EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has proposed amendments to the Petroleum Refinery Sector Risk and Technology Review and the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). According to EPA, these technical corrections provide both regulatory clarity for refineries and possible cost savings up to $11.5 million.
After receiving three separate petitions for reconsideration on the final December 1, 2015 Refinery Sector Rule, EPA is taking action to address concerns regarding the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants requiring Maximum Available Control Technology standards, and NSPS for petroleum refineries. The proposed amendments specifically provide technical corrections that clarify the requirements for work practice standards, recordkeeping, and reporting.
EPA to Broaden Representation on Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals
The EPA moved to appoint additional members to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). This will increase the balance of scientific perspectives and add experts with experience in labor, public interest, animal protection, and chemical manufacturing and processing to the committee. The committee is tasked with providing independent advice on science and technical issues to assist EPA in implementing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
These additional 11 members will supplement the 18 members appointed in January 2017. After further considering the objectives and scope of activities of the committee, EPA decided it was necessary to add to the SACC membership to be consistent with the statutory requirements. The Agency used public comments it received to decide on additional committee members.
Under TSCA, the SACC is required to include representatives from multiple sectors, including: science, government, labor, public health, public interest, animal protection, and industry. It can also include others the EPA Administrator determines to be advisable, including representatives that have specific expertise in the relationship of chemical exposures to women, children and other potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations.
Free New Jersey Air Compliance & Enforcement Training/Outreach Seminar
This free event will provide attendees with information on a variety of topics relating to Air Pollution regulations in New Jersey. Join NJ DEP staff in the morning for a discussion of common issues found with on-line submittals, as well as how to submit penalty payments electronically. There will also be an update on what’s new in the General Permit world, along with a presentation focused on what equipment or processes need an air permit. The morning session will conclude with a discussion on what boiler derating is and how to obtain a permit for it.
The afternoon session will cover the recent Air Rule Adoptions made in 2017, including the rule updates for storage tanks. The session will end with a presentation regarding common control and an opportunity for Q&A/compliance assistance. Come with specific questions that pertain to your facility’s air pollution issues such as process changes, new installations, potential permit/rule violations, etc. The Agency will have staff available to answer your specific questions and/or guide you in resolving your issues.
The Department is providing this free seminar from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at the New Jersey Forensic Science Technology Center 1200 Negron Drive, Hamilton, NJ.
Limited seating, please reserve your seat by completing a registration at this link. For problems with registration, contact ACEacademy@dep.nj.gov.
Owner of Precious Metal Recycler Charged with Unpermitted Storage of Hazardous Waste
United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Marian Walas with storage of hazardous waste without a permit, in violation of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $50,000 per day of the violation. Walas was arrested in Atlanta on February 14, 2018.
According to the indictment, Walas was the president and manager of Rincat LLC (now defunct), a business that recycled automotive catalytic converters to recover the precious metal catalysts, mostly consisting of platinum, palladium, and rhodium. This recycling process generated hazardous waste, including chloride, sulfuric acid, and various heavy metals. Between August and December 2010, Walas allegedly stored this hazardous, corrosive, and toxic waste at a warehouse in Lakeland for a period more than 90 days without a permit issued by the EPA or the state of Florida, as required by the RCRA.
Specifically, between March and June 2010, Walas/Rincat hired a waste disposal company to remove eight loads (37,150 gallons) of hazardous waste from Rincat’s warehouse. On June 15, 2010, there were at least 21 containers of hazardous waste present. Walas/Rincat were evicted from the warehouse by the property owner on August 24, 2010. The following month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) discovered approximately 38,550 gallons of hazardous waste left behind at the warehouse. Thereafter, the property owner worked with FDEP to properly dispose of the hazardous waste at a total cost of approximately $83,000.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the EPA and the FDEP. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel George and Kelley Howard-Allen.
Father and Son Charged with Hazardous Waste Violations at Patriots Environmental
A father and son from Charlton, MA have been indicted in connection with operating illegal waste facilities in Worcester and Oxford, Attorney General Maura Healey announced. “We allege that these defendants ignored laws put in place to protect the environment and the health of the public by allowing hazardous waste to be illegally stored and disposed of at their facilities,” said AG Healey. “Improperly handling these materials can have serious environmental and public health consequences and our office will vigorously prosecute those who fail to comply with environmental laws and safety requirements.”
Ron Bussiere, age 67, his son Curt Bussiere, age 43, and Patriots Environmental Corporation were indicted by a Worcester Superior Court Grand Jury on charges of Operating/Maintaining a Solid Waste Facility without Obtaining the Required Regulatory Approvals (four counts), Criminal Contempt (two counts), and Maintaining a Hazardous Waste Facility without the Required License from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) (one count).
Ron Bussiere is the president of the Oxford-based Patriots Environmental Corporation (Patriots Environmental) and Curt Bussiere is the senior manager of the company, which is primarily involved in asbestos abatement and construction demolition projects in Massachusetts. Both defendants will be arraigned in Worcester Superior Court at a later date.
“MassDEP will investigate those cases that involve intentional misconduct resulting in serious threat or harm to the environment and the public health,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “In particular, MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force (ESF) will look closely at businesses that put unsuspecting workers and the public at-large, at risk due to exposure to uncontained and improperly managed asbestos-containing materials.”
The AG’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force began an investigation into Patriots Environmental in December 2013 after MassDEP received a tip alleging numerous environmental violations at the company’s Oxford and Worcester facilities. The Strike Force obtained and executed search warrants at both facilities and confirmed many of the environmental concerns. The Environmental Crimes Strike Force is comprised of prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Massachusetts Environmental Police Detectives assigned to the AG’s Office, and attorneys, investigators and engineers from MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
Authorities allege that Ron and Curt Bussiere did not have the required state approvals when they allowed asbestos-containing waste material to be stored at the Worcester facility and allowed construction and demolition waste to be stored and disposed of at both facilities. Authorities also allege that the defendants allowed hazardous waste oil to be stored at the Oxford facility without the required license.
The investigation also revealed that, at the time these alleged violations occurred, Patriots Environmental, and by extension the Bussieres, were under a 2006 Suffolk Superior Court order, obtained by the AG’s Environmental Protection Division, requiring them to handle asbestos-containing components in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and to refrain from bringing construction and demolition debris to its Worcester facility, unless it had obtained written authorization from MassDEP or did so in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.
All of these charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. In March 2016, the AG’s Office announced that Patriots Environmental and its three affiliated companies – Patriots Realty LLC, Demo Realty Co Inc., and CRB Demolition Co. – paid $129,000 to settle a lawsuit originally brought by the AG’s Office in July 2014 alleging that the company failed to follow proper procedures while removing asbestos-containing materials from a home in Sturbridge and for failing to pay a $54,714 penalty assessed by MassDEP for asbestos and hazardous waste violations.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Sara Shannon through AG Healey’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force. This case was investigated by the Massachusetts Environmental Police with assistance from MassDEP investigators Jen Macionus, Greg Levin, Don Heeley, Nick Child and Gary Dulmaine and ESF Director Pamela Talbot.
Marathon Pipe Line Fined $335,000 for Midwest Pipeline Spill
EPA Region 5 and the Illinois EPA announced an agreement with Marathon Pipe Line LLC to resolve Clean Water Act violations stemming from its 2016 spill to the Wabash River. The company, which transports petroleum products from its refinery in Robinson, Illinois to Mt. Vernon, Indiana, will pay federal ($226,000) and state ($109,000) civil penalties totaling $335,000.
In April 2016, Marathon released more than 35,800 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to the Wabash River near Crawleyville, Indiana, when its 10-inch Robinson-Mt. Vernon pipeline failed. Marathon cleaned up the oil and took steps to prevent future releases.
The proposed consent agreement and final order is subject to a 30-day comment period that began March 21 and closes April 30.
Dole Food Company Fined $145,000 for Illegal Cesspools
EPA has announced a settlement with Dole Food Company, Inc. for failing to close two large-capacity cesspools (LCC) at its Puuiki Beach Park property on Oahu.
Under the settlement, the company has closed the two cesspools and replaced them with state-approved septic systems. In addition, Dole will pay a civil penalty of $145,000 for violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. In 2005, the federal government banned large-capacity cesspools.
“Closing large cesspools is essential to protecting Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal resources,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA’s large-capacity cesspool inspection and enforcement efforts will continue until illegal cesspools are a distant memory.”
Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state, even though 95% of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources. In the thirteen years more than 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed statewide, many through voluntary compliance.
The private, 9-acre Puuiki Beach Park in Waialua is used by Dole employees for company gatherings and recreational activities. The Dole Food Company is a producer of fruit and vegetables, focused primarily on pineapples at their Oahu plantation.
Terminix Fined $168,000 for Pesticide Misuse
The EPA issued a $168,535 fine against Terminix International Co. for misusing three different restricted-use fumigant pesticides, at four separate locations in Kauai, Hawaii.
The company is a commercial pesticide applicator and uses the EPA-registered fumigants Vikane, Profume, and Degesch Fumi-Cel. Terminix failed to follow required label instructions and safety precautions before and during fumigation operations.
“Access to restricted-use pesticides comes with the responsibility to use particular care in protecting public health,” said Alexis Strauss, acting Regional Administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Today’s action emphasizes how critical it is for pesticide applicators to follow directions concerning these potentially dangerous fumigants.”
At a seed fumigation site on the island of Kauai, Terminix failed to ensure that only certified workers or workers directly supervised by a certified worker apply a restricted-use pesticide, failed to provide proper worker protection equipment, failed to properly monitor the pesticide’s application or measure the amount of pesticide used, and failed to maintain at least two years of routine operational records tracking applications of the restricted-use pesticide Degesch Fumi-Cel. Terminix had similar violations when using the restricted-use pesticide Profume at another seed fumigation site, as well as the restricted-use pesticide Vikane at residences in Kapaa Shores and Kekaha, all located on Kauai.
FIFRA regulates the sale, distribution, and use of pesticides. Restricted-use pesticides are not available to the general public because of high toxicity and potential to cause injury and to adversely affect the environment. Restricted-use pesticides also require applicators to either be certified to apply the pesticides or be supervised by a certified applicator.
Before selling or distributing any pesticide, companies are required to register the pesticide with EPA and ensure that the registered pesticide is properly labeled. The label of all EPA-registered products must bear the EPA registration number, along with directions for use and safety precautions that need to be followed to avoid misapplication and misuse of the pesticide.
California Regulation to Prohibit Hydrofluorocarbons
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted a regulation prohibiting the use of specific refrigerants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful chemicals that trap heat in the atmosphere at a rate thousands of times that of carbon dioxide, the most common of the climate-changing gases. The action was taken to preserve and continue in California some of the EPA’s prior prohibitions on HFCs. Last year, a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals limited EPA’s authority in this area.
“The Board’s action today preserves the federal limits on the use of these powerful chemicals and refrigerants, and provides more certainty to industry,” Board Chair Mary D. Nichols said. “We applaud the actions of many industries, which already have made significant investments in developing and using more climate-friendly alternatives to the high-global warming HFCs.”
California is experiencing the effects of climate change and has committed to take action in order to meet state and federally mandated emissions reduction goals. Under Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383), a law authored by Senator Ricardo Lara in 2016, California must reduce HFC emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. California already has established an approach to reduce super-pollutants, the short-lived climate pollutants that include methane, black carbon and a range of powerful climate-changing chemicals and refrigerants, such as HFCs.
CARB was relying substantially on the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) rules to help meet California’s emission reduction goals for HFCs. HFC emission reductions are important to ensure California ultimately meets its larger climate goals. As a result of the recent court decision, California had to pass its own regulation to ensure it could meet those goals.
The regulation affects certain stationary refrigeration and foam end-uses. It preserves emission reductions from specific sectors with past or shortly upcoming compliance deadlines and will prevent manufacturers from backsliding to start using high-global warming HFCs again. Most manufacturers already have transitioned, or begun the transition, to alternatives that have less of an impact on climate, that is, substances with much lower global warming potential.
The new regulation applies mainly to equipment manufacturers, which cannot use prohibited HFCs in new refrigeration equipment or foams. Prohibited HFCs cannot be used in new equipment and materials in California for the following end-uses:
- Supermarkets and Remote Condensing Units, which are small refrigeration systems used by convenience stores;
- Refrigerated Food Processing & Dispensing Equipment, for example Slurpee machines and frozen yogurt dispensers;
- Stand-alone, or small self-contained refrigeration units;
- Refrigerated vending machines; and
- Foams used in buildings and other places.
Also under the new regulations, manufacturers are responsible for a disclosure statement that must certify the product uses only compliant refrigerants or foam expansion agents. The regulation makes some of the partially vacated SNAP prohibitions enforceable in California, and will lead to in an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emission reductions annually by 2030. While more reductions are necessary for California to meet its legal mandate imposed by SB 1383, this regulation is a good start.
Increased Sea Ice Threatening Ship Safety
More Arctic sea ice is entering the North Atlantic Ocean than before, making it increasingly dangerous for ships to navigate those waters in late spring, according to new research.
The new research finds ocean passages typically plugged with ice in the winter and spring are opening up. Sea ice normally locked in the Arctic then can flow freely through these passages southward to routes used by shipping, fishing and ferry boats.
The new study finds Arctic sea ice surged through these channels in 2017 and clogged normally open areas of ocean around Newfoundland in May and June. The ice cover trapped many unsuspecting ships and sunk some boats when the ice punctured their hulls.
The study authors conclude that warming temperatures due to climate change are melting more Arctic ice, increasing ice mobility and opening channels that are normally frozen shut. They predict last year’s events could occur more often in the future as Arctic temperatures continue to rise.
“It’s counterintuitive to most people, because it means you can have an increase in local ice hazards because of a changing climate in the high Arctic,” said David Barber, an Arctic climate researcher at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada and lead author of the new study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “This is something we need to better prepare for in the future, because we expect this phenomenon to go on for at least a couple more decades as we transition to an ice-free Arctic in the summer.”
People, Prosperity and the Planet Program Receives Phase I Funding
The EPA announced over $463,000 in funding for 31 Phase I student teams through the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grants program. These teams, made up of college students from across the country, are developing sustainable technologies to solve current environmental and public health challenges.
“This year’s P3 teams are applying their classroom learning to create innovative and practical technologies,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This next generation of scientists has demonstrated a commitment to designing sustainable solutions that will help protect public health and the environment and ensure America continues to lead the world in innovation and science for decades to come.”
Funding for the P3 competition is divided into two phases. Teams selected for Phase I awards receive grants of up to $15,000 to fund the proof of concept for their projects, which are then showcased at the National Sustainable Design Expo. The 2018 Expo is scheduled to be held at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, April 7-8. Phase I teams are eligible to compete for Phase II awards of up to $75,000 to further develop and implement their designs.
These students, who represent the future workforce in diverse scientific and engineering fields, are following in the footsteps of previous P3 teams. Some of these teams have gone on to start businesses based on ideas and products developed through their P3 project. For example, Sunn began as a team of students from Cornell University that won a P3 award in 2012 to design and test a Fiber Optic Hybrid Lighting system. Sunn now creates energy-efficient LED light fixtures and apps that mimic outdoor light, inside. In 2007, a P3 team from Drexel University developed a Bubble Column Reactor that used fatty acids gathered from grease-trap waste at wastewater management plants to create biodiesel. This technology formed the foundation for Environmental Fuel Research, LLC.
Projects from this year’s P3 teams include innovative ideas like harnessing solar power to disinfect drinking water and using beetles to degrade Styrofoam waste.
NOAA Bringing Awareness to Marine Pollution
In March, NOAA is raising awareness about the issue of marine debris through the #DebrisFree campaign. Marine debris includes anything made by humans that has been lost or discarded into the marine environment: from huge derelict vessels to microplastics smaller than the head of a pin. This form of pollution impacts our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, disrupting ecosystems and endangering mariners. This month, they are sharing ideas to help educators and students learn about and take action toward reducing marine debris.
As part of the #DebrisFree Campaign, the National Ocean Service shared a top-ten list of things everyone should know about the global problem of marine debris.
Additionally, between March 19 and April 20, students are inviting their local communities to "Go Green and Think Blue" by joining them in the annual Students for Zero Waste Week campaign. During this campaign, students focus on reducing land-based waste to protect the health of local marine environments. These young leaders are raising awareness of how single-use plastic and other types of litter affect the health of local watersheds, national marine sanctuaries, and the ocean.
Volunteers Collect Priceless Water Quality Data
In 1998, 17 volunteers began monitoring the health of 22 streams sites in southeast Minnesota. Currently, more than 400 volunteers monitor 500 stream sites across the state as part of the Citizen Stream Monitoring program. The data is indispensable to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
“Where else do you have continuous data like that? It’s really rare. That citizen component is really important,” said Donna Rasmussen, director of the Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District, where the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program began 20 years ago.
Volunteers adopt a stream site, use a simple tool called a Secchi tube to measure water clarity and track how clear the water is every week during the summer. They report their findings and observations to the MPCA. The agency uses the information to determine whether the streams meet water quality standards designed to make sure those streams are fishable and swimmable.
The MPCA is celebrating the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program’s 20th anniversary this year. It produced a video program recognizing volunteers and their contributions to cleaner water. For many volunteers, their observations and opportunities to bring attention to streams are just as important as the data they collected.
One volunteer featured in the video, Richard Betz, is a nine-year monitor on a Flute Reed River site in Cook County. “I can report things like this slumping bank. If I wouldn’t have been here, the county soil and water (conservation district) wouldn’t know about this,” he said.
Ruthann Yaeger, an 11-year volunteer on Silver Creek in Olmsted County, said, “More importantly, the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program gives me a base to speak to people about water and to show them ways this impacts our watershed and their wells.”
With Minnesota’s 69,000 miles of streams and more than 14,000 lakes, the MPCA cannot monitor all that water on a continual basis. For some lakes and streams, citizen data are the only data available. For all waterbodies monitored, data are crucial to tracking long-term trends in water quality and helps the agency determine whether lake and stream health are getting better or worse over time.
If you’d like to be part of the Citizen Stream Monitoring program to help ensure clean water in Minnesota, visit the Citizen water monitoring webpage, or call the MPCA at 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 1-800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota). The MPCA provides equipment and training and no experience is needed.
Environmental News Links
EPA to Relax Auto Efficiency Standards
Dispersants can Turn Oil Spills into Toxic Mist
Oregon's New Clean Air Law Provides More Info Than Action
Global Emissions Rose in 2017 but US and China Both Made Progress
Energy Has a Role to Play in Achieving Universal Access to Clean Water and Sanitation
$1.3 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill Passes After GOP Drops Anti-Environment Riders
Environmental Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
How Pruitt’s New “Secret Science” Policy Could Further Undermine Air Pollution Rules
Mobile Duel Comb Device Significantly Improves Methane Leak Protection
EPA Summit to Examine Contaminated Water in North Carolina
Chemical Leak Leads to Evacuation
On the Menu for McDonalds: Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
How Pennsylvania Slashed Coal Emissions Without Alienating Industry
What percent of seabirds consume plastic?