DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) announced a proposal that will extend safety and environmental standards to hazardous liquid operators with less than 500 miles of pipeline. The standards will provide additional protection to areas where a pipeline failure could pose the greatest threat to people and the environment.
The proposed regulations would step up testing and safety standards for hazardous liquid pipelines in "high consequence areas" such as populated areas, areas that are considered highly susceptible to environmental damage, and commercially navigable waterways.
This proposed rule, like the rule RSPA finalized on Nov. 3, 2000 for operators of hazardous liquid pipelines of 500 or more miles, would require pipeline operators to develop and follow a safety program including continuous evaluation of pipelines including mandatory testing with a five-year interval for retesting.
The Department's Office of Pipeline Safety will enforce the regulations. RSPA plans to propose increased safety requirements for natural gas transmission pipeline operators in a separate rule.
The rule has been sent to the Federal Register and will be on
DOJ/EPA FILE LAWSUIT AGAINST MINING COMPANY
The Department of Justice filed suit against Magnesium Corporation of America, its parent corporation Renco Metals Inc., and other related entities charging that the mineral mining company is illegally handling hazardous waste at its magnesium production plant on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. For many years, the MagCorp plant has ranked number one on the EPA's toxic release inventory, based on its chlorine emissions. The facility is the third largest producer of magnesium in the world.
In the complaint filed on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, the government alleges that Magnesium Corporation (MagCorp) is illegally generating, storing and disposing of waste including at least five wastes regarded as hazardous because of their toxicity or corrosivity. The Justice Department brought the lawsuit on behalf of the EPA, asking the court to direct MagCorp to comply with federal and state environmental laws. The suit also asks the court to impose penalties on MagCorp under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal hazardous waste statute. For example, RCRA requires companies such as MagCorp to meet standards for treating, storing and disposing of wastes; minimize hazardous releases to the environment; establish training programs for employees; and meet dozens of other requirements.
MagCorp processes magnesium chloride salts taken from water of the Great Salt Lake at its Tooele County, Utah, plant, and this production of magnesium generates several kinds of hazardous waste. The plant discharges thousands of gallons per day of liquids and solid waste into several unlined ditches and into a 400-acre pond, immediately adjacent to the Great Salt Lake.
For many years, MagCorp maintained that its waste was exempt from RCRA requirements because of an exclusion in the law for certain kinds of processes involving minerals. None of the waste addressed in the lawsuit is covered by this exclusion, according to the lawsuit.
The hazardous waste suit names several defendants in addition to
MagCorp: Renco Metals Inc., the Renco Group Inc., Mr. Ira Rennert
of New York, N.Y, the Rennert Trusts, Justin W. D'Atri and
EPA FINALIZES AGREEMENT WITH PETROLEUM REFINERY
EPA finalized an agreement with BP Amoco, the nation's second largest petroleum refinery, to resolve Clean Air Act violations at eight refineries owned by BP, Amoco and Arco (recently acquired by BP). The settlement is the second in a federal enforcement strategy for achieving across-the-board compliance with U.S. refineries (the government settled with Koch Petroleum Group in December).
The agreement was finalized in a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Indiana, on Thursday, Jan. 18. It calls for BP to pay a civil penalty $9.5 million to the United States Treasury and $500,000 to the State of Indiana for monitoring and reducing volatile organic compounds in the vicinity of the Whiting refinery. The injunctive relief is estimated by BP to be approximately $600 million.
Under the settlement, BP will install and operate innovative pollution control technologies that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from refinery process units by more than 50,000 tons annually. In addition BP will implement comprehensive, facility-wide, enhanced monitoring and fugitive emission control programs; employ significantly improved engineering practices to eliminate excess flaring of hydrogen sulfide; undertake measures to ensure that carbon monoxide emissions from its process units meet applicable requirements; monitor incinerator performance and install monitoring and controls; and install particulate matter controls to comply with federal emission requirements.
The eight refineries are located in Carson, Calif.; Whiting, Ind.; Mandan, N.D.; Toledo, Ohio; Texas City, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Yorktown, Va.; and Cherry Point, Wash. The proposed Consent Decree also resolves alleged violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act at BP's Whiting, Ind., refinery. The United States was joined in this agreement by the states of Indiana and Ohio, as well as the Northwest Air Pollution Authority in Washington.
For more information, contact Tanya Meekins at 202-564-7819.
PLANT-INCORPORATED PROTECTANT RULES ISSUED
Three final rules were made available that explain EPA's framework for federal oversight of plant incorporated protectants, which include plants engineered through biotechnology to express pesticidal properties. Plant-incorporated protectants are substances that act like pesticides which are produced and used by a plant to protect it from pests, such as insects, viruses, and fungi. These rules define the type of plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs) which are required to undergo scientific evaluation to ensure protection of human health and the environment.
EPA's current system of rigorous scientific evaluation for plant-incorporated protectants will continue. The rules finalize many regulatory provisions proposed by the Agency in a 1994 notice of proposed rulemaking. Since publishing the proposed rule, EPA has consulted with independent panels of scientists and solicited public comments on a variety of issues related to the rules. By undergoing an open and transparent process of scientific consultation and public comment, EPA has ensured that these rules reflect the Agency's commitment to sound science and tough, but fair, regulatory standards.
In cases where the Agency determines that plant-incorporated protectants pose little or no health or environmental risk, they will be exempted from certain regulatory requirements. For example, plant-incorporated protectants developed through conventional breeding will remain exempt from all requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, with the exception of adverse effects reporting requirements for manufacturers. In addition, as proposed in 1994, the rules will exempt from tolerance requirements the genetic material DNA involved in the production of the pesticidal substance in the plant. EPA is also requesting further comment on three exemptions originally proposed in 1994 but not included in these rules. These proposed exemptions are:
- PIPs derived through genetic engineering from plants that naturally propogate;
- PIPs that act primarily by affecting the plant (such as causing the plant to have thicker wax cuticles); and
- PIPs based on viral coat proteins (substances that encapsulate and protect the genetic material of certain plant viruses).
In a supplemental notice also available , EPA is inviting public comments and data on the appropriate regulatory oversight of PIPs in the above categories. EPA is also requesting public comments on the National Academy of Sciences report, published in April 2000, entitled "Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation," as it relates to plant-incorporated protectants derived through genetic engineering.
The Federal Register notices are available at
http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/new.htm and will be published in the
Federal Register shortly. For more information on EPA's
biotechnology program, visit
FEDERAL AND STATE TASK FORCE AGREE TO REDUCE GULF OF MEXICO DEAD ZONE
EPA, along with nine other federal agencies, nine states along the Mississippi River, and two tribes have developed an action plan to reduce the size of the "dead zone," a large, oxygen-starved area of the Gulf of Mexico which threatens the nation's most productive and valuable fishing grounds. The states and federal agencies have agreed to work together to cut the "dead zone" by about half its average size over the next 15 years.
The Action Plan establishes a goal of reducing the so-called "dead zone" by reducing its size by half by 2015. They also have agreed to develop strategies to reduce nutrients entering the Gulf, particularly the amount of nitrogen, by 30 percent. The Action Plan calls for continued research and monitoring to better understand this problem and use the information as a basis to modify the goals and actions as may be necessary in the future.
Every summer along the Texas-Louisiana portion of the Gulf of Mexico, certain nutrients, especially nitrogen, drain down from the Mississippi River into the Gulf and decrease the oxygen supply to aquatic organisms. This area becomes and is referred to as a "dead zone," because some organisms die while others flee the area. The decrease in oxygen, called hypoxia, affects an area that over the last five years has averaged 14,128 square kilometers (5,454 square miles) off Louisiana's coast. This area has traditionally been one of the nation's most productive fisheries.
The decrease in oxygen is primarily the result of excess nitrogen from the 31-state Mississippi River drainage basin. A significant portion of the nutrients entering the Gulf from the Mississippi River come from human activities: discharges from sewage treatment and industrial wastewater treatment plants and storm water runoff from city streets and farms. Nutrients from automobile exhaust and fossil fueled power plants also enter the waterways and the Gulf through air deposition to the vast land area drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. About 90 percent of the nitrates entering the Gulf come from runoff. About 56 percent of the nitrates enter the Mississippi River above the Ohio River. The Ohio basin adds 34 percent of the nitrates. High nitrogen loads come from basins receiving wastewater discharges and draining agricultural lands in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, southern Minnesota, and Ohio.
Under the Action Plan, states, working as river-basin committees, would have flexibility to develop the most effective, practical measures to reduce discharges of nutrients and remove them from their waters. The strategies are expected to rely heavily on voluntary and incentive-based approaches for dealing with agricultural runoff and restoring wetlands. The Action Plan calls for new resources to fund these activities.
Since l997, EPA has chaired the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force to develop this plan for reducing Gulf hypoxia. In l998, Congress passed the Harmful Algal Boom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act which specifically requires this Action Plan.
The plan and additional information are available on EPA's Office
of Water Web site at http://www.epa.gov/ow, under "What's New."
EPA TO HELP STATES PROTECT VISIBILITY IN U.S. SCENIC AREAS
In another step toward restoring pristine views in the nation's national parks and wilderness areas, EPA amended its regional haze rule to help states determine how to set air pollution limits for a number of older, large utilities and other industrial plants.
This action does not set emission limits for the older plants. It simply provides guidance for states to use as they determine which plants must install emission controls and the type of controls they must use. By law, states must require these facilities to install the best emission controls available as they implement the regional haze rule. This requirement is known as the Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) requirement.
The limits the states set will apply to certain facilities built between 1962 and 1977 and that emit more than 250 tons a year of visibility-damaging pollutants. Facilities that may have to install controls come from 26 industrial categories, including utility boilers, industrial boilers, and industrial plants such as petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and steel and paper mills. Many of these sources have previously been exempt from stringent pollution controls under the Clean Air Act.
EPA issued the regional haze rule in April 1999 to improve the views and air quality for millions of visitors to Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains and other national parks and wilderness areas. During much of the year, a veil of white or brown haze hangs over many of these sites. This haze - caused primarily by tiny particles that absorb and scatter sunlight - results from air pollution from power plants, cars and factories that drifts hundreds of miles to obscure some of the country's most famous scenic vistas. The same pollution that causes haze also poses serious health risks, especially for people with chronic respiratory diseases.
The proposed amendment will allow states to identify the facilities that must install emission controls, and how to evaluate the types of controls those plants must use. Most states must identify these plants by 2004. Controls must be installed within five years after EPA approves the state regional haze plans, which states must complete by 2004-2008. The amendment also guides states on establishing emissions trading programs as an alternative to requiring pollution control equipment. States may use such trading programs, provided they yield greater visibility improvement and emissions reductions than would be expected through plant-by-plant emission limits.
EPA expects that controls on these older plants will significantly reduce emissions of pollutants that damage visibility, including sulfur dioxide (SO2) from power plants. Power plants potentially subject to the BART requirement, for example, emitted more than six million tons of SO2 in 1999. EPA anticipates that some facilities will be able to reduce emissions by 90 to 95 percent using existing retrofit technology.
The proposed amendments will appear soon in the Federal Register
(with a 60-day public comment period), but can be accessed
immediately by going to the Recent Action section at
DOT SHIPPING NAME CLARIFICATION
DOT uses the shipping names Toxic liquid organic n.o.s. and Toxic liquid inorganic n.o.s. for materials having constituents that cause the material to have a low LD50. DOT does not have a more generic shipping name such as Toxic liquid n.o.s. However, there may be situations in which a material is toxic for materials that are both inorganic and organic (e.g. arsenic and pentachlorophenol). In that case, which name should you choose?
According to a March 17, 2000, DOT clarification memo, the
shipper should identify which is the highest in concentration to
determine whether the shipping name should include organic or
inorganic (with a 50/50 tie going to organic). For example: if
you have a material that contains 2% arsenic, 4% chromium, 15%
pentachlorophenol, and 79% Water and If Toxic were the only
hazard class for this material, the shipping name would be Toxic
liquid organic n.o.s. (pentachlorophenol).
EPA ESTABLISHES NEW ARSENIC STANDARD IN DRINKING WATER
EPA is establishing a new arsenic standard for drinking water at 10 parts per billion (ppb), down from the current 50 ppb level.
All 54,000 community water systems, serving 254 million people will be subject to the new standard. However, EPA estimates that roughly five percent, or 3,000, community water systems serving l3 million people, will need to take corrective action to lower current arsenic levels in their drinking water. The standard will also apply, for the first time, to 20,000 water systems that serve people only part of the year, such as schools, churches, and factories. Approximately 1,100 of these systems, serving two million people will need to take corrective action. Most of the systems affected by the new standard serve fewer than 10,000 people.
Water systems in western states and parts of the Midwest and New England that depend on underground sources of drinking water will be affected most by the new standard.
In general, arsenic can contaminate drinking water through natural processes, such as erosion of rocks and minerals. Arsenic can also contaminate drinking water when used for industrial purposes. Arsenic is found at higher levels in underground sources of drinking water than in surface waters, such as lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.
The earlier 50 ppb arsenic standard for drinking water was set by EPA in 1975, based on a Public Health Service standard originally set in 1942. In March 1999, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed a review of updated scientific data on arsenic and recommended that EPA lower the standard as soon as possible. Although the NAS did not recommend a specific numeric level, its recommendation formed the basis for EPA's new standard.
EPA estimates that 90 percent of households served by systems needing treatment will have annual costs of $60 or less per household. Financial and technical assistance is available to help small systems address the costs of this rule, primarily through the drinking water state revolving fund established under the Clinton-Gore Administration that has provided $3.6 billion to drinking water systems since 1997. In addition to financial assistance, compliance period extensions of up to 9 years (resulting in a total compliance period of 14 years) are available to small systems through an exemption process.
Additional information on the new standard is available at
http://www.epa.gov/safewater, under "What's New" or from EPA's
drinking water hotline at 800-426-4791.
LEAD AND LEAD COMPOUNDS RULE FINALIZED
EPA published a Final Rule in the Federal Register (January 17, 2001; 66 FR 4500) that lowers the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting thresholds for lead and lead compounds to 100 pounds because EPA concluded that lead and lead compounds are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemicals. The final rule is effective for Reporting Year 2001 (RY2001) Form Rs due July 1, 2002. The final rule also includes modifications to certain reporting exemptions and reporting requirements for lead and lead compounds. Information on EPCRA Section 313 TRI and the Lead and Lead Compounds Final Rule is available at http://www.epa.gov/tri.
If you have questions about EPCRA Section 313 TRI or the Lead and
Lead Compounds Final Rule, please call the Hotline at (800)
424-9346 or TDD (800) 553-7672.
USE OF ECONOMIC INCENTIVES INCREASES
Over the last 20 years, and particularly during the last decade, economic incentives are being increasingly used to control pollution and improve environmental and health protection---for example, acid rain trading and energy-saving volunteer programs.
The 20-year assessment is contained in a new EPA report, "The United States Experience with Economic Incentives for Protecting the Environment." The diverse cost-saving inducements are used as a substitute for or supplement to traditional "command and control" regulations and the trend is occurring at all government levels.
Congress still requires, under laws EPA administers, reliance on regulations to reduce pollution and to improve environmental and health protection. However, the Agency has increasingly used a wide variety of economic incentive mechanisms in recent years. In addition, state and local governments are applying numerous and diverse economic incentives to the same efforts.
Economic incentives are expected to be particularly useful in reducing pollution not subject to regulation. For instance, citizens can be encouraged to reduce curbside garbage by composting and other means, if there is a disposal charge based on the volume of garbage. Other examples in the report include:
- trading of sulfur dioxide allowances in dealing with acid rain pollution which allows facilities to find less costly ways to reduce emissions;
- basing air emissions permits fees on the quantity of emissions and charging for the disposal of industrial effluents in water treatment plants;
- requiring a deposit on beverage containers to encourage recycling, which now occurs in 10 states; many states have a similar system for lead acid batteries;
- imposing liability for natural resource damages caused by oil and hazardous material spills, an incentive to encourage pollution prevention;
- encouraging toxic emissions reductions by broadly disseminating information about emissions in communities in the annual Toxics Release Inventory; and,
- promoting voluntary programs such as the Energy Star, Waste Wise and XL which reduce pollution by assisting and rewarding voluntary actions to reduce energy use and limit pollution.
Economic incentives can provide unusual environmental management opportunities, for instance, by using them where traditional regulations might not be possible, particularly for small or geographically dispersed facilities.
The report is available at http://www.epa.gov/economics under Our Publications, then Environmental Economics Report Inventory, then New Downloads.