in the cap-and-trade program

The full draft of the proposal will be available online at Comments can be submitted via the WCI website through Aug. 13, 2008. The WCI partners will hold a stakeholder workshop July 29 in San Diego, Calif. Those who can’t attend in person can participate via an online webinar.

Meetings also will be scheduled for Washington state stakeholders. Information will be posted at

WCI partners will consider stakeholder feedback on the draft design proposal and release a final design proposal in September.

Large-Scale U.S. Solar Power Facilities Becoming Commonplace

A spate of announced plans to build large solar power facilities throughout the United States seems to indicate that relatively large-scale systems are becoming commonplace. The trend is most apparent in concentrating solar power (CSP), with a number of facilities in the planning stages with capacities greater than 100 megawatts (MW). One recent example is a plan to build a 106.8-MW CSP plant near Coalinga, Calif., about 60 miles southwest of Fresno. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) signed a power purchase contract for the facility with a subsidiary of Martifer Renewables Electricity LLC in June. Slated to start operation in 2011, the facility will produce power from biomass fuels when the sun is not available, allowing for constant power production. In addition, the four largest utilities in New Mexico, including PNM, issued a request for proposal (RFP) in late June to build a CSP plant in the state on the scale of about 100 MW. Bids are due by September 26, and a contract should be issued by January 2009, with the goal of commercial operation by 2012. Both the California and New Mexico facilities will use parabolic trough-shaped mirrors to concentrate the sun's heat.

Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is moving ahead with its plans to deploy solar power in the Sunshine State. The utility plans to build a 75-MW CSP facility at the site of its gas-fired Martin Plant in Indiantown, just east of Lake Okeechobee. The solar thermal facility will help to reduce natural gas consumption at the power plant. But FPL is also making an impressive commitment to solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, with plans to install 25 MW of solar panels at a site in DeSoto County, east of Sarasota. Construction will begin by the end of this year on what will be the world's largest PV power facility (although larger projects are now planned for Europe). FPL will also install a 10-MW PV project at the Kennedy Space Center. The three projects were approved by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) on July 15.

For PV systems, even a 1-MW facility is quite large, and megawatt-scale systems are now planned for many parts of the country. In late April, for example, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced that a megawatt-scale PV system will be installed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in Pennsylvania. In late May, Duke Energy Carolinas announced plans to buy all the power from a 16-MW PV facility, to be built north of Charlotte, N.C. SunEdison LLC is building the facility and expects to have it running by 2010. In mid-June, Pepco Energy Services was awarded a contract to install a 2.36-MW PV system on the roof of the Atlantic City Convention Center in New Jersey, with the installation to be completed by the end of the year, and in late June, enXco agreed to install a 1.3-MW system and a 0.5-MW system on two warehouses in South Plainfield, N.J., under a contract with Hall's Warehouse Corporation. But California has always been a leader in solar power, and on July 16 First Solar, Inc. announced that it will install a 2-MW PV system on the roof of a commercial building in Fontana, Calif., and at least 7.5 MW of ground-mounted PV panels in Blythe, Calif., with the power from both systems to be sold to Southern California Edison (SCE).

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell has approved a bill that establishes a $500 million fund to support alternative energy projects. Special Session House Bill 1 authorizes the Commonwealth Financing Authority to borrow $500 million, most of which will be split into six funding sources relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy: $80 million in grants and loans for solar energy projects; $100 million in grants, loans, and rebates for up to 35% of the cost of solar energy projects at residences and small businesses; $165 million in grants and loans for alternative energy projects, excluding solar energy, at businesses and local government facilities; $25 million for wind and geothermal energy projects; $40 million to help start-up businesses involved in energy-efficiency technologies; and $25 million in grants and loans to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing homes and small business buildings. An additional $65 million will go toward pollution control technologies and to help low-income families pay their energy bills.

The bill defines alternative energy projects as projects that employ alternative fuels; biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources; waste energy; waste coal; clean coal technologies; and other energy sources included in the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act. It also includes facilities that manufacture products or parts for alternative energy, alternative fuels, energy efficiency, or energy conservation, as well as research and development facilities for alternative energy and alternative fuels. Last but not least, it includes projects "for the development or enhancement of rail transportation systems that deliver alternative fuels or high-efficiency locomotives." The bill places no time limit on the payout of the various funds, and it pays off the debt by drawing $40 million per year from the state's general fund for the next 30 years. See the article from the EERE Network News on the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act.

In addition to the $500 million fund, the bill creates a Consumer Energy Program that is funded at $15 million for the next three fiscal years, then gradually decreases to $8 million by the 2015–2016 fiscal year, for a total of $100 million. Of that, $92.5 million will support loans, grants, and rebates for up to 25% of the cost of energy-efficiency improvements to homes and small businesses, while $5 million will support low-interest loans for energy-efficiency improvements to homes. An additional $50 million will be available over the next eight years to support tax credits for 15% of the cost of alternative energy projects, capped at $1 million per year for each project.

Governor Rendell also approved two bills on July 10 that relate to biofuels. House Bill 1202 could add as much as 1 billion gallons of advanced biofuels to the state's fuel supply. It requires all retail diesel fuel sold in the state to contain 2% biodiesel, once the in-state production of biodiesel reaches 40 million gallons per year, increasing incrementally to a 20% biodiesel requirement, once the in-state production of biodiesel reaches 400 million gallons per year (but only if vehicle manufacturers approve the use of 20% biodiesel). Likewise, all retail gasoline sold in the state must contain 10% ethanol, once the in-state production of cellulosic ethanol reaches 350 million gallons per year. The state already has a biodiesel production capacity of 60 million gallons per year, so the 2% biodiesel requirement could go into effect soon, if production is high enough. To encourage biodiesel production, Special Session Senate Bill 22 will offer a subsidy of $0.75 per gallon of biodiesel produced, capped at $1.9 million per year for each producer. The bill also expands a hybrid vehicle rebate program to include plug-in hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles.

Ohio Guidance for Hazardous Waste Generator Tanks

The Ohio EPA has posted a new guidance document on its website entitled "Large Quantity Generator Tank System Requirements." It is intended to help generators comply with the state’s tank rules. You can view the document at this link.

Texas to Spend $4.93 Billion on Transmission Lines for Wind Power

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas approved a plan on July 17 to build transmission lines to carry up to 18,456 megawatts (MW) of wind power from West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to metropolitan areas of the state. In April, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the state's electrical grid, provided the PUC with four scenarios for transmission system upgrades, with costs ranging from $2.95 billion to $6.38 billion. The most expensive option would have delivered 24,859 MW of wind power to the cities of Texas, but the PUC chose a less expensive option, Scenario 2, at a cost of $4.93 billion. The PUC estimates that the new lines will be in service within four or five years, at which point residential customers will be charged about $4 per month to pay off the cost of the transmission lines.

According to ERCOT, the selected plan includes 6,903 MW of wind power capacity that was either in service when ERCOT started preparing its report in September 2007 or had progressed to the point that its developer had signed an agreement to connect the system to the grid. For that existing and near-term future wind power capacity, the new transmission lines will provide greater access to markets, allowing a more efficient and economical use of those wind power resources. In addition, Scenario 2 will allow the development of 11,553 MW of new wind power. That includes 2,393 MW of wind power in the "Panhandle B" zone, which is where a company founded by T. Boone Pickens plans to eventually build the world's largest wind power plant, with a generating capacity of 4,000 MW. The 1,000-MW first phase of that project, the Pampa Wind Project, is expected to go online by early 2011. See the Texas PUC press release (PDF 15 KB).

MPCA Enforcement Actions Total Nearly $325,000 in Second Quarter of 2008

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concluded 37 enforcement cases totaling $321,352 in penalties during the second quarter of 2008. The cases occurred at facilities in 26 counties throughout Minnesota.

The following is a brief summary of all 37 cases completed during the second quarter of 2008:

  • $44,500—Hibbing Public Utilities, Hibbing, for air-quality violations
  • $39,300—Virginia Public Utilities, Virginia, for air-quality violations
  • $37,287—Northshore Mining, Silver Bay, for solid-waste violations
  • $13,200—United Health Technology Center, Minnetonka, for air-quality violations
  • $12,650—Darling International, Blue Earth, for water-quality violations
  • $10,000—Mark Bruckelmyer, Duluth Township, St Louis County, for stormwater violations
  • $10,000—Ken Neisen (Schommer Farm), Belle Plaine, for feedlot violations
  • $10,000—Big Stone Hutterian Colony, Clinton, for feedlot and solid-waste violations
  • $10,000—SMI Hydraulics, Porter, for hazardous waste violations
  • $9,424—Al-Amal School and Commercial Construction, Fridley, for stormwater violations
  • $8,750—Jeff McQuarrie, Hackensack, for stormwater violations
  • $8,535—CD Corp, Winona, for stormwater violations
  • $8,417—Central Livestock Association Inc, Zumbrota, for feedlot violations
  • $8,000—Dan's Prize, Long Prairie, for water-quality violations
  • $7,600—Precision Group LLC, Long Lake, for hazardous waste violations
  • $6,972—Daniel Prahl, doing business as Dan's Diesel Service, Sundburg, for solid and hazardous waste and aboveground storage tank violations
  • $6,500—Adrian Co-op Oil Co, Adrian, for aboveground and underground storage tank violations
  • $6,250—Brian Kosel Farm, Owatonna, for feedlot violations
  • $6,206—Land O'Lakes, Arden Hills, for hazardous waste violations
  • $5,500—Ted's RV Land, Ted Hoekstra, Paynesville, for stormwater violations
  • $5,000—First State Tire Disposal Inc, Pine City, for solid-waste and water-quality violations
  • $4,750—R-Way Pumpers, Melrose, for feedlot violations
  • $4,725—Sartell Water Controls Inc, Sartell, for hazardous waste violations
  • $4,721—Fairmont Public Utilities, Fairmont, for air-quality violations
  • $4,350—Northwoods Ice, Bemidji, for water-quality violations
  • $4,300—Sand Companies Inc, Jordan, for stormwater violations
  • $3,750—Dairy Dozen, doing business as Excel Dairy, Marshall County, for feedlot violations
  • $3,500—J & J Distributing Co, St Paul, for stormwater violations
  • $3,040—Kandiyohi County, Lake Lillian, for underground storage tank violations
  • $3,000—Little Bob's Auto Body Center, Robert Ludwig, Rochester, for air-quality violations
  • $2,975—City of Waterville wastewater-treatment facility, Waterville, for water-quality violations
  • $2,250—Minnesota Power Inc, ML Hibbard, Duluth Township, St Louis County, for air-quality violations
  • $1,625—Barton Solvents, Porter, for hazardous waste violations
  • $1,375—St Clair water treatment plant, St Clair, for water-quality violations
  • $1,000—William Kemper, Grey Eagle Township, Todd County, for individual-septic-treatment-system violations
  • $1,000—Jerry Haluptzok, doing business as Pine Auto Salvage, Pine City, for stormwater violations
  • $900—Gaylord Sanitation, Gaylord, for solid-waste violations

California Establishes Statewide Green Building Standards

The California Building Standards Commission adopted on July 17 a statewide green building code, which the state claims as the first in the nation. The new California Green Building Standards Code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities, and commercial buildings and will encourage builders to reduce the energy use of their structures to 15% below the energy use that is achieved with the state's mandatory energy-efficiency standards. The standards also address on-site renewable energy use, water consumption, green building materials, indoor air quality, and other measures. The new standards will become mandatory for housing in 2010 but are currently optional for all buildings, allowing time for the building industry and local building code officials to adjust to the new standards. After 2010, the green building standards will be updated annually.

California also may be the first state to launch a map-based directory of state-owned facilities that have achieved or are pursuing LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is one of the leading green building certification programs in the country. Under an executive order signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004, all new and renovated state-owned facilities must meet LEED Silver certification requirements, the third-highest level of certification available. You can check the state's progress in a Google Maps interface or view an Excel spreadsheet of the state's green building data.

Material May Help Cars Turn Heat Into Electricity

Researchers have invented a new material that will make cars even more efficient, by converting heat wasted through engine exhaust into electricity.

In the current issue of the journal Science, researchers describe a material with twice the efficiency of anything currently on the market.

The same technology could work in power generators and heat pumps, said Project Leader Joseph Heremans, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology at Ohio State University. Scientists call such materials thermoelectric materials, and they rate the materials' efficiency based on how much heat they can convert into electricity at a given temperature.

Previously, the most efficient material used commercially in thermoelectric power generators was an alloy called sodium-doped lead telluride, which had a rating of 0.71. The new material, thallium-doped lead telluride, has a rating of 1.5—more than twice that of the previous leader.

What's more important to Heremans is that the new material is most effective between 450 and 950 degrees Fahrenheit—a typical temperature range for power systems, such as automobile engines.

Some experts argue that only about 25% of the energy produced by a typical gasoline engine is used to move a car or power its accessories, and nearly 60% is lost through waste heat—much of which escapes in engine exhaust.

A thermoelectric (TE) device can capture some of that waste heat, Heremans said. It would also make a practical addition to an automobile, because it has no moving parts to wear out or break down.

"The material does all the work. It produces electrical power just like conventional heat engines—steam engines and gas or diesel engines—that are coupled to electrical generators, but it uses electrons as the working fluids instead of water or gases, and makes electricity directly."

"Thermoelectrics are also very small," he added. "I like to say that TE converters compare to other heat engines like the transistor compares to the vacuum tube."

The engineers took a unique strategy to design this new material. To maximize the amount of electricity produced by a TE material, engineers would normally try to limit the amount of heat that can pass through it without being captured and converted to electricity. So the typical strategy for making a good thermoelectric material is to lower its thermal conductivity.

In Heremans' lab, he lowered the thermal conductivity by building nanometer-sized structures such as nanowires into materials. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Those nanostructured materials are not very stable, are very difficult to make in large quantities, and are difficult to connect with conventional electronic circuits and external heat sources.

For this new material, he and his colleagues took a different strategy: They left out the fancy nanostructures and instead focused on how to convert the maximum amount of heat that was trapped in the material naturally.

To do this, they took advantage of some new ideas in quantum mechanics. Heremans pointed to a 2006 paper published by other researchers in the journal Physical Review Letters, which suggested that elements such as thallium and tellurium could interact on a quantum-mechanical level to create a resonance between the thallium electrons and those in the host lead telluride thermoelectric material, depending on the bonds between the atoms.

"It comes down to a peculiar behavior of an electron in a thallium atom when it has tellurium neighbors," he said. "We'd been working for 10 years to engineer this kind of behavior using different kinds of nanostructured materials, but with limited success. Then I saw this paper, and I knew we could do the same thing we'd been trying to do with nanostructures, but with this bulk semiconductor instead."

Heremans designed the new material with Vladimir Jovovic, who did this work for his doctoral thesis in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State. Researchers at Osaka University—Ken Kurosaki, Anek Charoenphakdee, and Shinsuke Yamanaka—created samples of the material for testing. Then researchers at the California Institute of Technology—G. Jeffrey Snyder, Eric S. Toberer, and Ali Saramat—tested the material at high temperatures. Heremans and Jovovic tested it at low temperatures and provided experimental proof that the physical mechanism they postulated was indeed at work.

The team found that near 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the material converted heat to electricity with an efficiency rating of about 0.75—close to that of sodium doped telluride. But as the temperature rose, so did the efficiency of the new material. It peaked at 950 degrees Fahrenheit with a rating of 1.5.

Heremans' team is continuing to work on this patent-pending technology. "We hope to go much further. I think it should be quite possible to apply other lessons learned from thermoelectric nanotechnology to boost the rating by another factor of two—that's what we're shooting for now," he said.

This research was funded by the BSST Corporation; the State of Ohio Department of Development’s Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization at Ohio State University; the Beckman Institute; the Swedish Bengt Lundqvist Minne Foundation; and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Nanoparticle Research Points to Energy Savings

Adding just the right dash of nanoparticles to standard mixes of lubricants and refrigerants could yield the equivalent of an energy-saving chill pill for factories, hospitals, ships, and others with large cooling systems, suggests the latest research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is pursuing promising formulations.

NIST experiments with varying concentrations of nanoparticle additives indicate a major opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of large industrial, commercial, and institutional cooling systems known as chillers. These systems account for about 13% of the power consumed by the nation’s buildings, and about 9% of the overall demand for electric power, according to the Department of Energy.

NIST Researcher Mark Kedzierski has found that dispersing “sufficient” amounts of copper oxide particles (30 nanometers in diameter) in a common polyester lubricant and combining it with an equally pedestrian refrigerant (R134a) improves heat transfer by between 50% and 275%.

Results of this work have been presented at recent conferences and will be reported in an upcoming issue of the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer.

Just how nanomaterial additives to lubricants improve the dynamics of heat transfer in refrigerant/lubricant mixtures is not thoroughly understood. The NIST research effort aims to fill gaps in knowledge that impede efforts to determine and, ultimately, predict optimal combinations of the three types of substances.

“As with all good things, the process is far from foolproof,” Kedzierski explains. “In fact, an insufficient amount or the wrong type of particles might lead to degradation in performance.”

On the basis of work so far, the researcher speculates several factors likely account for nanoparticle-enabled improvements in heat-transfer performance. For one, nanoparticles of materials with high thermal conductivity improve heat transfer rates for the system. Preliminary results of the NIST research also indicate that, in sufficient concentrations, nanomaterials enhance heat transfer by encouraging more vigorous boiling of the mixture. The tiny particles stimulate, in effect, double bubbles—secondary bubbles that form atop bubbles initiated at the boiling site. Bubbles carry heat away from the surface, and the fact that they’re being formed more efficiently because of the nanoparticles means the heat gets transferred more readily.

Other interactions, Kedzierski says, also are likely to contribute to the dramatic performance improvements reported at NIST and elsewhere.

Success in optimizing recipes of refrigerants, lubricants, and nanoparticle additives would pay immediate and long-term dividends. If they did not harm other aspects of equipment performance, high-performance mixtures could be swapped into existing chillers, resulting in immediate energy savings. And, because of improved energy efficiency, next-generation equipment would be smaller, requiring fewer raw materials in their manufacture.

Diesel Fleet Owner Cited for Not Properly Inspecting Engines

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has fined Don E. Keith Transportation, a transportation firm based in Bakersfield, $9,750 this month for diesel truck emission violations that occurred in 2005.

An ARB fleet audit found that the company had not been annually inspecting their heavy-duty diesel vehicles at a fleet center in Bakersfield, as required by California law.

"Shrewd business owners carry out regular inspections and ensure employees are up-to-speed on clean air requirements," ARB Chairman Mary Nichols said. "The penalties for not doing so can cost a business money and their reputation."

As part of the settlement, Don E. Keith Transportation must comply with the following:

  • Guarantee that employees responsible for conducting the inspections attend a mandatory California community college training class on diesel emissions and provide certificates of completion within one year
  • Instruct employees and drivers on ARB's truck-idling regulations
  • Provide documentation to ARB that the inspections are being carried out for the next four years
  • Ensure that all diesel trucks are up to federal emissions standards for the vehicle model year and are properly labeled with the manufacturer's factory engine certification label

The company will pay $9,750 in penalties: $7,312 will go to the California Air Pollution Control Fund, which provides funding for projects and research to improve California's air quality, with the remaining $2,437 going to Peralta Community College District to fund emission education classes conducted by participating California community colleges under the California Council for Diesel Education and Technology.

A decade ago, the ARB listed diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant in order to protect public health. Exposure to unsafe levels of diesel emissions can increase the risk of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases. California has aggressively worked to cut diesel emissions by cleaning up diesel fuel; requiring cleaner engines for trucks, buses, and off-road equipment; and limiting unnecessary idling.

Ships Off California's Coast Must Adhere to World's Strictest Diesel Emission Regulation

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted a regulation that eliminates 15 tons of diesel exhaust daily from ocean-going vessels, substantially reducing the cancer rates and premature deaths associated with living near seaports and trade corridors along California's coast.

The new measure requires ocean-going vessels within 24 nautical miles of California's coastline to use lower-sulfur marine distillates in their main and auxiliary engines and auxiliary boilers, rather than the dirtier heavy-fuel oil called bunker fuel. About 2,000 ocean-going vessels visiting California ports annually are subject to this restriction.

"This regulation will save lives," Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said. "At ports and all along the California coast, we will see cleaner air and better health."

The regulation will be implemented in two steps, each requiring lower sulfur content in the fuel—first in 2009 and final in 2012. Both U.S.-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels are subject to the regulation, which is the most stringent and comprehensive requirement for marine fuel-use in the world.

Using the cleaner fuels required in 2009 will result in immediate and significant reductions in the emissions from ocean-going vessels. Reductions will increase as the fuel sulfur content is progressively lowered through the regulation's phase-in. In 2009, about 75% of the diesel PM, more than 80% of the sulfur oxides, and 6% of the nitrogen oxides will be eliminated. In 2012, when the very low sulfur fuel requirement is implemented, reductions of diesel particulate matter will be 15 tons daily, an 83% reduction compared to uncontrolled emissions. Sulfur oxides will be reduced by 140 tons daily, a 95% reduction and nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 11 tons per day, a 6% reduction.

An estimated 3,600 premature deaths between 2009 and 2015 will be avoided, and the cancer risk associated with the emissions from these vessels would be reduced by more than 80%. In addition, the measure will aid the South Coast Air Quality Management District to meet its federal clean air requirements for fine particulate matter by 2014 and move California closer to its goal of reducing diesel particulate matter 85% by 2020.

Diesel exhaust contains a variety of harmful gases and more than 40 other known cancer-causing compounds. Currently in California, diesel PM emissions from ocean-going vessels expose more than 27 million people or 80% of California's total population to cancer risk levels at or above 10 chances in a million.

This fall, the ARB will consider further measures to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks. Over the past 10 years, ARB has adopted regulations affecting cargo-handling equipment, transport refrigeration units, truck idling, off-road equipment, harbor craft, port drayage trucks, onboard incineration, and ships at-berth. ARB's cleaner fuel requirements for on-road diesel trucks, railroad, and ship engines have reduced pollution around rail yards and ports.

Recycled Tires Make Better Roads

The California Integrated Waste Management Board awarded more than $325,000 for road projects in the cities of El Cerrito (Contra Costa County) and Baldwin Park (Los Angeles County). The allocation will help divert more than 21,000 waste tires from California landfills and put them to use as rubberized asphalt concrete (RAC).

RAC is an alternative to traditional asphalt and is made by blending rubber from recycled waste tires with asphalt and applying the mix to road surfaces. Standard RAC uses 2,000 waste tires for every lane mile paved.

RAC resists cracking, retains its original color so road markings are more clearly visible, reduces noise, and, over its lifetime, dramatically cuts costs for road projects. In fact, a two-inch layer of the material can save up to $50,000 per lane mile compared to a standard four-inch thick layer of conventional asphalt.

“Disposing of tires in landfills and stockpiles creates a number of environmental and health hazards,” said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown. “Finding alternative uses, such as RAC for waste tires, is another example of Californians taking steps to protect the health of our people and our environment.”

To date, the Waste Board has provided more than $25 million in RAC grants as part of an ongoing effort to find innovative new uses for the 42 million waste tires generated each year in California. Approximately 75% of those tires are recycled, but the state faces the challenge of dealing with roughly 10 million surplus tires annually, the majority of which end up in landfills or illegal stockpiles.

Accumulated waste tires pose environmental health hazards as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rodents, and other pests. Tire piles also pose a high fire risk. Tire fires are difficult to extinguish and create heavy smoke and toxic runoff into waterways.

These grants from the Waste Board’s Targeted RAC Incentive Grant Program help first-time users underwrite the cost of using RAC in local road-paving projects.

Funds come from the $1.75 recycling fee levied on each new tire sold in California. The Board receives $1.00 of each $1.75 fee, and the remainder is used for tire-related air emission programs.

Court Grants EPA Authority to Regulate Ships Ballast Discharges

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced a victory in his efforts to protect the state’s Great Lakes from environmental damage caused by the dumping of contaminated ballast water by large commercial ships.

New York, together with five other Great Lakes states and several environmental groups, won a court decision that stipulates large vessels and other oceangoing freight ships can no longer discharge pollutant-containing ballast water without a permit.

“Today’s decision is a huge win in protecting New York State’s Great Lakes from invasive species and pollution that for too long have threatened our local ecosystems, economies, and our health,” Cuomo said. “Preserving Lake Erie and Lake Ontario for years to come is vital to our quality of life, our economic growth, and our environment.”

In the decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that ships must comply with the Clean Water Act. Beginning Sept. 30, 2008, ships will no longer be able to discharge pollutant-containing ballast water without an EPA permit. The EPA had previously exempted these destructive discharges of “biological pollution” from Clean Water Act controls, despite clear evidence that ballast water discharges from oceangoing ships were bringing many aquatic invasive species, such as the infamous zebra mussel, into U.S. waters.

Lake Erie and Lake Ontario border Western New York and the North Country and are critical to the environmental and socio-economic infrastructure of the regions. Ballast water discharges occur when a vessel is moved from one body of water to another and the water the ship carries with it is released. When these releases are untreated, they can contain transported invasive species that disrupt the natural ecosystem in the second body of water.

Untreated vessel ballast discharges have resulted in the introduction of more than 180 aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes and have similarly affected other U.S. waters. These discharges are a particularly harmful type of pollution, because the invading species are able to reproduce and grow over time, allowing them to overwhelm entire ecosystems. They prey upon native species, causing population declines and harm to commercial and recreational fisheries. Billions of dollars in damage to fisheries, recreation, and public infrastructure is directly attributed to the aquatic invasive species epidemic.

  • The zebra mussel, introduced into a small area of the Great Lakes in the late 1980s, has propagated into all five Great Lakes and many other North American waterways, reaching densities of up to one million per square yard and causing costly damage to water and power plants by clogging intake pipes.
  • Invasive viruses and toxins, such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and Type E botulism, have been implicated in recent large-scale fish and bird die-offs.
  • Some native species, like unionid clams in the western basin of Lake Erie, are nearly extinct. Small organisms at the base of the food web also have been severely affected.

The devastating effect of invasive species has had direct human implications.

  • A 2001 EPA report indicated that a strain of cholera that killed 10,000 people in Latin America in 1991 was introduced by the bilge water of a Chinese freighter. The strain then came to the United States in the ballast tanks of ships from Latin America, but fortunately it was detected in oyster and finfish samples in the Alabama port where the ships anchored.
  • The Department of Agriculture spends millions of dollars each year to combat invasive species. A study by the General Accounting Office estimated that the total annual economic losses and associated costs related to invasive species totals $137 billion—more than double the annual economic damage caused by all natural disasters in the United States.

The EPA is responsible for implementing the federal Clean Water Act but for years has allowed billions of gallons of contaminated ballast water to be discharged annually without the controls mandated by the Act. This illegal permit exemption has exacerbated the large-scale ecological, commercial, financial, and recreational harms wrought by invasive species.

The decision focuses on the need to regulate ballast water discharges from large oceangoing cargo ships, which was the goal of the lawsuit. The ruling gives the EPA broad flexibility and discretion with respect to discharges from other types of boats. In order to further clarify that the Clean Water Act does not require the regulation of small recreational boats, the U.S. House and Senate yesterday both passed legislation that would exempt these boaters from Clean Water Act regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of their vessels.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Timothy Hoffman and Michael J. Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy.

Mercury Pollution From Cement Kilns Double Previous Estimates

For more than a decade after Congress told it to curb dangerous mercury pollution from cement kilns across the nation, the EPA has yet to take action. A new study from Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) documents the consequences of the inaction: Cement kilns emit mercury pollution at more than twice the level estimated as recently as 2006 by the EPA, which only started to collect data on the problem in 2007.

The unregulated pollution from cement kilns is emitted in or nearby many major U.S. urban areas and also within a few miles of such major bodies of water as the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Huron, and the San Francisco Bay. Mercury pollution already has impaired rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the United States, making certain fish unsafe to eat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8% of women of child-bearing age in America already have mercury in their bodies at levels high enough to put their babies at risk of birth defects, loss of IQ, learning disabilities, and developmental problems.

Entitled, "Cementing a Toxic Legacy? How EPA Has Failed to Control Mercury Pollution From Cement Kilns," the Earthjustice/EIP report outlines specific recommendations for EPA and state agency action based on the following key conclusions:

  • Mercury emissions from cement kilns are almost twice as high as the agency has previously acknowledged, and in many states, kilns are among the worst mercury polluters. EPA now estimates that cement kilns emit nearly 23,000 pounds of mercury each year, far more than the Agency's 2006 estimate of 11,995 pounds.
  • A relatively small number of cement plants that use extremely dirty raw materials and fuels are among the worst mercury polluters in their states and, in some cases, in the country. For example, some cement kilns release as much or more mercury as coal-fired power plants.
  • Since 1974, cement production has increased 15%, and further increases are projected for the future. Rising levels of U.S. cement production mean that the cement industry's mercury pollution will grow even worse if left unregulated.

"EPA's new data confirm that cement plants are among the worst mercury polluters in this country," said James Pew, Earthjustice staff attorney. "EPA has refused to acknowledge this problem for more than a decade, and the mercury contamination in our food and waters has grown worse every year as a result. It is high time for EPA to do its job and make this industry clean up its toxic emissions."

"Action by the EPA is long overdue and America's health and public waters have suffered needlessly due to this foot dragging," said Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer. "Ten years after it was required to set standards for cement kilns, EPA finally got around to requesting basic information related to mercury emissions from nine of the major cement kiln companies operating in the U.S. EPA claims that it will use this information to finally propose mercury standards for cement kilns sometime in the summer or fall of 2008, but confidence in that timeline is low given all of the agency's stalling to date. Based on our new review of available data, it is now long past time for EPA to regulate an industry that releases nearly twice as much mercury into the air as the agency previously reported."

In 2007, EPA collected data from 9 companies and released data for 51 non-hazardous waste burning kilns currently operating in the United States. The 2007 EPA collection requests were sent to the following companies: Ash Grove Cement Company (Overland Park, Kan.); CEMEX (Houston, Texas); California Portland Cement Company (Glendora, Calif.); Essroc Cement Corp. (Nazareth, Pa.); Holcim (US) Inc. (Dundee, Mich.); LaFarge North America, Inc. (Herndon, Va.); Lehigh Cement Company (Allentown, Pa.); Lonestar/Buzzi Unicem (Bethlehem, Pa.); and Texas Industries, Inc. (Dallas, Texas).

Kiln-specific findings from across the United States include the following:

  • The Ash Grove Cement Plant in Durkee, Oregon has the dubious distinction of being the worst mercury polluter of any kind in the country, emitting more mercury into the air than any power plant, steel mill, or hazardous waste incinerator. In 2006, Ash Grove reported to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory that it emitted 2,582 pounds of mercury. Based on information Ash Grove submitted to EPA in 2007, however, actual emissions may be as much as 3,788 pounds a year. Note that although it emits the greatest amount of mercury (more than double the amount of the next worst polluter), it has the third smallest production capacity of the kilns on the Top 10 Polluting Cement Kiln list.
  • Lafarge North America, Inc., shows up on the Top 10 Polluting Cement Kiln list twice, at rank four and rank five with its plants in New York and Michigan. By Lafarge's own calculations, the kiln in Ravena, N.Y., emits 400 pounds of mercury per year.
  • Lehigh's Union Bridge, Md., plant is located approximately 75 miles northwest of Baltimore. It is the fifth largest cement kiln in the United States, able to produce nearly 2 million tons of clinker annually. The Lehigh cement kiln at Union Bridge reported to TRI in 2006 only 35 pounds of mercury pollution; but the data show that this kiln also has the capacity to emit as much as 1,539 pounds of mercury a year. This is particularly significant given the plant's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The largest concentration of cement manufacturing in the entire country is just outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex in Midlothian, Texas. Citizens of Midlothian are burdened by five plants operated by Holcim, Ash Grove, and Texas Industries, all within a 6.5-mile radius of each other. Combined, these plants emit just under 200 pounds of mercury on an annual basis, and thousands of tons of other dangerous toxic air pollutants.
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, Hanson Permanente Cement operates a kiln in Cupertino, Calif. This kiln is located within a major residential area in close proximity to several Cupertino schools. It is also located within five miles of the San Francisco Bay, which is currently contaminated with mercury. The Hanson Permanente kiln reported emitting a staggering 494 pounds of mercury pollution in 2006 to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. EPA failed to include Hanson Permanente Cement in any of its information requests, leaving open the possibility that its mercury emissions could be even worse.
  • The CEMEX kiln in Davenport, Calif., is of similar concern. That kiln, located right beside homes and farms along California's coastline and only 40 miles north of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, reported emitting 172 pounds of mercury pollution to the Toxic Release Inventory in 2006. The Davenport kiln is one of those for which EPA refuses to release data gathered in 2007.
  • The Lafarge site in Alpena, Mich., is a five-kiln plant, and in 2006 was the nation's third largest cement plant. These kilns collectively reported emitting 360 pounds of mercury in 2006. The Alpena cement plant is of particular concern because it sits on the banks of Lake Huron and in close proximity to residential areas of Alpena.

In a clear sign of the limitations of the initial EPA data, the federal agency released no data on one cement industry leader, CEMEX, which has claimed that the information EPA requested—information directly related to the amount of mercury it releases into our air and waters—is confidential business information. All of the data reviewed by the EPA was self-reported by the kiln companies.

The process for making cement often relies on fuels and raw materials that are high in mercury content. While the large quantity of mercury emissions from cement kilns is not widely known, it is hardly surprising. More than 150 cement kilns operate in the United States and, each year, they "cook" thousands of tons of rock—primarily limestone—at more than 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. To fuel this cooking process, cement kilns burn primarily coal. Both the rock and the coal contain mercury, a highly volatile metal that evaporates at room temperature. Virtually all the mercury in the coal and limestone is vaporized in the cement production process, and the vast majority of that mercury enters our air through the kilns' smokestacks.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Exposure to mercury can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. During the first several years of life, a child's brain is still developing and rapidly absorbing nutrients. Prenatal and infant mercury exposure can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness. Even in low doses, mercury may affect a child's development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span, and causing learning disabilities. The National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council estimated in a 2000 report that approximately 60,000 children per year may be born in the United States with neurological problems due to in-utero exposure to methylmercury. Mercury poses a threat to adult men, as well as women and children. In adults, mercury poisoning can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss, and numbness of the fingers and toes.

Luminescent Systems to Pay $90,000 Environmental Penalty

New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte and Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas S. Burack announced the court approval of a settlement between the state and Luminescent Systems, Inc., of Lebanon, N.H., for violations of the state's hazardous waste management laws.

The state alleges in a lawsuit filed in Grafton County Superior Court that Luminescent violated the state’s hazardous waste laws by illegally disposing of 15,085 pounds of the company's hazardous waste in the City of Lebanon's Solid Waste Landfill located in West Lebanon, N.H. Luminescent manufactures electroluminescent lamps, aviation light products, and data entry equipment. DES discovered during an inspection that waste paint filters and wipers being sent to the landfill were actually regulated for chromium toxicity and should have been disposed of as hazardous waste. The state's lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Luminescent failed to conduct any chemical analyses on the wastes to determine if they were hazardous and, as a result, illegally disposed of the hazardous wastes in the landfill over a 15-year period.

The court-approved agreement imposes a $90,000 civil penalty for the violations. The cash portion of the penalty totals $50,000 and will be paid to the state’s Hazardous Waste Cleanup Fund. The company must also fund $40,000 in contractor costs for the construction of a hazardous materials storage shed at the City of Lebanon Landfill. The storage shed will provide temporary storage for hazardous waste and other hazardous materials that must be shipped off-site to a permitted waste treatment or disposal facility.

“This office will continue to actively enforce violations of the State's hazardous waste management laws, which serve to protect the public's health and the environment,” Avotte said. “This settlement illustrates that businesses need to pay close attention to these environmental laws and to properly identify and dispose of their hazardous waste."

“The Department is pleased that Luminescent Systems took full responsibility for these violations and quickly came into compliance following the inspections,” DES Commissioner Burack said. “The company’s funding under this settlement of the estimated costs of constructing a hazardous materials storage shed at the landfill will help to provide a safe means to collect and manage household hazardous waste for the residents of Lebanon."

EPA Determines Regulation Not Needed for 11 Potential Drinking Water Contaminants

The EPA has made a final determination not to regulate 11 contaminants on the second drinking water contaminant candidate list (CCL 2). The agency has concluded that the contaminants do not occur nationally in public water systems or occur at levels below a public health concern. The agency's final regulatory determination is based on extensive review of health effects, occurrence data, and public comments.

"Sound science and public health drive EPA's decisions under the Safe Drinking Water Act," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water. "We will continue to thoroughly review new and emerging contaminants to ensure that citizens and our environment are protected."

The 11 contaminants include naturally occurring substances, pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals used (or once used) in manufacturing. While none of the contaminants were found nationally at levels of public health concern in public water systems, EPA is updating health advisories for seven of the contaminants to provide current health information to local officials for situations where the contaminants may be present.

EPA is updating health advisories for boron; dacthal mono- and di-acid degradates;1,3-dichloropropene (Telone); 2,4-dinitrotoluene, and 2,6-dinitrotoluene; and 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane. EPA has determined that updated or new health advisories are not needed for 1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethylene (DDE); s-ethyl propyl thiocarbamate (EPTC); Fonofos; and Terbacil, because the national monitoring data showed almost no occurrence at levels of public health concern.

A regulatory determination is a formal decision on whether EPA should initiate a rulemaking process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, every five years EPA develops a CCL and then makes a regulatory determination for at least five contaminants on the list. In 2005, the agency published the second CCL, which listed 51 contaminants. In May 2007, EPA requested public comment on its preliminary regulatory determinations not to regulate 11 of these 51 CCL 2 contaminants.

EPA Waives RMP Penalties Following Self-Disclosure

The EPA has waived penalties against the Swiss American Sausage Company, a subsidiary of Hormel Food Corporation, located in Lathrop, Calif., after the facility voluntarily reported federal Clean Air Act Risk Management Program (RMP) violations.

“The EPA is pleased with the responsible action taken by the Swiss American Sausage Company—it’s the responsibility of all companies to do the required reporting," said Keith Takata, Superfund Division director in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. "It’s critical that facilities using chemicals follow our chemical accident prevention rules to protect the health and safety of area residents, emergency response personnel, and the environment."

The San Joaquin County-based food storage and distribution facility voluntarily disclosed to the EPA that it had not submitted a RMP, as required by the Clean Air Act. Swiss American Sausage self-disclosed the violations in accordance with EPA’s Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction, and Prevention of Violations Policy, commonly referred to as the ‘audit policy.’ The EPA has the discretion to eliminate penalties if it determines that a respondent has satisfied certain conditions set forth in the audit policy.

Federal regulations require all facilities using hazardous substances above specified thresholds to develop chemical RMPs. These plans help prevent chemical releases and prompt detection and response when chemical releases do occur. At this facility, at least 16,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia used in the refrigeration system mandated a RMP.

The EPA may reduce penalties up to 100% for violations that are voluntarily discovered, promptly disclosed to the agency, and quickly corrected. Swiss American Sausage very quickly corrected and self-disclosed its violation.

A RMP must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years, and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.

The risk management program requires an emergency response strategy, evaluation of a worst-case and probable case chemical release, and a prevention program that includes operator training, a review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances, operating procedures, and equipment maintenance.

EPA Climate Leaders Now 200 Partners Strong

EPA welcomed 51 new partners as Climate Leaders, breaking the 200 mark. In addition, eight companies took the next step in the partnership by announcing new greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions goals. Together, EPA's Climate Leaders represent more than 10% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and have pledged to prevent estimated GHG emissions equivalent to nine million cars annually.

"EPA's Climate Leader partners are proving that businesses don't need to break the bank to do what's good for the environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "These leading companies are reducing their climate footprints in cost-effective ways."

Climate Leaders, launched in 2002, is a voluntary program that works with companies to measure greenhouse gas emissions and to set aggressive long-term emissions reduction goals. The partners represent a wide range of industries in all 50 states.

The eight companies that are announcing aggressive new GHG emissions reductions goals are: Baxter International Inc., Deerfield, Ill.; Burt's Bees Inc., Durham, N.C.; Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J.; Cherokee Investment Partners, Raleigh, N.C.; Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif.; Deere & Co., Moline, Ill.; Millipore Corp., Billerica, Mass.; and Petaluma Poultry, Petaluma, Calif.

The 51 companies that are joining Climate Leaders as new partners are:

  • AGM USA, Tempe, Ariz.
  • American Packaging Corp., Rochester, N.Y.
  • Ash Grove Cement Co., Overland Park, Kan.
  • Berry Plastics Corp., Evansville, Ind.
  • Bluebonnet Electric Co-op., Bastrop, Texas
  • Boise Paper, Boise, Idaho
  • Capital One Financial Corp., Richmond, Va.
  • Clements Environmental, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Evelyn Hill Inc., New York, N.Y.
  • Freescale Semiconductor Inc., Austin, Texas
  • FXFOWLE Architects, PC, New York, N.Y.
  • Grand Canyon North Rim, LLC, Page, Ariz.
  • Greenstar North America, Houston, TexasGXS, Gaithersburg, Md.
  • Harbec Plastics, Ontario, N.Y.
  • Harrah's Entertainment, Las Vegas, Nev.
  • HydroPoint Data Systems Inc., Petaluma, Calif.
  • LSI Corp., Milpitas, Calif.
  • Monadnock Paper Mills Inc., Bennington, N.H.
  • MOSAIC, Cheverly, Md.
  • MWH Global Inc., Broomfield, Colo.
  • Nicholas Earth Printing, LLC, Houston, Texas
  • One Boston Place LLC, Boston, Mass.
  • PHH Arval, Sparks, Md.
  • Pizza Fusion, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Potomac-Hudson Engineering Inc., Readfield, Maine
  • PrintFast, LLC, Roselle Park, N.J.
  • Progressive Environmental & Safety, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Prudential Services Limited, Lansing, Mich.
  • Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla.
  • Pure & Gentle Soap, Seguin, Texas
  • Puronics Inc., Livermore, Calif.
  • Ram Offset, White City, Ore.
  • Rizco Design, Manasquan, N.J.
  • Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Schering-Plough Corp., Kenilworth, N.J.
  • Scout Real Estate Capital, LLC, Nantucket, Mass.
  • Sid Richardson Carbon and Energy Co., Fort Worth, Texas
  • SKF USA Inc., Norristown, Pa.
  • Smithfield Foods Inc., Smithfield, Va.
  • Teradata Corp., Miamisburg, Ohio
  • The Boeing Co., Chicago, Ill.
  • The Clorox Co., Oakland, Calif.
  • The Mosaic Co., Mulberry, Fla.
  • The Tidewater Group, York, Maine
  • True Manufacturing Co. Inc., O'Fallon, Mo.
  • Wafertech L.L.C., Camas, Wash.
  • Wells Fargo, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Western States Envelope Co., Butler, Wis.
  • Wilton Armetale, Mount Joy, Pa.

EPA and Celanese Settle CAA Violations

Celanese Acetate, L.L.C., a manufacturer of acetate products in Narrows, Va., will pay $60,000 to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited the company for problems related to the monitoring and repairing of equipment at Celanese's Celco plant located at 3520 Virginia Ave. in Narrows.

EPA alleges that in 2003 Celanese failed to perform a required test on a continuous emissions monitor for nitrogen oxides on a boiler at the Celco plant, which was in violation of the Clean Air Act and the Commonwealth of Virginia's State Implementation Plan for controlling nitrogen oxide pollution. In addition, the company failed to monitor valves, connectors, and heat exchangers; failed to repair a leaking connector; failed to cap an open-ended line; and failed to include all required information in its regulatory reporting documents. The failures also violate Celanese's operating permit mandated under the Clean Air Act.

Since these violations, Celanese has increased its efforts to monitor and detect for leaks of hazardous air pollutants.

Environmental News Links

Former CFO of Safety-Kleen Sentenced on Fraud Charges
Oil Spill on Nearly 100 Miles of Mississippi River
Keep Fluorescent Lamps Out of the Trash (poster)
EPA: Few Volunteering to Cut Greenhouse Gases
E-Waste Animated Video Wins Film Festival Award
Sempra Generation Announces First Solar Energy Project
Climate Change to Threaten Nevada Water Supplies
Senate Summary of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding
Police Arrest Men for Illegal Hazardous Waste Disposal

Trivia Question of the Week

According to the Institute of Physics' Environmental Research Letters, what could generate enough electricity to meet up to 3% of North America's entire consumption needs and lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?

a. Wind
b. Ocean tides
c. Solar
d. Livestock manure