Two federal agencies joined forces to give fire fighters and other emergency responders instant access to information that will help them – in the first critical moments of an incident – determine the best way to safely contain hazardous materials spills and battle chemical fires.
The guidebook is the go-to reference for first responders to help them quickly identify hazardous material classifications, determine the best response, and protect themselves and the general public immediately after an incident.
“This new digital tool will give our police, fire fighters, and other emergency responders first on the scene the information they need to make the rapid-fire decisions necessary to protect the public and themselves,” said Ted Willke, PHMSA associate administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety.
The new electronic guidebook is being made possible by a new agreement signed between DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the HHS’s National Library of Medicine.
The library developed special software to give emergency responders access to the guidebook through PDAs as well as Windows-based laptops and desktops. The software application, called the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (), will be available later this year.
Senate Passes Global Warming Legislation
Senator Boxer said, “The Energy Bill passed by the Senate last week is an important step toward breaking America ’s oil addiction, making the country more energy independent, and tackling the challenge of global warming.”
This bill contains several major provisions, and each of these provisions received broad bi-partisan support. They include:
- Lighting retrofits and increased energy efficiency in as many as 8,000 federal buildings, with a $100 million grant program for local governments to upgrade their buildings
- A Green Buildings program for new government buildings and retrofits, encouraging the most sustainable products and energy efficiency
- Construction of a photovoltaic “solar wall” at the Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, DC , which will reduce global warming pollution and pay for itself
- Language directing the federal government to use the most energy efficient cars practicable in its federal fleet
- A demonstration project to test innovative clean technologies at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC
- A $500 million grant program to encourage the production of advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol
- Provisions to ensure that air quality and water quality protections – including groundwater protection -- are built into the renewable fuels program
- Studies to ensure that the new fuels programs protect the environment in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use
Major Environmental Protections Included in Government Spending Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives approved numerous environmental provisions last week on an appropriation bill for various federal agencies. Included in the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, important amendments were approved, including:
- An end to taxpayer subsidies for commercial logging in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, our nation's most significant tract of old-growth forest. The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), puts restraints on federal funding for new logging roads. It was approved by a 283 – 145 vote.
- An end to funding a regulation proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow major toxic air polluters to avoid meeting control requirements under the Clean Air Act. EPA's proposal would have eliminated the so-called "once in, always in" rule, allowing facilities that are currently subject to the Clean Air Act's highly protective emission standards for toxic pollutants like mercury, lead, and dioxins to avoid controls if their emissions fell below certain ton-per-year thresholds. If the rule were finalized, many industries could significantly increase their toxic emissions, placing children and families in neighboring communities at risk. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), passed by a 252 – 178 margin.
The House will finish consideration of the Interior Appropriations bill today. Among the amendments yet to be considered are an amendment by Representative John Salazar (D-CO) to protect the Roan Plateau in Northwest Colorado from damaging oil and gas drilling, an area of great significance for its recreational opportunities and critical wildlife habitat. Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) will also offer an amendment to prohibit the implementation of a commercial oil shale leasing program.
Chrysler, Ford Join Effort to Enact National Climate Change Legislation
The United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) announced two new members ─ The Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Company ─ as part of its second expansion in less than six months. The group now includes 23 of the world’s largest corporations and six of the nation’s most respected non-governmental organizations.
The new members complement the broad cross-section of economic sectors represented by USCAP, and bolster its collective call for the federal government to swiftly enact legislation that includes mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We are pleased to join USCAP at a critical stage in the conversation on climate change, energy consumption, and environmental protection. We all recognize it is time for action. Ford has long supported the six major principles of USCAP, including recognizing the importance of technology and the need to be environmentally effective. We have been actively developing a range of advanced technology vehicles to address the climate change issue," said Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.
“Now is the time for advancing a national approach to climate change where all of us – individuals, industry and government – take action toward reducing emissions of greenhouse gases,” added Tom LaSorda, President and CEO, Chrysler Group. “We are proud to be an active member with USCAP in the development of climate policy that addresses energy use and emissions from all sectors of the U.S. economy, and ultimately drives increased energy efficiency. And we look forward to working with the USCAP members in formulating a system to control greenhouse gas emissions in a way that not just addresses the supply of energy-efficient products and commodities, but also spurs demand for them.”
The expansion of the coalition will bring the total revenues of USCAP companies to over $1.9 trillion, with a total workforce of more than 2.3 million and operations in all 50 states and around the world. The members have a combined market capitalization of more than $1.9 trillion. (Market capitalization, or market cap, is derived from a company’s current stock price per share times the total number of shares outstanding.)
The non-governmental organizations boast a combined membership of more than two million people worldwide, and have a long history of leadership on environmental and conservation issues around the world.
In January, USCAP issued its solutions-based report, titled A Call for Action, laying out a blueprint for an economy-wide, market driven cap-and-trade program. The recommendations embodied in the report are based on the following six key principles:
- Account for the global dimensions of climate change
- Recognize the importance of technology
- Be environmentally effective
- Create economic opportunity and advantage
- Be fair to sectors disproportionately impacted
- Recognize and encourage early action
Continuing its substantive work on key policy issues, USCAP has formed several working groups to build upon its recommendations in A Call for Action. USCAP has developed two policy statements, for example, to provide more details on its guidance related to energy efficiency and geologic carbon storage technologies.
USCAP believes U.S. leadership is essential for establishing an equitable and effective international policy framework. The coalition urges policy makers to act quickly to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achievable. To that end, USCAP has recommended that Congress establish short- and mid-term emission reduction targets; a national program to accelerate technology research, development and deployment; and approaches to encourage action by other countries, including the developing world. USCAP hopes these policies will minimize the large-scale adverse impacts of climate change for humans and the natural environment.
USCAP has sought a high-level consensus approach to balance interests across industries and regions to create the best economic path to reducing global atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This consensus-based approach has been driven by top executives of the member organizations and this practice continues with the addition of the new members.
The founding members of USCAP include Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, Inc., General Electric, PG&E, and PNM Resources, along with four leading non-governmental organizations – Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and World Resources Institute.
Last month, 14 additional organizations joined the partnership; they are American International Group (AIG), Alcan, Boston Scientific, ConocoPhillips, Deere & Company, The Dow Chemical Company, General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Marsh, PepsiCo, Shell, Siemens, The Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation.
EPA Marks Signing of Final U.S.-Mexico ‘Sister City’ Agreement
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson will join the mayors of El Paso, Texas; Sunland Park, New Mexico; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, at the signing of the final U.S.-Mexico “sister city” agreement for emergency response in El Paso.
With the signing, EPA will achieve its goal of completing cooperative contingency plans for all 14 sets of sister cities along the border. The agreements call for police, fire, paramedics, and other emergency responders from both sides of the border to respond quickly to large fires, dangerous chemical spills, and other emergencies.
"Healthy borders make for happy neighbors," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Through these sister city agreements, we are protecting residents on both sides of the border by enhancing our ability to prevent and respond to environmental emergencies. By working together, the U.S. and Mexico are improving the lives of generations of border neighbors."
To ensure the success of the agreements, communities conduct joint training, drills, and emergency communication planning. El Paso, Sunland Park and Ciudad Juarez plan to conduct an emergency notification drill in July. The contingency plans also address preparedness issues, including hazard identification, pollution prevention and risk reduction.
Border 2012 is a 10-year, binational cooperative effort aimed at protecting the public health and environment of the approximately 12 million residents who live along the 2,000-mile U.S-Mexico border. Sister city contingency plans are key to responding to environmental threats within this region.
The first sister city emergency plan was signed in 1997 between Brownsville, Texas, and its neighboring city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Chemical Spill Reporting Violations: EPA Settles Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio Cases
EPA Region 5 recently settled administrative cases involving hazardous chemical release reporting violations in Rensselaer, Ind., Remus, Mich., and Mark Center, Ohio.
All three cases involved anhydrous ammonia, which is commonly used in commercial refrigeration systems and as fertilizer. The chemical causes burns to the skin and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat and may be fatal if inhaled for long periods of time. Anhydrous ammonia releases greater than 100 pounds must be immediately reported.
Federal law requires immediate notification to the National Response Center for chemical releases above certain thresholds. The NRC activates the appropriate response authorities. Responders need to know what they're dealing with so they can take steps to protect people living and working in the area.
AgroKey LLC, 832 N. 900 W., Rensselaer, Ind., paid $37,623 to resolve EPA's enforcement action for failure to provide immediate notification to the NRC of a 4,220-pound release of anhydrous ammonia May 9, 2005. A required follow-up report was also filed late, eight days after the incident, and only included four of the ten required elements. The release was caused by an attempted theft from a 1,000 gallon transport wagon. AgroKey voluntarily purchased and installed 459 valve locks on all the tanks at all of its facilities.
Leprino Foods Co., 311 N. Sheridan Road, Remus, Mich., paid $29,250 to resolve EPA's enforcement action for failure to provide immediate notification to the NRC and the Michigan Emergency Response Commission of a 1,308-pound release of anhydrous ammonia June 16, 2006. The release, from a pressure relief valve on the refrigeration system, was reported four days after the release.
Hicksville Grain Co., 9585 Main St., Mark Center, Ohio, will complete a $26,407 environmental project to resolve EPA's enforcement action for failure to provide immediate notification to the NRC and state and local emergency response commissions of a release of 4,771 pounds of anhydrous ammonia March 16, 2005. The release, reported five hours after the release was caused by an attempted theft from a tank. Follow-up reports were also late.
Two Companies Fined for Stormwater and TRI Reporting Violations
Westminster-based companies, Ranor, Inc. and Techprecision Corporation are facing federal penalties under the Clean Water Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) for violations at their metal fabrication facility in Westminster, Massachusetts.
EPA New England filed an administrative complaint earlier this month seeking penalties for the companies’ discharges of storm water without a permit and for their failure to submit to EPA Toxic Release Inventory Forms related to the processing at their facility of materials containing chromium, nickel and manganese. The complaint seeks a penalty of up to $157,500 for the storm water violations and up to $32,500 for each of the EPCRA violations.
The storm water discharge violations, which had occurred for a period of more than five years, are significant because the companies failed to implement best management practices to address storm water discharges from the facility and failed to conduct required monitoring, preventing the companies and EPA from knowing the quantity of pollutants being discharged into waters of the United States. These measures, when properly implemented, ensure that storm water runoff does not diminish water quality.
“The Clean Water Act violations prevented the EPA and the company from knowing the quantity of pollutants being discharged into waters of the United States,” noted Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "The right-to-know violations are also significant because EPA and the general public need to know how facilities are affecting the neighborhoods in which they live.”
Activities that take place at industrial facilities, such as material handling and storage, are often exposed to the weather. As runoff from rain or snowmelt comes into contact with these materials, it picks up pollutants and transports them to nearby storm sewer systems, rivers, lakes, or coastal waters. Storm water pollution is a significant source of water quality problems for the nation’s waters.
The companies’ failure to comply with the chemical reporting requirements hampers the general public’s ability to obtain accurate, quantifiable data about the type and amount of pollutants being used and released in their neighborhoods.
EPA Puts Performance Measurement to Work for Real-World Change
The EPA introduced a new performance management tool called the Quarterly Management Report (). The QMR is helping the agency deliver real results by applying business principles to solve the nation's environmental challenges.
The QMR is updated every three months and consists of roughly 60 national and regional priorities. During regular meetings with senior headquarters and regional managers, the agency uses performance measurement to review quarterly progress, identify successes, and make adjustments that lead to more and better environmental results.
For example, EPA's enforcement office routinely sends requests to the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) for approval to take legal action against polluters. By checking performance measures, the agency found that it typically sent about 10 times as many referrals to DOJ in the fourth quarter of the year as in the first quarter. This was causing temporary backlogs at DOJ late in the year. EPA is now leveling the workload throughout the year, which should result in faster turnaround times. Changing this one work practice means EPA can take faster action to protect human health and the environment.
Proposed Changes to Michigan Drinking Water Rules
EPA Region 5 is seeking comments on its tentative decision to approve four changes to Michigan's drinking water regulations that will enhance protection of public health and increase information provided to the public about their drinking water.
The changes are required under amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. As EPA adopts new drinking water regulations, states such as Michigan that administer their own programs must adopt rules at least as stringent.
Michigan plans to adopt:
- The revised Radionuclides Rule that will reduce exposure to radionuclides in drinking water and reduce the risk of cancer
- The revised Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Monitoring (Arsenic) Rule to reduce the public's exposure to arsenic in drinking water, thereby reducing the frequency of cancers and noncarcinogenic diseases
- The Long Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule which will control microbial contaminants, particularly cryptosporidium
- The Filter Backwash Recycling Rule that requires changes to a water treatment plant's process that may otherwise compromise microbial control
If there is sufficient interest, EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes. Comments and requests for a hearing should be postmarked by July 21 and sent to EPA Region 5, Ground Water and Drinking Water Branch (WG-15J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604 or e-mailed to
Documents on the proposed changes are available for review at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Water Bureau, Constitution Hall, 525 W. Allegan St., 2nd Floor, P.O. Box 30273, Lansing, MI 48909-7773, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. They can also be viewed at EPA's Chicago office.
Calculate How Your Energy Use Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Air Pollution
With just a few clicks of the mouse and a ZIP code, you can see how your energy use is affecting the earth. EPA's Power Profiler calculates how much air pollution results from individual electricity use, the fuels used to produce that electricity and how to reduce the impact.
"EPA's Power Profiler makes it easy to research the air emissions that come from using electricity at home," said Bob Meyers, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "All you need is a ZIP code and you're on your way to understanding your environmental impact. "
In addition to learning the emissions from their individual electricity use, users can see how they compare with national averages.
The air pollutants used in the calculator are carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). CO2 contributes to global warming or climate change, while NOx and SO2 contribute to unhealthy air quality and acid rain in many parts of the country.
Power Profiler displays the fuel mix in percent coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro-electric (water), and other renewable sources including biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and landfill gas.
With information from the calculator on their monthly electricity use, consumers can assess their annual emissions. The site also guides users to other Web-based information showing how to reduce emissions from one's home or business through greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.
Power Profiler uses information from EPA's Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (), a comprehensive source of data on the environmental characteristics of nearly all electric power generated in the United States.
$200,000 Penalty for Making Modifications without Air Permit
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Lesaffre Yeast Corp. on alleged clean-air violations at the company's yeast manufacturing plant at 2702 W. Greves St., Milwaukee, Wis. EPA said the alleged violations occurred before the plant closed in December 2005.
The agreement, which includes a $202,500 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that Lesaffre made major changes to the plant in 1996 and 2000 that increased ozone-producing volatile organic compound emissions without getting permits requiring additional pollution controls. EPA also alleged a series of incidents between March 2002 and December 2003 during which the plant violated VOC emissions limits.
Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog. Smog can cause a variety of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone. The Milwaukee area does not meet national outdoor air quality standards for ozone.
Hazardous Waste Facility Fined $76,000
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Philip Services Corp. (Philip) $76,000 for improperly handling a hazardous waste shipment last year at the company's Burlington Environmental, Inc. treatment and storage facility in Kent.
The incident – involving an 18,000 pound shipment of hazardous waste from a Tacoma wood-products company – occurred over several days in October 2006. Philip staff did not use information supplied by the Tacoma firm that described the shipment's contents. As a result, the liquids underwent treatment intended for less hazardous materials.
"Philip's failure to comply with conditions in this facility's permit led to more than 18,000 pounds of dangerous waste being improperly handled, transported, and disposed of," said Ecology's Darin Rice, who oversees statewide dangerous waste and toxics reduction activities. "Philip must ensure that its staff properly checks the documents sent with dangerous waste shipments. Neglecting to do so puts their employees as well as the environment at risk."
An Ecology inspector uncovered the violation after noticing an unusual entry on Philip's shipping documents. Philip had meanwhile shipped the waste to an Idaho treatment, storage, and disposal facility, which disposed of the material as less-dangerous waste. The Idaho facility was notified and recovered the waste for proper treatment and disposal.
The shipment consisted of paint waste and wash waters containing methyl ethyl ketone, xylene and benzenes. Toxic effects from these chemicals are known to affect the human central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and blood stream. In addition, when spilled to soil, xylenes characteristically leach to ground water and increase the risk of contaminating drinking water supplies.
"Philip thoroughly investigated this incident and quickly implemented a procedural change to insure that a similar error does not occur. While appropriate data was provided by our client an internal miscommunication led to the error," explained Morris Azose, Philip's regional operations manager. "We are committed to being a responsible steward of the environment. Together with our regulators from Ecology we continuously look for ways to ensure that our waste management procedures reflect best-in-industry standards."
"We value the dangerous waste treatment industry's service to thousands of Washington businesses," Rice said. "We also expect the highest standards of safety and compliance from this industry. Philip specializes in handling hazardous waste. The company should lead the way with the best-trained staff, best procedures, and highest standards for protecting public safety, health and the environment."
Hardwick Sand and Gravel Operation Agrees to Fine and Remedies
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and R.J. McDonald, Inc. of Hardwick have entered into a consent agreement to address wetland alterations and water withdrawal at R.J. McDonald's gravel processing operation.
R.J. McDonald, Inc. has been withdrawing water in excess of the Water Management Act threshold of 100,000 gallons per day, without a permit, for purposes of gravel washing and screening. Last year, the company began proactively installing a water recirculation system and water meter to help it conserve the water it uses. If R.J. McDonald continues to withdraw water above the threshold, it agreed to obtain a permit. During the course of MassDEP's investigation of the water withdrawal, alterations of wetland resources along the borders of the gravel mining operation were also identified.
R.J. McDonald agreed to a $24,000 penalty, of which $6,000 is to be paid immediately, and $15,000 will be suspended upon completion of a supplemental environmental project that will create a wildlife corridor along the Ware River and protect nearby drinking water wells of the Wheelwright Water District. The remaining $3,000 of the penalty is suspended to ensure continued compliance with environmental regulations.
"The Water Management Act and wetlands regulations are designed to be protective of water resources and critical wildlife habitat," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "MassDEP's regulatory oversight maintains a balance among competing water withdrawals and uses, and prevents the alteration of key environmental resource areas."
The Water Management Act authorizes MassDEP to regulate the quantity of water withdrawn from both surface and groundwater supplies. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure adequate water supplies for current and future water needs. The Water Management Act consists of a few key components, including a registration program and a permit program.
Texas TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling $522,073
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved penalties totaling $522,073 against 69 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations. Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: 21 air quality, two drycleaner, three field citations, three industrial waste discharge, one licensed irrigator, one multi-media, two municipal solid waste, ten municipal waste discharge, two on-site sewage facility installers, eight petroleum storage tank, and 11 public water supply. In addition, there were default orders as follows: one petroleum storage tank with shut-down order, two municipal solid waste (one of which involves revocation of registration), one dry cleaner, and one public water supply.
Landfill Fined $40,000 for Radiation Protection Violations
The Pennsylvania DEP has assessed Rustick LLC $40,000 for violating its radiation protection action plan at the company’s McKean Landfill in Sergeant Township, McKean County.
“Rustick is being penalized for its failure to properly respond when the facility’s radiation monitoring system alerted employees as trash trucks entered the landfill,” DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch said.
Under Pennsylvania law, a radiation protection action plan must be developed, approved, and implemented at all landfills within the commonwealth to ensure that radioactive materials are identified and properly disposed.
Under Rustick’s radiation protection action plan, only radioactive material that decays rapidly and does not jeopardize human health or the environment can be disposed of at McKean Landfill. When entering the landfill, trash trucks pass through a monitor at the weigh station. The monitor’s alarm sounds when even very low levels of radiation are detected. If vehicle radiation levels exceed predetermined values, Rustick must ensure that the material is identified properly and returned to the point of origin or disposed of at a licensed low-level radioactive waste facility.
During an April 20 inspection, DEP staff collected evidence of numerous violations. Written documents and interviews with landfill employees revealed that landfill employees failed to take appropriate action when the monitor’s alarm sounded on at least seven occasions during 2007. Documentation indicates that only very low levels of radiation were detected on these seven occasions. Nonetheless, DEP issued a notice of violation to Rustick on April 27 and held a compliance meeting with the company on May 8. DEP has instructed Rustick to document its approach for future compliance with the landfill’s radiation protection plans. The department also plans to evaluate what was already disposed of in the landfill.
HAZMAT Registration Renewal
49 CFR 107.601 - 107.620 requires shippers and transporters of hazardous materials, including hazardous waste, to file an annual registration statement with the U.S. Department of Transportation and to pay a fee. This program is administered by the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The deadline for the annual registration was June 30. If you missed the deadline, renew your registration ASAP.
Trivia Question of the Week
Which EPA database contains the compliance history of over 800,000 regulated facilities in the US?