The EPA plans to repeal the Medium- and Heavy-Duty Truck Phase II Greenhouse Gas Emission and Fuel Efficiency Standards for the glider industry. Gliders are a specially manufactured type of heavy duty highway vehicle assembled from newly manufactured kits that include the vehicle’s frame and cab, to which a used engine, transmission, and axles are added.
Due to the unique way that gliders are manufactured, the Agency is proposing that gliders should not be regulated as “new motor vehicles” or “new motor vehicle engines” under section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act. This action does not affect nor propose to affect EPA’s authority to address heavy-duty engine rebuilding practices under Clean Air Act section 202(a)(3)(D).
EPA estimates that about 10,000 gliders are manufactured annually, comprising less than 5% of the Class 8 heavy-duty highway truck market.
The public comment period for the proposal will be open through January 5, 2018. EPA will also hold a public hearing on Monday, December 4, 2017 at EPA’s Washington, DC headquarters. More information on the proposal is available here.
The recent proposal is based on a review of the glider provisions of the Phase II rule. On August 17, 2017, Administrator Pruitt announced the Agency’s intent to reconsider the glider provisions of the Phase II rule in response to several petitions for reconsideration.
Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor Fined $10,008 for Ammonia Leak
The EPA, Region 10, has reached a settlement with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor, LLC, a Seattle-based company that operates a seafood cold storage facility in Unalaska, Alaska, for violations related to an ammonia release last year that seriously injured one of the facility’s workers.
Under the terms of its agreement with the EPA, Kloosterboer will upgrade the facility’s computerized refrigeration control system to help prevent future releases and reduce the amount of ammonia leaked in the event of a release. The upgraded system will use leak detectors to monitor ammonia levels in the freezer and send signals to the computerized control system if ammonia levels reach preset concentrations. If an ammonia leak occurs, the control system will notify operators and managers via audible and visual alarms in the facility, automatically shut off the ammonia pumps, and activate the emergency exhaust system. The company will also purchase hazmat emergency response equipment for Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety and train two of the company’s personnel to respond to hazmat emergencies at the facility and other facilities in the community.
“Federal emergency planning, reporting and response requirements are important for protecting workers, emergency responders and the community,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Compliance and Enforcement Division in Seattle. “The company’s failure to provide timely information, crucial in an emergency response, put their workers and the public at risk. Early notification plays a critical role in getting resources and personnel mobilized, which can make all the difference in reducing harm to people and the environment.”
Kloosterboer has agreed to complete supplemental environmental projects, valued at approximately $26,000, which will help prevent or reduce future ammonia releases and improve safety at the facility. The company will also pay a $10,008 penalty.
On December 3, 2016, Kloosterboer’s Unalaska facility released 125 lb of anhydrous ammonia, which attacks skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and can cause serious injury or death, to the environment from a leaking line inside the facility’s freezer. The company notified local emergency responders via 911 immediately after the ammonia release. However, the company reported the release to the National Response Center and the Alaska Emergency Response Commission on December 5, more than 46 hours after the release occurred. The company also failed to submit a follow-up notification to the Local Emergency Planning Committee. The release and emergency reporting delays violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
This case underscores the importance of timely reporting of hazardous releases to the National Response Center 24-hour hotline: 1-800-424-8802.
Ronald Meredith Mankins Fined for Stormwater Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined Ronald Meredith Mankins $15,567 for allowing excavation and construction at a property he owns off Thompson Creek Road without a construction stormwater permit.
Under Oregon law, construction activities that disturb more than an acre of land must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 1200-C permit.
A DEQ inspector inspected the property in May and saw land clearing, excavation and construction activities occurring on a steep slope about 100 feet uphill from Thompson Creek. No erosion or sediment controls were in place. In July, additional excavation and construction activities occurred at the site without permits and without erosion or sediment controls in place.
DEQ issued the penalty because excavating without erosion and sediment controls may result in sediment reaching waters of the state. Sediment deposits can foul water quality and harm aquatic life.
Of the penalty, $12,117 of the civil penalty represents the economic benefit gained by avoiding the permit application fee and not putting erosion and sediment controls in place.
Mankins has until November 26 to appeal the penalty.
California Energy Commission Targets for Energy Efficiency Savings Adopted
The California Energy Commission recently adopted targets to achieve the doubling of energy efficiency savings in electric and natural gas uses by 2030 as required by Senate Bill 350.
Senate Bill 350 established new energy efficiency and renewable electricity targets to support California's long-term climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The adopted Senate Bill 350: Doubling Energy Efficiency Savings by 2030 final report proposes subtargets for individual utilities and nonutility energy efficiency programs. The report also outlines recommendations and next steps to meet the doubling targets, which include funding and improving energy efficiency programs, achieving additional energy savings with new or improved measures and technologies, and improving the data collection for efficiency savings.
Much of the untapped energy efficiency potential to meet the targets can be achieved by improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings, as well as appliances and other devices used in those buildings, as laid out in the Energy Commission’s Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
At the business meeting, the Energy Commission also approved two research grants funded by the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The EPIC program supports innovations and strategies to advance clean energy technologies that help California meet its energy and climate goals.
RCAM Technologies was awarded $1.2 million to develop and test a reinforced concrete 3D printing technology that will be used to manufacture high performance, ultra-tall, low-cost wind turbine towers onsite. This technology could reduce the cost of wind energy in a low-wind speed site by 11 percent.
Lystek International Limited received $1.6 million to build and demonstrate a mobile technology capable of pretreating organic waste to enhance anaerobic digestion at wastewater treatment facilities to increase biogas and energy production.
Warren, Pennsylvania Sulfur Dioxide Reductions Achieved
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and United Refining Company (United Refining) announced that changes to United Refining’s Warren, Pennsylvania, facility have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 62% from 2011 levels thanks to recent modifications. These modifications were initiated by United Refining and have been memorialized in a Consent Order and Agreement signed by both DEP and United Refining.
This agreement was part of Pennsylvania’s proposed revision to its State Implementation Plan (SIP) designed to bring Conewango Township, Glade Township and the City of Warren in Warren County into compliance with federal air emissions standards. The area was previously designated as nonattainment for the 2010 1-hour Federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard for SO2. Short term exposure to SO2 has been linked to respiratory conditions in humans.
DEP expects that it will be able to demonstrate that portions of Warren County, specifically, Conewango Township, Glade Township and the City of Warren, that are in the nonattainment area, will in attainment with ambient air quality standard in 2018, following the required three years of sampling. Following the reductions made by United Refining in 2015, sulfur dioxide levels in the Warren Nonattainment Area have been well below the standard of 75 parts per billion.
The proposed SIP revision, including the Consent Order and Agreement, has been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency and is currently under review.
The COA allows the newly agreed limits to be legally enforceable, and should United Refining’s emissions exceed any of the newly agreed upon limits, there are specific stipulated penalties in place that will continue daily until the air emissions are once again meeting the agreed upon limits.
Comprehensive Performance Evaluation Report on PWSA Aspinwall Filter Plant Released
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently released its final report detailing results from its Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s (PWSA) Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant conducted September 18 through 22, 2017.
The CPE was a thorough assessment of the Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant, conducted jointly by DEP, the EPA and their contractor, which included an assessment of operations, design, data, maintenance, and administrative practices and their impact on the performance of the plant. The assessment team recently presented its findings to PWSA.
"DEP's primary concern is protecting the public by ensuring that the drinking water distributed by PWSA and other water utilities meets the highest standards of quality and safety," said Lisa Daniels, DEP Acting Deputy Secretary for the Office of Water Programs and Director of the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water. "This detailed operational assessment of the Aspinwall facility has helped DEP identify performance limiting factors which could potentially affect the quality of drinking water so that PWSA, working with DEP, can forge a path forward that puts the quality and supply of drinking water to consumers first."
In determining a list of performance limiting factors, the team analyzed and compiled information from a plant tour, interviews with PWSA personnel, performance and design assessments, special studies, and the best professional judgement of the CPE team. The report categorizes, classifies, and ranks the performance limiting factors.
Among the findings, DEP will focus primarily on turbidity—a primary water quality factor that measures the clarity/cloudiness of water due to suspended particles—and data management.
“DEP will continue its increased inspection and data gathering effort to monitor PWSA’s progress to address the performance limiting factors outlined in this report, and encourages PWSA to incorporate all findings in its restructuring efforts,” added Daniels.
DEP initiated and led the CPE to enable the prioritization of PWSA’s corrective actions. EPA responded to DEP’s request for assistance by providing additional, specially trained personnel. PWSA cooperated with DEP’s initiative and has addressed violations discovered during the CPE and noted in DEP’s September 28, 2017 field order to the Authority. EPA, with DEP’s assistance, plans to conduct a second CPE, which would focus on PWSA’s distribution system, but has not yet set a date to do so. The findings summarized in the CPE report and the issues addressed in DEP’s subsequent field order are separate from and unrelated to the issues addressed in DEP’s October 25, 2017 Administrative Order.
The PWSA Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant supplies drinking water for approximately 80% of the City of Pittsburgh and Millvale Borough, and sells bulk water to Reserve Township, Fox Chapel Authority, Aspinwall Borough, and the Hampton Shaler Water Authority. The plant is designed to treat source water from the Allegheny River through coagulation, flocculation, clarification, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection, and corrosion control treatment.
Statewide Climate Action Signed by Oregon Governor
Governor Kate Brown recently announced and discussed her upcoming attendance at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. In advance of the conference, Governor Brown also signed two executive orders in Portland that move the state toward greater energy efficiency, accelerate the adoption of zero emission vehicles, and lead the state further toward fulfilling goals to reduce GHG emissions, all while supporting Oregon's economy.
"In Oregon, economic development and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive goals," Governor Brown said. "The Paris Agreement is the best chance we have to create jobs, promote trade, spur innovation, and preserve American competitiveness in a 21st century economy. I'll deliver that message when I travel to Bonn and will continue to work with leaders on the West Coast, across the country, and around the world to address the challenge of climate change."
Next week, at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn, Governor Brown will highlight the economic development opportunities and jobs supported by green innovation and affirm Oregon's commitment to fighting climate change. Governor Brown is expected to be the highest-ranking woman elected official representing the United States at the climate change conference. She will be joined by California Governor Jerry Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Governor Brown was also joined by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, and several green developers for the signing of the executive orders at the Field Office, which is a green commercial development project still under construction in Northwest Portland. The executive orders take steps to increase the use of clean energy and direct state agencies to develop a strategy to achieve net zero energy ready buildings as standard practice in buildings across the state. Energy efficiency is a critical and growing portion of the Oregon's clean energy economy, and maximizing energy efficiency in buildings is one of the best and least costly ways to achieve emissions reductions in the energy system.
Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations
New research conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health finds exposure to arsenic in drinking water was significantly reduced among Americans using public water systems following a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency regulation on maximum levels of arsenic. Compliance with the regulation led to a decline of 17 percent in levels of urinary arsenic, equivalent to an estimated reduction of more than 200 cases of lung and bladder disease every year. However, there were no improvements in arsenic exposure rates among users of private wells, which are not federally regulated. The findings, published in The Lancet Public Health, confirm the critical role of federal drinking water regulations in decreasing toxic exposures and protecting human health.
“EPA regulation was associated with a significant decrease in urinary arsenic concentrations among Americans who use public water systems,” said Anne Nigra, ScM, in the Mailman School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and the study’s lead author. “Levels of arsenic in private wells, estimated to provide water to roughly 45.5 million Americans, vary significantly throughout the U.S. Because of the cost of testing and treating contaminated water, private well-water users remain inadequately protected against arsenic exposure in drinking water, especially residents of lower socio-economic status.”
Arsenic is an established carcinogen and naturally occurs in drinking water. In 2006, public water systems were required to meet the new EPA 10 µg/L regulatory limit for the maximum arsenic level in drinking water, down from 50 µg/L. Particularly in the Southwest, public drining water originates from sources containing naturally high levels of arsenic, with affected cities including Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, and Tucson.
The researchers compared data from 14,127 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2014, who tested for dimethylarsinate—the main metabolite of inorganic arsenic in humans. Arsenic was also measured in spot urine samples collected from a random subsample of participants 6 years of age or older. Data analysis adjusted for other sources of arsenic such as diet and smoking. The study is the first to evaluate the impact of the 2006 maximum contaminant level regulation on reducing arsenic exposure at the individual level or by using biomarker data.
Among public water users—approximately 70 percent of participants—arsenic levels decreased from 3.01 μg/L in 2003-2004 to 2.49 μg/L in 2013-2014, or 17 percent. The decrease was only observed after 2009-2010, consistent with the EPA regulatory compliance process, which dictates time for testing, and time to address the problem by changing the source or installing water treatment.
“The decline was strongest among Mexican-Americans and supports the recent infrastructure investments in many cities in the Southwest that focused on ensuring water arsenic below 10 μg/L,” said Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, and co-author.
However, there was no change recorded among well-water users. An estimated 1.7 million Americans are at risk of exposure to arsenic above the maximum contaminant level, >10 μg/L. The authors note that efforts to address arsenic levels in private wells vary between states.
“To date, no state government requires homeowners to install treatment systems to reduce arsenic if test results for arsenic exceed these contaminant levels,” said Navas-Acien. “Additional state and federal initiatives are critical to help families sample, test, and address arsenic exposure from unregulated private wells,”
Environmental News Links
Trivia Question of the Week
Wind turbines have grown taller in recent years in order to reach higher speed winds.