EPA Drops Voluntary Program for Lead Poison Preve

June 06, 2005

In a surprise move, the EPA has formally withdrawn its voluntary program for preventing childhood lead poisoning just five months after it was first unveiled, according to Federal Register notices. For the past several months, the agency had offered this voluntary program as the reason that it was balking at adopting long overdue regulations requiring that repairs and renovations in pre-1978 housing be conducted in a lead-safe manner.

Congress had mandated that EPA set up a certification requirement for contractors to ensure that workers are trained in lead-safe practices when remodeling buildings constructed before 1978. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the deadline for EPA to adopt these ôregulations to renovation or remodeling activitiesö was October 28, 1996. In 2004, however, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson scrapped plans for renovation regulations and instead opted for a voluntary approach.

On the issue of combating childhood lead poisoning, the Bush Administration has dropped its final fig leaf and tacitly admitted that it is doing nothing,ö stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is preparing a lawsuit against EPA on the issue. ôEPAÆs voluntary alternative to lead-safe regulations was such a joke that the agency could no longer keep up this facade with a straight face.ö

Renovation and repair of older residences is the principal source of lead dust exposure to U.S. children. EPAÆs own internal reviews showed that the now-abandoned regulation would benefit 1.4 million children under age 7, prevent at least 28,000 lead-related illnesses each year and create net economic benefits of several billion dollars by reducing medical and other expenses associated with high lead exposures. As late as April 13, 2005, in response to questions posed as part of his confirmation process, Stephen Johnson stated ô[T]he Agency is developing an education and outreach campaign that will convey the benefits of the use of lead-safe work practices to minimize both workersÆ and homeownersÆ exposure to lead dust during renovation and remodeling. EPA is also targeting outreach efforts to expand consumer awarenessàEPA plans to launch this material by this fall and will evaluate the effectiveness of this effort and will determine what additional steps may be necessary, including regulation.ö

One month later, on May 16, the agency filed a Federal Register notice that the voluntary program had been ôwithdrawnö with no explanation or elaboration. The notice did cite the date of the action as April 1, 2005, days before Johnson wrote to the Senate extolling the voluntary approach.

Freight Railroads Join EPA's voluntary SmartWay Transport Partne

To increase energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution all seven major freight railroads have joined EPA's voluntary SmartWay Transport Partnership. These Class 1 freight railroads transport more than 90 percent of all domestic rail freight.

Each railroad has committed to evaluate the environmental impacts of its operations and work jointly with EPA to develop and implement a plan to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions over the next several years. The seven railroads -- BNSF Railway Company, Canadian National Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad -- were honored this week for their commitment to environmental improvement by Jeffrey Holmstead, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. The recognition came at the Association of American Railroads (AAR) John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Awards Ceremony.

As part of SmartWay Transport Partnership, each railroad will develop a plan to identify fuel savings and emission reduction strategies. Strategies include reducing idling, improving aerodynamics, applying new fuel-saving technologies, and installing emissions control devices.

Launched in February 2004, the SmartWay Transport Partnership aims to reduce, by 2012, between 33 and 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, as much as 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides emissions per year, and achieve fuel savings of up to 150 million barrels of fuel per year. The program includes major freight shippers, trucking companies, railroads, and logistics companies to implement efficiencies that reduce emissions, improve the environment, and save money.

DOT Proposes Unified Registration System

The DOTÆs Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed to consolidate four different commercial carrier identifiers into the single USDOT number under a ôUnified Registration System.ö All registrants would be issued a single identifier which would replace the MC, MX, and FF numbers. FMCSAÆs rulemaking would simplify the current federal registration processes for interstate motor carriers, Mexico-domiciled carriers, freight forwarders and brokers, and would increase the publicÆs access to related data. The Federal Register publication of the Notice for Proposed Rulemaking marked the beginning of a 90-day comment period, which will close on Aug. 17, 2005.

EPA Orders Continued Ethanol Use

EPA will reject petitions made by the states of California, New York and Connecticut to waive the oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG). In announcing the action Assistant Administrator of Air Jeff Holmstead explained: "Congress has required the use of oxygenates as part of the clean fuels program and has made it clear that this requirement can only be waived if a state demonstrates that it prevents or interferes with the state's ability to meet national air quality standards. California, New York and Connecticut did not make this demonstration."

RFG is a cleaner-burning gasoline required by the Clean Air Act to be used in certain metropolitan areas of the United States with the worst ozone air pollution. It has been used since 1995 and continues to be a highly effective strategy to reduce harmful emissions from motor vehicles that cause ozone, commonly called smog. RFG also reduces emissions of harmful toxics, such as benzene. The Clean Air Act also requires RFG to contain two percent oxygen by weight. The law does not specify which oxygenate must be used and most refiners use either ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether). RFG sold in California, New York and Connecticut, however, contains only ethanol, since each state has banned the use of MTBE due to water contamination concerns.

EPA's action follows an extensive review of the information submitted by each state in support of its petition. This is EPA's second response to California, which sued EPA after the agency denied the state's original petition in 2001. Today's decision was made after EPA reviewed new information submitted by California and after EPA scientists and engineers conducted additional analysis to address the 9th Circuit Court's decision to vacate the agency's original denial.

While EPA agrees with California's claim that an oxygen content waiver would lead to a decrease in certain vehicle emissions that contribute to the formation of smog and particulate matter, EPA concludes that the overall impact on emissions is slight. The agency found that total volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are likely to decrease with a waiver while carbon monoxide (CO) emissions are likely to increase.

EPA's denial of California's petition is based on the lack of evidence proving that the emission impacts of a waiver would lead to any earlier attainment of the air quality standards for smog or particulate matter than would occur without a waiver. In other words, California has not demonstrated that the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with the state's efforts to achieve clean air.

EPA found that neither New York nor Connecticut submitted the technical data necessary for the agency to determine what impact the waiver would have on emissions and air quality. Without this information, EPA could not evaluate whether the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with attainment of the smog or particulate matter standards, and therefore must deny the waiver request.

Since Congress created the RFG program in 1990, much has been learned about cleaner-burning gasoline. The administration supports efforts by Congress to remove the oxygen requirement from the RFG program and replace it with a flexible national renewable fuels program.

NJ DEP Announces Air Quality Workshops

Meeting the new air quality standards will be a challenge for New Jersey, requiring the State to look at new emission control strategies for additional reductions, in addition to enhancing existing strategies. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is establishing workgroups to develop and refine recommended control measures for possible future implementation by the State.

The DEP workshop is being held on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at the War Memorial Building in Trenton, NJ. The workshop is designed to: 1) provide information to the regulated community and other affected and interested parties on how New Jersey is addressing the new federal health-based air quality standards, and 2) solicit ideas from participants for attaining cleaner air.

The workshop format will include informational presentations in the morning, lunch on your own, followed by afternoon breakout sessions in workgroups designed to discuss potential control measures for specific source categories.

The workgroup categories include:

  • Homes and restaurants (wood smoke, cooking smoke, fuel burning)
  • Gasoline cars and trucks
  • Non-automobile gasoline engines (yard equipment, boats, other engines)
  • Diesel engines (on-road, off-road, marine)
  • Stationary combustion sources (boilers, heaters, peaking units)
  • Volatile organic compounds from manufacturing processes and consumer products (surface coating, storage)

To get more information, email airworkshop@dep.state.nj.us, call 609-292-6722 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/dep/airworkshop/.

EPA Guidance on MTBE

EPA recently released ôMonitored Natural Attenuation of MTBE as a Risk Management Option at Leaking Underground Storage Tank Sites, which reviews the current state of knowledge on the transport and fate of MTBE in ground water, with emphasis on the natural processes that can be used to manage the risk associated with MTBE in ground water or that contribute to natural attenuation of MTBE as a remedy. It provides recommendations on the site characterization data necessary to manage risk or to evaluate monitored natural attenuation (MNA) of MTBE, and it illustrates procedures that can be used to work up data to evaluate risk or assess MNA at a specific site. The information is intended to allow state regulators to determine whether they have adequate information to evaluate MNA of fuel oxygenates at a site and to allow the regulators to separate sites where MNA of fuel oxygenates may be an appropriate risk management alternative from sites where MNA is not appropriate.

Caritas Christi Health Care to Undertake Voluntary Environmental Audits

Caritas Christi Health Care, the second largest healthcare system in New England, has agreed to undertake a voluntary comprehensive environmental audit. Under the agreement, signed with the EPA, Caritas Christi will voluntarily perform an audit of sixty-six facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to ascertain compliance with all applicable federal and state environmental regulations, and correct any violations it detects.

The agreement is part of a larger effort launched last spring by EPAÆs New England office to foster increased compliance with environmental laws by New England hospitals. The AgencyÆs decision to focus on the healthcare industry was prompted by concerns that many New England hospitals may not be in full compliance with environmental laws. It also was influenced by the experience of EPAÆs New York/New Jersey regional office, which took enforcement actions against several hospitals after significant non-compliance was found during inspections of hospital facilities.

Under the agreement, the hospital will complete a comprehensive environmental audit within the next two years covering all relevant state and federal environmental requirements. Caritas Christi agrees to disclose any violations that it finds to EPA, and correct those violations within 60 days of discovery. If the hospital uncovers violations that pose a serious threat to human health or the environment, it agrees to correct the problems immediately.

In a statement last April sent to more than 250 hospitals in New England, Robert W. Varney, New England Regional Administrator said, ôMany hospital functions such as laboratories, power plants, and vehicle maintenance facilities, have the potential to cause environmental violations if not properly managed. I strongly encourage you to identify and correct any such violations.ö Currently, the Region is partnering with 124 New England healthcare facilities through the National Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) program to achieve mercury and solid waste reductions.

Healthcare facilities not only contribute to the economic health of New England but can also pose major environmental and public health concerns. Healthcare facilities are known to contribute to the presence of mercury, dioxin, and other persistent, bioaccumulative toxics in the environment. Nationwide, hospitals generate a wide variety of hazardous waste, and produce two million tons of solid waste, which is 1% of the total municipal solid waste in the U.S.

Union Carbide Penalized for of Hazardous Waste Storage Violations

The EPA announced that Union Carbide Corp. has settled violations of federal and state environmental laws at its specialty chemical manufacturing plant in Institute, W. Va.

In a consent agreement with EPA, Union Carbide resolved alleged violations of regulations on hazardous waste storage and annual reporting of toxic chemicals. The company has agreed to pay a $16,600 penalty and to provide $19,800 in emergency response equipment to the Institute, W. Va. Volunteer Fire Department.

The settlement resolves violations discovered during EPA inspections at the plant in May and November 2001. Based on these inspections and follow-up investigations, EPA cited the company for three violations of hazardous waste storage regulations: failing to conduct a timely inspection of a hazardous waste storage tank; failing to mark the storage date of two 55-gallon drums used to store aerosol cans; and failing to properly label a tank used to store used oil. EPA also cited the company for errors in required annual reports to EPA and West Virginia about 1999 releases of three toxic chemicals (antimony, silver, and nitric acid).

In addition to the $16,600 penalty, Union Carbide has agreed to a $19,800 supplemental environmental project û exceeding the requirements of federal and state law û designed to improve the emergency response capabilities of the local fire department. Specifically, the company will donate two thermal imaging cameras, mounting kits, and storage case, to the Institute, W. Va. Volunteer Fire Department. The thermal imaging cameras, when mounted on firefightersÆ helmets, will enhance the ability of rescue personnel to locate people lost or trapped in smoke-filled areas.

The settlement penalty takes into account the companyÆs cooperation with EPA and prompt compliance efforts. As part of the settlement, the company has neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.

Grainger Penalized $177,156 for Selling Ozone Depleting Chemicals

EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with W.W. Grainger Inc. on alleged violations of federal clean-air regulations designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. EPA assessed a $177,156 penalty for the violations that apply to Grainger's business headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill.

The agreement resolves an EPA administrative complaint alleging that, among other things, Grainger sold banned products made with an ozone-depleting substance.

Grainger sold some products containing dichlorofluoroethane - a chlorofluorocarbon or CFC - including a wheel chock that is banned from sale or distribution and aerosol dispensers of cleaning fluids for electronic or photographic equipment.

EPA said Grainger failed to display proper notification where products containing the ozone-depleting substance were sold. In addition, EPA said the company sold products containing an ozone-depleting substance to unqualified buyers and to buyers that failed to show proof that they were qualified buyers. Federal regulations require that certain products containing ozone-depleting substances be sold only to commercial buyers.

EPA said Grainger has remedied the alleged violations by stopping the sale of its wheel chock, posting proper notifications and eliminating sales to non-commercial buyers.

Chlorofluorocarbons deplete the stratospheric or "good" ozone layer, allowing dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth. Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995, and federal law strictly controls their use and handling.

TSA Initiates Third Phase of Hazmat Threat Assessment Program for Truck Drivers

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began the third and final implementation phase of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program this week with the fingerprinting of commercial truck drivers applying to renew or transfer the hazardous materials endorsement (HME) on their State-issued commercial drivers licenses (CDL).

During phase one of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program, TSA conducted name-based security threat assessments on all 2.7 million licensed hazardous materials (hazmat) drivers to determine whether any presented a potential terrorist threat. Phase two augmented this effort by adding a fingerprint-based FBI criminal history records check and immigration status check for new HME applicants. This third and final phase will require drivers seeking to renew or transfer their current HME to undergo the fingerprint-based security threat assessment.

ôWe are pleased to begin this third and final phase of the Hazmat Threat Assessment Program,ö said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA. ôTSA has successfully vetted tens of thousands of new applicants who began the process in January 2005, and we look forward to beginning the process for renewing and transferring driver endorsements.ö

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a State may not issue a license to transport hazmat in commerce unless TSA determines that the driver does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the license. TSA developed its program to carry out this mandate and to protect against the potential threat of terrorists transporting hazmat. TSA has selected a vendor to assist in the collection of applicant fingerprints and information for the District of Columbia and the thirty-three States that have elected to use a TSA agent for this purpose. Seventeen States have elected to complete these tasks using State resources. In either case, the driversÆ fingerprints and biographical information are forwarded to TSA for vetting.

If TSA disqualifies an HME applicant, the driver can appeal the finding or seek a waiver from TSA. Under TSA rules, drivers are required to self-declare disqualifying events and surrender their HME to their StateÆs licensing authority. They may apply for a waiver, but must go through the security threat assessment process. Drivers who do not wish to transport hazmat do not need an HME, and drivers who surrender their HME will not be required to complete a security threat assessment unless they seek a waiver.

Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules, drivers must renew the HME at least once every five years, although a State may require more frequent renewals. For more information, please visit www.hazprints.com or call (877) 429-7746.

Rule Planned to Ease Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel Transition

To facilitate the transition to the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, EPA announced plans to issue a rule later this year that will take two actions. The first action will shift the retail compliance date from September 1 to October 15, 2006, to allow more time for terminals and retail outlets to comply with the 15 ppm ULSD standard. During this extended transition period, diesel fuel meeting a 22 ppm level can be marketed as ULSD downstream in order to speed the transition. This action will help ensure nationwide transition to 15 ppm ULSD prior to the introduction of new clean diesel trucks and buses. The second action will establish a test program, in cooperation with the fuel industry, to collect the data necessary to determine if the current 2 ppm testing tolerance is sufficient.

These transitional items will not interfere with the planned introduction of clean diesel vehicles and engines anticipated in the autumn of 2006, nor will they reduce the environmental benefits that will be achieved by this historic Clean Diesel Program.

Northrop Grumman Receives Award from EPA

Northrop Grumman has received an award from the EPA for its efforts to protect and preserve the environment during 2004. Continental Maritime, a subsidiary of the company's Newport News sector, was recognized for its commitment to become the nation's first zero-discharge shipyard. Operating under a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, Continental Maritime eliminated all point-source discharges, including storm water, into San Diego Bay.

The EPA presented these awards to businesses, government officials, tribes, environmental organizations and citizen activists from California, Arizona, Nevada and the Pacific Islands for demonstrating a commitment to environmental protection and resource conservation. The winners were selected from a pool of more than 175 nominees.

Continental Maritime began this environmental effort in 2001 by installing a collection system to divert all runoff from the San Diego Bay. They re-routed steam condensate from boilers back to the boilers and diverted air-conditioning condensate and fresh-water fire-main discharges to collection tanks for sewer disposal.

They also used cutting-edge technology to eliminate a saltwater fire-main discharge, which is used as fire protection for many of the U.S. Navy vessels moored at the facility. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has inspected the new saltwater fire-protection system and confirmed that all point-source discharges have been eliminated.

Mercury Marine Agrees to EPA Order to Meet Clean Air Act

EPA Region 5 has issued an administrative consent order to Mercury Marine that requires the company to comply with federal hazardous air pollutant emissions standards at its aluminum recovery plant in Fond du Lac, Wis.

EPA cited Mercury Marine last September for failing to comply with these standards. Specifically, EPA said the company failed to meet operating, planning, notification, reporting, testing and recordkeeping requirements for its plant. The administrative order does not limit EPA's authority to seek appropriate relief, including penalties, for Mercury Marine's alleged violation of these clean-air regulations.

"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."