The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) issued a final rule imposing heightened security requirements for hazardous materials shippers and carriers. RSPA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety is the federal authority responsible for assuring the safe and secure commercial movement of hazardous materials by all transportation modes.
“The security of hazardous materials is an important public issue,” said Samuel G. Bonasso, RSPA acting administrator. “Under this rule, shippers and carriers of certain highly hazardous materials must develop and implement security plans, including mandatory security training for employees.”
Security plans must identify potential security risks and measures to protect shipments of hazardous materials covered by the rule. Companies are permitted to tailor security plans to specific circumstances and operations, and measures may vary with the level of threat. However, all security plans must include personnel, access, and en route security measures. Under the rule, employees responsible for the transport of hazardous materials must be trained on how to be aware of security risks and enhance security.
RSPA has public responsibilities for the safe, reliable and secure movement of hazardous materials to industry and consumers by all transportation modes, including the nation's pipelines; rapid response to emergencies by government agencies; training of transportation safety professionals; and applying science and technology to meet national transportation needs.
The final rule was published in the Federal Register on March 25, 2003, under docket HM-232.
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, EPA AND STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL RELEASE GUIDELINES FOR JOINT ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT
The Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), in cooperation with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), announced the release of their "Guidelines for Joint State/Federal Civil Environmental Enforcement Litigation," intended to assist states and the federal government in the conduct of joint civil environment enforcement litigation. The Guidelines were unveiled today during the NAAG annual conference being held in Washington, D.C.
The Guidelines were developed over the course of the last year by a work group of trial attorneys from the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency, NAAG and several State Attorneys General offices.
The Guidelines will be distributed to attorneys within the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, to all United States Attorneys, EPA Headquarters and Regional offices, and to the offices of the States Attorneys General.
ANNUAL ALLOWANCE AUCTION FOR AIR EMISSIONS SHOWS CONTINUED PROGRESS
EPA and the Chicago Board of Trade announced the results of the eleventh annual acid rain allowance auction on Tues., March 25th. The auction, which gives private citizens, brokers and power plants an opportunity to buy and sell sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances, is part of EPA's program to reduce acid rain by cutting nationwide SO2 emissions from power generation by 50 percent.
"The annual allowance auction is a part of the reason that the Acid Rain Program's cap and trade approach shows such remarkable results," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "The cap and trade mechanism under the Acid Rain Program has reduced emissions and improved human and environmental health earlier, and at less cost, than would have occurred with more conventional approaches."
An EPA progress report on the Acid Rain Program released in November 2002 details the emissions reductions resulting from the program as of 2001. SO2 emissions from electric power generation continue to decline, down by close to 7.0 million tons since 1980. Preliminary results for 2002 reveal emission levels dropped more than 400,000 tons from the previous year.
"The market-based acid rain program has been so successful that it serves as a model for additional, national emissions reductions proposed under the President's Clear Skies Act," commented Whitman. "The Acid Rain cap and trade program has worked, and the Clear Skies Act promises even greater results in protecting the health of millions of Americans," she continued.
Clear Skies was touted by President Bush in his recent State of the Union speech, and was reintroduced in the House and Senate in February 2003. The centerpiece of this program is mandatory emissions reductions of SO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and mercury from the power sector by approximately 70 percent.
A national emissions cap, combined with SO2 allowance trading, has been effective both in terms of cost reduction and human health and environmental benefits since it began in 1995. Current estimates indicate compliance costs 75 percent below those originally predicted by EPA. Emissions are already more than five million tons below 1990 levels, and acid deposition in the eastern United States has declined by as much as 30 percent, resulting in improvements in lakes and streams.
The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, signed into law by President George H.W.
Bush, established an annual national cap on SO2 emissions. Each year, EPA issues
allowances to existing sources within that cap. In addition, the Clean Air Act
mandates that a limited number of those allowances are withheld and auctioned.
The auctions help ensure that new electric generating plants have a source of allowances beyond those allocated initially to existing units. Proceeds from the auctions are returned to sources in proportion to the allowances withheld. In addition to allowances offered by EPA, private parties may offer allowances for sale in the auction.
EPA emphasizes that no matter how many allowances a source purchases, the health-based national ambient air quality standards act as a backstop to ensure that local air quality is protected.
An allowance gives affected sources (mainly existing electric power plants) the right to emit one ton of SO2 per year. A plant's total annual emissions cannot exceed its allowances. Allowances are transferable, allowing market forces to determine their price. If a source reduces its SO2 emissions more than required, it will have left-over allowances it can sell to another utility or bank for future use.
The auction, conducted by the Chicago Board of Trade, includes two "vintages" of allowances, which involves the earliest year an allowance may be applied against SO2 emissions. In addition to year 2003 allowances, the Clean Air Act mandated that EPA auction additional allowances seven years in advance to help provide stability in planning for capital investment. These advance allowances will be usable in 2010.
EPA has been working with the Chicago Board of Trade, as well as the power industry and brokers and traders, since the program's inception. The result is a viable SO2 market and a demonstration that a mandatory emissions cap and trade approach can improve the environment with more certainty and at a lower cost than traditional control approaches.
Detailed results of this year's acid rain auction and information about how the trading program works are available on EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/auctions.
EPA ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO FUND WATER SECURITY TRAINING FOR MEDIUM-SIZED COMMUNITY WATER SYSTEMS
EPA has announced a competitive assistance agreement program to support community drinking water utilities' efforts in strengthening and enhancing the security of their infrastructure. This program will focus on approximately 480 medium-sized community water systems, which provides drinking water to more than 50,000 but less than 100,000 people. EPA has allocated $1.7 million for this cooperative agreement program, which will complement EPA's support to large drinking water systems serving 100,000 or more people and its grant program to states to help community water systems serving more than 3,300 but less than 50,000 people. All three actions contribute to the EPA's goal and objectives of protecting the nation's water supplies.
Non-profit organizations capable of providing training and technical assistance to drinking water systems are eligible to apply for the total amount or a portion of these funds for the medium-sized system training. These organizations, selected through competition, will offer a variety of training approaches to medium-sized water systems on conducting assessments of their vulnerability to terrorist or other intentional attacks and preparing or revising emergency response plans based on the results of their vulnerability assessments. These systems must submit a completed vulnerability assessment to EPA no later than Dec. 31, 2003. Recipients of these funds will also deliver a limited amount of direct technical assistance to help utilities with the completion of this requirement, which was set forth in the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Proposals must be received on or before April 17, 2003. Final awards will be announced in May 2003 by direct notification to the successful applicants. The Request for Proposals is posted on EPA's website at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/security/pdfs/train2_rfp.pdf.
FLORIDA WOMAN SENTENCED IN MICHIGAN ON HAZARDOUS WASTE CHARGES
Johan March of Rotunda West, Fla., was sentenced for her conviction on charges of illegally transporting, storing and disposing of hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The sentence was imposed on March 10 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit and will include a penalty of 21 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. She also was ordered to pay $175,819.48 in cleanup costs to the EPA Superfund Program.
The defendant inherited the assets of a then defunct Detroit parts cleaning and coating company, called the Utility Enameling Corp. The inherited assets included property where 55-gallon drums of waste solvents, acids and paints were stored. Between April 1995 and November 1995, March illegally stored approximately 100-125 of the drums and had the transported to New York, where they were abandoned. Abandoning drums of hazardous waste in public areas creates a potentially serious health hazard.
The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of the EPA National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.
WISCONSIN MAN SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL CHEMICAL WEAPON POSSESSION
Joseph Konopka of DePere, Wis., was sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 13 for illegally possessing a chemical weapon. Konopka previously pled guilty to illegally possessing bottles containing potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide and containers filled with other chemicals. The defendant had taken the chemicals from an abandoned warehouse in Chicago and then stored the chemicals in a Chicago subway substation.
Since cyanide can cause significant brain damage and death, the discovery of these chemicals led to a thorough search which required a significant portion of the subway system to be shut down. In addition to this crime, Konopka also was convicted on state and federal charges for vandalizing a variety of properties, including power lines, air navigation equipment, and radio and television transmission towers. Konopka, who calls himself "Dr. Chaos," claim he was the leader of an anarchist group.
The sentencing came from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago. The investigation was led by the FBI, with the assistance of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the City of Chicago law enforcement authorities