What’s on EPA’s Agenda?

May 28, 2019
On May 22, EPA released its Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which provides updates to the public about regulatory activity. According to EPA, the Agency’s agenda continues to support President Trump’s commitment to regulatory reform while simultaneously advancing the Agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment.
“From reducing NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks to cost-benefit reforms to addressing emerging chemicals of concern, EPA’s latest regulatory agenda reflects the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting the nation’s air, water, and land while at the same time alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  “The Spring Regulatory Agenda lays out our regulatory reforms that will reduce pollution and support the President’s historic economic growth – the combination of which improves lives and the environment.”
EPA’s Spring Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions shows continued progress in reducing regulatory burden as envisioned by Executive Order 13771. Along with 35 actions that are appearing for the first time, this agenda lists 57 actions that are expected to be deregulatory. Examples of both include:
  • The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks
  • Regulatory Determinations for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFAS)
  • Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehciles: Heavy-Duty Engine Standards 
  • On-Highway Heavy-Duty Trailers: Review of Standards and Requirements
  • Clarification of State Certification Procedures Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act
  • Clean Air Act Benefit-Cost Reforms
  • Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration
  • Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act; Reconsideration of Amendments
  • Revised Definition of 'Waters of the United States'
  • Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard; Revision of the Application Exclusion Zone Requirements
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Soaking Up Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products from Water
Medications excreted in the urine or dumped into the toilet can end up in the water supply, just like lotions or cosmetics that wash off the body and go down the sink or shower drain. Unfortunately, conventional wastewater treatment cannot completely remove pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed an adsorbent membrane that they say could be used to purify water contaminated with PPCPs.
With rising standards of living worldwide, PPCP use has increased. Consequently, these substances are being detected in surface water, groundwater and even the tissues of fish and vegetables. Some PPCPs are endocrine disruptors or could otherwise negatively affect human health or the environment. Scientists have shown that materials called porous aromatic frameworks (PAFs) can remove pollutants from water. But because PAFs are in powder form and don't dissolve in most solvents, they are difficult to handle and recycle. Guangshan Zhu and colleagues from Northeast Normal University wondered if they could make an adsorbent material for PPCP removal by coating the surfaces of electrospun fiber membranes with PAFs.
The researchers electrospun a polymer called polyacrylonitrile into a fibrous membrane, which they coated with polyaniline to help attach PAFs to the surface. Then, they added biphenyl molecules and reacted them to grow PAF-45 on the polyaniline-coated fibers. The modified membrane adsorbed three model PPCPs -- ibuprofen, chloroxylenol and diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) -- with capacities higher than most other reported adsorbents. In addition, the membrane was recyclable: The team removed the adsorbed PPCPs with ethanol and reused the membrane for 10 adsorption-desorption cycles, with only a slight decrease in capacity.
Sign Up to Receive EPA Lawsuit Notifications
EPA General Counsel Matthew Z. Leopold announced the launch of a new system from EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) to enhance transparency of the agency’s defensive litigation activities.
“This tool is another step OGC is taking to improve awareness of key EPA litigation,” said General Counsel Matthew Z. Leopold. “With just a few clicks, anyone can now sign up to receive notices of EPA litigation that could affect them.”
EPA is committed to providing information to the public about new litigation and promoting transparency and public participation in settlement of those lawsuits. OGC has been providing notices about EPA’s defensive litigation to entities that could be interested in particular cases, consistent with the October 2017 Directive Promoting Transparency and Public Participation in Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements. The announcement reflects the move to a new and improved internet-based system that will that will allow the public to subscribe and receive these notices automatically. Members of the public who sign up using the new system will be able to select categories of litigation notices to receive, manage their personal preferences, and unsubscribe at any time.
IAV GmbH Sentenced to Pay $35 Million Criminal Fine for Its Role in Volkswagen AG Emissions Fraud
IAV GmbH (IAV), a German company that engineers and designs automotive systems, was sentenced in federal court in Detroit to pay a $35 million criminal penalty.
The penalty is the result of the company’s guilty plea for its role in a long-running scheme for Volkswagen AG (VW) to sell approximately 335,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. by using a defeat device to cheat on U.S. emissions tests mandated by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan accepted the parties’ plea agreement, which includes the appointment of an independent corporate compliance monitor for a period of two years.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Field Office made the announcement.
IAV pleaded guilty in December 2018 to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States and VW’s U.S. customers and to violate the Clean Air Act by misleading the EPA and U.S. customers about whether certain VW- and Audi-branded diesel vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards.  IAV admitted that it and its co-conspirators knew the vehicles did not meet U.S. emissions standards and worked collaboratively to design, test and implement cheating software to cheat the U.S. testing process.  IAV further admitted that it was aware the VW concealed material facts about its cheating from federal and state regulators and U.S. customers. Pursuant to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, IAV’s $35 million fine was set according to the company’s inability to pay a higher fine amount without jeopardizing its continued viability.
MPCA to Revise Industrial Stormwater Permit
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) proposed clearer requirements for companies covered under its industrial stormwater general permit. With the existing permit set to expire in 2020, the MPCA is seeking the public’s input on the proposed permit to ensure Minnesota’s waters are protected.
The industrial stormwater general permit requires Minnesota businesses that store materials outside or perform certain types of work in the open to control rain and snow melt runoff from their properties. Stormwater runoff can carry pollutants into nearby bodies of water. The permit applies to more than 4,000 businesses in Minnesota, including salvage yards and scrap recyclers, landfills, airports, trucking companies, food processors, and manufacturers.
“Managing stormwater runoff from industrial facilities, as well as construction sites and city pavements, is a critical part of improving and protecting water quality in Minnesota,” says Katrina Kessler, MPCA’s Assistant Commissioner for Water. “The MPCA’s goal is to protect Minnesota’s waters while ensuring our permitting process is effective and efficient. The proposed permit changes balance both goals.”
A general permit covers multiple entities with similar operations and types of water-quality protection concerns. When general permits are a feasible option, issuing them allows for faster and more efficient permitting compared to issuing individual permits.
The proposed changes incorporate feedback from industry leaders and business owners covered by the permit. One change affects companies, such as landfills, that use earth movers daily. The proposed permit makes it clearer that such businesses don’t require a separate construction stormwater permit for earth-moving activities.
In another change, airports that do not use de-icing chemicals would no longer be required to test their discharges for the chemical components in de-icers.
Cameraman for Reality TV Show Captured Footage of Unlawful Discharge of Sandblasting Waste into Ocean
U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that Brannon Finney, 32, of Bellingham, Washington, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Scoble after having pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful discharge of a pollutant, a violation of the Clean Water Act.  The Court ordered Finney to pay a fine of $8,000, pay an additional $2,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as a community service payment; and perform 40 hours of community work service.  Finney will be on probation for 18 months and is required to post a public apology.
According to court documents, Finney, as captain of the F/V Alaskan Girl, caused the crew to dump approximately 16,000 pounds of sandblast waste into Sumner Strait.  Specifically, on June 15, 2017, F/V Alaskan Girl was in route from Wrangell to Petersburg, Alaska with four bags, known as super sacks or brailer bags, on board.  Each bag weighed approximately 4,000 pounds and contained sandblast waste.  The waste, generated from the recent re-painting of the F/V Alaskan Girl, was a mixture of the copper slag used to remove the paint from the vessel as well as approximately 15 gallons of paint chips removed in the sandblast process.  The waste – totaling eight tons – had been loaded onto the vessel at the direction of Finney.
Along with Finney and two crewmembers, a cameraman was also on board the F/V Alaskan Girl, filming for a possible cable TV reality show.  Video footage taken during the trip from Wrangell to Petersburg captured one of the brailer bags hanging overboard the vessel while two crewmembers on board sliced through the bag with a knife.  Afterwards, black sandy waste spilled from the sliced bag into the water, while at least one of the crew audibly cheered. 
Once the vessel arrived in Petersburg, video footage showed an interaction between an Alaska Wildlife Trooper and Finney.  In the video, the Trooper informed Finney that he had received a complaint about the vessel leaving the shipyard in Wrangell with sandblasting waste.  When he asked where it went, Finney replied, “We just dumped it.”  The investigation revealed that Finney unlawfully discharged the waste into Sumner Strait with the goal of avoiding spending $1,460 to dispose of it properly.
“Maintaining the pristine waters of Alaska is important to all residents and visitors to our state, said U.S. Attorney Schroder.  “The quality of our waters is essential to Alaska’s fishing fleet.  Fishing is one of the most important parts of our economy, and Alaska seafood is prized worldwide because of the quality of the catch.  Protecting our waters is vitally to our economy, as well as the environment.”
“Illegal discharges of pollution pose a serious threat to our oceans,” said Jeanne Proctor, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Alaska.  “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that EPA and its partner agencies are committed to protecting the marine environment and pursuing those whose illegal acts threaten our natural resources.”
EPA Wants Comment on Proposed Options for Regulating Perchlorate in Drinking Water
EPA released a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks public input on a range of options regarding the regulation of perchlorate in public drinking water systems.
The agency is seeking comment on a proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for perchlorate to establish a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and a health-based Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) at 56 micrograms per liter.
In addition, the agency is seeking comment on three alternative regulatory options:
  • An MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 18 micrograms per liter.
  • An MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 90 micrograms per liter.
  • Withdrawal of the agency’s 2011 determination to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.
The agency is requesting comment on all relevant aspects of the proposed rule but is especially interested in the perchlorate monitoring and reporting requirements for public water systems and a list of treatment technologies that would enable water systems to comply with the MCL, including affordable compliance technologies for small systems serving 10,000 persons or less. EPA is also requesting comment on its methodology for deriving the MCLG, the underlying assumptions and analysis of its cost and benefit estimates, and other specific items listed in the proposed rule.
Perchlorate is commonly used in solid rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares. Perchlorate may occur naturally, particularly in arid regions such as the southwestern United States and is found as an impurity in hypochlorite solutions used for drinking water treatment and nitrate salts used to produce nitrate fertilizers, explosives, and other products.
EPA will accept public comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register via http://www.regulations.gov [Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0780].
For more information and to view the pre-publication version of the Federal Register
$320,000 Fine for Stormwater Violations at Lumber Yard
EPA announced a settlement with Manke Lumber, Inc., that resolves alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions taken by EPA Region 10 to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
"This settlement means less stormwater pollution and more salmon habitat for Puget Sound,” said EPA Regional Administrator Chris Hladick. "By upgrading & improving their stormwater controls and restoring habitat, Manke is investing in the future. Reducing stormwater pollution furthers our work to protect and restore Puget Sound."
During inspections in July and September of 2014 of Manke’s Hylebos Waterway facility, EPA found process water discharges which are prohibited under the Washington Department of Ecology’s Industrial Stormwater General Permit, and violations of EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) regulations.  The Hylebos Waterway is a former Superfund clean-up site in Puget Sound, and is on the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) impaired waters list.
Wastewater from lumber yards typically contains high pH, wood debris, oils, and high levels of solids. When these solids settle they can form sediment deposits that destroy plant life and spawning grounds of fish.
In the face of allegations that Manke Lumber failed to fully comply with Clean Water Act stormwater management regulations, the company agreed to pay a $320,000 penalty, build a treatment system to address ongoing water quality violations, and invest in a Supplementary Environmental Project that will allow for approximately 38 acres of undeveloped land to be permanently set aside for conservation and recreational purposes, including 1,500 feet of Goldsborough Creek, 580 feet of a tributary, and a riparian corridor covering approximately 20 acres.
The main habitat functions provided by the Supplementary Environmental Project site are:
  • Abundant, good quality spawning habitat for coho and chum salmon, and steelhead;
  • Shade, food and nutrient input from vegetation overhanging the creek;
  • Creek flow maintenance and regulation provided by an undeveloped floodplain; and
  • The prevention of pollution in the form of runoff, lawn chemicals and septic effluent from residential development, from entering Goldsborough Creek and ending up in Oakland Bay and Puget Sound.
Once the agreement is lodged in federal court, there is a 30-day Public Notice and Comment period.
$712,500 in Penalties Against Firms that Operated Illegal Waste Transfer-Stations and Marketed Material as Clean Fill
The Department of Environmental Protection has issued a total $712,500 in penalties against two waste-transportation companies for setting up illegal solid-waste transfer stations in Sparta, Sussex County, and marketing their materials as clean fill, some of which ended up at residential properties, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced.
The DEP issued an Administrative Orders and Notices of Civil Penalty Assessment in the amount of $527,500 to Sinai Trucking LLC, its owner, Angel A. Bravo-Gomez and its president, Anthony Gomez. The DEP issued a separate Administrative Order and Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment in the amount of $185,000 to Keila Transport LLC and its owner, Gabriel Campoverde.
Both firms list Newark as their principal business address but operated illegal solid-waste transfer stations at the same location on Houses Corner Road in Sparta.
“These firms benefitted financially by being paid to accept construction materials and other solid waste then deliberately misled customers by claiming it was clean fill,” Commissioner McCabe said. “This behavior will not be tolerated and, in addition to penalties, the DEP is ordering the companies to remove the contaminated fill and provide refunds to customers.”
During an extensive investigation, the DEP determined that Sinai Trucking accepted more than 50,000 cubic yards of construction waste, demolition debris and other solid waste at the Houses Corner Road site. Materials that Sinai Trucking accepted included soil, concrete, wood, tile, plastic sheeting wastes, brick, block and asphalt. 
The company transported these materials to at least five residential properties in Fredon, Montague and Lafayette, all in Sussex County, and possibly to other locations. The DEP conducted extensive interviews with property owners who observed the solid waste materials in the fill material provided by the company.
The DEP investigation further determined that Keila Transport also maintained a solid waste transfer operation at the same Houses Corner Road location as Sinai Trucking. The enforcement order maintains that Keila Transport accepted more than 50,000 cubic yards of construction waste and demolition debris and arranged to have this waste deposited at a residential location in Fredon, representing it as clean fill, and may have arranged to transfer these materials to other residential locations.
These materials included treated and untreated wood scrap, tree parts, tree stumps, brush, concrete, asphalt, bricks, blocks, masonry, plaster, wallboard, roofing materials, corrugated cardboard, plastic scrap, dirt, carpets and padding, glass, metals, non-asbestos building insulation and other miscellaneous construction- and demolition-related materials.
In addition, working in cooperation, with the DEP, the Kearny Police Department arrested Bravo-Gomez on April 4, charging him with second-degree theft and for passing bad checks.
“Due to recent crackdowns in illegal dumping in the New York City area and the economic advantages of fraudulently selling off waste material as clean fill, the DEP has stepped up its vigilance to ensure waste materials, often containing low-level contaminants, are not marketed and used as legitimate fill,” said Richelle Wormley, the DEP’s Acting Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement.
Table Scraps Can Be Used to Reduce Reliance on Fossil Fuels
New technology developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo engineers natural fermentation to produce a biodegradable chemical that can be refined as a source of energy.
The chemical could also be used to replace petroleum-based chemicals in a host of products including drugs and plastic packaging.
“People like me, environmental biotechnologists, look at food waste as a tremendous resource,” said Hyung-Sool Lee, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Waterloo. “With the right technologies, we can extract numerous useful chemicals and fuel from it.”
Wasted food in North America adds up to about 400 kilograms per person per year, with the worldwide economic loss estimated at $1.3 trillion every year. Most of that discarded food goes into landfills. Technology already exists to reduce the environmental impact by diverting food waste, collecting methane gas as it is broken down by microorganisms and burning the gas to produce electricity.
But Lee said that system – known as anaerobic digestion – ultimately yields little or no net benefits when the high costs of food waste mixing and wastewater treatment are taken into account. The technology developed at Waterloo dramatically cuts those costs by collecting and recirculating leachate – a microbial cocktail mixed with microorganisms and nutrients – that trickles through the food waste in holding tanks, rather than stimulating biodegradation by intensive mixing.
As they eat and digest food waste, the microorganisms in those tanks also spit out a chemical byproduct called carboxylate, which has numerous potential uses as a substitute for petroleum, or crude oil.
“The amount of food we waste is staggering,” said Lee, director of the Waterloo Environmental Biotechnology Lab. “That’s what motivated me to find a better way to utilize it to mitigate the damage caused by fossil fuels.”
In addition to being cheaper and more productive than existing technology, he said, the system is designed for use on small and medium scales.
“Even small towns could have their own systems,” said Lee, who collaborates with GHD, a consulting firm in the clean-technology market. “Food waste collected in green bin programs wouldn’t have to be transported long distances to enormous, centralized facilities.
The next step in the research involves testing the technology on a larger scale, with a long-term goal to commercialize it within four to five years. The latest in a series of papers on the work, Food waste treatment with a leachate bed reactor: Effects of inoculum to substrate ratio and reactor design, appears in the journal Bioresource Technology.
California AB733 to Modernize Hazardous Waste with Alternatives to Live Fish Testing
The California Assembly has just unanimously passed Assembly Bill 733, authored by Asm. Bill Quirk. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation co-sponsored the bill, which could save tens of thousands of fish a year.
Currently, the State of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) requires waste generators and consumer product retailers to use live fish in a toxicity test to classify hazardous waste. Between 10 and 40 live fish are introduced into tanks containing the waste or product being tested. If 10% of the animals die within 96 hours, the waste is designated hazardous. Fish species used include fathead minnows, rainbow trout, and golden shiners. The properties of some testing materials can lead to false positive results, causing California to dispose of waste that may not actually be hazardous, which costs the state money.
AB 733 amends the California’s Health and Safety code, authorizing DTSC to update the criteria and guidelines for the classification of hazardous waste after evaluating two alternative tests.
“The live vertebrate fish test, where a fish is essentially choked to death in toxic waste, isn’t just cruel – it’s antiquated, and out of sync with scientific consensus,” said Judie Mancuso, founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, co-sponsor of the legislation and several other bills on animal rights, protection and welfare. “Other methods are already in use around the world, and there’s no reason for California to lag behind.”
Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), author of AB 733, continued, “The current law requires our state to engage in a practice that no ethical or modern brand in the private-sector would ever consider using. I want to thank my colleagues in the Assembly for moving this bill—and our state—forward.”
“California is the only state in the country using this outdated test to classify its hazardous waste. There are more advanced and humane approaches available to protect our waterways from hazardous waste, and we are proud to have helped advance this bill to move DTSC regulations towards adopting these approaches,” says Kristie Sullivan, MPH, vice president of research policy for the Physicians Committee.
“California has always been a leader on doing what’s right for animals and the environment,” Mancuso added, “and this week is showing that that commitment hasn’t changed.”
Bipartisan Bill Would Promote Use of Coal Sludge to Make Steel
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that they will reintroduce the Steel Industry Preservation Act, bipartisan legislation that would create a tax credit for domestic steel companies, lower the cost of steel production, and promote job growth within the industry. Portman and Brown both co-sponsored the legislation last congress.
“With threats of foreign steel companies cheating and undercutting quality American products, it’s more important than ever to make sure we protect the American steel industry and the hard working Ohioans that depend on it. The Steel Industry Preservation Act will support these jobs and our economy by making steel less expensive to produce which in turn will make our domestic product more competitive on the world stage,” said Portman.
“Liquid steel production helps dispose of hazardous waste and recycle it into a new, innovative product that helps our steel industry compete,” said Brown. “This tax credit will encourage companies to produce liquid steel, cut down on production costs, and support jobs in our steel industry.”
The Steel Industry Preservation Act would provide a tax credit for steel companies that produce steel industry fuel, which is created by reusing waste products from steel production in an environmentally sustainable way. In addition to the tax credit, the production of steel industry fuel lowers the cost of steel production and promotes job creation.
TCEQ Fines Companies Over $1 Million
On May 22, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved penalties totaling $1,012,711 against 26 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.
Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: seven air quality, three multimedia, seven municipal wastewater discharge, five petroleum storage tank, one public water system, and two water quality.
One default order was issued for the municipal solid waste enforcement categories.
Included in the total is a fine of $457,669 against U.S. Ecology Texas, Inc., for air and water quality violations, industrial hazardous waste violations, and waste disposal well violations. As part of a supplemental environmental project, $228,834 will be paid to the Texas Association of Resource Conservation for the cleanup of unauthorized trash dumpsites as well as conducting household hazardous waste collection.
Additionally, the total includes a fine of $175,625 against ETC Field Services, LLC, for air quality violations stemming from its failure to prevent unauthorized emissions events and failure to comply with emissions event reporting requirements.
In addition, on May 21, the executive director of the TCEQ approved penalties totaling $58,834 against 25 entities. 
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