Coalition of States Challenge Federal Mercury Rule

June 26, 2006

Pennsylvania and 15 other states have filed a new petition in federal court challenging what the states describe as the EPA’s flawed approach to control toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The states filed the challenge after EPA announced May 31 that it would move forward with its rule despite petitions outlining how the program delays meaningful emission reductions, perpetuates hot spots of local mercury deposition and poses a serious public health threat to the unborn, young children and other vulnerable populations. EPA published its rule June 9.

Mercury is a persistent, bio-accumulative neurotoxin which can remain active in the environment for more than 10,000 years. It endangers pregnant women, the unborn, children, subsistence fishermen and recreational anglers who are most at risk for health effects that include brain and nervous system damage in children and heart and immune system damage for adults.

“The federal rule is hopelessly flawed,” Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said. “EPA’s rule drives energy investments and jobs out of Pennsylvania. The federal plan puts our mining industry at a severe disadvantage by imposing the most stringent regulations on bituminous coal mined in the commonwealth and other eastern states. These unfair market barriers pose a very real and very serious economic challenge for our state.”

The Pennsylvania Coal Association and United Mine Workers of America also are attacking the rule. In ongoing proceedings in federal court, PCA and UMWA claim EPA’s rule will “result in a vast wealth transfer from bituminous coal users to subbituminous and lignite users,” and further will have “adverse and irreversible impacts on the Bituminous Coal Coalition member operations, mine production, mine workers and local economies dependent upon coal mining operations.”

The coalition of states filed its suit last year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit. The suit challenges the misuse of an innovative market mechanism like the cap-and-trade program and a separate rule that removed power plants from the list of pollution sources subject to stringent pollution controls.

The lawsuit, which asserts that both rules violate the Clean Air Act, was put on hold by the court in October when the EPA agreed to a formal reconsideration of the rules. After more than six months, EPA adopted final rules that failed to address any of the states’ concerns.

The new petition filed by the states will allow the suit to move forward. The coalition challenging EPA’s rule includes California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

More than 20 states, including Pennsylvania, already have rejected EPA’s rule to pursue state-specific proposals. The commonwealth’s state-specific policy, which is under review by the independent Environmental Quality Board, would require mercury emission reductions at coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania while the federal rule makes those controls optional.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering legislation that would block the state-specific plan and instead impose the federal rule. The measures (S.B. 1201 and H.B. 2610) also would halt the public process currently under way to give Pennsylvanians the opportunity to comment on development and implementation of a state-specific plan.

The issue is of serious concern to many, including toxicologists, medical organizations, labor leaders, teacher associations, sportsmen and conservation organizations.

The religious community also has been outspoken. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stresses the need for reducing dangerous emissions to protect vulnerable populations, noting: “A mother’s womb is a child’s first environment; yet from conception, unborn children may face a disproportionate threat to their neurological development from environmental exposures to toxins such as mercury.”

Limiting mercury emissions also is a high priority of the National Council of Catholic Women because of the pollutant’s “devastating effect on the small bodies and developing minds of our young people.”

Mercury also cuts into enjoyment of the outdoors --- an important subject to the 1.8 million anglers who fish in Pennsylvania and add $1.6 billion to the economy annually. In Pennsylvania, there are fish advisories for 77 water bodies specific to mercury, meaning an angler’s catch can be eaten only in strictly limited amounts. These specific advisories are based on the actual mercury content measured in the fish caught in these water bodies.

Unlike other air contaminants that disperse broadly, mercury deposits locally. Sample results from Pennsylvania’s two longest-running mercury deposition collection sites reinforce other state and national studies that show the neurotoxin tends to concentrate around local emission sources, creating “hot spots” of contamination. Data collected over eight years for DEP show mercury levels 47% higher in areas closer to power plants.

In February, EPA-funded research showed that nearly 70% of the mercury collected at an Ohio River Valley monitoring site originated from nearby coal-burning industrial plants. Conducted over two years in Steubenville, Ohio, the study is the first in which scientists used rain samples and meteorological data to track mercury from smokestacks to monitors. An earlier EPA Office of Water study found local sources within a state commonly contribute 50% to 80% or more of the mercury deposition.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts reported a 32% average decrease in the level of mercury found in yellow perch caught in nine lakes in the northeast corner of the state where a cluster of incinerators is located. The reductions came seven years after the state enacted the nation’s toughest mercury emission laws for incinerators. Comparatively, yellow perch from lakes elsewhere in the state recorded a 15% drop on average.

Other studies have had similar findings. A Florida Everglades study showed that mercury concentrations in fish and wading birds there dropped by 60% to 70% due to local mercury emission reduction efforts.

The data show that controlling mercury at its source is an effective way to protect human health and the environment from toxic mercury pollution.

Because of banking and trading provisions in the federal mercury rule, utilities do not have to reduce emissions in Pennsylvania. Instead, they can purchase these reductions from upgraded facilities in other states. Power companies in Pennsylvania have bought credits to a greater extent than power companies in any other state.

Although Pennsylvania is a strong proponent of trading and other market mechanisms, allowing such a program for this highly toxic pollutant compromises the integrity of trading and jeopardizes its legitimate use as an effective tool to achieve cost-effective reductions when used in appropriate situations.


Hydraulic Hybrid Delivery Truck Gets 60 to 70% Higher Fuel Economy

 EPA and UPS partnered to develop a delivery truck, the first of its kind, that uses EPA-patented hydraulic hybrid technology. The technology can increase fuel efficiency by 60% to 70% in urban driving. It also lowers greenhouse gas emissions by reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) by 40% compared to the conventional UPS diesel delivery trucks.

“In the past three years, we have all watched the price of gasoline nearly double from $1.50 per gallon to more than $2.85 per gallon. The president has traveled around the country speaking about the need for America to kick its addiction to foreign oil. We believe that with this new hydraulic technology, EPA has met the president’s energy challenge,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh, at a presentation in the parking lot of the Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.

Welsh added that as this new UPS truck begins delivering packages this summer, it is also delivering environmental benefits to the American people.

Laboratory tests show that this hybrid technology has the potential to dramatically improve the fuel economy for package delivery vehicles, shuttle and transit buses, and trash trucks. More than 1,000 gallons of fuel each year could be saved per vehicle. EPA estimates that upfront costs for the hybrid components could be recouped in less than three years for a typical delivery vehicle. The net savings over the vehicle's lifespan could exceed $50,000, assuming current fuel prices.

The vehicle features a full hydraulic hybrid powertrain and a unique hydraulic hybrid propulsion system integrated with the drive axle. Hydraulic motors and hydraulic tanks are used to store energy, in contrast to electric motors and batteries used in electric hybrid vehicles. Like other hybrid systems, energy saved when applying the brakes is reused to help accelerate the vehicle. Following a road tour of EPA Regional offices, the vehicle will be delivering UPS packages across Michigan this summer.

This partnership is occurring through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, which Congress established to facilitate technology transfer of patented inventions from national laboratories to industry and the marketplace. Partners on the project are Eaton Corp., UPS, International Truck and Engine Corp., U.S. Army – National Automotive Center, and Morgan-Olson. Major technical support was provided by FEV Engine Technology Inc. and Southwest Research Institute.




EPA Cites Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel for Opacity Violations

EPA Region 5 has cited Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. for alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's steel mills in Steubenville and Mingo Junction, Ohio.

EPA alleges that WPSC exceeded limits on opacity, or the amount of light obscured by particulates (smoke, dust, ash), from several processes at the mill. In addition, EPA said WPSC exceeded limits on sulfur dioxide emissions.

"EPA's mission is to protect public health and the environment," said Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur. "We will take whatever steps are needed to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act."

These are preliminary findings of violations. To resolve them, EPA may issue a compliance order, assess an administrative penalty or bring suit against the company. WPSC has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.




EPA Signs Environmental Self-Audit Agreements with Nine New Jersey Institutions

Nine New Jersey colleges and universities will conduct comprehensive environmental audits of all their facilities throughout the state under new agreements with the EPA. Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator, and John B. Wilson, President and CEO of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey, joined top officials from the nine schools at a signing ceremony at Rutgers University’s Winants Hall in New Brunswick. Atlantic Cape Community College, Bloomfield College, Camden County College, Centenary College, College of Saint Elizabeth, Cumberland County College, Drew University, Georgian Court University and Saint Peter’s College have all agreed to examine and improve their environmental practices.

“Given that universities are preparing our future leaders and professionals, it is critical that they set a good example of responsible stewardship of the environment,” said Regional Administrator Steinberg. “The self-audit program is a great way for these schools to meet their environmental obligations to students, faculty and staff, as well as the local community.”

With these additions, more than 100 colleges in New Jersey and New York are participating in EPA’s self-audit policy program. In New Jersey alone, more than 125 violations have been voluntarily disclosed, more than 18,000 pounds of hazardous waste per year and 10,000 gallons of fuel oil are being properly managed. In addition to the faculty and staff at the nine colleges that have just signed up for the program, the nearly 55,000 students that attend these schools will be better protected.

The voluntary self-audit agreements are part of an EPA program to heighten awareness of the environmental obligations that colleges and universities face. The program was developed because many colleges and universities were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement effective compliance strategies. EPA has contacted all the colleges and universities in New Jersey inviting them to join the program. The agency provided free workshops and an informational Web site to alert them to their environmental compliance obligations under the law. EPA has also warned the schools that it can make unannounced inspections of facilities – with the risk of financial penalties.

 If participants report and correct violations and take action to prevent recurrences, they are subsequently eligible to receive full or partial relief from penalties for voluntarily disclosed violations of EPA regulations.

The agreements cover all major federal environmental programs including air, water, pesticides, solid and hazardous wastes, hazardous substances and chemicals, environmental response, emergency planning, community right-to-know and toxic substances control.



Ohio EPA Drafts Rules to Regulate Authority over Toxic Air Emissions

Ohio EPA is outlining how it would regulate toxic air pollution sources through draft rules to implement S.B. 265 and is taking comments until July 2006. S.B. 265, which became law this spring, changes how Ohio EPA regulates small air pollution sources and requires the Agency to develop rules to implement those changes.

Ohio EPA must adopt rules within two years that list what toxic air contaminants the Agency will regulate. Each contaminant listed also may require a toxic emissions evaluation. Ohio EPA's draft rule incorporates more than 600 toxic air contaminants. Ohio EPA had been regulating these chemicals under an agency policy; having it in rule strengthens the Agency's authority.

 Written comments also may be mailed to Ohio EPA, Division of Air Pollution Control, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, no later than July 20, 2006.




Pennsylvania DEP Says ‘Stay Out/Stay Alive’

“More people are killed each year while trespassing in mines than from accidents at all active mining operations in Pennsylvania,” DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said. “The best way to prevent future tragedies is to help people understand that these mines and quarries are not playgrounds. Take the message to heart: Stay out and stay alive.”

DEP has partnered with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, other state agencies and the active mining industry to promote the “Stay Out/Stay Alive” campaign --- a national effort designed to inform the public, particularly young people, about the dangers of abandoned and active mines.

The updated Web page contains a picture slideshow, posters and educational materials, as well as streaming video of McGinty’s “Stay Out/Stay Alive” public service announcement, which currently is airing on television stations statewide.

Twenty seven people have died trespassing in abandoned mines and quarries in 18 different counties in the commonwealth since January 2000.

On June 9, McGinty announced a $306,281 contract to reclaim an abandoned strip mine pit on Spring Mountain in Packer Township, Carbon County, that was the site of a fatal swimming accident in 2003 --- one of three abandoned mine fatalities that year in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has the largest abandoned mine lands problem in the country, with more than 180,000 acres of unmarked shafts, unstable cliffs and waste piles, water-filled pits and abandoned equipment left over from when mining was largely unregulated prior to 1977. Abandoned coal mines are found in 45 of the commonwealth’s 67 counties.

Governor Edward G. Rendell’s $625 million Growing Greener II initiative provides significant funding to address a vast array of environmental and public health problems at abandoned mine sites in Pennsylvania. The voter-approved program allocates $60 million to clean up rivers and streams affected by abandoned acid mine drainage and reclaim abandoned mine lands scarred by dangerous highwalls, mine openings and water-filled pits.

The Governor also has been a leader in the fight to ensure that the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the federal mine reclamation fund and that the state secures its fair share. The fund, which was set to expire, has been extended for 15 months. 




Delaware DNREC Issues Notice of $5,250 Penalty Assessment to Delmar Asphalt Plant for Air Permit Violations

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary John A. Hughes has issued a Notice of Administrative Penalty Assessment and Secretary’s Order to P&A LLC (Maryland) for violation of Delaware’s regulations governing the control of air pollution. The order includes a penalty of $5,250 and an additional $1,804 as cost recovery reimbursement to the Department for expenses associated with its investigation.

P&A LLC (Maryland) produces hot mix asphalt at its facility in Delmar, Del. Emissions from the manufacturing process include sulfur oxides (SOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) from combustion occurring in their rotary drum dryer.

A review of the facility’s records during an inspection by the Department showed that the company neglected to have a burner tune-up performed on its rotary drum dryer burner within three weeks of plant startup following its annual shutdown in February 2004. In addition, the company failed to conduct an annual EPA Method 9 visible emissions test for calendar year 2004. For a “hot mix” asphalt plant, these tune-up and testing requirements are intended to prevent serious and visible air pollution problems.

P&A LLC (Maryland) was found in violation of Delaware’s air regulations and its own operating permit for failing to perform the burner tune-up and EPA emissions test within the required timeframes.




Florida Energy Legislation Launches Tampa's First Ethanol Production Facility

At the project launch of Florida’s newest ethanol production facility in Tampa, Governor Jeb Bush signed into law a four-year, $100 million plan to diversify the state’s fuel supply and promote energy conservation and efficiency. Joined by Senator Lee Constantine, Representative Adam Hasner, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen M. Castille and other state and community leaders, the Governor signed Senate Bill 888, which will reduce Florida’s dependence on imported oil, spur economic growth and increase Florida’s investment in cleaner, alternative energy sources such as solar, hydrogen and biofuels.

“Reducing barriers and diversifying the state’s fuel supply will ensure greater energy and economic security for Florida,” said Governor Bush. “Grant programs and targeted investments for emerging technologies will speed up the development of viable, cleaner alternative energy sources and create opportunities for new industries, services and jobs.”

The Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act takes a comprehensive step toward a diverse, reliable and secure energy future by reducing regulatory barriers to expedite electric generation capacity and providing rebates, grants and tax incentives to drive the development of alternative fuel technologies. The Act:

Increases energy efficiency by reducing consumer costs:
The Solar Energy System Rebate Program reduces initial costs for pollution-free photovoltaic and solar thermal technology installations on residential and commercial buildings. Additionally, the Energy Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday from October 5 to October 11 provides a sales tax exemption for the purchase of energy efficient products including dishwashers, refrigerators, air conditioners, ceiling fans, programmable thermostats and incandescent light bulbs.

Invests in cleaner fuels to diversify Florida’s energy supply and economy:
The Renewable Energy Technologies Grant Program provides matching grants for research and demonstration projects associated with the development of alternative fuel vehicles, renewable energy systems and other ‘next generation’ energy technologies, including hydrogen, solar, biodiesel and ethanol.

Streamlines regulations to stabilize energy costs, diversify supply and ensure reliability:
Revisions to the Power Plant Siting Act and Transmission Line Siting Act eliminate unnecessary processes to the advancement of the state’s electric generation capacity and strengthen the reliability of power supply without affecting public participation.

Additionally, the legislation creates the Florida Energy Commission, a nine-member panel to be appointed by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. The commission will advise the Legislature on state energy policy based on the guiding principles of reliability, efficiency, affordability and diversity.

“I'm proud of this comprehensive energy package that lays the foundation for securing and diversifying Florida's energy future,” said Representative Adam Hasner. “This legislation includes incentives for conservation as well as promoting the development of alternative technologies such as ethanol, solar, and hydrogen that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.”

Following the bill signing, Governor Bush joined top officials with US EnviroFuels LLC to launch the company’s new ethanol production facility in Port Sutton. This ethanol facility will produce a fuel additive derived from agricultural products that limits the amount of gasoline a vehicle consumes, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air.



$160,000 Penalty for Unpermitted Discharges

EPA Region 8 has reached an agreement with Gosney & Sons, Inc., of Bayfield, Colo., requiring Gosney to pay $160,000 in penalties for violating the Clean Water Act and EPA’s storm water regulations.

EPA inspectors found the Gosney business discharging pollutants into the Los Pinos River without the required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit at its Bayfield Pit facility. Moreover, Gosney’s operation disposed of other wastes into an on-site pond. The Gosney business also did not have an adequate spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) plan to control the petroleum products and waste.

Gosney’s & Sons, Inc., also operated a second sand and gravel operation, Grove Pit, located at the intersection of County Roads 521 and 524 in Bayfield, without an NPDES permit and did not have a storm water pollution prevention plan. Sand and gravel mining operations are required to have a storm water pollution prevention plan stating best management practices to minimize the discharge of sediment and other pollutants into storm water.

During their inspections, EPA representatives also observed no or inadequate best management practices to control sediment and other pollutants generated by Gosney’s industrial operations. Sediment is the second leading cause of water quality impairment in the United States. High levels of sediment can affect aquatic life and drinking water supplies.

EPA Region 8 Assistant Regional Administrator Carol Rushin said, “We hope this settlement sends a message that compliance with federal environmental laws is not only important to protect our environment, but necessary as well.”

The settlement is composed of three penalties: $115,000 for Clean Water Act and storm water violations at the Bayfield pit, $38,000 for Clean Water Act and storm water violations at the Grove Pit, and $7,000 for SPCC violations at the Bayfield Pit.

Gosney & Sons, Inc., ceased operations at its Grove Pit site in February 2006. Gosney now has an SPCC at the Bayfield site.



Illegal Use of Wood Treatment Results in FIFRA Penalty

The EPA announced the settlement of an administrative enforcement action against Freeman & Patrick Wood Products, L.L.C., located in Centreville, Ala., for alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The settlement requires Freeman & Patrick to comply with FIFRA and pay a penalty of $7,500.

The violations at Freeman & Patrick were discovered during an inspection conducted by the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries in August 2004. EPA contends it is a misuse of the chromated copper arsenate (CCA) label to treat dimensional wood for a use not listed on the label. CCA is a chemical wood preservative containing chromium, copper and arsenic. In addition, the improperly treated wood is then considered an unregistered pesticide. All facilities that produce pesticides are required to be registered with the EPA. Freeman & Patrick is not registered with EPA as a pesticide-producing facility.

Since December 31, 2003, wood treaters are not allowed to use CCA to treat wood for many residential purposes, and the labels to CCA products were changed to show a more restrictive use. This change was a voluntary decision by industry in their efforts to move consumer use of treated lumber products away from wood pressure-treated with arsenic in favor of new alternative wood preservatives.

EPA has emphasized enforcement actions against facilities that illegally treat wood with CCA in an effort to ensure compliance with FIFRA and the new label requirements. While EPA has not concluded that CCA-treated wood poses any unreasonable risk to the public or the environment, arsenic is a known human carcinogen and thus, the Agency believes that any reduction in the levels of potential exposure to arsenic is desirable.



Clean Water Act Settlement Provides Green Roofs to D.C

An area of approximately 68,000 square feet of green roof, more than 20 times the size of the only other existing green roof in D.C., will open this spring on the new federal Department of Transportation (DOT) headquarters. Additional funds will be used for a local university to collect data and test the effectiveness of the green roofs on runoff and specific pollutants.



Blue Skyways Collaborative

Blue Skyways partners and communities are sharing air pollution reduction technology and professional expertise, as well as leveraging funding. More than $90 million in clean diesel and renewable energy projects was dedicated at a June 20 meeting by the Blue Skyways partners. Projects use innovations in diesel engines, alternative fuels and renewable energy technologies to reduce air emissions in urban areas and along major transportation corridors.

"Blue Skyways partners are committing to take action and help reduce the number of red ozone alert days across the heartland of America from Laredo to Duluth," Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. "Their commitment to help improve air quality is critical to our nation's goal for clean air."

EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford said, "Since the kick-off meeting for the collaborative in Kansas City last February, we can really see interest in Blue Skyways accelerating. That interest will ultimately translate into significant diesel emissions reductions and healthier air."

"Texas is proud to be a part of this innovative collaboration between communities, businesses, and governmental agencies to voluntarily promote strategies that will help improve air quality throughout Texas," Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Larry R. Soward said.

The Blue Skyways Collaborative covers ten central states - Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota - and along the borders with Canada and Mexico.


  • Capitol Area Council of Governments (Austin, Texas, area)
  • Caterpillar Inc. (Peoria, Illinois)
  • City of Dallas
  • City of Houston
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • Earth Biofuels Inc. ("BioWillie")
  • East-West Gateway Coordinating Council of Governments (St. Louis area)
  • H-E-B Grocery Company (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Marion School District (Arkansas)
  • Mid-America Regional Council (Kansas City area)
  • MidAmerican Energy Company (Urbandale, Iowa)
  • North Central Texas Council of Governments (Dallas-Fort Worth area)
  • Peterbilt Motor Company (Denton, Texas)
  • Port of Houston Authority
  • Texas Transportation Institute (Texas A&M University)
  • Texas General Land Office
  • Wal-Mart Corp. (Bentonville, Arkansas)
  • West Memphis School District (Arkansas)


Griffin Wheel Fined for Disposal of Hazardous Waste without a Permit

Ohio EPA has reached a settlement with railroad wheel manufacturer Griffin Wheel Company, Inc., for hazardous and solid waste violations at its site in Groveport. The settlement includes a total civil penalty of $49,147.

The primary hazardous waste violation was storing hazardous waste in an area outside the building and disposing hazardous waste in an on-site landfill without a permit. The waste consisted of dust that contained lead and selenium. Other violations included failure to properly evaluate wastes to determine if they were hazardous, failure to keep waste containers closed, failure to label one container holding hazardous waste, and failure to provide hazardous waste management training to employees. The violations occurred in the first half of 2002. The facility is now in compliance with hazardous waste regulations.

The solid waste violations included the disposal of dusts and unspent foundry sand in an on-site landfill from approximately 1987 until July 2002. The disposal area did not have a permit or license; therefore, placing solid waste in the area constituted open dumping of solid wastes. Within four months, Griffin Wheel is required to implement a plan to monitor the quality of the ground water surrounding the disposal area. Within six months, the company must submit a final closure/post-closure care plan for the landfill. Final closure of the disposal area must be completed by May 1, 2010. Additionally, Griffin Wheel must establish and fund a financial assurance mechanism to cover the cost of final closure and post-closure care.



City Fined $36,565 for Wastewater Treatment Plant Permit Violations

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a $36,565 penalty against the City of Elgin for violating, over a two-year period, several requirements of its permit to discharge treated wastewater from the northeast Oregon community’s municipal wastewater treatment plant to the nearby Grande Ronde River.

A November 2005 DEQ review of discharge monitoring reports for the facility determined that on 19 occasions between 2003 and 2005, the city exceeded pH (acidity/alkalinity) and E. coli discharge limits and failed to meet removal requirements for biochemical oxygen demanding materials (BOD5) and total suspended solids (TSS).

In November 2003, DEQ issued a notice of noncompliance to the city for violating similar requirements of its wastewater permit between 1998 and 2003. The notice also informed the city that enforcement action would be taken should similar violations occur, which is why the city is receiving a civil penalty for these more recent violations. DEQ has also ordered the city to conduct a wastewater treatment study that would evaluate the need for system upgrades or operating procedures to eliminate future violations. The study must be submitted to DEQ by September 30, 2006.

Discharging wastewater that does not meet permit limits to state waters is a serious violation of Oregon’s environmental law. It presents a threat to humans, aquatic life and the environment that can make public waters unfit for human consumption and recreational, commercial and agricultural uses. Too much BOD depletes the oxygen in rivers and high pH levels can affect the metabolism of fish.

Too much TSS reduces fishes’ ability to feed. It can also cause gill abrasion and disturb their ability to see and avoid predators. E. coli indicates the presence of inadequately treated sewage in the wastewater being discharged to the river.

A significant portion of the penalty, $31,115, represents the economic benefit received by the city in failing to perform a wastewater system study. Because the city is undertaking a wastewater system study, DEQ may reduce the penalty to take into account that the cost of doing the study was delayed rather than avoided.



Above Normal Temperatures Predicted Throughout Summer

. NOAA cautions the public that these areas could experience high temperatures for prolonged periods triggering heat waves and creating wildfire risks in many areas, especially in the West. In contrast, below-average temperatures are expected in Hawaii this season.

The seasonal precipitation forecast is less certain. However, there is a tendency for dryness in the southern plains and wetness in the southern Atlantic states this summer.

Currently, extreme to exceptional drought  is in the Southwest, extending northeastward into western Oklahoma and southeastern Colorado. A

“Improvement in drought conditions is likely along the Gulf Coast states and up the Appalachians,” said Douglas Lecomte, NOAA Climate Prediction Center's drought specialist. He added, “Although we cannot count on major relief for much of the drought-stricken area in the central and southern plains, the outlook for the next two weeks does calls for less heat and increased rainfall to provide some reason for near-term optimism. 



New Excessive Heat Guidebook

The guidebook highlights best practices that have been employed to save lives during excessive heat events in different urban areas and provides a menu of options that officials can use to respond to these events in their communities.

The guidebook was developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Municipal officials in both the U.S. and Canada provided useful information that can be used to help the public cope with excessive heat.



Greka Integrated Inc. Fined $127,500 for Underground Injection Violations

EPA has fined Greka Integrated Inc. of Santa Maria, Calif., $127,500 for unauthorized disposal of oil refinery wastewater into the facility’s injection wells, in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The EPA cited Greka for piping refinery wastewater into their Class II underground injection control wells on the Union Sugar and the Morganti lease areas near the refinery. Class II wells are authorized to receive fluids associated with oil and gas production operations, not industrial wastewater associated with refinery processing. Refinery wastewater may be disposed of only in Class I injection wells, which have more stringent requirements and are therefore more protective of ground water.

“The UIC program has specific standards and well classifications which were established to ensure that different types of waste are disposed in a safe and effective manner,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the Water Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “Facilities must adhere to these federal standards when disposing of industrial wastewater to ensure protection of our drinking water resources.”

According to the EPA, Greka disposed of refinery wastewater in the Union Sugar lease area from at least April 2001 through December 2003. The California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, which oversees Class II UIC operations in the state, notified the EPA of the wastewater injection violations on the Morganti Lease area following inspections in October 2003.

The company, which produces crude oil, processes the oil, and manufactures a variety of asphalt products at its Santa Maria location, was ordered to cease all underground disposal of its refinery wastewater pending any future EPA authorization for such injection.

The most accessible fresh water is stored in shallow geological formations called aquifers and is the most vulnerable to contamination. These aquifers feed lakes, provide recharge to streams and rivers, particularly during dry periods, and serve as resources for 92% of public water systems in the United States.



Romic Ordered to Clean Up Hazardous Materials Release

The EPA has ordered Romic Environmental Technologies Inc. to clean up areas affected by the June 5 hazardous materials release that occurred at its East Palo Alto, Calif., facility.

Approximately 4,000 gallons of a chemical mixture that contained hydroxylamine, monoethanolamine, toluene and acetonitrile released to the environment in the form of a fine mist that settled over more than 2 acres, including an adjoining empty lot, Bay Road, a PG&E substation, and the Laumeister and Faber Tract marshes.

“The EPA’s priority is to ensure that the health and safety of nearby residents and workers are protected,” said Janet Yocum, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator. “We will continue to work with Romic and the county until the cleanup is complete, and the impacted areas are returned back to their normal state.”

Under the EPA order, Romic must do the following:


  • immediately restrict access to the site for the duration of the cleanup
  • forbid any materials, equipment or other property to be removed from or brought into the facility without EPA approval
  • submit a work plan to the EPA that includes a schedule of the hazardous material removal
  • complete cleanup within 60 days of the EPA-approved work plan
  • prepare a sampling and analysis plan to identify all chemical compounds within the site and characterize impacts on the surrounding area
  • segregate all incompatible hazardous substances
  • remove non-hazardous chemicals to appropriate disposal or recycling facility or return to distributor or manufacturer -- including complete documentation to the EPA
  • monitor and sample air during cleanup
  • demonstrate financial ability to complete all cleanup work
  • prepare a health and safety plan
  • submit a final summary report to the EPA


If Romic fails to comply with the order, the company may be liable for up to three times the costs the EPA would incur to complete the action. However, Romic is conducting the response under the EPA's direction, and is expected to continue the response and comply with the terms of the order.

Last week, the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances and Control issued an order requiring Romic to limit blending of hazardous waste to make fuel and ensure safe operation of fuel blending activities. The order took effect immediately and reserves the state’s right to impose fines and penalties in the future.

Romic is a hazardous waste recycling facility that has been in operation since 1964. The company treats hazardous waste at the facility in tanks and other containers, and transports materials into and from the facility in tanker trucks and drums. The facility has a permitted hazardous waste storage capacity of 241,000 gallons in 50 storage tanks and 2,531 drums in four facility warehouses.


USDA and DOE Announce National Renewable Energy Conference for October

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman announced that the two agencies will co-host a national renewable energy conference to help create partnerships and strategies necessary to accelerate commercialization of renewable energy industries and distribution systems. The conference, Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, is scheduled for October 10-12, in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Keeping America competitive calls upon us to work together to expand sustainable, market-driven, domestic energy sources,” Johanns said. “We have the will and the means to replace significant quantities of foreign oil with homegrown fuel. We are hopeful this conference will identify major impediments and critical pathways to get more domestically grown, renewable energy sources out of the laboratory and into consumers’ hands as soon as possible.”

Johanns also announced a loan guarantee and grant totaling $3.75 million for construction and operation of a new biodiesel production facility in Iowa.

From Wall Street to Main Street, investors are seeking to understand potential markets. This conference will focus on biomass, wind and solar research and commercialization. USDA and DOE expect the conference to identify major impediments, review challenges and make recommendations to help accelerate renewable energy technology development, examine key incentives that would help promote certainty and reduce risk for investors and developers in the marketplace, review challenges of developing new distribution systems, and raise public awareness.

USDA and DOE expect conference attendees to cover a broad spectrum of interests, including agriculture, energy, transportation, financial and investment, federal and state government, and elected officials.

In announcing the biodiesel facility loan and grant, Johanns said the funding recipient is Riksch BioFuels LLC, which will construct a plant near Crawfordsville, Iowa. Twenty-five investors, including farmers and business owners, already have raised over $3.3 million for the project and will receive $400,000 from the Iowa Department of Economic Development.



NOAA Proposes Regulations to Save Whales

 The rule proposes vessel speed restrictions along the U.S. East Coast, a first in the agency's long-standing efforts to recover right whales.

"Reducing serious injuries and deaths among right whales due to ship collisions will allow more of these rare animals to reach maturity and to reproduce. 

The rule proposes a speed restriction of 10 knots or less during certain times in each of three major regions along the U.S. East Coast (Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast). These proposed measures are adapted to right whale seasonal occurrence in each area, as well as commercial ship traffic patterns and navigational concerns. Speed restrictions would apply to vessels that are 65 feet long or larger, except federal agency vessels. The rule also proposes a speed restriction to protect whales that appear in times and places when these seasonal measures are not in effect, through "dynamic management."

These proposed regulations are part of the agency's larger Ship Strike Reduction Strategy, which recommends continuing existing protective actions, such as a system of aircraft surveys and mandatory ship reporting systems that provide advisories and information on right whale locations to mariners. The strategy calls for developing a conservation agreement with Canada, consulting under the Endangered Species Act with federal agencies on operations of their ships, and an expanded outreach and education program.

In addition, the NOAA Fisheries Service and NOAA Ocean Service developed a proposal to modify key shipping routes into Boston. The proposal, submitted to the International Maritime Organization in April by the U.S. Coast Guard on behalf of the United States, is expected to significantly reduce risks to right whales from ships. The North Atlantic right whale lives primarily in coastal or shelf waters. Its known range includes winter calving and nursery areas in coastal waters off the southeastern United States, and summer feeding grounds in New England waters and north to the Bay of Fundy and Scotian Shelf.

Historically depleted by commercial whaling, the North Atlantic right whale suffers injury and death from ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. These events may continue to contribute to the species decline and inability to recover. Biologists believe that there are approximately 300 right whales in the Northwest Atlantic population.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires recovery plans to serve as guides to promote the conservation and recovery of listed species. In 2005, the NOAA Fisheries Service released a revised North Atlantic Right Whale Recovery Plan that provides an overall framework for promoting recovery of the whale. Measures to reduce risks posed by entanglement in fishing gear are included in the agency's Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.



EPA Cites Equistar Chemicals for Opacity Violations

EPA Region 5 cited Equistar Chemicals LP for alleged Clean Air Act opacity violations at the company’s ethylene manufacturing plant in Morris, Ill.

EPA alleges that Equistar violated EPA regulations by discharging visible emissions of black smoke from the main flare at its plant. The emissions were observed by EPA inspectors May 3.

“EPA’s mission is to protect public health and the environment,” said Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur. “We will take whatever steps are needed to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act.”

These are preliminary findings of violations. To resolve them, EPA may issue a compliance order, assess an administrative penalty or bring suit against the company. Equistar has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.