EPA's ECHO Records One Million Searches in First Year

November 21, 2003

ECHO, EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online database, delivered local-facility compliance and enforcement information in response to over one million search requests in its first year of operation. Accessible at http://www.epa.gov/echo, ECHO gives citizens the ability to access extensive information on EPA's environmental inspections, findings of violations and enforcement actions at more than 800,000 facilities nationwide.

ECHO is a gateway to comprehensive information on regulatory violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates the disposal of waste. The user can obtain information on the compliance status of local facilities regulated by each of those laws. Included is information from both EPA and the environmental agency of each state. The information is constantly updated.

During ECHO's initial trial, EPA received over 10,000 e-mails supporting continuation and enhancement of the enforcement/compliance database. As an unexpected benefit, industry reported that companies were finding ECHO to be an efficient and cost-saving way to monitor the compliance records of their facilities scattered around the country.

To insure accuracy, EPA incorporated an on-line error reporting system in ECHO. Less than one percent of the facility reports were found to have compliance or enforcement data errors. Of 8,882 error notifications submitted, 93 percent have already been addressed.

EPA has made many site enhancements in response to public requests, such as doubling the number of facilities that can be returned in a Web search, allowing companies to create an "ID list"of facilities for automated monthly retrieval of status information, adding a users' guide and improving explanations of the data. The Agency is continuing to develop additional enhancements to the site that will make it more useful and accessible to the general public.

EPA Proposes Conditional Exclusions on Rags and Wipes

On November 20, 2003, EPA published Conditional Exclusions From Hazardous and Solid Waste for Solvent-Contaminated Industrial Wipes; Proposed Rule (68 FR 65585). In this rule, EPA proposes to modify its hazardous waste management regulations under RCRA for certain solvent-contaminated materials such as reusable shop towels, rags, disposable wipes, and paper towels.

Specifically, EPA is proposing: to conditionally exclude from the definition of hazardous waste disposable industrial wipes that are contaminated with hazardous solvents and are sent for disposal; and, to conditionally exclude from the definition of solid waste reusable industrial shop towels and rags that are contaminated with hazardous solvents and are sent for laundering or dry cleaning. This proposal affects contaminated industrial wipes being sent to both landfill and non-landfill (e.g., laundries and combustion) facilities and is applicable to: industrial wipes exhibiting a hazardous characteristic (i.e., ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, toxicity) due to use with solvents; or industrial wipes contaminated with F001-F005 spent F-listed solvents or comparable P- and U-listed commercial chemical products that are spilled and cleaned up with industrial wipes.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule until February 18, 2004. A copy of the proposed rule and related materials, including a fact sheet, are available on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/id/solvents/wipes.htm

Public Dialogue Initiated on Toxics Release Inventory

On Nov. 5, EPA initiated a national on-line stakeholder dialogue on ways to reduce the effort associated with reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

The TRI is a publicly available EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain covered industry groups as well as federal facilities. This inventory was established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and expanded by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

EPA's goal is to reduce the effort involved in TRI reporting while continuing to provide valuable information to the public as required by EPCRA. Previous initiatives, such as the Form A Certification Statement and the Toxics Release Inventory - Made Easy (TRI-ME) software have succeeded in reducing the effort associated with TRI reporting.

More background on the TRI program and possible different reporting options is available at http://www.epa.gov/tri/programs/stakeholders/outreach.htm. Comments will be accepted until Jan. 5, 2004, and all comments will be posted to the Agency's electronic docket. For more information, please see the Federal Register notice.

Former Garbage Dump Provides Athletic Field, Heat, Electricity for High School Under Superfund Program

As part of EPA's national program to return former hazardous waste sites to productive reuse, the Agency's Region 5 office in Chicago declared Nov. 12 that a former Superfund site next to Antioch Community High School in Antioch, Ill., is "Ready for Reuse." This is the first such declaration in the Midwest and third in the nation.

About 30 acres of the cleaned-up and grass-covered H.O.D. Landfill -- named a Superfund National Priorities List site in 1990 -- is being converted to a multi-use athletic field adjacent to the school. In addition, methane gas extracted from the landfill is now being used to produce the school's heat and electricity, and a wetland along one side of the site will be used for student science projects.

The site contains a municipal and industrial landfill which operated from about 1963 to 1984. EPA selected a final cleanup plan for the site in Sept. 1998, and oversaw a series of cleanup activities there between August 2000 and August 2002. This site is construction complete, which means physical construction of all cleanup actions are complete, all immediate risks have been addressed and all long-term risks are under control.

Numerous partner agencies and organizations played roles in the cleanup and reuse of the landfill, including: United States Soccer Federation, Illinois EPA, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Village of Antioch, Antioch Township, Antioch Community High School District 117, Waste Management and ComEd (an Illinois utility).

Under the Superfund hazardous waste site program, the Ready for Reuse determination allows a potential buyer to make informed decisions based on environmental status information verified by EPA and the relevant state environmental regulatory agency. EPA hopes the Ready for Reuse technical determination will reduce the stigma often attached to hazardous waste properties and help developers get more attractive rates in the lending and insurance markets.

Environmental Injustice Toolkit Released, Comments Solicited

EPA is soliciting public comment on the draft document, "Toolkit for Assessing Potential Allegations of Environmental Injustice," a compilation of reference materials with a two-fold purpose: to assist Agency personnel in assessing potential allegations of environmental injustice and to provide a framework for understanding national policy on environmental justice.

The Agency defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies; for general information, go to http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/index.html.

The draft document about the toolkit is available at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/recent/ej.html; a hard copy is available from Marla Hendrickson 202-564-1897 or hendricksson.marla@epa.gov. Written comments about the toolkit are due on or before March 4, 2004 and should be addressed to: Barry E. Hill, Director, Office of Environmental Justice, EPA (MC 2201A), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460-0001.

Public Comment Sought to Improve 'Low-Activity' Radioactive Waste Management and Disposal

To gather information on concepts and methods that would improve the management and disposal of waste containing small amounts of radioactive materials – called "low activity radioactive waste," EPA published on Nov. 18 an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a range of possible approaches.

EPA is taking this action in an effort to enhance and expand methods for the safe disposal of "low-activity" radioactive waste. The agency is seeking to minimize storage of these materials and assure sufficient and protective disposal capacity in the future while increasing environmental and public health protection. The agency is also seeking to improve the management of certain wastes that are inconsistently regulated or currently unregulated.

The ANPR affects no existing regulations or programs. It introduces the concept of "low-activity" radioactive waste, explores equivalent or superior management and disposal approaches, and focuses on a material's radiation content rather than its origin. Data, comments and continued public dialogue will guide the agency in determining what, if any, next steps to take.The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy provided technical assistance during the ANPR's development.

A 120-day public comment period began Nov. 18. Further information is available at http://www.epa.gov/radiation/larw.

Voluntary Programs Report Big Environmental Gains in 2002

Voluntary programs succeeded in reducing 43 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 – over 10 percent more than 2001, according to EPA's annual report on ENERGY STAR and other programs. The greenhouse gas reductions are equivalent to eliminating the emissions from more than 28 million cars.

"This dramatically demonstrates the power of personal choice," said EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. "From light bulbs to entire homes, people purchasing energy efficient products were able to protect the environment and save money. Our corporate partners, too, are demonstrating that helping the environment can help their bottom line."

These voluntary climate change programs also include initiatives that develop clean energy solutions, increase the capture and use of methane gas, minimize emissions of other non-carbon dioxide gases, and provide opportunities for corporate commitments to develop long-term comprehensive climate change strategies. The report details the environmental and economic accomplishments of these programs and outlines goals for 2003 and beyond.

Highlights from the report include:

  • ENERGY STAR has developed strong partnerships with 1,250 manufacturers labeling more than 18,000 products in over 35 product categories. More than one billion ENERGY STAR labeled products have been purchased to date.
  • With ENERGY STAR, Americans saved more than $7 billion on their energy bills last year – enough energy to power 15 million homes and make a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • More than 3,000 builder partners constructed over 110,000 ENERGY STAR qualified homes to date, locking in financial savings for homeowners of more than $26 million annually.
  • EPA's national energy performance rating system has been used to evaluate and benchmark the energy efficiency of more than 15,000 buildings so far. Evaluation and benchmarking are important tools to measure buildings' energy performance and guide in future steps to improve efficiency. Of the 15,000 buildings evaluated, 1,100 buildings earned the ENERGY STAR in 2002. By square footage, 16 percent of office building space and 13 percent of schools, 20 percent of supermarkets, 21 percent of hospitals and 5 percent of hotels have been benchmarked.
  • Thirty-four companies joined the Climate Leaders Program since it was launched in early 2002. Seven companies announced aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
  • The Green Power Partnership 2002 with more than 90 partners totaled more than 500,000 megawatt hours (Mwh) of green power purchase commitments – including 250,000 Mwh from new renewable generation. Green power is electricity that is generated from resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and low-impact hydro facilities.
  • Partnership programs achieved reductions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases – methane, perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) – totaled more than 18 million metric tons of carbon equivalent in 2002 alone. Partner actions are projected to maintain methane emissions below 1990 levels through 2012.
  • In addition to reducing greenhouse gas intensity, the wide array of partnership programs also prevented almost 150,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions, a reduction of 10,000 tons more than previous year.

Copies of the 2002 annual report, Change for the Better: ENERGY STAR and Other Voluntary Programs, are available by calling the Energy Star Hotline at 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937) or at http://www.epa.gov/appdstar/annualreports/annualreports.htm. For information on climate change voluntary programs in the transportation sector (not included in this report) please visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/voluntary.htm.

Science Inventory Launched for Public Use

To make EPA's science available to researchers and all citizens, the EPA Science Inventory was launched on Nov. 18th for public access. The Science Inventory, managed by EPA's Office of Research and Development, is a searchable, Agency-wide database of 4,000 scientific and technical work products. Researchers at colleges and universities, state and local government officials, industry executives, students, attorneys – anyone with a use for EPA research – can now directly access EPA's science. The Science Inventory was previously used within EPA to coordinate scientific work; this is the first time it will be publicly available. Database records provide information such as project descriptions (abstracts), contacts for additional information and electronic links to final reports and related research. Users can search by keyword or within nine cross-cutting science topics: aging initiative, contaminated sediments, ecological assessment tools, genomics, tribal science, children's health, cumulative risk, environmental justice and non-indigenous species.

The Science Inventory is available at http://www.epa.gov/si.