EPA Extends Comment Period on Waters of the U.S. Rule

August 28, 2017

EPA Extends Comment Period on Waters of the U.S. Rule

The EPA and the U.S. Department of the Army are extending the comment period for the proposed rule “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’—Recodification of Pre-existing Rules.” The agencies are extending the comment period for 30 days in response to stakeholder requests for an extension, from August 28, 2017 to September 27, 2017.

The comment period for the proposed rule published on July 27, 2017, at 82 FR 34899, is extended. Comments must be received on or before September 27, 2017.

Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203, at http://www.regulations.gov/. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or removed from Regulations.gov. The agencies may publish any comment received to the public docket. Do not submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Multimedia submissions (audio, video, etc.) must be accompanied by a written comment. The written comment is considered the official comment and should include discussion of all points you wish to make. The agencies will generally not consider comments or comment contents located outside of the primary submission (i.e. on the web, cloud, or other file sharing system). For additional submission methods, the full EPA public comment policy, information about CBI or multimedia submissions, and general guidance on making effective comments, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/dockets/commenting-epa-dockets.

Washington Issues $50,000 in Penalties During the Second Quarter of 2017

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued $50,000 in penalties of $1,000 or more April through June in 2017.

Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.

The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.

Ecology strives to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s land, air, or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.

Click here for a summary of violations.

Eight States Join Together to Combat Climate Change and Encourage Economic Growth

In a move that will accelerate state and regional efforts to combat climate change while continuing to grow the economy, Massachusetts recently joined with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to announce a plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beyond 2020. As the result of extensive RGGI program review conducted by the states over the last 18 months, the proposal calls for an additional 30% cap reduction between 2021 and 2030, relative to the RGGI 2020 levels.

“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative builds upon the strong collaboration of nine diverse states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a clean energy economy in a regional, bipartisan manner,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “RGGI continues to be led by states that are collaborating to achieve state and regional greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and deliver overall climate change solutions.”

“Today’s announcement by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will help Massachusetts continue to achieve short- and long-term emission reduction goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act while recognizing the benefits of an early transition towards clean energy,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We look forward to working with our fellow Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states to reduce emissions, and continuing to use RGGI proceeds toward complementary state programs such as our Green Communities program that encourages municipalities to reduce their energy consumption through investments in new technology and energy efficiency.”

RGGI is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce GHG emissions from the power sector through the auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances and the reinvestment of those proceeds in GHG reduction measures. The proposed program improvements include a new regional cap of 75.148 million tons of CO2 in 2021, which will decline by 2.275 million tons of CO2 per year thereafter, resulting in a total 30% reduction in the regional cap from 2020 to 2030. The RGGI states have already reduced power sector carbon emissions by nearly 50% since 2008, while generating more than $2.7 billion in proceeds across the region for reinvestment in programs to benefit consumers and build a stronger and cleaner energy system.

Since 2008, Massachusetts has reinvested $306 million in auction proceeds to increase the energy efficiency of residences and businesses, provide clean-energy solutions to 155 “Green Communities,” and to support the implementation of alternative energy resources. RGGI auction proceeds have helped Massachusetts earn the nation’s top ranking for energy efficiency six years in a row.

The program review effort included extensive feedback from stakeholders and experts gathered through eight public meetings and thousands of written comments. The RGGI states will seek additional stakeholder input on the draft program elements in a public meeting scheduled for September 25, 2017. Once final materials and a revised Model Rule are issued, states will follow their specific statutory and regulatory processes to propose updates to their CO2 Budget Trading Programs.

The agreement builds on the strong regional partnership and demonstrated leadership on climate change and clean energy by the RGGI states. The terms of the proposed plan were developed collaboratively to ensure all nine states could move forward together with a shared commitment to achieving the most aggressive emission reductions possible while protecting ratepayers, growing local economies, and reinvesting auction proceeds in clean energy and climate change solutions.

“Maryland is committed to finding real bipartisan, common sense solutions to protect our environment and combat climate change,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said. “By working together, we are showing that we can find consensus to help protect our natural resources, promote clean energy, and grow our economy for current and future generations.”

“The Regional Green House Gas Initiative plays an important role in our regional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support strong state economies,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “Through this collaborative effort, Vermont and our regional partners in this initiative are better positioned to pursue our aggressive goals to reduce carbon emissions and commit to renewable energy, while keeping energy rates down and putting money back in the pockets of Vermonters.”

“New York leads the nation’s efforts in strengthening climate security, and through the RGGI program and this latest bipartisan proposal to reduce emissions even further, the investment of proceeds will continue to support and create thousands of jobs and reduce electricity bills for residents,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “RGGI’s success exemplifies New York’s commitment to protecting the people of this state by showing the world that we will cut pollution and improve health, while transforming our economy into one that is cleaner, greener, stronger, and more sustainable than ever before.”

“As a coastal state, Rhode Island is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. Today, I’m taking executive action to endorse RGGI’s stronger, regional approach to climate change,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Rhode Island is a leader. We’re the only state in America with an off-shore wind farm, we’re making it easier for homeowners and businesses to install solar, we’re helping our cities and towns invest in green infrastructure, and we’re working to make our energy system ten times cleaner. RGGI plays an important role to make Rhode Island’s energy system cleaner and our green economy stronger.”

Independent reports by the Analysis Group found that RGGI is generating billions of dollars in net economic benefit and tens of thousands of job-years in the region. Other studies have found that RGGI has saved hundreds of lives, prevented thousands of asthma attacks, and saved $5.7 million in health-related economic costs.

Efforts through RGGI support the implementation of Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 569, an Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth and emission reduction limits established by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008. The GWSA requires a GHG emissions reduction of 25% below 1990 emissions levels by 2020 and at least an 80% reduction by 2050. As of 2014, the Commonwealth had reduced emissions by 21% from 1990 levels, leaving about 4% remaining to achieve the 2020 goal. In early August, the Department of Environmental Protection promulgated six new regulations to ensure the Commonwealth is on track to meet its 2020 emission reduction limits. The Executive Order also directs the state to begin planning for climate change adaptation and working with cities and towns across the state to assess vulnerability and build resiliency to address climate change impacts.

Connecticut Companies Provide Public with Chemical Information Under EPA Settlements

Three Connecticut companies will report publically on their use of required toxic chemicals, creating a safer environment for the public, under the terms of three separate recent settlements with the EPA. All three settlements involve facilities thoroughly evaluating the toxic chemicals present at their facility.

In an agreement with EPA, Redland Brick, Inc., of South Windsor has agreed to properly report its use of barium compounds, which was not done in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Proper reporting of chemical data aids the comprehensive planning done by federal, state, and local authorities to clean up industrial pollution or safely and effectively respond to emergency situations.

In a second agreement, Scapa Tapes North America of Windsor agreed to pay a penalty to resolve claims that it failed to properly report its use of ethylbenzene in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and vinyl acetate in 2014 and 2015.

And in the third agreement, O.F. Mossberg & Sons of North Haven agreed to properly file reports by the required deadline identifying the amount of copper it used and has improved its method for future reporting.

Companies and facilities are required to report annually on their use under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). Complying with EPCRA and TRI helps ensure that communities are not deprived of their right-to-know about chemical releases that may affect public health and the environment. Now that these facilities are providing data about their use of chemicals, the local communities have access to information about the presence of chemicals in the area.

Redland, which manufactures three sizes of bricks, has also agreed to pay a penalty of $11,246 to resolve claims by EPA that it failed to accurately report its barium compounds. The case stems from a 2016 inspection of the facility after EPA noted that the company reported several chemicals near, but just under, the thresholds for reporting on its TRI form. The facility reported the barium compounds, as soon as they were notified of the error. Redland Brick is a subsidiary of Belden Holding & Acquisition, Inc., an affiliate of Belden Brick Company, LLC, of Canton, Ohio.

Scapa Tapes, which makes tape products for healthcare and industrial applications, agreed to pay $58,214 to resolve claims it failed to file TRI Reporting Forms for ethylbenzene for 2013, 2014, and 2015, and vinyl acetate for 2014 and 2015. This case stemmed from a July 2016 inspection in which EPA found a clean, well-maintained facility but discovered several errors by the company when calculating the quantities of their use of ethylbenzene and vinyl acetate for 2015. Based on the revised calculations, both should have been, but were not, reported in 2015 and prior years.

Mossberg, which makes and assembles gun parts, agreed to pay a $43,419 penalty for failing to file TRI reports by the required deadline identifying the amount of copper it used during 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Under the TRI regulations, companies that use certain materials containing toxic chemicals must report each year how much of each toxic chemical is released to the environment and how much is managed through recycling, energy recovery and treatment, according to federal right-to-know laws. The information collected by EPA from industrial and federal facilities using these chemicals serves as the basis of the Toxic Release Inventory, a collection of data that can be reviewed by communities, government, and industry. This information helps communities understand how manufacturers use and recycle toxic materials, as well as how they prevent accidents.

Because the information is available to the public, companies have a strong incentive to improve their environmental performance. The information is updated annually and is reported to EPA directly from facilities.

EPA Resolves Chemical Data Reporting and Recordkeeping Violations with Electronics Company

The EPA settled its case against Ricoh Electronics, Inc., for inaccurate reporting and recordkeeping of chemical substances imported by its facilities located in Tustin and Santa Ana, California, and Lawrenceville, Georgia.

In 2012, Ricoh filed a timely, but inaccurate, report of the total annual volumes of three chemical substances imported in 2011 at its Tustin facility and one chemical substance at its Santa Ana facility. In addition, EPA found that in 2015, Ricoh did not have records documenting the amount of 10 chemical substances imported to its Lawrenceville, Georgia, facility. Since then, the company has voluntarily developed and implemented steps to prevent similar violations in the future.

Under the settlement, Ricoh Electronics will pay a fine of $245,990.

“EPA’s data-reporting requirements are essential to protecting communities and the environment,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This data helps communities build a better understanding of risks posed by chemicals used in U.S. commerce.”

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA maintains a comprehensive list of more than 85,000 chemical substances called the TSCA Inventory. Chemical substances on this list that are manufactured or imported at volumes of 25,000 lb or greater must be reported to EPA every four years, as required by TSCA’s Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. The 2012 CDR required that companies accurately report information for each chemical substance it manufactured or imported into the U.S. during 2011 and maintain records for a period of five years. Unlike many other federal programs, TSCA is directly implemented and enforced by EPA, not states.

Ricoh Electronics manufactures various electronic products such as printers, copiers and toner. It is a subsidiary of Ricoh Company, Ltd., which is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

EPA, Partners Study Roadside Vegetation and Air Quality at Local School

The EPA recently announced the expansion of a research project evaluating whether a vegetation barrier is reducing traffic-related air pollution at Brookfield Elementary School in Oakland, California. EPA is conducting the research with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the CAL FIRE Urban and Community Forestry Program, the California Air Resources Board, Urban Releaf and Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corp.

“EPA encourages the use of innovative scientific approaches to help solve important environmental problems,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “By working with our state partners and engaging the public we can foster creative solutions to these challenges.”

An estimated 45 million people in the U.S. live, work, or attend school within 300 feet of roadways with high concentrations of air pollution due to motor vehicle emissions. Research indicates people who spend time near busy roads may face elevated risks for health problems including asthma, developmental effects, and cardiovascular disease. Vegetation barriers—thick areas of trees and plants—can help reduce this risk by lowering concentrations of air pollutants.

EPA and its partners will work with the school community to study the effectiveness of a vegetation barrier in reducing air pollution at Brookfield Elementary, located next to Interstate Highway 880. Project partners have planted vegetation at the site, and EPA and other agencies are assessing air quality before and after the plantings. EPA will provide low-cost sensors to school and community members for monitoring air pollution as the vegetation matures.

“Air pollution from busy roadways impacts us all, but children are especially sensitive to it,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “The Air District has worked closely with our partners and community groups to develop the vegetative barrier and we’re excited to learn about the resulting air quality benefits to the school and the community. This project could serve as a model for reducing harmful air pollution at schools throughout the state.”

The EPA project at Brookfield Elementary is one of nine across the country studying priority environmental issues including nitrogen pollution, volatile organic compound emission detection, and harmful algal blooms.

EPA Requires Big Island Hardware Stores to Close Large Cesspools

The EPA recently announced an agreement with the owner of two Big Island hardware stores and a commercial property to close four large-capacity cesspools (LCCs) at properties in Naalehu, Kamuela, and Hilo, Hawaii. Cesspools can contaminate groundwater, and LCCs have been banned since 2005.

“Replacing these harmful cesspools with modern wastewater treatment systems will protect the Big Island’s drinking water and coastal resources,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect Hawaii’s waters by closing all large-capacity cesspools.”

In 2016, EPA found three cesspools during inspections at the Naalehu and Kamuela Housemart Ace Hardware stores, owned by Maui Varieties Investments, Inc. (MVI). MVI also voluntarily disclosed a fourth LCC at a separate commercial property that houses a farm supply store in Hilo.

MVI will be closing the two LCCs serving the Naalehu store and neighboring buildings and replacing the LCCs with wastewater treatment systems approved by the Hawaii Department of Health. The company will be closing the LCC at the Kamuela store and connecting it to a private sewer system. Finally, MVI will close the LCC at the commercial property in Hilo and connect it to the County of Hawaii’s sewer system. MVI will also pay a civil penalty of $134,000.

An LCC is a cesspool that serves multiple residential dwellings or a commercial facility with the capacity to serve 20 or more people per day. Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. LCCs were banned under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in April 2005.

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state, despite the fact that 95% of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources. Since the federal LCC ban took effect in 2005, over 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance.

Honda Research and Development Americas, Inc. Receives Ohio EPA’s Gold Environmental Award

Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler visited Honda Research and Development (R&D) Americas, Inc. facility recently to recognize the auto maker for reaching the gold standard of environmental excellence and stewardship through the Ohio EPA E3 program.

“As the first R&D center of a major auto maker to receive a gold level Encouraging Environmental Excellence award, Honda R&D Americas Inc. sets an example for others to follow to improve operational and disposal efficiency while implementing environmentally beneficial programs,” Director Butler said.

“We take our commitment to the environment very seriously at Honda R&D Americas,” said Jim Fusco, vice president. “Our associates work hard each day to create environmentally friendly products and technologies, and we apply that same diligence to our operations across North America. Honda R&D Americas is honored to receive this award from Ohio EPA in recognition of these efforts, and we will continue our commitment to environmental leadership in the years to come.”

Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program recognizes Ohio businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive for companies to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. E3 recognizes four levels of achievement, with platinum being the highest. To earn the gold award, a business or organization must demonstrate excellent environmental compliance, exceed regulatory compliance standards required in law and rule, and complete environmental stewardship activities that show a strong commitment to reduce waste, lower emissions and improve environmental performance.

Honda demonstrated a variety of efficiency and pollution prevention efforts including projects that optimize lighting with low-energy bulbs and ballasts and maximize outdoor light, saving about 815 thousand kilowatt hours of energy per year. Also, running mowers equipped with propane engines saves more than 570 tons of carbon per year and using an ice-chilling system for more efficient and less costly air cooling. The company installed a biodiesel-powered emergency generator that reduces emissions by 75%. The company also installed a waste oil furnace to provide heat for the car wash building, helping to reduce this location’s carbon emissions by more than 50%. Honda performs audits to learn what is in their waste, and as a result, the facility has eliminated Styrofoam from their cafeteria and now composts pre- and post-consumer food waste.

Ohio EPA’s Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) encourages businesses to pursue recognition for their environmental stewardship efforts and provides assistance in developing each corporate program. The award recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship practices that can be demonstrated in many different ways, most of which are company specific and often incorporate efforts of all employees working together toward a common goal.

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Renewable Energy in the Age of Trump

How Safe Is Your Drinking Water? Take a Look

Beyond Rooftops: States Move to Encourage Community Solar

EPA Criminal Pollution Enforcement Withering Away

Man-Made Fossil Methane Emission Levels Larger than Previously Believed

More Solar Power Thanks to Titanium

Trivia Question of the Week

Community solar projects rely on solar panels placed in a variety of locations, including:

  1. Vacant lots
  2. Rooftops of large buildings
  3. Out of use landfills
  4. All of the above

Answer: d