Fees Proposed for TSCA Chemical Safety Evaluations

February 12, 2018

EPA met an important milestone and proposed fees under the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“EPA has moved swiftly to implement the amended TSCA requirements. Our proposed TSCA fees rule ensures we have sufficient resources to review chemicals for safety with the highest scientific standards,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, the proposed fees on chemical manufacturers, importers and processors, will provide a sustainable source of funding to defray resources that are available for implementation of new responsibilities under the amended law.

These fees to be collected from certain chemical manufacturers and importers, including processors, would go toward developing risk evaluations for existing chemicals; collecting and reviewing toxicity and exposure data and other information; reviewing Confidential Business Information (CBI); and, making determinations in a timely and transparent manner with respect to the safety of new chemicals before they enter the marketplace.

EPA has finalized three important rules under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act and is now taking action to move the fourth to completion. EPA is working to implement the new law, the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years, and get the most modern and safe chemicals to market quickly in order to provide regulatory certainty for manufacturers and confidence for American consumers.

This rule is the final of four framework rules under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, incorporating input received at an August 11, 2016 public meeting. Under the proposed rule, affected businesses would begin incurring fees on October 1, 2018 and small businesses would receive an 80% discount on their fees for new chemical submissions.

The 60-day comment period will open upon the forthcoming publication of the proposed fees rule in the Federal Register.

On June 22, 2017 – the one-year anniversary of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act – EPA met milestones for three framework TSCA rules: the Prioritization Process Rule, Risk Evaluation Process Rule, and Inventory Rule.

In addition to finalizing framework TSCA rules so the Agency can properly implement the law within the timeframes set by Congress, EPA has addressed and eliminated the backlog. The current caseload is back at the baseline level.

  • The Prioritization Process Rule establishes a framework and criteria for identifying high-priority chemicals for EPA risk evaluations.
  • The Risk Evaluation Process Rule establishes a framework for evaluating high priority chemicals to determine whether or not they present an unreasonable risk to health and/or the environment. The rule ensures transparency and confidence in the risk evaluation process while retaining flexibility to allow for new scientific approaches as they are developed.
  • The Inventory Rule requires industry reporting of chemicals manufactured, imported, or processed in the US over the past 10 years to identify which chemical substances on the TSCA Inventory are active in US commerce. This will inform the chemicals EPA prioritizes for risk evaluations.

 

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New Guidance from EPA on Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act

On January 25, 2018, the EPA issued a guidance memorandum that addresses the question of when a major source subject to a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard under CAA section 112 may be reclassified as an area source, and thereby avoid being subject thereafter to major source MACT and other requirements applicable to major sources under CAA section 112. As is explained in the memorandum, EPA’s definitions of major source in CAA section 112(a)(1) and of area source in CAA section 112(a)(2) compels the conclusion that a major source becomes an area source at such time that the source takes an enforceable limit on its potential to emit (PTE) hazardous air pollutants (HAP) below the major source thresholds (i.e., 10 tons per year (TPY) of any single HAP or 25 TPY of any combination of HAP). In such circumstances, a source that was previously classified as major, and which so limits its PTE, will no longer be subject either to the major source MACT or other major source requirements that were applicable to it as a major source under CAA section 112.

A prior EPA guidance memorandum had taken a different position. See Potential to Emit for MACT Standards--Guidance on Timing Issues, John Seitz, Director, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, (May 16, 1995). The May 1995 Seitz Memorandum set forth a policy, commonly known as ``once in, always in'' (OIAI policy), under which “facilities may switch to area source status at any time until the ‘first compliance date’ of the standard,'' with first compliance date being defined to mean the “first date a source must comply with an emission limitation or other substantive regulatory requirement.”

Thereafter, under the OIAI policy, “facilities that are major sources for HAP on the `first compliance date' are required to comply permanently with the MACT standard.”

The guidance signed on January 25, 2018, supersedes that which was contained in the May 1995 Seitz Memorandum. The EPA indicated that it will soon publish a Federal Register document to take comment on adding regulatory text that will reflect EPA's reading of the statute.

Sunoco Charged $12.6 Million Penalty Following Compliance Review 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a $12.6 million civil penalty to Sunoco Pipeline, LLP for permit violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. DEP and Sunoco have entered into a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) memorializing the penalty. As a result of the strict Consent Order and Agreement, which includes a historic civil penalty and a stringent compliance review, DEP has lifted the order suspending DEP-permitted operations. 

“Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible. A permit suspension is one of the most significant penalties DEP can levy. Our action to suspend the permits associated with this project, and the collection of this penalty, are indicative of the strict oversight that DEP has consistently exercised over this project. Today’s announcement is by no means the end of DEP’s oversight,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Since the permit suspension over a month ago, Sunoco has demonstrated that it has taken steps to ensure the company will conduct the remaining pipeline construction activities in accordance with the law and permit conditions, and will be allowed to resume. DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.”

DEP issued an administrative order to Sunoco suspending construction activities related to DEP-permitted operations on January 3, 2018. The order contained detailed facts and findings related to the violations, and 21 specified performance obligations. In response to the January 3 Order, Sunoco submitted an Initial Response on January 12, 2018, as well as two supplemental responses on January 22 and 29, 2018 in response to DEP requests for additional information and clarification. Sunoco also submitted numerous exhibits with additional information required by the Order. These included an extensive revised Operations Plan setting forth additional measures and controls Sunoco will put in place to ensure that all permit conditions will be followed at all times moving forward, as well as additional measures and controls that Sunoco will implement to minimize inadvertent returns and water supply incidents.

After reviewing all submitted materials, and conducting extensive additional inspection activities since the suspension was issued, DEP has approved the submissions as meeting all of the requirements to submit information in the January 3, 2018 Order. Information about the violations as well as Sunoco’s submissions to the Department can be viewed here.

In addition, the civil penalty resolves the violations that were noted in the January 3, 2018 Order and violations identified through Sunoco’s response to the Order. Pursuant to the COA, Sunoco will withdraw its appeal of the January 3, 2018 order, which had been filed on Friday February 2, 2018.

The $12.6 million penalty will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund. The penalty is one of the largest civil penalties collected in a single settlement.

“DEP will continue to monitor and enforce the conditions of the permits, and will take necessary enforcement actions for any future violations,” said McDonnell. “If a resident should witness pollution from the pipeline affecting streams or other waterways, then please alert DEP at 1-800-541-2050.”

JEGS Automotive, Inc. to Pay $1.7 Million Settlement for Selling Unauthorized Aftermarket Parts

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced that JEGS Automotive Inc. will pay $1,700,500 to resolve violations of anti-pollution laws related to the sales and marketing of illegal aftermarket performance parts in California.

The penalty is the largest in CARB history for a case involving aftermarket parts.

“This large settlement sends a powerful message to those in the retail community that selling aftermarket parts not approved for sale to California drivers is a risk not worth taking,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey.  “Our tough air quality laws exist to protect public health, and those who flout these rules can expect to be caught and pay a steep price.  We commend JEGS for cooperating and are confident that the company will not repeat this costly mistake.”

CARB staff initiated its investigation of JEGS thanks to a complaint from the public.  The probe revealed that from 2011 to 2014, JEGS advertised and sold in California modified aftermarket performance parts such as engine programmers, air intake systems and throttle bodies that were not approved by CARB for use on highway vehicles. Many of these products can reduce fuel economy and increase emissions.

Modified vehicles that no longer meet California’s emissions requirements pose a significant health threat to California residents.  They create higher amounts of smog-forming pollutants which can worsen respiratory problems and negatively impact other health conditions.

California law allows marketing and sale of an aftermarket performance part after an evaluation by CARB to ensure the part does not raise emissions.  Once CARB approves the part, it is granted an executive order that allows the sale and installation of the part on pollution-controlled vehicles.  State law also requires manufacturers, retailers, and distributors to take steps to ensure that consumers understand the legality of parts offered for sale and to discourage illegal modifications to vehicles.

JEGS will spend $850,250 on supplemental environmental projects to install air filters in schools located in economically and environmentally challenged communities; the sum will be split between the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District.  The remaining $850,250 will be paid to the Air Pollution Control Fund to support clean air programs.

Boise Cascade Wood Products Fined $90,688 for Water Violations 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $90,688 penalty to Boise Cascade Wood Products for stormwater and wastewater violations. Boise Cascade operates a stud mill and plywood manufacturing facility at 90 S. 21st Street in Elgin, Ore.

Boise Cascade Wood Products discharged wastewater to Philips Creek in March and April of 2017. The company discharged the wastewater without a permit and violated water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, turbidity and E. coli bacteria.

The company discharged industrial stormwater to sloughs along the Grande Ronde River in February 2017 without a permit.

Turbidity may be harmful to aquatic life in several ways. It absorbs heat from sunlight, which increases water temperature and decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen the water can hold. It can also decrease photosynthesis, which may further decrease dissolved oxygen levels. Elevated turbidity can smother fish and aquatic insect eggs and clog fish gills. It can also result in diminished food sources and increased difficulties for fish to find food.

Bacteria standards are intended to prevent the risk and spread of disease. Contact with contaminated water can lead to skin infections, respiratory diseases and other illnesses.

DEQ issued the penalty because stormwater and wastewater discharges can harm aquatic species and threaten human health. The violations occurred in Phillips Creek, which is designated as an active spawning area for trout. The waters of the Grande Ronde, including Phillips Creek, are known for water recreation, which can include human contact with water.

EPA Sued by State Coalition for Suspension of Clean Water Rule 

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 11 Attorneys General, has sued the Trump Administration for suspending the 2015 “Clean Water Rule” – a federal regulation designed to ensure the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act. With its “Suspension Rule,” the Administration replaces the Clean Water Rule with the confusing, nearly 40-year-old regulations that had been in place prior to the 2015 rule.  

The Attorneys General charge that, in suspending the Clean Water Rule, the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) violated federal law by taking action “with inadequate public notice, insufficient record support, and outside their statutory authority.”

The lawsuit is led by Attorney General Schneiderman and filed by the 11 Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

“Clean water is fundamental to New Yorkers’ health, environment, and economy,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The Trump Administration’s suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, threatening New York’s decades-long efforts to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy water. We will fight back against this reckless rollback and the Trump administration’s continued assault on our nation’s core public health and environmental protections.”

A lake, river, stream, wetland, or any other kind of surface water is afforded protection under the Clean Water Act only if it is a “water of the United States.” Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, and ambiguity in regulations dating back to 1980, led to substantial uncertainty as to whether some waters – particularly, small, seasonal, or rain-dependent streams, wetlands, and tributaries – are considered waters of the United States. As a result, 60% of our nation’s streams and at least 55% of New York’s stream miles – plus millions of acres of wetlands nationwide either lost, or were placed in jeopardy of losing, their protections under the Clean Water Act. This left these waters – and the downstream waters with which they connect – vulnerable to increased flooding, pollution, damage to hunting and fishing habitat, and fouling of the drinking water supplies. Thousands of miles of streams are at-risk of losing Clean Water Act protections, including those that feed sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans – including 56% of New Yorkers.

In 2015, EPA and the Army Corps adopted the Clean Water Rule to clarify what types of waters are covered by – and thereby are afforded protection under – the Clean Water Act. As the Attorneys General state in their suit, the 2015 Rule “rests on a massive factual record.” It was developed through an extensive multi-year public outreach process that elicited over one million public comments, and was based on over 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating how many waters are connected by networks of tributaries, intermittent streams, and wetlands. The Agencies also relied on EPA’s Science Advisory Board’s independent review of the Rule’s scientific underpinnings.

Healthy wetlands and tributary streams are needed to protect the nation’s waters. If these wetlands and waters are polluted or filled-in due to lax regulation, the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of larger downstream waters – such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans – will suffer. All of the lower 48 states have waters that are downstream of other states; New York, for example, is downstream of 13 states. As such, New York and other states receive water pollution generated not only within their borders, but also from upstream sources outside their borders over which they lack jurisdiction.

In 2015, EPA estimated that implementing the 2015 rule would result in indirect, incremental annual net benefits of between $339 to $572 million across multiple Clean Water Act programs.

The Suspension Rule, which the EPA and the Army Corps published recently, suspends the Clean Water Rule for two years and replaces it with regulations dating back to at least 1980. It was these outdated regulations that had led to many years of confusing and inconsistent interpretations of “waters of the United States” by agencies and federal courts, and resulted in inadequate water quality protections.

In their suit challenging the Suspension Rule, the coalition of Attorneys General charges that, among other things, the EPA and Army Corps:

  • Do not have authority under the Clean Water Act to suspend the Clean Water Rule after its effective date has passed;
  • Failed to provide a meaningful opportunity for public comment on the substance of the suspension rule, and specifically instructed the public not to comment substantively on the content, basis, or impact of the reinstated four-decade-old regulations;
  • Disregarded the voluminous scientific basis and factual findings supporting the Clean Water Rule, including that the 1980 regulations do not specifically address the interconnectivity of waters and thereby leave many floodplains, wetlands, and tributaries without certain protection under the Clean Water Act.

 

The Attorneys General coalition’s suit was filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

New Research Uncovered Massive Reserves of Mercury in Permafrost 

Researchers have discovered permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury, a finding with significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide.

In a new study, scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska and estimated how much mercury has been trapped in permafrost north of the equator since the last Ice Age.

The study reveals northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.

The new study has been published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“This discovery is a game-changer,” said Paul Schuster, a hydrologist at the US Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado and lead author of the new study. “We’ve quantified a pool of mercury that had not been done previously, and the results have profound implications for better understanding the global mercury cycle.”

Warmer air temperatures due to climate change could thaw much of the existing permafrost layer in the northern hemisphere. This thawing permafrost could release a large amount of mercury that could potentially affect ecosystems around the world. Mercury accumulates in aquatic and terrestrial food chains, and has harmful neurological and reproductive effects on animals.

“There would be no environmental problem if everything remained frozen, but we know the Earth is getting warmer,” Schuster said. “Although measurement of the rate of permafrost thaw was not part of this study, the thawing permafrost provides a potential for mercury to be released—that’s just physics.”

The new findings have major implications for understanding how Earth stores mercury and for human and environmental health, according to James Shanley, a research hydrologist at the US Geological Survey in Montpelier, Vermont, who was not involved with the new research.

“This study is very novel and makes a big discovery in an area that was previously somewhat ignored,” Shanley said. “It shows permafrost represents a huge source of mercury, and if it thaws due to climate change the mercury could be released and could significantly add to the global mercury burden.”

Natural mercury found in the atmosphere binds with organic material in the soil, gets buried by sediment, and becomes frozen into permafrost, where it remains trapped for thousands of years unless liberated by changes such as permafrost thaw.

Schuster’s team determined the total amount of mercury locked up in permafrost using field data. Between 2004 and 2012, the study authors drilled 13 permafrost soil cores from various sites in Alaska, and measured the total amounts of mercury and carbon in each core. They selected sites with a diverse array of soil characteristics to best represent permafrost found around the entire northern hemisphere.

Schuster and his colleagues found their measurements were consistent with published data on mercury in non-permafrost and permafrost soils from thousands of other sites worldwide. They then used their observed values to calculate the total amount of mercury stored in permafrost in the northern hemisphere and create a map of mercury concentrations in the region.

The study found approximately 793 gigagrams, or more than 15 million gallons, of mercury is frozen in northern permafrost soil. That is roughly 10 times the amount of all human-caused mercury emissions over the last 30 years, based on emissions estimates from 2016.

The study also found all frozen and unfrozen soil in northern permafrost regions contains a combined 1,656 gigagrams of mercury, making it the largest known reservoir of mercury on the planet. This pool houses nearly twice as much mercury as soils outside of the northern permafrost region, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.

Scientists are still unsure how much of the stored mercury would affect ecosystems if the permafrost were to thaw. One major question revolves around how much of the mercury would leach out of the soil into surrounding waterways, according to Steve Sebestyen, a research hydrologist at the USDA Forest Service in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, who was not involved with the new research.

If the mercury is transported across waterways, it could be taken up by microorganisms and transformed into methylmercury, he said. This form of mercury is a dangerous toxin that causes neurological effects in animals ranging from motor impairment to birth defects.

“There’s a significant social and human health aspect to this study,” Sebestyen said. “The consequences of this mercury being released into the environment are potentially huge because mercury has health effects on organisms and can travel up the food chain, adversely affecting native and other communities.”

Edda Mutter, science director for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, said the new study demonstrates thawing permafrost could have grave consequences for local ecosystems and indigenous communities in the northern hemisphere.

“Rural communities in Alaska and other northern areas have a subsistence lifestyle, making them vulnerable to methylmercury contaminating their food supply,” Mutter said. “Food sources are important to the spiritual and cultural health of the natives, so this study has major health and economic implications for this region of the world.”

The release of mercury could also have far-reaching global consequences, according to Shanley. Mercury released into the atmosphere can travel large distances and could affect communities and ecosystems thousands of miles away from the release site, he said.

Schuster believes his team’s research gives policymakers and scientists new numbers to work with and calibrate their models as they begin to study this new phenomenon in more detail. He intends to release another study modeling the release of mercury from permafrost due to climate change, and said this work changes scientists’ perspective of the global mercury cycle.

“24% of all the soil above the equator is permafrost, and it has this huge pool of locked-up mercury,” he said. “What happens if the permafrost thaws? How far will the mercury travel up the food chain? These are big-picture questions that we need to answer.”

Gibson Wine Co. to Pay Over $600,000 in Fines and Upgrades for Deadly Ammonia Release

The US Department of Justice and the EPA have reached an agreement with Gibson Wine Co. to resolve federal environmental violations related to an anhydrous ammonia release at its winemaking facility in Sanger, CA, that led to the death of one of Gibson Wine’s workers, triggered evacuations and required a fire department response. Gibson Wine will pay a $330,000 civil penalty and is required to make a series of improvements to its facility valued at approximately $300,000.

“Facilities using extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia must abide by federal laws to protect the safety of workers, emergency responders, and the community to avoid such deadly or other serious accidental chemical releases,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This case is part of EPA’s high-priority work to reduce the risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities through compliance assistance and enforcement of good chemical management practices.”

EPA’s January 2013 inspection was prompted by a release of more than 280 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the facility in September 2012. During the inspection, EPA found that Gibson Wine violated the Clean Air Act by failing to identify hazards, design and maintain a safe facility, and minimize the consequences of an accidental release. Some of the hazards EPA’s inspectors found were:

  • The lack of readily available devices designed to prevent a release of ammonia from oil drain lines.
  • Inadequate operating procedures and insufficient employee training to assure that employees understand and adhere to the operating procedures.
  • The lack of labeling that would allow operators to identify ammonia refrigeration system pipes and equipment.

 

The company also failed to immediately notify the National Response Center and the California Office of Emergency Services as soon as it knew of the release, in violation of CERCLA and EPCRA.

Under the terms of the settlement, the company will install a computer control system for its anhydrous ammonia refrigeration system, with automated controls and alarms; move one of its ammonia refrigeration systems to a safer location that is farther away from employee bathrooms, offices, and a breakroom; conduct an audit of ammonia refrigeration equipment to identify any further improvements that Gibson Wine must undertake; and label refrigeration pipes and equipment.

The consent decree for this settlement was lodged in the federal district court by the US Department of Justice and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Proposed Changes to Washington Air Regulations

The Washington Department of Ecology has proposed the following changes to Chapters 173-400 and 173-401 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC)

 

These changes will:

  • Remove exceptions for emissions during startup, shutdown, and malfunction to comply with EPA’s direction in the startup, shutdown, malfunction SIP call. This includes provisions such as affirmative defense, director’s discretion and automatic exemption.
  • Allow public notices to be posted on an agency website instead of exclusively requiring newspaper notice.
  • Simplify application of nonroad engine requirements.
  • Update the adoption of federal rules and update the definition of volatile organic compounds (VOC) based on changes to the federal definition.
  • Correct errors.
  • Make the rules easier to understand.

 

EPA Administrator Pruitt Invited the Nation’s Leaders to Join EPA Efforts to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt addressed lead contamination across America by inviting his colleagues and fellow Cabinet members to join with EPA in developing a federal strategy to reduce childhood lead exposure and associated health effects.

Administrator Pruitt formally invited members of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children to participate in a Principals Meeting to discuss next steps in developing a federal strategy to reduce childhood lead exposure and eliminate associated health impacts. The invitation builds on Administrator Pruitt’s calls for a renewed effort to update our nation’s water infrastructure, especially in regard to lead in drinking water systems. 

The meeting will be held on February 15, 2018, from 2-3 pm at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C.

EPA Environmental Enforcement Results for 2017 Announced

The EPA announced its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 annual enforcement and compliance results, highlighting site remediation and civil and criminal enforcement results.

“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” said Assistant Administrator of the OECA Susan Bodine. “In fiscal year 2017, we focused on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation’s environmental laws.”  However, according to The Hill, “polluters were fined a total of $1.6 billion in penalties in fiscal year 2017 — about a fifth of the $5.7 billion EPA penalties collected the year prior, under President Obama.”

Highlights of EPA’s FY 2017 enforcement accomplishments include:

  • An increase in the value of commitments by private parties to clean up sites to more than $1.2 billion.
  • An increase in the environmental benefits of EPA Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement, with commitments to address an estimated 20.5 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and 412 million cubic yards of contaminated water.
  • An increase in the total of criminal fines, restitution, and mitigation to $2.98 billion. 
  • An increase in the years of incarceration resulting from EPA’s criminal enforcement actions to 150 years.
  • An increase in the value of actions taken to improve compliance with the law and reduce pollution, to nearly $20 billion.
  • $1.6 billion in administrative and civil judicial penalties, higher than any of the previous 10 years other than FY 2016, which included the $5.7 billion BP action.

 

States and tribes are often authorized to be the primary implementers of federal environmental law. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of EPA’s enforcement actions are taken in programs that are either not delegable to the state or a federally-recognized tribe; in states or tribes that have not sought authorization to implement a delegable program; or in states or tribes that do not have the resources, expertise, or the will to take action, or that seek assistance from the Agency — and all of these actions are taken in coordination with the states or tribes. As a result, in FY 2017, EPA continued the trend of reducing the number of individual federal inspections and federal enforcement actions. These numbers do not count informal actions or EPA assistance with state enforcement actions.

Looking forward, EPA is developing new measures to help focus the enforcement program on returning facilities to compliance by setting goals to reduce the time between the identification of an environmental law violation and its correction and to increase environmental law compliance rates. Also, EPA is developing measures to fully capture all the enforcement and compliance assistance work the Agency undertakes by tracking informal, as well as formal, enforcement and compliance actions and support to states.

Notable FY17 Enforcement Cases: 

Volkswagen AG agreed to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine to settle allegations that it used illegal software to cheat emissions tests to sell approximately 590,000 diesel vehicles and avoid Clean Air Act compliance. In a separate civil resolution of Clean Air Act claims, Volkswagen agreed to pay $1.45 billion in civil penalties.

EPA filed a complaint against FCA US LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., V.M. Motori S.p.A., and V.M. North America, Inc. alleging nearly 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles are equipped with software functions that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, and that the vehicles contain defeat.

Tyson Poultry Inc., the nation’s largest chicken producer, pleaded guilty in federal court to two criminal charges for violating the Clean Water Act that stemmed from discharges at its facility in Monett, Missouri.  Under the terms of the plea agreement, Tyson Poultry Inc. agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine and serve two years of probation. 

Whole Foods Market voluntarily disclosed to EPA that it may not have consistently made sufficient hazardous waste determinations on discarded consumer products.  Under a settlement with EPA, Whole Foods will pay a $500,000 civil penalty and spend $2.75 million to perform a supplemental environmental project to protect children’s health by replacing older fluorescent lighting fixtures that contain polychlorinated biphenyls in public schools and community centers serving children located in low to moderate income areas.

Under a settlement with the US Department of Justice and EPA, StarKist Co. and its subsidiary, Starkist Samoa Co., agreed to make a series of upgrades to reduce wastewater pollution, improve safety measures, and comply with important federal environmental laws at their tuna processing facility in American Samoa. Under the agreement, StarKist will pay a $6.3 million penalty and provide emergency response equipment to American Samoa for use in responding to chemical releases. The agreement will help prevent hazardous releases at the StarKist facility, protect workers and the local community, and reduce pollution discharges by more than 13 million pounds each year.

A settlement agreement with a third party to conduct response actions at three parcels within the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman Superfund study area in Mountain View, California, allowing a redevelopment project to go forward.

TCEQ Fines Companies $282,951

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved penalties totaling $212,507 against 21 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations. Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: five air quality, one industrial wastewater discharge, two multimedia, four municipal wastewater discharge, one petroleum storage tank, three public water system, and one water quality.

Default orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: one multimedia, one petroleum storage tank, one public water system, and one water quality. In addition, on Jan. 30, the TCEQ executive director approved a total of 22 penalties, totaling $70,444.  Details relating to the enforcement orders are available here.

Groundwater at Coal Ash Dumps Toxic Confirmed by New Data

Unlined pits filled with coal ash waste are leaking toxic substances – including arsenic – into groundwater near old coal-burning power plants in eight states, an Earthjustice review of 14 industry reports has found. Coal ash, which is what’s left after a power plant burns coal, is dumped into pits at approximately 1,400 sites around the country. It poses threats to drinking water, neighborhoods, and air quality. The pits are unlined, so toxics can seep into groundwater.

“Hundreds more power plants will be making their required groundwater tests available online soon – and this is critical information that communities need to protect their drinking water from toxic pollution,” said Earthjustice Senior Counsel Lisa Evans. “From just this initial survey of these reports, we can see that groundwater contamination from coal ash pits is a grave concern.”

Under a 2015 EPA coal ash rule, all US electric generating utilities were required to analyze groundwater pollution at each of their operating coal ash dumps by January 31, 2018 and publish the results online by March 2.

To date, the largest electric utilities in the nation have not posted the results of their groundwater monitoring, including Duke Energy, First Energy, Ameren, NRG, AES and Dominion. By law, these reports are already completed, but all of the major utility companies are delaying public posting until the March 2 deadline.

Because most coal ash dumps are unlined and many have already been found to be leaking deadly chemicals, like arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead and thallium (rat poison), these first-ever groundwater monitoring reports are critically important to the safety of the nation’s drinking water. The EPA and environmental groups have already confirmed over 200 cases of water contamination from leaking coal ash sites.

A review of the reports that some of the country’s smaller utilities have posted online reveals that a majority have groundwater contamination.

Out of the 14 power plants so far that posted test results and analyses, nine noted “statistically significant increases” of substances such as arsenic, antimony, molybdenum, lithium, boron, chlorides, pH and more in groundwater.  Three additional plants confirmed findings of preliminary contamination, but have not completed testing and analysis. The data also reveal levels of arsenic and radium above drinking water standards in some groundwater wells.

The plants are located in eight states spanning from Florida to Alaska. Under the EPA’s coal ash rule, power plants that find contamination will have to do more testing and come up with cleanup plans to protect groundwater.

“Coal ash is a silent, tasteless killer,” Evans said. “But once the pollution is discovered, the EPA’s coal ash rule requires protection and cleanup. That’s why it is critical that this law stay in effect.”

As soon as President Donald Trump took office, polluters petitioned the EPA to weaken the critical protections of the coal ash rule. According to Earthjustice, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt quickly complied by writing a new rule. It’s unknown when the EPA will publish the new rule, but it is anticipated that the proposed rule will be published later this month.

“The groundwater testing reports we examined reveal that the EPA’s coal ash rule is working as planned and will help protect aquifers near coal ash dumps from further pollution,” Evans said. “Communities that rely on this water for drinking should sleep better knowing that the existing federal law requires full disclosure of the hazardous chemicals leaking from these toxic dumps.”

The following ten plants have confirmed online that coal ash has contaminated groundwater:

  • Xcel Energy Sherburn County (Sherco) Generating Plant, Becker, MN
  • Golden Valley Electric Association, Healy Power Plant, Healy, AK
  • Gainesville Regional Utilities, Deerhaven Generating Station, Gainesville, FL
  • Crisp County Power Commission, Crisp Power Plant, Warwick, GA
  • Muscatine Power and Water, Muscatine Power and Water, Muscatine, IA
  • Holland Board of Public Works, James DeYoung Power Plant, Holland, MI
  • City of Fremont Utilities, Fremont Power Plant, Fremont, NE
  • Omaha Public Power District, North Omaha Station, Omaha, NE
  • Omaha Public Power District, Nebraska City Power Station, Nebraska City, NE
  • Transalta Centralia Power Plant, Centralia, WA

 

All utility coal ash websites are posted at this link.

Unique System for Welding Repairs of Highly Irradiated Metal Alloys

Scientists of the Department of Energy’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program (LWRS) and partners from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have conducted the first weld tests to repair highly irradiated materials at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The welding system, designed and installed in a hot cell at ORNL’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center, safely encloses equipment for laser and friction-stir welding. It allows researchers to advance welding technologies for repair of irradiated materials by developing processing conditions and evaluating post-weld materials properties.

As nuclear power plants age, materials that have been irradiated for several decades might require repair or replacement. Advanced welding techniques will be needed during the extended operational lives of America’s nuclear power plants; construction on most began in the 1970s. These plants generate approximately 20% of the nation’s electricity.

“Demonstration of advanced techniques for irradiated materials is a key step in validating weld repair as one mitigation strategy for extending the life of components and reducing costs for the nuclear industry,” said ORNL’s Keith Leonard, who leads research in the Materials Aging and Degradation Pathway for LWRS.

Mitigation strategies focus on cost-effective repairs or replacements—either may require welding. During extended operation of reactors, helium is generated through the transmutation of boron impurities by reaction with neutrons from the reactor core. Furthermore, nickel, a common alloying element in structural alloys, will also generate helium, but through a slower two-step process. Helium generation depends on the material and its location in the reactor, but for reactors exceeding 60 effective full-power years, helium generation in core components can exceed 5 to 10 atomic parts per million—levels at which traditional welding techniques cannot be used to adequately repair components.

Heat and stress drive helium to coalesce in stainless steel, forming bubbles along boundaries between “grains,” or micron-scale regions of order, that weaken the material. When metal is melted and resolidifies, differences in expansion and contraction between the newly solidified material and surrounding material can build tensile stresses along the weakened, helium-bubble-containing grain boundaries, inducing cracks. “That’s the biggest problem we face with welding irradiated materials,” Leonard said. The ORNL–EPRI system uses advanced techniques that introduce less stress than conventional welding, thereby reducing cracking.

On November 17, the first tests on irradiated material were performed at ORNL with a laser welding technique that uses a primary laser to weld and secondary beams to reduce tensile stresses near the weld zone (a patent application has been submitted). The tests were conducted on samples, known as “coupons,” of irradiated stainless steel doped with 5, 10 and 20 parts of boron per million atoms. The materials were fabricated into playing-card-sized coupons at ORNL and then irradiated at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL. HFIR’s abundant, energetic neutrons bombard the coupons to change the boron into helium to simulate the aging that would occur in a commercial reactor after decades of radiation exposure.

November 21 saw the first friction stir welding of irradiated stainless steel at ORNL. Unlike conventional arc welding, which employs molten materials, friction stir welding is a solid-state mixing technique that uses a rotating tool to generate friction and heat that softens materials but does not melt them. “At the microscopic level, the atoms of each piece of material get very close, and attractive forces pull the atoms together to form one piece,” explained Zhili Feng, who leads ORNL’s Materials Joining Team.  Because friction stir welding occurs below the melting point, it avoids cracking in repair welding of irradiated and helium-bearing materials. An artificial neural network monitors friction stir welding to detect conditions that can cause weld defects.

“Both repair welding technologies developed in our program are engineered to ‘proactively’ manage the stresses during welding so they potentially offer solutions for repairing [internal] reactor components with high helium levels—impossible with today’s welding repair technology,” Feng said. “As reactors continue to age (and helium continues to be generated), industry increasingly needs technologies to handle high-helium-level scenarios.”

Preliminary observations showed both techniques produced welds of good quality.

“The welding hot cell really established ORNL as a center for developing new techniques and new technologies for commercial nuclear power generation,” Leonard said. In addition to lab expertise in welding and materials characterization, ORNL strengths include diverse nearby facilities, such as other hot cells and the Low Activation Materials Development and Analysis Laboratory to support post-weld materials characterization, and HFIR to generate test material and further age post-weld materials.

Next, the researchers will explore welding materials with higher helium content and characterize the irradiated materials after they’ve been welded, with techniques including microstructural analysis and mechanical property assessments. They will also re-age material in HFIR that has undergone a weld repair to see how further aging affects welds.

The LWRS Program conducts research and development to enhance the safe, efficient and economical performance of our nation’s nuclear fleet and extend operating lifetimes. EPRI, an independent, nonprofit organization, conducts research supporting the safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible use of nuclear power as a generation option. EPRI is developing tools to deploy the technology to nuclear power plants for on-site repairs. Once a joint patent issues to ORNL and EPRI, companies could license the technology to make those on-site repairs.

“EPRI works broadly with researchers from companies and universities, and this case, a government lab, to address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and the environment,” said Gregory Frederick, EPRI program manager. “We made a fairly large investment because we see the value for providing new knowledge that industry needs. No place has the critical mass of expertise and facilities that Oak Ridge National Laboratory provides.”

Research and development support for this project came from the US Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s LWRS Program, EPRI’s Long Term Operations Program and ORNL. DOE and EPRI shared costs for the development, design, fabrication, equipment and testing costs, and ORNL supported installation-related costs. Industry can gain access to this capability through DOE Office of Nuclear Energy funding opportunities or ORNL partnering mechanisms.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Funding Provided to Four West Coast States for Diesel Reduction

Clean diesel projects throughout the Northwest and Alaska received a $1.3 million boost from the EPA from its Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program.

"Clean diesel technologies not only improve air quality, but advance innovation and support jobs,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These projects will significantly reduce harmful emissions and directly benefit the health of residents.”

"By promoting clean diesel technologies, we can improve air quality and human health, advance American innovation, and support green jobs in economically disadvantaged communities, while growing our economy," said Chris Hladick, Regional Administrator for EPA's Northwest & Alaska Region. "Public-private partnerships like the West Coast Collaborative are leading the way on reducing harmful diesel emissions and creating jobs.”

The DERA program is administered by EPA's West Coast Collaborative, a clean air public-private partnership that leverages public and private funds to funds to complete important diesel reduction projects that reduce emissions from the most polluting diesel sources in impacted communities in West Coast states and US territories.

Here’s what each state has received in this year’s funding from the EPA:

  • Alaska Energy Authority – AEA received $335,024, and is providing $362,942 in mandatory cost share and an additional $53,234 for a project total of $751,200. Funds will be used to complete four to six repowers and generator replacements in rural communities. The repowers and replacements will address antiquated mechanically governed prime power diesel ‘genset’ engines with newer, more fuel efficient Tier 2 and Tier 3 marine engines that reduce diesel emissions and save fuel. This project will reduce 4.2 tons of particulate matter, 46.4 tons of nitrogen oxides, 22.8 tons of carbon monoxide, and 603 tons of carbon dioxide over the lives of the engines.
  • Idaho Department of Environmental Quality – IDEQ received $340,614, and is providing $150,000 in mandatory match and $227,076 in voluntary match for a project total of $717,690. Funds will be used to retrofit 10 school buses, eight construction vehicles, eight city/county vehicles, three private business owner vehicles and 11 private agricultural vehicles with retrofit devices that reduce diesel emissions and save fuel.  IDEQ will also replace two buses. This project will reduce 5.2 tons of particulate matter, 5.2 tons of nitrogen oxides, 5.9 tons of hydrocarbons, 27.3 tons of carbon monoxide, and 132.1 tons of carbon dioxide over the lives of the buses and other vehicles.
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – ODEQ received $355,373, and is providing $1,601,538 in mandatory cost share and $351,311 of other funds for a project total of $2,308,222. Funds will be used to replace up to 21 older, polluting diesel school buses with new, lower emitting 2017 model year engines. This project will reduce 0.7 tons of particulate matter, 8.7 tons of nitrogen oxides, 4.2 tons of carbon monoxide, 1.1 tons of hydrocarbons, and 151 tons of carbon dioxide over the lives of the buses.
  • Washington Department of Ecology - Ecology received $249,493, and is providing $649,513 in mandatory cost share for a project total of $899,006. Funds will be used to install EPA verified idle reduction technology on eight school buses; replace one Tier 2 marine engine on a harbor patrol vessel; and replace seven pre-2006 diesel school buses with model year 2017 or newer standard diesel or propane powered school buses. This project will reduce 2.5 tons of particulate matter, 31.8 tons of nitrogen oxides, 7.2 tons of carbon monoxide, 3.2 tons of hydrocarbons, and 66 tons of carbon dioxide over the lives of the engines.

 

In the past year EPA has awarded nearly $12.5 million in DERA funding to recipients in Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to reduce diesel emissions from large diesel sources, such as trucks, buses, agriculture and port equipment. These projects will improve air quality by reducing over 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 200 tons of particulate matter from over 350 medium and heavy duty diesel engines. Reducing particulate matter emissions has important public health and air quality benefits and reduces black carbon.

Finalized Connecticut Comprehensive Energy Strategy 

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has released its finalized Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES) which focuses on building a 21st energy system that lowers costs for homeowners and businesses and reduces carbon emissions to help achieve the state’s aggressive climate change goals.

“Connecticut is committed to taking real action to address one of the most pressing global issues of our time, climate change. If we fail to take real action as a state, nation and global community to address climate change, future generations will suffer irreparable consequences,” Governor Daniel P. Malloy said. “This energy strategy will help guide our state into the future to ensure that no matter what policies come from Washington, our state will continue to lead in the deployment of renewable energy resources and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The updated Comprehensive Energy Strategy provides a roadmap towards a cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy system,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “These strategies identify new tools and approaches that can help us achieve our ambitious goals as cost-effectively as possible.”

“Strengthening Connecticut’s commitment to energy efficiency and renewable generation rank high on the list of CES priorities.  Energy efficiency helps reduce consumer energy bills, and improve the competitiveness of Connecticut businesses,” said DEEP Deputy Commissioner Mary Sotos. “Making smart investments in the clean energy economy will have a significant and positive impact upon future generations.”

The finalized 2018 CES focuses on eight key strategies designed to further efforts to bring cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy to our state.  These include:

  • Ensure sustainable and equitable funding for efficiency
  • Advance market transformation of the energy efficiency industry
  • Grow and sustain renewable and zero-carbon generation in the state and region
  • Expand deployment of all cost-effective distributed generation (“behind the meter”) in a sustainable manner
  • Continue to improve grid reliability and resiliency through state and regional efforts
  • Reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating the adoption of low and zero emission vehicles and strengthening alternative-fueling infrastructure
  • Increase mobility, connectivity and accessibility by advancing smart-growth, mixed-use transit-oriented development, and innovative transportation partnerships
  • Modernize the grid

 

The finalized 2018 CES released by DEEP provided an update to the state’s first-ever CES, which was released in 2013.  The development and periodic updating of the CES as required in landmark energy legislation, Public Act 11-80, signed into law by Governor Malloy on July 1, 2011.

CARB Joined Imperial Valley Group to Monitor Air Quality and Reduce Health Risks 

The California Air Resources Board has announced that it has partnered with Comité Cívico del Valle Inc. (CCV) to take a proactive role in promoting community science to assess local air quality. The partnership consists of a $160,000 contract to evaluate and improve the performance of CCV’s existing community-led air monitoring network in Imperial Valley, a community heavily impacted by air pollution.

“The Comité Cívico del Valle is a pioneer in helping community residents obtain air quality information they can use,” said CARB’s Assistant Executive Officer for Environmental Justice Veronica Eady. “This partnership will help CARB to better understand the air quality trends at the local level, and learn more about the best application of the latest generation of monitoring technologies to help clean the air in communities throughout California that need it the most.”

Currently, CCV manages a science-based air monitoring network designed and operated by local residents that measures particulate matter concentrations at nearly 40 locations throughout the Imperial Valley. The so-called ‘IVAN’ monitoring network (for Identifying Violation Affecting Neighborhoods) uses a lower-cost air sensors that measure air pollutants on a real-time or near real-time basis and require less field support infrastructure than other traditional air monitoring devices.

The $160,000 contract is being funded through the Environmental Justice Budget Change Proposal. It will enable CCV to enhance the existing IVAN network and provide Imperial Valley residents with continued access to real-time or near real-time local air quality information. The funds will also allow CCV to host public meetings, provide outreach materials about the role and use of IVAN air monitoring data, as well as maintain or repair the existing monitoring sensors.

“Air quality is an incredibly important issue that continues to threaten the health of Imperial Valley residents,” said Senator Ben Hueso, who represents the 40th Senate District including Imperial County. “Many of the impacted families are facing significant hurdles, including high rates of unemployment, and cannot afford to continue waiting while their health, and that of their children, continues to worsen. I am very grateful for the efforts of Comité Cívico del Valle Inc. and congratulate them on partnering with the California Air Resources Board to continue to develop solutions to address environmental hazards affecting the lives of Imperial Valley residents.”

“Across California, there are communities just like ours that have poor air quality. We have created a monitoring network that puts air quality data into the hands of Imperial Valley residents who can take air quality into account when doing their daily routines,” said Luis Olmedo, Executive Director of CCV. “Through partnership with CARB, we are providing a model to the rest of the state and demonstrating the importance of citizen science. This kind of community empowerment leads to jobs and boosts the local economy. ”

This partnership in the Imperial Valley will provide CARB with an opportunity to learn more about the deployment, operation, and upkeep of new air monitoring technology. It will also serve as a possible template for additional community-based air monitoring systems to help improve air quality in areas most affected by air pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Winners of California Premier Air Quality Award 

The California Air Resources Board honored five recipients of the 2017 Haagen-Smit Legacy Awards, California’s premier award recognizing people who have made outstanding contributions to improving air quality. The contributions of this year’s award winners will have lasting impacts not only for air quality and climate goals in California, but on an international scale.

In honor of the California Air Resources Board’s 50th anniversary, the state’s clean-air agency recognized the outstanding contributions that each of the five winners made during a specific decade since the inception of the California Air Resources Board. The agency was created when Governor Ronald Reagan approved the Mulford-Carrell Act in 1967, and the first Board meeting was held Feb. 8, 1968 — 50 years ago.

“Our honorees span the past 50 years of progress toward clean air. Each played a leading role in this struggle for clean air and a healthy economy,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said. “Individually our honorees have conducted ground-breaking research or shaped pioneering clean-air policies. Together, these five remarkable individuals are being recognized for their leadership, courage, and innovation. Californians owe them a debt of gratitude for their contribution to improved public health in California, across our nation, and throughout the world."

Considered the “Nobel Prize” in air quality and climate change achievements, the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Awards are given annually to individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions toward improving air quality and climate change science, technology and policy, furthering the protection of public health. In honor of the 50th Anniversary, this year’s awards are named the Haagen-Smit Legacy Awards. The 2017 award recipients include:

  • David G. Hawkins, Director, Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center - David Hawkins was one of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s first staff members in 1971. He is a leader in the development, advocacy and implementation of sustainable and science-based clean air policies, notably the Clean Air Act, which improved the quality of life for all Americans. With expertise in advanced coal technologies and carbon dioxide capture and storage, Mr. Hawkins has worked with US Congress, the Executive Branch, and the business community to design policies that will slow, stop, and reduce the emissions of global warming pollution. His legacy of advocating for health-protective air quality policy will have positive effects on Americans’ health for years to come.

 

  • Henry Waxman, Chairman, Waxman Strategies - Representative Henry Waxman, who continues his decades-long leadership for environmental protection, served 40 years in Congress where he was a leader in the development of numerous legislative achievements on environmental matters. Mr. Waxman’s legislative work and tenacity earned him wide recognition as an accomplished legislator. President Obama described him as “one of the most effective legislators of his or any era.” Mr. Waxman was the author of the landmark 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and multiple laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect children from toxic pollution. As Chairman of Waxman Strategies, a public affairs and strategic communications firm, he continues to focus on the issues he championed while in Congress, including health care, environment, energy, technology, and telecommunications. He also serves as a Regent Lecturer at UC Los Angeles and an advisor and lecturer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

 

  • Mario Molina, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego - Professor Mario Molina’s pioneering research on chlorinated gases in the atmosphere laid the foundation for international efforts to curb growth of the ozone hole, and is now shaping policy to curb short-lived climate pollutants. His ground-breaking research has been widely recognized around the world, and the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was one of the most successful treaties of any kind thanks to research conducted by Professor Molina and his colleague Dr. Sherwood Rowland, for which they both received the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Professor Molina also leads the “Centro Mario Molina,” a Mexican nonprofit focused on finding solutions to environmental challenges including climate change and air pollution. He is a pioneer in translating atmospheric science research into scientifically sound policies that protect human health and the environment.

 

  • Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chairman, USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy - Among the most influential actions taken by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was his support of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32) where he worked with leaders of both major political parties to pass this bold and historic state law. Continuing his commitment to environmental leadership, in 2011 he co-founded R20, a global nonprofit of subnational governments and regional leaders working together to address climate change and build a green economy. In 2012 he partnered with the University of Southern California to launch the USC Schwarzenegger Institute to continue his work on the many policy initiatives he championed during his two terms as Governor, 2003-2011.

 

  • Gina McCarthy, Professor of the Practice of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Director, Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment - While serving as Administrator of the EPA from 2013 to 2017, Gina McCarthy’s leadership on development and implementation of the Clean Power Plan and a whole suite of climate policies are a long standing legacy that benefits the nation and the world. Her tenure as EPA Administrator heralded a paradigm shift in national environmental policy, expressly linking it with global public health. In her new role at Harvard University, she will lead the development of the School’s strategy in climate science, health, and sustainability; strengthen its climate science and health curriculum; and interface with climate science leaders across the University.

 

California’s premier air quality award is named for the late Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit — known as the father of air pollution science and control. The award recognizes those who continue his legacy through perseverance, leadership and innovation in the areas of research, environmental policy, science and technology, public education and community service. Dr. Haagen-Smit’s breakthrough research, which became the foundation upon which today's air pollution standards are based, concluded that most of California's smog is the result of photochemistry — the reaction of sunlight with industrial and motor vehicle exhaust to create ozone. The selection committee is comprised of past award winners.

Ten Wastewater Facilities Nationwide Recognized for Excellence 

The following facilities, programs and individuals were recognized by the EPA for their outstanding efforts to improve water quality:

  • The Town of North Attleboro's Industrial Pretreatment Program was honored with a "2017 Regional Industrial Pretreatment Program Excellence Award".
  • The Lewiston Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority Industrial Pretreatment Program in Lewiston was honored with a "2017 Regional Industrial Pretreatment Program Excellence Award".
  • Nathan Lavallee, chief operator of the Burlington, VT facility, was honored by EPA's New England office with a “2017 Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator of the Year Excellence Award” for his outstanding work over the years in operating and maintaining the Burlington facility.
  • James LaLiberte of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in Lowell, MA received a "2017 Regional Wastewater Trainer of the Year Excellence Award" for his work training wastewater operators across the country.
  • The Northumberland Wastewater Treatment Facility, Northumberland, NH
  • The Narragansett Bay Commission Fields Point Wastewater Treatment Facility, Providence, RI
  • The Narragansett, R.I. Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • The Milton Wastewater Treatment Facility, Milton, VT
  • The Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility, Jamestown, RI
  • The Canton Wastewater Treatment Facility, Canton, CT

 

The EPA Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Excellence Award was established to recognize and honor the employees of publicly owned wastewater treatment plants for their commitment to improving water quality with outstanding plant operations and maintenance. More often than not, and particularly with the smaller facilities, conscientious operators and staff continue to perform exceptionally with limited resources.

Michigan Governor Recognized for Energy Efficiency Efforts 

Governor Rick Snyder will be presented with a Leadership award from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance as recognition of his efforts to reduce energy waste in Michigan. Snyder will accepted his award at the 2018 Inspiring Efficiency Awards ceremony during the MEEA’s Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in Chicago.

“We have made energy waste reduction a priority in Michigan and, as a result, saved employers and residents billions of dollars over the past decade,” Snyder said. “Our efforts have worked in Michigan thanks to strong bipartisan support from policymakers and partnerships with business leaders, who help us lead the change toward a brighter energy future.”

Among Snyder’s energy-focused achievements since taking office in 2011:

  • Signed comprehensive energy reforms that made energy waste reduction central to Michigan’s energy future.
  • Created the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, which recognize homeowners, business owners and innovators who reduce energy waste.
  • Signed multiple pieces of legislation to make it easier for public entities to use performance contracting.
  • Advocated for and signed into law a new low-income energy program that pairs energy education on waste reduction with assistance for vulnerable households.
  • Appointed two Public Service Commissioners who have expertise in financing energy waste reduction programs.
  • Advocated for energy waste reduction as a central element for Michigan's energy future in two "special messages."
  • Signed legislation which allowed for the creation of municipal lighting authorities, such as the one in Detroit which converted 88,000 streetlights to LEDs.
  • Set a goal of producing 35% of Michigan’s energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2025.
  • Reduced energy waste and improving energy efficiency in state buildings.

 

Governor Snyder’s leadership has put Michigan on a path to an adaptable, reliable, and affordable energy future that is protective of the environment.

Two other awards recognized energy efficiency and education efforts in Michigan.

Louis James, president and CEO of Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics, also won a Leadership award. He has led his company’s effort to promote positive environmental change through managing and implementing energy efficiency programs.

National Energy Foundation’s Michigan office in Milford for its Think! Energy program, which has educated more than 300,000 Michigan students since the program began in 2010. It educates students in grades 4-6 about energy efficiency and encourages them to talk with their families about ways to use less energy at home.

National Guard to Provide Water to Town with PFC-Contaminated Wells

Delaware Governor John Carney signed an Executive Orderauthorizing the Delaware National Guard to assist the Town of Blades with distributing water to residents impacted by high levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in municipal wells.

The Delaware National Guard has provided two, 400-gallon portable water tanks and coordinated troops to ensure 24-hour water distribution operations out of the Blades Fire Hall. Additionally, a 5,000-gallon water tanker is prepared and available for follow-up support. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) started to provide bottled water for drinking and cooking to residents of Blades. Water will be supplied to the Town of Blades by DNREC, DPH, and the Delaware National Guard to ensure residents have access to potable water.

New Carbon Tracer App Reveals Real-Time Electricity Generation Mix and Carbon Emissions at a Local Level for the First Time

Households across the Western Power Distribution (WPD) of the United Kingdom can now find out exactly what mixture of energy technologies are supplying electricity from the grid into their homes, thanks to the launch of the new Carbon Tracer app.

Developed by WPD in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, working alongside digital agency Enigma Interactive, the app is the first to reveal real time information to consumers on their local energy generation mix and the amount of CO2 produced as a result, also known as its carbon intensity.

The UK’s WPD network, which operates across the East and West Midlands, South Wales and the South West, has seen an increasing amount of low carbon generation being connected to the network over recent years.

By using the new app, electricity customers will now be able to see real time data on how the energy delivered to their local area is being generated, taking into account how much energy is coming from nearby solar panels and wind turbines in current weather conditions. In addition to renewables, the app also reveals what proportion of electricity is being provided through nuclear energy, fossil fuels, or other energy sources such as municipal waste incineration.

Having access to this information will allow electricity consumers to make informed decisions about the best times to schedule their energy-consuming tasks – such as using the washing machine, tumble dryer,  dishwasher or water heater – if they want to help make a difference to climate change.

To support this decision making, the app provides both live information and a seven-day forecast, helpfully colour-coding different times of day as green, amber and red depending on how carbon intensive electricity is expected to be at that time.

WPD’s Future Networks Manager Roger Hey explained: “The Carbon Tracer app displays information from the bulk supply point – the large distribution level electricity supply substation to which the app user is connected. There are two constantly changing pieces of information: the demand for power, which varies according to the time of day and what households are doing, and the mix of electricity that is being used to meet that demand. On a sunny day with a slight breeze, electricity from renewable sources is likely to be at its peak around noon. After 5pm there is a greater demand on the network, which means the National Grid feed will increase.”

Manu Ravishankar, Innovation Manager at the Carbon Trust commented: “The future of energy is built on a foundation of data. As we move towards an energy system that is based on more flexible, low carbon energy it is important to understand how consumers will interact with the rich stream of information that will be available. This innovative app is a step towards helping to deepen our understanding of what level of data consumers will be willing to engage with, in particular around more technical information on carbon intensity.”

The Carbon Tracer app can be used anywhere across the WPD network in the UK. It is now available for download on Apple devices through the App Store and on Android devices through Google Play.

Climate Change Could Explain the Personality of Your Significant Other

Have you ever wondered why your significant other thinks and acts the way they do? We typically think the answer lies in their parents and genes, but new research points to another insightful possibility: the average temperature where they grew up.

The latest research from Columbia Business School offers compelling evidence for the role of regional ambient temperature in shaping people’s personality. Even after controlling for various factors suggested by previous research, including farming practices, migration patterns, and disease exposure, the researchers found temperature to be a key factor in how personality develops.

“Ambient temperature can shape the fundamental dimensions of personality,” says Jackson Lu, a PhD candidate at Columbia Business School who conducted the research alongside Columbia Professor Adam Galinsky. “Our research reveals a connection between the ambient temperature that individuals were exposed to when they were young and their personality today. This finding can help explain the personality differences we observe in people of different regions.”

This research, titled Regional Ambient Temperature is Associated with Human Personality and recently published in the journal Nature: Human Behaviour, defines personality as “the interactive aggregate of personal characteristics that influence an individual’s response to the environment.” The hundreds of personality traits used to describe humans largely boil down to five broad dimensions, the so-called Big Five: agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, and openness to experience.

The research suggests that a key factor determining these broad personality dimensions is how mild (i.e., clement) the ambient temperature was when individuals grew up. The sweet spot for temperature is 72 degrees F (or 22 degrees C).

“Individuals who grew up in areas where ambient temperatures were closer to this optimal level scored higher on the Big Five personality dimensions, like extraversion and openness to experience, while those in colder or hotter climates scored lower,” says Galinsky.

To test the hypothesized relationship between ambient temperature and personality, the paper’s 26 authors conducted separate studies in two geographically large yet culturally distinct countries: China and the United States. In the first study, personality surveys were completed online by 5,587 university students born and raised in 59 Chinese cities. The second study conducted in the U.S. involved personality surveys completed by more than 1.6 million Americans of different ages, social classes, and education levels growing up in 12,499 zip-code areas in 8,102 cities.

The result? Temperature matters! Lu explains, “clement temperatures encourage individuals to explore the outside environment, where social interactions and new experiences abound. Venturing outdoors and interacting with lots of people make people more agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable, extraverted, and open to new experiences. But when the temperature is too hot or too cold, individuals are less likely to go outside to meet up with friends or to try new activities.”

The association between ambient temperature and personality is particularly important in light of climate change across the globe, which could result in changes in regional human personalities over time. Of course, as Galinsky explains, the size and extent of these changes await future investigation.

Zip-O-Log Mills Fined for Stormwater Violations

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined Zip-O-Log Mills Inc. $10,211 for failing to comply with the monitoring requirements of its stormwater permit.

Under the permit, known officially as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Discharge Permit, the company must sample and monitor its stormwater discharge to ensure it meets water quality benchmarks.

The company failed to collect eight of the required grab samples at its sawmill during the 2106-2017 monitoring period. Without information from sampling, DEQ and the public cannot evaluate whether stormwater controls are protecting water quality.

Zip-O-Log Mills has until Feb. 15 to appeal the fine.

WasteXpress Fined $50,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has fined International Resource Management Inc., doing business as WasteXpress, $50,400 for improperly transporting hazardous waste.

During 2010 and 2011, WasteXpress transported 4,125 gallons of a hazardous chemical, called Kester flux, from the SolarWorld factory in Hillsboro to Apollo Chemical in Portland without the required documentation intended to ensure proper management, tracking and disposal of the waste. Kester flux is 60-100 percent isopropyl alcohol and is highly flammable.

In 2015, an inspector from the Washington Department of Ecology discovered approximately 30 drums of the SolarWorld Kester flux at a property in Yacolt, WA, after an anonymous caller reported that chemicals were being dumped and burned on the property.

The Department of Ecology notified the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies worked with Apollo Chemical to remove the drums from the illegal dump site. DEQ fined SolarWorld in July 2017 for its role in this incident.

Between 2014 and 2017, WasteXpress also picked up and transported without required documentation manufacturing waste containing chromium in toxic concentrations from Benchmade Knife Company.

DEQ regulates the accumulation, storage, handling, transportation, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste. DEQ issued this penalty because properly managing hazardous waste is crucial to protecting public health and the environment.

Environmental News Links 

Air Pollution Predicts Criminal Activity and Unethical Behavior

EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt Goes One-On-One with Las Vegas’ News 3

Earth and Space Science Open Archive (ESSOAR) Beta Preprint Server Open for Submissions

New York Man Sentenced to 87 Months for Multi-State Biodiesel Fraud Scheme

EPA Reveals Dramatic Decrease in Enforcement of Polluter Fees

Canadian Solar Companies Sue Trump Over Tariffs

Final EPA Toxic Chemical Rule Proposes $20 Million in Annual Fees to Manufacturers

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Maui Clean Water Act Decision

No Drop Expected in US Carbon Footprint through 2050, Energy Department Says

We Can Pull CO2 from Air, but It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

Oil Investors Call for Human Rights Risk Report after Standing Rock

Chemtrails VS. Contrails

January Brought Largest Drought Footprint in Nearly 4 Years to US

People in US and Beyond Breathe Unhealthy Ozone Pollution More Than 2 Weeks a Year

GM Revs Up Diesel Combustion Modeling on Titan Supercomputer

UN Agency Targets Black Carbon Pollution from Ships

Solar Power Industry Lost Nearly 10,000 Jobs in 2017

Second Major Setback for EPA in Fluoride Lawsuit under TSCA

Hearing on US EPA’s Iris Program Becomes Policy Battleground

Avoiding Blackouts with 100% Renewable Energy

Your Gadget’s Next Power Supply? Your Body

Houston’s Wright Containers Faces Felony Charges for Dumping Toxic Waste

Floods Are Getting Worse, and 2,500 Chemical Sites Lie in the Water’s Path

Stanford Engineers Develop a New Method of Keeping the Lights on if the World Turns to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy

Trivia Question

What is the estimated fee that will be charged for each new electronic hazardous waste manifest?

a) $4.00

b) $6.00

c) $8.00

d) $10.00

 

Answer: a