New Revisions to EPA’s Risk Management Rule

January 09, 2017

EPA has finalized amendments to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r)(7). The amendments aim to modernize EPA's RMP regulations as required under Executive Order (EO) 13650. EO 13650 directs the federal government to carry out a number of tasks intended to prevent chemical incidents, such as the explosion in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013.

The amendments are intended to:

  • Address and improve accident prevention program elements
  • Enhance the emergency preparedness requirements
  • Ensure LEPCs (Local Emergency Planning Committees), local emergency response officials, and the public can access information in a user-friendly format to help them understand the risks at RMP facilities and better prepare for emergencies

EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, signed the final rule on 12/21/2016, and EPA has submitted the rule for publication in the Federal Register (FR). The pre-publication version of the rule is not the official version of the rule for purposes of compliance. Please refer to the official version in a forthcoming FR publication, which will appear on the Government Printing Office's FDsys website (http://fdsys.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/home.action). Once the official version of this document is published in the FR, this version will be removed from the Internet and replaced with a link to the official version.

On August 1, 2013, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security following several catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the United States. The focus of the EO was to reduce risks associated with hazardous chemicals to owners and operators, workers, and communities by enhancing the safety and security of chemical facilities.

For additional information on the new RMP requirements, see EPA’s Frequent Questions.

Columbia RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Columbia, SC, on January 17–19 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Atlanta RCRA, DOT, and SARA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Atlanta, GA, on January 24–26. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 27. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Indianapolis RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Indianapolis, IN, on January 31–February 1. If you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on February 2. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.

EPA Prohibits 72 Inert Ingredients from Use in Pesticides

EPA has removed 72 ingredients from its list of ingredients approved for use in pesticide products.

Manufacturers wishing to use these ingredients in the future will have to provide EPA with studies or information to demonstrate their safety. EPA will then consider whether to allow their use.

EPA took this action in response to petitions by the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and others. These groups asked the agency to issue a rule requiring disclosure of 371 inert ingredients found in pesticide products. Instead, EPA will evaluate potential risks of inert ingredients and reduce risks, as appropriate.

Many of the 72 inert ingredients removed with this action are on the list of 371 identified by the petitioners as hazardous. EPA is taking this action after considering public comments on its October 2014 proposal. EPA’s list of approved inert ingredients will be updated after the Federal Register publication.

Most pesticide products contain a mixture of different ingredients. Ingredients that are directly responsible for controlling pests such as insects or weeds are called active ingredients. An inert ingredient is any other substance that is intentionally included in a pesticide that is not an active ingredient.

The list of 72 chemicals is available at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0558-0056.

For EPA’s current approach on inert ingredients and the May 22, 2014, response to the petitioners: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0558-0003

For general information on inert ingredients: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/inert-ingredients-overview-and-guidance.

EPA to Require Natural Gas Processing Facilities Submit Toxics Release Inventory Reports

EPA has proposed to add natural gas processing (NGP) facilities (also known as natural gas liquid extraction facilities) to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the reporting requirements of Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA).

According to the agency, adding these facilities would meaningfully increase the information available to the public on releases and other waste management of listed chemicals from the natural gas processing sector and further the purposes of EPCRA Section 313. EPA estimates that at least 282 NGP facilities in the U.S. would meet the TRI employee threshold (10 full- time employees or equivalent) and manufacture, process, or otherwise use (threshold activities) at least one TRI-listed chemical in excess of applicable threshold quantities. NGP facilities in the U.S. manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than 21 different TRI- listed chemicals, including n-hexane, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, benzene, xylene, and methanol. EPA expects that TRI reporting by U.S. NGP facilities would provide significant release and waste management data on these chemicals to the public.

New Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determination Website

EPA has launched an interactive website to gather, display, and map Clean Water Act jurisdictional determinations finalized since August 28, 2015. The website demonstrates the commitment to increase transparency on Clean Water Act jurisdiction made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. The website displays jurisdictional determinations that were issued under the Clean Water Rule and under the prior regulations in effect while the implementation of the Clean Water Rule has been temporarily stayed by the courts. The website does not display all waters of the U.S. subject to the Clean Water Act, only those for which a jurisdictional determination has been requested.

The website will increase public understanding of the types of waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act. A key component of making the agencies’ programs more consistent, predictable, and environmentally effective is to increase the public’s access to information about how jurisdictional decisions are made. The website can assist landowners by providing information about the locations and types of resources that are and are not protected by the Clean Water Act, where such information has already been requested through a jurisdictional determination. The website was developed in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and it enables users to search, sort, map, and view information from jurisdictional determinations from both agencies. The website only makes use of publicly available information.

EPA Finalizes Clean Water Act Methods to Measure Pollutants in Wastewater

EPA has issued a final rule approving additional analytical methods or test procedures to be used to measure pollutants in wastewater. Regulated and regulatory entities use these methods to determine compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits or other Clean Water Act monitoring requirements. Often, these entities have a choice in deciding which approved method they will use to measure a pollutant. EPA periodically updates the list of approved methods to reflect advances in technology, refine quality assurance and quality control requirements, and provide entities more choices of approved compliance monitoring methods. EPA is also clarifying the approval process for alternate test procedures and is making revisions to the method detection limit procedure.

Michigan DEQ Updates Air Permitting Rules

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) recently announced the formal update of air program rules that provide strong protection of public health by regulating toxic chemicals in industrial air emissions. These updates make the rules clearer and less burdensome for companies with emissions that do not pose a danger to the public, and make the agency’s chemical toxicity assessments more transparent.

This action finalizes a review of Michigan’s air permitting rules that began with Governor Snyder’s Environmental Advisory Rules Committee in 2011. The MDEQ formed additional stakeholder workgroups to develop recommended changes to the rules, and underwent a public review and comment process which resulted in several thousand comments. Significant public concerns were expressed during the public comment period urging the MDEQ to retain the broad authority to review the health effects of all chemicals released into our air from new and modified facilities. These final rules include updates and clarifications, yet keep in place the strong emphasis on protection of health the MDEQ has employed in the air program for the last 25 years.

“Environmental regulations need not be a cacophony of nuance and complexity,” says MDEQ Air Quality Division Chief Lynn Fiedler. “Here, we and our stakeholders have taken one of our strongest regulations and made it more transparent.”

Originally established in 1992, the air toxics rules require a review and analysis of toxic air contaminant (TAC) from new and modified sources Permit to Install. Updates to the rules include new public review opportunities on toxic screening levels, removal of obsolete dates in the Renewable Operation Permit rules, and minor changes to the rules identifying small air pollution sources not required to obtain a Permit to Install.

EPA Proposal to Modify Criteria for Lead Free Plumbing Products

EPA published a proposal to update existing regulations as outlined in the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act to modify the definition of lead free plumbing products (e.g., pipes, pipe fittings, and fixtures) from 8.0% lead content to 0.25%. The proposal also includes labeling and packaging requirements that will allow consumers to identify plumbing devices that meet the new “lead free” definition.

Labeling and package markings can reduce the likelihood that non-lead free products are used in plumbing that is intended for drinking water use. Additionally, the proposal provides information regarding how manufacturers should document that they are meeting these new requirements. EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Help Protect Your Family from Lung Cancer: Test and Know Your Home’s Radon Level

January is National Radon Action Month, when the EPA joins with state, tribal, and local public health agencies to encourage all Americans to test their homes for radon. Exposure to radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Test your home and make 2017 a safer and healthier year.

“January is the time when we remind everyone to ‘test, fix, and save a life.’ That’s because lung cancer due to radon can be prevented by testing, and if needed, fixing your home. It’s a simple and important way to help safeguard your family’s health,” said Jon Edwards, Director of EPA’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air. “Testing is inexpensive and test kits are readily available and easy to use. Reducing your family’s exposure to radon provides peace of mind, knowing that you’re doing the right thing to help avoid the toll taken by radon-induced lung cancer.”

Every year an estimated 21,000 Americans die from lung cancer due to radon exposure. There’s only one way to know whether your home has an elevated radon level: testing for it. If the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air or more, the U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend taking action to fix your home. With a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, you should contact a qualified radon mitigation contractor.

Easy to use do-it-yourself radon test kits are affordable and available online and at many home improvement and hardware stores. You can also hire a qualified radon professional. Testing may show your home to have a high radon level. If so, a professionally installed radon reduction system, using a vent pipe and exhaust fan, will help prevent the radon from entering your home and will discharge it outside. When compared with risk of lung cancer, these systems are very affordable, generally in the price range of many common home improvements.

Reducing your exposure to radon is a long-term investment in your health and your home. A mitigation system in good working order is a positive selling point when placing your home on the market; in many areas radon testing is a routine part of a home sale. Are you buying a new home? Ask the seller if the home has been tested recently. If the results are high, the costs to fix it can be factored into the sale. Thinking of building a new home? Work with your builder to include radon-resistant construction techniques.

Strategies to reduce radon exposure, like those above, are included in the National Radon Action Plan. The Plan was launched in November 2015 by EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, and nine national non-governmental organizations. This national partnership coordinates radon reduction efforts and resources. The Plan’s goal is to prevent 3,200 lung cancer deaths annually by 2020.

To learn more about testing or obtaining a radon test kit, contact your state radon office at 1-800-SOS-RADON.

EPA State of the Science on the Toxic Effects of Plastics in Water on Wildlife

The amount of plastic debris, such as plastic bags and microbeads, entering marine and freshwater environments has increased significantly since the mass-production of plastics began in the 1940s and 1950s. The effect of plastic on aquatic organisms is not well understood beyond the obvious physical impacts. EPA has published a white paper to identify a state of the science on the toxicological effects of plastics and their associated chemicals on aquatic-dependent wildlife and aquatic life. The publication also identifies opportunities for research to improve the understanding of potential toxic impacts of plastic ingestion throughout the food web.

EPA Rebates to Fund Cleaner School Buses in 88 Communities

The EPA recently awarded more than $7.7 million to replace or retrofit 401 older diesel school buses. The funds are going to 88 school bus fleets in 27 states, each of which will receive rebates through EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding. The new and retrofitted buses will reduce pollutants that are linked to health problems such as asthma and lung damage.

“Thanks to DERA funding, we are protecting our children from breathing diesel emissions as they travel to school,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Nearly 17,000 of our country's schools are located within steps of a heavily traveled road, potentially exposing more than six million children to traffic-related pollution at a time when their developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.”

Applicants replacing buses with engine model years of 2006 and older will receive rebates between $15,000 and $25,000, depending on the size of the bus. Applicants also had the option of retrofitting school buses with engine model years between 1994 to 2006 with a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst plus Closed Crankcase Ventilation system (DOC plus CCV) to reduce toxic emissions. EPA will fully fund the cost of these devices up to $4,000.

EPA has implemented standards to make newer diesel engines more than 90% cleaner, but many older diesel school buses are still operating. These older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are linked to instances of aggravated asthma, lung damage, and other serious health problems.

Since 2008, the DERA program has funded more than 700 clean diesel projects across the country, reducing emissions in more than 70,000 engines.

Click here for a list of recipients.

Utah DEQ Releases Annual Environmental Report for 2016

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its annual State of the Environment Report. This end-of-year report provides a comprehensive look at agency activities and initiatives in 2016 that improved Utah’s environment, quality of life and created new economic opportunities.

“Our employees work tirelessly to improve the lives of all Utahns and safeguard Utah’s air, land, and water to support human health, a vibrant economy, and our unsurpassed quality of life,” said Alan Matheson, executive director at DEQ. “This year’s report provides a synopsis of what we do every day to ensure the health and well-being of the people of Utah residents.”

The report highlights DEQ successes the past year, including:

  • Air quality research projects funded by the Legislature that help DEQ scientists understand the complex chemical reactions behind the formation of fine particulates (PM2.5) during winter inversions and identify effective control technologies that reduce pollution and support economic development
  • A collaborative effort between DEQ, the Bingham Research Center, and the Tri-County Health Department that uses innovative technology to track down leaks in storage tanks at oil and gas wells in the Uinta Basin. This effort was partially funded by a $150,000 legislative appropriation.
  • Multi-agency coordination, sampling, and daily updates on harmful algal blooms on some state water to protect the public from the adverse health effects of exposure to cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins
  • Provided funding of $797,500 for drinking-water system master plans and engineering studies, and another $44.6 million to 18 drinking-water systems for construction projects to ensure safe, clean drinking water for Utah residents
  • Education and outreach on the dangers of radon gas, found at unhealthy levels in one in three Utah homes, that led approximately 8,000 Utah residents to get their homes tested
  • Assistance to Centro Civico Mexicano with a cleanup grant that will help develop affordable senior housing and a civic center on formerly contaminated land

“One of the defining characteristics of Utah is our stewardship ethic—a drive to leave the world better for those who follow,” says Matheson. “We at DEQ share that drive and pledge to continue our work to create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous Utah.”

Pennsylvania DEP Engineer Honored with National Award for Coal Refuse Reclamation

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) mining engineer Craig Burda was honored with a national award for his outstanding work in coal refuse reclamation by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) at an event hosted by DEP on Wednesday, January 4, 2017.

Burda, who has worked for the DEP California District Mining Office for 21 years, received the 2017 ECHO Award for leading industry coal refuse reclamation in Pennsylvania to the point where the majority of coal refuse sites in the state are now permitted as zero-discharge facilities. Refuse piles have the potential to produce some of the worst acid mine drainage of any type of coal facility.

The ECHO Award honors dedication to public service and protection of society; sustained, strategic engagement in difficult challenges; nonpartisanship; and major contributions to and improved implementation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.

“Throughout his career, Craig Burda has continually ensured higher environmental protection standards for communities,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “In each and every permitting decision, he’s deployed outstanding technical expertise, great integrity and fortitude, and deep skill in partnering with industry to protect the health and environment of our coal communities. He has raised the bar on coal refuse reclamation in Pennsylvania.”

Burda saw the ongoing threat of acid mine drainage (AMD) coming from permitted coal waste facilities. His analysis of groundwater data to show how past reclamation techniques were inadequate to prevent AMD and his understanding of the law and engineering needed to eliminate AMD led to a change in how Pennsylvania permits coal refuse sites. Today, after reclamation is completed, these sites discharge no AMD into ground or surface water.

Burda was presented the award by OSMRE director Joe Pizarchik. “I take great pleasure in recognizing someone who has fully embraced what the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act clearly targets,” said Pizarchik. “Craig’s efforts show that even someone working out of the public eye can have a terrific impact on protecting people and the environment.”

“As an integral member of the Department of Environmental Protection, your knowledge and expertise has been a solid voice for change throughout the community,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a congratulatory greeting. “I commend your commitment to public policy advocacy and your unparalleled proficiency in issue management and standard setting.”

The ECHO award was presented to Burda at a gathering of his colleagues at DEP headquarters in the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg.

Environmental News Links

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Hazardous Materials Cargo to Be Counted in Central Illinois

Trivia Question of the Week

What percentage of Earth’s water is frozen?

a. 0.7%

b. 1.7%

c. 3.7%

d. 5.7%

Answer