EPA Extends Public Comment Period, Adds Public Hearing for Utility Mercury Reductions Proposals

March 12, 2004

EPA will extend to April 30, 2004, the public comment period for the proposed Utility Mercury Reductions Rule. Administrator Leavitt signed the rule in December 2003. This extension gives the public more time to consider the December proposal and to evaluate the impacts of the supplemental proposal.

The supplemental proposal, signed on February 24, 2004, will be published in the Federal Register shortly.

On March 31, 2004, EPA will hold a hearing to listen to public comment on the supplemental proposal. The hearing will take place at the Hyatt Regency Denver, 1750 Welton Street, Denver, Colo. 80202, phone: 303-295-1234. The hearing will start at 8 a.m and continue into the evening to accommodate individuals who wish to comment.

For information on the proposed Utility Mercury Reductions Rule and the Supplemental Proposal, and to read copies of the rules go to http://www.epa.gov/mercury.

Man Sentenced to 37 Months for Threatening Informant in RCRA Case

Donald L. Vacendak of Hammond, Ind., was sentenced on Feb. 27 to serve 37 months in prison followed by three years supervised release, after being convicted of obstructing justice by knowingly threatening to kill a government informant. The informant had provided information alleging Vacendak violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by disposing of an ignitable hazardous waste in a buried railroad tank car in Gary, Ind. Such allegations are investigated because if determined to be true, there could be serious potential fire and ground water contamination hazards. The case was investigated by the Chicago Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Hammond, Indiana Police Department; and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management with technical assistance provided by EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Hammond.

U.S. Announces Major Clean Air Act Settlement With Santee Cooper

The Department of Justice and EPA, along with the State of South Carolina, announced a major Clean Air Act settlement with the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper). The settlement resolves the federal government's claims that Santee Cooper violated the Clean Air Act New Source Review program at several of its plants by undertaking construction activities and increasing emissions of air pollution without installing required pollution controls. The settlement is expected to eliminate almost 70,000 tons of harmful air pollutants annually from four of Santee Cooper's existing coal-fired electricity generating plants in South Carolina.

The agreement requires Santee Cooper to install state-of-the-art controls on more than 83 percent of its existing total coal-fired megawatt generating capacity. Each year coal-fired power plants account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and 30 percent of nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions nationwide.

In addition to requiring Santee Cooper to reduce 37,500 tons per year of SO2 and 29,500 tons per year of NOx from its existing coal-fired units, the settlement requires Santee Cooper to improve its control of particulate matter (PM). The company will also pay a $2 million civil penalty, $700,000 of which will go to the State of South Carolina, and will spend at least $4.5 million to finance projects that are environmentally beneficial, including: $1.25 million for a South Carolina Land Conservation Project, $1 million for an Energy-Efficient Technologies Project, $1 million for a Demand-Side Management Project, $1 million for a Clean Diesel School Bus Project and $250,000 to implement an Environmental Management System.

Santee Cooper is a quasi-public South Carolina utility that operates four coal-fired power plants, a hydro plant, a nuclear plant, and several natural gas plants. The proposed settlement encompasses Santee Cooper's ten existing units at the coal-fired power plants and two proposed coal-fired units. The existing units emitted more than 130,000 tons of SO2 and NOx in 2002. Sulfur dioxide and NOx are significant contributors to acid rain; NOx also increases low-level ozone, which causes smog; fine PM causes haze. All these pollutants cause severe respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), at EPA's request, has filed lawsuits against several coal-fired electric utilities, most recently in January against East Kentucky Power Cooperative. EPA has also reached settlements with six other major coal-fired companies that result in the removal of more than 590,000 tons of pollution from the air annually and the installation of more than $3.5 billion worth of state-of-the-art air pollution controls.

The settlement was lodged for a 30-day public comment period in the U. S. District Court for South Carolina.

Treatment Projects Applied to 62 Percent of Superfund Sites

EPA released a report showing that Superfund treatment projects either in progress or completed increased to 791 in 2003 from 629 projects in 2000.

Unlike traditional Superfund cleanup remedies, treatment methods, such as bioremediation (the use of living organisms to clean up environmental contaminants) destroy harmful chemicals or change them into less harmful ones. The report also shows that the use of innovative "in situ" remedies (cleanup methods that treat soil and groundwater without having to extract them from the ground) has been increasing.

The analyses of Records of Decision (ROD) documented in the report shows that more complex, multi-media sites are being addressed in recent years. For example, remedies in RODs are more likely to address both contaminated groundwater and soil at a single site. (A ROD is a public document that explains which cleanup alternatives will be used to clean up a Superfund site.)

Over the history of the Superfund program, treatment remedies have been applied to clean up soil or groundwater at 62 percent of sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). The report documents the application of innovative technologies in Superfund sites to help decision-makers better evaluate the effectiveness of different cleanup options.

Copies of "Treatment Technologies for Site Cleanup: Annual Status Report, Eleventh Edition (EPA 542-R-03-009)" can be downloaded or ordered at http://www.cluin.org/asr. The online version includes new downloadable spreadsheets with the data for several of the key charts and figures in the report. Specific information on each technology application has been incorporated into the on-line technology database available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/asr/. For more information on treatment and other cleanup methods, read "EPA's Citizens Guides on Cleanup Methods" at http://www.epa.gov/tio/pubitech.htm.

Additional Public Comment Sought on 'Low-Activity' Radioactive Waste

EPA is extending the public comment period for the "Low Activity" Radioactive Waste Management Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) by 60 days to May 17, 2004.

On November 18, 2003, EPA published the ANPR in the Federal Register to seek public comment on a range of possible approaches for the safe disposal of "low-activity" radioactive waste. The "low activity" radioactive waste ANPR is an effort to begin public dialogue on the wide-range of issues surrounding the effective management of radioactive waste. The ANPR introduces the concept of "low-activity" radioactive waste and explores equivalent or superior management and disposal approaches. The 60-day extension of the comment period will allow further public input on the important questions framed by the "low activity" waste ANPR.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/radiation/larw.