EPA announced today that it has proposed to designate waters of the State of Florida within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as a no discharge zone. A no-discharge zone designation would prohibit the discharge of sewage, whether treated or not, from a vessel into state waters of the marine sanctuary.
This action was taken in response to requests from Monroe County, Florida Board of County Commissioners and the Governor of Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is pursuing the designation of a no discharge zone for all federal waters within the sanctuary.
The marine ecosystem of the sanctuary is dependent upon clear water with low nutrients. For this reason, the waters surrounding the Florida Keys of Monroe County, Florida have been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. The Florida Keys are a national treasure of international acclaim that contain unique environments and possess high value to humans when properly conserved. Adjacent to the Florida Keys land mass are spectacular, unique, nationally significant marine environments, including seagrass meadows, mangrove islands, and extensive living coral reefs. The third largest coral barrier reef in the world lies just off the Atlantic side of the Keys and is a popular recreation attraction. These marine environments are the maritime equivalent of tropical rain forests in that they support high levels of biological diversity, are fragile, and easily susceptible to damage from human activities.
The economy of the Florida Keys is based in large part on tourism and fisheries that are directly tied to the ecological resources and quality of the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.
The public is invited to comment on the proposed no discharge
zone when it is published in the Federal Register within the next
two weeks. The comment period will extend for 30 days from the
date of publication. The comments will be reviewed by EPA's
Region 4 (Atlanta) and a final Federal Register notice addressing
all comments and announcing a final decision will then be issued.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act - July 31:
Voluntary revisions to the Form R and Form A submissions should be submitted by this date.
Clean Air Act - August 14: Each producer, importer, or exporter of a Class II controlled substance must submit a report to EPA providing information on the production, imports, and exports of such chemicals during the previous quarter.
Safe Drinking Water Act - August 6:
Each state must report to the EPA administrator on the success of enforcement mechanisms and initial capacity development efforts in assisting public water systems.
Sulfate must be included in the list of drinking water
contaminants for which a determination to regulate must be made.
U.S. SETTLES CLEAN AIR CASE WITH TEXACO IN CALIFORNIA
The Justice Department and EPA have reached a settlement with Texaco that requires the company to install new pollution control equipment at two of its oil field operations in Kern County, Calif.
The consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno also requires Texaco to pay $568,000 in penalties under the Clean Air Act.
At the Kern River Oil Field, the United States alleged that Texaco drilled and operated 720 crude oil production wells without obtaining proper permits. The United States also alleged that between 1994 and 1996, apparently due to high maintenance costs, Texaco removed vapor recovery equipment from 5,030 wells without applying for a permit to do this until after completing the work.
The settlement requires Texaco to install vapor recovery equipment on its shipping tanks. Texaco also has agreed to a schedule to install vapor recovery equipment on front-line surge tanks.
Texaco's other Kern County site in this action is the Midway-Sunset Oil Field. The United States alleged that Texaco failed to comply with regulations requiring vapor recovery controls on storage tanks. In the settlement, Texaco agreed to a schedule to install the required controls.
The Kern County portion of the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin has
been designated as a serious non-attainment area for the EPA's
National Ambient Air Quality Standards for certain pollutants,
TENNESSEE BUSINESSMEN SENTENCED FOR HAZARDOUS WASTE VIOLATION
Michael R. Kyle and Edward L. Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn. were sentenced on July 6 for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by abandoning ignitable and/or hazardous waste. Kyle was sentenced to ten months confinement and three years supervised release. Johnson was sentenced to six months confinement and three years probation. They also were ordered to pay $9,540 each in restitution.
Prior to 2000, Kyle and Johnson owned and operated Custom Concepts Inc., in Chattanooga, which produced fiberglass automobile parts, repaired collision damage and sold after-market auto parts. That year, when the defendants moved their business, they abandoned 70 drums of waste at their former business site. A number of the drums were tested and found to contain acetone, toluene, xylene and chromium, creating a potential fire and poisoning hazard.
The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation
Division and National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was
prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Greeneville.
WASHINGTON, D.C.-AREA LANDLORD PLEADS GUILTY IN FIRST-EVER PROSECUTION RELATED TO LEAD HAZARD WARNINGS
On July 11, a Washington-area landlord, David Nuyen of Silver Spring, Md., pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and making false statements to federal officials in order to conceal his failure to notify tenants of the presence and hazards associated with lead-based paint. The case is the first-ever criminal prosecution in the United States related to lead hazard warnings that are required by the Lead Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.
If the terms of the agreement are approved by the Federal Court in Greenbelt, Md., Nuyen will serve two years in prison, provide all tenants with new notices about actual and potential lead hazards and retain an independent contractor to assess lead paint hazards and develop a lead abatement plan for the properties he currently owns in the District of Columbia and Maryland. He is also subject to a maximum $250,000 criminal fine for each of the six felony counts to which he is pleading.
The Lead Hazard Reduction Act requires landlords to notify tenants about actual and possible lead hazards, provide an EPA pamphlet to tenants describing how to minimize lead dangers to children and document their compliance with the law. Nuyen admitted that, even though he knew there were lead paint hazards in some of his buildings, he failed to notify tenants and obstructed an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by presenting falsified forms that purported to show that his tenants had been notified of the potential for lead hazards when they moved into their apartments.
Lead is highly toxic, affecting virtually every system of the body, and is a significant health risk for young children. Lead poisoning can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and can cause anemia. At very high levels lead can cause coma, convulsions and death. Even levels of lead as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood are associated with decreased intelligence, behavior problems, impaired hearing, reduced physical stature and growth. Today the most significant exposure sources of lead for children are in the residential environment due to deteriorated household paint, lead-contaminated dust and soil. Lead poisoning is especially acute among low-income and minority children living in older housing.
The investigation was conducted by EPA, HUD, and the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by the U.S.
Attorney's offices for the District of Maryland and the District
of Columbia, and the Department of Justice.
WHITMAN PLEDGES TO IMPROVE IMPAIRED WATERS RULE
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman took action to improve the impaired water program by undertaking a review of a rule. EPA filed a motion in the District of Columbia Circuit Court asking the court to hold action on lawsuits over the rule for an 18-month period to enable the agency to review and revise the rule to achieve a program that is workable and meets the goal of clean water. The Agency took this action because of the ongoing controversy surrounding the rule and in light of the study completed in June by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
The criticized rule was published July 13, 2000. Because of the controversy, Congress prohibited EPA from putting the rule into effect by denying funds for that purpose. Some two dozen parties challenged the rule in court in August 2000. Whitman's action asks the court to stay this litigation to correspond with EPA's plan to propose an 18-month extension of the effective date of the rule.
"We have an existing TMDL program and this review will not stop ongoing implementation of that program, development of water quality standards, issuance of permits to control discharges, or enforcement against violators. EPA and states will continue to cooperate to identify impaired waters and set protective standards for those waters," explained Whitman. "I am asking for this additional time to listen carefully to all parties with a stake in restoring America's waters-states, cities, small towns and rural communities, plus industry, the environmental community and farmers-to find a better way to finish the important job of cleaning our great rivers, lakes and streams."
The Clean Water Act requires states to identify waters not meeting water quality standards and to develop plans for cleaning them up. The framework for these plans is the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. A TMDL is essentially a prescription designed to restore the health of the polluted body of water by indicating the amount of pollutants that may be present in the water and still meet water quality standards.
"In order to ensure that this nation's bodies of water are cleaned up, we need an effective national program that involves the active participation and support of all levels of government and local communities," Whitman said. "Unfortunately, many have said the rule designed to implement the TMDL program falls short of achieving the goals."
Whitman refers to the fact that the TMDL rule has been challenged in the courts by numerous parties. In addition, the NAS completed a study, mandated by the Congress, that makes a number of recommendations for improving the program.
Whitman emphasized the NAS recommendations will be studied at the same time there is a public process going forward to consult with all interested parties. Over the next several months the Agency will conduct a stakeholder process and intends to propose necessary changes by Spring 2002 and hopes to adopt such changes within the 18-month time frame.
More than 20,000 bodies of water across America have been
identified as polluted. These waters include more than 300,000
river and shoreline miles and five million acres of lakes. EPA
estimates that more than 40,000 TMDLs must be established.
US ENERGY STAR HEADS NORTH FOR CANADIAN DEBUT
In a cooperative, voluntary effort to bring more energy efficient and environmentally friendly products to consumers throughout North America, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced an agreement with Canada which will bring Energy Star products to Canadian citizens and businesses.
"The Energy Star label makes it easy for consumers and businesses in the U.S. - and now Canada - to use energy more efficiently, save money, and help protect the environment," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said. "Our new partnership with Natural Resources Canada will provide consumers there with an easy way to determine a product's energy efficiency."
As part of his Energy Plan, President Bush called for an expansion of the Energy Star program. The EPA will be expanding the program to include additional buildings and products such as ceiling fans, grocery stores and health care facilities. This fall, the agency will launch a national public awareness campaign to make sure consumers know they can be more energy efficient if they buy products with the Energy Star label.
In the United States alone in the year 2000, Energy Star resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking ten million cars off the road. Eight hundred and sixty four billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions have been prevented due to Energy Star commitments to date, with cumulative energy bill savings of $60 billion through 2010.
By establishing uniform criteria for the best in energy efficiency in the United States and Canada, this agreement should increase global supply and demand for energy efficient equipment. American manufacturers will find it easier to highlight the efficiency of their products in Canada.
Energy Star was established by EPA in 1992 to offer energy-saving and pollution-preventing solutions for consumers and businesses by awarding labels to the most energy-efficient products, homes and buildings. Energy Star currently offers labels, if specifications are met, to products in over 30 categories, including computers, dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioners. This makes it easy for families to make purchases that reduce the need for power generation at electric utilities, thereby reducing air pollution and global warming emissions. More than 600 million Energy Star products have been purchased, and thousands of buildings have been upgraded, providing savings of more than $4 billion in 2000. By using ENERGY STAR labeled products, the average household can save more than $400 a year on their energy bills.
For more general information on Energy Star, go to the website
EPA SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON ARSENIC IN DRINKING WATER
As part of its effort to substantially reduce the current arsenic in drinking water standard from 50 parts per billion (ppb), EPA is requesting public comment on the analyses it used in developing a standard published on January 22, and on up-to-date risk, costs and benefits data associated with a more protective potential standard of either 3, 5, 10, or 20 ppb. In addition, as announced April 18, EPA is proceeding with independent studies that will allow EPA to develop a strong and affordable arsenic standard based on the most current science. This includes an update by the National Academy of Sciences on arsenic health effects and separate studies on costs and benefits.
EPA wants to ensure that America's cities will be able to fully implement the new standard and also is exploring financial and technical assistance for smaller communities. The implementation schedule set last January remains the same, requiring compliance by January, 2006. The independent studies will be available for public review and a summary of the studies and EPA's perspective on the studies will be published this fall in the Federal Register. The additional public comments sought can be submitted until October 31.
See http://www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic.html for more
information on the arsenic rule review process.
U.S. REACHES CLEAN AIR SETTLEMENT WITH PETROLEUM REFINER
The Justice Department, EPA and the state of Illinois announced an agreement with The Premcor Refining Group Inc. that will significantly reduce harmful air pollution, including more than 4,700 tons of sulfur dioxide annually, from Premcor's petroleum refinery in Hartford, Ill.
A consent decree calls for Premcor (formerly Clark Refining and Marketing) to install new pollution control equipment, at a cost of up to $20 million, to decrease emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. Premcor also will install state-of-the-art burners on certain heaters and boilers to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides. These air pollutants can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.
St. Louis-based Premcor also will pay $2 million in civil penalties under the Clean Air Act, of which $1.2 million will go to the United States and $800,000 will go to Illinois.
The United States and Illinois alleged that Premcor made major modifications to its Hartford refinery - increasing its production capacity and its air emissions - without installing the pollution control equipment required by the Clean Air Act's new source review requirements.
Premcor's Hartford refinery processes heavy, "sour" crude oil, which has a high sulfur content. The settlement calls for the company to install a wet gas scrubber on the fluid catalytic cracking unit - generally, the largest point of emissions at refineries - to control the emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. The steps Premcor will take under the settlement will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by more than 4,700 tons, emissions of particulate matter by 630 tons, and emissions of nitrogen oxides by 270 tons each year.
Under the settlement, Premcor also has agreed to undertake several environmental projects and pollution reduction measures, such as discontinuing the use of fuel oil in heaters and boilers, and undertaking practices designed to reduce flaring from the refinery's coker. The state of Illinois will monitor the pollution-reduction projects with the federal government.
The settlement is similar to recent agreements that the United States has reached with petroleum refiners including the Koch Petroleum Group, BP Amoco, Motiva Enterprises, Equilon Enterprises and, most recently, Marathon Ashland Petroleum. The terms of these agreements give the companies the operational and design flexibility to increase their production while complying with Clean Air Act rules.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.