Several EPA Programs Face Possible Elimination

May 01, 2017

The Trump administration’s proposed plan for the EPA includes completely defunding several programs related to climate change, public health, and pollution, according to an internal agency memo that was leaked to the media last month. An article, "Trump EPA to Shed Chemical Programs, Grants," in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, runs through the numbers.

Britt Erickson, Cheryl Hogue and Jessica Morrison of C&EN report that the administration is asking for $5.7 billion in fiscal 2018 funding for the EPA. This would be $2.6 billion less than the estimated $8.3 billion the agency could get this year if Congress extends a stopgap funding law that expires April 28. To achieve this cut, here are some examples of what the administration proposes for the chopping block: more than 4,000 jobs; the Integrated Risk Information System, which assesses the risks of toxic chemicals; research grants related to pollution prevention and lead poisoning prevention; all climate change-related projects; and regional cleanup programs including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

But how many and how much of the cuts might become reality remains uncertain. Whether the changes detailed in the memo will be incorporated in the administration’s official 2018 budget plan is unclear. And, ultimately, Congress would have to go along with the proposal in order for the reductions to be implemented.

St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St. Louis, MO, on May 9–11 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Hilton Head RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC, on May 23–25 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Baton Rouge RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA, on June 6–8 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Penalties Raised by DOT for Hazardous Materials Violations

The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Final Rule to revise its regulations and increase the maximum civil penalty amount for violations of the Federal hazardous materials safety law. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which further amended the Federal Civil Penalties, Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, federal agencies are required to adjust their civil monetary penalties each year to account for changes in inflation.

The maximum civil penalty for a knowing violation is now $78,376, except that the maximum civil penalty is $182,877 for a violation that results in death, serious illness, or severe injury to any person or substantial destruction of property. In addition, the minimum civil penalty amount of $471 applies to a violation relating to training. Federal agencies are required to adjust their civil monetary penalties effective August 1, 2016, and then annually thereafter, to account for changes in inflation. Are you in compliance with all of the DOT’s requirements? Identify and correct violations with an Environmental Resource Center audit.

DOT Advisory on Cylinders Used for Cyclopropane, Ethane, Ethylene, and LPG Gas

The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration has issued an advisory indicating that DOT-39 cylinders having an internal volume exceeding 75 cubic inches (1.23 L) should not contain liquefied flammable compressed cyclopropane, ethane, or ethylene, or liquefied petroleum gases. These gases were historically restricted to this volume for shipment in specification cylinders (40 CFR 173.304a). This limitation was based on extensive experience under special permits and the consideration that, in transportation and without the limitation, non-reusable cylinders of larger sizes (and lower integrity) would be used in place of authorized higher-integrity reusable cylinders. Use of these DOT-39 non-reusable cylinders in larger sizes would lower the level of transportation safety previously established through use of higher-integrity reusable cylinders for the shipment of flammable gases.

The release of a liquefied flammable compressed gas as result of the failure of a cylinder having an internal volume exceeding 75 in3 (1.23 L) is a safety concern with potential to cause property damage, serious personal injury, or even death. A DOT-39 cylinder, without further size restriction, can have a volume of up to 1,526 75 in3 (25 L) at a service pressure of 500 psig or less and, as such, can have up to 20 times the stored energy of a DOT-39 cylinder limited to 75 75 in3 (1.23 L). This increased stored energy presents a greater safety risk in the event of a release. Additionally, because of the design specifications that allow for thinner walls when used at lower pressure, these cylinders may be at greater risk from corrosion or puncture.

Given the known risks associated with cylinders that are filled with liquefied flammable compressed gases, PHMSA issued this revised safety advisory notice to advise offerors and transporters of DOT-39 cylinders.

EPA Website to Be Updated to Reflect President’s Policies

EPA is undergoing changes that reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt. The process, which involves updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership, is intended to ensure that the public can use the website to understand the agency's current efforts. According to EPA, changes will comply with agency ethics and legal guidance, including the use of proper archiving procedures. For instance, a screenshot of the last administration’s website will remain available from the main page.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” said J.P. Freire, Associate Administrator for Public Affairs. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”

The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of what the new EPA has termed “the so-called Clean Power Plan.” EPA stated that language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed.

TSCA Ban on TCE and NMP Postponed

In the Federal Register of January 19, 2017, EPA issued two proposed rules under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The first action proposed to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for use in vapor degreasing; to prohibit the use of TCE in vapor degreasing; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of TCE for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require limited recordkeeping. The second action proposed to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride and N- methylpyrrolidone (NMP) for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal; to prohibit the use of methylene chloride and NMP in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride and NMP for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping.

A May 1, 2017 Federal Register notice reopens and extends the comment periods for each proposed rule for an additional 30 days. The new deadline for comments is May 19, 2017.

New York Leads Coalition of 16 Attorneys General Opposing Rollback of Air Quality Standards

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in urging Congress to reject the rollback of critical protective ozone air quality standards.

In letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Attorneys General detailed their opposition to S. 263 / H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, which would substantially delay the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA in 2015—marking a major step backwards in efforts to combat pollution and its negative impact on public health.

“The EPA’s ozone standards aren’t just vital to protecting our environment—they will literally save lives,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Too often, states like New York see our efforts to combat ozone pollution undercut by upwind states. I’m proud to partner with my fellow Attorneys General in urging Congress to reject the rollback of these critical standards. The health of our children, seniors, and people across the country depends on it.”

Click here to read the letters.

People exposed to elevated levels of ozone suffer from lung tissue damage, as well as aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema; children and seniors are particularly susceptible to ozone’s harmful health effects. The 2015 ozone rule is expected to result in vital public health benefits. In fact, the EPA conservatively estimated that meeting the new standards would result in net annual public health benefits of up to $4.5 billion starting in 2025 (not including California), while also preventing approximately:

  • 316 to 660 premature deaths
  • 230,000 asthma attacks in children
  • 160,000 missed school days
  • 28,000 missed work days
  • 630 asthma-related emergency room visits
  • 340 cases of acute bronchitis in children

“This bill would not only delay implementation of more protective ozone air quality standards, but, more broadly, would undermine the mandate in the Clean Air Act (Act) that the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and other criteria pollutants be based on up-to-date scientific evidence and focus solely on protecting public health and welfare,” the Attorneys General wrote. “As explained below, these measures would be a significant step backward in combatting the dangers of ozone and other criteria pollutants.”

“In summary, ozone pollution remains a serious and persistent problem for our nation, posing a particular risk to the health of children, the elderly and the sick, as well as individuals who spend time outdoors. Because S. 263 would represent a significant step backward in combatting ozone and other dangerous criteria pollutants, we urge you to oppose the bill,” the Attorneys General concluded in their letter to the Senate.

The letters were signed by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The recent letters follow a number of actions Attorney General Schneiderman and his fellow Attorneys General have taken to protect our environment and public health.

Metal Recycler, Owner Fined $400,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

The Sacramento County Superior Court has entered a judgment against Northstate Recycling, Inc. (Northstate), a metal recycler in Redding, and its owner and operator, William R. Short, for hazardous waste management violations. This stipulated judgment follows a Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) investigation that resulted in the discovery of numerous violations of California’s hazardous waste laws. The investigation was handled by DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI).

The defendants were ordered to pay a combined $400,000 in civil penalties. Northstate has ceased metal shredding operations at the facility, but will continue to recycle cardboard, glass bottles, aluminum cans and high value metals among other non-shredding activities.

“Let this be an example to metal recyclers and shredding operations that continue to violate California’s hazardous waste laws,” said Hansen Pang, DTSC’s Chief Investigator for OCI. “DTSC is enforcing environmental regulations and will take action if necessary. This action is essential to protecting the environment and public health in and around recycling and shredding operations.”

DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) confirmed that Northstate and its owner violated the law at their scrap metal recycling and shredding facility, including unlawful treatment, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste. Northstate was illegally shredding, storing and transporting the hazardous waste. If not handled properly, this waste could include unsafe levels of lead, cadmium, and zinc.

OCI is a special investigation unit within DTSC, consisting of peace officers, scientists, and a computer forensic specialist who investigate criminal misconduct and other serious violations of hazardous waste laws. OCI has the only sworn peace officers within the California Environmental Protection Agency.

View documents related to this case here.

DTSC Orders Cleanup of Hazardous Waste Left by Former Electroplating Shop

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced it has issued an Imminent and/or Substantial Endangerment Order to the owners and operators of a former electroplating facility in Oakland. The Order requires the owners and operators of E-D Coat, Inc., to remove hazardous liquids in deteriorating equipment and sumps, and take other steps to prevent the release of hazardous chemicals off site and into groundwater.

The Order stemmed from a recent multiagency investigation that uncovered deteriorating conditions at the facility operated as E-D Coat, Inc. from 1966 until 2012. The East Bay Municipal Utility District terminated E-D Coat’s wastewater discharge permit in 2012 for discharging heavy metals into the sewer system, and for failing to take appropriate remedial action as ordered by the district.

DTSC, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and other agencies searched the facility on April 19, 2017. The investigation found hazardous chemicals in tanks, drums and other deteriorating containers, a water-logged tarp covering a hole in the roof above a tank containing acidic liquid, and the potential for release of chemicals on-and off-site. The multiagency investigation is continuing.

A U-Haul business currently operates on part of the property. DTSC’s decision to issue the Order was due to concerns about potential health risks to employees and customers, as well as to neighboring residences and to groundwater. The groundwater in the area is within 10 feet of the surface, and surface water runs to a storm drain system that leads to the Oakland Inner Harbor Channel about 2,000 feet away.

“When we saw the condition of the tanks, we knew we had to take action,” said Hansen Pang, chief investigator for DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “It is crucial the property be cleaned up to prevent any threat to the public and environment.”

Officials from the EPA, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, Alameda County Fire Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and East Bay Municipal Utility District also participated in the search warrant investigation.

Containers will be drained and hazardous substances removed. DTSC’s Order outlines timelines for completing the required work.

The electroplating facility is currently regulated by the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, which, since 2015, is the Certified Unified Program Agency, or CUPA, for the city of Oakland. Prior to 2015, the electroplating facility was regulated by the Oakland Fire Department. Under the CUPA program, local agencies are authorized to carry out the state’s hazardous waste and hazardous material regulatory programs.

Dairy Fined $75,600 for Water Violations

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued an administrative civil liability penalty of $75,600 against Sweeney Dairy of Visalia for failing to file its 2015 annual report on the impacts of its dairy operations on water quality. The Board also adopted a Cease and Desist Order against Sweeney Dairy for failure to comply with requirements set forth in the Dairy General Order.

The Cease and Desist Order requires the owners to resume compliance with all the requirements of the Dairy General Order, including filing annual reports, or face the possibility of additional civil penalties and/or judicial enforcement from the California Office of the Attorney General.

“Fully complying with all requirements of the Dairy General Order is needed to protect water quality. Annual reports are a vital component of the Dairy General Order because they inform the Board about manure handling activities at dairies, and nutrient management planning on dairy cropland,” said Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer for the Central Valley Water Board. “It is critical that dairies adequately implement the requirements of the Dairy General Order including submitting annual reports that show they are taking the steps necessary to protect water quality. In assessing the penalty and adopting the Cease and Desist Order, our Board is recognizing a discharger’s responsibility to comply with orders issued by our Board, including submitting required documents.”

James and Amelia Sweeney, owners of the dairy, have failed to file annual reports required by dairies regulated under the Dairy General Order since 2009. Further site inspections have determined the Sweeneys have failed to implement many other requirements of the Dairy General Order.

The Dairy General Order, first adopted by the Central Valley Water Board in 2007 and revised in 2013, requires dairies to handle waste in ways that preserve and protect water quality. The Order contains a number of requirements, including standards for manure and dairy wastewater storage, and criteria for the application of manure and dairy wastewater to cropland. The Order also contains reporting requirements for regulated dairies, including the submission of annual reports, submission of a Waste Management Plan, implementation of a Nutrient Management Plan, and implementation of groundwater monitoring. Failure to submit any of the required reports is a violation of the Order.

Coalition of Attorneys General Sign Letter Urging the Trump Administration to Reconfirm U.S. Commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement

Determined to continue rigorous enforcement of environmental laws in their respective states, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh led a coalition of 14 Attorneys General in signing a letter to President Trump, strongly urging him to reconfirm the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement. To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris in December 2015. In the agreement, all countries vowed to work to address and limit climate change.

In the letter, the Attorneys General urged President Trump to maintain the United States’ commitment to the groundbreaking agreement:

“The Paris Agreement, by securing commitments from countries the world over, reflects this collective interdependency and constitutes an unprecedented global effort to address a problem threatening the well-being of everyone on Earth. The United States showed exemplary leadership in the years-long effort to secure the Paris Agreement, and our Nation should continue to lead by fulfilling its promise to abide by and implement this historic accord.”

The Attorneys General note in the letter that climate change is a threat to national security, the economy and every citizen’s health and well-being.

“As we commemorate the 47th anniversary of that first Earth Day, we confront threats to our planet greater than ever envisioned by those who sounded the alarm almost half a century ago. Climate change, if left unchecked, will lead to global environmental dislocation and disaster on a scale we likely cannot imagine. Yet at the same time, we have reason to be hopeful. The Paris Agreement on climate change, negotiated under American leadership and ratified by the vast majority of the world’s countries, has the potential to achieve a reversal of our current trajectory.

Joining the letter are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, the District of Columbia and American Samoa.

Thin Layers of Water Hold Promise for the Energy Storage of the Future

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that a material which incorporates atomically thin layers of water is able to store and deliver energy much more quickly than the same material that doesn't include the water layers. The finding raises some interesting questions about the behavior of liquids when confined at this scale and holds promise for shaping future energy-storage technologies.

"This is a proof of concept, but the idea of using water or other solvents to 'tune' the transport of ions in a layered material is very exciting," says Veronica Augustyn, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the work. "The fundamental idea is that this could allow an increased amount of energy to be stored per unit of volume, faster diffusion of ions through the material, and faster charge transfer.

"Again, this is only a first step, but this line of investigation could ultimately lead to things like thinner batteries, faster storage for renewable-based power grids, or faster acceleration in electric vehicles," Augustyn says.

"The goal for many energy-storage researchers is to create technologies that have the high energy density of batteries and the high power of capacitors," says James Mitchell, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper. "Pseudocapacitors like the one we discuss in the paper may allow us to develop technologies that bridge that gap."

For this work, the researchers compared two materials: a crystalline tungsten oxide and a layered, crystalline tungsten oxide hydrate - which consists of crystalline tungsten oxide layers separated by atomically thin layers of water.

When charging the two materials for 10 minutes, the researchers found that the regular tungsten oxide stored more energy than the hydrate. But when the charging period was only 12 seconds, the hydrate stored more energy than the regular material. One thing that's intriguing, the researchers say, is that the hydrate stored energy more efficiently - wasting less energy as heat.

"Incorporating these solvent layers could be a new strategy for high-powered energy-storage devices that make use of layered materials," Augustyn says. "We think the water layer acts as a pathway that facilitates the transfer of ions through the material.

"We are now moving forward with National Science Foundation-funded work on how to fine-tune this so-called 'interlayer,' which will hopefully advance our understanding of these materials and get us closer to next-generation energy-storage devices."

Seneca Resource Corporation Assessed $375,000 Penalty for Multiple Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that Seneca Resource Corporation (Seneca) has agreed to a $375,000 civil penalty for oil and gas violations of the Clean Stream Law, Dam Safety and Encroachment Act, the Oil and Gas Act, and the Solid Waste Management Act.

Beginning in August 2013 through 2015, DEP inspected various areas of construction in Forest, McKean, and Elk Counties and determined that multiple violations of erosion and sedimentation control existed, including:

  • Failure to comply with the conditions of the Erosion Control Permit and maintain best management practices during earth moving activities
  • Discharge of an estimated 70 to 100 barrels of crude oil which flowed across land then into a tributary of Windfall Run, a High Quality Cold Water Fishery in McKean County
  • Discharge of an estimated 500 barrels of flowback fluid generated from a valve failure to the ground and surrounding wetlands in Forest County
  • Failure to follow the approved water management plan for 105 days in McKean County when Seneca withdrew water during a drought watch

Seneca has resolved all the violations identified in this civil penalty.

“Sediment is a major cause of stream impairment in Pennsylvania. DEP inspectors are diligent about inspecting construction activities to ensure operators are meeting permit conditions and regulatory requirements,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This penalty is reflective of DEP’s commitment to enforcing those conditions and requirements."

EPA Agreement to Close Landfill in Puerto Rico

The EPA has reached an agreement with the Municipality of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico to complete final closure of its municipal solid waste landfill by July 2019, implement environmental protection controls following closure, implement a recycling program, and pilot a composting program. The Municipality is no longer receiving waste at the Santa Isabel landfill.

“The EPA is continuing to assess landfills throughout Puerto Rico that have reached or exceeded capacity and created conditions that threaten public health and the environment,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Catherine McCabe. "It is imperative that owners and operators of landfills in Puerto Rico live up to their responsibilities to operate and close these landfills properly in order to protect the health of nearby communities.”

Under the proposed judicial settlement, the Municipality of Santa Isabel agrees to pay a civil penalty of $20,000, with interest, and to comply with terms of the Consent Decree. In addition to completing final closure of the landfill by July 2019, the Municipality of Santa Isabel must also:

  • Maintain an interim cover over the landfill to help control odors and blowing debris
  • Ensure adequate fencing and security at the landfill
  • Install and operate a groundwater monitoring system to be approved by EPA
  • Implement a recycling program to help minimize the volume of waste materials in Puerto Rico landfills
  • Implement a pilot composting plan to minimize disposal of food waste in Puerto Rico landfills
  • Perform community outreach to inform the public about recycling
  • Implement a mosquito control plan at the Landfill to help fight the Zika virus

The closure and post closure care of the landfill must be performed in accordance with an EPA-approved closure and post-closure plan. Failure to comply with the terms of the proposed Consent Decree subjects the Municipality to stipulated penalties.

The settlement, which is subject to a 30-day public comment period, is conditioned upon approval by the United States District Court before becoming final. Comments on the proposed settlement must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice no later than May 22, 2017. The Complaint, Proposed Consent Decree and Federal Register Notice, which contains information on how to submit comments, can be viewed at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decree/us-v-municipality-santa-isabel.

EPA Modifies SunEdison Semiconductor Facility Boundaries, Groundwater Monitoring

The EPA and SunEdison Semiconductor have agreed to a modification of groundwater monitoring requirements and a change of facility boundaries, as part of an Administrative Order on Consent for the SunEdison Semiconductor, LLC, facility, located in St. Peters, Missouri.

The modification includes releasing a parcel of about 20 acres from the authority of the Order and terminating the requirement of sampling on that property. The modification also requires SunEdison Semiconductor to properly abandon wells on the parcel being released.

SunEdison Semiconductor operates a facility that produces silicon wafers. Its predecessor, MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc., entered into an Administrative Order on Consent with EPA in July 1996 to remediate and protect groundwater at the facility.

SunEdison Semiconductor will continue to perform groundwater remediation and protection on the remaining property included in the Order. The modification also includes an already-completed requirement for an Environmental Covenant restricting the use of groundwater on the released property.

EPA, in coordination with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, determined that this modification meets federal and state regulatory requirements and is protective of human health and the environment.

Air Quality Awareness Week

Maine joins states across the nation in recognizing May 1 through May 5 as Air Quality Awareness Week. This year’s theme is "Be Air Aware".

Maine DEP forecasts Ozone and Particle Pollution year-round and is available on DEP’s website, via toll free hotline, EnviroFlash emails and text messages as well as on Twitter. Forecasts are issued using a color-based Air Quality Index created by EPA. Green – good; Yellow – moderate; orange – unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive people and red – unhealthy pollution levels for all.

Both Ozone and Particle Pollution impact the lungs and heart. Ozone is produced in sunlight from pollutants in the air while Particle Pollution consists of direct emissions of pollution in addition to being created by chemical reactions in a polluted air mass. Maine’s ozone season runs from late March to September while particle pollution levels are higher mostly during the summer and winter months.

Maine enjoys some of the best air quality in the nation with most air quality issues resulting from polluted air being transported into the state. DEP urges everyone to take steps to reduce emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone:

  • Conserve electricity
  • Choose a cleaner commute by carpooling or using public transportation where available
  • Combine errands, reduce trips
  • Defer the use of gas powered lawn and garden equipment until after dusk
  • Limit idling
  • Refuel vehicles after dusk
  • Use environmentally friendly paints and cleaning products

California Air Resources Board Guidance on Lower Air Pollution Exposure Risks Near Busy Highways

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently issued a guide designed to provide public health, air quality, and urban planning policy-makers with options for reducing exposure to traffic pollution for those who live or work near busy roads.

“Infill developments are crucial to California’s ability to meet our air quality and climate goals,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “They put people close to public transit, reduce the need to drive, and promote biking and walking. The health benefits of denser urban neighborhoods can be reduced if they are built close to congested highways. This guide provides planners and builders of infill developments a range of science-based strategies to protect public health and reduce the impacts of nearby traffic.” The guide, Strategies to Reduce Air Pollution Exposure Near High-Volume Roadways, is a technical advisory that addresses concerns raised about the potential health implications of living and working in existing or planned developments near busy roads. The strategies are options that planners and others can put into place to protect public health in developments close to freeways and as “infill” development, which is the opposite of urban sprawl, continues.

This is especially important in urban areas where the freeway network is dense, which means there are few places that are not near a freeway.

Strategies identified in the technical advisory fall into one of three categories: they reduce traffic emissions, reduce the concentration of air pollution from vehicles, or remove pollution from our air. The strategies were chosen based on peer-reviewed scientific literature and CARB-sponsored research projects. Examples include the use of traffic roundabouts instead of stoplights to reduce stop and go driving, sound walls and vegetation that help dispel pollution, and air filters in buildings that remove pollutants from indoor air.

The new technical advisory supplements the Air Quality and Land Use Planning Handbook issued in 2005, and is a companion document to the forthcoming updated General Plan Guidelines from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

Infill development promotes biking and walking, and shortens distances that people must travel for their daily activities. Dense developments also support transit operations, and can improve quality of life by facilitating community connectivity.

“These are scientifically based strategies that can be used at the local level to reduce exposure to air pollution in the near future while we work toward full implementation of California’s progressive regulations that are cleaning the air but are being phased in over time,” said Chief of CARB’s Research Division Bart Croes.

“As California grows, we have the collective opportunity to shape the future of the built environment to be both protective of public health and supportive of environmental goals,” said Croes. “We hope that this new guide will help decision makers promote healthy, safe, equitable and sustainable communities.”

For more information and for Fact Sheets in English and Spanish, please visit https://www.arb.ca.gov/ch/landuse.htm.

TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling $1,402,678

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved penalties totaling $1,350,593 against 41 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations. Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: ten air quality, two industrial hazardous waste, one industrial wastewater discharge, four multimedia, three municipal solid waste, four municipal wastewater discharge, five petroleum storage tank, nine public water system, and one water quality.

Default orders were issued in the following categories: one petroleum storage tank and one public water system. Included in the total are fines of $847,284 against Nalco Company in Fort Bend County for air emissions violations in 2011 through 2015. Of the total, as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project, a total of $423,642 will be paid to the Texas City Independent School District, the Barbers Hills Independent School District, and the Houston-Galveston Area Council, to replace old higher-emission buses with new lower-emission buses, or to retrofit or convert old buses with emissions-reducing equipment.

In addition, on April 25, the executive director approved a total of 17 penalties, totaling $52,085.

Environmental Review Completed for Largest Proposed Coal Export Terminal in North America

Cowlitz County and the Washington Department of Ecology have completed their environmental review for the largest proposed coal export terminal in North America.

The in-depth report details how the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project near Longview in Cowlitz County would cause numerous impacts to the environment, local neighborhoods, and transportation. It also identifies potential mitigation measures to reduce some, but not all of the impacts.

The coal terminal would move 44 million metric tons of coal annually, add 16 more trains daily through the local area, and increase Columbia River ship transits in and out of Cowlitz County by 1,680 annually.

“We spent the bulk of our time and effort really focusing on the potential impacts to the local community where impacts would be greatest,” said Elaine Placido, Building and Planning director for Cowlitz County. “We received an unprecedented 267,000 comments, so it was clear to us that people are really interested in this project.”

Officially known as the Environmental Impact Statement, the report is not a decision or permit. It uses scientific methods, computer models, and the best available data to provide information and analyses. The report will be used by the public and the 10 agencies that will consider the more than 20 permits needed for the coal terminal.

The report evaluates 23 environmental areas, with adverse impacts in 19 of them. Impacts include filling wetlands, dredging riverbed, injuring fish, and creating pollution from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also identifies unavoidable impacts in nine areas: air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources, and tribal resources.

Some key findings in the final report include:

  • Increased locomotive diesel particulate matter, a toxic air pollutant, is expected to cause an unavoidable increase in cancer risk rates in a neighborhood along the rail line in Longview.
  • Slow-moving, 1.3-mile-long trains could cause traffic jams during peak commute times in Cowlitz County.
  • Environmental modeling found that the amount of coal dust deposited along train tracks and at the proposed terminal would not exceed air quality standards for human health.
  • Transporting, handling, and burning the coal overseas is projected to increase global GHG emissions by about 2 million metric tons. The final study proposes mitigation for the full increase.

Along with taking a hard look at the environmental impacts from the project, the report also identifies 30 potential steps to offset or reduce impacts. These include mitigation plans for wetlands and GHG emissions, underwater noise controls, and fish and plant studies. “This comprehensive study is now a resource for future decision-makers, the public and Millennium,” said Sally Toteff, director of Ecology’s Southwest Region. “The study will inform local, state, and federal agencies that will be acting on Millennium's permit applications.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue its own federal Environmental Impact Statement later in 2017.

Environmental News Links

Program Helps Colorado’s Brewers Go Green

EPA Considers Repealing, Replacing Programs that Help Prevent Childhood Lead Exposure

Trump's Climate Cuts Could Result in Half-Billion Extra Tons of CO2 in the Air

Court Delays EPA Mercury Rule Case While Trump Reviews

Oil, Tech Giants Tell Trump to Stay in Paris Deal

Texas Researchers Develop System to Neutralize Hazardous Materials

Gutting EPA Is a Threat to Our Health

Reducing Uncertainty in Hazard Prediction

Trivia Question of the Week

Since its creation, EPA has cut air pollution in the U.S. by how much?

a. 20%

b. 50%

c. 70%

d. 90%

Answer

Help Fight Brain Tumors

Brain tumors are a devastating disease that inflicts nearly 700,000 Americans and millions more worldwide. About 20–40% of all other cancers develop brain metastases, and almost 80,000 Americans are diagnosed with brain cancer every year. One of those is my niece. Over 16,000 people die from brain tumors every year, and we are fighting to keep her from contributing from that statistic.

If you’ve enjoyed reading or benefited from the articles in Environmental Resource Center’s tip of the week, we’d appreciate your making a contribution to the National Brain Tumor Society through this link. She’ll know that we’re all behind her.