EPA Issues Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Natural Gas


In response to a court deadline, the EPA has finalized standards to reduce harmful air pollution associated with oil and natural gas production. The updated standards, required by the Clean Air Act (CAA), were informed by the important feedback from a range of stakeholders including the public, public health groups, states, and industry. As a result, the final standards reduce implementation costs while also ensuring they are achievable and can be met by relying on proven, cost-effective technologies as well as processes already in use at approximately half of the fractured natural gas wells in the US. These technologies will not only reduce 95% of the harmful emissions from these wells that contribute to smog and lead to health impacts, they will also enable companies to collect additional natural gas that can be sold. Natural gas is a key component of the nation’s clean energy future and these standards make sure that the US can continue to expand production of this important domestic resource while reducing impacts to public health, and most importantly builds on steps already being taken by industry leaders.

“The president has been clear that he wants to continue to expand production of important domestic resources like natural gas, and this standard supports that goal while making sure these fuels are produced without threatening the health of the American people,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By ensuring the capture of gases that were previously released to pollute our air and threaten our climate, these updated standards will not only protect our health, but also lead to more product for fuel suppliers to bring to market. They’re an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe.”

When natural gas is produced, some of the gas escapes the well and may not be captured by the producing company. These gases can pollute the air and as a result threaten public health. Consistent with states that have already put in place similar requirements, the updated EPA standards include the first federal air rules for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured, specifically requiring operators of new fractured natural gas wells to use cost-effective technologies and practices to capture natural gas that might otherwise escape the well, which can subsequently be sold. EPA’s analysis of the final rules shows that they are highly cost-effective, relying on widely available technologies and practices already deployed at approximately half of all fractured wells, and consistent with steps industry is already taking in many cases to capture additional natural gas for sale, offsetting the cost of compliance. Together these rules will result in $11 to $19 million in savings for industry each year. In addition to cutting pollution at the wellhead, EPA’s final standards also address emissions from storage tanks and other equipment.

Also in line with the executive order released by the president last week on natural gas development, the rule received important interagency feedback and provides industry flexibilities. Based on new data provided during the public comment period, the final rule establishes a phase-in period that will ensure emissions reduction technology is broadly available. During the first phase, until January 2015, owners and operators must either flare their emissions or use emissions reduction technology called “green completions,” technologies that are already widely deployed at wells. In 2015, all new fractured wells will be required to use green completions. The final rule does not require new federal permits. Instead, it sets clear standards and uses enhanced reporting to strengthen transparency and accountability, and ensure compliance, while establishing a consistent set of national standards to safeguard public health and the environment.

An estimated 13,000 new and existing natural gas wells are fractured or re-fractured each year. As those wells are being prepared for production, they emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog formation, and air toxics, including benzene and hexane, which can cause cancer and other serious health effects. In addition, the rule is expected to yield a significant environmental co-benefit by reducing methane, the primary constituent of natural gas. Methane, when released directly to the atmosphere, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG)—more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

During the nearly 100-day public comment period, the agency received more than 150,000 comments on the proposed rules from the public, industry, environmental groups, and states. The agency also held three public hearings. The updated standards were informed by the important feedback received through the public comment period, reducing implementation cost and ensuring the achievable standard can be met by relying on proven, cost-effective technologies and processes already in use.

St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in St. Louis, Missouri, from May 8–10 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Charlotte DOT/RCRA Update Training and SARA Title III Workshop

Environmental Resource Center will offer DOT and RCRA Annual Update and Refresher training on May 9, and the SARA Title III Workshop on May 10, in Charlotte, North Carolina. To register for these upcoming courses, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Cary 40-Hour and 24-Hour HAZWOPER Training

Environmental Resource Center will offer 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training May 14–18, and 24-Hour HAZWOPER training May 14–16, in Cary, North Carolina. To register for either HAZWOPER course, 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:

  • May 18
  • June 26
  • July 18
  • August 15
  • October 2

EPA Publishes National US Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The EPA has released the 17th annual US greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory. The final report shows overall emissions in 2010 increased by 3.2% from the previous year. The trend is attributed to an increase in energy consumption across all economic sectors, due to increasing energy demand associated with an expanding economy, and increased demand for electricity for air conditioning due to warmer summer weather during 2010.

Total emissions of the six main GHGs in 2010 were equivalent to 6,822 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by over 10% from 1990 to 2010.

The Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2010 is the latest annual report that the US has submitted to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. EPA prepares the annual report in collaboration with experts from multiple federal agencies and after gathering comments from stakeholders across the country.

The inventory tracks annual GHG emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2010. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation, and soils.

CVS Fined Nearly $14 million in California for Improper Hazardous Waste Management

CVS Caremark Corp., will pay $13.75 million to settle claims that it illegally disposed of hazardous waste in California. The Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based drugstore chain came under investigation two years ago after allegations that it mishandled medical, pharmaceutical, and photographic waste at California stores over a seven-year period.

The settlement will be shared by prosecutors, fire, and environmental health departments from some 45 cities and counties in California.

Los Angeles Assistant City Attorney Don Kass said CVS has put environmental policies and training in place at its stores and has hired contractors to handle hazardous waste.

Washington Yacht Builder Fined $48,000 for Failure to Properly Store and Dispose Hazardous Waste

An Anacortes, Washington, yacht builder faces a $48,000 Department of Ecology (Ecology) fine for failing to properly store and dispose of hazardous wastes. An accompanying order requires specific steps the company must take to come into compliance.

Ecology acted after repeatedly finding Northern Marine Yacht Sales LLC, and New World Yacht Builders LLC, (Northern Marine), in violation of state and federal dangerous waste requirements.

“By avoiding the costs of complying with the dangerous waste laws, Northern Marine gained an unfair advantage over the many firms that do comply,” said K Seiler, who manages Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “More importantly, improper handling and disposal of dangerous waste places the community and environment at an unnecessary risk.”

Northern Marine saved nearly $15,000 by not complying with the regulations, according to Ecology calculations. Ecology inspected the facility and offered assistance three times over eight months, but the company failed to bring itself into compliance.

“This penalty could have been as high as $84,000, because we saw violations at each of the three inspections,” Seiler said. “Instead we counted each violation just once. We also lowered the penalty by $9,000, under our policy for small business consideration.”

Ecology responded in July 2011 to a complaint of improperly stored hazardous waste containers at Northern Marine. Inspectors documented 13 violations, and directed the business to take corrective actions, but received no response.

In an October 2011 follow-up visit, Ecology found three of the violations corrected, but noted four new ones. In January 2012, inspectors noted one corrected violation and one new one.

Ecology’s penalty cites Northern Marine for violating four categories of state and federal hazardous waste laws:

  • Failure to notify: Under Washington’s Hazardous Waste Management Act, a business that generates 220 or more lb of hazardous waste per month must notify Ecology. Northern Marine failed to do so until February 1, 2012.
  • Failure to designate hazardous waste: State and federal law require businesses to assess their wastes to identify those that are hazardous—a process called designation—which determines proper storage, handling, and disposal. Northern Marine had not done so for some waste materials, including exhaust filters and contaminated shop towels.
  • Failure to provide training: A hazardous waste generator must train employees in the safe and proper handling and storage of these materials. Northern Marine failed to produce the required written training program and plan, or records of employee hazardous waste training.
  • Accumulating waste for longer than 90 days: A hazardous waste generator must ship such wastes for proper disposal within 90 days. Northern Marine had four drums of acetone waste and one drum of contaminated rags in the hazardous waste storage area that had been on site longer than 90 days—and remained there following each of Ecology’s inspections.

Ecology’s order includes a 60-day deadline to correct the waste-handling violations. Northern Marine also must appoint and train an emergency coordinator, provide hazardous waste training to other employees and managers, and submit a written training program and plan.

Northern Marine must pay the penalty within 30 days or may appeal it to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Koch Foods Reaches Agreement on Risk Management Plan Deficiencies

Koch Foods of Cincinnati (Koch), located in Fairfield, Ohio, has agreed to correct repeated deficiencies in its risk management plan as part of a settlement with Ohio EPA.

The company cooks, packages, and sells chicken parts. Koch keeps approximately 46,000 lb of anhydrous ammonia onsite to be used in the refrigeration process.

Ohio law requires facilities that have greater than a threshold amount of certain materials file a risk management plan with Ohio EPA. The plan outlines how the company will prevent accidental releases, which includes staff training and handling procedures for working with the chemical as well as describing a worst-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario in the plan is useful in case of emergency releases. Companies often coordinate plan development with local fire departments and other emergency responders.

A 2004 Ohio EPA inspection found 10 rule violations. No penalty was assessed but the company was required to correct the violations and bring the facility into compliance. All of the violations were corrected.

However, on November 30, 2010, Ohio EPA conducted a second five-year audit and found nine rule violations, six of which were present at the first inspection.

Some of the violations included failure to:

  • Maintain records for the worst-case and alternative scenarios
  • Conduct a process hazard analysis every five years and complete recommendations from analyses done in 2005 and 2010
  • Provide training every three years to ensure operators understand and adhere to current operations and determine that employees understand the training
  • Create and implement a mechanical integrity program
  • Determine and document appropriate responses to each of the findings in the 2008 compliance audit
  • Develop and implement an employee participation program
  • Revise, update, and submit the risk management plan within five years of its last update

Petersen-Bubke, LLP, Beef Feedlot to Pay $10,000 Penalty for Illegal Discharges

Petersen-Bubke, LLP, a beef cattle feedlot in Monona County, Iowa, has agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the US for violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) related to discharges of pollutants into Rush Creek and its tributaries.

According to an administrative civil consent agreement and final order filed by EPA in Kansas City, Kansas, EPA personnel conducted a compliance evaluation and inspection of the facility in March 2011 and observed evidence of discharges of process wastewater and pollutants from the facility into the creek.

Petersen-Bubke was confining approximately 1,050 cattle at the time of the inspection, which made it subject to regulation as a large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). However, the feedlot did not have a necessary National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, nor had it applied for one, as required by the CWA.

EPA Region 7 issued an order to the feedlot in May 2011, directing it to install discharge controls or apply for an NPDES permit. In accordance with the order, Petersen-Bubke has complied with the CWA by reducing the number of cattle it confines below the regulatory threshold, and by constructing livestock waste controls.

Unauthorized and uncontrolled discharges of wastewater and stormwater from concentrated animal feeding operations and their production areas can cause exceedances of water quality standards, pose risks to human health, threaten aquatic life and its habitat, and impair the use and enjoyment of waterways.

By agreeing to the settlement, Petersen-Bubke has certified that it is in compliance with the CWA.

Hazardous Waste Facility Faces EPA Penalty

The owner and operator of a hazardous waste management facility in Providence, Rhode Island, face an EPA penalty for violating federal and state hazardous waste laws.

According to the recent complaint filed by EPA’s New England office, Northland Environmental and PSC Environmental Services (operator and owner of the facility, respectively) violated state and federal hazardous waste laws, as well as their state issued permit to operate a commercial hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste treatment, storage, and transfer facility located on Allens Avenue in Providence.

The facility is located in a densely populated Environmental Justice (EJ) area of Providence. EPA considers it an EJ area due to the high proportion of minority and low-income population, which historically has had higher exposure to pollutants than other segments of the population.

In its complaint, EPA details 16 counts of hazardous waste management violations at the facility. The most significant violations were that the companies failed to properly determine that some of the wastes managed and shipped off site as non-hazardous wastes, were in fact, hazardous. This resulted in hazardous wastes being disposed of at facilities not designed or permitted to handle hazardous wastes. In addition, Northland Environmental and PSC Environmental Services failed to properly list all hazardous waste constituents on required notification and shipping documents. These violations could result in hazardous wastes not being properly managed and treated by the final disposal facilities. Moreover, many incompatible hazardous wastes were stored next to one another without adequate means of separation or protection, potentially resulting in fires or explosions.

PSC Environmental Services owns and Northland Environmental operates the facility, which accepts and handles a variety of wastes, including acids, alkalis, flammable wastes, water reactive wastes, cyanides, sulfides, oxidizers, toxic wastes, oily wastes, photochemical wastes, and laboratory packs. Hazardous and non-hazardous wastes are received at the facility, stored and or consolidated, and then shipped off site for treatment and/or disposal. The affiliated companies face a penalty of up to $37,500 per violation per day.

EPA Orders AVX Corp. to Clean Up New Bedford Harbor

EPA has issued an enforcement order to AVX Corp., of Massachusetts, to implement the ongoing cleanup work at New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts, including dredging PCB-contaminated sediment from the Harbor and disposing the dredged sediment to an appropriately licensed off-site facility, into a confined aquatic disposal cell in the Harbor, and into confined disposal facilities to be built along the shoreline.

The unilateral administrative order requires AVX to take action to remediate contamination in the Upper and Lower Harbor, and will provide more rapid protection of public health and the environment by addressing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated sediment at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site in New Bedford, Massachusetts. EPA consulted with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in connection with the issuance of this order.

EPA is issuing the order under authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, (CERCLA), and pursuant to the terms of a prior settlement with AVX. From the 1940’s to the 1970’s, AVX’s corporate predecessor, Aerovox Corp., owned and operated what is known as the Aerovox mill, an electrical capacitor manufacturing facility located on the western shore of New Bedford Harbor, from which it discharged hazardous substances including PCBs wastes into the Harbor. EPA has determined that Aerovox Corp., was the primary source of PCBs released at and to the Harbor.

Following a lawsuit, the US (on behalf of EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts entered into a Consent Decree with AVX in 1992, requiring AVX’s payment of past and future response costs and natural resource damages, and reserving the governments’ legal rights against AVX through reopener provisions.

Following EPA’s 1998 issuance of the “Record of Decision” for the remediation of the Upper and Lower Harbor areas of the Superfund site, the Agency has been performing the remedial design and action work using settlement funds received from AVX and other settling defendants to finance this work. The funds were depleted in 2004. As of December 31, 2011, approximately $456 million has been spent on all aspects of the cleanup at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site, with the vast majority of these funds from the federal government’s Hazardous Substance Superfund. EPA estimates that the net present value of additional costs required to complete the Upper and Lower Harbor cleanup may be as much as $401 million.

Since 2008, EPA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have engaged in discussions with AVX concerning the company’s remaining liabilities at the Harbor site and for the Aerovox mill site. As a result, under a 2010 settlement agreement with EPA, AVX agreed to dismantle and remove building debris relating to the cleanup of the Aerovox mill. An agreement has not been reached for the Harbor site; however, EPA’s enforcement order includes a delayed effective date of sixty days to provide AVX an opportunity to continue discussions with the governments concerning the extent to which AVX would pay for and/or perform the cleanup of the Harbor site. EPA will continue to perform the remediation as long as Superfund funds are available until responsibility for the site cleanup passes to AVX under the administrative order or a settlement agreement.

“In keeping with EPA’s long-standing ‘polluter pays’ principle, because Aerovox Corp., was responsible for a significant volume of PCBs that now contaminate New Bedford Harbor, AVX is obligated to play a major role in the cleanup,” said Curt Spalding, the regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We are hopeful that this step will allow cleanup work to continue much faster than it currently is, and we will more rapidly be able to ensure that both human health and ecological health are being protected from exposure to PCBs in New Bedford Harbor.”

PCBs are mixtures of up to 209 individual synthetic chlorinated compounds that are chemically stable, adsorb onto sediment particles readily, and are resistant to biodegradation. PCBs are characterized as a probable carcinogen in humans.

Fish, lobster, quahog, and other seafood from New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River contain high levels of PCBs. In 1979, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued restrictions on fishing and lobstering based on health risks from eating fish and lobster from the 18,000-acre New Bedford Harbor and Acushnet River estuary. EPA has issued additional health advisories regarding seafood consumption from the Harbor that can be found at:

KDHE, Board of Pharmacy Announce Kansas Medication Disposal Program

The Kansas Medication Disposal Program has been introduced by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Board of Pharmacy. The purpose of the disposal program is to make collection centers available statewide for the disposal of uncontrolled medications generated by households, long-term care facilities, and hospice care facilities.

Under the Kansas Medication Disposal Program, participating pharmacies and household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities can serve as collection centers for uncontrolled medications while law enforcement agencies can collect both uncontrolled and controlled medications in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act.

“Storing unwanted or expired medications in the home poses a significant health risk to Kansas families. Children can be injured or even die from accidental ingestion. This Medication Disposal Program is a collaborative effort in providing a way for Kansans to safely and conveniently get rid of uncontrolled medications,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer.

Without this program, there are limited proper disposal opportunities for uncontrolled medications in Kansas, said Bureau of Waste Management Director Bill Bider. “While disposal at a participating HHW facility is acceptable, there are few participating locations at the present time,” said Bider. “In addition, residents may dispose of unwanted pills in their routinely generated household trash, but unless the medications are mixed with other trash to render them unusable, they may still be recovered and misused.”

Due to a lack of convenient disposal options, some people may inappropriately dump medications down the drain presenting risks to the environment since medications generally bypass wastewater treatment facilities impacting wildlife and public water supplies.

“Removing unwanted medications from the home and disposing of them in this recommended manner is important to reduce the risk of accidental ingestion for our families and neighbors. Our pharmacies are very excited about this medication disposal program. Soon Kansans will see both our independent and our national pharmacies in Kansas participating, so please check the online map in the coming months to see where those pharmacies are located,” said Debra Billingsley, Executive Secretary of the Kansas Board of Pharmacy.

The State of Kansas hopes this new disposal program will ease the burden on Kansans looking to rid their homes of unused medications. Since 2000, Kansas has seen an increase of 150% in the hospital discharge rate for unintentional drug poisoning. Between 2007 and 2009, Kansas children ages five years and younger had the highest emergency department visit rate (157.6 per 100,000, or 952 children total) for unintentional drug poisonings among all age groups (2,499 people).

An interactive map is available on the KDHE website showing the location of participating pharmacies and HHW facilities. With the rollout of the program, pharmacies statewide are expected to enroll in the coming weeks.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has announced the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program, a new initiative to provide Massachusetts businesses and institutions with the information and assistance they need to reduce waste and recycle more.

“By increasing recycling, we reduce the environmental impacts of waste here in the Commonwealth,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., whose office includes MassDEP. “This program benefits both businesses and communities that are working to protect our precious natural resources.”

The RecyclingWorks program will be funded by MassDEP and administered by the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a non-profit organization based in Northampton and Pittsfield. The program provides a comprehensive set of statewide services, as well as targeted business assistance services.

“The RecyclingWorks program is a great opportunity for businesses to increase their recycling levels and save themselves money,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “The services offered through this innovative program will put participating businesses on the path to sustainability.”

“CET is excited to deliver the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program,” said CET Executive Director John Majercak. “We have been helping businesses find practical and affordable solutions for reducing waste, recycling and composting for many years. This MassDEP-funded program will allow us to help many more businesses reach their environmental and economic goals.”

Statewide services include a hotline and e-mail address to help businesses answer their questions and either start new recycling programs or improve existing programs. RecyclingWorks also features a web site ( that includes a searchable recycling service-provider database and guidance materials by material type and business sector.

The RecyclingWorks program will also coordinate the Massachusetts WasteWise program, a free, voluntary program that provides networking, tools, and guidance to help businesses to advance recycling initiatives.

In addition to the statewide services, the program will provide site visits, technical assistance, and workshops to work with specific businesses, business sectors, and chamber of commerce partnerships. Short-term areas of focus will include increasing diversion of food waste from large generators such as supermarkets, colleges and universities, and hotels.

Environmental News Links

Former Bush EPA Chief Sounds Alarm on Chemical Security

2012 Emergency Response Guidebook – Prepublication Discounts

Electric Cars Cheaper to Run, Less Polluting: Report

Federal Court Rejects After-the-Fact EPA Veto of Army Corps of Engineer’s Water Quality Permit

Public Interest Groups First to Challenge California Cap-and-Trade Rules

Long-Gone Lead Factories Leave Dangerous Poisons

Expert Says All Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Waste Needs Treatment

Historical Maps Go Digital

Coal States Fear for Future of the Industry

As Federal Funding Dries Up, States May Play Greater Clean Tech Role

NRDC Report: Drivers to Save $68 Billion by 2030 Under 54.5 MPG Standard

Beyond the Blue Bins: American Chemical Society Video on Recycling

Regulators Say No to More Fossil Fuel Power Generation in California

New Monitoring System Identifies Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel Burning

Trivia Question of the Week

Which of the following laws was enacted by Congress on October 20, 1965, and was the first broad attempt to address waste problems in the US?
a. Sanitary Disposal Act
b. Solid Waste Disposal Act
c. Land Disposal Program Flexibility Act
d. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act