DOT to Impose New Restrictions on Lithium Batteries

August 21, 2017

DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing is proposing three amendments to the Hazardous Materials Regulations for the transport of lithium cells and batteries by aircraft: 1) a prohibition on the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft; 2) a requirement that lithium ion cells and batteries be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft; and 3) a limitation on the use of alternative provisions for small lithium cell or battery shipments to one package per consignment or overpack. These amendments are consistent with three emergency amendments to the 2015–2016 International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (ICAO Technical Instructions).

The amendments will not restrict passengers or crew members from bringing personal items or electronic devices containing lithium batteries aboard aircraft in carry-on or checked baggage, or restrict cargo-only aircraft from transporting lithium ion batteries at a state of charge exceeding 30 percent when packed with or contained in equipment. PHMSA is providing limited relief from the passenger aircraft prohibition and the state of charge restriction for small lithium ion batteries transported entirely within Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories.  An interim final rule is expected to be published on December 29, 2017.

Nashville RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Nashville, TN, on September 12–14 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Pittsburgh RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Pittsburgh, PA, on September 12–14 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

San Francisco Hazardous Waste and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Francisco, CA, on September 12–14 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Updates to EPA’s EJSCREEN Provide Access to Important New Data

The EPA recently launched its annual update of EJSCREEN, the Agency’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool. The updated version incorporates the most up-to-date demographic and environmental data available. It also reflects improvements made based on feedback gleaned from users.

In addition to updating the underlying datasets, the highlights of this year’s updates include:

  • A revised water data layer that vastly improves user ability to screen for surface water pollution
  • The ability to look at municipalities as distinct geographic areas—a common request from our local government users—in addition to states, counties and census boundaries
  • New map layers that provide data on public institutions such as schools and public housing

 

EPA will host a series of webinars on how to use the newly updated tool. Details about those webinars, which are scheduled for August 21, September 7, and September 14, are available at https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen.

First created in 2012 for internal use, EJSCREEN provided EPA with a single tool to evaluate environmental justice concerns in a nationally consistent and meaningful way. In 2015, the tool was released to the public in an effort to be transparent about how we consider environmental justice, to assist our partners and stakeholders in making informed decisions, and to create a common starting point between EPA and others when looking at issues related to environmental justice. EJSCREEN recently was awarded the prestigious national Special Achievement in GIS Award from ESRI.

EJSCREEN continues to be a tremendously popular tool, consistently ranking as one of EPA’s most used tools available through the Agency website. Since its release, the tool has been viewed over 211,000 times.

The tool is regularly used by other federal, Tribal, state and local government partners as well as by nonprofit and community groups, business and industry, and academia. Based on a recent EJSCREEN evaluation, the uses of the tool range from informing policy, strategic, and programmatic decisions to crafting outreach tools and educational materials.

NRDC, Partners Sue Trump Administration Over Flawed Toxic Chemical Regulations

The Natural Resources Defense Council, together with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and Cape Fear River Watch, have sued the Trump administration over its rules for regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products and in the workplace. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Richmond, challenges industry-friendly rules the EPA issued in July. Those rules address how the agency plans to prioritize chemicals and evaluate their health risks under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Ozone Treaty Taking a Bite Out of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted to restore Earth’s protective ozone layer in 1989, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the United States. In a twist, a new study shows the 30-year old treaty has had a major side benefit of reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S.

That’s because the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the treaty are also potent GHGs, with heat-trapping abilities up to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

The new study is the first to quantify the impact of the Montreal Protocol on U.S. GHG emissions with atmospheric observations. The study’s results show that reducing the use of ozone-depleting substances from 2008 to 2014 eliminated the equivalent of 170 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s roughly the equivalent of 50% of the reductions achieved by the U.S. for carbon dioxide and other GHGs over the same period. The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“We were surprised by the size of the decline, especially compared with other greenhouse gases,” said Lei Hu, a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) working at NOAA and lead author of the new study.

Hu added that the benefits of the Montreal Protocol on GHG emissions would likely grow in the future. By 2025, she projects that the effect of the Montreal Protocol will be to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by the equivalent of 500 million tons of carbon dioxide per year compared with 2005 levels. This reduction would be equivalent to about 10% of the current U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide.

Previous studies have demonstrated that the Montreal Protocol has been more effective at curtailing global GHG emissions than any other international effort—even though climate change was not a consideration during the initial treaty negotiations in the late 1980s.

The new analysis, based on data collected by NOAA’s atmospheric monitoring network, confirms that the Montreal Protocol has been highly successful in the U.S. in its primary goal—reducing emissions of manufactured chlorine-based chemicals that, in addition to depleting ozone world-wide, create a hole the size of the continental U.S. in the Earth’s protective ozone layer over the Antarctic each September and October.

Those chemicals—chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and their substitutes, the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—have been widely used as refrigerants, foam blowing agents, aerosol propellants, fire retardants, and solvents. Chlorine from CFCs was first identified as capable of destroying stratospheric ozone in 1974. The Montreal Protocol has controlled the production and consumption of these chemicals since the late 1980s.

Implementation of the Montreal Protocol in the United States, largely through the Clean Air Act, led to a near complete phase-out of U.S. production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) beginning in 1996 and a 95% decline of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) production since 1998.

As a result, total emissions of CFCs in the U.S. have decreased by two-thirds from 2008 to 2014, while emissions of HCFCs declined by about half, the study authors said.

Another indication of the treaty’s impact is increasing U.S. emissions of ozone-friendly chemicals, such as hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs. However, some HFCs are also potent GHGs, and their increased use is offsetting some of the climate benefit of the Montreal Protocol, said Stephen Montzka, a researcher at NOAA and co-author of the new study.

Countries adhering to the Protocol, including the U.S., agreed to limit future production and consumption of HFCs in 2016.

“This shows what can be achieved by concerted and thoughtful international effort,” said Scott Lehman of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the new study. “Hopefully, the Protocol can serve as a model of the international cooperation that we need to tackle the real problem – carbon dioxide.”

ChemArt Fined $221,326 for Clean Air Act and Hazardous Waste Violations

A Lincoln, Rhode Island, metals etching company has made changes in its manufacturing equipment and process to ensure that it is complying with federal clean air and hazardous waste laws and to settle claims of violations by the EPA.

ChemArt Company, located at 11 New England Way, is spending $25,000 to reduce the amount of chorine it stores at its facility and to install safety and alarm features. The changes will reduce the likelihood of a chlorine release and will minimize damage that could result from such a release. According to an agreement signed recently with the New England office of the EPA, ChemArt will also pay a $221,326 penalty for its violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The case stems from a January 2015 inspection of the company during which EPA inspectors found that ChemArt had violated a number of requirements for chemical risk management planning and for handling hazardous wastes. Compliance with requirements for chemical risk management planning and hazardous waste management help to prevent releases of extremely hazardous substances (such as chlorine gas), help a facility and emergency responders prepare for any chemical releases that might occur, and results in better protection of the health and safety of employees, local residents, and the environment.

ChemArt's manufacturing process uses ferric chloride in automatic machines that etch on metal. The plant stores liquefied chlorine gas in four 2,000-pound cylinders. The chlorine is piped from there to the etching machines.

Chlorine, considered an extremely hazardous substance under the Clean Air Act, is a potent irritant to the eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and lungs. Long-term exposure to chlorine gas in workers has resulted in respiratory effects, including eye and throat irritation and airflow obstruction. Exposure to higher levels of chlorine have resulted in mucous membrane irritation; chest pain; vomiting; toxic pneumonitis; and pulmonary edema.

As part of the settlement with EPA, ChemArt will reduce its chlorine storage from 8,000 lb to about 2,450 lb. It will also install a three-cylinder manifold system to replace one of the two one-ton vessel distribution lines it now uses and it will re-plumb the entire chlorine piping system that feeds the etchers. Finally, it will use a vacuum system along the chlorine line to minimize any potential leakage and will install an automatic alarm and shut down system connected to the chlorine source.

The reduction in the amount of chlorine stored at ChemArt will mean that the facility is no longer subject to the specific risk management planning regulations of the Clean Air Act. However, the plant will still be subject to the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause, a more general standard of care that applies to facilities that handle extremely hazardous substances.

ChemArt fully cooperated with EPA during this action, promptly corrected all of the violations and has agreed to stay in compliance with federal hazardous waste laws.

Going Green with Plant-based Resins

Airplanes, electronics and solar cells are all in demand, but the materials holding these items together — epoxy thermosets — are not environmentally friendly. Now, a group reports in ACS’ journal Macromolecules that they have created a plant-based thermoset that could make devices greener.

Thermosets are resins that, when cured, undergo a change that makes them strong and stable. Once thermosets are molded into a shape, they typically are set and cannot be reworked. These materials are frequently used as adhesives and coatings in electronics, appliances and aircraft. But most epoxy thermosets are made with nonrenewable materials, and some contain substances that can potentially harm the environment. And because of their structures, they cannot break down or be recycled. Plant-based thermosets are commercially available but they are usually weak and easily break. Jian-Bing Zeng and colleagues wanted to create a safe and strong plant-based thermoset.

The team developed a new curing agent that was made of components of castor oil, which is derived from a plant. When the researchers used the agent on a soybean-based epoxy thermoset— also derived from a plant — it became more crystalline. That made the material stronger, and more durable and heat-resistant than before. In addition, light passed through the soybean-based thermoset, potentially making it ideal for applications, such as for use in solar cells.

Stepping Stone Builders Ordered to Close Illegal Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Well

The EPA recently reached an agreement with Stepping Stone Builders, Inc., to close an illegal motor vehicle waste disposal well in Fairbanks, Alaska.

EPA banned motor vehicle waste disposal wells in 2000 and required all existing wells in Alaska closed by 2005 to protect underground sources of drinking water. During a 2016 inspection of Stepping Stone Builders, EPA found three motor vehicle repair and maintenance shops had floor drains illegally connected to a septic system. The wells and septic system are located within a groundwater protection area for a public drinking water system and close to other public water systems.

“Motor vehicle waste disposal wells have the potential to allow oil, antifreeze, brake fluid and other hazardous chemicals to contaminate drinking water sources and put people’s health at risk,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in EPA’s Seattle office. “EPA will continue to focus on closing these illegal motor vehicle waste disposal wells to protect drinking water in Alaska.”

The company also paid a $36,500 penalty for the alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA regulations banned new motor vehicle waste disposal injection wells nationwide in 2000 and required closure of all existing wells in Alaska by 2005 due to their high potential to endanger underground sources of drinking water. About 80% of Alaskans depend on groundwater for drinking water, and in rural areas, the percentage rises to about 90%.

EPA is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to close an estimated 200 banned motor vehicle waste disposal wells remaining in Alaska. Owners and operators of facilities with these wells should contact EPA and Alaska DEC to learn how to improve their waste management practices to protect drinking water resources.

More information about motor vehicle waste disposal wells: https://www.epa.gov/uic/motor-vehicle-waste-disposal-wells.

Connecticut Incinerator to Control Mercury Emissions

Emission control equipment to limit the discharge of mercury pollution to the atmosphere will be installed at an incinerator owned by the City of Waterbury, Connecticut, according to a proposed agreement between the city and federal government.

The City and, Synagro Northeast, which is contracted by the City of Waterbury to operate the sewage sludge incinerator, are both responsible under the agreement for the necessary upgrades at the Waterbury sewage sludge incinerator. A consent decree spelling out the agreement was lodged in federal court by the EPA and the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Waterbury incinerator processes sewage waste from the city's wastewater treatment plant as well as from more than 30 other communities. Incineration of sewage sludge results in emissions of various pollutants, including mercury, dioxins and furans, cadmium, lead, and carbon monoxide. EPA Clean Air Act rules that came into effect in 2016 require sewage sludge incinerators to meet stringent emissions standards for 10 pollutants, to test emissions, and to institute procedures to limit emissions.

Waterbury and Synagro failed to meet the deadline for complying with the rules regarding mercury emissions and for various other requirements of the rules, but contacted EPA to work out a plan and schedule for complying, which is included in the agreement.

The consent decree provides that Waterbury and Synagro will install and operate mercury controls within 18 months, and promptly meet all other requirements of the EPA incineration rules. They will pay a penalty of $104,000, and take measures to limit the mercury content of sewage sludge received at the incinerator.

The consent decree is available for public comment for a period of 30 days from publication in the Federal Register, and is accessible at pubcomment-ees.enrd@usdoj.gov.

NAICS Codes Updated for 2017 TRI Reports

EPA has updated the list of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes subject to reporting under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to reflect the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 2017 NAICS code revision. As a result of this action, facilities would be required to use 2017 NAICS codes when reporting to TRI beginning with TRI reporting forms that are due on July 1, 2018, covering releases and other waste management quantities for the 2017 calendar year.

EPA is also modifying the list of exceptions and limitations associated with NAICS codes in the CFR for TRI reporting purposes by deleting the descriptive text. EPA believes that these amendments are non-controversial and does not expect to receive any adverse comments. This rule will become effective on November 15, 2017, unless EPA receives adverse comment by September 18, 2017.

Massachusetts Issues Regulations to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reach Global Warming Solutions Act Goals

In accordance with Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 569, an Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration recently issued final regulations that build upon the Commonwealth’s nation-leading efforts to further reduce GHG emissions and protect communities, residents, and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change. The regulations, published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and developed with significant stakeholder input, seek to ensure the Commonwealth achieves the GHG emissions limits for 2020, required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.

“Combatting and preparing for the impact of climate change remains a top priority of our administration, and requires collaboration across state government and with stakeholders throughout Massachusetts,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These regulations will help ensure the Commonwealth meets the rigorous emission reductions limits established in the Global Warming Solutions Act in order to protect our residents, communities, and natural resources from the effects of climate change.”

“Our Administration has worked with urgency to develop sensible, effective regulations that will continue the Commonwealth’s efforts to continue achieving nation-leading greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The final rules were carefully crafted with significant stakeholder engagement from across the state, demonstrating a balanced approach to combating climate change while continuing to grow our economy and build strong communities.”

To position the Commonwealth to meet its emission reduction limits under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), the final regulations lay out an approach to reduce GHG emissions from multiple sectors. Pursuant to the GWSA, in 2010 the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs established a 2020 GHG emissions reduction limit of 25% below 1990 emissions levels and the GWSA requires at least an 80% reduction by 2050.

As of 2014, the Commonwealth had reduced emissions by 21% from 1990 levels, leaving about 4% remaining to achieve the 2020 goal. The six final regulations announced recently will, along with other Commonwealth climate policies, ensure that this goal is achieved by addressing emissions from the natural gas distribution network, the transportation sector, the electric sector, focusing on generation and consumption, and gas insulated switchgear. The rules ensure that state agencies are “leading by example” with their use of more efficient and advanced technology vehicles, complement Massachusetts’ nation-leading portfolio of clean energy programs, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and address other sources of carbon dioxide emissions. 

The regulations address:

  • Carbon Dioxide Emission Limits for the Commonwealth’s State Fleet Passenger Vehicles
  • Global Warming Solutions Act Requirements for Transportation
  • Reducing Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Distribution Mains and Services
  • Increasing clean energy through the development of a Clean Energy Standard
  • Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Electricity Generating Facilities
  • Reducing Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions from Gas-Insulated Switchgear

 

Under Section 2 of Executive Order No. 569, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) was directed to publish proposed regulations by December 16, 2016, hold public hearings on the proposed regulations by February 24, 2017, and finalize those regulations by August 11, 2017. The Executive Order’s requirements followed a decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, in the case of Kain v. DEP, where the court ruled that the steps mandated by the GWSA include promulgation of regulations by MassDEP that establish declining annual aggregate limits on multiple GHG emission sources or categories of sources. The Executive Order also directs the state to begin planning for climate change adaptation and working with cities and towns across the state to assess vulnerability and build resiliency to address climate change impacts.

While the final, official version of the rules are published in the Massachusetts Register, an electronic version, the public comments received and other information about MassDEP’s rules can be found at this portal.

Construction Company Sentenced for Clean Air Act Violations in Puerto Rico

AIREKO Construction Company failed to comply with the asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants during the illegal removal of asbestos containing materials from the Minillas North Tower in May 2012, according to court documents. As part of a plea agreement with the government, AIREKO was also ordered to pay $172,020 to cover a baseline medical examination and follow up medical examination for victims exposed to asbestos fibers in the aftermath of the illegal activity.

“This prosecution reflects the commitment of the Department of Justice to enforce federal clean air laws,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to hold companies such as AIREKO Construction accountable in order to protect the lives and safety of the public.”

“The Clean Air Act requires that construction companies follow specific protocols designed to safely remove asbestos prior to any renovation or demolition activity, so as not to expose anyone to the risk of deadly respiratory diseases; and AIREKO Construction Company failed to do so by exposing those who worked at Minillas to asbestos materials,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “The US Attorney’s Office will continue to work with all victims who were exposed to the asbestos.”

“Asbestos exposure can cause cancer, lung disease, and other serious respiratory diseases,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Tyler Amon for the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New York. “In this case, AIREKO Construction avoided hiring trained and certified asbestos abatement professionals. AIREKO did the work 'on the cheap', willfully putting workers and others at risk. We will not allow businesses to cut corners on environmental protection at the expense of people’s health.”

Over the weekend of Saturday, May 11, 2012, to Sunday, May 13, 2012, a sub-contractor of AIREKO removed asbestos containing material from the ceiling of the 9th floor of Minillas North Tower. The asbestos containing material was removed without following any of the Asbestos Work Practice Standards required by federal regulation. A significant portion of the asbestos containing material was taken from the 9th floor and was placed in the trash area behind the building. Approximately 550 square feet of asbestos-containing stucco ceiling material was removed from the 9th floor. The sub-contractor was hired to do general demolition and on Saturday, May 12, 2012, and Sunday, May 13, 2012, were working within the scope of their employment and at least, in part, for the benefit of Defendant AIREKO.

The asbestos containing material was discovered by AIREKO employees on Monday May 14, 2012, and AIREKO failed to immediately report the release of the asbestos to the National Response Center (NRC) as required by law. The EPA initiated an investigation into the release and received sampling results later that week showing asbestos throughout the building and the agency issued a notice to the Puerto Rico Building Authority that then closed the building. Cleanup of the Minillas North Tower took approximately one year.

Congress has found that medical science has determined that there is no minimal level of exposure to asbestos which is safe for unprotected persons. The government identified approximately 450 persons who were exposed to asbestos fibers between the illegal removal and the order by the Public Building Authority to close the building.

AIREKO Vice President Edgardo Albino previously pleaded guilty to failing to notify immediately the NRC of the release of asbestos. Mr. Albino was sentenced to pay a fine and serve a six month term of probation.

The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division in New York. The cases were prosecuted by Howard P. Stewart, Senior Litigation Counsel Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and Assistant United States Attorney Carmen M. Marquez.

Over $1 Million Penalty for Destroying Streams and Wetlands

Bringing to a close several years of litigation, John Duarte and Duarte Nursery, Inc., have agreed to pay a large civil penalty and preserve and restore creeks, streams, and wetlands to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act on property located in Tehama County, California, the Justice Department announced recently.

Duarte has agreed to pay $1.1 million in civil penalties and mitigation for 22 acres of disturbed streams and wetlands and to permanently protect creeks on the property that are connected to the Sacramento River. The agreement follows a federal court determination in 2016 finding Duarte liable for violating the Clean Water Act and will redress illegal "ripping" of federally-protected streams and wetlands. The agreement allows Duarte to return the vast majority of the site to productive use and allows him to seek future determinations concerning jurisdictional waters at the site.

“Today's agreement affirms the Department of Justice's commitment to the rule of law, results in meaningful environmental restoration, and brings to an end protracted litigation,” said Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resource Division. “We are pleased to reach this agreement that serves the public interest in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and deterrence of future violations.”

“The Corps is pleased that this long-standing enforcement action has finally been resolved,” said Michael Jewell, the Chief of the Regulatory Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Sacramento District. “We encourage members of the public to contact the Corps prior to engaging in activities that are regulated under the Clean Water Act. The Corps is always willing to talk to the public about the Regulatory Program and to provide information on permit requirements, jurisdictional determinations, wetland delineations, and any other aspects of the Program.”

This case stems from activities Duarte conducted after he recently purchased property that had laid fallow and unfarmed for more than 20 years. Duarte bought the property in 2012 for $5 million and shortly thereafter sold most of it for approximately $8 million, retaining 450 acres for his own use. Even before the purchase, Duarte received detailed maps showing the location of federally-protected streams and wetlands which took up less than 10% of his remaining property.

Despite the small portion of property that was subject to the Clean Water Act, Duarte hired a contractor to conduct "ripping" throughout the entire 450 acres, including in streams and wetlands, even though Duarte's own environmental consultant had warned him that he would be subject to significant penalties for ripping without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. This resulted in the ripping of flowing streams, running creeks, and in protected wetlands. In 2016, a federal court rejected Duarte's "plowing" defense based on the facts of this case, finding that no plowing had occurred anywhere on the site for at least 24 years and that (as intended) the ripping activity converted areas of water to dry land. The settlement agreement reached secures a significant penalty for these violations, while providing fairness for farmers and other landowners who comply with the applicable laws.

In a recent pre-trial brief, the United States gave assurances that this case is not (and will not be used as) a pretext for federal prosecution of farmers who engage in normal plowing on their farms. No federal dredge-or-fill permit is required for plowing as defined in the regulations, and no such permit is required for discharges from "normal farming ... activities" (including plowing) if they are part of an established (i.e., ongoing) farming operation and not for the purpose of converting federally protected waters to new uses. Those protections for farmers remain in the law today and will continue to be recognized.

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

Landowner Fined $90,000 for Destroying Wetlands

A Pierce County, WA landowner has been fined $90,000 after he hired a contractor in November 2016 to illegally drain, clear, and fill two protected wetlands in order to expand a planned housing development.

The Washington Department of Ecology levied the penalty after landowner Richard Leone of Gig Harbor destroyed 1.5 acres of forested wetlands that could take up to 50 years to restore. Leone will be required to pay for all costs related to the wetlands’ restoration.

“Wetlands are critical to the overall health of Washington’s watersheds,” says Perry Lund, section manager for Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program. “Mr. Leone documented the wetlands in a report submitted to Pierce County, so he was fully aware of their locations and took specific, targeted steps to destroy them.”

Despite multiple notifications, warnings, and orders issued to the landowner from local, state, and federal agencies, Leone failed to comply with their requirements, leading to Ecology’s civil penalty for the wetlands’ willful destruction.

Pierce County has also taken action against the landowner. In addition to issuing two civil penalties of $1,000 and $4,000, the county revoked the preliminary plat that allowed the new development. Leone will be unable to develop any portion of the property at this time.

The original fieldwork that led to the delineation report on the Puyallup property at 17320 82nd Ave. E began in 2005 and identifies the two wetlands. In 2014, the landowner was approved by Pierce County for a 48-lot, preliminary plat detailing the protection of the wetlands and their required buffers. The illegal actions taken by Leone to destroy the wetlands were to support full development of the property.

Ecology is responsible for protecting, restoring, and managing Washington’s wetlands. In addition to holding storm runoff, protecting surface and groundwater, and controlling erosion, wetlands are important because they provide habitat for wildlife, including rare, threatened, and endangered species.

Leone has 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal it to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Man Who Illegally Disposed of Radioactive Waste Added to EPA’s List of Criminal Fugitives

The EPA has added James Kenneth Ward to its list of criminal fugitives. Ward, 55, was indicted on April 5, 2017, in federal district court in Montana and escaped custody of local officials during a prison transport in Wyoming in March 2013. Ward is wanted on federal fraud charges connected with illegal disposal of radioactive waste in several North Dakota locations.

Ward should be considered violent and dangerous. Anyone who sees Ward should not attempt to apprehend him, but should report the sighting through the EPA fugitive website or contact the EPA criminal investigation division at 303-312-6458.

In 2011, Ward entered into a contract with a company called Zenith Produced Water to properly dispose of filter bags or “filter socks,” which can contain pollutants and radioactive substances resulting from the drilling and development of oil. These pollutants and radioactive substances can be damaging to the environment and public health if discharged to ground water, surface water or on land. During the period of the contract with Zenith, Ward did not legally and properly dispose of the filter socks, but instead left the filter socks at a former gas station located in Noonan, North Dakota.

Ward was already a fugitive, returned to the U.S. from Mexico to face state larceny charges when he escaped.

For more information on EPA’s criminal enforcement program click here.

Railroads Fined for Violating State’s Drayage Truck Regulation

The California Air Resources Board reached settlements with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) and Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) to resolve violations of the state’s drayage truck regulation, which requires cleanup of trucks servicing the state’s busy ports and intermodal rail yards.

An investigation by CARB’s Enforcement Division documented that both companies had failed to accurately report all the required information for noncompliant trucks entering 12 separate intermodal terminals.  Intermodal terminals facilitate transfer of goods from train to truck or vice-versa.

BNSF agreed to pay a total of $720,000; UPRR will pay $525,000. The cases highlight CARB’s efforts to mitigate the damaging impact that older, dirtier trucks have on nearby communities that have traditionally borne the brunt of diesel pollution due to the high volume of truck traffic near the rail yards.

“CARB’s commitment to protecting these disadvantaged communities near rail yards is unwavering,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Union Pacific and BNSF have done the right thing by acknowledging their mistakes and agreeing to take steps that will reduce emissions and immediately improve the quality of life for those who live and breathe near the yards.”

BNSF will pay $625,000 as a mitigation project to the South Coast Air Quality Management District to fund installation of high efficiency air filtration systems in several schools located near rail yards in the greater Los Angeles/San Bernardino area. These systems dramatically reduce children’s exposure to diesel particulate and other toxic air contaminants. In addition, the company will pay $95,000 to the Air Pollution Control Fund, which provides funding for projects and research to improve California’s air quality, and upgrade its data collection system so that the required information on each non-compliant truck entering a BNSF facility is accurately reported to CARB.

UPRR will pay $525,000 to the Air Pollution Control Fund, and agreed to initiate a “truck turn away program” at rail yards for trucks that are not in compliance with the Drayage Truck Regulation, thereby eliminating the need to report data on these vehicles to CARB.

Delay in National Park Air Standards Protested

On August 18, environmental group Earthjustice said it would fight a Trump Administration attempt to stall adoption of standards to clean up air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas caused by power plants in Texas. The standards as proposed are projected to not only curb haze in parks, but also save almost 700 lives a year across 14 states. A court ordered consent decree secured by Earthjustice requires EPA to adopt final standards by September 9, 2017, but the agency asked the court to delay that deadline until the end of 2018.

“People should not have to breathe dirty air and see filthy skies when they go to a national park,” said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. “We will strongly oppose any more delay in protecting these majestic places from power plant pollution. EPA has had more than enough time to finalize the proposal.”

According to Earthjustice, air pollution from power plants contributes to heart and asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis, and premature deaths. If finalized, the EPA’s proposed standards for Texas power plants are projected to save hundreds of lives, prevent hundreds of hospital and emergency room visits, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and avoid more than 100,000 lost days of work.

Waste Diversion Goals Set for Colorado

The Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission recently approved statewide waste diversion goals, aiming to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills by recycling and composting over the next 20 years.

In 2016, Colorado’s waste diversion rate was only 19%—well below the national average of 35%. When scrap metal recycling is excluded, Colorado’s waste diversion rate falls to 12%. The new goals challenge Colorado to meet the national average for waste diversion by 2026 and to match the current diversion rate of the best-performing states—around 45%—by 2036.

“These new goals seek to increase awareness of Colorado’s below-average diversion rate and create opportunities to improve recycling and composting rates statewide,” said Gary Baughman, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division director.

The statewide diversion rate has not changed significantly since the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began collecting data, remaining in the teens and low twenties for nearly a decade.

Before these goals were set, Colorado was one of only a handful of states without waste diversion goals. Other western states currently have more ambitious goals. For example, California has a diversion goal of 75% by 2020 and currently has a diversion rate of 47%.

The Integrated Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan, completed by industry experts in 2016, estimated the value of recyclable material being landfilled annually in Colorado at nearly $267 million.

UN Environment Urges Private Sector to Help Curb Climate Change

UN Environment has urged the country’s private sector to collaborate with them in implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will help curb climate change. Currently, UN Environment is working closely with the private sector through various initiatives, such as the Finance Initiative which works with over 200 institutions to bring systemic change in global finance for sustainability.

“The private sector, whether a small store or a major conglomerate, must be given a place at the heart of our work. Its energy and its innovations will shape the success or failure of our common goals: to build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world. No organization, not even the United Nations, can do this alone,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

He was speaking during an MOU signing ceremony between Safaricom and UN Environment, aimed at heightening the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focus on protecting, and conserving the environment.

“As a purpose driven organization, we realize that it is important to use the SDGs as a lens through which we can do business while ensuring that we are also creating the basis for tangible change for our communities. Over the last few months we began the journey of adopting and integrating the SDGs in a way that made sense for the various divisions in our business,” said Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom. 

The MOU will provide a framework of cooperation and understanding, and facilitate collaboration and implementation of activities and projects that contribute to selected areas of the SDGs. The selected SDGs include Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Partnerships.

 

Environmental News Links 

EPA Rule on Nanotechnology Reporting Is Good News

Trump’s EPA May Be Weakening Chemical Safety Law

Palmetto Health Fined for Mishandling Hazardous Waste

EPA to Rewrite Toxic Waste Limits for Power Plants

Ramp to SB 69 from SB I-35 Closed After Truck Crashes with Hazardous Material Onboard

LANL Makes Mistakes in Shipping Hazardous Materials

EPA Moves to Rewrite Limits for Coal Power Plant Wastewater

Greens Sue EPA over Toxic Chemical Rules

Train Carrying Hazardous Materials Derailed in Oklahoma

MPCA Will Place Air Quality Sensors in Every Minneapolis and St. Paul ZIP Code

Trump Signs Order Rolling Back Environmental Rules on Infrastructure

Trump to Reverse Obama-Era Order Aimed at Planning for Climate Change

EPA Plans to Rewrite Obama-Era Limits for Coal Power Plant Wastewater

Meet July, the Hottest Month Yet

Vanguard Seeks Corporate Disclosure on Risks from Climate Change

States Are Using Social Cost of Carbon in Energy Decisions, Despite Trump's Views

Court Lets Exxon Off Hook for Pipeline Spill in Arkansas Neighborhood

Trump to Roll Back Obama-Era Rule on Rising Sea Levels

Sierra Club Sues Energy Department over Long-Awaited Grid Study

Ohio EPA Taking Public Comments on Proposed Water Quality Standards

Montana DEQ Seeks Public Comment on Colstrip Steam Electric Station Reports

 

Trivia Question of the Week

 

Many states are continuing to count the social cost of carbon. These costs include:

 

a. Diminishing eco systems

b. Harming people’s health

c. Damaging infrastructure

d. All of the above

 

Answer: d