EPA has issued the final 2017 Construction General Permit (CGP), a permit that the Agency says will continue to reduce pollution to the nation’s waterways by requiring controls for stormwater discharges from construction sites. Stormwater discharges during construction activities can contain sediment and other pollutants that harm aquatic ecosystems, increase drinking water treatment costs, and pollute waters that people use for fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities.
The 2012 CGP will expire at midnight on February 16, 2017. During this time, web content for each permit will be online. Web content for the 2017 CGP will include the new permit and factsheet initially with supporting documents added soon. Web content for the 2012 CGP will remain posted online until the 2012 permit expires.
The 2017 CGP is similar to the 2012 CGP; it replaces and includes discharge limitations and requirements for self-inspections, corrective actions, staff training, and development of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. It also includes several new features such as requiring waste containers to have lids or covers when not in use or at the end of the business day, requiring controls to minimize exposure of building materials containing PCBs to precipitation and stormwater, and requiring large disturbances to be stabilized faster. The 2017 CGP will take effect February 17, 2017, and will last for five years.
Atlanta RCRA, DOT, and SARA Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Atlanta, GA, on January 24–26. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 27. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Indianapolis RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Indianapolis, IN, on January 31–February 2. If you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on February 3. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Tampa RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Tampa, FL, on February 7–9 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Air Emissions of Toxic Chemicals from Industrial Facilities Down More than Half Since 2005
The EPA recently released its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, which shows releases of toxic chemicals into the air fell 56% from 2005–2015 at industrial facilities submitting data to the TRI program.
"Today’s report shows action by EPA, state and tribal regulators and the regulated community has helped dramatically lower toxic air emissions over the past 10 years,” said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The TRI report provides citizens access to information about what toxic chemicals are being released in their neighborhoods and what companies are doing to prevent pollution.”
The report shows an 8% decrease from 2014 to 2015 at facilities reporting to the program contributed to this ten-year decline. Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, toluene, and mercury were among chemicals with significantly lower air releases at TRI-covered facilities. Medical professionals have associated these toxic air pollutants with health effects that include damage to developing nervous systems and respiratory irritation.
Combined hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid air releases fell more than 566 million lb, mercury more than 76,000 lb, and toluene more than 32 million lb at TRI-covered facilities. Coal- and oil-fired electric utilities accounted for more than 90% of nationwide reductions in air releases of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and mercury from 2005 to 2015 in facilities reporting to the program. This trend is helping protect millions of families and children from these harmful pollutants. Reasons for these reductions include a shift from coal to other fuel sources, the installation of control technologies, and implementation of environmental regulations.
In 2015, of the nearly 26 billion lb of total chemical waste managed at TRI-covered industrial facilities (excluding metal mines), approximately 92% was not released into the environment due to the use of preferred waste management practices such as recycling, energy recovery, and treatment. This calculation does not include the metal mining sector, which presents only limited opportunities for pollution prevention. The TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool has more information about how individual facilities and parent companies are managing waste and reducing pollution at the source.
EPA, states, and tribes receive TRI data annually from facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste management. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the prior calendar year to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities of TRI chemicals. Nearly 22,000 facilities submitted TRI data for calendar year 2015.
This year’s report also includes a section highlighting the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This section focuses on the overlap between TRI chemicals and chemicals designated as Work Plan chemicals by EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The TRI National Analysis website includes new interactive features such as an automated flipbook depicting how the TRI Program has evolved over the past 30 years, and a new embedded dashboard that allows users to build customized visualizations of TRI data by a chemical or a sector. These features are intended to promote more user engagement and exploration of TRI data.
CalEPA and OEHHA Finalize Major Update to Environmental Health Screening Tool
State environmental officials recently released an updated version of California’s groundbreaking environmental health screening tool, CalEnviroScreen 3.0.
Reflecting extensive public input, the science-based tool is used to help implement a variety of state programs aimed at reducing pollution and providing a healthier environment in California’s most disadvantaged communities. Among its applications is targeting communities for investments with state cap-and-trade funds to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“CalEnviroScreen helps us prioritize our efforts to revitalize disadvantaged communities, whether it’s through investing cap-and-trade auction proceeds or by improving compliance with environmental laws,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “The latest update demonstrates our determination to continue refining this critical tool and advancing environmental justice.”
As of March 2016, half of cap-and-trade investments statewide—$469 million of $912 million—went to projects providing benefits to disadvantaged communities identified using CalEnviroScreen, and more than a third of those investments—$356 million—went to projects located within those communities.
“California is committed to continuing to lead the nation in its environmental policies, and the state’s commitment to environmental justice is no exception,” said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Le?n, author of SB 535, which requires CalEPA to identify disadvantaged communities. “This groundbreaking scientific tool is key to getting investments to the communities that need them the most.”
CalEnviroScreen identifies the communities most burdened by multiple sources of pollution and that are especially vulnerable to its effects. The tool ranks each of the state’s 8,000 census tracts using data on 20 indicators of pollution, environmental quality, and socioeconomic and public health conditions.
“CalEnviroScreen exemplifies our commitment to providing policymakers with a science-based examination of pollution burden and population vulnerability across the state,” said OEHHA Director Dr. Lauren Zeise. “We are grateful to all of the Californians—many of whom are residents of highly-burdened communities—who have participated in our workshops and aided in the development of this tool.”
In addition to informing the allocation of cap-and-trade funds, CalEnviroScreen is used by CalEPA and its boards, departments and office to target environmental justice grants, promote greater compliance with environmental laws, prioritize site-cleanup activities and identify opportunities for sustainable economic development in heavily impacted neighborhoods.
"Our efforts to confront climate change must fairly provide aid to communities disproportionately burdened by pollution,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco. “Creating a tool to impartially identify them is tough, but this update to CalEnviroscreen is a move in the right direction."
The new version of the tool adds two new indicators, which measure high housing costs and cardiovascular health. The housing-cost indicator shows the fraction of each census tract’s low-income households that pay over half of their income for housing. The cardiovascular health indicator shows the rate of visits to emergency departments for treatment of heart attacks. Other refinements include several additional data sources:
- The groundwater threats indicator has added data on “produced water” ponds from oil and gas operations.
- The solid waste facilities indicator has added information on scrap metal recyclers.
- The drinking water contaminants indicator has added improved data on the areas served by drinking water systems, and three additional chemical contaminants.
Lastly, CalEnviroScreen 3.0 incorporates updated data for each of the indicators, as well as additional information on pollution originating in Mexico that affects California’s border communities.
"California's border communities face unique environmental challenges that impact the health of its residents,” said Luis Olmedo, Executive Director of Comite Civico Del Valle, Inc., an Imperial County non-profit organization. “By incorporating more information about pollution from both sides of the border CalEPA and OEHHA have improved CalEnviroScreen to more accurately reflect these challenges. We look forward to working with CalEPA to further refine its understanding of pollution near the border."
CalEnviroScreen 3.0 was developed through an extensive public review process. After releasing the initial draft in September, CalEPA and OEHHA held seven workshops across the state, and two webinars, to solicit public comment on the draft. OEHHA and CalEPA are committed to continuing to revise and refine the tool through an open and public process.
OEHHA released the first version of CalEnviroScreen in 2013, followed by the updated CalEnviroScreen 2.0 in 2014. It is the nation’s first comprehensive, statewide environmental health screening tool.
Innophos Fined $1,398,000 for Mismanagement of Hazardous Waste
The EPA recently announced that Innophos has agreed to cease sending hazardous waste from the company’s facility in Geismar, Louisiana, to an adjacent facility that was not permitted for hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal. The agreement resolves alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Innophos will also pay a $1,398,000 civil penalty.
Innophos manufactures purified phosphoric acid from merchant-grade acid at its facility in Geismar, Louisiana. Innophos sent hazardous waste streams to a neighboring phosphoric acid manufacturing facility that produces acid from phosphate ore. One waste stream, called RP pondwater, consisted of an acidic stream contaminated with arsenic, cadmium and chromium. The other waste stream, called raffinate, consisted of a concentrated acid stream contaminated with cadmium and chromium.
The recent settlement requires Innophos to cease shipments of RP pondwater waste to a facility not authorized to receive it, a measure that Innophos has already implemented. The settlement also requires Innophos to modify the way the raffinate stream is handled by disposing of the waste only in disposal units that are authorized to accept it or by treating the waste on-site.
The violations were discovered during an EPA inspection of the Geismar facility in 2004. Innophos has already made changes to come into compliance with regards to the RP pondwater waste stream by modifying its filter process, and is pursuing an underground injection control well permit for disposal of the raffinate waste stream.
This settlement supports EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative to reduce pollution from mining and mineral processing.
With the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality as co-plaintiff, the United States, on behalf of EPA, has lodged a consent decree and filed a complaint in the Middle District U.S. Court in Louisiana. The filing of the complaint and lodging of the consent decree will be followed by a 45-day public comment period.
Fiat Chrysler Software Increased NOX Emissions, Violated the Clean Air Act
The EPA recently issued a notice of violation to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and FCA US, LLC, (collectively FCA) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act for installing and failing to disclose engine management software in light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the United States. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles. The allegations cover roughly 104,000 vehicles. EPA is working in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has also issued a notice of violation to FCA. EPA and CARB have both initiated investigations based on FCA’s alleged actions.
“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”
The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to demonstrate to EPA through a certification process that their products meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. As part of the certification process, automakers are required to disclose and explain any software, known as auxiliary emission control devices, that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution. FCA did not disclose the existence of certain auxiliary emission control devices to EPA in its applications for certificates of conformity for model year 2014, 2015, and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks, despite being aware that such a disclosure was mandatory. By failing to disclose this software and then selling vehicles that contained it, FCA violated important provisions of the Clean Air Act.
FCA may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV. EPA is also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute “defeat devices,” which are illegal.
In September 2015, EPA instituted an expanded testing program to screen for defeat devices on light duty vehicles. This testing revealed that the FCA vehicle models in question produce increased NOx emissions under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use. As part of the investigation, EPA has found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.
Protective Action Guide for Drinking Water Following a Radiological Incident
During a radiological emergency, such as an accident at a nuclear power plant, radioactive material can be released into the environment. This radioactive material could get into rivers, lakes, and streams that are used by public water suppliers to deliver drinking water to local residents. EPA is releasing a non-regulatory Protective Action Guide (PAG) to help officials determine the best way to prevent the public from experiencing the harmful effects from radiation in drinking water during an emergency.
The drinking water Protective Action Guide is a level that can be used to determine when alternative drinking water should be provided and when the use of contaminated water supplies should be restricted. The drinking water PAG are doses of radiation that should be avoided during an emergency event. They do not represent acceptable routine exposures. PAGs trigger safety measures—in this case, provision of alternative drinking water—to keep doses to the public as low as possible during emergency situations only.
The purpose of EPA’s (PAG) for Radiological Incidents is to guide the short-term planning and decision-making efforts by local and state officials. It is not intended for long-term or everyday use. The proposed PAG does not affect EPA’s drinking water standards for radionuclides. Therefore, affected public water systems are expected to take actions to return to compliance with drinking water standards after a radiological emergency as soon as practicable.
New Federal Rules on Protection of Visibility
EPA has finalized revisions to requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for state plans for protection of visibility in mandatory Class I Federal areas in order to continue steady environmental progress while addressing administrative aspects of the program.
The revisions clarify the relationship between long-term strategies and reasonable progress goals (RPGs) in state implementation plans (SIPs) and the long-term strategy obligation of all states; clarify and modify the requirements for periodic comprehensive revisions of SIPs; modify the set of days used to track progress towards natural visibility conditions to account for events such as wildfires; provide states with additional flexibility to address impacts on visibility from anthropogenic sources outside the United States and from certain types of prescribed fires; modify certain requirements related to the timing and form of progress reports; and update, simplify, and extend to all states the provisions for reasonably attributable visibility impairment, while revoking most existing reasonably attributable visibility impairment federal implementation plans (FIPs).
The Agency is also making a one-time adjustment to the due date for the next periodic comprehensive SIP revisions by extending the existing deadline of July 31, 2018, to July 31, 2021. This final rule became effective on January 10, 2017.
Pikewood National Golf Club Faces Steep Fines for Clean Water Act Violations
The EPA and the Department of Justice announced that the owners and operators of the Pikewood National Golf Club in Morgantown, West Virginia, have settled alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act related to the unpermitted filling of wetlands and waterways.
Under a proposed consent decree filed in federal court in Wheeling, West Virginia, the club owners and operators—Pikewood, Inc., Deckers Creek Limestone Co., and Greer Industries, Inc. —have agreed to restore approximately 6,400 linear feet of stream at the golf course. The defendants have also agreed to complete substantial additional wetlands mitigation work on property at or near the golf course.
In addition, the companies have agreed to pay a $1.8 million penalty to be divided equally between the U.S. and West Virginia to settle claims that the defendants illegally filled and altered streams and wetlands during construction of the Pikewood National Golf Course. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is a co-plaintiff.
“Wetlands serve essential ecological functions that protect sources of drinking water and our communities as well as natural habitat,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “This settlement underscores EPA’s commitment to holding those who do not act in accordance with our nation’s laws that protect these vital resources accountable for their actions.”
In a complaint filed along with the proposed settlement, EPA and West Virginia alleged that the defendants filled and altered the waters and wetlands on the property without first obtaining a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers as required by the Clean Water Act. The violations impacted Laurel Run which flows to Deckers Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River.
Natural wetlands are vital to protecting the integrity of our rivers and estuaries, and help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities by providing a natural filtration system for pollution before it gets into our rivers, lakes, and ponds, and by preventing flooding after storms. Small streams and wetlands form the source of the nation’s fresh waters, and changes that degrade headwaters systems can affect other rivers and lakes downstream. Wetlands also provide valuable wildlife habitat, offering breeding and feeding grounds for a broad array of fish, birds, and other wildlife.
The requirement to obtain a wetlands permit assures the protection of these important natural resources, and preserves their environmental, recreational, and economic functions.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
National Discharge Standards for Vessels of the Armed Forces
The Clean Water Act requires the EPA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish national discharge standards for vessels of the Armed Forces. The discharges have the potential to introduce oil, metals, organics, and aquatic nuisance species into inland, coastal, and ocean waters. The EPA and DoD published the UNDS Phase II-Batch One Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in February of 2014 and received minimal public comment. The EPA and DoD are now establishing discharge performance standards for 11 of the 25 discharges requiring control via the UNDS Phase II-Batch One Final Rule.
Louisiana DEQ and Denka Sign AOC Designed to Reduce Chloroprene Emissions at LaPlace Facility
On January 6, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Denka Performance Elastomer signed a formal document that outlines the company’s voluntary commitment to reduce emissions of the chemical chloroprene. Under the Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), emissions reductions devices will be installed on a set schedule, culminating with the installation of the Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) by the end of the 4th quarter of 2017.
After EPA reclassified chloroprene as a likely carcinogen, the National Air Toxics Assessment of 2011 showed an elevated risk for certain types of cancer in parts of LaPlace. The findings were published in 2015. The company also agreed to provide written progress reports to LDEQ on a monthly basis tracking the emissions reductions efforts, to conduct ambient air monitoring until six months after the RTO starts up and to acquire all necessary permits for installation and operation of the emissions reduction equipment.
“We expect to see reductions in chloroprene emissions immediately,” LDEQ Secretary Chuck Carr Brown said. “By the time the RTO begins operation, we expect the amount of chloroprene emitted to be reduced substantially. Denka has worked with LDEQ to craft this agreement, voluntarily agreeing to plant modifications that will cost millions of dollars. EPA has provided assistance and guidance through the whole process, and St. John the Baptist Parish government has been a partner from the beginning.
“This agreement is a culmination of that collective effort. It’s a very good beginning, but efforts to lower chloroprene emissions will not end with this AOC. We will continue to monitor and work with the company and our regulatory partners to achieve the maximum reduction possible.”
LDEQ’s regulatory partners also lauded the agreement. “Today is an important milestone in fulfilling our promise to reduce emissions in the community,” EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry said. “Denka is committing to make changes at the LaPlace plant and install long-term pollution controls.”
“Upon review of the Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), it is clear that Denka and LDEQ have developed a plan to ensure clean and safe air for the citizens of St. John Parish and to protect the environment,” St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said. “Despite recent challenges and a compressed timeline, I stand assured that the approved plan will achieve the stated goals as established by Dr. Brown and his leadership team. We have been kept abreast of this situation since December of 2015 and anticipate continuing to receive timely information regarding the executed plan, it's progress and any delays in reducing emissions to the stated level.”
Jorge Lavastida, manager of the Denka Performance Elastomer plant in LaPlace said the company is committed to being environmentally responsible.
“Denka Performance Elastomer, LLC, has been working with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on a voluntary basis to develop the Administrative Order on Consent. As the next step in our cooperative agreement, we will install a series of measures designed to reduce emissions of chloroprene by 85 percent from the facility’s 2014 baseline chloroprene emissions,” Lavastida said. “While DPE has been in and is in compliance with existing air permits, we have committed $17.5 million for technology and have dedicated a significant amount of personnel resources to this reduction effort to demonstrate our environmental stewardship.
“DPE has worked swiftly and collaboratively with regulatory agencies to evaluate existing processes and try to find ways to lower chloroprene emissions from the facility. The result of this work and collaboration is the list of emission reduction projects that will be undertaken. DPE has developed and is implementing air monitoring plans and continues to meet with employees and stakeholders including Near Neighbors and its Community Advisory Panel to share information and provide updates. DPE recognizes there are some St. John the Baptist Parish residents who have expressed concerns about the NATA findings, and we want to listen and respond to those concerns. We will continue to be environmentally responsible.”
EPA Office Complex in Edison, New Jersey to Be Powered by Solar Energy
The EPA will install a 1.5 megawatt solar panel generation field at the EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility. Ameresco, Inc., of Framingham, Massachusetts, will install 4,788 solar panels, which will provide approximately 60% of the facility’s electricity needs. The project is expected to be completed and producing energy by this summer.
“Solar power is a clean and sustainable energy source for the future,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “EPA is proud to have our Edison, New Jersey offices rely on this carbon-free energy source.”
Under the agreement with Ameresco, the EPA will provide the company with over five acres of land at its Edison facility for a 25-year period. The solar farm will generate over 1 million kilowatt/hours per year, which is enough to power 123 homes. The EPA estimates the solar array will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,345 tons each year and save taxpayers about $100,000 a year, due to the reduced reliance on energy from fossil fuels.
2016 was the hottest year on record. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are GHGs. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary GHG emitted through human activities. Although carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere, activities such as the burning of fossil fuels are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. Using renewable energy reduces GHG emissions and air pollution associated with energy production and helps diversify the nation’s energy supply.
The federal government is the single largest energy consumer in the nation. Each year, the federal government consumes an estimated 57 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity at its nearly 500,000 buildings. This translates into an electric bill of about $5 billion a year. In 2015, President Obama directed federal agencies to cut their GHG emissions by 40% and increase their renewable energy use to at least 30% by 2025.
The EPA has partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency to bring the solar panel generation field to its Edison facility.
The Edison Environmental Center houses the laboratory for EPA Region 2, which provides analytical and technical support to the major programs within the region, including air, wastewater, drinking water, and Superfund. The support includes chemical, microbiological and biological testing of pollutants in water, soil, sediment, and tissue samples.
Volkswagen Agrees to Plead Guilty, Pay $4.3 Billion in Criminal and Civil Penalties
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch at a press conference at the U.S. Department of Justice to announce that Volkswagen AG (VW) has agreed to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts, and pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty, as a result of the company’s long-running scheme to sell approximately 590,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. by using a defeat device to cheat on emissions tests mandated by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and by lying and obstructing justice to further the scheme.
In separate civil resolutions of environmental, customs, and financial claims, VW has agreed to pay $1.5 billion. This includes EPA’s claim for civil penalties against Volkswagen in connection with Volkswagen’s importation and sale of these vehicles, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claims for customs fraud. In addition, the EPA agreement requires injunctive relief to prevent future violations. The agreements also resolve alleged violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act.
“When Volkswagen broke the law, EPA stepped in to hold them accountable and address the pollution they caused,” said EPA Administrator McCarthy. “EPA’s fundamental and indispensable role becomes all too clear when companies evade laws that protect our health. The American public depends on a strong and active EPA to deliver clean air protections, and that is exactly what we have done.”
“Volkswagen’s attempts to dodge emissions standards and import falsely certified vehicles into the country represent an egregious violation of our nation’s environmental, consumer protection, and financial laws,” said Attorney General Lynch. “Today’s actions reflect the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to defending consumers, protecting our environment and our financial system, and holding individuals and companies accountable for corporate wrongdoing. In the days ahead, we will continue to examine Volkswagen’s attempts to mislead consumers and deceive the government. And we will continue to pursue the individuals responsible for orchestrating this damaging conspiracy.”
For more information on EPA’s work on this issue: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/volkswagen-clean-air-act-civil-settlement
Greek Shipping Companies Sentenced to Pay $2.7 Million for Ocean Pollution
Two Greek shipping companies were sentenced yesterday to pay corporate penalties totaling $2.7 million after being convicted for obstructing justice, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), tampering with witnesses and conspiracy. Each company was ordered to pay part of its penalty to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in recognition of the threat posed by illegal discharges of oily waste to the marine environment.
The case stems from an inspection of the M/V Ocean Hope, a large cargo ship, conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard at the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina in July 2015. During that inspection, senior engineers for the companies tried to hide that the vessel had been dumping oily wastes into the ocean for months.
Oceanfleet Shipping Limited, the vessel’s operator, was sentenced to pay a $1,350,000 fine and make a $450,000 community service payment to Gray’s Reef. Oceanic Illsabe Limited, the vessel’s corporate owner, was sentenced to pay a $675,000 fine and make a $225,000 community service payment to the reef. Each company was placed on a five-year term of probation and barred from sending ships to United States ports until its financial penalty has been satisfied.
The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
“We are pleased with the substantial penalties imposed by the court, which reinforces that pollution doesn’t pay,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “We will continue to protect United States ports and waters, and uphold our treaty obligations, by vigorously prosecuting companies that dump oil at sea and then try to mislead U.S. Coast Guard inspectors with false statements and documents.”
The operation of commercial marine vessels generates large quantities of waste oil, oil-contaminated waste water and oil sludge. International and U.S. law forbid the discharge of oily wastes into the ocean. Should any overboard discharges occur, they must be documented in an official oil record book that is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that the companies maintained a lax “paper” compliance regime focused on avoiding liability rather than adequately training and supervising engineers. The companies failed to follow their own environmental policies and also ignored important red flags, such as the vessel’s failure to offload oil sludge for many months and its rare use of a pollution prevention device known as an oil-water separator. The regular dumping of tons of bilge water into the ocean continued for at least six months. In addition, and on at least two occasions, senior engineers conspired to connect a flexible hose, known in the industry as a “magic pipe,” to discharge tons of heavy oil sludge. The most recent discharge occurred in June 2015, as the vessel headed for United States waters. Coast Guard inspectors and laboratory testing confirmed the presence of heavy oils in the vessel’s overboard discharge piping.
When the Ocean Hope arrived at the Port of Wilmington, the companies’ engineers ordered subordinates to lie to Coast Guard inspectors and to cover up evidence. The vessel’s Chief Engineer presented inspectors with a doctored oil record book, in which false accountings of the ship’s production and disposal of oily wastes were recorded.
“Our office was pleased to partner with the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in this significant case and, pleased that the corporations responsible for this pollution were held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “We will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws designed to prevent the pollution of the world’s oceans.”
Though managed from Greece, Oceanic is registered in Liberia and had no significant assets besides the Ocean Hope, which was sold for scrap shortly after the indictment of this case. Oceanic and Oceanfleet are believed to be closely affiliated companies controlled by the same corporate principles out of Athens, Greece. During the period when the Ocean Hope was dumping oil into the ocean, Oceanfleet managed between ten and eleven vessels.
The vessel’s two top engineers were previously convicted and sentenced to serve prison sentences in connection with these crimes.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and U.S. Coast Guard District Five. Civil Chief Norman Acker and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson of the Eastern District of North Carolina provided additional expertise and assistance with the pretrial phase of the case. The attorneys prosecuting the case were Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth Nelson and Trial Attorney Brendan Selby, of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Banu Rangarajan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
EPA and Green Building Council Announce LEED Certification
The EPA and the U.S. Green Building Council recently announced that EPA’s Environmental Science Center at Fort Meade, Maryland, has been certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) O + M (operation and maintenance) making it the first EPA laboratory nation-wide to achieve this certification.
“We can all take pride in the fact that the Environmental Science Center here at Fort Meade will continue to provide a living, breathing example of sustainability in action,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “The work resulting in LEED certification was conducted entirely by EPA staff which reduced the costs to both the agency and the taxpayers.”
The U.S. Green Building Council designates LEED certification to building that demonstrate outstanding performance in energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The Environmental Science Center earned the LEED certification in the existing building operation and maintenance category, and was rated as exceptional in both on-site storm-water management, and natural habitat—as well as excellent in green cleaning, indoor air quality, and water conservation.
Construction Completed on NRG Carbon Capture Site
NRG Energy, Inc., and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corporation have completed construction, on-budget and on-schedule, of Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system.
“Completion of the Petra Nova project is an important milestone in our quest to help ensure reliable, affordable and increasingly cleaner energy from fossil fuels,” said Mauricio Gutierrez, President and CEO of NRG Energy. “This project represents another major step in NRG’s effort to reduce our carbon emissions and create a more sustainable energy future, and we are proud that this accomplishment was achieved on-budget and on-schedule in a competitive energy environment. I want to thank our partners at JX Nippon, Hilcorp and the U.S. Department of Energy as well as the State of Texas, our contractors and lenders for their commitment to the successful completion of this landmark project.”
Petra Nova first captured carbon dioxide (CO2) on September 19, 2016, and has delivered more than 100,000 tons of captured CO2 to the West Ranch field through an 80-mile pipeline. Final performance acceptance testing on the facility was completed on December 29, 2016, and the facility turned over for operations. During performance testing, the system met all performance criteria including capturing more than 90% of CO2 from a 240 MW equivalent slipstream of flue gas off an existing coal-fueled electrical generating unit at the WA Parish power plant in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. At this level of operation, Petra Nova can capture more than 5,000 tons of CO2 per day, which is the equivalent of taking more than 350,000 cars off the road.
“JX Nippon is very pleased to see the construction of the Carbon Capture System completed and operations commencing as planned, thanks to the great effort made by the Petra Nova team,” said Shunsaku Miyake, President and CEO of JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corporation. “We believe this project will contribute to significantly increasing incremental crude oil production from legacy oil fields and also will be a major step forward in helping to decrease CO2 emissions globally.”
“NRG and JX Nippon’s Petra Nova is the type of innovative, technologically advanced project that proves time and again that Texas is the world leader in energy innovation,” said Greg Abbott, Governor of the State of Texas.
Hilcorp Energy Company (Hilcorp), the operator of West Ranch oilfield, will use the captured CO2 to boost production at West Ranch oilfield, jointly owned by NRG, JX Nippon and Hilcorp. Both Hilcorp and the University Of Texas Bureau Of Economic Geology will monitor the movement of CO2 deep in the oil reservoir. Over the next few years, oil production at the field is currently estimated to increase from approximately 300 barrels per day before beginning Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operations to production of up to 15,000 barrels per day using captured CO2.
“To date we have drilled nearly 100 new wells in the West Ranch field and have implemented a robust CO2 and ground water monitoring program,” said Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company. “We are excited about this project, and expect to see a meaningful increase in oil production at West Ranch in the near future.”
Petra Nova is 50-50 joint venture by NRG and JX Nippon. Additionally, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) is providing up to $190 million in grants as part of the Clean Coal Power Initiative Program (CCPI), a cost-shared collaboration between the federal government and private industry. A portion of the project was financed with project loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Mizuho Bank, backed by Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI).
Petra Nova uses the KM-CDR Process®, jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., (MHI) and the Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc., and employs a proprietary KS-1 high-performance solvent for the CO2 absorption and desorption. The carbon capture facility was constructed under a fixed-price contract by a consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Americas, Inc., (MHIA) and TIC (The Industrial Company). At peak construction, over 500 people were working on the project.
By being built on an existing coal unit, Petra Nova shows an economic path to make existing and new fossil fuel plants significantly more environmentally viable as we transition to more sustainable energy future.
In addition to Petra Nova, NRG is helping to build a lower-carbon energy future in multiple ways including a growing renewable energy portfolio, the development of fast start, flexible natural gas turbines, which are low carbon in their own right and help to integrate renewables into the grid, and coal to gas conversions and additions. NRG operates more than 7,000 megawatts of fast start natural gas and has modified more than 2,780 megawatts of older coal-fueled steam generation to use cleaner burning natural gas, reducing their carbon intensity roughly by half. These efforts are the foundation of NRG’s commitment to achieve NRG Energy’s carbon reduction goals of 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
NRG, JX Nippon, and Hilcorp expect to host a ribbon cutting at the site in the first half of this year.
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