June 24, 2019
On the third anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st
Century Act (Lautenberg), which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA has proposed a rule
to reduce exposures to certain chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). These chemicals build up in the environment over time and can therefore have potential risks for exposed populations including the general population, consumers and commercial uses, susceptible subpopulations (such as workers, subsistence fishers, tribes and children).
“We are proud to meet another statutory deadline under Lautenberg today,” said Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dunn of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Today’s proposal offers a tangible example of the wide range of management tools available to EPA under Lautenberg. EPA worked diligently to propose a rule that reflects consideration of a wide range of perspectives and extensive research on whether, and if so how, these chemicals are used in commerce.”
TSCA section 6(h) requires EPA to propose a rule “to address the risks of injuries to health or the environment that the Administrator determines are presented by the chemical substance and to reduce exposures to the substance to the extent practicable,” no later than June 22, 2019, with a final rule to follow no more than 18 months later.
This section of TSCA prescribes the criteria for how the specific PBTs were to be selected from the 2014 Update of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments
list, with the resulting list of chemicals identified for action by EPA in 2016, as follows:
- Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE);
- Phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) or PIP (3:1);
- 2,4,6-tris(tert-butyl)phenol (2,4,6-TTBP);
- Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD); and
- Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP).
Each of the five chemicals has different hazards and uses. To reduce exposure to these chemicals, the proposed rule would restrict or prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce for many uses for four of the five chemicals. For one chemical, hexachlorobutadiene, EPA has evaluated the conditions of use and is proposing no action as the agency did not identify any practicable ways of further reducing human or environmental exposure to the chemical substance. HBCD is, notably, regulated as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The proposed rule also includes recordkeeping requirements for several of the chemicals and downstream notification requirements for one chemical.
The Agency conducted extensive outreach and established public dockets to gather information for this proposal, including holding a webinar on chemical use information, carrying out a consultation with Tribes, and organizing dozens of individual meetings with the members of the chemical industry, environmental organizations, Federal partners, State agencies, and others. EPA incorporated public comments on and received scientific peer review of two documents – a Hazard Information document, which identifies current uses of PBT chemicals, and a Use and Exposure Assessment, which supports the finding that exposure to these five substances is likely under the conditions of use.
EPA is asking for public comment for 60 days on the proposal
. Comments should be submitted through regulations.gov to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0080.
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Affordable Clean Energy Rule to Replace Clean Power Plan
EPA has issued the final Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule
– replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The new rule is the culmination of a review of the CPP, which was done in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13873 - Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. The actions also follow challenges from some states, trade associations, rural electric co-ops, and labor unions who argued that the CPP exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act, and a stay of the CPP by the Supreme Court in 2016.
“Today, we are delivering on one of President Trump’s core priorities: ensuring the American public has access to affordable, reliable energy in a manner that continues our nation’s environmental progress,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford. When ACE is fully implemented, we expect to see U.S. power sector CO2 emissions fall by as much as 35 percent below 2005 levels.”
The ACE rule establishes emissions guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) at their coal-fired power plants. Specifically, ACE identifies heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for CO2 from coal-fired power plants, and these improvements can be made at individual facilities. States will have 3 years to submit plans, which is in line with other planning timelines under the Clean Air Act.
Also contained within the rule are new implementing regulations for ACE and future existing-source rules under Clean Air Act Section 111(d). These guidelines will inform states as they set unit-specific standards of performance. For example, states can take a particular source’s remaining useful life and other factors into account when establishing a standard of performance for that source.
ACE will reduce emissions of CO2, mercury, as well as precursors for pollutants like fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone:
- In 2030, the ACE rule is projected to:
- Reduce CO2 emissions by 11 million short tons
- Reduce SO2 emissions by 5,700 tons
- Reduce NOx emissions by 7,100 tons
- Reduce PM2.5 emissions by 400 tons
- Reduce mercury emissions by 59 pounds
- EPA projects that ACE will result in annual net benefits of $120 million to $730 million, including costs, domestic climate benefits, and health co-benefits.
- With ACE, along with additional expected emissions reductions based on long-term industry trends, we expect to see CO2 emissions from the electric sector fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels in 2030.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), released the following statement, “the Trump plan is founded upon a warped reinterpretation of the Clean Air Act that allows states to decide whether or not to regulate one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in our country. Once again, we see that this EPA is manipulating the very meaning of ‘cooperative federalism’ to whatever definition benefits industry the most, even if that means hurting public health. By increasing the efficiency of power plants that run on dirty fossil fuel, experts tell us this plan will actually cause more carbon emissions.”
According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the plan would result in minimal carbon reductions at a time when climate change impacts are intensifying—even targeting such paltry carbon targets that industry is poised to meet those already as markets shift to cleaner, cheaper energy alternatives. The final rule does not include New Source Review standards, which could weaken existing permitting requirements for upgrades at power plants, which the administration indicated it would finalize in the coming months. “Over a decade ago, the Southern Environmental Law Center won a unanimous decision at the United States Supreme Court to close New Source Review loopholes, which resulted in a dramatic improvement in Southern air quality, and will not stand by while this administration guts this critical safeguard,” said Will Cleveland, Senior Attorney for the group.
National Academies Call for Immediate Action on Air Pollution
Countries across the world must urgently adopt emissions controls and air monitoring systems for the worst pollutants, if they are to grapple with the growing problem of air pollution causing millions of deaths each year, five national academies have said.
The Academies of Sciences and Medicine from the US, South Africa, Brazil, and Germany issued a joint statement
on June 19, which they presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, calling for intensified funding and action under a new global compact to tackle air pollution.
“If we do not urgently address this global challenge, air pollution will continue to take a startling toll in terms of preventable disease, disability and death, as well as in avoidable costs of care,” said Marcia McNutt, president of the US National Academy of Sciences. “We need to act much more decisively. We need more public and private investments to tackle air pollution that match the scale of the problem.”
Air pollution causes some 7 million premature deaths every year, with vulnerable people such as women, children and the elderly most at risk. Scientific evidence shows that exposure to pollutants can lead to heart disease, asthma, diabetes, eczema, cancer and impact brain development in children.
Air pollution has also been linked to climate change. If we were to reduce short-lived pollutants such as methane, and black carbon, we could reduce global warming by up to 0.5°C over the next few decades, simultaneously avoiding 2.4 million premature deaths.
According to the academies, the biggest contributor to air pollution is fossil fuel and biomass combustion, used for power-generation, heat and cooking, transport and agriculture. Air pollution from fossil fuels is particularly adverse for humans as it contains large amounts of particulate matter, which enter the body and damage its organs.
With the global economic costs of disease caused by air pollution across 176 countries in 2015 estimated to be US$138 million, the academies call for this preventable problem to be addressed in tandem with climate change mitigation and sustainable development.
The academies recommend that all countries make air pollution reduction a priority by placing emission controls on industry and embracing clean fuels. Where possible, success stories from individual cities and countries should be shared and used as lessons for those grappling to improve air quality.
The global compact would encourage governments, businesses and citizens to increase investment for air pollution measures and work together to improve air quality around the world.
“Air pollution is not only harming our planet and contributing to climate change but cutting millions of lives short,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program. “It is encouraging to see the global scientific community come together and call for urgent action on this truly global problem. It is time to place air pollution high on the political agenda.”
Nation’s Strictest Regulations on Ethylene Oxide Now in Effect in Illinois
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed two pieces of bipartisan legislation today to impose the strictest limits in the nation on ethylene oxide emissions from ethylene oxide sterilization facilities and other companies that use ethylene oxide.
"Protecting the health and well-being of the people of Illinois has always been my top priority, and I'm proud that this legislation keeps dangerous pollutants out of our communities," said Gov. JB Pritzker. "Families in affected areas can breathe easy. Illinois now has the strictest safeguards in the nation, and I appreciate the hard work of the General Assembly in developing this bipartisan legislation and bringing it to my desk."
"As Attorney General, I am pleased that, with Gov. Pritzker's signature, Illinois will lead the nation in enacting stronger regulations of facilities that emit ethylene oxide," said Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “I appreciate the General Assembly's work to craft new, stringent regulations of ethylene oxide, which my office will work with the Illinois EPA to enforce.”
"Protecting Illinois residents from the threat of ethylene oxide was a bipartisan effort and I would like to thank everyone, including Governor Pritzker and his staff, who worked on this legislation that ensures proper protections are in place when it comes to this dangerous chemical," said Leader Jim Durkin. "The tragic situation which unfolded in Willowbrook at the Sterigenics facility should have never happened. This law will help make sure that it never will again."
Under Senate Bill 1852, ethylene oxide sterilization facilities would be prohibited from operating in Illinois unless:
- The facility captures 100% of all fugitive ethylene oxide emissions within the facility.
- The facility reduces ethylene oxide emissions to the atmosphere from each exhaust point by at least 99.9% or to 0.2 parts per million.
The law requires facilities to conduct an initial emissions test within 180 days and yearly tests thereafter, and the results must be submitted to the Illinois EPA. Upon receiving a failed emissions test, a facility must:
- Immediately cease operations.
- Notify the Illinois EPA within 24 hours.
- Within 60 days, conduct a root cause analysis of the failed emission test, take corresponding corrective actions, and seek IEPA approval prior to restart of operations.
The measure also requires EtO sterilization facilities to conduct quarterly ambient air testing and to obtain construction permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency before making the modifications required to comply with the emissions limits in the legislation. After January 1, 2020, any new facility seeking a permit to sterilize with EtO must comply with setback requirements mandating that the facility be located at least 10 miles from schools or parks.
The measure prohibits facilities that have previously been subject to a Seal Order from the Illinois EPA relating to EtO emissions from using the substance unless the facility can certify to the Illinois EPA that EtO is the only available sterilization method for the medical instruments or other products and that the facility's emissions control system uses technology that produces the greatest possible reduction in EtO emissions.
Senate Bill 1854 applies emission limits on non-sterilization facilities that emit ethylene oxide. Beginning in 180 days, any such EtO facility would be required to obtain a permit from IEPA, which must include a site-specific cap on the facility's EtO emissions. Hospitals are specifically excluded from the requirements of this bill.
The Illinois EPA will also be required to conduct at least one unannounced inspection of all EtO sterilization sources per year and air testing to determine the ambient levels of EtO throughout the state.
Both SB 1852 and SB 1854 take effect immediately.
Veolia’s Hazardous Waste Incinerator in Sauget, Illinois Gets Revised Title V Permit
EPA has issued a final revised Clean Air Act Title V permit for Veolia’s hazardous waste incinerator in Sauget, Illinois. The final permit is identical to the draft permit that was released for public comment in July 2018.
The permit requires Veolia to install and operate mercury emissions controls on two incinerators that previously did not have mercury controls. The permit includes significant improvements to Veolia’s feedstream analysis procedures.
Sinclair Oil Fined $1.6 Million for Air Emission Violations at Sinclair, Wyoming Refinery
EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company (Sinclair) will pay $1.6 million in penalties and install additional pollution controls to resolve violations of air emissions limits and monitoring requirements at its refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming. The settlement follows actions by Sinclair to install approximately $20 million in pollution controls at the refinery and requires the company to take additional measures to reduce harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide.
“EPA is committed to working with our partners to ensure that the terms and conditions of enforcement agreements are met,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “This settlement holds Sinclair accountable for exceeding the emissions limits agreed to in a previous settlement for Clean Air Act
violations and requires the company to implement additional pollution control measures to secure cleaner, healthier air for the people of Wyoming.”
"As principal steward for protecting Wyoming's air resources, the Wyoming DEQ's efforts, and coordination with EPA, have resulted in a consent decree amendment that resolves DEQ's allegations against Sinclair and places Sinclair on a path to return its Refinery to compliance
with Wyoming's environmental laws and requirements," said DEQ Air Quality Administrator Nancy Vehr.
The consent decree amendment
resolves alleged violations of state and federal air emissions limits and monitoring requirements, including those established in a consent decree entered by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in 2008, as subsequently amended. The alleged violations at the Sinclair Wyoming refinery include exceeding sulfur dioxide (SO2
) emissions limits at the flares and the sulfur recovery plant’s tail gas units, and failing to operate, maintain and certify continuous emissions monitors (CEMS) as required.
Sinclair has installed a Central Amine Facility and upgraded its flare gas recovery system to reduce emissions and advance compliance with air emissions limits at the facility. Under the agreement, Sinclair will undertake several additional measures to reduce flaring and improve CEMS operations. Sinclair has also agreed to complete several projects to secure the efficient operation of the flare gas recovery system. The stipulated penalty provisions in the consent decree are being modified to provide further incentive for Sinclair to comply with the consent decree emission limits.
Legal Victory Holds Canadian Company Accountable for Polluting the Upper Columbia River
In a big win for the Colville Tribes and Washington State, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a landmark transboundary environmental case. The Supreme Court’s denial leaves a September 2018 Ninth Circuit ruling in place, awarding more than $8 million in costs to the Colville Tribes and holding Teck Metals, a Canadian mining company, liable for nearly 10 million tons of toxic wastes that the company discharged into the upper Columbia River.
This decision marks a major step forward for recovering upper Columbia River valley cleanup costs and natural resource damages. “This is great news for the Tribes and Washington State,” said Jim Pendowski, program manager for Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program. “Teck Metals disposed of millions of tons of wastes into the Upper Columbia River. It’s time that the company is held accountable. This decision will ensure that will happen.”
The company operates the world’s largest lead and zinc smelter just ten miles upstream of the U.S. border in Trail, British Columbia. For nearly a century, it discharged about 400 tons of slag a day directly into the river, as well as liquid wastes. These wastes included metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc.
The litigation began back in 2004 after the company refused to abide by an EPA order requiring Teck to assess the pollution and identify cleanup options. Teck argued that the EPA didn’t have jurisdiction over a Canadian company. Individual members of the Colville Tribes sued with Washington State as co-litigants. The Colville Tribes later joined the litigation.
The case affirms that U.S. federal environmental law applies to a Canadian company when it disposes of hazardous substances in the United States. Teck had claimed that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction over the company, but the Ninth Circuit found it “inconceivable” that Teck didn’t know its toxic waste was aimed at Washington when it discharged it directly to the Columbia River a few miles upstream from the U.S.
“This is a great example of what can be accomplished when two sovereigns—the Colville Tribes and the State of Washington—join forces to protect the environment and hold polluters accountable,” said Rodney Cawston, chairman of the Colville Business Council.
The State and Tribes look forward to cleanup and restoration of the upper Columbia River. Currently, the EPA is overseeing Teck’s investigation of Upper Columbia River contamination. In addition, the State, the Tribes, the Department of Interior, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians are working to recover natural resource damages resulting from Teck’s contamination of the river.
Vermont Joins States Transitioning from HFCs
Vermont has joined a growing number of states keeping the U.S. on track to phase down climate-polluting hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, as Gov. Phil Scott enacted a law curbing their use in home and business refrigeration systems, building chillers, insulating foams and aerosols.
The governor signed S.30
barring the use of HFCs in major applications where there are safer alternatives, action that was hailed by environmental and public interest groups. HFCs have hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon pollution, and both contribute to climate change.
The Vermont bill mirrors laws already in effect in California and Washington State. In addition, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut have committed to adopt these HFC limits under their states’ air pollution laws. Other states in the 24-member U.S. Climate Alliance are expected to follow suit.
The Obama administration EPA issued national rules phasing down the use of HFCs, but a federal court partially struck them down in 2018, finding a gap in EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The states are picking up the slack and keeping the country on track to transition to other cooling chemicals that don’t damage the climate.
David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Climate & Clean Energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “the Green Mountain state is acting boldly to shield people from dangerous climate change. Moving to replace harmful HFCs with safer alternatives will create jobs, cleaner air and prosperity. It helps keep our country in sync with a global phase-down
underway of these super-polluting chemicals. And it demonstrates strong leadership other states should take to heart—and climb aboard the HFC train.”
“Climate change is one of the greatest threats to Vermont’s birds,” said David Mears, Executive Director of Audubon Vermont, “so everything we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a critical step forward.” He continued, “passage of this legislation to phase out the use of HFC’s is exactly the kind of leadership we need from our elected leaders – I hope that the tripartisan support we have seen for this new law is a preview of the more comprehensive action that is needed to turn the curve on climate change.”
The Obama administration EPA issued national rules phasing down the use of HFCs, but a federal court partially struck them down in 2018, finding a gap in EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The states are picking up the slack and keeping the country on track to transition to other cooling chemicals that don’t damage the climate.
FMC to Pay $31M for Arsenic Contamination
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the settlement of one of New York’s largest environmental enforcement actions in state history. The settlement requires the FMC Corporation to clean up arsenic and other hazardous contamination affecting areas in and around its facility in Middleport, Niagara County, and includes $2.4 million in penalties and $1 million for a community-based environmental benefit project.
“When the health of our communities is threatened, we aggressively pursue polluters and hold them accountable,” Governor Cuomo said. “The state is already working diligently to protect the public from contamination released by the FMC Corporation and this comprehensive enforcement agreement requires the company to reimburse taxpayers millions of dollars for past cleanup actions and invest hundreds of millions more until the job is done.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “This significant settlement is a major victory for environmental justice and a major victory for New York’s strict environmental laws put in place to protect public health. Most importantly, it’s a victory for the residents of the Niagara County neighborhoods who, through this Consent Order, are ensured that the environmental contamination is cleaned up by the polluter. I’m proud of the perseverance demonstrated by DEC’s talented staff in their tenacious fight for fairness and requiring a real plan to fund and complete this extensive cleanup.”
FMC Corporation’s Middleport facility is a 103-acre pesticide formulation and packaging plant that previously manufactured arsenic-based pesticides and other chemical products. The primary contaminant of concern at this site is arsenic, which has been detected at elevated levels of up to 60,000 parts per million (ppm) on-site, and approximately 4,000 ppm off-site. Other contaminants include methylene chloride, pesticides such as DDT, and other organic and inorganic compounds.
Uncontrolled stormwater runoff, flood events, spills, releases, overflows, and air deposition have contaminated sediment, surface water, soil, and groundwater at the facility’s property and off-site areas including residential and commercial properties and the adjacent Royalton-Hartland Central School property. In addition, contamination has migrated to negatively impact miles of creeks and culverts downgradient of the FMC facility, adversely impacting birds, fish, and wildlife in the Jeddo and Johnson Creek drainage basins.
The DEC’s enforcement actions include a consent order that requires the cleanup of all contaminated areas both on-site and off-site and avoids a protracted and costly legal battle that could have stalled cleanup progress for years. A prior 1991 Administrative Order on Consent with the EPA is terminated and replaced by DEC’s new order, which requires a more thorough approach to address arsenic and other chemical impacts to the facility, residences, the school, and natural resources. Major highlights of the new consent order include:
- FMC will reimburse the State $31 million for costs related to the cleanup performed through the end of 2018. These funds will be returned to the State Superfund Program where they can be used to accelerate other critical cleanup projects;
A $1 million environmental benefit project to help compensate the community for the impacts created by FMC’s contamination;
- FMC will reimburse DEC up to $15 million per year over the next two years (2019-20) for costs incurred by the State as it completes the cleanup of surrounding residential properties and the Royalton-Hartland School;\FMC will assume all cleanup responsibilities after 2020 with stringent DEC oversight until the State determines the work is complete;
- FMC will pay penalties of $2.4 million to resolve decades of violations at the facility. A portion of the penalty will help fund habitat restoration projects related to past wildlife impacts caused by chemical releases;
- The settlement of outstanding state environmental violations will help the company protect current jobs at the facility and enable it to plan for potential future growth;
FMC will fund an on-site environmental monitor at the facility and implement a site management plan to prevent future environmental violations;
- The facility will be required to fully upgrade the on-site wastewater treatment plant and expand the groundwater collection system to provide full hydraulic control and prevent off-site migration of groundwater contamination; and
- A substantial increase in financial assurance to $80 million to ensure that funds will be available to address the contamination.
The site is currently regulated by DEC as both a State Superfund site and a facility subject to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action. Additional information about the site can be found at DEC’s FMC Middleport Facility webpage: https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/54220.html.
Northeast States Urge Congress and EPA to Step Up on Synthetic Chemicals that Threaten Drinking Water
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit has joined environmental commissioners from the other New England states and New York in urging faster federal action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. The states need guidance and help from the EPA on classifying PFAS in a standard way, warning the public about them, and mitigating the effects of this group of chemicals.
"Addressing the public health and environmental threats from per- and poly-fluorinated compounds is incredibly complex and important scientific work," said Director Coit. "This is an issue that affects every state, including Rhode Island, and federal action is urgently needed. We are asking Congress
to direct EPA to step up the pace and provide us with the tools we need to effectively protect our citizens and our environment."
As members of the Northeast Committee on the Environment (NECOE), the commissioners have signed a multistate letter
requesting that the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Congressional PFAS Task Force take immediate federal action on PFAS contamination. The letter was sent to the Co-Chairs of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), as well as Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) of the US Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW).
Synthetic chemicals that are resistant to water, grease, or stains, PFAS are used in a variety of products and applications including non-stick cookware, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing, and food packaging. Most PFAS have been phased out in the United States because of concerns about health effects. Examples of facilities that have the potential to still contain these chemicals due to use or disposal include industrial factories, airports, firefighting facilities, and landfills.
Sampling and analysis of drinking water for PFAS contamination has been happening in Rhode Island since 2013. "Consistent, national PFAS standards and the development of standardized analytical methods for PFAS are critical to our work to identify PFAS, and to take steps to ensure the health and safety of drinking water for all consumers in Rhode Island," said Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) Deputy Director Ana Novais.
After RIDOH detected PFAS contamination in groundwater and drinking water wells in the Oakland Village section of Burrillville in 2017, DEM assisted the Town and Oakland Village residents by providing bottled water for food preparation, cooking, and drinking, and RIDOH worked to connect consumers to an alternative water source. The contamination was caused by firefighting foam used by the Oakland Mapleville Fire Department and affected 55 families and six private well owners.
While northeastern states have been at the forefront of this issue due to early detection of PFAS contamination, federal efforts have not provided clear standards and guidance for states to address the effects of PFAS on human health and the environment. In their letter, NECOE commissioners highlight five specific matters that need immediate federal action:
- EPA should establish a national maximum contaminant level.
- PFAS constitute a class of compounds with common characteristics and should be regulated accordingly.
- Require EPA to amend its regulations to treat PFAS compounds as hazardous substances under the Superfund law and make available low-cost supplemental loans for regional cleanup efforts.
- Urge EPA to expedite the development and dissemination of analytical methods and treatment technologies that extend beyond drinking water.
- Urge more aggressive and responsible federal regulation of the use of PFAS compounds and other emerging contaminants.
AutoZone to Pay $11 Million to Settle Hazardous Waste Violations
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced an $11 million settlement against AutoZone, Inc. to resolve allegations that the company violated state laws governing hazardous waste, hazardous materials, and confidential consumer information. AutoZone is charged with illegally disposing of millions of hazardous waste items, including used motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste.
“AutoZone violated California law by improperly disposing of millions of toxic and hazardous waste items. It endangered our environment and public health,” said Attorney General Becerra. “AutoZone must now pay the price for breaking the law. The California Department of Justice is committed to investigating and holding accountable violators of our laws meant to protect California’s environment and communities.”
AutoZone is a retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts, accessories, and engine additives in North America. It owns or operates approximately 600 retail stores and a distribution center. From August 2013 through September 2015, District Attorneys’ offices throughout California conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49 separate AutoZone facilities. These investigations found numerous instances of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste including batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices, and hundreds of discarded bottles and other receptacles containing automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous waste. These investigative efforts revealed that AutoZone allowed its customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into regular trash containers in AutoZone stores’ parking lots throughout California. AutoZone facilities in 45 counties in California were found by the prosecuting offices to have committed these environmental violations. It is estimated that AutoZone illegally disposed of over five million hazardous waste items in California.
AutoZone also violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.
The settlement requires a monetary payment of $11 million. This consists of $8.9 million for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. AutoZone gets a credit of $1 million against the penalties if it undertakes at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law. In addition, the settlement includes provisions requiring AutoZone to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information is properly disposed of at all facilities. The results of the audit must be shared with the public. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in this lawsuit are the District Attorneys of Alameda, Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura and Yolo Counties, and the Los Angeles City Attorney.
Since taking office in July 2017, Becerra has announced: a $7.4 million statewide settlement with Target for environmental violations; a $27.84 million settlement with Home Depot for violations of California’s hazardous waste laws and customer privacy requirements; and a $4.4 million settlement with Cox Communications for unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste.
A copy of the final judgment can be found here
Newark Idling Enforcement Results in 40 Violations
A team of inspection and enforcement officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies have issued more than 40 violations following a two-day environmental enforcement initiative in the City of Newark, Essex County, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced.
Representatives with the DEP’s Division of Air Enforcement, Essex Regional Health Commission, Newark Police Department and the Commercial Vehicle Inspection teams of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conducted the enforcement sweep in areas that citizens groups identified as potential locations for excessive vehicle idling. Between May 20 and 21, the teams issued 39 idling violations to diesel vehicles and six smoke emission violations.
“Excessive vehicle idling is harmful to the air we breathe and is especially concerning in areas of our state that are already overburdened by multiple environmental stressors,” Commissioner McCabe said. “The pollution that results from excessive idling also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, another great risk to New Jerseyans. We must do everything we can to reduce these emissions to keep our air clean and healthy and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
“Idling drags Newark down,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Not only is it against the law, it adversely affects our most vulnerable populations. I support the DEP’s environmental enforcement activity to improve Newark’s air quality and reduce our impacts on greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Idling occurs when a vehicle’s engine is running but the vehicle is not in motion. State law limits idling
of vehicles to three minutes when the vehicle is not in motion, but there are exemptions to allow businesses to conduct needed operations without interference.
Studies have shown that the fine particle pollution from diesel emissions in New Jersey may cause more premature deaths than homicides and car accidents combined. Further, an EPA report shows that fine particle pollution is known to cause or exacerbate a variety of lung and heart ailments.
“New Jersey has had a no-idling law in effect since 1971 and we will continue to enforce it, in order to maintain quality of life and protect public health,” said Richelle Wormley, Acting Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement. “These types of enforcement sweeps will continue throughout the state.”
The locations where idling violations were identified during those sweeps will be evaluated to determine if anti-idling signage would be effective in eliminating excessive idling activity.
“The 3rd Precinct receives numerous complaints from citizens regarding idling vehicles,” said Capt. Anthony M. Costa, Commanding Officer of the Newark Police Department’s 3rd Precinct. “We take these complains seriously. The partnership we have with the DEP has helped address these complaints and improve the quality of life for our residents and visitors.”
Penalties for excessive idling of commercial vehicles are $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for the third offense and each subsequent violation. In addition to contributing to air pollution, excessive idling wastes fuel and money, and causes excess wear and maintenance on both diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles. Transportation is also the largest source of climate pollution in New Jersey, accounting for 42% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, transportation sector emissions account for 71% of the state’s nitrogen oxides, a major contributor to smog. Smog forms when pollutants interact with sunlight and hot temperatures during warmer months to create ground-level ozone molecules.
New Jersey to Rejoin Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Fulfilling his promise to restore New Jersey’s national leadership in the fight against climate change and sea-level rise, Governor Phil Murphy has announced that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has formally adopted two rules returning New Jersey to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). New Jersey was a charter member of RGGI before Governor Christie withdrew the state from the compact in 2012.
“Climate change and sea-level rise affect us all, and as a coastal state, New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the impacts of global warming,” said Governor Murphy. “The reckless decision to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2012 cost the state millions of dollars in revenue that could have been used to put toward initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of our residents. New Jersey has reemerged as a national leader in fighting climate change and reentering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will propel us on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”
The first rule, the Carbon Dioxide Budget Trading rule, establishes the mechanisms for rejoining RGGI and sets the initial carbon-dioxide cap for the state’s electricity generation sector at 18 million tons in 2020. New Jersey’s carbon dioxide budget will decline by 30 percent through 2030, with other adjustments that are standard to all member states. The model used to develop the New Jersey carbon budget only considers emissions from currently operating electric generating facilities. Through a combination of RGGI’s required carbon-dioxide reductions and Governor Murphy’s aggressive renewable energy goals, the Department of Environmental Protection projects that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 11.3 million tons by 2030.
The second rule, the Global Warming Solutions Fund rule, establishes the framework for how the DEP, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will implement a system to spend proceeds from RGGI carbon-dioxide allowance auctions, with an emphasis on projects that will benefit environmental justice in certain communities.
The DEP adopted the rules with their publication in the New Jersey Register. In the coming months, New Jersey will work with RGGI to ensure our participation in the first auction of 2020.
“Not only is our coastline at risk from global warming, so are our densely populated urban areas and communities that are susceptible to river and stream flooding,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “While New Jersey has one of the cleanest electric generation portfolios in the country, resuming participation in RGGI provides the impetus for even further carbon dioxide reduction and is an important component of our comprehensive plan to address climate change.”
“Mitigating the impacts of climate change is one of the most significant challenges we face,” New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said. “Rejoining RGGI is a crucial step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving our goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. I am proud to serve in an administration that places such a high priority on creating a safer, healthier, more economically sound future for our children and grandchildren.”
“Under Governor Murphy's leadership, New Jersey is positioning itself to be at the forefront of the clean energy economy and participating again in RGGI will be a major milestone toward that goal,” New Jersey Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said. “The NJEDA is thrilled to be partnering with Commissioner McCabe and her team to maximize the opportunities presented to New Jersey to combat climate change and create sustainable jobs at the same time.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is made up of Mid-Atlantic and New England states working to reduce carbon-dioxide gas emissions from the energy sector through a cap-and-trade auction process that encourages more market efficiencies, invests in renewable energy, and improves power-plant technology. RGGI’s members are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Returning New Jersey to RGGI has been a priority for Governor Murphy since the outset of his administration. In his first month in office, the Governor issued Executive Order No. 7 directing the state to rejoin RGGI and develop a program that implements solutions that benefit communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
Wood Finisher Fined $20,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations
The Washington Department of Ecology fined
Numatic Finishing Corp. $20,000 last year for improperly managing dangerous wastes
. The specialty wood finishing company in Auburn has agreed to pay $5,000 to the Department of Ecology under an agreement
to settle an appeal of the larger penalty.
Ecology agreed to suspend $15,000, provided that the facility remains in compliance with state dangerous waste requirements for the next two years. The $15,000 is payable if Numatic repeats any of the violations cited in the original penalty.
The company agreed to maintain its compliance with requirements that include:
- Determining whether its wastes should be designated as dangerous waste so that the materials can be properly managed.
- Properly labeling its dangerous waste containers so employees and contractors can take appropriate safety precautions to prevent or respond to emergencies.
- Keeping minimum aisle space for emergency personnel and equipment.
- Properly replacing and maintaining spill and decontamination equipment.
Numatic applies lacquer finishes to wood products such as doors, paneling, flooring and moldings. Its wastes include ignitable and toxic solvents and leftover paints that can release harmful vapors or cause fires if not properly managed.
Washington’s dangerous waste regulations
set standards to protect the public, workers and the environment from releases of potentially harmful waste materials at commercial and industrial facilities. Ecology inspects workplaces that generate dangerous wastes to ensure compliance with requirements for safe handling and storage.
21 Fines for Environmental Violations Issued by Oregon DEQ
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 21 penalties totaling $292,752 in May for various environmental violations. A detailed list of violations and resulting penalties is at https://go.usa.gov/xEQJn.
Fines ranged from $1,700 to $48,683. Alleged violations included failing to control sediment runoff from construction sites, failing to properly maintain and monitor underground storage tanks, submitting required documentation late, polluting waters of the state, exceeding air quality emissions standards, conducting unlicensed asbestos abatement and more.
DEQ issued civil penalties against the following organizations and individuals:
- Arcadia Environmental, Inc., $28,875, Toledo (air quality)
- Architectural Millwork MFG Co., $10,634, Eugene (water quality)
- Carestream Health Inc., $19,512, White City (air quality)
- City of Corvallis, $6,600 (water quality)
- Coastal Construction & Concrete LLC., $28,275, Coos Bay (air quality)
- Coil Inc., $8,400, Brookings (land quality)
- Copeland Paving Inc., $4,800, Murphy (air quality)
- Daljit Singh, doing business as Keizer Food Market, LLC., $4,024, Keizer (land quality)
- Ekstrom & Schmidt Nursery, LLC, $3,896, Boring (air quality)
- Fitch Development, $3,600, Tillamook (water quality)
- Jian Lu Xu and Hui Huang Wen, $14,400, Tigard (water quality)
- Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co., $32,482, Milton-Freewater (water quality)
- Oak Lodge Water Services District, $7,800, Milwaukie (water quality)
- Pioneer Asphalt, $3,200, Hermiston (air quality)
- Rainbow Acres Quarry, LLC, $31,573, Blue River (water quality)
- Rusty Taylor, $21,519, Girabaldi (land quality)
- TI Harvard, $1,075, Roseburg (land quality)
- Triplett Wellman Inc., $12,000, Saint Helens (water quality)
- Two Rivers Correctional Institution, $1,700, Umatilla (air quality)
- Union County – La Grande Union County Rappel Base, $48,683 (water quality)
- West Hills Land Development, $3,600, Beaverton (water quality)
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment.
New York Passes Nation-Leading Climate Bill
The New York State legislature passed nation-leading climate legislation. The bill
establishes the strongest greenhouse gas emissions limits in the United States, requiring 70% renewable electricity supply by 2030 and 100% zero emissions electricity supply by 2040, and prioritizing equity in implementing these requirements. The is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Company Caught Pouring Hazardous Waste Down the Drain
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $9,503 penalty to Allegro MicroSystems, LLC for violating the Massachusetts Hazardous Waste regulations at its former facility in Worcester.
During an inspection of the company’s former microchip manufacturing plant on December 17, 2018, MassDEP personnel confirmed a report from the company to MassDEP’s Emergency Response hotline number stating that it had emptied containers of surplus acids down the drain to the municipal sewer system. The company was in the process of closing the facility and was inventorying and disposing of chemicals through various means.
During the inspection, MassDEP personnel also observed other noncompliance with the hazardous waste regulations, including: discharging hazardous process wastewaters down the drain, failure to post complete emergency response postings in waste generation areas, failure to characterize wastes and properly label a waste oil container, and failure to properly manage universal fluorescent lamps and batteries. The company has corrected the violations and implemented measures to prevent their reoccurrence at a new facility in Marlborough.
“The proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste is one of the tenets of environmental protection” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “It is fortunate that there were no impacts to the sewer system or personnel as a result of this episode. The company self-reported the illegal disposal and has implemented measures to ensure similar violations do not occur again.”
Portuguese Shipping Company Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Oil Record Book and Obstruction
Portline Bulk International S.A. pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and one count of Obstruction. The charges stem from the falsification of the Oil Record Book onboard the M/V Achilleus
, a Maltese-flagged ocean-going bulk carrier ship managed by Defendant Portline.
From April 2017 to August 2018, senior members of the vessel’s engineering team oversaw and participated in the bypass of the ship’s Oil Water Separator utilizing a yellow plastic hose, referred to as a magic pipe. The ship’s Chief Engineer made a series of fake entries and key omissions in the Oil Record Book in order to conceal the illegal overboard discharges of oily bilge water. On Aug. 14, 2018, the false Oil Record Book was presented to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) during an inspection in the Port of Charleston.
According to court documents, Portline has agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1.5 million when the company is sentenced at a future date. The company would also be placed on organizational probation for four years, which includes an environmental compliance plan.
“The world’s oceans are not a dumping ground for criminals who seek to evade our nation’s environmental laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department’s commitment to protecting coastal communities through rigorous enforcement of the rule of law.
“The South Carolina coast is one of the most beautiful parts of our nation,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon for the District of South Carolina. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes environmental crimes seriously, and corporations and individuals who endanger our valuable marine resources and wildlife by violating federal law will be held accountable. We are grateful to the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Environment and Natural Resources Division for their ongoing partnership in protecting our waterways.”
“Our team of dedicated marine safety and pollution response professionals worked closely with the Coast Guard Investigative Service to investigate this incident and refer it for enforcement action,” said Captain John Reed, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston. “This case highlights the Coast Guard’s unwavering commitment to the stewardship of the ocean and its critical marine environment.”
On June 17, 2019, the ship’s former Chief Engineer Anatoli Zotsenko and Second Engineer Valerii Pastushenko, who had previously pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, were sentenced to fines totaling $12,500 and three years’ probation. The probation term includes a special condition that bans Zotsenko and Pastushenko from entering ports and anchorages of the United States.
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. The case was prosecuted by Christopher L. Hale 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.
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