EPA Proposes First Carbon Pollution Standard for Future Power Plants
Following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, the EPA has proposed the first Clean Air Act (CAA) standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. EPA’s proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants. At the same time, the rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution.
“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies—and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.”
Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. As a direct result of the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling, EPA in 2009 determined that greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.
The proposed standard, which only applies to power plants built in the future, is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. The proposal only covers fossil fuel fired boilers, integrated gasification combined cycle units and stationary combined cycle turbine units that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts. The proposal does not cover existing units, permit modifications, nor new power plant units that have permits and start construction within 12 months of this proposal. New fossil fuel power plants will be required to meet a standard of 1,000 lb of CO2 per megawatt hour. Power plants may opt to meet a 30-year average of CO2 emissions to meet the standard, under which the plants would meet a 1800 lb CO2/MWh gross emissions standard for the first 10 years and then ratchet down to a 600 lb CO2/MWh gross emissions standard over the next 20 years. This would allow carbon capture and sequestration to be transitioned in over 10 years in order to meet the lower standard.
EPA’s proposal is in line with these investments and will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer, and more modern power sector continues. The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Even without this action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard.
Prior to developing this standard, EPA engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Commenting on the proposal, New York Attorney General Schneiderman said, “EPA has a continuing legal obligation to take the next step and require existing fossil fuel power plants—the largest producers of global warming pollution—to reduce their emissions. The Agency’s action is an important step forward in confronting the public health, environmental and economic dangers posed by climate change, but we must remain vigilant in order to meaningfully reduce its scale and adverse effects on behalf of the people of New York.”
New Orleans RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in New Orleans, Louisiana, from April 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Virginia Beach RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, from April 17–19 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Atlanta RCRA/DOT Update Training, Advanced Hazardous Waste Training, and OSHA GHS-Hazcom Training
Environmental Resource Center will offer DOT and RCRA Annual Update and Refresher training on May 1, Advanced Hazardous Waste Management training on May 2, and OSHA GHS Hazard Communication Standard: Training for Trainers on May 3, in Atlanta, Georgia. To register for any of these upcoming courses in Atlanta, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)
OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, material safety data sheet (now called “safety data sheet” or SDS), 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 SDSs.
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. Register for an upcoming webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) offered on the following dates:
- April 17
- May 18
- June 26
- July 18
- August 15
- October 2
Device Uses Sewage as Fuel to Make Electricity and Clean the Sewage
Scientists described a new and more efficient version of an innovative device the size of a home washing machine that uses bacteria growing in municipal sewage to make electricity and clean up the sewage at the same time. Their report at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, suggested that commercial versions of the two-in-one device could be a boon for the developing world and water-short parts of the US.
“Our prototype incorporates innovations so that it can process five times more sewage six times more efficiently at half the cost of its predecessors,” said Orianna Bretschger, Ph.D., who presented a report on the improved technology at the ACS meeting.
“We’ve improved its energy recovery capacity from about 2 percent to as much as 13 percent, which is a great step in the right direction. That actually puts us in a realm where we could produce a meaningful amount of electricity if this technology is implemented commercially. Eventually, we could have wastewater treatment for free. That could mean availability for cleaner water in the developing world, or in southern California and other water-short areas of the United States through the use of more wastewater recycling technologies,” she said.
Current wastewater treatment technology involves a number of steps designed to separate the solid and liquid components of sewage and clean the wastewater before it is released into a waterway. This often involves settling tanks, macerators that break down larger objects, membranes to filter particles, biological digestion steps and chemicals that kill harmful microbes. One estimate puts their energy use at 2% of overall consumption in the US.
Bretschger’s team at the J. Craig Venter Institute is developing one version of a so-called microbial fuel cell (MFC). Traditional fuel cells, like those used on the Space Shuttles and envisioned for cars in the future “hydrogen economy,” convert fuel directly into electricity without igniting the fuel. They react or combine hydrogen and oxygen, for instance, and produce electricity and drinkable water. MFCs are biological fuel cells. They use organic matter, such as the material in sewage, as fuel, and microbes break down the organic matter. In the process of doing so, the bacteria produce electrons, which have a negative charge and are the basic units of electricity. Electricity consists of a flow of electrons or other charges through a circuit.
The new MFC uses ordinary sewage obtained from a conventional sewage treatment plant. Microbes that exist naturally in the sewage produce electrons as they metabolize, or digest, organic material in the sludge. Bretschger found that microbes exist in the MFC community that might even break down potentially harmful pollutants like benzene and toluene that may be in the sludge.
An MFC consists of a sealed chamber in which the microbes grow in a film on an electrode, which receives their electrons. Meanwhile, positively-charged units termed protons pass through a membrane to a second, unsealed container. In that container, microbes growing on another electrode combine oxygen with those protons and the electrons flowing as electricity from the electrode in the sealed chamber, producing water or other products like hydrogen peroxide.
Bretschger said the MFC also is quite effective in treating sewage to remove organic material, and data suggest a decrease in disease-causing microbes. “We remove about 97 percent of the organic matter,” she said. “That sounds clean, but it is not quite clean enough to drink. In order to get to potable, you need 99.99 percent removal and more complete disinfection of the water.” Still, she suggested their MFC might one day replace some of the existing steps in municipal wastewater treatment.
The group presented their first MFC last year. Since then, they increased the amount of waste their device could handle each week from 20 gallons to 100 gallons, trucked in from a local treatment plant near San Diego. They also replaced the titanium components with a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) frame and graphite electrodes. Because of that, the new fuel cell costs about $150 per gallon, half as expensive as their previous prototype. The group hopes eventually to bring the cost under $20 per gallon or less to be cost competitive with existing water treatment technologies.
Bretschger reported that the new device is also more than six times as efficient as its predecessor, turning 13% of the usable energy in the sludge into electricity. While this only generates a small current, Bretschger explained that a large device running at 20-25% efficiency could produce enough power to operate a conventional wastewater treatment plant. A typical sewage treatment plant may consume enough electricity to power 10,000 or more homes, according to some estimates.
DOT Proposes to Simplify Requirements for Shipments of Airbags and Seat Belt Pretensioners
In a move that could save the automotive industry nearly $900,000 a year in costs while maintaining safety standards, the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to end the special permit requirement for several widely-used auto parts normally installed during the manufacturing process.
Automakers and suppliers would still have to comply with standing conventional regulations for packaging, marking, and transporting the assembly components, which are still considered hazardous materials capable of posing some risk to health, safety, and property.
“Safety is PHMSA’s chief priority, but when rules or regulations become outdated or unnecessary, we must explore updating them to keep the hazmat transportation process efficient and effective,” said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
PHMSA proposes to update the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) so that a special permit would no longer be required for these items, which would reduce the regulatory burden and maintain the current level of safety. DOT issues special permits allowing a party to transport hazmat under unusual conditions not covered in the HMR while maintaining an equivalent level of safety.
Specifically, the NPRM states that auto manufacturers would no longer have to bear the burden of obtaining and maintaining an explosive (EX) number on hazmat shipping papers for air bag inflators, air bag modules, and seat-belt pretensioners (the part of the seatbelt that takes up the slack) prior to transporting them.
“EX” numbers denote approval to transport explosive items in accordance with the federal HMR, which governs transportation safety for such items. The activation devices in the airbag and seat-belt components are currently classified as explosives under the HMR.
PHMSA conducts ongoing reviews of special permits to determine if they can be incorporated into the broader HMR. Factors include safety record, related rulemaking, and agency priorities.
“The president’s Regulatory Review Initiative calls precisely for this kind of action—reviewing existing rules for effectiveness, relieving the private sector of regulations where costs outweigh benefits, and encouraging feedback about these regulations from those most likely to be affected—the public,” said PHMSA administrator Cynthia Quarterman.
Washington to Revise Underground Storage Tank Regulations
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) currently is seeking public comments on proposed changes to the state’s rule for preventing leaks from underground storage tanks. The Legislature has directed Ecology to revise the current rule to include some recent changes in state and federal laws, and to improve compliance with the rule. Leaks from underground storage tanks (UST) can contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for 60% of Washington’s residents.
The state’s compliance program addresses the serious threat posed to human health and the environment by leaking underground storage tank systems containing petroleum and other hazardous substances.
Ecology currently regulates more than 9,500 systems at more than 3,600 facilities throughout the state. A majority of UST systems are located at gas stations. Others are owned and operated by other businesses and by local, state, and federal governments.
Each year, about 50 new releases are confirmed at regulated UST facilities. The rule changes will help to reduce the number and severity of such releases. The changes include:
- Authorizing Ecology to stop regulated substances from being delivered to UST systems that don’t comply with regulatory requirements.
- Requiring training for people who operate and maintain UST systems.
- Requiring secondary containment of tanks and pipes, and containment under dispenser systems.
Documents related to the proposed rule are posted online.
Comments also will be accepted during public hearings in April. Here’s the schedule of public hearings:
- April 24: 1:30 p.m. at Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane
- April 25: 1:30 p.m. at Ecology’s Central Regional Office, 15 W. Yakima Ave., Yakima
- April 26: 1:30 p.m. at Ecology’s Northwest Regional Office, 3190 160th Ave. SE, Bellevue
- April 27: 1:30 p.m. at Ecology’s headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey
Ecology will accept comments through May 4, 2012. You can submit comments through May 4 by:
- Mailing them to Michael Feldcamp, Washington Department of Ecology, Toxics Cleanup Program, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600
- Sending email to USTrule@ecy.wa.gov
This action is exempt from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s executive order that suspends non-critical rule work. The proposed rule amendments are needed to maintain Ecology’s federally delegated UST program and to continue to receive federal funding for the work. See more information about the rule suspension on Ecology’s website.
EPA Releases Template for Construction Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans
EPA has posted a new template for construction operators to use in developing stormwater pollution prevention plans, which are site-specific documents required as part of EPA’s new 2012 Construction General Permit. The template is designed to help construction operators develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan that is compliant with the minimum requirements of the new permit. The template allows operators to customize the document to the needs of the site, and includes tables and other fields that are easy to fill out.
Find out more information or to download the template, go to http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/swppp.cfm#template
Revised Petroleum Storage Tank Regulations take Effect in Nevada
Revisions to the Petroleum Storage Tank Regulations, adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board on January 3, 2012, (filed on February 16, 2012) took effect on March 17, 2012. The revisions outline changes to petroleum storage tank regulations in New Mexico aimed to prevent fuel tank leaks that could affect the surrounding environment. The Department encourages all owners and operators to comply with revised regulations in a concerted effort to protect public health and safety. The main focus of the revisions targets the protection of ground water resources in the state.
“Water is our most important natural resource in New Mexico, and we will always strive to protect it,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin.
The new regulations include changes to many different parts of the existing regulations, including a new procedure (Part 19: Delivery Prohibition) to ensure no deliveries or deposits of fuel into leaking fuel tanks.
Delivery of fuel is prohibited for significant violations of prevention rules regarding spill prevention, overfill protection, leak detection, and corrosion protection equipment. The rules provide specified times that allow owners and operators to correct the violations. Environment Department staff will work with owners and operators to correct serious violations as soon as possible.
However, if a facility fails to correct cited violations within the allowable time periods, the Petroleum Storage Tank Bureau (PSTB) will put red tag(s) on the tank(s) with violations, post a notice at the facility that it may not receive any delivery or deposit of fuel, and will list the facility on its Delivery Prohibition List on the PSTB webpage. These preventative measures are in accordance with House Bill 81 adopted in the 2010 Legislative Session and the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The new rules also eliminate the exemption for emergency generator tanks and require registration of emergency generator tank systems within 90 days of the effective date of rules, or by June 15, 2012. The new rules extend the deadline for closing or upgrading existing AST secondary containment to July 1, 2013.
The new rules are available on the New Mexico Environment Department PSTB webpage. The link includes an Executive Summary of major changes to the regulations, as well as links to the rules in redline format (Amended) and clean format (Integrated).
Interior Announces Onshore Wind Energy Guidelines to Protect Birds
The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service has released guidelines designed to help wind energy project developers avoid and minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats. The voluntary guidelines will help shape the smart siting, design, and operation of the nation’s growing wind energy economy.
“Wind energy is a key part of the Obama Administration’s sustained, all-of-the-above approach to American energy. We’re committed to working with developers to ensure that wind energy projects are built in the right places and operated in the right way,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “These voluntary guidelines have been developed through an intensive public process with significant help from the wind energy industry, state agencies, and wildlife conservation groups and are designed to achieve the best outcome for wildlife and wind energy development.”
Using a tiered approach, the guidelines provide a structured, scientific process for developers, federal and state agencies, and tribes to identify sites with low risk to wildlife, and to help them assess, mitigate, and monitor any adverse effects of wind energy projects on wildlife and their habitats. The voluntary guidelines, which are now in effect, are designed to be used for all utility-scale, community-scale, and distributed land-based wind energy projects on both private and public lands. A fact sheet on the guidelines is available here.
“The guidelines outline a consistent and predictable approach to wind energy development while also providing flexibility to developers in recognition of the unique circumstances of each project. These guidelines reflect an enormous amount of work and care by the Fish and Wildlife Service and dozens of experts from all sides of the wind energy issue,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We’ve spent years getting them right, and I believe they will help guide the responsible development of wind energy in America for decades to come.”
The voluntary guidelines replace voluntary interim guidelines issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003. They are the result of a five-year process that included multiple opportunities for public review and comment. The guidelines were also informed by the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee, established in 2007 and comprised of a diversity of stakeholders, including federal and state agencies, tribes, the wind energy industry and conservation organizations. After two years of deliberations, the committee submitted their final recommendations to the Secretary in March 2010. The Fish and Wildlife Service used the recommendations as a basis to develop their draft Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, announced in February 2011. After receiving more than 30,000 comments on the draft guidelines, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to reconvene the advisory committee for additional public meetings in order to develop the most effective final guidelines.
“We know America needs more renewable energy and wind power is a key player in that mix. But conservationists can’t have it both ways: we can’t say we need renewable energy and then say there’s nowhere safe to put the wind farms,” said David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon. “By collaborating with conservationists instead of slugging it out, the wind power industry gains vital support to expand and create jobs, and wildlife gets the protection crucial for survival. These federal guidelines are a game-changer and big win for both wildlife and clean energy.”
“The country needs more wind energy for its American manufacturing and construction jobs, environmental benefits, and national energy security. These guidelines set the highest standard, either voluntary or mandatory, of wildlife protection for any industry,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “It is our hope that in conjunction with rapid training and sensible implementation, the guidelines will promote improved siting practices and increased wildlife protection that in turn will foster the continued rapid growth of wind energy across the nation.”
The voluntary guidelines will also help developers identify additional steps, review processes and permits that may be needed to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act. If the project may affect one or more species protected by the ESA or their habitat, for example, developers may need to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan and apply for an Incidental Take Permit.
To download a copy of the final guidelines and for other background information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in wind energy development, please visit http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/.
Shipyard Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Water Act
CTCO Shipyard of Louisiana pled guilty recently to an environmental crime for violating the terms of its permit for over a year and a half, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten. The company pled guilty before US District Court Judge Carl Barbier to a one count felony Bill of Information charging it with violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). The maximum penalty CTCO faces is a fine of up to $500,000 and a term of probation up to five years. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 28, 2012.
The government filed a Bill of Information on March 22, 2012, charging CTCO Shipyard of Louisiana, LLC, with a violation of the CWA by knowing that its permit required it to regularly collect discharge samples, test those samples for pollutants that were covered by its permit, and submit Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMR) to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), and that it failed to do so. CTCO admitted that it possessed a Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (LPDES) permit and that the permit imposed limitations on the amount of pollutants that could be discharged from its facility into waters of the US. These limitations were called discharge of effluent limitations.
CTCO was required to monitor its discharges to determine whether it was in compliance with the pollutant discharge limitations set forth in its permit. CTCO was required to report to LDEQ the laboratory tests of the discharge samples on a DMR. However, from June, 2008, to January, 2010, CTCO admitted that it did not collect any discharge samples or test any samples for pollutants that were covered by its permit, nor did it submit any DMRs to the LDEQ.
Greek Shipping Company Sentenced in New Orleans to Pay $2 Million for Intentional Cover-Up of Oil Pollution and Obstruction of Justice
Ilios Shipping Company S.A. was sentenced in federal court in New Orleans for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and obstruction of justice, announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno and Jim Letten, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Ilios operated the M/V Agios Emilianos, a 738 foot, 36,573 ton bulk carrier cargo ship that hauled grain from New Orleans to various ports around the world. According to the plea agreement, from April 2009 until April 2011, oily bilge waste and sludge was routinely discharged from the vessel directly into the sea without the use of required pollution prevention equipment. During that time, the crew intentionally covered up the illegal discharges of oil waste by falsifying the vessel’s oil record book. The master of the vessel, Valentino Mislang, previously pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for conspiracy to obstruct justice for his role in destroying evidence and instructing crewmembers to lie to the Coast Guard during an inspection of the vessel in April 2011. According to Mislang, a senior manager of Ilios directed the destruction of computer records and ordered Mislang to tell crewmembers to lie to the Coast Guard.
The chief engineer of the vessel, Romulo Esperas, previously pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for conspiracy to obstruct justice for his role in falsifying the vessel’s oil record book and directing the discharge of oily bilge waste and sludge directly into the sea. According to Esperas, a senior manager of Ilios directed him to discharge the vessel’s oily waste into the sea and refused to provide funding for the proper discharge of the oily waste to shore-side facilities. Both Mislang and Esperas were sentenced to three years of unsupervised release and are not permitted to re-enter the US during that time.
“The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute shipping companies who break the laws that protect our oceans,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “The penalty imposed by this sentence holds Ilios fully accountable for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and a part of the penalty will fund projects that will help restore precious marine and aquatic resources in Louisiana.”
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, their partners in the Environmental Protection Agency and our brethren in the U. S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, along with our own U.S. Attorney’s Office professionals, for their continued vigilance in this and other cases protecting our precious environment, coastline and water resources from those unscrupulous companies and individuals who clandestinely and wantonly discharge oily waste into our waters,” said US Attorney Letten. “We will not falter in our commitment to do everything within our power to apprehend and punish these violators in defense of our environment.”
“Unfortunately, we continue to see many environmental crimes cases involving ocean-going commercial vessels. The Coast Guard will continue to hold non-compliant companies and operators accountable when they break the law and endanger the marine environment or public health. I applaud the efforts of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, our Eighth District legal staff and the Department of Justice for their tireless efforts in investigating and prosecuting this case,” said Rear Admiral Roy A. Nash, Eighth Coast Guard District Commander.
All discharges of sludge or oily bilge waste from a vessel are required to be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book. However, none of the illegal discharges were recorded in the oil record book for the M/V Agios Emilianos.
The court ordered Ilios to pay an overall criminal penalty of $2 million. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will receive $250,000 to fund projects aimed at the restoration of marine and aquatic resources in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
As a condition of probation, Ilios is required to implement an environmental compliance plan which will ensure that any ship operated by Ilios complies with all maritime environmental requirements established under applicable international, flag state, and port state laws. The plan ensures that Ilios’s employees and the crew of any vessel operated by Ilios are properly trained in preventing maritime pollution. An independent monitor will report to the court about Ilios’s compliance with its obligations during the period of probation.
Court Orders Penalties for Four Companies for Asbestos Violations
Massachusetts’ Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced that four Massachusetts companies have been ordered to pay up to $80,000 in civil penalties for the improper removal and disposal of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and ceiling tiles at the former Lowell Sun newspaper building in Kearney Square in Lowell, Massachusetts.
“Our office is committed to enforcing the state’s environmental laws and pursuing those who put workers and the public at risk by failing to control the release of dangerous asbestos fibers,” AG Coakley said. “Property managers, owners and contractors must take the proper precautions to ensure the containment of asbestos at all times.”
“Asbestos abatement work must be done in a manner that is protective of workers and public health,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Our asbestos inspectors, investigators and legal staff will hold responsible those who fail to ensure that asbestos abatement work is done in compliance with applicable regulations.”
According to the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, JDL Incorporated of Dracut, Sun Building, Kearney Square Properties, and TopNotch Homes, all limited liability companies in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, violated the state’s CAA by removing and disposing of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and ceiling tiles without using proper containment procedures to prevent the release of asbestos. The companies also allegedly failed to provide the required notifications to the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
The demolition work was performed as part of the conversion of The Sun (Lowell) newspaper building to condominiums in February 2009. Because of the health risks associated with the release of asbestos fibers, the law requires strict adherence to air pollution control methods when someone proposes to perform asbestos abatement work in Massachusetts.
The settlement, also filed and approved by the court, requires the current owners of the property (Sun Building and Kearney Square Properties) and their demolition contractor (JDL, Inc.) to pay a civil penalty of $80,000 for the alleged violations, $30,000 of which may be forgiven if the defendants comply with the judgment in the case. The Sun newspaper moved from the location in 2007 and is not involved in the alleged violations and is therefore not a party to the lawsuit.
MassDEP shut down the demolition operation when the agency learned of the violations and required that the defendants immediately contain the asbestos. The developer complied with MassDEP’s demand that it hire a licensed abatement firm to fully secure and properly dispose of the material. As a result of the prompt response by MassDEP, it is believed that the asbestos was properly contained and disposed of soon after the material was removed from the building.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, of Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, is representing the Commonwealth in the litigation. Attorney Colleen McConnell is handling the case for MassDEP, along with environmental analysts John MacAuley and Karen Golden-Smith of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office.
Sand and Gravel Facility Faces Fine for Discharging Polluted Water
CSG Holdings, Inc., of Columbia, New Hampshire, faces a possible fine of up to $532,500 from EPA for allowing polluted stormwater and process water from its Columbia facility to flow into nearby waters, in violation of the CWA. CSG Holdings is the former operator of Columbia Sand and Gravel, a mining facility on the banks of the Connecticut River.
According to allegations in the complaint, CSG Holdings discharged process waste waters and stormwater from the facility without proper permits and violated the federal Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations by failing to prepare and implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC). The recent complaint against CSG Holdings states that the violations were discovered by EPA’s New England office in 2010.
Stormwater monitoring by CSG Holdings confirmed that stormwater discharges from its sand and gravel mining and aggregate processing operations contain total suspended solids at levels that exceed permit benchmarks for their industrial sector. When a facility’s stormwater discharges exceed benchmark levels, the facility must review its stormwater control measures to determine if changes are necessary and make these changes as needed.
The CWA prohibits the discharge of process waste waters without a permit. The law also requires that industrial facilities, such as sand and gravel facilities, have controls in place to minimize pollutants from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants. Without on-site controls, runoff from sand and gravel facilities can flow directly to the nearest waterway and can cause water quality impairments such as siltation of rivers, beach closings, fishing restrictions, and habitat degradation. As stormwater flows over these sites, it can pick up pollutants, including sediment, used oil, and other debris. Polluted process water discharges or stormwater runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and can affect drinking water quality.
Every year, thousands of gallons of oil are spilled from oil storage facilities, polluting New England waters. Even the effects of smaller spills add up and damage aquatic life, as well as public and private property. Spill prevention plans are critical to prevent such spills or, if they do occur, adequately address them.
In May 2011, CSG Holdings sold its Columbia, New Hampshire, facility to another owner/operator. The new owner maintains the facility’s stormwater management system and is authorized to discharge stormwater under a general permit covering discharges from industrial facilities.
Logan Airport Oil Storage Facility Operators Fined for Inadequate Oil Spill Training
BOSFuel Corp., and Swissport Fueling, Inc., operators of an oil storage facility at Boston’s Logan Airport, will pay a $90,000 penalty for failing to take adequate precaution to contain oil spills. The Logan facility is operated by BOSFuel, a consortium of major airlines, and has an oil storage capacity of over seven million gallons. Swissport Fueling operates the facility on a day-to-day basis.
In a September 2011 complaint, EPA asserted that the companies had not properly prepared for possible oil spills at the Logan facility in violation of federal oil pollution prevention regulations issued under the CWA. These Facility Response Plan (FRP) regulations require certain facilities, such as the one at Logan, to have a response plan for containing and cleaning up an oil release.
EPA’s action stemmed from a May 2011 unannounced exercise at the facility carried out by EPA, the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) and the US Coast Guard. The objective of this exercise—a simulated oil spill—was to determine whether a facility can successfully respond to an oil release. As a result of the exercise, EPA determined that the companies were unable to properly implement the facility’s FRP and its personnel were not adequately trained, resulting in an “unsuccessful” overall rating for the exercise.
Since EPA filed its action, the companies have worked cooperatively with EPA, as well as the USCG and Mass DEP to correct the deficiencies noted during the exercise.
Federal law requires that facilities that have the potential for spills take every step possible to prevent, before they occur, oil discharges to the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans through implementation of Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) plans. Any facility with more than 1,320 gallons of above-ground oil storage capacity and meeting certain other criteria must develop and implement SPCC plans to prevent and contain spills, such as by installing impervious secondary containment around storage tanks and transfer areas. Facilities also need to know how to react to a spill to minimize environmental damage when one does occur. The FRP regulations require response planning and spill preparation especially for facilities with more than one million gallons of storage capacity. To ensure that a facility can adequately response to a spill, it must have adequate employee training, spill response equipment, and a contingency plan for containing and cleaning up a release.
While EPA’s action against the Logan Airport oil storage operators is not based on an actual oil release but on the unsuccessful May 2011 unannounced exercise, other facilities should be aware that EPA will continue to pay unannounced visits to conduct simulated spill exercises at facilities throughout New England.
Landfill to Spend $3.8 Million to Resolve Clean Air Act Violations
The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and the EPA announced that Forward Inc., of Manteca, California, has agreed to a settlement to resolve alleged violations of air pollution laws at its landfill in Manteca. The settlement requires Forward to spend approximately $3.8 million to improve the landfill’s gas collection and control system and to replace trucks in the landfill’s fleet with less polluting vehicles. Forward has also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $200,000, to be shared with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, a co-plaintiff in the enforcement action against Forward.
“Today’s settlement is good news for the families of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “Cleaning up the Valley’s air so that our children can breathe easier is important for all of us.”
“Landfill fires that deteriorate the air quality in San Joaquin Valley are unacceptable,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our federal enforcement action requires the landfill to spend $3.8 million to eliminate the risk of polluting fires and replace old diesel trucks with cleaner burning vehicles.”
The settlement resolves allegations that Forward violated the CAA by operating gas extraction wells in the landfill’s gas system in violation of the permit it had received from the District, and that Forward did not obtain permits required for equipment at the landfill. Federal regulations require large landfills that are significant emitters of air pollution to install and operate systems that will collect gases, such as air toxics, organic compounds, and methane, out of the decomposing refuse and destroy them, rather than allowing them to escape into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent GHG. These systems are to be operated so that they draw and collect as much gas as possible without pulling air into the landfill that can start fires in the decomposing waste. The complaint alleges that Forward operated its gas system such that it caused multiple fires at the Manteca landfill.
The settlement requires Forward to overhaul the landfill’s gas system by November 2012 to improve gas control and collection and to bring the facility back into compliance with CAA regulations governing landfills, which will require an investment of approximately $1.7 million. The settlement also requires Forward to implement specific operations and maintenance actions to minimize air intrusion and the likelihood of subsurface fires at the landfill.
The settlement will also benefit the San Joaquin Valley’s air and its communities by reducing emissions of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), which can cause and exacerbate health problems, haze, and smog. PM is a pollutant commonly associated with landfill fires, and Forward will reduce its PM emissions by replacing 19 diesel trucks it currently owns with cleaner burning vehicles by the end of 2013, at an estimated cost of $2.1 million. This will directly reduce PM by 3.4 tons and NOx by 83.2 tons, and will result in further indirect reductions of PM, as NOx is a precursor of PM. The NOx reductions yield a double benefit, as NOx is also a precursor for ozone, and the San Joaquin Valley is an extreme non-attainment area for ozone, another pollutant linked to health problems and smog.
EPA Region 7 Issues Notice of Violation to Grain Processing Corporation, Inc., for Clean Air Act Issues
EPA has issued a notice of violation to Grain Processing Corporation, Inc., (GPC), alleging the company has violated the Iowa State Implementation Plan and the federal CAA for issues related to construction and operating permits issued for its facility at Muscatine, Iowa. EPA Region 7 has coordinated with the State of Iowa on the notice of violation, which is separate from a civil lawsuit filed December 1, 2011, by the Iowa attorney general, which alleges that GPC’s facility violated the state’s air pollution laws. GPC’s plant at 1600 Oregon Street in Muscatine processes corn into ethanol, corn sweeteners, and beverage alcohol.
EPA’s notice of violation to GPC specifically alleges that between 2007 and 2011, its facility repeatedly violated limits on air emissions opacity that were set forth in the company’s 1995 amended construction permit and 2003 operating permit. The notice further alleges GPC failed to notify the Iowa Department of Natural Resources of the opacity exceedances, and failed to address the exceedances in its annual compliance certifications for the years 2007 through 2011.
EPA’s notice to GPC does not address penalties, but indicates the Agency will consider additional enforcement action, which could include penalties, to ensure the facility complies with applicable laws and regulations.
The notice was accompanied by an official request for information, which seeks details of GPC’s compliance with the Facility Response Plan requirements and Spill Prevention and Countermeasures Control requirements of the federal CWA. Information provided by the company in response to EPA’s request will be used by the Agency in evaluating GPC’s compliance. GPC’s response to EPA’s information request is due within 15 days.
National Cooperative Refinery Association to Pay $700,000 in Penalties for Violations at Kansas Refinery and Storage Facility
The National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA) has agreed to pay $700,000 in penalties to the US and the State of Kansas, and perform a series of injunctive relief actions, to settle violations of federal environmental laws and the Kansas State Implementation Plan at its petroleum refinery and underground storage facility in McPherson County, Kansas.
As part of a consent decree lodged yesterday in US District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, NCRA will pay $475,000 in penalties to the US and $225,000 to the State of Kansas. As a part of the settlement, NCRA has agreed to spend approximately $745,000 on supplemental environmental projects involving the purchase of emergency response equipment and services for the benefit of citizens and emergency response agencies in McPherson County.
NCRA owns and operates an 85,000-barrel-per-day petroleum refinery on Iron Horse Road in the city of McPherson, Kansas, and an associated underground product storage facility in the nearby unincorporated community of Conway, Kansas.
According to a complaint by the US Department of Justice, the US EPA, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, NCRA:
- Violated the federal CAA by failing to maintain and operate the refinery’s Unicracker Unit and associated air pollution control equipment in a manner consistent with good air pollution control practices, resulting in a 20-day flaring event that caused significant emissions of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide to the atmosphere.
- Violated the CAA and the Kansas State Implementation Plan by exceeding emission limits contained in a construction permit for the refinery’s Unicracker Unit heater and Hydrogen Unit heater.
- Violated the CAA by failing to fully implement a Risk Management Program at the refinery and the underground product storage facility.
- Violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) by failing to make timely reports of releases of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide during four separate flaring events at the refinery, including the previously mentioned 20-day flaring event.
- Violated EPCRA by submitting incomplete Tier II reports, which are supposed to include the identity and inventory of on-site chemicals, to emergency responders.
- Violated EPCRA by failing to submit an accurate and complete Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report to EPA.
The consent decree requires NCRA to perform a series of injunctive relief actions to address its non-compliance issues and enhance future compliance through greater emphasis on the Risk Management Program. These include performing an applicability study at the refinery and underground storage facility, providing detailed tank inspection timelines and information, and documenting the resolution of process hazard analyses and compliance audit findings.
For the CAA violations, the relief involves training for start-up procedures and revision to applicable limits for the refinery’s Unicracker Unit Heater.
Relief associated with the EPCRA and CERCLA violations includes completion of a compliance review for Tier II, TRI, and episodic release reports. It also includes the submission of an associated report to EPA, retroactive release reporting, and release report training.
NCRA’s supplemental environmental projects, totaling at least $745,000, are designed to further the goals of EPCRA and the Risk Management Program, which seek to prevent accidental chemical releases, minimize the consequences of accidents that do occur, and enable local emergency responders to plan and respond effectively to chemical accidents. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the court.
Reliable Transportation Services, Inc. Ordered to Shut Down
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Utah-based Reliable Transportation Services, Inc., to immediately cease all transportation services, declaring the trucking company and its principal, Jay Zachary Barber, an imminent hazard to public safety.
The order follows an extensive review of the company’s operations, which found multiple hours-of-service, hazardous materials, drug and alcohol testing and vehicle maintenance violations, as well as a high occurrence of recent crashes.
“Safety is our top priority,” said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Commercial truck companies that blatantly disregard safety should not be on our roadways and will be shut down.”
FMCSA immediately shut down Reliable Transportation after safety investigators found hours-of-service and driver qualification violations that substantially increased the likelihood of serious injury or death to the traveling public. Investigators discovered that the company was using drivers with suspended or revoked commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and operating without a driver drug and alcohol testing program. In addition, Reliable Transportation was transporting concealed hazardous material loads without valid federal registration.
“This agency will continue to exhaust every resource within its legal authority to pursue and shut down unsafe trucking companies that place the public at risk,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Companies that refuse to adhere to federal safety rules will not be allowed to operate.”
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Trivia Question of the Week
According to the Department of Treasury, traffic jams in the US waste how much gasoline each year?
a. 1.9 million gallons
b. 19 million gallons
c. 190 million gallons
d. 1.9 billion gallons