Kinder Morgan Transmix Co. has agreed to pay the EPA $600,000 to resolve numerous violations of federal air and hazardous waste regulations, including mixing hazardous waste with gasoline.
"Illegally adding hazardous waste to gasoline can injure people's health and foul our environment," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The fuel requirements of the Clean Air Act are a critical part of EPA's program to reduce air pollution, and this action serves to underscore that we are protecting public health."
EPA cited the company for multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The violations included failure to conduct an adequate waste analysis of the spent solvent and storing the material without an appropriate permit. The company also failed to collect and analyze samples of gasoline produced at its Hartford, Ill. facility.
EPA first discovered the violations in 2004 after following up on complaints from motorists about stalled vehicles. Hundreds of reports indicated that cars using gasoline produced at Kinder Morgan's Indianola, Pa., facility had stalled due to clogged fuel filters. During the investigation, EPA discovered the facility was blending gasoline with spent cyclohexane solvent, which is classified as a hazardous waste.
In addition to the hazardous waste violations, the company failed to meet the standards of the federal Clean Air Act. These standards require that all gasoline sold in the United States meet certain criteria ensuring it will not contribute to emission control system failures resulting in potential increased emissions.
Blending facilities mix gasoline with other components to produce finished gasoline. Gasoline is required by law to meet stringent environmental standards before it can be distributed.
The settlement also includes two related Kinder Morgan gasoline facilities located in Colton, Calif. and Richmond, Va. The Richmond facility is required to pay an additional penalty of $13,000 for failing to properly sample and analyze gasoline, as required by the Clean Air Act.
The settlement requires that the three companies improve quality control procedures at each of their five gasoline blending facilities. They must hire an independent firm to conduct compliance evaluations of the environmental practices and must take corrective action to address any problems identified by the auditors.
DOT Amends Hazmat Registration Program
DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration amended the hazardous material registration and fee assessment program that applies to persons who transport or offer for transportation certain categories and quantities of hazardous materials. In this final rule, PHMSA eliminated the 24-hour, seven-days-per-week telephonic expedited registration option. DOT found that the telephonic system is no longer necessary now that there is an internet option. In addition, the agency adopted an explicit exception from registration requirements for Indian Tribes.
DOT Clarifies How International Standards can be Used for Hazardous Material Shipments
The revisions and reformatting provide a user-friendly format to promote understanding of the conditions and limitations on the use of international standards and regulations. In addition, PHMSA is authorizing the use in domestic transportation of portable tanks, cargo tank motor vehicles, and rail tank cars manufactured in accordance with Transport Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations. According to the DOT, the amendments adopted in this final rule maintain the high transportation safety standard established under the Hazardous Materials Regulations. The revisions become effective on October 1, 2007.
Lumber Company’s Hog Fuel Boiler Fined for Air Quality Violations
The Guy Bennett Lumber Company in Clarkston was fined $10,000 by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) for releasing too much fine particulate matter pollution to the air.
When tested, the company's emissions from the hog fuel boiler measured twice the amount of particulate matter that is allowed by its permit. Particulate matter is composed of fine dust particles and soot.
In addition, the company failed to operate and maintain its air pollution prevention equipment according to the manufacturer's instructions. Because of this, some of the equipment was damaged and was not operating at peak efficiency.
These are both violations of the company's "air operating permit." The company's management has already begun efforts to upgrade the facility.
Boxer Introduces “Advanced Clean Fuels Act of 2007”
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, introduced “The Advanced Clean Fuels Act Of 2007,” which sets a goal of increasing the volume of clean transportation fuels to as much as 35 billion gallons by 2025 in order to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and make America more energy independent, while also ensuring that while increasing the use of renewable fuels, air, water, and natural resources are protected. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) joined Senator Boxer as cosponsors of the measure.
The bill would:
- Significantly increase the amount of advanced clean fuels in the nation’s fuel supply by requiring increasing volumes of fuels that have low greenhouse gas emissions and that are produced in an environmentally sound way.
- Increase the Renewable Fuels Standard from 12 billion gallons in 2011 to as much as 35 billion gallons by 2025.
- Count towards the Renewable Fuels Standard, fuel that is at least 20% better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Require increasing volumes of fuels that are at least 50% and 75% better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Have the National Academy of Sciences periodically study the environmental and other impacts, and the energy independence implications of increasing the amount of advanced clean fuels in the transportation fuel supply.
- Increase the amount of advanced clean fuels, based on the schedule in the bill. As the volume of clean fuels increases, EPA will use address any significant environmental effects in order to protect air, water, and natural resources.
- Establish an Advanced Clean Fuel Performance Standard that gradually reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the entire transportation fuel supply by as much as 10% of 2008 levels by 2020.
- Promote the use of the most suitable lands for clean fuels development.
- Establish a green renewable fuel labeling program modeled on Energy Star to spotlight renewable fuels that result in 50% lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline and that are produced using best environmental management practices.
Aircraft Service International Agrees to Pay $40,000 for Failing to Prevent Fuel Spills
Aircraft Service International Inc. (ASIG) has agreed to pay a $30,000 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and to donate $10,000 to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for environmental improvements at Fort Snelling State Park for allegedly failing to take reasonable steps which would have prevented three spills of jet fuel from occurring at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
ASIG refuels aircraft at the airport's Humphrey Terminal. On Nov. 6 and Nov. 9, 2005, ASIG employees overfilled a fuel-delivery truck at the Humphrey Terminal Tank Farm, resulting in spills of 20 and 115 gallons of diesel fuel, respectively. The overfills occurred, the MPCA alleged, because established procedures for the transfer of fuel were not followed.
On March 5, 2006, an ASIG tanker truck carrying 11,000 gallons of jet fuel was involved in an accident. The accident resulted in the loss of the truck's entire load of fuel to the airport's storm sewer system. For that spill to have occurred, the MPCA alleged, an internal valve on the truck must have failed, a malfunction that would have been detected if established procedures had been followed.
The $10,000 that ASIG will donate to the DNR is for a supplemental environmental project (SEP). The money will be used this summer at Fort Snelling State Park to establish native plantings at the Visitors’ Center or to remove weeds from Snelling Lake.
This is the fourth enforcement action that the MPCA has taken against ASIG since March 2005, when ASIG paid $41,666 for environmental violations at the airport's Lindbergh Terminal and $45,000 for environmental violations at the Humphrey Terminal. ASIG also paid a $55,000 penalty for environmental violations at the airport in February 2006.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
Supreme Court Denies Plan to Gut Key Clean Air Safeguard
The Supreme Court last week refused to entertain pleas by the EPA and industry to resurrect a Clean Air Act loophole that the federal appellate court in Washington struck down unanimously in March 2006. The loophole would have allowed more than 20,000 power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities to replace equipment with "functionally equivalent" equipment without first undergoing the required clean air reviews. The exemption would have applied even if a facility's air pollution increased by thousands – or tens of thousands – of tons as a result of the new equipment.
The 2006 appellate court decision had denounced EPA for violating the plain terms of the Clean Air Act. The court went so far as to observe that EPA's approach to the law would make sense "only in a Humpty Dumpty world."
The plaintiffs winning the case included Alabama Environmental Council, American Lung Association, Clean Air Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Delaware Nature Society, Environmental Defense, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Michigan Environmental Council, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Ohio Environmental Council, Scenic Hudson, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and U.S. PIRG. The groups were represented by Earthjustice, the Clean Air Task Force and NRDC. A group of 15 state attorneys general, led by the State of New York, was also part of the successful lawsuit.
IPCC Report on Global Warming Solutions
"This report no longer describes global warming as a looming environmental crisis, but as a rapidly advancing human crisis. It forecasts millions of deaths worldwide and enormous increases in poverty and hunger beyond anything the world has ever seen,” said Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. According to Clapp, "Scientific language like 'declining crop yields in the poorest nations' really means that millions of people face starvation as global warming makes it impossible to raise enough food to survive. Over the past 20 years, we have already seen what drought and famine do: the conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia were touched off in large part by migrations of drought-stricken people in search of food.” Clapp pointed out that the governments of some of the world's biggest polluters and oil producers, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, tried to water down some aspects of the report.
The May 4 IPCC report indicates that as temperatures rise, the impacts of global warming get more severe. The IPCC report findings show that just 2 degrees of warming over 1988-1999 levels will lead to increased mortality from heat waves, floods and droughts and puts 30% of the world's species at risk for extinction. The IPPC includes more than 2,500 scientists appointed by more than 130 countries. This second working group reflects the collaboration of 127 lead authors and 837 reviewers who incorporated thousands of comments from expert reviewers. The authors and reviewers were drawn from 74 countries.
The IPCC Assessment Reports are considered the gold-standard of what the world's scientists currently know about climate change. The reports are by their nature conservative since they are a synthesis of studies that have already received rigorous peer review. In this second installment of the 4th assessment scientists point to strong evidence that more smog-related deaths, water scarcity for billions of people, and wildfires will be more likely with increased warming.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “Today’s report by the world’s leading scientists and economists makes it clear that investing now to stabilize the world’s climate will pay tremendous dividends in the future. The report reminds us that there is a high price to pay unless we take action on global warming now. The IPCC also confirms that we have the tools we need to engage seriously in the fight against global warming without delay. Our committee has taken a first step, passing a bill to make public buildings models of energy efficiency, one of the simplest ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Anyone pushing for delay is pushing for higher costs and longer odds.”
Bayer Corporation Joins U.N.'s 'Billion Tree Campaign' to Combat Climate Change
Bayer Corporation announced that it has joined the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign and, through its Bayer Foundation, pledged to plant 100,000 trees to help reverse climate change and reforest America's national parks.
Bayer made this announcement in the United States in support of the commitment made by its parent company, Bayer AG, which earlier in 2007 pledged to plant 100,000 trees in Nairobi, the global headquarters of UNEP. To fulfill this pledge in the United States, the Bayer Foundation has partnered with the National Arbor Day Foundation, awarding it a $100,000 grant for its Trees for America program that restores the country's national forests damaged by drought, fire, disease and disaster. In addition, Bayer announced it will purchase additional trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation to be planted in various Bayer site communities around the country.
According to UNEP, trees are vital to a healthy planet. They absorb pollution, protect water catchments, reduce soil erosion, produce life-giving oxygen, mitigate climate change, cool cities, provide habitat for wildlife, are culturally important, and are a legacy for future generations.
In a separate announcement in March, Bayer CropScience in the United States said it was donating up to 100,000 trees to the National Arbor Day Foundation through a cause-related product partnership campaign. All together, Bayer globally has pledged to plant up to 300,000 trees in the United States and Africa to date.
Officially launched in November 2006 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2004 and founder of Kenya's Green Belt Movement. It has planted more than 30 million trees in 12 African countries since 1977. The campaign urges people, communities, organizations, business and industry, civil society, and governments to plant at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007. To date, more than 808 million trees have been pledged and more than 10 million planted.
The National Arbor Day Foundation reports that in the United States, hot and dry weather throughout much of the country has continued to create problems for its national forests. Lingering extreme drought conditions have set the stage for wildfires in many western states, including Montana, Oregon, and California. Millions of acres of forestland have burned, forcing residents to evacuate and creating a loss of habitat and food sources for many species of wildlife.
Maryland Announces Results of 30-Day Environmetal Enforcement Cases Review
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has completed its 30-day review of all open complaints and notices of violation to determine whether there are outstanding enforcement actions that are not being actively pursued.
MDE reviewed 1,056 open complaints and notices of violations in its 23 regulatory enforcement programs. The department determined that the majority (94 percent) of cases are being pursued in a timely manner according to existing program process. The review also identified 63 cases that are not being pursued in a timely manner and require further investigation or referral to the Attorney General’s office. MDE is accelerating enforcement on these 63 cases, prioritizing by violations with the greatest public health and environmental impact.
This review also highlighted the need to develop and implement department-wide internal operating procedures for enforcement activities. The agency began that process in February and expects to have new internal procedures in place by Oct. 1, 2007. MDE pursues an average of 1,500 enforcement actions each year.
Concurrently, the department has started a fiscal analysis project, which will analyze revenues, expenditures and staff resource allocation and needs, including enforcement. This project is expected to be complete by September. This analysis will enable MDE to assess priorities according to the current greatest public health and environmental needs and determine whether it is necessary to realign resources and to what extent that can be accomplished under current laws and funding requirements.
New Report Examines Wind Energy's Effects on Emissions, Wildlife, and Humans
Although the use of wind energy to generate electricity is increasing rapidly in the United States, government guidance to help communities and developers evaluate and plan proposed wind-energy projects is lacking, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. To inform the development of guidelines, the report offers an analysis of the environmental benefits and drawbacks of wind energy, along with an evaluation guide to aid decision-making about projects. As a case study, the committee that wrote the report looked at the mid-Atlantic highlands, a mountainous area that spans parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The report does not examine the impact of offshore wind-energy projects.
Currently, federal regulation of wind projects on private land is minimal, the report observes. And although some states have developed guidelines, wind energy is such a recent addition to the energy mix in most areas – the nation's wind-energy capacity more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006 – that most states are relatively inexperienced at planning and regulation. Despite the growth in its use, wind energy still generates less than one percent of the nation's electricity. Some national-level policies to enhance the benefits of wind energy and minimize its harms would help guide state and local regulatory efforts, the report says.
A primary benefit of using wind to generate electricity is that it produces no carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, or any other air pollutant. Based on U.S. Department of Energy projections for wind-energy development in the United States, the committee estimated that by 2020, wind energy will offset approximately 4.5 percent of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted by other electricity sources. In 2005, electricity generation accounted for 39 percent of the nation's total CO2 emissions.
The committee concluded that use of wind energy to generate electricity probably would not significantly reduce emissions of two other pollutants, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, because current and expected regulations of these are largely based on cap-and-trade programs. The degree to which emissions would be further reduced through special provisions to encourage wind-energy use – such as set-asides, in which a percentage of emissions allowed under the cap are retired to the extent they can be offset by wind energy – is uncertain, the committee added.
In the mid-Atlantic region, wind energy will likely contribute a lower proportion of electricity generation than it will in the United States overall, the report says; compared to other areas, a smaller portion of the region has strong, relatively steady winds.
Wind facilities can have certain adverse environmental effects on a local or regional level, by damaging habitat and killing birds and bats that fly into turbines. Among birds, the most frequent turbine fatalities are nocturnal, migrating songbirds, probably because of their abundance, the report says. However, the committee saw no evidence that fatalities from existing wind facilities are causing measurable changes in bird populations in the United States. A possible exception is deaths among birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, near Altamont Pass, Calif. – a facility with older, smaller turbines that appear more apt to kill such birds than newer turbines are.
Too little information is available to reliably predict how proposed new wind projects in the mid-Atlantic highlands would affect bird populations, the report says. As for bats, turbines placed on ridges – as many are in the mid-Atlantic region – appear more likely to kill them than turbines sited elsewhere. In fact, preliminary information indicates that in the mid-Atlantic highlands more bats are killed than expected based on experience with other regions, the committee said. Although scarce data make it hard to say how these deaths affect overall bat populations, the possibility of population effects is significant, especially if more turbines are added, given a general decline in several species of bats in the eastern United States.
Studies to evaluate possible ecological impacts should be conducted prior to choosing sites for wind facilities, the committee said, and follow-up studies should be conducted to measure actual effects. Additional basic research also is needed to help assess the short- and long-term effects of these facilities on species at risk.
A common objection to proposed wind projects is that they will have a negative aesthetic impact. The report outlines a process to help communities and developers assess a project's likely aesthetic effects, and suggests ways to minimize them – for example, by using uniform types and sizes of turbines, and by ensuring that each region retains some undeveloped scenic vistas. The report also offers questions to ask to help determine whether the aesthetic effect might be great enough to render a project unacceptable.
Wind projects also can be disruptive because of noise and shadow flicker, a strobelike effect caused by rotating turbine blades. The report recommends that noise surveys be conducted before a project is sited, and that processes be set up to respond to noise complaints. Shadow flicker has generally not been a problem at wind facilities in North America, the report says; new turbines can be located so that their shadow paths avoid residences, or operations can be halted during times when troublesome flicker occurs.
The report also considers beneficial and adverse economic effects on local areas – such as effects on landowners, the regional economy, and local government revenues – and recommends measures to anticipate and mitigate potential problems. In addition, the report discusses possible electromagnetic interference with local installations such as radar.
Governments at the state and local levels should provide developers and the public with guidance to help them plan for wind-energy development, including guidance on procedures and information needs for assessing projects, the report says. It also recommends that regulatory agencies adopt an evaluation guide to review proposed projects, and that governments work with each other and with organizations and developers to create guidelines for weighing projects' costs and benefits at scales ranging from local to national.
The report was sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
Electronics Waste Management in the United States
- Estimates the number and weight of products that will become obsolete and need end-of-life management annually
- Estimates what portion of end-of-life electronic products is recycled versus disposed
- Estimates how much material that is ready for end-of-life management may be stockpiled
- Examines the collection rates experienced by existing electronics recycling programs as an indicator of the amount of material that is, on a practical basis, available for recycling
- Examines the current situation regarding the export of CRTs collected for recycling
Precision Power Fined $117,600 for Hazardous Waste Violations
The EPA announced a $117,600 settlement with Precision Power, LLC (a hazardous waste generator) for failure to properly manage hazardous waste at its facility located at 5801 Silverado Way, Anchorage, Ala.
An inspection of the Precision Power facility and reviews of company records by EPA found the following violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ():
- Storage of hazardous waste without a proper permit
- Transportation of hazardous waste without a shipment manifest
- Failure to properly label containers and above-ground tanks containing used oil
- Failure to retain copies of hazardous waste shipment manifests
- Failure to timely submit required information to EPA
According to Mike Bussell, EPA’s director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, the purpose of EPA’s RCRA program is to manage hazardous wastes from cradle to grave to ensure that the waste is handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment.
“Properly managing hazardous waste is absolutely critical to protecting both workers and the surrounding community and environment,” said Bussell. “Companies handling these wastes must comply with the law or face penalties.”
Precision Power, LLC has taken the necessary steps to avoid these kinds of violations in the future.
Air Pollution Down, Air Quality Up
Emissions of six key pollutants have dropped by more than half since 1970 and the national average concentration for each criteria pollutant is below the level of its air quality standard.
While emissions of six key "criteria" pollutants and the compounds that form them continue to decline, the United States has continued to grow and prosper. Total emissions of the six key pollutants dropped 54 percent between 1970 and 2006. During the same time period the U.S. gross domestic product increased 203 percent, vehicle miles traveled increased 177 percent, energy consumption increased 49 percent, and U.S. population grew by 46 percent. In addition, emissions of air toxics in 2002 were 35 percent lower than 1990 levels.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA sets national air quality standards for six key pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and lead. Each year, EPA examines the levels of these pollutants in the air and the emissions from various sources to see how both have changed over time and to summarize the current status of air quality. While national average concentrations of the six key pollutants are below national standards, results vary by site. Annual pollution levels at some monitoring sites do remain above one or more of the national air quality standards, with ozone and particulate matter remaining as the most persistent problems.
April 30-May 4 was Air Quality Awareness Week. This year's theme was "Keep an Eye on the AQI," to remind Americans to check daily air quality forecasts to help plan their activities. The forecasts are especially useful for people with asthma, heart disease and people who are active outdoors.
Gravel Mining Operator to Pay $250K Fine for Storm Water and Wetlands Violations
The sand and gravel mining operation in Londonderry, N.H., is located on a 300 acre site.
Four companies that own and/or operate the N.H. site have agreed to the terms of the settlement: Hudson Sand and Gravel, Inc.; Ballinger Properties, LLC; Five N Associates; and Tana Properties Limited Partnership.
EPA performed several inspections at the site between 2002 and 2005, revealing numerous alleged violations of federal storm water regulations. The government’s complaint also alleges that the companies had filled a portion of a stream and wetlands on the Londonderry site, without obtaining the appropriate permit as required under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
"Protecting wetlands is one way we can help ensure a healthy New England environment," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "It's very important that individuals and companies understand and comply with laws that protect both wetlands and water discharges, so that we can enjoy a healthy environment."
The settlement, lodged last week, also resolves allegations that the companies violated the EPA’s storm water requirements by failing to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit for mining operations which were discharging storm water without appropriate controls over a period of many years and for which no stormwater pollution prevention plan was prepared.
EPA’s inspections revealed that significant deposition of solids into a tributary to the Little Cohas Brook had occurred. Solids can destroy the spawning grounds of fish, increase turbidity, and smother sediment-dwelling organisms, all resulting in changes to aquatic flora and fauna. Further, the filling of the brook tributary and the abutting wetlands have severely degraded the habitat quality of that area.
According to the complaint, the wetlands violations resulted from a large quantity of rock and a concrete manhole being placed in a 200-foot portion of a tributary to Little Cohas Brook, and discharging dredged and/or fill material into both the tributary and into wetlands forming the headwaters of the brook tributary. The complaint also alleges that the companies failed to obtain a permit for this work, as required under Section 404 of the CWA.
Under the terms of the settlement, in addition to paying the cash penalty, the companies have already taken action to comply with the EPA’s storm water regulations by filing a notice of intent under the industrial Multi-Sector General NPDES permit and by implementing some best management practices to the storm water system. The companies also have submitted stormwater pollution prevention plans for the Site.
The companies also will restore the tributary to the condition that existed prior to the filling by removing the rock and drainage structures placed there illegally. Further, the companies will delineate all other federal wetlands and watercourses on the Londonderry site, and if the companies filled any such wetlands or watercourses, they will be required to restore the areas or follow established federal review and permitting requirements to retain any unauthorized fill.
EPA Agreement with Realty Company to Bring Proper Lead Disclosure to Baltimore Homes
In a consent agreement with EPA, Continental Realty Corp. has agreed to pay a $6,468 civil penalty and voluntarily perform an environmental audit to settle violations of federal lead based paint disclosure laws. The audit will cover 1,155 residential leases in three of 17 buildings managed by Continental, a large property management company, in Baltimore, Md.
Owners and property managers of pre-1978 buildings are required to provide renters and purchasers an EPA-approved lead information pamphlet, include a lead warning statement in their leases and sales documents, and disclose the presence of lead based paint. Continental will hire an independent third party auditor to determine if the company has met these requirements.
This agreement is the first of its kind in the nation, creating an innovative solution resolving federal lead based paint disclosure cases with large landlords and property management firms. Under the audit agreement, Continental will report to EPA on a quarterly basis the results from the audit and pay a civil penalty for any violations found during the audit. This agreement is designed to ensure proper disclosure of lead based paint and lead based paint hazards at all 17 of the buildings Continental manages, comprising 4,103 multi-family housing units.
EPA’s goal is to ensure that renters and buyers receive adequate information to protect their health, especially children’s health, from potential lead based paint hazards," said Donald S. Welsh, EPA regional administrator.
An estimated three-quarters of housing in America built before 1978 contains some lead-based paint. Lead based paint endangers the health of American children in as many as four million homes. Lead poisoning in children can cause serious, long-term consequences including intelligence deficiencies, learning disabilities, hearing impairment, hyperactivity and behavioral problems. Children under six years of age are among the most vulnerable to adverse health risks from lead-based paint and dust and soil contaminated with lead based paint.
Individuals who are concerned that they or their children may have been exposed to lead hazards can determine if they have elevated blood-lead levels through a simple, inexpensive test at their doctor’s office.
The Residential Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act helps prevent exposure – especially the exposure of children – to hazards from lead based paint by requiring disclosure and notification when selling or leasing housing.
Tougher Petroleum Refinery Standards Proposed to Protect Air Quality
EPA is proposing to reduce emissions from new, modified, or reconstructed process units at petroleum refineries. The proposed amendments would update the existing standards of performance for petroleum refineries. Under the proposal, new, modified, or reconstructed units would be required to add emission controls that reflect demonstrated improvements in emission control technologies, in addition to changing certain work practices.
Over the next five years, the proposed standards are estimated to reduce the combined emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 56,000 tons per year. The estimated benefits of the proposed rules would be more than $950 million, 17 times the expected costs. EPA will accept comments for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.
Two North Idaho Developers Settle with EPA for Storm Water Violations
Two north Idaho developers recently settled with the EPA for $9,100 for violating the storm water provisions of the federal Clean Water Act.
Black Rock Development settled for $2,700 for violations at its Black Rock North Golf Course on Loffs Bay Road in Coeur d'Alene. Pend Oreille Bonner Development, LLC settled for $6,400 for violations at its Hidden Lakes Golf Course expansion and residential development located off Highway 200 on Lower Pack River Road in Sandpoint.
Both developers violated EPA’s Construction General Permit (CGP) for storm water discharges from construction activities. Due to complaints and concerns received from the public, EPA also requested that Black Rock conduct additional monitoring of its storm water discharges from its construction site.
“Polluted storm water run off resulting from poor construction practices negatively impacts our lakes, rivers, and streams,” said James Werntz, EPA’s Idaho Operations Office Director. “These practices can create conditions harmful to aquatic life, and even human health.”
The companies’ storm water violations included:
- Deficiencies in each of their storm water pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs)
- Failure to conduct and document self-inspections as required by the CGP
- Inadequate controls to prevent pollution in storm water runoff
Storm water permits are issued as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), established by the Clean Water Act. The permits are a key tool in preventing water pollution and protecting the quality of Northwest lakes, rivers and streams.
New EPA Web Site Makes It Easier To Be Good Environmental Stewards
Simple everyday decisions by organizations and individuals on such issues as recycling, reuse, or choice of fuel support pollution prevention and environmental stewardship.
The Web site will enable users to find EPA partnership programs, such as the Energy Star energy saving program, which best align with their needs and interests. Businesses can search for EPA programs based on their industrial category, environmental issue of interest, and geographic area. One specific Web site, for example, shows businesses how they can help employees reduce the environmental effects of commuting.
The Web site also provides information links individuals can use to protect the environment in different settings, such as home, work, school, and shopping. Another Web site shows citizens how they can use pesticides safely.
This tool is the latest in a series of steps EPA has taken to support environmental stewardship. In 2005, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson endorsed a framework for EPA that recognizes environmental stewardship as the next phase in an ongoing evolution of environmental policy – from pollution control to pollution prevention and sustainability.
EPA is now promoting environmental stewardship in a variety of ways. For example, the agency has challenged individuals to become more energy efficient at home through the "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, and challenged Fortune 500 companies to double their purchases of green power. Examples at the local level include EPA offering communities technical assistance in applying smart growth principles, as well as providing funding to retrofit older diesel school buses with pollution control equipment. At colleges and universities, EPA is sponsoring research to help students develop and design innovative solutions to sustainability challenges in agriculture, water, and energy use. EPA's commitment to environmental stewardship is also evident at the agency's facilities: In 2006, EPA's new Potomac Yard office in Arlington, Va., earned a gold rating under the internationally recognized green building standard known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
New EPA Tool Helps Answer Air Quality Questions
"From people getting ready to retire to vacationers or those changing jobs, Americans are increasingly considering air quality as they make their plans," said Bill Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation. "AirCompare helps answer those questions in a way that's simple to understand."
AirCompare uses EPA's popular Air Quality Index (AQI) to explain air quality from a health perspective. A person with asthma, for example, can use AirCompare to select up to 10 counties across the country – and with the click of a button, find out how many days the air was unhealthy for asthmatics last year. Or someone planning a trip can find out the best time of year to visit a particular area, based on concerns about asthma, heart disease, outdoor activity, or just general interest.
AirCompare searches EPA air quality databases to pull information about pollutants reported under the AQI – and to translate it into charts that show simply whether the previous year's air quality was healthy, unhealthy, or unhealthy for specific groups more susceptible to pollution. The tool also can provide a multi-year snapshot of a county's air quality, based on a particular health issue.
U.S. air quality has improved dramatically since EPA first began addressing air pollution. Emissions of six key pollutants have dropped by more than half since 1970, and the national average concentration for each of those pollutants is now below the level of its air quality standard.
Michigan DEQ Enters Settlement with Wayne County for SSO Violations
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Steven E. Chester announced that a settlement was entered with Wayne County Department of Environment regarding violations of Michigan's water protection laws. The settlement was reached through an administrative consent order that resolves the numerous sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) that have occurred from the county's North Huron Valley/Rouge Valley Interceptor System since 2000.
SSOs are discharges of raw or inadequately treated sewage from municipal separate sanitary sewer systems. These systems are designed to carry domestic sewage but not storm water. When an SSO occurs, sewage is released into areas such as basements, city streets, and streams rather than being transported to a treatment facility. They are illegal and often constitute a serious environmental and public health threat.
The settlement announced is part of the SSO strategy initiated by the DEQ in 2000 with the goal of eliminating these problems through legally enforceable agreements and preventing adverse effects to waters of the state of Michigan and risks to public health.
Wayne County owns and operates the regional interceptor sewer system known as the North Huron Valley/Rouge Valley Interceptor System that provides sanitary sewage collection and transportation services to the communities located in the north central part of the county. The county's sewer system is a tributary to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Interceptor System and Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In addition to the payment of a civil penalty of $8,000 and reimbursement of DEQ enforcement costs of $2,500, the settlement requires the county to perform extensive corrective actions within the sewer system in order to eliminate SSOs to Michigan's waters.
Developer Issued $12,150 Penalty for Wetlands Violation
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) issued a $12,150 penalty to Northeast Concepts Inc. of Holland related to the cutting and removal of vegetation of protected land designated as "Riverfront Area" on Mashpaug Road in Holland without filing a notice of intent or obtaining a valid final order of conditions (wetlands permit).
This is the second violation issued to the company for performing work in protected resource areas in the Town of Holland in violation of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act.
MassDEP inspected the site on Feb. 21, 2007, in response to a request for assistance by the Town of Holland Conservation Commission in addressing this violation. MassDEP determined that cutting and clearing of the site had occurred without filing a notice of intent as required by the Wetlands Protection Act. MassDEP has also ordered the company to submit a restoration plan to restore the impacted Riverfront Area.
"Those undertaking work in protected areas must comply with the environmental laws and regulations that are designed to protect those resources," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "Failure to comply with applicable regulations may result in significant monetary penalties and remediation work."
Center Superfund Investigation Profiles Top Companies Linked to Toxic Waste Sites
Toxic waste still plagues American communities 27 years after the U.S. government created a program to identify and clean up the country's worst sites, according to a two-part investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. . The center's top overall findings:
- Nearly half of all Americans live within 10 miles of the 1,304 active and proposed Superfund sites listed by the EPA
- Since the program started in 1980, fewer than one out of five sites has been cleaned up enough to be removed from the listing of the worst toxic waste sites
- The amount of money EPA recouped from polluters annually to pay for cleanups plummeted from $320 million in 1999 to $60 million in 2006
- EPA's 2007 target for "construction complete" sites – with systems in place to begin cleanup – was 40, but has been scaled back to 24. The 2008 target is 30 sites, according to the EPA's 2008 budget.
Between 1998 and 2005, the responsible companies disclosed spending more than $1 billion to lobby the federal government and also contributed more than $120 million to federal campaigns.
The "Wasting Away" Web site features an interactive list of all 1,623 Superfund sites – active, proposed and deleted – searchable by company and state, detailing location, status, size, types of contaminants, and nearby population.
As part of this series, the center will release additional stories examining the human exposure to the most dangerous Superfund locations, companies that avoided clean-up costs by declaring bankruptcy and a look at EPA contractors. "Wasting Away" was made possible through grants from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund.
California Launches Green Chemistry Initiative
Linda Adams, secretary for Environmental Protection, directed the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to lead a Green Chemistry Initiative. DTSC will lead Cal/EPA’s departments to fundamentally change how government and business work together to deal with waste before it is generated. This new approach is similar to measures adopted by the European Union and the Canadian government to encourage greater manufacturer responsibility.
For the last century, environmental protection has concentrated on capturing and storing hazardous waste. Green chemistry is a fundamentally new approach to environmental protection, transitioning away from managing toxic chemicals at the end of the lifecycle, to reducing or eliminating their use altogether. “Our Cal/EPA team will be working in partnership with business and environmental groups on green chemistry for a healthier California,” said Maureen Gorsen, the director of DTSC. “This initiative will provide a scientific basis and economic opportunity for environmentally safe products.”
When implementing green chemistry, those designing consumer products and determining manufacturing processes consider public health and environmental effects of those products at the design phase. Green chemistry practitioners design new products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.
In a memo to her directors initiating the Green Chemistry Initiative, Adams wrote: “In the absence of a unifying approach, interest groups and policy makers have been attempting to take these issues on one-by-one. Product by product, chemical by chemical, and now even city by city approaches can often have unintended, even regrettable consequences, even with the best of intentions. I believe we need to develop a coordinated, comprehensive strategy....”
The Green Chemistry Initiative will provide recommendations for developing a consistent means for evaluating risk, reducing exposure, encouraging less-toxic industrial processes, and identifying safer, non-chemical alternatives. Most importantly, the Green Chemistry Initiative will ensure a comprehensive and collaborative approach to increase accountability and effectiveness of environmental programs across state government.
Increasing international attention on the health and environmental effects of toxic exposure in everyday products has led to a variety of new laws. The European Union and the Canadian government have adopted measures to evaluate hazards and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. This year the California Legislature is considering more than 40 bills that are aimed at controlling individual toxic chemicals or products.
DTSC Director Gorsen will manage the Green Chemistry Initiative in collaboration with other CalEPA departments and boards, as well as other state and federal government agencies, industry and stakeholders.
Trivia Question of the Week
Which of the following will improve your gas mileage the most?
a. No aggressive driving at highway speeds
b. Observing the speed limit
c. Checking and replacing air filters regularly
d. Keeping your tires properly inflated