March 25, 2019
EPA has published a list of 40 chemicals
to begin the prioritization process – the initial step in a new process of reviewing chemicals currently in commerce under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
“EPA continues to demonstrate its commitment to the successful and timely implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are delivering on the promise of Lautenberg to better assess and manage existing chemicals in commerce and provide greater certainty and transparency to the American public.”
“Initiating a chemical for high or low prioritization does not mean EPA has determined it poses unreasonable risk or no risk to human health or the environment; it means we are beginning the prioritization process set forth in Lautenberg,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
The Agency released this list in order to provide the public an opportunity to submit relevant information such as the uses, hazards, and exposure for these chemicals. A docket has been opened for each of the 40 chemicals. The publication of this list in the Federal Register initiates a 90-day public comment period. Publication also activates a statutory requirement for EPA to complete the prioritization process in the next nine to 12 months, allowing EPA to designate 20 chemicals as high priority and 20 chemicals as low priority by December 2019.
TSCA requires EPA to publish this list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process to designate 20 chemicals as “high-priority” for subsequent risk evaluation and to designate 20 chemicals as “low-priority,” meaning that risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.
One of the chemicals identified for high-priority evaluation is formaldehyde, a chemical that has been studied by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program for many years.
“Moving forward evaluating formaldehyde under the TSCA program does not mean that the formaldehyde work done under IRIS will be lost,” added Dunn. “In fact, the work done for IRIS will inform the TSCA process. By using our TSCA authority EPA will be able to take regulatory steps; IRIS does not have this authority,” she noted.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said that, “far from being a sign of progress, the move will almost certainly result in weaker protections for formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.” Daniel Rosenberg, Senior Attorney in NRDC’s Healthy People and Thriving Communities Program said,
“this is only the latest in a string of actions by the EPA that will benefit the chemical industry at the expense of public health.” For more, here is a blog
by NRDC’s Daniel Rosenberg.
When prioritization is complete, chemicals designated as high priority will begin a 3-year risk evaluation process to determine if the chemical, under the conditions of use, presents an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. The designation of a chemical as a low priority means that further risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.
The 20 high priority candidate chemicals include seven chlorinated solvents, six phthalates, four flame retardants, formaldehyde, a fragrance additive, and a polymer pre-curser. EPA has received a manufacturer request for a risk evaluation of two additional phthalates and is currently determining whether the request contains the minimum needed elements to proceed under EPA’s regulations. If complete, EPA has 15 days to provide notice of such a request.
The 20 low priority candidate chemicals have been selected from EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List, which includes chemicals that have been evaluated and determined to meet EPA's safer choice criteria.
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Massive Fire at Intercontinental Terminals
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will investigate the recent fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) site in Deer Park, TX. CSB investigators will start interviews next week and plan to be on site for several days to document the scene and collect evidence. The massive fire, which began on March 17th
engulfed 11 above ground storage tanks containing a variety of hydrocarbons, resulting in multiple orders for community members to Shelter in Place.
As many as seven tanks, containing naphtha, xylene, pyrolysis gasoline, and other volatile chemicals were involved. The company had reported that all of the fires had been extinguished by March 21, but two tanks reignited the following day.
Teams and contractors from the city of Deer Park, Harris County, TCEQ, EPA, and the U.S. Coast Guard are working together to evaluate impacts to Tucker Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel surrounding Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park, which recently dealt with several large fires in its chemical storage tanks.
The city of Deer Park reports that run-off of foam and chemicals resulting from the fire response do not pose a threat to the quality of the city’s drinking water. Drinking water is provided to the city by the Coastal Water Authority, which draws from the Trinity River. Water is stored in a reservoir located northeast of the Lynchburg Ferry. From there, it travels through a closed pipe system to Deer Park customers. Water in the municipal water system does not come into contact with the water impacted by the fire response. Furthermore, the public water system is designed to treat debris that has fallen, such as ash, that may have encountered untreated water stored at the drinking water plant. Treated water is contained within a pressurized distribution system. Laboratory testing of the city of Deer Park’s water revealed no evidence of benzene. The only volatile organic compounds detected were the total trihalomethanes at 14 micrograms per liter, which is well below the maximum allowed 80 micrograms per liter, which is a disinfectant byproduct.
The area north of Texas 225 drains toward the Houston Ship Channel, which is not used by any public water system in the Houston area as a source for drinking water. Deer Park residents who use wells north of Texas 225 should have their water tested before using.
Teams are looking out for and working to contain any chemicals that may be coming from the site, which include the industrial chemicals stored there and firefighting foam used to fight the fire and suppress vapors.
The Coast Guard directed the placement of close to 3,000 feet of containment and sorbent boom at strategic locations along the facility’s drainage outfall—including Tucker and Buffalo bayous, and the Houston Ship Channel—to contain discharge caused by the overflow of firefighting water and foam from the facility’s containment area and an exclusionary boom has been placed around the Battleship Texas and the entrance to Santa Ana Bayou as a precautionary measure to prevent impact to these sensitive areas. If at any time, air or water sampling indicates a safety risk to operations on the Houston Ship Channel, the Captain of the Port will take immediate action to cease operations in the impacted area. Employees working at facilities along the Houston Ship Channel were instructed follow safety instructions issued by their local and county officials.
The dike surrounding the fire-damaged chemical storage tanks was breached on Friday. The unified command is taking action to contain runoff from the breach with additional booms. Also, the Coast Guard closed traffic on the water in the vicinity of Tucker Bayou and the ITC site.
ITC’s contractor, at the direction of TCEQ, and the Coast Guard are skimming and pumping contaminated runoff into storage containers. TCEQ is working to fully assess and mitigate any wider impact.
No threat to local public water systems has been detected, and no local water system draws its source water from the Houston Ship Channel, which is adjacent to the ITC site.
On behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Attorney General filed a Petition and Application for Injunctive Relief in the District Court of Travis County against Intercontinental Terminals Company, LLC for violations of the Texas Clean Air Act.
Defendants Agree to Pay $179,647 in Cleanup Costs and Admit Liability and Accept Responsibility in Consent Decree
Robert S. Khuzami, Attorney for the United States, acting under authority conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, and Peter D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the EPA, announced that the United States has filed and simultaneously entered into a consent decree settling a civil lawsuit against Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, Henry Schein, Inc., and Union Carbide Corporation.
The lawsuit, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) – seeks to collect clean-up costs that EPA has incurred since April 2004 in connection with its clean-up of mercury at the Port Refinery Superfund Site in the Village of Rye Brook in Westchester County, New York. The consent decree, which will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval, provides for a combined payment of $179,647 by the Defendants.
Attorney for the United States Robert Khuzami said: “Polluters must pay for the costs they have imposed on the community. Each of these defendants arranged for the treatment or disposal of toxic mercury and contributed to significant contamination in a residential community. Each is now paying a share of the costs.”
As alleged in the complaint filed federal court, each of these defendants arranged for the sale and transport of used or scrap mercury, or mercury-containing products, directly or indirectly to Port Refinery, Inc.). Port Refinery operated a mercury refining business out of a residence in Rye Brook, New York. Port Refinery’s treatment and processing of the scrap mercury sent by the Defendants and other parties led to extensive releases of mercury, a hazardous substance, requiring two separate clean-up actions (“removals”) by EPA. In connection with the second removal, which began in 2004, EPA has incurred costs at the site for a variety of investigative and clean-up activities, including, among other things, excavating and disposing of more than 9,300 tons of mercury-contaminated soil from the Site.
In the consent decree, the defendants admited and accepted responsibility for the following:
- EPA has determined that from the 1970s through the early 1990s, Port Refinery engaged in, among other things, the business of mercury reclaiming, refining, and processing.
- Port Refinery operated in the Village of Rye Brook, Westchester County, New York, out of a two-story garage bordered by private residences on its south, east, and west sides.
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery took virtually no environmental precautions or safety measures during its mercury refinement process.
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery released a significant amount of mercury into the environment, contaminating the Site.
- EPA has determined that the Defendants’ mercury was comingled at the Site and contributed to the mercury released into the environment at the Site.
Pursuant to the consent decree, the defendants will pay a total of $179,647 in costs incurred by EPA, consisting of $120,198 to be paid by UCC, $54,845 to be paid by Columbia, and $4,604 to be paid by Schein.
The lawsuit is the United States’ fourth lawsuit against responsible parties to recover clean-up costs for the second removal at the Port Refinery site. Prior to the settlement, the United States had recovered $647,582 from other responsible parties. The United States is continuing to pursue its claims against additional potentially responsible parties.
The consent decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval, to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the consent decree.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony J. Sun and Natasha W. Teleanu are in charge of the case.
Groups Sue EPA Over Decades-Long Failure to Protect Communities from Most Dangerous Chemical Spills
The Environmental Justice Health Alliance, Clean Water Action, and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit
against the EPA for its failure to pass regulations requiring the most dangerous chemical facilities to develop plans to prevent and respond to worst-case scenario spills of hazardous substances, including spills triggered by natural disasters that put people’s health at risk. Congress mandated such regulations in 1990 – but more than 25 years later, EPA has failed to act.
“From Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Harvey, we've repeatedly witnessed communities inundated by toxic flood waters—laced with an unknown concoction of hazardous chemical substances. These preventable toxic chemical exposures add an insidious threat of long-term health problems to the near-term heartbreak of natural disasters. Black, Brown, and poor communities are more likely to be impacted by chemical spills and suffer the health impacts of pollution, so EPA's nearly 30-year delay has allowed some of our most disadvantaged communities to suffer toxic pollution right when they're most vulnerable,” said Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA).
"Climate change is increasingly bringing chemical disaster to our doorsteps. Rising sea levels and a dramatic increase in major flooding events are overwhelming unprepared chemical facilities and washing toxic substances into the homes of nearby communities. Communities of color and low-income families have always faced a disproportionate burden of toxic floodwaters and chemical spills, but this is a burden no community deserves. Congress was wise to require EPA to establish rules to prevent worst-case scenario toxic chemical spills almost 30 years ago, and it would be wise for EPA to finally take action to protect our families,” said Jose Bravo, Executive Director of the Just Transition Alliance, an EJHA affiliated organization.
Alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, the complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York and seeks to force EPA to promptly issue rules requiring robust spill-prevention and -response planning for the most dangerous onshore chemical facilities – which, because of their proximity to water, could cause substantial harm to the environment and human health.
“Congress required EPA to develop regulations to address hazardous substance spills and leaks into water nearly 30 years ago. The agency's failure to act ignores Congress' intent and puts drinking water sources and communities at risk,” said Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action’s National Campaigns Director
Facilities producing and storing hazardous substances – including known human carcinogens – are disproportionately located in or adjacent to communities of color and low-income communities. As a result, the risks and consequences of preventable hazardous substance spills, which can contaminate waterways and harm public health, are disproportionately borne by these same fenceline communities.
“For over 25 years, EPA has abdicated its responsibility under the law to protect communities that live near aboveground storage tanks brimming with harmful chemicals. These communities live with the constant risk of experiencing catastrophic, toxic chemical spills in their own backyards. This lawsuit seeks to put critical protections in place once and for all,” said Kaitlin Morrison, Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
EPA’s failure to establish worst-case scenario spill planning regulations for onshore facilities like aboveground tanks storing hazardous substances has left a substantial gap in environmental and public health protections from chemical spills. An estimated 2,500 U.S. chemical facilities located in flood-prone areas
nationwide are subject only to state-level spill-planning requirements – which, if they exist at all, are vulnerable to rollback at any time.
Hurricane Harvey highlighted this glaring regulatory gap – despite Houston’s density of chemical facilities and susceptibility to severe flooding, Texas does not require facilities storing hazardous substances to develop specific plans for how to prevent and respond to worst-case scenario spills, including those caused by storms and natural disasters. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, numerous facilities released harmful chemicals through spills, leaks and explosions, causing some first responders to be hospitalized. Had worst-case scenario spill plans been in place at those facilities many of these injuries might have been avoided.
Ensuring that EPA fully complies with its duty to issue spill-prevention and response regulations will reduce the risk of harm to the communities who live closest to these facilities and help address the long-standing societal imbalance in the burdens that chemical production and storage impose on fenceline communities.
Air Quality Regulators Call for Improved Monitoring at California Refineries, Surrounding Communities
California air quality regulators have released a report
recommending actions to improve emergency and routine air monitoring at California’s major oil refineries and in the communities that surround them.
“Many communities near major refineries live in fear of exposure to airborne pollutants during a major refinery incident — or during normal operations,” CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey said. “The recommendations in this report will help to better assess and reduce the risks associated with long-term community exposure to routine and fugitive air releases. They also improve the rapid detection and communication of potentially hazardous releases during an emergency.”
The report lays out a four-part approach for improving air monitoring, modeling and communication around California’s major refineries:
- Expand air monitoring within refineries, at the fence line and in nearby communities;
- Improve modeling techniques to better predict impacts of pollution and incidents at refineries;
- Provide real-time information about air quality near refineries to first responders and the public; and
- Improve state and local coordination through an interagency refinery monitoring working group.
Authored by the California Air Resources Board and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (representing the state’s 35 local air districts), the report also recommends first responders have access to improved air monitoring tools and data, and they be thoroughly trained to apply them.
The CARB-CAPCOA report is part of a broader initiative set in place in 2013 to address refinery safety and emissions in response to a major fire in 2012 at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond. The fire raised concerns related to refinery maintenance and safety, and emergency preparedness, at and near California’s oil refineries. Air regulators presented a draft of the report, released in fall of 2017, at a series of meetings in California communities most impacted by potential and actual refinery emissions.
Actions recommended in the final report aim to strike a balance between local implementation of stronger air monitoring and communication systems, and state oversight. A proposed interagency working group, which would be comprised of staff from CARB and local air districts, would develop guidelines that air districts use in requiring refineries to expand air monitoring networks and making the data available to first responders and the public.
The refinery-focused guidance could serve as a future template for similar air monitoring around other types of industrial sources that pose a risk to nearby communities. California already has begun to address some of the report’s findings and recommendations. Several recent California statutes and regulations now improve refinery emergency preparedness, require community air monitoring, improve notification systems and establish permanent refinery oversight. One example, Assembly Bill 1647, includes new requirements for significantly enhanced fence-line and community-level air monitoring at and near refineries. Findings of the CARB-CAPCOA refinery-focused report will also be a useful resource as CARB and air districts work with stakeholders to implement California’s Community Air Protection Program under AB 617, enacted in 2017.
The report takes into account the refinery chemicals of highest concern as identified in a companion report also released by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). This report, “Analysis of Refinery Chemical Emissions and Health Effects
,” presents a list of chemicals emitted from California refineries and prioritizes the chemicals according to their emissions levels and toxicity. The report covers emissions that occur routinely in daily operations, as well as potential emissions from an accidental or other non-routine release.
The report supports the goals of the Interagency Refinery Task Force, established in response to concerns raised in the aftermath of the Chevron Refinery fire in 2012. As part of a broader effort to improve the coordination of refinery safety and compliance efforts, and improve emergency response capabilities, CARB and CAPCOA agreed to assess existing emergency air monitoring capabilities and identify potential improvements to refinery air monitoring systems. The agencies released an inventory of air monitoring and response capabilities for each major refinery in May 2015.
Contractor’s Falsified Radiation Monitoring Reports Cause Problems for Navy
The U.S. Navy has refused to disclose how it will move the decades-long, scandal-plagued Hunters Point Shipyard Superfund radiation cleanup forward, according to a federal lawsuit
filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). For months, the group has sought through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the Navy’s explanation for and plan to remedy widespread falsification of soil sampling and building surveys
by its principal contractor, Tetra Tech EC, Inc.
The suit would force the Navy to release records of its decision-making on issues uncovered by PEER in EPA and other official documents, including:
- EPA reevaluation of soil samples at Parcels B, G, D-2, UC-1, UC-2, and UC-3 showing widespread fraud (as high as 97%) to mask the true extent of radiation contamination;
- Extensive and systemic data manipulation of Tetra Tech building radiation surveys for the period from 2008 through 2016; and
- The actions the Navy is taking, if any, to verify or redress whistleblower allegations concerning fabrication, data manipulation, and related misconduct by Tetra Tech at Hunters Point.
“This suit probes whether the Navy is a victim of, or a coconspirator in, widespread eco-fraud at Hunters Point,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to the lack of known corrective action by the Navy despite continuing for years to pay Tetra Tech even after the unreliability of its work was known. “We, as well as the entire San Francisco Bay Area, would also like to know if the Navy has a concrete plan to actually clean up Hunters Point – and if so, what is that plan and when will it be implemented.”
Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has been an EPA Superfund site for 30 years. After World War II, Navy nuclear weapons research and efforts to decontaminate ships exposed to nuclear bomb tests left the site heavily polluted with radioactivity. To date, the Navy has spent nearly a billion dollars on the cleanup.
The PEER FOIA suit also seeks records reflecting the current status of Tetra Tech as a Navy contractor. Recently, the U.S. Justice Department joined a False Claims Act lawsuit against Tetra Tech for recovery of federal funds paid for fraudulent work at Hunters Point and other sites. Yet, the Navy has made no apparent moves to debar Tetra Tech as eligible for future Navy consulting contracts. Significantly, one defense to a False Claims suit is collusion by the contracting agency in any material misrepresentations.
12 Penalties Issued for Environmental Violations in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 12 penalties totaling
$112,576 for various environmental violations.
Fines were delivered between February 2 and 28 and ranged from $1,050 to $23,461. Alleged violations included failing to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, operating a landfill gas collection system without an air quality permit and failing to properly maintain underground fuel storage tanks.
DEQ issued civil penalties against the following organizations and individuals:
- ACG Inc., $8,800, Carlton (asbestos)
- City of Toledo, $4,250, Toledo (wastewater)
- K. Quarries Inc., $16,566, Oretown and Sheridan (stormwater)
- Dan Kauffman Excavating Inc., $15,661, Otis and Sheridan (stormwater)
- Douglas County Public Works Department, $12,539, Roseburg (air quality)
- Erickson Incorporated, $3,400, Medford (hazardous waste)
- Frank Ashbeck, $3,534, Pendleton (asbestos)
- Gunderson LLC, $9,273, Portland (stormwater)
- Knife River Corporation-Northwest, $23,461, Central Point (stormwater and wastewater)
- Sai Golden Food and Gas LLC, $5,731, Eugene (underground fuel storage tanks)
- SPII LLC, $9,361, Portland (stormwater)
- TI-Glenwood LLC, $1,050, Eugene (underground storage tanks)
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment.
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
New Mexico to Withdraw from WOTUS Lawsuit
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) filed a motion in federal court in North Dakota to withdraw from litigation challenging the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule.
NMED believes the positions taken in the 2015 lawsuit are inconsistent with its current position on the proposed rule issued by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in February, in which the EPA seeks to revise the definition of a “Water of the United States.”
“New Mexicans understand the value of water as a natural and cultural resource,” said Environment Department Secretary James Kenney. “Ephemeral streams, wetlands and groundwater are equally as important as the Rio Grande River. All of our state’s precious water resources must be afforded robust legal protections.”
The proposed definition of a “Water of the United States” would exclude 96% of New Mexico’s waters, including all ephemeral streams (those that contain water only during or in response to rainfall), some intermittent streams (those that contain water for only part of the year), groundwater, certain wetlands and more. If the proposed rule becomes law, EPA would no longer require federal Clean Water Act discharge permits from facilities that discharge pollutants into excluded surface waters.
Given that New Mexico is an arid state that receives approximately 15 inches of rain per year statewide, EPA’s proposed rule would disproportionately impact New Mexico’s waters. Combined with the effects of climate change, New Mexico’s waters may become more intermittent and therefore even less protected under this proposed rule.
EPA is accepting public comments on the newly proposed WOTUS rule through April 15. Additional information on the proposed rule and how to comment are available on EPA’s website
NMED is developing comments to submit to EPA on the 2019 WOTUS Rule.
Congressmen Demand Health and Safety Studies from EPA
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) sent a letter
to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting that EPA immediately release the health and safety studies it used to conduct its risk evaluation of Pigment Violet 29 (PV29), a chemical commonly found in paints and plastics.
When EPA published its draft risk evaluation for public comment, all of the health and safety studies used in the evaluation were hidden and wrongly marked as “Confidential Business Information” (CBI). On January 30
, the Committee leaders first asked EPA to produce these studies. In a February 15
response, EPA acknowledged that such a designation is unlawful for studies submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but has still not produced the studies in question.
“TSCA does not allow health and safety studies submitted under the Act or used by the EPA under the Act to be protected as Confidential Business Information (CBI). EPA’s decision to label those health and safety studies as CBI was contrary to the statute and has impaired transparency,” the Committee leaders wrote. “Although we received a response from you on February 15 acknowledging that the studies were not eligible for protection under TSCA, EPA did not provide the requested studies. We are, therefore, forced to renew that request.”
In its response, EPA argued it was protecting the studies that it relied on to make its decision under general CBI regulations, rather than the specific CBI provisions established in the TSCA revisions.
“We appreciate your concession that the specific CBI provisions in TSCA do not support the protection of any health and safety studies as CBI. However, we take issue with your argument that you have separate, additional authority to mask health and safety information used under TSCA because that argument is contradicted by the plain language of the statute and your own regulations,” Pallone and Tonko continued in their letter to Wheeler.
EPA’s draft risk evaluation found no unreasonable risk from PV29, despite the fact it belongs to a class of chemicals linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, immune impacts and neurological damage. EPA’s efforts to conceal the studies it used to dismiss these health impacts undermines transparency and the credibility of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which updated the TSCA program. The committee leaders requested that the studies be provided to the Committee and made public by Monday, March 25.
Before the Congressional deadline expired, on March 22 EPA released portions of the studies, with CBI redacted. “We are committed to being transparent with information on chemicals, as we work to develop risk evaluations under TSCA,” said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn.
According to EPA, the companies that submitted the studies had claimed the documents as confidential business information. Robust summaries of the studies were provided to the public along with the draft risk evaluation on November 15, 2018. Since that time, those companies have revised their confidentiality claims, dropping most of them. Following Agency regulations, EPA has reviewed the remaining claims of confidential business information and determined that the information is entitled to confidential treatment. That information has been redacted from the studies publicly released.
The release of these studies does not change the Agency’s proposed “no unreasonable risk” determination as concluded in the draft risk evaluation published in November. EPA previously submitted the complete, unredacted versions of the studies to the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to use in their peer review of the draft risk evaluation.
EPA plans to reopen the comment period on the draft risk evaluation in light of these newly released studies. The peer review panel on PV 29, canceled due to the lapse in appropriations, is in the process of being rescheduled.
EPA, Georgia-Pacific Settle Industrial Stormwater Violations
EPA and Georgia-Pacific Wood Products, LLC, of Coos Bay, Oregon, reached a Clean Water Act settlement that is expected to reduce uncontrolled industrial stormwater
threats to Isthmus Slough and Coos Bay. The EPA found that Georgia-Pacific Wood Products committed numerous violations of their Oregon state industrial stormwater permit at their Coos Bay facility. As part of the two-part agreement settling the matter, Georgia-Pacific agreed to comply with existing Oregon industrial storm water regulations and pay a $79,000 penalty.
“Stormwater management is a critical part of safeguarding Coos Bay water quality,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office for Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “When sediment, metals, oil and grease are discharged to adjacent waterbodies, downstream water quality is degraded, and fish and wildlife habitat is harmed. Stormwater management not only protects public health and the environment, it’s also a required good business practice.”
Georgia-Pacific agreed to the settlement terms under Oregon’s industrial stormwater permit regulations. Oregon’s program requires facilities to implement comprehensive stormwater controls to minimize the amount of sediment and other pollutants from being discharged in stormwater runoff. EPA performed the inspection and is taking this action as part of a compliance work sharing agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Stormwater runoff from the facility discharges – through a series of outfalls – directly to tidally influenced Isthmus Slough, which is considered a tributary to Coos Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Isthmus Slough has “impaired” water quality and does not meet the state of Oregon’s water quality standards.
Some of the violations found during the EPA inspection were:
- Failure to collect representative samples
- Failure to maintain control measures
- Failure to complete adequate Tier 1 corrective action response
- Failure to monitor outfall 3A
- Failure to properly monitor oil and grease
Georgia-Pacific neither admits nor denies the factual allegations contained in the Consent Agreement and Administrative Order on Consent.
Dirt Broker Gets 30 Months in Prison for Illegal Dumping In Wetlands And Other Protected Waters
James Philip Lucero was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the unpermitted discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States, including wetlands, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, EPA Special Agent in Charge Jay M. Green, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, and United States Corps of Engineers Deputy San Francisco District Counsel Jesse L. Anderson. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, United States District Judge.
On February 21, 2018, a federal jury convicted Lucero, 59, of Carmel, Calif., of violating the Federal Clean Water Act. The evidence at trial demonstrated Lucero, a self-described “dirt broker,” orchestrated the illegal discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States adjacent to Mowry Slough, part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge located in Newark, Calif. As a dirt broker, Lucero charged a fee to contractors and trucking companies in exchange for providing open space to dump fill material, including construction debris. The defendant caused approximately 1800 industrial-sized truckloads of construction debris and fill material to be dumped on private property containing federally-protected wetland and other waters of the United States, without applying for or obtaining a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the EPA or obtaining permission from the landowner. A federal grand jury handed down a Superseding Indictment on January 31, 2017, charging Lucero with causing dirt, soil, and other materials to be discharged from a point source into waters of the United States, including over ten acres of wetlands and more than an acre of other waters of the United States. Lucero was convicted on all three counts of unpermitted filling of wetlands and tributaries, in violation of 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311, 1319(c)(2)(A), and 1344.
“Protecting the long-term health and integrity of San Francisco Bay, including its tributaries, wetlands, connecting waters, and associated plant and wildlife, are of the utmost importance to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “Today’s sentence should serve as a stern warning to anyone contemplating taking steps to illegally dump in the waters of the United States.”
“The tidal marsh at issue in this case is protected under both the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in California. “Today’s sentence demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate illegal dumping into waters of the United States.”
In addition to the prison term, Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to serve twelve months of supervised release upon his release. A hearing to determine the amount restitution has been set for May 28, 2019. Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to surrender and to begin serving his sentence on April 22, 2019.
Pennsylvania DEP Settlement on Abandoned Wells
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced a settlement with Diversified Gas & Oil Corporation and Diversified Oil & Gas, LLC (collectively referred to as Diversified) and Alliance Petroleum Co LLC (Alliance) over well plugging violations in 23 Pennsylvania counties.
“This agreement is a win for the commonwealth because it ensures that over 1,400 oil and gas wells are properly maintained or plugged and that these operators, not Pennsylvania citizens, bear the full cost of operating or plugging them,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Diversified and Alliance have agreed to a $7 million surety bond for the wells covered by this settlement, plus an additional $20,000 to $30,000 bond for each abandoned or nonproducing oil and gas well acquired in the future. Under current law, adopted in 2012 as an amendment to Pennsylvania's Fiscal Code, conventional oil and gas operators such as Diversified and Alliance are only required to secure $25,000 of blanket bonding to cover all of their wells, which in the case of the two companies, amounts to bonding of approximately $2 per well. The performance bonding negotiated in this settlement is closer to actual plugging costs that can begin around $20,000 per well and go much higher depending on well and site conditions.
With this Consent Order and Agreement (COA) in place, DEP has approved pending transfers of non-producing mostly conventional oil and gas wells to Alliance and Diversified. The COA allows some wells to be put back into production, so long as minimum production levels are maintained, and sets a plugging and restoration schedule for non-producing wells of 15 years while prioritizing the plugging of wells that pose health, safety, and/or environmental threats. The COA may be extended for an additional 5 years subject to additional bonding of $30,000 per well for wells to be plugged during the extension.
The Oil and Gas Act requires owners and operators to plug wells upon abandonment. In July 2018, DEP issued orders
to Alliance, XTO Energy Inc. (XTO), and CNX Gas Company LLC (CNX) to plug 1,058 abandoned oil and gas wells across the state—based on required self-reporting of well production data—and held pending transfers of said wells. Those wells, along with wells that Diversified also reported as non-producing, make up the approximately 1400 wells specifically addressed in in the COA. Alliance, XTO, and CNX appealed DEP’s orders to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.
Pennsylvania has over 8,000 orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells
on its inventory and hundreds of thousands of legacy wells may be unaccounted for, posing a major financial liability and environmental, public health, and safety risk.
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