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1/10/2011

EPA Requires Testing of 19 Widely Used Chemicals

Environmental


EPA is issuing a final rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requiring manufacturers of 19 high production volume (HPV) chemicals to test the health and environmental effects of the chemicals and submit the data to the agency. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has made assuring the safety of chemicals one of her top priorities. This rule is one of a series of actions that EPA is taking to ensure that the agency has the data it needs to adequately review priority chemicals. HPV chemicals are produced in or imported into the United States in quantities of 1 million pounds or more per year.

“This chemical data reporting will provide EPA with critical information to better evaluate any potential risks from these chemicals that are being produced in large quantities in this country,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Having this information is essential to improve chemical safety and protect the health of the American people and the environment.”

The chemicals in the rule have many consumer and industrial applications. For example, diphenylmethanone is used in consumer products and may be found in personal-care products; 9, 10-anthracenedione is used to manufacture dyes; C12-C24 chloroalkenes are used as metalworking fluids; pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is a blasting and demolition agent; and leuco sulfur black is a fingerprinting agent.

The rule follows up on the voluntary HPV Challenge Program Chemical List launched by EPA that included chemicals used in household products such as hobby/craft glues, personal-care products, home cleaning products, home maintenance products, and automotive products. The program challenged companies to make health and environmental effects data publicly available for HPV chemicals.

Companies voluntarily supplied data on more than 2,200 HPV chemicals under the challenge program; however, no health and environmental effects data was provided on the 19 chemicals in the rule, making it necessary for EPA to require testing. In the coming year, EPA intends to require testing of other chemicals for which the agency has not received data.

Household Sewage: Not Waste, but a Vast New Energy Resource

In a finding that gives new meaning to the adage, “waste not, want not,” scientists are reporting that household sewage has far more potential as an alternative energy source than previously thought. They say the discovery, which increases the estimated potential energy in wastewater by almost 20%, could spur efforts to extract methane, hydrogen, and other fuels from this vast and, as yet, untapped resource. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Elizabeth S. Heidrich and colleagues note that sewage treatment plants in the United States use about 1.5% of the nation’s electrical energy to treat 12.5 trillion gallons of wastewater a year. Instead of just processing and dumping this water, they suggest that in the future treatment facilities could convert its organic molecules into fuels, transforming their work from an energy drain to an energy source. Based on their research, they estimate that one gallon of wastewater contains enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for five minutes.

Only one other study had been done on wastewater’s energy potential, and Heidrich thought that the results were too low because some energy-rich compounds were lost to evaporation. In the new study, the scientists freeze-dried wastewater to conserve more of its energy-rich compounds. Using a standard device to measure energy content, they found that the wastewater they collected from a water treatment plant in Northeast England contained nearly 20% more than reported previously.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, Newcastle University, and Northumbrian Water Limited.

MDE to Sue Mirant for Coal Combustion Byproducts Pollution

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued separate Notices of Intent to Sue Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC and Mirant Maryland Ash Management, LLC in federal court for water pollution violations at two of Mirant’s sites for disposal of coal combustion products in Maryland: the Westland site in Montgomery County and the Faulkner site in Charles County.

In April of this year, MDE filed suit in federal court for similar violations at Mirant’s coal combustion products disposal site in Brandywine, Maryland.

The violations at the Faulkner site are presently the subject of a pending action in State court. However, because all three cases involve common issues of fact and law, MDE has moved to withdraw the State court action in order to consolidate the cases in federal court.

MDE intends to file suit against Mirant in federal court seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Maryland water pollution control law for unauthorized discharges of pollutants to navigable waters of the United States, unauthorized discharges of pollutants to surface waters, and unauthorized discharges of pollutants to groundwater at the Westland and Faulkner disposal sites.

MDE’s investigation has revealed that Mirant has continued to dispose of coal combustion waste in unlined landfills, where pollutants leach or are otherwise discharged into the groundwater and surface waters. MDE alleges that these illegal discharges to groundwater and surface water constitute significant and ongoing violations of state and federal water pollution laws, contaminating the groundwater and surface waters of the State of Maryland, thereby causing an adverse impact on the environment.

Residents who live near the Westland, Brandywine, and Faulkner disposal sites should note that based on current and historical sampling data from on and around all three sites, ground and surface water contamination does not appear to pose an immediate risk to public health.

In December 2008, MDE enacted new State regulations requiring leachate collection, groundwater monitoring, liners, and increased analysis for all coal combustion byproduct disposal facilities, as well as annual reporting. New coal combustion byproducts disposal sites must meet stringent permitting requirements to ensure their safe disposal.

Massachusetts Announces Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 25% by 2020

Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles set the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limit for 2020 required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 at 25% below 1990 levels, the maximum authorized by the Act, saying that measures already in place will get Massachusetts much of the way toward that goal. A targeted portfolio of additional policies, chosen because they promise overall cost savings, will allow the Bay State to reach the most ambitious target for GHG reduction of any state in the country, Secretary Bowles said.

“Massachusetts has already taken great strides in energy innovation, sparking a clean energy revolution in the Commonwealth and getting us two-thirds of the way toward 25% lower emissions by 2020,” said Secretary Bowles. “I am confident we will meet the 25% limit I set today with a portfolio of policies that build on reforms made to date, launch practical new initiatives on a pilot basis, and generate cost savings and jobs.”

The clean energy plan lays out an ambitious but practical framework to continue—and accelerate—the Commonwealth’s transition to clean energy,” said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs designate Rick Sullivan. “I look forward to maintaining this momentum as our state distinguishes itself as the national leader on clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), signed by Governor Deval Patrick in August 2008, mandates the reduction of GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to set a legally enforceable GHG emissions limit for 2020 of between 10% and 25% below 1990 levels by January 1, 2011, and to issue a plan for achieving those reductions while growing the clean energy economy. Secretary Bowles set the limit at the statutory maximum of 25% and released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, which contains a portfolio of policies designed to meet the limit.

In his formal determination of the 2020 emissions limit, Secretary Bowles noted that “established state policies to promote energy conservation and cleaner energy sources are expected to produce GHG reductions of 18% below 1990 levels by 2020,” and that the remaining question before him in making the determination was “where in the remaining statutory range of 18 to 25% reduction it is practical and appropriate to set the 2020 limit. Central to that question is what additional actions of policy, regulation, and legislation could be pursued that would achieve additional emissions reduction by 2020 and beyond.” Though he considered “a wide range of measures,” Secretary Bowles included in the implementation plan for 2020 “only those additional measures that provide significant energy cost savings and create clean energy jobs,” but those he found sufficient to support the maximum emissions reduction requirement of 25%.

“This limit, together with the portfolio of GHG mitigation measures presented in the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, is a substantial step forward in the Commonwealth’s ongoing efforts to grow our clean energy economy, reduce energy costs, become energy independent and minimize climate change impacts to the citizens, environmental resources, and economy of Massachusetts,” wrote Secretary Bowles.

The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 contains a portfolio of established and new measures that reduce energy waste, save money, and stimulate the adoption of clean energy technologies, thereby creating jobs at the same time that they reduce GHG emissions. It is estimated that 42,000 to 48,000 jobs would result from full implementation of the plan in 2020, both jobs that fill every niche in the clean energy supply chain—electricians, installers, researchers, architects, manufacturers, plumbers, energy auditors, technicians, and scientists—and jobs throughout the economy as lower fossil-fuel energy expenses lead to more spending on in-state goods and services.

Existing policies include the Green Communities Act requirement of capturing all cost-effective energy efficiency, which has given Massachusetts the most far-reaching energy efficiency program in the country, projected to yield $6 billion in customer savings from $2 billion of investment over three years. Continuation of these energy efficiency efforts, plus additional building-related measures such as deep-energy improvements in buildings; advanced, flexible building energy codes; and a new energy rating and labeling system that will be the equivalent of miles-per-gallon auto fuel efficiency ratings for buildings, beginning as a pilot program in western Massachusetts will reduce GHG emissions statewide nearly 10% by 2020.

In electricity supply, established programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Renewable Portfolio Standard will be supplemented by efforts to obtain additional clean energy imports such as Canadian hydropower and a proposed Clean Energy Performance Standard, which would require electricity suppliers to favor lower- and no-emissions sources in the mix of electricity delivered to their customers, will reduce emissions 7.7% by 2020. In transportation, MassDOT’s recently announced GreenDOT sustainability program and other efforts to limit growth in driving, federal fuel efficiency standards, lower-carbon fuels, and potential incentives for clean cars to be studied and piloted are expected to produce 7.6% GHG reductions. In non-energy related sources of emissions, new and expanded programs will address leaking refrigerants that are more powerful GHGs than carbon dioxide, for additional reductions of 2%.

Secretary Bowles’s determination, and the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, were both informed by a series of eight public hearings held around the state and by input from the Climate Protection and Green Economy Advisory Committee, a body created by the Global Warming Solutions Act that includes representatives of the following sectors: commercial, industrial, and manufacturing; transportation; low-income consumers; energy generation and distribution; environmental protection; energy efficiency and renewable energy; local government; and academic institutions.

The Secretary’s 2020 Greenhouse Gas Limit Determination, the full Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, the Executive Summary of the Plan, and a letter to EEA Secretary Bowles from the co-chairs of the Climate Protection and Green Economy Advisory Committee can be viewed here.

Chief Oil and Gas Subsidiary Pays $34,000 Fine, Surrenders Permit after Discharging Industrial Waste Illegally

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has imposed a $34,000 fine on Chief Gathering LLC, of Dallas, Texas—a subsidiary of Chief Oil and Gas—for illegally discharging hydrostatic testing water at a pipeline project in Penn Township, Lycoming County, in August 2010.

Chief Gathering builds and operates natural gas pipelines. Hydrostatic tests involve placing water in a natural gas pipeline at the required pressure to ensure there are no leaks before it is placed into service. In conjunction with the enforcement action, Chief agreed to voluntary surrender its discharge permit, and did so early in December.

“Chief clearly did not comply with the requirements of the DEP discharge permit that was issued to the company in February 2009,” said DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber.

DEP’s Water Management Program conducted an investigation on August 12, after Chief notified the department that a hydrostatic water discharge had occurred the previous day—contrary to an earlier notification in which Chief indicated that no discharge would occur.

DEP inspectors determined that 21,000 gallons of hydrostatic testing water remained in storage on-site, but that an additional 25,200 gallons had already been discharged to the Big Run watershed. None of the discharged water reached any nearby surface streams.

The investigation revealed numerous other violations, including:

  • Failure to minimize the flow rate from the discharge point and allowing the formation of a 150-foot erosion channel;
  • Failure to submit accurate, detailed Notice of Intent project information;
  • Discharging hydrostatic test water with a total chlorine residual greater than 0.05 parts per million;
  • Allowing an unknown industrial waste to co-mingle in five storage tanks with the hydrostatic test water, which was subsequently discharged; and
  • A failure to monitor the discharge for the specified effluent parameters at the minimum frequency required.

The department issued a notice of violation to Chief, and the company provided a detailed explanation regarding the event as well as corrective actions taken to prevent a recurrence.

IT Energy Savings for Non-Techies: Getting to Yes

An upcoming free webinar will provide you with the information and resources you need to drive computer-related energy savings in your own organization—even if you don’t work in IT.

The webinar will be Thursday, January 13, 2011 from 12:001:00pm, Eastern Standard Time. To register for this presentation:

  1. Go to https://energystar.webex.com/energystar and click on the session titled “IT Energy Savings for Non-Techies: Getting to Yes” under “Training Center.”
  2. Click on the link for “Registration.” Complete the contact information on the next page.
  3. Save the confirmation e-mail (sent by messenger@webex.com) with the information needed to participate in the presentation, which will be sent to the e-mail address you have specified. Check your spam e-mail filter if the message does not appear in your inbox. Click on the link provided in this e-mail and join in at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the presentation.

The webinar will review the biggest energy savings opportunities (some of which may surprise you), explain them in layman’s terms, and provide practical tips for getting key decision makers on board. The training will provide concrete next steps, tell you how to tap into free software and technical support from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, as well as inform you about cash incentives from electric utilities.

Nominate Someone for EPA Environmental Merit Awards

For more than thirty years, EPA-Region 1’s Environmental Merit Awards program has honored teachers, citizen activists, business leaders, scientists, public officials, and others who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of our region’s public health and our natural environment. The tradition continues in 2011 and the Agency is asking you to nominate someone who deserves to be recognized for great work done this past year in New England.

Nominations are now being accepted; winners will be celebrated at a ceremony in mid-April 2011. You can nominate a person or group for either the Lifetime Achievement Award http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/lifetimeachievementform.html, the Annual Award http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/annualawardform.html, or the Region 2 award at http://www.epa.gov/region2/eqa/.

Browning Ferris Industries Fined $65,546 for Excess Hydrogen Sulfide and Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has penalized Browning Ferris Industries-Fall River (BFI-Fall River) $65,546 for excess emissions of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) at its Airport Road landfill in Fall River, Massachusetts.

BFI-Fall River operates two enclosed flares to burn off the landfill gas that emanates from the decomposition of landfill material. A MassDEP investigation determined that the concentration of H2S in the landfill gas exceeded approved limits and that the BFI-Fall River Landfill had exceeded approved SO2 emission limits in their permit.

“BFI-Fall River made changes in the landfill operation that caused increases in H2S beginning in July 2009. These changes also caused SO2 emissions in excess of the facility’s permit limits,” said David Johnston, director of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville. “Excess emissions of H2S and SO2 can create odor nuisances and public health problems.”

MassDEP inspected the facility and investigated emission records from 2009 and 2010 to determine the landfill’s compliance and found:

  • The permitted H2S concentration limit of 200 parts per million by volume (ppmv), was exceeded with emissions of up to 813 ppmv.
  • The SO2 permit limit of .065 pounds (per million BTUs) was exceeded with emissions as high as 0.252 pounds (per million BTUs).
  • The monthly SO2 permit limit of 2.3 tons was exceeded with resulting actual emissions of 2.57 tons.

In addition to the penalty, the facility has agreed to install and operate a landfill gas pre-treatment scrubbing system to reduce the H2S concentration to the permitted limit and to monitor H2S concentrations monthly.

Move to Undo Protections from Mercury Pollution

House Republicans have announced a Congressional Review Act resolution that seeks to undo EPA rules to control toxic emissions from cement plants. The rules would reduce cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic substances by more than 90%. EPA scientists have estimated the rules would prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths and thousands of heart and respiratory incidents and save billions of dollars in health costs each year.

“Without these important EPA rules, our families will continue to be exposed to mercury and other toxic pollution from the Lafarge plant in Ravena, New York,” said Susan Falzon, with Friends of Hudson. “It sickens me that some of our elected leaders are trying to remove these protections.”

The EPA’s finalized protective standards for cement kiln emissions would:

  • Cut mercury emissions by 16,600 pounds, roughly 92%
  • Cut particulate matter emissions by 11,500 tons, roughly 92%
  • Cut hydrogen chloride emissions by 5,800 tons, roughly 97%
  • Cut total hydrocarbons emissions by 10,600 tons, roughly 83%

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxicant that can build up through the food chain and interfere with the brain and other parts of the nervous system, resulting in birth defects, loss of IQ, and developmental problems. Particulate matter causes serious health impacts on lungs and breathing, including decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing, as well as heart problems. Hydrogen chloride also causes respiratory problems such as coughing, irritated nose and throat, and heart problems.

“These new EPA rules mean less death and disease from pollution in communities hosting dirty kilns,” said Becky Bornhorst, chair of Downwinders at Risk. “The cement industry wants you to believe meeting the new regulations will drive them out of business, but that is simply not true.”

“Local communities were promised these protections by Congress when it passed amendments to the Clean Air Act 20 years ago,” said Jane Williams of Desert Citizens Against Pollution. “This new Congress should not roll back those protections and renege on that promise.”

“House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves,” said Kelly Stryker with Stop Titan Action Network. “Instead of protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, our kids, the elderly and the poor, they are pandering to the cement industry, one of the nation’s biggest polluters. In my community of Wilmington, North Carolina, Titan Cement wants to build one of the nation’s largest mercury emitting cement plants adjacent to a mercury impaired river and within two miles of our community’s elementary and middle schools.”

“The House resolution places thousands of American families at risk,” said Jennifer Peterson, attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “Cement kilns are among the top mercury polluters in many states, and the long overdue EPA rules will protect Americans by drastically reducing mercury and other harmful pollution.”

“The first, most important concern should be people’s health,” said Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter in Austin, Texas. “Cement kilns are major sources of toxic pollution known to cause cancer and a host of other serious health problems. Families living near these massive polluters can not afford to have politics get in the way of much needed protections.”

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in 2004 to compel the EPA to act on mercury and other air pollution from cement kilns and is currently intervening on behalf of the EPA to protect these standards from industry attack.

Quicksilver Caucus Urges EPA to Lower Major Source HAP Threshold for Mercury

The Quicksilver Caucus (QSC), has sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA amend the definition of a major source of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) to include a threshold for mercury of no more than 25 pounds per year. Currently, the Clean Air Act (CAA) sets the major source threshold at 10 tons per year of a single HAP or 25 tons per year of a combination of HAPs, but provides the Administrator with the authority to establish a lesser-quantity threshold (LQT) for persistent and bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) pollutants.

The QSC argues that since mercury is a PBT and very low emissions can result in unacceptable impacts, it warrants an LQT. The QSC noted that several states currently have lower thresholds for mercury. During its meeting on October 19, 2010, the NACAA board unanimously endorsed the recommendation to lower the major source definition for mercury. The QSC is a group of state environmental associations including the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO), the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) and the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR).

California OEHHA Proposes Revised Public Health Goal for Perchlorate

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a draft public health goal (PHG) of 1 part per billion (ppb) for perchlorate in drinking water. The proposed goal would revise the existing PHG for perchlorate, which was set at 6 ppb in 2004. Release of the proposed revision begins a 45-day public comment period.

A public health goal is not an enforceable regulatory standard. Its purpose is to provide scientific guidance to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in reviewing the existing state drinking water standard for perchlorate. There is no current federal standard for perchlorate in drinking water. The current state standard, officially known as a maximum contaminant level (MCL), is set at 6 ppb.

The proposed new PHG is lower than the existing goal because it incorporates new information about the effects of perchlorate on infants. “New research about perchlorate’s potential to affect the health of California babies has led OEHHA’s scientists to develop this revised public health goal for drinking water,” said OEHHA Director Joan Denton, Ph.D. “The revised goal reflects infants’ enhanced susceptibility to the health effects of this chemical.”

Perchlorate is a chemical that can occur naturally and also may be released by fireworks, rocket fuel, and various industrial processes. Exposure to perchlorate can affect infant brain development, growth, and other key body functions. Perchlorate is known to damage the thyroid’s ability to take in and process iodide, which is a nutrient essential to brain development, growth, heart function, and other systems.

Studies conducted by OEHHA scientists and others revealed that perchlorate harms the health of babies at lower levels than healthy adults. At the same time, a recent study of Boston-area new mothers indicates that nearly half of all infants may not receive enough iodide from their mothers’ milk. OEHHA’s draft PHG also incorporates new data on how much water infants consume per pound of body weight. It also considers infants’ intake of perchlorate from infant formula.

A public health goal is not a boundary line between a “safe” and “dangerous” level of a contaminant. It is not considered the highest level of a chemical that is safe to drink. A PHG is a stringent health-protective goal that CDPH will use to develop an enforceable regulatory standard. CDPH must set its drinking water standards as close to the corresponding PHGs as is economically and technically feasible.

Two Companies Receive 2010 New Hampshire Governor’s Awards for Pollution Prevention

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services announced that Fujifilm Dimatix Inc., in Lebanon and Wire Belt Company of America in Londonderry are winners of the 2010 Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention that recognizes outstanding pollution prevention practices in businesses and organizations.

Dimatix received this award for making innovative process changes to eliminate hazardous wastes and reduce energy consumption. The company was able to eliminate over 2,100 gallons/year of hazardous waste and save over 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity, which is the equivalent of eliminating 792 tons of power plant emissions per year.

Wire Belt received this award for its energy reduction projects, Environmental Management System, and its work with the Department of Environmental Services Aspiring Leadership Initiative. Through its effort that included installation of a 100 kilowatt solar photovoltaic array, it saved over 800,000kwh, which is equal to the elimination of 633 tons of power plant air emissions. Wire Belt also implemented a waste reduction program that resulted in an annual reduction of 191,000 pounds of solid waste and 237,000 pounds of raw material.

Both companies have benefited financially from their efforts as well, realizing a combined savings of over $180,000 annually.

Fujifilm Dimatix and Wire Belt Company of America are being recognized for their dedication to pollution prevention and continued focus on innovative ways to be more energy efficient, use fewer raw materials, and create less waste.

Drew University Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations

Drew University has agreed to pay $145,000 to the EPA for failing to properly manage hazardous waste at its Madison, New Jersey, campus. In 2007, the university had self-reported violations to EPA and corrected the violations.

“EPA’s self-audit policy is intended to help institutions recognize violations of federal environmental laws and take action to correct them,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “We expect institutions that conduct their own audits to maintain compliance with the regulations. Drew’s failure to do so is not consistent with this policy.”

During its 2009 investigation, EPA discovered that Drew University had:

  • Haphazardly stored dozens of containers of paint, wood stains, enamels, and adhesives in a manner that failed to minimize releases to the environment. These containers were being stored outside and on the ground, some of which were in close proximity to residential housing and a pond. Many containers were open and could have easily spilled their contents or leaked into the ground.
  • Failed to properly identify discarded materials such as mercury, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, formic acid, and nitric acid as hazardous wastes.
  • Stored hazardous waste without a permit authorizing and regulating such storage.

After EPA issued a complaint to Drew, the university agreed to pay a $145,000 fine for the violations, and comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations governing the management of hazardous waste.

For more information on how EPA regulates hazardous waste, attend Environmental Resource Center’s hazardous waste management training.

Pennsylvania DEP Fines Talisman Energy USA Inc. $24,608 for Diesel Spill

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has fined Talisman Energy USA Inc., of Horseheads, New York, $24,608 for a large diesel fuel spill in March 2010 at the company’s Putnam 77 Marcellus natural gas well pad in Armenia Township, Pennsylvania.

“This spill went off the well pad and into a neighboring farm field,” said DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber. “Talisman is extremely fortunate that it did not impact surface water or wetlands.”

The company reported the spill to DEP, but has been unable to explain the cause.

Discharging a polluting substance like diesel fuel without a permit violates the Clean Streams Law and failing to manage the waste properly violates the Solid Waste Management Act. The cleanup required 3,800 tons of contaminated soil to be excavated and 132,000 gallons of contaminated water was collected, from which about 450 gallons of diesel fuel was recovered.

New York to Sue Pennsylvania Power Plant

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he is taking action to sue a major Pennsylvania electric power plant over multiple violations of the federal CAA at the facility. The plant, Homer City Station, is the largest out-of-state contributor of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to New York. The facility emits approximately 100,000 tons of SO2 annually—more than twice as much of this harmful pollutant as all of the power plants operating in New York combined.

“The owners of this power plant have repeatedly thumbed their noses at clean air laws, while dumping more than double the sulfur dioxide pollution into our air and lungs as all of the power plants operating in New York combined,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said recently. “Their disregard for New Yorkers is simply unconscionable, and as Attorney General, I am committed to taking the fight to those who endanger the health and environment of New York. This lawsuit reflects my commitment, holding the owners of the Homer City power plant accountable for breaking the law, and polluting the air that New Yorkers breathe.”

Attorney General Schneiderman is joined by the DEP in this action. Attorney General Schneiderman and DEP charge that the current and former owners of Homer City Station ignored CAA requirements that state-of-the-art pollution controls be installed at the plant when it underwent several major modifications in the 1990s that increased its pollution emissions. The lawsuit seeks to require the companies to comply fully with the Act, including installing state-of-the-art pollution controls to address these pollution increases.

Homer City Station is a 1,884 megawatt electric power generating plant located in Homer City, Pennsylvania, approximately 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. The plant emits over 100,000 tons of SO2 annually. Air emissions from the plant contribute to fine particulate matter pollution in New York, and pollutants contained in the plant’s emissions are directly linked to increases in asthma attacks, lung diseases, and other health problems. The pollutant is also a primary contributor to acid rain, which has severely damaged lakes, forests, and wildlife throughout New York’s Adirondack and Catskill regions.

Attorney General Schneiderman and DEP charge that, in violation of several provisions of the CAA, the owners of the Homer City plant made a number of physical or operational changes to the plant between 1991 and 1996 that resulted in increases in emissions of SO2 that continue to this day. The Act requires that major modifications that increase pollutant emissions be accompanied by the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls. The owners and operator of Homer City Station are charged with consistently ignoring these and other requirements of the CAA in the course of modifying and operating the facility.

This action names both the current owner of Homer City Station—a consortium of eight limited liability companies (Homer City OL1-OL8 LLC)—and its operator (EME Homer City Generation L.P.). Also named are two companies that owned the plant when, or since, it was modified and increased air pollution, including Pennsylvania Electric Company and New York State Electric & Gas Corporation.

New York and DEP are jointly prosecuting the case with federal EPA, which has filed a lawsuit against the plant for CAA violations. The states have filed a motion to intervene in EPA’s case, which would ensure that the cases are litigated together before the same judge. The Act provides that states may intervene in a case brought by EPA seeking to enforce pollution controls. The action will be taken in United State District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Fertilizer Distributors Fined Over $33,000 for Risk Management Violations

Two Washington state ammonia fertilizer distributors have agreed to pay over $33,000 for failing to update their Risk Management Plans (RMP) for preventing chemical releases at eight facilities throughout Washington.

AG Link, Inc., will pay $13,521 and Colfax Grange Supply Co., Inc., will pay $19,986 to settle alleged violations of the RMP provisions of Section 112(r) of the Federal CAA.

In October 2009, EPA discovered that AG Link and Colfax failed to update their risk management practices for eight facilities at least every five years as required by the CAA. The facilities store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which exceeds the threshold quantity that triggers federal planning requirements.

According to Wally Moon, EPA’s prevention team leader in EPA’s Emergency Response program in Seattle, having a solid prevention program in place can help a facility keep a dangerous situation under control if a workplace accident occurs.

“Companies with large amounts of ammonia on-site must have a solid, comprehensive leak prevention program in place,” said EPA’s Moon. “They have a responsibility to protect workers, emergency responders and the community to make sure a serious accident doesn’t occur.”

As a result of this enforcement action, AG Link and Colfax have corrected their violations. The required RMPs consist of the following:

  • Identifying hazards
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Training of operators
  • Emergency response plan

Anhydrous ammonia is a chemical used in refrigeration and agriculture. Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and with high enough exposure, death.

Pennsylvania Prisons Fined for Air Violations

EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have announced a settlement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and the Department of General Services for alleged CAA violations at boiler plants generating power, heat, and hot water at four correctional facilities. This settlement secures air pollution reductions and additional reporting requirements for correctional facilities in Muncy, Bellefonte, Huntingdon, and Somerset, Pennsylvania.

“Today’s settlement will improve the air quality in four Pennsylvania communities,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. “It’s important that all sources of air emissions, including prisons, comply with environmental regulations to ensure that the standards are met in nearby communities.”

Under the terms of settlement, each of the four facilities is making changes at its boiler plant to reduce emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxides. These pollutants can cause respiratory problems, exacerbate cases of childhood asthma, and create haze. Under the agreement, the Department of Corrections will pay a civil penalty of $300,000.

This settlement involves the State Correctional Institution at Muncy in Lycoming County; the State Correctional Institution at Rockview in Centre County; the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon in Huntingdon County; and, the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands in Somerset County. These prisons are owned and operated by the Department of General Services and the Department of Corrections.

As a result of this settlement:

  • A baghouse to control particulate matter will be installed at the Rockview facility;
  • New gas-fired boiler units at the Laurel Highlands facility will be constructed;
  • Coal-fired boiler units at the Muncy facility will be shut down and replaced by an existing natural gas-fired boiler; and
  • The Huntingdon facility is required to either add particulate matter controls, or convert to gas-fired boiler units.

This settlement has reporting obligations to ensure the prisons stay on schedule with the terms of the agreement. Should the facilities’ boilers fail to meet the requirements, they will be subject to stipulated penalties, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per day contingent on the type and length of the violation. The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Gasco to Pay $350,000 Penalty after Voluntarily Reporting Air Violations

EPA and the Department of Justice recently announced that Gasco Energy, Inc., the former operator of the Riverbend Compressor Station on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation near Vernal, Utah, has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the CAA at the facility. Gasco Energy, Inc., will pay a $350,000 penalty and provide for air pollution controls at its facilities in the Uinta Basin.

“Under this agreement, Gasco and its successors will make significant investments to reduce emissions from facilities throughout the Uinta Basin,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “EPA will continue to work with partners, including oil and gas operators, to protect air quality resources for the benefit of those who live in the basin.”

According to a complaint filed with the settlement, Gasco allegedly violated several provisions of the CAA at the Riverbend facility including emission standards for hazardous air pollutants; and federal permitting, emissions monitoring, and reporting requirements. The company disclosed the violations voluntarily.

The compressor station at the Riverbend facility compresses field gas for transportation through a gathering line, and removes liquids and water from the gas by separation and dehydration. As part of the agreement, emission controls on dehydrators, compressor engines, and storage tanks will be installed at Riverbend. In addition, Gasco and its successors will install no-bleed or low-bleed pneumatic controls on gas compressors and well heads at all operating facilities in the Uinta Basin. A pneumatic is a controller that uses pressurized pipeline gas to open or close valves. The use of low-bleed units reduces emissions of air pollutants and conserves product.

EPA estimates that measures taken as a result of this agreement, when fully implemented, will reduce air pollution by more than 550 tons per year. These reductions include 122 tons of carbon monoxide, and 427 tons of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants per year. These pollutants can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity, and many can adversely impact the heart, brain, and nervous system. They can also damage ecosystems and reduce visibility.

Expected reductions of GHG emissions, including methane, are equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of 7,300 acres of pine forest, or comparable to taking more than 6,600 cars off the road each year. These investments will also conserve product. The natural gas conserved is enough to heat more than 1,000 homes annually.

The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah and is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court.

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Trivia Question of the Week

If your recommended 8 glasses a day of water came from bottled water, it could cost you up to $1,400 per year. If the same water came from the tap, it would cost you how much per year:
a. $0.50
b. $1.50
c. $5.00
d. $15.00

Answer