Lower Fuel Economy Standards Ahead

April 08, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the completion of the Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025, and his final determination that, in light of recent data, the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised. Administrator Pruitt also announced the start of a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a notice and comment rulemaking to set more appropriate GHG emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants. Through a CAA waiver granted by EPA, California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements. The California waiver is being reexamined by EPA.

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America's best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard,” said Administrator Pruitt.

As part of the 2012 rulemaking establishing the model year 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards, EPA made a regulatory commitment to conduct a MTE of the standards for MY 2022-2025 no later than April 1, 2018. This evaluation would determine whether the standards remain appropriate or should be made more, or less stringent. 

EPA and the DOT announced a reestablishment of the MTE process in March 2017. And, in August 2017, EPA reopened the regulatory docket and asked for additional information and data relevant to assessing whether the GHG emissions standards remain appropriate, including information on: consumer behavior, feedback on modeling approaches, and assessing advanced fuels technologies. EPA also held a public hearing on this topic. 

Virginia Beach Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Virginia Beach, VA, on April 17-19 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

St Louis Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training 

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St Louis, MO on May 8-10 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Hilton Head Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC on May 22-24 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

New Report on Threats of Chemical Disasters

Community, environmental, health, workers, and scientist groups released a report highlighting their concerns about the EPA’s delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule. The one-year review spotlighted some of the serious chemical incidents that have occurred while the rule has been on hold over the last year.

The report outlines dozens of examples of chemical disasters that have occurred since the rule was first delayed, including the Arkema explosion that took place in Texas in August 2017 and the ExxonMobil Refinery fire in Louisiana in November 2017. The report also details the personal accounts of those who found themselves in harm’s way, but as local communities often do not receive complete or timely information regarding the flames they see and odors they smell coming from oil refineries and other chemical facilities, these incidents provide only part of the picture. No comprehensive list is available of all of the incidents or resulting harm that have occurred at covered facilities during the delay in part because EPA has not released such a list.

The EPA reported that about 177 million Americans live in the worst-case scenario zones for chemical disasters.  At least one in three schoolchildren attends a school within the vulnerability zone of a hazardous facility, as well. The percentage of African Americans living in fence line zones around 3,433 of the most dangerous facilities is 75% greater than for the US. as a whole, and the percentage of Latinos in these zones is 60% greater.

The Chemical Disaster Rule includes much-needed improvements to the EPA’s Clean Air Act Risk Management Program (RMP) and would prevent and reduce chemical disasters, hazardous releases and resulting chemical exposures, while strengthening emergency preparedness and coordination with local first responders. When developing the rule, the EPA determined that prior protections failed to prevent over 2,200 chemical accidents around the country during a 10-year period, including about 150 incidents per year that caused reportable harm.

The frequency of toxic releases and constant threat of fires and explosions increase even more during hurricane season in the Gulf, where there is a large concentration of oil refineries and chemical facilities. Many of these reported toxic releases and other safety problems during Hurricane Harvey in August. The next hurricane season is scheduled to begin in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, but the Chemical Disaster Rule remains delayed.

Ship Captain Convicted of Dumping Waste into the Ocean 

Randall Fox, one-time captain of the fishing vessel Native Sun, was found guilty in US District Court in Seattle of discharging oily waste directly into the ocean, a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The jury deliberated 5 hours following a three-day trial before US District Judge John C. Coughenour. Randall Fox faces a maximum of six years in prison and a criminal fine of up to $250,000.

“Today’s conviction shows that illegal dumping in our oceans will not be tolerated,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our partners like the U.S. Coast Guard to aggressively prosecute criminals that pollute the oceans.”

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships specifically prohibits the discharge of bilge slops and other oily mixtures, unless they have been properly treated using approved pollution prevention equipment and meet rigorous standards. The act implements America’s obligations under an international treaty to control pollution by ocean-going vessels.

The government alleged and proved that Randall Fox discharged bilge slops from the Native Sun directly overboard into the ocean using unapproved pumps and hoses. One of these discharges was video-recorded by a crewmember, who reported the crime to authorities.  Other evidence at trial established that the Native Sun had repeatedly pumped its bilges in the same manner depicted in the video.  Bingham Fox, the defendant’s father and the owner of the Native Sun, was convicted at trial of related crimes a year ago.

Doe Run Resources Required to Cleanup 4000 Lead Contaminated Yards

The US, together with the State of Missouri, announced a consent decree that requires the Doe Run Resources Corporation (Doe Run) to clean up more than 4,000 lead-contaminated residential properties near the Big River Mine Tailings Site in St. Francois County, Missouri. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

According to the settlement terms, Doe Run is required to excavate lead contaminated soil on approximately 4,100 affected residential properties, and to perform additional cleanup at the Hayden Creek mine waste area.

“Under today’s action by DOJ, EPA, and the State of Missouri, Doe Run has agreed to take significant actions to address lead contamination at thousands of residential properties in St. Francois County,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Part of the ‘Old Lead Belt,’ this area is in the midst of one of the largest former lead mining districts in the world. Timely action to clean up these contaminated areas is vital to the surrounding communities.”

Historical mining activities in St. Francois County released hazardous heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and zinc, onto residential properties. This settlement is a mixed funding arrangement where EPA will contribute up to $31.54 million toward the cleanup, which is estimated to cost a total of $111 million.

Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. During the 2013 to 2016 period, there were approximately 200,000 children across the nation ages 1-5 years with elevated blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the reference level that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most children’s levels and who require case management.

In the three zip codes comprising the majority of the Big River Mine Tailings Site, between 9.3% and 16.7% of children have an elevated blood lead level above 5 micrograms per deciliter.

The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Notice of the lodging of the consent decree will appear in the Federal Register allowing for a 30-day public comment period before the consent decree can be entered by the court as final judgment.

U.S. Steel Corporation Fined for Damages from Toxic Chromium Spill 

The US and the State of Indiana have announced that U.S. Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Indiana law by undertaking substantial measures to improve its wastewater processing monitoring system at its steel manufacturing and finishing facility, known as the Midwest Plant, in Portage, Indiana. 

The settlement agreement, which is memorialized in a consent decree lodged in federal district court in the Northern District of Indiana, requires US Steel to pay more than $600,000 as a civil penalty and to reimburse the EPA and the National Park Service (NPS) for response costs incurred as a result of an April 2017 spill of wastewater containing hexavalent chromium that entered a waterway that flows into Lake Michigan. U.S. Steel will also pay costs to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for assessing natural resource damages due to the April 2017 spill.  In addition, U.S. Steel will pay damages to NPS resulting from the closure of several beaches along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore due to the spill. 

U.S. Steel will also resolve allegations under the EPCRA by implementing a detailed protocol to notify relevant state and local authorities about any future spills from its Portage facility to the ground or water. 

“Lake Michigan and the surrounding waterways are treasured resources worthy of protection from harmful pollution. Today’s settlement with U.S. Steel appropriately penalizes the company for last year’s wastewater spill, recoups the government’s response costs and other losses, and requires significant actions by the company to prevent toxic spills like this from occurring again,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  This settlement is a prime example of how federal and state counterparts can work hand-in-hand to enforce environmental laws to protect the health of our citizens and the environment.”

On April 11, 2017, U.S. Steel experienced a rupture in an expansion joint on one of its process wastewater pipes, discharging untreated wastewater containing hexavalent chromium – a toxic chemical produced as part of its manufacturing process – into the Burns Waterway that flows into Lake Michigan. The quantity of hexavalent chromium discharged from the April 2017 spill significantly exceeded the limits of the facility’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. 

Though U.S. Steel provided immediate, oral notice of the April 2017 spill to appropriate state and local emergency personnel, it failed to follow-up with the required written notification under EPCRA, given the quantity of material released.

EPA and NPS conducted response actions in and around the areas of the spill, and NOAA assessed natural resource damages caused by the spill. The spill closed four local beaches along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore managed by NPS, as well as the Indiana American Water public drinking water intake, for about a week. Inspections by EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management of the facility later that month revealed additional violations of the facility’s NPDES permits.  In October 2017, U.S. Steel experienced another wastewater discharge containing a less toxic form of chromium.

Under the consent decree, U.S. Steel will undertake repairs to its treatment plant pipes and containment trench, whose failures contributed to the April 2017 spill. In a more comprehensive manner, U.S. Steel will develop wastewater operations and maintenance plans and preventive maintenance plans, design and implement new wastewater process monitoring, and sample daily for total and hexavalent chromium. These measures are designed to allow for early detection of conditions that may lead to discharges such as the April 2017 spill and other permit violations, furthering compliance with the Clean Water Act and analogous state laws. 

In addition, the facility will follow protocols attached to the decree for notifying appropriate entities, including the nearest downstream Indiana users as well as local governments, including the city of Chicago, whenever there is a spill or release of hazardous substances to the ground or water. 

As part of the agreement, U.S. Steel will reimburse EPA’s total response costs of $350,000. U.S. Steel will also reimburse NOAA, which shares trusteeship for natural resources in the Great Lakes ecosystem, for its full costs of $27,500 in assessing natural resource damages.  In addition, U.S. Steel will pay NPS’s full response costs of approximately $12,500, and damages incurred by NPS in the amount of $240,500 as a result of the week-long beach closures along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. NPS intends to use those damages, representing lost use/compensatory restoration for the public’s inability to access and enjoy the beaches for the week, to fund future projects at or around the National Lakeshore.

The settlement, lodged with the US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register and final approval by the court.

Over $50,000 in Penalties for Used Oil Violations in Connecticut

Under a recent settlement with the EPA, the City of Ansonia, Connecticut., and a private waste hauler, Connecticut Oil Recycling Services based in Middletown, Connecticut, have taken steps to resolve and correct separate, but related violations of federal laws regulating the handling and transport of toxic chemicals.

"These actions demonstrate the importance that all parties involved with PCB waste take great care to ensure that every step in the handling and disposal process is done consistent with federal regulation," said Alexandra Dunn, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

EPA's New England office alleged that the City of Ansonia failed to properly prepare a hazardous waste manifest when, on Aug. 2, 2016, it offered about 500 gallons of waste oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to Connecticut Oil for transport from a city transfer station to an off-site facility for storage or disposal. Connecticut Oil failed to prepare a hazardous waste manifest when several days later it brought a larger volume of PCB-contaminated oil, including the oil picked up from Ansonia, to a facility in New Haven for storage or disposal.

Due to these omissions, more than 4,500 gallons of used oil was contaminated with levels of PCBs, which meant that the oil could not be recycled. Under TSCA, PCB waste must be disposed of as TSCA-regulated waste rather than recycled for reuse. The company and the municipality have each certified that they have addressed the violations and the company is now in compliance with federal toxic substances law and PCB rules.

EPA's complaint alleged that the violations occurred even though city employees had previously sampled the oil at its transfer station for PCBs, received analytical results showing PCB concentrations above regulatory limits, and communicated the sampling results to Connecticut Oil before the company came to collect the waste oil. Connecticut Oil was already familiar with the PCB requirements since it had entered into another penalty settlement with EPA in 2015 resolving a substantially similar manifesting violation.

PCB regulations are intended, among other things, to help reduce the chances for PCBs to be released into the environment, and to limit any harm to human health or the environment if they are released. Once in the environment, PCBs do not readily break down and therefore may remain for long periods of time. PCBs are classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen and have been demonstrated to cause a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. In this case, even though the PCBs in question are believed to have been discovered and properly contained before any uncontrolled releases occurred, the violations did result in the cross-contamination of thousands of gallons of used oil that then required disposal as TSCA-regulated waste.

Under the settlement, the City of Ansonia agreed to pay $19,125 and Connecticut Oil Recycling Services agreed to pay $32,397 to resolve the TSCA violations.

Coalition Backs DEQ against Hecla Mining

A coalition of conservation groups that petitioned the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to enforce Montana’s “bad actor” mining laws against Hecla Mining and its CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., requested to intervene in a lawsuit by Hecla’s subsidiaries.  That lawsuit aims to overturn DEQ’s determinations that Hecla and Baker are in violation of the bad actor provisions and cannot pursue their planned Rock Creek and Montanore Mine projects in northwest Montana unless they repay the state for the publicly-funded cleanup of mines abandoned by Baker’s former company, Pegasus Gold.

The conservation coalition, which includes Earthworks, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Clark Fork Coalition, Rock Creek Alliance, Save Our Cabinets, and Montana Conservation Voters, is seeking to defend the enforcement action they requested in an October 2017 letter to DEQ.

In that enforcement request, the groups alerted DEQ that Baker, now Hecla’s top corporate official, held top leadership positions with Pegasus Gold, Inc., and several of its subsidiaries.  In 1998, during Baker’s tenure, those entities declared bankruptcy and shifted tens of millions of dollars in reclamation liabilities to the public at their abandoned cyanide heap-leach gold mines, which include the Zortman-Landusky, Beal Mountain, and Basin Creek mines.

Clean-up costs to date have exceeded $74 million at Zortman-Landusky alone.  DEQ expects that water pollution problems at the site will persist and cost Montanans more than $2 million annually in perpetuity.

DEQ responded to the conservation coalition’s enforcement request on March 20, 2018, by issuing violation letters to Baker and Hecla.  Those letters advised that Baker and Hecla may attain compliance with the bad actor provisions of Montana’s Metal Mine Reclamation Act by repaying the State of Montana in full for expenses incurred to carry out reclamation at the abandoned Pegasus Mines or by demonstrating that Baker and any entity under his direction and control will not conduct mining or exploration activities in Montana. 

Simplot Feeders Fined $50,000 for Air Quality Violations 

Beef cattle feedlot, Simplot Feeders, LLP has agreed to pay a reduced fine and invest in a project that reduces small-particle pollution at their operation in Walla Walla County.

In 2015, the Washington Department of Ecology fined the company $50,000 for failing to manage air pollution, including dust and dried manure. Fine particles like dust can cause health problems for people who are exposed frequently and at high enough levels.

Ecology reduced the amount to be paid to $35,000 as part of the settlement agreement. Also, Simplot agreed to pay $5,000 of the fine, and use the remainder to fund a project to help improve air quality. The project includes paving a high-traffic area to significantly reduce dust from vehicles driving in and out of the facility.

The settlement also requires Simplot to update the facility’s dust control plan to strengthen measures that prevent particle pollution. The plan calls for improved staff training, using water to control dust from roadways and cattle pens, and daily monitoring to determine if dust control practices need to be adjusted.

The Pollution Control Hearings Board dismissed Simplot’s appeal of the penalty on April 3, 2018.

EPA Administrator Pruitt Issued Memo to Control Clean Water Act Determinations

According to directives posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), key provisions on the Clean Water Act are now under Administrator Pruitt’s direct control. In a new directive, Administrator Pruitt has assumed decision making power over a range of key decisions determining preservation of streams, ponds and wetlands.

In a memo dated March 30, 2018 citing the need to “restore regulatory certainty,” Pruitt directed EPA regional offices to cede their Clean Water Act determinations to him:

“With this revised delegation, authority previously delegated to regional administrators to make final determinations of geographic jurisdiction shall be retained by the Administrator…As part of effectuating this revision, I ask that you involve the Administrator's Office early on in the process of developing geographic determinations”

Among other changes, the new directive:

  • Eliminates the role of locally-based EPA scientists and specialists in reviewing projects and making wetland determinations or other clean water-related calls;
  • Imposes a one size fits all scenario in which regional differences in wetlands, wildlife, precipitation, and other variations are not recognized; and
  • Removes any role by EPA regional offices to essentially veto an Army Corps of Engineers dredge and fill permit.

 

“This action subjects safeguards for clean water across the U.S. to filtration through one politician’s hands,” stated New England Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney, scientist, and wetlands specialist who formerly worked for EPA. “Every corporation that wants a pass on Clean Water Act compliance is invited to privately meet with the most user friendly EPA Administrator in history.”

Last year, Pruitt announced a plan to shrink by as much as two-thirds the scope of protected “Waters of the United States” that define the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Now, without waiting to outline, let alone complete, his legal rewrite, he has imposed new, far more lenient standards on a case-by-case basis.

Cement Industry to Cut CO2 Emissions 24% by 2050 

A combination of technology and policy solutions could provide a pathway to reducing direct carbon dioxide emissions from the cement industry by 24% below current levels by 2050, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI).

The technology roadmap, called Low-Carbon Transition in the Cement Industry, updates the first global sectoral roadmap produced in 2009. It aims to identify and develop international collaborative efforts and provide evidence for public and private sector decision-makers to move towards a more sustainable cement sector that can contribute to long-term climate goals.

The cement sector is the third-largest industrial energy consumer in the world, responsible for 7% of industrial energy use, and the second industrial emitter of carbon dioxide, with about 7% of global emissions. Cement is the key ingredient of concrete – which is used to build homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, all of which are important for quality of life, social and economic wellbeing.

As global population rises and urbanization grows, global cement production is set to increase between 12% to 23% by 2050.

Despite increasing efficiencies, direct carbon emissions from the cement industry are expected to rise by 4% globally by 2050 under the IEA Reference Technology Scenario (RTS), a base case scenario that takes into account existing energy and climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. Realizing the IEA’s more ambitious 2°C Scenario (2DS) by 2050, which seeks to limit average global temperature increases to 2°C, implies significantly greater efforts to reduce emissions from cement makers.

The low-carbon transition of the cement industry can only be reached with a supportive regulatory framework as well as effective and sustained investments. Meeting the RTS already requires additional cumulative investments compared to the status quo. Achieving the transformation described by the 2DS could mean up to a doubling of these investments compared to the RTS. Governments, in collaboration with industry, can play a determinant role in developing policy and regulatory mechanisms that unlock the private finance necessary for such a boost in investment.

As a flagship sectoral project of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the CSI is a global effort currently gathering 24 major cement producers having operations in more than 100 countries and who have integrated sustainable development into their business strategies and operations.

“The cement industry is a major part of the global economy, but also an important source of global energy demand and carbon emissions. It is therefore essential that policy-makers and industry work together to ensure best-practices are adopted that put the industry on a long-term sustainable path that is compatible with our long-term climate goals,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

Mr. Philippe Fonta, Managing Director, CSI of WBCSD added, “The CSI is happy and proud to have developed this roadmap update in partnership with the IEA. The first exercise carried out in 2009 had demonstrated its added value to help the sector identify solutions and enablers to reduce its CO2 emissions and it was essential to adjust this projection with the latest robust emissions data from the CSI’s Getting The Numbers right (GNR) database and the potential of latest technologies developed by the European Cement Research Academy (ECRA).”

The roadmap uses a bottom-up approach to explore a possible transition pathway based on least-cost technology analysis for the cement industry to reduce its direct CO2 emissions in line with the IEA’s 2DS. Reaching this goal would require a combination of technology solutions, supportive policy, public-private collaboration, financing mechanisms and social acceptance.

Improving energy efficiency and switching to alternative fuels, in combination with reducing the clinker content in cement and deploying emerging and innovative technologies like carbon capture and the use of alternative binding materials are the main carbon-mitigation methods available in cement manufacturing.

Further emissions savings can be achieved by taking into account the overall life cycle of cement, concrete and the built environment. This can include optimising the use of concrete in construction by maximising design life of buildings and infrastructures, encouraging reuse and recycling, reducing waste and benefiting from concrete’s properties to minimise energy needs for heating and cooling of buildings.

The roadmap outlines policy priorities and regulatory recommendations, discusses investment stimulating mechanisms and describes technical challenges with regard to research, development and demonstration.

Dangers of Repurposing Shipping Containers 

Reusing shipping containers for workplace or residential storage can create unseen risks to workers and the public, said WorkSafeBC. The agency has released a new video and safety bulletin outlining these hazards and explaining how to reduce risks.

“Shipping containers are being re-purposed all over B.C.,” said Dan Strand, director of prevention field services, WorkSafeBC. “The containers are designed to be watertight, which means they are well sealed with little or no ventilation; ideal for shipping purposes but potentially dangerous for other uses.”

Vapors or gases from common flammable or combustible substances when combined with an ignition source in a shipping container with little or no ventilation can produce a catastrophic incident, WorkSafeBC said. A leak of just 1 kilogram of propane, for example, can rupture a closed shipping container; the propane tank on an average home barbecue holds 9 kilograms. A full tank can generate the same explosive force as 100 kilograms of TNT.

Other risks can arise from the original use of a shipping container, WorkSafeBC cautioned. The floorboards may have been treated with toxic chemicals to protect cargo during shipping, or chemicals may have spilled in transit, and workers can be overcome by exposure to these chemicals.

Employers must conduct a risk assessment and include a variety of safety controls. For example, flammable and combustible products must be moved to a well-ventilated location, workers must be trained on the risks and proper storage procedures must be followed.

However, WorkSafeBC notes if shipping containers are used safely, they can be repurposed as storage compartments, office spaces, electrical rooms, welding and painting operations and even living spaces.

Northeast Coalition Campaign to Increase Electric Auto Use 

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) are joining six other Northeast states and automakers in a new initiative to increase electric car use throughout the Northeast. The 'Drive Change. Drive Electric.' campaign focuses on the availability and economic benefits of electric vehicles, including tax/purchase incentives and fuel price savings, and encourages the public to test drive an electric car.

Last fall, DEM, along with OER, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Rhode Island Department of Health, Ocean State Clean Cities at the University of Rhode Island, and its partners invited the public to test drive electric vehicles at an event at Misquamicut State Beach. The event, which featured the latest electric vehicles on the market, was part of the National Drive Electric Week and gave the public an opportunity to experience firsthand the benefits of driving electric and the wide array of vehicles currently available. This event was one of more than 200 public events across the country (and around the world) highlighting the clean-air benefits and cost-savings of electric vehicles.

In addition to providing consumers with improved performance, convenience, and lower fueling and maintenance costs, deploying electric vehicles will help reduce the effects of climate change. Having more electric cars on the roads will play a significant role in meeting climate change mitigation goals; electric vehicles produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles.

In addition to Rhode Island, state partners in the 'Drive Change. Drive Electric.' campaign include New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey. Partnering automakers include BMW Group, FCA U.S., Ford Motor Company, General Motors, America Honda Motor Co. Inc., Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan North America, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

Ansoinia Fined for Hazardous Waste and PCB Violations

Under a recent settlement with the EPA, the City of Ansonia, Conn., and a private waste hauler, Connecticut Oil Recycling Services based in Middletown, Conn., have taken steps to resolve and correct separate, but related violations of federal laws regulating the handling and transport of toxic chemicals.

"These actions demonstrate the importance that all parties involved with PCB waste take great care to ensure that every step in the handling and disposal process is done consistent with federal regulation," said Alexandra Dunn, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

EPA's New England office alleged that the City of Ansonia failed to properly prepare a hazardous waste manifest when, on Aug. 2, 2016, it offered about 500 gallons of waste oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to Connecticut Oil for transport from a city transfer station to an off-site facility for storage or disposal. Connecticut Oil failed to prepare a hazardous waste manifest when several days later it brought a larger volume of PCB-contaminated oil, including the oil picked up from Ansonia, to a facility in New Haven for storage or disposal.

Due to these omissions, more than 4,500 gallons of used oil was contaminated with levels of PCBs, which meant that the oil could not be recycled. Under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, PCB waste must be disposed of as TSCA-regulated waste rather than recycled for reuse. The company and the municipality have each certified that they have addressed the violations and the company is now in compliance with federal toxic substances law and PCB rules.

EPA's complaint alleged that the violations occurred even though city employees had previously sampled the oil at its transfer station for PCBs, received analytical results showing PCB concentrations above regulatory limits, and communicated the sampling results to Connecticut Oil before the company came to collect the waste oil. Connecticut Oil was already familiar with the PCB requirements since it had entered into another penalty settlement with EPA in 2015 resolving a substantially similar manifesting violation.

PCB regulations are intended, among other things, to help reduce the chances for PCBs to be released into the environment, and to limit any harm to human health or the environment if they are released. Once in the environment, PCBs do not readily break down and therefore may remain for long periods of time. PCBs are classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen and have been demonstrated to cause a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. In this case, even though the PCBs in question are believed to have been discovered and properly contained before any uncontrolled releases occurred, the violations did result in the cross-contamination of thousands of gallons of used oil that then required disposal as TSCA-regulated waste.

Under the settlement, the City of Ansonia agreed to pay $19,125 and Connecticut Oil Recycling Services agreed to pay $32,397 to resolve the Toxics Substances Control Act violations.

NASDI, LLC Fined $140,910 for Asbestos, Hazardous Waste Management Violations at Multiple Locations 

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized a Massachusetts-licensed asbestos abatement contractor, NASDI, LLC, $140,910 for numerous asbestos and hazardous waste management violations found at the company’s facilities in Woburn and Stoughton, Manchester Street in Lawrence where it rented a storage trailer, and at a work site in South Boston.

“This licensed asbestos abatement contractor failed on numerous fronts to meet the requirements that are in place to protect the environment and the public,” said Eric Worrall, director of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington. “Multiple failures like this when dealing with asbestos-containing materials and waste oil is not acceptable, and MassDEP will make sure that those who violate the regulations are held responsible.” 

MassDEP initially received a complaint about possible improper asbestos-abatement activities at a work site on 25 Drydock Ave. in South Boston on November 19, 2015. MassDEP inspected the site where NASDI had been conducting asbestos-abatement activities and found a waste trailer being used on-site that contained unwrapped metal debris with caulking, waste bags and window frames, all of which were sampled and later tested positive for containing asbestos.

MassDEP would subsequently determine violations at the following locations: 

  • Woburn: On June 1, 2016, MassDEP inspected the company’s Woburn facility and determined it was storing, removing and improperly disposing of asbestos air filters on-site. Also, waste oil was being stored at the site that was not registered to do so, along with numerous waste oil storage violations.
  • Lawrence: On June 3, 2016, MassDEP inspected a waste trailer that NASDI, LLC was using on Manchester Street in Lawrence where it was storing asbestos-containing waste debris. This site was not approved for storage, and the materials were stored improperly.   
  • Stoughton: On July 18, 2016, MassDEP inspected the company’s Stoughton facility and determined it was improperly storing drums of asbestos-containing waste materials, and accepting, storing and burning waste oil in violation of hazardous-waste management regulations.

 

NASDI, LLC has agreed to correct all the violations at these locations and will pay $90,000 of the penalty. MassDEP has agreed to suspend the remaining $50,910, provided all terms of the order are met.

TEXAS Offers $15.4 Million for Cleaner Natural Gas

The Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program is offering grant funding to repower or replace heavy-duty diesel or gasoline powered vehicles with natural gas engines, or new natural gas vehicles. Grants will be awarded only to applicants who will operate their repowered or new vehicle in one or more of the Clean Transportation Zone counties.

Applications will be accepted until Thursday, May 31, 2019, 5:00 pm CST, or until all grant funding is awarded. Individuals, corporations, organizations, governments, governmental subdivisions or agencies, business trusts, partnerships, associations or any legal entity is eligible to apply. Applicants may be eligible for the maximum grant amount or 90% of the eligible costs, whichever is lower. Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.  Exceptions to some of the program requirements may be granted to applicants replacing or repowering vehicles or engines destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

These grants are designed to help reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from mobile sources, support programs that encourage the use of alternative fuels, and help keep the air in Texas clean.

The list of eligible natural gas vehicles, engines, and conversion systems is available at www.terpgrants.org. TERP staff is available to assist with the application process.

Environmental News Links

Pruitt's Survival Strategy: Emphasize His Rollback of Environmental Rules

Fines Paid by US Agency Over Nuke Waste Surpass $3.5M

Science Experts Tell EPA to Regulate Toxic Perchlorate

EPA Gives Giant Refiner a Hardship Waiver from Regulation

Recent RCRA Ruling Offers Insight on Applying Spokeo to Environmental Citizen Suits

China Customs Seizes 110,000 Tons of Smuggled Waste in 2018

Worchester Company, Father and Son Sentenced for Illegal Waste Facilities

EPA Waiving Biofuel Quotas Spurs Rebuke from Ethanol Supporters

New App to Cut Rail Accidents, Aid First Responders

Organs, Blood, Dirt…And Drinking Water?

Serbia Faces Up to Huge Hazardous Waste Problem to Meet EU Environment Standards

China Customs Seizes 110,000 T of Smuggled Waste in 2018

Trivia Question

Turning on the air conditioner in a car with a conventional gasoline engine reduces the fuel economy by how much?

a) 10%

b) 20%

c) 30%

d) 40%

 

Answer: b