Revisions to Endangered Species Act Ahead

July 23, 2018
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries has proposed revisions to certain regulations to incorporate public input, best science and what the agencies describe as best practices to improve reliability, regulatory efficiency and environmental stewardship.
“The Trump Administration is dedicated to being a good neighbor and being a better partner with the communities in which we operate. One thing we heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate. We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “We value public input and have already incorporated initial public comments we received in response to our notices of intent published in 2017. We encourage the public to provide us additional feedback to help us finalize these rules.”
“We work to ensure effective conservation measures to recover our most imperiled species,” said Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. “The changes being proposed today are designed to bring additional clarity and consistency to the implementation of the act across our agencies, and we look forward to additional feedback from the public as part of this process.”
Several proposed changes relate to section 4 of the ESA, which deals with procedures for listing species, recovery and designating critical habitat (areas essential to support the conservation of a species). First, the agencies propose to revise the procedures for designating critical habitat by reinstating the requirement that they will first evaluate areas currently occupied by the species before considering unoccupied areas. Second, the agencies propose to clarify when they may determine unoccupied areas are essential to the conservation of the species.
While the agencies recognize the value of critical habitat as a conservation tool, in some cases, designation of critical habitat is not prudent. Accordingly, they are proposing a non-exhaustive list of circumstances where they may find that designation for a particular species would not be prudent. The agencies anticipate that such not-prudent determinations will continue to be rare and expect to designate critical habitat in most cases.
The ESA defines a threatened species as one that is likely to become in danger of extinction within the “foreseeable future.” For the first time, the agencies are proposing an interpretation of “foreseeable future” to make it clear that it extends only as far as they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are probable.
The agencies are also clarifying that decisions to delist a species are made using the same standard as decisions to list species. In both cases, that standard is whether a species meets the established ESA definition of an endangered species or threatened species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is separately proposing to rescind its blanket rule under section 4(d) of the ESA, which automatically conveyed the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. This brings its regulatory approach to threatened species protections in line with NOAA Fisheries, which has not employed such a blanket rule. The proposed changes would impact only future listings or downlistings and would not apply to those species already listed as threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will craft species-specific 4(d) rules for each future threatened species determination that are necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species, as has been standard practice for most species listed as threatened in recent years.
“No two species are the same, and so by crafting species-specific 4(d) rules for threatened species, we can tailor appropriate protections using best available science according to each species’ biological needs,” said Sheehan. “By creating a clearer regulatory distinction between threatened and endangered species, we are also encouraging partners to invest in conservation that has the potential to improve a species’ status, helping us work towards our ultimate goal: recovery.”
Under section 7 of the ESA, other federal agencies consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to ensure their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat. The proposed rule simplifies and clarifies the definition of “destruction or adverse modification” by removing redundant and confusing language. The proposed rule is not intended to alter existing consultation practice; rather, it seeks to revise and clarify language that was confusing to other federal agencies and the public.
Additional proposed revisions to the consultation regulations will clarify whether and how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries consider proposed measures to avoid, minimize or offset adverse effects to listed species or their critical habitat when conducting interagency consultations and will improve the consultation process by clarifying how biological opinions and interagency submissions should be formulated.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee issued a statement after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries announced rollbacks of key sections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA):
“The new regulations included in today’s announcement undercut vital sections of the Endangered Species Act that may harm imperiled species and are yet more examples of the Trump Administration catering to industry instead of the interests of the American people,”said Senator Carper. “I’ve called on this Administration to work with Congress to fully fund the Endangered Species Act, instead of trying to weaken it because we know when the ESA is adequately resourced, it works. The Endangered Species Act, which is helping to recover the Red Knot and Piping Plover in Delaware, continues to be one of our country’s most popular and successful environmental protection laws. That’s why I’ll continue to fight misguided decisions like those announced today.”
Among other revisions to existing policies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries proposed regulations would:
  • Remove the phrase “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination” from the law when listing endangered species. This change could undermine best available science, which should remain the sole driver of listing decisions.
  • Change how the Services consider “foreseeable future” when determining whether a species should be listed as threatened. This change could severely limit protections for endangered species most affected by climate change.
  • The Services are also seeking comments on limiting input from federal agencies directly impacted by decisions made by other agencies in the Endangered Species Act consultation process.
During an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Senator Carper raised concerns over changes to the Endangered Species Act proposed by Senate Republicans. He pointed out that the proposed changes could prevent the best science from guiding species management, especially in an administration that consistently denies and undermines science.
Rebecca Riley, senior attorney in the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council issued the following statement: “The very agencies that are charged with saving endangered species are proposing to weaken the bedrock protections of the Endangered Species Act. This law has saved 99% of listed species from extinction. These proposed rules are a short-sighted attempt to appease developers and polluters at the expense of imperiled species.”
The proposed rules are available here and will publish in the Federal Register in coming days, including detailed information on how the public can submit written comments and information concerning these provisions. Comments must be received within 60 days of publication. All comments will be posted on
Hazardous Waste Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new 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 a new Amazon Fire HD10 tablet at no extra charge.
Senate Plan Would Put States in Charge of ESA and National Park & Refuge Wildlife
A discussion draft unveiled by a leading Republican would gut nearly every federal safeguard for wildlife, including those in national parks, refuges and other federal lands, according to an analysis released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). While the bill’s principal target is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it goes much farther than its author describes.
This bill draft is noteworthy because its author is U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and carries support from the Western Governors Association. Rather than actual legislation, Barrasso only introduced a discussion draft, perhaps in recognition that, even beyond its ESA provisions, it features highly questionable ideas, such as –
  • Declaring all federal wildlife management authority in parks, refuges and other federal lands void, giving states “primary authority…to manage wildlife” even on federal preserves;
  • Giving states a presumptive veto on any federal land acquisition within a state; and
  • Using foreign lands as habitat for U.S. threatened and endangered species.
“This approach could transform federal refuges and preserves into state-run game farms,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to controversial Interior Department plans to open national preserves in Alaska to killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens to accommodate state wishes. “Conservation is at such a low ebb in this country that ideas like turning tracts in Central America into Florida panther plantations are floated as alternatives to enforcing the Endangered Species Act.”
Most of the draft is devoted to weakening administration of the ESA by, among other provisions –
  • Giving states the primary role for overseeing species protection, using “recovery teams” that could meet in secret and use information not publicly available;
  • Skewing “best available science” standards by stipulating that “greater weight” must be given to information submitted by states and tribes than peer-reviewed science; and
  • Allowing states to block over introduction of experimental populations, an approach that would have enabled Wyoming to prevent the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone.
“By relying on unenforceable, voluntary conservation agreements, this draft embodies faith-based recovery for species in jeopardy,” said Kyla PEER Science Policy Director Bennett, noting one provision that would have U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees rated on their cooperation with “farming, ranching, home building” interests and “industry trade groups” as well as “sportsmen,” and state and local governments. “This bill draft reads like a special interest wish list instead of a serious piece of legislation.”
Barrasso’s plan is also at odds with a package of bills just introduced by the House Republican Western Caucus. The lack of progress and consensus on this issue so late in a legislative session, just weeks before midterm elections that very well could shift partisan control in one or both houses, suggests the opportunity for a GOP revamp of the ESA likely has passed.
Change Needed to Regulate the Environmental Impacts of Chemicals
A new international study involving scientists from the University of Sheffield, has identified the most important questions that researchers must address in order to help protect our planet from chemicals over the next decade. The research aims to serve as a road map for policy makers, regulators, industry and funders - setting the research agenda and pioneering a more coordinated approach to the regulation of chemicals.
Chemicals released by human activity - such as driving cars, using toiletries, taking medicines and using pesticides - are resulting in a loss of biodiversity, increased natural hazards and presenting threats to food, water and energy security.
Professor Lorraine Maltby, one of the lead authors of the international study from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: "Until now the regulation of chemicals has been very simplistic. Scientists tend to look at the impact of one chemical on single species in a lab, which doesn't account for the complexity of the natural world.
"Plants and animals in natural environments may be exposed to hundreds of chemicals. A far more holistic approach to assessing the effects of combinations of chemicals and other factors on ecological communities is needed to protect our natural world.
"Every day the shampoo we wash down the drain, the cleaning products we use and the emissions from our cars have a complex effect on our biodiversity. The ecological impact of this exposure may vary due to the presence of other stressors, for example elevated temperature, and the sensitivity of the plants and animals exposed to the chemicals."
She added: "Our research will really help to focus scientific effort on the questions that really matter and inform decisions about the type of investigations needed to update environmental policies and regulations."
The pioneering research is part of a much larger global horizon scanning exercise co-ordinated by the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Similar studies are also being performed in North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
The international team of scientists identified 22 questions which need to be answered in order to fill the most pressing knowledge gaps. They include questions about which chemicals we should be most concerned about, where the hotspots of key contaminants are around the globe and how we can develop methods to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.
Professor Maltby said: "A lot of chemicals such as pesticides and medicines obviously have a huge benefit for people, but it is important to consider the environmental cost too in order to strike a balance. By prioritizing 22 questions we hope that scientists will be able to identify which chemicals to target first and also the most vulnerable areas."
Environmental Laboratory Owner Pleads Guilty to Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund Fraud
The owner of a Southern California environmental laboratory has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of filing false information and overcharging for clean-up costs submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund.
In addition to being sentenced to 30 days community service, Roobik Yaghoubi, owner of Cal Tech Environmental Laboratories (CTEL) in Paramount, has been ordered to pay $190,000 in restitution to the State Water Board, including $70,000 already seized from his home.
“Accredited laboratories that produce high scientific integrity data are the centerpiece of all environmental protection programs,” said Christine Sotelo, chief of California’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). “This case is an important lesson for the laboratory community, in that we will aggressively pursue laboratories that violate state laws and regulations and fail to produce data of known and documented quality.”
The plea resulted from an investigation by the ELAP and the board’s Office of Enforcement. The investigation uncovered evidence of altered data, failed quality control tests, gaps in the chain of custody, improper reuse of sample containers, and poor housekeeping of laboratory equipment.
The Underground Storage Tank (UST) Cleanup Fund, financed by a 2-cent per gallon gasoline tax, is used to reimburse contractors who perform cleanup up to $1.5 million per site for cleaning up petroleum leaks at underground storage tank facilities statewide. The fund has reimbursed more than $3.6 billion since 1992, including $132 million in 2016. About 8,700 sites have been remediated and closed since the UST Clean Up Fund’s inception in 1989.
“Accurate and reliable analytical data is essential to ensure that state funds are being used appropriately and that threats to water quality are being negated,” said Yvonne West, director of the Office of Enforcement. “The Office of Enforcement will vigorously investigate and prosecute unscrupulous individuals who defraud the people of the state and sacrifice water quality for financial gains.”
CTEL had been in business since 1999 and was accredited by ELAP to analyze water and soil samples using specific wastewater and hazardous waste analytical methods. The laboratory’s accreditation expired nearly two years ago.
Data generated by CTEL have been used by dozens of clients statewide, including the State Water Board claimants, environmental consultants, real estate and construction services, corrosion control services, activated carbon suppliers, waste management services, metal plating facilities and others. Anyone who has used CTEL or another laboratory and has concerns about quality of work or accuracy of a laboratory’s billing practices, are encouraged to contact Jacob Oaxaca by email at or by phone at 916-323-3433.
UN Environment and Google Announce Partnership to Protect Planet
UN Environment and Google announced a global partnership that promises to change the way we see our planet. Combining environmental science, big data and unprecedented accessibility, this joint effort aims to expand what the world knows about the impacts of human activity on global ecosystems.
When completed, the platform will leverage Google’s cloud computing and earth observation public catalogs and for the first time enable governments, NGO’s and the public to track specific environment-related development targets with a user-friendly Google front-end.
“We will only be able to solve the biggest environmental challenges of our time if we get the data right,” Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said. “UN Environment is excited to be partnering with Google, to make sure we have the most sophisticated online tools to track progress, identify priority areas for our action, and bring us one step closer to a sustainable world.”
Too often, when a country seeks to implement real-time environmental action, they find their efforts halted by gaps in critical data needed to direct those actions safely and effectively. Through this partnership, and Google Earth Engine’s analysis and visualization tools, the world can finally begin to fill those gaps, enabling decision makers to better invest in environmental services.
"This partnership announcement builds on a common shared vision between our organizations," said Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. "We are excited to enable all countries with equal access to the latest technology and information in support of global climate action and sustainable development."
Long term, the partnership hopes to establish a platform for open-source data and analysis of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As an entry point to development, the partnership launches with an initial focus on fresh-water ecosystems including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.
These areas account for 0.01% of the world’s water but provide habitat for almost 10% of the world’s known species and evidence suggests a rapid loss freshwater biodiversity.
Google will periodically produce geospatial maps and data on water-related ecosystems by employing massive parallel cloud computing technology. Satellite imagery and statistics will be generated to assess the extent of change occurring to waterbodies, and made freely accessible to ensure nations have the opportunity to track changes, prevent and reverse ecosystem loss.
Other areas of collaboration include advocacy and capacity building activities as well as the development of partnerships with organizations like the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The partnership was launched during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in at UN Headquarters in New York, where world leaders are gathering to review of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a set of clear, measurable goals for global development – as well as best practices and progress towards implementation.
New Rule Weakens Coal Ash Pollution Safeguards to Save $30 Million
The EPA finalized the first set of revisions to the 2015 regulations for the disposal of coal combustion residuals, also known as CCR or coal ash, from electric utilities and independent power producers. The first set of revisions provides utilities and states more flexibility in how CCR is managed and saves between $28 to $31 million a year in regulatory costs.
“These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected,” said Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our actions mark a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past and save tens of millions of dollars in regulatory costs.”
The first rule of its two-part rulemaking to weaken the first-ever federal regulations that provide health and environmental safeguards for communities near toxic coal ash waste dumps.
The new rule:
  • Fails to add boron, a common and dangerous coal ash contaminant, to the list of pollutants that will drive cleanup of groundwater at contaminated sites nationwide.
  • Weakens drinking water protection standards for several hazardous chemicals, namely lead, cobalt, lithium and molybdenum.
  • Extends compliance deadlines for closing unlined leaking ash ponds and ash ponds within five feet of groundwater and permits hundreds of leaking ponds to continue to operate.
  • Permits state officials to terminate groundwater monitoring.
  • Allows state officials to judge whether sites are following the rules instead of qualified, professional engineers.
All of these changes significantly weaken the protections established in 2015. Every single one of the changes is in response to an industry petition filed with the Trump administration in 2017.
Coal ash is the toxic waste left over from hundreds of coal-burning power plants throughout the United States. For decades, coal ash has been dumped into giant pits, where toxic chemicals seep into water and blow into the air. Coal ash waste is filled with some of some of the deadliest known toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium. The toxics raise the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and can inflict permanent brain damage on children.
“Today’s rule indicates Wheeler is continuing EPA’s radical drive to remove critical health protections at the behest of industry,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. “This is the first major rule signed during Andrew Wheeler’s time running the EPA, and his true colors are shining through. Wheeler is ignoring the serious health threats to hundreds of communities at risk from contaminated drinking water.”
In October 2015, the first-ever EPA safeguards to protect communities near coal ash dumps went into effect after Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of public interest groups and a Native American tribe, the Moapa Band of Paiutes. The EPA received more than a half-million comments from people supporting the safeguards that the EPA removed.
EPA is finalizing this rollback of coal ash protections just as the nation is discovering that nearly all coal ash ponds and landfills are leaking toxic pollutants to groundwater. The EPA’s 2015 coal ash rule required utilities to test the water near their coal ash dumps to make sure hazardous chemicals were not leaking into drinking water sources. Coal ash contains concentrated levels of heavy metals, which are released to water when the ash is dumped into unlined pits. According to recently released industry data, about 95% of all the dump sites have contaminated groundwater with toxins like arsenic and boron to levels the EPA has deemed unsafe to drink.
Requirements to close these leaking dump sites and to clean up contaminated water were set to go into effect later in 2018, but the new rule weakens cleanup standards and pushes closure and cleanup dates to 2020.
Over 1,400 coal ash waste dumps are spread across the nation, and at almost every site, the toxic waste has contaminated water sources. “These changes aren't going to help Illinois,” said Andrew Rehn of the Prairie Rivers Network. “We need professional engineers, not political appointees or polluters, making decisions about the safety and clean up of coal ash.”
“Decades of regulatory inaction on coal ash disposal has left Indiana with a toxic legacy of serious groundwater contamination — with unsafe levels of arsenic, lead, boron, and radium, among other contaminants — confirmed at fifteen disposal sites in Indiana located on the shores of the White River, the Wabash River, Kankakee River, the Ohio River and Lake Michigan,” said Tim Maloney of Hoosier Environmental Council. “It is simply negligent for the EPA to roll back the long-overdue federal coal ash standards that the agency adopted in 2015 and would result in this pollution being left in place to continue contaminating our waterways and drinking water sources for many years to come.”
Federal protections are critical, because coal ash sites have a history of problems. In 2008, the single-largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history happened when a billion gallons of coal ash sludge burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston plant and covered 300 acres, destroying dozens of homes. In 2014, a portion of a coal ash dump in North Carolina collapsed, fouling 80 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.
New Battery Could Store Wind and Solar Electricity Affordably and at Room Temperature
A new combination of materials developed by Stanford researchers may aid in developing a rechargeable battery able to store the large amounts of renewable power created through wind or solar sources. With further development, the new technology could deliver energy to the electric grid quickly, cost effectively and at normal ambient temperatures. The researchers published their work in the July 18 issue of Joule.
The technology - a type of battery known as a flow battery - has long been considered as a likely candidate for storing intermittent renewable energy. However, until now the kinds of liquids that could produce the electrical current have either been limited by the amount of energy they could deliver or have required extremely high temperatures or used very toxic or expensive chemicals.
Stanford assistant professor of materials science and engineering William Chueh, along with his PhD student Antonio Baclig and Jason Rugolo, now a technology prospector at Alphabet's research subsidiary X Development, decided to try sodium and potassium, which when mixed form a liquid metal at room temperature, as the fluid for the electron donor - or negative - side of the battery. Theoretically, this liquid metal has at least 10 times the available energy per gram as other candidates for the negative-side fluid of a flow battery.
"We still have a lot of work to do," said Baclig, "but this is a new type of flow battery that could affordably enable much higher use of solar and wind power using Earth-abundant materials."
In order to use the liquid metal negative end of the battery, the group found a suitable ceramic membrane made of potassium and aluminum oxide to keep the negative and positive materials separate while allowing current to flow.
The two advances together more than doubled the maximum voltage of conventional flow batteries, and the prototype remained stable for thousands of hours of operation. This higher voltage means the battery can store more energy for its size, which also brings down the cost of producing the battery.
"A new battery technology has so many different performance metrics to meet: cost, efficiency, size, lifetime, safety, etc.," said Baclig. "We think this sort of technology has the possibility, with more work, to meet them all, which is why we are excited about it."
The team of Stanford PhD students, which in addition to Baclig includes Geoff McConohy and Andrey Poletayev, found that the ceramic membrane very selectively prevents sodium from migrating to the positive side of the cell - critical if the membrane is going to be successful. However, this type of membrane is most effective at temperatures higher than 200 degrees Celsius (392 F). In pursuit of a room-temperature battery, the group experimented with a thinner membrane. This boosted the device's power output and showed that refining the membrane's design is a promising path.
They also experimented with four different liquids for the positive side of the battery. The water-based liquids quickly degraded the membrane, but they think a non-water-based option will improve the battery's performance.
Ohio to Propose Amendments to Measurement Methods and Procedures for Particulate Matter Standards
Ohio EPA is considering proposed amendments to OAC rule 3745- 17-03.  The rules in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3745-17 establish requirements for the control of emissions of particulate matter from stationary emission sources. OAC rule 3745-17-03 contains the methods and procedures used to measure particulate matter emissions from stationary sources.
Particulate matter is one of the six criteria pollutants for which a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) has been established under the Clean Air Act. The intent of these rules is to limit emissions of particulate matter to allow the state of Ohio to attain and maintain the NAAQS for particulate matter.
The potential amendments include the following:
  • Revise the requirement to obtain written permission from the U.S. EPA in paragraphs (D) and (E) of OAC rule 3745-17-03.
  • Add two additional compliance alternatives for OAC rule 3745- 17-03(C). 

For more information, contact Paul Braun at or 614-644-3734.
Scott Equipment Fined for Hazardous Waste, Air and Water Violations
Scott Equipment Co. in Arlington, Minn., has taken steps to reduce air pollutants from its facility, better manage its hazardous waste and make other changes to protect the environment under an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). It has also paid a $30,000 penalty to the agency as part of the agreement to bring the company into compliance with environmental laws.
The company manufactures processing equipment and provides other services for agricultural and food companies. It operated a paint booth without the required permit for many years. Air quality permits set limits on hazardous air pollutants to protect human and environmental health. Scott Equipment violated limits on these pollutants several times over three years. The company now has a state air quality permit and has submitted a plan to the MPCA on how it will meet the limits on pollutants, complete required reports on time, and otherwise comply with permit conditions.
The company has also taken steps to properly label hazardous and other wastes and update its recordkeeping. In addition, Scott Equipment has applied for an industrial stormwater permit that requires runoff from facilities be property treated before being discharged to the environment.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA considers how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
Settlements Resolve Violations of Toxic Chemical Reporting Requirements by Four New England Companies
EPA announced settlements with four New England companies that resolve alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), which requires companies and organizations to report their use and release of toxic chemicals.
The companies are Atlantic Footcare of North Smithfield, R.I., Smith & Wesson of Springfield, Mass., Masters Machine Co. of Round Pond, Maine, and Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine. The settlement with Bath Iron Works also resolves alleged Clean Water Act violations.
All four companies promptly corrected the EPCRA violations after EPA inspections, and have filed required reports of their use of toxic chemicals under EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, allowing the public and local officials to access data about toxic chemicals used and released in their communities. Each company agreed to pay a civil penalty and improved its compliance with TRI requirements; Bath Iron Works is also now in compliance with the company's Clean Water Act discharge permit.
More information on the settlements:
  • Atlantic Footcare, which makes shoe inserts and prosthetics, allegedly failed to file annual TRI forms for chemicals within the diisocyanates chemical category in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and agreed to pay a $49,375 penalty.
  • Smith & Wesson, a gun manufacturer, allegedly failed to file TRI forms for nickel in 2012 and 2013 and for manganese and chromium in 2012, and agreed to pay a $58,136 penalty.
  • Master's Machine, a manufacturer of precision automotive and electrical components, allegedly failed to file TRI forms for copper for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015, and for lead for the year 2014. Master's Machine agreed to pay a $92,210 penalty.
  • Bath Iron Works, which builds naval destroyers at a facility near the Kennebec River, allegedly failed to submit TRI reports for chromium, copper, manganese, and nickel for reporting years 2013, 2014, and 2015. EPA also alleged that the company failed to fully comply with all the requirements in its stormwater permit. The permit requires the company to minimize the exposure of waste from the shipbuilding process, such as metal shavings and grit from sand blasting operations, so that when it rains these pollutants do not flow into the Kennebec River. Bath Iron Works will pay a $355,000 penalty under the settlement with EPA.
The obligation to report toxic chemical use and releases under the Toxic Release Inventory program is included in EPCRA, enacted in 1986, in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the use and release of toxic chemicals. The yearly submission of Toxic Release Inventory forms is a key component of the statute. They ensure that citizens and public safety officials have access to information about chemicals at nearby facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. Making such information available to the public and municipal officials also creates a strong incentive for companies to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals and improve overall environmental performance and safety.
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