New EPA Administrator Addresses Staff

February 27, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently took to the stage to address EPA employees in the agency’s historic Rachel Carson Green Room. Former acting administrator Catherine McCabe introduced the 14th administrator and made opening remarks, “Our new administrator has not only a record for public service, but also business experience that will serve him well as he undertakes the new responsibilities of our agency,” said Catherine McCabe. “We look forward to working with you.”

Administrator Pruitt thanked McCabe for her service to the agency and her leadership over the past month and opened his remarks with the following, “You don’t know me very well. In fact, you don’t know me hardly at all other than what you’ve read in the newspaper and seen on the news. I look forward to sharing the rest of the story with you as we spend time together. This is a beginning. It’s a beginning for us to spend time and discuss certain principles by which I think this agency should conduct itself.” Reflecting on the time he spent earlier in the day greeting EPA career staff in his office, Administrator Pruitt said, “It was an honor and a joy to meet and spend time with the career people at EPA who are clearly very dedicated to their work.”

In forecasting his leadership approach, Mr. Pruitt said “I seek to listen, learn, and lead with you to address the issues we face as a nation. You can’t lead unless you listen. Civility is something I believe in very much. We ought to be able to get together and wrestle through some very difficult issues and do so in a civil manner,” Mr. Pruitt said.

Addressing his regulatory views, he said, “Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what we expect of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply. That’s really the job of the regulator, and the process we engage in.” He continued, “I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level, that those at the state level see us as partners and not as adversaries.”

In his closing remarks Mr. Pruitt addressed how growing the economy and protecting the environment can go hand in hand, “I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment. We don’t have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure that we do the job of protecting our natural resources, and protecting our environment, while also respecting economic growth.”

Houston RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in Texas and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Houston, TX, on March 7–9 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Charleston RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Charleston, SC, on March 20–22 and save $100. Learn how to ship dangerous goods by air at Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Air: How to Comply with IATA Regulations on March 23. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

San Antonio RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in Texas and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Antonio, TX, on March 28–30 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Washington State to Revise Hazardous Waste Regulations

The Washington Department of Ecology plans to amend the dangerous waste regulations to incorporate new federal hazardous waste rules, including but not limited to:

  • Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals
  • Conditional Exclusions for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes
  • Definition of Solid Waste: Revisions to Solid Waste Variances and to the Definition of Legitimacy
  • Revisions to the Export Provisions of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Rule
  • Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule
  • Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions
  • Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Rule

The amendments will also include several minor technical and editorial corrections and clarifications. To learn more about the rulemaking, see:

Open Burning of Household Flood Debris is Harmful and Illegal

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality reminded residents affected by the recent flood that burning household debris is harmful to themselves, their families, and their neighbors and is also against the law.

"In Louisiana, it is illegal to burn solid waste and any household waste, such as construction and demolition debris, household chemicals and oil, regardless of whether it's on private property or not," LDEQ Surveillance Division Administrator Mike Algero said. "Those materials should be separated by type and set out curbside for proper removal to a permitted landfill by the local waste management contractor."

When burned, household debris such as carpets, foam insulation, PVC pipe, asphalt shingles, linoleum and most other synthetic materials release toxic pollutants which include hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, dioxin, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These pollutants can cause health problems for anyone living or working nearby. Health effects include damage to lungs, the nervous system, kidneys and liver—with some pollutants causing asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cancer.

In addition, the ash generated from an open burn contains toxic substances that threaten the air and can become a threat to ground water. Construction and demolition waste should be disposed of at permitted landfills or other state-approved facilities where environmental and health risks are minimized.

LDEQ encouraged citizens to watch for open burning activity and to protect yourself as well as your family and your neighbors by reporting any open burning activity to local law enforcement as well as LDEQ. If you witness an open burn of waste tires, household debris, oil or chemical waste, please contact your local law enforcement authorities as well as LDEQ at: 1-888-763-5424. Citizens should also submit an incident report online. Reports can be made anonymously, but a phone number is required for a call back if further details are needed. Be sure to document the exact location, time/date, materials being burned, parties involved and any other details in order to better assist authorities with an investigation.

Local law enforcement officials are watching for this activity and are continually working in conjunction with LDEQ on investigations of open burn activity. If anyone is found to be conducting an open burn, LDEQ's Criminal Investigations Section will investigate and aggressively prosecute anyone found to be in violation of the law.

If charged with illegally open burning household debris, violators may face a fine of up to $100,000, ten years imprisonment at hard labor, or both if the action is determined to endanger or could endanger human life or health.

Comment Period on POTW NESHAP Extended

On 27 December 2016, EPA proposed a rule titled, “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP): Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW).” The agency has extended the comment period on the proposed rule that was scheduled to close on 27 February 2017, by 30 days until 29 March 2017. EPA is making this change based on one request for additional time to prepare comments on this proposed rule. Written comments must be received on or before 29 March 2017. The point of contact is Karen Marsh, Sector Policies and Programs Division, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (E143-05), EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711; 919-541-1065; or marsh.karen@epa.gov.

Comment Period on Methane Permits Extended by Pennsylvania DEP

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that the comment period for two general permits relating to methane emissions control have been extended until June 5, 2017.

The extended comment period is for both the proposed General Permit 5 (for Natural Gas Compressor Stations, Processing Plans and Transmission Stations) and the proposed General Permit 5A (for Unconventional Natural Gas Well Site Operations and Remote Pigging Stations).

The comment period was originally scheduled to end in March 2017. Notice of the extension will be printed in the February 25, 2017 edition of the PA Bulletin.

Pesticide Poisoning Trainings in Hawaii

EPA has announced upcoming training for health care workers on how to recognize and treat pesticide poisonings. The classes will be conducted by the Migrant Clinicians Network, with co-sponsors Hawaii Department of Health, the Hawaii Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, with funding from the EPA.

“Quick and accurate identification of pesticide poisoning is important to provide immediate patient care,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “These workshops will provide health care workers with the tools they need in such critical situations.”

The trainings are accredited courses that will focus on key decision points in the diagnosis of pesticide exposures and will highlight the usefulness of the EPA publication, “Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning, 6th edition”. Copies will be provided to all participants. Through interactive case studies, this training will illustrate effective recognition and treatment of patients who may have been exposed to pesticides.

“The Department of Health is grateful for the partnerships that came together to bring this specialized medical training to the healthcare communities on Kauai and Oahu,” said Dr. Virginia Pressler, Director of the Hawaii Department of Health. “We urge health care professionals to take advantage of this important learning opportunity, and expect to see more offered in this area.”

The classes will be held:

Kauai – March 6, at 9:30 am and 1 pm at the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, 4643 Waimea Canyon Drive, Waimea, Hawaii, Conference Room AB. For more information and registration on the Kauai classes please contact Julie Sommers, 808-338-9474 – jsommers@hhsc.org or Cheryl Tennberg, ctennberg@hhsc.org

Oahu – March 7, at 9:30 am at the AFFES Building, 919 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, Hawaii, 5th floor Conference Room. For more information and registration on the Oahu class please contact Amy K. Liebman, 512-579-4535, aliebman@migrantclinician.org or Fenix Grange, 808-586-4248, fenix.grange@doh.hawaii.gov

Massachusetts Landfill Operator Fined for Solid Waste, Wetland, and Air Pollution Control Violations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Southbridge Recycling & Disposal Park, Inc. (SRDP), have entered into an Administrative Consent Order with Penalty for SRDP's violation of solid waste, wetlands and air pollution control regulations at the Southbridge Landfill.

This enforcement action addresses a number of issues MassDEP identified during inspections conducted in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The noncompliance identified included: failure to prevent erosion or discharge of pollutants by means of stormwater controls; failure to prevent the discharge of leachate to groundwater; altering a wetlands resource area without filing a Notice of Intent; failure to maintain a minimum of six inches of daily cover over the landfill; accepting waste ban restricted material; failure to comply with the emission limitations for emergency engines/turbines; and failure to conduct landfill operations so as to minimize blowing litter.

In the consent order, SRDP agreed to address the issues identified and comply with all of the applicable regulations. SRDP has been assessed a $91,831.70 penalty and will pay $24,331.70 of the penalty to the Commonwealth. The remaining $67,500 of the penalty will fund a Supplemental Environmental Project to defray the cost to the Town of Southbridge of stabilizing bank erosion and washout areas impacting the public rail trail that runs along the Quinebaug River.

"A complex operation such as the Southbridge Landfill requires multiple permits to protect the air, wetlands, and groundwater and to prevent nuisance conditions," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "MassDEP is assessing a penalty for the multiple permit violations at the site, but also negotiated this Supplemental Environmental Project with SRDP to improve the environment and the public's access to it in Southbridge, and we look forward to its timely completion."

Two Vessel Engineers Convicted of Pollution and Obstruction Crimes

A federal jury in Charleston, South Carolina, has convicted two chief engineers of the vessel, T/V Green Sky, of falsifying documents in order to conceal illegal discharges of oily bilge waste and obstruction charges, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Beth Drake of the District of South Carolina. Herbert Julian, who served as chief engineer of the vessel from August 3 to September 4, 2015, was convicted of two felony counts under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and for obstruction of justice. Panagiotis Koutoukakis, chief engineer from Feb. 1 to Aug. 3, 2015, was convicted of two felony counts, one for APPS and another for falsifying records.

In addition, it was revealed in court documents, which were unsealed after the verdicts were rendered, that Aegean Shipping Management, S.A., a foreign company with operations in Greece that acted as the Green Sky’s operator, previously pleaded guilty to a violation of the APPS and obstruction of justice.

“This case involved egregious violations of U.S. and international laws that are key to protecting the oceans from pollution, and deliberate efforts to mislead Coast Guard officials about these criminal acts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “Now these defendants have been held accountable under the law by a jury of their peers. The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively prosecute criminal acts that pollute the oceans.”

“With Charleston serving as one of the largest ports on the Eastern seaboard, working vessel pollution cases with the Environmental Crimes Section is an important focus for our office,” said U.S. Attorney Beth Drake, District of South Carolina. “Through criminal charges, we can deter those who would dump oily wastes into the world’s oceans and use false documents to cover it up.”

“The Green Sky case stresses the vital importance of USCG environmental protection missions with regard to pollution from ships,” said Captain Gary L. Tomasulo, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston. “We are extremely proud of our team of marine safety professionals and the Coast Guard Investigative Service which were an integral part of investigating these occurrences and referring them for enforcement action.”

The Green Sky is a large, oceangoing chemical tanker flagged in Liberia. The vessel first set sail in July 2014. The operation of marine vessels, like the T/V Green Sky, generates large quantities of oil-contaminated wastewater. This particular vessel had unusual internal leaks that produced greater quantities of oily waste than a normal ship of its age and construction. Oily bilge waste must be removed from the vessel lest it fill up the bottom of the Engine Room and cause damage to equipment and jeopardize the safe handling of the ship. However, the law does not permit an oceangoing vessel to discharge these oily wastes directly into the sea.

The evidence presented to the jury showed that the Green Sky was regularly pumping contaminated and oily water directly overboard. None of these discharges were disclosed as required. The oil record book of the Green Sky was falsified to cover-up illegal overboard discharges of oily wastes from February to August 2015. Methods of falsification included omitting illegal bypass operations, claiming that the oil water separator was used when it had not been, and a series of false entries regarding the levels of the bilge holding tank, which were designed to further the cover-up. While most of these discharges occurred in international waters, evidence at trial revealed that at least two of these discharges were within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States during the ship’s voyage from Pascagoula, Mississippi, to Houston, Texas in May 2015.

The evidence presented during the fifteen-day trial demonstrated that the chief engineers covered up illegal overboard discharges that took place through two systems of “magic” hoses and a separate “magic” valve system designed to bypass the ship’s oil water separator. Koutoukakis and Julian falsified the oil record book to hide their illegal discharges. The vessel arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on August 26, 2015, when the false record was presented to the U.S. Coast Guard during an inspection of the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard was tipped off by three whistleblowers who came forward to report the crimes and ask for protection from U.S. authorities.

By January 2016, it was determined that the former chief engineer Koutoukakis likely had information regarding the ongoing investigation into the Green Sky. Koutoukakis was later apprehended in Savannah, Georgia on a material witness warrant. Koutoukakis was subsequently indicted after further investigation revealed his substantial involvement in illegal discharges and records falsification. In addition, Julian was convicted of obstruction related to false statements that he made regarding the ship’s sounding log, which is a document that can be used to check the veracity of the oil record book. Testimony at trial revealed that Julian hid the log prior to the Green Sky’s arrival in Charleston and then lied to the Coast Guard about the vessel having a sounding log.

Prior to the initiation of the trial, on November 22, 2016, the Green Sky’s operator, Aegean Shipping Management, S.A. pleaded guilty to one APPS count for the illegal discharges and one obstruction count based on misrepresentations made by the vessel’s captain to the U.S. Coast Guard during the August 2015 boarding. The corporate vessel operator had been indicted along with the individuals on July 15, 2016. The plea materials were previously sealed to protect the integrity of the jury and the witnesses in the trial against the individual defendants. The unsealed documents revealed that the operating company agreed to pay a financial penalty of $2 million, which includes a criminal fine and a smaller community service component directed toward the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The company will also be sentenced to probation and an environmental compliance plan. Sentencing of the company and defendants Julian and Koutoukakis will take place at a date that will be set by the court. At trial, the second engineer Nikolaos Bounovas was acquitted of all charges against him. The previously convicted Captain, Genaro Anciano, testified at the trial. His sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston and the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The USCG Marine Safety Lab was critical to the analysis of oil samples taken from the vessel. With the support of Coast Guard Legal District Seven, the case was prosecuted by Christopher L. Hale and Kenneth Nelson of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and AUSA Matt Austin from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina. Richard Udell, also of the Environmental Crimes Section, provided substantial assistance with regard to the corporate plea deal.

Conagra Brands’ Troy Plant Recognized for Exceptional Environmental Stewardship

Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler honored Conagra Brands in Troy with a flag-raising event to highlight the facility’s many achievements as environmental stewards in the local community. The Troy plant has achieved gold-level recognition in Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence program.

“Conagra’s team approach encourages all employees to submit ideas for process improvements. The environmental benefits from this inclusive approach have resulted in lower water and electric use, more food scrap composting and less waste going to landfills,” Director Butler said. “This conserves Ohio’s resources and benefits the company’s bottom line. We are pleased to honor Conagra Brands for its environmental leadership.”

Ohio EPA’s E3 program recognizes businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive for companies to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. E3 recognition has four levels: Achievement, Silver, Gold and the newest Platinum level.

The 750 employees at Conagra Brands’ Troy plant produce frozen bakery products and Slim Jim meat snacks. As a group, they have committed to reducing the plant’s footprint in key environmental areas including water usage and food waste. Using updated equipment, the plant has reduced its water consumption by 2 million gallons a year while also managing food waste responsibly. Partnering with a third party, Conagra has redirected more than 4,425 tons of scrap dough and other food waste to animal feed or compost. Wood pallets that are not repairable also are composted.

The Troy plant is focusing on keeping materials out of landfills. Conagra works with a company to redirect soiled cardboard for energy production, keeping more than 90 tons of cardboard a month out of landfills. Additionally, the Troy plant recycles aluminum cans and plastic bottles, diverting several thousand pounds of waste from landfills each year. In 2016, the Troy plant’s efforts reduced water use by 22%, electric use by 5.5% and resulted in more than 90% of its waste being diverted from landfills.

“Conagra Brands is dedicated to driving out waste throughout all of its operations,” said Jeff Erwin, Troy plant manager. “The collaborative work we are doing here at our plant in Troy demonstrates how employees can make a big impact by coming together to do what’s right for both the environment and the business.”

To obtain recognition for stewardship, an organization can work through levels of recognition including Achievement at the base level; Silver Level recognizing outstanding accomplishments in environmental stewardship; and Gold Level recognizing comprehensive environmental stewardship programs. The new Platinum Level recognizes organizations that have expanded their environmental programs beyond their own facility to make a positive impact on the surrounding community. All levels require a commitment to meet or exceed environmental regulatory requirements.

Through the E3 program, Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance helps businesses receive recognition for environmental stewardship efforts. To learn more about the E3 program and the nomination process, please visit http://www.epa.ohio.gov/ohioe3.aspx or call 1-800-329-7518.

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Trivia Question of the Week

How much energy is produced by solar power in the US?

a. 10 gigawatts

b. 20 gigawatts

c. 40 gigawatts

d. 80 gigawatts

Answer