Unpermitted Refinery Modifications to Cost Hess Corporation Over $45 Million
The EPA and the DOJ have announced that Hess Corporation has agreed to pay an $850,000 civil penalty and spend more than $45 million in new pollution controls to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at its Port Reading, New Jersey, refinery. More information on the Hess settlement can be found here.
Once fully implemented, the controls required by the settlement are estimated to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 181 tons per year and result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). High concentrations of NOx and VOCs, key pollutants emitted from refineries, can have adverse impacts on human health, including contributing to childhood asthma, and are significant contributors to smog.
"This settlement is the 31st such agreement with petroleum refineries across the nation. Hess joins a growing list of corporations who have entered into comprehensive and innovative agreements with the US that will result in cleaner, healthier air for communities across the nation,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ. “For example, this agreement will improve air quality for New Jersey residents by requiring Hess to install advanced pollution control and monitoring technology and adopt more stringent emissions limits."
The settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits, and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection, and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and processing units.
The government’s complaint, filed on April 19, 2012, alleged that the company made modifications to its refinery that increased emissions without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The CAA requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.
The state of New Jersey actively participated in the settlement with Hess and will receive half of the civil penalty.
The settlement with Hess is the 31st under EPA’s Petroleum Refinery Initiative to improve compliance among petroleum refiners and to reduce significant amounts of air pollution from refineries nationwide through comprehensive, company-wide enforcement settlements. The first of these settlements was reached in 2000. With this settlement, 108 refineries operating in 32 states and territories—more than 90% of the total refining capacity in the US—are under judicially enforceable agreements to significantly reduce emissions of pollutants. As a result of the settlement agreements, refiners have agreed to invest more than $6 billion in new pollution controls designed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants by over 360,000 tons per year.
The consent decree, lodged in the District of New Jersey, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.
DOT to Revise Hazardous Material Training and Other Requirements
DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently proposed miscellaneous amendments to the Hazardous Materials Regulations to update and clarify certain regulatory requirements. These proposed amendments are designed to promote safer transportation practices, eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements, address a petition for rulemaking, incorporate a special permit into the Hazardous Materials Regulations, facilitate international commerce, and simplify the regulations. Among other provisions, PHMSA is proposing to update various entries in the Hazardous Materials Table and corresponding special provisions, clarify the lab pack requirements for temperature-controlled materials, and revise the training requirements to require that a hazardous material employer must make hazardous materials employee training records available upon request to an authorized official of the DOT or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The draft of these amendments is available in the Federal Register, April 26, 2012 [Proposed Rules], pages 24885-24907.
Hilton Head RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, from May 23–25 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Orlando RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Orlando, Florida, from May 30–June 1 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, 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 Ensures Columbia Sportswear Company Properly Labels Pesticide-treated Clothing for Domestic Sale
Columbia Sportswear Company, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, sold and distributed mislabeled pesticide-treated clothing in violation of federal pesticide rules, according to a settlement with the EPA.
EPA found that the clothing labels lacked the required EPA pesticide registration number, a proper ingredient statement, a proper storage and disposal statement, and were missing the statement, “It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”
EPA immediately issued a Stop Sale Order on the products until they could be properly labeled by the company, which fully cooperated with EPA. The company will pay a fine of $22,880.
According to Scott Downey, manager of EPA’s pesticide unit in the Seattle office, pesticides must be properly labeled to ensure protection of human health and the environment.
EPA first learned about the misbranded products by monitoring pesticide imports and finding that one of the company’s shipments coming into the US had been denied entry at a foreign port. Further investigation revealed that several other shipments of clothing treated with Insect Blocker were returning to the US with foreign product labels and then erroneously being redirected for domestic sale. Domestic sale of items that include pesticides must meet US labeling requirements, which differ from those of other countries.
House Appropriations Committee Votes to Block CWA Protections in Funding Bill
In its bill funding the federal government, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee recently passed an amendment to block Clean Water Act (CWA) policies to protect the waters of the US.
“Clean water is critical to healthy communities and public welfare,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern. “Our waters are where our families swim, fish, and where we get our drinking water, and yet, polluters and their friends in Congress are trying to block the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA from protecting the nation’s streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands from harmful pollution.”
Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program Director, said, “We hope that the House will recognize that the Corps of Engineers and the EPA need to protect our waters from pollution and destruction.”
Mulhern also stated, “We strenuously object to the actions of the House Appropriations Committee members today, who are threatening public health and community safety all across the country for the narrow gain of some bad-actor industrial polluters.”
EPA Releases Innovative Mapping Tool to Improve Environmental Reviews and Planning
The EPA announced the public release of a web-based mapping tool developed for Federal agencies to facilitate more efficient and effective environmental reviews and project planning. The tool, NEPAssist, is part of an initiative developed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to modernize and reinvigorate federal agency implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) through innovation, public participation, and transparency. NEPAssist draws information from publicly available federal, state, and local datasets, allowing NEPA practitioners, stakeholders, and the public to view information about environmental conditions within the area of a proposed project quickly and easily at early stages of project development.
“NEPA helps ensure that Federal agencies protect the health of our communities and the natural resources that support our economy,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Making this tool available to the public will help make information more accessible, a key part of our effort to increase transparency for projects that impact American communities.”
“NEPAssist helps users identify the possible impacts of federal projects on local environments and communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). “By making tools like NEPAssist available to the public, EPA is helping citizens to be involved in environmental decisions that affect their community.”
NEPA requires all federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary process. NEPAssist is designed to help promote collaboration and early involvement in the NEPA process by raising important environmental issues at the earliest stages of project development. The mapping tool can be used by Federal agencies to identify alternative project locations, to avoid and minimize impacts, as well as identify potential mitigation areas.
In October 2011, NEPAssist was selected as a White House CEQ NEPA Pilot Project to improve the efficiency of Federal environmental reviews. CEQ has selected five NEPA Pilot Projects that will employ innovative approaches to completing environmental reviews that can be replicated across the Federal Government.
TDEC Incentive Increases Options for Pharmaceutical Drug Disposal
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with local law enforcement agencies across the state, recently announced plans to introduce 13 new permanent collection bins for Tennessee residents to properly dispose of used or unwanted medication.
Through TDEC’s new Pharmaceutical Collection Program, the permanent bins offer a safe and easy way to dispose of unwanted medication, while creating opportunities for residents to promote environmental protection and a safer community.
“Many citizens simply don’t know that throwing medication away with the household garbage or flushing it is not the preferred way to dispose of them,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “This joint effort is designed to educate citizens on the importance of appropriate disposal of pharmaceuticals, while increasing the number of locations for them to do so.”
As part of TDEC’s new program, permanent collection bin recipients were chosen from applications submitted by local law enforcement agencies, in return for their commitment to secure and monitor the bins. TDEC also will require a monthly report on the total of pounds collected.
“Monitoring across the nation has indicated the presence of pharmaceuticals in our surface water and waste water,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “DEC is pleased to present these new permanent collection drop-off boxes, offering a safe and viable disposal option to keep drugs out of our water and off the streets.”
TDEC Announces Pilot Program for Construction Stormwater Permitting
The TDEC recently announced a new pilot program designed to build efficiencies in how construction stormwater permits are issued, while satisfying the permit requirements at both the state and local levels and improving overall water quality.
Called the Tennessee Qualified Local Program (QLP), the new pilot program’s main intent is to eliminate the duplicative efforts of the current permitting process. Funding for the QLP pilot program is made possible through a Stormwater Innovation Grant awarded by the EPA. The grant objectives included developing criteria and incentives for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) to become a qualified local program. Some of the most significant benefits of a QLP include:
- A more streamlined and efficient process for managing construction stormwater by eliminating permit and review duplication at the local and state levels
- Eliminating additional effort at the state level for construction site operators by providing only one set of requirements to follow
- A more effective construction stormwater program resulting in greater water quality protection
While Tennessee’s QLP pilot will be implemented by TDEC, the program is based on EPA’s existing guidelines for similar programs. TDEC will review and approve up to four MS4s to pilot the QLP program for one year. There is a bill (SB 3187) under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams and Sen. Mike Bell, which would allow any MS4 to apply with TDEC to become a qualified local program. If that bill passes, it will be effective July 1, 2013, following the pilot period for the program.
“TDEC recognized there are many local jurisdictions throughout Tennessee that have developed an effective construction stormwater program of their own and have a solid regulatory program in place,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These cities are already designated as MS4s and are generally comprised of fast-growing urban communities.”
In order to achieve QLP status, the MS4 must demonstrate that its construction stormwater program meets or exceeds the provisions of the state’s Construction General Permit. After being selected to participate in the QLP program, an MS4 would be able to administer its own stormwater construction permitting program at the local level without duplicating the review and approval process at the state level.
In turn, the site owners or operators of new construction activities within the jurisdiction of the qualifying MS4 will be required to submit paperwork and any fees only at the local level, potentially saving up to $7,500 in state fees and taking less time by eliminating the additional effort at the state level. Permit coverage through the QLP program will authorize the operator of the construction activity to discharge stormwater associated with construction activity under both the state’s Construction General Permit and the QLP’s construction stormwater program. Other required permits, such as Aquatic Resource Alteration Permits, will still be handled by TDEC.
“Earlier this year Governor Haslam announced a comprehensive Top-to-Bottom review of all departments, which was a result of a year-long initiative he announced shortly after taking office,” added Martineau. “One of the key findings in TDEC’s report included opportunities for increased efficiency by streamlining processes and systems. The QLP pilot program is a move toward fulfilling that mission, while optimizing the department’s overall performance, accountability and efficiency and strengthening regulatory oversight at both the local and state levels.”
Critical to the success of this pilot program was the establishment of a diverse stakeholder committee representing a variety of groups, including MS4s; professional associations; universities; and members of government, development, and environmental communities. The advisory committee worked to develop the criteria and program incentives designed to encourage MS4s to achieve QLP status.
Additional information about Stormwater Construction General Permit requirements is available at http://www.tn.gov/environment/permits/conststrm.shtml.
Pennsylvania Pollution Officials Supported by Federal Appeals Court Ruling
In a major victory for public health and the environment in Pennsylvania, a federal court of appeals in Philadelphia issued a decision recently upholding the ruling of a trial court in favor of three employees and an ex-employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The appeals court opinion is seen as pivotal, since it allows state officials in Pennsylvania to enforce environmental laws without fear of personal financial disaster.
In the case, four employees from the Northeast Regional Office of the Pennsylvania DEP (Wilkes-Barre) were found liable for $6.5 million in damages while enforcing state public health rules. Subsequently, a federal judge ruled that there was not sufficient basis to award the damages to MFS, Inc., a former mineral wool manufacturer, and reversed the jury verdict. MFS then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
This appeals court opinion stated that “no basis for disturbing the District Court’s ruling” was found, and that the District Court opinion “was as well-reasoned as it was thorough.” The decision, made by a panel of three judges, was unanimous against MFS.
“This is a big victory for public health,” said Charles McPhedran, lead attorney for Earthjustice, who represented several Pennsylvania environmental and public health groups in the case. “This decision means that DEP staffers can do their job—without fear of personal attack. Now the cop can return to the beat.”
In an alarming and unprecedented verdict that sent shock waves through both state government and the environmental community in Pennsylvania, in March 2010 a state jury issued a $6.5M verdict personally against four current and former employees of the Pennsylvania DEP for violating the constitutional rights of MFS.
MFS’ operations at a plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had provoked many complaints from neighbors and local officials about air pollution. The DEP employees had responded with enforcement measures against the plant, which closed in 2006.
After trial, the federal judge found that the employees acted lawfully, and vacated the damage awards. Earthjustice and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) filed a friend of the court brief urging the Third Circuit court to affirm the trial judge’s decision in favor of the DEP workers, so that DEP could continue to effectively enforce the law and protect the public health. Joining the brief were Physicians for Social Responsibility—Philadelphia; Clean Air Council, an advocacy group in Pennsylvania; Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), a statewide advocacy group; and the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, a statewide professional group.
Earthjustice, PILCOP, and the groups underscore the severe chilling effect on law enforcement that would flow from subjecting government officials to trial in their personal capacities when they enforce environmental laws in good faith. With this victory, the groups look to discourage all such trials in the future.
IEA Urges Governments to Seize the Opportunity to Accelerate Clean Energy Deployment
While progress is being made on renewable energy, most clean energy technologies are not being deployed quickly enough, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced in an annual progress report presented to ministers and representatives of nations that together account for four-fifths of global energy demand.
The report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, highlighted the rapid progress made in some renewable technologies, notably the solar panels easily installed by households and businesses (solar PV) and in onshore wind technologies. In fact, onshore wind has seen 27% average annual growth over the past decade, and solar PV has grown at 42%, albeit from a small base. Even more impressive is the 75% reduction in system costs for solar PV in as little as three years in some countries. This serves as evidence that rapid technology change is possible. Unfortunately, however, the report concludes that most clean energy technologies are not on track to make their required contribution to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and thereby provide a more secure energy system.
“We have a responsibility and a golden opportunity to act,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director Ambassador Richard H. Jones. “Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs; under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would likely send global temperatures at least 6?C higher. Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental, and energy security hardships—a legacy that I know none of us wishes to leave behind.”
The report, which Ambassador Jones presented at the third Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in London, England, urges aggressive policy action to take full advantage of the benefits offered by clean energy technologies. In sounding the alarm over the report’s findings, Ambassador Jones stressed the positive role the CEM can play in improving the situation.
“The ministers meeting this week in London have an incredible opportunity before them,” he said. “It is my hope that they heed our warning of insufficient progress, and act to seize the security, economic, and environmental benefits that a clean-energy transition can bring.”
The report notes that many technologies with great potential for energy and emissions savings are making halting progress at best. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not seeing the necessary rates of investment to develop full-scale demonstration projects, and nearly half of new coal-fired power plants are still being built with inefficient technology. Vehicle fuel-efficiency improvement is slow, and significant untapped energy-efficiency potential remains in the building and industry sectors.
In addition, while government targets for electric vehicles (20 million by 2020) are ambitious, as are continued nuclear expansion plans in many countries, translating plans into reality is easier said than done. Manufacturers’ production targets for electric vehicles after 2014 are highly uncertain; and increasing public opposition to nuclear power is proving challenging to address.
The report offers three over-arching policy recommendations for changing this status quo and moving clean-energy technologies to the mainstream market:
First, level the playing field for clean energy technologies. This means ensuring that energy prices reflect the true cost of energy—accounting for the positive and negative impacts of energy production and consumption.
Second, unlock the potential of energy efficiency, the hidden fuel of the future. Making sure that energy is not wasted and that it is used in the best possible way is the most cost-effective action and must be the first step of any policy aimed at building a sustainable energy mix.
Finally, accelerate energy innovation and public support for research, development, and demonstration. This will help lay the groundwork for private sector innovation, and speed technologies to market.
Ambitious Solar Program in India Driving Prices to Impressive Lows
India’s ambitious national solar program has catalyzed rapid growth in the solar market, driving prices for solar energy to impressive lows and demonstrating how government policy can stimulate clean energy markets, according to Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future, a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW).
In only two years, competitive bidding under India’s National Solar Mission drove prices for grid-connected solar energy to nearly the price of electricity from fossil fuels. During that same period, cumulative installed solar capacity in India surged from 17.8 MW to over 500 MW.
“As the world’s second-fastest growing economy, India has sparked a powerful solar market in only two years,” said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Attorney for the NRDC’s India Initiative. “While the National Solar Mission still faces significant hurdles, India has already made important strides to attract new domestic and international players into the market, and lower the price of solar energy faster than most anticipated.”
The report from NRDC and CEEW provides recommendations to aid the Indian government, private sector, and other stakeholders in overcoming obstacles to achieving the Mission’s goal of 20 GW of installed solar capacity by 2022, equivalent in energy capacity to 40 mid-sized coal-fired power plants. These recommendations include:
Encourage Financing: To bolster confidence among financiers and overcome high interest rates in India, the Indian government should diligently enforce Renewables Purchase Obligations, support further development of the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) market, and share additional information on the Payment Security Mechanism, which covers potential defaults on payments. The Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry should work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to support solar energy investment, and the private sector should lead by syndicating loans and sharing experiences in India’s solar market.
Boost Domestic Manufacturing: India’s domestic content requirement (DCR), which was intended to nurture domestic manufacturing for silicon photovoltaic (PV) technology, has instead shifted the market toward thin-film PV, which does not fall under domestic manufacturing mandates and can therefore be imported at a lower cost. The Indian government should consider modifying the domestic content requirement to apply uniformly across all PV technologies or a percentage of PV components, as well as, adopting a different incentive to promote domestic manufacturing without restricting foreign imports. Simultaneously, manufacturers should strengthen existing networks to develop policy solutions that would ease barriers to manufacturing in India.
Create a Conducive Environment: The Indian government urgently needs to increase the information available on the Mission’s progress, from requiring solar projects to give periodic updates on their progress, to building confidence among investors with more transparency around technologies and commissioning processes. The central government should also work closely with state governments to facilitate land allocation for solar projects. The solar industry should create a network of solar energy groups, focused on resolving common industry concerns and interacting with government agencies to develop solutions for the entire supply chain.
“As nations race to become clean energy leaders, governments around the world will be closely following the progress of India’s National Solar Mission,” said Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, CEO for CEEW, an independent think-tank based in New Delhi. “It’s essential that the Indian government adapt its strategies under Phase Two of the Mission to boost confidence in projects and spur investment from a variety of funding sources and financial institutions.”
NRDC and CEEW’s report is the first independent, external analysis of the opportunities and hurdles faced by India’s National Solar Mission. The report draws from extensive discussions with stakeholders, and research and analysis of national, state, and international programs.
Owners of Felton King Co. Ordered to Clean Up Contaminated Metal Plating Business Site
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office have announced that Felton E. and Luwalia M. King of Phoenix, Arizona, have been ordered to complete the cleanup of contamination at the central Phoenix metal plating business they previously owned.
For several years, ADEQ made numerous attempts to work with the Kings to ensure that dangerous hazardous wastes were properly managed at the Kings’ business, which specialized in various types of plating.
In November 2008, ADEQ’s hazardous waste inspectors found that dangerous heavy metals like chromium and cadmium, and corrosive and acidic hazardous wastes, including cyanide, were being illegally stored on the property, leading to releases in the soil. In early 2009, Felton King Co., abandoned the property, leaving large quantities of hazardous waste behind.
Given the imminent threat to the surrounding community, ADEQ worked with EPA in June 2009 to remove the hazardous waste from the site and to clean up the most contaminated soil. Additional remediation is required, however, to prevent the hazardous waste remaining in the soil from migrating into the groundwater or off site where it could pose renewed risk to the community.
To address the remaining contamination, ADEQ officials filed suit against the Kings in June 2011. On March 29, 2012, the court ordered Felton King Co., and the Kings to complete the cleanup or to place $250,000 in a cleanup fund.
“We attempted unsuccessfully to work with Felton King Co., and Mr. King for many years to clean up this very dangerous site, which was near numerous homes,” said ADEQ Director Henry Darwin. “However, the company’s lack of cooperation forced us to seek this remedy.”
Natural Gas and Oil Drilling Company and Supervisor Sentenced for Negligent Violation of CWA
The Justice Department has announced that Integrated Production Services Inc., (IPS), a Houston, Texas-based natural gas and oil drilling contractor, was sentenced recently in federal court in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to pay a criminal fine of $140,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its hydraulic fracturing operation in Atoka County, Oklahoma.
Gabriel Henson, a crew supervisor for IPS, was sentenced to two years probation and a fine of $2,500.
In May 2007, IPS was performing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the Pettigrew 18-3H well site in Atoka County, Oklahoma, where Henson was a crew supervisor. IPS’s fracking operations included using hydrochloric acid to penetrate though bedrock and thousands of feet of substrata.
On May 24, 2007, a tank leaked an estimated 400-700 gallons of hydrochloric acid onto the earthen pad surface of the well site. The earthen pad was also flooded with water from recent heavy rainfall. In order to remove the rainwater from the well site, Henson drove a pickup truck owned by IPS through an earthen berm, causing the rainwater contaminated with hydrochloric acid to flow off the well pad and down into Dry Creek, a tributary of Boggy Creek, a water of the US under the CWA. Henson and IPS both pleaded guilty to a negligent violation of the CWA, on July 10, 2011, and September 21, 2011, respectively.
IPS was also sentenced to a community service payment of $22,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for ecological studies and remediation of Boggy Creek, located in the Eastern District of Oklahoma. IPS will serve a two-year period of probation, during which it will be required to implement and perform an Environmental Compliance Program at a cost of no less than $38,000 to train IPS employees regarding proper hazardous waste handling and spill response procedures.
Freeport-McMoRan Corp. and Freeport-McMoRan Morenci Inc. Will Pay $6.8 Million in Damages for Injuries to Natural Resources from the Morenci Copper Mine
The DOJ and the DOI recently announced that Freeport-McMoRan Corporation and Freeport-McMoRan Morenci Inc., (Freeport-McMoRan) have agreed to pay $6.8 million to settle federal and state natural resource damages claims related to the Morenci copper mine in southeastern Arizona.
The complaint, which was filed jointly by the US and the state of Arizona on April 24, 2012, in the US District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges that Freeport-McMoRan is civilly liable for injuries to natural resources that resulted from hazardous substance releases at and from Freeport-McMoRan’s Morenci Mine site. The complaint further alleges that surface waters, terrestrial habitat and wildlife, and migratory birds have been injured, destroyed, or lost as a result of releases of hazardous substances at and from the mine site. The hazardous substances that have been released include sulfuric acid and metals. The cause of action for natural resource damages is based on Section 107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended. Historically, the Morenci Mine was owned and operated by Phelps Dodge Corporation until that company was acquired by Freeport-McMoRan entities in 2007.
Under the consent decree lodged in federal court, Freeport-McMoRan will pay $6.8 million to the US Department of the Interior’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund. This money will be used by the federal and state natural resources trustees to plan and implement projects designed to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of wildlife and wildlife habitat in the vicinity of the impacted area. Of this amount, $98,000 is designated for payment to the Department of the Interior for its remaining unpaid past damage assessment costs. Freeport-McMoran has already repaid over $842,000 in injury assessment costs.
“Today’s settlement will help compensate the people of Arizona for the loss of habitat and wildlife, and the injuries to the overall quality of the local environment caused by open-pit mining at the Morenci Mine,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement also fosters federal and state efforts to restore and protect important wildlife habitat in injured areas.”
“Mining has long been, and continues to be, an important part of Arizona’s history and economy,” said Ann Birmingham Scheel, Acting US Attorney for the District of Arizona. “Likewise, protecting Arizona’s environment has long been, and continues to be, a priority for the US Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice. This settlement strikes a balance between mining and protecting the environment and will allow the natural resources trustees to focus on restoration efforts rather than on litigation.”
The designated natural resources trustees for the Morenci Mine area include the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and the Trustee for Natural Resources for the State of Arizona.
This is the second settlement with Freeport-McMoRan Corporation and its mining subsidiaries in as many months. On February 21, 2012, the federal district court in New Mexico approved a consent decree between the US, the state of New Mexico, and Freeport-McMoRan entities that resolved natural resource damages claims at three Freeport-McMoRan mining sites in southwestern New Mexico.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the District of Arizona, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval.
Ultra Resources Inc. Fined $40,000 for Operating Illegal Potter County Transfer Station
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Ultra Resources Inc., of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, $40,000 for operating an illegal transfer station at a well pad in West Branch Township, Pennsylvania.
DEP staff inspected the site in late February 2011 and found 47 wheelie storage tanks on-site that were holding more than 760,000 gallons of raw flowback fluid that Ultra was using for hydraulic fracturing at other area sites.
“This kind of activity requires a residual waste transfer station permit from the department,” DEP East Region Oil and Gas Program Manager Jennifer Means said. “Because no wells were ever drilled at this site, and because the well permits actually expired while this activity was taking place, we determined that Ultra never intended to use the stored fluid for drilling at this site.”
Department inspections conducted in March and July 2011 documented additional violations of the Oil and Gas Act, including the failure to post well permit numbers at the site.
DEP issued a notice of violation to Ultra in late July 2011 and then discovered additional violations during an inspection the following month. Those violations included flowback fluids around the wheelie tanks and on the containment liner, failure to properly stabilize several areas of the well pad and access road, and improper construction of a sediment basin.
Ultra submitted a report to DEP in early October 2011 that documented the corrective actions it took at the Fowler well site to address the violations. A DEP inspection in November 2011 confirmed that all violations had been corrected.
Idaho Milk Products Dairy Processing Facility Failed to Publicly Disclose Chemical Use and Disposal
Idaho Milk Products processes tens of millions of pounds of milk annually at its facility in Jerome, Idaho.
The facility used several hundred thousand pounds of nitric acid as a cleaning agent in 2009. When treated, nitric acid produces nitrate compounds, which the company released to the local wastewater treatment plant. Idaho Milk Products is required under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to report toxic chemical releases. According to EPA, the company failed to report the treatment and disposal of nitric acid and nitrate compounds in 2009.
Nitric acid can harm the eyes, skin, respiratory system, and teeth.
The company has submitted the required reports to EPA and the State of Idaho to resolve the violations and agreed to pay a penalty of $52,100.
Under the federal TRI Program, companies that use certain toxic chemicals are required to report annually about releases, transfers, and waste management activities involving toxic chemicals at their facilities. The TRI Program falls under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which aims to inform communities and citizens of chemical hazards in their neighborhoods.
EPA Takes Action to Stop Sales of Illegal Pesticides
The EPA has issued legal complaints against two Brooklyn stores for violating federal pesticides law by selling and distributing illegal pesticides. Products used to kill pests must be registered with EPA to ensure that they will not make people sick and contain labels with instructions on their proper use. In September 2011, EPA inspections of two Brooklyn establishments, Man Li Trading, Inc., and Hong Kong Supermarket, revealed that they were selling various pesticide products that had not been registered with the EPA. Among the unregistered products found were mosquito repellants, various types of mothballs and a toilet bowl cleaner.
“The sale of illegal pesticides puts the health and safety of our communities at risk,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Store owners have a responsibility to make sure the pesticide products they sell have the required EPA labels. I encourage all retailers to check their shelves to make sure they are not endangering the health of their customers by selling illegal pesticides.”
Pesticides have been linked to various forms of illnesses in humans, ranging from skin and eye irritation to cancer. Some pesticides may also affect the hormone or endocrine systems. In many situations, there are non-chemical methods that will effectively control pests. The EPA recommends considering and using alternative methods as part of an overall pest management strategy.
The inspections that led to the two legal actions targeted stores in neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. During these inspections, 350 illegal pesticide products were confiscated. Earlier this year, orders to stop the sale of the illegal pesticides discovered during the inspections were issued to both Man Li Trading and Hong Kong Supermarket.
Under federal pesticides law, all products sold in the US that contain pesticides must be registered with the EPA. Before a pesticide product is registered, the producer of the product must provide data from tests conducted according to EPA guidelines to ensure that the product will not be harmful to people’s health. The EPA examines the ingredients and the way in which the product will be used, and assesses a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with its use. Distributors and retailers are responsible for ensuring that all pesticides distributed and sold fully comply with the law.
BNSF Railway Company Fined for Improperly Handling Contaminated Soil
The BNSF Railway Company has settled with the EPA for mishandling and transportation of contaminated soil from a construction project near the McCormick & Baxter Superfund site on the banks of the Willamette River in Oregon. The BNSF Railway Company will pay a $37,500 penalty as part of the agreement.
Documents associated with this action show that BNSF Railway Company excavated and removed at least three truckloads (36 cubic yards) of soil containing a listed hazardous waste, pentachlorophenol. EPA alleges that BNSF Railway Company then:
- Failed to properly characterize the excavated waste
- Failed to lawfully store and manage the waste on site
- Failed to properly transport the contaminated soil from the site to a disposal facility equipped and permitted to handle such waste
Each failure was a violation of federal hazardous waste law, enforced by EPA to protect communities and the environment. Although BNSF’s contractor performed the work BNSF is responsible for ensuring that all construction projects are performed in a safe and lawful manner.
According to Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, BNSF Railway Company has ample experience in handling, managing, transporting, and disposing of contaminated soil.
Pentachlorophenol, a manufactured chemical, was used in wood treating that took place while the McCormick & Baxter facility operated. It is a restricted use pesticide that has been used industrially for decades as a wood preservative for utility poles, railroad ties, and wharf pilings. Exposure to high levels of pentachlorophenol has been shown to cause liver damage, harm the immune system, and have damaging reproductive and developmental effects. EPA has also identified pentachlorophenol as a probable human carcinogen.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) was instrumental in bringing this situation to the attention of EPA. In October, 2009, inspectors from ODEQ, who happened to visit the McCormick & Baxter site, observed employees of BNSF Railway Company’s contractor excavating soil close to the known cap boundary (finished in 2005).
Subsequent sampling and analysis of excavated soils confirmed the presence of constituents of various wood-treating preservatives, and pentachlorophenol in particular. Further investigation by EPA and ODEQ over the next several months brought the additional violations to light.
Under the terms of the agreement, BNSF Railway Company will pay the $37,500 penalty.
By signing the agreement, BNSF Railway Company did not admit to the allegations contained in the agreement.
Charges Against “Dirtman” for Operating Two Large Illegal Landfills in NYC Watershed Area and Polluting State’s Drinking Water
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that a grand jury has indicted Anthony Adinolfi (aka, “Dirtman”) for the operation of two large unpermitted construction and demolition debris landfills within the New York City Watershed, which provides approximately 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water to nearly one-half the population of New York State every day. From approximately January 2010 through October 2011, these illegal landfills, both in Putnam County, New York, had been accepting construction and demolition debris containing waste such as tile, plastic, coal, and coal ash, in violation of numerous environmental statutes. Some of these materials eroded and were discharged into nearby New York State waters, including the Croton Falls Reservoir, which is part of the water supply that provides drinking water to New York residents.
Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) Article 27 and the underlying regulations provide that no person may construct or operate a solid waste management facility without first obtaining a permit from DEC. Solid waste management facilities are also subject to strict operational and closure requirements to avoid the adverse impacts to public health and the environment associated with solid waste.
According to the felony complaint filed November 29, 2011, Adinolfi, the defendant, agreed with private owners of the two watershed properties that he would arrange for fill to be dumped on their property in order to fill in and grade steeply-sloped areas. Through 2010 and 2011, the complaint charges that the defendant arranged for hundreds of truck-loads of fill to be dumped on these two properties—sometimes as much as 10-15 truck loads per day.
Waste composition analysis of multiple samples taken from the debris dumped at these two properties showed that the samples contained coal ash and slag. Coal ash and slag typically contain hazardous substances and carcinogens.
Although New York State environmental laws and regulations prohibit charging fees for dumping this type of debris, Adinolfi charged truck drivers $75 per truck load for dumping privileges. Bank records show that between 2010 and 2011, Adinolfi, through his company Dirtman Enterprises Inc., earned over $300,000 from operating these unpermitted landfills.
The grand jury charged Adinolfi with several felony counts for violations of the New York State ECL, including ECL 71-2703(2), for operating an unpermitted solid waste management facility, a class E Felony, and ECL 71-1933(4)(a)(ii), for causing stormwater discharges without a permit, a class E Felony. If convicted, Adinolfi could face up to one and one third to four years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Adinolfi is also the defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by the State in October 2010 concerning his illegal operation of a landfill at 737 Croton Falls Road. The State has already obtained a preliminary injunction against Adinolfi and others prohibiting them from unlawfully polluting the City of New York’s Croton Falls Reservoir, adjacent to the site. The lawsuit also seeks to require Adinolfi and others to remove the construction and demolition debris and other wastes disposed there, remediate the site, and pay civil penalties.
Environmental News Links
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Energy Department Announces Solar Plug-and-Play Funding
Small Business Efficiency, Renewable Research Funding
New Climate and Clean Air Coalition Expands to 13 Members
Former BP Employee Arrested for Allegedly Destroying Evidence of Oil Released
State of the Air 2012: American Lung Association Reports Improvements, Challenges
Pesticides: EPA is Pressed to Ban Chemicals that Studies Link to Honeybees’ Demise
Toxin Threatens Valley Water
Carbon Price Needed to Halt Warming, NASA Chief Says
Lead Contamination Lingers in Some Communities
EPA, NREL Launch Tools to Site Renewables on Brownfields, Parking Lots, Vacant Land
New Book Examines Our Addiction to Garbage
Showdown Over Coal Ash Rule Looming in Senate
Microsoft Wants Future Data Centers to Run on Landfill Gas
Trivia Question of the Week
National statistics suggest that what percentage of Americans improperly dispose of outdated or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs?