New EPA Software for Submitting Tier 2 Reports
EPA’s Tier2 Submit 2008 software is now available for companies to use in preparing annual Tier II reports reflecting their hazardous chemical inventories in 2008. Facilities subject to this reporting requirement must submit their Tier II reports by March 1, 2009, for the 2008 reporting year.
EPA developed Tier2 Submit to help companies prepare electronic chemical inventory reports. The Tier2 Submit software has been updated to address the recent amendments EPA finalized in the EPCRA, or SARA Title III, reporting program.
Many State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and Local Emergency Planning Commissions (LEPCs) are able to accept Tier II information via the Tier2 Submit software. The required hazardous chemical information must be submitted to your SERC, LEPC, and local fire department.
For more information about the recent amendments and changes that impact the Tier II reporting requirements, and to learn how your facility is impacted by these annual reporting requirements, attend one of Environmental Resource Center’s upcoming SARA Title III Workshops.
New Guidance from EPA and Army Corps on Wetlands and Waters Subject to Clean Water Act
EPA and the Department of the Army have issued a revised guidance document to ensure America’s wetlands, streams, and other waters are better protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The guidance clarifies the geographic scope of jurisdiction under the CWA. A question-and-answer summary document is also available. The summary document outlines the changes presented in the full guidance document.
EPA and the Corps have revised the Rapanos Guidance in consideration of public comments received and consistent with our experience implementing the guidance over the past 18 months. Specifically, the revised guidance:
- Clarifies how to determine the reach of the “Traditional Navigable Waters (TNWs)”
- Clarifies the regulatory term “adjacent wetlands”
- Refines the concept of “relevant reach”
“We are providing improved guidance today to ensure the information is in place to fully protect the nation’s streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water. “The guidance builds upon our experiences and provides consistent direction to our staff and the public.”
“We are committed to protecting America’s aquatic resources as required by the Clean Water Act and in accordance with the Supreme Court decision,” said John Paul Woodley Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). “This revised interagency guidance will enable the agencies to make clear, consistent, and predictable jurisdictional determinations within the scope of the Clean Water Act.”
The revised guidance replaces previous policy issued in June 2007 and clarifies a June 2006 Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. U.S. regarding the scope of the agencies’ jurisdiction under the CWA. The guidance follows the agencies’ evaluation of more than 18,000 jurisdictional determinations and review of more than 66,000 comments.
“The new guidelines prove once again that we need Congress to act on this issue, clarify its intent in the Clean Water Act, and protect our nation’s wetlands,” said Jim Tripp, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund. “The Rapanos decision has caused a bureaucratic nightmare, but it is a Supreme Court decision and EPA has no choice but to obey it. Congress, however, can—and should—step in to fix the problem.”
For decades, the Clean Water Act was understood to encompass almost all bodies of water in the United States. However, the Rapanos decision redefined the Act’s jurisdiction much more narrowly. A large amount of EPA’s available budget will now need to be dedicated to determining jurisdiction over waters. The result is that many previously protected waters and wetlands are now vulnerable to dredging and filling, with cumulative and long-term consequences for the quality of our nation’s ecosystems.
“Rapanos was an impractical and overreaching decision,” said Mary Kelly, vice president of Rivers and Deltas for Environmental Defense Fund. “EPA’s unfortunate new guidelines will harm vital wetlands and waste federal resources. Environmental Defense Fund urges Congress to enact legislation quickly so we can fix this problem in an environmentally responsible way.”
EPA Reports Record Pollutant Reductions from Environmental Enforcement in 2008
Fiscal year 2008 was a banner year for EPA’s enforcement and compliance program, which concluded civil and criminal enforcement actions requiring regulated entities to spend an estimated $11.8 billion on pollution controls, cleanup, and environmental projects, a record for EPA.
“After these pollution control activities are completed, EPA estimates record pollution reductions of 3.9 billion pounds per year,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This is nearly four times the level of pollution reduction achieved in FY 2007.”
Notable accomplishments included cutting tons of air pollution from power plants, convicting environmental criminals, stopping the import of illegal engines, protecting the nation’s water from construction site runoff, and holding polluters accountable for hazardous waste cleanups.
Specific EPA successes include:
- In the largest settlement with a stationary source in EPA history, American Electric Power, a coal-fired electric utility company, agreed to install pollution controls and take other measures that will reduce a record 1.6 billion pounds of air pollution. The company also agreed to pay a $15 million penalty, the largest ever paid by an electric utility for New Source Review violations of the Clean Air Act.
- Jenn Feng Industrial Company, a Taiwanese manufacturer, and three American corporations agreed to pay $2 million, the largest civil penalty ever for violations of Clean Air Act non-road engine regulations, to resolve violations from importing approximately 200,000 chainsaws that failed to meet federal air pollution requirements. The companies agreed to prevent future violations by implementing rigorous plans to ensure that all imports meet emission and design standards.
- Four of the nation’s top ten home builders, Centex Homes, KB Home, Pulte Homes, and Richmond American Homes, agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act for delays or failures to obtain proper storm water permits for numerous construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia. The settlements also require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections, and promptly correct any problems that are detected.
- Massey Energy Company, Inc., Central Appalachia’s largest coal producer, agreed to pay a $20 million penalty, the largest of its kind, for discharging pollution into local waterways. Massey also agreed to take measures at all of its facilities that will prevent an estimated 380 million pounds of sediment and other pollutants from entering the nation’s waters each year.
- British Petroleum Exploration (Alaska), Inc., pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a $12 million criminal fine and $4 million in restitution to the state of Alaska for two pipeline leaks, one of which was the largest spill ever on the state’s North Slope.
- Owners or operators of hazardous waste sites committed to invest $1.6 billion for investigation and cleanup of Superfund sites, the highest total in seven years.
- EPA reached a record $250 million settlement with W.R. Grace for asbestos contamination in Libby, Mont. This is largest cash payment ever made by a company to reimburse the federal government for the costs of investigating and cleaning up a Superfund site.
- EPA conducted approximately 20,000 on-site inspections and investigations nationwide to identify environmental violations of our nation’s environmental laws.
- EPA helped 2.5 million entities understand and meet their environmental obligations through websites, guidance, and other means.
- EPA helped China develop programs and build capacity for environmental enforcement and compliance.
The full report, U.S. EPA OECA FY 2008 Accomplishments Report: Protecting Public Health and the Environment, is available online. More information concerning EPA’s enforcement and compliance results for fiscal year 2008 is also available online.
EPA Receives Highest Management Honor for Second Year in Row
For the second straight year, EPA has received the federal government’s highest honor for strong and effective management—the President’s Quality Award for Management Excellence.
“We are the first agency ever to win this award back-to-back,” EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock said. “It’s just another sign of EPA’s commitment to accountability and excellence.”
The President’s Quality Award was established in 1988 to recognize excellence in quality and productivity, applying to the public sector similar criteria used for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Improvement Awards for private organizations. In 2002, the President’s Quality Award was redesigned to improve government management in five priority areas: human capital, competitive sourcing, financial performance, electronic government, and budget and performance integration.
EPA is the only agency to win the highest tier of the award for overall management. This year’s award recognizes EPA’s continued efforts to develop a data-driven, results-oriented culture. Among its 2008 accomplishments, EPA launched EPAStat, an integrated management system that engages senior leadership in improving performance by using environmental and operational data to drive decision-making. At EPAStat meetings, senior management from across the agency meet regularly with the Deputy Administrator to discuss the latest performance data, steps that can be taken to improve performance, and successful strategies that should be shared across EPA offices to improve results. EPA also led development of improved efficiency measures for research projects across the federal government. In addition, EPA launched new efforts to engage states and other partners in its planning and operational decisions and to efficiently and effectively collect performance-based data. These efforts further enable EPA to accomplish its mission of protecting human health and the environment.
In addition to this award, the Government Accountability Office has acknowledge EPA as a leader among federal agencies and departments in its use of performance management data.
EPA Issues Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Formaldehyde Emissions From Pressed Wood Products
EPA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning formaldehyde emissions from pressed wood products in the December 3, Federal Register. This action is in response to a petition received by the agency on March 24, 2008. The petition was under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and was from numerous organizations and individuals concerned about risks to human health and the environment from exposure to formaldehyde in composite wood products, specifically hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard.
EPA has initiated a proceeding to investigate whether to take action, and what type of regulatory or other action might be appropriate, to protect against risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from these and other pressed wood products. EPA is requesting comments, information, and data relating to formaldehyde emissions from pressed wood products. EPA also has scheduled five public meetings in order to obtain additional stakeholder input.
New Sampling Guidance Document for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water
EPA has released a new document to help drinking water utilities address unknown contaminants in drinking water. Although the document is intended primarily for drinking water utilities, it also may be a useful reference for emergency response personnel.
The Sampling Guidance for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water provides comprehensive guidance that integrates pathogen, toxin, chemical, and radiochemical sample collection, preservation, and transport procedures to support multiple analytical approaches for the detection and identification of potential contaminants in drinking water. The document is intended to support sampling for routine and baseline monitoring to determine background concentrations of naturally occurring pathogens, sampling in response to a triggered event, and sampling in support of remediation or decontamination efforts.
Comment Period Extended for National Emission Standards for Halogenated Solvent Cleaning
EPA has published a notice in the Federal Register announcing an extension of the public comment period regarding a final rule issued under Section 112(f)(2) and 112(d)(6) of the Clean Air Act related to national emission standards for halogenated solvent cleaning.
As published in the Federal Register on Oct. 20, 2008, written comments on the proposed rule were to be submitted by Dec. 4, 2008. On November 4, EPA received a timely request to extend the deadline for the public comment period on the proposed rule to Feb. 4, 2009. EPA has granted this request.
Final Report on the 2008 Nationwide Survey of LEPCs
In April 2008, EPA’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) invited Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to participate in a survey that addressed their recent activities, how they have changed since 9/11, emergency plan contents, coordination with other local preparedness groups and federal agencies, and what contributes to the LEPC’s success. The 2008 LEPC Survey Report is now available.
LEPCs serve as the fundamental link between citizens, industry, and government in emergency preparedness for communities. As the central point around which emergency management agencies, first responders, industry, and the community work together to enhance emergency preparedness, LEPCs are improving chemical safety and protecting human health and the environment in communities across this country.
EPA surveyed LEPCs in 1994 and 1999 to determine compliance and activity levels. The 2008 survey built on the previous surveys and was developed to assess LEPCs’ current activities and to probe LEPC practices and preferences regarding several important issues, including: communication with local citizens, proactive accident-prevention efforts, and the effectiveness of selected OEM products and services. EPA launched the Web-based survey on April 2, 2008, with notification sent via e-mail to a total of 2,357 LEPCs. The survey was password-protected and each LEPC representative was given a unique alpha-numeric password. Nine hundred and thirty-nine LEPC representatives took the survey, yielding a response rate of 39.8%.
The majority of LEPCs responding to the 2008 survey serve rural or mixed rural/suburban residential populations of less than 50,000. Among the four U.S. regions, the Northeast is underrepresented in the survey data, while the West, Midwest, and South are overrepresented. This difference in actual response rates vs. the universe of LEPCs is consistent with response rates from the 1999 LEPC Survey.
Survey results indicate that a dedicated membership is the greatest single factor contributing to an LEPC’s success (33.3%), while 15.9% report that regularly scheduled meetings contribute most to their success as an organization. Furthermore, there is an obvious sense of pride in the work of the LEPC—64.9% of responding LEPCs report that the LEPC on which they serve has had a positive impact on chemical safety in their community.
Other key findings in the survey included:
- Nine out of every ten responding LEPCs met at least once in the past year—three-quarters of those LEPCs met at least quarterly.
- Close to 60% of responding LEPCs reviewed and updated their emergency plan in the past 12 months.
- Three out of four responding LEPCs indicate that the majority of their membership is familiar with their emergency response plan.
- More than 75% of responding LEPCs exercised their emergency response plan in the past year with nearly seven of ten conducting full-scale exercises.
- The most active LEPCs are those that had at least one accident in the past five years.
- While three out of four LEPCs did not receive any technical assistance or guidance from the federal government in the past five years, of those that did, 58.6% report that the assistance came from EPA. Close to 80% of those LEPCs indicate that EPA’s support plays a significant role in guiding their LEPC activity.
‘Tis the Season to Think of the Environment
Here are some tips to help protect the environment this holiday season:
- Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as part of the gift as well. About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run
- Wrap gifts with newspaper, scrap paper, old sheet music, wall paper, or don’t wrap them at all
- Give green gifts: compost bins, potted plants, can crusher, programmable thermostats, blankets, tire pressure gauges, seeds, LED lamps, or subscriptions to e-books and e-magazines
- Use a live Christmas tree, replant it in your yard or donate it to someone who could
See this link for more ideas.
EPA Extends Comment Period for Continuous Monitoring at Stationary Sources Rule
In a December 3 Federal Register Notice, EPA announced the extension of the comment period on the proposed rule for Performance Specification 17, “Specifications and Test Procedures for Continuous Parameter Monitoring Systems at Stationary Sources’’ and Procedure 4, “Quality Assurance Requirements for Continuous Parameter Monitoring Systems at Stationary Sources,’’ published on Oct. 9, 2008, is extended to Feb. 5, 2009. This comment period extension also applies to the amendments proposed along with Performance Specification 17 and Procedure 4 for continuous parameter monitoring systems. EPA received requests for an extension to the comment period from the American Chemistry Council and the Coalition for Responsible Waste Incineration.
EPA Publishes NESHAP Amendments for Electric Arc Furnace Steelmaking Facilities
EPA published both a Proposed Rule and a Direct Final Rule concerning National Emission Standards for electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking facilities in the December 1, Federal Register. The rules were published simultaneously to allow for public comment on the proposed rule and to move the process of finalizing the rule forward in the form of issuing a direct final rule.
EPA is taking direct final action to amend the national emission standards for EAF steelmaking facilities that are area sources of hazardous air pollutants published on Dec. 28, 2007. The amendments to the area source standards for EAF steelmaking facilities clarify applicability of the opacity limit, make the performance test requirements for particulate matter consistent with requirements in the new source performance standards for EAF steelmaking facilities, allow Title V test data to be used to demonstrate compliance, and revise the definition of “scrap provider’’ to include EAF steelmaking facilities that own and operate a scrap shredder.
The final rule is effective March 2, 2009, without further notice, unless EPA receives significant adverse comment by Dec. 31, 2008. If EPA receives adverse comment, they will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register informing the public that some or all of the amendments in this rule will not take effect. Additionally, if the effective date is delayed, timely notice will be published in the Federal Register.
EPA Administrator Works to Advance Environmental Partnerships with China
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson joined other Bush Administration cabinet members for meetings with senior Chinese officials during the fifth session of the U.S.–China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED V), Dec. 4–5 in Beijing. Johnson also used the visit to advance cooperation with public and private environmental partners in China.
Johnson began his trip in Shanghai with a roundtable discussion between U.S. and Chinese business leaders on the importance of sound environmental regulation and consistent enforcement in helping the business community to be good environmental stewards. He then spoke at a student forum at Tongji University concerning the close link between economic performance and environmental quality, and the role of business in implementing good environmental policies in China.
From Shanghai, Johnson traveled to Xi’an in central China for meetings with officials of the Northwest Regional Supervision Center (RSC) and the provincial Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB). Six RSCs have been created since 2002 by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection to assist provincial environmental officials in promoting good environmental practices and proper enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. On this portion of his visit, Johnson learned more about the evolving relationship between the RSCs and the provincial EPBs, and he shared lessons from the United States regarding the working partnership between EPA regional offices and local governments.
Johnson concluded his visit in Beijing, where he met with members of both the U.S. and Chinese Business Councils for Sustainable Development (BCSDs). The members highlighted progress on a memorandum of understanding with EPA on clean development, including the improved environmental performance by China’s cement companies, which produce about half of the world’s total cement. The SED V discussions follow, with Johnson joining other U.S. and Chinese environment and energy officials to discuss progress and future initiatives under a Ten-Year Energy and Environment Cooperation Framework.
The SED, established by Presidents Bush and Hu in September 2006, is a forum to manage the economic relationship between the United States and China on a long-term, strategic basis. By setting priorities in the broader context of a bilateral economic relationship, the SED provides a framework, gives direction and creates momentum to foster cooperation and resolve concerns across a broad range of economic issues. For more information, see EPA’s Asia program.
U.S. Stimulates Global Market for Methane Recovery and Use as Fuel
International leadership by the United States to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is highlighted in the third annual Methane to Markets (M2M) partnership report. Current U.S.-supported M2M projects, when fully implemented, will deliver estimated annual emissions reductions of more than 24 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions, tripling the reductions achieved in 2006. M2M reduces greenhouse gas emissions by recovering methane (also a primary component of natural gas) from agricultural waste, coal mines, landfills, and oil and gas systems and using it as clean energy.
The “U.S. Government Accomplishments in Support of the Methane to Markets Partnership” report summarizes the contributions of participating U.S. government agencies and highlights the projects and activities since the partnership began in November 2004. The report was developed collaboratively by EPA, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Through 2007, the United States has provided about $28.5 million to support a wide range of projects and activities. In addition, American activities and investments have leveraged more than $271 million in public-and private-sector contributions.
Methane to Markets, launched in 2004, is a public/private partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the cost-effective, near-term recovery and use of methane while providing clean energy to markets around the world. The partnership has grown to include 27 partner governments and more than 800 private-sector entities, financial institutions, nongovernmental agencies, and other organizations.
United Nations Climate Change Conference Gets Underway in Poland
The United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Poznań, Poland, kicked offDecember 1. The two-week meeting, the 14th Conference of the 192 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 4th meeting of the 183 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, is the half-way mark in the negotiations on an ambitious and effective international response to climate change. The deal is to be clinched in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 and will take effect in 2013, the year after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
Close to 11,000 participants, including government delegates from 186 Parties to the UNFCCC and representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, and research institutions, are attending the two-week gathering.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, opening the meeting, pointed to the urgent need for progress at Poznań.
“Scientists share the view that warming in excess of two degrees Celsius will result in irreversible changes to nearly all ecosystems and the human communities,” Tusk said. “We shoulder the responsibility to prevent changes that could lastingly disturb the symbiosis between humankind and nature.”
Professor Maciej Nowicki, Polish Minister of the Environment and President of the Conference, warned that the planet had reached the limits of its confined system and that a business-as-usual scenario was not an option.
“Huge droughts and floods, cyclones with increasingly more destructive power, tropical disease pandemics, a dramatic decline of biodiversity—all these can cause social or even armed conflicts and migration of populations at an unprecedented scale,” Nowicki warned.
In 2007, Parties agreed to consider a greenhouse gas emission reduction range of minus 25% to minus 40% over 1990 levels, a range that could be confirmed at Poznan. During 2008, Parties submitted proposals and ideas for stronger climate change action. At the Conference this year, delegates will discuss their vision for long-term cooperative action on climate change. The more than 700 pages of proposals have been distilled into a single document of 82 pages, which governments can now refine further in light of what they want to negotiate in 2009.
“The fact that there is a text on the table offers governments the first real opportunity of moving beyond the phase of exchanging ideas into one where they will be expressing their position on specific proposals,” said Luiz Figueiredo Machado, chair of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention. “I am looking forward to see how this text will be fine-tuned in the course of the meeting.”
The conference will take stock of progress achieved in 2008 and will set out the work program for the final year of negotiations on the Copenhagen agreement in 2009. At least four major UNFCCC gatherings will take place next year, including the UN Climate Change Conference in Denmark at the end of the year.
$490 Million Pledged in the Fight to Protect the Ozone Layer
The United States made further progress in protecting the ozone layer through successful agreements at the 20th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol in Doha, Qatar. Developed and developing countries agreed to add $490 million to the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund for the next three years. This will help phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and replacement hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and will help demonstrate the environmental benefits achieved by destroying banks of unnecessary CFCs.
Parties to the protocol also authorized 94% of the United State’s 2010 request to use methyl bromide (an agricultural fumigant), and 100% of the request for CFCs used in metered-dose inhalers to treat asthma. Recognizing the importance of protecting the climate during the transition from HCFCs to more ozone-friendly alternatives, the parties agreed to a U.S. recommendation to include a climate workshop during the next working meeting of the protocol in July 2009.
One hundred and ninety-three countries are parties to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. Signed in 1987, this successful treaty is helping to heal the ozone layer by ending the production of ozone-depleting substances.
Agreement Signed in Hawaii to Power Electric Vehicles with Renewable Energy
Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, unveiled a plan to bring an electric-car network to Hawaii, creating a model for the adoption of electric cars in the United States. The move—only the second of its kind announced in the nation—will help fuel Hawaii’s drive to lead the nation in renewable energy use, create jobs locally, while also helping to secure our energy future.
“Attracting investments into the state is a major component of our Five-Point Action Plan to help stimulate the economy,” Lingle said. “Today’s announcement is a significant move towards our state gaining independence from foreign oil. This public-private partnership is exactly the type of investment we have been working on as we continue to carry out our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), moving toward the goal of 70% clean energy for the State of Hawaii. It highlights the importance we place on finding innovative ways to attract investments in energy technology.”
Better Place, the world’s leading mobility operator, plans to begin permitting for the network within the next year and begin introducing vehicles within 18 months, with mass-market availability of electric cars in 2012. Since Better Place was founded in October 2007, Hawaii joins Israel, Denmark, Australia, and California in its commitment to deploying the world’s first electric car networks.
Hawaii spends up to $7 billion a year on oil imports, and drivers pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation. The carbon produced from consumer vehicles utilizing foreign oil account for nearly 20% of the state’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Building the infrastructure for widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not only stimulate the local economy and reduce carbon emissions, but it also will provide a more affordable transportation option to Hawaii’s drivers.
“Hawaii, with its ready access to renewable energy resources, like solar, wind, wave, and geothermal, is the ideal location to serve as a blueprint for the rest of the U.S. in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, growing our renewable energy portfolio, and creating an infrastructure that will stabilize our economy,” Agassi said. “Hawaii has made the commitment to breaking its dependence on foreign oil, and is leading the way in addressing the most important economic and energy issues facing us today.”
Hawaiian Electric Companies and Better Place Hawaii also signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the infrastructure and energy needs to power Better Place’s unique network of public charging spots and battery swapping stations with renewable energy. The partnership capitalizes on Better Place’s innovative business model and Hawaii’s abundant renewable energy resources to deliver the large-scale deployment of electrical vehicles throughout the state.
Utah Gold and Silver Refinery Sentenced for Clean Water Act Violation
Johnson Matthey Inc. (JMI), a Pennsylvania corporation, has been sentenced to a $3 million criminal fine for a felony violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by Judge Dee Benson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, according to a Justice Department announcement. JMI admitted on Sept 3, 2008, to violating the Clean Water Act at its Salt Lake City precious metals refining facility.
The CWA makes it a crime to knowingly render inaccurate or cause to be rendered inaccurate a reporting method required to be maintained under the CWA. The former plant manager, Paul Greaves, and the former general manager of the facility, John McKelvie, each pleaded guilty and were sentenced previously for a felony violation of making false statements to government officials.
The case arose out of an EPA investigation into JMI’s discharge monitoring reports required under the CWA. The Salt Lake City facility began operating in 1982 and refines both gold and silver from a semi-refined product called dore. As part of the refining process, pollutants such as selenium and other materials accumulated in the wastewater. JMI’s wastewater was treated at several steps in the facility to remove selenium before JMI discharged the wastewater to a sewer leading to Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility, where it was subsequently treated and discharged to the Jordan River.
From approximately 1996 through 2002, JMI had difficulty consistently limiting selenium discharges to its permit limit. An internal audit conducted by JMI’s auditor in 1999 at the Salt Lake City facility discovered that the facility had exceeded its permit limit for selenium and that employees had screened samples before submitting them to an outside laboratory for analysis. The auditor warned the general manager that this violated the terms of JMI’s industrial discharge permit, which required that samples be representative of the reported discharge.
In January 2000, to avoid disclosing true concentrations of the selenium-contaminated wastewater discharged from the facility, employees at the Salt Lake City Facility again screened the samples they reported to Central Valley by analyzing the selenium concentrations in-house and then submitting samples with low selenium concentrations to an outside laboratory for eventual reporting to Central Valley.
The court sentenced JMI to pay a total monetary penalty of $3 million for violating the CWA. Of this amount, a total of $750,000 will fund various environmental projects in Utah administered by the congressionally established National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Projects include wildlife habitat acquisition and restoration projects in the vicinity of Great Salt Lake and its tributaries, and research related to setting selenium standards and limits for the Great Salt Lake and its tributaries.
“Johnson Matthey knowingly submitted false reports to environmental regulators, and today they are facing the consequences of their actions,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s penalty is a reminder that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the environment and ensuring a level playing field for corporations that follow the law.”
EPA Issues Fine in Excess of $2 Million Against Ship Owner for 2005 Oil Spill in Hawaii
In the December 5 Federal Register, EPA published a Notice of Lodging of Consent Decree under the Oil Pollution Act against North Wind, Inc. EPA is seeking more than $2 million to recover the costs of damages resulting from a 2005 oil spill.
The proposed fine and civil action relates to a July 1, 2005, incident when the M/V Casitas, a 145-foot motor vessel owned and operated by North Wind, Inc., ran aground on a reef near North Island at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, a part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which is also within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. In this action, the United States and State of Hawaii seek to obtain damages for injury to natural resources under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).
The proposed decree would require North Wind to pay $2,817,626.48 for damages, in exchange for a covenant not to sue from the United States and Hawaii for damages under OPA, CERCLA, or state law. The Department of Justice will receive comments for a period of 30 days from the date of publication of this notice.
EPA Publishes Notice of Proposed Consent Decree for N.Y. State Landfill Superfund Site
On Nov. 24, 2008, a proposed Consent Decree in U.S. v. Wilhelm Enterprises Corp., et al., was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, and that on Nov, 4, 2008, a proposed Administrative Order on Consent (AOC’) was executed in connection with the Peter Cooper Landfill Superfund Site (Site’), in the Village of Gowanda (Village’), Cattaraugus County, New York. The Federal Register notice of the Consent Decree was published on Dec. 2, 2008.
The proposed Consent Decree will settle the claims on behalf of the U.S. EPA against 19 defendants, pursuant to Sections 106 and 107 of CERCLA, with respect to the site. The defendants include: Wilhelm Enterprises Corporation; New York State Electric & Gas Corporation; Jimcar Development, Inc.; James Dill; Brown Shoe Company, Inc.; Seton Company; GST AutoLeather; Prime Tanning Company, Inc.; Viad Corporation; ConAgra Grocery Products Company, Inc.; Leucadia National Corporation; Beggs & Cobb Corporation; Wolverine Worldwide, Inc.; Genesco, Inc.; Albert Trostel & Sons Co.; Blackhawk Leather Ltd.; Eagle Ottawa, LLC; S.B. Foot Tanning Company; and Horween Leather Company (“Settling Defendants’’).
Pursuant to the Consent Decree, settling defendants will pay a total of $1,374,000 in past costs and interest for reimbursement of the United State’s response costs for the site. In addition, 15 of the settling defendants will finance and perform the remedy selected by EPA for the site, estimated to cost $2,680,000.
The Department of Justice will receive comments relating to the proposed Consent Decree for a period of 30 days from the date of this publication. See the Federal Register notice for details on how to submit comments concerning this consent decree.
EPA Cites National Lime and Stone $167,000 for Air Violations
EPA Region 5 has filed an administrative complaint against National Lime and Stone Co. for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at the company’s nonmetallic mineral processing plant in Carey, Ohio. EPA has proposed a $167,000 penalty.
EPA alleges the company failed to comply with federal and state regulations and its state operating permit by emitting excessive amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide from its pelletized limestone dryer. EPA is charging that the alleged violations occurred from November 2003 through October 2007.
National Lime and Stone has 30 days from receipt of the complaint to file an answer and request a hearing. It may request an informal conference with EPA at any time to discuss resolving the allegations.
VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (i.e., smog). Smog is formed when a mixture of pollutants react on warm, sunny days. Smog can cause respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone.
When carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream, it reduces delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause death or impair vision, hand movement, learning ability, and performance of complex tasks.
Hecla Mining Company Agrees to Pay $85,000 for Federal Clean Water Act and Hazardous Waste Violations
The Hecla Mining Company, owner and operator of the “Lucky Friday” Mine and Mill in Idaho’s northern panhandle, has agreed to pay $85,000 and provide more than $17,000 in cash and emergency equipment as part of it’s latest legal settlement with the EPA.
The deal is outlined in a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) that resolves the company’s alleged Clean Water Act and CERCLA violations.
The settlement involves actions related to a spill at Hecla’s lead and zinc mine complex located near Mullan, Idaho, on Nov. 3, 2006. On that day, approximately 22,500 gallons of mine tailings spilled at the facility, with an estimated 898 gallons of liquid mill tailings and 191 pounds of solids entering the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River.
According to EPA officials, Hecla failed to immediately report the spill—as required by law—to the National Response Center.
“The health and safety of workers, responders, and our communities depend on prompt spill reporting,” said Mike Bussell, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Seattle. “Effective spill response begins with timely notification, which allows local, state or federal responders to take action and reduce risks to public safety and the environment.”
Further, EPA inspections on June 6, 2006, and Nov. 16, 2006, revealed that Hecla failed to adequately maintain on-site storm water controls and had experienced discharges from its outfalls that exceeded its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits. This information was supported by Hecla’s own (self-reported) recordkeeping.
In addition to the penalty payment, Hecla will also perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), providing more than $17,000 in emergency response equipment for the Shoshone County Fire District No. 3. This equipment will expand the department’s ability to respond to wildfires and will allow firefighters to be able to draft water from remote locations such as creeks and ponds.
EPA Fines Nevada Onion More Than $50,000 for Failing to Protect Workers From Pesticide Exposure
EPA has fined Nevada Onion $56,320 for allegedly misusing pesticides and failing to comply with pesticide worker safety laws.
During numerous pesticide applications throughout 2007, Nevada Onion misused the pesticides Lannate LV, Champ Dry Prill, Dithane DF, Thiosperse, Thiolux, and Diatec II. Nevada Onion also failed to comply with label directions that require the company to minimize the risk of exposure by notifying workers of recent pesticide applications on particular fields, and they failed to have decontamination supplies available to workers in case of exposure.
“EPA takes seriously the protection of agricultural workers,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “And it’s a serious violation of the law when employers don’t provide their agricultural workers with information and protections that minimize the risk of potential exposure to pesticides.”
The Nevada Department of Agriculture discovered the violations after it inspected the facility in August 2007 following reports that field workers were seeking medical attention for significant injuries allegedly resulting from pesticide exposure.
The Worker Protection Standard, part of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), aims to protect workers from occupational exposure to pesticides. The standard contains requirements for the provision of pesticide safety training, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical assistance, as well as the notification of recent pesticide applications, the use of protective equipment, and restrictions on reentry into fields where pesticides have been applied.
Massachusetts Company Fined $16,000 for Sodium Hydroxide Spill
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has penalized the Holland Company $16,000 for violations of environmental laws at its Adams, Mass., facility.
In the early hours of the morning on Aug. 15, 2007, Holland Company reported a release of approximately 3,600 gallons of sodium hydroxide from a tank inside a bermed building. The released sodium hydroxide migrated to the outside, through a crack in the floor, spilling into an excavation trench that was being dewatered. The dewatering activity caused the solution of water and sodium hydroxide to be pumped to a location on the northeastern portion of the facility.
Holland Company reported the release to MassDEP and attributed the cause to an operator’s failure to close a valve under the sodium hydroxide solution tank before the operator left the building for another location. In addition to the release, Holland Company was also cited for a failure to file a Determination of Applicability with the Adams Conservation Commission for placing fill near a wetland area, as well as for failure to file a Construction and Demolition Notification with MassDEP for a construction project at the facility.
“Companies that handle and store chemicals have a strict responsibility to handle the chemicals in a manner that prevents their release,” said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. “In this case, the release could have been avoided with more attention to sound environmental management system practices, training, and continued equipment maintenance activities.”
Pennsylvania DEP Fines Exide $15,000 for Non-Compliance of Stormwater Discharge Order
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Exide Technologies have reached an agreement on ways to reduce the amount of lead being washed into nearby Bernhart Creek from the company’s Berks County lead smelting facility. The agreement includes a $15,000 fine for past effluent overflows and ongoing untreated stormwater discharges.
Under the consent order and agreement, Exide will:
- Sample storm water throughout facility and isolate specific source areas
- Add additional storage capacity and install a temporary treatment unit that will treat around 225,000 gallons of storm water per day
- Inspect the storm water collection system at the facility on a regular basis
- Capture and discharge some of the storm water from lesser contaminated areas to the Schuylkill River
- Estimate the carrying capacity of the industrial wastewater treatment plant discharge line so use of the line can be maximized for the storm water management plan
- After sampling for one year, Exide will develop a comprehensive storm water management plan for the facility and submit the necessary permit applications to construct new treatment facilities to manage the storm water
- Exide will also regularly clean its industrial wastewater discharge line
Exide’s system can collect and treat about 277,000 gallons of storm water each time it rains. Excess storm water containing lead dust from the facility is discharged untreated into an unnamed tributary of Bernhart Creek.
In May 2007, the department issued a total maximum daily load (TMDL), followed by a storm water discharge permit for Exide. Together, these measures significantly limited the amount of lead that could be discharged to Bernhart Creek.
Exide appealed the TMDL requirements and the draft permit. As part of this agreement, the company agreed to withdraw its appeals. Earlier this month, DEP approved Exide’s enhanced air monitoring plan, which will help the company take prompt corrective action when necessary to lower air pollution levels.
Navy Cited for Lack of Storm water Controls, Permit Violations, and Unpermitted Discharges at Guam Naval Base
EPA recently issued a Finding of Violation to the U.S. Navy Base Guam for permit violations under the federal Clean Water Act. In July of this year, EPA discovered the violations during inspections covering several different federal environmental statutes and programs.
“Department of Defense facilities on Guam must be in compliance with all environmental requirements,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “EPA will work with Guam EPA and DOD to ensure construction and ongoing operations comply fully with environmental requirements to protect and restore Guam’s environment.”
The Finding of Violation cited discharges from the Navy’s Apra Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant that exceeded water quality permit limits and several unpermitted discharges to the Namo River during the repair of the Navy’s Fena Water Treatment Plant.
The Navy also did not fully or properly implement controls for storm water discharges from industrial activities located on the base, and three Navy construction sites on the base did not have proper storm water pollution measures.
In addition to the July inspections at Naval Base Guam, EPA also conducted similar compliance inspections at the U.S. Air Force’s Andersen Force Base in Guam. The EPA compliance inspections at both Department of Defense facilities in Guam included underground storage tanks, solid and hazardous waste management, wastewater and storm water management, and compliance with oil spill prevention requirements.
Proposed Substances to be Evaluated for Toxicological Profiles
On December 2, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the list of proposed substances that will be evaluated for toxicological profile development. Additionally, ATSDR is inviting the nomination of additional substances that may have public health implications. Nominations must be submitted by Dec. 24, 2008.
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund) by establishing certain requirements for ATSDR and the EPA regarding hazardous substances that are most commonly found at facilities on the CERCLA National Priorities List (NPL). Among these statutory requirements is a mandate for the Administrator of ATSDR to prepare toxicological profiles for each substance included on the Priority List of Hazardous Substances. This list has identified 275 hazardous substances that ATSDR and EPA determined pose the most significant potential threat to human health. The most recent list of the 275 priority substances was published in the Federal Register on March 6, 2008 (73 FR 12178).
Each year, ATSDR develops a list of priority substances that will be evaluated for toxicological profile development. This list was compiled, on the basis of ATSDR’s Priority List of Hazardous Substances, with consideration of the amount of relevance of newly published scientific literature.
See the Federal Register notice for the complete list of 80 substances that will be evaluated. Some of the substances on the list are as follows:
- Mercury (CAS 007439-97-6)
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (CAS 001336-36-3)
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (CAS 130498-29-2)
- Chloroform (CAS 000067-66-3)
- Trichloroethylene (CAS 000079-01-6)
- Creosote (CAS 008001-58-9)
- Coal Tars (CAS 008007-45-2)
- Coal Tar Pitch (CAS CAS 065996-93-2)
- Ketone (CAS 053494-70-5)
- Methane (CAS 000074-82-8)
- Toluene (CAS 000108-88-3)
- Methylene Chloride (CAS 000075-09-2)
- Vanadium (CAS 007440-62-2)
- Hydrogen Fluoride (CAS 007664-39-3)
ATSDR will evaluate all data and information associated with nominated substances and will determine the final list of substances that will be chosen for toxicological profile development. Substances will be chosen according to ATSDR’s specific guidelines for selection.
This Federal Register notice also invites voluntary public nominations for substances not listed in this notice. See the Federal Register notice for information about submitting nominations.
$1.75 Million Grant to Strengthen Tribal Partnerships
Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals has received a $1.75 million grant to support a steering committee of tribal co-regulators to work with EPA on solid and hazardous waste cleanup issues. EPA is also releasing a tribal strategy to advance the protection and restoration of land in Indian country. The new strategy provides a detailed plan of how EPA will strengthen its partnership with tribes to advance the shared goal of protecting public health and land resources in Indian country.
The grant money will be used by the steering committee to advise and assist with federal policy formulation on protecting and restoring land in Indian country; develop and provide training; provide technical assistance and research on hazardous substances throughout Indian country; and conduct outreach for program development and service delivery to ascertain evolving needs and tribal priorities.
MDNR Welcomes Two Businesses into Environmental Management Partnership
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has welcomed the Behr-St. Louis facility and the North Complex of Fred Weber Inc. as partners into the Missouri Environmental Management Partnership (MEMP). The MEMP is an environmental leadership program of the department, which promotes environmental excellence through voluntary environmental management systems (EMS), modeled after the international ISO 14001 standard.
The ISO 14001 standard requires that a community or organization put in place and implement a series of practices and procedures that, when taken together, result in an EMS. The department has designed the innovative program to recognize high-performing facilities. An EMS is part of an overall management system that directs an organization to analyze, control, and reduce the environmental impact of its activities, products, and services, and operate with greater efficiency and control.
Behr-St. Louis has demonstrated its commitment to environmental excellence and leadership by implementing a rigorous environmental EMS, striving to reduce energy requirements, and reducing its solid waste from the facility. Fred Weber–North Complex established an External Advisory Committee to help determine its impacts on the environment and find ways to reduce those impacts. Their facility has reduced the use of natural gas and diesel fuel by using methane gas and has developed a recycling program for paper and fluorescent bulbs. MEMP is a sound example of businesses and regulators can work in cooperation with each other.
“Organizations that voluntarily commit to high environmental performance backed up by a strong, systematic and verified management approach are in step with the mission of Department of Natural Resources and should be recognized for their efforts,” said Doyle Childers, director of the Department of Natural Resources. The department is coordinating its MEMP efforts with EPA’s version of the environmental leadership program, known as Performance Track.
Wetlands and Stream Project Grants Available
Grants are available through the Five Star Restoration Program, which brings together citizen groups, corporations, youth organizations, landowners, and government agencies to undertake projects that restore streams and wetlands. The application deadline for the 2009 grants is Feb. 16, 2009.
A national webinar for interested applicants will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. (CST) December 12. This webinar will provide information about the new online application system, as well as guidance on how to prepare competitive applications.
The Five Star Restoration Program, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is a partnership with EPA, the National Association of Counties, the Wildlife Habitat Council, and corporate partners—Southern Company and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
In 2008, Five Star Restoration Program grants totaled $872,333. The grants were awarded to 35 community-based wetland and streamside habitat restoration projects. The grantees leveraged an additional $2 million in local project support.
Texas Emissions Reduction Plan Accepting Grant Applications
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) program is now accepting applications for two types of grants designed to reduce air pollution. Since 2002, when the program began, TERP projects have reduced an estimated 150,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, a component of ground-level ozone.
Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants fund replacement, repowering, or retrofitting of heavy-duty vehicles, equipment, marine vessels, locomotives, and other engines to reduce NOx emissions. Approximately $60 million is available for grants in this round. Applications are due by Feb. 20, 2009.
Rebate grant funding of $30 million is available for replacement or repowering of on-road and non-road diesel vehicles and equipment. Applications for rebates will be accepted until June 30, 2009, or until all funding has been distributed.
Owners of eligible vehicles and equipment that operate in counties in the nonattainment or near-nonattainment areas for national ambient air quality standards are eligible for funding. Eligible counties for this round of funding are:
- Austin area: Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson
- Beaumont-Port Arthur area: Hardin, Jefferson, Orange
- Dallas-Fort Worth area: Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant
- Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area: Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Waller
- San Antonio area: Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Wilson
- Tyler-Longview area: Gregg, Harrison, Rusk, Smith, Upshur
For detailed information on how to apply and informational workshops, go to: www.terpgrants.org or call 1-800-919-8377.
Environmental News Links
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increased in 2007
Obama Might Appoint Energy Czar
New Study Reveals Average U.S. Consumer Eager for Hybrids, Unsure of Performance and Durability
California Proposes Truck Clean-up Rule
Ancient Technique Cuts Greenhouse Gas
U.N. Considers Program to Pay Land Owners to Let Forests Grow in Effort to Fight Global Warming
Problems Plague U.S. Flex-Fuel Fleet
Food Industry Ponders Ways to Decrease Food Waste as Food Prices Rise
U.K. Becomes First Country in the World to Introduce a Legally Binding Framework to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
UN Suspends Clean Energy Project Auditor
Los Angeles’ Mayor Unveils Plan for City to Have One-Tenth of Energy Provided by Solar Power by 2020
Sustainable Forestry Organizations Can Help Packagers Authenticate Their ‘Green’ Packaging Claims
Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning
U.S. Climate Action: The Path Forward
EPA Awards Grants for Integrated Pest Management
EPA Issues Final Rule Requiring Onboard Diagnostic System for Heavy Duty Trucks
FDA Reports Significant Progress in Protecting the Food Supply
Trivia Question of the Week
The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that United States commuters spend, on average, how many hours a year stuck in traffic?
a. 24 hours
b. 46 hours
c. 73 hours
d. 98 hours