EPA Allows Compliance Flexibility Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

March 30, 2020
EPA announced a temporary enforcement discretion policy that applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently. For example, under the policy EPA will not seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Agency does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The policy also describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.
"EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”
The temporary policy makes it clear that EPA expects regulated facilities to comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable, and to return to compliance as quickly as possible. To be eligible for enforcement discretion, the policy also requires facilities to document decisions made to prevent or mitigate noncompliance and demonstrate how the noncompliance was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of law.
The policy does not apply to activities that are carried out under Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments. EPA will address these matters in separate communications.  The policy does not apply to state or tribal enforcement.  The Utah DEQ indicated that it will work with regulated entities on a case-by-case basis.
EPA's policy will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020. EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary policy on a regular basis and will update it if EPA determines modifications are necessary. In order to provide fair and sufficient notice to the public, EPA will post a notification here at least 7 days prior to terminating this temporary policy.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the Week.  This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link
If you have enrolled in a seminar in March or April, in many cases, the seminar will be held at the same date and time via online webcast.We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details of how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you with your routine EHS requirements.  If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements.  For details, call 800-537-2372.z
How to Manage COVID Waste: Recommendations from the Idaho DEQ
The most current information on COVID-19 indicates that personal protection equipment (PPE) and other wastes that may be contaminated with the virus should be managed with, and in the same manner as medical waste. Hospitals, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, special COVID-19 testing sites, and any other facility where waste PPE is generated in significant numbers should coordinate with their medical waste transporter and make plans for an increase in medical waste volume.  PPE thrown in the trash and not managed as medical waste can be transferred to numerous vehicles and waste sites before being landfilled, potentially exposing a significant number of sanitation workers to the waste.
In order to protect sanitation workers, households with residents infected or suspected to be infected with COVID-19 should carefully and tightly enclose any waste that may be contaminated with the virus in heavy-duty bags, double-bag the waste, and ensure that curbside containers are not overfilled so the lids can close completely. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any COVID-19 waste.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is monitoring COVID-19 waste issues and will update this information as necessary. In Idaho, contact your DEQ regional office or the Solid Waste Program Manager at 208-373-0121 if you have any questions.
Stay Safe at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Avoid Hidden Home Hazards
During these times of uncertainty, you want your home to be a safe place for you and your loved ones. Especially now, when you are spending so much time indoors, you need to be able to identify and handle the hidden hazards in your home that can cause injury or death. Just as you are working to protect those you love from COVID-19.
In response to the current crisis, the Consumer Products Safety Administration (CPSC) has created a series of Home Safe Checklists, whether your home has babies, teens or seniors—or all of them. Print the lists that work for you, and spend a few moments checking off the safety items. When so much in the world seems beyond control, these checklists are simple, clear steps you can take for the safety of your family.
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or In Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training.  Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Hazardous Waste Management: Annual Update – March 31, April 14, April 28, May 26
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – April 1, April 15, April 29, May 27
Waste Management an Essential Public Service in the Fight to Beat COVID-19
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continuing to spread and its impacts upon human health and the economy intensifying day-by-day, governments are urged to treat waste management, including of medical, household and other hazardous waste, as an urgent and essential public service in order to minimize possible secondary impacts upon health and the environment.
During such an outbreak, many types of additional medical and hazardous waste are generated, including infected masks, gloves and other protective equipment, together with a higher volume of non-infected items of the same nature. Unsound management of this waste could cause unforeseen knock-on effects on human health and the environment. The safe handling, and final disposal of this waste is therefore a vital element in an effective emergency response.
Effective management of biomedical and health-care waste requires appropriate identification, collection, separation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal, as well as important associated aspects including disinfection, personnel protection and training. The UN Basel Convention’s Technical Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Biomedical and Healthcare Wastes, includes information and practical aspects of waste management useful for authorities seeking to minimize hazards to human health and the environment.
Further resources on the safe handling and final disposal of medical wastes can be found on the website of the Basel Convention’s Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, in Beijing, which lists a series of guidance documents and best practices.
The safe management of household waste is also likely to be critical during the COVID-19 emergency. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines, and other items can easily become mixed with domestic garbage, but should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately. These should be separately stored from other household waste streams and collected by specialist municipality or waste management operators. Guidelines on the specificities of recycling or disposing of such waste is given in detail in the Basel Convention’s Factsheet on Healthcare or Medical Waste.
Parties to the Basel Convention are currently working on a guidance document for soundly managing household waste and whilst not yet finalized, an initial draft may be consulted for provisional guidance.
The BRS Executive Secretary, Rolph Payet, stated that “All branches of society are coming together to collectively beat the virus and to minimize the human and economic impact of COVID-19 across the world. In tackling this enormous and unprecedented challenge, I urge decision-makers at every level: international, nationally, and at municipal, city and district levels, to make every effort to ensure that waste management, including that from medical and household sources, is given the attention - indeed priority - it requires in order to ensure the minimization of impacts upon human health and the environment from these potentially hazardous waste streams.”
EPA Has Increased Availability of Disinfectants for Use Against the Novel Coronavirus
EPA has taken steps to provide additional flexibility to manufacturers of disinfectants and other pesticides. EPA intends for these flexibilities to increase the availability of products for Americans to use against the novel coronavirus. After meeting with stakeholders last week and discussing supply chain challenges posed by the pandemic, EPA is allowing manufacturers to obtain certain inert ingredients—or inactive ingredients like sodium chloride or glucose—from different suppliers without checking with the agency for approval.
Commodity inert ingredients are individual inert ingredients—there are approximately 280 total—that can be obtained from different producers with no significant differences in the ingredient. Applicants for pesticide registration or registration amendments can obtain commodity inert ingredients from various commercial sources without having to provide EPA with the supplier name and address. Only those inert ingredients designated as commodity inert ingredients would be eligible for this reduced Confidential Statement of Formula (CSF) reporting.
The Agency is also continuing to expedite the review of submissions from companies requesting to add emerging viral pathogen claims to their already registered surface disinfectant labels. In many cases, the agency continues to be able to approve claims within 14 days, as resources allow, compared to the 90-day window these claims typically take. EPA has added 70 new surface disinfectants to EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (List N), bringing the total number of products on the list to more than 350.
It is important to note that List N only includes surface disinfectants registered by EPA. Other disinfection products like hand sanitizers and body wipes are regulated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Using an EPA-registered product in ways other than what is specified in the label is against the law and unsafe.
For more information about EPA’s List of commodity inert ingredients, visit: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/commodity-inert-ingredients.
EHS Hour
Even though you might not be able to get to the office or attend meetings, you can still keep up with the latest EHS requirements and learn something new. Environmental Resource Center is introducing the EHS Hour as live, online sessions to help keep you informed and productive.
With your subscription, you can attend all of the sessions for just $250 per month, or you can attend any single session for $49 per person. Each session will be held from 11:00 am to noon Eastern Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning on March 31.
Upcoming sessions include:
New sessions and topics will be added frequently. Send your suggestions for new topics to brian@ercweb.com.
Pharma’s Potential Impact on Water Quality
When we take medications, drugs and their metabolites can be excreted and make their way to wastewater treatment plants. From there, the compounds can end up in waterways. Wastewater from pharmaceutical companies could start off with even larger amounts of these substances. In ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, researchers report that a single pharmaceutical manufacturing facility could be influencing the water quality of one of Europe’s most important rivers.
Wastewater from homes and pharmaceutical manufacturing sites typically goes to treatment plants. Some of the compounds in the water might be biologically active, toxic or persistent, but treatment plants cannot always remove all of the substances before the treated water is discharged into streams or rivers. Little is known about the extent of water contamination from the pharmaceutical industry, in part because companies usually do not disclose details about their manufacturing activities or the identities of the compounds they use. Heinz Singer and colleagues from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (known as Eawag) wanted to compare compounds in discharged wastewater from two treatment plants near the Rhine River in Switzerland: one that receives only domestic wastewater (WWTP-dom) from homes and small businesses, and one that also receives wastewater from a pharmaceutical manufacturing site (WWTP-ind).
For three months, the team collected daily samples of treated wastewater from the plants and analyzed the substances in them using high-resolution mass spectrometry. Because the pharmaceutical industry typically produces single batches of drugs separated by time, the researchers looked for compounds that showed large variations. They found more of these highly variable compounds in water from WWTP-ind than from WWTP-dom. The team identified 25 compounds as pharmaceutical industry-related substances, including antidepressants and opioids, and their peak levels were much higher in the water from WWTP-ind than from the plant that only handled domestic wastewater. The researchers also detected several of these substances more than 60 miles downstream in the Rhine River, and their levels correlated with those at WWTP-ind. These findings indicate that a single company can impact the drinking water resource for millions of people, the researchers say.
The authors acknowledged funding from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.
Be Careful Before You Ship that Hand Sanitizer
Alcohol-based sanitizers, aerosol or liquid disinfectants, and products containing bleach are just some of the items individuals and companies are shipping to help prevent COVID infections.  Most of these products are hazardous materials and regulated by the Department of Transportation when they are shipped.  If you ship these items, you must ensure they are properly packaged, marked, and labeled in accordance with the hazardous materials regulations.  According to the DOT, each year approximately 1,500 transportation incidents occur when undeclared hazardous materials are shipped.  That number might go up considerably if these products are not properly shipped. The good news is that there are streamlined regulations that apply to products properly classified as consumer commodities and limited quantities. Learn how to ship these products at Environmental Resource Center’s online class that you can take right now, or at your convenience.
PHMSA Wants Electronic Submissions Due to COVID
Due to the COVID this emergency, many DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) employees have been asked to work from home for their safety and the safety of their families until the emergency declaration is lifted.  Until employees can return to their normal duty stations, PHMSA has asked stakeholders to use electronic methods for submitting requests from staff, in lieu of sending hard copies of correspondence and other mail directly to its offices.
A consolidated list of group email addresses, followed by a brief description of the available support each email group provides (e.g. cylinder requalification approvals, special permit applications, regulatory petitions, interpretation requests, etc.) can be used to contact PHMSA personnel. The PHMSA Portal also remains as an available electronic resource, and PHMSA strongly suggests stakeholders continue using the portal for Special Permit and Approval renewal applications.
More Companies Ordered to Stop Selling Bogus “Coronavirus-Killing” Products
New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered AllerAir Industries, Airpura Industries, and Sylvane Inc., companies that sell air purifiers, to immediately cease and desist marketing their products as tools that can prevent the spread and contraction of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The companies have been misrepresenting to consumers that COVID-19 is primarily an airborne disease and that its air purifiers can effectively prevent people from contracting the virus by removing the virus particles from the air. Studies from countless health organizations across the globe have determined that the primary transmission of the virus is through respiratory droplets, not air transmission, making these claims deeply misleading to consumers. COVID-19 poses serious risk to public health, and the misrepresentations by the companies could put consumers in jeopardy.
“Misrepresenting the facts of COVID-19 is dangerous to our communities and our health,” said Attorney General James. “The claims of AllerAir Industries, Airpura Industries, and Sylvane Inc. wrongly lead people to believe that purchasing an air purifier is enough to protect them from getting the virus and spreading it — a deception that is dangerous to them and to public health. My office will continue to root out companies that jeopardize our health and safety to increase their bottom line.”
The three companies, which sell air purifiers ranging between $900 and $1,500, claim their products contain technology that provides defense against airborne diseases and viruses such as COVID-19. While the World Health Organization does recommend “airborne precautions” for medical workers in medical environments, AllerAir Industries, Airpura Industries, and Sylvane Inc. do not make that distinction and mislead consumers to believe that these are products that will be effective elsewhere. This omission may mislead consumers into purchasing units that have limited usefulness in protecting them and their families.
Attorney General James has sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including TV host Wayne Allyn Root, Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherill Sellman, and  televangelist Jim Bakker.
Attorney General James has also issued cease and desist notifications to hundreds of businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market.
Increased Use of Wet Wipes, Paper Towels and Napkins Are Stressing Sewer Lines
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Quality, The Water Environment Association of Utah and The Wasatch Front Water Quality Council wants to remind residents of the hazards posed by flushing wet wipes, paper towels and napkins down the toilet.
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in residents flushing other paper products down the toilet. This has caused an increase in backed-up toilets and overflowing sewer lines in Utah and across the country. Even wipes marketed as “flushable” will clog pipes.
“It is critical that people help protect the integrity of Utah’s wastewater infrastructure during the coronavirus public health emergency,” says Erica Gaddis, Director of Utah’s Division of Water Quality. “Wet wipes, napkins and paper towels do not break down as easily as toilet paper and can clog the system. It is important that residents only flush regular toilet paper down the drain.”
Unlike toilet paper, which dissolves easily in liquids, wipes and paper towels are designed to absorb moisture. These products survive the long journey down miles of sewer pipes to sewage treatment plants. There, at the treatment plant, they clog pumps and other equipment.
“Please be aware that flushing anything other than the ‘3 Ps’ (pee, poop and toilet paper) can cause problems with sewage collection and treatment,” says Giles Demke, President of The Water Environment Association of Utah, which represents some 500 wastewater professionals. “All of our front line staff are committed to providing uninterrupted service to our customers.”
Clogged and overflowing sewers are not only a problem for residents dealing with a backed-up line in their home. Failures at sewage treatment plants can result in overflows and spills into lakes, rivers and reservoirs where the sewage can harm public health and the environment.
“Utah sewer facilities recommend begging a roll of actual toilet paper off the neighbor and spare the sewer collection and treatment systems problems,” says Jill Jones with The Wasatch Front Water Quality Council and Central Davis Sewer District. “Our employees can't work from home and no one wants their sewers shut off, so when you think of what you can do during this stressful time, don't forget to make it a little easier on the sewer folks, too, by restricting what you flush down your toilet.”
The Maryland Department of the Environment issued a reminder, “No Wipes in the Pipes.” The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services published a brochure on What’s Flushable.
EPA to Reduce TSCA Fees
On March 25, EPA announced a plan to consider a proposed rule that would look at potential exemptions to the TSCA Fees Rule in response to stakeholder concerns about implementation challenges. By considering a proposal to narrow the broad scope of the current requirements, the agency could significantly reduce burden on potentially thousands of businesses across the country while maintaining the ability to successfully implement the Lautenberg Act amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect human health and the environment.
“Stakeholders are important partners in the work we do to ensure the safety of chemicals and seeking feedback from the public is a standard and valuable part of all our processes,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. “After reviewing their input and concerns regarding the TSCA Fees Rule, we are taking action to continue evaluating potential risks from chemicals while ensuring our requirements are practical and realistic.”
The agency plans to initiate a new rulemaking process to consider proposing exemptions to the current rule’s self-identification requirements associated with EPA-initiated risk evaluations for manufacturers that:
  • Import the chemical substance in an article;
  • Produce the chemical substance as a byproduct; and
  • Produce or import the chemical substance as an impurity.
The agency may also consider proposing other changes to the rule during this process consistent with TSCA’s requirement to reevaluate the Fees Rule every three years.
EPA believes that considering exempting certain entities from self-identification requirements will not impede the ability to fully collect the necessary fees and will still allow the agency to achieve the ultimate objective of the TSCA Fees Rule and the statute – to defray a portion of EPA’s TSCA implementation costs. EPA intends to issue proposed amendments to the current fees rule later this year and with the goal of finalizing the amendments in 2021.
Additionally, in light of the extremely unusual circumstances of this situation and the undue hardship imposed on certain businesses who would be required to collect and report information under the TSCA Fees Rule, EPA issued a “no action assurance” for the three categories of manufacturers at this time. More specifically, EPA will exercise its enforcement discretion regarding the self-identification requirement for the three categories of manufacturers that the agency intends to propose an exemption from certain requirements in the TSCA Fee Rule.
For businesses that are erroneously on the preliminary lists of fee payers or fall into one of the three categories discussed above, see the agency’s FAQs for more information about how to certify as such to EPA and to avoid fee obligations.
In January, the agency published preliminary lists of businesses that manufacture (including import) the 20 chemicals designated as high-priority substances for risk evaluation in December of 2019 in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0677. Following the release of these lists, many stakeholders raised questions and concerns about the scope of the TSCA Fees Rule requirements for self-identifying and paying fees. Importers of articles have noted challenges in knowing with certainty whether high-priority substances are present in their imported articles and components. Manufacturers of chemicals as byproducts or impurities have noted similar challenges in knowing whether they are subject to the rule, given the coincidental or unintentional nature of these types of production. The lack of exemptions in the current rule makes both the tracking of information and the obligation to self-identify very difficult, if not impossible for some stakeholders.
Earlier this month, the Agency extended the comment period by 60 days for the preliminary lists of manufacturers (including importers) subject to fees associated with EPA-initiated risk evaluations under TSCA. As the agency continues to work through implementation issues associated with the current rule, stakeholders can expect more guidance on reporting requirements and expectations during this period.
Concrete Factory Cited for Exposing Employees to Crushing Hazards Following Fatality
OSHA cited High Quality Concrete – based in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – for crushing and other hazards following an employee fatality on Sept. 6, 2019. OSHA cited the concrete factory for willful, serious and other-than-serious violations, with proposed penalties of $90,217.
The employee suffered fatal injuries after the forklift he was using to lift and move a 3,200-pound bag of cement overturned due to an unstable load. OSHA cited High Quality Concrete for not training forklift operators on how to properly lift and transport loads and failing to ensure that operators knew how to handle stable loads and wore seatbelts while operating forklifts.
Following the fatality, OSHA inspectors returned to the factory three times and found that High Quality Concrete continually failed to ensure that employees handled stable or safely arranged loads, resulting in the willful violation. OSHA issued an additional citation for the employer’s failure to report the employee fatality within 8 hours.
"Proper training on the safe use of a forklift could have prevented this tragedy," said OSHA Puerto Rico Area Director Alfredo Nogueras. "Identifying hazards and implementing best practices during the load handling process can protect workers from serious and fatal injuries."
OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks – Forklifts webpage provides resources to help employers and employees identify hazards and solutions, including a guide on warehousing.
High Quality Concrete has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Roofing Contractor Cited for Exposing Employees to Fall Hazards
OSHA cited Turnkey Construction Planners Inc. – based in Melbourne, Florida – for exposing employees to fall hazards at two worksites in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. The roofing contractor faces $114,294 in penalties.
OSHA initiated the inspections in September 2019 as part of the Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction after inspectors observed employees working on roofs without fall protection. OSHA cited Turnkey Construction Planners for failing to ensure employees used a fall protection system while engaged in roofing activities and not requiring that portable ladders extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing. OSHA has cited the company six times in the past five years for similar hazards.
“Employers have a duty to provide a workplace free of recognizable hazards. Roofing contractors can mitigate risks for their workers by ensuring all employees use approved fall protection systems,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond. “Employers can contact their local OSHA office for assistance in making their worksites safe.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA’s Protecting Roofing Workers booklet details requirements for providing fall protection, and for appropriately positioning ladders.
Massachusetts Joins Other New England States to Propose Regulations Prohibiting Use of HFC Pollutants
The Baker-Polito Administration announced that it plans to propose regulations, concurrent with similar efforts in the states of Maine and Rhode Island, to prohibit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationally and in Massachusetts. HFCs are currently used in certain end-use products, such as aerosols, air conditioners and chillers, refrigeration units and foams. The proposed regulations will help to significantly reduce local GHG emissions, and will place the Commonwealth in line with 16 other states adopting comparable HFC regulations or legislation, coordinated by the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA).
“I am proud to join with the other governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance in moving to prohibit the use of HFCs and bring Massachusetts closer to achieving its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “For the Commonwealth to meet our goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we will need to act to curb high-emitting sources like HFCs, and this plan represents a great opportunity to combat climate change and preserve our environment.”
“We must use every tool at our disposal to take urgent action on climate change,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “In the absence of federal leadership, I’m proud to stand with governors on both sides of the aisle who recognize the dangers of HFCs. It’s time to regulate these harmful pollutants.”
“HFCs are the heavy hitter of climate change, inflicting significantly more damage than CO2 in much smaller doses,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “With safer alternatives now available, the gradual phase out of these super pollutants makes sense for consumers, businesses, and our environment. I am proud to join with other governors from the U.S. Climate Alliance in taking this step. Our actions show that, regardless of what happens – or doesn’t happen – in Washington, states can forge important progress in fighting climate change.”
In 2018, HFC emissions in Massachusetts reached 3.69 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (MMTCO2E), and HFC emissions are expected to reach 5 million metric tons in 2030 if action is not taken.
“Phasing out HFCs is an opportunity for businesses across Massachusetts and the country to innovate and grow the economy, and to protect residents from climate-warming pollutants,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Coupled with new innovations in refrigeration and cooling, phasing out the use of HFCs and replacing them with lower impact alternatives not only improves energy efficiency, but delivers significant environmental benefits to every community across the Commonwealth.”
“HFCs impact the climate at many times the rate of carbon dioxide, so cutting emissions from these potent pollutants will lead to immediate benefits,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Partnering with our colleagues in Maine, Rhode Island and the other Climate Alliance states is a smart and effective way to cut emissions and protect the environment for future generations.”
The Executive Office and Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) expect to develop a draft regulation this spring, which will be available for public review and comment. A public hearing will also be scheduled. In anticipation of that announcement, MassDEP held stakeholder meetings last November across the Commonwealth, providing an overview of a model HFC rule developed by the U.S. Climate Alliance, and solicited feedback on the model rule.
“HFCs are one of the fastest-rising sectors of greenhouse gas emissions, and they will continue to impact our environment unless we take action to eliminate them from common use across our society,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “These new regulations – along with similar efforts across the country – mark an important step in reducing emissions, protecting the environment and safe-guarding the public health.”
The U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) is a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to smart, coordinated state action that can ensure that the United States continues to contribute to the global effort to address climate change. The principles of the USCA include:
  • Implementation of polices that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce GHG emissions by at least 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025;
  • Tracking and reporting progress to the global community in appropriate settings, including when the world convenes to take stock of the Paris Agreement; and
  • Accelerating new and existing policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment at the state and federal level.
HFCs are synthetic gases and, historically, replaced ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant. For more information on HFCs and their impact on climate change, see here.
Dollar Tree Store Cited for Exposing Employees to Exit, Storage and Fire Hazards
OSHA cited Dollar Tree Stores Inc. for exit, storage and fire hazards at a Marinette, Wisconsin, store. The national discount retailer faces $477,089 in penalties.
OSHA inspectors found the company exposed employees to fire hazards from obstructed and unmarked exit routes and blocked fire extinguishers, and failed to maintain fire extinguishers. The employer also exposed employees to struck-by hazards caused by unstable stacks of stored merchandise, and fire and electrical hazards associated with blocked electrical panels. OSHA cited the retailer for one other-than-serious, two repeat and three willful violations.
“OSHA continues to receive complaints about unsafe working conditions at Dollar Tree stores across the nation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “This employer is required to follow the law, and comply with regulations that protect workers from injuries and fatalities.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Additional information about OSHA requirements for keeping exits unobstructed is available in the agency’s Emergency Exit Routes fact sheet. OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs includes information on how to identify and assess hazards in the workplace.
$129,428 Fine for PCB Violations
Under an agreement with the EPA, Eversource Energy will pay $129,428 to settle several counts of allegedly violating federal PCB regulations at sites in Connecticut and Massachusetts. According to EPA, Eversource Energy, a utility service company, is now operating in compliance with federal laws regulating PCBs
"It's imperative that public utilities adhere to environmental laws in order to protect public health and the environment," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "Public utilities must track and inspect their transformers to properly manage equipment to prevent releases of PCB-contaminated oil."
The case stems from several transformer spills at locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, involving improper manifesting of PCB remediation waste, improper storage of a PCB transformer, and improper disposal of PCBs. The spills occurred during 2019 in Bridgewater and Portland, Connecticut, and Lee, Massachusetts. Eversource Energy has the expertise and resources to respond to PCB spills, and the soil contaminated by these spills was excavated and shipped off-site for disposal.
Federal PCB regulations include prohibitions of – and requirements for the use, disposal, storage and marking of – PCBs and items that have come in contact with PCBs.
The regulations are meant to reduce the potential for harm and to track PCBs from use to disposal. The violations at some of these locations were significant given the quantity and concentrations of PCBs involved.
U.S. Department of Labor Guidance Explains COVID Paid Sick Leave, Expanded Family and Medical Leave Benefits
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced more guidance to provide information to workers and employers about how each will be able to take advantage of the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) when it takes effect on April 1, 2020.
The new guidance includes questions and answers addressing critical issues such as what documents employees can be required to submit to their employers to use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave; whether workers can take paid sick leave intermittently while teleworking and whether workers whose employers closed before the effective date of the FFCRA can still get paid sick leave.
This guidance adds to a growing list of compliance assistance materials published by WHD, including a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers, and an earlier Questions and Answers document. Available are two new posters, one for federal workers and one for all other employees, that will fulfill notice requirements for employers obligated to inform employees about their rights under this new law, Questions and Answers about posting requirements and a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy.
“The Wage and Hour Division is delivering necessary information so that American workers and employers can receive this much needed relief,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton. “We are working to ensure that workers and employers have the tools they need to maximize the benefits they are entitled to when this law goes into effect on April 1, 2020.”
FFCRA offers American businesses with fewer than 500 employees tax credits as reimbursement for providing employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
WHD has provided additional information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19 and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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