Tens of Thousands Urge EPA for Bold Cross-State Smog Rule

June 27, 2022
Over 80,000 people from all around the country submitted comments to the EPA urging the agency to issue a strong “Good Neighbor Rule” to reduce cross-state ozone pollution, or smog. Now EPA will consider the public comments it has received and issue a final version of the Good Neighbor Rule, likely in late 2022 or early 2023.
EPA proposed the Good Neighbor Rule in March. EPA estimates that, if finalized, the Good Neighbor Rule will prevent more than a million asthma attacks annually and at least a thousand premature deaths. It will also improve the health of forests and waterbodies harmed by ozone and its precursor pollutants. More than 127 million people live in parts of the country that suffer from harmful ozone levels.
“Interstate ozone pollution is a serious problem that EPA and many states have consistently failed to address,” said Kathleen Riley, Earthjustice attorney. “EPA must listen to the tens of thousands of people who are urging strong safeguards to protect public health.”
Comprehensive legal and technical comments from a coalition of public health and environmental groups, also submitted yesterday, explain that EPA’s proposal represents a major improvement over previous cross-state ozone rules, which allowed pollution “hotspots” to persist, especially in communities of color and economically marginalized neighborhoods. The comments show that ozone pollution is worse than EPA has estimated, pointing to a need for greater pollution reductions, beyond what EPA has proposed.
“Cleaner air is essential to restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Litigation Staff Attorney Ariel Solaski. “Airborne nitrogen contributes roughly one-third of the nitrogen polluting the Bay — and half of that pollution comes from outside its watershed. We urge EPA to finalize a strong Good Neighbor Rule that further reduces the impact of interstate ozone pollution on the Bay and people living in this region.”
“Over 120 million Americans live in areas where ozone levels exceed health standards,” said Vijay Limaye, climate and health scientist at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “We’re glad to see EPA taking steps to clean up this dangerous pollution that crosses state lines and setting specific limits on industrial sources so they clean up their act.”
“Air pollution knows no boundaries, and the millions of people downwind of power plants and industrial facilities should not be forced to breathe disease-causing smog pollution," said Leslie Fields, Sierra Club national director, Policy, Advocacy, and Legal. "It’s past time the fossil fuel power plants and industrial facilities that are polluting communities — in particular, Black and Brown communities already living under the weight of dangerous pollutants — comply with strict air quality standards.”
While ozone is good as a protective layer in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone causes asthma attacks, other respiratory illnesses, and is linked to premature deaths. Ground-level ozone also damages plants and ecosystems, stunts tree and crop growth, and contributes to climate change. Formed by emissions from cars, trucks, power plants, and factories, ozone is also a greenhouse gas.
Oregon OSHA Launches New, Free Resources to Help Employers Understand and Comply with Rule Protecting Workers Against Wildfire Smoke
As a rule addressing protections for workers against potential exposure to wildfire smoke is set to take effect July 1, Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers to use new resources developed by the division to help understand and comply with the rule.
The following free resources are now available online:
  • Wildfire smoke online course: Designed to satisfy certain training requirements found in the wildfire smoke rule, the course addresses such topics as air quality measurements, health effects and symptoms, the proper use of filtering facepiece respirators, and other safety measures.
  • Fact sheet about the key requirements of the wildfire smoke rule: This six-page document highlights the rule’s key overall requirements, offering a reader-friendly summary of what employers and workers need to know about the rule. 
“These new tools underscore our ongoing commitment to provide employers with resources in advance to help them comply with the rule and protect their workers from the potential dangers of wildfire smoke,” said Renee Stapleton, acting administrator for Oregon OSHA.  
Oregon OSHA adopted wildfire smoke and heat rules in May. Both rules encompass initial protective measures for workers who rely on employer-provided housing, including as part of farm operations. The heat rule took effect June 15. Resources to help understand and comply with the heat rule are available, including the recently released sample plan for the heat illness prevention plan and sample plans for rest breaks and acclimatization. 
Both rules were proposed in February, following a development process that included worker and community stakeholder listening sessions, input and review by rule advisory committees, and input from employer and labor stakeholders. The rules build on temporary emergency requirements that were adopted in summer 2021 following several months of stakeholder and community engagement.
The wildfire smoke rule addresses an array of exposure assessments and controls, and training and communication measures. The heat rule requires access to shade and cool water, preventive cool-down breaks, and prevention plans and training.
North Georgia Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Dumping Hazardous Waste
Amin Ali, who directed the dumping of over 100 drums and other containers of chemicals, including hazardous waste, has pleaded guilty to a charge of disposal of hazardous waste without a permit.
“Ali disregarded the health and safety of citizens by trying to conceal his illegal dumping,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.  “He also broke the law regarding the proper handling of hazardous materials. Our office takes protection of the environment very seriously and will continue to prosecute those who seek to destroy our precious natural resources.”
“The defendant illegally disposed of numerous drums containing hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of EPA-CID’s Southeast Area Branch. “This guilty plea demonstrates that EPA will hold accountable for such criminal behavior and that EPA and DOJ will continue to vigorously prosecute those that choose to violate our environmental statutes.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) addresses the problem of hazardous waste transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal and is designed to protect human health and the environment by requiring the proper and safe management of hazardous waste from the time it is created until the time it is disposed of properly.  RCRA prohibits the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste without a permit issued under the statute.  RCRA also prohibits the transportation of hazardous waste to a facility that lacks a permit to accept hazardous waste.
The defendant, Amin Ali, owned and controlled Goldstar Investment Group LLC, 7 Days Property Management Inc., and Rock Springs Farming LLC.  Through these entities, he owned the property in Dalton, Georgia (a warehouse formerly owned by a chemical company), and in Rock Springs, Georgia (a farming property containing several old chicken houses).
In August 2021, Ali had over 100 drums and other containers of chemicals, including many containing hazardous waste, moved from the Goldstar property to the Rock Springs property.  The drums were left in one of the old chicken houses, with some of the drums left in an open trench to be buried.  Some of the contents of the drums spilled and leaked into the surrounding soil. 
Subsequent testing of the drums and soil revealed the presence of benzene, lead, and chromium.  In addition, the contents of the drums were reactive and ignitable.
Air Force Agrees to Pay $206,811 EPA Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations
The EPA recently announced that the U.S. Air Force has agreed to pay a $206,811 penalty for hazardous waste storage and handling violations at the Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island in Alaska.
In an agreement signed last week, EPA alleges the Air Force stored hazardous wastes at the air station without a permit and failed to properly label and inspect waste containers and an above-ground storage tank in which the hazardous wastes were stored.
EPA found that the Air Force improperly stored more than a ton of hazardous paints, hydrochloric acid, methyl ethyl ketone, and oxidizers, and more than 25 tons of hazardous waste fuel and oil. These wastes were stored for years longer than allowed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act which governs the handling of hazardous wastes.
The agency also determined the Air Force failed to properly manage its universal waste, including batteries, lamps, and aerosol cans.
In addition to paying the $206,811 penalty, the Air Force has also agreed to ship off-site and properly dispose of approximately 55,000 pounds of hazardous waste by the end of June 2022, improve its hazardous waste and universal waste management practices, and appropriately close the area where hazardous waste was improperly stored.
“EPA rigorously enforces our hazardous waste regulations to ensure these wastes are managed in ways that protect people’s health and the environment,” said Ed Kowalski, director of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division of EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle. “We’re grateful that the Air Force has acknowledged its mistakes and stepped up to its responsibilities to fix the problem.”
Details of the violations EPA found at Eareckson Air Base can be found in the Consent Agreement and Final Order.
West Haven Chemical Warehousing Company Issued Penalty for Unsafe Practices
The EPA recently reached a settlement with New England Warehousing Group, LLC, based in West Haven, Conn., for alleged violations of both the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause (GDC) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 2019 and 2020. Under the settlement, the company has agreed to pay a penalty of $109,635 and certify compliance with all its CAA GDC and EPCRA requirements.
"With this settlement, EPA is sending a strong message to companies that deal with dangerous chemicals – they have an obligation to comply with environmental laws in order to protect the communities where they are located," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "EPA was particularly concerned that emergency responders were not provided adequate information about the type and amount of chemicals stored on site, and that the facility is located in an area with environmental justice concerns."
The New England Warehousing Group, LLC (NEWG) is a privately owned company that provides chemical warehousing and storage services to customers in New England, New York, and New Jersey. NEWG stores between 10 to 12 separate products at their West Haven, Conn. facility that are reportable substances under EPCRA Section 311 and 312's chemical inventory reporting requirements. Some of these products are considered extremely hazardous substances ("EHSs") covered by CAA GDC requirements applicable to sources producing, processing, handling, or storing EHSs. NEWG handles and stores significant quantities of reportable substances at the facility and, in 2019, stored more than two million pounds total, including the highly flammable liquids ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and acetone.
The company's alleged violations were first documented during an EPA inspection at NEWG's warehousing facility at 82 West Clark Street. The company failed to conduct a process hazard review for the warehouse operation and to design and maintain a safe facility, under CAA GDC requirements, and failed to submit complete, timely EPCRA Section 311 and 312 Chemical Inventory reports (Tier IIs) with state and local emergency planning and response authorities. Before bringing a penalty action, EPA issued a Notice of Violation and Administrative Order to NEWG citing its GDC violations, which were corrected by the company after they conducted a process hazard review and made chemical management program changes at the facility. NEWG cooperated with EPA throughout the enforcement process.
NEWG's facility is part of an eight-acre parcel located in a densely populated urban neighborhood. It is surrounded by numerous business and residential properties and lies within about 500 feet of a commuter rail station. The company's past storage of hazardous chemicals at the facility presented substantial risk to human health and the environment, due to the presence of many highly flammable liquids. The facility is also located in an area of potential environmental justice concerns, due to the presence of relatively substantial environmental burdens and/or vulnerable populations.
This case is part of an initiative to improve safety and compliance at chemical warehouses. Through the initiative, EPA Region 1 has brought several civil and criminal cases against chemical warehouses and published information to assist with compliance.
Atlanta Recycling Company Continually Exposed Workers to Chemical Hazards
Federal workplace safety inspectors determined that an Atlanta recycling company exposed workers to hazardous chemicals without warning them of the risks. This is the third time since 2019 that OSHA cited the company for similar violations.
An OSHA inspection in December 2021 found that TAV Holdings, Inc. failed to provide workers the safety data sheets for all chemicals used in the Atlanta facility and did not list the chemicals in the company’s hazard communication program. Earlier in 2021, the agency issued citations for similar violations at the company’s Greenville, South Carolina, site and in 2019 at the Atlanta facility.
OSHA proposed $311,934 in penalties after identifying three repeat and 28 serious safety and health violations in its most recent investigation. TAV Holdings failed to:
  • Install a fall protection system around unprotected sides of a pit
  • Keep exit routes unobstructed, and post signs along obscured exits to show the correct routes
  • Specify techniques to isolate energy sources on machines within the energy control procedures
  • Train employees on hazardous energy sources for equipment
  • Provide guarding on rotating parts and ingoing nip and pinch points on a drill press and conveyer
  • Mark electrical panel circuits to indicate their purpose and enclose an electrical control panel
  • Provide audiometric testing or annual training on hazards associated with high noise levels, and provide hearing protection to some employees
  • Conduct annual training on the use of respirators and fit tests for employees
"TAV Holdings Inc.'s repeated disregard for workers' safety is inexcusable, especially after our previous investigations identified the serious risks involved," said OSHA Area Office Director Jeffery Stawowy in Atlanta-West. "They have a legal obligation to provide their employees with a safe and healthful workplace."
During the Atlanta on-site visit, OSHA inspectors also found that Atlanta's XL MachineWorks, LLC – a metal fabrication contractor employed at TAV Holdings – failed to train its employees on how to safely operate forklifts and properly anchor a bench grinder. The contractor also failed to guard a lathe machine and improperly used extension cords to power equipment. For these four serious violations, the agency proposed $11,188 in penalties to XL MachineWorks.
EPA Marks National Pollinator Week by Launching Pilot Projects and Resources Portal to Help Protect Vulnerable Species from Pesticides
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan issued a proclamation recently marking National Pollinator Week. This year’s proclamation highlights EPA’s commitment to protecting federally listed endangered and threatened (listed) pollinators from effects of pesticides by kicking off two new pilot projects. As outlined in EPA’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) Workplan, these pilot projects include input and collaboration between EPA, federal partners, and other stakeholders to develop protections for a subset of endangered species from specific pesticides. EPA also continues to advance pollinator outreach efforts through a new webpage that provides resources to learn about pollinator protection activities.
“Pollinators play a vital role in sustaining healthy communities, and EPA’s efforts to protect the more than 200,000 species of pollinators is more important than ever,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This year, I am excited to ramp up collaboration through two new pilot projects with stakeholders and our federal partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as we work to develop practical protections for vulnerable pollinators and their habitats.”
Endangered Species Act pilot projects to protect vulnerable species
Through the federal mitigation pilot project, EPA and other federal agencies are developing approaches for identifying and implementing earlier mitigation measures for a dozen species that are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, including pollinators like the rusty patched bumblebee and Mitchell’s satyr butterfly. The project will help identify measures that reduce impacts to the survival of listed species and to their critical habitats. In turn this will provide federal agencies and stakeholders with a common understanding of how to reduce risk to listed species from pesticides using practical, effective mitigations.
The second pilot, EPA’s vulnerable species pilot, is an effort to identify and implement mitigations across broad groups of pesticides (e.g., herbicides, insecticides) to protect a particular species. For example, EPA might implement restrictions to protect the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly from all insecticides used within or near the species range. This effort is intended to ensure that EPA begins to adopt meaningful protections for species likely to be affected by pesticide use, even before consultation with the Services is complete.
Expanded outreach
To enhance access to pollinator protection resources, EPA launched a webpage that provides information on best pest management practices, state managed pollinator protection plans, and mitigations, from EPA, federal partners, and scientific journals that offer lessons on protecting pollinators and their habitat. These resources will help empower farmers and others interested in pollinator protection to learn about and address the challenges facing pollinators.
Pollinator protection is a collective undertaking. In addition to its federal partners, EPA continues to collaborate with organizations like Pollinator Partnership to promote pollinator health through education and more. EPA also encourages communities across the U.S. to take steps to support pollinators and their habitat. From federal agencies to nongovernmental organizations to individuals, everyone can do their part to support pollinator health and habitat. EPA’s website has several resources available to teachers, parents and caretakers, and students to support pollinator week education.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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