March 29, 2021
The California Air Resources Board adopted amendments to several Consumer Products Program regulations that will help California attain federal ozone standards and reduce public exposure to air toxics.
Consumer products — including personal care products such as hair spray and perfumes, household cleaners, air fresheners, and even household pesticides — emit smog-forming volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs). VOCs are a precursor to smog. Consumer products are the second largest source of VOC emissions, behind the collective VOC emissions from all off-road mobile sources.
“While the amount of VOCs in each product is small, Californians use millions of these products daily,” CARB Executive Office Richard Corey said. “As a result, emissions from these products found in every home and many businesses make up a significant portion of the state’s smog-forming pollution. We need to do all we can to reduce the amount of smog-forming ingredients in consumer products to meet our health-based clean-air standards.”
Since the Consumer Products Program began in 1988, CARB has limited the allowable VOC content of more than 100 categories of products, achieving 250 tons per day of VOC reductions. Currently, the program not only reduces smog-forming compounds and particulates, but also provides significant reductions in both air toxics and climate-changing gases.
Additional emission reductions are needed, however, to help attain state and federal ozone standards, especially in the South Coast air basin. Emission reductions achieved from previous rulemakings are being eroded by increased product usage as California’s population and associated product use continue to grow. Consumer products are projected to become the state’s leading source of VOC emissions by 2040.
CARB has committed to get additional VOC reductions from consumer products as part of the State Implementation Plan, the legally required plan that outlines the actions California will take to meet federal clean-air standards. The amendments meet these commitments and lower VOC standards for seven product categories. Categories amended include:
- Four hair-care product categories: Finishing Spray, Dry Shampoo, Hair Shine, and Temporary Hair Color. Hair finishing spray is the third largest source of VOCs in consumer products. Dry Shampoo, a fast-growing product category, has not yet been regulated by CARB.
- Personal fragrance, including perfumes, aftershaves, lotions, powders, and body mists and sprays, is the second largest source of consumer product VOC emissions.
- Manual aerosol air fresheners, a category of products labeled to mask odors or scent the air.
- Aerosol crawling bug insecticide category
Deodorants, hair spray, cleaning products, spray paint, adhesives, coatings, charcoal lighter fluid, fuel containers, and insecticides are among the many VOC-containing products regulated in California
. Because many manufacturers make a single formulation of their consumer products (or consumer products also used in the workplace) for all states, the California regulations can impact manufacturers nationwide, as well as those that export from other countries to the state.
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. You’ll receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM
service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast training is the best way to learn how to comply with the latest regulations that apply to your site. Learn from the experts and get your site-specific questions answered at these upcoming sessions:
100-Pound Propane Cylinders Recalled Due to Fire Hazard
Flame King, doing business as YSN Imports, Inc. has recalled Hog 100-pound Propane Cylinders. The cylinders are white and have built-in wheels. The recalled cylinders can be identified by serial numbers 000001 through 002800, stamped on the unit’s collar. UPC 850015730016 and SKU YSN100HOG are printed on the box. There is a sticker on the cylinders with a warning not to fill unless the unit is standing up.
If you have any of these propane cylinders, you should immediately stop them and contact Flame King for a full refund or free replacement. Contact Flame King toll-free at 844-464-8265 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org
, or online www.flameking.com/hogrecall
The cylinders, which were made in Thailand, were sold online at Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, ebay, and Home Depot, from January 2020 through October 2020 for about $250.
New NIOSH Center for Work and Fatigue Research
Almost 40 million American wage and salary workers—nearly 30% of the American workforce—are employed in a schedule that is outside of a regular daytime shift. One in four workers — over 30 million people — report working more than 40 hours per week. Nonstandard shifts are associated with impaired sleep and numerous negative health outcomes, including an increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, adverse reproductive health outcomes, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and psychological disorders (like) depression.
Disrupted or shortened sleep can impact cognition, increasing the risk for injuries to workers and their coworkers. Worker fatigue can also have a devastating public safety impact, particularly in occupations with high-risk consequences. Investigations into two high profile disasters — the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island and the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker — reported that worker fatigue and human error were partly attributable11,12. Aside from these high-profile disasters, fatigue-related safety issues can occur every day, as tired workers drive on public roads, raising public health and safety concerns.
The mission of the new NIOSH Center for Work and Fatigue Research
is to expand on established work on health and safety risks related to nonstandard schedules to include other sources of fatigue. Examples include physically and mentally demanding work, co-morbidities, hot environments and other co-exposures. The Center will work to develop practical, effective solutions to mitigate these risks through collaboration with researchers, policy makers, employers, workers, and health and safety professionals.
Mass Climate Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Protect Environmental Justice Communities
The legislation expands the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to take aggressive action on climate change and achieve Net Zero emissions in 2050. On December 30, 2020, the Administration released two reports
– the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap Report and an interim 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) – that detail policies and strategies to equitably and cost-effectively reduce emissions and combat climate change. The 2050 Roadmap found that, with careful attention to the strategies it selects, the Commonwealth can achieve Net Zero emissions in 2050 affordably while maintaining a thriving economy. The Roadmap also found that achieving Net Zero emissions will deliver significant benefits to residents across the Commonwealth, including a precipitous drop in air pollution, particularly in environmental justice communities currently overburdened with poor air quality; health cost savings of up to $100 million per year by 2030; and the creation of thousands of high-quality local jobs.
n April 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration officially established
Net Zero emissions as the Commonwealth’s new legal emissions limit for 2050. Later in 2020, in order to meet its emissions goals, the Commonwealth joined with its neighboring states
to call upon the regional electrical grid operator to support decarbonization efforts and facilitate development of a clean, affordable, and reliable regional electric grid capable of supporting state investments in clean energy resources. The statement calls for reform of the regional electricity market design, transmission planning process, and the governance of ISO-New England, the independent system operator for the New England power system.
Additionally, in late 2020, Governor Charlie Baker joined Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in launching a groundbreaking multi-jurisdictional program
that will reduce motor vehicle pollution by at least 26 percent and generate over $1.8 billion in Massachusetts by 2032. The bipartisan Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) will allow participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, cleaner transportation options, and create significant new employment opportunities while substantially improving public health across the Commonwealth and New England.
Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in climate action, including through the first-in-nation Clean Peak Standard, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, our recently updated SMART solar program, participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), clean energy procurements, nation-leading energy efficiency programs, electric vehicle and charging infrastructure incentive programs, and its Clean Energy Standard (CES).
15 Penalties Assessed for Oregon Environmental Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 15 penalties
totaling $1,443,639 in February for various environmental violations.
Fines ranged from $1,650 to $458,266. Alleged violations included a rubber producer operating without an air quality permit, a company discharging highly chlorinated water from a construction project, and cities not properly treating their wastewater.
DEQ issued civil penalties to the following organizations:
- Alsea Quarries I LLC, $4,000, Alsea, air quality
- Cascade Steel Rolling Mills Inc., $7,200, McMinnville, wastewater
- City of Cannon Beach, $1,650, Cannon Beach, wastewater
- City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, $15,000, Portland, wastewater
- City of Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation, $458,266, Portland, cleanup
- City of Wilsonville, $6,600, Wilsonville, wastewater
- Conners I Limited Partnership, $6,117, Bend, stormwater
- Entek International LLC, $7,200, Lebanon, air quality
- Fishhawk Lake Reserve and Community Inc., $439,200, Birkenfeld, water quality
- Goby Walnut Products Inc., $9,011, Portland, stormwater
- Griffith Rubber Mills, $440,742, Portland, air quality
- R. Simplot Company, $11,685, Portland, stormwater
- Knife River Corporation, $25,000, Coos Bay, water quality
- Oregon Department of Transportation, $2,550, Hebo, stormwater
- Walsh Trucking Co. LTD, $9,428, Troutdale, stormwater
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.
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
DEQ works with thousands of organizations and individuals to help them comply with laws that protect Oregon’s air, land and water. DEQ uses education, technical assistance, warnings and penalties to change behavior and deter future violations.
New Refrigerant Recovery Methods Approved
In the March 24 Federal Register
, EPA adopted three technical standards developed by SAE International (SAE) for equipment that recovers, recycles, and/or recharges the refrigerant 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoroprop-1-ene (HFO-1234yf or R-1234yf) in motor vehicle air conditioners (MVACs). The three standards are SAE J2843, SAE J2851, and SAE J3030. This rule adopts the most current versions of these standards by incorporating them by reference into the regulations under Title VI of the Clean Air Act (CAA). This will provide additional flexibility for industry stakeholders that wish to select recovery and recycling equipment certified to these standards.
Adopting these standards will assist approved independent standards testing organizations (currently UL and Intertek) in certifying equipment for commercial refrigerant recovery/recycling/recharging that meet the EPA's minimum performance requirements. In addition, service and repair shops will be required to use equipment certified to meet SAE J2843, J2851, and J3030 when servicing MVACs using R-1234yf.
Oil and natural gas production emit more methane than previously thought
Research finds EPA underestimates methane emissions from oil and gas production
Nicotine Patches, Gums and Lozenges Removed from California P075 Acute Waste List
An amendment to the P075 Hazardous Waste Listing for Nicotine Rulemaking was approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and filed with the Secretary of State on March 9, 2021. The rulemaking removes nicotine patches, gums, and lozenges that are FDA-approved over the counter (OTC) nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) from the P075 acute hazardous waste listing in California effective on March 9, 2021. The change was made to make the California rules regarding P075 consistent with the Federal EPA regulations (84 FR 5823), which were revised on February 22, 2019.
Oil and Natural Gas Production Emit More Methane than Previously Thought
EPA is underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas production in its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, according to new research from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The research team found 90% higher emissions from oil production and 50% higher emissions for natural gas production than EPA estimated in its latest inventory.
The research team, led by Joannes Maasakkers, a former graduate student at SEAS, developed a method to trace and map total emissions from satellite data to their source on the ground.
“This is the first country-wide evaluation of the emissions that the EPA reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),” said Maasakkers, who is currently a scientist at the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.
Currently, the EPA only reports total national emissions to the UNFCC. In previous research, Maasakkers and his collaborators, including Daniel Jacob, the Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at SEAS, worked with the EPA to map regional emissions of methane from different sources in the US. That level of detail was used to simulate how methane moves through the atmosphere.
In this paper, the researchers compared those simulations to satellite observations from 2010-2015. Using a transport model, they were able to trace the path of emissions from the atmosphere back to the ground and identify areas across the US where the observations and simulations didn’t match up.
“When we look at emissions from space, we can only see how total emissions from an area should be scaled up or down, but we don’t know the source responsible for those emissions,” said Maasakkers. “Because we spent so much time with the EPA figuring out where these different emissions occur, we could use our transport model to go back and figure out what sources are responsible for those under- or over-estimations in the national total.”
The biggest discrepancy was in emissions from oil and natural gas production. The EPA calculates emission based on processes and equipment. For example, the EPA estimates that a gas pump emits a certain amount of methane, multiplies that by how many pumps are operating across the country, and estimates total emissions from gas pumps.
Methane emissions from the oil/gas sector in the contiguous US in 2012. The figure shows the original EPA estimates for 2012 and the results from the SEAS research.
“That method makes it really hard to get estimates for individual facilities because it is hard to take into account every possible source of emission,” said Maasakkers. “We know that a relatively small number of facilities make up most of the emissions and so there are clearly facilities that are producing more emissions than we would expect from these overall estimates.”
The researchers hope that future work will provide more clarity on exactly where these emissions are coming from and how they are changing. “We plan to continue to monitor U.S. emissions of methane using new high-resolution satellite observations, and to work with the EPA to improve emission inventories,” said Jacob.
“It's important to understand these emissions better but we shouldn’t wait until we fully understand these emissions to start trying to reduce them,” said Maasakkers. “There are already a lot of things that we know we can do to reduce emissions.”
The paper was co-authored by Daniel Jacob, Melissa Sulprizio, Tia R. Scarpelli, Hannah Nesser, Jianxiong Sheng, Yuzhong Zhang, Xiao Lu, A. Anthony Bloom, Kevin Bowman, John Worden, and Robert Parker. The research was funded by the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) program.
Abatement Supervisor Guilty of Illegally Removing Asbestos
According to court documents, during the summer of 2016, Gunay Yakup, 31, of Newburgh, NY joined an existing conspiracy to illegally remove asbestos from a former IBM site in Kingston. The facility in question contained over 400,000 square feet of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM), as well as an additional 6,000 linear feet of RACM pipe wrap. Yakup, who had special asbestos abatement training, was hired as a worker and supervisor by an asbestos abatement company. On the job, he was pressured by other conspirators to expedite the removal of asbestos at the site. Doing so meant that Yakup and his crew violated the Clean Air Act’s “work practice standards,” which address how asbestos can be stripped, bagged, removed, and disposed of with relative safety. Yakup is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27 at 10 a.m. and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
“Nowadays, it can be no surprise that asbestos is present in older commercial and industrial buildings,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “What is surprising is that criminals still try to deal with that problem in dangerous ways to save a little cash. This prosecution serves to remind everyone of the real, personal risks of cutting those corners.”
“Yakup had the supervisor responsibility to ensure his workers properly removed hazardous asbestos material on this large project yet he knowingly broke the law,” said Special Agent Tyler Amon of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Criminal Investigation Division in New York. “Impeding inspectors from discovering the full scale and scope of the illegal conduct is underscored in the serious federal charges plead to today.”
Yakup admitted that he and his co-conspirators removed substantial amounts of RACM from the former IBM site in violation of these work practice standards, oftentimes dry and in a way that produced visible emissions. They also stored bulk quantities of RACM waste on site in open containers. Yakup and his crew were also pressured to do work in areas that were not properly prepped to prevent the release of RACM to the outside air. Upon finding Yakup’s crew working on Aug. 1, 2016, New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) inspectors documented bulk quantities of uncontained RACM inside and outside of containment, dry debris, and evidence of sweeping and other dry removal abatement techniques. NYSDOL inspectors then “red-tagged” the site and prohibited further abatement work.
The site was later deemed to be contaminated by the EPA and municipal authorities. Cleanup costs associated with asbestos contamination at the site are estimated to be in the millions. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Special agents of the EPA and individuals from the New York Departments of Labor and Environmental Conservation investigated the case. Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegal Chloe Harris.
2021 Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Parks Division is celebrating the start of Spring with the 2021 Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge. The Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge began in 2015 to promote hiking in Connecticut’s state parks and forests. This year’s challenge is a great opportunity to hike “Bridges, Footbridges and Boardwalks” that are part of 20 trails within various Connecticut State Parks and Forests. Those who complete the challenge will receive a “Sky’s the Limit” hiking staff medallion and certificate to commemorate their accomplishment.
“Sky’s the Limit is a great way to explore Connecticut’s state parks and forests while joining others in a friendly challenge to visit all 20 locations handpicked by those who know the parks best – the staff of our state parks system,” said DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes. “Our state parks and forests, which are free to enter for those driving Connecticut registered vehicles thanks to the Passport to the Parks
program, are such tremendous resources for us in this state, and their importance was underscored in 2020 by the significant increase in usage we saw due to the pandemic. We anticipate that will continue this spring and summer, and the Sky’s the Limit Challenge is a great way to get acquainted, or re-acquainted with many of our wonderful state parks.”
Participants in this friendly competition have the opportunity to receive a medallion and certificate for hiking to 15 designated locations. For hiking all 20 locations, 50 people will receive a hand-carved hiking staff. Names will be drawn from all who complete the 20 designated hikes.
for more information on this year’s challenge, including the specific locations for taking photographs.
2021 Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge Locations:
- Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill
- Lovers Leap State Park, New Milford
- Silver Sands State Park, Milford
- Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison
- Black Rock State Park, Watertown
- Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth
- Collis P. Huntington State Park,Bethel, Newtown & Redding
- Southford Falls State Park, Oxford
- Wharton Brook State Park, Wallingford
- Wadsworth Falls State Park, Middletown
- Peoples State Forest,Barkhamsted
- Ferry Landing State Park (DEEP Marine Headquarters), Old Lyme
- Kent Falls State Park, Kent
- Cockaponset State Forest, Chester & Haddam
- Sherwood Island State Park, Westport
- Devil's Hopyard State Park, East Haddam
- Stratton Brook State Park, Simsbury
- Salmon River State Forest, Colchester
- Osbornedale State Park, Derby
- Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme
DEEP encouraged every visitor to State Parks and Forests to “Love Your Public Lands” and be environmental stewards. It is important to carry out what you carry in, even if a trash receptacle isn’t in your immediate vicinity. Visitors are encouraged to learn about and practice the philosophies of environmental stewardship programs such as Leave No Trace
to ensure that our public lands remain clean and healthy for the organisms who inhabit them, and the next person visiting them.
Participants are asked to practice safe social distancing when in State Parks or Forests. Keep a minimum of six feet of distance from other people, wear your mask when passing near other people, and allow proper distance when encountering others by ceding the trail to allow others to pass. If you’re not feeling well, stay home.
The Connecticut State Park system was founded in 1913 with the creation of the State Park Commission. One year later the Commission purchased its first land, about four acres in Westport for what became Sherwood Island State Park. Currently, Connecticut has 110 state parks and 32 state forests attracting more than 9 million visitors each year, generating over $1 billion in economic activity for the state and supporting 9,000 private sector jobs. For more information on Connecticut State Parks visit the State Parks page
of the DEEP website, and follow the State Parks accounts on Twitter
, and on Facebook
PFAS Found in Widely Used Insecticide
An insecticide widely used in public mosquito control contains high levels of toxic “forever chemicals,” according to test results
ordered by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN). Because per-and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) do not break down in the environment, their presence in pesticides
represents a new, uncontrolled pollution source. PFAS are associated with liver damage, thyroid disease, developmental issues, reduced fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer. This pesticide is used by Maryland and other states in their mosquito control programs.
“These chemicals are not supposed to be in this insecticide,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney, pointing out that EPA is supposed to regulate pesticide content. “EPA is failing in its job to protect public health and the environment and needs to immediately test all pesticides for the presence of PFAS.”
PEER and MPEN notified EPA, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in a letter
that a sample of the pesticide Permanone 30-30, used by MDA for the state’s annual mosquito control program, contains 3,500 parts per trillion (ppt) of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of thousands of PFAS. The sample also contains approximately 630 ppt of another PFAS, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a replacement for PFOA trademarked as GenX.
EPA currently has a lifetime health advisory of 70 ppt for PFOA. The Member State Committee (MSC) of the European Chemicals Agency has identified HFPO-DA, its salts and acyl halides as substances of very high concern due to their probable serious effects on human health and the environment.
“The presence of PFAS in pesticides raises significant environmental and health concerns,” said Maryland Pesticide Education Network Executive Director Ruth Berlin. “Spraying millions of acres with a chemical that does not break down in the environment, and for which there is no safe means of disposal, is beyond nonsensical. In addition, combining it with Permanone, an endocrine disrupting pesticide linked to cancer and the exacerbation of respiratory illnesses, is unconscionable. We implore EPA and the state of Maryland to halt use of mosquito eradicating pesticides this season until they have tested all such products for PFAS.”
Earlier tests by PEER found PFAS in another widely used insecticide, Anvil 10 +10. After confirming those results, EPA asked states with existing stock of the product to discontinue use, and the manufacturer voluntarily stopped all shipments of the contaminated pesticide. These new findings of PFAS in Permanone 30-30 are problematic because:
- PFOA, one of the chemicals, was supposed to have been phased out by major manufacturers due to growing recognition of its health dangers;
- The groups only tested for 36 PFAS out of the more than 9,000 on EPA’s inventory, so it is not known if other PFAS might be in Permanone 30-30; and
- It is not known whether PFAS were ingredients added by the manufacturer or a supplier, or whether the contamination occurred in storage or transport containers.
Besides conducting its own testing of Permanone 30-30 and its storage containers, the groups want EPA to require pesticide manufacturers to test all their products for PFAS and make those findings public.
OSHA Seeks Damages for Whistleblower Fired for Reporting Unsafe Conditions at Missouri Plant
After a production operator at a carbon fiber manufacturer brought various safety concerns to management, he approached a third-party auditor reviewing operations at the company's St. Peters facility with his concerns. The next day, his employer suspended him.
The worker then filed a safety complaint with OSHA. Fourteen days after the suspension, his employer terminated him.
OSHA investigated the worker's allegation that his employer, Zoltek Corp. fired him in April 2019 in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions. On March 9, 2021, OSHA filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, alleging the company violated the whistleblower statutes when it terminated his employment.
The complaint seeks back wages, reinstatement and damages for the employee, and an order requiring Zoltek Corp. to post a notice regarding employees' rights to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation.
"Commitment to workplace safety should be commended – not punished," said OSHA's Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille in Kansas City, Missouri. "OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program guarantees employees the right to speak out when they believe their safety and health is in jeopardy."
Based in Bridgeton, Zoltek Corp. is a global manufacturer with locations in Utah, Mexico and Hungary. The company disputes the department's allegations.
Merit Energy Cited for SPCC Violations
EPA announced a proposed settlement
with Merit Energy Company (Merit) of Dallas, Texas, resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, and its implementing regulations meant to prevent oil pollution. These violations include failure to comply with Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC
) requirements at a tank battery facility operated by the company in Hot Springs County, Wyoming. As a result of the proposed agreement, Merit will pay a civil penalty of $115,000 to resolve the alleged violations.
The proposed settlement resulted from EPA’s investigation of an oil spill that occurred on June 19, 2018, when Merit released approximately 455 barrels of crude oil from the Stateland Tank Battery Facility into Grass Creek, a tributary of the Big Horn River. In reviewing the spill, EPA discovered deficiencies in Merit’s SPCC plan for the facility. The company has since corrected these deficiencies and submitted an updated plan to EPA, helping ensure the environment and nearby communities are better protected from damaging oil spills.
"Due to the harm oil spills can cause to public health and the environment, every effort must be made to prevent oil spills and to clean them up promptly once they occur," said the EPA Region 8 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director Suzanne Bohan. “We are encouraged by Merit’s actions to come into compliance with the laws and regulations that protect the environment from the damages that can occur when oil is discharged into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.”
The Oil Pollution Prevention requirements of the Clean Water Act are intended to prevent and facilitate the response to the discharge of oil from non-transportation-related onshore facilities. All facilities with 1,320 gallons of oil that have the potential for a spill to reach waters of the United States are required to have an SPCC Plan. The $115,000 penalty will be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a fund used by federal agencies to respond to discharges of oil and hazardous substances.
This proposed Consent Agreement
is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the EPA’s Regional Judicial Officer.
Auto Salvage Company Cited for Storm Water Violations
EPA recently reached an agreement with LKQ Northeast, Inc., a national owner and operator of auto salvage yards, to bring its three Massachusetts salvage yards into compliance with the Clean Water Act and pay penalties for alleged violations of the federal storm water requirements at the facilities.
Under the agreement, LKQ Northeast paid the following penalties for the alleged storm water noncompliance: $129,425 for its Webster facility, $83,000 for its Leominster facility, and $81,000 for its Southwick facility. All of the facilities had either not identified or incorrectly identified stormwater conveyance paths and/or discharge points (outfalls). Additionally, the facilities had conducted inadequate corrective actions to try and mitigate the monitored pollutants as required.
“Developing and following Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans helps companies ensure that they meet the limits and requirements for the discharge of pollutants from industrial activities allowed under their stormwater permits,” said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. “It’s important that companies comply with their permits so that surrounding neighbors and waterways are protected from harmful effects of exposure to pollution.”
Discharge of stormwater associated with industrial activities, including auto salvaging, is regulated under the Clean Water Act’s Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Discharges (MSGP) and state water protection laws. These require permits and actions to minimize discharges of pollutants from these activities to surface waters.
Since issuance of the EPA orders, the company has taken steps to prevent the discharge of pollutants from storm water runoff into Browns Brook (near the Webster facility), Fall and Wekepeke Brooks (near the Leominster facility), and Kellog Brook (near the Southwick facility). These steps include submission of updated storm water pollution prevention plans, implementation and compliance with best management practices to prevent discharges, and fulfillment of all maintenance, monitoring, sampling, inspections, training, and recordkeeping requirements.
Seneca Foods Cited After Worker Suffers Serious Injuries After Being Struck by Forklift
A forklift struck and seriously injured a 60-year-old seasonal employee as she walked toward a pallet to label products for shipping at a Ripon facility where vegetables are canned for Libby’s and several other brands.
A subsequent OSHA investigation led the agency to propose $177,490 in penalties to Seneca Foods Corp. for two repeat and three serious safety violations involving forklift training and machine safety procedures at the canning facility.
In its November 2020 inspection, OSHA also found that another employee had suffered a fractured finger when it was caught in machinery that the company failed to lockout to prevent unintentional movement, as required. OSHA cited Seneca Foods for similar violations in 2019 at its Gillett facility.
“Employers are responsible for ensuring forklift drivers are re-trained after being involved in an accident or near miss,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Bonack in Appleton, Wisconsin. “OSHA has specific regulations for disabling machines and equipment prior to maintenance and service. Injuries can be prevented by ensuring employees receive required training and follow safety procedures.”
Based in Marion, New York, Seneca Foods is one of North America’s leading providers of packaged fruits and vegetables and distributes to more than 90 countries. The company sources from more than 1,600 American farms for sale under the Libby’s, Aunt Nellie’s, Green Valley and Seneca brands.
Texas Hotel Operator Illegally Fired Worker Who Sought Medical Care for Carbon Monoxide Exposure
In January 2019, a worker at a Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel in Waller alerted their employer that exposure to carbon monoxide made them ill and asked the employer to call an ambulance. In addition to refusing the worker’s request, the employer allegedly threatened to terminate the employee. After going to the hospital, the worker was terminated.
Following an investigation on the employee’s behalf, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration filed a lawsuit alleging that the hotel’s operator, All Seasons Hospitality and Investments LLC and its owner, Tanvir Shahmohd fired the employee for engaging in protected activity, in violation of federal law.
“All Seasons Hospitality and Investments LLC and Tanvir Shahmohd violated the employee’s rights by terminating them for reporting unsafe working conditions and seeking medical care,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “The U.S. Department of Labor provides protections for workers who exercise their right to raise safety concerns without the fear of retaliation.”
Filed on March 25, 2021, the department’s suit asks the court to order the defendants to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s anti-retaliation provisions, reinstate the employee, expunge the employee’s personnel record and pay the employee back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies.
“When employers retaliate against their workers for seeking necessary medical treatment, the department will work vigorously to secure the appropriate legal redress for workers,” said Dallas Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater. “The U.S. Department of Labor is dedicated to ensuring safe and healthful working conditions in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
Chesapeake Appalachia Cited for Dredge and Fill Violations
In a settlement agreement with the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chesapeake Appalachia LLC (CALLC) has resolved a federal-state lawsuit, alleging Clean Water Act violations disclosed by CALLC at 76 locations in Pennsylvania.
In a consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, CALLC has agreed to pay a $1.9 million penalty for violating federal and state clean water laws, and to restore or mitigate harm to the impacted water resources.
Under Clean Water Act Section 404, as well as state permit requirements, permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) are required before dredged or fill material may be discharged into wetlands or waterways.
In 2014, CALLC informed EPA, the Army Corps and PADEP that an internal audit had identified potential unauthorized discharges of fill material without applicable permits at multiple sites in the Commonwealth.
Following lengthy negotiations and multiple site visits by EPA, PADEP and the Army Corps, the company ultimately disclosed potential unauthorized discharges at a total of 76 sites across Pennsylvania, impacting about 26 acres of wetlands and 2,326 linear feet of streams.
As part of the settlement, CALLC (or its successor) will either seek after-the-fact authorization from the Army Corps and/or PADEP as appropriate to leave the fill in place, or CALLC will restore the impacted wetlands or waterways. In all cases, the impacted water resource either will be restored or the environmental harm will be offset through off-site compensatory mitigation.
“This substantial federal-state settlement highlights the cooperative efforts of EPA and PADEP to protect the Commonwealth’s waters and wetlands,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Acting Regional Administrator Diana Esher. “These natural areas are critical ecological and economic resources for all Pennsylvanians.”
CALLC is a subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of America’s largest oil and gas exploration and production companies. On June 28, 2020, Chesapeake Energy and its affiliated entities, including CALLC, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Texas.
Filling wetlands illegally and damming streams can result in serious environmental consequences. Streams, rivers, and wetlands benefit the environment by reducing flood risks, filtering pollutants, recharging groundwater and drinking water supplies, and providing food and habitat for aquatic species. Any person, firm or agency planning to work in, or discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S., including wetlands, must first obtain a permit from the Army Corps. Compliance with the Army Corps’ permit process and regulations helps to ensure that enforcement actions like this one do not occur.
The consent decree
, lodged in federal court in Williamsport, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Former Sioux City Council Member Pleads Guilty to Environmental Crimes
Aaron Rochester, 47, from Sioux City, Iowa, was convicted of one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of transportation of hazardous waste.
At the plea hearing, Rochester admitted that beginning on or about June 2015 through about January 2017, as owner and operator of Recycletronics, he knowingly and unlawfully stored and transported hazardous waste, namely CRTs (cathode ray tubes) and leaded glass from televisions and computers at various facilities in and around Sioux City, Iowa.
Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Rochester remains free on bond previously set pending sentencing. Rochester faces a possible maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of up to $50,000 for each day of the violation, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
“If improperly managed, hazardous waste can pose serious risks to human health and the environment,” said Lance Ehrig, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Iowa. “The defendant’s illegal transportation and storage practices significantly threatened and burdened nearby communities and the environment. The plea demonstrates that those who knowingly violate our nation’s environmental laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn S. Wehde and was investigated by the EPA.
Ice Company Fined, Required to Remedy Clean Air Act Violations
J.P. Lillis Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Cape Cod Ice, a cold storage warehouse and ice manufacturing facility that stores over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its facility on the banks of the Seekonk River, was fined $90,000 an placed on federal probation for three years by a federal court judge in Providence for repeatedly failing to implement a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to be executed in the event of an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous substance.
The facility, located in an industrial area adjacent to residential area, and in the vicinity of an elementary school, was assessed civil penalties by the EPA as far back as 2012 for failing to develop and submit an RMP, and since has repeatedly been found to contain equipment in need of repair to avoid a potential release of anhydrous ammonia.
Subsequent inspections by EPA, OSHA, and the East Providence Fire Department found the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high- pressure ammonia receiver; the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes; and inadequate inspection, testing, and maintenance of the ammonia piping and receiver.
Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus and Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation’s Division Boston Area Office announced that in addition to a $90,000 fine imposed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., Cape Cod Ice will, within 90 days, engage a qualified independent ammonia refrigeration consultant to conduct an audit that (1) evaluates Cape Cod Ice’s compliance with the Clean Air Act and address deficiencies identified by the EPA, OSHA, and East Providence Fire Department and (2) includes a required maintenance inspection program.
Acting United States Attorney Myrus said, “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to working with EPA to ensure that companies doing business in Rhode Island fully comply with the Clean Air Act. Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause serious health issues. The resolution will help to mitigate the risk of accidental release of ammonia by ensuring that Cape Cod Ice conducts a thorough third-party audit of its ammonia refrigeration system and implements an appropriate Risk Management Plan under the Clean Air Act.”
"Protecting Rhode Island communities from hazardous chemical releases is a priority for EPA" said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. "Today's sentence emphasizes the importance of companies abiding by Risk Management Plans (RMP), put in place to protect workers, emergency responders and the surrounding residents."
Cape Cod Ice is required to submit to the United States Attorney’s Office and to United States Probation within 30 days of the completion of the audit an action plan to address the findings of the audit and a timeline of completion of actions to be taken by the company.
In January of 2017, EPA sent a letter to Cape Code Ice, urging Cape Cod Ice to ensure compliance with the RMP requirements. In April of 2017, EPA inspected the facility and again observed numerous violations of the RMP and PSM regulations, including the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high-pressure ammonia receiver, and the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes. In June of 2017, EPA also issued an Administrative Compliance Order to Cape Cod Ice.
In May of 2017, the East Providence Fire Department inspected the facility and issued a Notice of Violation finding, among other things, that ammonia piping was rusted and showed signs of excessive corrosion, with areas that had moldy insulation or no insulation; and that the ammonia receiver was corroded. The Fire Department ordered the facility to come into compliance. Cape Cod Ice has submitted reports to the East Providence Fire Department and to EPA indicating that it has taken steps to bring the facility into compliance.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly, with the assistance of Dianne Chabot, EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel.
The matter was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.
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