Proposed EPA Budget Cuts
The White House’s 2018 budget proposed, if enacted, will cut several programs that are listed at the end of this article, and will shift many environmental responsibilities to the states. However, funding to the states will be dramatically reduced. Prior to the budget cuts, federal grants to the states supported an average of 27% of state environmental agency budgets (EABs). While EPA’s overall budget is reduced 31%, the proposed FY18 reduction of $482M is a 44.5% cut to state categorical grants from the $1.082B annualized FY17 level. The Superfund proposed FY18 reduction of $330M is a 30% cut from the $1.092B annualized FY17 level. The proposed FY18 reduction of $233M is a 48% cut to the EPA Office of Research and Development from the $483M annualized FY17 level.
The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), a national non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders, released its Green Report – Status of State Environmental Agency Budgets, FY2013-15, showing that average federal funding to state EABs already has experienced a decline. “Frankly, language in the President’s budget blueprint that ‘EPA would primarily support States and Tribes in their important role protecting air, land, and water in the 21st Century’ is wholly inconsistent with the Categorical Grant cuts,” says ECOS Executive Director & General Counsel Alexandra Dunn. ”States need these federal funds to carry out their critical functions of advancing human health and protecting the environment, and to issue permits that keep local economies moving. States operate 96% of federally delegated and authorized environmental programs and manage funds to implement environmental regulations and are an important link to the local regulated community and local governments.”
“We appreciate that the important state revolving loan funds are proposed for a less than one percent increase, and not a decrease,” said ECOS President John Linc Stine, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “However, the cuts to the core state programmatic grants are untenable. States welcome renewed confidence in our work and ability to protect human health and the environment. However, as ECOS’ report shows, the federal government supports this function at an average of 27 percent. A cut of nearly 45%—while state legislatures are in session—is frankly unworkable.”
ECOS’ March 15 report analyzed budget information from 46 state environmental agencies, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, finding state EABs increased 7% over three years, with the average state EAB being $203M over three years. The report looks at three primary funding sources—state EAB general fund support, federal government funding, and fees and other funding. The findings over three years are that: state EAB general fund support increased by $335M (35%); federal government funding support to state EABs decreased by $64M (3%); and fee and other fund support—the largest major funding source for state EABs—grew by $403M (10%).
Among the programs that will be cut or modified at EPA and other agencies
- Eliminates 3,200 direct federal EPA jobs, and associated jobs connected to EPA, environmental projects at the state level, educational institutions, and government contractors
- Cuts funding for Superfund cleanups
- Eliminates funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Cleanup program
- Eliminates EnergyStar, the Environmental Justice Program, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages
- Eliminates funding for Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts
- Cuts environmental education programs that were created through the National Environmental Education Act (NEEA), under the Bush administration in 1990
- Increases funding for fossil fuel development on public lands and waters
- Halts the creation of any new parks or public lands and the preservation of important historic sites
- Cuts $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior
- Eliminates the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs which help millions of low-income Americans stay warm and keep the lights on
San Antonio RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management in Texas and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Antonio, TX, on March 28–30 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
New Orleans RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in New Orleans, LA, on April 4–6 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
San Diego RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Diego, CA, on April 11–13 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
EPA Extends the Effective Date of Risk Management Plan Rule
EPA Administrator Pruitt recently took action to reconsider the “Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: 'Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air'” (RMP Rule) and signed an administrative stay to delay the effective date of the rule regarding chemical accident preparedness and prevention, until June 19, 2017.
The 90-day extension will allow time for EPA to consider whether to further extend the effective date of the rule through a rulemaking action while the Agency reconsiders the rule in response to a petition the agency received in February 2017 from the RMP Coalition.
“As an agency, we need to be responsive to concerns raised by stakeholders regarding regulations so facility owners and operators know what is expected of them,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said as he directed the Agency to extend the effective date of the rule.
Laboratory Owner Charged for Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste and Obstructing EPA
Ahmed el-Sherif, the owner/operator and radiation safety officer for Beta Chem Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas, was charged with illegally storing hazardous waste and obstructing an agency proceeding, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall for the District of Kansas, and Jessica Taylor, Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the EPA.
According to allegations contained in the two-count indictment, El-Sherif, 61, a chemist, started Beta Chem in the mid-1990s, which he owned and operated. Beta Chem used radioactive Carbon-14 and solvents in the operation, under license by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KDHE has assumed certain regulatory authority from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Act. In September 2005, KDHE performed an inspection of Beta Chem and discovered extensive radioactive contamination in the laboratory, and the next day issued an Emergency Order of Suspension of License. The EPA conducted a hazardous waste inspection the same month, and subsequently notified el-Sherif of hazardous waste violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). During the ensuing years, KDHE communicated with el-Sherif about the radioactive contamination at Beta Chem. On October 4, 2013, after issuing an Emergency Order to Seize and Secure Radioactive Materials, KDHE took control of Beta Chem and secured the facility.
The Criminal Investigation Division of EPA executed a search warrant at Beta Chem on January 22, 2014, where agents discovered numerous containers containing hazardous wastes and contaminated with radiation. EPA’s Superfund program subsequently engaged in a removal action and disposed of the hazardous waste at a cost of over $760,000. In the process of assessing el-Sherif’s ability to pay for cleanup costs, EPA requested financial information. El-Sherif submitted three Beta Chem tax returns to EPA that he falsely claimed had been filed and that contained fictitious and misleading information.
An indictment is an allegation based upon a grand jury finding of probable cause. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted. If convicted of both charges, el-Sherif faces up to ten years in prison, and also could be fined.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood and U.S. Attorney Beall thanked the U.S. EPA for its work in this investigation. This case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Senior Counsel Krishna S. Dighe with the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi are in charge of the prosecution.
Making Vanilla Flavoring with Less Pollution
In small amounts, vanilla flavoring enhances the taste of our baked goods, desserts and ice cream. But making it synthetically, which is the most common route to keeping the ingredient affordable these days, creates a stream of wastewater that requires treatment before it can be released into surface waters. Now researchers report in ACS’ journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research a new “greener” way to make vanillin, the primary flavor compound in vanilla.
Although consumers have been demanding more “natural” foods in recent years, less than 1% of vanilla flavor produced globally comes from its original natural source, the vanilla orchid. The rest is synthesized from a petroleum-derived precursor called guaiacol, tree lignin, and other substances such as cow feces. But the catalysts currently used in the manufacturing of vanillin are polluting and can only be used one time. So Ganapati D. Yadav and Shivaji L. Bhanawase sought an improved method to make the popular flavor compound.
The researchers created a catalyst by encapsulating copper-aluminum hydrotalcite in silica. Testing showed that it efficiently spurred the separation of vanillin from other compounds. The catalyst worked in water under ambient air pressure, and eliminated the need for a polluting step involving hydrochloric acid that current techniques require. The catalyst could also be recovered and re-used. The researchers say that their process could be economically scaled up for a more environmentally friendly approach to making commercial vanillin.
The authors acknowledged funding support from the University Grants Commission (India), the R.T. Mody Distinguished Professor Endowment at the Institute of Chemical Technology and India’s Department of Science and Technology.
EPA to Reexamine Emission Standards for Cars and Light Duty Trucks, Model Years 2022–2025
Department of Transportation Secretary (DOT) Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will revisit the previous administration’s rule that finalized standards to increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.
“Today’s decision by the EPA is a win for the American economy,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “The Department of Transportation will re-open the Mid-Term evaluation process and work with the EPA to complete the review in a transparent, data-driven manner.”
“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.”
The Midterm Evaluation process that is being revisited, was established as a part of the 2012 final GHG emissions standards for model years 2017–2025. This requires EPA to determine no later than April 1, 2018, whether the 2022–2025 standards established are appropriate. The action the agency is taking will ensure that deadline is met. If the agency believes that the final determination issued by the previous administration is not realistic, it would submit a new proposal for public comment. The Harvard Business Review warned that a rollback of emission standards could be bad for both the automakers and the public.
States Oppose Rollback of Vehicle Emission Standards
Several states have voiced opposition to EPA’s proposal to rollback vehicle emission standards. The coalition, which includes the attorneys general of New York, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, issued the following joint statement:
“President Trump’s action represents a dramatic wrong turn in our nation’s efforts to fight air pollution from passenger cars and trucks, and protect the health of our children, seniors, and all communities.
Weakening these commonsense standards would undermine successful efforts to combat the pollution emitted by vehicles—emissions that cause widespread, substantial harm to public health and are one of the largest sources of climate change pollution. An extensive technical study by the Environmental Protection Agency already found that the standards are fully and economically achievable by the auto industry. Relaxing them would increase the air pollution that is responsible for premature death, asthma, and more—particularly in our most vulnerable communities.
We will vigorously oppose attempts by the Trump Administration to weaken our vehicle emission policies and put our public health at risk, and we won’t hesitate to stand up for the right of our states to adopt stricter pollution standards that provide critical protections to the health of our residents and our environmental resources.”
In a separate statement, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson said, "Connecticut will not stand idly by as this administration attempts to undo the significant progress made toward safeguarding our clean air. We will oppose efforts by the Trump Administration to take any action that will harm our citizens and our economy. We will also be filing a motion to intervene in support of the current vehicle emission standards in the challenge to the standards filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures in U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Whether the efforts to weaken our air quality comes from the President or from the car manufactures, we will defend our state from the onslaught."
Because motor vehicles emit a variety of air pollutants harmful to human health and the environment and are a significant source of air pollution, Section 202 of the Clean Air Act requires EPA to establish national emission standards for new motor vehicles. Section 209 of the Act authorizes the State of California to adopt emission standards that are generally more stringent than the federal standards, and Section 177 of the Act authorizes other states to adopt those same standards for new motor vehicles sold within their states.
In 2012, EPA adopted emission standards limiting GHG emissions from new passenger cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2017–25 and beyond. California has adopted parallel vehicle emission standards limiting GHG emissions for those same model years, which New York and several other states have adopted as state law. The combined emission standards, together with harmonized emission standards for other pollutants that are on the books, are expected to result in substantial reductions in GHG emissions, dependency on foreign oil, and consumer fuel costs:
- Over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold during the 2017–2025 model years, the standards are expected to cut GHG emissions by two billion metric tons—the equivalent of the annual emissions of 422 million cars currently on the road—and save approximately four billion barrels of oil.
- Combined with the first phase of vehicle emission standards for GHGs for model years 2012–16, the standards for the 2017–25 model year vehicles are projected to save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce the country’s dependence on oil by more than 2 million barrels per day in 2025.
In January 2017, EPA determined, in its “midterm evaluation,” that the current federal standards applicable to cars and light duty trucks for model years 2022–25 are readily achievable by the auto industry. After an extensive technical review, based in significant part on information from industry, advocates, and other interested parties, EPA found that “automakers are well positioned to meet the standards at lower costs than previous estimated.” The agency concluded that, while the record supported making the standards even more stringent, it decided “to retain the current standards to provide regulatory certainty for the auto industry.” California is in the process of completing a midterm review for its parallel standards after participating in the federal process and conducting its own analysis of the feasibility of the standards.
The states issuing the joint statement have a longstanding history of working with California to adopt and enforce vehicle emission standards to combat air pollution. For example, several of the states successfully defended the first vehicle emission standards California issued to limit GHGs from new motor vehicles in 2005. Subsequently, they joined California in successfully defending—in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—EPA’s 2009 decision to grant California a waiver to adopt its GHG emission regulations. Several of the states also brought the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA case in which the Supreme Court held that EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions from vehicles that endanger public health and welfare, and which subsequently enabled EPA’s determination that GHG emissions pose such a threat.
Developmental Neurotoxicity Study Guidance
EPA and Health Canada have developed new guidance for interpreting developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) data in support of a pesticide registration. The DNT study assesses behavioral and neurobiological parameters to ascertain the effects of chemicals on the developing animal. The basic purpose of DNT guideline testing is to screen for the potential of chemicals to cause adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.
This document was developed to resolve some inconsistencies in the way U.S. and Canadian regulators were evaluating DNT studies and provides guidance on how to evaluate the quality, conduct, and resulting data derived from the behavioral methods employed in the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) and/or EPA DNT Guidelines. It may be useful for other international regulatory agencies or those interpreting data generated under the auspices of the OECD or EPA DNT guidelines. While it was meant for government scientists, it is being posted in the interest of transparency and to ensure everyone (regulated community and NGOs alike) knows how the data is being evaluated.
Ohio’s Lead Maps Available to Public
Maps identifying lead drinking water service lines across the state have been released by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Ohio has 1,878 Ohio public drinking water systems that were required to submit the maps by yesterday as part of recent drinking water reforms championed by Ohio Governor John Kasich to ensure our communities are provided information and being protected like never before from lead in drinking water.
Ohio EPA has made all the maps it received available online at: http://epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/pws/leadandcopper/map.aspx. Public water systems that are required to comply with this new requirement are listed alphabetically, and maps received by Ohio EPA can be accessed by clicking the link on the public water system name. If you have questions about the service lines in your area, you can call the public water system contact listed on the website.
Pennsylvania Reacts to Proposed EPA Cuts, Noting Immediate and Devastating Effects if Enacted
In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell outlined what the impacts of substantial cuts to the EPA would mean for the citizens and business of Pennsylvania.
“These budget cuts do not reduce any of the responsibilities that DEP has to the people of Pennsylvania, but does decrease the resources available to fulfill those responsibilities,” said McDonnell in the letter. “These cuts, if enacted, would harm businesses seeking permits, and harm residents’ clean water, air, and land.”
The letter outlined impacts from proposed cuts, including reductions to safe drinking water inspections, sewage and industrial wastewater inspections, brownfield redevelopment, and eliminate funding for radon protection, a problem that plagues Pennsylvania homes.
In addition, the proposed budget would eliminate funding to restore the waterways, like the Susquehanna River, that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania has recently made tremendous strides in improving local water quality through this program, as acknowledged by the EPA.
“Pennsylvania has benefited from a long partnership with the federal government to address environmental concerns, which has resulted in great improvements to the health, quality of life, and economic prosperity of Pennsylvania residents,” said McDonnell. “We urge the Trump administration not to turn its back on those very federal-state partnerships that have produced these many benefits.”
Click here to read the full text of the letter
New Review of the Draft Climate Science Special Report
The U.S. Global Change Research Program asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to review a draft of the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR)—a technical document intended to provide an updated, detailed analysis of how climate is changing across the U.S., and to serve as a technical input to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. A new National Academies report concludes that the draft CSSR is timely, accurate, and well-written, representing the breadth of available literature relating to the current state of the science.
AK Scientific and Owner Indicted for Illegal Transportation and Smuggling of Hazardous Materials
Peiwen Zhou man and the corporation he owns were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling, and multiple violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, announced U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch; EPA Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent in Charge Jay Green; U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General Regional Special Agent in Charge William Swallow; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin.
The indictment alleges that Peiwen Zhou and his company, AK Scientific, conspired to defraud the United States, smuggled materials into the United States, and illegally transported chemicals within the United States by mislabeling and improperly packaging hazardous chemicals.
According to the indictment, Zhou, 53, of Palo Alto, was the founder, owner, and chief executive officer of AK Scientific. Zhou and AK Scientific were in the business of purchasing and then selling research and specialty chemicals to customers that included universities, research laboratories, and other entities. AK Scientific purchased chemicals from chemical supply companies in, among other places, South Korea, Poland, India, and New Zealand.
The indictment alleges the defendants defrauded the United States and smuggled hazardous chemicals into the United States by mislabeling the contents of containers. Further, defendants allegedly transported chemicals in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by failing to complete required import certifications and by failing to properly label packages containing hazardous materials. In addition, according to the indictment, the defendants also arranged to transport hazardous materials on several occasions without labeling the packages as required by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA).
Defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371; one count of smuggling, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545; two counts of violating the TSCA, in violation of 15 U.S.C. 2611(b) and 40 CFR 721.20 and 721.4880; and seven counts of violating 49 CFR 172.400 of the HMTA, in violation of 49 U.S.C. 5124(a) and 18 U.S.C. 2. For defendant Zhou, if convicted, the maximum statutory penalties are as follows:
- Conspiracy – 5 years in prison term and a $250,000 fine
- Smuggling – 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
- Each count of violating the TSCA – 1 year in prison term and a $50,000 fine
- Each count of violating the HMTA – 5 years in prison term and a $250,000 fine
- For defendant AK Scientific, if convicted, the corporation faces the following maximum statutory penalties:
- Conspiracy – 5 years of probation and a $500,000 fine
- Smuggling – 5 years of probation and a $500,000 fine
- Each count of violating the TSCA – 5 years of probation and a $200,000 fine
- Each count of violating the HMTA – 5 years of probation and a $500,000 fine
Further, additional special assessments may be imposed on either defendant and Zhou may be subject to additional terms of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. ? 3553.
Florida Man Pleads Guilty in Wire Fraud Case Related to Falsified Water Testing
Darin Lewis of Crestview, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. Lewis’s conviction stemmed from his involvement in a scheme to falsify water samples during the testing of new water lines installed in Dale County, Alabama.
According to court documents, in 2014, the Dale County Water Authority hired a Florida company, Roberson Excavation, Inc. (Roberson Excavation), to replace water lines in the Marley Mill area of Dale County. Lewis’s co-defendant, Billy Ray Roberson, was the owner and president of Roberson Excavation. Lewis began working on the project around February of 2015. By that time, Roberson Excavation was three months behind schedule on the job and paying penalties of $500 for each day that the project went incomplete. At that time, Roberson instructed his site supervisor, Lewis, to falsify the testing required before the lines went into operation. Among the tests falsified were the tests used to determine whether harmful bacteria were present in the water.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled in the upcoming months where Lewis will face a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment. The other defendants charged in the case, Billy Ray Roberson and Roberson Excavation, will proceed to trial on June 5, 2017 in Dothan, Alabama.
PCC Structurals and DEQ Resolve Civil Penalty for Stormwater Monitoring Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and PCC Structurals, Inc., settled a civil penalty for the company's failure to comply with the monitoring requirements of the stormwater permit for their facility located at 4600 SE Harney Dr., Portland, Oregon. The violation was due to the failure of the company to comply with their permit in the monitoring of polychlorinated biphenyls and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons two times at seven sampling points during the 2015–2016 monitoring year.
DEQ initially cited the company $10,229 for the violations in December 2016. PCC Structurals did not appeal the penalty, but supplied additional information about their monitoring efforts on January 6, 2017. With this additional information, DEQ was able to reach a Mutual Agreement and Final Order with the company in February 2017 with a reduced penalty of $9,829.
During 2015 and 2016, PCC Structurals designed and installed a stormwater treatment system to comply with the Tier II requirements of the stormwater permit and to remove contaminants of potential concern—including PCBs—that are being addressed under the voluntary cleanup program.
The monitoring required by stormwater permits is an integral part of the system that protects water quality in Oregon. Without monitoring data, DEQ and the public cannot determine whether permit holders are in compliance with pollutant conditions or loadings to state waterways.
Captain of Fishing Vessel Pleads Guilty for Discharging Waste into the Ocean
A captain of the fishing vessel (F/V) Native Sun pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Seattle, Washington, for discharging oily-waste directly into the ocean in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and the federal conspiracy statute.
Randall Fox pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Lasnik of the Western District of Washington to two criminal felony counts for violating APPS’ prohibition against discharging oily-wastes, namely machinery-space bilge water, directly into the ocean. According to court documents, Randall Fox, and other co-conspirators, repeatedly discharged the oil-contaminated bilge water into the ocean using unapproved submersible pumps and hoses. On at least one occasion, such a discharge left a sizable oily-sheen along the surface of the water that trailed alongside the F/V Native Sun.
“The Justice Department aggressively prosecutes those who pollute the waters of the United States, including the oceans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “Law-abiding vessel operators know the importance of compliance with our nation’s environmental laws.”
“This case highlights the great collaborative efforts of Sector Puget Sound, Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Department of Justice in holding those who pollute our waters accountable,” said Captain Linda A. Sturgis, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “The results announced today are a prime example of the importance of the Coast Guard’s marine environmental protection mission and the effectiveness of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.”
Randall Fox faces a maximum of six years in prison for the APPS count and five years in prison for the conspiracy count. He also faces a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. Sentencing is scheduled for June 16, 2017. The plea is related to the indictment of the vessel owner, Bingham Fox. According to the charges, the conspirators directed the installation of the aforementioned illegal pumps and hoses, directed co-conspirators to empty the bilges regularly, and instructed the co-conspirators to conceal any evidence of the discharges by dispersing the sheen with detergents. Bingham Fox pled “not guilty” to the conspiracy and CWA charges in April 2016 and has maintained his innocence since that time. Trial for Bingham Fox is currently set to begin March 21, 2017. An indictment contains allegations and all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
Environmental Groups Say Extreme Bills in Senate Threaten Public Health
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, BlueGreen Alliance, GreenLatinos, NextGen Climate, and a broad coalition representing more than 70 groups are urging the Senate to reject a multi-pronged attack on safeguards that protect Americans from dirty air, contaminated water, tainted food, and unsafe products.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is expected to begin markup on a pair of extreme regulatory bills on Wednesday. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, or REINS, Act, would make it virtually impossible to put in place new safeguards by requiring any major rule to be approved by both houses of Congress within a limited time period. The measure, which would effectively amend countless laws including virtually every environmental statute, is the broadest and most radical roll back of regulatory protections ever proposed.
“The public expects the government to be able to protect it from toxins in food, consumer products, air, and water. The REINS Act would make that virtually impossible,” the groups wrote in a letter to senators.
The so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act would let Congress repeal, in a single package, dozens of safeguards put in place over the past year. “The bill would allow Congress to eviscerate crucial public health, environmental, safety, consumer and financial safeguards without due consideration,” the groups wrote.
Copies of the letters are available here and here.
Settlement Yields Protection for Deerfield River from Highway Project Runoff
Both parties involved in a road and bridge construction project in Deerfield, Massachusetts, have agreed to pay a total penalty of $21,600 to resolve claims by EPA that they violated their construction permit, which is designed to minimize the impacts of stormwater discharges from a site that can harm surrounding waterways.
J.F. White Contracting Co. and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation operated the project, which involved replacing two pairs of bridges and relocating a section of the northbound lanes of I-91, disturbing about 32 acres. Stormwater from the site discharges into the Deerfield River and then into the Connecticut River.
The Clean Water Act requires a permit to discharge stormwater from construction sites disturbing an acre or more. Clean Water Act permits help protect the environment from the effects of construction projects, including rivers and streams being clogged with sediment and other pollutants. EPA's oversight helps ensure that companies working on roads, bridges or other construction projects take the necessary steps to limit stormwater pollution from affecting lakes, rivers and other water bodies.
The case stemmed from a citizen complaint which led to an inspection. Based on the inspection and follow-up information, EPA alleged that the DOT and JF White had failed to stabilize disturbed portions of the median and shoulder of the roads south of the Deerfield River from January through March 2016. In addition, EPA alleged that they had failed to ensure that all storm drain inlets were properly protected. According to EPA's complaint, these alleged violations would lead to an increase in the amount of sediment that would be washed out of storm drains into the Deerfield River during the winter months.
Settlement with Marina Will Result in Cleaner Air on Block Island
A marina in Block Island, Rhode Island, has reduced its emissions and taken steps to comply with federal clean air laws following an inspection and follow-up action from the EPA.
Champlin's Marina Resort and Tennis Club Ltd., a seasonal business at 80 West Side Road in Block Island, operates and maintains four diesel-fired internal combustion engines used to generate power at the marina, two of which EPA found were operating in violation of the Clean Air Act. These violations resulted in excess emissions of carbon monoxide and other hazardous air pollutants, including formaldehyde, which is toxic to human health.
According to EPA's New England office, Champlin's violated applicable regulations by failing to ensure that the two engines met the emission standards, and by failing to submit required reports to EPA.
Champlin's agreed to pay a $29,900 penalty and take necessary steps to comply with the law. The case stems from a July 2015 inspection of the facility. Following that inspection, the marina has reclassified these older engines as "emergency" engines, meaning that while they may operate unlimited hours in an emergency, they may operate only up to 100 hours per year in non-emergency situations, such as readiness checks and maintenance testing. Instead, the Marina will operate two newer engines that are subject to and capable of meeting more stringent emission standards.
Grow Depot Fined $27,500 for FIFRA Violations
The EPA has reached an agreement with Grow Depot, a Northglenn, Colorado, hydroponics and organics supply store, resolving alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Based on site visits and investigation activity conducted in 2015, EPA alleges that Grow Depot sold unregistered pesticides by repackaging pesticides for public sale in containers without labels. According to a settlement finalized last week, Grow Depot has agreed to discontinue the sale of unregistered pesticides and pay a $27,500 penalty to resolve the allegations.
In order to protect human health and the environment, pesticides must be registered and distributed or sold with complete labeling to ensure safe handling of potentially harmful chemicals and prevent exposures from misuse. The recent settlement will help ensure Colorado consumers receive and adhere to important label information about ingredients, hazards and directions for the safe use of these products.
The goal of FIFRA is to promote the safe use of pesticides and protect the public, pesticide applicators, and the environment from pesticide hazards. FIFRA requires that pesticides sold in the U.S. be registered with EPA to ensure they are safe for their intended use. Facilities that produce pesticides must also be registered with EPA. In addition, the law requires the attachment of proper labels to retail pesticide containers. These labels contain important information about the safe application of products, personal protective equipment, first aid and other health and safety information.
Sewage Leaking into Stormwater Discharge Pipe Flows into New Jersey River
Working in collaboration, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection, Monmouth County, and Neptune City have tracked down and repaired a significant source of bacterial contamination that affected water quality and contributed to the closure of shellfish beds in the Shark River late last year.
Using dye tests and cameras provided by NJDOT, the partners were able to locate sewage leaking into a stormwater discharge pipe at West Sylvania Avenue in Neptune City. The source of the infiltration into the stormwater pipe was then traced to two leaking municipal sewer lines, which the city recently repaired.
“This has been a team effort in the truest sense of the term,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “Our scientists worked very closely with NJDOT engineers, who provided extensive technical and resource support.
“We also had the strong support of Monmouth County, local officials and Senator Jennifer Beck to track down the source of this pollution, no easy task considering the size of the area that had to be investigated and the complexity of piping networks in the area. Neptune City also stepped up and fixed the leaks promptly. I commend everyone who went the extra yard to protect the quality of water in the Shark River.”
“NJDOT personnel have the experience and skills needed to investigate the vast network of underground water and sewer pipes that run beneath the roadways in New Jersey—whether they are State, county, or municipal roads,” NJDOT Commissioner Richard T. Hammer said. “Neptune City approached the Department of Transportation last year regarding an issue with erosion on one of its roads. NJDOT led a coordinated inter-agency effort in which our engineers, through the use of Transportation Trust Funds, investigated the issue and in the process identified the source of long-term and persistent bacteria infiltration into the Shark River.”
“It has been a real pleasure to work with the DEP, NJDOT, and Monmouth County on this project to preserve our natural resource,” said Neptune Mayor Robert Brown. “This is proof how you can make great progress on such an important project when we all have the same goal.”
In early November, the DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Quality Monitoring suspended any harvesting of clams from two stretches of the river totaling 266 acres—122 acres in the northern portion of the river in Neptune City and 144 acres in the western portion of the river at Belmar—due to extremely elevated levels of bacteria, a strong indicator of sewage leaks.
Over the past several months, the DEP has coordinated a track-down effort that began with extremely high levels of bacteria being discharged from a pipe that carries stormwater into the river at Steiner and Boston roads.
Barely 12 miles in total length, the Shark River is comprised primarily of a large, U-shaped estuarine basin that is connected to the ocean by a relatively narrow inlet.
The DEP and its partners are currently launching a similar effort to track down the source of bacteria being discharged into the western portion of the basin. This situation may also be the result of an underground sewage pipe leak.
“We still have a lot more work ahead of us, but this is a great step toward identifying and tracking sources of bacteria that impact shellfish beds and can diminish the public’s recreational enjoyment of the river,” said Ray Bukowski, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement, who organized the track-down effort.
Prior to their closure, the shellfish beds were classified as restricted due to degrading water quality, and have not been harvested in years because they would need to be taken to a special plant for cleansing, a process known as depuration, before they could be shipped to market.
“The DEP’s goal is to improve overall water quality in the river so that in the longer term we can make the naturally productive shellfish beds found there commercially viable again,” said Dan Kennedy, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources.
Due to strong programs protecting and monitoring shellfish beds, the percentage of beds considered safe for harvesting across the state is now nearly 90%, compared to about 75% in 1977.
Founded in 1912, the Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring actually precedes the formation of the DEP by nearly six decades. The bureau collects thousands of samples from shellfish waters which, among other things, measures temperature, salinity, nutrients and bacteria.
New York State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team Announces New Actions to Address Water Contamination in Washington County
New York State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team recently announced new actions to address water contamination in Washington County after releasing the preliminary results of an investigation at the CTI Agri-Cycle compost facility in Cambridge, New York. The investigation, led by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) with support from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, revealed the presence of six perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), in paper mill sludge, finished compost material, and water flowing from the compost to the collection pond, as well as in the facility's groundwater monitoring well and storm water collection pond.
The Team has been sampling private wells in Cambridge since May, and launched an initial investigation into the CTI Agri-Cycle facility in January after receiving a tip from a private well owner in December. To date, no public water systems have been impacted and nine private wells in the immediate area of the CTI Agri-cycle compost facility that have been tested contain contamination below the EPA lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined. To date, four residents have requested and received point of entry treatment (POET) systems. DOH has made initial attempts to reach an additional 10 homeowners to test their private wells and launched a door-to-door campaign last week. Efforts to contact residents will continue.
"New York State is committed to ensuring every community has access to clean drinking water. DEC will continue to investigate any threat of water contamination in any community while holding polluters accountable," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our job is not done until we have identified and addressed this source of contamination and eliminated the risk to public health and the environment."
"The Water Quality Rapid Response Team continues to work proactively to investigate potential sources of contamination and ensure they are not impacting drinking water supplies," said DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "We are taking an aggressive approach throughout the state to ensure that water resources and access to clean drinking water are protected in every community."
The CTI Agri-Cycle compost facility processes yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings, along with paper mill sludge, which is a byproduct of paper manufacturing used to create compost material that is applied to farm fields near the facility as a soil amendment to increase organic matter and improve soil quality. DEC regulates paper mill sludges, which includes testing to confirm these sludges meet current regulatory requirements, but currently does not include testing for the emerging contaminants PFOA and PFOS. The Team will conduct further investigations to determine the source(s) of the PFC contamination at the facility, and may require additional actions by CTI Agri-Cycle to address those sources.
The Team's continued investigation of CTI Agri-Cycle will include the sampling of farm fields, pond water, and monitoring wells to evaluate the extent of the PFC contamination. Additionally, DEC will evaluate CTI Agri-Cycle's water management operations and revisit the facility's current State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit and current Beneficial Use Determinations (BUD) for facility operations. Concurrently, DOH will continue to sample private wells in the vicinity of the facility to identify whether these wells are impacted by PFCs and whether actions are necessary to reduce exposure. The Team will continue to share the results of the ongoing investigation with residents in the community.
DEC has directed the company to immediately cease any transportation of compost from the facility. The Team has launched an expanded investigation of other paper mill sludge-generating and processing facilities statewide to track down any other potential cases of PFCs in paper sludge, thus far identifying six mills that process recycled paper with authorization to reuse or distribute the resulting sludge as well as six facilities, in addition to Agri-Cycle, that use recycled paper sludge in their manufacturing processes. Additionally, the Team has commenced an investigation and immediate mapping of each facility to determine proximity to public and private water supplies along with extensive sampling of sludge material from the mills.
As part of the Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to mandate the testing of regulated drinking water systems for unregulated contaminants, including PFOA and PFOS. Under the EPA Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, public water supplies that serve less than 10,000 people are not required to test for any unregulated contaminants, leaving some 2.5 million New Yorkers on untested systems. Through the Governor's proposal, water systems would begin testing for PFOA and PFOS this year, and small community water supplies will be eligible to receive financial hardship funding.
In January, Governor Cuomo also announced the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 to invest a record $2 billion in critical water infrastructure across New York State. The $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act will provide the capital dollars needed to upgrade municipal drinking water systems, improve municipal wastewater systems, and protect drinking water at its source, and includes additional support for the state Superfund program.
This historic investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and in addition to source water protection actions will enhance community health and wellness, safeguard our most important water resources, and create jobs. Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.
California Small Businesses Recognized for Implementing Climate-Smart Strategies
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced the winners of the seventh CoolCalifornia Small Business Awards, recognizing small businesses that demonstrate leadership and make notable, voluntary achievements toward reducing their carbon footprint.
“These award winners are the best examples of how more and more Californian small businesses are making smart, climate-friendly choices,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said. “From Arcata to Los Angeles, from a craft distillery to a window and solar panel cleaning service, small businesses throughout the state are showing that environmental protection and innovation are also good for the bottom line.”
The 13 award winners, who will be honored at an award ceremony set for Monday in Sacramento, were selected from competitive applicants representing a variety of business sectors from across the state. These businesses took a number of different actions to save money and become more sustainable while reducing their GHG emissions and environmental impacts. Some of the steps they took included installing LED lights, solar panels and energy efficient equipment and appliances; replacing landscape with drought tolerant plants; incentivizing the use of public transportation; purchasing wind power generated electricity; using eco-friendly, recycled/reused/repurposed products; composting food scraps and plant material; and implementing water conservation and zero-waste programs.
Two businesses received the Business of the Year award for demonstrating exceptional climate change management practices and emission reductions, while documenting their cost savings, return on investment and benefits received from taking specific actions. Eleven businesses were acknowledged as Climate Leaders for taking proactive steps to reduce their impact on our climate and communicating this information to their employees, customers and community.
The winners come from 12 California cities and represent a variety of industries including automotive repair, vineyard/winery, public relations, hospitality, mental health services and consulting, among others.
2016 CoolCalifornia Small Business Award Winners
Businesses of the Year
- Crestwood Healing Center, Pleasant Hill
- Toole's Garage, San Carlos
- Atrium Ventures Unlimited, Santa Maria
- Captain Vineyards, Moraga
- Gaumenkitzel Restaurant, Berkeley
- Greenbar Craft Distillery, Los Angeles
- Greenway Partners, Arcata
- Lafayette Car Wash & Detail Center, Lafayette
- McCown + Evans, LLP, San Francisco
- Mr. Squeegee Window & Solar Panel Cleaning, Modesto
- My Conference Essentials, Sacramento
- The Glass Man Professional Window Washing Company, Inc., Ventura
- Uptown Studios, Sacramento
The award winners were scored by two-person teams comprised of staff from public agencies and private businesses. ARB staff and leadership further reviewed scores, conducted site visits and performed environmental reviews to select the 2016 winners.
CoolCalifornia.org is an online resource providing all Californians with the information and tools they need to take climate action. The website features money-saving actions, climate calculators, success stories and links to financial incentives and rebates to help individuals, small businesses, local government and schools gain the knowledge needed to take simple steps for a sustainable future.
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Trivia Question of the Week
What percent of the U.S. Federal Budget was allocated to the EPA in fiscal year 2017?