Court Invalidates Air Monitoring Loophole

August 25, 2008

 The court held that EPA violated the Clean Air Act in allowing the largest air pollution sources to avoid monitoring, recording, and recordkeeping of air pollution emissions needed to assure compliance with clean air laws. The EPA rule actually barred permitting agencies from requiring any of these activities in clean air permits.

Earthjustice challenged the 2006 EPA rule on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Project, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. The rule specifically prohibited permitting authorities—predominantly state agencies—from including stronger air pollution monitoring requirements in permits for approximately 18,000 major stationary pollution sources, even where needed to guarantee compliance with emission limits.

"This is a huge victory for everyone who breathes," said Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell who argued the case in court. "We can't have strong enforcement of our clean air laws unless we know what polluters are putting into the air."

"The Bush EPA went out of its way to overturn a system that required states to adequately monitor air pollution at power plants and factories. Instead, EPA actually outlawed states from requiring monitoring good enough to protect the health of their citizens. EPA’s consistent polluter-biased practices have amounted to industry foxes having a house party in the henhouse,” said John Walke, Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The 2–1 decision came from a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court ruled that the Clean Air Act "requires that '[e]very one' of the permits' issued to large factories and power plants must require adequate monitoring, and that EPA had failed to "read the statute" in taking a contrary view.

“Today, the court slapped down EPA’s ‘see no evil’ approach to the Clean Air Act, which would have eliminated emissions monitoring required by law. Responding to an outstanding argument by Earthjustice, the court understood that emission standards that aren’t monitored can never be enforced. Today's opinion is only the latest in a series of decisions that have thoroughly rejected EPA’s seven-year campaign to unravel the Clean Air Act."

"The federal appeals court held that communities across America have the right to know the amount of air pollution discharged by thousands of industrial sources," said Vickie Patton, Environmental Defense Fund Deputy General Counsel. "The court reinstated bedrock public health protections undermined by what it properly called an EPA 'about-face,' and sharply admonished the Agency to carry out the nation's clean air laws."

"Public health should be a top priority, not polluters' profits," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "(This) decision will give states back the tools they need to hold polluters accountable and help ensure that everyone has clean, healthy air to breathe.”

The court ruling impacts emission monitoring requirements for thousands of facilities subject to "Title V" operating permits. The decision means that the public and air pollution enforcement agencies can now look forward to regular access to reliable monitoring data demonstrating whether large factories, power plants, cement kilns, incinerators, and other facilities are polluting the air illegally.

EPA to Take Public Comment on Fine Particle Nonattainment Recommendations

EPA is opening a 30-day public comment period on its recommendations for areas to be designated as out of compliance with the agency’s 24-hour fine particle standards. On August 19 and 20, EPA notified states and tribes of its recommendations for areas to be designated as “attainment” or “nonattainment” for fine particle pollution, also called PM2.5. Exposure to fine particle pollution is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death.

States and tribes have an opportunity to respond to EPA’s recommendations and provide new information or analyses if appropriate. EPA will consider those responses, along with the public comment, before making its final decisions. EPA must issue final designations by Dec. 18, 2008.

EPA will accept public comment for 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register.

EPA Clarifies Policy on Blending Fuel With Ethanol at Gas Stations

EPA has clarified the Clean Air Act requirements for ethanol blending of fuels at retail gasoline stations to reduce the risk to public health from their emissions. EPA cautions retail stations that they should take precautions to prevent misfueling of higher ethanol blends into gasoline-only vehicles since it may damage certain emissions control devices and increase emissions from these vehicles. By law, retail stations are prohibited from selling gasoline that is blended with more than 10% percent ethanol for use in gasoline-only vehicles and engines. However, gasoline that contains up to 85% ethanol may be sold for use in flexible-fueled vehicles or engines.

Synthetic Turf Study Dangerously Deceptive According to Connecticut Attorney General

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to immediately remove and revise a report on its website that may dangerously and deceptively mislead citizens into believing that artificial turf has been proven safe.

Blumenthal said the CPSC relied on a grossly inadequate and badly flawed study in declaring synthetic turf safe to install and play on—focusing narrowly and insufficiently on lead, while failing to examine several other possible chemicals and concerns.

In a letter to CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Ann Nord, Blumenthal said the CPSC's claims—based on such a "crudely cursory study"—may dangerously deceive municipal and state leaders nationwide about the safety of synthetic turf.

For the sake of public health and safety, Blumenthal said the CPSC has a moral and possibly legal obligation to immediately remove and revise its synthetic turf report from its website.

"This report and release are as deceptive as some of the advertising and marketing of consumer products prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general," Blumenthal said. "There is a clear and present danger that municipal and state decision makers—as well as parents and citizens—will rely on this unconscionably deficient report. It is replete with unsound scientific methodology and conclusions, and unreliable findings. It may lead to unsupportable and unwise commitments by towns and cities or their boards of education to build or replace athletic fields.

"I have personally reached no conclusion on the safety or health issues concerning artificial turf, because no complete or comprehensive study has been done,” he said.” This one, far from being complete or comprehensive, is profoundly misleading and misguided and may lead to bad policymaking. Timely corrective action—indeed immediate revision—is essential.

"The CPSC review of artificial turf safety focused entirely on the issue of lead contamination from artificial blades of grass. While this one issue is important, it is neither the sole nor the most significant issue. There is no indication that CPSC staff considered the transferability or emission—especially at high temperatures—of toxic chemicals from the crumb rubber used at the base of artificial turf. This crumb rubber is usually made from recycled tires, containing chemicals—including benthothiazole, butyplated hydroxyanisole, and phthalates—that may be toxic or carcinogenic under some circumstances.

"Similarly, there is no indication that CPSC considered other important risks, some presented or aggravated by very high temperatures in the summer sun, and exposure to serious infection caused by the more extensive skin burns and abrasions created by falls on this material. Further, while CPSC staff admits that aging, wear, and exposure to sunlight may change the amounts of chemicals released, CPSC has not even attempted to study or quantify the effects of those changes on health and safety.

"Even as to the lead issue, the CPSC study is seriously and reprehensibly flawed. The study evaluated only 14 samples of artificial turf, even though thousands of these fields are in use. Worse, six samples were from portions of turf that was never installed or used, and one sample came from a field that was no longer in use. Thus, only half of the samples—or seven—were from turf in current use. The severely deficient scope of this fact finding eviscerates the credibility of CPSC's sweeping conclusions about thousands of artificial turf surfaces in daily use.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)—at Blumenthal's urging and with funding from a lawsuit settlement by his office—is beginning a study of artificial turf. Blumenthal recommended that the CPSC coordinate additional study with the DEP to ensure a thorough and prompt examination of synthetic turf.

$1.3 Million Fine for Air Quality Violations

Colorite Specialty Resins of Somerville has agreed to take corrective measures at its Burlington Township manufacturing facility to reduce harmful emissions of vinyl chloride, according to a recent announcement by Attorney General Anne Milgram and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The settlement resolves alleged violations of federal and state environmental laws.

Under terms of the settlement, Colorite will pay a $1.3 million civil penalty to be split between New Jersey and the federal government, and will undertake two projects valued at more than $1 million that will further reduce vinyl chloride emissions from its Burlington Township facility. The Burlington Township facility manufactures PVC plastic and vinyl products. As part of its manufacturing processes, the facility emits vinyl chloride. EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A human carcinogen. Exposure to the chemical has been linked to adverse human health effects, including liver cancer, other liver ailments, and neurological disorders.

”This outcome provides another strong example of our use of litigation to enforce environmental laws and improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents—particularly those living near this facility. The settlement requires Colorite to go beyond compliance and take immediate steps to reduce vinyl chloride emissions,” said Attorney General Milgram.

”Given what we know about the dangers of these emissions, this settlement did not come a moment too soon for the people who live and work near this facility,” said DEP Commissioner Jackson. “For this community, and indeed for all New Jerseyans, it means healthier air, a better quality of life, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing this facility will be cleaning up its act.”

“EPA is making a concerted effort to focus on facilities that emit vinyl chloride because it is potentially very harmful, and this settlement shows that our efforts are paying off with real benefits to nearby communities,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA’s Region 2 Administrator. In this case, Colorite has agreed to clean up their act, which will have a direct positive impact on people in Burlington County.”

According to the settlement, Colorite has agreed to lower limits on residual vinyl chloride in both types of resins it produces; test for such residues in every batch of resin and test for vinyl chloride emissions during every reactor opening; conduct an analysis of its wastewater stripper to determine the sources of Clean Air Act violations; and institute better hazardous waste handling practices.

Under the agreement, Colorite will remove compressors used in the manufacturing process and replace them with two rotary compressors, which is expected to reduce vinyl chloride emissions by 2,200 lbs. per year. Combined, the lower regulatory limits and compressor replacements are estimated to reduce vinyl chloride emissions by approximately 11,000 lbs. per year.

The settlement also requires the company to implement an extensive and comprehensive leak-detection and repair program, which will require internal notifications of emissions levels and action when levels reach specified concentrations, as well as quarterly trend analysis on ambient monitoring data to identify areas of the facility with the greatest number of leaks. It also requires the company to develop a training program and apply it to all employees involved in the facility’s operations.

Colorite has further agreed to a third-party audit of all operations at the facility, with a follow-up audit two years later. The proposed consent decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. 

Connecticut DEP Cosponsors "Bike to Work Day" on August 29

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance, and the Taking Care Center are sponsoring a "Bike to Work Day", Friday, August 29. Bicyclists meet between 7–9 a.m. at Hartford’s Old State House where the Taking Care Center will provide a continental breakfast.

This event is one of the Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance sponsored "Bike Everywhere" promotions held year-round throughout the Capitol region.

Commuters are encouraged to leave their cars at home and bicycle to work to provide benefits of air quality improvements from reduced automobile exhaust and reduced traffic for their community and the state of Connecticut. Individuals also benefit from bicycling to work with improving health along with reduced fuel expenditures.

Join other bicycling enthusiasts on September 13 in Bushnell Park for the second annual ‘Discover Hartford Bicycling and Walking Tour.’ This is a great opportunity to see the wonderful Hartford landmarks while enhancing health and air quality.

There are three events in the "Discover Hartford Bicycling and Walking Tour" to choose from:

  • 10-mile bike tour
  • 25-mile bike tour
  • 1-hour walk


Throughout this event, participants will be able to visit historical and modern landmarks within the city of Hartford. 

TDK Receives EPA Award for Reducing Its Metro Atlanta Manufacturing Facility’s Environmental Footprint

EPA Regional Administrator Jimmy Palmer recognized TDK Components USA, Inc., as a recipient of the 2008 Performance Track Environmental Performance Award. TDK is one of two companies in the Southeast and just five nationwide to receive this award. TDK is also being recognized for their acceptance to the highest level of the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia, an environmental leadership program for Georgia businesses.

“We are recognizing TDK for its outstanding commitment to consistently exceed environmental requirements,” said Jimmy Palmer, EPA Regional Administrator. “This has allowed TDK to continuously improve on its environmental performance and reduce its environmental footprint.”

”Members of the Partnership for a Georgia such as TDK lead the way in implementing sound environmental practices, while recognizing that what’s good for the environment can also be good for the bottom line,” said Suzanne Burnes, manager of the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia.

TDK manufactures multi-layer ceramic chip capacitors at its Peachtree City, Ga., facility. From 2003 to 2006, TDK achieved the following environmental results while increasing its production by 28%:

  • Reduced total water use by 38%, or more than 1.1 million gallons, by analyzing electroplating process line rinse flow rates.
  • Reduced non-transportation energy use by 17% and associated greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 700 tons of carbon dioxide, through the installation of a more efficient lighting system, upgrading to more efficient equipment and consolidating operations to two buildings to allow increased time for shutdown.
  • Reduced the use of copper paste by 36%, nearly 3,500 pounds, and the use of caustic soda by 53%, about 21,600 pounds.


"TDK is honored to have been selected among our peers in the industry to receive this prestigious award,” said TDK President Masatoshi Fujimoto. “The award represents a confirmation of the numerous improvement activities implemented at TDK in working toward reducing our environmental footprint."

Since the program's inception in June 2000, Performance Track membership has grown to more than 500 facilities in 49 states and Puerto Rico, and members have made more than 3,500 commitments to the environment. Through their combined environmental efforts, Performance Track member facilities have reported cumulative reductions in water use of 5.2 billion gallons, greenhouse gas reductions of 309,780 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, increases in use of recycled materials in production by 559,991 tons, and conservation of 16,809 acres of habitat. Many members' achievements address issues that are vital to the health of our planet but are not covered by current regulations.

The Performance Track program recognizes and drives environmental excellence by encouraging facilities with strong environmental records to go above and beyond their legal requirements. Members typically set four public, measurable goals to improve the quality of our nation's air, water, and land. Members include major corporations, small businesses, and public facilities that are steering a course toward environmental excellence.

Free and open to any business, the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia was established by the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to foster environmental leadership and recognize superior environmental performance. The Partnership offers a variety of incentives, including cost savings through increased efficiencies, potential regulatory flexibility, free technical assistance and training, and access to networking and mentoring among peers, state, and local officials. 

Inspections Reveal Most Big Oil Facilities Maintain Equipment, Prepared for Spill Response

In a summer-long round of inspections, Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) spill inspectors are finding that the vast majority of the state's largest oil-handling facilities inspected so far are prepared to deploy spill response equipment that's in good working order in the event of an oil spill.

Since June 2008, inspectors visited 20 refineries, pipeline companies, and oil distribution terminals across the state to ensure that companies are complying with the state's new rules requiring a strong preventative maintenance program for their on-site response equipment.

Ecology Spill Preparedness Section Manager Linda Pilkey-Jarvis said the inspection program was launched to spot-check and share lessons with regulated facilities that are required to comply with new provisions in the state's oil spill preparedness or "contingency" plan rules.

"Although we haven't yet completed meeting with plan holders that own and maintain response equipment, we did visit enough facilities to get a good representative sampling about how our regulated community is complying," Pilkey-Jarvis said.

"We found a few problems that are easily correctable—such as recordkeeping, including boom equipment in maintenance programs, and equipment lists that didn't match contingency plans," she said. "All in all, we're encouraged that most companies in Washington are in compliance or are getting there quickly. Our visits helped refine the quality of their maintenance programs."

Inspectors, however, did find serious problems at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery near Anacortes. On Aug. 11, 2008, Ecology ordered Shell to take immediate action to demonstrate the company is fully prepared to respond to an oil spill at its facility.

Pilkey-Jarvis said the state's spill contingency plan rules were revised in October 2006, including new provisions covering preventative maintenance. The new requirements were put in place after equipment problems slowed the initial response during a 4,700-gallon heavy fuel oil spill in December 2003 at Point Wells in King County.

Here are some examples of on-site response equipment that must be in good working order, have proper maintenance records, and be readily deployed—oil containment boom and boom anchors, work boats, vehicles and trailers, oil skimming vessels, pumps, power packs, and communication systems.

Pilkey-Jarvis said that in the next few weeks, Ecology will visit the remaining facility and vessel plan holders that own and maintain response equipment. "These visits are one step in the overall spill preparedness cycle. They are a true milestone for Ecology's spill prevention, preparedness, and response activities."

Oil spill preparedness, or contingency, plans help ensure that refineries, pipeline, and vessel shipping companies, and other large oil-handling facilities operating in Washington can mount an effective and timely response if they spill oil.

The plans describe the actions and equipment each company will deploy to minimize oil spill-related damage to state waters and to natural, cultural, and economic resources.

There are 35 regulated companies or operations in the state. From June 30 through Aug. 13, 2008, inspectors went to the following 20 facilities:

  • Chevron Pipeline/Pasco
  • NuStar Vancouver
  • Tesoro Vancouver
  • ConocoPhillips Yellowstone Pipeline/Moses Lake terminal
  • BP Harbor Island
  • ConocoPhillips/Renton distribution terminal
  • Kinder Morgan
  • Paramount Petroleum (formerly Chevron Richmond Beach)
  • Rainier Petroleum
  • Shell Harbor Island
  • ConocoPhillips/Tacoma distribution terminal
  • McNeil Island
  • NuStar Tacoma
  • Sound Refining
  • U.S. Oil & Refining Co.
  • ConocoPhillips Refinery
  • Shell Puget Sound Refinery
  • Tesoro Anacortes
  • Chevron Pipeline
  • ConocoPhillips Yellowstone Pipeline/Spokane terminal

Carnegie Mellon Researchers Urge Industry to Broaden Carbon Footprint Calculations

Carnegie Mellon University researchers are urging companies to embrace new methods for following the trail of dangerous carbon emissions that are responsible for much of the world's global warming threats.

Because there is no universally accepted way of calculating someone's carbon footprint, dozens of carbon calculators have sprung up on the Internet in the past few years creating confusion and inaccurate information. In addition, accepted frameworks for tracking industry carbon emissions rely on "tiers" of increasingly broad scope. Tier one generally includes emissions by the company's own activities, such as burning gasoline in fleet vehicles or natural gas in its facilities. The second tier boundary expands to include emissions from electricity and steam purchased by the company. Tier three includes all other emissions, including the entire supply chain of goods and services.

In practice, most companies reporting their greenhouse gas emissions opt to use only tier one or the tier two boundary. To put the implications of this boundary decision into context, Carnegie Mellon researchers H. Scott Matthews, Chris T. Hendrickson, and Christopher L. Weber, have developed a new method that estimates the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across all tiers of the entire supply chain for all industries.

"By far, most companies are pursuing very limited footprints—toe prints really—instead of comprehensive ones," said Matthews, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy.

In an Aug. 15 article for Environmental Science & Technology, the authors report that two-thirds of U.S. industries would overlook 75% of their total greenhouse gas emissions if they continue to use the same tier one or tier two reporting boundaries. The average industry has only 14% of its total greenhouse gas emissions in tier one and 12% in tier two for a total of 26%.

Specifically, the research finds that only 6% of the publishing industry's greenhouse gas emissions result from its tier one and tier two uses of petroleum products and electricity. However, there are large emissions from electricity and paper in the supply chain that would otherwise be ignored. Similar results appear for other industries.

The researchers urge industry to use comprehensive screening tools, such as the website they helped to develop (), which are able to analyze carbon footprints and other impacts for different economic sectors in the U.S. economy. They argue that failing to do so will lead to poor decision-making when seeking to mitigate their impact.

"A company that is looking to move toward bio-based materials may find it far more cost-effective to encourage purchases of green power in its supply chain when they look at its total supply chain carbon footprint," said Hendrickson, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Goodrich Settles Violations at Spokane Plant With Pollution-Prevention Upgrades

The Aircraft Wheel and Brake division of Goodrich Corp. has satisfied the final requirement in a settlement reached with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) in 2007 over water-quality and hazardous waste violations at the facility west of Spokane.

The company has installed a “Resource Conservation System,” pollution prevention equipment, to save water and natural gas and decrease wastewater discharge.

The settlement agreement, signed in January 2007, required Goodrich to pay Ecology a fine of $260,000. Of that amount, $142,000 is credited to the company toward the total of $495,000 it spent on the Resource Conservation System. The remainder of the fine was allocated:

  • $65,000 to Ecology for projects that benefit the environment.
  • $40,000 for the Spokane County Division of Utilities to drill monitoring wells where they are needed in the county to measure water levels.
  • $13,000 to Spokane County Fire District 3 for emergency response equipment.


“Ecology isn’t in the enforcement business to collect money,” said Regional Director Grant Pfeifer with Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office. “Whenever we can turn penalty money into a beneficial environmental project, that’s what we prefer to do. This is a great example of how it can work.”

Goodrich’s Resource Conservation System included installing equipment that decreased wastewater discharge by an average of 43%, giving Spokane’s wastewater treatment plant the added capacity to treat wastewater from 90 homes. The new system also gives Goodrich’s process wastewater an extra pollutant scrub-down before it goes to the treatment plant.

In addition, the facility installed energy-recovery equipment to reduce its natural gas consumption. The amount of energy recovered totals nearly 500,000 BTUs per hour, or enough natural gas to heat 45 homes.

Ecology conducted several inspections in 2005 and 2006, finding that Goodrich had generated large quantities of hazardous waste and discharged some of it into the sewer collection system, avoiding proper treatment and disposal requirements. The wastewater that was discharged to the sewer system contained benzene and other regulated toxic chemicals.

Ecology’s water quality program issued a fine of $150,000, and Ecology’s hazardous waste and toxics reduction program issued a fine of $110,000, for a total of $260,000.

Goodrich is complying with Ecology’s request to fix the plant’s pollution problems. Annual inspections conducted at the facility by Ecology in 2007 and 2008 found the Goodrich plant to be complying with its current wastewater discharge permit. The facility also is working with Ecology to develop a new permit that will more accurately reflect the operations at the plant.

The settlement ensures that the company will properly dispose of hazardous wastes in the future, notify Ecology and local authorities if any hazardous wastes are accidentally discharged, and comply with specific regulations that apply to companies that generate large quantities of hazardous waste.

A & E Environmental Fined $20,312 Penalty for Asbestos Removal Violations in Residential Building

A & E Environmental, Inc. of Westminster has been assessed a $20,312.50 penalty by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for failing to follow asbestos removal procedures required by state regulations.

During a November 2007 inspection, MassDEP inspectors observed A & E Environmental personnel conducting the removal of asbestos-containing pipe insulation at a Worcester residence without properly sealing the work area and glove bags being used at the site, as required by the regulations.

Under the terms of the negotiated settlement, MassDEP agreed to suspend all but $4,000 of the penalty provided the company does not have repeat violations for one year. A & E Environmental is an asbestos contractor licensed by the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety (DOS).

MassDEP regulations require that asbestos removal contractors utilize methods of capture and containment sufficient to prevent the migration of asbestos fibers and asbestos-containing materials out of the work area. Properly sealing the work area and filtering the air exhausted from the asbestos removal project are critical measures, which prevent exposure of asbestos fibers to building occupants and preclude other parts of the building from becoming contaminated.

"Asbestos contractors must strictly follow work practices prescribed by the MassDEP asbestos regulations," said Martin Suuberg, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "The cost of noncompliance includes payment of penalties and escalated cleanup, decontamination, and monitoring costs."

NOAA: Fifth Warmest July on Record for Globe

The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2008 tied with 2001 and 2003 as the fifth warmest July since worldwide records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Also, the seven months from January to July 2008 ranked as the ninth warmest seven-month period for combined average global land and ocean surface temperature.

  • The July 2008 combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.88 degree F (0.49 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 60.4 degrees F (15.8 degrees C). For the January–July period, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.81 degree F (0.45 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 56.9 degrees F (13.8 degrees C).
  • Separately, the global land surface temperature for July was 1.22 degrees F (0.68 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 57.8 degrees F (14.3 degrees C). For January–July, the global land surface temperature was 1.35 degrees F (0.75 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 46.8 degrees F (8.3 degrees C).
  • The July global ocean surface temperature was 0.76 degree F (0.42 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 61.5 degrees F (16.4 degrees C). The January–July global ocean surface temperature was 0.61 degrees F (0.34 degrees C) above the 20th century mean of 61.0 degrees F (16.1 degrees C).

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

EPA Identifies New Areas That Do Not Meet Particulate Standards

EPA announced intended designations for the 24-hour PM2.5 ) standard for all state lands and for Indian country. EPA revised the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) on Sept. 21, 2006, to provide increased protection of public health and welfare from fine particle pollution. The new standard is designed to protect the public from exposure to these tiny particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. By comparison, a human hair is about 70 microns in diameter. The new 24-hour outdoor standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The old 24-hour standard was 65 micrograms per cubic meter.

In Region 10, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Tribes, the following states will receive PM2.5 designation modification letters with proposed “non-attainment” designations for the following areas:

  • AK: Fairbanks and Juneau areas
  • OR: Klamath Falls and Oakridge areas
  • ID: Portion of Franklin County and Pinehurst area
  • WA: Tacoma area
  • Counties that do not meet national outdoor air quality standards are called nonattainment areas.

    Five of Region 5's six states have counties on the list. They are: Illinois with 14 counties, Indiana with 19 counties, Michigan with 9 counties, Ohio with 28 counties, and Wisconsin with 6 counties. Minnesota has no counties on the list. Nationwide, EPA intends to name 215 counties in 25 states as not meeting the new standard. 

    The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires that EPA announce modifications to state’s boundary and designation recommendations no later than 120-days prior to promulgating final designations. Following this announcement, states and tribes will have the opportunity to demonstrate why any modification EPA proposes to their recommendations is inappropriate. EPA plans to issue final designations by Dec. 18, 2008.

    EPA will open a 30-day public comment period on intended designations. The agency has recommended that states and tribes consider nine factors in assessing whether or not to include an area in the designated non-attainment area boundary. These factors are:
  • Emission data
  • Air quality data
  • Population density and degree of urbanization
  • Traffic and commuting patterns
  • Growth rates and patterns
  • Meteorology (weather/transport patterns)
  • Geography/topography
  • Jurisdictional boundaries
  • Level of control of emission sources

Oregon Corporation Sentenced for Ocean Pollution Violation

Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals Incorporated (KMBT) was recently sentenced for a felony violation of federal ocean protection laws before U.S. District Judge Garr M. King, the Justice Department announced. The court sentenced KMBT to pay a total penalty of $240,000. Of this amount, a total of $84,000 will fund various environmental projects in Oregon administered by the congressionally established National Fish and Wildlife Fund through the Oregon Governor's Fund for the Environment.

KMBT, which is headquartered in Louisiana and runs a bulk terminal vessel loading facility in Portland, Ore., admitted to violating the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, more commonly known as the Ocean Dumping Act, which makes it a crime to knowingly transport or cause to be transported, without a permit, certain materials from the United States for the purpose of dumping the materials into ocean waters.

The case arose from an investigation into KMBT's operation of a terminal in Portland. KMBT receives, stores, and loads potash or potassium chloride, a substance used as a salt substitute or fertilizer, on behalf of a Canadian corporation at Terminal 5. The shipments of potash arrive in railcars where KMBT then loads it onto bulk cargo vessels for shipment overseas, oftentimes to Asia.

In August 2003, KMBT received 160 metric tons of potash that inspectors determined had come into contact with water, rendering it unsaleable. KMBT's night superintendent paid the master of the vessel taking on the load $1,250 to load the wet, off-specification potash on the vessel’s deck for later disposal into the ocean. In August 2007, the government located the master of the vessel, the J/A Aladdin Dream II, in Japan. The retired master had logbooks and was able to tell the Interpol investigator exactly where the crew dumped the potash into the ocean.

"Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals is paying for its employees’ attempts to save money by illegally dumping materials at sea," said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today’s sentencing reaffirms the Department's commitment to protecting the world’s ocean resources and ensuring a level playing field for corporations that follow the law."

Scott West, Special Agent-in-Charge for EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle, said the company's attempt at a "short cut" in managing a contamination problem has proven to be a costly violation of federal law. "It's hard to imagine a clearer violation of the Ocean Dumping Act," said West. "Intentionally using the ocean as a garbage can for off-spec potash is not only morally wrong, it's a crime. Kinder Morgan has paid a serious price for not taking care of this properly at the dock."

"This was a long and difficult investigation that started here in Portland and ended in Japan—and was solved by the dogged diligence of criminal investigators at the Environmental Protection Agency," said U.S. Attorney Karin J. Immergut. "The hefty sentence in this case reaffirms this Office’s commitment to protect our environment."

The case was investigated by the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton and Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section.

$2.64 Million for PCB Release

EPA has settled with Exxon Mobil Corporation for $2.64 million for allegedly disposing of and improperly handling polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on an offshore oil and gas platform in the Santa Barbara Channel, off the Southern California coast, in violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Today’s settlement sends a clear signal that companies must follow PCB regulations to protect communities and our environmental resources,” said Wayne Nastri, administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “The EPA will not hesitate to take enforcement actions against companies that fail to properly handle and dispose of PCBs.”

Between 2002 and 2005, two large electrical transformers located on Platform Hondo, part of Exxon’s Santa Ynez Unit, leaked nearly 400 gallons of PCB-contaminated fluid. Exxon allowed one of the transformers to leak for almost two years before repairing it. The leaking from the transformers constitutes illegal disposal of PCBs, a TSCA violation.

Additionally, Exxon failed to ensure that workers who cleaned up the leaked fluid were provided protective clothing or equipment to protect against direct contact with and inhalation of PCBs. Exxon replaced the two transformers with non-PCB containing transformers in 2005.

PCBs are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978, and many PCB-containing materials are still in use today.

When released into the environment, PCBs remain for decades. Tests have shown that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Acute PCB exposure can also adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as liver function.

Concerns about human health and the extensive presence and lengthy persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact TSCA in 1976.

Water Reclamation Facility Cited for Failing to Maintain Chemical Risk Plan

EPA recently settled with Casa Grande Water Reclamation facility, of Casa Grande, Ariz., for failing to review and update its risk management plan (RMP) for hazardous waste storage.

Based on the facility’s compliance history, EPA offered the company a reduced penalty after it acted quickly to update its EMP and pay the fine. The company paid a $1,340 fine.

“Facilities must update these plans promptly to provide accurate information about risk management of on-site chemicals,” said Keith Takata, the EPA’s Superfund Division director for the Pacific Southwest. “State and local emergency responders depend on this information to protect communities in the event of a chemical release.”

The Clean Air Act requires a registered facility to include any new information in its risk management plan and update five years after submitting the plan. Due to changes in the law that went into effect April 2004, all registered facilities were required to update and resubmit their plans.

EPA regulations require all facilities using hazardous substances above specified threshold quantities where a worst-case release would cause an off-site consequence to develop chemical risk management plans.

The plan must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years, and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.

Sam's Club® Launches Home-Efficiency Center to Sell Roof-Top Solar Systems

Sam’s Club, the wholesale division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., has created a Home Efficiency Center in nine Southern California Clubs to showcase energy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainability that includes products and appliances to help consumers be more eco-friendly and save money. Members and shoppers can have live video chats with appliance manufacturers’ reps to talk about major appliances and to arrange delivery of any major appliance purchases.

Sam’s Club is working with several utilities to offer more efficient product options for the home and business that could help reduce energy and water consumption. Items include a full line of Energy Star? appliances as well as low-flow toilets and advanced high-efficiency shower heads. There is also an assortment of lighting options including compact fluorescent light bulbs and the next generation LED energy-efficient lights for the home.

In addition, Sam’s Club is teaming up with Borrego Solar Systems, Inc., a leading designer and installer of solar electric power systems, and BP Solar, a leading provider of photovoltaic solar panels, to provide in-store informational kiosks to promote the long-term benefits of solar energy. The display explains how solar power works, the design and installation process, how much energy can be saved, the typical cost of a system, and all available incentives and rebates. Through this partnership, purchasers are also entitled to a significant discount on the cost of their solar energy system, saving an average of $500 or more in addition to receiving all applicable federal, state, and local rebates and tax credits.

“While homeowners and businesses continue to embrace solar energy at a tremendous rate, this growth is somehow restricted by the relatively limited number of consumers who are exposed to solar in their daily lives,” said Aaron Hall, CEO of Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. “By providing these informational kiosks in these regional locations, Sam’s Club is demonstrating exceptional leadership in bringing solar energy to the masses. We applaud Sam’s Club for its introduction of its Home Efficiency Centers, and we are honored to be a part of the company’s forward-thinking position on renewable energy.”

Some of the other items available in the Home Efficiency Center include:

  • Water-conserving Alexis HET Dual Flush Toilet for $98.62.
  • LED Globe bulb 3 pack for $14.86.
  • LED Motion Activated Porch Light for $49.83.
  • GE? Energy Star appliances including Frontload Washer for $942.00 and Dryer for $773 as well as GE Profile French Door Refrigerator for $2,179.


“This is a great way for us to help the local and regional community and our members at a time when they need us the most,” said Paul Stone, regional vice president, Sam’s Club. “We’ve got the best lineup of products to make a home more efficient and those looking to save a little green or the planet, will appreciate our prices. They will see savings at the register and going forward on their utility bills. We are optimistic we will be able to bring this concept to more of our clubs.”

To date, the participating Southern California Sam’s Club locations include facilities in Corona, Murrieta, Glendora, Ontario, La Habra, Chino, Long Beach, Fountain Valley, and Torrance.

Satellite Images Show Breakup of Greenland’s Largest Glaciers

They expect that part of the Northern hemisphere’s longest floating glacier will continue to disintegrate within the next year.

A massive 11-square-mile (29-square-kilometer) piece of the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland broke away between July 10 and 24. The loss to that glacier is equal to half the size of Manhattan Island. The last major ice loss to Petermann occurred when the glacier lost 33 square miles (86 square kilometers) of floating ice between 2000 and 2001.

Petermann has a floating section of ice 10 miles (16 kilometers) wide and 50 miles (80.4 kilometers) long, which covers 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers).

For Jason Box, an associate professor of geography at Ohio State, and his colleagues, graduate students Russell Benson and David Decker, all with the Byrd Polar Research Center, what worries him even more about the latest images is what appears to be a massive crack further back from the margin of the Petermann Glacier.

That crack may signal an imminent and much larger breakup. “If the Petermann glacier breaks up back to the upstream rift, the loss would be as much as 60 square miles (160 square kilometers),” Box said, representing a loss of one-third of the massive ice field.

Meanwhile, the margin of the massive Jakobshavn glacier has retreated inland further than it has at any time in the past 150 years it has been observed. Researchers believe that the glacier has not retreated to where it is now in at least the last 4,000 to 6,000 years.

The Northern branch of the Jakobshavn broke up in the past several weeks and the glacier has lost at least three square miles (10 square kilometers) since the end of the last melt season.

The Jakobshavn Glacier dominates the approximately 130 glaciers flowing out of Greenland’s inland into the sea. It alone is responsible for producing at least one-tenth of the icebergs calving off into the sea from the entire island of Greenland, making it the island’s most productive glacier.

Between 2001 and 2005, a massive breakup of the Jakobshavn glacier erased 36 square miles (94 square kilometers) from the ice field and raised awareness worldwide of glacial response to global climate change.

 Additional support for this project came from NASA.

A Better Way to Make Hydrogen From Biofuels

Researchers here have found a way to convert ethanol and other biofuels into hydrogen very efficiently.

A new catalyst makes hydrogen from ethanol with 90% yield, at a workable temperature, and using inexpensive ingredients.

Umit Ozkan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University, said that the new catalyst is much less expensive than others being developed around the world, because it does not contain precious metals, such as platinum or rhodium.

"Rhodium is used most often for this kind of catalyst, and it costs around $9,000 an ounce," Ozkan said. "Our catalyst costs around $9 a kilogram."

She and her co-workers presented the research Wednesday, August 20, at the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia.

The Ohio State catalyst could help make the use of hydrogen-powered cars more practical in the future, she said.

"There are many practical issues that need to be resolved before we can use hydrogen as fuel—how to make it, how to transport it, how to create the infrastructure for people to fill their cars with it," Ozkan explained.

"Our research lends itself to what's called a 'distributed production' strategy. Instead of making hydrogen from biofuel at a centralized facility and transporting it to gas stations, we could use our catalyst inside reactors that are actually located at the gas stations. So we wouldn't have to transport or store the hydrogen—we could store the biofuel, and make hydrogen on the spot."

The catalyst is inexpensive to make and to use compared to others under investigation worldwide. Those others are often made from precious metals, or only work at very high temperatures.

"Precious metals have high catalytic activity and—in most cases—high stability, but they're also very expensive. So our goal from the outset was to come up with a precious-metal-free catalyst, one that was based on metals that are readily available and inexpensive, but still highly active and stable. So that sets us apart from most of the other groups in the world."

 It produces hydrogen with 90% efficiency at 660 degrees Fahrenheit (around 350 degrees Celsius)—a low temperature by industrial standards.

"Whenever a process works at a lower temperature, that brings energy savings and cost savings," Ozkan said. “Also, if the catalyst is highly active and can achieve high hydrogen yields, we don’t need as much of it. That will bring down the size of the reactor, and its cost.”

The process starts with a liquid biofuel such as ethanol, which is heated and pumped into a reactor, where the catalyst spurs a series of chemical reactions that ultimately convert the liquid to a hydrogen-rich gas.

One of the biggest challenges the researchers faced was how to prevent "coking"—the formation of carbon fragments on the surface of the catalyst. The combination of metals—cerium oxide and calcium— solved that problem, because it promoted the movement of oxygen ions inside the catalyst. When exposed to enough oxygen, the carbon, like the biofuel, is converted into a gas and gets oxidized; it becomes carbon dioxide.

At the end of the process, waste gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane are removed, and the hydrogen is purified. To make the process more energy-efficient, heat exchangers capture waste heat and put that energy back into the reactor. Methane recovered in the process can be used to supply part of the energy.

Though this work was based on converting ethanol, Ozkan's team is now studying how to use the same catalyst with other liquid biofuels. Her coauthors on this presentation included Ohio State doctoral students Hua Song and Lingzhi Zhang. This research was funded by the Department of Energy.

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Trivia Question of the Week

Which of the following laws is not administered in whole or in part by EPA?

a. Energy Policy Act
b. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
c. Atomic Energy Act
d. None of the above