EPA Intends to Finalize Current Ruling on Methylene Chloride

May 14, 2018

EPA announced upcoming actions on methylene chloride, a chemical that can be used for paint stripping. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the TSCA, requires EPA to perform risk evaluations on the uses of ten specific chemicals including methylene chloride. EPA is nearing the completion of Problem Formulations for the first ten chemicals.

A timeline of EPA's recent work on methylene chloride:

  • In 2014, EPA addressed the paint stripping uses in its risk assessment
  • In January 2017, EPA proposed prohibiting the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses for methylene chloride
  • In June 2017, EPA announced that it will not re-evaluate the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride


Based on this work, EPA is announcing three updates:

  1. EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking
  2. EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments
  3. EPA is working to send the finalized rulemaking to OMB shortly

Over $500K in Environmental Penalties Issued by Washington State in First Quarter

The Washington Department of Ecology issued $543,300 in penalties of $1,000 or more for the months of January through March in 2018.

Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.

Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts, such as the Coastal Protection Account. The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings.

Ecology strives to protect, preserve and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s land, air or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.

Million Dollar Fine Levied for Environmental Pollution Crimes

A Japanese shipping company that delivered steel products to Wilmington, North Carolina, was convicted and sentenced for obstruction of justice and falsification of an Oil Record Book to cover-up intentional oil pollution from the Motor Vessel (“M/V”) Atlantic Oasis, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood and US Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. Nitta Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (“Nitta”) owned and operated the M/V Atlantic Oasis. The prior Chief Engineer, Jihnyun Youn, had previously been convicted and sentenced for falsification of the vessel’s Oil Record Book.

The company admitted that its engineers failed to document the illegal discharge of oily wastes from the vessel’s fuel and lubrication oil purifier systems, as well as discharges of oily bilge waste from the bilge holding tank and from the vessel’s bilges. During a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the vessel on May 17, 2017, a junior engineering crewmember provided information to the inspectors about how the oily wastes were being discharged by the order of Chief Engineer Youn. The crewmember also showed U.S. Coast Guard inspectors where the hoses that were used for the discharges were hidden. Chief Engineer Youn lied to the inspectors about the existence of a Sounding Log, which is typically used in the industry to record the fluid levels of various tanks in the engine room. By the end of the inspection, Chief Engineer Youn had admitted to ordering the illegal discharges and admitted that there was a Sounding Log.

Nitta was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000,000; placed on probation for a period of three years; and further ordered to implement a court-approved comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation, which will be audited throughout probation. Chief Engineer Youn was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay a fine of $5,500.00.  

“This case demonstrates that those who pollute our oceans and deliberately mislead US Coast Guard Officials will be brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute criminals that harm the environment.”

“While the charges in this case rest on the failure of the ship’s crew to properly document the discharge of oily bilge waste, the heart of this case is the illegal discharge itself and the damage that action did to our environment—particularly our spectacular seashores and waterways—is a critical necessity in the Eastern District of North Carolina,” said US Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “We trust that the fines and penalties imposed in this case will act as a deterrent to anyone who would treat our environment as a dump-ground.”

“Marine Environmental Protection is a critical mission of the United States Coast Guard. We respond to and investigate oil and hazardous material releases and discharges, as well as enforce environmental laws to preserve our waters and prevent future spills. We hope the outcome of this case deters future criminal acts that pollute the marine environment,” stated Captain Bion Stewart, Commander Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.

Kauai Big Save Supermarket Owner Fined $110,000 for Illegal Cesspool

EPA has announced a settlement with N.F. Kawakami Store, Ltd., (NFK) the property owner of the Koloa Big Save Supermarket, for failing to close a large-capacity cesspool that threatened to contaminate local water sources at the property on Kauai.

Under the settlement, NFK will pay a civil penalty of $110,000 for violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In addition, NFK will close the large cesspool and replace it with a wastewater treatment plant approved by the Hawaii Department of Health. Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. In 2005, the federal government banned large-capacity cesspools.

“EPA is committed to protecting Hawaii’s coastal water resources by closing all large-capacity cesspools,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our large-capacity cesspool inspection and enforcement efforts will continue until all such cesspools are shut down.”

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state, even though 95% of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources. In the 13 years more than 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed statewide, many through voluntary compliance.

California 100% Compliant with Clean Fuel Rule 

Low carbon transportation fuels are rapidly seizing a larger share of the fuel market, and new data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) underscores that trend. The 2017 Compliance Report for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) shows 100% compliance with the regulation.

“This is great news and further evidence that California is on the right track in the fight to address climate change and ensure everyone has clean air to breathe,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “This program gives consumers more fuel choices and is driving the development of a burgeoning clean-fuel market in California”.

The program considers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at all stages of production of a fuel, from pump or field to wheel. It was originally developed to support a return to 1990 levels of climate-changing gases by 2020, as required by AB 32, the 2006 landmark climate bill. Currently fuel producers who sell their product in California must lower the amount of overall carbon in their fuels 10% by 2020.

Now that a new climate target of a 40% reduction of climate-changing gases is in place for 2030, CARB staff has proposed a further reduction in the LCFS to reach a 20% decrease of carbon in vehicle fuels to help meet that target. That reduction will help provide the basis for another overall reduction of an additional 40% by 2050.

The program provides consumers with an increasing volume and variety of cleaner fuels. As an example, in 2017, renewable liquid fuels displaced over 500 million gallons of diesel, and more than 100 million gallons were displaced by renewable natural gas. Electricity displaced about 75 million gallons of petroleum.

The 100% compliance rate is further proof of the success of the program.  Of the 262 companies reporting under the program, 55 generated deficits for supplying fuels that were dirtier than the 2017 program benchmark. They were required to make up for their shortfall by purchasing credits from clean fuel providers. All other companies brought cleaner fuels to market—fuels that were below the carbon-intensity baseline.

Since its start in 2011 the program has generated credits representing a total reduction of 35.8 million metric tons of climate-changing gases. That equals an over-compliance of 9.8 million metric tons, meaning that that GHG emission reductions are occurring ahead of schedule. The clean fuels also reduced emissions of toxic pollutants as well as those that cause smog.

Going forward, CARB staff has proposed a number of amendments to the LCFS besides the 20% reduction target. All the amendments are to help achieve the overall 2030 GHG reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels.

The proposed amendments include credit generation for new innovative technologies such as hydrogen and electricity fueling stations, carbon capture and sequestration projects and cleaner alternative jet fuels. Other proposed amendments improve crediting for innovative actions at petroleum refineries, and establish an independent third-party verification and verifier accreditation system to ensure accuracy of LCFS reported data.

The amendments were developed with extensive input from industry and the public. At the first of two Board meetings these amendments drew no comments in opposition.

Free Lead-Safe Trainings Offered in California 

The EPA recently announced the completion of four free lead-safe certification trainings for local low-income contractors and day laborers in the cities of Los Angeles and Anaheim. The trainings are part of EPA’s effort to ensure renovation contractors, landlords, and property managers comply with regulations that protect the public from harmful lead exposure.

EPA is also developing a Region 9 Lead Action Plan that will, through partnerships with federal, state and local community-based stakeholders, aim to reduce lead exposure to children and communities. The announcement was made by Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss at a lead-safe work practices demonstration in Anaheim, California.

“These important trainings help residents and workers remain safe during renovation work that often creates hazardous lead dust,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "EPA is committed to working with state, local and tribal colleagues to protect people, and especially young children, from harmful lead exposure.”

The Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule was designed to protect the public from lead-based paint hazards that occur during repair or remodeling activities in homes, elementary schools and daycare facilities that were built before 1978. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in these buildings—for example, through window replacement or electrical work—must be trained and certified. They also need to provide educational materials to residents and follow lead-safe work practices.

EPA partnered with the Day Labor Program of the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California to conduct outreach to day laborers and sign up participants. Three full-day trainings in Spanish were held on February 8 and 21 and April 25. One full-day training in English was held on February 22. National Econ, the EPA-accredited training provider selected to provide the trainings, conducted its own outreach to and registration for low-income contractors in the Los Angeles and Anaheim areas.

Over the past two years, EPA Region 9 has trained and certified more than 100 workers and businesses in Southern California and trained 75 day laborers and contractors in Oakland. EPA expects to expand these trainings to Arizona.

Though harmful at any age, lead exposure is most dangerous to children. Lead exposure can cause behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and diminished IQ. Children can be checked for lead with a simple blood test. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but it is still present in millions of older homes, sometimes under layers of new paint.

Lead-contaminated dust can be easily ingested or inhaled. Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips that can settle on home surfaces. Exposure to such contamination through hand-to-mouth contact or breathing can result in lead poisoning for children, families, and construction workers.

Contractors that are certified under EPA's RRP regulations are encouraged to display EPA's "Lead-Safe" logo on workers’ uniforms, signs, and websites. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a home contractor, and by being aware of whether a renovator is following lead-safe work practices when working on their property.

Administrator Pruitt Held Smart Sectors Meeting on Regulatory Reform Progress

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kicked off the release of the President's Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. Administrator Pruitt hosted over 80 partners participating in EPA’s Smart Sectors Program to discuss progress on regulatory reform, as reflected in EPA’s Spring 2018 Semiannual Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, and to engage in a dialogue about how to improve environmental protection while promoting economic growth.

EPA’s Smart Sectors is a partnership program that provides a platform to collaborate with regulated sectors and develop sensible approaches that better protect the environment and public health. Since launching, Smart Sectors has held over 80 meetings with trade association partners and another 90 meetings with association member companies, in addition to 12 informational site visits with multiple industries, including chemical manufacturing, aerospace, construction, oil and gas, ports, iron and steel, automotive, and agriculture. Region 8, which covers Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, has also launched a regional Smart Sectors program.

There are a total of 59 deregulatory actions in the Spring 2018 Regulatory Agenda, 11 of which are new. In total, the agenda outlines 38 actions appearing for the first time. The Spring 2018 Regulatory Agenda includes 10 actions that have been withdrawn and another 24 that have been completed since the publication of the Fall 2017 Semiannual Regulatory Agenda.

American Chemical Society Announced Heroes of Chemistry  

Scientists who developed products that have led to significant advancements in human health and solar energy will be inducted into a scientific hall of fame later this summer, becoming the newest Heroes of Chemistry. The American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, has bestowed this honor annually since 1996.

“The 2018 ACS Heroes of Chemistry program honors scientists from AstraZeneca, DuPont, Pfizer and Seattle Genetics whose work provides breakthrough solutions and preventative measures for many of society’s challenges,” says Peter Dorhout, Ph.D., ACS president.

The Heroes of Chemistry program recognizes scientists whose innovative work in chemistry and chemical engineering led to commercial products that benefit the world. The teams will be recognized in a ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 19, during the Society’s 256th National Meeting & Exposition in Boston, Massachusetts.

The following scientific teams will be honored:

  • AstraZeneca: TAGRISSO TM (osimertinib) is a novel, targeted treatment for patients with EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer. Osimertinib is approved in more than 75 countries.
  • DuPont: Solamet® PV17x is the metallization paste that pioneered the use of lead tellurite chemistry, a game changer in the solar energy industry.
  • Pfizer: Inlyta® (axitinib) is a standard of care for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma after failure of one prior systemic therapy.
  • Seattle Genetics: ADCETRIS® (brentuximab vedotin) uses the company’s industry-leading antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology and is currently approved for the treatment of multiple CD30-expressing lymphomas.


New England Celebrates Water’s Worth It Month 

Spring is the season to celebrate new beginnings as nature sprouts. What better way to connect with nature than to celebrate water? This May, New England observed Drinking Water week and joins the New England Water Communication Collaborative’s Water is Worth It Month.

Water in all forms is critical to our health, economy, and way of life - and yet it is often taken for granted.  Every day, even in times of extreme weather, we rely on safe water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and firefighting. Without much thought, we take showers, flush toilets, and reach for a glass of tap water. This month, let’s think about what it takes to maintain our safe and clean drinking water, and ask ourselves what water is worth.          

Keeping water clean and operational for citizens takes many hands. New England is fortunate to have thousands of drinking water managers and operators working to sustain the services of safe drinking water. Under a support network sustained by the New England states and by regional and state drinking water associations, these public health servants study and work hard to become certified in their noble profession. They keep up with aging infrastructure and emerging technologies, while continuing to run the plants, fix the leaks, clear the pipes, and communicate with citizens.

There are other challenges, including lead, which can be present in public and household pipes and plumbing, and which needs constant attention. Science has discovered emerging contaminants, like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that, in some cases, are present in our ground water. Algal blooms can also pose a threat to water supplies when excess nutrients enter the water systems through direct and stormwater discharges. While these challenges can seem daunting, it is everyone’s business to get involved, pulling together to make a difference.   

Although progress is being made, aging infrastructure presents a growing need. New England is one of the first developed regions in the country, and its water infrastructure often reflects its age, as some of the systems are more the 100 years old. Communities face substantial gaps between infrastructure improvement needs and available funds. This is a problem that has been recognized and is beginning to be addressed. Recently, the EPA announced a significant increase in funding available for water infrastructure projects. The program, under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), is providing up to $5.5 billion in low-cost loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. The time to act and take advantage of this opportunity is now. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA credit assistance must submit a letter of interest by July 6, 2018.

Environmental News Links

Challenges for Waste Legislation in the Circular Economy

EPA Won’t Reverse Findings of Danger from Paint Stripping Chemical

Pesticide Use on California Farms at Near-Record Levels

California Requires Solar Panels for New Homes. Will Other States Follow?

Going Green or Going for Guzzlers?

Waking Up the Dangers Next Door

EPA Requests New Contamination Testing at Michigan Tannery

Animal Tests Surge Under New U.S. Chemical Safety Law

Opinion: Environmental Goals Are Creating Hazardous Waste

US Refiners Reap Big Rewards from EPA Biofuel Waivers

TxDOT: Dumping of Sludge, Debris Lasted Years at Dripping Springs Site

Trivia Question 

Which of the following toxic chemicals are found in common household products?

  1. Perchloroethylene
  2. Ammonia
  3. Phthalates
  4. All of the above


Answer: D