Regulations Proposed to Plan for Hazardous Substance Discharges in Adverse Weather Conditions

March 21, 2022
The EPA recently proposed new requirements for certain facilities to plan for worst-case discharges of Clean Water Act (CWA) hazardous substances. A worst-case discharge is the largest foreseeable discharge in adverse weather conditions, including those due to climate change. Facilities subject to the proposed rule are required to prepare response plans for worst-case discharges, or threat of such discharges, and submit them to EPA. This action advances the Agency’s goal of addressing climate change by appropriately adapting planning efforts.
“As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, planning and preparedness for these incidents are especially important,” said Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. “This action will help protect the environment and public health from releases of Clean Water Act hazardous substances, particularly in communities with environmental justice concerns, which are disproportionately located in proximity to industrial facilities.”
The response plan requirements are an important tool for communities and first responders to ensure preparedness in the event of a worst-case discharge of hazardous substances. The proposed rule discusses the various components that comprise response plans, including hazard evaluation, personnel roles and responsibilities, response actions, and drills and exercises.
The proposed rule would apply to facilities that could reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm to the environment, based on their location. These include industrial facilities with a maximum capacity on site of any CWA hazardous substances that meets or exceeds established threshold quantities, located within a 0.5-mile radius of navigable water or a conveyance to navigable water, and that meet one or more substantial harm criteria.
The proposed action considers increased risks of worst-case discharges from climate change as well as impacts to communities with environmental justice concerns. Furthermore, the Agency is soliciting comment on additional strategies to take these concerns into account.
EPA is taking public comment on the proposed rule until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted at (Docket No.: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2021-0585).
EPA Proposes ‘Good Neighbor’ Plan to Cut Smog Across Much of the United States
Following clear Clean Air Act requirements and meeting a court deadline, EPA is proposing a federal plan that would cut pollution from power plants and industrial sources that significantly contribute to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, or smog, for millions of Americans who live downwind. Relying on a longstanding regulatory framework and commonly used, affordable pollution controls, this action would help states fully resolve their Clean Air Act “good neighbor” obligations for the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), enhancing public health and environmental protections regionally and for local communities.
“Following the science and the law, this ‘good neighbor’ plan will better protect the health of Americans across the country,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line. This step will help our state partners meet air quality health standards, saving lives and improving public health in smog-affected communities across the United States.”
EPA’s proposal builds upon a combination of proven approaches to limit ozone season emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone. Beginning in 2023, EPA is proposing to include electric generating units in 25 states in the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) NOx Ozone Season Group 3 Trading Program, which would be revised and strengthened for the 2015 ozone NAAQS. And, beginning in 2026, EPA is proposing emissions standards for certain industrial sources in 23 states that have a significant impact on downwind air quality. EPA’s proposed limits on health-harming pollution from power plants and industrial sources reflect the installation and operation of proven, cost-effective emission controls, which in many cases have been implemented for years in numerous states.
Together, these NOx control strategies would achieve health and environmental benefits that far outweigh the costs. In 2026, EPA projects that the proposed rule would prevent approximately 1,000 premature deaths and avoid more than 2,000 hospital and emergency room visits, 1.3 million cases of asthma symptoms, and 470,000 school absence days. Reducing ozone levels also would improve visibility in national and state parks and increase protection for sensitive ecosystems, coastal waters, estuaries, and forests.
In 2026, the cost of achieving these reductions would be approximately $1.1 billion (2016$), a fraction of the estimated value of the benefits. EPA estimates the monetized benefits in 2026 would be at least $9.3 billion and could be as high as $18 billion (2016$, 3 percent discount rate). Annually, the monetized net benefits of EPA’s proposed Federal Plan would be $15 billion (2016$, 3 percent discount rate) each year over the period from 2023 to 2042.
EPA’s proposed limits on NOx pollution from power plants would build upon the demonstrated success of existing CSAPR trading programs by including additional features that promote consistent operation of emission controls to enhance public health and environmental protection for the region and for local communities. These features include daily emissions rate limits on large coal-fired units to promote more consistent operation and optimization of emissions controls, limits on “banking” of allowances, and annual updates to the emission budgets starting in 2025 to account for changes in the generating fleet.
EPA evaluated air quality modeling, annual emissions, and information about potential controls to determine which industries beyond the power sector could have the greatest impact in providing ozone air quality improvements in affected downwind states. As a result, EPA is proposing emissions standards for new and existing emissions units in these selected industries:
  • Reciprocating internal combustion engines in Pipeline Transportation of Natural Gas
  • Kilns in Cement and Cement Product Manufacturing
  • Boilers and furnaces in Iron and Steel Mills and Ferroalloy Manufacturing
  • Furnaces in Glass and Glass Product Manufacturing
  • High-emitting, large boilers in Basic Chemical Manufacturing, Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, and Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Mills
This proposal implements the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” or “interstate transport” provision, which requires each state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that ensures sources within the state do not contribute significantly to nonattainment or interfere with maintenance of the NAAQS in other states. Each state must make this new SIP submission within 3 years after promulgation of a new or revised NAAQS.
Where EPA finds that a state has not submitted a good neighbor SIP, or if the EPA disapproves the SIP, the EPA must issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) within two years to assure downwind states are protected. EPA is in the process of reviewing and acting on SIP submissions from the relevant states covered by this proposal.
EPA will take comment on the proposed rule for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The Agency also will hold a virtual public hearing.
New OSHA Page Collects Resources for Oil Spill Emergencies
A new safety and health topic page published by OSHA collects information on occupational health and safety issues related to emergency preparedness and response for oil spills. Workers and employers can visit the page to learn about the National Contingency Plan, which contains regulations for managing and responding to oil spills and other hazardous substance releases; how OSHA’s standard on hazardous waste operations and emergency response applies during oil spill emergencies; and the agency’s role in oil spill response, which includes enforcement, compliance assistance, and technical assistance activities. The new page also addresses equipping and training emergency response workers as well as workers in other industries like commercial fishing that could be affected by oil spills. A separate section covers topics such as exposure assessment and monitoring, personal protective equipment, decontamination, and medical surveillance and management.
According to OSHA, the Incident Command System (ICS) is used for managing oil spill responses. As described in the April 2021 article “Taking Command of Emergency Response,” ICS is “a management system that provides a clear and concise framework for planning for, responding to, and controlling an emergency incident.” Industrial hygienists and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals can read more about their role in preparing for and responding to emergency incidents in the digital Synergist.
Recent examples of oil spills in the United States include a Dec. 27, 2021, spill near New Orleans, Louisiana, caused by a corroded pipeline rupture and a crude oil spill from a pipeline leak off the coast of California in October 2021. Internationally, a major oil spill in Peru first made headlines in January when thousands of barrels of oil were spilled as a tanker was pumping crude oil into a refinery.
Settlement Proposed to Resolve Federal Hazardous Waste and Oil Spill Prevention Violations
The Department of Justice and the EPA announced a proposed settlement with the North Slope Borough of Alaska to resolve federal hazardous waste and oil spill violations. The settlement requires the Borough to take comprehensive actions and make infrastructure investments to comply with solid and hazardous waste management rules and oil spill prevention rules. The Borough will also hire an independent third-party auditor to ensure that the compliance requirements in the settlement are successfully implemented and pay a civil penalty of $6.5 million.
A multi-year environmental investigation of the Borough uncovered violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which regulates solid and hazardous waste, and the Clean Water Act (CWA) at numerous facilities owned and operated by the Borough in Utqiagvik, Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. Many of the violations resulted from the Borough’s failure to properly manage and store thousands of drums of oil and hazardous waste in these communities, some of which led to oil spills.
“Today’s settlement will ensure that the Borough completely upgrades its waste and oil management practices to protect its residents and future generations from exposure to hazardous waste and to prevent spills to the surrounding environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The work to be performed under this settlement will protect the vital tundra wetlands and waterways that surround many of the Borough’s communities.”
“When improperly managed, hazardous wastes and oil can damage the environment and pose a health risk to those who come into contact,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will help protect the health of the communities and the sensitive ecosystems in the North Slope Borough.”
The alleged RCRA violations include the Borough’s unpermitted storage of hazardous waste; failure to identify and characterize hazardous waste; unauthorized transport of hazardous waste; shipment of hazardous waste without proper manifesting and land disposal restriction notices; non-compliant management of universal wastes; and failure to properly label used oil containers. Numerous drums of solid and hazardous waste were improperly stored outdoors, accessible to Borough residents and exposed to the environment. Some drums contained corrosive, ignitable, or toxic waste and were not properly labeled as hazardous.
In addition, the Borough failed to safely store and manage oil in accordance with the CWA’s Oil Pollution Prevention regulations, intended to prevent oil spills, at 70 of its facilities. The violations contributed to at least two oil spills into wetlands near the Kasegaluk Lagoon, Kaktovik Lagoon and Pipsuk Bight. Oil spills in this sensitive arctic tundra habitat can harm fish and other wildlife, as well as downstream waters which are important to Native Alaskans, including for subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering.
To resolve the alleged violations and come into compliance with federal requirements, the Borough has agreed to close all unpermitted hazardous waste storage facilities; develop a comprehensive waste management plan to minimize generation of and ensure proper tracking and management of solid and  hazardous waste; build or retrofit a permitted hazardous waste storage facility; revise its CWA Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan; install adequate secondary containment around oil storage containers; and develop an integrity testing program for oil storage containers that complies with applicable industry standards. The Borough has also agreed to identify a full-time environmental official and will hire an independent third-party auditor to ensure that the compliance requirements in the consent decree are successfully implemented.
The Borough’s compliance actions represent a significant investment in its waste management and pollution prevention programs to help protect the residents of the North Slope and their environment from exposure to oil spills and hazardous waste. The Borough began making improvements to its hazardous waste management and oil storage programs during negotiations for the proposed settlement.
The North Slope Borough is the northernmost municipality in the United States and the largest of Alaska’s 19 organized boroughs. It includes nearly 95,000 square miles and is bordered to the west by the Chukchi Sea and to the east by the Beaufort Sea. Most of its residents live in eight communities throughout the Borough: Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Utqiagvik, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay and Wainwright, in addition to two industrial complexes at Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. EPA has taken two previous administrative enforcement actions against the Borough in 1998 and 2015 for RCRA hazardous waste management, storage and treatment violations.
Concrete Supplier Fined for Serious Safety, Health Violations Following Worker Fatality
A federal investigation by OSHA found that a Smithfield company could have prevented a worker from suffering fatal head injuries while the worker repaired a cement truck on Oct. 21, 2021.
OSHA determined that, as the worker installed a fabricated plate onto the chute into the drum on the cement truck, the drum began to turn. The mixing fins inside the drum caught the worker’s head and caused fatal injuries.
The agency found that Greenville Ready Mix Concrete Products, Inc. did not establish a lockout/tagout program to prevent the cement truck drum from operating while employees serviced or maintained it, did not train employees in lockout/tagout procedures and did not conduct periodic inspections to ensure proper procedures were followed.
OSHA also found that the company did not evaluate the workplace for permit-required confined spaces, such as inside cement truck drums, failed to provide and ensure that employees used fall protection while working on cement truck platforms and exposed workers to both silica dust and rotating drums and augers.
The agency issued citations for six serious safety and health violations and proposed $43,506 in penalties.
“This tragedy highlights the dangers of not ensuring lockout/tagout procedures are implemented before workers begin servicing machinery,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Sestito in Providence, Rhode Island. “Complying with OSHA standards is not optional. Employers have an obligation to abate all hazards to protect the safety and health of their workers.”
EPA Announces the ‘Clean Air in Buildings Challenge’ to Help Improve Indoor Air Quality
As part of President Biden’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan released March 3rd, the EPA is releasing the “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,” a call to action and a concise set of guiding principles and actions to assist building owners and operators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge highlights a range of recommendations and resources available to assist with improving ventilation and indoor air quality, which can help to better protect the health of building occupants and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
"Protecting our public health means improving our indoor air quality. Today, EPA is following through on President Biden’s plan to move our nation forward in a healthy, sustainable way as we fight COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, building managers and facility staff have been on the frontlines implementing approaches to protect and improve indoor air quality to reduce risks and keep their occupants safe and healthy, and we are so grateful for their efforts,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is an important part of helping us all to breathe easier."
Infectious diseases like COVID-19 can spread through the inhalation of airborne particles and aerosols. In addition to other layered prevention strategies like vaccination, actions to improve ventilation, filtration and other proven air cleaning strategies can reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and other contaminants, and improve indoor air quality and the health of building occupants.
Key actions outlined in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge include:
  • Create a clean indoor air action plan
  • Optimize fresh air ventilation
  • Enhance air filtration and cleaning
  • Conduct community engagement, communication and education
While the recommended actions cannot completely eliminate risks, they will reduce them. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge presents options and best practices for building owners and operators to choose from, and the best combination of actions for a building will vary by space and location. Such steps would depend upon public health guidance; who and how many people are in the building; the activities that occur in the building; outdoor air quality; climate; weather conditions; the installed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and other factors. American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds can be used to supplement investments in ventilation and indoor air quality improvements in public settings.
WaterSense Program Encourages Homeowners to Join Fix a Leak Week and Save Water
The EPA WaterSense program and its partners are encouraging Americans to participate in the 14th annual Fix a Leak Week, by finding and fixing plumbing and irrigation leaks around homes and businesses. The average household's leaks can account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, but many of these leaks can be easily avoided with regular maintenance or fixed when they are identified.
“Checking our home and workplace for leaks is an easy step we can all take to do our part in water conservation, helping both the environment and our wallet,” said Director of the Office of Wastewater Management Andrew Sawyers. “By reducing the amount of water we use, we reduce the amount of energy needed to treat it and strengthen our water supplies, both of which can reduce impacts of climate change.”
Taking place March 14 through March 20, 2022, Fix a Leak Week is an annual opportunity for EPA and its program partners, including water utilities and local governments, to engage with consumers on the important role they play in controlling water waste. From running toilets to dripping faucets and showerheads to outdoor irrigation systems, leaks waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water a year. For more information about finding and fixing leaks, visit Fix a Leak Week.
If any fixtures require replacement, look for models that have earned EPA’s WaterSense label. From toilets and faucets to showerheads and sprinklers, WaterSense labeled products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models.
Since 2006, WaterSense has helped to protect the nation's water supply by offering Americans simple ways to use less water. WaterSense is both a label to help consumers identify water-efficient products and a resource to help consumers and businesses save water. The program has more than 2,000 partners, including water utilities, local governments, manufacturers, retailers, organizations, and builders.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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