The Case of the Dangerous Driveway


Coal-tar-based sealants are emitting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the air at rates that may be greater than annual emissions from vehicles in the US, according to new reports by the US Geological Survey (USGS), published in the scientific journals Chemosphere and Atmospheric Environment.

Children living near coal-tar-sealed pavement are exposed to twice as many PAHs from ingestion of contaminated house dust than from food, according to a separate new study by Baylor University and the USGS, published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and many are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

These results and those of previous research on environmental contamination and coal-tar-based pavement sealants are summarized in a feature article appearing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The article is jointly authored by researchers with the USGS, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, University of New Hampshire, City of Austin Texas, and Baylor University. Links to the four new articles on this topic can be found on the USGS website on PAHs and sealcoat. Coal-tar-based sealant is the black liquid sprayed or painted on many parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds. An estimated 85 million gallons are used each year, primarily in the central and eastern US. Coal tar is known to cause cancer in humans and is made up of more than 50% PAHs.

“The value of this research is that it identifies the pathways by which PAHs move from pavements to people and measures the contribution in relation to other sources,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The most striking finding is that pavement sealcoat contaminates virtually every part of our every-day surroundings, including our air and our homes.

Scientists estimate that the amount of PAHs released to air nationwide each year from new applications of coal-tar-based sealant are similar to or greater than annual PAH emissions from vehicles. USGS scientists measured PAHs in air above parking lots, with and without sealcoat, in suburban Austin, Texas. In a second study, PAH levels in air and in dried sealant were tracked for one year following sealant application to a parking lot. Two hours after sealcoat application, PAH emissions were 30,000 times higher than those from unsealed pavement. Parking lots with three to eight-year-old sealant released 60 times more PAHs to the air than parking lots without sealant.

Coal-tar-based sealcoat causes contamination indoors as well as outdoors. Baylor University scientist Spencer Williams used USGS measurements of PAHs in house dust to estimate the potential ingestion of PAHs by young children living near coal-tar-sealed parking lots. Ingestion of PAHs from food has long been thought to be the primary route by which children are exposed to PAHs. Williams’ analysis indicated that children living in apartments adjacent to parking lots with coal-tar-based sealcoat likely receive more than twice as much PAHs from incidental ingestion of house dust than from their diet. PAH ingestion by children in those settings was estimated to be 14 times higher than by children in apartments adjacent to unsealed parking lots.

Some governments have taken action on use of coal-tar-based sealcoat. Fifteen municipalities and two counties in four states (Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin), the District of Columbia, and the state of Washington all have enacted some type of ban, affecting almost 10.4 million people. Several national and regional hardware and home-improvement retailers have voluntarily ceased selling coal-tar-based driveway-sealer products.

Two kinds of sealcoat products are widely used: coal-tar-based and asphalt-based. The coal-tar products have PAH levels about 1,000 times higher than the asphalt products. Asphalt-based sealcoat is more commonly used on the West Coast and coal-tar-based sealcoat is more commonly used in the Midwest, the South, and the East. You can determine whether a product contains coal tar by reading the product label or the associated Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), available from the applicator, retailer, or online.

Nashville RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 28–March 1 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Kansas City RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Kansas City, Missouri, from February 28–March 1 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Charlotte RCRA, DOT, and OSHA GHS Hazcom Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Charlotte, North Carolina, from March 6–8 and save $100. Additionally, OSHA GHS Hazard Communication Standard: Training for Trainers will be offered March 9. To take advantage of the offer on the RCRA/DOT training combination, or to register for the OSHA GHS Hazcom training course, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

How to Prepare for OSHA Adoption of the GHS for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

OSHA has announced they will adopt the globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, material safety data sheet (soon to be called “safety data sheet”), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on MSDSs.

Environmental Resource Center is offering webcast training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. The next webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA Adoption of the GHS for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is February 28, 2012. Register early to ensure your spot in this upcoming session by registering online or calling 1-800-537-2372.

Safety Consultant/Trainer

Environmental Resource Center has a new opening for a safety consultant and auditor. We are looking for a former OSHA CSHO, OSHA trainer, or state inspector for this position in our Cary, North Carolina, office. Applicants should have excellent writing and speaking skills and be willing to travel 7–14 days per month. We are looking for an expert in all of the General Industry and Construction standards who is capable of performing audits of industrial facilities as well as conducting on-site training.

Strong consideration will be given to applicants who also have experience providing HAZWOPER, Hazcom, lockout/tagout, confined spaces, and machine guarding training.

The position includes maintenance of training materials (books and presentations), working on consulting projects, development of classes and computer-based training programs, and ensuring customer satisfaction.

If you meet our qualifications, are enthusiastic about safety regulations, have auditing experience, and have the ability to entertain students, send your resume, references, and salary requirements to Amy Knight at We offer a competitive salary, 401(k), medical, dental, and other great benefits.

NESHAPS for Steam Generating Units

Pursuant to CAA section 112, EPA is establishing a NESHAP that will require coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) to meet hazardous air pollutant (HAP) standards reflecting the application of the maximum achievable control technology. The rule aims to protect air quality and promotes public health by reducing emissions of the HAP listed in CAA section 112(b)(1).

This final rule is effective on April 16, 2012. For additional information, contact Mr. William Maxwell, at 919-541-5430 or via e-mail at

Quality Assurance Requirements for Continuous Opacity Monitoring Systems at Stationary Sources

EPA is proposing to establish quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) procedures for continuous opacity monitoring systems (COMS) used to demonstrate continuous compliance with opacity standards as specified in federally enforceable regulations.

The quality assurance requirements will be added as Procedure 3 to Appendix F of 40 CFR 60. For additional information, contact Ms. Lula H. Melton, US EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Air Quality Assessment Division, Measurement Technology Group (Mail Code: E143-02), Research Triangle Park, NC, 27711; telephone 919-541-2910; fax 919-541-0516; email Written comments on the proposal must be received by March 15, 2012.

PetSmart Pays $15,000 in Settlement of Allegations of Cadmium in Packaging

Attorney General Michael A. Delaney and Commissioner Thomas S. Burack of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) have announced that the State has reached a settlement with PetSmart, Inc., in the amount of $15,000. The settlement resolves allegations that PetSmart sold pet products in flexible PVC packaging that contained levels of cadmium that exceeded State regulatory limits and failed to submit Certificates of Compliance upon request.

Under the terms of the settlement, PetSmart, which operates five retail stores in New Hampshire, did not admit liability for the alleged violations but agreed to pay a settlement totaling $15,000 to the State. Half of this money is paid as a penalty and the remainder will be used to further enforcement of laws prohibiting toxic metals in packaging material. In addition, PetSmart will implement internal measures to ensure that no further violations occur, including measures to ensure that Certificates of Compliance are submitted on time.

Manufacturers sometimes use substances like lead and cadmium in packaging to increase flexibility or to protect from ultra-violet rays. Although these substances may pose no threat to those handling the packaging, when the packaging material is disposed of in landfills or incinerators, these toxic metals can enter the environment and pose a risk to health and safety. State law requires manufacturers and suppliers to provide a Certificate of Compliance with respect to packaging material within 60 days of a request. The State currently coordinates its implementation of the law with 10 other states through the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH).

New Air Emission Standards for PVCs

EPA has published new final standards requiring facilities that produce polyvinyl chloride and copolymers (PVC) to reduce harmful air emissions, which will improve air quality and protect people’s health in communities where facilities are located. Exposure to toxic air pollutants, like those emitted from PVC facilities, can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer. In particular, children are known to be more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride, one of the known carcinogens emitted from PVC facilities.

The final standards are based on currently available technologies and will reduce emissions of air toxics, such as dioxin and vinyl chloride. Facilities will have the flexibility to choose the most practical and cost-effective control technology or technique to reduce the emissions. Facilities will be required to monitor emissions at certain points in the PVC production process to ensure that the standards are met.

Currently, there are 17 PVC production facilities throughout the US, with a majority of these facilities located in Louisiana and Texas. All existing and any new PVC production facilities are covered by the final rule.

PVC production facilities manufacture PVC resins that are used to make a large number of commercial and industrial products at other manufacturing facilities. These products include latex paints, coatings, adhesives, clear plastics, rigid plastics, and flooring.

EPA had a 74-day public comment period and held two public hearings on the proposal before issuing the final rule.

Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Ordered to Correct Problems at their Facility

EPA has issued an Administrative Order on Consent to Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, that requires expedited corrective measures be taken at the facility to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. EPA issued the order under Section 7003 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which provides statutory authority to address an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health at facilities.

EPA believes that an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment exists at the facility due to corrosive water discovered by the facility outside the West Stack perimeter dike in January 2011 and September 2011. This order further directs MPC to continue to perform corrective actions that were included in a previous September 2009 Unilateral Order. The 2009 order was issued to MPC due to the EPA’s discovery of uncontrolled leaks and spills of sulfuric acid and untreated discharges from sulfuric acid plants to the adjacent bayou; and uncontrolled spills and leaks of phosphoric acid to unlined ditches at the MPC facility in August 2009.

MPC began operation in the late 1950s and was a subsidiary of Mississippi Chemical Corporation (MCC) from the early 1990s through 2004. On May 15, 2003, MCC filed for bankruptcy and MPC was acquired by creditors. On December 21, 2004, MPC emerged from bankruptcy and is now owned by Phosphate Holdings, Inc, a publicly traded corporation. MPC manufactures sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid at the site and produces diammonium phosphate (DAP), a phosphate-based fertilizer.

Some of the work required of MPC in the 7003 Order includes: the submission of a revised plan to repair and replace degraded containment around sulfuric acid plants (SAPs); the continued implementation of the groundwater investigative and remediation work plan for the SAPs, DAP plant, and construction area southwest of SAPs; daily visual assessment of seepage from west stack perimeter dike; and the submission of a west gypsum stack system improvement plan. As MPC addresses the requirements of this order, the EPA and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will continue to work jointly to oversee MPC’s compliance with environmental laws, regulations, and permits.

PPL Montana Fined for Particulate Emissions

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has settled its administrative enforcement action against PPL Montana, LLC, (PPL), for violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) of Montana at their J. E. Corette facility in Billings, Montana.

PPL has an Air Quality Operating Permit for operating the J. E. Corette Steam Electric Station. The permit establishes the particulate matter emission limit of 0.26 lb/MMBtu. Emission test results for the coal-fired boiler from the December 6, 2010, compliance test indicated that the particulate emissions exceeded the limit at 0.339 lb/MMBtu.

PPL agreed to pay the DEQ an administrative penalty in the amount of $32,000 to resolve the violation. Larry Alheim of the department’s Enforcement Division said that PPL will pay an administrative penalty in the amount of $8,000. The remainder of the penalty, $24,000, is suspended contingent upon PPL’s completion of a supplemental environmental project (SEP).

For the SEP, PPL will spend at least $36,000 to pave approximately 13,000 square feet of the gravel portion of the PPL facility to mitigate airborne particulate matter emissions and improve air quality in the vicinity. This area of the facility is heavily used by approximately 550 18-wheel trucks and 8-wheel pup trailers per year. Alheim stated that PPL estimates that the SEP will reduce fugitive particulate emissions from plant roads by approximately 16%.

Alheim also said that PPL Montana notified the DEQ immediately upon learning of the test results and took immediate action to adjust the way they operate the plant. As a result of the action, the plant is now operating in compliance. Alheim stated PPL cooperated fully with the DEQ throughout the enforcement action.

Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Dumping in Upstate New York

Julius DeSimone of Rome, New York, has pled guilty in federal court in Utica, New York, for conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act (CWA) and defraud the US, and to making false statements to federal law enforcement, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, and the US Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.

DeSimone pled guilty before US District Judge Hurd for the Northern District of New York to two criminal felony counts for conspiring to violate the CWA’s prohibition on filling wetlands and then lying to federal agents in an attempt to conceal his crimes. According to the charges, DeSimone and other co-conspirators engaged in a multi-year scheme to illegally dump 8,100 tons of pulverized construction and demolition debris that was processed at New York and New Jersey solid waste management facilities and then transported to a farmer’s property in Frankfort, New York.

According to court documents, DeSimone and other conspirators concealed the illegal dumping by fabricating a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit and forging the name of a DEC official on the fraudulent permit. DeSimone admitted in the plea agreement that once DEC and the EPA learned of the illegal dumping, he lied to federal agents in an effort to conceal the crimes.

DeSimone faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each felony count and may be ordered to pay for portions of the cleanup at the site.

This plea is related to the pleas of Eagle Recycling and Jonathan Deck who pled guilty to similar conspiracy charges in 2009 and 2011.

EPA Orders SIC Technologies in Atlanta to Correct Problems at its Facility

The SIC Technologies in Atlanta, Georgia, has been issued an EPA Order that requires expedited corrective measures be taken at the facility to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. EPA issued the Order under Section 7003 of RCRA, which states that an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment exists at the facility.

EPA believes that an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment exists at the facility due to the improper storage of solid and/or hazardous wastes, the presence of corroding and leaking containers, and the lack of adequate aisle space sufficient to address emergency releases.

The SIC Technologies operations consist of the production and sale of chemicals used in the following industrial processes: electropolishing of aluminum and stainless steel; anodizing aluminum; zinc plating; paint pretreatment of steel and aluminum; and ceramic mold cleaning. EPA’s RCRA program and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection Division (GAEPD) conducted inspections at the SIC Technologies on November 30, 2011, January 18, 2012, and January 30, 2012.

Some of the work required of SIC Technologies in the 7003 Order includes the cleanup of spills and releases; the repackaging of wastes and materials in compromised containers; the preparation of a waste analysis plan; and the segregation, proper transportation, and off-site disposal of all hazardous and nonhazardous wastes currently stored at the facility. EPA and GAEPD will continue to work jointly to oversee the compliance of SIC Technologies with environmental laws.

Hog Farm and President Sentenced to Pay $1.5 Million for Violating the Clean Water Act

The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina have announced that Freedman Farms Inc., has been sentenced in federal court to five years probation and ordered to pay $1.5 million in fines, restitution, and community service payments for violating the CWA when they discharged hog waste into a stream that leads to the Waccamaw River.

William B. Freedman, president of Freedman Farms, was sentenced to six months in prison to be followed by six months of home confinement.

Freedman Farms was sentenced to pay a $500,000 criminal fine and $925,000 in restitution. The judge will hold a status conference in 30 days to determine the scope of restitution to compensate for or repair lost or injured resources that resulted from these violations. In addition, a community service payment of $75,000 will be paid directly to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network (SEEN), one of four US regional environmental enforcement associations established to train environmental enforcement professionals. SEEN is to use the funds for funding environmental projects designed to preserve and restore waters in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Freedman Farms also is required to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program and institute an annual training program.

“William Freedman and Freedman Farms will be held accountable for polluting waterways and wetlands in Columbus County and the Waccamaw River watershed,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “Owners and operators of concentrated animal feeding operations must comply with the nation’s Clean Water Act for the protection of America’s streams, wetlands and rivers.”

“It is vital to the well-being of our residents to protect our natural resources, including the numerous streams and marshes found in the Eastern part of North Carolina,” said Thomas G. Walker, US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “This prosecution reflects our ongoing efforts to protect the environment and resources that we all cherish.”

“Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), like Freedman Farms, are an EPA enforcement priority because manure, if not properly controlled, can contaminate both surface waters and ground waters that may be used as drinking water sources and harm fish and other aquatic species,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement office in Atlanta. “In this case, hog wastes flowed through sensitive wetlands, posing a risk to water and wildlife. Today’s sentences send a clear message to CAFO’s and their owners that if you disregard the law, you will be prosecuted.”

According to evidence presented in court, Freedman Farms discharged hog waste into Browder’s Branch, a tributary to the Waccamaw River that flows through the White Marsh, a large wetlands complex. Freedman Farms, located in Columbus County, North Carolina, is in the business of raising hogs for market, and this particular farm had some 4,800 hogs. The hog waste was supposed to be directed to two lagoons for treatment and disposal. In December 2007, hog waste was discharged from Freedman Farms directly into Browder’s Branch.

Administration Releases EPA’s 2013 Proposed Budget

The Obama Administration has proposed a FY 2013 budget of $8.344 billion for the EPA. This budget is $105 million below the EPA’s enacted level for FY 2012. The FY 2013 budget is the result of EPA’s ongoing efforts to carefully consider potential cost savings and reductions while continuing its commitment to core environmental and health protections—safeguarding Americans from pollution in the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the land where they build their communities.

“This budget is focused on fulfilling EPA’s core mission to protect health and the environment for millions of American families. It demonstrates fiscal responsibility, while still supporting clean air, healthy waters and innovative safeguards that are essential to an America built to last,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “It has taken hard work and difficult choices to reach this balanced approach, and while we had to make sacrifices, we have maintained our commitment to the core priorities of this agency and ensured the protections the American people expect and deserve.”

Key FY 2013 budget highlights include:

Support for State Governments: The budget proposes $1.2 billion in categorical grants for states that are on the front lines implementing environmental statutes such as the CAA and the CWA. The increases from FY 2012 levels include nearly $66 million for State and Tribal Air Quality Management grants, nearly $27 million for Pollution Control (CWA Section 106) grants, and about $29 million for the Tribal General Assistance Program.

Clean Water Protection: The proposal provides $2 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds (SRFs). This will allow the SRFs to finance over $6 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects annually. EPA will work to target assistance to small and underserved communities with limited ability to repay loans, while maintaining state program integrity.

Contaminated Site Clean-up: The proposal includes $755 million in funding for the Superfund Cleanup program which maintains funding to support cleanup at hazardous waste sites that address emergencies (Superfund Emergency Response and Removal) at the nation’s highest priority sites (Superfund Remedial).

Research: EPA’s proposed budget provides $576 million to support research and innovation. Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants are funded at $81 million to conduct research in key areas such as hydraulic fracturing, potential endocrine disruptors, and green infrastructure. Building upon ongoing research and collaborating with the Department of Energy and the USGS, a total $14 million investment will begin to assess potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air quality, water quality, and ecosystems. The EPA also will release an Interim Report on the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources in 2012.

Ongoing Support to Economically and Environmentally Vital Water Bodies: To ensure the progress made during the past three years continues, EPA is proposing $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Programs and projects will target the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes. About $73 million, which is a $15 million increase, will fund the Chesapeake Bay program’s continued implementation of the President’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. Funding will support bay watershed states as they implement their plans to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in an unprecedented effort to restore this economically important ecosystem.

Chemical Risk Reduction: EPA is proposing $68 million, an increase of $11 million from FY 2012, to reduce chemical risks, increase the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and provide the public with greater access to toxic chemical information. Funding will sustain the agency’s successes in managing the potential risks of new chemicals coming into the market and accelerating the progress to help ensure the safety of chemicals on the market that have not been tested for adverse human health and environmental impacts.

Next Generation Compliance: EPA’s budget proposal requests $36 million to support “Next Generation Compliance,” a new enforcement model designed to enhance EPA’s ability to detect violations that impact public health. The three components of this approach are: promoting electronic reporting by facilities, modifying data systems to implement electronic reporting, and deploying modern monitoring technology. This will work toward improved compliance and transparency; more efficient processes that do not rely on paper-based reporting; and create cost savings and efficiencies for EPA, states, and industry.

National Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Standards Program: The budget contains a $10 million increase to the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory for certification and compliance testing programs and to evaluate new biofuels technologies. The national program of fuel economy and GHG standards for light duty vehicles alone will save approximately 12 billion barrels of oil and prevent 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions over the lifetime of the vehicles sold through model year 2025. These funds will improve testing methods for the agency’s renewable fuels program, and the GHG and fuel economy programs intended to reduce dependence on oil and save consumers money at the pump.

Reducing and Eliminating Programs: The budget includes $50 million in savings by eliminating several EPA programs that have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts.

Administration Seeks Increase in DOT’s Hazardous Material Budget

The FY 2013 President’s Budget requests $51 million and an additional 22 positions for Hazardous Materials Safety within the DOT’s Hazardous Materials Budget which includes these requests:

  • $12 million is estimated for a new Special Permit and Approvals user fee that will be collected from companies and individuals involved in the transport of hazardous materials seeking special permits and approvals from the Hazardous Materials Regulations.
  • Request for 12 new investigators to expand Hazardous Materials Safety investigation efforts over jurisdiction of approximately 40,000 entities registered to transport hazardous materials.
  • Nearly $1 million and 7 positions to support the processing and technical evaluations of special permits and approvals applications and to implement a special permits and approvals outreach plan for external communications efforts.
  • $210,000 and 2 positions to ensure the safe and secure transportation of radioactive materials.

States Sue EPA for Action on Particulate Matter

Leading a coalition of 11 states, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit to compel the EPA to promptly revise national air quality standards for particulate matter. The coalition took legal action after EPA failed to meet an October 2011 deadline for revising the existing lax standards, as required by the federal CAA.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit, has been filed in federal district court in Manhattan, and asks the Court to order the EPA to adopt new air pollution standards promptly and by a certain date.

“Clean air is a public right, and standards that protect it are a necessity,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Every day, air pollution, from soot, risks the health of more than one-third of Americans, including our most vulnerable—children, the elderly and the sick. These risks are simply unacceptable. The EPA must take prompt action to reduce pollution now, and safeguard the health of the public and the air we breathe.”

Fine particulate matter pollution or “PM 2.5,” is produced by diesel trucks and buses, power plants, and other sources, and is prevalent in New York City and other urban areas. Tiny particles of soot evade the body’s defense mechanisms and collect deep within peoples’ lungs, where they are absorbed into the blood stream. Breathing it increases the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes, and emergency room visits, especially for people with asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

  • EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans—one-third of the nation’s population—have special susceptibility to be harmed from soot, including children, senior citizens, and people with lung disease such as asthma; and
  • According to the American Lung Association, one in 17 Americans live in areas with unhealthy year-round levels of soot;
  • The American Lung Association ranks New York City among the top 25 US cities with the highest levels of pollution; and
  • Under the current standards, the EPA estimates that approximately 2,000 people die prematurely every year in the New York City urban area from heart and lung disease related to soot.

The federal CAA requires EPA every five years to review and, if warranted by advances in public health science, revise the national air quality standards for common air pollutants, including soot. EPA last revised the standards in 2006. However, New York and 15 other states challenged those standards as lax, and having been adopted against the advice of EPA’s own air pollution experts and the agency’s independent scientific advisors.

In 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the coalition of states, and ruled that the EPA had not justified its decision to adopt those lax standards. The Court returned the standards back to the agency for reconsideration in light of the Court’s concerns that the standards failed to adequately protect public health.

In response to the court’s remand, EPA stated that it would revise the soot standards as part of its next five-year review under the statute. However, that statutory deadline—October 17, 2011—passed without the EPA finalizing, or even proposing, revised soot standards. Because the federal agency failed to act on this important public health matter as required by law, on November 16, 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman and the states joining him in the lawsuit sent a 60-day notice to the EPA, stating their intention to sue over the agency’s failure to timely revise the soot air pollution standards. The EPA has not taken action in response to the coalition’s notice, leading Schneiderman and his coalition to take legal action. New York and other coalition states also have a petition pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that court to order the EPA promptly to revise the soot standards.

The states joining Attorney General Schneiderman in this action are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The lawsuit is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General, Jane Cameron and Michael Myers, under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief, Lemuel M. Srolovic, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice, Janet Sabel.

Environmental News Links

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A Guide for Assessing Emergency Response Needs and Capabilities for Hazardous Materials Releases

Consolidated Security Credential for Persons Who Transport Hazardous Materials

Penalty Issued for Illegal Disposal of Portable Toilet Waste

Testing of Groundwater for Radium Shows Most Susceptible Regions are Central US and East Coast

Trivia Question of the Week

What region of the US is best suited to generate wind power?
a. Alaska
b. California/Oregon shoreline
c. Death Valley
d. Hawaii’s big island