EPA Postpones Mercury Air Toxics Rule
On February 16, 2012, the EPA issued the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal- and Oil-fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Fossil-Fuel-Fired Electric Utility, Industrial-Commercial-Institutional, and Small Industrial-Commercial Institutional Steam Generating Units, generally referred to as the mercury and air toxics standards (MATS Rule), which established emissions standards for new and existing coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units. The EPA received petitions, pursuant to section 307(d)(7)(B) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), from a number of interested parties requesting reconsideration of certain issues in the rule. On July 20, 2012, the EPA issued a letter, stating its intent to grant the petitions for reconsideration on certain new source issues related to the emission standards issued under CAA section 112, including measurement issues related to mercury and the data set to which the variability calculation was applied when establishing the new source standards for particulate matter and hydrochloric acid.
In its letter granting the petitions for reconsideration on certain issues relating to the CAA section 112 new source standards, the EPA stated that it intended to exercise its authority under section 307(d) to stay the effectiveness of those new source standards for 3 months.
The stay was published in the August 2, 2013 Federal Register.
EPA Identifies Substitutes for Toxic Flame Retardant Chemical
In its quest to identify possible substitutes for a toxic flame retardant chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), the EPA has released a draft report on alternatives. This comprehensive assessment, developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, profiles the environmental and human health hazards on 30 alternatives to decaBDE, which will be phased out of production by December 2013.
DecaBDE is a common flame retardant used in electronics, vehicles, and building materials. It can cause adverse developmental effects, can persist in the environment, and can bioaccumulate in people and animals. This technical assessment can help manufacturers identify alternatives to decaBDE. In addition, EPA will continue to work with manufacturers to investigate both chemical and non-chemical alternatives for flame retardants.
“EPA is using all of its tools to reduce the use of hazardous flame retardant chemicals like decaBDE and identify safer, functional substitutes to protect people’s health and the environment,” said Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). “Virtually everyone agrees that EPA needs updated authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to more effectively assess and regulate potentially harmful chemicals like flame retardants. As EPA continues to stress the need for comprehensive legislative reform to TSCA, we are also targeting actions on a broader group of flame retardants to reduce human and environmental risks.”
This draft report is the latest in a series of actions the agency is taking to address flame retardants made with bromine. Other actions include:
On June 1, 2012, EPA released a TSCA work plan of 18 chemicals which the agency intends to review and use to develop risk assessments in 2013 and 2014, including three flame retardant chemicals. EPA is currently developing a strategy, scheduled for completion by the end of this year that will address these three and a broader set of flame retardant chemicals. This effort will aid the agency in focusing risk assessments on those flame retardant chemicals that pose the greatest potential concerns. EPA anticipates initiating the risk assessments on this category of chemicals in 2013.
On April 2, 2012, EPA proposed actions under TSCA that will require manufacturers, importers, and processors of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants to submit information to the agency for review before initiating any new uses of PBDEs after December 31, 2013. Those who continue to manufacture, import, or process after December 31, 2013, would be subject to a testing requirement under TSCA. EPA is accepting comments on this proposal until July 31, 2012.
In 2009, EPA developed action plans on PBDEs (including pentaBDE, octaBDE, and decaBDE) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) that summarized available hazard, exposure, and use information; outlined potential risks; and identified the specific steps the agency is pursuing under the TSCA. The alternatives analysis for decaBDE was included in the action plan.
The alternatives to decaBDE characterized in the report are already on the market and will be used increasingly as decaBDE is phased out. The alternatives have differing hazard characteristics and are associated with trade-offs. For example, some alternatives that appear to have a relatively positive human health profile may be more persistent in the environment. Some alternatives appear to be less toxic than decaBDE. Preliminary data suggests that these flame retardants may have a lower potential for bioaccumulation in people and the environment. It is important to understand that these health and environmental profiles are largely based on computer-model generated estimates, and that the models are limited in their ability to predict concern. Laboratory testing and ongoing environmental monitoring is necessary to fully understand the potential for concern associated with these chemicals.
EPA’s DfE Alternatives Assessment Program helps industries choose safer chemicals and offers a basis for informed decision-making by providing a detailed comparison of the potential public health and environmental impacts of chemical alternatives. Throughout the partnership, stakeholders, including chemical suppliers, product manufacturers, and non-government organizations have provided valuable information to support the development of these draft reports. EPA is seeking stakeholder and public input on this draft report for 60 days.
Birmingham RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Birmingham, Alabama, from August 14–16 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 September 10–14, and 24-Hour HAZWOPER training September 10–12 in Cary, North Carolina. To register for either HAZWOPER course, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Pittsburgh RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from September 11–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, 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:
Certain CAA Compliance Reports Must Now Be Submitted Online
EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) announced that compliance reports submitted or due on or after August 31, 2012 must be submitted via EPA's Central Data Exchange (CDX). The requirement affects parties subject to reporting requirements under 40 CFR 80, including requirements pertaining to reformulated gasoline, anti-dumping, gasoline sulfur, ultra-low sulfur diesel, benzene content, and the renewable fuel standard. This requirement also affects parties subject to greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting requirements related to coal-based liquid fuels and petroleum products under 40 CFR 98, subparts LL and MM.
The reporting procedures described in this notice are effective starting with reports due or submitted to EPA on or after August 31, 2012. For additional information, contact Anne-Marie C. Pastorkovich, Attorney/Advisor, EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (6406J), Washington, DC 20460; 202-343-9623; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New EPA Tool Helps Estimate the Affordability of Water Pollution Control Requirements
EPA has released a new, web-based tool to help evaluate the economic and social impacts of pollution controls needed to meet water quality standards set for specific uses for a waterbody, such as swimming or fishing. This tool could be used by states, territories, tribes, local governments, industry, municipalities, and stormwater management districts.
The tool can help you identify and organize the necessary information, and perform the calculations to evaluate the costs of pollution control requirements necessary to meet specific water quality standards. The tool prompts users to submit treatment technology information, alternative pollution reduction techniques and their costs and efficiencies, and financing information, as well as explain where that information can be found.
EPA and USDA Announce Microbial Risk Assessment Guidance
The EPA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have announced the first-ever Microbal Risk Assessment (MRA) Guideline. This new MRA Guideline lays out an overarching approach to conducting meaningful assessments of the risks to Americans posed by pathogens in food and water. Pathogens ingested in food and water can result in acute gastrointestinal-related illnesses; some gastrointestinal-related illnesses can result in long-term and permanent health effects as well as premature death. This new guideline will improve the quality of the data collected by public health scientists charged with protecting Americans from pathogen-related risks in food and water.
“This guidance contributes significantly to improving the quality and consistency of microbial risk assessments, and provides greater transparency to stakeholders and other interested parties in how federal agencies approach and conduct their microbial risk assessments,” said Dr. Glenn Paulson, EPA Science Advisor. “Based on the success of this project, we are seeking further opportunities to combine our technical expertise in our continuing efforts to protect the Americans’ health.”
“The MRA guideline developed by FSIS, the EPA, and our other public health partners will help protect consumers by allowing us to uniformly assess and reduce health risks from pathogens,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “We’re proud to have worked with our partners on this guideline that will provide our risk assessors with a transparent and scientifically rigorous document to use in protecting public health.”
Formal risk assessments for food, water, and environmentally-relevant chemicals have been undertaken for decades. However, an overarching MRA guideline has not been available until now. This guideline meets this need by providing comprehensive, yet specific and descriptive information for developing assessments of microbial risk in food and water.
Cal/EPA Releases Draft Environmental Health Screening Tool for Public Input
A proposal for a valuable new tool to screen the environmental health of California’s communities is being released by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) for review and input by the general public and stakeholders.
The draft California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) uses existing environmental, health, and socio-economic data to compare the cumulative impacts of environmental pollution on the state’s communities.
“Our objective is to provide state and local decision makers with information that will enable them to focus their time, resources, and programs on those portions of the state that are most in need of assistance,” said Cal/EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. “We look forward to working with a diverse group of stakeholders and the public in order to refine and improve this tool.”
“The draft screening tool is meant to present a broad picture of the burdens and vulnerabilities different areas face from environmental pollutants,” said George Alexeeff, Director of Cal/EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).
While the draft CalEnviroScreen is a work in progress, the final version is expected to be an important aid to ongoing planning and decision making by Cal/EPA and other entities. In a time of limited resources, the tool can help provide insight into how those resources can be best used to improve the environmental health of all Californians.
Potential uses include guidance for grant allocations and prioritizing cleanup and abatement projects to direct resources to the communities with the greatest need. The tool could also help to prioritize enforcement of environmental laws and inform planning decisions about sustainable economic development investments in heavily impacted communities.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with Cal/EPA and OEHHA on their efforts to address Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts in a thoughtful and meaningful manner,” said Bill Quinn, Vice President of the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance. “We are pleased to be a part of the Cumulative Impacts & Precautionary Approaches (CIPA) Workgroup and look forward to many productive meetings. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to provide real solutions to community concerns including that of protecting and creating jobs.”
Cal/EPA is committed to an open and public process for developing the final tool. Input from California communities, the general public, businesses, and other stakeholders is critical to the success of this project. To maximize its value, Cal/EPA is seeking comments about the data sources and methodologies in the draft and ways to best use the tool in decision making.
The release of the draft proposal will be followed by an August 7 meeting of the CIPA Work Group and a series of five public workshops during the month of August. The August 7 meeting will be held in Sacramento and workshops will follow on August 21 in Los Angeles, August 22 in San Bernardino, August 23 in San Diego, September 5 in Fresno, and September 6 in Oakland. Cal/EPA is also seeking peer-review from academic experts at a September 7 public meeting in Seaside.
The deadline for submitting public comments is September 18. The final Work Group meeting on the draft tool will be held on October 9 in Sacramento, and release of the final tool will follow later this year.
Development of the tool stems from Cal/EPA’s Environmental Justice Action Plan. The draft implements and expands on Cal/EPA’s December 2010 report, “Cumulative Impacts: Building A Scientific Foundation.”
To comment on the draft CalEnviroScreen Tool, contact:
OEHHA 1515 Clay St., Suite 1600
Oakland, CA 94612
SolarWorld USA Agrees to Pay $18,090 for Waste Acid Spill Violations
A solar energy manufacturer has agreed to pay the state $18,090 to settle violations related to a 2007 waste acid solution leak, including failing to report the incident and take other appropriate actions.
In 2007, several hundred gallons of the waste acid solution leaked when a tank failed at the SolarWorld’s former Vancouver manufacturing plant and released the acid to the soil. The acid carved a hole through a concrete containment system and penetrated 48 feet into the ground.
Upon discovery, SolarWorld contained the leak and hired an environmental consultant. However, SolarWorld did not report the spill to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) as required. The company did report the spill to the property owner when closing the Vancouver plant in 2011, and the property owner notified Ecology.
The violations at SolarWorld include failing to notify Ecology after the waste acid spill and failing to take appropriate actions to control and offset effects of the spill at the time it occurred. In May 2011, Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program determined that no further action was required to offset effects of the spill.
In addition, as workers closed the facility, their activities caused a threat to stormwater and groundwater, which is a violation of water quality laws. Metal grit and petroleum hydrocarbons were released on the property, which threatened stormwater and groundwater. In this case, the company immediately notified Ecology and stopped, contained and cleaned up the spill.
The penalty was originally $27,000, but SolarWorld entered into an expedited settlement agreement with Ecology to reduce the recommended penalty by one-third to $18,090. The settlement requires SolarWorld to waive its right to appeal.
The expedited settlement process is offered to companies that have cooperated with Ecology to correct violations and worked with Ecology to come back into compliance. Ecology used this expedited settlement process in an effort to save the state, taxpayers, and SolarWorld the expense of costly litigation.
Climate Change Reports Highlight Impacts and Challenges for California
Facing the severe threat of climate change, California policymakers and researchers announced new data to reduce and adapt to climate change in the Golden State.
According to new reports released by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission, state and local leaders now have a wealth of detailed information about adapting to climate change. The findings were announced at a news conference at the California Emergency Management Agency.
“Significant increases in wildfires, floods, severe storms, drought, and heat waves are clear evidence that climate change is happening now. California is stepping up to lead the way in preparing for—and adapting to—this change,” said Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “These reports use cutting-edge science to provide an analytical roadmap, pointing the way for taking concrete steps to protect our natural resources and all Californians.”
The new data will help state and local communities to protect public health, grow the State’s economy, ensure energy reliability, and safeguard the environment. Conducted by 26 research teams from numerous academic institutions, the reports comprise the State’s third climate change assessment released since 2006.
“We know that climate change will significantly affect the state’s energy supply and demand,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “This groundbreaking research gives us the data and analytical tools we need to better plan, forecast, and prepare to meet the state’s energy needs as we face climate challenges.”
This new assessment, guided by various state agencies and independent scientific experts, offers findings on current and projected impacts of climate change on the state’s energy, water, agriculture, coastal regions, and public health. The reports provide vital data for taking action, with studies focused on assessing local and regional barriers and opportunities for adapting to a shifting climate. Areas of focus include the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Santa Barbara. The assessment is part of California’s evidence-based statewide approach to reducing the risks of climate change, as directed by the Governor’s Office.
“The Governor is committed to rigorous climate science and understanding the impacts of climate change on California so that we can respond, adapt, and continue to prosper,” said Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Brown, and Director of the Office of Planning and Research. “Wise investment in our State’s future depends on the science, and is key to strengthening California’s economy and protecting the health of our citizens.”
This assessment follows up on discussions and topics presented at the Governor’s Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California’s Future, held last December in San Francisco. The new studies will provide a foundation for the 2012 Climate Adaptation Strategy, with completion expected in December 2012.
The reports also offer crucial guidance for effective emergency response.
“CAL FIRE knows what it’s like to battle a fire on the ground, and that firefighters must have the right tools to prevail,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, Director, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). “These studies provide the tools we need now to further our plans for the risks that climate change brings: more frequent and more intense wildfires, longer fire seasons, and a decline in the health of our state’s conifers.”
State and local firefighters have already responded to more than 1,000 fires this year compared to the same time last year.
“These studies use the best and most innovative science to help us better understand how vulnerable California is to climate change and what we can do to adapt,” said Dr. Susanne Moser, a Santa-Cruz based researcher who contributed to the assessment studies. “It’s clear that reducing climate change risks cannot be done with reducing GHG emissions alone, though that remains a top priority. These studies show that climate change is being felt in California now and will have more severe impacts in the future unless we plan ahead.”
Findings of the assessment studies include the following:
1. California will continue to get hotter.
- Statewide average temperatures increased by about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit from 1895 to 2011. Temperatures are expected to rise by 2.7 degrees above 2000 averages by 2050.
- Temperatures will rise more in inland areas than in coastal areas. Historically, in Sacramento, temperatures of 101 F or higher have occurred four times a year on average. There may be as many as 25 such days by 2050. If GHG emissions decrease, that number would decrease.
- Each degree of increase in mean daily apparent temperature—a combination of temperature and humidity—corresponds to an increase in mortality from various cardiovascular conditions, and elevated risks of hospitalization for at-risk populations. Research focused on Fresno County and the San Francisco Bay Area found minority and low-income residents have significantly lower access to common ways of coping with heat, such as shade from tree canopies and transportation to cooling centers.
- Wildfire risk will be higher, possibly more than doubling before 2085 in some areas.
2. California will get drier.
- By the latter half of this century, dry water years are expected to increase by 8% in the Sacramento Valley and by 32% in the San Joaquin Valley, compared to the latter half of the 20th century.
- The state’s lack of a groundwater tracking and monitoring system currently hampers appropriate planning.
3. California will see accelerated rising sea levels.
- Sea level along California’s coastline rose about seveninches in the last century. The rate is expected to accelerate. By 2050, sea level could be 10–18 inches higher than in 2000.
- If sea level rises 16 inches higher than it is now, a 100-year flood would prohibit access to 23 emergency-responder fire stations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Rising sea levels raise the risk of saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater supplies, and into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
- As early as 2050, what is currently considered a 100-year-storm may become an annual event. In addition, sea-level rise, combined with wind and waves, will make storms along the coast more destructive.
- Scientists have known for years that many of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s island interiors are subsiding at a rate of about two inches per year due to compaction, dewatering of peat soils, wind erosion, and oxidation, but new satellite data show regionwide subsidence of about 0.2 inches per year that was detected at several levee sites. The new data do not increase the level of risk in the Delta. However, faster than historical rates of sea-level rise along the California coast continue to pose serious risks, whereby many levees could fall below safety design thresholds as early as 2050. Continued monitoring of levees using satellite techniques is a cost-effective approach for levee safety planning.
4. California’s power supply is vulnerable.
- The electrical sector is more vulnerable to climate change than was previously understood. Key transmission corridors are vulnerable to wildfire, and coastal power plants are vulnerable to flooding.
- Electrical transmission lines lose 7–8% of their transmitting capacity in high temperatures, just when demand rises.
5. California’s wildlife and agriculture are threatened.
- An estimated 83% of the state’s 121 native freshwater fish species are at high risk of extinction.
- “Migration corridors” should be protected to allow animal and plant species to relocate to more suitable habitats as the climate changes.
- The state’s agriculture sector, which generates more than $30 billion a year and provides more than one million jobs, can thrive if appropriate crop- and location-specific measures are taken.
- The most vulnerable agricultural areas in the state are in the Salinas Valley, the corridor between Merced and Fresno, Imperial Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Transparent Solar Cells for Windows That Generate Electricity
Scientists are reporting development of a new transparent solar cell, an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside. Their report, Visibility Transparent Polymer Solar Cells Produced by Solution Processing appears in the journal ACS Nano.
Yang Yang, Rui Zhu, Paul S. Weiss, and colleagues explain that there has been intense world-wide interest in so-called polymer solar cells (PSCs), which are made from plastic-like materials. PSCs are lightweight and flexible and can be produced in high volume at low cost. That interest extends to producing transparent PSCs. However, previous versions of transparent PSCs have had many disadvantages, which the team set out to correct.
They describe a new kind of PSC that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells 66% transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current. Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allowed the solar cell to be fabricated economically by solution processing. The authors suggest the panels could be used in smart windows or portable electronics.
Earth’s Oceans and Ecosystems Still Absorbing About Half the GHG Emitted by People
Earth’s oceans, forests, and other ecosystems continue to soak up about half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere by human activities, even as those emissions have increased, according to a study by University of Colorado and NOAA scientists published in the journal Nature.
The scientists analyzed 50 years of global CO2 measurements and found that the processes by which the planet’s oceans and ecosystems absorb the GHG are not yet at capacity.
“Globally, these CO2 sinks have roughly kept pace with emissions from human activities, continuing to draw about half of the emitted CO2 back out of the atmosphere. However, we do not expect this to continue indefinitely,” said NOAA’s Pieter Tans, a climate researcher with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and co-author of the study. The University of Colorado’s Ashley Ballantyne is lead author.
CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere mainly by fossil fuel combustion but also by forest fires and some natural processes. The gas can also be pulled out of the atmosphere into the tissues of growing plants or absorbed by the waters of Earth’s oceans. A series of recent studies suggested that natural sinks of CO2 might no longer be keeping up with the increasing rate of emissions. If that were to happen, it would cause a faster-than-expected rise in atmospheric CO2 and projected climate change impacts.
Ballantyne, Tans and their colleagues saw no faster-than-expected rise, however. Their estimate showed that overall, oceans and natural ecosystems continue to pull about half of people’s CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. Since emissions of CO2 have increased substantially since 1960, Ballantyne said, “Earth is taking up twice as much CO2 today as it was 50 years ago.”
The rest continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, where it is likely to accelerate global warming.
This new global analysis makes it clear that scientists do not yet understand well enough the processes by which ecosystems of the world are removing CO2 from the atmosphere, or the relative importance of possible sinks: regrowing forests on different continents, for example, or changing absorption of CO2 by various ocean regions.
“Since we don’t know why or where this process is happening, we cannot count on it,” Tans said. “We need to identify what’s going on here, so that we can improve our projections of future CO2 levels and how climate change will progress in the future.”
Tans, Ballantyne and colleagues at the University of Colorado, including the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, dissected the long-term records of CO2 levels measured by NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at remote sites around the world, including the top of a mountain in Hawaii and the South Pole. Those CO2 levels reflect global averages of the GHG, which are affected by natural cycles as well as people’s activities.
The researchers also scrutinized national and international inventories or bookkeeping estimates of CO2 emissions by people and compared those to the increasing atmospheric levels of the gas.
“The uptake of CO2 by the oceans and by ecosystems is expected to slow down gradually,” Tans said. Oceans, for example, are already becoming more acidic as they absorb about a quarter of the CO2 pumped into the air by human activities. “As the oceans acidify, we know it becomes harder to stuff even more CO2 into the oceans,” Tans said. “We just don’t see a letup, globally, yet.”
Mapping Tool that Aided First Responders in Gulf spill Expanded to Arctic
A new federal interactive online mapping tool used by emergency responders during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been expanded to include the Arctic, and will help address numerous challenges in the Arctic posed by increasing ship traffic and proposed energy development.
NOAA and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), called the Environmental Response Management Application, known as ERMA, an important step forward for the Arctic region.
“The addition of Arctic ERMA will be a tremendous benefit to responders in this rapidly developing region,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This scientific tool could provide essential information in responding to potential oil spills and pollution releases in the Arctic.”
“We are committed to a comprehensive, science-based approach to energy policy in the Arctic,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes. “This initiative is part of the Administration’s commitment to continuing the expansion of safe and responsible production of our domestic resources and is an exciting step forward in our efforts to collect, synthesize, and deliver relevant information to decision-makers.”
“I know first-hand how critical it is for emergency responders to have the common operating picture ERMA provides,” said BSEE director James A. Watson. “With the potential for oil and natural gas development, as well as increased shipping activity offshore Alaska, it is essential that responders have access to real-time information that provides full situational awareness. That’s why I’m so pleased that BSEE was able to partner with NOAA to help complete this invaluable application.”
ERMA brings together all of the available information needed for an effective emergency response in the Arctic. In an emergency situation, ERMA is equipped with near real-time oceanographic observations and weather data from NOAA, and critical environmental, commercial, and industrial data information from BSEE, and numerous other federal and state response agencies. Responders can further customize the tool with environmental, logistical, and operational data such as fishery closure areas, resources at risk maps, and mariner notices, depending on the need.
Integrating and synthesizing real-time and static data into a single interactive map, ERMA provides a quick visualization of the situation, improving communication and coordination
among responders and stakeholders. NOAA developed Arctic ERMA to be better prepared for escalating energy exploration and transportation activity in the region.
“After observing the positive way in which the ERMA assisted response efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, I believe it is highly important to support the continued development of an Arctic ERMA. It will be useful to communities, public agencies, and the private sector as a tool to guide many activities,” said Fran Ulmer, chair, US Arctic Research Commission.
The Alaska Ocean Observing System, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the University of New Hampshire, as well as Alaska’s Arctic boroughs, are working with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to keep this database current. Data includes the traditional and local knowledge of cultural and subsistence resources. They also include observations of the extent and concentration of sea ice, locations of ports and pipelines, and vulnerable environmental resources. Information in Arctic ERMA is pulled from many innovative and current sources, including data provided through a recent Memorandum of Agreement with Shell, Conoco-Phillips, and Statoil USA that calls for the sharing of physical and biological data in the Arctic, as well as information gained during the August 2012 hydrographic survey cruise by the NOAA Ship Fairweather.
In addition to local and natural resource information, BSEE has contributed improved access to key environmental, commercial, and industrial data sources throughout lease areas in the Arctic. BSEE and other organizations will optimize real-time sensors to feed the data directly into ERMA during both potential oil releases and hazmat spill drills.
ERMA is frequently used as a planning and management tool in spill drills and trainings. Most recently, Arctic ERMA was used by NOAA, BSEE, and the US Coast Guard during a Chukchi Sea oil spill drill.
Maine Company Faces Penalty for Violations of Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations
A Maine company that provides motor vehicle services and fuel oil sales is facing a fine of up to $177,500 for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
EPA recently filed a complaint against the J&S Oil Co., Inc., for failing to maintain and fully implement an oil spill prevention plan, which contributed to the release of approximately 1,500 gallons of used motor oil from a tanker truck at the facility.
The oil release in March 2012 prompted an emergency response from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and EPA. The company also hired an oil spill response company to contain the spilled oil and dispose of contaminated soils.
EPA determined that the company had failed to fully maintain and implement it Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan, as required by the CWA. SPCC plans specify spill prevention measures at facilities that store oil above threshold amounts and help ensure that a tank failure or oil spill does not lead to oil reaching bodies of water. In its complaint EPA alleges that the company failed to provide for adequate secondary containment for some of the facility’s above-ground storage tanks and the tanker trucks parked at the facility; failed to provide secondary containment for the loading/unloading rack; failed to maintain adequate training records of oil-handling personnel in the operation and maintenance of equipment to prevent discharges; and, failed to provide adequate security for the facility.
Hercules to Pay $175,000 Penalty to Settle CAA Violations at Manufacturing Facility
According to the complaint, Hercules allegedly failed to adequately demonstrate compliance with the national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants for cellulose products manufacturing and violated related regulations on leak detection and repair.
Cellulose fiber is the main raw material used in the manufacturing processes conducted at the facility, in Herndon, Virginia. The cellulose is treated with various chemicals, and gaseous and particulate by-products are vented and treated by air pollution control devices. However, leakage of hazardous air pollutants into the environment can occur at different points along the manufacturing process, for example, at valves and vents.
Under a consent decree that was lodged with the US District Court, Hercules is required to comply with the CAA standard of maximum achievable control technology (MACT). This standard protects public health and improves air quality by requiring facilities to use state-of-the-art technology for reducing hazardous air pollutants. Hercules will spend approximately $200,000 on the consent decree requirements, resulting in an estimated 150 tons of hazardous air pollutants reduced per year. As part of the settlement, Hercules has agreed to conduct additional testing, update its operating permit to document testing and monitoring activities, and engage in a two-year enhanced leak detection and repair program. The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.
This agreement is part of an EPA national initiative to target and reduce illegal emissions of air toxics and reduce excess emissions for facilities that have a significant impact on air quality and health in residential areas. Industrial and commercial facilities are required to implement leak detection and repair programs to prevent the escape of hazardous air pollutants.
Sargent Manufacturing Faces Fine for Hazardous Waste Violations
Sargent Manufacturing, a door hardware manufacturer, faces a penalty of $64,495 from the EPA for violating state and federal hazardous waste laws.
According to a complaint filed recently by EPA’s New England office, the Sargent Manufacturing Company failed to segregate containers of incompatible hazardous waste, failed to have an adequate hazardous waste training program, failed to close containers of hazardous waste, failed to maintain adequate aisle space between containers of hazardous waste, failed to mark containers with the date that accumulation of hazardous waste began, failed to update and submit revised contingency plan to local authorities, and otherwise failed to manage hazardous waste in accordance with the requirements.
The case stems from a March 2011 inspection by EPA to see if the company was meeting the requirements of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and related state regulations. This federal law is designed to help protect public health and the environment by promoting the proper management of hazardous wastes.
Sargent’s failure to segregate containers of spent hydrochloric acid and sodium fluoride prompted significant concern. If the containers were to break or leak, the mixing of these incompatible wastes could lead to a reaction, such as fire or explosion, or the generation of flammable hydrogen gas. Sargent’s failure to have an adequate hazardous waste training program increased the likelihood that wastes generated may not be properly managed and that Sargent personnel may not be able to adequately coordinate all emergency response measures in the event of emergency.
Sargent Manufacturing is owned by Assa Abloy, a company based in Sweden.
Montana Refining Company Resolves Hazardous Waste Violation
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently settled its administrative enforcement action against Montana Refining Company, Inc., (MRCI) for violations of the Montana Hazardous Waste Act at the Great Falls refinery.
In its enforcement action, DEQ alleged that MRCI failed to properly label and contain hazardous waste at its Great Falls refinery for at least 63 days. DEQ also alleged that MRCI improperly disposed of hazardous waste and failed to properly close a satellite accumulation container.
Chad Anderson, of DEQ’s Enforcement Division, said that the company corrected the violations and DEQ and MRCI entered into a consent order, under which MRCI paid a $62,500 administrative penalty for the violations.
Martin Operating Partnership in Fined for Violating CWA
The EPA has fined Martin Operating Partnership in Cameron, Louisiana, $14,400 for violating federal SPCC regulations outlined under the CWA.
A February 28, 2012, federal inspection of the partnership’s Cameron 7 Terminal located in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, revealed the facility failed to properly manage retained stormwater from inside diked areas and failed to keep the diked area rainwater bypass valve in a closed and sealed position. The inspection also found the terminal’s SPCC plan failed to provide an adequate schedule for tank integrity testing, and the required facility diagram failed to list all oil tankage at the terminal.
SPCC regulations require onshore oil production and bulk storage facilities to provide oil spill prevention, control, and countermeasures to prevent oil discharges. The SPCC program helps protect our nation’s water quality since a spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water.
DOT Prohibits Enbridge Energy from Reopening Pipeline After Spill
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a corrective action order against Enbridge Energy. That order prohibits the resumption of operations on Pipeline 14 in Adams County, Wisconsin, until Enbridge submits a restart plan for PHMSA’s approval.
PHMSA’s corrective action order called the July 27, 2012 rupture of the 24-inch diameter line hazardous to life, property, and the environment. Enbridge must submit a restart plan for the entire 467-mile pipeline segment to PHMSA for approval before operations may resume.
In addition to submitting a restart plan, Enbridge must also conduct mechanical and metallurgical testing and failure analysis of the failed pipe, evaluate previous inline inspection results, and submit an integrity verification and remedial work plan. Enbridge is also required to bring in an independent evaluator to conduct an investigation of the company’s integrity management plan.
In July 2010, Enbridge’s Pipeline 6B ruptured and spilled over 840,000 gallons of crude oil near Marshall, Michigan. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the operator failed to accurately assess the structural integrity of the pipeline. The investigation also found deficiencies with Enbridge’s integrity management procedures, control room operations, leak detection, and overall response plan. PHMSA also proposed a record $3.7 million civil penalty and 24 actions against Enbridge for the spill.
Supervisor of Michigan Town Sentenced to Three Years in Prison
William Morgan, the former supervisor of Royal Oak Township, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced in federal court to three years in prison. Mr. Morgan had previously entered a guilty plea to charges that he conspired to defraud the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), violate the CAA’s asbestos requirements, and commit bribery. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems.
Morgan’s criminal conduct involved the awarding of a contract and distribution of federal funds that were intended to be used by communities for the improvement of blighted areas by removing dilapidated buildings. The funding was received through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Morgan, in addition to being Township supervisor, was also Royal Oak’s coordinator for NSP.
Prior to the awarding of the contract, Morgan had received a $10,000 bribe from Sureguard/PBM, one of the companies that submitted a bid for the demolition and asbestos removal of an abandoned theater on Eight Mile road. In return for the bribe, Morgan attempted to steer the contract to Sureguard/PBM. Despite Morgan’s efforts, Royal Oak’s Board of Supervisors awarded the contract to another company, which had submitted a lower bid.
During the demolition process, Morgan asked for and received cash payments of $500 and $1,000 from the owner of the company that had won the contract. Morgan received these payments under the belief that they were in return for his approval of a change order covering the asbestos abatement that fraudulently inflated the cost of the work.
One of Morgan’s co-conspirators, Terrance Parker, received a sentence of 21 months. Two other co-conspirators, Kendrick Covington and Marcus Brown have yet to be sentenced.
Potential Regulatory Implications of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011
EPA is hosting a public meeting on August 16, 2012, to discuss and solicit input from States, manufacturers, drinking water systems, other interested groups and consumers on the implementation of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011 (The Act). The Act was signed on January 4, 2011, and will be effective on January 4, 2014. The Act amended Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which prohibits the use of certain plumbing products that are not “lead free” (as defined by SDWA), and makes it unlawful to introduce into commerce products that are not “lead free.”
The public meeting will be held at the EPA Conference Center (lobby level-room 1204). One Potomac Yard (South Building) 2777 S. Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202 on Thursday, August 16, 2012, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals planning to attend in person, by teleconference, or via webcast must register for the meeting by contacting Junie Percy of IntelliTech at 937-427-4148 ext. 210, or by email email@example.com no later than August 15, 2012.
Agencies Propose Process Improvements for Pesticide-Endangered Species
EPA, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service (the Services) are seeking comment on a jointly developed proposal to enhance opportunities for stakeholder input during pesticide registration reviews and endangered species consultations. Highlights of the proposal include:
- Emphasis on coordination across these federal agencies.
- Expanded role for USDA and the pesticide user community in providing current pesticide use information to inform and refine EPA’s ecological risk assessments.
- Focus meetings at the start of registration review for each pesticide active ingredient, to clarify current uses and label directions and consider the potential for early risk reduction.
- Formal ESA consultations later in the registration review process, allowing time to engage stakeholders in the development of more refined ecological risk assessments and more focused consultation packages including mitigation for listed species.
- Outreach to potentially affected pesticide users to discuss the technical and economic feasibility of draft Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs), intended to avoid jeopardy to threatened and/or endangered species.
- Descriptions of the processes by which EPA will summarize and organize comments on RPAs and provide those comments to the Services, and the Services will prepare a document for the administrative record for the consultation explaining how comments were considered and, if appropriate, how the final biological opinion was modified to address the comments received.
The document, Proposal for Enhancing Stakeholder Input in the Pesticide Registration Review and ESA Consultation Processes and Development of Economically and Technologically Feasible Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives is now available. The EPA will soon publish a Federal Register notice opening a 60-day public comment period on this proposal.
EPA to Clarify that NPDES Permit is Not Required for Stormwater Discharges from Logging Roads
The EPA intends to propose revisions to its Phase I stormwater regulations (40 CFR 122.26) to clarify that stormwater discharges from logging roads do not constitute stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity and that a National Pollutant Discharges Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not required for these stormwater discharges. EPA is taking this action in response to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown, which addressed the question of whether discharges from certain logging roads require NPDES permits. The Agency intends to clarify that a permit is not required for these discharges. For additional information, contact Jeremy Bauer at 202-564-2775 or Bauer.Jeremy@epa.gov.
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Trivia Question of the Week
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are claiming to be the greenest Olympics ever. What percent of the Olympics construction waste was diverted from landfills for reuse or recycling?